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Dispatches from Petrie Island


28 December 2003 (David Villeneuve)

It was a good day to wear my Lee Valley "Icers", studded soles that clip on to your boots.  Most of the island has been flooded by the inexplicably high water levels, and is now ice-covered.  The water level has receded about 18 inches, but the ice remains.  The lack of snow has left the ice clear.

The city had erected a road-closure barricade south of the causeway, which was promptly pushed aside.  There were about 10 cars parked further along.  There were two ice fishermen on Cumberland Bay, and two on Crappie Bay near the south channel.

All of the construction equipment has been removed from the beach area for the winter.  The new headlands provide a good measure of the water level.  The biggest headland, in the middle of the north beach, has about one and a half rocks showing, whereas at the end of November only one rock was showing.

As I approached the picnic area, I could hear loud banging sounds.  I was prepared to dial 911 to report a break-in of the cottage in progress.  It turned out to be two young men on ice skates, playing hockey in the picnic area.  They were shooting the puck at the picnic shelter.  They then skated over to the east end of the pond, and back to their cars.  The ice conditions are as good as any rink that Al ever made.

The path just west of the house was flooded with water flowing from the pond back to the river.  I guess this is an indication that the river level is receding.  I was unable to pass because the water was 6 inches deep.

The Fisherman's Trail and all the trees east of there were ice covered.  There were ominous cracking sounds as I walked because the ice was being held up by the trees, but I knew there was solid land underneath.  I saw the footprints of a small deer.  The ice made highways through the trees, so you could walk anywhere you wished.  In the summer, of course, it is much too thick to do so.


14 December 2003 (Jim Robertson)

I had noticed that the Ottawa River water levels had lowered last weekend, so I thought I would do a reconnoiter of the Petrie trails this morning.

Guess again ! The water levels are on their way back up. Presumably from the rain Thursday ? The water was rising this morning as there was unfrozen water seeping out from under the existing ice. The water was starting to work its way onto the roadway. I marked a line 6 inches from the water line in the parking lot and came back 15 minutes later to find the water past the mark.

The parking lot was surrounded by water and ice on three sides with the lowest area ponding. Much of the picnic ground is flooded.

The earth/sand construction work has been progressing very well. It does look much more open, and a little barren, with the berm separating the FOPI area and the sand operations having been removed.


13 December 2003 (David Villeneuve)

We visited the beach area and were surprised by the noise coming from the Ottawa River.  Large shards of broken ice were floating down stream, and were rubbing against the ice that had formed along the shore.  It was an Arctic scene.

The ice fishermen have arrived.  A family walked out onto the ice in Baie des Sables / Cumberland Bay, and started augering holes.  I had my cell phone out ready to dial 911.  It looked like the ice was about 6 inches thick.  That's pretty thick, but the water is pretty deep....  There was a larger group with a tent on Crappie Bay.  It won't be long before the pickup trucks are on the ice.  Then I will trust it enough to walk on the ice.


6 December 2003 (David Villeneuve)

The water has receded by about a foot, so the cottage is accessible once more.  I saw six geese on the river.  Are the ones that stay over the winter unable to fly south, or are they just lazy?


30 November 2003 (David Villeneuve)

The water is higher than I have ever seen in November.  It looks more like spring time.  Water is flowing across the road just before the beach area.  The cottage is entirely surrounded by water, and even the parking lot is partially submerged.  The residents have to park their vehicles near the FOPI parking lot, and presumably have to use hip waders to get to their house.

At the beach, the point is submerged.  A barge with a tall crane is moored there.  The newly constructed headland in the middle of the beach is causing the waves to curve around towards the shore, and the waves look as big as those at a wave pool.


27 November 2003 (Doug Drouillard)

Construction on the Petrie Island beach (see map) started the first of October. The first work involved clearing the land and installing a series of rock headlands into the river to control erosion along the Ottawa river shoreline and including a rock wall buried in the sand in the existing picnic area.

There are 3 separate beaches. In the picnic area, rock was removed and replaced with sand to expand the beach; the middle beach (2) already existed and was raised to bring it above most flood conditions. On beach 3, the largest beach, the existing sand fill has to be removed to provide adequate water levels for swimming.

