Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Ring Necked Phesant - An Exotic Bird in Our Midst - thanks Climate Change

 Last week one morning while scanning the view out the kitchen window, I noticed a chicken-like bird with a long tail scurrying across our driveway and into the bushes. None of the wild chicken-like birds seen here so far have a long tail. I have heard the neighbours speaking about pheasants in this area. Only the Common or Ring-necked Pheasant [Phasianus colchicus.] is known in these parts. We were fortunate to have had a light snow fall that morning, so later in the afternoon I went looking for tracks and took this photo which corroborates my visual observation. I consulted a copy of Scats and Tracks of the Northeast ISBN 1-58592-105-X which shows the tracks of the pheasant and the ruffed grouse for comparison. These tracks are definitely smaller than that of the grouse and the toes are noticeable uneven being shorter on the inside than the outside. The most common other bird tracks throughout the woodlot are created by the turkey and the ruffed grouse. The turkey's tracks are obviously much larger. The grouse's tracks are only slightly larger and its toes are more even on either side than these tracks.

According to the half dozen bird books on the shelf, the pheasant here is right on the edge of its habitat. and more common to the south and east.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

From Trespass to Trespass and attempted robbery.

On one of my recent ski outings I decided to 'bushwhack' to the back of the property to look for any more evidence of trespass. I did find what looked like very small boot prints or else deer prints in very deep snow. Also and much to my dismay, I now found out that the November trespasser was also attempting to cut up one of my wind fallen trees that was not part of but near the trail he was clearing. This was not just any old tree. It is an American Black Cherry [Prunus serotina] of formidable size pictured here. it has three stems ranging from 30 cm (1 foot) to 60 cm ( 2 feet) in diameter and no branches for the first 7.6 metres (25 feet). All saw cuts in this photo are of the thief's doing.

It turns out that the wood of this species as long as it is in good condition is highly prized by cabinet makers, and indeed one often hears of cherrywood furniture.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rasslin' Raccoons

This morning at around 4 am I awoke to a commotion outside in the inky darkness of scuffling, grunting and whimpering. Armed with my terrycloth dark blue housecoat, felt lined Ski-doo boots, a stick and a 2,000,000 Candle Power Rechargeable Spotlight SKU 37-9452, I proceeded to investigate. Under the front porch I found two raccoons [Procyon lotor] embraced in what appeared to be a rather violent and intense wrestling match. They were so involved in their frenzy that they were oblivious to the two million candelas staring straight at them. With no intent to enter the melee I proceeded to throw rocks to dispel them but to no effect. By the time I returned with my pocket sized idiot-proof digital camera the skirmish had shifted to the woods. Is it raccoon mating season already?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sharing the X-Country Ski Trails in Winter

Now that I have cleared a good portion of the trails on the property, I have been able to establish good cross country ski trails without having to always confront drooping snow laden branches etc. After having attempted to ride the trails with the ATV I noticed that the snow under the ski trail is of a whole other consistency than what's next to it. Though the ski trail is a mere 30 cm wide, the snow base seems to be  about twice  that and this base is a very solid packed snow. As you can see from this photo the heavier forest inhabitants make good use of these trails as well.

This base makes it very difficult to manoeuver with the ATV since the wheels sink into the snow on either side and the belly of the bike gets caught on the ski trail. The only way out was to ride with one wheel on the ski trail base and the other in the deep snow. This didn't t do the trail much good for skiing.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Aspen Die Back in the Woodlot

Last November I attended a local update by the Regional Forest Health Network that included a presentation on the poor health and die-back of aspens. I had indeed noticed that on the back of our woodlot, where we have a very formidable stand of poplars, many of the trees but not all are dying. Characteristically what happens is that the trees break in the trunk around mid height. This picture shows a typical example of this damage.

I recently came across a booklet on Forest Threats that was prepared by The Canadian Forest Service almost 30 years ago. In it they describe Hypoxylon Canker of Aspen [Hypoxylon pruinatum]. Using that lead, I then found some excellent material on the internet and noted that the scientific name has changed a bit. It is now better or more popularly know as [Hypoxylon mammatum]. I suspect that this is what's affecting our poplars. I am not too concerned about this loss since I never saw a large market for poplars, although I will say we have many towering giants reach well over 20 metres (60 ft.) in height. Poplar is a pioneer species meaning it is usually grows first in an opening typically preparing the soil by its own decay, for next generation and usually higher quality trees like oaks and other hardwoods.

This die back does cause a couple of problems. One is that the opening up of the canopy will release the buckthorn in the understory. For example all the brush in the foreground of this picture is Glossy Buckthorn - a very invasive and moderately shade-tolerant shrub from Europe, and no doubt this invasive will take off as soon as there is more light.
Another problem is the danger of the tops of the towering trees, often called widow makers in forestry parlance, from falling and becoming a hazard to persons below and especially if cutting the trees or moving them in anyway.