I like the word “mangy”. The sound of the word aptly conveys its meaning (something that is in poor condition or shabby) and finally (after 188) posts I have reasons to use the word in a post. The cattails along the shores of the Heritage Wetlands are mangy these days as they are wilting, disintegrating and falling apart. Clearly they have reached the end of their life. Technically speaking the term cattail refers to the plant itself and not just the characteristic brown furry fruiting spikes. When mature, which would be about now I presume, the spike disintegrates to release cottony masses of minute wind-dispersed seeds.
As I was walking down the trail with eyes fixed on the trees there was a splashing sound. At first I though it came from the river, which was just a short distance away on the other side of some shrubbery. The sound seemed closer than the river and more subtle. Not a large splashing sound, but more of a small splashy sound. It did not take long to identify the culprit. In a large puddle along the trail a robin was having its morning bath. It was a very energetic and vigorous bath as it was ruffling up the feathers and shaking around in the brown puddle. My presence did not seem to bother the robin as it continued its bathing routine. It was not until a runner came steaming down the trail that the robin all of a sudden took off and vanished into the shrubbery.
Tree conks are the the fruiting bodies of fungi growing inside tree. They are an ominous signs that the tree is decaying from the inside out. This harbinger of death can be quite pretty though. I came across this stunning conk on a paper birch at the heritage Wetlands park. With a brown gradient on the top, a crisp dark brown line along its waist and a white underside it almost looked like it had been painted with water colors. The decay process is typically slow and conks can grow quite large. The lifestyle of growing on dead or dying organisms called a saprotrophic lifestyle and, while it does not sounds very glamorous, is a important ecological role of many fungi. What dies has to be recycled and fungi and bacteria are key players making this possible.
The leaves are long gone and all that remains are clusters of berries. Quite fittingly names these are Snowberries, a deciduous shrub commonly found in backyards as well as along trails. The name of the genus – Symphoricarpos – means “to bear together” in Greek and refers to the distinct closely packed clusters of berries the species produce. While the berries are an important source of food in the winter for birds it is poisonous to humans. While the berries are easy to spot on the leafless branches this will obviously change once the snow arrives.
A Song Sparrow hiding among the reed was letting everyone know it was there. Song Sparrows can be found in our city parks until the end of October at which point most of them head south to continental USA. Occasionally, however, the odd one decides to stay behind braving the local winter. True to its name, the Song Sparrow has a colorful repertoire of songs. In one of his journals Henry David Thoreau suggested that the song sounded to him like “Maids! Maids! Maids! Hang up your teakettle-ettle-ettle.” Song sparrows tend to develop local dialects and some people even claim that no two Song Sparrows have the same song. There is a collection of recorded songs here to give you a taste of the diversity of songs. The typical “three short identical notes followed by a longer one” has even been compared to rhythmical pattern of the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I am not entirely convinced about the Beethoven’s Fifth comparison but I will keep my ears peeled next time I am listening to a Song Sparrow.
A solitary female mallard was perched on an underwater rock energetically grooming her flight feathers. Perhaps she was getting ready to embark on her journey south. Her speckled fuzzy feathers blended in perfectly with the wilting yellow-brown reeds. It was a cold and crisp morning at the Heritage Wetlands Park. As most birds already have flown south I did not expect to see much. It turnes out that this location is full of surprises. These unassuming wetlands treated me to my first Belted Kingfisher and a Merlin last week. This time both the kingfisher and Merlin were nowhere to be found but instead I ended up seeing (or hearing) 13 species during the hour I was strolling around the ponds. The last time I spotted more species in a single outing was in mid-May and that walk lasted for two and a half hours, so I would say that today was pretty successful. The final breakdown of today’s tally is:
10 Canada Goose 10 Mallard 1 Bufflehead 10 Common Goldeneye 2 Hooded Merganser 4 Red-necked Grebe 2 Ring-billed Gull 1 Pileated Woodpecker 1 Black-billed Magpie 1 American Crow 1 Black-capped Chickadee 5 American Robin 2 Song Sparrow
On a different note. This is post 183 which means it is the half-way mark of Project 366. 183 posts down, 183 posts to go and still going strong.
Today was the last day of the Global Week for Future, a series of international strikes and protests demanding that action be taken to address climate change. As today was the last day, the week was wrapped up with a global Earth Strike across the world. An estimated 2 million 7 million (updated) people worldwide participated in today’s strike. Here in Edmonton the strike was scheduled at noon, starting at Churchill square and making its way to the legislature. I was not sure what to expect in terms of number of people – after all this is Alberta, where oil is king and climate change denialism is widespread. The media estimated that there were 4000 participants. The crowd consisted mainly of young adults and teenagers, exactly the demographics that has been the driving force behind this movement. It was a loud and cold event and afterwards we went for some hot chocolate to warm up. I think today’s events show that despite the lackluster efforts from governments and corporations in dealing with climate change there is hope. As the tide is rising (metaphorically and figuratively) it will be increasingly difficult for leaders and decision makers to ignore the growing chorus demanding action. Alberta? Well, we might have a bit more work cut out for us than other places, but I think change is inevitable and the day will come when being tone deaf will no longer be socially acceptable. History tends to repeats itself. One only has to go back a few decades to see many social issues that were debate and resisted and that today have transformed our societies and where opposing views have become socially unacceptable, e.g. women’s suffrage, residential schools, LGBTQ etc.