Outdoors In The Land O' Lakes

What are those blobs in our lakes anyway?

Written by  |  Thursday, 07 August 2014 10:35  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
This column is about an interesting but obscure natural phenomena that we often see in our lakes in summertime. A couple of summers ago, some visitors to our area saw what was described as a “globulous gelatinous mass” in Sharbot Lake, and I was asked if I could shed any light on what it might be. I had seen a number of these “blobs” in Bobs Lake in the past, and my curiosity had led me to do a little investigation to find out more about them. As a result, I had a pretty good idea that this was another example of what I had seen. I am referring to greenish, roughly softball-sized masses that on first glance resemble a quantity of what could be…

Io Moths

Written by  |  Thursday, 17 July 2014 13:50  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight This year I have seen more individual Io (pronounced EYE-oh) Moths than in all other summers combined. Likely this is because I am now able to spend more time in Io Moth country than in the past. Whatever the reason, I am happy to have seen so many. Io Moths are a strikingly colourful member of the Saturniidae family of moths, or giant silk moths, a family which also contains some of Canada’s biggest moths such as the beautiful Luna and Cecropia Moths. Io Moths were named after a priestess from Greek mythology and are unmistakeable – with a wingspan of 5 to 9 centimetres (2 to 3 ½ inches) male forewings are usually bright yellow, while females have dark yellow or…

Solving (we hope) a Bird-window Collision Problem

Written by  |  Thursday, 10 July 2014 08:26  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight The house we live in has quite a few windows. The main purpose of building our house near Sharbot Lake was so that we could live in a rich natural setting. Having a lot of glass allows tons of natural light into the house, affords great views into the forest, and helps us feel more connected to the natural environment. All is good. Unfortunately, birds and glass don't mix well at all. I have been aware that having lots of glass in a bird-rich environment might result in birds striking our widows, with the accompanying terrible results. However, up until recently we weren’t aware of any bird strikes at our house at all -- not to say there weren’t any, rather that…

Snapping Turtles in Peril

Written by  |  Thursday, 26 June 2014 08:33  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien My neighbours had a visit recently from a large Snapping Turtle. The turtle laid her eggs on a septic bed where the ground was nice and sandy and good for digging. Snappers have very few natural enemies but their eggs seldom hatch before being eaten by raccoons, foxes, skunks and even opossums. Usually 40 to 50 eggs are laid in a sunny location where they hatch in the fall. The incubation temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings. A lot of turtle eggs did not hatch last year probably due to the cool rainy weather. If it rains shortly after the eggs are laid, or if water is generously sprinkled on the site, the eggs may stand a chance of hatching. Raccoons…

Indigo Bunting

Written by  |  Wednesday, 04 June 2014 23:52  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Steve Blight Early one morning in May, I was woken up gradually by a familiar birdsong drifting through my open window. As I often do when I hear a bird that takes me a few minutes to register and identify, I ran through some of the possibilities. Warbler? Goldfinch? Grosbeak? Nope, nope and nope. Then I hit on it - it was an Indigo Bunting. This year I am lucky to be stationed at our house near Sharbot Lake full time, so I am keeping track of the arrival dates of all our familiar summer birds, and May 20 was the arrival date for the Indigo Bunting. He has been one of the vigorous songsters serenading me awake every morning since. Indigo Buntings are…

Plight of the monarch butterflies

Written by  |  Thursday, 22 May 2014 08:48  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien As you may know, Monarch butterfly numbers are at an all-time low. Monarch populations reached a peak in 1996 when there were nearly a billion Monarchs spanning over nearly 45 acres of forest in Mexico’s Monarch sanctuaries where they winter. The current population is down to about 35 million according to the World Wildlife Fund – Mexico. The numbers are down so low that now only three acres of forest are needed for their winter sanctuary. Extreme weather (heat, drought, cold and wet) has mostly affected them over the past two years. They must also deal with vanishing habitats and the increased presence of GMO crops, which are known to wipe out milkweed, their only host plant. Hundreds of years of farming…

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Written by  |  Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien How suitable this name is! Are you familiar with stink bugs? I found a little stink bug on a planter last summer and thought it was kind of cute – certainly distinctive with the weird “shield” shape. We have lots of native stink bugs but a new, non-native, and very destructive variety, is making itself at home over a good portion of eastern North America. It’s the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). This invasive species is native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. BMSB was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1990s; they probably hitch-hiked overseas in a shipping crate. It was first noticed in Pennsylvania and has been spreading rapidly since - a major concern for farmers as it loves…

Why so many Blue Jays this winter?

