Here are reports filed by various Friends of Petrie Island on what is currently happening on the island.
29 December 2001 (Jim Robertson)
Well ice fishing time is with us again. I would not have thought the ice was thick enough, but when I arrived at 7 AM, there were already 4 vehicles parked by Crappy Bay. When I left three hours later, there were 8-9 cars and about 10 people out on the ice sitting on stools or chairs fishing. No fishing huts are out as the ice is obviously not thick enough for them yet.
22 December 2001 (David Villeneuve)
I got to the island well before Jim and Bill. I was the first one on the trail, so I got to destroy the tracks in the fresh snow. The early bird gets the worm. I saw tracks of squirrels, rabbits, and what appeared to be a medium-sized dog. Those tracks went west only, I didn't see them returning, which makes me think it wasn't the dog from the house. Maybe the wild black cat with half a tail that lives on the island? Bill suggests a fox or a coyote. Whatever it was, it was dainty, because it used the 2x8 plank to cross the water channel rather than going across the ice.
The woodpecker (I would have said red-headed woodpecker, but the experts below say pileated) flew right up to the tree beside me, oblivious to my dog who took verbal offence to him.
I was leaving just as the sun rose, and met Jim, who must have overslept. My golden retriever had a quick swim in the main river, followed by a roll in the snow. It must be nice to be immune to the cold.
22 December 2001 (Jim Robertson)
This morning, at -12°C, was the coolest one yet. But there was still open water on Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay when I arrived at 7:15AM. The water level was down about 4-6” as evidenced by the broken flat ice clinging to the trees above the current water line.
It had not snowed for a few days, but there were very few animal tracks and far fewer human footprints. There were a few squirrel and rabbit tracks, along with some relatively small unidentified paw prints. As well there were signs of the usual trail crossovers by beaver, but not as many as in past days. The beavers have been limiting their wood harvesting activity; I saw only one sapling freshly chewed off, and one 16” tree is continuing to be worked on.
There was a muskrat out for its morning swim in Turtle Pond’s open water as I started down the trail. There was no visible activity along the Beaver Trail, but again there were fresh mud workings around the last year’s beaver lodge. No fresh mud on the lodge, but lots of tracks around the lodge and signs of mud gathering. Maybe the workers could leave us a note as to what they are doing.
Walking around to the new beaver lodge, I noticed that there was more open water near it today than last week. A possible answer for that revealed itself shortly. A beaver surfaced under the edge of some fresh ice forming off the thicker ice. It then proceeded to swim around like a miniature ice breaker. When I walked east, past the lodge to the dip between Muskrat Bay and the south channel, another beaver was working the ice on the shoreline along the channel. There was also a 30 foot diameter opening in the ice on the north side of the dip. While I was keeping an eye on the beaver on the south side, I heard, almost felt, a “kersplash” as a beaver had surfaced 15 feet behind me, spotted me, sounded the alarm, and dove before I could get a good look at him.
The pilated woodpecker was busy working several trees, but too shy to allow a picture to be taken. Several chickadees were around as well of course. In the river were several groupings of ducks, either male mergansers or buffleheads - they were too far away to tell. There were likely 30-40 in total. One group took off with their wet white feathers brightly reflecting the low rising sun.
There had been a breeze overnight and the during the day before so many of the bushes along the flooded shoreline were coated with heavy icicles.
When returning to the car at 9:45, I noticed that the open water from 7:15 on Turtle Pond was now lightly frozen over. There were only a few square metres in a few spots that had not congealed during this, the coolest time of the day. (“Coolest” in both senses.)
22 December 2001 (Bill Bower)
Looks like I was in about 5 minutes after Jim left. I saw fresh Jim tracks.
A couple Otters had crossed the path just past the house. All the birds I saw (Chickadees, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers (Hairy and Pileated) and Brown Creeper were on the Beaver Trail next to the water. It is always warmer in that area.
I went after the Cottontails near the sand hills to try and get some pictures, but no luck. They are adapting well to Petrie Island or watching too much TV lately, I'm not sure which. They were all in caves or underground bunkers. I could see where they were but they weren't coming out. A couple were in those old log piles and well protected.
