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Karen Anderson

SEPTEMBER SAUNTERS

Walking the trails at Presqu'ile through September is one of my favorite times with crisp breezes and crunchy leaves underfoot. I love the quiet of the park with fewer visitors, however nature manages to make up for it with a flurry of migrations, vibrant autumn foliage and splashes of late blooming wildflowers.

The absence of the Monarch Butterfly this year has been felt by many enthusiasts of the species. You have to search long and hard for the bright orange and black butterfly, however on a recent visit I did managed to find thirty-six. And while I have been disappointed with the absence of some of my favorite butterflies this summer, the sighting of Giant Swallowtail Caterpillars has been a photo opportunity I have thoroughly enjoyed.

These unusual looking caterpillars remind everyone of "bird poop” on a branch. And, when startled a horn-like organ pops out of their head called an "osmeterium”, which releases quite the nastiest smell which I found out first hand last week.

The annual fall migration of birds is in full swing at Presqu'ile with the precise V formations of Canada Geese overhead, groups of loudly squawking Blue Jays, and Northern Flickers flying from tree trunk to tree trunk. Walking along the beach trail last week, small clusters of Warblers danced in amongst the small shrubs and bushes. It can be confusing to an amateur birder like myself to identify Warblers especially as so many are similar in appearance with soft yellows and olive coloring. My dilemma is do I grab the binoculars and try and get a closer look or grab the camera so that I have an image to refer to when checking out my Peterson's Guide back at home. After my walk last week,

Park staff were able to help me identify Palm Warblers

and an Orange-crested Warbler, both new species to me, from photographs that I provided.

I love walking along the shoreline of Beach Three and I'm always careful not to wander into the restricted nesting areas. Luckily I had on my rubber boots because I sunk almost up to the tops within seconds after stepping onto the thick green muck at the edge of the shore!

No wonder the Semipalmated Plover,
that walked right by me as I was attempting to pull myself out, enjoys grubbing around the shoreline for a tasty treat. A piece of beautifully marked driftwood caught my attention. Upon closer inspection what I thought was perhaps debris turned out to be dozens of ladybeetles all snuggled together, I would image to keep warm. How they all managed to find this one piece of wood in the middle of the beach is beyond me.

There appeared to be several varieties and I am still researching to find out what types.
Presqu'ile has stunning fall flowers from the blue tinted Fringed Gentian, to the delicately striped white Grass-of-Parnassus and vivid yellow Bur Marigold.


Due to the cool weather on my last visit to the park, all of the Bumblebees gathering nectar were sluggish and very easy to photograph up close. I loved how the yellow pollen was sprinkled all over their bodies. As I continued the last leg of my walk a two foot long Garter Snake was curled up on a wooden pallet just soaking up what little sun there was and seemed oblivious to the small Meadowhawk Dragonflies that were flitting around his space.

Next time I come to the park I will be sure to check out the bright orange, red and yellow Waxcap Fungi that are sure to be scattered across the forest floor at this time of year. And, as always, look forward to new discoveries to share.

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Artist in the Park

Artist in the Park,

Susan Moshynski's blog for July 3

Well, it certainly was a hot and humid day for my first outing.

I set up my easel near the lighthouse keeper's cabin to start with and did not quite finish the sketch because it got too hot.

Thankfully a few friends of mine visited and gave me a hand moving my equipment.

Then I faced a mass of Cows Parsnip in a shadier spot and sketched that scene until about 2:30 pm. I had at least 50 people stopping to take a look during the entire day. All in all it was a successful day... I drank 2 full bottles of water!

I used pastels today and next week I may take my watercolours for a session on the boardwalk somewhere

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Early Sring Walks

Early Spring Walks

Karen Anderson

Early spring walks at Presqu'ile Provincial Park can be challenging weather wise. You never know whether to pack a spring coat, winter parka or rain gear. Though the temperatures forecasted may be quite warm, don't be surprised at how bone chilling cold and windy it can be down by the shoreline! Rubber boots are always a must, especially with seasonal flooding on some of the trails.

March is all about the returning migration of waterfowl, and my husband and myself enjoyed volunteering at the Waterfowl Week-end held March 16th & 17th this year. We met people from all over Ontario, Quebec and even visitors from England. Some were quick to identify the Red-breasted Mergansers, Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks, bobbing on the waves, while others less experienced were able to use the provided telescopes, visual aids and help of knowledgeable volunteers.

