Thursday, September 29, 2005

Squirrel midden

A Red Squirrel midden on the Wishart Trail. Midden is, appropriately, an old word for garbage dump (more or less). Squirrel middens contain the remnants of spruce cones and shells left behind as the squirrel seeks out the seeds enclosed in them. Sometimes squirrels use the middens themselves to burrow in and hide more food.

Scientists occasionally sift through squirrel middens to learn what food resources the squirrels are using over the course of a year.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Geese on the West Gaetz Lake beaver lodge

A shot from the Wishart Trail earlier this week. Fall is definitely here -- maybe the water's getting chilly on their feet?

As always, click on the picture for a larger version.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

far away wild

Its interesting comparing the wildlife of eastern Canada to our own back in Red Deer. The cordillera of Ontario was like the Rocky Mountains with out the mountains - just rocks, trees and water. Instead of magpies, there are ravens which called incessantly this morning keeping my friend up. Lots of interesting bird noises which has been referred to as a magpie trying to imitate a flamingo.. doubtful but interesting guess. Instead of dangers of rutting moose, there was a danger of a bear nearby our Ontario campground. And it was neat to see a skunk (striped I think) to cross the road successfully.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trail Report 20 Sept 05

It was a nice, quiet morning for a walk so I decided to spent an hour or so out on the Wishart Trail today. Things are certainly well into fall now. Some of the trees are already looking bare, but there is still plenty of colour out there.

Trail conditions are generally pretty good, but keep in mind that the combination of morning dew and fallen leaves can make some of the steeper sections a bit slippery. When in doubt take your time.

As far as animal sightings go, it was mostly a morning for squirrels and robins, with the occasional chickadee or native sparrow thrown in for some variation. The lakes were actually pretty empty today, but I did notice a pair of Canada Geese perched on top of the old beaver lodge on the West Gaetz Lake. Maybe the view's better from there?

As Todd mentioned earlier, please keep an eye open for moose and deer. There are a lot of moose tracks on the trail right now, and since it's rutting season the moose can be fairly unpredictable. Remember to make some noise while you're walking to let the animals know you're out there. Speaking as someone who's been chased by a moose before, let me say that it really isn't the best way to experience nature in the Sanctuary.

Stay safe, and enjoy the fall scenery!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Seen in the Sanctuary:

Not the greatest picture since I was using the zoom, but I saw this White-Breasted Nuthatch on a spruce tree on the Wishart Trail last Wednesday. It was obviously trying to pretend I didn't see it if it didn't move.

Nuthatches always seem like they have a different grasp on the whole gravity idea than I do. That much time spent upside down would just give me a headache.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Love Is In The Air

This is what happens to your bird feeders when the local male moose decides to show his girlfriend how tough he is. Imagine the thought process: "I'm the mate for you. Look I've destroyed a helpless bird feeder to prove the fitness of my genes".

On a more serious note, visitors to the Sanctuary should keep in mind that we are at the start of the fall moose rut which means that the local males are defending their territory against anything they perceive to be a threat. If you should encounter a moose (male or female), simply back away quietly; attempting to keep a large object - like a tree - between you and the animal. Do not turn and run away. Moose can run faster than you.

This is a good time of year to actually make noise while you are walking along the City's many trails. It won't help with the males but it will alert the females to your presence.

Last of the Butterflies?

This is one of the best butterfly pictures I've seen. How often do you get to look into a butterfly's eye? Click the image to enlarge it. This Painted Lady is not part of the odd migration of these butterflies into our area that took place at the end of June. Rather, because this little critter is in such excellent shape, it probably is an offspring of the summer travelers.

This photo was taken by Diane on an apartment balcony last week. The cool weather slowed the butterfly down so that she was able to get to within inches of it without it flying away.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nature Nursery News

Nature Nursery has started again. This is an unparented playschool program for 3-5 year olds. We have four classes running:

Tuesday mornings (2 1/2 hours per week)
Tuesday/Thursday afternoons (2 1/2 hours per afternoon - 5 hours per week)
Wednesday/Friday mornings (2 1/2 hours per morning - 5 hours per week)
Wednesday/Friday afternoons. (2 1/2 hours per afternoon - 5 hours per week)

We still have a few spaces left in all but the Tuesday morning classes.

