Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.

Mar 222017
 

On March 20, there were 27 Tundra Swans on Lake Chemong across from my house which is located on Frankhill Rd.  Paul Ruth, 668 Frank Hill Rd.

Tundra Swan (Whistling) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) (10)
– Reported Mar 20, 2017 12:11 by Luke Berg
– Keene–McGregor Bay Rd south of Hwy 2, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35306657
– Comments: “10 of 13 birds found this morning by Matthew Tobey. Viewed from the turnaround near the end of the road. ”

Tundra Swan (Whistling) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) (13)
– Reported Mar 20, 2017 10:22 by Matthew Tobey
– Keene–McGregor Bay Rd south of Hwy 2, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35306550
– Comments: “On the open water at the south end of McGregor Bay”

Tundra Swans – Apr. 6, 2014 – Luke Berg

Mar 222017
 

It was a good first day of spring for river sightings on our stretch of the Indian River. The pair of Canada Geese, first seen on February 26, came up onto the back area to check out the availability of grass. Conclusion – not much there! The geese tend to come up much later, when they have a young family, to feast on the long lush grasses before the summer cut. A male Hooded Merganser spent a bit of time resting and preening on a fallen tree trunk in the river, and later a male Bufflehead, and a male Wood Duck were seen sharing the same tree trunk. We don’t see the Wood Ducks very often so it was a real treat.

Roll on spring!

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Male Hooded Merganser (Karl Egressy)

Wood Duck – Jeff Keller

Mar 112017
 

Today ( 10 March 2017) at noon I observed a Merlin in a cedar at the Little Lake Cemetery. Of course, I did not have my camera. He was quite content to sit and let me wander around the base of the tree to get a closer look. On Sunday, March 5, I observed a mature Bald Eagle in flight over Healey Falls on the Trent River.

Carl Welbourn

Merlin – Dec. 30, 2016 – Omemee – Carl Welbourn

Mar 112017
 

Turkey Vulture (Northern) (Cathartes aura aura/septentrionalis) (1)
– Reported Mar 08, 2017 14:56 by Matthew Tobey
– Downtown Bus Terminal, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “flying northeast over the terminal”

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) (1)
– Reported Mar 09, 2017 10:10 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Gliding of to the W. Large, significant dihedral. Very tippy flight.”

Turkey Vulture in flight – Drew Monkman

Mar 112017
 

I saw first saw this fabulous red phase Eastern Screech-owl on the 9th Line of Selwyn at about 8:30 this morning, March 11. I was bringing home hay and went by it three times over the course of two and a half hours. It was still there and cute as a button. The owl was quite compact initially but seemed to stand taller the longer I stayed, so I got on my way and let it return to its nap. I went back and got this photograph at 3:00 pm. What a treat!

Kathy McCue, Curve Lake

Eastern Screech-owl – red phase – 9th Line of Selwyn Twsp – March 11, 2017, Kathy McCue

Mar 092017
 

Stretching from Georgian Bay to Kingston, along the interface of the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the Canadian Shield, is a unique ecoregion, now known as The Land Between. It is home to loons, bears, moose, deer and more hummingbirds, at risk reptiles and habitat types than anywhere in the province. At the same time, however, this is a fragile place, which is facing multiple environmental, economic and social pressures.

The Land Between ecoregion (image from TLB national charity)

The first person in modern times to draw attention to this distinct region was probably Peter Alley. From his early childhood, he spent his summers at Muldrew Lake, just south of Gravenhurst. Alley sensed that this area where limestone meets granite had its own unique characteristics. He saw that this was not the Canadian Shield, nor was it the St. Lawrence Lowlands. For instance, he recognized that there are rock barrens here, but nowhere else. Alley wondered if there were other unique ecological features and functions, too. With remarkable dedication, Peter spent 10 years reaching out to individuals, governments and agencies to inspire participation in characterizing and mapping this landscape. His goal was to protect the significant natural features and ecosystem services for future generations. Key to this venture was persuading two land trusts, The Couchiching Conservancy, under Ron Reid, and the Kawartha Land Trust, headed by Ian Attridge, to become involved.

Aerial view of Petroglyphs Provincial Park, located in The Land Between (Photo by Ontario Visual Heritage Project)

The conservancies hired Leora Berman to move the venture forward. Berman brought a background in economics and environmental science to the project. This eventually led to the creation of nationally-registered charity, which shares the same name as the region itself – The Land Between (TLB). Berman, who is the organization’s CMO, broadened the scope of Alley’s vision to include culture and the social economy from a perspective known as “bioregionalism”. Bioregionalism is a holistic way of viewing a landscape, which encompasses and honours all the relationships that exist between and across sectors. It means mobilizing residents as opposed to simply focusing on mobilizing government. A bioregional approach understands that all aspects of a region- from the land to the people – are interdependent and interrelated. It also recognizes that nature informs culture, which in turn fosters the economy and eventually a strong sense of place in the people.

