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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.

Read previous dispatches:

2004 / Second half of 2003 / First half of 2003 / Second half of 2002 / First half of 2002 / 2001

 

 

6 December 2005 (Bill Bower)

First of all, I only found two species of birds at Petrie this morning and both were in the process of killing and devouring mice/voles. (not an owl, not a hawk, not a seagull) Any ideas?

What a busy place for a Tuesday morning. The two legged beavers were at it near the culvert by the parking lot. They took out about 8 nice looking trees. Not sure what they were making room for. Then the "fence builders" were busy over in the new parking lot putting the cedar buffers around the perimeter. Besides that, there was lots more activity over in the sand area. Trucks, levellers, backhoes, shovels and bulldozers were all at it. I guess they were making hay while the sun shines. Beautiful morning it was.

(Jim Robertson: The trees removed were eight dead elm trees. The City is putting in drainage tile and re-grading the centre area and re-sloping the East beach as well as working on the new parking lot)

The ice over in the fishing hole didn't look all that safe to me, but two ice fishermen were out. They were down on their knees, either looking for fish or praying that the ice held. Actually there was a whole three inches of ice and they did catch some crappie. I've got to lose a few pounds and quickly.

Back on the trails, it was a great morning for viewing animal tracks and imagining what had transpired. I didn't see any cottontails but their tracks were everywhere. There were at least two fox so they will no doubt be having rabbit for lunch one of these days (or nights). One muskrat was out swimming in the main river. Others had been wandering around the bush and out on the ice of the Turtle Pond looking for food and a hole to get them back down below ice level. I followed one and it did find a suitable escape hole. Two or three raccoons had been out on the Turtle Pond and then retreated back to the far west end of the island where they came from. There had been considerable otter activity overnight. Three of them had crossed to the south side of the Turtle Pond and then near the old beaver lodge (on the Beaver Trail) it looked like there had been a convention of them. They had been rolling and playing in the snow and had opened a hole in the ice about forty feet out. The snow was packed down completely. Other tracks were of the squirrel and mouse variety. I didn't find any beaver or deer tracks.

The river level was up. You couldn't get down the Muskrat Trail without boots on.

There's a house for rent down at Petrie Island. Looks like a pretty nice one to me. Don't know where it came from or what the monthly rental is. Would make a heck of an ice fishing shack.

(Jim Robertson: The house is “sort of a” floating house boat moored at the docks by the bait house.)

So, the only blood I saw this morning belonged to mice (or maybe a vole). A crow got one in the parking lot and a Northern Shrike got one down along the Beaver Trail.

 

8 November 2005 (Jim Robertson)

A number of signs pointed to the impending weather at Petrie this morning (aside from the cold north wind coming in off the River !)

1. There were a small group of Hooded Mergansers in amongst the mallards (and gulls) in the marsh on the west side as you come down the hill from the Queensway. I normally see the hooded mergansers on their way through in the spring, but miss their fall stop at Petrie – not this year. There was one heron in the rushes keeping an eye on the ducks and gulls and two other herons flying around and stopping to rest in tree tops.

2. The Gold Finches have taken their winter plumage out of storage. There were 5-10 flitting about the trees by the parking lot when we arrived.

There were also a few chickadees as we walked along the trail, as well as one woodpecker (hairy or downy – we were too far away to tell)

3. The Muskrats are busy building a subdivision in Turtle Pond. There are at least 12 lodges. I checked my photographs of the Pond from previous years and could count a maximum of 6-7 in any one year. Who says the wild life is retreating from Petrie ?

4. The beavers have started laying in their larders. The Muskrat Bay lodge has a quite a large group of branches next to it in the water. Overall the beavers do not seem to be as busy as previous years (maybe fewer of them?) but it is more concentrated in one spot (Intersection of the Beaver Trail, and the Main Trail) which gives the impression of it being quite bad.

There are a few other downed trees further west on the trail by the end of Muskrat Bay. So far, there are only a few VERY small trees gone from the Turtle Pond area

5. No turtles seemed to be trying to break Bill Bower’s record for the last turtle seen late in the year. There were none to be seen (smart turtles !) As well there were no frogs or fish etc.

6. The City had a fleet of 6 or 7 snow plows lined up in the works yard at the Queensway being checked out.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/53873347A030B4B

 

5 October 2005 (Bill Bower)

Another beautiful day and what better place to spend the afternoon than at Petrie Island.

I went looking for birds but found lots of turtles. Not bad for October 5th. Counted about 25 painted turtles basking. There were none in front of the viewing platform. There was one concentration in the Turtle Pond in the cove closest to the parking lot. Then another at the far end on the left just past our last viewing stand. There were 12 turtles on one log. Perhaps these areas are more suitable for spending the winter in, although it will still be several weeks before the turtles head to the bottom for the final time in 2005. Then I came across another turtle not far from the house. It was close to shore and "flash" Bower was able to get his hands on it without drowning.

