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Dispatches from Petrie Island -- 2002a

Here are reports filed by various Friends of Petrie Island on what is currently happening on the island.


Bill Bower - July 7

I took a walk around this morning. Found about 10 more fresh turtle nests dug up by raccoons. Couldn't find any eggs. Most of the nests this morning were painted turtle nests containing 6 or 7 eggs. Only saw 3 painted turtles basking.

Went to the sand dunes at the far end and located more turtle nests. Nothing fresh. Then I stumbled across a small tent with occupants. Don't know where they came from as there were no cars in the parking lot. They seemed to be making a mess of the area.

Lots of Cottontails and the deer are still inhabiting the far end. Didn't see them, just the tracks.

Quite a few birds but hard to find in the trees. I did get a good look at a family of Warbling Vireos. When alarmed, they make a sound something like a Catbird.

Now that the water level has receded you can see the evidence of erosion. In some places the bank is back 4 to 6 feet.


Jim Robertson - July 5th

Add dogbane, canada thistle and meadowrue to the June 29th flowering list.

The large fish are still splashing about in the shallows. But there was also one in the south channel well off shore in deeper water. Three gold finches were working hard to get the seed fluff from the Goat's-beard, maybe they were trying to start their nests and the thistle fluff is not ready.

The deer must still be around, there were lots of fresh tracks in the mud along the trails. There is an area along a trail where the tall grass is lying down, I suspect it is a deer bedding spot. It looks as though the racoons must be feeding the ground hogs - there were clam shells around 3 ground hog holes. Two ravens were flying around, a spotted sandpiper was checking out the sanding beaches. And a mallard pair were on the trail by a small remaining pond.

There were no new turtle nests. With the water levels down, I found 10 destroyed nests in another favoured turtle areas. But the painted turtle nests in the parking lot are still intact. A map turtle was walking through the main nesting area, it squatted down and retracted into its shell as soon as it spotted me. Even though I was photographing from behind a bush, it was 55 minutes before it started on its way again.


Jim Robertson - July 4th

Well it looks like all the turtles got the egg laying signal at the same time. The egg laying started last Saturday and seemed to have finished for the most part Wednesday night. I only found one freshly dug up nest this morning and no signs of any that the raccoons and skunks had missed. The painted turtle eggs in the parking lot have still not been touched, so maybe they will make it through the summer. There are still some turtles crossing the road between the Queensway and the parking lot, so keep an eye out.

The water is down enough that you don't need boots to walk down the trail, but I would not do it in sandals yet due to several very muddy sections. (And the mosquitoes)

The flowering rush are starting to bloom in the marsh, so I guess the flood prevented the yellow iris from doing their thing this year. Other flowers blooming to add to the list from June 29th:
Evening Primrose
Butter and eggs
Sumac trees

Some of the bull thistles and canary grass is well over 6 feet high. The lack of traffic on the Beaver Trail has allowed the grass to grow and lean in over the trail. The dew on the grass provides an unwanted soaking as you walk along the trail by Muskrat Bay. The morning glory/bindweed while not in bud yet, I growing rapidly and entwining itself around the other vegetation. The Duckweed Pond has regained its name now as it is almost entirely covered with the small green leaves of duckweed.


Jim Robertson - July 2nd

Did you know that it takes a painted turtle an hour and 25 minutes to dig a nest hole, lay 6 eggs, cover the eggs and pack the sand ???
It was 25° C when I left the house as the sun was just coming over the horizon. The mosquitoes were enjoying the humidity, I have never seen them so thick and persistent. But the dragonflies were enjoying the extra breakfast food !

Not much new since last Saturday's report, the water levels were down a little, found two snapping turtles up on shore, but not in the nesting area - one was sauntering down the beaver trail. The snappers withdraw into their shell when they see you, and if you get too close, they literally spin on their shell to face the adversary !

I added St Johnswort to the list of flowers blooming. A "new" variation of sweet pea is also in bloom, pink petals but a blue "nose".

No beaver or muskrats were in evidence, I think I heard the deer crashing through the underbrush on the south side of Turtle Pond. I scared up the heron three times again as I walked down the trail.

There were two fresh snapping turtle nests, (the raccoons had gotten to them of course) including one in the middle of the trail in an area where sand had been brought ashore by the flooding. The sand was only 2-3 inches deep, but she laid some eggs in it anyway; they did not last long !!! There were several fresh painted turtle nests as well, but they had all been dug up and eggs eaten by the raccoons.

When I returned to the parking lot, there was one painted turtle laying her eggs, and another one meandering over beside her. It took the newly arrived turtle 85 minutes to dig her hole, lay six 1.5" long, 3/4" wide oblong eggs and then cover them up. I am not sure how a turtle that small can produce that many eggs !! Relatively, the larger snapping turtles produce a lower volume of eggs.

Dispatch from Petrie - July 2, 2002 bonus

Boy if I though the mosquitoes were bad at sunrise, try after sunset when there are no dragonflies or birds around to go after them !!!! There were also plenty of fireflies flitting about.

I went down to try to get some shots of night activity, perhaps the raccoons finding the painted turtle nests from this morning.
I was not expecting the raccoons until 9:30 or later when it was darker, but a visitor returning to his car spotted two coming down a tree at 9:15. I grabbed my camera, only to find the lenses all fogged with the humidity. The mother raccoon was already on the ground, the kit was 2 feet up. I had a "discussion" with them, suggested that I would prefer them to come down the tree when my lenses cleared. I was eyeball to eyeball with them, about 2 feet away, and they were not keen to move back up the tree, but they did finally. It was not a noisy nasty discussion, just a few grunts and much staring. Fifteen minutes later they reappeared and I got my shots (I hope). Once on the ground, they don't hang around, but on a tree you can literally reach out and touch them, not that I recommend that ! There were several more raccoons checking out the garbage cans, but they would not pose for a garbage picking shot.