The mandate of the TLB organization is to conserve the ecological, cultural, and socio-economic features of this unique bioregion. To this end, the organization undertakes projects that increase ecological health and community and cultural vitality. The projects are multi-partnered and have multiple benefits across as many sectors as possible. TLB is now recognized as a leading model for cooperation and stewardship in North America. The charity recognizes the value of ecological traditional knowledge and First Nations’ worldviews, and is the first organization to honour First Nation treaties. All of the work they do is in partnership with First Nations. This is achieved, in part, through a dedicated board position for a Curve Lake First Nations delegate. The TLB works entirely through the support of grants, donations, sponsorships and volunteers.

Among its many accomplishments, the TLB now has planning recognition by Environment Canada for the Trent-Severn Waterway and by Hastings and Simcoe Counties. It has been involved in 42 pioneering research projects and forums. In partnership with TVO, the organization produced a three-part television documentary that has reached viewers across the province and can be seen free-of-charge online at TVO.org. TLB has also produced a free mobile app, which provides a virtual tour of the region and explores everything from its special species and spaces to First Nation worldviews. CMO Leora Berman makes dozens of public presentations each year to schools and other groups throughout the region. These presentations highlight the unique habitats, rare species, sacred spaces, history, and relationships that define the TLB landscape.

Naturalization of shorelines with native plants is one of many TLB projects (photo by TLB)

Projects

The TLB chooses projects in seven action areas: fostering cooperative solutions, conserving biodiversity through landscape conservation priorities, sustaining water quality and fish habitats, supporting sustainable economic development, cultivating vibrant culture, enhancing education and engaging youth.

Since 2006, the TLB has worked with partners to protect and conserve turtles and turtle habitats as a major biodiversity focus. The organization works to locate road mortality sites, install turtle crossing signs and support the construction and location of road underpasses. These allow turtles to safely travel to and from nesting sites. One such installation was built recently by the Haliburton Land Trust. It consists of a culvert and a drift fence to guide the turtles through the underpass. Volunteers monitor the site seven days a week through May and June. So far, there have been numerous confirmed observations of turtles and other wildlife using the culvert.

TLB is also a founder and one of many partners involved the Turtle Guardians program, which is also dedicated to turtle conservation. The program’s focus area for workshops and events is The Land Between region, since it harbours the majority population of many of Ontario’s turtles. “Turtle Guardians” learn to identify, monitor and report turtle sightings and habitat features and then apply conservation and stewardship measures on their properties. To sign up as a Turtle Guardian, visit turtleguadians.com  As part of its focus on education and youth, TLB is working with the Trillium Lakeland School Board to deliver state-of-the art learning tools for teachers and students. Engaging students is at the heart of the work done by TLB.

This spring and summer, TLB is holding three workshops to help cottagers and other landowners design a shoreline garden. Participants will learn which plants attract hummingbirds and insect pollinators, reduce erosion, provide fish habitat and deter geese. The first workshop will be held at the Buckhorn Community Centre on April 22. You can pre-order shoreline starter kits at thelandbetween.ca   and pick them up at the workshop. Seating is limited.

Social focus

In an effort to foster cooperative solutions among stakeholders, TLB will organize Land Knowledge Circles, which are a time-honoured tradition of First Nations. They will bring together the everyday people who use the land – hunters, hikers, anglers, snowmobile and ATV enthusiasts, cottagers, nature-lovers, etc. – to share their perspectives, experiences and concerns. These circles emphasize collaborative learning, where participants are encouraged to regard themselves and their ideas as part of a community working towards a collective goal – in this case, a sustainable future for The Land Between region. To participate in a Land Knowledge Circle, please visit www.knowledgecircle.ca

The Land Between is a meeting place where city dwellers, many of whom are cottagers and nature enthusiasts, rub shoulders with year-round residents. This sometimes creates friction, because of the differences in worldview that may arise: liberals vs. conservatives, hunters vs. environmentalists, Settlers vs. First Nation people, etc. However, the coming together of people with different values can also be a source of greater understanding and wisdom. With this in mind, TLB has produced a film in collaboration with Wildlife Habitat Canada. Entitled “My First Shot”, it explores hunting heritage and from a First Nations’ perspective. The film follows Erin Carmody, a left-leaning environmentalist and former vegan, who goes hunting for the first time. Her fellow hunters include Gary Williams, former Chief of Curve Lake First Nation, Keith Hodgson, a member of the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council and Kim Roberts, a nurse’s aid and lover of wildlife. Erin’s experience is one of brave discussion, understanding, appreciation and respect for other perspectives on the natural world and for our relationship with it. Through her eyes, the movie explores hunting with a fresh and new perspective. The film showcases the contributions hunters have made to wildlife management and conservation. My First Shot will be presented in Haliburton in late April and in Lakefield in May. Screening dates and times will be posted at www.myfirstshot.ca

