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Dispatches from Petrie Island

If you'd care to put down a few words about your experiences at Petrie Island, in English or in French, don't hesitate to send them here and they may be included in a future dispatch, as appropriate. We are always glad to hear about people's experiences at Petrie Island.

Si vous voulez écrire quelques mots à propos de vos expériences aux îles Petrie, en anglais ou en français, n'hésitez pas à les adresser ici, et cela fera peut-être partie d'un parution future. Nous sommes toujours heureux de connaître vos expériences des îles Petrie.


24 November 2004 (Bill Bower)

I think we have stretched the turtle viewing about as far as we can. My last sighting was on Monday November 22nd. That almost beats my record of seeing Painted turtles basking on the surface, which was November 24, 2001. Anyway it was a great spring, summer and fall for viewing.

I stopped along the North Service Road and walked down to the back bay from there. There were over one hundred ducks in the bay including Blacks, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye. I also noted while in that area that there have been a number of deer spending the summer and fall there. I've never seen one. Lots of well used trails, beds and other less obvious sign. That's between the walking path and the bay. A great spot up until now but they will have to find other accommodations for the winter. I don't know where they will end up. That explains why we occasionally see deer tracks out on the islands. It's just an early morning swim for them.

Next to the road I found an adult Northern Shrike hunting for mice, and there were two Red-Tailed Hawks flying over the fields to the south.

All in all not a bad day.


19 November 2004 (Bill Bower)

Not a bad day for the 19th of November. Mostly sunshine with a little cloud.

Saw about 50 ducks including 14 Scaup and one Black Duck. The rest were Mallards. Not many birds but I did see the Pileated Woodpecker and two American Tree Sparrows.

The painted turtles are still hanging in, or out, as the case may be. I found four of them this afternoon in the Turtle Pond. Three of them were content to just float on the surface with their head sticking out of the water. By 2 PM the temperature began to fall and that was the end of the sightings. When I went looking last Tuesday I found four painted turtles also, in the Turtle Pond.

While looking for turtles I discovered another fish species. Again, in the Turtle Pond. It was a gold fish and probably 8 to 10 inches long. You couldn't miss the bright orange. I have no idea when it was released. If they are anything like the Red-Eared Sliders they could be surviving over the winter months. If it doesn't make it, then more food for the turtles I guess.

One gentleman was out trying to get a picture of a beaver to show to his grand-daughter. I told him he was in the right place but a visit in the early evening would more likely produce results. Just listen for the gnawing.


15 November 2004 (Bill Bower)

After being away for a couple weeks I thought I would take a walk around the islands and see what's new. There were white caps out on the river but much warmer and calmer on the south side.

A couple fishermen were out doing a little fishing before the water hardens. I didn't see them catch anything though.

A number of ducks were around in the open water including about 20 Mallards, 3 Hooded Mergansers and 1 Common Merganser. Didn't see any Great Blue heron but I imagin some are still around.

I watched two small raccoons high up in a basswood tree eating the seeds. I guess they took a lesson from watching the robins earlier in the fall.

I was really interested in seeing if I could find any painted turtles and sure enough there was one out basking in the turtle pond close to the parking lot. It was close to shore where it was protected and where the pond hadn't frozen yet. I took a couple pictures and Al came over and got a couple also. Too bad you couldn't walk out on the clear ice and look through to see the activity below. The Turtle Pond is completely full of small minnows from this spring just waiting for high water so they can get back out into the main river to grow. The turtles would still be active also below the ice.

The only down side was seeing more trees disappearing. The eleven beaver that were removed last fall weren't enough. They were replaced by even more hungry beaver.

More sunshine in the forecast.


21 October 2004 (Christine Hanrahan)

Now that is a good sighting!! And a sign of winter too. I wonder if it will stay around? It is worth going down to look for .....


21 October 2004 (Bill Bower)

Sometimes it pays to go down in the late afternoon. I took a drive down about 3:30 p.m. and walked the main trail plus the Basswood Trail. There were seven species of birds in the marsh across from the bait shop. The various ducks, yellowlegs, snipe and great blue heron seem to be there each day. While walking the Basswood Trail I had a bird fly up in front of me and land in an open area where I could observe it. It turned out to be an immature Northern Shrike. It was easy to see the hooked bill, the brown on the back, the black wings and the white patches on the tail feathers. The throat and breast were light brown and faintly striped also. The only birds around the bush it flew from were a couple of swamp sparrows. So if anyone finds a mouse or small bird hanging on a bush around the island you will know the culprit. A pleasant surprise indeed.

One raccoon put in an appearance before I left.


18 October 2004 (Bill Bower)

I guess you could include in there the temperature, the water level and some of our trees. The water level was up for a few days but then dropped since Saturday.

I was down this morning (Monday) for a look around and found lots of birds, 24 species in total. I never went down the western trail, just the Basswood Trail, the bicycle path and west of the bait shop. At the bait shop there were over 70 ducks. At first I only saw a fraction of that but then the ducks flew in from everywhere and landed in the deepest water. That's a sure sign that a hawk has arrived. This morning it was a Northern Harrier that was patroling the marsh. All the ducks in the shallow water or resting on shore immediately fly to deeper water. If the hawk attacks they can then dive to escape. Even the dabblers like the Mallards, Green-Winged Teal, Blacks and Wood Ducks can dive to save their feathers. Where I had counted 7 Green-Winged Teal in one group, there were now 18 of them. As soon as the hawk left it was back to feeding, preening, resting and even some courtship displays.

There are other birds in the marsh as well. Usually the Great Blue Heron but lately a couple of Yellowlegs have been hanging around. If you take time to look around closely you will also find a number of Common Snipe. This bird really blends in well with the old cattails and dying vegetation. I found 4 on them this morning, all using their long bill to find worms. Didn't see the American Bittern.

There seem to be quite a number of Brown Creepers this fall. Other good sightings were a Swamp Sparrow, a Solitary Vireo (now called a Blue-Headed Vireo) and the two species of Kinglets.