I quickly realized that the odds were very low that I would catch them at the turtles nest without sitting there half the night getting eaten alive, so I too a walk down to the snapping turtle nesting area. No luck with either raccoons or turtles, but there were several beaver out splatting their tails. They did not seem to mind my flashlight shining on them as they swam around. There were beavers in Turtle Pond, Muskrat Bay and the main river channel; not sure why they have not been around in the early AM.

Once it got quite dark, the bullfrog chorus started up in earnest. It was quite the sound as I walked down to the end of the trail and back.

Dispatch from Petrie - July 2, 2002 addendum

Well I am very glad that I did not wait around in the mosquito infested night for the raccoons to find the painted turtle nests. I check this AM (things are cooling off - it was down to 24° at sunrise) and fortunately, so far, the raccoons have not found the eggs.


Bill Bower - July 1st

Still more turtle nests this morning. I probably dug into 50 or more nests the last three mornings and haven't found a single egg. Raccoons got them all. Hope a few nests went undetected by both four and two legged animals.

Interesting discovery this morning at the far end where most of the turtle nests are. I picked up a female Map Turtle and discovered it was the same female we had at the Turtle Day last spring. She had been run over at some point in her life and had recovered nicely, I found her not more than 20 feet from where I picked her up last year. Only last year I found her much earlier.

Still water on the nature trail. Probably down to about 8 inches now at the deepest point.

The Wood Duck nest in the tree by the office has 10 eggs in it (down covered and warm). Al saw the female leave the box earlier in the morning. Looks like another successful nest. The duck nested on top of a large starling nest, which is always nice to see.


Bill Bower June 30th

Similar day to yesterday. Lots more snapping turtle nests, but again, no eggs located. Raccoons are cleaning up. Saw about 30 turtles including 6 Maps on that same log.

Water still high and even the diehard fishermen aren't venturing through. Looks like Jim and I are the only ones wading through.
Bird sightings included the House Wren, Cedar Waxwing and Swamp Sparrow.

Wild Flowers included pink, red, orange, blue, mauve, black and green ones. No, sorry, those colours refer to the Dragon Flies I saw. Guess I'll have to start using a recorder to keep things straight.


Jim Robertson - June 29th

There was a beautiful pinkish sunrise this AM. Someone must be trying to make up for the weather we have had the last few days.

The low sun's rays lit up the mist rising over the water to the east of the access road. There were several houseboats moored in the south channel towards the western end of the Island. The still water areas were covered with "summer snow", the poplar seed fluff. It made the eastern end of Turtle pond look scuzzy.

The "light" rains of the past day or so, have brought the water levels back up. The main trail is again flooded and knee high boots are needed to get down it. The Muskrat Trail is under water again. The small culvert on the main trail must have been plugged by the beaver as there is virtually no water going through it.

The highlight of the morning was finding three 12-16 inch snapping turtles in the sand areas and evidence of egg laying over night. The evidence being raccoon tracks and lots of freshly eaten eggs, some still with pieces of yoke in them. Last year no one reported seeing snapping turtles in the sand in daylight, they had all finished their business by sunrise, so it was a "find" to see three this morning. Bill Bower joined me somewhat later and we counted 6 or 7 fresh snapping turtle nests, none with any surviving eggs, and about 20 "false" nests as the turtle(s) changed her mind after digging down into the sand and moved on to another nearby spot. Bill also found several painted turtle nests, none again with any surviving eggs. Their eggs are slightly smaller than a snapping turtle egg, but elongated in shape.

Large fish were jumping or surfacing in many places - in the marsh, along the flooded areas of the trail and in flooded areas on the south side of Turtle Pond.

Fresh tracks were left by a large deer in the sandy area towards the end of the trail; it must have swum over from the Quebec side. There were no muskrats or beaver, but a couple of rabbits were around, including a very young one. Lots of raccoon tracks and several red and black squirrels and a very wet chipmunk. Many bullfrogs were in chorus. Several turtles were up on logs. One small log in the pond between the sand operations and the road to the parking lot had 13 turtles basking on it.

A heron was working the flooded trails for the minnows in the shallower sections, when I got too close it moved on down the trail, only be disturbed again as I moved on. An osprey flew over as did a small hawk (a sharp shinned ?). Other birds spotted were: yellow warblers, a downy woodpecker, the pilated woodpecker was around to be heard not seen, flickers etc etc A wood duck has apparently moved in to the nesting box by the interpretative cottage. Last year a wood duck used a natural cavity in the same tree as a nest.

Signs from the wildflower walk have survived for three weeks now ! Flowers spotted were:
Dame's rocket, white and purple
Vipers blugloss
Goat Rue
Cow vetch
Crown vetch
Nine Bark
Sweet pea
Birdsfoot trefoil
Daisy fleabane
Purple flowering raspberry
Goats beard
Anemone - some very waterlogged looking, but still blooming
Common winter cress
Yellow iris clumps
One lonely blue flag iris
Yellow water lilies
Bladder campion
Elderberry in bud

The canary grass is up 6-7 feet, many still at nose height though; the pollen sprays nicely into your nose when you bump the stem ! Some of the burdock is up 3-4 feet and showing some small buds.

Spiders had been busy spinning cobwebs at eye height overnight. The webs seem to replaced though when walking back down the trail! Lots of dragonflies of various types (pending ID's), mosquitoes aplenty.


