PARK BLOG # 20 – OCTOBER 2016
What a perfect month October turned out to be at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. I was able to come to the Park most weeks enjoying sunshine, brisk winds off of Lake Ontario and nature at its finest.
I love to park my car at the Camp Office parking lot and wander over to the Camp Office Viewing Platform. I was able to spot two elegant Great Blue Herons, Black Ducks, and a few Green-winged Teals lazily preening their feathers. From there I doubled back and did a loop under the canopy of majestic Pines in the Maples Campground. A flash of bright red caught my eye and I heard the soft churr of a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Trying to get closer, I tread as lightly as possible on the thick blanket of crispy, crunchy leaves but was disappointed when it flew off.
Coming out into the sunshine of the open ampitheatre area I was startled by a large immature Red-tailed Hawk literally swooping down over my head. It flew into some shrubbery and I could see it hopping around. Now this was intriguing especially when an Eastern Chipmunk raced out with an awkwardly running Hawk in pursuit. Eventually unsuccessful, it flew up into a tree about six feet off of the ground…..a photographer’s dream. I literally crept forward in inches, however this beautiful creature showed no fear – perhaps never having experience with a human before. I could clearly see the intensity of his eyes, the sharpness of the beak and those deadly talons curled around the tree limb.
After that excitement I happily wandered down the road to the Woodchip Marsh and was pleased to see that after the drought like conditions of the summer, that recent rains had replenished parts of the Marsh. A few lingering Yellow-rumped Warblers were perched in the trees adding a splash of yellow. Gingerly making my way down the embankment, I spotted movement on one of the mud flats amongst the bright green vegetation. Three Wilson’s Snipes were darting about digging their bills deep into the muck. In contrast, the Green Heron I spotted stood silently still waiting for the perfect moment to strike for food.
Lunchtime was had in the bright sunshine on a picnic bench by Lake Ontario in the Bluff’s Campground. Munching on my sandwiches I was able to spot a rack of about 100 Red-breasted Mergansers bobbing up and down on the swells coming into the shoreline and a solitary Horned Grebe.
Grabbing my camera and binoculars I wound my way through the Campground looking for migrating Monarch and Eastern Comma butterflies that sometimes feed off of rotting apples. I surprised a Black Squirrel who discovered a tasty apple treat, and a little Red Squirrel with his harvested pinecone ready to be stored for the long winter months ahead.
I followed the Beach Walking trail until I came to Owen’s Point. A large bird tearing into a washed-up fish had me thinking Bald Eagle, but it turned out to be a Turkey Vulture. I watched him guard his dinner, intimidating the hungry Ring-billed Gulls who ventured too close
Eventually my walk took me to the natural shoreline of Beach Three. You can never tire of the endless waves, diverse bird population and the opportunity to photograph migrating Monarch Butterflies as they feed off of the delicate white blossoms of Stonecrop or vivid pink Bull Thistles. Today I had fun attempting to photograph banded Canada Geese and getting enough information so that later on I could report my findings to the North American Bird Banding Program. Can’t say that the Geese were too cooperative, as most quickly waddled into the frigid waters despite my efforts to blend in with the sandy shoreline.
By this point, my feet were getting tired, and I still had a long drive home so I trekked back to my vehicle. Later that night over a steaming cup of tea I enjoyed viewing all of my “finds” of the day and planning my next visit to Presqu’ile Provincial Park.
Park Blog # 19 – Late winter walks 2016
February and March were great months to be taking advantage of the trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Lighter amounts of snow and milder temperatures meant that I could easily navigate the roads and walkways without too much effort. I loved the longer amounts of sunshine even though there were some days where the winds were icy cold and brisk.
The sightings of Bald Eagles usually seen feeding on the edge of the ice in Presqu’ile Bay was one of the highlights for me. On several visits I was lucky enough to see up to five of these majestic birds, usually a combination of both adults and immature. Using the telescopic lens of my camera, I was amazed one trip to see three feeding on a deceased Mute Swan. Another time, a mature Bald Eagle was perched at the top of a tree surveying Lake Ontario right at the end of the Calf Pasture Point.
The waterfowl migrating through didn’t seemed perturbed by his presence and the rafts of Long-tailed Ducks and Lesser and Greater Scaup continued to bob up and down serenely on the waves of Lake Ontario.
