The cold of winter definitely returned in December, however that came with very little snow. Visitors have still been coming out to enjoy the Sanctuary trails and experience the sights and sounds of winter. Everyone’s favorites – the Redpolls have been seen in the area and a Great Horned Owl was seen perched on the top of a poplar tree just beside the parking lot late one evening. Moose tracks also continue to appear – it is incredible how large their footprints really are!
Ever wonder how frogs overwinter in this area? You may have heard that they burrow into the mud at the bottom of lakes our ponds, but did you know that most turn themselves into “Frogsicles” instead? Yes, that’s correct, the common frogs in this area like Wood frogs simply bury themselves under leaves or other forest debris and pretty much freeze up. As quoted from the Earth Rangers web site:
“As the temperature drops, everything the Wood frog does stops. We mean EVERYTHING! It stops moving, breathing, its blood stops flowing and even its heart stops beating! During winter, 35-45% of the Wood frog’s body may freeze and become ice-like. It can pull this trick off by storing glucose in its liver. The glucose gets released into the frog’s blood while it’s ‘playing dead’, preventing its entire body from freezing. The glucose acts as antifreeze to keep this little guy alive while staying completely still. Once things warm up in the spring, the frog comes back to life (so to speak) and returns to its regular activities.”
After our snows of October, the weather has improved dramatically with many visiting the Sanctuary to enjoy the above normal temperatures. The reflections on the water in the Sanctuary have been a photographer’s dream, capturing the clouds and sky like a mirror. While not a lot of animal or bird activity has been observed, visitors are enjoying feeding the ever-present local chickadees by hand. Keep your eyes and ears open for Pileated Woodpeckers who have been seen and heard in the area – they look like “Woody Woodpecker” and have a distinct rattling call.
The date for the upcoming 30th Devon-Calmar Christmas Bird Count is set. This count also includes the Clifford E Lee Nature Sanctuary and surrounding area. It will be on Tuesday December 27th so mark your calendars. Also, for more information visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1171415416285314/
What a surprise – winter came early this year with some heavy snow and freezing temperatures that has turned the ground white at times and partially frozen the Sanctuary wetlands. While the weather may be chilly, it is a perfect time to hike and watch for animal tracks that now show quite clearly the creatures that have been out and about. A number of Trumpeter Swans were also sighted on the water just off Sanctuary Road which was a real treat to see.
If you are feeding birds you are in good company . Birding is one of North America’s favorite pastimes. A 2006 report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that about 55.5 million Americans provide food for wild birds. Most feeders are found in urban areas where natural habitat is not found. Feeding birds requires some basic information to keep them healthy.
Cornell Labs did a seed preference test study to find out what birds like to eat from feeders. The black sunflowers are the best feed for most species of birds and the standard mix of seed often bought is wasteful as the birds pick out the prized sunflower seeds and leave the milo, millet, oats, wheat, flax and buckwheat seeds. These uneaten seeds fall to the ground and foster mold and bacteria growth which can make the birds sick. Not only can this discarded seed cause problems but poorly maintained feeders can contribute to the spread of infection and diseases and the feeders themselves pose hazards with sharp edges, too deep of tray for feeding safely and placed out in the open with no protection for the birds.
As the Clifford E Lee Nature Sanctuary is a natural area we do not encourage feeders for many of the reasons pointed out above. Indeed we have found injured or dead birds in or near the feeders some have placed on the Sanctuary. We encourage people to feed in their own yards were they can keep an eye on feeders and birds as well as cleaning the feeders and spilled seed.
Fall seems to have come early to the Sanctuary with some trees dropping leaves early, but some trees are showing spectacular colour. A lot of our migratory birds have left, but you can still see the regular standbys like chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays. Occasionally you may hear the call of Sandhill Cranes flying far overhead and there has also been an odd moose sighting in the meadow areas. Even if you don’t see a moose directly, you may see their large crescent-shaped tracks in the soft earth or see where they have been pawing alongside the trails.
An interesting thing that you may notice at this time of year is that the baby birds (fledglings) are now out and about with their parents – flapping their wings and chirping as they beg to be fed. Ironically the “baby” is sometimes larger looking than the parent because of the fluffiness of its feathers. You may also see some Canada Goose goslings swimming in formation behind an adult and perhaps also young American Coots (sporting reddish feathers if still on the younger side). The continued rains in June have resulted in the Sanctuary being very lush and green with the appearance of summer flowers like twinflower, bunchberry, and fireweed. Of particular note – the wild roses are especially beautiful and plentiful this year. Mosquitos have also started to appear, which may be annoying to us, but they offer plentiful food for the many tree swallows you will see swooping over the water of the Sanctuary.
Spring has definitely sprung at the Sanctuary and thanks to the recent rains water levels have more or less returned to where they were last year. The Red-winged blackbirds are a common sight on willows beside the boardwalk and you’re almost sure to hear the “pure sweet Canada, Canada, Canada” call of the White-throated sparrow. Chokecherry and Saskatoon bushes are pretty much done blooming, but the wild roses are starting to appear already. Watch on the water for the beautiful Blue-winged Teal – easy to spot because they have a violet-grey head with a white crescent on each side. If you’re hiking in the evening also listen for the unusual “swooping” sound of the Common Snipe as it dives through the air high overhead – making the noise with wind rushing over its tail feathers.
Our first snow of the season has already come and with the warm temperatures of early December started to settle and subside. The great thing about having some snow cover is that nature lovers can more easily see what wildlife has been out and about. You will certainly notice the tracks of the Varying Hare (they look like rabbit ears), along with the trails left by Red Squirrels as they move between trees to collect cones or other treats. You will no doubt see many deer tracks and occasionally the large footsteps of a moose. You will likely also notice many small seeds scattered on top of the snow. This is likely White Birch seed that has scattered in the wind – a favourite food of the Common Redpoll – some of which have been seen in the area already. Keep your eyes peeled for a large Great-horned Owl – also sighted of late in the area.