Jim Robertson June 22nd

I have been out of town for a week and missed the heavy rains of last week. The recent rains, coupled with the rain earlier this month have brought the river levels back up. Not quite as high as the April levels, but certainly higher than the second flood in May.

It was very quiet this morning, no muskrats in Turtle Pond, I couldn't get to Muskrat Bay to see if any beavers were out for a swim. There was a marooned rabbit on the high section of ground at the trail narrows. Five or six full size killdeer were on the road together by the bait shop - maybe the family has grown up ? A heron was squawking further down the trail than I could get. Several bull frogs were croaking away in various locations.

Some of the anemones were sticking their blooms above the water, but many were blooming below the water and looked well drowned. The remaining carrion plants at the start of the trail have disappeared. There are still some common winter cress blooming as well as vipers blugloss, sweet pea, dames rocket, bladder campion, and fleabane. The nannyberry and dogwood have lost


20 June 2002 (Paul LeFort)

First day of summer! Yves and I took his boat and toured the islands, finding nothing that would be of use floating around. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot at lunchtime, as people seem prepared to drive thru the big puddles now. Only about six people bothered to walk thru the flood from the parking lot and enjoy the sun on the knoll. The balance of the area is eerily quiet (two rabbits, one cat, one osprey with fish in talons, half a dozen herons). It's kind of pleasant that way. As far as the western reaches are concerned, they are also quiet, not many birds, a few very large map turtles basking, no beavers or signs of them. We motored in and out of all the ponds, including the little one at the end of the trail. Very quiet indeed. A quick check of the similar geography on the Québec side showed the same results.

Claude Moreau, who runs the bait shop, mentioned to me that he is selling out and leaving in the fall for health reasons (three heart attacks). Interesting.  We may be able to pick up an aluminum boat dirt cheap (sales for unpaid rent).


13 June 2002 (Bill Bower)

Great morning at Petrie and great to see the sun again. Water high as Jim mentioned but not high enough to hold back the determined ones (with boots on).

 No new turtle nests although one had been out wandering about. I don't know what the holdup is as other areas are reporting lots of nesting activity. Our females are still taking it easy. I saw 12 female Map Turtles basking on that large log (old fallen tree) on the far side of the Turtle Pond. The bad news is that some of our turtles have taken to playing chicken with the traffic. One male painted turtle was run over and on the way out I found one snapping turtle (hatchling) run over and another alive. I guess it takes a trained eye to see the tiny ones but the larger ones should be avoidable. These hatchlings would have been from last years nests where the whole family voted to stay in the nest over the winter months. (I don't know how they make that group decision).

 Turtle Day is the 23rd. We should have a great selection of turtles (7 or 8 species) and if the weather is good an equally great selection of humans. I understand the NEW RO will be doing a "spot" from Petrie on Monday morning and Al and Michele will be on to talk about Petrie turtles and wildflowers. Every little bit helps.

 The fish population at Petrie is alive, well and expanding rapidly. When you look closely where the sun is shining in the water you will note many large schools of very tiny fish passing by (sunfish, bass, crappie, etc.) Often you would see one of these schools go by being followed closely by a very large small mouth bass. It wasn't after the fish, it was protecting them from whatever dared to approach.

 Garter snakes were out enjoying a bit of sunshine. One large one was hiding on the path at the far end. I managed to climb down from the nearest hardwood without serious injury.

 Jim can cover the wildflowers and birds on his next outing. I vote for the Pileated Woodpecker as the official bird of Petrie Island. Seems like they are always there and you either hear or see them on each visit.


12 June 2002 (Jim Robertson)

I went down to Petrie this morning in the rain and showers to see if the animals behaved any differently in the rain. And more particularly after the over 2 inches of rain we had yesterday. All I can say is that they were smarter than I. They stayed in their homes keeping nice and dry ! There were two very wet rabbits out and a few birds, but other than that - nothing. 
The water level was back up, but that was expected after all the rain. Three silver maples did not survive the heavy downpours of yesterday though. Two large ones, along the Turtle Trail, lost very large branches that fell into the water, one of them swamping the new turtle log which is now well under water at one end. 
There are lots of anemones blooming, but with many more buds ready to bloom in the next few days assuming we see the sun again. About 3-4 carrion plants have disappeared. There are still 3 along the road by the second cottage, and two on the Beaver Trail. The False Solomon Seal are blooming very nicely this year. 
A correction to my last report (June 8th) It seems that the egret we spotted was not an egret after all. I got closer (about 200 yards) to it this morning and it seems to be a some white flotsam and jetsam caught in some underbrush along the shoreline. The movement we saw last week from much further away through binoculars, must have been the breeze and water current moving it. I guess I had better stick to trying to identify plants that I can touch !!! 


8 June 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Arrived at Petrie in time for the non-sunrise this AM. A photographer/birder friend of mine was hoping to capture a beautiful sunrise such as I had succeeded in doing last year. 
We did a thorough walk of the Island. It was very quiet, not much activity at all, few fishermen for a Saturday, no rabbits, one muskrat, and a few beavers off in the distant in some of the backwaters. It was cool and cloudy and not one turtle was out for view. There were a few herons lurking about. 
A flicker seems to have made its home in the dead tree down by the snapping turtle nesting area. It is the same tree that the pileated woodpecker had attacked and gouged out a nesting hole for itself. I wonder if there are two nestings taking place in the same tree, less than 6 feet apart. 
We did spot two yellow flag iris and highbush cranberries that bloomed overnight and many more Jack-in-the-Pulpits, some very light green. 
Our major "find" though was an egret. It was on the south shore of the south channel about half a kilometre west of the culvert. It stayed there for well over 30 minutes. (Ed: and no wonder: see 12 June report!)
On the way out of the parking lot, by Crappy Bay, there was a baby killdeer on the road, one of four that I have been told are running about. 
Later in the morning when staking the wildflower for today's Wildflower Walk, we found a dead starry-nosed mole that was lying dead on the trail. 


