According to eBird reports Evening Grosbeaks had been spotted in Centennial Park in Sherwood Park foraging on Manitoba Maple seeds. Since I was in the neighbourhood I decided to stop by to see if I could spot them. It was a bone chilling morning. I sure found the maples, they were everywhere full of seeds. Unfortunately the Evening Grosbeaks where nowhere to be seen. Better luck next tine.
1a: to lie at rest, b: to lie dead; c: to remain still or concealed. 2: to take a rest. 3: to rest for support
It is difficult to tell if these trunks belong to a living or a dead tree. Green leaves are like a pulse of a living being…, an assurance that the life processes are still going on. Without leaves, however, the difference between the dead and living is harder to pinpoint. One could probable make an argument that any deciduous perennial plant would be in a state of suspended life during the winter. It begs the question are there any cellular processes going on in a tree like the one in today’s photo during the deep cold winter?
It’s been a while since I saw a Hairy Woodpecker. These fellas are like the big brothers/sister of more common Downy Woodpecker. The Downy is slightly more petit than the Hairy, but the size difference can be subtle and otherwise the two are virtually identical. The two first birds on my life list are the Downy and the Hairy Woodpecker, in that order. They could have been in the opposite order, however, as I was fortunate enough to see both of them at the same time at one of the winter feeders at the Beaver Hills Bird Observatory almost a year ago. Seeing them next to each other was a special treat that allowed me to directly compare them and has helped me immensely in my ability to confidently distinguish the two species. This is my first photograph of a Hairy Woodpecker. I encountered this one at the Centennial Park in Sherwood Park on a bone shattering cold morning. This fella did not seem to mind the cold at all, however, and was busy going to down on the tree branches looking for a morsel to eat.
Today I managed to squeeze in two nature walks. A morning visit to Centennial Park in Sherwood Park. It was a blistering cold day with temperatures down to -20C, yet the winter hardy birds were out in full force. In the afternoon I visited The Whitemud Ravine. This time it was quiet and, other than Black-capped Chickadees, I spotted a fleeting glance of a Pileated Woodpecker. I heard the characteristic monkey laugh of it first and as I started scanning for it I saw a quick flash of it landing on the back of a dead old growth tree. By the time I made my way around the tree the Pileated Woodpecker was gone, but I did find a large cavity roughly where it had landed. I suspect that the woodpecker was likely in that cavity. This is the second potential nesting site of a Pileated Woodpecker I have found at the Whitemud Ravine. I am still lacking any useful photographs of Pileate Woodpeckers, so I will need to monitor these cavities more regularly. Around 3:30 in the afternoon the sun was getting low and by 4 pm it was dusk-like and too dark for photography. The early darkness is an unexpected challenge when it comes to birding during this time of the year. Winter solstice is still several weeks away so things are looking dark (pun intended) for the next little while.
Fungi are the organisms that contribute to the decomposition of dead animals and plants. What we typically think of when we think of fungi are actually the charismatic fruiting bodies. The actual fungus, however, is “invisible” as it is buried underground or inside a decomposing tree trunk in the form of a mycelium. The mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus and consists of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. These fruiting bodies of so called polypore fungi were growing all the way around the trunk of a dead tree. Polypores are also called bracket fungi, and their woody fruiting bodies are called conks and they typically inhabit tree trunks or branches consuming the wood.
It never ceases to amaze me how hardy and resilient the animals in the forest are and how meek and helpless we humans are. Take this unassuming red squirrel as an example. I came across this little fella on a bitterly cold morning sitting in a tree munching on a snack seemingly not being bothered by the cold at all. I on the other hand, I was bundled up in more layers that I care to count, little hotties in boots and, toque and gloves…, yet, I had to keep moving to stay warm. It is remarkable that an animal so vulnerable and helpless to the elements has managed to become the globally dominant organism. The reason for the “success” of humans is obviously the brain. What we lack for in hardiness, teeth, claws and physical prowess we make up for with our brain. Nevertheless, this humble squirrel (and others like it) deserve our respect and admiration.
Now that the leaves are long gone one can easily see the twisted branches of trees. I found the contrast between the gnarly branches of this weathered three, the golden shrubbery and the dark blue visually striking. I don’t know what kind of tree it is. Deciduous trees are harder to identify when they don’t have leaves toree al their identity.