Here are reports filed by various Friends of Petrie Island on what is currently happening on the island.
24 December 2002 (Bill Bower)
I saw Jim's car in the parking lot when I arrived. Beautiful morning. Those tracks you saw, Jim, were Otter tracks in the snow. They prefer sliding in the snow to walking. They travel great distances but if you come across where they rest (lots of places but usually along the bank somewhere/under the ice) you will find scat and most of the scat will be made up of fresh water clams. A grey color but you can see pieces of shell.
Not sure what Jim heard. The closest thing I can come to is an ice fisherman doing a one-legger down a fishing hole and then being bitten by a Pike. Must have been before I arrived.
A great December 24th interrupted only by the occasional fish that took my bait and forced me discard gloves with handwarmers and freeze my fingers removing hooks and rebaiting. Much more enjoyable I suppose if I had fished with no bait, but then I wouldn't have fresh fish for Xmas dinner. Each to his own.
24 December 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The sun was just hitting the top of the trees as I drove down the hill from the Queensway. The "sunken" ice fishing hut has been removed, but another smaller one has taken its place in a slightly different location. There were 5 huts out on the ice at the bend in the road.
The mild weather over the last few days has caused more open water to develop at the causeway. The main river channel is no longer frozen over. It is now open water with broken ice pans noisily floating down the river. Noisily as the floating ice scraped and chaffed against other ice frozen to the shoreline.
I spotted what seemed to be two more beaver lodges in the marsh area. That brings the total to seven lodges that I know of at Petrie. The beavers in Turtle Pond are still maintaining a small amount of open water adjacent to their lodge. The beavers in the newly resettled "old" lodge along Beaver Trail have also opened up a small open water area for themselves.
Last night's fresh snow was full of tracks of all different sorts. The most interesting one though was some animal, with sharp-clawed 3" wide paws, that seem to be having fun sliding along in the snow. Where ever the ground was smooth, he seemed to take a run at it, and then belly flop and slide along the snow for 4-5 feet before taking another run. I found two areas with these sliding trails. Not sure what critter it might be. If it were the summer I would say one of the otters.
The only birds to be heard were a few chickadees and woodpeckers. There was a very loud repetitive "call" as I parked the car and started to walk along the turtle trail. It was coming from the south side of Turtle Pond. As I walked along the trail, the repetitiveness dropped off, and by the time I reached the Beaver Trail there was one last call. It sound like a mix of an catlike animal in distress and a heron "croaking" as it takes flight. I looked around but could find no source for the call.
When I left at 10AM, there were two cars at the Petrie picnic area and 4 cars at Crappie Bay for the ice fishing in open chairs out at the mouth of the Bay.
18 December 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The Aliens have landed !!!! The Aliens have landed !!!!
Well not quite. There are two snow people on the beach and a cousin of theirs out on the ice at the mouth of Crappie Bay.
It was cool, crispy morning with no breeze (until 9 am), everything was coated with a light touch of hoar frost. That gave a wonderful white glow to the trees with the rising sun backlighting the branches. Twinkling reflections from the frost were everywhere. Light vapour was rising from within two good size animal-dug holes. The resultant frosty crystals on the vegetation at the holes' lips were quite beautifully delicate, but in need of the sun's rays reaching them to be "picture perfect".
The half inch of so of snow that fell the other day has been packed down by human (and dog) traffic on the trail demonstrating the increasing popularity of Petrie through all four seasons. Off the trail, the snow told the stories of the many animals at Petrie. Various sizes of tracks from tiny mice dragging their tails to larger prints such as fox or marten (??) etc. The tracks interlace each other, and every now and then they obviously interlaced at the same time with a mouse providing a meal to a larger animal. Two sets of tracks converging and only one leaving the scene.
The beavers seems to be keeping a little area of water open around their lodge in Turtle Pond. It freezes over every morning.
As I drove down the hill from the Queensway towards the Islands, I noticed one ice fishing hut was sitting out on the ice in the shallow bay east of the road. Another smaller hut was out a short distance from shore at the bend before the sand operations. An hour later as I headed home, the hut out in the shallow bay had gone through the ice and was listing at weird angles. The water level has gone down about 4-6 inches since the ice was formed. So there is an air pocket under the ice which did not get a chance to become very thick. I found that out the hard way myself this morning, so be careful !!!
There was one woodpecker hammering away at tree, one crow and a red squirrel - not much else animal-wise in view.
12 December 2002 (Bill Bower)
Yeah! those crazy fishermen were out alright. I was down myself. Guess they like to live dangerously.
The deer had been around before daybreak but I didn't follow them. Looked like doe tracks. Fox was seen along with a small mink. I pileated woodpecker kept me company. All this was seen in and from Crappie Bay.
Just enjoying my fish-fry now. Caught over 100 fish and kept seven. My best day ever out there. Didn't try for Pickerel or Pike. It was a beautiful day even if no fish had been caught.
12 December 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The cold snap of last week froze most areas of open water including the main river channel. The only open water is east of the two large culverts at the causeway as well as a few small areas in the middle of the main channel. The ice is thick enough that there were three people ice fishing off Crappie Bay.
With no fresh snow, it was hard to sort out any animal activity, but there were tracks of small tail dragging rodent in many areas untouched by human/dog foot prints. There were two black squirrels around. The only birds were a few crows "cawing" off in the distance.
The "sighting" of the day though was a fox. I have assumed there were fox around, but in three years of regular/frequent visits to Petrie's trails I never saw one. This morning as I was walking east back to the car, I spotted a fox running across Turtle Pond , looking back over his shoulder at me. He had been snooping around the shoreline where the muskrats had a bank lodge in the summer of 2001 just west of the small culvert. There is only the one muskrat lodge in Turtle Pond, a far cry from past years. There are several though in the marsh area that now are visible with snow outlining their shapes amongst the reeds.
The large hole along the beaver trail is showing signs of "in and out" activity. I think the hole leads into the water below a small collection of branches on the shoreline. There were other freshly dug small holes by what I assumed were squirrels.
The high bush cranberries have not all been eaten, but I did find an area where many fallen berries had coloured the snow with red dye. I couldn't tell if the berries had fallen to the ground by human or animal activity.