It turned out to be an adult female Red-Eared Slider. No doubt one of the three or four we have been seeing since mid-August. She was certainly healthy with lots of fat for surviving the cold winter months. Then, while driving out through the parking lot, I found a Snapping Turtle hatchling heading for the turtle pond. I assume it had exited the sand over in the beach area somewhere. Lots of traffic on the roads but this one arrived safely at the waters edge, thanks to a helping hand.

I understand that last Sunday morning was excellent for bird watching at Petrie Island. I missed it. Afternoons aren't the best but I did find a few, usually by just following the Chickadees around. I noted Yellow-Rumped Warblers, White Throated Sparrows, one Brown Creeper, a Swainson's Thrush, a Golden Crowned Kinglet and a Junco. The Green Heron is still around in the Turtle Pond and one Flicker still searching for ants. There were a couple Lesser Yellowlegs across from the bait shop and the usual Mallards and Green Winged Teal. I took some photos of a Pileated Woodpecker but it was not the most cooperative subject I have come across.

Looks like another day of above normal temperatures on Thursday and then the drop towards more seasonal ones.

 

28 September 2005 (Jim Robertson)

The trees might not be very far along in changing colours, but the birds sure seem to know what time of year it is. There was not a robin, flicker or red-winged blackbird to be seen this morning at Petrie.

There were however a few white crowned sparrows making their way back south from wherever they go for the summer. Also around was a noisy kingfisher, 3-4 blue herons, a green heron (in Turtle Pond this time), a downy woodpecker and a good number of skittish ducks (mallards, blacks and wood ducks). A few sandpipers were in evidence as well.

The other sign of fall was the annual appearance of the bear’s paw fungus on the Beaver Trail as well as along the Main Trail just west of the Beaver Trail western terminus. These fungi have been there annually for the past 6 years that I know of.

A domestic rabbit (not one of the ones I have seen before) was running around at the Bait Shop, there were lots of black squirrels, a few chipmunks and one muskrat seen elsewhere. The muskrat seemed to want to swim in the sun’s reflection and then quickly headed for its “den” under a maple tree along the shoreline, so I couldn’t get a picture of it today.

The new Educational Amphibian pond project at the end of the Muskrat trail seems to be working as the pond was full of frogs this morning. We could easily count 15-20 from the new bridge. Wonder what the numbers will be when the heron discover it….

The virginia creeper, coating many tree trunks, is turning bright red, the 6 foot tall common sunflowers are in bloom by the large culvert, a few evening primrose and golden rod are also blooming along with a few goats rue blossoming for their second time this year. The purple asters all seem to be passed their prime and, surprising, all the high bush cranberries have been eaten. (No shots of bright red berries in the snow this year !!) The jack-in-the-pulpit bright red seeds are quite easily seen now that a lot of the ferns have been touch by the frost and are dead. The turtlehead flowers have bloomed and gone while I was away.

While no beavers were out for an early morning swim in the mist, there is lots of evidence that they are starting their fall tree/branch harvest. The western beaches have many branch dragging trails across it.

You’ll notice in the last photo that the City seems to have decreed that you are not allowed to do “nothing” at Petrie.

 Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/C9656D96E5A7070

 

 

 

28 August 2005 (Al Tweddle)

On Sunday, the 28 of August, I rescued 8 snapping turtle hatchlings from the beach parking lot area and I would encourage anyone going in the early morning to watch for turtles on the road or parking lot...the good news is that in previous years these eggs probably never got to hatch as they were trucked away by the sand operation.

The life guards have closed their operation and people are now swimming at their own risk. In general August has been a slower month than July and there have been very few weekend parking problems. The Citizen article reporting beach closings was inaccurate. In August Petrie was closed 4 times, Mooney's Bay was 8 and Westboro was 9. In July Petrie was closed 5 times, Mooney's Bay was 6 and Westboro was 8. Britannia was not closed all summer.

PS: Contrary to the recent letter to the Citizen, Al Tweddle, and Jim Robertson feel that the wildlife numbers have not been going down due to the increased activity at the east end of Islands.

 

18 August 2005 (Jim Robertson)

Today seemed to be bird and frog day at Petrie. We arrived a little late, shortly after the sunrise, and headed down the hill from the Queensway. Two herons caught our eyes in the marsh to the west and then an oddly placed yellow-brown “stick” about 30 yards from the herons refocused the eyes. It was an american bittern.

I knew bitterns were present at Petrie, but in the five and half years I have been down there, I have never seen one. Others have I know. Today we watched, and photographed, it for about 30 minutes. But there was competition.

The two herons seemed to be doing a courtship dance. It seemed to be the wrong time of year for it so we are guessing that it was two juveniles practicing for next spring. The herons strutted about each other with their heads held high and their wings half spread out.

When we were shooting the bittern we kept an eye out for the herons and vice versa. We had the cameras on the herons when the bittern decided to high tail it out of the marsh, so we missed the take-off.

During this half hour time slot, a Kingfisher flew by with a fish in its mouth and a green heron did a fly-past. No shots of those as we were not ready for them.

