Great Egret

Great Egret

Friday, 12 June 2015

Woodlands and wetlands

I recently took another trip to McKerral Woods, a 50 acre woodland in Chatham-Kent that is in quite nice shape and very few people know about it. It is just barely large enough to have a bit of Interior Forest, which is the area of forest more than 100 metres from the edge. In Chatham-Kent, where there is such a limited amount of woodland, any woodland greater than 5 acres is considered significant!

McKerrall Woods was donated to the municipality several decades ago, and is a great spot to get away for even a short excursion. It is a combination of upland and lowland. Although topographic relief is relatively minor, it is enough to make the difference between what is sometimes under water and what is relatively drier upland.

There are some nice sized trees scattered throughout. Some of the largest ones are maple, especially Silver Maple, but the one in the image below is a Sycamore, and is slightly over a metre in diameter. The upper trunk has lost much of its bark, which is typical, and shows a lot of pale greenish mottling.
A nice surprise was this quite large Swamp White Oak. It is approaching a metre in diameter, and that species doesn't often get much larger than that in its restricted range in Ontario.
The wildflowers are mostly finished now, but not that long ago there was a good variety. Some of the lingering ones are:
Blue Phlox
White Baneberry
 White Baneberry is sometimes called Doll's-eyes since the fruit, as shown in the next image, was sometimes used by pioneers as eyes for home-made dolls for their children.
Note the green insect climbing in this fruiting head. It is an immature Assassin Bug. In spite of their small size, they can give a nasty bite!

I took a swing over to the Bear Creek Unit of St. Clair National Wildlife Area about the same time. The wetland was in good shape, and parts of the interior of it were quite visible from the road side. An Eastern Kingbird was fluttering about.

Several Great Egrets were feeding in the shallow water, but what caught my attention was this family of Pied-billed Grebe chicks, about half grown.
 There were two families of them altogether, totalling 8 young and two adults. Most of the time they did what grebes often do, and that is slowly sink out of sight below the water surface.

In the large creek system near by, several large female Northern Map Turtles were busy basking. This species is a Species At Risk in Ontario.

Elsewhere a Great Blue Heron was playing farmer, being outstanding in his field of soybeans.

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