Mute Swans are always present at Presqu’ile Provincial Park and captivate visitors of all ages. Their intricate grooming fascinated me one sunny afternoon as I watched the Swan twist his long neck into almost impossible positions. This video shows how he used his bill as a comb, making sure that every feather was groomed, feathered and then put back into place. https://youtu.be/sUYUKJQojg8
Inland walks in late winter are especially pleasant. There were times when all I could hear was the crunching of the snow under my boots, and the jingle of my Border Collie, Jesse’s leash. Stopping to take a look at tracks in the snow, the forest would be eerily quiet…not even the soft “spring song” whistle of the Black-capped Chickadee disturbing the silence. One of my favorite early arrivals is the elusive Brown Creeper blending in so perfectly with the bark of the trees. Hearing its quiet “trees-trees see the trees” song I look for the Creepers journey, it always travels up the tree trunk. I was quite happy to get a clear image of one late in February.
Winter is a great time to discover all of the bird nests that you missed!!! I discovered this vireo nest while walking through Jobes’ Wood Trail. The intricate weaving of the nest to the branch is amazing. The hanging design in the fork of a branch, often with birch bark ribbons on the outside are typical of vireo nests. It could either be a Warbling Vireo or Red-eyed Vireo, and I’ve made a mental note of its location, hoping that they will nest nearby again this spring.
My regular lunchtime routine is spent at the camp office parking lot, parked strategically so that I can enjoy the bird feeder. Sipping hot tea from my thermos, with my camera close beside me, I watch the flurry of activity. A few times, I brought along whole and shelled peanuts and placed them on the picnic bench next to the feeder. Always on the lookout for a good snack, the Blue Jays would swoop in with precision. With awe, I observed them scooping up to five nuts into their gullets and then would still manage to fit a whole peanut at the tip of their beak.
The Cardinals arrived in pairs lunching on the sunflower seeds, while the vivid black, white and red of the male Downey Woodpecker was a regular on the suet feeder.
With the end of Winter comes the beginning of Spring and I look forward to chasing Butterflies, welcoming back migrating Warblers and walking the trails of Presqu’ile Provincial Park.
Park Blog # 18 – January 2016 – Shorebirds and Snowy Owl
Starting off the New Year with a trek to Presqu’ile Provincial Park was the easiest 2016 resolution that I’ve ever kept. January 3rd was a cold and blustery day, causing my husband and myself to bundle up but I got to test out my new heated battery operated scarf that was a Christmas gift. Walking the trails required our cleats as recent rain had frozen into solid sheets of ice in some areas. Our Border Collie Jesse could have used cleats himself as all four paws slid off into four directions as soon as he tried to negotiate the slippery conditions.
The first walk of the day included the Beach Walking Trail and we were surprised to hear an American Robin soon joined by a second, cheerfully chirping away. A quick tour of the beach area revealed several Greater Black-backed Gulls filling the air with their loud kyow sound. While watching the Gulls we discovered this interesting pattern in the sand, and wondered what could possible make the spotty indentations.
I later learned from Park staff that when sand is over ice and the ice is melting underneath and collapses, the spotty patterns are formed.
After a quick lunch, spent watching the Red-breasted Nuthatches swooping in to snatch sunflower seeds at the campground office bird feeder, we left Jesse to nap while we headed out to Gull Island. Thankfully, the weather had warmed up enough to soften the icy layer, so cleats were not needed. Walking the shoal from Owen’s Point over to Gull Island we spotted a gathering of Mallards, with their green heads iridescent in the afternoon sun. A small group of Bonaparte Gulls were hanging out and mixed in was a single male Northern Pintail. As we inched in closer to take a photo, he flew up, showing off the beautiful white plumage on his breast and neck. Once on Gull Island, we were delighted to discover a small group of shorebirds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9_gS25N3nI&feature=youtu.be which included: five Purple Sandpipers, one Dunlin and one Sanderling.
The one species I hoped to see was a Snowy Owl, and we weren’t disappointed. She was sound asleep, warmed by the full sunshine, on top of one of the hunters huts that dot Gull Island. We thought that was a funny perch considering its usage. It didn’t take long however, for us to be receiving a intense glare, the Owl obviously alerted by the crunching of our footsteps on crispy vegetation. We tried to get close enough for a great photo, but not too close as to upset or disturb her. Eventually she flew off settling on the skinniest of metal poles. A close at hand hunters hut provided us with some protection so that we could take more photographs. On the bench inside of the hut were the rather gruesome remains of a Long-tailed Duck head. And, just outside we discovered two rather large Snowy Owl Pellets. If you look closely, you can see bits of bone. So now we know why she favored the hut as a resting spot after a delicious lunch of Duck.