Portions of the park are being raised. Next years construction will be wash and change rooms and septic system with holding tank which must be above the 100 year flood plain level. Work this fall will cease shortly and continue next May and June, when the parking lots, landscaping, seeding and tree planting will be completed along with construction of pedestrian and bicycle paths. Friends of Petrie Island have been involved in the ongoing site meetings. The date at which the park will open to the public depends largely on how flooding will affect construction next year.

One small pond that will become part of the parking adjacent to the proposed canoe launch was slated to be filled in this past week: this would have buried any frogs and turtles already hibernating at the bottom. The Amphibian Conservation Club (ACC) a concerned group of home schoolers and other conservationists attempted unsuccessfully to rescue them on the weekend. However due to their efforts there is a possibility this pond may be left till the spring.


21 November 2003 (Guy Felio)

A few points of clarification and comments are in order:

1. I talked to Chris Brouwer this AM and he mentioned both of you were coming Saturday morning. If that is NOT the case (as M. Rankin replied) then the mis-communication comes from M. Rankin's discussion with him. 

2. Note that last Friday afternoon, there were observations of amphibian activities under the thin ice present at the time. A number of people witnessed that activity, including Michelle St-Cyr who was present at the site. Those observations indicate that frogs (and possibly turtles) use the pond as a hibernating habitat. 

3. No signs of frogs or turtles were observed on Sunday's attempt: the activities carried out focused on removing the ice, the water was quickly muddied by these activities and more that half the pond was left un-explored. No scientific conclusion can therefore be drawn about the presence or absence of frogs or turtles in the pond based on Sunday's activities. 

4. Suggesting that tadpoles would migrate through "leaks" between the pond and the river would require substantial interstitial pores in the underlying soils which would have resulted in a much slower drawdown of the water in the pond during pumping and a much quicker refilling of the pond - none occurred.

5. I am not familiar with your studies over the past 10 years on the criteria frogs use to determine which places to hibernate. However, the ACC members, supported by their parents, articles from learned societies and Environment Canada's FrogWatch have been able over a short one year period to learn and appreciate the value of the frogs at Petrie Island. Their work and interest in the subject, to be commended, has among other confirmed this simple but valuable conclusion (which stems from common sense and not scientific observations): if you want to preserve the aquatic fauna of a habitat that is scheduled to be filled, do the filling before the hibernation cycle begins. This I am sure will also be one of your recommendations in the document you plan to prepare for the City.

Finally, as scientists, you are in a privileged position to influence young generations in terms of their attitude towards conservation and preservation. It is therefore a scientific duty to encourage the ACC members in their endeavour, and help them extract lessons from their success or failure. If you feel the work to be done by these volunteer families is not worth it, then you do no have to participate.

Guy Felio, Ph.D.


21 November 2003 (Frederick W. Schueler)

Mike [Rankin] phoned me in Syracuse a few times this morning, and we talked about the best thing to do about the pond. As most of you probably don't know, one of the things I've been studying over the past decade is the criteria frogs use to determine which places to hibernate in, and how late in the year they continue to move between sites. Those of you who are on the NatureList will have seen my rumenations about late movements (those after -10C) at my study site at Limerick this year. Frogs continued to move on the nights of 19 & 20 November and Aleta and Corey Wood scooped up the roadkilled samples, though I haven't seen the specimens yet.

The relevance of this to the pond at Petrie is that it's unlikely that frogs (or Turtles - who are just as smart as frogs) are hibernating there. The fact that no frogs were seen last Sunday suggests that the frogs who use the site in the summer had left it for the winter, and the fact that no tadpoles were seen suggests that the frogs 'know' (though I won't suggest through which sensory modality this knowledge comes) that this isn't a suitable site for tadpoles who will have to overwinter (or tadpoles may have left for the River via the leaks that admitted the water that refilled the pond during the pumping on Sunday).

Around here, in northern Genville County, the frogs might take a chance on such a pond (though they were still coming out of the mucky swamps at my Limerick site as of last night) but with the well-oxygenated Ottawa River nearby, I seriously doubt whether any right-minded frog would hibernate in a shallow mucky pond. In and north of Kemptville, preliminary results suggest that they don't seem to use chancey hibernacula within 2km of the Rideau River. I think the (very considerable) value of last Sunday's dipnetting was largely to demonstrate that the pond was sparsely, if at all, inhabited by frogs or turtles at this season.