There is a small house cat out there which explains some of the smaller paw tracks. There is a fox around and I think one coyote also, judging by the tracks. They will likely move on now that the ice is getting thick enough to hold their weight.
I left at noon but had the place to myself until then.
16 December 2001 (Jim Roberston)
After losing what little snow had fallen several weeks ago,
1-1/2" of fresh wet snow arrived over night Friday. That made it very easy to see where the four legged creatures had been during the night:
14 December 2001 (Jim Roberston)
Well it seems to be squatters' rights these days. As reported by Bill Bower and Paul Lefort, the mink are taking over the several years old beaver lodge, while the otters have squatted in last year's beaver lodge. (Just like owls will often squat in last year's hawk's nest.)
12 December 2001 (Paul LeFort)
As I walked along the
Main Trail, I kept hearing the sound of ice breaking. Further
investigation along the Beaver Tr. produced a most entertaining
encounter with two river otters, who took turns popping up through the
ice, about two meters from shore, near the abandoned beaver lodge. I
am assuming the latter has become an otter lodge.
8 December 2001 (Bill Bower)
The muskrats were over
by Wood Duck box #7 trying to get up on the ice to eat. A mink came
out of the same water hole and ran over the ice to where I was
standing on the trail (by that very old beaver lodge). I was within
about 8 feet of it. It gathered dried leaves and took them inside so I
had a good look at it. It was a small mink and just had a few white
hairs on its chin. My experience has been that weasels are either
completely white by now or nearly all white. After I got my camera out
I couldn't get it to stick its head out again. That's usually the way.
7 December 2001 (Jim Robertson)
This morning water was flooding onto the
trails in areas that were never flooded last spring. The
water does seem to be receding again though. There were
parts of the trail that were flooded from Turtle Pond,
but were about 1 higher than the main river. There
were several small rivulets across the trail. A small
torrent of water was flowing through the culvert at the
western end of Turtle Pond.
2 December 2001 (Jim Robertson)
At this time of year the changes on the
Islands are very slow. There are several more muskrat
lodges in Turtle Pond and in the main marsh on the west
side coming down from the Queensway. They must be trying
to tell us that winter is finally coming.
20 November 2001 (Jim Robertson)
I was down at Petrie a couple of times over
the past week. Last Tuesday, with no wind and a
temperature of -5°, there was a fresh layer of ice over
most of Turtle Pond. Muskrat Bay, however, had very
little ice. Must be something to do with the depth of the
two bodies of water. This morning no frost in evidence
until about 7:45am when the mulleins and other leaves
started to turn crystalline white as the temperature
dropped below zero.
11 November 2001 (Jim Robertson)
It was a cold windy morning with a heavy
overcast, so not much was about. The four legged animals
were the smart ones - in their cosy homes, asleep.
5 November 2001 (Jim Robertson)
this week I have been dropping by the Island every day or
two to keep an eye on the beaver activity. They appeared
to be leaving the larger trees, that they started chewing
on a week or two ago, alone, but Saturday night one was
felled by the Beaver Trail. The beavers had been chewing
on it intermittently for about 2 weeks and unfortunately
for them, and we humans, it fell away from the water and
across the main trail. Earlier in the week, a large 12-15
inch tree was felled along the river channel south west
of Muskrat Bay. It looks as though a school of piranhas
attacked it. It has been stripped bare of bark along most
of its trunk. Other trees on the south shore Muskrat Bay
are also showing signs of being chewed.
29 October 2001 (Jim Robertson)
How high can it go ??
28 October 2001 (Jim Robertson)
slowed down a little this week, although with the wind
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday you had to wonder.
The bull rushes at the eastern end of Muskrat Bay have gone to seed, but the ones on the north side of the main trail by the Beaver Trail, are showing no signs of following suit.
four legged critter (other than squirrels) seen all week
was a single muskrat in Turtle Pond Friday and a beaver
out for a pre-dawn swim in Muskrat Bay Sunday. There have
been lots of chickadees and woodpeckers flying about.
