Thursday, July 19, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

Tamaracks and Larches

Last week was a heat wave like we haven't had in quite a few years, and it is now threatening to turn into a proper drought. The grass in many exposed roadside areas has turned yellow from heat and lack of rain. Even these tamaracks on the sheltered north side of the berm are having a hard time in this heat. Some of their needles are turning yellow. I often call tamaracks larches which is their genus name, however, there is also a European larch that has been naturalized to eastern North America. European larches are more tolerant of warmer drier conditions than the native tamaracks that are a more boreal forest species.

Ben Franklin Park happens to have native tamaracks and European larches planted a few feet from each other so it is convenient to compare the two species there. The easiest differentiator are the cones. Tamaracks usually have an abundance of tiny cones hanging on to their branches (see below), while the European Larch has fewer larger cones (see bottom). Both larches are of course deciduous, but the European larch's needles are stubbier and thicker than the feathery soft needles of the tamarack. The bark of the tamarack is dark and very rough while the european larch's bark is a bit more scaly.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Canada Anemone

I came across a little bunch of Canada Anemone in a wet rut on the north side of the berm. A couple of years ago a hydro truck came along to clear branches from the hydro lines. It must have been quite wet as it left deep ruts that are still present to this day. The anemone are not far from a new patch of Dog Strangling Vine I found. The first plant of this new patch got established under a bush about 30m east of the patch at the end of Newhaven. I've attacked the Newhaven DSV patch a couple of times this year already. It is still as strong as when I first noticed it, but I don't think the patch has expanded noticeably except to this new satellite patch.

This spring I've noticed a lot of tent caterpillars like this one that I found hanging out on a young bur oak in the 2013 planting area. They are quite pretty when viewed singly but have the annoying habit at this time of year of hanging from a thread at head height. I was biking through a forest south of Calabogie a couple of weeks ago and they kept on landing on my baseball cap.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Guerrilla Gardening and Escapees

There is a fine line between guerrilla gardening and escapees. I think this pulmonaria is probably an escapee from the neighbour's garden but I don't know how the lone daffodil below got there. Yesterday I checked out the bloodroot and trilliums I guerrilla gardened. The bloodroot is slowly establishing itself but the trilliums are not having a good year. It seems like someone (looking at you Rabbit) is eating the flower buds. There were only two trilliums in flower yesterday while I recall seeing seven flower buds earlier this spring.

The other day I was checking out a bit of raspberry that I had planted back in 2009 on the north side of the berm. It had never amounted to much as it never overcame the grass in that area, but I was surprised to notice right by the rasperry plant some yellow trout-lily leaves poking through the grass. There isn't any yellow trout-lily on the berm east of Ben-Franklin Park but these guys must have come along for the ride when I took the raspberries from a ditch south of Barrhaven.

I was attacking the patch of dog-strangling vine today, when I happened to notice a Baltimore Oriole feeding in the poplars above me. The patch of dog-strangling vine at the end of Newhaven seems to be surviving my regular attacks on it. I don't believe I have let it set seed since I noticed it a couple of years ago yet the patch is surviving just fine either from the seed bank or from growing back from the roots.

Another rare visitor to the berm I saw last week was a little raccoon. We both froze when we spotted each other and had a bit of a stare-off until he decided that I wasn't going to get out of his way and meandered off into the trees.

In flower

  • Dandelion
  • Daffodil
  • Pulmonaria
  • Bloodroot
  • Trillium
  • Violets
  • Garlic Mustard
  • Yellow Rocket

Monday, April 30, 2018

Black Birds Back Alright!

And so it's spring. We had one last burst of winter and now a full week of warm weather has everything greening up. The first flowers on the berm in bloom are some scilla escapees from a neighbour's garden.

I think the blackbird in the foreground of this picture is a male rusty blackbird. Usually I class all blackbirds that have yellow eyes as grackles, but because this guy is hanging out with the male and female brown-headed cowbirds in the background, it is easy to tell he is a bit small for a grackle. His beak is also a bit delicate for a grackle. Rusty blackbirds breed in the northern boreal forest so it would make sense for them to be hanging out in Ottawa waiting for the snow and ice to the north to clear away.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Poplar Canker

This March never had a serious return of winter weather, with many days hovering around freezing. Now the ground is bare on the south side of the berm, while soggy snow remains on the north side. The red-wing black birds and robins have been hanging around for a while now. Spring is in the air, the chickadees are flitting around in pairs, a bright red cardinal announces his territory high up in the poplars, and geese make a racket as they fly overhead.

I can remember back in the late 80s cardinals were a rarity in Ottawa but by around 1995 they were pretty common. I found one reference (pdf) that indicates the lower Hudson valley was the northern limit of their range in 1945. So in about 50 years cardinals have extended their range by about 400km!

The big poplars on top of the berm are susceptible to cankers on their trunk that cause them to weaken, die and break. The picture above is of a canker on a yet still living tree. The broken tops of trees sometimes remain suspended as in the picture below making the forest look very messy.

This March I pulled down some of the smaller suspended tree tops like the one below. It was very satisfying exercise.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Winter Rabbits

I don't know how rabbits get enough energy from bark to keep going all winter, but somehow they do. You can see from the amount of droppings in the photo above that they tend to sit around in one spot a lot. Here one has been chomping on the big poplar that fell last fall. I've cut off its limbs so that the rabbit can reach more of them. I think it is only one rabbit that is around there. I see one fairly regularly in that area and they seemed to be quite sedentary in winter, sticking to their favorite spots.

I heard a robin and some redwing blackbirds up in the trees today. This warm spell has got them thinking it's spring.