I will try to get to Petrie Island tomorrow to see the site, and to see what Unionid shells are on the shores this year. Mike has also suggested that he and I write a document to guide the City in operations that involve the filling of wetlands and other waterbodies that may contain hibernating herps.

...more later, it's now time to leave for Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills.

Bishops Mills Natural History Centre, Frederick W. Schueler, Aleta Karstad, Jennifer Helene Schueler RR#2 Bishops Mills, Ontario, Canada K0G 1T0 on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain 44* 52'N 75* 42'W (613)258-3107


21 November 2003 (Roxanne Brousseau-Felio)

As a fellow educator, I am appealing to you to pass on this message to educators and students, neighbours & friends. Please read and pass it on.

The latest as of 2 minutes ago. Guy Félio, spoke w/ Chris Brower, City Planner. This is what the city has proposed:

Delays estimated at $25,000 by contractors. Therefore, in light of the mild weather temperatures, the ice that has melted in the habitat, the city is providing 2 pumps as of 7am.

By 9 am, the habitat should become more accessible.

Two prominent research scientists, Michael Rankin, (retired Herpetologist from Museum of Nature) and Frederick W. Schueler, Ph.D., (currently Research Curator of the Bishop Mills Natural History Centre, specialty Amphibians), will be on site and together will provide a net that will remove the life of the habitat which we will translocate. The city estimates habitat will be drained completely of water by around 11 am.  

The city requested ACC to contact the network of people who were involved to date and pass on the word, If you can, contact as many people as you can, to pass on the word as well. All ages welcome. Let's give it all we've got.  It's not the ideal situation, but they will absolutely fill it up w/ sand this coming week.

We'll be there for 9am. Bring your boots, rubber gloves, towels, buckets,including your cameras for this very special undertaking and last but not least, your good will.

Email me for further info.
On behalf of Gabrielle & ACC,
Roxanne Brousseau-Felio

19 November 2003 (Al Tweddle)

To Gabrielle and Roxanne Felio re: filling of Frog/Turtle habitat at Petrie Island, in answer to your question about eco sensitivity of Petrie Island:

The Interpretive Trails  Master Plan of  Petrie Islands done by the City of Cumberland in October 2000, which included public meetings and participation by FOPI divided the islands into 3 zones: an environmentally sensitive zone (west end)   where no trails would be constructed and there would be no human activity,  a transition zone where the environment would be preserved but nature trails and human access would be  allowed and a human activity zone (the sand extraction area, future beach and park area).

The small pond to be filled was reviewed by Dan Brunton1  and is included as area 3. The report states “the site was occupied by large numbers of Leopard and green frogs and several painted turtles in late August 2002.”  Two conclusions of the report are: “natural environment implications of the proposed park development are minor, despite the proximity (upstream) of Provincially and Regionally significant ecological features and values” and “successful mitigation of negative impacts of the proposed park development is readily achievable through avoidance of physical impact on some areas (minor concern), natural site restoration of other areas and the enhancement of existing natural habitat conditions (particular wetland elements”

 The report does not recommend any procedures for removing the amphibians and your group is to be commended for your efforts in this regard. Originally the construction was slated to start in August of this year, but delays in terminating the sand operation delayed the start of construction and hence the filling of the pond was delayed to a time when it is almost impossible to safely remove frogs and turtles from the pond.  FOPI supports a delay in filling the pond until the spring (subject to reasonable costs) and has raised this point during construction meetings.

FOPI efforts are presently being directed towards a review of the landscaping plans to ensure a natural as opposed to a manicured look for the park as well as incorporating habitat features for turtles and frogs as suggested by Dan Brunton in his report1  “The access road swale (the pond)  could be extended into the proposed parking area to increase the area of marsh habitat for breeding amphibians and reptiles (frogs and turtles) while also providing effective stormwater management for parking area run-off. Allowing for natural recolonization by on-site plants such as Eastern Cottonwood and Silver Maples trees, possibly supplemented by plantings from salvaged on-site material, will also provide ecologically appropriate and logistically simplify site rehabilitation.  If park design considerations preclude the maintenance or extension of the existing swale (an artificially created wetland habitat), its contribution of habitat for common wetland wildlife can be accommodated elsewhere. Development of several similar if smaller flooded swales in association with parking area development, for example, would fully compensate for any such losses while providing enhanced opportunities for nesting turtles.”