7 June 2002 (Jim Robertson)

I did not go down to Petrie for the sunrise as I often do, but slept in and went down at 9AM to meet Al Tweddle to sort out details for the wildflower walk this weekend. 
I was glad I did go late as I would have missed the deer (doe) that charged out of the underbrush and into the parking lot as we headed for the Turtle Trail. She headed for the bicycle path. Not sure if she swam over from the Quebec side or moved in from the east where I have seen deer the other side of Trim Road, north of hwy 17. I have seen deer tracks before, but never the "real" thing. 
There were lots of turtles up on the various logs - well over 40, including 10 largish ones on the far side, likely Bill's map turtles. 
While Al and I walked around we noticed that some of the anemones are finally blooming, also spotted what we think are 6 carrion plants, not in bloom yet. 
There was a bull frog croaking in Muskrat Bay, last week I heard some smaller frogs doing their vocal thing. Still no fresh turtle nests - the one I reported on a few days ago was a last year one that a hungry raccoon or weasel dug up. 
While photographing a baby painted turtle that AL found last week, a loon swam close to the shore to see what the activity was about, but then spotted a fish and disappeared under water. 


6 June 2002 (Christine Hanrahan)

Further to my email of last night about the waxwings - I want to reinforce how important it is that people such as you submit records of unusual sightings (such as rare species e.g. least bitterns) and common species at unusual times (e.g. bohemian waxwings). It is only through these sorts of observations that the Bird Records Committee can update its database and keep our regional checklist up to date (this has nothing to do with the bird atlas, by the way). 
To let you know how important these records are: the data does not just stay here in Ottawa. Significant observations are sent to the Provincial committee comprised of Ornithologists who judge the records and whether to accept them (this can take years to do), as well, such records find their way into the International Publication produced by Cornell University and consulted by birders and scientists alike. 
When a record such as I indicated above is submitted, it may take the first committee (the local one) some time to come to a decision. They verify the observation by a number of means, they discuss it thoroughly, they may and probably will, check to see if the species in question has been reported from elsewhere at approx. the same time, either this year, or in prev. years, and if they are not happy about a decision they send it to the Prov. committee saying they can't make up their mind (rare). 
These things are not undertaken lightly, for the HUGE database of bird observations which goes into making up all sorts of scientific lists will be changed by observations that are significantly different from the norm. 
As an example, back in the mid-80's I found a common species, Bobolink, two weeks earlier than ever before recorded for Ottawa. I had to submit reports to all sorts of people and answer various questions, and about a year later my observation was accepted. When the next edition of the Ottawa checklist was prepared one single dot in the first week of April represented my observation! Since then this species has been found in the last two weeks of April, still early, but not as early and the latest checklist (1993) reflects this. 
So it may well be that in the years since 1993 others have reported reliable observations of bohemian waxwings AFTER the last known date recorded in this checklist and your sightings will confirm that they are being seen more frequently outside of their expected dates. On the other hand, if nobody has ever reported them in late May-early June, then yours will be the first, which does not mean that your record will be accepted. The Bird records Committees, both local and Provincial, have to be very, very careful and they need to be certain without a doubt that the record is correct. But that is as it should be. All of us in the birding world know the importance of careful and accurate observations. This way we all contribute to something important and of lasting value and that is a good feeling! 


6 June 2002 (Christine Hanrahan)

The Bohemian Waxwings should have passed through already.... they don't nest in this part of Ontario and in fact are normally absent from mid-April through to mid-October. However, the occasional lingering bird appears into May. As far as I know there are no records for this species being observed in June, based on about 100 years of bird records up to 1993. 
It may well be that the occasional one has been seen later than mid-May since then. So I would suggest that because this is an unusual record you should submit a report to the Bird Records Subcommittee of the Ottawa Field Naturalists' CLub so that such a late sighting can be discussed by the committee. You would submit a written record. The expert birders such as Bruce Di Labio and others would then discuss your report and possibly contact you. 
At this time of year there are scores of cedar waxwings passing through - they nest later in the season. 
Don't forget to keep your eyes open for nesting records at Petrie and elsewhere for the atlas. 


6 June 2002 (Bill Bower)

I had two good hikes yesterday, one to Petrie and the other to Shirley's Bay Game Preserve.

 That turtle nest was interesting, although no success. It appears the turtles came out of the eggs in the fall and then stayed in the nest all winter. Why they died I don't know. I found 15 dead ones and they had been dead for some time. Even the raccoon wouldn't eat them. The nest seemed to be in a good location.

 There are large carp in that pond on the right by the far ditch. I saw one make its way through that mess of sticks and debris to "freedom". I hope that all get out as they are no doubt hard on the small turtle population in that pond.

 Only other interesting things I noted were a pair of Bohemian Waxwings in the trees along the Beaver Trail. Maybe just passing through. I think they nest later anyway. I also saw quite a number of flocks of Canada Geese heading north. Some very large flocks, just like back in April. How do they know that the lakes they are heading to were still frozen, up until now?

 There was no obvious turtle nesting activity at Shirley's Bay yesterday either. I went looking for Blanding's Turtles (females) in the evening but found nothing. Everything is late.