One of the herons seemed to get bored shortly after this and it too flew off. So we headed further along Trim Road, but only got as far as the large culverts before we were stopped by a flock of about 200-300 tree swallows. Some were lining the wires like starlings or grackles and flying en masse around the culvert, landing in one tree then taking off again.

Finally we made it to the parking lot and the trails. At one point on the trail we found a family of downy woodpeckers working a tree for breakfast. The juveniles were quite small compared to the parents. Their patience and skill for finding breakfast was not as good as the parents. They started complaining to the “old folks” that they expected to be fed and not have to forage for themselves. In the tree at the same time were about 4-5 white breasted nuthatches - probably a family grouping as well. Nearby there were small song birds flitting about, mainly warblers I think.

There were also a good number of ducks around as well. Wood ducks and mallards and/or black ducks. But no black terns today.

The frog part of the day was at end of the trail in Muskrat Bay and the small pond north of it. The bull frogs were out sunning themselves. There were likely 5 or 6 big fellows that we could see.

A few painted turtles were out on logs to catch the sun. Paul Lefort reported that yesterday a good number snakes were sunning themselves.

The evening primrose are in their second, or late, blooming cycle, the arrowhead flowers are very abundant, especially at the west end of Turtle Pond. The turtle head flowers are coming along. One plant had a blossom that was starting to show some white colour, there were about another five plants with early buds. The cardinal flower is out right on time. The orange of the jewel weed blossoms mixes nicely with the purple loosestrife. The elderberry trees are full of purple/black berries. The high bush cranberry at the end of the trail has been stripped bare of fruit, but the one along the Muskrat Trail is laden with berries. The riverside grapes are ripening to a nice purple colour.

A few of the trees are starting to show a few hints of colour. Some swamp milkweed has gone to seed.

The Ottawa Stewardship Council is building a demonstration pond at the end of the Muskrat Trail. Yesterday plants from a low area were dug out and set aside while a back hoe deepened the area a little more. Today the plants were being re-planted and some of the mud dug out was covered with straw to stabilize it into a mound. Joffre Côté from the Stewardship Council is leading the work, being ably assisted by Philip Frye of the Old Field Garden in Oxford Mills. Richard Burnford, a new volunteer at Petrie, was slogging the plants around as was a young lady, Matte (Sorry I did not get her last name).

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/276DA00394F4D5C

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 July 2005 (Jim Robertson)

The weather forecasters said there might be fog over night as things (finally) cooled off.

Well they were right, as we approached Trim Road a solid fog bank was sitting along the river and the Queensway. It had spread its dense white cloud just west of Jeanne d’Arc to east of Trim Road. It very gradually lifted/disintegrated by 8 am.

There was not much out of the ordinary this morning. A heron flew by when we arrived but we didn’t see any down on the water until about 7:45am. There were a number of warblers, woodpeckers, goldfinches (who are likely starting to nest or will be soon), kingbirds and a few flickers in the trees. A rabbit was out munching on grass as was a ground hog in the picnic area. Another ground hog treed itself was we moved on down the trail and turned up the Beaver Trail. A vole was out collecting sweet clover on the trail – don’t see them very often.

Purple loosestrife is still in full bloom, along with Queen Anne’s Lace, Birdsfoot trefoil, some showy tick-trefoil, blue verbain, white and yellow water lilies, sweet white clover, dogbane, burdock, bull thistles and assorted other summer flowers. A few buttonbrush flowers are finished, while others are just starting to bloom.

There have been a few improvements since our last visit, many of garbage cans are now raccoon and gull proof, good for humans, but I am sure the animals miss the open “food” bins and the FOPI interpretative cottage looks spiffy with its new doors.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/2CF1B9101DAE831

 

4 July 2005 (Jim Robertson)

It was a very colourful morning what with so many wildflowers blooming. The yellow bird’s foot trefoil mixed in with the blue cow vetch were gleaming in the early morning sunlight as you came down the hill from the Queensway.

The marsh is covered with mauve flowering rush, there are large white and pink bindweed blossoms along the trails, along with the purple flowering raspberries, some remaining anemone, white clover, the somewhat rare mauve goat’s rue to name just a few more in bloom.

The purple loosestrife is just starting to bloom and I found two stems of yellow loosestrife (a native, not invasive plant). Swamp and regular milkweed are blooming as well.

The marsh seems to be filling in with reeds and all, there does not seem to be as much water in view as in past years. Maybe I am wrong about that. There is lots of purple pickerel weed in Turtle Pond. (Along with a large fish trying to imitate a shark with a display of his dorsal fin.)