At present this does not appear to be included in the plans. One preference would be to delay filling of this pond and incorporate habitat features along with other features suggested by FOPI in the landscaping and drainage design of the park. Councillor Herb Kreling, Councillor elect Rob Jellett and ex Councillor Phil McNeilly have all supported a review to this portion of the plan before construction beings next spring.

1 Petrie Island Park Planning and Environmental Assessment Study, May 2003


18 November 2003 (Jim Robertson)

The marsh and Turtle Pond are frozen over still of course, but the water levels, with all the rain, continue to be high. You need to wear boots, or old shoes, to walk the main trail. If you want to venture on the new trail along the "western" beaches, wear hip-waders !!!

The beavers have been busy preparing for the winter with two good size poplar trees having been felled at the start of the main trail and many other small trees missing along the trail. But it is still not as much tree damage as last year.

There was a deer walking the trail last night. Looked like a good size specimen from the size of the hooves. (There were two deer standing at the edge of Queensway last night, causing the road to light up with brake lights, so I was wondering if I might see some signs of deer this morning.)

The small rabbit was not out this morning and very few birds were flitting about.


9 November 2003 (Jim Robertson)

It was the second cool morning in a row (-10°C) with the result that the marsh, Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay are all iced over. It is that many-patterned first fall ice which looks beautiful. The calmer parts of the main channel had light ice coats as well.

The north shoreline showed the effects of the strong winds over the past day or so. The shrubs are covered with long icicles and new sand has built up on parts of the beaches. The high water level, caused by all the rain we have had, has reduced the beaches parallel to the main trail to a very narrow, often negligible beach.

The large beaver lodge in Muskrat Bay is again an island with the high water levels. There seems to be just the one muskrat lodge, and I am not sure it is fully finished yet.

The small rabbit was about this morning, he is harder to see now that the grass and ferns match his brown coat. There were 2-3 black squirrels hunched over trying to stay warm as they basked in the early morning sun. There were a few black ducks in the main channel along with what looked some merganser pairs. (They were a long way off, but there were black and white ducks with similar markings to mergansers I don't think they were buffleheads)

There were no other birds around, but a fellow walking his dog reported seeing a bald eagle over Turtle Pond about two weeks ago. There were 10 parked cars when I left at 9AM.


2 November 2003 (David Villeneuve)

With almost all the leaves down, visibility is much farther through the forest.  Construction of the beach continues, with two headlands being constructed out of enormous rocks, plus several breakwaters.  The western beach area has been graded to the water.

I followed a trail from the north-east side of the causeway, going due east along the narrow island.  It is evident that this area is the domain of the fishermen.  The water was full of dozens of styrofoam bait containers, plastic bottles, coffee cups, etc.  This would be a good target for a spring cleanup.


20 October 2003 (Jim Robertson)

Another quiet morning. I missed the beautiful sunlit frost yesterday so I hoped today would start off the same. No luck. The sky clouded over about an hour before sunrise leaving a small band of clear sky at the horizon for the rising sun to shine through for a few moments. There were lots of frost rimmed leaves, but no sun to make them sparkle.

There were a good number of mallards in the marsh when I drove by the bait shop on the way in, they had moved elsewhere when I left two hours later. There were chickadees, downy woodpeckers, a kingfisher and the usual sparrows flitting about.

A rabbit, a red squirrel and a black squirrel were the only four legged creatures to be seen. The beavers have been at work but nothing like the clear cutting of past years. They have attempted to block human traffic on the trail just past the observation deck with a mid sized tree. The lodge on the south side of Muskrat Bay has its larder partially "laid in", but they have been busy with improvements to the exterior. The lodge on the north side appears to be abandoned again.

Construction of one muskrat lodge has commenced in Turtle Pond.

The water levels are up, coupled with the wind/wave actions from last week have reduced the "western beaches" to narrow strips of sand.


22 September 2003 (Jim Robertson)

There was not much happening to the human eye at Petrie this morning. A very quiet time.

A few days ago there were 6-8 herons in the marsh at about 8am but there was only one to be seen this morning at the marsh, A few flew up along the main river channel shoreline. There was an emancipated looking heron feeding in the shallows on the main trail just west of the viewing stand. A kingfisher was looking for breakfast. I saw him (or a clone) over Turtle Pond and then on the wires by the bait shop as I headed home.

