Outdoors In The Land O' Lakes

Winter Bird Feeding

Written by  |  Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:29  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
As winter approaches, many birds change some of their eating habits. Birds that usually eat insects may start to eat berries and fruit to supplement their diets. I’ve noticed that worm-loving robins will quickly switch over to berries and fruit to survive. At this time of the year there are still lots of apples, crab apples, mountain ash, and various wild berries, either on the ground or still clinging to fruit trees. I’ve noticed finches gobbling up the seeds from my coneflowers and there are many other grass and weed seeds that the birds love. There is a good supply of this natural food except when we get deep snow and sub-freezing conditions that make finding the food difficult or impossible. This is when the…

The Magnificent Swans!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 20 January 2016 18:21  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
Perhaps it was the mild weather and open water but at least a couple of small flocks of swans were spotted in the Land O’ Lakes area recently. Helen Hoogsteen of Big Clear Lake, near Arden, reported that she saw two adult swans and three grayish smaller ones on their lake shortly before Christmas. Around that same time, Steve Blight reported that he saw four to five Tundra swans on McGowan Lake, which is adjacent to Hwy. 7 between Sharbot Lake and Perth. Probably Helen’s swans were Tundras, as well, since they are North America’s most numerous and wide ranging swan. Lately, almost every year, there seem to be sightings of swans in the waters adjacent to this section of Hwy. 7. Silver Lake is…

Summer notes from the back yard

Written by  |  Wednesday, 26 August 2015 22:05  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
With all the talk about dwindling Monarch butterfly populations, I wanted to help in some small way, starting this summer, by having more butterfly friendly flowers in my garden. I started bugging (pardon the pun) garden centres in April and finally was able to purchase milkweed plants by late June. Some of the wild milkweed plants can apparently get quite invasive and literally take over a small garden so I had to be careful when selecting the plants. I notice there are still lots of wild milkweed plants in lake country and also in ravine, park and conservation areas around cities but so much farmland has been covered by development that the plants that are left are just not enough to sustain the Monarch populations.…

Fungi: Mother Nature's Helper

Written by  |  Thursday, 24 September 2015 07:42  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
Fall is certainly the best time of the year to spot Fungi growing in the woods, especially after a rainfall when all kinds of fungi seemingly pop up through the wet leaves almost overnight. Of course, you’ll find fungi in other areas but forested areas provide ideal conditions with a good supply of damp, decaying material on which the spores can grow. Welcome to the world of mushrooms, which is part of the huge group of organisms called fungi. Some fungi are pretty, others are ugly, some can be deadly if eaten, but they are all interesting. Fungi are defined by their inability to make their own food. They thrive on dead or dying matter such as rotting tree trunks and fallen logs and branches.…

Barn Swallows

Written by  |  Thursday, 30 July 2015 19:52  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
Ever since I was a child growing up on a farm, I’ve loved to watch the swoops and mid-air dives of beautiful Barn Swallows. I remember that it was always a sad day in early August when we’d see the last of the swallows gathering to leave. By that time they had raised their young, and, since the numbers of juicy insects had declined by late summer, it was time to head south for the winter. Unlike some migrating birds, the swallows seemed to leave within a couple of days once they started gathering for the flight. There were many of these beneficial swallows on our farm partly because of the old barns that offered excellent places in which to build their nests. The open…

Appreciate Nesting Bald Eagles from a Distance

Written by  |  Wednesday, 01 July 2015 15:05  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
For many people who use our lakes and rivers, seeing a Bald Eagle can be the thrill of a lifetime. However, too much disturbance to nesting eagles can have a negative impact on nest success. Recently a reader reported a situation where he observed a boater approach to within 15 feet of a tree with nesting Bald Eagles on Sharbot Lake and the birds seemed to show signs of distress. While most people know that it is illegal to destroy or take an eagle’s nest, young or the eggs, people may not know that approaching too close to a nest can cause the birds stress. The last thing any Bald Eagle lover would want is to unintentionally cause a nest to fail or to produce…

Winter Survival

Written by  |  Wednesday, 18 February 2015 20:03  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By: Lorraine Julien As you try to stay warm this month, just think of the animals and birds that somehow survive these freezing, icy winter blasts. It seems they have all adapted their own methods of survival. I used to wonder how tiny little birds like chickadees ever managed to survive temperatures as low as minus 40C but, I understand, they go into a deep sleep called “torpor”. The torpor state can last for a few hours on a really cold night or it may last for days or weeks. Only warm blooded animals can use the deep sleep of torpor to survive the winter such as raccoons, skunks, some birds and some rodents. The other type of deep sleep, of course, is “hibernation”. Black…