22 October 2001 (Jim Robertson)
opened the floodgates??!! The river seems to be up
6-8 inches. It must have occurred overnight as there was
a small torrent of water flowing across the
dip in the trail at the very tip of Muskrat Bay (where
the sandy trail ends). I guess Ontario Hydro must have
opened a dam up the valley. You no longer can walk back
from the end of the trail along the north beaches unless
you are wearing calf-high boots.
14 October 2001 (Jim Robertson)
the weather office really goof !! It was supposed to be
raining over night and all day. The stars were out at 6
AM and the sun came up through a beautiful red sky. You
didnt even need a jacket.
9 October 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The first fall frost
hit this morning along with some heavy patchy fog. The
frost had taken hold along the North Service Road well
before the sun was up, but down on the Islands, the frost
did not make its general appearance until after the sun
was above the horizon, but still behind the trees. The
sun was warm enough that the frost, once touched by the
suns rays, quickly turned into a heavy dew.
30 September 2001 (Al Tweddle)
At 2:05 p.m. on Sunday,
Sept 30, 2001, the person representing 60,000 hours of
use came to the Picnic area!! This figure was estimated
by FOPI based on car counts over the summer. The number
was confirmed by Tony Turtle, based on the number of time
he had to jump off his log as people disturbed his
30 September 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The rabbits living by the
bait shop are obviously being well fed. They are twice
the size of their cousins living on the north side of the
culvert. This morning there were 4 giant
cotton tails playing by the bait shop that seemed
oblivious to traffic as they crossed right in front of
two cars that had to slam on their brakes to avoid
23 September 2001 (Jim Robertson)
It was such a damp,
somewhat misty morning that a few mosquitoes came out to
say hello. They had not, thankfully, been seen for many,
17 September 2001 (Jim Robertson)
It was VERY foggy this
morning. The air was clear at Place d'Orleans, but east
and west was solid fog. Petrie Island itself was heavily
fogged in. You could not see twice the length of the
7 September 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The turtles are
arriving !!! After seeing signs last week
of some turtle eggs having survived the raccoon, skunk
and weasel feeding frenzies in May and June, there seems
to have been a turtle hatching party last night !
29 August 2001 (Jim Robertson)
At 10° C, it was the
coolest morning we have had this summer, the rabbits must
have been in their burrows keeping warm as there was not
one to be seen !
22 August 2001 (Jim Robertson)
There had been a
fairly heavy dew overnight as it was relatively cool.
Several bees were still sleeping on thistles at sunrise.
Dew-covered sulphur butterflies were immobilized on tall
grass. At the west end of the trail, in the tall grasses,
several very large blue-bodied dragonflies were
darting about after insects and protecting their turf.
They would not take a break and stop on a blade of grass
for their portraiture to be taken. They looked like small
birds when backlit by the sun.
14 August 2001 (Jim Robertson)
It was unusually quiet this morning, only one rabbit out to greet me at 6 AM. A light layer of mist was over the water with the rising sun casting its rays through it. All the vegetation is looking very sorry, the water level on the river seems to be getting marginally lower each day. There was a fly-pass of three herons, about 30 feet up, at the narrows on the main trail. A reduced number of flickers were about, but three nuthatches were poking around a tree trunk looking for bugs. A few chickadees were busy as well, as were the woodpeckers. A snipe/wood cock exploded out of the underbrush as I was walking along one of the lesser used trails. Sure wakes you up in a hurry !!!
The black (or mallard ?) duck population seems to be increasing. There were several small groups totalling 10-12 birds in Turtle Pond, I did not see the duck family in Muskrat Bay.
Despite the dryness, I found a few largish fungus and mushrooms growing out of two different fallen logs.
The "usual" turtle trails were crossing the trail between two ponds towards the west end; it looked as though 2-3 turtles had crossed it during the night. Raccoon tracks were along the trail in a few spots as well as on the some of the beaches to the west.
A large green frog was silently basking in the sunlight on a log in the middle of one of the landlocked ponds. About 5-6 turtles were up on an old stump at the trail narrows as well. There was one quite large one, likely a map turtle. They are very skittish and head for the water very quickly.