The ground was still covered in snow throughout most of March and it can be a time of year when there doesn't appear to be much to see, let alone photograph. However, nature always manages to catch me by surprise. While walking into the campground section where I love to wander up and around the campsites, I discovered three Cutworm Caterpillars, and a solitary Spider (which I havn't yet identified) all very much alive on the snow.

One of my favorite pastimes in early spring is to photograph tree trunks, and stumps. I am always on the lookout for interesting shapes and it's fun to discover branches that remind me of faces, animals, etc….Now the "happy face” below, can still be found on the Marsh Boardwalk trail.

 My "rattlesnake” was at the beginning of the group camping road, but has since been cut back by Park staff to prevent the road from being blocked off.

Walking the trails this past week, showed me glimpses of a warmer spring to come. Three Eastern Comma Butterflies danced in the sunlit areas of Jobes' Wood Trail occasionally chased by the larger Mourning Cloak Butterflies.

I heard the loud and very noisy drumming of what I thought had to be a Pileated Woodpecker, only to discover that it was a much smaller Hairy Woodpecker pounding furiously on a hollowed out birch tree. A small patch of bright yellow Coltsfoot, always the very first wildflower in the Park, brought a little sunshine to the spit at the end of Atkins Lane.

And finally, I took a peek at the construction of the new boardwalk at Jobes' Wood Trail being built by volunteers of the Friends of Presqu'ile and am looking forward to its completion, so that I can once again walk this favorite trail of mine.

 

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January Jaunt

January Jaunt

Karen Anderson

Our most recent walk through Presqu'ile ProvincialPark was the most perfect of days with no wind to contend with, and a bright blue sunny sky.

We started the day off walking out onto Beach Three, hoping to find a glimpse of the Snowy Owl that has been spotted recently hunting close to Gull island. The walking was a bit challenging, one minute you were on sand, the next on crunchy ice that had formed. Mini mountain formations dotted the shoreline, including a number of "volcanoes”. Today, due to the lack of wind, the waves weren't being forced under and up through the top, Sometimes causing spectacular displays of water shooting up.

However, the ice formations along the shoreline were interesting to photograph. We didn't hear too many birds along the way, but the cracking of the ice, and sounds of the ice shifting and banging together made up for it.

Looking down, I could see hundreds of tiny bird "footprints” on the exposed sand sections and areas where the snow was smooth. I was curious as to what species would have made them.

All of a sudden a flock of about 50 Snow Buntings darted down and around us, finally landing a short distance away. They scuttled around the exposed vegetation, and when we came too close for comfort, would rise up in a single flock and move down the shoreline.

Many avid birders come to Presqu'ile for the variety of waterfowl to be found in the icy waters. The sheer numbers of species can be overwhelming for the amateur birder, but handy photographs and descriptions can be found at the Lighthouse, or Aitken's Lane viewing platforms.
We found a large gathering of Mute Swans close to the Bluff's and spent time watching small groups fly in. The sound of their wings in the air is indescribable, almost a rhythmic, whirring noise.
Mixed in with the Mute Swans were Canada Geese that had the shortest necks we had ever seen.At first we thought they might be Cackling Geese, however, they turned out to be a western form of the Canada Goose.

We finished up our day strolling down the Group Camping Road, stopping to hand feed some Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees. Always close at hand are White-breasted Nuthatches making their distinctive "ank ank ank” call, but we have never had any luck enticing them with our sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts. By this time the clouds had rolled in and the temperature took a sudden plunge.

Time to head home.

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New Butterfly at Presqu'ile

Common Checkered Skipper 

On the heels of 4 new park butterfly speciesearlier in the year, a Common Checkered Skipper gave my group great looks on the thistles on the east end of Gull Island, Saturday Sept 15, at about 11am.

Ian Shanahan

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June Blog

Karen Anderson

Early Summer Rambles June/July 2012

Despite the hot humid weather, June and July so far have been perfect for discovering Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Driving into the Park early one morning in June, I saw something oddly shaped on the road ahead. To my amazement it was a bear cub. By the time I pulled over and grabbed my camera it had disappeared into the underbrush of the Panne. Immediately I turned around and went to the Park Office, situated at the entrance and shared what I had just seen.