Needless to say there were no turtles out basking.


12 October 2004 (Bill Bower)

I wasn't able to go down until after lunch but the trip was worth it.

Still lots of waterfowl activity across from the bait shop. Blacks, Mallards, Wood Ducks and Green Winged Teal always seem to be there and always Great Blue Heron in the background.

Not a lot of birds but I did see about twenty species including Juncos, three Veery and another Brown Creeper.

I counted 33 Painted turtles out basking in the Turtle Pond and there was one new addition. Another Red-Eared Slider showed up. It was basking on a log out in front of the house and I managed to get a picture of it. It is a bit smaller than the other four I have identified. Probably about 5 to 5 1/2 inches. It looks healthy so will no doubt survive the winter along with the rest of them, however many that is. One Painted Turtle was flattened just before the bait shop so they are still travelling about. I was in the west end yesterday and we located another Blanding's Turtle out for a stroll. We might even see some turtle activity in November this fall. Not something unheard of.


7 October 2004 (Bill Bower)

Lots and lots of birds in the Petrie area this morning. Just west of the bait shop there were over 50 ducks (Blacks, Mallards and Green Winged Teal), two Great Blue Heron, a Kingfisher, a Bittern, a Greater Yellowlegs and a Lesser Yellowlegs. That was about 9:30 a.m. Back on the islands it took awhile to find the birds but I did so by following a small flock of Chickadees. That led me to Cedar Waxwings, a Hermit Thrush, a Brown Creeper, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Black-Throated Blue Warbler and a whole bunch of Yellow Rumped Warblers. I ended the day with 24 species. Crows were doing their thing but I couldn't find the source of the problem. They seem to hang out together until they go on garbage patrol and then it is every crow for him/herself.

Painted turtles were out basking soom after the fog lifted. I counted over 20 by the time I got back to the car around 12:30. Al viewed a similar number yesterday around 2:00 p.m. The turtle with the large "growth" on its head was out but the protrusion seemed to be getting smaller which is a good thing.

Someone added another black squirrel to the inventory at Petrie. Don't know how an urban squirrel will make out with the rowdy rural group, but it will probably survive. There is a great crop of bitternut hickory nuts this fall and the squirrels were having a field day. I was bombed several times by a red squirrel from high in one tree. Guess he saw me put a couple nuts in my pocket. It missed and I fired back a couple at him and missed. I then left before his aim improved.

It is amazing how many fish are in the turtle pond. Since the dam has been installed (beaver dam) there hasn't been any way for the fish to leave or for other fish to get in. The Great Blue Heron, the Kingfishers and the Osprey, not to mention a family of Otter, have been fishing in there off and on all summer (more on than off). Add to that the number of fish taken by fishermen and the pond is still full of fish. I could see bass and sunfish lounging about just below the surface and larger fish were splashing on the surface now and then. There are thousands and thousands of minnows in there from this years hatch so I hope they make it out to the river this fall to grow up. I guess the flood(s) in the spring of 2005 will bring in a new crop of fish.

Should be a great long weekend also. Hope some of you make it down.


26 September 2004 (Bill Bower)

Another beautiful day at Petrie Island. There hasn't been a bad one in a long time.

Lots of visitors, both to the beach and to the nature trails. Others came by boat or launched from Petrie. Quite a few fishermen around also.

More birds around than usual. I had White-Throated Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Winter Wren, Veery and Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker on my list. Hunters were out early on the Quebec side and their efforts probably reduced the duck population on that side and increased it on the Ontario side. I saw some flying in from the north side. Canada geese were flying over but too high to be threatened by ground fire.

Crows never cease to amaze me. There was a large gathering at the far end of the trail and I figured they were harassing a hawk or an owl. When I got there it was more like just a Sunday morning "bitch and stitch" session. What they were doing was most interesting. They were in the Bitternut Hickory trees and picking the green fruit (nuts). First they would hammer the outside cover and get rid of it and them proceed to hack at the white nut until in was cracked. Then they ate what meat they could. This was repeated over and over and most of the crows I noted were doing the same thing. Many nuts were dropped from high in the trees as they attempted to shell these nuts. I guess they have been watching the squirrels.

I saw the two domestic rabbits near the house as well as squirrels of all descriptions. About a dozen painted turtles were out basking along with the one large Slider on the anchored logs. Al found a snapping turtle hatchling in the parking lot area and it was in the aquarium for awhile before being released. Some of the Cubs and others were around looking at it.

Some people who visited the office indicated that they were very pleased with the whole island area, from the beach to the nature trails to the interpretation centre. And so they should be. It's a great place to visit.


22 September 2004 (Jim Robertson)

After several mornings of nice sunrises coupled with beautiful sunsets in the evenings, we had hopes today… But no, the sun just popped its head over the horizon and shone through a bald blue sky.

Before the sun appeared though, one heron was in the marsh looking for breakfast while at least two others were still sleeping along the shoreline. Two ducks dropped in for their breakfast alongside the first heron.

Chickadees, sparrows/finches, woodpeckers, kingfishers and sandpipers were flitting about in their various ways. No robins or flickers seemed to around. No wild rabbits were around, but there were two domestic looking ones around the blue house. A few chipmunks and squirrels were in the woods gathering nuts and seeds.

A second flowering of goat’s rue and chicory is happening in a few spots. The deep purple fall asters are standing tall. The bright yellow bread and butters are a nice contrast to them. We found three plants of bottled gentians, and there are likely many more along the Basswood Trail. No more wild roses are in bloom but there are many nice bright red rosehips on fresh green foliage. The riverside grapes are mainly ripe, but there still are a few green ones. Some fiddleheads are showing up on fern fronds in one area that has been recently trampled.

The touch-me-nots (jewel weed) are at there prime for explaining their names – barely touch their seed pod and it explodes throwing its seed 3-5 feet away.

Fall is coming in the colours of the trees and the virginia creeper, but also in that the beavers are sharpening their teeth on many small trees preparing for their buzz-sawing of the woods in weeks to come. They have been dragging branches across many trails and the western beaches.

