Thursday, December 5, 2019

The lynx and the hare story

Camera is aimed a bit high and is also too close
Here is what the lynx is hunting -- snowshoe hare
I got a glimpse of a lynx from the house a couple of weeks ago and decided to move my two trail cameras to an area that might be good for both snowshoe hares (we just call them rabbits) and lynx.
The recent snow made things easier by showing tracks. So I moved the cameras again. Now I see that the cameras are in the right area, just not tipped enough. We'll get a good shot yet.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Snowfall is bringing in the birds

We have about a foot of snow now
The snow is covered with birch seeds
I posted a month or so ago that there were hardly any birds at our feeders. Now they are showing up, seemingly because of the accumulating snow. There still aren't as many as normal at the feeders but we are seeing usual numbers in the bush. To date I have seen flocks of goldfinches, redpolls, purple finches, juncos and pine siskins. All of these small finches are feeding on an abundance of wild birch catkins. The snow is literally covered with birch seeds after every wind.
A few of these birds are also coming to the feeders, joining blue jays, Canada jays (whiskyjacks), chickadees and hairy woodpeckers. I have also seen a few redbreasted nuthatches in the bush but not at the feeders.

Friday, November 29, 2019

We join Thunder Bay kids' climate strike

Thunder Bay students, just like others around the globe, are holding climate action demonstrations on Fridays. They are walking out of school saying there is little reason to plan for the future when there isn't going to be one unless we all take climate action.
So Brenda and I and several of our friends joined their protest today. We found the students' speeches to be profound and their protest signs witty.
They want the City of Thunder Bay to declare a climate emergency and to start taking immediate measures. And they want the provincial and federal governments to do likewise. But they said they recognized the most significant action will come from individuals making wise climate choices.
We signed a petition to be taken to Thunder Bay City Council. A table of volunteers asked us to write about things we have seen that give us hope. I wrote about the photo I took below. The Canadian Tire store on Arthur Street has installed five Tesla EV chargers. That act probably doubled the number of commercial EV chargers in the city.
Another hopeful sign is that one of the Petro-Canada filling stations in town has installed an EV charger as part of the company's plan to build an "Electric Highway" across Canada. The Valhalla Inn in town also has an EV charger. So does the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) office.
It's happening; businesses are awakening to the change that is coming.
Our next vehicle will be an EV. We will probably use it almost exclusively for commuting to Thunder Bay from Nolalu, at least until the "Electric Highway" of chargers everywhere is completed. But that purchase is going to need to wait until we finish paying for the internal combustion auto we now own. I suspect a whole bunch of people are just like us. In a couple of years there will be a quantum shift to EVs.
That is something that individuals can do.
Canadian Tire on Arthur Street, Thunder Bay

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Most-wonderful time of the year is here

It's Butter Tart Season!
If you don't know what a butter tart is, I truly pity you.
Wars have been fought over this tasty snack. Well, that may not be exactly true but let's just say it would make more sense to fight a war for butter tarts than for the usual humdrum reasons. It would be an unusual war, that is for sure: soldiers laying down their weapons and instead eating butter tarts until they finally curl up and fall asleep.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

'Sound of the Sasquatch:' I've heard it

The CBC radio program The Current featured a segment last week about a man who has written a book about the Sasquatch.
The book, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada explores how this supernatural creature seems part of many cultures.
Recently a hunter near Sioux Lookout, just east of Red Lake, heard what he took to be a sasquatch and recorded the encounter on his cell phone. Here is the link:

As soon as I listened to this frightening video I recognized I had heard this sound before, just once, up at Red Lake. I would likely also have put the call down to something supernatural because there just didn't seem to be any ordinary creature in the Boreal Forest that could make it. I didn't have a cell phone to record the hideous sound, which was a pity because I don't think most people believed me when I retold the story. I did, however, have the good fortune to actually see the creature make the sound. In fact, I was only about 50 feet away and had an unobstructed view. I also wasn't alone; our son, Josh, saw the whole thing too. We were both in the same canoe.
I did a search for the sound and the creature on YouTube and found it: Here is that link:
The creature seemed angry and we quickly paddled away.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Spotted Dog Lichen and other finds

Isn't this the most beautiful Spotted Dog Lichen you have ever seen?
It must have been the subdued November sunlight or maybe it was the skiff of snow, whatever, but if I do say so myself, these are some of the finest obscure nature photos I have ever taken!
Club Moss, aka Running Pine, aka Wolf's Claw Clubmoss
 The spores of Club Moss were once used as camera flash powder.
White Cedar boll
Possible animal den, fisher size.

