Outdoors In The Land O' Lakes

Coywolves: Super Coyotes

Written by  |  Wednesday, 20 March 2013 20:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien Have you seen the recent CBC Nature of Things documentary on coywolves, a hybrid breed of wolf and coyote? Needless to say, it was extremely interesting. The term coywolf is the unofficial name for a breed of Eastern coyote that has bred with wolves. The hybrid coyote/wolf has longer legs, bigger paws, larger jaws and a more wolf-like tail, with wolf-like traits like pack-hunting and shows more aggression than the original coyotes. It’s thought that the hybrid animals first appeared around 1919 in Algonquin Park. It was probably happening earlier than that but it was about this time that sightings were reported. Some scientists still doubt that the coywolf is a new species but evidence compiled for the past 100 years suggests…

Tinder Conks

Written by  |  Wednesday, 20 February 2013 19:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien Anyone who has walked through the woods couldn’t help but notice bracket fungi. Tinder Conks belong to this large family of fungi that grow on trees. Some look like little shelves while others grow into a shape like a horse’s hoof. Although one of their favourite host trees is the birch, Tinder Conks are common on several types of dead and dying hardwoods, especially large oak and maple logs and stumps. The fungus may even live inside live trees, sometimes for many years. I had never heard of Tinder Conks until I recently read an article on them and their many uses. Fomes fomentarius is the scientific name for Tinder Conks. Depending on the source, Fomentarius can mean either “used for tinder”…

The Redpoll Invasion

Written by  |  Wednesday, 06 February 2013 19:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Steve Blight Now that we are just past the midpoint of winter, it looks like the stars of the winter birding show are the impressive numbers of redpolls being seen throughout the area. These little finches are plentiful at feeders, in weedy fields and in trees in many parts of southern Ontario and beyond this winter. Last weekend my wife and I were out in the Sharbot Lake area and there were plenty about – one flock on the Crow Lake Road must have numbered over a hundred. Redpolls are about the size of our familiar Black-capped Chickadee, with black chins, red crowns, deeply forked tails and an undulating flight pattern. Adult male Common Redpolls have a rosy-pink breast, compared to the much paler…

Nuthatches and midwinter birds

Written by  |  Wednesday, 09 January 2013 19:00  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Steve Blight Heavy snowfalls since mid-December have sent many birds to feeders in search of food. Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks and American Goldfinches have been seen in good numbers at feeders this winter throughout eastern Ontario. Bohemian Waxwings are also plentiful this year, especially in urban areas where there is a good supply of berries and ornamental crabapples. Bohemian waxwings often stay further to the northwest during winter, where they feed on mountain ash berries. However the widespread drought last summer had a serious impact on the mountain ash berry crop, sending these handsome waxwings further east and south in search of food. Watch for them in stands of Redcedars as well, where they eagerly feed on the bluish berry-like cones. Nuthatches are common visitors…

Cougars in Ontario - Outdoors in the Land of Lakes

Written by  |  Thursday, 20 December 2012 10:21  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
  One of my neighbours recently mentioned she was nervous about her small children playing on their own because of the possible threat of cougars in the area. She had heard this from some local residents who had reportedly seen evidence of a cougar in the area of a nearby lake. This reminded me of a time a few years ago when my husband and I were driving along a country road just south of Port Perry. It was early one clear spring morning and visibility was very good. All of a sudden a very big wildcat jumped out of the ditch and ran across the road. I think we surprised it as much as it startled us. It was definitely a cougar – big…

Meet the Cedars

Written by  |  Thursday, 06 December 2012 10:20  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
Outdoors in the Land O'Lakes - December 6, 2012 By Steve Blight In our area there are two tree species that are generally known as cedars – Eastern White-cedar, and Eastern Redcedar. These two members of the Cypress Family have one interesting thing in common – neither of them are actually cedars! True cedars, like the well-known cedars of Lebanon, are members of the Pine family and none are native to North America. Our “cedars” likely picked up their names from Europeans who often named unfamiliar plants and animals after similar species from their home countries. Eastern White-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) goes by several other less commonly used names – northern white-cedar, arborvitae, or eastern thuja. The name arborvitae is interesting – it means "tree of…

The Great Northern Goshawk

Written by  |  Thursday, 22 November 2012 10:19  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
  The Northern Goshawk is the raptor cottagers are most likely to encounter deep in the woods in the dead of winter. It will brave the snow and cold as long as there are enough snowshoe hares, grouse and squirrels to feed on. The name “Goshawk” is derived from an old English name “Goose Hawk” – it has also been called a Chicken Hawk. Of the 19 species of raptors, or birds of prey in Canada, three are hawks of the genus Accipiter. They are the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), the Sharp-shinned Hawk, and the Cooper’s Hawk. Typical of Accipiters they are all swift flying, small to medium sized hawks with rounded short wings and long tails. The wide wings and long tail provide perfect…

The Elk are coming!