There is a good quantity of mushroom and fungus growing along the trails and in the woods. The bears paw along the beaver trail is back for its fourth (at least) year in a row.

A few turtles were basking in the sun as were two bull frogs.

Pictures are at:


19 September 2004 (Bill Bower)

I really beautiful morning to view the flypast. And, no, I don't mean the various military aircraft that flew up the river and circled the island such as the jets, the helicopters, the Lancaster bomber and other relics from past days. I mean the geese formations heading south.

Turtles were out early even though the air was quite cool. I saw 26 Painted turtles at various locations and one large Map turtle on the north side just past the house. I didn't see the Slider but I met Al and he said one was out around 10 AM. There was a garter snake basking along the Beaver Trail.

Quite a number of birds around this morning including four species of Woodpeckers. I watched the chickadees for awhile and sure enough other birds arrived. A few warblers but the only bird I could identify was a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher. Fall warblers are difficult. The Heron and Kingfishers are still around and loading up on fish for the trip south. I had 15 species recorded by the time I left.

I headed west out past the far "outpost" and into the jungle. The water levels on those small ponds to the south are quite low but I did find 12 Wood Ducks sleeping on the logs just under the Wood Duck Box #13. I was on the wrong side to get any photos. I managed to leave without waking any of them.

Not much animal life, just a muskrat, a chipmunk and one Woodland Jumping Mouse.

I stopped in at the office and checked out the new microscope. We will have to find more uses for it.


3 September 2004 (Jim Robertson)

As we were approaching Petrie along the Queensway, a bright pink jet stream was working its way through an otherwise mediocre sunrise this morning. It lost most of its “photogeniciness” by the time we could stop. But it is nice of nature to have the sun sleep in lately so you don’t have to get up so early to see it.

There were quite a number of herons around, some in the east side marsh, others in the west side marsh and around Turtle Pond. Two were in trees keeping an eye on the early arrivals. One decided to fly in and rest on a stump in front of the turtle viewing stand. It preened itself for about 45 minutes, then decided it had worked too hard and went to sleep with its head tucked in its chest and wing feathers.

There are numerous turtle flower blossoms along the trails. Seems to be more this year than in other years. We found two clumps close by each other with a total of about 11-12 blossoms. One clump had at least 6 blossoms.

The water level is very low, the lowest I have seen it for a long time, and almost a record low, apparently, since the dam was built downstream.

There were a few black squirrels around and one rabbit. A young downy woodpecker did not seem to know enough to be shy of humans and let us get within 5 feet of it. There were some flickers and a yellow warbler amongst the other birds. A group of 5 or 6 almost full size wood duck “ducklings” were busily feeding themselves in the reeds of Turtle Pond. At one point when the wood ducks were quite close to the preening heron, a beaver decided to swim on by too. There were some mallards or black ducks at the west end of Turtle Pond. A few kingfishers were fighting amongst themselves for the best fishing venue. Several sandpipers were patrolling the shorelines.

The beaver have not started to get busy chewing yet (despite there being a few trees and vines turning red), but one 30 foot poplar tree has been freshly girdled and will not survive. It was a nice shade tree for the turtle nest area.

One of the painted turtles must have been successful in laying her eggs in mid June as we found a newly hatched baby painted turtle. There were no others to be seen around and it was looking somewhat parched so we moved it closer to the water. There were about 5 turtles basking in various spots as we walked east back along the trail.

There are lots of highbush cranberries with bright red berries, nice plump purple riverside grape bunches, the birds seem to be working on the elderberries, some dogwood berries are fully white (some dogwood bushes are blooming again).

The common sunflowers are staring to bloom, jewel weed blossoms are due to turn into seed pods soon, a few evening primrose, loosestrife, bind weed, wild roses and pickerel weed are blooming. Ground nut vines and blossoms are much in evidence as are fall asters and white blossoms on the arrowhead plants along the shoreline. The jack-in-the-pulpit red seed pods are in the grass along the trails in wooded sections.

The spiders are doing their thing tightly curling the tall grass into circles at the top with their webs. But the spiders, and the dragonflies, are performing a great service catching the late season mosquitoes that are still around

The new canoe launch looks great and the FOPI work crew are busy finishing the new observation platform at the end of the main trail.

See pictures at







24 July 2004 (Jim Robertson)

A nice cool morning to start the day - once my eyes re-adjusted to staring down the rising sun as I drove east on the Queensway. The air was very still which allowed for nice reflections as we drove over the culvert.

It seemed to be “young birds” day as there was a family of 7 flightless ducklings and their mum scurrying across the water surface to get away from the trail walkers, the robins seemed to have had a bountiful family this year with 3-5 young robins following Mum around as she checked out the trail for bugs and worms. There were also two young downy woodpeckers looking for breakfast. Several varieties of warblers were around.

One heron was just waking up on a shore log upstream from the culvert, it took him a while to preen himself, getting all the nice loose feather on his chest in order, before flying off to look for breakfast, perhaps deep in the marsh where we saw an earlier rising heron a few minutes before.

The water levels are up a little (from the recent rain upstream in the North Bay / Algonquin Park areas) which unfortunately meant the western beaches were virtually awash as was the western end of the new beach loop trail.

There are still a few anemones in bloom along with birds foot trefoil, showy tick trefoil, as well as the usual purple loosestrife, goats rue, pickerel weed, water lilies (white and yellow). The burdock, and there is lots of it in places, in coming into bloom. The purple flowering raspberries have lots of blooms left.

There was one slap happy beaver swimming around Muskrat Bay. The bull frogs were in fine voice as well at the end of Muskrat Bay.

The construction is still continuing but FOPI has made arrangements with the city to allow FOPI to open the gates for the public on the weekends from 9:30am to 9pm. So make sure your cars are removed from the parking lot by 9 at night in accordance with the by-laws..

Pictures at:

Young downy woodpecker


11 July 2004 (Jim Robertson)

Another beautiful summer day, with a gentle breeze blowing. The sun came up as a huge orange ball in the mist and haze.