The iced waterways have likely stopped the beaver damage until next spring. I "surveyed" two areas of beaver chewing. At the start of the main trail is a 35± foot section with only three trees (small ones at that) left between the trail and Turtle Pond shoreline. I counted 44 tree "trunks" (most 2"-6" in diameter ) that had been cut off. Further to the west, in one 50± foot stretch, 14 trees, with trunks between 9" and 18", were felled with another 4 large trees having had the bark removed all the around the trunk so the trees will not survive.
In an area that I heavily "patrol" regularly I found a 6" long turtle shell that had been freshly investigated. The shell was hollowed out, so some predator had a meal at some point. Why the shell suddenly turned up in this area and had been freshly investigated by a four footed creature, I am not sure.
27 November 2002 (Bill Bower)
Great sunny morning at Petrie Island (also known as Stump Island).
Have those beavers been busy or what! At one place on the trail I though men had been at work cutting. Everything was flat. A bunch of New Brunswick woodcutters on a clear-cut mission couldn't have done more.
Must be hard for the turtles to get any rest with all that underwater activity. One night you get whacked with a beaver's tail and the next you get turned over by a tree going by.
On the serious side there wasn't much to see. I did find some Robins though which was unexpected. Didn't see the Great Blue Heron and only duck around was a Goldeneye.
26 November 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The main activity at Petrie these days is the beavers and their tree harvesting. While most of the still water areas have a layer of ice, the beavers are maintaining enough open channels so that they can continue to re-enforce their lodges and larders. There were two beavers out this morning at about 9:30am working as icebreakers keeping the channels open. (Of course the muskrats are taking advantage of the open water too !)
With at least five (and a miniature) lodges occupied, the trees are taking quite a hard hit. As mentioned before with the new lodge in Turtle Pond, the smaller trees along the main trail have, and still are, disappearing rapidly. The two occupied lodges in Muskrat Bay (the "new" one from last year, and the "old" one that was not used last year) are consuming the trees around the Beaver Trail, particularly the west end of it. There is another clear-cut operation just west of last year's clear-cut along the south channel past the end of Muskrat Bay. The lodge is on the south side of the channel and to say it is large is an understatement. The miniature lodge is just west of the "old" lodge on Beaver Trail. It could be a "doghouse" that missus beaver will send mister beaver to if he gets out of line on Superbowl Sunday.
There were a few ducks around and one sparrow, but surprisingly, I scared up a young heron that must have forgotten to fly south with the compatriots. Not sure what it is finding to eat.
With the leaves gone, the bird nests are more easily seen. There is a wasp nest high up in a silver maple, about 300 yards west of where the wasp nest was last year at the start of the Beaver Trail.
When I left the Island at 10:30am there were three other parked vehicles and a small motor boat breaking its way through the thin ice from Crappie Bay.
20 November 2002 (Bill Bower)
I was late this morning and probably missed a few things for sure. However, I was the first one back on the trail.
A large buck passed through the area in the early morning. I suspect it crossed from the Quebec side. The tracks were in the parking lot, then along the Turtle Trail, then over by the second cottage, then out the trail (on and off of it), then around those ponds on the south side and finally it swam across the south channel to the mainland. This all took place probably before sunrise. Judging by the stride and size of track it was a big'un.
Other tracks included otter (4 of them) (that's 4 Otter and not 4 tracks), beaver, muskrat, squirrel and a coyote (I think). I number of beavers had been out doing some more chopping before Xmas. Didn't see any Marten or Fisher tracks. I followed a set of tracks which I think were Coyote and they led to the shoreline facing the south channel. Along that shoreline there are a number of places where an animal can get up under the bank and remain warm and hidden. That's where this animal went, quite near an old beaver lodge. Obviously it was there when I was there but it could have been ten feet or more up under the bank.
The south channel is ice free and there were probably a hundred or more ducks in the area. Most were Common Mergansers but I also saw Blacks, Mallards, Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead. Didn't see anything out on the main river.
Anyway, looks like the early bird gets (to see) the buck and I was way too late this time.
17 November 2002 (David Villeneuve)
This morning as I was driving onto Petrie Island, just before the road turns west, I saw an animal crossing the road. It was the size of a house cat, with a tail as long as the body, and very bushy. Its legs were shorter than a cat's. It was kind of a cat-sized squirrel.
I don't recall minks or muskrats having such luxurious tails. Could it be a fisher?
Reply from Bill Bower:
In the past two weeks I have seen both a Marten and a Fisher in the Golden Lake area. The Fisher came to within about 20 feet of me before retreating (quickly). There is no mistaking a Fisher for a Marten or a house cat. It is quite large and would be over three feet from tip of nose to end of tail. When you see one in the woods or at a distance it will look totally black. The one I saw up close had brown on the face and neck/shoulders area but looked completely black when running through the woods. A male could weight up to 18 or 20 lbs. but a female would be smaller at something around 13 lbs. I would not describe a Fisher as cute, however, a Marten could be described that way. It would only be about one third the size of a Fisher and you can quite easily see the lighter colors on the face, chest and throat. Both are very active and travel considerable distances. Both have bushy tails
Martens eat mainly red squirrels and mice. I followed Fishers around last winter in the Mer Bleue area and they were eating mainly Muskrats, but also mice, rabbits and deer (although the deer was no doubt carrion).
There are Fishers for sure around the city and I have heard reports of Marten in the western areas. I suppose either could have made its way to Petrie Island. Maybe tracks in the snow will determine exactly what it was.
12 November 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The weather forecast said there would be some sunny patches today, well maybe there were some somewhere else but not at Petrie. This morning was very dreary with grey clouds abounding. With the leaves gone and the grasses/reeds/ferns etc all laying down (from the unseasonable snow of last week) the island looks quite barren compared to the summer.
The beaver are endeavouring to make it look all the more barren. They have been actively cutting the smaller trees along the shoreline at the start of the main trail; if they keep it up there won't many trees left between the trail and Turtle Pond. One spot in the back area has seeing many 12" trees felled, with more in the works. Two beavers were swimming home from a good night's work.