The Oppossum

Written by  |  Wednesday, 18 March 2015 19:25  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By: Lorraine Julien Though rarely seen because of their nocturnal habits, opossums have been slowly moving into southern Ontario from the eastern U.S. for quite a few years. This past winter would have been particularly cruel for this little animal from the south though - their tails and feet are pretty well hairless, leaving them especially prone to frostbite. Though they may look like big rats, they are actually quite gentle creatures. They are about the size of a house cat with mostly light-grey spiky fur. Some of my family live in the country in the Port Perry area where they occasionally see wild (and not so wild) animals that may venture near their home looking for food. They have adopted a small family of…

Northern Leopard Frog

Written by  |  Thursday, 14 May 2015 02:08  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By: Lorraine Julien The Northern Leopard frog is easily identified by its irregular shaped greenish-brown spots that cover its back and legs. The frog’s underside is a creamy white colour with light coloured ridges on either side of its back. It’s a medium sized frog reaching a length of 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to almost 13 cm) nose to rump. Females are a bit bigger than males. You’ll probably see them around your cottage this spring as they are still fairly common in lake country. A very similar, but smaller, frog is the Pickerel frog, which has spots that are more angular (square). The Northern Leopard frog ranges across most of northern North America except for the Pacific Coast. These frogs usually live near…

Deer Mice!

Written by  |  Wednesday, 20 May 2015 15:57  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
My morning routine had become familiar. I got up, changed the water for the dog, and went down into the basement to check the live mouse traps. Sure enough, the little trap door on one of the black plastic boxes was closed, meaning that I had caught another mouse. Sighing and picking up the mouse trap, I went out to the garage where I unceremoniously plopped the lively but no doubt unhappy mouse into an empty 5 gallon pail – the mouse’s temporary holding pen until I was ready to make my all-too-frequent trip to deliver yet another mouse to an uninhabited place. Deer Mice and their look-alike cousins, White-footed Mice, are extremely common and may be the most common mammal in Ontario. Based on…

Mice, mallards & bats

Written by  |  Wednesday, 24 June 2015 22:32  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
Following are some of my families’ personal experiences with wildlife in the city and at the cottage. I hope you find them interesting and a little bit humorous. The first story is about a little pond that is in the fenced city backyard belonging to my daughter and her husband. The pond is tiny by any standards – perhaps about six or seven feet long by about four feet in width. The actual water in the pond is about 2 feet by 3 feet and perhaps a couple of feet deep. It is hard to believe but a pair of mallard ducks visit the pond each morning and evening to float in the pond, perhaps eat some algae and other plant life, and get some…

Birds’ nests in autumn – the big reveal

Written by  |  Wednesday, 26 November 2014 23:36  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Steve Blight Many people find it a bit sad to see the leaves fall after the glorious display our trees put on in September and October. However one of the benefits of the landscape’s new leaflessness is that lots of birds’ nests have now been revealed. In this column I will provide a brief description of the nests of a number of birds that are likely familiar to many readers. Most of the birds I’ve described are tree nesters, but I added a couple of others because they are familiar to many people and they also help illustrate the interesting range of nesting sites that birds use. American Robin nests are typically found in the lower half of a tree, often on a horizontal…

Merlin – the hunter

Written by  |  Wednesday, 14 January 2015 14:58  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien This fall I purchased a very effective bird feeder pole with a squirrel baffle guaranteed to keep raccoons and squirrels from raiding the bird feeders. It has been very effective – the baffle works so well that after one look, the squirrels do not even try to scale the pole. The squirrels do not go hungry as there is usually lots of seed droppings scattered about by my feathered friends. Now that I had foiled attempts by predators from beneath the feeders, I had completely overlooked dangers from the sky. One or two hawks had been seen flying around in the general area but we didn’t give it much thought until my husband and I were out for a walk late one…

Redpolls and other winter birds

Written by  |  Wednesday, 28 January 2015 18:46  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight It’s midwinter here in the Land O’Lakes, and the birds coming to the feeders at our house have settled into a fairly regular pattern. There is the usual flock of six to eight Black-capped Chickadees, a few noisy Blue Jays, the odd Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, and a couple of White-breasted Nuthatches. We can pretty much count on seeing all of these birds every day, as long as the feeders are well stocked with suet and sunflower seeds. Earlier this winter we had a nice flock of American Goldfinches that stayed with us for a couple of weeks, and they were joined for a few days by a small group of American Tree Sparrows, but both of these species seem to have…

Tamaracks (Eastern Larch)

Written by  |  Wednesday, 03 September 2014 22:24  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien Has anyone else noticed the defoliated stands of Tamarack along Hwy. 7 between Kaladar and Peterborough? My husband and I drive that stretch of the Trans-Canada on a regular basis and have noticed what appear to be dead or dying Tamaracks for the last few years. Wherever there are stands of these trees, they are either brown with no new growth or some may have a bit of green on them. It’s most noticeable during the spring and summer months when everything else is green. I’ve been concerned about them so I contacted the MNR and received the following information from Patrick Hodge, Forest Health Technical Specialist for Peterborough and Bancroft districts: “Tamarack trees along Hwy. 7 from Kaladar to Peterborough are…
 

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