Redbanded Polypore

Spot on cedar is Common Greenshield lichen
Rock Polypody

Whitewash Lichen

Clarity on Bushnell Core impressive

Click on photo for larger view
I bought a new trail camera this fall. It is the Bushnell Core.
The definition to its daytime photos is incredible as the shot above proves. Night photos are not as sharp, which is to be expected.
Both of my previous Bushnell Trophy Cams died last year but they were nearly 10 years old and owed me nothing.
It remains to be seen how the Core functions in extreme cold. The Trophy Cams worked even in -40 temperatures.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Where have all the songbirds gone?

Cedar cones are ripe for the taking
This is the question everyone in this area is asking. Bird feeders are all but empty; bird banders are catching about a third of what they normally get and you just don't see any birds.
Virtually everybody has reached the same conclusion: there was such an abundance of natural food produced last summer that the birds are feasting on that. Not only does it keep them from frequenting bird feeders but also delays the birds migration. Why fly South when you've got everything you want right here?
At our feeders we have a few bluejays, Canada jays, chickadees and hairy and downy woodpeckers. That's it.
Mountain ash bent over with berries

Monday, November 11, 2019

What do you call 'stringy stuff" on trees?

There are many tree lichens out there but this book nails the exact one
Boy, do I love these books. The North Woods Naturalist Series books are a must for anyone interested in the outdoors of our region. Published by Kollath+Stensaas of Duluth, Minn., this series of field guides are strictly about Northwestern Ontario, Northern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and the north half of Upper P. Michigan.
The guide shown above is Lichens of the North Woods.
Other titles I have are: Amphibians and Reptiles, Orchids, Dragonflies, Spiders, Moths and Caterpillars, Insects, Butterflies, and finally, Ferns and Allies. The full titles are the names just listed followed by "of the North Woods."
Each is written by a regional expert. For instance, Lichens is authored by Joe Walewski, director of Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minn.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The deer rut is in full swing

Deer in these parts seem to wait for snow to start their rut. My trail cameras are seeing lots of activity and scrapes and rubs are showing up everywhere.
The temperature is turning snappy too. I believe the low last night was -16 C and the high today was just -8 C.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nov. 5, Whitefish Lake mostly frozen

There are still some unfrozen places, like between the islands
Whitefish Lake, just west of Nolalu, was mostly frozen today.  We could see a few open patches.
The temperature hit -10 C at our house today and for the first time never got above freezing.
It has been a cold, wet fall. I would think this is the earliest Whitefish has frozen in recent years.
How thick is the ice in the photo? Probably two inches at the most with lots of thinner spots, even unfrozen places. Certainly not safe for travel, you would think. Despite that there was a set of ATV tracks on the ice running parallel to the shore but perhaps up to 100 feet out. Ooooh!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

How to tell balsam fir from spruce

The flat, soft needles of a balsam fir
Spruce needles are like a stiff bottle brush
I often hear Boreal newcomers mistake balsams and spruces. Their basic shape is similar so it's an easy mistake to make.
If you can grasp a branch, you can quickly tell the difference. Balsam firs have soft needles. You have probably had a balsam for a Christmas tree at some point as they are commonly farmed for this purpose. You can hang ornaments on their branches and not prick your hand. Not so with spruces. Their needles are like stiff bottle brushes.
The balsam needles are not only soft but are flat in shape and are arranged on either side of the branch. Spruce needles are four-sided and go all the way around the branch.
Balsam are very aromatic. Spruce have little smell.
There are lots of other differences but this is a good place to start. Just run your hand along the branch.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Porcupine welcomed us home

Porcupine, a slow-moving Boreal Forest creature, armed with quills

Porky gnawed the same tree years ago
We were down South visiting relatives for a few weeks and when we got back home last night and let Cork out of the car he found a porcupine right under the front steps. Talk about a surprise!
To my relief Cork obeyed my command to "leave it," and came into the house unscathed.
Then we went for a walk around the "back 40" this morning and Cork found the porky again, this time near the woodshed. Again he left it alone after an initial ferocious barking.
It was about 30 yards from where it was last night. That is a typical day's travel for these unique creatures. They are the Boreal Forest's version of a sloth.
At the back of the property we found where the big rodent, or one of his brethren, gnawed away the bark at the base of a white birch. The same tree had been chewed by another porky years ago.
Porcupines are indigenous to this area but are not plentiful.

The lynx and the hare story

Camera is aimed a bit high and is also too close Here is what the lynx is hunting -- snowshoe hare I got a glimpse of a lynx from th...