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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Natue Notebook – A Bird Day In The Life On Country Street

By: Eileen Hennemann

When the sun warms your bones after a disappointing week of uninspired gardening weather, and you can get out there for hours of bliss, you’d think nothing else could make you happier. We were proven wrong by being very pleasantly surprised from all the bird activity throughout the day. What should have taken us but a few hours to finish stretched out to a full day of working and stopping to watch the aerial activity.

While Allan turned the soil over in the front area where the shrubs have taken over he would stop often to listen to an odd “kwock” sound emanating from the Buckthorn hedge. A trio of Green Herons finally flew out and perched in a tall tree beside him. After quickly referring to the bird book did we learn that they really shouldn’t be here with us but instead by water of some kind. Throughout the day they would entertain us with their very un-birdlike sounds.

As we became blasé with the Green Herons we returned to our chores only to stop in our tracks while a couple of Baltimore (Northern) Orioles swept in, their orange feathers blazing through the budding lime-green leaves. This is the only time of year we are privileged to enjoy this bright and elusive bird. They joined in the chorus of the brilliant yellow Gold Finches and glorious red Cardinals swooping in to the feeders at the front door.

While I returned to the back yard, Allan continued his digging by the Forsythias. The buzzing around him was deafening as not only were the yellow blossoms covered in bumblebees but with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. They’d chitter and chatter while trying to buzz each other away from the best blooms and jet-zoom by Allan’s ears while in chase.

Meanwhile the Warblers were keeping me company out back with the various local Sparrows, Chickadees, and Grackles. The Mourning Dove was watching me silently from her perch waiting for a good time to flutter back into the cedar hedge where her nest lay.

Three other nests nestled in the cedars and juniper around me – two Robins’ nests and a Grackle’s. They were constantly swooping at each other to make sure their individual nests were left undisturbed.

The Cat Bird did its best to hide from us but couldn’t resist singing her meow-like call while she flitted along the length of the hedge. And not to be outdone, the Thrasher appeared later in the day to mimic as many of the birds he heard entertaining us until that time. A very prolific bird, he’s proud and shameless.

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker and Flickers stayed on the telephone poles at the end of our driveway and made many irritated sounds while we went to and fro in our gardening chores. We probably could have finished several hours earlier but who could resist such an aviary delight. In addition to stopping to smell the roses we got to stop and hear the birdsong. We’ll remember this day during the dark and bitter cold days of winter.

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