There are four easily visible active beaver lodges this year: two new ones in the marsh by the Bait Shop and in Turtle Pond along with two existing ones in Muskrat Bay. The Muskrat Bay lodges are the one built last year on the south side and a reoccupation of the lodge that they abandoned in the summer of 2001 on the north side. (We think the mink used it last winter.)
There are now four muskrat lodges in view, two by the Bait Shop and two in the reeds of Turtle Pond. The lower number of muskrat lodges seems to confirm the lower number of muskrat sightings this past summer. Just a normal fluctuation in population levels I assume.
There were three Canada Geese close to shore with another hundred or so bobbing on the water in mid stream of the main river channel. When the three close by geese flew off, the larger flock noisily lifted off as well, honking for several minutes
The pileated woodpecker flew by, and a few smaller woodpeckers were working on branches. A few chickadees and ducks were also around, but no herons. Guess the herons have finally left for points south.
31 October 2002 (Jim Robertson)
There sky was momentarily rosy with the rising sun lighting up the underside of the grey clouds. But as soon as the sun passed through the narrow band of open sky above the horizon we were left with a dull, cool morning with lots of frost in the open areas.
Most areas of still water were gelled: the marsh on both sides of the road was well covered with ice, Turtle Pond was 2/3 covered with ice, the west end being more heavily covered. The water level seemed to have dropped about a half inch overnight leaving ice along the shorelines white as the water fell away from it.
The beavers have continued to be very busy with many more saplings having disappeared, some large trees are being worked on. The silver maple mentioned in the last two dispatches has now lost three 12" trunks (it lost one last year too). Won't be long before all of it is down. There is a second nearby silver maple that has two trunks joined at the bottom to form a 36" base, the beavers have started working on it, but I would be surprised if they manage to bring it down.
There were lots of ducks around, mainly mallards and mergansers. A solitary heron was over by bait shop by the two muskrat lodges. Yesterday the heron was perched atop one of the lodges. A pileated woodpecker was working relatively quietly on old dead tree. Several chickadees were flitting about. At least they are not as pesky as the Mer Bleue chickadees who come right to you demanding a handout.
30 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
Found 17 species of birds including 7 species of ducks. Best sighting I guess was a group of 28 Common Mergansers at the twin tunnels. Goes to show that four eyes are better than two.
We did find a very recent "kill site" on a low branch where an owl had killed and eaten a Ring-Billed Gull. All that was left was the tail, legs and feet. Directly under the site was a large fresh owl pellet which leads us to believe it was the work of a Great Horned Owl. Not quite sure how it caught the gull but perhaps took it off the water surface during the night.
Lots of beaver activity towards the far end of the island, especially on the south side. Size doesn't seem to be a problem for them, or even a consideration. Take a few bites each night and eventuallty the thing will come down.
Nice find at the far end where a new species of tree was located. Looked something like a palm tree with one large "nut" under it. It was confirmed by the head of the Club's Interpretive Program who said, "Yes, that's a coconut all right." There was some chatter that perhaps there were two "nuts" under the tree, but due to other noise we couldn't hear exactly what was said.
Canal construction was in full swing when we returned, however, we managed to cross back to the mainland without getting wet.
All in all a good day at Petrie with progress on many fronts.
25 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
There were a pair of Wood Ducks on the one small pond at the rear of the island.
When I got back to my car, there was a Six-Spotted Fishing Spider on my car in the sun. (I hate spiders).
Did you know that when a beaver stashes food for winter (as they are now doing), the worst food is on the top. The best is always on the bottom. They will dive and take the good stuff down under and pile the garbage limbs on top as weight. Sometimes they will add more weight to the pile by putting the logs with no bark left on top. The pile could be up to three meters thick. They know that in the winter the top two or three feet will be frozen in the ice and they may never get to it. All the choice food will be readily available.
25 October 2002 (Jim Robertson)
Well, the beavers resolved the problem of the large tree trunk that was hung up in amongst branches belonging to a neighbouring trunk of the same tree, they brought down the other trunk. Problem solved!! The area they attempted to clear-cut last year is being left alone this year and they are attacking another area about 30 yards to the west. They have also done an extensive thinning job along the trail starting from the interpretative cottage and points west. The new lodge in Turtle Pond is covered with freshly acquired branches and their leaves. There is a new lodge (or what looks like a lodge) being built in the marsh to the west of the bait shop. Two muskrat lodges have appeared in the shallows to the SE of the bait shop.
I am sure Bill Bower will expound shortly, but today seemed to be duck day at Petrie. I haven't seen as many ducks there for a long time. Bill says they will be there until freeze-up. The herons were few and far between. One was by the bait shop and another towards the end of Muskrat Bay.
There was lots of frost and fresh ice. The west ends of Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay were lightly frozen over as were other areas of shallow water or water densely populated by leaves or reeds. The many rose bushes in one area were nicely rimmed with frost.
The water level was very low, lots of stumps sticking their heads up above the water.
Someone must have a disagreement at home and decided to sleep the night in his frosty car at Petrie. He was still fast asleep at 9:45am. [Ed: Could this be the Queensway Sniper?]
21 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
Nice brisk morning at Petrie for sure.
Water level is up a bit but not to last fall's level. There were actually some Wood Ducks in those small ponds next to the South Channel.
Turtle activity has just about ceased, at least above the water surface.
Robins are still hanging around in substantial numbers. I did get a nice view of a Red-Tailed Hawk while on the Beaver Pond.
Speaking of beavers, they have been busy. I was wondering why it was so easy to see out on the Turtle Pond. The "brush-hogs" have been at work. Some very nice trees have been marked for cutting, including a large maple just before the picnic table on the path.
There was quite a convention of Juncos and White Throated Sparrows in one spot next to the four sand piles off the Muskrat Trail. Then I realized they were after the grass seed that Al had spread around. Hope there is some left to sprout.
14 October 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The yellow in the trees was a dull glow in the pre-dawn light as you drive down the hill from the Queensway this morning. There was no fog - the wind was too strong - but it was cold enough to form frost and freeze the dew drops in some of the grasses at about 7:30-7:45am.