The island is awash with wildflowers blooming. See list below, along with list of animals and birds.

The construction is winding down, but the road is still closed off sometimes during the day so people are simply walking in from the culvert. With the past few rainfalls, there are muddy sections in the picnic area to be careful of. There are paved and stone dust walking paths through both the beach and the picnic area, shrubs and trees have been planted, benches and raccoon friendly garbage containers installed (raccoon friendly as the decorative outside of the garbage can containers are very easy for the raccoons to climb, not that they seemed to have a major problem with the 45 gallon drums before). Now if there were more garbage cans, or better collection…..(see pictures)

The FOPI’s work crew have been busy with new signage for the trails and the interpretative centre plus the beach trail, while not marked yet, has been cut now that the water levels are back to summer levels. This gives a nice alternative walk back from the western beaches.

I left at noon, but the designated parking lots were jammed full as was the access road in many spots. The beach area looked deserted because it is so big. I am glad I left when I did, as I would not want to see the mob scene later in the afternoon.

Pictures at:

Flora: White and yellow water lilies Flowering rush Purple loosestrife(and unidentified cousin) Blue verbain Canada thistle Goats rue Meadow rue Bind weed (morning glory) Chickweed Anemone Sweet pea Showy tick-trefoil Bird’s foot trefoil Swamp milkweed Milkweed Pickerel weed Cow vetch Crown vetch St John’s wort Badderwort Bladder campion Evening primrose Wild roses Fleabane Scouring rush Horsetail Blue flag Jack-in-the-Pulpit (late due to the flooding ?)

Birds (That I am capable of identifying) Downy woodpecker Flickers Black ducks Black terns (4) Wood cock Blue heron Chickadee Robins Kingbird Kingfisher Flycatcher Ravens

Animals Rabbits Squirrels Chipmunk Baby skunk (2)

Other A few basking painted and map turtles Bull and leopard frogs

Misc: The dogwood berries are whitening The highbush cranberries are VERY plentiful and starting to show colour in some areas. The carrion plants’ berries are now full size The button bush is back contrary to what I said previously The yellow loosestrife seems not to have come back


4 July 2004 (Paul LeFort)

A rare weekend visit for me. The picnic area was busy, the interpretive centre popular, the river full of boats of all sizes and decibel levels. But the "construction site" now looks like a proper beach, with nice paved path, minus lifeguards and toilets. Parasols, kids building sandcastles. A fine sight. Most people seem to have figured out how to park without plugging up the whole works.

Forty or so boats parked on the eastern part of the main beach, with Ottawa Police Marine Unit boat hovering around. Two pleasant ground-based police officers were on the beach, discussing things with the public. Some people did not like the boats being there. But then, it's not officially a beach yet. Marine Unit officers mentioned to me that they would keep an eye on things. I'm told several bylaw enforcement officers also scoped the area in the morning.

Comments I received from the public today were of two basic kinds: 1) what a wonderful asset for our community; 2) what will become of the nature in the nature preserve as the crowds put pressure on it. I think that the City will have to be bold in its restrictions: declare the area west of the road as a conservation zone, with no dogs/bikes/fishing from banks/powerboats. Otherwise, nature is going to lose the battle within five or six years.

The trails have all been trimmed and cleaned, save for two big beaver chews plopped across the BH trail by last week's squall. As far as I could see walking to the end of BH, birds and reptiles are still enjoying the islands despite the nearby commotion.

The access road remains a mess, too dusty for cycling on a busy day like today. Full face mask a must. (My next invention: a recumbent bicycle with pontoons so I can hit the water at the bottom of 10th Line Rd and paddle to the island. Any financial backers?)

All in all, this self-policing, impromptu, not-yet-opened facility is quite nice, thank you. If we can restrict the boats to a small area of the eastern shore facing Cumberland Bay, it will be a fine place indeed.


3 July 2004 (David Villeneuve)

Three views of Petrie during the same day.

Strolling along the beach before 8 am, we only met one other couple.

In the afternoon I gave my motor boat a test run along the river.  The Ottawa River on a Saturday afternoon is like the Queensway at rush hour -- no fun.  There was a speed boat rally that saw these noisy boats rushing up and down.

Returning to the Grandmaitre boat launch near the shore, I saw a curious bird.  It was flying along the shallow water near the shore.  It would come to a complete stop in the air, hovering,  looking down.  Then it would dive down into the water, presumably hunting for fish.  From its behaviour, I guess it was a black tern.  I see the tern is on Christine Hanrahan's list of birds on Petrie (  Now I only have 123 species to go.

I then drove to the busy part of the island in the mid-afternoon.  Cars were parked on both sides of the road from the first turn.  The entire parking lot was filled, and about 20 cars had overflowed into the unopened section.  It was like a circus.

Returning for a third time after 8 pm, most of the revelers had gone home, leaving the east side of the beach to a few retrievers.  Nothing makes these dogs happier than to swim out to retrieve a ball, bring it back to shore, and then do it all over again.



17 June 2004 (Jim Robertson)

It was a nice pink sunrise followed by a bright yellow ball rising through light clouds this morning, there was barely a breath of wind in the air. The air stayed very calm even past 10:30 when we left Petrie. Don't get many days like that !

However the trouble with days like that is the mosquitoes are especially plentiful, and while the dragon flies do their best, they could not keep up to mosquito hordes this morning.

The cottonwood poplars are spreading their “summer snow” seedlings all over the place; the still water areas and many ground spaces are turning white.

The raccoons must be feeling hungrier with the lack of garbage around what with the construction work stopping visitors to the Islands during the day. One raccoon was out checking garbage cans Tuesday night by about 7:45pm which is a little earlier than normal. But they have more free run at the turtle eggs during the day with no humans to bother them.

We saw about a dozen snappers laying eggs in the sand this morning, often with freshly-laid, freshly-eaten eggs two feet away from their face while they laid their eggs. One (or maybe two) raccoon was boldly patrolling the eggs laying areas checking for nests it might have missed during the night and seemingly going right up the turtles to tell them to hurry up with their egg laying as it want breakfast. Just as fisherman always have a story about “the one that got away”, I missed two great shots of a raccoon checking out the nests, maybe next time….