I found two domestic rabbits by the bait shop; the former owner owned some, so maybe these are ones from past years hanging around still. There were two small cottontail rabbits hopping around further east on the Islands. While there were only one or two squirrels about and only one garter snake; there were lots of birds including one of the provincially rare black terns skimming the marsh. Other birds included kingfisher, blue herons, killdeer, white breasted nuthatch, woodpeckers, flycatchers, warblers, robins etc etc

The influx of people over the long week-end must have put a strain on the facilities, and there was some garbage strewn around the garbage barrels, no doubt put there in part by the raccoons who must be enjoying the extra visitors bringing food. The western beaches though are showing signs of more traffic with garbage strewn along the shoreline and remains of bonfires and barbeques.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/B79B7824956CC5E

 

26 June 2005 (David Villeneuve)

Petrie Island has definitely been discovered by Ottawans.  Or at least the beach has.  There was traffic chaos as cars drove around searching for parking spots.  Cars were parked on both sides of the road as far as the causeway, and some were even south of the causeway.  It was a bit scary for people trying to walk along the road, with cars parked on both sides and two lanes of cars trying to enter or exit.  Perhaps parking on one side should be permitted?

To add to the confusion, the parking permit machines had run out of paper.  People were putting their money in, but nothing was coming out.  Imagine the windfall to the city if Bylaw officers should show up.

The island to the west of the interpretive cottage was surprising tranquil in comparison.  I only saw one group of hikers on the main trail.  Sonshine Families was holding a private picnic at the middle cottage.  Their new kayaks and canoes look very nice.

 

19 June 2005 (Jim Robertson)

(Please note that dogs are no longer permitted at Petrie, the City signage went up this week.)

Today was the annual FOPI Turtle Day at Petrie. Unfortunately the cloudy skies and cool temperatures kept many of the turtles in the water as the sunny day promised by the weatherman did not materialize.

But there were four turtles at FOPI’s land based display: A blanding, a red-eared slider and two painted turtles. One painted was a young adult, the other was a baby about 1.5 inches in diameter. Also featured were a leopard frog and the wild/domestic rabbit mentioned in the last Report.

The turtles (and rabbit) were in large pens by the trail so everyone could find them. The easy access provided a constant flow of adults and kids looking and asking many questions. Al Tweddle, Bill Bower and Gwen Williams were handling the questions. An open air theatre drew people to watch some of the AV shows of Petrie (“Turtles of Petrie” and “Birds of Petrie” were shown).

The afternoon closed with two races: The “Tortoise and the Hare” featuring the rabbit against the blanding and painted turtles (the “Hare” won this time). Then at the water’s edge it was the leopard frog vs the two turtles. The painted turtle won by a nose - the leopard frog, the odds-on favourite, decided to sit the race out and just watched.

Early in the afternoon, Bill Bower, a member of FOPI executive and President of the Ottawa Duck Club checked the wood duck nesting box by the Interpretative cottage expecting it to be empty. No ! Mum was still sitting on the eggs in the nesting box. The box was quickly closed again and Mum calmed down and stayed on the eggs.

Two items of note:

1. Sonshine Community Ministries is setting up the S.P.I.R.I.T. Programs to start July 4 running Monday to Friday from 9-5 for kids 8-13 and adults.

S.P.I.R.I.T. stands for: Sonshine’s Petrie Island Recreational Initiatives and Training. Their program will offer canoe/kayak instruction, hiking, orienteering, scavenger hunts, nature studies, games etc to name but a few.

For more information contact 834-8187 ext 29

2. A Petrie Island Outdoors Club is being formed. Information meetings will be held at FOPI’s interpretative cottage on Monday June 20th at 6:30pm and Saturday June 25th at 10:30am.

Some of the activities planned are: canoeing, kayaking, cycling, small sail sports, skating, and cross-country skiing. E-mail pioc@rogers.com for more information.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/418AEE42B0453EA

 

7 June 2005 (Jim Robertson)

A windy bright day with white caps out on the river.

Lots of song birds around, we had two friends along who were identifying the birds by their calls without seeing them. Some day maybe I will be able to… There were a number of herons in Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay areas. A turkey vulture flew overhead and was chased off by some smaller birds. There were a few mallards in Turtle Pond.

The mosquitoes were being kept down by the wind, but there were MANY dragon/damsel flies, working hard at reducing the mosquito numbers as well.

The beavers have built a small dam between the south channel and Turtle Pond, in an effort to keep the water in Turtle pond, I didn’t know we were in danger of losing it !

On the small island to the west of the culverts there was a raccoon feeling around in the shallow water for clams, didn’t see him find any though. A large rabbit was chewing on the grass by the parking lot. Looked suspiciously like he was a domestic escapee or perhaps was dropped off by someone who no longer wanted him. There were a few bull frogs croaking along the Muskrat Trail.

The flowers are finally starting to bloom: various mustards, blue flag iris, yellow iris, high bush cranberry, nannyberry, dogwood, yellow water lilies, anemone, fleabane, wild roses, starry cross solomon seal were amongst the ones spotted.

There were lots of painted turtles basking in various locations around the inland waters, including a few in the marsh that I had not noticed before. Several map turtles were basking by the main turtle viewing stand. No snapping turtles were spotted, but we found two destroyed nests – the raccoons had a breakfast of nice fresh turtle eggs. We also found a map turtle squatting over a good size hole it had dug in which to lay its eggs. There was a painted turtle walking along the main trail, perhaps back from depositing her eggs.

