Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Nature Notebook – Giving Yourself Time for Nature

by Chris Hume

Baby Turtle

photo Chris Hume

I thought I would share a story with you from my nature journal today. I find that when I take the time to connect with nature I feel energized and renewed in spirit! There is something amazingly powerful about letting yourself “engage your senses fully in the privilege of being”! Many of us – in the rush of our daily lives – have less and less contact with the natural world. Here is what I found one morning – by spending time outside before work…

“I had an absolutely beautiful morning in the garden to start the day today. My wireless connection is down at home – so decided to just work outside – for the time I would normally be working away on the computer. I decided to take a look at the garden at the front – as the very last thing – and was thrilled to see a very large snapping turtle – digging in the garden beside the sidewalk going up to the front porch. She had very carefully dug up and moved the lavender plant that was in her way – and set it perfectly beside her on the sidewalk!! It had soil on the roots – and was ready to replant somewhere else. And she very slowly and patiently was digging with her back feet – a lovely, deep hole for the turtle eggs. I had my breakfast on the front porch and watched her getting the nest ready. And as I was finally tearing myself away from the garden to head into work – I stopped and tried to see her laying an egg. Which I did! And was even able to look into the nest – and see 7 or 8 eggs that had already been laid. Dieter was able to see her covering up the nest – and then head back down to the Mississippi River – her job was done! So it seems that in 80 to 90 days (from August 31 – Sept 10) there could be baby turtles emerging from our garden! I will be on turtle watch starting Aug. 31st!”

On Friday September 14th at 4:45 pm Dieter called to say that the baby Snappers were emerging from the garden! He came upon six of them – two on the driveway, two on the sidewalk, one in the grass and one just emerging from the nest in the garden – through a perfect one-at-a-time turtle-sized hole. I was still busy at the office – but shut down immediately and started the commute home – hoping to get home to see a snapper hatchling for myself. I arrived in just in time to see turtle #18 make his way into the world. And friends and family were able to come over and share in this magical moment and take some photos. I have sent the photos to a few friends and colleagues – and found that they knew very little about Snapping Turtles – beyond knowing that sometimes see them trying to cross country roads in the early sumer.

Interestingly enough, fewer than one in a thousand Snapping Turtle eggs will survive to maturity, so a Snapping Turtle female goes through this process dozens of times in her lifetime. And it is likely that the Turtles have been laying eggs in our neighbourhood (very near the Mississippi River) for hundreds of years. For everything you ever wanted to know about Snapping Turtles, check out this website.

Snapping Turtle Information

So the moral of this story is – if I had not taken the time to be outside early one morning in June this year – I would not have had this really great experience – and learned what I now know about the Snapping Turtle. Try it – give yourself some time to get outside – and see what you find. If nothing else I guarantee you will feel refreshed and ready to take on the world!

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Stromatolites Unknown

Submited by Sheila Edwards
December 20th 2005

Stromatolites Unknown

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During September’s MVFN meeting, Jim Bendell mentioned the stromatolites near Champlain Bridge. Chris Hume and I were intrigued, so after getting an idea of where they were, off we went. Not really knowing what to look for all we saw were concentric circles, slightly mounded, split by fissures, with odd little tuffs of grass. Not nearly as entrancing as watching a Great Blue Heron or having frogs leaping away while paddling, or spotting a salamander in the glare of a flashlight. The day was nice, the surroundings calm, we didn’t get lost, the picnic went well – just not as earth shattering as it could have been.

Back to the drawing board. What were we looking at? Why were they so important? There are some things one can appreciate without much knowledge, like the butterfly greenhouses at Carleton, or seeing a Great Grey Owl; not so the stromatolites. These odd mounds turned out to be heavily eroded, extremely old fossils; in fact, the oldest type of fossil known.

They are not the tiny fossils found on the shores of Lake Ontario, but a whole connected area of fossils. They were created by communities of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and other microbes, when this area was covered by warm salt water. The calcite produced by the cyanobacteria and the normal sedimentation of minerals becomes trapped within the sticky cyanobacteria, which then settle and start to harden each night.

Over time, a solid mound is formed, with a new cyanobacteria colony growing on top. Mounds form on top of mounds, which eventually fossilize. Glaciations and other erosion mechanisms resulted in our stromatolites becoming relatively flat. Looking at the stromatolites one sees concentric circles, indicative of the cycle of colony growth and sedimentation. The pattern of the rocks is reflective of the tides and currents.

There are other, smaller, examples of stromatolites along the Carp River near Fitzroy, along the Ottawa River near Dunrobin Shores, and along the Jock River. Today living stromatolites can be seen off the west coast of Australia and in the Bahamas.

Only by seeing the stromatolites were we led to further study, and through further study we understood and thus appreciated what we saw. Some things one need only see to appreciate but the circular pattern of learning and seeing results in a richer experience; an increasing appreciation of nature.

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Nature Notebook – The Gatherer

By: Chris Hume

Written while on a nature hike in Pakenham backwoods trail

Into the woods I go

It’s a place that is good for my soul

Along the path I roam

I really feel at home…

Alone, but not lonely

I feel at peace and enjoy the sounds

Of birds and wildlife all around

What’s this I see beside a tree?

A gnarly piece of bark, some lovely moss,

Some small pine cones, nature’s loss…

Is my gain!

As I gather and wander

I feel at peace and whole again.

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Nature Notebook – Birding Notes

By: Chris Hume

Here is poem that I wrote this summer after coming back from a wonderful nature volunteer trip.

Pat Matheson and I really enjoyed helping with the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas work – we learned a LOT!

It was a great group consisting of 5 volunteers, 2 co-leaders and 2 birding experts (Larry and Diane) from the Lambton Wildlife group in Sarnia. We camped (for 5 nights) at Lake St. Peter Provincial park (in between Bancroft and Whitney) and had two beautiful lakeside campsites. The first day we all went out together – to be introduced to doing point counts and to learn about the work that we would be helping with. After that we had a wake up call each morning at 4:30 am – we then grabbed breakfast “to go” and were generally out and starting to work between 5:30 and 6 am. We would meet back at the camp between 12 noon and 1 pm. Then we could prepare a fabulous brunch/lunch. We could canoe/swim/hike and/or do more birding in the afternoon. Then the evening would be taken up in with meal preparations and fantastic conversations!!!

Sadly Diane Haselmayer – a Lambton Wildlife member and one of the leaders of our trip in June died suddenly in Peru August 30th. This poem was greatly inspired by Diane and my experiences doing thet Breeding Bird Atlas work.

Birding Notes

I used to think you had to see
The Cardinal, Bluebird or Chickadee

But recently I learned something profound
That you can walk in the woods and know birds by their sound

Next time you hear “Quick… Three Beers”
You’ll know that the Olive-Sided Flycatcher is near

Or “Here I am.. Where are you?” again and again
And it will be the Red-eyed Vereo nine times out of ten

A quick “Whippity whippity whipit”
And you’re sure to find the Common Yellow Throat in a nearby thicket

A little chipping all around
And it could be the White-Throated Sparrow making this sound

But with a little pishing you could be surprised
By a Black Throated Blue appearing before your eyes

A melodious sparkling song in a glen?
It can only be the lovely Winter Wren

A quick short “Mew” in a tree
And the Catbird has let you know that it is he

Oh and a “pee a wee” you hear from afar
Is the Eastern Wood Peewee Flycatcher singing a few bars

It’s time to bring this birding notes poem to an end
So I can go out on the trail to make some more bird friends!

By Chris Hume

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