There was a lot of cross-trail traffic by beavers pulling branches overnight. Only in one spot was there any sign of where the beavers were getting the branches. One beaver was still out in Muskrat Bay. Something, likely a raccoon, had been making 2" deep, 1" round holes in the sand and along the trail in spots, not sure what specifically they were looking for.

One of the walnut trees is looking very sparse and has no nuts on it at all. The oaks have very few acorns as well. (Same as the oaks around my area at home.) After all the trees having had a bumper crop of seeds last year, they seem to be taking a year off. But the grapes seem to be making up for it there are ripe grapes all over the place !

Yesterday afternoon there were many chipmunks around, but none were out of bed this morning, although there were two red squirrels chattering away. One quite small rabbit was out on the trail; you don't see many that small at this time of year.

The flowers are slowly finishing, although there are still a few fresh turtleheads and "second crop" bladder campion and goats rue. The berries of deadly nightshade and high bush cranberries are very bright as are the jack-in-the-pulpit seeds. Some morning glories and bread 'n' butters are still blooming as well.

The jewel weed is virtually finished blooming so their other name "touch-me-nots" will be coming into play soon as their seed pods are formed. The pods, when at the right stage, will suddenly "pop" open at the slightest touch, scattering their seeds about.

There are a few interesting, and not so interesting, fungi and mushrooms.


11 September 2003 (Paul Le Fort)

A snapper nest hatched this week right on the main trail and many little guys made it to the river; the leopard frogs are migrating all over the place; a ten-inch snapper was led back to water from the main road by yours truly today, in the company of two German tourists; and the new platform is slowly turning green, to complement the salmon-shade accents.


8 September 2003 (Jim Robertson)

It was a beautiful still morning with not a cloud in the sky as the sun came up over the trees. It was cool enough that there was mist rising from the marsh area and from the river itself. If you looked hard, you could see your own breathe.

I was a little startled to see the silver guardrails over the big culvert. Nice of the City to install them. (Now if they would only come back and fill in the washouts that are developing on the edge of the culvert, we will still have a road to Petrie after the next big rain storm .)

The new viewing stand along the Main Trail is great. The framed view of the river is a nice touch. Thanks goes to the Wednesday morning work crew!

There are a number of small pockets of fall colour showing on the maples, fall is coming. The turtlehead flowers have finally showed themselves several in places I had not seen them before such as along the Turtle Trail. After three years of looking, I finally found one stem of bottle gentian. There are fall asters blooming along with some late evening primrose and common sunflowers. The highbush cranberry berries are turning a nice bright shade of red.

The dew drops on the large beech tree leaves caught the sun's rays nicely, as did the jewel weed and spider webs. The very light breeze was just barely wafting the webs.

There were a few black (?) ducks around, some blue jays, flickers and chickadees. But the feature this morning was a very congenial blue heron.

When I arrived just before the sun came up, it was roosting on the large turtle log. I say roosting as it was hunched up and perhaps just waking up. It was aware that I was there, perhaps 30-40 feet away, but made no attempt to fly away. It slowly, over about 15 minutes, raised its neck a little and looked about. Then it "belly-flopped" off the log into the water, reacted as if it was shocked, and quickly climbed back up shaking off its feathers. Then it put its head back down on its chest.

When I came back an hour or so later it had moved one log further out, but still showed no inclination to depart. In fact it went into a slow exaggerated stretching routine; stretching one leg and opposite wing and then the others leg/wing. Next the neck was stretched out fully. Then back went it's head on to its chest !!

There were two more active herons by the culvert as I drove home.


19 August 2003 (Jim Robertson)

The cool night brought out the mist along the Queensway and over the inland waterways at Petrie. Plus lots of dew on the vegetation. That provided plenty of good photo ops with the rising sun backlighting many subjects. But it also made for very wet slacks walking along trails that have become partially overgrown with the warm wet days of a few weeks ago.

The rabbit population is making a comeback. It is not back to the levels it was at two years ago, thank goodness, but there are many rabbits around some of which are not shy if you are quiet in approaching them. They will let you get to within 3-4 feet.

No herons were in view, but there were 5-10 ducks paddling around and resting on the turtle logs.

A raccoon had been through the parking lot leaving its sharp-toed tracks. Beaver and muskrats had also been crossing the trails in several places. But we also had a much larger visitor overnight. Very large deer tracks were much in evidence on the gravel road where the main trail starts. He/she was heading west.