A few painted turtles were up on logs etc sunning themselves.

There was one beaver out for a morning patrol; the lodge on the far side of Muskrat Bay looks huge now that the water levels are back to near “normal” they had to build the lodge up so high to deal with the flooding.

It is amazing to see how barren (and unrecognizable) some areas are where the beaver have clear-cut, although many stumps are sprouting new growth. It seems that the button bush shrubs are not coming back.

There were several squirrels, both red and black, plus a few chipmunks about. We only saw one rabbit, a far cry from past years.

Two herons were fishing in various areas with mixed success. There certainly were lots of frogs chirping/croaking in Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay. Some gold finches were flitting about as well. Two skeins of geese flew over one group as noisy as usual, the second group much more stealth-like with no honking and their wings barely making any noise at all.

The “western beaches”, accessed by the trail running north to the river from the main trail at the end of Muskrat Bay, are wide open now and make a nice walk back part way back to the Beaver Trail.

The yellow iris in the marsh and along the trails’ water edges are starting to show signs of “old age’ but there are still some fresh ones. New flowers to report (see June 3th dispatch) are:

- wild roses - purple-flowering raspberries - bird’s foot trefoil - the moccasin flowers are finished blooming - ninebark - yellow water lilies (bull head) - vipers bugloss - buttercups - daisy fleabane - daisies - two blue flag iris

There seems to be a bumper crop of burdock this year. There are still many sensitive ferns not yet completely unfurled. The ferns and grasses are well over 5-6 feet high in many areas.

It is too bad some people do not pick up after their dogs as there were several dog droppings along side the trail. Those few people will give all dog owners a bad name.

While the access to the Islands is closed during the day for the next little while due to construction, if you happen to drive a coffee wagon, you are welcome (see pictures).

Photos at:


12 June 2004 (David Villeneuve)

What a difference a few hours makes.  We walked along the beach at 8 am and only met one other person.  Returning at 2 pm we were assaulted by the crowds.  The new, under-construction, parking lot was 80% full.  There was a row of boats on the north beach, with hundreds of people on the beach.  What will this place look like when the beach actually opens?


3 June 2004 (Jim Robertson)

Again a quick walkabout in preparation for the Wildflower Walk this Saturday and Sunday.

The water has receded which is good news making access down the main trail a simple matter now. Hopefully the mud will dry out a little more before the weekend.

Lots of red-winged blackbirds in the marsh as well as a few mallards. I didn't see any herons today, but a cormorant flew while we were down the trail.

There were about 20-25 map and painted turtles basking in various locations around Turtle Pond. They did not seem inclined to dive back into the water so long as one walked by fairly slowly.

Flowers, plants in bud, or other “notables” spotted:

- Ostrich and sensitive fern (some still in fiddlehead stage) - wild strawberry - starry false solomon seal - dogwood - nannyberry - highbush cranberry - bedstraw - dames rocket - honey suckle - yellow iris - riverside grape - bladder campion - jack-in-the-pulpit - sumach - gill over the ground - anemone - dandelion - sweet gale - carrion plant - poison ivy - plus other unidentified and some I have forgotten.

See pictures at:


31 May 2004 (Jim Robertson)

I had time this morning for a quick one hour walkabout. I was joined by many mosquitoes on the walk.

With the wild flower walk week-end coming up I was keeping an eye out for blooms. I spotted dogwood, anemone, jack-in-the-pulpit, false solomon seal in bloom. Buds are on the Nannyberry (I think it is), the nine bark has hints of buds. There are several carrion plants up about 4-5 feet. Many ferns are also 3-4 feet tall.

One poplar tree that was completed encircled with a 12” band of beaver chewings is still in leaf despite it also being badly cracked at the base of the trunk. I suspect a hot spell will kill off the leaves.

The main trail is flooded at the narrows, but the water level seems to be receding after the rain of last week.

Flickers, gold finches, robins and starlings were the main birds in evidence, but there were lots of other bird calls to be heard.

I saw one ground hog scurrying along the trail. About 20-25 turtles, mainly good sized painted and map turtles, were out basking on various logs.

Work is progressing on the new park with road works and the re-vitalization of the picnic/nature area parking lot.

Pictures can be seen at:


16 May 2004 (David Villeneuve)

I startled a duck nesting near the river.  She took off to divert me.  I found about 7 supermarket-sized eggs hidden in the grass.


14 May 2004 (Bill Bower)

Very interesting morning down at Petrie. Birds were the most interesting and I listed over thirty before leaving. I picked up a dead Pileated Woodpecker on the way down (North Service Road) and it will be turned over to the Museum for skinning. Looked like it hit the side of a vehicle as it hadn't been run over. It is now in my freezer.

Best sightings were a Least Flycatcher, a Red-Eyed Vireo, a Redstart and (you guessed it) a Wilson's Warbler. It was in the same thicket near the parking lot where I found it in 2002 (May 21st) and once before that back in 2001 (May 25th). Always a lone male. I was able to show it to a couple other bird watchers. A first for them. I also saw 12 Bluejays flying over in a group, probably on a hawk patrol.

Many birds were busy building their nests (robins, great crested flycatcher, warbling vireos, starlings and orioles). Brown Headed Cowbirds were around waiting for the warblers to supply the nests for them. One thing about Petrie is that there is no shortage of building materials. Jacques DeBris makes sure there is plenty of everything on hand.

Animals were out and about. Cottontails were more numerous than usual. I think it has something to do with relocation and not reproduction. A deer had been travelling arount the west end of the island since Thursday. One snake put in an appearance. Just a garter snake.

Turtles were out basking and I counted 39 of them, including two Map turtles out on our floats.

Construction was minimal, or at least I didn't hear much activity.

The water level was down from Thursday, but only by an inch or two. Hopefully it will continue to drop. The best part though, was once I crossed the flow of water I had the island to myself. I may take another venture out on the weekend.