To learn more about The Land Between charity, sign up for their newsletter and support their conservation efforts, go thelandbetween.ca

Land trust & Kawartha Highlands P.P. trails

From the outset, the Kawartha Land Trust has been a key partner in TLB work. Many of its properties are located in this region. The Trust envisions a connected system of protected lands, and great strides have already been made in making this a reality. It was also instrumental in launching The Kawarthas, Naturally Connected initiative, the goal of which is to create a Natural Heritage System made up of connected areas that maintain our ecological, social, and economic values.  A Natural Heritage System is a network of connected natural features and areas such as wetlands, forests, river corridors, lakes, and meadows. You can read about the initiative at kawarthasnaturally.ca

A great way to familiarize yourself with The Land Between – or maybe see it with new eyes – is to walk the three interconnected Stony Lake Trails, which the land trust has worked to make publicly accessible. They are located near the west end of Northey’s Bay Road on the north shore of Stony Lake. The trails wind through mostly deciduous forest on the limestone bedrock of the St. Lawrence Lowlands (Blue and Yellow Trails) and mixed forest on the Canadian Shield granite (Red Trail). All of the trails provide great wildlife-watching possibilities and, in April and May, abundant spring wildflowers. Park at Viamede Resort or at 105 Reid’s Road. You can print out a trail map at kawarthalandtrust.org

There is also an interpretive trail in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, which was established by Ontario Parks with the help of the Buckhorn Trails Association. It, too, is a perfect rendering of The Land Between. The trailhead is at the parking lot/boat take out point off of County Road 36, just north of Buckhorn. At 1.5 km, it features several numbered sign posts.  The numbers align with brochures that contain information specific to that location.  Visitors can read as they travel along the trail, and learn about the story of the nearby Mississauga River, its history and how it is linked to settlement and the history of the Buckhorn area. This is the first interpretive trail in the Park and is proving very popular. To learn more and download a trail guide, go to buckhorntrails.wordpress.com/about/

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 082017
 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Mar 07, 2017 08:30 by Chris Risley
– 510 Gilmour Street, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “chickadees giving strange mobbing call and on inspection saw this saw-whet owl; raining”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Mar 06, 2017 16:30 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Greyhound Bus Station, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Flying over city to the NE on stiff wingbeats”

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Dave Heuft)

Mar 082017
 

There may be a nesting pair of Bald Eagles between Bobcaygeon and Dunsford, Ontario. We have seen them on a nest to the north and east of the bridge over Emily Creek on County Road 36. We drive past this location almost 5 days a week, twice a day. Over the years, we have often seen one eagle in this area, who has shown expressed interest in one of the Osprey nests. However, it seemed to leave after a couple of days. This year there are two…possibly a mating pair? Note that this area is also designated a Provincially Significant Wetland.

Bonnie Townsend, Flynn’s Corners

Location of possible nesting pair of Bald Eagles – March 8, 2016 – Bonnie Townsend

 

Mar 072017
 

Loggerhead Marsh is a Provincially Significant Wetland found on the west end of Peterborough. It is an important natural feature in our city due to its ecological and social value. The City of Peterborough has committed to protect the marsh but new development proposals now threaten its sensitive ecological state. The proposed development on the north side of the marsh, if it proceeds in its current form, would irreversibly harm Loggerhead Marsh and its wildlife. Loggerhead Marsh Stewardship Association

LINK TO WEBSITE

Loggerhead Marsh – late summer 2016 showing mud flat visited by migrating shorebirds – Paul Frost

Mar 072017
 

We’re relatively less worried than we were in 2007 and our beliefs split sharply along political lines.

By Robson Fletcher, CBC News – Posted: Mar 05, 2017

According to the latest evidence, Earth is hotter now than it has been in any of our lifetimes but Canadians are less concerned about climate change than they were a decade ago. NASA says the last three years have each been the three hottest on record, and 16 of the 17 warmest years have occurred this century, according to the World Meteorological Organization. This winter, we’ve witnessed Arctic sea ice dwindle to record lows. Yet, climate concern reached its “pinnacle” in Canada — outpacing all other worries, including the economy — around 2007 and has since waned, said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research.

Economic anxieties came back to the fore in the wake of the “Great Recession” and continue to dominate, but that’s not to say climate worries have disappeared. They still rank near the top of the list for most Canadians, although views on the topic vary widely. People in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Graves said, are two to three times more likely than those in the rest of Canada to be skeptical of man-made climate change. But an even bigger division can be found — nationwide — along political lines. More than half of Conservative supporters have consistently said they “don’t believe all this talk about greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change” in EKOS polling. Outside the Conservative base, only about one in 10 Canadians say the same thing. “(Conservatives) are literally five times as likely to be on what we maybe call politely the enviro-skeptic — or, maybe less politely, the climate-change denier — side of the equation,” Graves said.