The common sunflowers are blooming as are the fall asters. Some maple leaves are turning red. The rosehips are a bright red - they almost look like radishes! One large jack-in-the-pulpit was straining to keep itself above the neighbouring vegetation, its seeds are still green. There were no turtlehead flowers to be seen, I would have expected some to be blooming by now.

But what is blooming profusely now are groundnuts. I had only seen them before at the start of the turtle trail, but this year their vines are growing all over the vegetation just west of the small culvert along the main trail. Look for a bunch mauve coloured blossoms not unlike a sweet pea, but with peaked "hats" rather than rounded bonnets.

Photo by Gwen Williams


6 August 2003 (Jim Robertson)

It was a "wonderful" morning to stroll along the trails. A low, heavy, drizzly, overcast that 2-3 times dropped much heavier rain! There was a nice mist on the water though after the heavier rains.

There were a number of beavers out in Muskrat Bay, a few rabbits along the trail (including one lop-tailed one... You have heard of lop-earred rabbits - well this one had a tail off-centre).

The well-fed ground hog came out of the grass along side of the trail and made a mad dash back to its home (carefully avoiding the large puddles). A smaller ground hog charged out of the grass too, but decided he could not run fast enough and quickly became a "sky hog" by climbing a tree. Second time I have seen a ground hog in a tree!

There are a few signs of fall approaching as happens every year at this time. Some of the sumac have a few red leaves, there are some bright red virginia creeper leaves and a few silver maples have a very slight twinge of colour.

A tree blew(?) down across the trail towards just before the turtle nesting area. It was one that the beavers had chewed on during the last two years but never finished. There was some bark left on it as leaves were on the branches. There did not seem to be many mushrooms in evidence, but there were some fresh fungii on fallen logs or dead branches.

After "light" usage last year and this year until a few weeks ago, the fishermen are quickly destroying a five yard square area along the shoreline on the Beaver Trail, if they continue to use that area, it will be reduced to bare ground sooner than people think.

New blossoms include: evening primrose, virgin's bower, white water lilies, arrowhead, bull thistles, golden rod, burdock and jewel weed. A cardinal flower has been transplanted into one of the wildflower gardens for all to see.

There were a few herons around, one flew up out of the reeds and rested on what is a somewhat common spot on an upright branch of a blown tree in Turtle Pond.

Photo by Gwen Williams


5 August 2003 (Christine Hanrahan)

I was down at Petrie in the afternoon. The trail was quiet, not a soul for the entire time I was on it, but the beach was a different story!! Cars coming constantly and people streaming over the beach area which I avoided.

A fair number of birds but few calling except for the family of house wrens in their usual spot near the end of the trail. Also a family of hairy woodpeckers. Other birds: black tern cruising the river, several great blue herons, chestnut-sided warbler, wood ducks, mallards, pewee, chickadees, several orioles, families of northern flickers, song sparrows, and a few others I can't recall without my notebook in front of me. Saw one lone boneset plant along the trail, and very few butterflies: a few northern crescents and one least skipper.


25 July 2003 (Jim Robertson)

There was a nice light mist rising from the marsh this morning that caught the long low rays of the rising sun. Sure was nice to see the sun again ! Everything was still very wet, well maybe sodden, after that local east-end torrential downpour Wednesday evening and more rain last night. But it looks promising for the next few days.

There were not a lot of birds around today, one heron fishing in the reeds at the start of the main trail, a few flickers, robins, one chickadee etc. But there were two groups of black ducks. One of 5 and one of 6. Looked like ones from this year's hatchings.

Two rabbits acted as greeters, no beavers bothered to put in an appearance. The raccoons had been out in several places overnight. About 6-10 turtles were basking by about 8:30am.

The buttonbush is starting to bloom, there are still a few wild roses budding, the milkweed are starting top form their pods, but not much else except a new crop of mushrooms in various locations seemed to be enjoying the dampness.


17 July 2003 (Jim Robertson)

Not much difference this week over last week at Petrie. Although there is now some blue verbain blooming. For other plants in bloom, see previous dispatches.

The sand operations are winding down quickly now - not much sand stockpiled, it is being sold off before the operations close out in the next few weeks. The bait shop has blocked off, on his property, the ad hoc vehicular accesses to the marsh that have developed since the spring. The large "off-road" vehicle that chewed up part of the brush several weeks ago, seems to have been back at it in the last few days. Would be nice if he were caught at it !