You can't walk very far at Presqu'ile these past few weeks without seeing vividly colored black and orange Monarch Butterflies gracefully flying by. They seem to favor the Panne area, however I have been lucky to find small clusters of them on Aitkens Road and in the back meadow at the first day use area. At the beginning of June they enjoyed the Viper's Bugloss wildflower, Honeysuckle, and Dandilions, but once the Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed bloomed, this became their flower of choice.

The Milkweed plants have been in abundance this year throughout the park. There were times on my walks when their lightly scented fragrance filled the air all around me. What is really neat is all of the insects that live tucked way in every nook and cranny of the plant. From European Earwigs, Monarch Caterpillars munching away at the leaves, Milkweed Beetles and this spider that I found. I havn't figured out what type it is yet, but it seemed quite comfortable to be photographed.

A book that I find useful is "Milkweed, Monarchs and More – A field guide to the invertevrate community in the milkweed patch”. It is full of photographs and useful information for the budding naturalist.

at the Lighthouse is a favorite spot for the beginning and expert birders to enjoy. In June, if you are lucky enough, you might hear the crazy call of a Gray Catbird, spot a Ruby-throated Hummingbird or be amazed by the colors of the Scarlet Tanager. I was lucky enough to find a Yellow Warblers nest with five eggs. One egg seemed much larger than the others, and I wondered if a Brown-headed Cowbird was the culprit. I worried about the safety of the nest because it was totally out in the open for anyone, human or predator to find. But, the next week when I peeked in there were four small Yellow Warbler babies, and one very large and vocal Brown-headed Cowbird baby. The next time I came to the park, the nest was empty and hopefully all survived. Later on that day, while on the Marsh Boardwalk I heard loud "peeping”. There were two adult Pied-billed Grebes, a new species for me and three chicks. Now the chicks are the oddest looking babies ever. I would never think that they belonged to this parent by just looking at them.

Sometimes I find that if I take things slowly, that I discover more about nature. I'm always watchful for the Eastern Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, White-tailed Deer and Eastern Garter Snakes that either dash out or slither across the road. But at this time of year, I especially watch out for the slowly moving large Snapping Turtles who cross the main road over from the marsh to lay their eggs. This large turtle decided to dig two holes right in front of the transformer. I wonder how the turtles that hatch manage to find their way back to the safety of the water.

While strolling along the shoreline last week, letting my dog Jesse have a play and well deserved drink, I saw the funniest insect or was it a bird? darting about a stand of milkweed. I wasn't sure if it was a Hummingbird or a very large Bumblebee. As I crept closer I realized that what I was seeing was a Snowberry Clearwing Moth. It was so intent on chasing away two Monarch Butterflies and feeding from the sweet nectar that I was able to get very close to take this photograph.

It doesn't take much to interest me, whether it is the young Red Fox I spotted trotting along the main road with an Eastern Chipmunk in its mouth, the Great Blue Heron that caught three large Catfish in a row or watching an American Woodcock dig amongst the leaves for grubs, I always learn something new.

Karen Anderson

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May 2012

Karen Anderson

 

May is one of my favorite times of the year to visit Presqu?ile with migrating birds and butterflies arriving daily, and the emergence of wildflowers in every nook and cranny of the Park.

 

Many of you may have heard about the huge migration of Red Admiral Butterflies to Southern Ontario in late April, with hundreds arriving at Presqu?ile. Early in May on a sunny walk, I counted close to 400 of these stunning black butterflies with bright orange wing stripes. On the same day I think that every dandelion at the Park had either a Red Admiral, Painted Lady or Question Mark Butterfly on it.

 

Walking the "Swimming Beach Trail?, is usually my first walk of the day. This trail runs from the Owens Point parking lot straight through to Beach One. At this time of year, week-ends will find the trail full of campers and visitors hiking or biking down to the long stretches of sandy beach.  One of my favorite warblers, the Common Yellowthroat hangs out right at the start of the trail.  Its distinctive "witchity-witchity-witchity" song, black mask and bright yellow underparts makes it easy to spot even for the beginning birdwatcher.