The canoe launch is in place.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/E0B2834BF402F56

 

3 June 2005 (Jim Robertson)

It was another hot sunny day and most of the four legged animals were smarter than the two legged ones. They were staying out of the sun. Only three turtles were up basking, all the others were keeping cool in the water.

There were a few birds around (robins, flickers), one ground hog, one muskrat and one garter snake slithered into the tall grasses. The six legged “animals” (mosquitoes) were out in good number, especially along the Beaver Trail where the ferns are close to the trail.

For the first time in my six years of being at Petrie I found some blue-eyed grass. Several good patches right along the trail, not sure how I missed them in previous years.

The main attraction today was the filming of a stop-over by the Destination Nor’west” voyageurs. There are 9 women and men re-creating a canoe trip from Montreal to Winnipeg in 1806. The voyage is being filmed for French language educational TV in Ontario and Quebec.

It is a voyage with a twist. The angle is that it is the 19th century meeting the 21st century. The voyageurs are traveling in the dress of the day and eating the same fare as the fur traders did back then, but at most stopovers they are meeting with local 21st century people who explain the area around them. It was Petrie’s turn today.

Al Tweddle, the President of FOPI gave them a tour of the Island explaining the beaver issues, local unique vegetation and discuss the turtle population amongst other things. At each stop there is a gift exchange, Al traded a VERY large bag of raisins for a 50 pound bag of corn (that one of the voyageurs had to carry around in 30°C heat during Al’s tour !) None of the voyageurs are allowed any 21st century food, while the production crew goes off and eats in local restaurants.

At the cottage there is also a new display of excellent large scale prints of some of the Owls which made Petrie home last winter.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/C28FD924CEA2E76

 

30 May 2005 (Bill Bower)

I finally made it down for a morning walkabout. Turned out to be a beautiful morning.

I have often stopped along the road in and removed turtles from the road but this morning it was a large green frog that was dallying in the middle of the road by the bait shop and had to be encouraged to move on.

Lots of painted turtles out and then the map turtles began basking at around 9 o'clock. I counted 12 Maps at one point and they were mostly the larger females at around eleven inches in length. I had a close-up look at the Blandings turtles and got some shots of it. A very active turtle as Jim says. It is a large adult female, 9 inches in length with no eggs (?). I have no idea how old it would be. She seems to like Petrie Island but not being photographed.

The gar-pike were spawning this morning further down the trail. Four males had corralled a much larger female and had her nearly beached. Her snout was out of the water. I was able to get some shots of the whole gang.

The best "birding hole" in the whole Ottawa area is that dogwood bush next to the parking lot. If you just walk by you don't see anything. Stop and wait for some movement back in the bushes and you will see various birds. This morning I noted a Song Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart and two male Wilson's Warblers. This makes the fourth year that I have found the little Wilson's Warbler in this same bush pile. Make sure you check it out the next time down.

A group of walkers came in for a morning stroll. They seemed intent in just keeping up with the leaders and I don't believe they saw very much. I wouldn't call it a "Nature Walk" at all. Too bad.

 

29 May 2005 (Jim Robertson)

Quote from May 25, 2005 dispatch: "Nor did we see the blanding turtle that Al spotted. (Keep your eye out for a turtle with a higher shell than the map and painted turtles. It will have a bright yellow throat.)”

Well Stanley, the elusive blanding turtle, put in his appearance today. He was spotted checking out the new beach by a keen eyed young girl. He acquiesced to have his photo taken, but he should have been names “Speedy” not “Stanley” by the young girl. Blanding turtles, unlike other turtles are VERY fast on their feet and appeared as a blur in several of the shots.

You can learn more about blanding turtles at: http://www.pc.gc.ca/nature/eep-sar/itm3-/eep-sar3b_e.asp

Stanley’s photos have been added to the same location as the May 25th pictures:

http://www.fototime.com/inv/8593944CFA21F20

 

25 May 2005 (Jim Robertson)

A beautiful sunny morning, with the wind creating white caps on the main channel. The birds and turtles were taking for advantage of the nice day after a few wet dreary ones.

At 6:45am, about 12 turtles were up on the logs by the turtle viewing stand. There were 4 largish map turtles, with the others being painted turtles of varying sizes. As we walked down the trail, more turtles were up on logs in several areas. Some were quite skittish and dove into the water while we were still 30-40 yards away, but some were quite relaxed about the whole thing. At 9:30am there were 25-30 by the viewing stand basking in the warm sun.

We did not see the 61 turtles (a record I think) that Al Tweddle counted by the viewing stand the other day. Nor did we see the blanding turtle that Al spotted. (Keep your eye out for a turtle with a higher shell than the map and painted turtles. It will have a bright yellow throat.