12 May 2004 (Jim Robertson)

The day started out sunny, but by 7AM the clouds rolled in, but not before casting nice light on the trees off in the distance and lighting a heron taking off from the reeds about 100 yards away.

The water level was high, with the main trail being inaccessible.

The ferns are up about a foot, and the only sign of any wild flowers was one yellow cress getting ready to bloom.

Not much wildlife, but there were a few raccoon tracks.

There were some geese skeins still, but much fewer than in the past few weeks, There were a few ducks in the marsh and several wood ducks. Three of which I managed to get a silhouetted shot of 40 feet up in a tree.

The construction crews are starting work on the park next door again.

See photos at:


24 April 2004 (Jim Robertson)

The day started with a nice clear sky as the sun came up over the horizon, but within two hours it was a cold, cloudy day with white caps blowing up from the north sweeping Petrie's shores.

Two other cars arrived ahead of us, one a fisherman and one birder. Two hours later when we left there 5-6 cars of fishermen, coffee drinkers and walkers-about.

The maple tree buds have swelled and some have popped. There are still some pussy willows in the fuzzy stage as well as the “blossom” stage. Some patches of green are appearing in the brown grass.

There were a good variety of birds: an eagle (two have been reported lately in the area, we were glad to see one of them albeit in the distance), red-wing blackbirds, flickers, killdeer, robins, nuthatches, chickadees, swallows, gold finch, pilated and downy woodpeckers, quite a few wood ducks, a few remaining mergansers, and lots of geese fighting the winds to head to their feeding grounds  the corn fields just west of Orleans along the Queensway.

The turtles were smart enough to stay below the water, but several have been seen basking in the past week.

The beaver were out for morning swims, one was on the shore at Crappie Bay, it must have been tired of visitors as it did not hang around, but there were several others in Muskrat Bay, and Turtle Pond. One frequently “ker-splashed” but continued swimming in the water near us. There was one muskrat that appeared in Crappie Bay. Its tail seemed very long and heavy, almost otter like, but it looked too scruffy to be an otter.

The beaver are still chewing on the trees as we spotted 2-3 that had been very freshly chewed.

The Bill Holland trail (main one) is still flooded, but if you are careful you can get through the low spots with knee high rubber boots.
Pictures at:


18 April 2004 (Bill Bower)

Not a very pleasant sight (or site) at Petrie Island. In a few years it will be known as "The Barrens". I thought trees should to perpendicular to the ground, not horizontal.

We joke about it, but it is no joking matter. We are all seeing the same thing and those of us who remember back a few years can really see the decline that has taken place. What we are seeing isn't normal beaver activity, it is the work of nuisance beaver. Not one or two but many. Many of the trees that have fallen have been of little benefit to the beaver and some not used at all. The next big wind storm will see many more trees down. The nightly damage continues.

I know that the NCC and MNR have to control beaver, as do many others including private land owners. The new city is behind in this respect. I don't even know if they have a policy in place. Hopefully it isn't a "do nothing" policy.

The spring ice also did quite a bit of damage and no doubt some trees will die as a result. That is a natural occurrence. The loss of so many trees has to be having a negative impact on migrating and nesting birds (less trees mean less food and fewer nesting locations), turtle nesting sites, shoreline (more erosion) and even on the fish that use the back channels for spawning and hiding (less shade and dirtier water).

The comments I heard this morning from a number of people out walking were much the same as my thoughts. It is a sad sight and simply doesn't make for a very pleasant walk in the woods. Granted, it will look better in a few weeks when the grass starts growing and the leaves come out to hide many of the stumps and other damage and debris.

Unfortunately, there is no end to the damage forthcoming (that I know of). My solution to the problem would be effective, but not legal. Perhaps others can comment on the correct protocol to follow.


15 April 2004 (Jim Robertson)

I made a relatively rare evening visit to Petrie Thursday. Al Tweddle had told me he had spotted beaver at Crappie Bay between 6 and 6:30pm earlier in the week. So I had to go and try to find them for myself.

On the way down from the Queensway it was obvious much more ice has disappeared with only a few pockets of it in secluded areas, but the water levels were up again slightly.

I parked at Crappie Bay (Last turn to the right after the entrance to the old Sand Ops area) and got out of the car. Things were quiet and I immediately heard a soft chewing sound - there was beaver about 20-30 feet away having an evening snack on a twig.

There were a few other beavers around and one muskrat as well. The photography was a little difficult with the low bright sun and black sodden beavers that sometimes swam between me and the sun, but you can find a few shots at:


11 April 2004 (Jim Robertson)

It has only been four days since I last dropped by at Petrie, but quite a bit more open water is in evidence and there were virtually no ice flows on the main channel.

The geese slept in until 7:25am and appeared in numbers at around 7:45am. (We noticed many had moved over to the corn field on the Queensway approaching Montreal Road).

There was more time to walk further down the trail this morning and much more beaver damaged/destroyed trees as well as erosion on the trail itself was very evident. One spot has eroded back into the trail a good 4-5 feet over the past 4 years.

There were two muskrats up on the ice eating reeds one in the marsh as you come down from the Queensway and another in Turtle Pond. A good number of (camera-shy) ducks were swimming in various areas: Golden-eyes, mallards, buffleheads, mergansers, wood ducks. Robins, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, a few woodpeckers and black squirrels were busy looking for their breakfasts. A heron flew lazily overhead towards the Quebec side. A 5" perch was swimming in circles where Turtle Pond was over flowing into the main channel.


Golden eye duck


7 April 2004 (Jim Robertson)

Its been almost two months since I have been a Petrie. I missed the sunrise by an hour or so must be getting rusty.

The marsh and east bay before the culvert are still frozen over as is the west channel approaching the culvert, but the east channel was wide open with several mergansers swimming about. Turtle Pond is still 90% iced over, the main channel is flowing freely with many metre square chunks of ice drifting quickly by in the current.