The sun hit the trees on the Quebec side with nice soft light with the sky above them being a soft pink. By 7:30 the sun was up high enough to be backlighting some trees on the south shore of Turtle Pond. Last year there were two particular red/orangey trees that the dawn sun shone through beautifully. The sun tried to do its best this morning, but one of the trees is still green and the other is greenish-yellow. Maybe give it a week ?
There seemed to be lots of crows around about; what few ducks there were seemed to be hunkered down in the warmer water trying to avoid the brisk cold breeze. Two herons were more hunched up keeping warm than fishing for breakfast.
The beavers, after about 2 weeks of relaxed chewing, managed to bring down a large trunk on one silver maple, unfortunately for them the top branches have it hung up in the remaining trunks. There are enough small branches with leaves to fill a good sized winter larder hanging on the stranded trunk; guess another tree will have to come down to make up for it. Many more small saplings have disappeared by the start of the main trail. Looks like they ended up at the new lodge.
We might have a new cat at Petrie. The third one I have seen in two years. This one is a tabby cat, shy as usual.
The ferns on beaver trail are now all flattened and dark brown. The area looks completely different than it does in the prime of the summer.
Some of the rose hips are so bright a red colour that they look like cherry tomatoes.
11 October 2002 (Jim Robertson)
It was a very quiet foggy morning at Petrie, the only noise was the sound of the sand ops working full out stockpiling sand and loading 18 wheelers with sand/loam mix for golf courses.
There were no birds around until at least 8am, and then only a few. I saw only two herons and perhaps a total of 10 ducks. A couple of shotgun blasts brought a skein of geese over, through the fog, from the Quebec side. A solitary hairy woodpecker was working away on a tree.
One young raccoon was up past curfew, I found him scurrying along the shoreline on the Beaver Trail. Most of the butternuts that were on the ground along the Beaver Trail have been gathered up by either kids, or the many black squirrels.
The beavers must have been spurred on a little by the two mornings of frost; some small saplings have disappeared at the start of the main trail, and three 6-10" trees have been brought down in the last few days. Another 2-3 larger trees are close to coming down. There seems to be a new beaver lodge on Turtle Pond's south shore. No signs of any muskrat lodges, but it is early for them.
There is a good size crop of late blooming evening primroses. Some of the trees have dropped their leaves, some red and yellow trees, but still lots of green trees. Some of the moss in the turtle nesting area is finally showing some green colour. All summer it has been quite parched.
6 October 2002 (Open House) (Bill Bower)
I guess we got lucky on weather. A really beautiful day with a pretty good crowd of folks around.
Our display of island berries was interesting. No doubt there are other species we missed. Only had one live turtle on display (a small snapper) as others were uncooperative and avoided capture. Our resident artist made some animals using a very plentiful Petrie Island natural resource (burrs). When I left he was constructing a bear after having completed a few turtles and a very nice Great Blue Heron. People were interested in the various displays (inside and out) and the photographs of life on the island at various times of the year. All very informative. Even our outdoor fire attracted people.
I made a couple walks around and had a very nice sighting this evening (about 5:30). At the end of the Turtle Pond area where a large number of Robins were feeding and bathing along the shore line I found a flock of Rusty Blackbirds (about 12 of them). These birds will fool you in the fall as they don't look anything like Blackbirds, except their profile and mannerisms. They were all in fall plumage which includes a very rusty (reddish even) back and top of the head, light buffy color around the face and neck and sort of a speckled or mottled breast. Of course they all have that very distinctive bright yellow eye. First time I have recorded them at Petrie.
5 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
Great morning for ducks, but not much else.
Counted over 150 ducks including Blacks, Mallards and Wood Ducks. There was a flock of 15-20 Northerns on the north side of the island (maybe that's why they call them northerns(?). Perhaps they were Scaup. There were lots more ducks quacking in the marsh that I couldn't see.
There was some shooting on the Quebec side but I think the ducks were safe. The ones I saw flying were moving faster than the speed of shot.
Great Blue Heron and Kingfishers still around.
Lots of Butternuts and Bitternut Hickory nuts on the ground this morning. I don't want to say it was windy but apparently a flock of Canada Geese left Ottawa last night and when last seen this morning they were still heading south but were located just over Labrador City.
4 October 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The daily checks of the two painted turtle nests continue with no luck. Maybe a few more days of checking, then I will assume they are will not emerge until next spring.
Over the past few days the sound of the shotguns from the Quebec side have lessened. Saturday and Sunday, the first two days, sounded as though there were war exercises going on. No early morning fishermen were evident on Sunday, they must have gone to join the hunting parties.
Several skeins of geese fly over each day (but nothing like the number you see in the west end of the city) but there is no noticeable increase in the population, or varieties, of ducks. As Bill Bowers mentioned, there were a lot of birds on Thursday. The herons have not changed their patterns much yet and the spotted sandpipers are still here. A kingfisher has been on the phone wire by the bait shop several mornings just before sunrise. There was stubborn mourning dove playing a game of chicken on the causeway one morning; it would not move for my car. I had to drive around it.
One morning presented a myriad of tracks on one of the westerly beaches. Raccoon, mink/weasel and fair sized bird tracks were all overlapping in the wet sand. The beavers are continuing to chew away at trees; there didn't seem to be any new ones brought down, but there are one or two close to the "timber !!" stage. The squirrels can't be too hungry as there is one area on the Beaver Trail that is covered with fallen butternuts but no animal seems to cleaning them up. Talking about squirrels, it has been several weeks since I have seen any red squirrels on the Islands.
There were a few more fresh morning glory blossoms Thursday, along with more bread and butters. Finally a few common sunflowers decided to bloom just north-west of the causeway next to the bicycle trail. They are standing about 6-7 feet tall. There are no where near the same numbers as in prior years.
One morning produced about a variety of 10-12 mushrooms on one of the sand dune areas. About half the mushrooms' "hats" were 5-7 inches across.
3 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
I went down at 1:30 p.m. and had a great afternoon. Found 23 species in about an hour and a half. Best sightings were Rudy-Crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, Brown Creeper, White-Crowned Sparrows and one Junco (another sign that cold weather is coming). I found all five species of PI Woodpeckers just standing in one place on the Beaver Trail (Pileated, Downy, Hairy, Common Flicker and the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker).
