So winter is definitely here. The snow arrived over the weekend and the temperature has dropped drastically. This morning as we were heading to the Whitemud Creek the mercury was at -24C. It was a beautiful clear morning, the sun was beaming from a clear blue sky and, yes it was cold but the absence of a breeze made it tolerable. Of course, all the winter her was required; long johns, layer upon layer on the upper body, heavy duty kits, double toques and Little Hotties stuffed into the boots. Other then the Black-capped Chickadees and cawing of ravens on the distance we did not see much of the fauna. It was nevertheless a beautiful walk and the fresh snow and frozen creek turned a familiar landscape into something magical.
A ghillie suit a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble the background environment such as foliage, snow or sand enabling the wearer to “disappear” into the background. Whoever build this nest achieved the same effect as a ghillie suit. The untidy straws of grass protesting around the best almost eliminates the outline of the best making it blend in with the surroundings. Some people might say that the best is messy. I like to think that the design of the nest was intentional and a highly effective camouflage trick.
Chickadees might be tiny but they sure know what they want and make sure you know what it is. They regularly follow one along as you go for walks in the forest. They flutter around, chirp and it is pretty clear that they are hoping for a treat. They might be common and in your face, but they are que painful difficult to photograph as they never seem to sit still. They are always moving and on the go. This fella sat still long enough for me to quickly take a picture, but before I knew what had happened it was off and on to a different branch.
Abandoned and left to the elements these nest – two cup shaped nests right next to each other – are rapidly succumbing to rain, snow and wind. Without the protection of the leaves or the upkeep of their tenants it is clear that they will not make it through the winter unscathed. With one of the nests essentially disintegrating and the other hanging on by a strand of grass I doubt there will be anything left in the spring.
Beavers are not the only ones that like to consume bark as part of their diet. Last week in the forest by the Heritage Wetland Ponds I came across a large number of branches that had been debarked. To my best knowledge there are no beavers at this location and the branches were not by the water, so the question is what other animals would debark branches in this way? bit of research reveals that squirrels, voles and porcupines also chew bark for food. based on the amount of branches that had been chewed my guess would be that it was likely porcupines that chewed the bark off these branches. Just like beavers, porcupines chew through the outer layer of the bark and consume the inner bark, also known as phloem.
With the leaves gone, the branches are exposed revealing nests that were occupied just a few months ago. Meticulously constructed using twigs, grass and lined with feathers these were the domiciles where baby birds were hatched, reared and before moving out and moving on in life. Of course, when the nests were inhabited they were well-concealed by foliage. Will the same inhabitants return next year? Will new tenants move in? Are these disposable nests used only one season? What shape will the nest be after the winter?
Throughout the city parks and forests one encounters locations that are undergoing reforestation. Typically these are locations that were invasive species have been removed followed by an attempt to reintroduce native species. I say “attempt” because most invasive species are very aggressive and once established they can me almost impossible to eliminate. Today’s picture was taken at the Grey Nun’s Spruce Woodlot where baby spruce trees have been planted wrapped in metal mesh to protect them from hungry deer and rabbits.