Sunday, June 26, 2016

Work and Play in Sault Ste. Marie - Pt II

Knowing I would have an afternoon off I contact Rob Routledge, a local naturalist, to see about checking out some fens.  Rob was happy to oblige and took us to three of his favourite spots within a short distance of town. Thanks Rob! 

Despite light to moderate rain, I really enjoyed the few hours we were out.  There are interesting shrubs found growing on the floating peat mats which facilitate the shore fen habitat.  Below is Swamp Birch (Betula pumila).  This species grows to a maximum height of about 2m.
 Bog Willow (Salix pedicellaris) has very glacous leaves on both the upper and lower sides.

Mountain Holly () until recently belonged to the genus Nemopanthus but has since been found to be part of the Ilex family along with other holly species.  This shrub also has glacous leaves and fruits borne on long pedicels.  All three of these shrub species are rare in Waterloo Region (and most municipalities where they occur in southern Ontario).

 Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule) is quite common in forests around Sault Ste. Marie.  It seemed we were there right at peak bloom.

Rob showed me a good little patch of the white form of Moccasin Flower (growing right next to the pink form and with light pink-white clumps also present).

 A little too early for Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus) however!

My co-worker Nathan (left) thinking, geez these botany types are a strange breed!

The deep red 'goblets' and flowers of Pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea) added a bit of colour and texture to an otherwise sedge and moss-dominated mat.

Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), one of the finer details among the saturated peat moss.

 At the fringe of the fen (where alder, willow and conifers being to take hold), it seemed that forb diversity changed and sedges became less dominant.  Below is a nice patch of Three-leaved Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata).  Three-leaved Solomon's Seal grew on the hummocks of dead spruce and cedar nearby.

Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) strongly resembles the herb you might grow in your garden.

 Then there were sedges, 18 species over the 3 or so hours, not too shabby!
Brown Sedge (Carex buxbaumii)
Michaux's Sedge (Carex michauxiana)
Mud Sedge (Carex limosa)
A close up of Mud Sedge
Inflated Sedge (Carex vesicaria)
Creeping Sedge (Carex chordorrhiza) was a new one for me.
Few-seeded Sedge (Carex oligosperma)
A favourite, Stunted Sedge (Carex magellanica)
And one of the stranger looking sedges, Few-flowered Sedge (Carex pauciflora).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Work and Play in Sault Ste. Marie - Pt I

Last week Nathan Miller and I were in Sault Ste. Marie for work. I was looking forward to a few days of early morning bird surveys, hiking through the woods and getting out to explore some wetlands in our down time.

On our first night we were surrounded by a small group of curious Cape May Warblers, named after Cape May, New Jersey were the species was first described.

Oval-leaved Bilberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium) is a locally common shrub.  It has a relatively small range in northern Michigan and around Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario but is also found on the east coast and west coast as well as across the Atlantic in Japan, Russia, etc..  This member of the Heath family has an s-rank of S3 (rare to uncommon in Ontario).

A hydro-cut provided good open habitat for a few species of butterflies including this Arctic Skipper.

Black Bear tracks and scat (as well as Eastern Wolf and Moose) could be found here and there.

Nathan spotted a Mink Frog while I was transfixed trying to get shots of the Cape May Warblers.

Some ferns of interest (for a southerner) include glades of Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana), similar to Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) but with the presence of fertile leaflets (which eventually wither away) create an interrupted effect on the frond.

Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum) with it's in-rolled leaves with densely hairy undersides was in bloom.

Silvery Sedge (Carex canescens) has a bit of a bluish-silverish hue to the foliage and stems.

One of the most common wildflowers in the upland forest areas is Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis).  This species is also called Yellow Clintonia, the fruits resemble blueberries hence the name Bluebead.

A few video clips of the sights and sounds...

In our downtime we checked out some fens and beaver meadows near the airport... to be continued in my next post.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ferns and Sedges at Laurel Creek

Having got an early start on work tasks Friday, mid-afternoon I took off to check out a neat find my co-worker Andrew had made in a rich forest in Waterloo.  The next three photos are Carey's Sedge (Carex careyana), a species ranked S2 provincially and found generally in rather high quality forest habitats.

I have seen Carey's Sedge a few times this spring and it's interesting to see just how large the perigynia (the seeds) get at maturity.  

I had never been to this forest before and as it turned out there is an impressive sedge and fern diversity to explore.  The tiny hairs on the leaves below lend themselves to the name Pubescent Sedge (Carex hirtifolia).

A blurry photo of the fruiting bodies.

Loose-flowered Sedge (Carex laxiflora) is found in rich maple-beech forests.  The similar Finely-nerved Sedge (Carex leptonervia) lacks the numerous and prominent veins (kind of like ridges) on the perigynia.

I realize these all look the same to some :) but for those who enjoy exploring the world of sedges finding a goodie like Hitchcock's Sedge (Carex hitcockiana) is a good day out!

Moving to ferns, some are relatively common in rich forest habitats in Waterloo Region, such as Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum).

New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) is often distinguished by the two tapering ends of the frond as New Yorker's "burn the candle at both ends".

A less common fern, Silvery Glade Fern (Deparia acrostichoides) can be identified by unique sori (the capsules on the leaf underside which release spores - too early to see them on these plants).

The hairy rachis (stem) of the frond is diagnostic for the species.
Off to pack, the forests of Sault Ste. Marie area (aka the blood donor clinic) tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Amazing Technicolor Butterfly

I stopped by Two Creeks Conservation Area outside of Wheatley last week.  The site has a bunch of riparian meadows and thicket habitats which made for some good butterfly-watching.  It's tough to miss a fly-by swallowtail butterfly just due to their size.  I was surprised when I reviewed the photo below (taken on my cellphone) to see the rainbow of colours on this Black Swallowtail (click to enlarge).  This has to be a product of light refracting and how my camera picked it up, but interesting nonetheless. 

American Lady were also out and about, the tiny white dots you see embedded in the orange part of the wing are diagnostic for differentiating this species from the similar Painted Lady.  This spot is not always present however and other features including 2 large spots on the underwing (versus 5 small ones), and upperwings brighter orange, less pointed, and smaller black areas than Painted.  American has spots with blue in the centre while Painted most often lacks the blue centres.