A couple large flocks of Canada Geese got confused, crossed the river heading south and then turned and returned to the Quebec side (must to the delight of the Quebec hunters).
1 October 2002 (Bill Bower)
Seems like the black squirrels have taken over. Maybe they migrated down from the Heights.
Beautiful morning and some of the turtles were out basking before 9:00 a.m. Counted over 35 and found four species, including one little snapper, one small Map turtle and one large Slider over on that far log in the Turtle Pond where at large female Map turtles usually hang out in the spring. The snapper hatchling is hanging around for the open house.
Lots of birds observed and best sightings were Golden Crowned Kinglets, a Hermit Thrush and White Throated Sparrows (lots). Had an interesting observation of a Great Blue Heron. It speared a large Bluegill and then had to get its bill out of the fish and catch it again. Not easy to do. Some times they come to shore to do this, but this one was too far out. He did the switch successfully and then in one move it flipped the fish (which was then being held top and bottom) and swallowed it head first.
Also found a Closed Gentian flower in bloom at the far end near where the "beaver" have dug that trench across from one pond to the other. First one I have seen this year.
The "No Bicycles" sign on the trail is no more. Someone tore it up. I wonder if this person tears up Stop Signs when he wants to go through.
Water level is up a bit and there is some water in those far ponds next to the South Channel. Those are great ponds to find ducks in. Perhaps the duck hunters on the north side of the river will start driving some ducks over to Petrie.
Also found one Garter Snake practising a figure-eight disguise on a log. Actually got a couple shots before it left.
27 September 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I took the attached shot this AM. I knew the spider had been in a particular flower last Wednesday and sure enough he was still there.
Not many of my shots from Wednesday worked out, so I thought I would try again, despite it being heavily overcast with a good breeze blowing.
As I was setting up I spotted a fly land 1/2" away from the spider (a golden rod spider) so I quickened my pace and shot from further way than I would have liked (The attached is a crop of the shot) The shot ain't perfect, but the wind was blowing, it was not bright, the spider was advancing slowly towards the fly - that is my story and I am sticking to it.
The next shot was not the fly caught by the spider, but unfortunately the spider's front legs waving in the air with no fly in sight.
20-25 September 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I have continued to check turtle nests for hatchings daily, but no luck yet. At this rate they might be planning to stay in their nests until next spring. There are still a good number of turtles basking on logs around the island's waterways as Bill Bower points out.
Many of the turtlehead blossoms have disappeared this week. I suspect the rabbits have decided they are very tasty and helped themselves. The jewel weed is nicely dotted with dew each morning; there are still a few bindweed and chickory blossoms. More and more of the tiny asters are appearing, along with the deep mauve larger ones.
There have been two misty mornings this week, one day had 100's of spider webs along the trail to go with the dew. Unfortunately that day did not see the sun burning off the fog, so there were no nicely lit backlit webs.
The beavers have been continuing to work at a relaxed pace in bringing down trees or stripping branches off already downed ones. Neither beavers nor muskrats have been visible during daylight hours. Although on Wednesday the trail crossing at the end of Muskrat Bay had three paths of quite wet sand showing where beavers had recently crossed, one dragging a branch along with it. A rabbit was around for a few days on the main trail. He did not seemed concerned that I was sharing the trail as he let me get to within about 10 feet of him.
The heron have not been consistent on their morning arrival times, but one patiently posed for three photographers Wednesday morning on a stump at the small culvert. He was doing an anhinga imitation, standing there with his wings held open to the sun's warming rays. After about 20 minutes he decided his privacy had been invaded for long enough and slowly sailed off to the west. A woodcock appeared, on two separate days, along the Muskrat Trail. (Likely the same one that Bill reported seeing.) One morning produced a flycatcher on the trail as well. Wednesday saw several skeins of geese flying high off in the distance. They had better keep flying high as hunting season starts soon.
With Turtle Pond now being sealed off at both ends (a small beaver dam at one end, culvert above the water level at the other), no fresh water is making its way in and the surface is getting rather scuzzy.
25 September 2002 (Bill Bower)
That should be Wednesday morning after 8:30 a.m. There was another shift which took up position in the early morning. It was still plugging away when I left at lunch time. Jim was just in the process of calling Buffalo, New York for more film.
Great morning for birds. I have quite a list but the best sightings were a Brown Creeper, Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, Osprey, White-Winged Crossbills and a Timberdoodle (that's Latin for Woodcock). There were lots of Warblers and I managed to identify "zippo" species. The usual excuses: binoculars fogged up, too many leaves, tree got in the way, birds moved too fast, etc.
A really quiet morning. You could hear a pin drop. At Petrie Island you can replace pin with Bur Oak acorns, Bitternut Hickory nuts and Butternuts. Don't stand under the trees looking up at the Black Squirrels. They are known for their humour (and accuracy).
Ran into three noisy gartersnakes at the far end. You could hear them coming and going through the leaves. Looked like two smaller males following a larger female. Probably want to sleep with her for the winter. These guys looked pretty intelligent to me.
Saw over thirty turtles basking including the usual large Slider in front of the observation seat on the anchored log. No new nests located.
19 September 2002 (Bill Bower)
Well we finally hit the jackpot (speaking about chelonians of course). All it took was many days of looking, a few tiny marks in the sand (tail drag marks), a couple house flies, et Voila! Don't ask about the flies.
It was a snapping turtle nest on the far (west end) sand dunes and it held about 30 eggs. About 6 young had already made it north into the main Ottawa River. There were 20 live hatchlings.
I called Jim (home resting after an early morning excursion to Petrie) who called Gwen and the competition was on. At last count each had taken over 200 photos, which works out to over 20 per subject. Human babies a couple hours old don't normally get that kind of attention. I didn't know there were so many angles to getting good shots of turtles. My photo equipment limits me to just taking shots of larger subjects, so, I took 4 pictures of the photographers taking photos of the 20 somewhat cooperative, but much smaller, hatchlings. No pun intended of course.
All I heard during the shoot was, "Darn, out of film again", "Move your foot, it's in my shot" and "Have we lost any turtles yet".