 Although we don't have any at Petrie Island (at least not right now), the "big day" for fawns being born is June 7th (Friday). That should double the population in the west end, and everywhere else.


5 June 2002 (Jim Robertson)

I did a quick tour this morning to check out the flowers in advance of this weekend's Wildflower Walk. Compared to last year, there is not much blooming. (See list below)

Along the way I spotted one lonely turtle on a log (in the foggy-mist), three rabbits, a killdeer, several large fish in various areas of reedy shallows, "kicking" up quite a fuss.

The first signs of snapping turtles laying eggs with one nest dug up and raccoon tracks nearby.  I later realized that this was a nest from last year.

Flowers etc spotted: 
yellow rocket, winter-cress
Ferns: ostrich and sensitive
False solomon seal
Canary Grass
unidentified: miniature columbine like leaves, not quite in bloom
garlic mustard,
dames rockets,
poison ivy
bladder campion


1 June 2002 (Bill Bower)

Second shift reporting in. Great pics from Jim. Petrie must be the greatest spot around for Northern Orioles, Warbling Vireos, Flickers and Yellow Warblers. Never seen so many.

Lots of turtles. I counted over 80 and about 20 of them were Map turtles. They like that large tree in the water on the far side on the Turtle Pond about 3/4 the way down. There were 12 Map turtles on that log this morning. No sign of any turtle nests yet (?). I did find a painted turtle just out of the egg so it must have spent the winter in the nest. I placed a few logs in that small pond on the right at the far end (by the washout). When I came back about a half hour later there were three turtles on one of them. 

Saw a groundhog basking between the two ponds. Nothing unusual about that except it chose the top of a small hardwood, about 25 feet directly above the path.

Lots of Wood Ducks past the washout so perhaps a number of the Wood Duck nesting boxes in that area were or are being used. Scouts appeared to be having a great time around the office area.


1 June 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Winter has returned !! The summer snow was falling. Poplar seed fluff that is. 
Saturday brings out the fishing crowd. There were four people fishing before the sun came up. I never have seen anyone catch anything, but with the number of people that do fish there regularly they must catch something. 
The dogwood is starting to blossom, but most things are still feeling the effects of the flood waters. Hopefully the ground will dry out soon and the plants will get back to normal. Some ferns, that were not affected by the flooding, are over 6 feet high! Most are 2-4 feet high. I am not an expert on ferns, but there seems to be 5-6 varieties on the Islands. There are about 6 or 7 jack-in-the-pulpits amongst the ferns on the west end of the Beaver Trail. 
I don't recall seeing poison ivy last year - maybe I just did know to look for it, but I have spotted several areas with it this year. The main trail, just east of the fallen tree past the Beaver Trail is one spot to be careful. 
There was only one rabbit in evidence this AM, two beavers on the far side of Muskrat Bay and one muskrat by the small culvert. On the way back down the trail, the painted turtles were basking on any log they could find. There were 12-15 on the new viewing log on Turtle Trail. I found one large painted turtle jammed in a tight spot in the flotsam and jetsam. I extracted him, but he did not seem to have a lot of life left him. 
There were about 10-15 wood ducks around in various locations this morning, along with the pileated woodpecker and a baltimore oriole. There was one 
heron flying over the marsh on the north side of the North Service Road. A sandpiper was checking things out at the narrows on the main trail. 


30 May 2002 (Bill Bower)

As usual I took over the second shift. Didn't see much but, like Jim says, maybe the clouds of hungry mosquitos impaired my vision. It doesn't help when you forget to take insect repellent.

 I tried the fine art of fishing. Picked a good day. Fish everywhere. Perch, pumkinseed, bluegill, catfish, bass, crappie, gar-pike and carp. Didn't see any pike but I imagine they were around.

 Lots of turtles but no sign of nesting at all. One log was a basking site for 6 Map Turtles. Three of them were very large females. Good to see.

 Stayed about fifteen minutes too long. However, I needed a shower by then and it was nice to get the car washed on the way home. Everything should be dry by morning.


30 May 2002 (Christine Hanrahan)

I was at Petrie today too, but later than Jim as it was a spur of the moment thing.

Lots of mosquitoes for sure, and lots of birds. Phoebes, pewees, catbirds, orioles, great-crested flycatchers, veery, flickers, swainson's thrush, yellow warblers, etc. etc.

Lots of painted turtles using the logs, and one snapping turtle seen swimming. Several muskrats too. Everything looking lush and tropical today with a soft haze on the river.


30 May 2002 (Jim Robertson)

I arrived a little later than normal this morning, but I still seemed to be ahead of anything or anyone else, except the mosquitoes !! It was a very muggy, windless, heavily clouded morning with fog lying low on the river and marsh. Perfect conditions for the mosquitoes and they knew it !!! 
It is nice to see the narrow sand "beaches" are back along the main river channel just north of the trail. The water level is well down, all areas on the trail are now accessible - if you don't mind slippery mud, damp musty smells and dank, sodden areas of vegetation. There are several areas along the shore where the high water has undermined several stumps by eroding the earth out from under the roots. 
Ferns are generally up and out of fiddlehead stage, but there are some still starting their growth. They are that lovely fresh green spring colour. The human traffic is now reclaiming the Beaver Trail from the ferns. 
Winter cress are still blooming well, some false solomon seal, blue violets, strawberries, wild lily of the valley and some honeysuckle also in bloom. The anemones are in very small bud. Some small jack-in-the-pulpits are blooming along the Beaver Trail. Lots of virgina creeper creeping everywhere. 
There were some ducks at the small culvert on the trail, mallards this time. The pilated woodpecker was around a little, but did not make an appearance around the nesting hole it dug out at the top of a tree many weeks ago. Fish in Turtle Pond were making large ripples as they came close to the surface. I could not see the fish, but judging from the size of the ripples, I suspect they were gar. 
During the past week, the beavers have continued to bring trees down and chew bark off downed trees. Hopefully they will stop very soon. They are doing a lot of damage. 
There were very few furry animals around this AM. Two beavers were swimming in the distance in Muskrat Bay, two more in the south channel of the river, one muskrat was preening himself at the west end of Turtle Pond, one red squirrel was hopping along the trail. 
There are no signs of any turtle egg laying yet. But the painted turtles seem to be enjoying the new log put in place for them by the viewing bench on the Turtle Trail. 