EKOS climate poll by political affiliation – March 2017

Continue reading

 

Mar 062017
 

On the morning of March 3, my son witnessed two Bald Eagles attacking a Canada Goose in flight. The goose landed in the Crowe River and while landing, swatted the eagle off his side. The second eagle stayed above and did not attack the goose. My son grabbed the binoculars and saw that the goose was injured. The two eagles stayed in the area high above but did swoop down periodically, and I was able to see them with the binoculars as I was skeptical that they were Bald Eagles. We then went on the Internet to see if they frequent this area, as we have been up here since 1980 and this is our first sighting.
Robin Galllagher, Crowe River

Bald Eagles – Jan. 31, 2016, Simmons Ave, Peterborough – Trudy Gibson

Mar 062017
 

Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) (1)
– Reported Mar 05, 2017 14:14 by Brian Bailey
– Peterborough–Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2939092,-78.3085044&ll=44.2939092,-78.3085044
Checklist:
– Media: 4 Photos
– Comments: “Blue phase with Canada Geese, initially on the lake. Later, feeding in the cemetery with Canada Geese.”

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (1)
– Reported Mar 05, 2017 15:47 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2938973,-78.3027537&ll=44.2938973,-78.3027537
Checklist:
– Comments: “Smaller in size relative to CANG, stubbier bill and short neck. ”

Redhead (Aythya americana) (3)
– Reported Mar 05, 2017 17:50 by Luke Berg
– Pigeon Lake–Fothergill Isle Causeway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Two males one female.”

Redhead – Tom Northey

Mar 062017
 

I just got back from Florida and was getting some wood from the wood pile where I found the carcass of a Long-eared Owl. Looking at the condition of the carcass, it appears the bird may have starved to death.

Derry Fairweather, Buckhorn Lake

Mar 062017
 

On March 5, we saw 16 Tundra Swans on Pigeon Lake from our home on Fothergill Isle. Our house faces Jacob’s Island, alongside of which the birds were resting. One of the birds pulled away from the resting area and swam by our home.
Rick and Marge Decher

Tundra Swans on ice- Pigeon Lake – March 5, 2017 – Rick and Marge Decher

Tundra Swan – Pigeon Lake – March 5, 2017 – Rick and Marge Decher

Mar 062017
 

This beautiful Great Gray Owl was sighted on March 4 on the Trans Canada Trail where it crosses County Road 38. If you walk to right at the trail parking lot, the bird was  few hundred metres down on the left, sitting at the trail edge. We approached to within 12 feet of the owl, but it did not fly away.

Don Finigan and Barb Rimmer

GGOW – TCT – Keene – Mar. 4, 2017 – Bernie Obert

Mar 062017
 

I was lucky to come across this Red-headed Woodpecker on May 21, 2016, at my home on Northey’s Bay Road on the north shore of Stoney Lake.  I had never seen one and haven’t seen one since. In August 9, 2016, we also had a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth feeding at the phlox in our garden. I had seen it in the garden in August, 2015, as well, but never before that.

Dennis Johnson, Stoney Lake

Red-headed Woodpecker 2 – May 2016 – Dennis Johnson

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth – August 2016 – Dennis Johnson

 

Mar 042017
 

Warm weather that arrives too soon can harm birds, trees — and people
By Nicole Mortillaro, CBC News Posted: Mar 03, 2017   LINK TO ARTICLE HERE

Mounting evidence suggests spring is occurring earlier as a result of climate change. While that may sound like good news, the truth is, it can wreak havoc on our environment. While colder temperatures are making their way into some parts of Canada this week, warm weather swept across most of the country in February. By the end of the month, several cities had seen warmer than usual temperatures, some in the extreme. In Calgary, the temperature rose to 16.4 C on Feb. 16. In Toronto, where temperatures at time of year should be around 1 C, 15 out of 28 days were above normal, with a record of 17.7 C set on Feb. 23.That warm weather travelled east, and parts of Nova Scotia saw temperatures in the double digits. While there are a few chilly days ahead, temperatures in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Halifax are all expected to climb at least 4 C above normal within the week. A few days of warmer than usual temperatures occur frequently, but it’s the trend that is most concerning.

The U.S. National Phenology Network, which studies seasonal and natural changes, has found that this year, leaves are appearing about 20 days early in many parts of the southeastern U.S. stretching north into Ohio.Jake Weltzin, an ecologist and the executive director of the network, says that in the east and west — in the U.S. and Canada — “there is definitely a trend towards earlier spring, although there’s some spatial variation … and a stronger effect the further north you go.” David Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, said this is occurring straight across the country.”We know that the winter and spring periods are showing the greatest change of temperatures since the 1940s,” he said.

