Friday, November 17, 2017

Last Leaves

Red Oaks seem to be the last trees to let go of their leaves. This oak tree is getting to be a really handsome tree.

We got our first snow and first proper freeze-up last week. I put the seven bitternut hickory nuts I found along the beaver trail in the ground just in time. I hope I have better success with these nuts than I did with acorns last year. I suspect the acorns I planted might have been eaten by squirrels so I hope planting these hickory nuts just before the ground froze gives them a chance.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Comings and goings

I went for a walk on the berm last Thursday and found a new tree seedling I hadn't noticed before. It superficially looks like a small sumac but I believe, after consulting my tree ID book, that this is actually a Black Walnut sapling. Where the nut came from is a bit of a mystery as the closest walnut tree I know of is at the corner of Cox and Majestic. I did recently find a new walnut nut in the long grass of the 2009 planting area so they get there one way or another. Perhaps a squirrel relay team was involved. I acted the squirrel and properly buried the nut I found.

The heart shape leaf scar and fuzzy bud in the above picture along with the long pinnately compound leaves lead me to identify this as a black walnut however when I compared the leaflet to a leaflet from the black walnut on Majestic the sapling's leaflet is significantly larger.

Coming back along the berm I noticed one of the large cottonwood poplars planted on the top of the berm in 1995 has recently fallen down. It is quite an impressively large tree for just 22 years of growth. It was 85 feet high. Its trunk lies completely across the width of the 1995 planting area with the canopy lying in the 2009 planting area. Its fall took out a couple of understory trees in the 1995 area but most of the damage in the 2009 area is on the sumac which will recover.

Milkweed Tussock Moths

Milkweed Tussock Moth

This story begins by my house earlier this summer when I noticed a bunch of tiny fuzy caterpillars munching away on the leaves of a milkweed growing under the lilac. Every once in a while I checked how they were doing and eventually they completely consumed the first plant and started on its neighbour. By then they were big enough to be identifiable as Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars and I started worrying that they were going to consume the entire milkweed patch. One day in late August I noticed there were only three left on the last leaf of the milkweed patch. I decided to make an intervention and took the three out to the roadside berm area where I new there was another milkweed patch. The next day I noticed a couple more caterpillars wandering around looking for food so I decided to take them over to their brothers on the berm. To my horror when I got to the milkweed patch one of their brothers that I had left there the day before was being consumed by three shield bugs and more shield bugs were on the prowl around the milkweed. I couldn't leave my new charges there so I was the new not-so-willing owner of two Milkweed Tussock caterpillars. I stuffed fresh milkweed leaves in the box and in a few hours the pair had consumed half a leaf. Over the next few days I stuffed fresh leaves in to be turned into caterpillar poop but eventually noticed the new leaves weren't being touched so I checked for my charges and found one had already formed a fuzy little cocoon. I took the contents of the box and left it where the milkweed patch was under the lilac in hopes that maybe a moth or two will emerge next spring.

I had never noticed these caterpillars before and had previously always assumed that only Monarch caterpillars ate milkweed leaves. I don't think I've ever spotted a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed but I keep on looking in hopes of spotting one one day. This was a relatively good year for monarch butterflies I think. I saw way more this year than I had in the previous two years. This might have been a good year for Milkweed Tussock Moths as well, as I've spotted a couple more caterpillars on different milkweed patches along the berm.

Last Thursday I visited the berm and noticed that the milkweed pods were opened and spreading their seeds in the wind. I never noticed before what time of year the pods opened.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bumble Bees and Lady Bugs

Back in mid-September I passed by the Japanese Knotweed as it was in flower and noticed an incredible number of bees attracted to the flowers. The bush was just covered in a swarm of insects. I never knew it was so incredibly popular.

There is just one bunch of invasive Japanese Knotweed in the area; it is along the fence line and the mower that comes by each fall keeps it in check. In terms of invasives, it isn't the worst out there as it rarely produces viable seeds and the most common way for a knew bush to get started is through a piece of root being moved either by humans or by some other natural agency. Dog Strangling Vine is the worst, I had just as much of it to clear this year from the patch at the end of Newhaven as I had in the previous two years, and noticed another patch about 20 meters further along the forest border.

The bird house I put up last fall wasn't a great success this year. I saw a woodpecker check it out and she increased the size of the hole, but she didn't stick around. This fall I made a couple of modifications in hopes that it is more successful next year. I gave the inside of the house a flatter floor, previously I thought it was a good idea to have a sloping floor so that there would be good drainage but perhaps birds want a flat floor for their nests. I also put a new piece of wood over the hole to reestablish the old smaller hole size and added a perch in front. Birds might not need a perch but I figure it might give the house a bit of "curb appeal".

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More from the test plots

Cross Orb-weaver on lamb's quarters

This cross orb-weaver hanging out in the test plots is a pretty guy. Let nature take over a small plot for a year and that is where you will find all sorts of fantastic beasts like this.

A katydid on ragweed

Lamb's Quarters and Ragweed are two more really common roadside weeds that I haven't mentioned in this blog before because they just don't show up much unless you have a disturbed site like the test plots where the ground is bare. One interesting fact I learned about lamb's quarters is that it was one of the foundations of eastern north america's prehistoric agricultural revolution and is still commonly cultivated in some areas of India.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Small pink flowers found in the testplots

Pennsylvania Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)

Northern willow herb(Epilobium ciliatum)

The testplot area by the road is really helping me extend my knowledge of roadside plants. Getting rid of the grass allowed all sorts of disturbed site weeds to thrive which don't usually grow along here because of the competition from the grass. I find Pennsylvania Smartweed growing sometimes in the crack between the curb and the pavement along my street, but I haven't until now taken the time to identify it. I hadn't noticed Northern Willow Herb before. The plant in the testplot area was small and low to the ground but I later saw another one down by the Manotick Locks that was 4 feet tall and holding its own amongst the wild parsnip and goldenrod.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Prickly Lettuce

Prickly lettuce flowers

The Prickly lettuce plant looks quite similar to a sow-thistle before the flower heads start to appear, the big difference at that point is the row of spines down the midrib of each leaf. Once the flowers start to emerge it looks quite different, as instead of a few upright dandelion-like flowers they have several nodding pannicles of buds that once they flower stand upright in a wide spray of flowers and seed heads(see picture at bottom). The flowers close-up shop early in the day so when I usually come by in the later afternoon they are all closed up. I had to go out to the test-plot area at midday on purpose to see the actual blooms.

Prickly lettuce leaf with spines down the rib

According to the wikipedia article, this is the closest wild relative of our cultivated lettuce although it doesn't look very similar. It is supposed to be edible, but has a milky white sap that is quite bitter. I wouldn't put it in my salad.