25 May 2002 (Jim Robertson)

There was no nice sunrise this morning as the sky was perfectly cloudless. The sun simply came up as a yellow ball. The calendar says May 25th, but the frost on the ground said April 25. Mist was rising off the water in the marsh as three fishermen were getting their rods out by the large culverts. 
The beavers have downed a few more trees by the parking lot during the second flooding. Maybe they needed to get at the bark as their normal reeds etc. foodstuff have not been growing during the flood. The water has come down about 2 feet in the last 10 days, after having risen 18" during the second flooding. But it has some 3 feet to go down yet to match last year's lowest level. You still need 6-8" high boots to get down the trail. Some parts of the trail are very slippery where the water has recently receded. 
There were two wood duck pairs in the bay by the parking lot as well as another pair on the north side of the trail at the end of Turtle Pond. Some mallards were swimming around in flood ponds by the picnic area. Other birds around were: sandpiper, flickers, downy woodpecker, warblers, a pileated woodpecker was hammering away on the south side of Turtle Pond. While no herons were to be seen this morning, there were many heron tracks in the wet sand by the snapping turtle nesting area. Several baltimore orioles have been seen during the week. 
With access to most areas being restricted by the high water levels, the ferns are doing their best to re-claim the trails, particularly Beaver Trail. Many ferns are 2-3 tall and almost fully unfurled. But some are still in the more tightly curled fiddle head stages. 
Turtle Pond seemed to be Beaver Pond this morning. There was one beaver at the picnic bench on the main trail, who waddled into the water when I appeared. He flapped his tail, which seemed to arouse the curiosity of three more who swam by to see what the problem was. Two more beaver were at the west end of Turtle Pond, including one up on a down tree gnawing away at the bark. Two were in the main river channel just off shore and another two were swimming in Muskrat Bay. 
Blue violets, strawberries, gill-over-the-ground, winter cress were blooming. 
There were no signs of snapping turtle having laid eggs, but their tracks were around, as were raccoon tracks. 
The amount of new sand brought in by the flood in various areas is quite amazing. 


25 May 2002 (Bill Bower)

Beautiful morning as Jim noted. I tallied 31 species in the short time I was there. Saw the beaver, muskrats, groundhogs and squirrels. Makes you wonder how they survived the flood.

Some small fish and minnows are trapped in the small ponds north of the turtle pond. An easy lunch for some bird or animal.

Like Jim, I didn't see where any turtles had nested yet. I guess the water, or air, or sand or whatever temperature isn't high enough yet. I did see some large Map turtles basking over in the back channel.

The crows were mobbing something and it turned out to be a Great Horned Owl. Got a nice view of it before it headed west with the "mob" following.

Lots of Orioles, Warbling Vireos and Yellow Warblers. Best sightings were the Northern Waterthrush, Black Tern, Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler and Wilson's Warbler. Here is one for Christine:- On MAy 24th 2000 I found a male Wilson's Warbler in the thick bush just west of the parking lot. It was there for three weeks. On May 21st 2001 I found a male Wilson's Warbler in the same bush. This morning (May 25th) there was another male Wilson's Warbler there again. Is it the same one? That is the only place I have seen Wilson's Warblers. Interesting.

Anyway, just as I was leaving Al showed up to take over the third shift and together we watched a groundhog practising some tree climbing exercises.


14 May 2002 (Paul Le Fort)

Just went to check if the islands were still there. Water has risen since yesterday - I watched a Ford F-150 pickup go thru the part of the road just before the turn to the sand operation: water over the hubcaps. The current is now running quite nicely back from the eastern ice shack access along the road to a place just after the culvert.

I'm thinking Arizona might be a nice place to visit right about now!


10 May 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Not much to report this morning, the water level has been fluctuating the last few days. This morning it is up enough that you can not get down the main trail without hip waders - knee high boots won't do. The Turtle Trail is flooded again. 
Other than a squirrel, there were no four legged animals around. A Canada goose was swimming by the picnic bench at the narrows section of the main trail. A few herons were off in the distance in the marsh, I could hear a killdeer calling east of the bait shop. Lots of warblers, robins etc. plus swallows catching insects on the fly. 
The yellow rocket, or common winter cress, is starting to bloom. I haven't seen any violets yet, but I am sure there are some around. 