The birds and the buds

The warmer weather provides signals to species far and wide. Insects emerge. Buds appear on trees. Birds begin to breed. But if this process begins earlier than normal, it can throw off the whole ecosystem.Take birds, for example. Birds that migrate short distances are able to respond to a signal that indicates warmer weather at their breeding site.However, those that have wintered thousands of kilometres away are unable to respond. They rely on longer days as their signal. One bird in particular, the wood thrush, arrives on almost the same date each year.Kevin Fraser, assistant professor at the Avian Behaviour and Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba, studies the migration patterns of birds.”When birds arrive late, and they’re mismatched with the peak productivity, they produce fewer young, and that actually is correlated in population declines,” Fraser said. It’s these birds that are facing the biggest challenges caused by climate change.Kevin Fraser has tracked purple martins migrating between the Amazon basin and Canada. The species is showing an unfavourable response to earlier springs. (Nanette Mickle) The purple martin, for instance, which Fraser studies, migrates thousands of kilometres from Canada to the Amazon basin.

“We know that long-distance migratory birds are declining more steeply than any other kind of bird,” Fraser said. The decline varies between one and three per cent annually. Interestingly, birds have been seen to respond to cooler weather by halting their migration or even retreating.”My concern is that long-distance migrants aren’t going to have the flexibility and plasticity that they need to respond to the rapid rate of environmental change that we have,” Fraser said.”Particularly with our springs; with earlier and warmer springs, we have birds that are trying to cue to this from great distances away and don’t seem to be keeping up with the pace of climate change.”

Long-term consequences

Earlier springs also greatly affect the ground, the consequences of which can carry on far past the season. Earlier snowmelt means the ground may dry out earlier, which can be particularly problematic to farmers, who may not receive enough precipitation to account for the loss. That can raise prices at the grocery store. Not only that, unseasonable temperatures can affect the quality of foods, even the beloved Canadian maple syrup.Phillips said if warm weather starts earlier, too much maple syrup can be collected. It can’t be processed quickly enough, and the quality can suffer.As well, maple syrup production in trees relies on a thaw-freeze cycle that warmer weather can break.’People are worried about agricultural production, crop production, with the change in climate.’ — Ecologist Jake WeltzinOverall, there is a concern about what warmer winters and earlier springs can mean to farmers.

Then there are fire concerns. Persistent dry conditions greatly increase the fire risk, as was demonstrated in Fort McMurray last year. The drier winter and early spring helped create a type of tinder box that resulted in the rapid spread of flames throughout the city.

Winners and losers

Phillips said that while we may enjoy hitting that patio a week or two earlier, there are consequences we might want to consider, such as allergies. People allergic to pollen may begin to feel their symptoms earlier or could see their runny noses and watery eyes stick around for longer. Some argue there are positives to earlier springs: some farmers may have longer growing seasons or may be able to grow new crops. We may see songbirds that are usually found farther south. And, of course, there may be more weekends at the cottage. However, each of those positives could also have a negative consequence. New birds might push out native birds, for example. The scourge of spring and summer — mosquitoes and blackflies — might arrive earlier and stick around longer.Already there have been more cases of Lyme disease seen farther north than normal, such as in Newfoundland and Labrador.Not all the consequences of climate change are known, but they will come.”Part of it is the sad story of seeing who are going to be the climate change winners and who are going to be the climate change losers,” Fraser said.

Mar 022017
 

When you drive up County Road 23 into Buckhorn, you have probably noticed the abrupt transition in the bedrock. As you approach the town from the south, layers of limestone line both sides of the road. However, as you exit on the north side, the rock changes abruptly to expanses of beautiful pink granite. The same transition can be seen as you drive into Burleigh Falls on Highway 28. And, if you head up County Road 6 and stop at the Second Line of Dummer-Douro, you can actually see limestone sitting on top of granite, almost like a hamburger bun atop a meat patty. Moving further east, you will see the same changes in roadside bedrock along Highway 7, especially between Marmora and Kaladar.

The Land Between ecoregion (image from TLB national charity)

Limestone sitting upon Canadian Shield rock on County Road 6, north of Lakefield – Drew Monkman

This transition zone where the limestone bedrock of the St. Lawrence Lowlands meets the igneous and metamorphic rock of the Canadian Shield is known as “The Land Between”. But why even give it a name? Well, ecologists have discovered that this area of transition has features that are entirely its own. The landscape is less rugged than further north, but not as flat or fertile as the south. The land rises and falls in patterns of low to high and wet to dry. It forms a mosaic of interconnected environments. An abundance of rivers, small lakes and wetlands are nestled between open granite ridges and rock barrens. In other areas, mixed woodlands, abundant conifers and even limestone plains (alvars) can be found. There are fewer roads and farmlands are rare.

Typical rock barren habitat of The Land Between at Rathbun Lake, near Apsley – Drew Monkman

Location

The Land Between extends from the Frontenac Arch in the east (the area of granite rock you pass through on the 401 between Kingston and Belleville) to Georgian Bay and Southern Parry Sound in the west. Over 240 km in length and averaging 35 km wide, it spans nine counties and includes much of “Cottage Country”, namely the Kawarthas, Haliburton, Land O’ Lakes and Muskoka. Looking at a satellite image of Central Ontario, you can immediately see the region as band of green that stands out in stark contrast to the much more open, relatively treeless expanse to the south.