Written by  |  Thursday, 01 November 2012 11:18  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Steve Blight Photo: Bull Elk in late fall This week’s column is about elk, the second largest member of the deer family in Ontario. Some readers may be wondering why there is an article on some big western mammal with antlers in a column that is meant to focus on local nature. Readers in the northwest part of our area may know the answer – elk are back in eastern Ontario. Between 1998 and 2001, 443 elk were released in three places in eastern Ontario and one spot in the far western part of the province. The releases were part of a comprehensive elk restoration program undertaken by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources with the help of many partners. The nearest location to this…

Real creepy crawlies!

Written by  |  Thursday, 18 October 2012 11:17  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien Photo: Northern Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus Variolus). With frost on the pumpkins and leaves falling from the trees, you just know that spooky Hallowe’en is just around the corner! I tried to think of the creepiest subject for this column and the Northern Black Widow Spider (properly known as Latrodectus variolus) came instantly to mind. Over the past few years, there have been a few sightings of this southern Ontario native. In some rare cases, this insect has even bitten a few unlucky people. The main thing to remember is that the Northern Black Widow is very rarely encountered. Many entomologists have never seen one of these spiders in the wild in Ontario, so your chance of seeing one is remote (hopefully!).…

Thistle Birds!

Written by  |  Thursday, 04 October 2012 11:16  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight The American Goldfinch is probably our best-known member of the finch family. Found in our area in all seasons, its “per-chick-o-ree” flight song and undulating flight pattern are good ways to identify this diminutive seed-eating bird. Known by some as wild canaries or thistle birds, they are found throughout much of North America – from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Mexico all the way north into the southern boreal forest. Goldfinches are well adapted to human-modified habitat. Their preference for weedy fields, hedgerows and shrubby areas fits perfectly with the settled areas found throughout much of Ontario south of the boreal forest. In the Kingston region, goldfinches have been identified as the 12th most common breeding bird. No significant population…

Mink, Weasel or Marten?

Written by  |  Thursday, 13 September 2012 11:14  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
by Lorraine Julien Photo: Marten by US Fish & Wildlife Service. If you see one of the above members of the Mustelidae (Weasel) family, it can sometimes be difficult to make a definite identification, especially if you are a distance away and only get a quick glimpse. There are two main differences I look for – the first is size, the second is colouration. Mink are usually found near water - they are a fairly common sight here at our lakeside home. In fact, these versatile animals can be found anywhere from Florida to the Arctic except in very dry areas. With semi-webbed feet and non-retractable claws, they are great swimmers and tree climbers. Their lustrous fur coat is a solid dark brown colour. Mink…

Outdoors in Land O' Lakes: Ticks

Written by  |  Thursday, 30 August 2012 11:12  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight A couple of weeks ago there was an article in the Ottawa Citizen about the increasing number of ticks being seen in the Ottawa area. This will come as no surprise to many people who spent time outdoors in the Land O’Lakes area, who have been seeing this unpleasant little creepy crawly for a few years. As our climate warms and winters become less severe, the deer tick (also known as the blacklegged tick) has been gradually moving north from its principal range in the United States and has now become a permanent resident in our area. Ticks are arachnids, members of the same family as spiders, mites and scorpions. They have eight legs – a feature that helps to quickly distinguish…

Asters and Goldenrods

Written by  |  Thursday, 02 August 2012 11:10  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Steve Blight Now that August has arrived, the dominant colours of the wildflowers of the fields, forests and roadsides are increasingly becoming yellow and various shades of mauve and purple. Given this year’s highly unusual weather it’s hard to predict what kind of late summer and fall wildflower show we’re likely have. However, last week’s modest rains have perked up many local plants so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Most of the golden yellow flowers appearing in late summer and throughout the fall in our area are goldenrods. In the Ottawa area, botanists have noted 14 different species of goldenrods inhabiting a very wide variety of habitats, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find about the same number in the Land O’Lakes area. My…

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Written by  |  Thursday, 19 July 2012 11:09  |  Published in Outdoors in the Land O' Lakes
By Lorraine Julien The Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is a fairly common salamander that lives in and around forested areas throughout most of eastern North America. In fact, North America has more kinds of salamanders (the group that includes newts) than all the other continents. Salamanders, in general, look a lot like lizards but their skin is thin and moist whereas lizards have hard scales or plates. You’ll know this salamander by its characteristic red stripe, which begins immediately behind the head and extends nearly to the tip of its tail. The wide red stripe usually covers the entire back but, in some populations, the red colour of the stripe is replaced by dark gray. This is called the lead backed phase. Males and females…
Photo: Giant Swallowtail Butterfly  by Ron Hipfner. A couple of weeks ago, we received a message from reader Ron Hipfner with a photo of a large black and yellow butterfly taken at Little Long Lake north of Sydenham. It was identified as a Giant Swallowtail, a close relative of the Canadian Tiger Swallowtails and Black Swallowtails that are often seen in spring and summer in our area. What made this sighting special was that Giant Swallowtails are not normally seen around here. However, this is changing. In the past the only place in Ontario that this butterfly was regularly seen was in the Point Pelee area. For reasons that are not fully understood, the range of this stunning insect is moving north. A strong flyer,…
 

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