There was quite a variety of birds: - Baltimore oriole - flicker - white breasted nuthatch - osprey - yellow warbler - black terns (these are provincially rare birds that are usually only seen in Ottawa at Petrie) - great blue herons - goldfinches - sandpiper - red-winged blackbirds - tree swallows - robins - chickadees - killdeer - a pair of wood ducks Plus some others that I did not recognize. Then there were all the birds we heard, but did not see.

While no beaver were out swimming, there has been some recent chewing of a downed tree, plus a few beavers tracks on the western beaches. There were raccoon tracks as well on the western beaches. A muskrat was at the end of Turtle Pond, in a very shallow part, eating his breakfast for quite a while. There seemed to be an abundance of black squirrels, but only one chipmunk and no ground hogs. Two rabbits were hopping around foraging for their breakfast.

Some flowers are starting to blossom: black mustard, winter cress (or yellow rocket) jack-in-the-pulpits (particularly along the start of the Beaver Trail) and an interloper, that arrived with a load of fill I suspect, by the parking lot that I have not identified yet.

The ferns are well up, but many still have not completely unfurled their fiddleheads. The water plants are starting to show on the surface, with the water lilies starting to flatten into lily pads.

Wednesday is FOPI’s work day. There were five people down helping today. More are always welcome !

Pictures are at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/8593944CFA21F20

 

10 May 2005 (Jim Robertson)

No herons, no rabbits and no snakes. But lots of other birds and four footed furry creatures.

Herons are perhaps staying away as the water is still a little high. Must be one of the first time I saw no rabbits, might be a low population year for them.

There were several red squirrels and their cousins the black squirrels. Two ground hogs were in evidence. One busy trying to build a new home in the middle of the path at the narrows on the main trail (not the most intelligent thing to do) and another has set up housekeeping just off the trail by the turtle nesting area at the end of the path.

I spotted several birds: red-winged blackbirds, female cowbird, gulls, Canada geese, mallards, song sparrows, white crowned sparrows, robins, flickers, white breasted nuthatch, 4-5 downy woodpeckers and a pileated woodpecker was at work on the south side of Turtle Pond. The best find of the day was a double breasted cormorant in Turtle Pond. I have seen a few of these fishing birds at Petrie before, but always in the south channel by the large culverts.

Two beavers were out swiming. One off the Beaver Trail and one in the main channel just of shore. There were tracks in the sand on the western beaches where the beavers had been coming ashore to munch on toppled poplar trees.

There were no turtles in sight until snouts started to show above the water line around 8AM, by 8:45 there were 12 turtles up on the logs around the turtle viewing stand, including one 10” map turtle.

The grasses are almost 12 inches high and most trees are showing colour with leaves starting to pop. The ferns are starting to grow; some are up 12-15 inches, while others are still tightly curled in their fiddleheads.

There were a few two legged workers around. Installing a pay parking installation and dropping off 12 (count them 12!) port-a-potties. That sure is better than the usual 2.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/58EA6A800FCC3EB

 

10 April 2005 (Bill Bower)

Beautiful morning but a cold wind coming off the river. I wasn't able to go down the path due to high water but at least it was flowing out into the river.

There was still quite a bit to see. Lots of geese flying over and six species of ducks around the islands. Nothing unusual, just the wood ducks, hooded and common mergansers, bufflehead, mallards and blacks. I saw the phoebe that had been seen a few days ago. There were two great-blue herons out in the marsh opposite the bait shop. There were away out and hard to identify as they were sleeping with their heads pulled in close. I also saw one yellow-bellied sapsucker and there were two tree swallows flying around out in the marsh area also.

No animals or reptiles seen.

 

5 April 2005 (Roger Clark)

Visited Petrie Island this morning with Dave Minns & found one male Redhead swimming on the Ottawa River to the east of the island. It was with four Scaup (seemingly Lesser). Also near the beach area were a male & female Brown-headed Cowbird, one Eastern Phoebe, & about 16 Hooded Mergansers.

 

3 April 2005 (David Villeneuve)

In just 24 hours, the water has risen almost 2 feet.  Yesterday morning we could walk around the point on the north-east corner of the beach.  Today it is submerged.  The pole that is in the east beach was at the water's edge yesterday, now it is 30 feet out.

 

2 April 2005 (Jim Robertson)

After hearing Eve Ticknor reporting hooded mergansers and otters yesterday afternoon, I went to Petrie this morning to see what I could find.

I didn’t really expect to see the otters and I didn’t. But there were two small groupings of ducks either side of the “opening” between Turtle Pond and the South Channel. There were at least 50 common mergansers and a minimum of 30 hooded mergansers. You’ll need binoculars to see them well as they are quite far out. Male mergansers are very shy and will fly off if you get much closer than 150-200 yards from them.

No ducks were out by the large culverts past the bait shop. Normally there are many ducks there in the early spring.

There were plenty of red-winged blackbirds and gulls around. One killdeer was out on the marsh ice.

With the snow gone off the ice on Turtle Pond, the many muskrat lodges (or remnants thereof) are in full view.