 

 Walking along the trail recently, I watched the tree swallows swooping and diving with precision for insects. It didn?t take me long to discover trees with multiple holes in their trunks had become "apartment complexes? for the swallows. Brown Thrashers, Cedar Waxwings and Killdeers love this area of the Park. Twice now, I have seen a Turkey strolling down the path ahead of me, until it senses my presence and scurries into the thick underbrush.

 

I love the way that park visitors help each other out. In the midst of a cluster of Black-Capped Chickadees, I discovered a small bird that I could not identify and visitors from Peterborough told me that it was an American Redstart, a new species for me.  Park staff are always great to ask questions as I discovered when I took a photograph of a small, drab looking butterfly on the trail this past month. It turned out to be an Eastern Pine Elfin and has never been recorded at the Park before, so a great find!

 

Presqu?ile has some of the most stunning wildflowers in bloom during May. To help with identifying them I always bring along a small magnifying glass in my backpack and take a photograph of both the bloom, stem and leaves.  Starry-eyed Solomon Seal, bright orange scarlet Wild Columbine, and delicate Foam Flower are some of my favorites that are in bloom right now. Check out the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, as I discovered this year that some of the "jacks? are burgundy and some are a greenish white.

 

 

As I returned back to the Owen Point parking lot yesterday,  I came across the biggest snail I had even seen before. He was gliding or is it sliding across the path ever so slowly until he bumped into a dead leaf. I watched in fascination as he tried numerous attempts to circumvent the leaf until I finally couldn?t stand it any longer and gently picked him up and put him out of harms way.

 

A great end to a month full of discoveries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March Walk

Karen Anderson 

March 18th and 22nd 2012

I visited the Park twice this past week, and certainly enjoyed the warmer, sunnier weather. Spring is all about "firsts? no matter what your love of nature is: first warbler, wildflower, dragonfly, first butterfly. ???

Walking the trails I was hoping to discover a Mourning Cloak Butterfly, usually the earliest one to be found at Presqu'ile. And, I wasn't disappointed, finding several gracefully flying about on Jobes' Woods Trail, right around marker #2. This beautiful woodland butterfly has cream colored outer margins, dark purplish maroon upper sides and beautifully detailed shiny blue dots around the edge of the wing. I am always amazed how different butterflies look, all depending on whether their wings are up or down. Mourning Cloak's are easily photographed because they don't seem to startle the way other species do.

Shortly down the same trail, just before marker #4, there is a large tree across the path that children will love climbing over or ducking under. It was here that I discovered three Comma Butterflies, all flitting about in the sunshine. One had part of a wing missing, but that didn't seem to stop it from flying with precision. If you purchase the "Butterflies of Presqu'ile Provincial Park? interpretive guide at the Lighthouse Gift Shop, it explains how this Butterfly got its name. This guide is always in my backpack for quick and easy reference.

The woods were full of birds on both walks. One small area had a group of Hairy Woodpeckers all "squabbling?. I don't know whether the males were trying to impress the females, or whether they were establishing their territory, but the action was quite loud. Several times I heard the Pileated Woodpecker drumming, and came across a few holes with fresh woodchips littering the ground below. The distinctive sound of the White-throated Sparrows were throughout the park, along with numerous clusters of Slate-colored Juncos and my first Northern Flicker for 2012.

Finding my first wildflower of the year is always great. Coltsfoot reminds me of a small dandelion, same brilliant yellow but much shorter. I've always had luck finding it behind the spit at the Atkin's Lane viewing platform.

Quite often I walk through the campgrounds, just following the winding roadways. The picnic benches are always handy for a quick break or lunch, and I always find something to interest me. Brushing away the top layer of leaves on the forest floor showed the first shoots coming up for the Sharp-lobed Hepatica, one of the prettiest wildflowers to be found in the springtime.

In one of the campsites, something white caught my eye, and I discovered part of a skull, and can only wonder if it was a squirrel or other small creature. I put it back where I found it, and sometime this year other campers will have the fun of "discovery?.

As always, I can hardly wait to come back to Presqu'ile to see what I can see, hear, touch, discover, photograph, and identify!