I managed to find one turtlehead flower blooming, looked for others but to no avail. But while looking, several Dragon Fly varieties and grasshoppers were in the tall dew covered grass.
On the way back to the parking lot, three garter snakes slithered by me on the trail. Just to prove to me that they do exist on the Island. I had only seen one in the past year.
8 August 2001 (Jim Robertson)
Everything is looking very parched - no wonder ! The ferns are browning at the edges, some all over, the tall grass is not springing back when stepped on, the flowers are not lasting as long as they could.
Today seemed to be "young animal day" with several young rabbits out with their mother, a young ground hog rounded a corner to see me 5 feet away. The staring contest lasted 20 seconds when it blinked first. A young muskrat was gathering grass at the water's edge. The black duck family was still in Muskrat Bay. There were no young beavers in evidence though around the lodge on the Beaver trail, only two adults were out for a swim.
There were several hairy woodpeckers working away in the early morning "coolness" on dead trees. As well, black and grey squirrels making their rounds.
The tent caterpillar webs are starting to multiple. There were probably some 10-15 easily seen ones this morning.
The Purple Loosestrife is starting to lose its freshness, although a Monarch (or Viceroy) butterfly did not seem to mind. A red Admiral butterfly was working its proboscis well into the buttonbush blossoms. The Joe Pye Weed is well past its prime, the Yellow Loosestrife is gone, although there are still a few Fringed Loosestrife blossoms to be found. The Golden Rod seems to be peaking, which is early, most of the Cardinal Flower is past its best. But the white blossoms of the Broadleafed Arrowhead are looking very new. The green with black stripes berries of the Starry Solomon Seal are looking very fresh.
The Long-jawed Orb Weaver spiders have worked their webs on most of the tall grass and bent the seed tops into semicircles to ensnare their insect food.
26 July 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The mosquito welcoming committee are no more, and have seemingly been replaced by rabbits. Two rabbits greeted me in the parking lot at 5:30AM, but stopped short of coming for a handshake. They watched me, from less than 10 feet away, get out of the car, load the camera and head out the trail.
I stopped counting cotton tails when I reached 35, and was only just past the FOPI cottage ! There is one rabbit a little further along the trail that has several times come with in 5-10 feet of me if I stand very still while taking his photograph.
Another repetition is the turtle track/trail across the trail between the two ponds past Muskrat Bay. The track is there often with no foot prints on it, so the turtles were obviously moving between the ponds at night. This morning there was evidence of at least three turtles making the passage.
The tent caterpillars, or their cousins, are beginning to build their spidery webs over several branches. No sign of caterpillars within the tent yet.
Lots of yellow warblers, goldfinches and chickadees as well this morning.
Very few flickers unlike the last few weeks.
The water level is continuing to drop both in the river and some of the landlocked ponds.
Common evening-primroses have suddenly made an appearance along with the golden rod in the last 4-5 days.
A couple of red squirrels were kind enough to pose for portraits this morning in much better lighting conditions than on previous occasions.
I was beginning to think the snake stories at Petrie were "old wives tales", but finally one was sunning itself on the sandy trail this morning, guess he found the morning a little cool after the last few days.
21 July 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The sun was a big red ball for 20 minutes at sunrise due to the haze/pollution. There were already several keen people fishing by 5:30a.m.
A few muskrats were out for an early morning swim and the bull frogs were croaking.
Lots of birds were in evidence: flickers, robins, redwing blackbirds, one baltimore oriole, chickadees, yellow warblers, downy woodpeckers etc. etc..
There were two loons (or were they cormorants?) swimming and diving about 100 yards offshore.
Yellow St John's wort, and evening primrose are in bloom. The yellow loosestrife and white buttonbush are also blooming. As are the purple loosestrife, pickerel weed, white and yellow water-lilies and daisies amongst many other flowers. The burdock are blooming as best they can.
The milkweed pods have started forming, but there are still some haggard looking blossoms.
There were some American lady butterflies flitting through the tall grass.
A football sized wasp nest is hanging about 12 feet off the ground in a tree by the Muskrat trail.
