Saturday, June 29, 2013

Red-winged Blackbird Nest

For the past couple of weeks a male red-winged blackbird has been harassing me as I visited the berm area. We discovered his mate has a nest in a small bush in the middle of the 2009 planting area.

I avoided going into the 2009 planting area but last Sunday I decided to check to see if the eggs had hatched. She was well camouflaged but flew off with a cry when I was a couple of paces away. I saw that she had at least one very young chick at the bottom of her nest. I quickly took a couple of snaps and then departed to let her come back to the nest.

Last Thursday the male was still quick to come and harass me as I passed by, but today I knew something was different when he didn't come and harass me even when I entered the 2009 planting area. It turns out the bush branches around the nest have been disturbed since last Sunday and the nest is now empty. I don't know if that means the chicks have fledged or if some predator has come and got them all.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Couple of Fungal Diseases

Plum Pockets on Canada Plum (caused by Taphrina Communis)

The Canada Plum bushes in the North-east corner of the berm area are infected with a fungal disease that causes their fruit to fail. The fungal infection causes their fruit to grow much larger than normal with a large hollow space where the seed should be. These hollow deformed plums that soon shrivel up are called plum pockets.

I don't know how this particular clump of trees got started as I have never seen them produce a viable plum and they seem to grow from suckers of the older trees. The clump may have been here a very long time; according to old aerial photographs hanging in the community center, the farmer whose land became Manordale had let a small clump of trees grow where Kimdale St. is located. At least one holdover from this woodlet is still there; between Ilkley Crescent and Kimdale Street there is a huge tree in a backyard that towers over the houses and the other trees. This clump of Canada Plums may have likewise grown back from the roots of a tree that had been in this woodlet some 50+ years ago. Once the field it is growing in became part of the Experimental Farm, this corner would have been left undisturbed, except by cows, for decades. Then in 1995 they created the West Hunt Club Road and the associated berm. The storm drain that is under the clump of Canada Plums was probably put in when they altered the natural drainage of the area with the berm.

Oat Crown Rust on Common Buckthorn(Puccinia coronata)

This bright orange growth that is deforming this buckthorn twig is actually a significant disease of oats, barley and other grasses. This oat crown rust fungal infection needs buckthorn in spring to complete its life cycle but then goes on to infect the alternate host which is a cereal or grass. The spots from this infection are quite commonly seen on the leaves of buckthorn but evidently doesn't do too much harm to the plant as buckthorn is a serious invasive problem for our forests.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Wild Grapes

I was familiar with the variety of grapes that grow wild over fence lines in southern Ontario but I wasn't aware until last year that there are wild grapes growing in Ottawa as well. The wild grapes that grow in Ottawa have smaller berries and looser bunches.

Once I could identify the leaves I was seeing the vines all over the place. Many of the plants do not seem to bear fruit. One such plant drapes itself over a glossy buckthorn growing by a telephone pole at the end of Kimdale.

The above plant doesn't produce any grapes because it is a male. Below is a closeup of its flowers with prominent stamens but lacking developed pistils. It has quite a pleasant scent.

Below is a small beetle I spotted on a grape leaf as I was inspecting the flowers. It turns out it feeds on grape vines so it was right at home.

Grape Flea Beetle (Altica chalybea)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Red-wing Blackbird

This red-wing blackbird followed me for a while as I walked along the berm, every once in a while flying down before veering off to land on another branch from which he could keep an eye on me. I guess I was passing through his territory and he was making sure everyone knew it.