There were a few squirrels, one beaver, some robins, red-wing blackbirds, chickadees plus a woodpecker across Turtle Pond tapping away on a tree. Several skeins of geese flew over as well.

The main trail, if you were careful, could be traveled without waterproof boots this morning. But as the water levels fluctuate that might not be a permanent observation. Turtle Trail is 85% ice and snow and 15% frozen mud in the morning and you know what in the afternoon.

The buds on the maple trees are swelling and might pop in a week or so if we get warm weather. There were some new shoots coming up by the observation platform that appear to have been snacked on by a rabbit.

The damage to the trees was what struck me most this morning. In another year or two we won't have to try to stop the city taking trees down for parking lots and roads, the beavers will have done the job east of Turtle Pond. Along the main trail there are plenty of full size trees lying on their sides stripped of bark. Some of the trees seemed to have been attacked by giant 6 foot beavers as the chewings are some 5-6 feet up off the ground. A sign of how high the snow and ice was this past fall and winter. I have seen this extent of damage at Petrie in prior years, but in the back areas, not along the main trails.


4 April 2004 (David Villeneuve)

It was 3D honking in Dolby surround sound, with the wet falling snow obscuring the thousands of ducks and geese who were marshalling in and around the river.  I identified mallards and a smaller duck with white breast, plus crows, black birds, doves, gulls, and robins.

The Bill Holland trail required a good pair of rubber boots, due to water flowing from the Turtle Pond into the main river.  It was too deep at the end of Muskrat Bay, I think at the LeFort Canal.  Water levels were relatively low, with almost two full rows of rocks visible on the breakwater on the main beach.  That will change.  Cumberland Bay is still ice-covered, but the main channel has been open for weeks.


30 March 2004 (Bill Bower)

I went down ice fishing this morning. Luckily the piece of the brain with the intelligence kicked in just in time and I scrapped that idea. Returned home and brought out the usual rod and reel to go try the open water by the culverts. Fire Dept Rescue unit beat me to it so that idea was scrapped also. I thought about ice fishing near their training spot. That would probably give them some really good experience.

Next step was to return home for camera and field glasses. Lots of ducks around including Mallards, Blacks, Wood Ducks (5 pairs) and Hooded Mergansers (1 pair). Actually there were two more species but I couldn't get a good look. Probably Bufflehead and Scaup.

No problem getting around with rubber boots. The water was flowing from the ponds to the river and it dropped while I was out there.

Animals were out and about. Saw a groundhog, squirrels, muskrats, two raccoons and a beaver. The raccoons were "hanging out" high in a tree near the office. Just one big lump of fur with four eyes. The beaver was out on the river side and was practicing the "warning splash" technique. The rest of the time it spent admiring the damage it had caused over the past several months. That area at the end where the turtle nesting area is, is a mess. Lots a stumps and few trees. Those trees left have been debarked and dewooded to some extent.

The cruel side of nature showed itself. I found a big bull frog out on the ice. It was still alive but something had frog legs for lunch. All of them. Probably a mink.

I looked hard but no turtles spotted. Beautiful warm day on the Island.


29 March 2004 (Marc-Michel Lavoie)

My name is Marc-Michel Lavoie, I am an ex-Cumberland resident. I moved into the "big city" in October. Fishing is my #1 most favorite summer activity...despite the warnings and complaints from all of my friends and other fellow anglers that "there's nothing at Petrie", I spent 90% of my summer days in the 6 years that I lived in Cumberland at Petrie, fishing away. 

On a particularly warm August morning, I set out to do just that, renting a row boat from the beloved bait shop there, I set out hoping to land the big one. I did, too, about an hour into my morning fish, I got what I thought was a strike, and thought nothing of it, until my rod bent over completely and almost went under the boat, a nice big Walleye had grabbed onto my lure and wasn't about to let go...neither was I. 

I had been going nuts all summer trying to land "the big one" and in my mind I had done this. As I fought this fish I kept thinking to myself how nice this fish will look mounted in my basement and eventually in my apartment living room.....10 minutes into our fight, I won, the Walleye was in my boat and I was proud...I looked at the fish, as I was about to put him in my bag to bring to the taxidermist I thought to myself....who knows, this guy may be a little bigger next year, chances are I'll get him I released him....I only fish for the pure sport of it, unless I catch something like this guy, then I keep it. 

I couldn't believe I had just fought this thing for 10 minutes and I let it go, just like that. Well, believe it or not, on my next visit to Petrie (the very next day) there I was fishing along side Crappie Bay, when all of a sudden I noticed a fish swimming fairly close to shore.....which is highly unlikely with this species, it was a Walleye, unsure if it was the same one as the day before (what are the odds) I made nothing of it. 

Two days later I went back to the same spot alongside Crappie Bay, and there he was again, and for weeks until September 20th (my birthday) whenever I was at "my" spot at Crappie Bay, so was Wally, the Walleye I let go. (Of course, it may just be that I stumbled upon a Walleye hotbed, or just that I have a strong animal magnetism, either way, it was very odd.)

 After September 20th 2003, I have never seen it again.'s to hoping Wally didn't forget me and that he'll be around again this summer, giving me a great fight...over and over again..


3 February 2004 (Jim Robertson)

Nature has seemingly left Petrie festooned with picnic tables, chairs and benches for its visitors. Now that the water has receded somewhat, there are hundreds of ice "shelves" attached to trees inviting the passer-by to sit and spend a while. The shelves, many large and thick enough to sit on, are suspended some 15-20 inches over the snow and/or fresh ice. Some of the shelves are hollowed out as the ice sublimates back into the air.

Walking the trails is a little tricky in spots, you are best to traverse them by skis or snowshoes so as to spread the weight a little. There are many spots of hollowed ice where the water has receded off the trail and many sections have collapsed. Some of the collapsed sections have left small ice "caves", that this morning were ringed with feathery wispy frost crystals. One larger "cave" was full of stalactites and stalagmites of crystal clear ice.