Species

The Land Between is a meeting ground where southern species more typical of the St. Lawrence Lowlands rub shoulders with plants and animals that are common on the Canadian Shield. It represents the northern limit for species such as White Oak, Butternut, Woodchuck, Cottontail Rabbit, Green Heron, American Crow and Blanding’s Turtle. At the same time, the region is generally the southern limit for Jack Pine, Moose, Black Bear, American Martin, Common Loon, Gray Jay, Dark-eyed Junco and Mink Frog.

Some birds are almost entirely dependent on this landscape. Among these are Golden-winged and, in some areas, Prairie Warblers. At least 26 bird species have their highest population densities in The Land Between. These include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Bobolinks, Eastern Towhees, Upland Sandpipers, Whip-poor-wills, Common Nighthawks and Pileated Woodpeckers. The area is also home to Ontario’s largest populations of uncommon turtles (e.g., Blanding’s), snakes (e.g., Eastern Hognose) and Ontario’s only lizard, the Five-lined Skink. All of these are species at risk.

Five-lined Skink, Ontario’s only lizard and a Species at Risk – Joe Crowley

As for mammals, 48 of the 80 plus species occurring in Ontario can be found here. Because many of the species are found at either their northern or southern boundary, the area may help to support mammal diversity both further north (e.g., Algonquin Park) and further south (e.g., Oak Ridges Moraine).

The Land Between also offers the darkest skies in Central Ontario and a place where you can really see and appreciate the Milky Way. It is home to Canada’s first Night Sky Preserve, the Torrance Barrens, near Gravenhurst.

Ecotone

The Land Between is an ecotone. The term describes an area of transition, which contains elements of the ecosystems it borders, but also has its own unique features. A key characteristic of ecotones is their high biodiversity – in other words, more species in the food web – as compared to the more homogeneous ecosystems. Areas of high biodiversity are especially important now because of their higher capacity to withstand the pressures of climate change.

Thanks to its abundant lakes, the Land Between has the highest ratio of shoreline to land anywhere in the province. It is also the water source for many rivers flowing into Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay. Thousands of anglers are drawn here by the populations of Lake Trout, Walleye, Muskellunge and both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass. The area also sits within the northernmost range of the now-extirpated American Eel, which was once an abundant food source for First Nations.

The sandy or gravely shorelines of some of the lakes have relic plant species that have persisted here for 10,000 years. These rare sites are known as Atlantic Coastal Plain Communities. The vegetation spread to this area from the coast of the eastern U.S. during the melting of the last ice sheet. These plants have adapted to fluctuating water levels. Many are provincially rare, including Bayonet Rush, Twin-scaped Bladderwort, Yellow-eyed Grass and Virginia Meadow-beauty. The latter flowers in late summer and sets shorelines aglow in purples and auburns. You can see these communities yourself by visiting Bottle Lake in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, north of Peterborough.

Virginia Meadow-beauty, an Atlantic Coastal Plain Community species – Wikimedia

Wetlands

Marshes, swamps, fens and bogs – collectively known as wetlands – are another signature habitat. Many are situated between the rocky ridges and are largely the result of beaver dams. Wetlands contain water-loving plants and organic sponge-like soils, which work together to filter water and regulate water levels. Two of the most interesting wetland varieties in The Land Between are bogs and fens. Bogs are acidic wetlands that are low in minerals. They accumulate peat, a deposit of dead plant material mostly made up of sphagnum mosses. Many are located along shorelines. Rooted in the moss are carnivorous plants such as Pitcher Plant and Round-leaved Sundew as well as a wide variety of orchids. Crane Lake Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and Quiet Lake in Silent Lake Provincial Park have excellent bogs.

Pitcher Plants growing in a bog in Silent Lake Provincial Park (Drew Monkman)

 

Fens are very similar to bogs in that they contain large peat lands. However, they are dominated by grasses and sedges. Fens often receive water and nutrients from a water table that is close to the surface and keeps the ground saturated. The Sharpe Bay Fen Conservation Reserve is an excellent example of this habitat type. It is located about 50 km north of Peterborough on the east side of Highway 28, just south of Long Lake Road. The area is interspersed with rock ridges and contains fen forests. It provides known habitat for the Five-lined Skink.

Alvars

Alvars are another rare habitat in The Land Between. The word describes an area of thin or absent soil cover on top of a limestone base. The sparse but distinctive vegetation may include shrub-dominated areas of junipers and hawthorns, more open tracts of grasses and wildflowers, or just flat expanses of lichen and moss encrusted rock. Large trees are either absent or widely scattered. A nearby alvar grassland is located approximately 500 m north of Flynn’s Corners, along the east side of County Road 507, north of Buckhorn.