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Winter Soup Hike

A Careless

It was to be a Soup Hike like no other! When, over the last 10 years, have we walked out in a February with snowdrops blooming and grass greening?  When, might shorts rather than snow boots, be required? SoupHike 2012 promised to be a challenge as we traditionally talk of discovering ice formations on the shore and "life in the dead of winter?.

 

A Careless

 

Mother Nature did not disappoint: all morning there was a blizzard that covered all greenness and laced every tree bough. True PQP winter!  And we discovered Chickadees that would feed out of your hand, perch on your head, and a grouse that was prepared to be friendly ?for food?!

J Brubacher

Birch twigs that smelled like wintergreen gum [samples provided] and deer droppings that looked close to Glossette raisins ? samples provided [of the latter!]. Thirty people trekked our lovely Day Use area and retired to the LIC for an exotic choice of soups [handmade by the Superintendent and his wife] and an animated PowerPoint presentation, by leader Phil Careless, on Presqu?ile in its Winters and soon-to-be Spring.

 

NatureWorks workshops are one-day courses for the Naturally Curious! Click HERE to learn of our Spring and Fall offerings!

 

Previous Post - Winter Ramble

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Winter Ramble

by Karen Anderson

 

We quite often start our walk along the beach shoreline and today was no different. It felt odd to be walking in the furrowed sand wearing our heavy winter boots with no snow in sight. The beach was strangely empty with only a lone Ring-billed Gull in sight. A scattering of large smoothed driftwood had washed up onto the shoreline from past storms. Bordering the edge of Lake Ontario were small chunks of ice crystals sparkling in the sun, forming intricate patterns on the sand.

It was warm enough today to eat our sandwiches outside at the first picnic area. A large gathering of Long-tailed Ducks bobbed in the waves making it difficult to get good photographs. We always meet interesting people, and today met a couple who were using their telescopes to count birds for a waterfowl bird count. Long-tailed Duck showing off his long-tail.

After lunch it was off to feed the Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches on the Group Camping Road. I had brought along raw sunflower and safflower seeds and raw peanuts. We heard a rustling in the underbrush and the female Ruffed Grouse that we had spotted last visit was coming closer and closer. On a whim, I squatted down and put out my hand full of seeds and made a squeaky noise. To my astonishment she came right up and started to peck away. Her bill felt like a jack hammer on the palm of my hand. Friendly Ruffed Grouse

We decided to check out the waters around the Lighthouse and I was quite happy to see a large flock of Mute Swans quite close to shore. These birds are great to try out your photography skills as they don?t startle easily and just glide along slowly in the icy waters. This flock included both mature and immature swans. We watched as they went "bottoms up? to feed, and one swan had her feathers all fluffed out as she moved through the water. Dinner Time

Classic Mute Swan pose

Finishing up our Lighthouse walk we came upon these lush red berries. I?ve always wondered why the birds never ate them, like they do the Mountain Ash berries in our backyard. I?ve since found out that they are the European form of the High Bush Cranberry and apparently birds tend not to like them, so can last well into the winter.

Highbush Cranberry - the more bitter European form

Our last walk of the day was Jobe?s Wood Trail and like the beach shoreline, the woods were very quiet today. We found some Puffball Fungi that would still "blow out smoke? when touched. This was a favorite pastime of my children when they were younger. Bright green mossy logs and ferns lined the boardwalk and added a splash of color to the forest. Large caches of pine cones gathered by Red Squirrels seemed to be under every pine tree. We looked in vain for any sign of Barred Owls, as we have seen them on this trail in past years.

Though I missed using my snowshoes, looking for animal tracks in the snow, and even watching for Snow Fleas, we had a great day and were quite happy to head home when the sun started to dip down.

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Dogs off a leash?

Dogs off a leash?

Dogs off a leash? No it is the Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans)

As park biologists monitor the health of our wildlife, remote cameras are periodically set up in high traffic wildlife location. Recently, two of Presqu'ile's Eastern Coyotes passed by one of these cameras. In the first image an adult eyes the strange "Bushnell Trophy Camera?. Then after a few days the animals take no notice of the camera and relax in the warm afternoon sun.

Harmless and shy around humans in Ontario, Eastern Coyotes are a top predator in Presqu'ile Provincial Park. They play an important role removing (though predation) weak and sick smaller mammals. This natural process inadvertently keeps our fox, raccoon, skunk, muskrat, beaver, otter, rabbit, squirrel, vole, shrew and mouse populations healthy.