The long jawed orb weaver spiders have started to work on the seed tops of the tall grass. Some are bent into nice bows by spider webs that show up nicely when back-lit. A few beaver crossed the trail over night again. The "new" crossing into Turtle Pond was still damp, the usual crossing into Muskrat Bay at the end of the trail had not been used, but a beaver had taken a "side road" to accomplish the same thing - coming up from the main river channel, through the small pond, across the trail, and into Muskrat Bay. There was one adult beaver sitting up on the far shore of Turtle Pond for a few minutes. A few beavers were out for a swim in Muskrat Bay.

One lone heron was all that could be seen, he was in the tall reeds by the Turtle Pond culvert. A few rabbits were busily chewing down their breakfast. One was not very skittish and did not seem to mind humans coming within 4-5 feet.

The only unusual thing this morning was a "silver streak" that ran across an opening in the grass and disappeared into taller grass. Haven't got a clue what it might have been, but it definitely was silver or grey.

Note added: The"large "off-road" vehicle that chewed up part of the brush" I mentioned in today's Dispatch, as having returned is not quite accurate.

The vehicle that had been around the last few days was not the same one that was joy-riding in the bush a few weeks ago.

This time it was an "official" vehicle, it was a tracked bush machine used by the environmental consulting firm to set the vertical pipes used to test groundwater.

Sorry about that !


10 July 2003 (Jim Robertson)

I was heading to points further east this morning, but the car turned off the Queensway to Petrie. (force of habit ?)

The Islands had a sleep-over last night - a sailboat anchored off shore in the main channel and a canoeist on a trip east slept over on one of the sandy beach areas.

There were a few herons around, including a young one that was momentarily tangled up in the underbrush as I started down the Turtle Trail. A tern and a kingfisher were the only "not-often-seen" birds about. An extremely well fed groundhog was scrambling from bush to bush to avoid being seen. Three young rabbits were having breakfast in the grass west of the cottage. Three beavers were out for a morning swim in Turtle Pond, looked as though it might have been Mum and two kits. The beavers were active during the night crossing the trail in at least three places. Several beavers came from the main channel, through the small pond at the end of the trail and into the top of Muskrat Bay.

This seems to be a banner year for yellow loosestrife. It is very abundant, the last two years you were lucky if you saw a more than 10 plants. The only other "new" plant in blossom was pickerel weed.


4 July 2003 (Jim Robertson)

The weather forecast said no more rain until this afternoon...... Halfway down the trail it started coming down, the further west I walked, the more it came....

There were a few beavers out enjoying an early morning swim in the rain, a kingfisher was on the overhead wires watching the marsh by the bait shop, a few herons stalked the shallows for breakfast, but not much else was about. A rabbit poked its head out on the trail between showers. The mosquitoes enjoyed the morning though, especially once the repellent was washed off my arms and neck by the rain.

The stretch of trees at the start of the trail that were mowed down by the beaver last fall have sent up new shoots, the basswood leaves are immense. The tall grass along the Beaver Trail was bowed over with the rain and provided me with a thorough soaking/washing of my slacks. There was one painted turtle nest dug up with two eggs not eaten, but they were a orangey-red so maybe the scavenger knew something was not "right" with the eggs. Not sure how long ago they had been dug up as the rain had washed away all tracks and smoothed out the sand.

The next batch of flowers have started to put in an appearance: - purple loosestrife - yellow loosestrife - St John's Wort - purple flowering raspberry - tall meadow rue - elderberry - tick trefoil - goats rue, both mauve and white (Lots of it this year) - sweet pea - dogbane - many more birdsfoot trefoil - daisies - morning glory/bindweed - white sweet clover - staghorn sumach - milkweed - deadly nightshade - buttonbush in bud - wild roses

The dogwood blooms have all turned to the start of the berry stage. I found a tiny crab spider on a rain soaked half opened wild rose bud. Between the rain drops hitting the flower, the spider moving during the 6 second exposures, I managed to squeeze off a half decent shot of it (and lots that were not decent enough to keep).


23 June 2003 (Jim Robertson)

There weren't as many snappers on the prowl this morning as last week (see June 18 Dispatch) but there were still lots of signs that they are not finished laying eggs yet.