As we made our way around the perimeter of Gull Island, a small flock of American Tree Sparrows darted in and out of the brush, taking care to stay out of the range of the Snowy Owl. Two American Pipits were scurrying about the rocks, shells and debris at the shoreline easily identifiable by their wagging tails. The Snowy Owl, keeping slightly ahead of us, eventually settled down on the tiniest hump of snow close to the edge of the shoal with the waves crashing at her back. The sheer size of her talons were breathtaking, and we could see how quickly and deadly those talons might be to an unsuspecting Duck.
Walking back across the shoal, the wind had come up once again causing some good size waves. I received an icy cold double soaker, while my husband somehow managed to stay perfectly dry.
Once I was warm and into dry footwear, we made a final stop to see what birds could be tempted by a handful of sunflower, safflower seeds and peanuts. The best place is on the road to the Group Camping area. It only took a few pheesh…pheesh…pheeshes before I had a group of dainty Black-capped Chickadees landing on my hand, cleaning out my supply of food in no time.
It was the perfect way to end the day at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.
PARK BLOG # 16 – Early October Walk 2015
Cool autumn breezes, the sound of crispy, crunchy leaves as you walk, and the incredible sight of Canada Geese migrating by the 1,000’s all make October the perfect time to visit Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Tthe winds blowing off of Lake Ontario can be strong enough to take your breath away, so it is always better to be prepared with a warm scarf handy and perhaps a pair of mittens tucked into your pockets.
The beach area of Presqu’ile is wide open in October and if you are lucky, like I was today, there wasn’t another human in sight. The sand was still pretty squishy and mucky down by the water’s edge, so I was grateful that I had decided to wear my rubber boots. As I walked the beach, the Ring-billed Gulls were soaring and swooping above my head ever alert for tasty tidbits or Sharp-shinned Hawks that hunt the beach.
Canada Geese who were soaking up the sun, sensed my presence, and quickly started honking and waddling to the safety of the water. I was amazed at how many Canada Geese were banded this day and was able to get a few close up shots, so that I could send in a report to the North American Bird Banding Program.
A bit further along the beach I saw a group of seven Swans just off the shoreline, and immediately knew that they were not the more common Mute Swans, as these ones had jet black bills. I later found out that they were a combination of Tundra and Trumpeter Swans.
Walking away from the beach, I entered the sandy, dune area where quite often there are tall grasses waving in the wind. This is a good area to find the tiny Least Skipper Butterfly or the larger Common Buckeye with it’s wing pattern of eye catching circles. Today, it wasn’t a Butterfly that caught my eye, but an elegantly patterned Snake curled up amongst the grasses.
I had no idea as to what type of species I was seeing but I can tell you that it was not impressed with me. On full alert, it shot out it’s tongue multiple times. After sending images to staff at the Park, it was determined to be a near Melanistic Garter Snake, not too common a sight to visitors.
A short distance away a rather plump Leopard Frog was very lucky not to be the Garter Snake’s dinner that afternoon!
After enjoying my picnic lunch and steaming hot thermos of tea, I decided to make the trek across the shoal to Gull Island. Water levels and wave action between Owen’s Point and the Island, can determine whether or not you receive a major soaker, even wearing rubber boots. It is not unusual to see people wearing hip waders slogging across with telescopes or cameras slung over their shoulders. Walking the perimeter of the Island I could feel the Zebra Mussels crunching noisily under my boots, and I had to be careful not to slip on the algae-covered rocks that dot the shoreline. A bright, quickly moving object caught my eye in amongst the pebbles, driftwood and debris. It was a Zebra Moth Caterpillar, one of three that I eventually saw. The markings were vivid yellow and bold black stripes. I loved it’s orange face with matching orange feet. You can see by the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbL152WSJP4&feature=youtu.be how intently this Caterpillar moved to get out of the elements.
I was glad when I finally reach the North side of Gull Island, just to get a break from the wind. With the calmer waters, it was easy to spot a favorite shore bird of mine, the Greater Yellowlegs, with his ever so long yellow legs. Plunking myself down on a large log that had been washed up, I watched in fascination as he waded almost up to his underside, constantly dunking his bill down into the waters for a morsel.