For the week of September 12-16 our themes are "bears" and "migration." The following week we have Erin Young from Medicine River Wildlife Centre visiting the classroom. She will be sharing pictures and a story and bring a wild animal with her (we don't know yet which one she'll bring.)

Duck and Ducklings has also started for the season. This is a adult and tot program for 2-4 year olds. We offer two classes for the Duck and Ducklings, Monday and Thursday mornings. This class runs for 1 1/2 hours from 10-11:30. We will also be doing bears for the week of September 12-16 and squirrels and chipmunks the following week.

This week, the children have been lucky enough to watch mama barn swallow feeding her newly fledged babies at the front door to the Nature Centre. The 4 cuties have been parking themselves on the light outside the front door and will wait patiently for mom to drop a juicy bug into their mouth.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Down the ACR Trail

Gee, spring a person from the office and she actually gets out and walks now and then...

Today I took a stroll on the ACR Trail, which is down the hill from the hospital and loosely follows the old CP Rail right-of-way. The trail is probably best known as a short-cut used by RDC students on their way to and from school, but if you're out there during classes when the college traffic slows down it makes a decent short walk (barely 2 km, but keep in mind that it's not a loop). It's not the quietest trail in Red Deer since it does parallel Taylor Drive, but judging from the activity that was going on this morning the birds don't mind the traffic noise at all.

One of the most striking things I noticed on the trail was that Waskasoo Creek is still flowing quite freely. Normally the creek is very sluggish this time of year, but with all the rain we've had lately it's looking surprisingly healthy right now. I'd say that the robins, sparrows, and other song birds are enjoying the extra water. I stood on one of the bridges for a while and watched several of them using a quieter spot as a natural bird bath. Quite the production.

And, really, a neat thing to be watching in the middle of a busy city. Red Deer's trails are one of the city's greatest assets. Be sure to get out and appreciate them!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Trail report 7 Sept 05

Todd and I finally had a chance to get out of the office and around the Wishart Trail this morning. Conditions are good overall, although there's a little bit of gullying on some of the steeper trail sections because of all the rain we've had this year. Nothing serious or impassable, though.

We're starting to see some real fall colour in the leaves now, and the cooler mornings mean the mosquitoes aren't nearly as bad in the shadier areas as they were this summer. Look for plenty of Painted Lady Butterflies (these would be the second generation ones, not the ones we saw migrate here earlier in the season) and dragonflies.

There are still a few ducks out on the lakes, but they're definitely showing fall plumage now.

You'll probably notice that we have a bumper crop of Red Squirrels this year. It makes for some interesting viewing down in the spruces. These squirrels are highly territorial, and when there are so many that need territories it leads to a lot of chattering and chasing up and down the trees.

Overall, it's a great time of year for a walk. I hope to see many of you out on the trails.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fun with camouflage

If you look closely you should be able to see one of the (many) grasshoppers out in the grassland. Obviously our spring fire didn't affect that particular population much...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fire leftovers

Those of you who've walked the Dr. George trail at all this summer may have noticed that a few of the spruce trees appear to be dead or have dying limbs like the tree on the left (as always, click on the photo to make it larger). This is one of the few visible reminders of our prescribed burn in the grassland this spring.

While deciduous trees tend to be fairly tolerant of fast-moving fires before they get their leaves, spruces and other conifers (which don't drop their needle-shaped leaves in the fall) are much more affected by the heat and smoke and will sometimes even be killed by it. One of the many reasons for having a prescribed burn in the Sanctuary was to help slow the encroachment of these trees into the former pasture area.

That was a bit of a roundabout way of saying "we meant to do that."

Just as an aside, the red, dying needles on the affected trees are also a good reminder that your backyard spruces and your backyard fire pit aren't a very good match. For general safety and for the sake of your trees' health, it's always a good idea to keep fire pits well away from overhanging branches.