Ontario’s new Carden Alvar Provincial Park, however, is the best example of this kind of habitat. It is located northwest of Lindsay, just north of the town of Kirkfield. The Carden Alvar is the best place in Ontario to see large numbers of grassland and scrubland birds, especially along Wylie Road. Like a remnant of old rural Ontario, you can easily find iconic species such as Eastern Bluebirds, Bobolinks, Eastern Towhees and Sedge Wrens. At night, the calls of Whip-poor-wills and Common Nighthawks ring out. The Carden Alvar is Ontario’s last remaining stronghold of the endangered Loggerhead Shrike. The scenic gravel roads are also rich in butterflies – over 80 species – and dragonflies.

Alvars are a botanist’s delight. Many of the wildflowers and native grasses found here normally occur in the western provinces, and many are rare. The signature plant at Carden is the Prairie Smoke, also known as Long-plumed Purple Avens. Large drifts of its mauve seed heads stand out smoke-like against the green grasses. Other interesting plants include Wood Lily, Indian Paintbrush, Hairy Beard-tongue, Fragrant Sumac, Balsam Ragwort and Little Bluestem.

Prairie Smoke (pink) on the Carden Alvar – Drew Monkman

Barrens and Forests

Areas of exposed granite and gneissic bedrock are one of the most striking features of The Land Between. As with alvars, the soil is very thin and supports early succession species like lichens and mosses. Scattered here and there, you can also find grasses, junipers, hawthorns, oaks and poplars. Rock barrens are perfect basking spots reptiles like snakes and Five-lined Skinks. Other species associated with these habitats include the Whip-poor-will and the Common Nighthawk. An area of outstanding rock barrens is located immediately north of Long Lake in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

As is immediately apparent on satellite maps, much of The Land Between is heavily forested. Relatively mature forests dominated by White Pine are scattered throughout the area, as are forests where Eastern Hemlock, Sugar Maple and Red Oak prevail. Large tracts of forested landscape are requisite habitat for Moose, American Marten, Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks. All of these forest types can be found in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.

Next week I will look at the pressures faced by The Land Between, the many conservation initiatives that are taking place and the excellent work being done by The Land Between National Charity.

 

 

Mar 012017
 

Sitting here a little before midnight on the last evening of February, I am watching the second thunderstorm of the past one hundred hours happening outside right now. Last Friday evening (the 24th of the month), we had what I believe was the first storm of this kind of 2017, in this, and other areas of southern Ontario. No big deal? Perhaps not, but it is quite rare to have this kind of weather in “the winter” here. Although not unheard of, we certainly don’t experience this kind of thing every winter to my knowledge/experience. When we do, it is usually within large lake effect squall-type storms and typically, there are only two or three flashes of lightning followed by some thunder. These weather events are often called “thundersnow” storms by meteorologists.
With this latest storm now passed, I am looking at a radar image of what’s to come later tonight. There is currently a huge line extending from about Guelph, Ontario… all the way down to where it tapers to a narrow tip just north of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I imagine it is going to be a loud night later on! It seems as though not only birds and some plant life are “returning” record early this year, but so is some of the weather we normally associate with spring. I can see the forecast, and of course, winter is not yet over. So, perhaps we should not pull out the kayaks and surf boards just yet. We are expecting some very cold weather later this week.

Even though I made attempts with both of these recent storms, the rain fell too hard for me to take any reasonable photos of the abundant lightning. Here are a few photos of lightning that I’ve manage to take over the past few years at various times of the year near Belmont Lake, north of Havelock. They show some fairly common types of lightning, and there is a brief description of each, below.

Cloud-to-ground (CG) is lightning with a downward-moving leader.

Ground-to-cloud (GC) is lightning with an upward-moving leader.

Intracloud (IC) is lightning moving about between different charges within a cloud.

Cloud-to-air (CA) is a discharge jumping from within a cloud into open air.

Anvil crawlers (AC) are branching discharges that run out horizontally beneath the clouds and are relatively slow-moving as they reach great distances and sometimes appearing to shoot across the entire visible

CG – Aug. 6, 2012 – Tim Dyson

sky.

GC – Sept. 3, 2011 – Tim Dyson

IC – Apr. 10, 2011 – Tim Dyson

CA – Sept. 6, 2011 – Tim Dyson

AC – Aug. 20, 2009 – Tim Dyson

Feb 282017
 

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Feb 28, 2017 13:14 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–King St at Reid St, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34869369
– Comments: “in flight NNE over downtown”

Tundra Swan (Whistling) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) (2)
– Reported Feb 27, 2017 12:28 by Matthew Garvin
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “Pair of adults. Rounded edge to bill base, yellow on bill. Photographed.”