6 May 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The muskrats must have been having a breakfast meeting this morning as there were only two to be seen - one at the culverts by the bait shop and one on his usual perch in the middle of Turtle Pond. But the beaver were out in good numbers. I counted seven: one on Muskrat Trail by the parking lot, two on the north side of the small culvert on the main trail, one on the south side at the same point. Another three were patrolling the west end of Muskrat Bay. 
The beavers have been busy this spring, aside from the downed trees at the parking lot, there are several being worked on, or downed, along the main trail. At the end of the main trail, the path is littered with knarled branches and twigs stripped of their bark. 
The water has receded to the point that, with knee boots and careful foot placement, you can make it all the way down the trail. There is quite a variety of flotsam and jetsam left behind by the flood: tires, pails, Styrofoam, logs, reeds, and a surprising amount of fresh sand. The water still have another foot to come down to where the levels were usually last summer. 
There were more skeins of geese this morning than the last few visits. The first raven I have seen at Petrie was in aerial combat with crows. This raven was much larger than the crows, but he certainly was not winning the duels. A pair of Kingfishers were diving for breakfast along the shoreline of the main river channel. Two herons flew out of tree and did a fly by over Turtle Pond. A robin, when no one was around, built her nest in the picnic shelter, she will find out very soon that was not the best place as she will be disturbed constantly. 
Four wood ducks were within eyesight range. Two swimming by the main culverts, and two in trees by the interpretative cottage. 
The ferns are still in fiddle head stage, either just coming out of the fronds, or up to 10" high. The canary grass is about 8-10" high. The pussy willows are passed their pollen stages. 
There was one rabbit hopping about as well as a chipmunk, red squirrel and the usual black squirrels. 


30 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Well the water came down in a hurry last Saturday, almost a foot. It has gone down somewhat since, perhaps a total of 18 inches since its peak last Wednesday (24th), but it still has a long way to go. 
The road to the sand operations has had gravel added to it, but it is not well graded, so look out for foot-high mounds of gravel. 
The parking lot is now accessible, although the Turtle and Muskrat Trails are still under water. With boots you can get through the 6-8" deep water to the knoll at the narrows just past the start of the trail. The current is still strong enough to give your foot a good sideways push as you lift it to take the next step. 
I only saw two land based animals, a rabbit and a squirrel. There were a few muskrats around, including one swimming along the bike path in the woods by the sand operations. 
There was an agitated beaver swimming on the north side of the narrows, once he spotted me he splatted his tail, dove, resurfaced, splatted, dove etc. etc. every 5 yards as he swam slowly away. 
The beavers have brought down three trees along the muskrat trail and stripped most the bark from one. The wind brought one tree down at the east end of the Turtle Trail. 
There are still some geese flying by in skeins (apologies for the earlier misspellings), but far fewer than several weeks ago. There were a good number of ducks around as well, mallards, mergansers, wood and a pair of blue winged teals (I had to look them up in my book) by the bait shop. A loon was patrolling Turtle Pond, while a Heron was stalking breakfast along the flooded trail. 
As I was leaving, a birder arrived with his binoculars and started naming all the smaller birds he was hearing and seeing. Guess I miss a lot not being an intensive bird watcher. 
Saturday a lesser yellowlegs (had to look him up too) stopped by. Several Kingfishers have been around the last few days as well. 


25 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The river levels have not changed appreciably for a few days now, which is good news. There were several trucks sloshing along the road into the sand operations this morning. The road north of the causeway has quite a current crossing it, the surface of the road looks as though it is being washed away. Time will tell.... 
There was a kingfisher sitting on the hydro wires next to the road this morning. The regular killdeers had not put in an appearance yet. Maybe there were still watching the nice pink sunrise from another vantage point. No ducks were in sight, but the number of redwing blackbirds made up for the lack of ducks. A (the?) Beaver was on the road on the north side of the causeway again this morning. 


23 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The river is only up an inch or so from yesterday morning. The water levels up stream have levelled off, so may be we have seen the peak. The water is about one quarter of the way across the road at the bait shop south of the causeway. 
The sand extraction operation has not stopped working. A large dump truck with a load of sand slowly made its was through the flooded road north of the causeway. It was throwing up a good wake with the water being within an inch or two of its bumper. 
There were a few mallard pairs swimming along the edge of the road, a killdeer on the road and several pairs of red-winged blackbirds on what few bull rushes are left above the water line. 
Other than that no other signs of "life" were to be seen. 


22 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The river has apparently not peaked yet as "they" say there is another 3-4 inches yet to come. You can still get to the causeway, but the road north of the big culverts is flooded. 
You can easily see why the water, at times, flows so heavily from Turtle Pond into the main river channel even though they are the same body of water, being connected via the south channel. The causeway/culverts act as a dam on the south channel, raising the water in Turtle Pond. This morning the water levels at the culverts looked to be about 6-10 inches higher than the water "falling" through the culverts. 
I can imagine the one or two high points of land on the islands are being well used by the animals trying to get out of the water; from the south shore you can see the entire islands are flooded. The four legged furry critters might have to learn new interpersonal skills to get along with each other. 
Sunday morning I saw a beaver walking across the road at the causeway. The current through the culverts was obviously too strong for him. 
This morning produced my first heron of the year. It was flying over the marsh. Guess he was looking for his favourite fishing spot in the bull rushes. It will have to wait for the water to recede. 


20 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Well, they said to expect flooding..... Notwithstanding the 1998 pictures elsewhere on this website, I thought what we saw late last fall was flooding enough, but guess not. 
The water is about 12" above its peak of last year, and another 12-24" is expected before the water levels recede. 
The parking lot is an isthmus into the "extension" of Turtle Pond. Turtle Pond and the main channel are now one body of water joined in many places from the parking lot/play area and westward. There were fish swimming on the first north-south trail from the interpretative cottage to the Turtle Trail as I sloshed my way along it. 
At the start of main trail, the current between Turtle Pond and the main channel was equivalent to a minor torrent. The water was 16" deep (I know as my boots are 15" high) in places and the pressure of the flowing water dragged my leg towards the river whenever I took a step. 
The muskrats did not seem to concerned with the extra water, as usual there were 4 or 5 between the parking lot and the start of the trail. One rabbit was on high ground at the narrows, I briefly caught sight of a white and black cat on the same hill, but could not find it when I went looking for it. 
There was no way to get to the beaver lodge on Muskrat Bay, but I doubt very much if the second storey the beavers added to the lodge last year was high enough to keep them dry. 
The Robins were having a feast with all the worms coming out of the flooded ground, but there was slightly stir-crazy flicker hammering away on the rusty 45 gallon drum. He must have thought he was practising to join a Caribbean band. 