10 July 2001 (Al Tweddle)
Report from the Night patrol: Last Friday I was at Petrie at 9:30 p.m. and noticed movement down the gravel road. It appeared to be a floating blanket. As it approached me it turned out to be six young skunks bouncing down the road chattering away to each other. Fortunately they headed down Turtle Trail before they got too close to me. I was wondering if we had a volunteer who could train the skunks to like the smell of beer and hence take care of our bush parties!!
8 July 2001 (Jim Robertson)
Hurray! the mosquito population is down !!! The birds and mother nature have been doing their thing.
Seems to be more four footed furry critters around: several ground hogs were about as were at least 5-7 chipmunks in various parts of the Island. Several young red squirrels were seen as well. The rabbits are especially plentiful in the early morning around the parking lot and along the main trail. Some are very shy, but a few, if you are quiet, will let you get to within 10 feet of them. A few skunks have been seen by yours truly and others. The Beaver, Otters and Weasels are not around as much to be seen though.
Many of the baby birds have grown up and are busy foraging for food. Warblers, Fly Catchers, lots of Flickers, Robins, Downy Woodpeckers amongst others. There always seem to be one or two herons fishing. A family of ducks (black or mallards) are at the east end of Muskrat Bay.
The Purple Loosestrife is coming into full bloom, there is some Yellow Loosestrife as well. Pickerel Weed, white and yellow water lilies are along the shorelines. The Joe Pye Weed is blossoming in several spots. The milkweed blossoms are looking very dry. The yellow spikes of the Mullein are becoming very evident. The pink Morning Glory (or is it Bindweed ?) are entwining themselves to the vegetation. The White Sweet Clover is lining many sections of the trail.
There are a few Small Eastern Milkweed Bugs are on the underside of the Milkweed leaves.
Brown-eyed butterflies as well as Viceroy have been flitting about.
25 June 2001 (Jim Robertson)
The marsh on the east side of road between the Queensway and the culvert is a blanket of mauve. There is well over an acre of Flowering Rush throughout the marsh. Lots of white water lilies are around too. A solitary beaver was out for its more swim past at the culvert at 6 AM, with the water so calm he left a perfect V behind him. Three other beavers were swimming by the beaver lodge along the Beaver Trail
While the mosquito population seems to have fallen off somewhat, a few deer flies have dropped in to fill the void. Gold finches and chickadees, along with the usual robin, red-winged blackbirds etc were much in evidence. Some unidentified small shorebirds made themselves scarce. Monarch, Red Admiral, and some Pearl Crescent butterflies were flitting about along with a few Milkweed Tiger Moths.Several varieties of dragon flies, both large and small are around.
A heron, busy fishing, and I mutually startled ourselves along the path east of the Beaver Trail. We were within 10 feet of each other on the shoreline, when we both looked up at the same time.
A little further along a river otter was resting on the trail, he gave me a curious look and then disappeared into the bull rushes.
While well hidden, the bull frogs were making whatever sound it is they make.
A few baby rabbits were out for a morning nibble of clover.
The ferns have almost finished growing, and hopefully the grass has as well. In some places it is over 7 feet high and almost obliterating the eastern most trails. But the grasses are very nice when back lit by the morning sun with their stamens full of pollen
A few fungi have sprouted with the damp weather of last week.
The flora display evolves almost every week, this weeks selection includes (amongst others):
- Birdsfoot Trefoil just passing its peak
- A few Purple Flowering Raspberries blooming
- a concentrated mass of Sweet Pea along the main trail
- Several vetches including cow and crown vetch
- Bladder Campion almost past
- Canada Anemones still blooming
- Morning glories (bindweed) starting up
- some fleabanes still out
- Purple Loosestrife putting in its appearance
- Flowering Rushes in various stages from bud to full bloom
- Some Joe Pye Weed showing some coloured buds
- the Milkweed starting to blossom
- cat tails starting to appear on the bull rushes
- Mullein up about 2 feet
- a few Bull Thistles in bud
- the moccasin flowers are over of course, but there are some 10 plants growing in one small area
The raccoons have been very busy digging up turtle nests. Anywhere there is soft sand, broken eggs shells litter the area. One has to wonder if the raccoons have missed any nests at all.