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (3)
– Reported Feb 28, 2017 07:51 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34864716
– Comments: “2 male, 1 female. ”

Redhead (Aythya americana) (5)
– Reported Feb 27, 2017 10:54 by Iain Rayner
– Pigeon Lake–Fothergill Isle Causeway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34843457
– Comments: “All males with RNDU. Aytha shape, red head, black breast grey sides and breast. Seen well through scope.”

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) (1)
– Reported Feb 27, 2017 13:48 by Luke Berg
– Gannon Narrows (bridge/causeway), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34846750
– Comments: “Female. ”

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (2)
– Reported Feb 23, 2017 16:20 by Michael Oldham
– Second Line Rd., E of Hwy. 28, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34755191
– Comments: “pair in flooded field with about 100 Canada Geese; male in bright breeding plumage, seen through binoculars from about 100 m; large size, brown head, white neck, and long pointed tail of male clearly visible”

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) (2)
– Reported Feb 23, 2017 15:37 by Matthew Tobey
– Asphodel 2nd Line between Highway 2 and Rice Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34743493
– Comments: “Migrating northwards.”

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) (13)
– Reported Feb 23, 2017 17:42 by Luke Berg
– Warsaw–County Rd 38 south of Hwy 7, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34747026
– Comments: “flying north over the road”

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) (2)
– Reported Feb 23, 2017 12:45 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Drummond Line between Hwy 7 and Hwy 2, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34743856
– Comments: “2 together with 1 EUST along Drummond Line near Forest Rd.”

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) (1)
– Reported Feb 23, 2017 17:01 by Luke Berg
– Asphodel 4rd Line between Hwy 7 and Centre Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S34747029
– Comments: “Female with flock of EUST and RWBL 300m north of Centre Line”

Common Grackle, Wikimedia

Red-winged Blackbird – Karl Egressy

Killdeer – Wikimedia

Male Redhead (Wikimedia)

Tundra Swans – Apr. 6, 2014 – Luke Berg

Northern Shoveler pair – Dick Daniels

Pair of Northern Pintail – Karl Egressy

Lesser Scaup – female (Wikimedia)

Brown-headed Cowbird – Wikimedia

Turkey Vulture – Marcel Boulay

Feb 282017
 

Our pair of Canada Geese arrived today, along with a single male Bufflehead. The geese do not nest nearby as far as we know, but they regularly patrol our stretch of the Indian River in the spring to see off any rivals, using our old dock as a base. The position of the dock gives them a long, clear view of the river, both upstream and down. Happy news.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

A nesting pair of Canada Geese – March 2008 – Drew Monkman

Feb 282017
 

We live on Young’s Point Road on the west shore of Lake Katchewanooka. Our High-bush Cranberry was loaded with fruit. However, a big flock of Bohemian Waxwings came in and cleaned it out completely. I thought you might enjoy these photos.

Roy Bowles

Bohemian Waxwings – February 2017 – Roy Bowles

Bohemian Waxwings in High-bush Cranberry – February 2017 – Roy Bowles

Feb 272017
 

I haven’t submitted a sighting in a while but thought of it today when a lovely pair of Trumpeter Swans appeared on the Pigeon River, just north of Omemee, among the usual Canada Geese. They don’t appear to have bands or yellow tabs on their wings so I’m assuming they are wild. This is on the Pigeon river, just north of Omemee.

Karen Cooper, Omemee

A pair of Trumpeter Swans on the Pigeon River – February 25, 2017 – Karen Cooper

 

Feb 272017
 

Just reporting a Northern Shrike that we’ve seen right at our house the past two days. He’s very shy so I couldn’t get a picture, but we’re sure it is a shrike!

Janet and Doug Latham, Cameron Line

Northern Shrike – Tom Northey

Feb 262017
 

We saw this animal at the top of the big hill on PL Road (Kawartha Nordic Ski Club), late on the afternoon of February 20. We’re confused by the tail, which seems too narrow for a Beaver, but too wide for a Muskrat. It was small — body about 14 inches. So we’re wondering if it was a juvenile.

Jim Conley, Peterborough

Note: Speaking with naturalist Don McLeod, who is very knowledgeable about mammals, it does appear to be a young Beaver, probably from last year’s litter. DM

Juvenile Beaver – February 20, 2017 – KNSC – Jim Conley

 

Feb 252017
 

This morning (February 24), a Red-winged Blackbird visited our feeder. We’ve also had a Belted Kingfisher on the Otonabee River all winter, along with two juvenile Bald Eagles and quite a few Common Goldeneyes. There has also been a Red-tailed Hawk along the 6th Line of Selwyn.

Annamarie Beckel, Selwyn Township

Female Belted Kingfisher – Jeff Keller (Note: The male does not show any rufous.)

Red-winged Blackbird – Karl Egressy

Feb 232017
 

At 2 pm, on February 21, I saw a Great Gray Owl on Kelleher Road in Campbellford, ON. The bird was 500m east of Lock 8 on the Trent River. The owl was still there on February 22.

Donald Munro

Great Gray Owl – Tim Dyson