The water is high but no serious flooding yet. I did not go down the trail, but I suspect the water will be up over the “narrows” on the main trail.

Pictures are at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/09397A356687959

 

1 April 2005 (Eve Ticknor)

I was at the parking lot this afternoon around 3:30. In the bay between Muskrat and Turtle were 2 otters, fishing. They were slipping under the water, sometimes 1, sometimes both, coming up several times to eat their catches. In back of them, just inches away, swam 12 Hooded Mergansers! They have to be one of the most beautiful species of waterfowl.

On my way out I saw and heard a couple of Song Sparrows.

 

15 March 2005 (Jim Robertson)

The sun knows it is spring with a sunrise time of 6:16am, but someone seems to have forgotten to tell the weatherman !

I’ve decided to name this “twigs and snow” day at Petrie. There really was not a lot more going on.

A pileated woodpecker was squawking across Turtle Pond, one downy was working a tree and a few chickadees and one nuthatch were calling. A chipmunk was looking for food; fortunately for him, there was no owl looking for food in the same place.

Most, but not all, of the ice fishing huts are back up on shore. There is some water on top of the ice in a few areas, but no open water like last month. The open water around the large culverts just north of the Bait shop is unusually small for mid March.

The population of the Islands has increased temporarily by three. Busy two legged beavers have given birth to three snowmen, one at the playground and two in Muskrat Bay.

Pictures are at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/DE8E1293F98AB9F

 

19 February 2005 (Marc Gravel)

I thought I'd check out Petrie late this afternoon for what could be observed after the sudden heavy snow squall which lasted only 25 or so minutes or so it seemed.

First stop, were the frozen marshes of Taylor Falls Bay which yielded 3 Great Gray Owls perched in the thick of the woods here - All 3 were at some distances from each other which allowed me to walk between them and observe from a relative mid range.

Next, on my in to Petrie, I noticed that the turtle x sign had been taken down for the umpteenth time this 2004/05. I tried looking for it in the snow without success. Will report it to the Turtle Shell group unless Bill has already done so :)

I went down past the Causeway where I previously reported a Screech Owl and found a Great Gray Owl (#4) perched above the depression beyond the parking lot by this time it was getting dark - 5:30 p.m.

I hadn't anticipated in taking part of the GGOwl survey this weekend, due in part working from home this weekend, I had little or no time to venture out as I always do on weekends. I needed a break and luckily Petrie Island which is close to home yielded 4 Great Gray Owls among other species - a few cardinals and snow buntings.

No matter which time of day you go out to Petrie Island, there's always something to discover. Can't wait for Spring!

 

13 February 2005 (David Villeneuve)

It took 90 minutes to circumnavigate the island by foot.  There is open water in the main channel, but the ice is firm along the shoreline.

Trees are being destroyed by beavers, by tornados, and by erosion.  There were several new groups of trees along the shore that have been uprooted by wind and water.

Like Jim on February 11, I too saw some strange animal tracks.  It almost looks like the animal was laying down sticks on the snow, in a perfectly rhythmic fashion.

There are now two ice huts in Crappy Bay, and about 100 in Cumberland Bay and along the shore east of the island.

 

11 Feb 2005 (Marc Gravel)

On February 11th 2005, I observed 6 Great Gray Owls at Taylor Falls Bay within the frozen marsh and the thick of the woods nearby. Two of the Great Gray's were after one another or trying to force one out of a territory, my guess feeding territory.

Just over the Causeway heading into Petrie Island, I observed a Killdeer in the parking lot on the left as well as an Eastern Screech Owl a few feet into the woods near the depression in the ground where stagnant water pools during the Spring and Summer - In a tree next to the depression, an Eastern Screech Owl perched on a branch - I observed it for a while (10 minutes) then went back to North Service Road for more GGO sightings.

I thought I'd try my luck beyond the the MTO garage for Owls and found instead at the end of the blocked road, at the end of the field - two coyotes at the tree line closer to the river. As I told Jim, I made sure they weren't dogs though one of them sure looked like one - Its tail was bare - funny looking fella... They didn't stick around too long before realizing who I was and before you knew it they were gone.

On February 9th 2005 - I observed 3 Great Gray Owls on North Service Road, about the same place I saw the 6 GGO's on Feb. 11th.

My First GGO sightings were on the 5th, again at North Service Road - Roughly 8-10 were observed along North Service and Taylor Falls Bay, 1 of which I was able to get extremely close to a snap a few photos, before it flew off into the woods startled by the Taylor Family of Orleans :)

I've attached pictures from the 5th - these same pictures were sent to the Taylor Boys for their school project.

[In answer to a question from David Villeneuve about coyotes] I have seen many coyotes south of Orleans on the fields near French Hill Road down to Innes/Frank Kenny and I've also seen them at Mer Bleu. I remember last winter walking the trails at Petrie seeing a coyote out on the ice crossing to Quebec - but never physically at Petrie until last week.