Just a bit further along the shoreline, a Black-bellied Plover watched me cautiously for a few minutes before flying off.
As always I had a great day at the Park. It’s a wonderful way to de-stress, unwind and get some fresh outdoors exercise. And, of course, take lots and lots of photographs to share with family, friends and readers of this blog.
Visitors come from afar to Presqu’ile for the stunning waterfront scenery and beaches, bird watching is a passion for many, and nature lover’s young and old love to watch the Monarch Butterflies as they glide effortlessly through the fields and meadows.
But there is another side to Presqu’ile that can be just a little bit more challenging but just as fun to discover. Recently at the Park it was nature at its smallest that caught my attention as I walked the trails with my camera.
The blue panne trail runs perpendicular between the popular beach trail and main road into the Park. Even in August, rubber boots were necessary to navigate several wet areas and the mosquitoes were persistent in buzzing around us. Large Canada Darners darted after prey and the landscape was dotted with the delicate pink hues of the Obedient Plant. My husband spotted a movement and discovered the tiniest of Spring Peeper Frogs and somehow managed to have it hop onto his finger so that I could photograph it.
A short distance down the trail, another was nestled on a Milkweed Leaf soaking up the afternoon sun.
Many people profess not to like Spiders and yet they are amazing to capture in a photograph. August is a good month to find the stunning Black and Yellow Garden Spider. We found a small area where several had built their unique “zig zag” webs hoping to catch a delectable treat. You might need to use your macro or close-up setting on your camera in order to get a clear image.
Harder to spot was the elusive Flower Spider whose pink markings blended in perfectly with the Joe-Pye Weed allowing it to catch the juiciest of flies.
Butterflies are always present at Presqu’ile, and it’s easy to spot the magnificent Giant Swallowtail or Great Spangled Fritillary with it’s prominent black and brown markings in August. But equally impressive is the tiny Eastern-tailed Blue Butterfly with its delicate orange markings.
Even tinier was the Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth which eluded me for the better part of 30 minutes…always landing on the underside of a leaf. Finally, I was able to get an image that I could use to identify it once back home.
Children have a natural curiosity about bugs. And what little one wouldn’t enjoy seeing the spiky bum of this fly from the Tachinid Family. I’m still curious as to what are the appendages in the centre of its face.
A Goldenrod Soldier Beetle was striking with his striped torso. I learned that they have a defence chemical called cantharidin that birds do not enjoy tasting.!!!
So big or small, it is always worth taking a second look at nature while hiking, biking, running or walking the trails at Presqu’ile. You never know what tiny creature is lurking under the rocks, crawling up a stem or hopping along the trail!!!
PARK BLOG # 14 – Warblers and Whimbrels Week-end 2015
It was a picture perfect week-end at Presqu’ile Provincial Park on May 16th and 17th for the annual “Warblers and Whimbrels Week-end”. There is always a sense of excitement in the air as nature lovers, avid birders and campers descend upon the park.
For once, the gusty winds normally blowing off of Lake Ontario stayed calm, allowing for strolls along the scenic shoreline without fear of one’s hat blowing off. While walking, the witchety-witchety-witchety-witch of the Common Yellowthroat Warbler and squeaks, warbles and mews of the Gray Catbird had me looking into every shrub and bush along the paths hoping to get a glimpse and perhaps a photograph or two.
The highlight for me was heading down to Owen’s Point and watching the bird-banding display on Saturday morning. Elizabeth Kellogg and Roger Frost, assisted by Katsu Sakuma and Pat and Colin King gave hands on demonstrations on the entire bird banding process from start to finish. Pat has been coming to the banding demonstrations for 18 years and keeps a log.
Elizabeth is absolutely fascinating to watch as she carefully handles a wide variety of birds that have been caught in special netting called mist nets I watched in awe as Elizabeth expertly banded eight species of birds including a vibrant Blackburian Warbler, and a very wiggly Lincoln’s Sparrow both new species for me.
After gently removing a Black and White Warbler from the soft draw string bag it was placed in after being caught, Elizabeth holds the bird so as to secure it firmly without risk of injury. There are a variety of checks, such as identifying whether the bird is male or female and its physical condition. You can see that a small metal band geared to the size of the bird is then placed on its leg and the corresponding number is marked down in a log that is kept with a record of each bird banded. Putting on the band did not discomfort the little Warbler at all.
