Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Saturday, 3 May 2014

When the birds aren't plentiful, enjoy the wildflowers

I had a bit of a diversion today, and spent some time in the McKerrall Woods, which was donated to the municipality of Chatham-Kent by a local landowner a couple of decades or so ago. It is about 50 acres (20 ha) in size. As it is away from the rural gravel road, but accessible via a grassy farm laneway, there is a lack of garbage and off-road vehicle damage.

It has largely been ignored, and for the most part that is good! There are some 'older growth' characteristics to this woodland, with large old trees, very little evidence of any recent timber harvest, and the forest floor looks to be in good condition. Older growth forest is incredibly valuable, with its array of age classes of woody species, and with less disturbance on the forest floor, there are fewer invasive non-native species. It can take many decades even after a 'good' harvest, for a woodland to regain the older growth characteristics that make it so valuable.

Here are a few pics I took a couple of weeks ago, showing some of the large old trees. The first two are of primarily American Beech and Sugar Maple, and are approaching 2.5 feet in diameter.




The following photo features a quite large Sycamore, which is almost 3 feet in diameter.



It is a mixture of upland, meaning fairly dry, and lowland, meaning fairly wet forest types. There is standing water in various places, and more so this year due to the extensive snowfall and normal amount of recent rainfall. The mosquitoes can be quite feisty later in June and July! But now is a good time to see wildflowers, and even a few birds.

Probably most of these wildflowers are familiar to you, but maybe not all. I took most of these today, but since it wasn't sunny, the Trout Lily wasn't open, so I dove into some photos I took a year ago to show its flowering style.


Squirrel Corn

Red Trillium

Trout Lily, a.k.a. Dog-tooth Violet

Blue Cohosh

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

There is quite a parade of wildflowers in many woodlots right now, all striving to grow and flower before the leaves of the trees by virtue of their shade, reduce the sunlight energy the wildflowers need.

While I was exploring this woodland, I noted a Red-tailed Hawk has its nest high up in a maple tree. The adults were soaring overhead, expressing their displeasure at my presence. I also saw a Great Horned Owl nest high up in another maple. A single owlet was peering at me over the edge. I didn't take a photo of this nest since I only had macro equipment with me today, but the following image is of two owlets raised in a Black Cherry tree. The tree had had a large branch break off, leaving this nesting space. The nesting space was a mere 4 metres above the forest floor, making it quite accessible for photographers.This occurred in a small woodlot immediately adjacent to the city of Chatham.





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