Only 2-3 chickadees were around, no other sign of animal life . We did spot one tree that had obviously been attacked by a beaver after the higher level ice had attached itself to the tree, the ice shelf was covered with beaver chewings. One side of the tree trunk had been attacked before the water levels rose, and then other side was worked on while standing on the ice shelf. I am not used to envisioning beavers out working on trees while thick ice is around, but maybe they were trying to make emergency additions to their lodges as the water rose higher and higher. One lodge in Muskrat Bay that in the summer is 6 feet up out of the water only has 2-2.5 feet of freeboard now, you can imagine what it was like inside when the water peaked.


2 February 2004 (Chris Traynor) 

(In reply to the discussion below.)

Obviously without having the owl examined there is no way of knowing for sure. However, my best guess would be an infection of some type.   According to The Canadian Co-operative Wildlife Health Centre the most likely single cause of owl death is starvation at about 40% followed by trauma 30-35% (vehicle collisions) and then 20% by infections.  This was based on a study of 584 owls of 13 species found dead between 1993-2001. Since this owl had a substantial cache we can rule out starvation. Any collision that could kill it would not have allowed its return to the box. So I would say it died of some infection. 

It is also believed that deaths from infection are underrepresented in the stats because these birds are rarely found. Most screech owls probably die in their roost cavities. Aspergillus, herpesvirus and pasteurella mulyocida( a bacteria) are all known causes of owl death by infection.  It may also have died of old age. Screech Owls probably live 7-10 years with the record being 13 1/2. The cold weather is not likely to have killed it.

If the Duck Club still has the body it might be worthwhile having it examined.


1 February 2004 (Bill Bower)

(In reply to Christine Hanrahan, below.)

Not unusual to find dead squirrels in the nesting boxes, sometimes more than one. This happens even when there appears to be a well constructed nest.

Didn't find any flying squirrels in our boxes this winter. When we do find a nest of squirrels we just leave it alone.

On a sad note, we checked our box today that was being used by the screech owl and it was dead in the box. Can't figure this one out unless it was the extreme cold weather. There was lots of food and it had been eating. Pellets in the box with the cache of voles and pellets in nearly boxes as well.

On an interesting note, we found a dead meadow vole hanging about 4 feet about the ground on a briar bush (not one of those bushes with the long spikes). It was hanging by the back of the neck. The work of a shrike no doubt. One was seen earlier in the winter.

Also saw a small flock of bohemian waxwings. Great day to be out.


31 January 2004 (Christine Hanrahan)

(In reply to Bill Bower, below.)

Thanks for an interesting email. It is always interesting to hear what is going on at Petrie. 7 out of 12 boxes used by wood ducks is a an excellent percentage!

Sounds like Petrie now has a semi-permanent ice sculpture out there on the river!!! The fisherman was a little too optimistic I think.

Also interesting to hear about the studies being done on the merganser species. If you are sent any reports or such in the future regarding this, I wouldn't mind seeing them.

You mention the dead red squirrel - any suggestions as to what caused its death?


31 January 2004 (Bill Bower)

We were out yesterday (Friday) and checked all 12 boxes at Petrie. Very good results as we had seven of the twelve boxes used by Wood Ducks. Starlings had used one box and Red Squirrels another. One red squirrel was found dead inside a well constructed nest. We replaced one box which was falling apart.

The boxes seemed a little lower this year. Probably has something to do with the water being 2 or 3 feet higher. One adventureous ice fisherman, using a big Ford 1/2 ton, drove a few feet too far out at the western end of the back channels. The truck went through into 5 or 6 feet of water. Not far from the small cut across our walking path. Somehow they managed to get it back on solid ice but it is still there, frozen into a solid block of ice. I doubt that anything will move on it. Be interesting to see if they try and remove it or just leave it. Looks like they had to break the drivers window to escape so another foot deeper and it could have been fatal.

Never any Hooded Merganser nests at Petrie Island, althought there are lots around in the spring. Quite a number nest in our boxes out at Shirley's Bay.

We are currently collecting feathers, egg shells and egg membranes from Hooded Merganser nest to send to a biologist up in Alaska. They are using DNA to study the three species of merganser to see if individual families migrate between the major flyways. Interesting.


11 January 2004 (David Villeneuve)

No more hockey games among the trees after the snowfall overnight.  Walking is pretty good.  After a week of extreme cold, I expected the main trail to be frozen.  Not so.  There was still a stream running from the pond to the river, and it looked about a foot deep.  Luckily, there was enough ice on either side that I got around the two wet places.  There were even a couple of ominous pieces of open water on the main channel.

I managed to walk to the western tip of the island, because the ice had made everything so smooth.  Just past the uprooted clump of trees at the tip, there is a reflective sign embedded at the point.  Is this for snowmobilers?  No sign of ice fishing huts and vehicles past the western tip, usually a favourite spot, maybe because of the nearby open water.

I spotted a large grey/brown fox about halfway down the island.  He/she had a magnificent tail, fully as big as its body.  No other signs of life.

As I arrived, a non-Jim photographer was loading his tripod into his van.  He agreed that the contrast was rather poor that day.  I think someone may have been ahead of me on the island, because I caught occasional sight of footprints, although that may be have from earlier.  As I left, there were no other vehicles parked on the island, not even for the ice huts on Cumberland Bay.


7 January 2004 (Jim Robertson)

I had not been back to Petrie for about a 3 weeks knowing how high the water was. But I ventured down this morning. The traffic barricade has been removed and you can again drive to the parking lot.

The water has gone down somewhat - chunks of 2-3” thick ice are still attached to trees some 18” above the existing ice levels. You can walk as far as the start of the main trail, although in several spots you know, by the sound, you are walking over hollow ice.

There is an open stretch of fast flowing water over the trail before you get to the new “observation deck”, so there is not hope of getting down the island.

I checked the official water level website, If you add the 18” the water has gone down to the yesterday’s reported level, the water several weeks ago was virtually as high as it was in spring 2002 when we had three significant floods in April, May and June. Makes you wonder if the polar ice cap has started to melt….

There are few ice fishing huts out on the ice, the others are sitting anxiously in the storage yard at the bait shop.


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