Written by  |  Wednesday, 12 March 2014 12:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
There was a very prophetic article in the Arnprior Chronicle-Guide last fall. At that time, the author, M. Runtz, noted there were large numbers of Blue Jays in the Ottawa area (the birds, not the baseball players!). Runtz predicted that many jays would stay for the winter because of the huge crops of acorns last year. How true! Although we always have a good number of jays at our winter feeders, there seems to have been a population explosion this winter. If you were anywhere near oak trees late last summer, you may have noticed all the acorns falling from the trees – a favourite food of Blue Jays. I know that late last summer when working in the garden, I joked that I should…

Reflections On Summer Past

Written by  |  Wednesday, 18 December 2013 19:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien Now that the short dark days of December are here and we look forward to Christmas, I took a few minutes and looked longingly at pictures taken this past summer. Some photos are of summer scenery around the cottage but most of the wildlife pictures were taken through our cottage windows as that was the only way I could take pictures without spooking them. Some of these creatures visit on a regular basis but it’s still thrilling to see them. The sharp-shinned hawk stayed on our deck for probably 30 minutes so I was able to get lots of shots of her or him. The fox looks a bit mangy but it was very early spring and she had obviously survived another…

Shaggy manes

Written by  |  Wednesday, 06 November 2013 19:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien It seemed that everywhere I turned this fall, there were mushrooms all over the place. There were loads of interesting mushrooms of all shapes and sizes just under the damp leaves. On a walk through the woods recently, I discovered numerous mushrooms climbing up the sides of old stumps and fallen logs doing their part to recycle the rotting wood. One of the most common and easy to recognize wild mushrooms I’ve encountered is the “Shaggy Mane” (Coprinus Comatus), a member of the Inky Cap family of mushrooms (so named because they all age quickly into inky-like liquids). They are edible when eaten fresh – lots of people eat them though they have no appeal for me! Another name for these mushrooms…

Stickbugs

Written by  |  Wednesday, 30 October 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight During the height of summer I saw a long, sticklike thing on my garage door, and approached it to get a much closer look. Sure enough, the thing had legs – 6 of them – antennae, and several other features usually found on insects. I had seen this fellow before (well, maybe not this exact individual, but a member of the species), and was able to identify it as a stickbug. I made a mental note that this could be the subject of an interesting column, and then got busy with other things. As summer progressed into fall, I thought my moment had gone, and that I should wait until next year to write about them when there was a better chance…

Rose Hips & Acorns

Written by  |  Wednesday, 25 September 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien Did you know that raspberries, blackberries, dewberries and apples all come from a closely related species in the rose family? They all belong to the Rosaceae family. Some of them have flowers that resemble roses and the thorn-covered berry canes arch towards the ground much like wild or climbing roses. For many years I thought that what were really rose hips, in fact were actually wild red raspberries. Rose hips - Rose hips are actually the small red bottle-shaped fruit that is left after the rose flower dies. This happens with both wild and domestic roses. The domestic Rugosa rose has some of the best and most prolific hips. Rose hips are a great source of Vitamin C and can be harvested and…

Nature's Velcro

Written by  |  Wednesday, 14 August 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien Who hasn’t walked through a field of grasses and weeds only to discover, after your walk, that you or your dog have picked up bunches of thistle burrs entangled in the dog’s fur or gathered on your socks? You know how difficult it is to pull these things off or, at the very least, you end up with some bits embedded in your skin that only a magnifying glass and some tweezers can help to pull out. These prickly things are probably the Common Burdock or the Canada Thistle, both of which flourish all over the countryside and even in cities. The grand-daddy of prickly things though is the Common Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum). There are about 15 species of this tall biennial plant.…

Chanterelles

Written by  |  Wednesday, 07 August 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight It’s early August and the first signs of late summer have started to emerge. The dawn chorus of birdsong is fainter, the goldenrod is starting to flower, and it may be my imagination but the chirping of the crickets seems to be a little more insistent. While it’s true that as summer progresses the woods and fields seem a little quieter, there are some things getting ready for their big show. Some mushrooms appear in the spring, like morels, but late summer and fall is the big show for mushrooms. A couple of weeks ago I was reading that with all the rain this year, mushrooms had begun to pop up in good numbers. In particular I read that chanterelles were putting…

Brown Thrashers

Written by  |  Wednesday, 12 June 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight A couple of weeks ago Wendy Hinch, a reader living in the Sydenham area, e-mailed me a picture of a bird and was wondering if it could be a Brown Thrasher. The picture clearly showed a slim, robin-sized bird with a rich, chestnut-coloured back and tail, dark streaking on the whitish underparts, long sturdy legs and a long slightly down-curved bill. Indeed, the bird was a Brown Thrasher. Brown Thrashers are not rare birds in eastern Ontario, but neither are they particularly common. Most years I see a small number of thrashers, usually in the early spring shortly after they have returned from their extended winter vacations in the southern US and before the leaves are out on the trees. Arriving in…
 

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