Anyway, a good time was had by all. The entire family was then strategically placed in the Turtle Pond to avoid future contact with raccoons, Great Blue Heron, and large bass, pike and carp (I hope). Can't wait to see the photos. By the way, how do you select which ones to keep when you have 200 to start with?
Nice to have a success story amongst the many, many all eggs and hatchlings eaten stories.
I recorded four species of turtles at Petrie this morning (Snapping, Map, Painted and one beautiful Red-Eared Slider). About 35 in total.
15-19 September 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I have been going to Petrie daily this week in attempt to find freshly hatched turtles. I have not found any hatchings, so either it is not quite the right time, or the raccoons and skunks looked after all the eggs when they were laid in the summer. (Just as I was sending this to the FOPI webmaster Bill Bower called me. He was two hours behind this morning, but he found 6 hatched snappers and 15 others that had not dug there way out yet. And it was in area that we checked closely. You have to get your timing right !!!)
Sunday Morning, Sept. 15
There must have been an all night fishing trip as there were three vehicles in the parking lot this morning at sunrise. You could tell by the washed out tire tracks that they had been there overnight. Too bad two of the three parked sideways, one with a very long boat trailer, so as to block a third of the parking lot.
The mural on the interpretative cottage is coming along very nicely, it'll look great when finished !!!!
It was a very wet morning with drizzle that soaked the grass - and my pants and boots. The herons were very noticeable in many areas along with a few ducks. A muskrat was busy eating water reeds by the Beaver Trail until it spotted me watching it, at which point it zipped into its bank den. There did not seem to be any beavers swimming about, but there was fresh chewings on an ash tree in a back area that they worked over in last fall.
The third dead star-nosed mole I have seen this year was on the Muskrat Trail. Not sure why they come out to the trail and die of natural causes, but apparently is it quite common.
Monday Morning Sept. 16
A heron was at the usual spot on the north side of the narrows, but this was 45 minutes before sunrise. I hope he had bright eyes to see his prey ! A kingfisher seemed to be noisily watching the heron and doing fly-bys. Perhaps it thought it owned the fishing rights.
Looks as though there might be another beaver lodge going in on Muskrat Bay as there is a large new bare spot on the shoreline. It might be the end of a trail to the water, but it seems very wide. I will have to keep an eye on it.
The damp sand by Duckweed Pond was just covered with raccoon tracks - they must have been very active during the night. Hoping for turtles to hatch in nests that they missed in June and July ??
As I left for home, there seemed to be no herons in the marsh on the west side of the road, but there were several on the east side.
Tuesday Morning, Sept. 17
It was a fairly cool breeze-less morning with a gentle mist rising 2-3 feet off the water. When the sun came up it sent shafts of golden light through the trees into the mist. Each day seems to bring more colour in the trees - fall is coming (so is winter - I saw a truck with a snow plow mounted pull into the city yard at the Queensway when I left).
FOPI should think about naming the parking lot after Tim Horton's. Some mornings the lot is well littered with Tim Horton's coffee cups and the teenagers seem to be enjoy making dough-nuts in the lot by spinning their cars in circles through the loose sand.
There were noticeably more birds around this morning. The early morning was full of chirpings, calls etc. Perhaps flocking to head south ? But they seem to have not found the buckthorn berries yet, nor the dogwood berries that are turning white. The highbush cranberries are still full of red fruit, but those do tend to last into the winter.
While a rabbit is usually at the start of the Muskrat Trail, there was one down by the start of the main trail this morning. The floods in May/June must have really upset the rabbit population as in prior years I would often see 10-15 or more rabbits each morning, this year maybe one every second visit.
A beaver and a muskrat were out foraging in the reeds of Muskrat Bay. The beaver are continuing to cross the trail at the end of Muskrat Bay as they have done for this summer and last. This year however there is no trail out of the small pond towards the river. Makes you wonder why they are crossing the trail.
The buttonbush is still blooming (It got a late start) and there are a few bouncy bet blossoms around along with the odd evening primrose. The Turtlehead is relatively profuse with more blossoms each day. They seem to grow just enough to get their heads above the surrounding vegetation. Some plants are 6 feet tall, some are only 12" high.
Walking back east along the northern beaches I found about 50 feet of perfect heron footprints about 3 feet offshore. There were no signs of it having changed its pace to have a snack.
Wednesday Morning, Sept. 18
There was at least one heron that must have felt he was amply fed this morning. He spent a good two hours 12 feet high above the water on branches of fallen trees. While I did not watch him for all the two hours, whenever I did check he had not come down to the water, but would move between three branches from time to time.
Once while watching the heron, a beaver slipped into the water from one of the animal trails, he must have spotted me as he did not appear again swimming around.
A small skein of Canada geese flew over, followed by another group of unidentified geese. Their silhouettes were different than the Canada geese, but I don't know my birds enough to know what type of geese they were.
The bear's paw fungus on the Beaver Trail seems to be slowly turning its usual white colour from the light orange. It is not as large as the ones were there last year.
The woods were full of chickadees this morning. I had not heard so many for a long time. I scared up another woodcock/snipe. Might have been the same one I saw a few days ago, but it was in a completely different area today.
I noticed a woolly bear caterpillar walking along the trail this morning. They are not rare or even uncommon, but it was the first caterpillar I think I have seen all year.
Thursday Morning, Sept 19
It was a very quiet morning today, so quiet in fact that the person who appeared to have slept in his car overnight in the parking lot was still asleep when I arrived. But the quiet of the morning was in contrast to what must have been a more active late evening. In the parking lot was an area of black dirt, burnt tires and melted metal. Obviously there had been a very intense car fire.
There were no herons or other birds for about an hour. Finally the flickers, robins, and herons showed up, but in lesser numbers than normal.
Without going into detail, there was a very fresh "kill" on the trail, a rodent had suffered its demise likely shortly before. Likely the predator was scared off by the sound of human foot steps. Usually this aspect of nature takes place out of sight of humans.
A good sized fish jumped out of the water in Muskrat Bay. There must have been an inviting looking insect flying by. A family arrived later and set up chairs etc. while they fished. They seemed to have good luck pulling in one largish fish and several other smaller ones in a relatively short time period.