My guess is if the owls are abundant on North Service Road - It may also be beneficiary for the coyotes to get a great lunch too.

 

11 February 2005 (Jim Robertson)

It was a crystal clear blue sky this morning. A perfect background for an owl photograph, with a light breeze ruffling its feathers. Only problem was that the owl(s) must have slept in like everything else seemed to at Petrie this AM.

No owls were in sight, either on the Island or along the North Service Road. A few chickadees, a distant pilated woodpecker, one red and two black squirrels were all that were to be seen/heard.

We were the first humans down the trail, but by the time we headed back to the car, there were about 5-6 other two legged creatures along the trail and about 10-12 cars in the parking lot positioned such that you knew they were there for a walk and not to ice-fish.

I mentioned being the “first humans down the trail”, but the otters (I assume that is what they were as their stomach trails were about 12” across) were up before us and out tobogganing. There were three largish holes (12-16” across) along the shoreline – two on the beaver trail and one further west along the main trail – with foot tracks leading from them and intermittent large wide smooth areas where the animal had been sliding along on its stomach, back on its feet, back to stomach, and then back into the hole. The lack of other tracks in the fresh snow showed that the fun loving tobogganer had definitely come from, and returned, to the hole.

I say fun loving as the animal tracks showed it running along a flat section and then throwing itself on its stomach and sliding, getting up again, running and sliding again. One of the holes was on a smooth bank and the otters seemed to be scurrying up the hill, sliding back down and then up again….

Not sure what time they were out having fun, but I would like to see them doing it.

The water levels are up in both the Rideau and the Ottawa, presumably from the thaw last week. That has created a channel of open water in the main section of the Ottawa River off the Islands. The ice fishing huts are not near it so there is no danger to them.

Pictures at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/E1201F1C027E77C

 

6 February 2005 (David Villeneuve)

There was only a handful of ice fishermen on Crappy Bay.  Arriving on foot along the south channel from Tenth Line Road, I expected to see the bay filled with vehicles, but there was only one hut and a few solitary fishermen.  No one was having any luck.

The east side of the beach area, Cumberland Bay, was, in contrast, a complete suburban subdivision.  Vehicles and huts as far as the eye could see, which wasn't that far today because of the unusual smog conditions.

I spotted a large owl flying among the trees on the mainland, and a solitary duck flying along the channel.

 

16 January 2005 (Jim Robertson)

After an almost 4 month absence due to various reasons, we finally made it back to the Island this morning. A nice sunny morning, no breeze so the –12°C was almost balmy.

With the few days we have had of warm weather, freezing rain and cold follow-ups, it is relatively easy to get around the island as the snow is not deep and has a heavy crust on it. The roads are something else again – bring your skates !

There were lots of cars along the road and in the parking lot, but as expected 95% were for ice fishermen – be they fishing from the luxury of large shack or sitting on an overturned bucket on the ice. There were a few families out on the Petrie trails.

The lack of leaves showed off several summer bird nests including a baltimore oriole’s. Many of the basswood seeds have been eaten by the birds and other animals, as has much bark been torn from dying trees by the woodpeckers.

Some wildflowers information and pictorial pamphlets are posted on large informational sign by the wildflower garden – a taste of things to come in another 4 months !

With not much more fresh snow than a dusting, animals tracks were hard to see, but they were there if you looked. There were lots of red squirrels around as well as their black cousins. A number of downy woodpeckers and a few nuthatches were in evidence (and one robin sitting on a post next to the Queensway as went turned on to it from Trim Road).

But what we went to find, we did. There are a great number of owls in Ottawa this winter, including several reports of a grey owl at Petrie. It took some hunting (and a helpful pointing by another birder) but we found a good sized owl at the end of Muskrat Bay. It moved several times while we photographed it – each time to a better location ! It watched a close by nut hatch intently for a few minutes but did not try to make a breakfast out of it.

Its left eye seemed severely damaged, as it was never opened. Maybe it hurt the eye while hunting.

Pictures are at: http://www.fototime.com/inv/926D7679D3999D6

 

11 January 2005 (Paul Le Fort)

Well, I finally got to the Island today, first visit since early December. I would imagine some of you have visited since.

I parked at Yves and skied to the end. Found the parking lot usable, and the usual four or five vehicles around.

The gate, a design success ruined by an installation failure, is frozen in the open position, and P3 resident Yves says he has had no problems with intruders. (We could always go back to the cable, which worked fine, or use a chain for this winter if we wish.)

There is an old snowmobile track circling the interpretive centre. Someone took a snowmobile right to the end of the Island, using BH Trail, but that was long before the last major snowfall.

The Bill Holland Trail is almost drivable, and many people have hiked it, with and without dogs. One or two ski trails visible, a few days old. Obviously, good access and an open parking area makes the trail a popular place to go. Interestingly, there were no tracks past the observation platform at the far end of it.

No new beaver damage since November.

The crust is such that you can walk anywhere on the Islands, but the skiing is fine.

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