I found it quite humorous to watch Elizabeth as she turned the Black and White Warbler over and blew gently on the underside. Everyone watching the demonstration wanted to know what she was doing and why? It was explained to the very curious group that this allowed her to determine the fat content of each bird banded, an important statistic. (fat is deposited in the crop area and can be seen under the feathers as a blob of yellow. If there is not much fat it has to eat a lot to build it up before heading north. If it has lots of fat it is probably ready to continue north. ) Finally, Elizabeth checked out the flight feathers and a very happy Black and White Warbler was allowed to fly off with his dignity intact.
After such an interesting morning, it was time for a good walk at Owen’s Point to check out any sightings of the Whimbrels which migrate through Presqu’ile Provincial Park at this time of year. Some of my favorite spring flowers including the delicate white blossoms of the Toothwort and the incredibly delicate Foamflower were in full bloom. Catching my eye with their vivid orange coloring were several Red Admiral Butterflies, a regular in the Owen’s Point area.
Sadly, the Whimbrels were a “no show” that week-end, however I was lucky enough to spot these three Short-billed Dowitchers marching along the shoreline, drilling their long beaks into the muck for delicious tidbits.
Further explore the Friends website to discover more special event week-ends coming in 2015. It’s always a great time to learn, discover and show that you care about our environment.
After such a long and cold winter, I was definitely ready for any signs of spring at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. The Waterfowl Festival held March 14th and 15th this year was the perfect time to celebrate the end of winter and welcome thousands of migrating birds to the Park. My husband and I usually volunteer on the Sunday and this year were stationed at the Lighthouse. I have to admit, the wind was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining and we enjoyed chatting to the steady stream of visitors of all ages at the viewing station. Though many brought along their own binoculars, quite a few people took advantage of the telescopes set up for public use. Visitors were delighted to see the striking Redhead Ducks, elegant Long-tailed Ducks and rafts of both Lesser and Great Scaups.
Early spring can pose some tricky walking situations. The trails can be either deep, boot sucking mud, or extremely slippery where the snow has melted leaving behind a thick layer of ice hardened over the winter. It’s always wise to wear several layers as the temperature can change quickly depending on whether you are walking the scenic shoreline trails or head deep into the woods. Walking along the shoreline in the Bluff’s campground is a favorite walk in early spring. There are still fingers of ice going out into Lake Ontario creating a mosaic of patterns and shapes. On one March walk, I happened to find a Herring Gull attempting to swallow a large piece of something. After many failed attempts and fending off other Gulls he finally managed to have his treat.
I found the woods strangely quiet in late March and even into early April this year. Parking my vehicle at the Camp Office birdfeeder set up by the Friends of Presqu’ile is the most enjoyable place to eat my lunch and enjoy the “live show” of chattering birds. While munching on my sandwich and sipping some steaming hot tea, I am mesmerized by cheery Common Redpolls darting back and forth between the tall pine trees and birdfeeder. Saucy little Red Squirrels scrounge around for any available sunflower seeds that happen to fall down to the ground and I’m always sure to see a Downey Woodpecker.
One of the most touching photographs I took this year was on April 1st. There is a place along the main road where people hand feed the birds. I always have some seeds tucked away in my pocket throughout the colder months….Standing out in the cold, I psheeshed and psheeshed…and I was soon rewarded by a bush full of hungry Black-capped Chickadees. To my surprise, one of them was one-legged. There was the tiniest bit of a leg showing and I’m not sure whether he was born this way or lost it in an accident. However, he balanced perfectly, hopped on and off my fingers without a worry, stealing my peanuts and my heart in the process.
Early spring is always full of surprises and if you have the patience to allow nature to discover you……your walks at Presqu’ile Provincial Park will always be rewarding.
After a summer where we had more clouds than sun, wet camping weekends, hordes of mosquitoes and blustery winds, September has turned out picture perfect at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. I was finally able to put away the bug spray, take off the jackets and bring out the sun screen for many of my recent visits. The seasonal flooding that seemed to last all summer long, finally receded and I could walk comfortably in my shoes on most trails and walkways without fear of sinking up to my ankles in water or muck.