Someone had ignored the "no bicycles" sign (not the first time), but this time the cyclist had been well off the trail in the back areas of the island. The island is too fragile to take much of that !
By 8:30am there were 7 cars in the parking lot, a sail boat out in the river along with a speed boat. Several people were on the trails. All of this on a weekday !! Maybe everyone came to get ahead of the rain expected this weekend ?
15 September 2002 (Bill Bower)
Saw about 20 turtles including 1 Slider and 1 Map turtle.
Had some great entertainment back on the Beaver Trail, involving one Merlin and two Bluejays. [The Merlin is a type of falcon -- Ed.] The Bluejays would bother the Merlin until he would attack them. They would twist through the trees and sometimes you could hear them striking the leaves. Sometimes there would be less than two feet between the chaser and chasee. The Bluejays would even go sit on the same limb as the Merlin or drift slowly by. The Merlin would never disappoint them with its sudden attack. I probably watched twenty-five or more attacks. Some crows dropped by as they could hear the hawk, but got bored and left. A Mourning Dove and a Flicker also flew in and landed in the open. I thought the Merlin would go for them, both easier targets, but it never attempted a kill. When I left they were still at it. It was move like a game than a serious hunting situation. I have seen this before with the Bluejays staying just far enough ahead so the Merlin couldn't nail them.
14 September 2002 (Jim Robertson)
Two fishermen started trying their luck a good half hour before sunrise.
Just before sunrise, the breeze became a wind. The sunrise was a deep mauve that became an orange ball that disappeared behind a heavy layer of clouds. The wind calmed down about 20 minutes later.
I spotted the unfriendly grey cat, on the main trail, that I had not seen for over a month. It quickly ran ahead of me on the trail and disappeared into the undergrowth.
There were several herons around as usual, including a young one at the narrows on the main trail. There were a few more ducks around than the last few days, there are usually at the west end of Turtle Pond but they don't hang around to be looked at. Looks like a mixed group, some wood ducks, some black ducks, and some ?? There were a few flickers, but no signs or sounds of woodpeckers. A woodcock or snipe flew up out of the arrowhead marsh I walked along the Muskrat Trail.
There are still a few fresh evening primrose blossoms and the turtlehead plants are showing their blossoms in many areas throughout the islands now, I see more each time I visit. There are very few common sunflowers this year. I have only found a plant or two. Last year there were many plants some over 7 feet high full of blossoms.
The squirrels are enjoying the acorns and other nuts. I spotted one squirrel with a very large walnut-looking nut in its mouth, and another one was dropping small, 1" in diameter, prickly nuts from another tree. A chipmunk was taking a break on a branch in the almost dried up duck weed pond.
A rabbit was feeding along the start of the Muskrat trail, there were some beaver in area approaching Crappy Bay.
12 September 2002 (Jim Robertson)
Fall is approaching !!!
8 September 2002 (Bill Bower)
Beautiful morning, although as usual I missed the sunrise.
Very quiet on the nature trails. Found a few painted turtles out and about but no nests and I checked a number of good nesting areas. Birds were few and far between but I did find one Northern Parula in with some Chickadees. I have seen this colourful warbler at Petrie Island before, but this was my first sighting in 2002.
I realized this morning that the Turtle Pond is now a true pond as it is completely shutoff from the main river by two beaver dams at that small inlet. The water level in the Turtle Pond is actually a bit higher than the river level. This probably also means that the fish in the pond will be staying put for the winter months. Most of the fish would prefer to be back out in the river for the winter. (pike, crappie, bass, sunfish, gar pike, etc.)
I did see one beaver out in the heat. I had noted that the fall logging operation is well under way after a shutdown for maintenance over the long weekend. I wonder some times if they don't rent "skidders" judging by the size of the logs being moved around. It appeared that the one I saw this morning was "scaling" the downed logs and determining how much more needs to be cut before the snow flies.
The artists were busy at work this morning on the south side of the Friend's office. The work is a bit abstract but I swear I could see a turtle, a couple Heron and a few frogs in amongst the bullrushes (maybe it was the heat). Take a look for yourself.
5 September 2002 (Bill Bower)
Nice morning at Petrie, a bit cool but nice nevertheless.
That old saying holds true when you're birdwatching at Petrie. There wasn't much activity all the way in the nature trail. A Great Blue Heron and a couple Flickers. But then when I reached the far end towards the South Channel where it was a bit warmer and more protected, there were birds everywhere. Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Vireos, Flycatchers, Sparrows and Warblers. All you had to do was find the right spot and stand there. Let the birds come to you. Best sightings were Magnolia, Black and White, and Black-Throated Green Warblers. I missed others.
Checked for new turtles out and about but no sign of them. A few adult turtles were enjoying the morning sun even though it was only about 60 degrees and windy.
Saw the Osprey over the back channel fishing. Saw Woodies and Mallards across from the bait shop on the way home. Duck numbers will no doubt pick up once the hunting season opens in adjacent areas. Doesn't take them long to find the save waters.
29 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I went down to Petrie tonight to get some sunset shots. I needed to replace some shots from last year when I managed to cut off (photographically speaking) someone's head in the sunset. Turned out it was a very nice sunset and an obliging couple endured my taking a series photographs of the sunset, with their silhouettes in the foreground, for about 20 minutes. They were so obliging they did not tell me they were being eaten alive by mosquitoes until the very end !!! SORRY !!!!
27 August 2002 (Bill Bower)
As you mentioned Jim, there was very little bird activity. I did find one Northern Waterthrush along the trail and there was one female Green Winged Teal opposite the bait shop when I left. In another week or so we should start seeing more migrants at Petrie.
Quite a few painted turtles out. I counted over thirty. Some are shedding their scute covers and look rather funny when you see them. After the sun dries them they stick straight up. The large Carp (a dozen or more) are still in the pond next to the sand operation after being trapped when the river flooded. I don't think any have died yet and, unlike the Northern Snakehead, they can't walk overland. I doubt there will be enough water under the ice this winter for them to survive, although I've been wrong before.