All Eastern Coyotes (also called Brush Wolves, Tweed Wolves or the American Jackal) are genetically distinct from their western relatives. The Western Coyote is solitary and small. In the past Eastern Coyote hybridized with Timber Wolf (Canis lupus) and Eastern Wolf (Canis lycaon). The resulting Coyotes are now large and will hunt in packs, unlike their smaller, solitary western relatives. Sadly, humans have killed all wolves in southern Ontario (lands south of Hwy 7) but their relative the Eastern Coyote still remains and continues to make Presqu'ile a healthy environment for all wildlife.

Our Eastern Coyotes can often be heard howling to each-other on cool fall and winter nights. When driving along the park's roads (particularly from the main-entrance through to park-store), be sure to roll down your windows and take a listen ? oh and feel free to join with their conversations.

Phillip Careless

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November Ramble

By Karen Anderson

Walking the trails at Presqu?ile when the icy, bone chilling winds are coming off of Lake Ontario are not for the "faint of heart?. But if you can layer on enough clothes and bring along a steaming hot thermos it is well worth the effort.

Waves, Geese and Mergansers K Anderson

Our trek today started on the beach shoreline and we literally had to hold onto our hats due to the blustery winds. Canada Geese were lined up at the edge of the shoreline, and a fast flying flock of Red-breasted Mergansers dipped dangerously close to the waves that were crashing towards the shore. We spotted a large fish carcass that had been stripped down to the bare bones on the sandy beach.

Fish Carcass K Anderson
Botulism, a natural occurring bacterium that is found in the lake?s sediments, does kill some fish and birds here every fall. We often see some along the beach in autumn. But fish and birds do die for other reasons and it is hard to tell whether this fish died of botulism or something else. In any case due to its well-weathered state, it certainly wasn?t a recent causality and thankfully, unlike Lake Huron, few creatures have died of botulism on Lake Ontario this fall.

We traveled to the first picnic area and ate our lunch in the warmth of the car, watching wave after wave break onto the rocky shoreline. My husband saw something in the grass and we discovered a barely alive Monarch Butterfly. Monarch in the hand. K Anderson
I have to admit that I picked it up gently and took it into the car to warm it up in my hand before placing in a sheltered area, along with one of the few remaining dandelions to be found.

After lunch, while walking the Group Camping Road, we were startled by this Grouse who came right up to us and we wondered if it was a Spruce or a Ruffed Grouse. As it was so cooperative we were able to get a good picture to compare to the bird field guide back home. Spruce Grouse males are dark blue-black, obviously not that. Female Spruce Grouse and both genders of Ruffed Grouse do look similar but the book showed that female Spruce Grouse have a barred tail with a rusty tip. Ruffed Grouse have a black band across the tail with a grey tip. The picture tells the tale of the tail - black band, grey tip ? Ruffed Grouse.
Mystery Grouse. D. Anderson
Checking the range map also showed that Spruce Grouse are birds of the boreal forest and not found south of Algonquin Park, so all was right with the world, though why this bird was so "tame? remains a bit of a mystery.

More usual birds seen here included Red-breasted Nuthatches that flew in to quickly grab the raw sunflower seeds I had brought, a Brown Creeper going up the tree trunk, and a White-breasted Nuthatch going down the tree trunk.

Our final walk of the day was the Marsh Boardwalk, a trail where we would always bring our children at the end of the day to settle them down before campfire and bedtime. I was astounded to see how low the water levels were. When I got back home I pulled up a photograph from June 2011 to compare. While a startling contrast, it is not unusual. The interpretive panel at this site tells the story of how Lake Ontario rises and falls in a fairly regular pattern of about a meter every year.High water is in June and low water in December, so my two pictures this year pretty much show the two extremes., about 80cm difference.  While pretty normal a meter seems to make a big difference at this location.November Water Level. K Anderson

June Water Levels. K Anderson
Looking out my window at the light covering of snow we received overnight, (ed note: Karen lives in the Lindsay area, no snow here ? yet) makes me think of future snow shoeing adventures in the Park in the coming months.
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