It takes some planning to hit all of the trails that offer both the shorebirds that I love to photograph and the sunny meadows where the migrating Monarch Butterflies gather, drinking in the sweet nectar of the New England Asters. I usually head straight to Owen’s Point Trail as soon as I get to the Park, following a steady stream of bird enthusiasts hoping to see a wide range of migratory birds. My favorite spot is right at the tip of Owen’s Point, offering a clear view of Gull Island and a wide swatch of rich mucky sediment that the Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plovers and Semipalmated Plovers love to feed from. I was lucky enough on recent trips to find two new species to add to my list, Pectoral Sandpipers and a Baird Sandpiper.
After trekking around Owen’s Point, I’ll quite often end up at the beach and spend time just poking along the shoreline. If I’m lucky I’ll catch sight of a Northern Harrier sweeping down the length of Beach Three or just two weeks ago, caught sight of five Sharp-shinned Hawks circling and swooping together as they passed through the Park. Nodding Bur Marigolds add a bright yellow splash of color against the sand and tucked along the Beach Trail adjacent to the shoreline you can find the delicate blue hues of the Fringed Gentian. I love the way Bumblebees dive down into their slender tube and then awkwardly back their way out.
Time always flies by and by the time I’ve explored the
beaches and surrounding trails I am always ready for lunch. It’s a quick drive
to the first day area where I take my sandwich and thermos right to the water’s edge with the waves lapping at my
feet and soak in the scenery.
Photographing Monarch Butterflies is an experience that I never tire of.
Walking along the edge of the field after lunch, it’s easy to spot small clusters
of bright orange and black Monarch Butterflies all crisp and new. I was excited
to spot a chrysalis recently and to see a Monarch beginning to emerge, and then
further along, a pair of mating Monarchs caught my eye.
I’m curious about everything, and love discovering the sleepy Garter Snake sunning itself on the edge of a pathway, or Milkweed Leaf Beetle munching away on a leaf. Caterpillars have always fascinated me, and you are bound to find some interesting ones in September. I sighted this Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar tucked under a leaf while I was attempting to photograph a Grey Comma Butterfly that was flitting about. Quite often I find caterpillars when I’m not looking for them! Something usually catches my eye that looks different or out of place and that was the case when spotting this Hog Sphinx Caterpillar.
It won’t be long before the chilly October winds creep back in the Park, along with clusters of, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and other migrating birds. Happy trail walking!!!
There were about 20 people that stopped to see me at work at the Cow Pasture area today. A fellow painted with me, it was his first time.
It was kind of windy there, but the colours in the sky and water and the family of swans were a big bonus!
Lighthouse July 4
Well it's been a long hard winter and spring, but the summer is finally here and I'm glad to be back at the park...painting.The weather for the first session at the Lighthouse started out to be a bit drizzly, but the sun finally came out and I was able to get a few quick watercolour sketches in. I had about 20 to 25 visitors drop by to say hello and to watch me paint.
You can always bring your own equipment and paint along with me if you want...it's fun! Just warming up for a larger piece(s) at the boardwalk next week.
At the Boardwalk July 9/14
It was a pleasant day, not too hot or windy. I set up my easel right on the boardwalk to face the south. Another artist who had been camping joined me. Her view was to the east, one that I painted last year.
I would have loved to set up near the "horse trees" but I realized it was far to buggy due to the rain the night before, perhaps next time I'm at the boardwalk.
Here's what I came up with...2 small acrylic paintings.
The first "Marsh in the Morning" is 12"x16" and the other is a fast study of the ever changing clouds that day "Cloud Study" is 8.5"x10.5".
Calf Pasture July 16
I had about 12 people stop by today at the Calf Pasture. I also had an artist paint with me. It was a lovely area to admire and paint the view. No swans, but a duck with lots of babies, and terns diving for fish.
I started a 16x20 canvas in acrylic and did not finish. Time just flew by and before you know it, it was past 2pm.
Here's what I've started, and will finish in my studio (from photos taken at the time).