I did find a Monarch butterfly this morning just out of the chrysalis, although I didn't find that part. It was hanging on a milkweed leaf and the wings were still wet and limp. When I returned about an hour later it was still there and it could actually fly a few feet. Beautiful to see a butterfly in undamaged condition.
When I left there were a number of cyclists arriving for a picnic. Looked like a local group.
27 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
You almost needed a jacket this
morning. The sky was a light rose colour with the sun still below the
horizon. As much as the coolth was nice, the best part was that there were
NO mosquitoes ! There was already a car in the parking lot
when I arrived at 6am. A new-to-Petrie photographer was out exploring.
19 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
The sunrise, at a more civil hour of 6 AM, was not particularly of note, but it did provide some nice early morning light on the river's Quebec shoreline as well what few high-rise buildings can be seen to the west.
14 August 2002 (Bill Bower)
I made it out early this morning (early for me that is). Very hot even at 8:00AM. Two garbage cans contained live garbage. The city guys were there picking up and one of the raccoons refused to leave even when the can was upside down and everything fell out. I guess he has spent so much time in it he thinks it's home. Someone added to our coon population as I was leaving later. Just what we need.
Lots of Great Blue Heron around as Jim mentioned. There were a few Wood Ducks at the back end of the Turtle Pond. Black squirrels were hanging upside down on the shady side of the trees trying to pick up a breeze.
Too hot for turtles. Only saw eight of them.
I've been watching a nest of Eastern Kingbirds just past the cove near the picinc table. This morning a couple of them were out of the nest and in the trees by the water. While I was watching them I discovered another nest directly over the path at the same location (about 15 feet up). There are at least four birds in it but no female showed up to feed them while I was there. Probably too hot anyway. Not sure what they are but they do have color. Either Orioles or Cedar Waxwings I think. The nest looks something like an Oriole nest but it is squished down on another branch. Seems late for them. Keep your eyes open Jim and maybe we can get a positive identification.
A lady was there this morning, in the heat, painting a water scene. I watched her for awhile. Looked great to me. My best sighting this morning was a guy and a girl in a rowboat. He was fishing and she was rowing. Now you can't beat that.
8 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
It was a nice cool morning with a gentle breeze blowing, quite a change from last week. Again, not a whole lot happening. No raccoons in the garbage can, one turtle basking at 8 am. There were one or two herons along the trail. A hummingbird was flitting about at the main turtle nesting area.
3 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
It was a nice cool morning (cool compared to the last two weeks) which left lots of dew on the grasses. While it looks nice, it provided an unwanted chest high soaking walking through some of the tall grasses on the back trails.
2 August 2002 (Bill Bower)
Beautiful morning at Petrie. Checked the garbage cans first but all had enough garbage to allow the animals to escape.
1 August 2002 (Jim Robertson)
Another humid sultry morning, two blue herons were off in the mid distance fishing for breakfast in the marsh. A beaver was out for a swim by the large culvert, first beaver I have seen for a few a long time.
30 July 2002 (Bill Bower)
Made it down for a quick runthrough this morning. Beautiful morning with a nice breeze.
Dumped out one of the blue barrels at the parking lot. The garbage went in two different directions and quickly climbed to the tops of the nearest trees.
There are about a dozen very large Carp trapped in that pond across from the parking lot next to the sand operation. Guess their days are numbered.
Only saw nine painted turtles but the birding wasn't bad. Best locations were on the Beaver Trail and on the new trails next to the parking lot. Just on the Beaver Trail alone I saw a House Wren, Redstarts, Nuthatches, Yellow Warbler and an Eastern Wood Pewee. A Song Sparrow was having a difficult time trying to keep a young Cowbird fed. One Turkey Vulture was flying over.
Took a picture of a "water flower" but have no idea what it is. Maybe the resident experts can identify it.
Saw the young lady in taking the water samples. I think those "chest waders" she uses would fit the Jolly Green Giant.
29 July 2002 (Jim Robertson)
It was another hot muggy morning. There were six gulls flying around in a group in the marsh, They seemed to be busy catching insects on the fly.
22 July 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I just missed the eerie orangie-yellow-green colour of the sunrise light this morning as showers were working their way east. By 6:30 am the light was more normal and the sea gulls circling in the sky reflected the sunlight against the dark grey clouds moving in from the west.
20 July 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I usually avoid Petrie in the daytime, but for various reasons I was down there in mid/late afternoon on Saturday. Unlike the early AM when it is very quiet, there were 67 cars in and around the parking lot, all the picnic tables were full, interesting smells emanating from the many BBQ's etc etc. The beach, both the sand and water, was very active.
16 July 2002 (Gwen Williams)
Early this morning I went to Petrie Island for a short while. On arrival a guy pulled up in a SUV and released an adult raccoon (from a live trap) near the Turtle Trail sign at the end of the parking lot. He muttered "He'll be better off here" and left. I guess there will be some turf wars there tonight! And who knows how many orphaned kits elsewhere...
14 July 2002 (Jim Robertson)
I went down at noon today to take some shots for a new Petrie slide show. The conditions were not that good as the high overcast from the morning had moved on leaving bright sunlight and dark shadows which is not ideal for photographing.
12 July 2002 (Bill Bower)
Well not that early, but earlier than Jim (for a change). Only saw about 10 turtles in the water including one large Snapping Turtle near the Beaver Trail. No new nests discovered. I don't think we will find much more nesting activity until September or even October this year. Then we might see some hatchlings leaving the nests and heading for the nearest water. Lots of birds around but nothing too exciting. I did find a family of Orioles and another family of American Redstarts (Warblers) near the sand dunes. Some Robins and Cedar Waxwings were fighting over red berries in that same general area. There weren't many to chose from, so then it looked like they were sitting around waiting for the green ones to ripen. Some large fish were jumping which I took to be Bass. One fisherman thought I was throwing rocks. He must be new to the sport. Took some pictures of a Mourning Cloak and a Northern Leopard Frog and that was it.
11 July 2002 (Jim Robertson)
Another morning with not a whole lot happening. There was one heron around, he finally posed for a shot on the way back from the end of the trail. I met another photographer who had photographed some green herons not too long ago at Petrie. They were in the bay by the bait shop. Guess I had better keep my eyes open !!!
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