There was a mid-sized snapper crossing the road by the bait shop as I drove down the hill from the Queensway and a second slightly larger one was just starting to dig her nest as I was walking along the trail. At least she was off the trail, partially hidden in some grass. When I was walking back to the parking lot there was a young snapper laying her eggs , in exactly the same place as two turtles had laid their eggs last week. (One of the two nests from last week was destroyed, I am not sure about the second).

There were several other fresh nests that had not been dug up by the raccoons and weasels yet, but several more were well ravaged. One nest had so many eggs dug up and eaten I had to count them. There were 46 eggs! It must have been a case of two turtles laying eggs in the same spot one right after the other. I found one painted turtle nest that had been attacked. In one area of 2-3 destroyed nests, the raccoon tracks had obliterated the human foot prints from Sunday's trail traffic.

I think a few redwing blackbirds are nesting again as I was severely scolded by a male/female pair at the start of the trail when I stopped to look at something or other. Only when I moved on did they relax. They were upset again when I walked past them on the way back to the car.

There were no herons around this morning, but I did spot 5 half grown ducklings sitting on one of the turtle logs halfway down the trail.

Given what must have been a record crowd at the Islands on Sunday, it was amazing how clean the place was this morning. With the odd exception, the only litter was worm containers (and coffee cups) left by people fishing.

Additions to the flowers in bloom list:

- nine bark - crown and cow vetches - dogbane - wild roses, in with bladder campion that made a colourful display

There seem to be some late blooming yellow iris around still. The grass is now 6-7 feet tall in places and giving off puffs of pollen as the stems are brushed by walking past them.


22 June 2003 (David Villeneuve)

You don't have to go to Petrie Island to find snappers laying eggs this week.  I was walking on the south side of road 174, under the power lines that are built on the former railway tracks, where Cardinal Creeks passes underneath.  I found the mother of all snappers right on the "trail".  Cardinal Creek was at least 100 feet vertically down from there.


18 June 2003 (Jim Robertson)

It might be the middle of June and 18°C at 6 am, but if you were as bleary-eyed as I was this morning you might think that it was winter. The summer snow has arrived !!! The cottonwood poplar tree fluff covered seeds are covering the roadsides and the sheltered water surfaces.

This morning must have been “egg laying day” as there were several fresh nests, many destroyed by the raccoons and cleaned up by the gulls. There were still eight snappers on their nests laying eggs in various locations. Two of the turtles were almost totally covered in sand and I almost stepped on them before seeing them. Several turtles were laying their eggs within a foot of a nest that been made during the night and dug up within the past few hours, as the eggs still glistened inside. One of the turtles had tried digging nests in 13 locations within a 2 yard radius before finally finding a suitable spot.

While I was photographing one of the camouflaged turtles from a distance so as to get a “can you find the turtle ?“ shot, another snapper walked up from the water right into the picture. I thought only people walked into a camera’s field of view !!!

There were a few beavers around, one rabbit, and a couple of bull frogs croaking. One heron made its presence known, but there were lots of heron tracks along the shoreline. Including one double set of tracks; one in the water paralleled by a second set on the shoreline.

Additional flowers in bloom are: - Bird’s foot trefoil - blue flag - flowering rush - carrion plant with its subtle blooms - goat’s beard

It is too bad the people fishing don’t clean up after themselves, particularly their worm containers. They have also been destroying the vegetation along the shorelines in places.

The sand piles are sure disappearing quickly in the sand operation next door.


15 June 2003 (David Villeneuve)

We toured the sand operation.  There is still no evidence that they are planning to extract sand from the bay.  The barge has moved somewhat, but it appears that the floating pipes are being disassembled.  The screening tower has been taken down, and they are using smaller portable ones.  I don't know where this leaves the city's plans to raise the level of the entire sand area this summer in preparation for a beach.

We then checked out Muskrat Trail and Fishermen's Trail.  A number of solo or double fishermen were at various secluded spots.  A pair is a rowboat was in the south channel.  The usual number were fishing by the causeway.  Spotted snakes and toads.

(Note added: Al Tweddle explains that in November 2002, environment officials shut down the sand dredging operation because of pollution concerns.  How sucking up sand and water and letting the water drain back into the river is adding any pollution, I don't understand.  This causes problems for the beach, because they can't use river sand to build up the level.  They may truck in clay fill from construction sites in Orleans.  Much cleaner that way.)


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