Nature Centre July 23/14
It was a dull day to begin with, but with a little imagination I managed to create this watercolour/acrylic in my "loose landscape style" It's roughly 9"x13". Sometimes even a dull day can result in something colourful.
to Presqu’ile Provincial Park in the deep of winter takes some planning. Layers
of clothing, "hot paws” to insert into our mitts and boots, thick scarves to
protect our face from bitterly cold off-shore winds, removable cleats for the
bottom of our boots, sunscreen, picnic lunch and of course a piping hot thermos of hot chocolate are all
We recently enjoyed two winter walks despite discovering upon arrival that the main loop was closed both times due to the recent ice storm damage. Our main goal was to photograph Snowy Owls that have been spotted recently along the shoreline near Owen’s Point Trail and Gull Island. We braved zero visibility from snow squalls coming in off of the Lake and icy, treacherous footing as we traipsed along Beach Three hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive owls who like to perch on snow hummocks or ice formations that jut out into the water. Unfortunately, we struck out both days.
After such bone chilling jaunts, lunch was definitely in order and we stayed cozy warm inside of our vehicle parked facing a very active bird feeder at the Park Campground Office parking lot. This is the most amazing birdfeeder with a variety of perches and food, and I want one for my home!!
While we munched on our sandwiches, Black-capped Chickadees along with Red and White Breasted Nuthatches flew in with precision snatching a sunflower seed before dashing off within seconds. Both Hairy and Downey Woodpeckers snacked away more leisurely with both visits having a good showing of the brightly colored Northern Cardinals. We didn’t even have to leave the comfort of our car; my husband just rolled down the window and took his pictures.
After lunch both days we hiked through somewhat slippery trails through the campground hugging close to the shoreline. Tree branches and limbs littered the snow and we were very aware of taking care of our own safety, especially with the winds whistling through the trees causing loud creaking, squeaking and cracking sounds. The swell of the waves coming in were stunning. I have never seen them so fierce. When they hit the shoreline, chunks of ice flew up everywhere along with the icy spray. You could hear this crashing of waves from all areas of the Park. We watched in fascination as Long-tailed Ducks struggled to fly into the headwinds. Once they landed they were almost swallowed up inside of the churning water only to pop back up once the wave was over them.
In a quieter area, a flock of about 35 Mute Swans bobbed up and down preening away, seemingly oblivious to the stormy waters around them.
Taking photographs in the winter months is always rewarding.
Though the Monarch Butterflies, Green Darner Dragonflies and vibrant Baltimore Orioles are nowhere to be seen, your eye catches a different beauty; the stark contrast between snow and driftwood, colors of the sky against the snowy landscape and bright green ferns nestled against a log under a canopy of ice.
Though we didn't get to see everything on our "wish list”, we’ll be back soon enough and who knows…..perhaps a Snowy Owl will be waiting for us!!
Dec 3 2013
It was a beautiful still morning so I went for a quick walk out behind the office, through the dunes to the beach. The snow we got last week had started to melt yesterday but was crisp this morning and excellent for seeing tracks in. The usual were all in evidence; Black Squirrels and the identical but smaller Red Squirrels, Cottontail Rabbits, Coyote, small rodents, even a Fisher. The latter, while never common, I do see the tracks of every winter,
though I have yet to see the beast in the flesh.
Cotton Tail and Coyote
But then I saw something that looked very strange, a track that distinctly showed the fingers on the front paw.
Racoons can show fingers quite nicely but they have an elongated foot and this was almost round, and a bit smaller.
I followed it along for a while trying to see a good back paw track, but the back foot always seemed to fall on the back half of the front track so I couldn't get a perfect look at either. Finally, a got down for a closer look and was able to make out a back print with a thumb that stuck out at a right angle to the paw! Even stranger.
Then it hit me. It was an Opossum!
I'd never seen the tracks of that mammal before but was not really surprised to do so now as last year saw a real increase in their numbers in the Brighton area. The Virginia Opossum is at the north edge of its range here. They have very little fur and don't do well in winter. They can move into an area (even hitching rides on transport trucks) and survive for a while and then a hard winter will kill most, if not all of them off. We started seeing road kill opossums on County Road 64 outside the park in October 2012 and recorded about 8 dead ones through the fall and winter. Obviously a population was in the area, but could they survive the winter?
This summer, a couple of our night patrolling wardens saw the first opossums ever recorded for the park – and they were alive, walking through the campgrounds. Obviously they made it through 1 winter here. Now I've seen my firsthand evidence of a live opossum in the park. Only time will tell if they will persist here and I'll get a chance to see one actually making tracks rather than just the tracks themselves.
Close-up of Opossum Track.
Front foot on left, hind foot on top and to right.