16 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Bill Bower certainly has a better eye than I for the ducks, but then that is why he is the President of the Ottawa Duck club !! 
A few other things to add to what Bill reported on... 
A turkey vulture flew over while Bill, my son and I were talking. First one I have seen at Petrie. 
The marsh is completely free of ice, as are most of the inner ponds/waterways except for the south shore of Turtle Pond and Muskrat Bay in the more sheltered areas. There were largish fish splashing in along the flooded shoreline, but the water was too murky to see what it was. Maybe gar ? 
We can attest to Bill's many turtle sightings; I have never noticed turtles in the back ponds before. 
We saw many muskrats, youths and adults, but no very young ones, they will be out later I guess. There was one beaver out for a swim, but they tend to out earlier than we were there today. 
One of the several wasp nests has fallen down and is being worked on by the many insects and moisture on the ground. There was one mourning cloak butterfly flitting about. Many more pussy willows are out. Some of the trees have very large buds ready to pop. 
The pileated woodpecker was no where to be seen. Maybe in her nesting hole ?? 
The canary grass is staring to sprout as are a few ferns showing a few spots of green growth. 


16 April 2002 (Bill Bower)

Ran into some pretty unsavory characters this morning at Petrie. A number of them were in my favourite fishing holes.

Hooded Mergansers were ganging up on schools of smaller fish. In one spot there were 14 females together. Perhaps the fishing was better without the males around explaining the proper way to do it.

The Bufflehead were there but it was hard for me to tell where the mating rituals left off and the fishing began. Seemed to be a lot of underwater activity going on.

The Goldeneye were getting their share as well. Small stuff, but heck, that's what I bring home from fishing sometimes.

Common Mergansers were everywhere with the males keeping one eye on the females and the other on the lookout for fish. Bigger ducks require bigger fish to fill bigger bellies.

Those fish that headed out through the big culvert and into the river channel in an attempt to escape were met by the lightening reflexes of a Common Loon patrolling the waters. I don't know how they avoid choking to death.

On a more serious note, the turtles were out early (long before the sun was out) and stayed late (well after the sun had set). I counted 12 turtles on one of the ponds way at the back (on the left after you cross the "one plank" bridge).

Besides the Loon and the Goldeneye I found a Hermit Thrush and a Flicker (new sightings).

Jim was out with his son and was showing him the great wonders of Petrie Island. Perhaps they saw more than I did.


12 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Bill's turtle yesterday certainly confirmed spring is here to stay. The slowly receding ice is allowing many other animals to become more active after leaving their lodges or coming back from warmer climes. 
The south river channel is wide open now and there are open patches in the marsh. Ducks very quickly move into these ice-free areas. There were a few redwing blackbirds in the marsh. With so many of the redwings being around a few weeks ago, I am not sure why there were not more out in the rushes claiming territories. 
There are fewer scans of geese than a week ago. I guess they are starting to spread out and nest. (Although driving by the corn fields north of the Queensway the day before you would think all the geese are still around.) There are now more ducks doing flybys as they are returning from the south. 
There were several pairs of mergansers on the north side of the small culvert on the main trail, they are very skittish and don't let anyone get close. On the way back I saw they had moved to the narrows area (100 yards west of the start of the main trail) and were joined by 4-6 bufflehead ducks. I had not seen the buffleheads in so close to shore before. There were 15-20 wood ducks in the trees at the start of the Beaver Trail. 
The pileated woodpecker was either in the newly dug out home, or off somewhere else on the island, as it was not to be seen. Two flickers flew by as did many other smaller birds. There was a killdeer on the grass north of the parking lot; in the same area where a killdeer laid three eggs on the open ground last year, none of which survived. 
The rabbits were no where to be seen, but beaver and muskrats were - as was one weasel. A small hole in the ice allowed one muskrat to get up on one of the turtle logs by the viewing bench. While another small hole in the Muskrat Bay ice allowed another muskrat to do a seal imitation with it poking its nose and head up through the "breathing hole". There was another muskrat by the small culvert. While watching this muskrat, a beaver surfaced just behind me, spotted the human form and quickly did its splashing dive, giving me a minor shower in the process. 
In Muskrat Bay, the ice has moved back off the shoreline. That restricts the beavers' above water activity to the shorelines. I saw a few small ripples at the water's edge just off the trail and then a black sodden "clump" slowly moved up into the shrubs and flattened canary grass about 10 yards away. After about 30 seconds it spotted me and moved as quickly as a groggy beaver can, off the land back into the water to swim along the shoreline. 
A weasel scurried through the underbrush by the small culvert. It looked like the long-tailed weasel I photographed last year. This year he did not want any portraits taken. 
Also with the snow gone, the leaf litter is showing the bottom halves of many snow tunnels made by small animals burrowing below the snow's surface during the winter. 
The spiders are back out as well, I wish someone else would walk down the trails before me to clear the face-height webs !! 
The moss in the main turtle nesting area was glistening bright greens and oranges in the rising sun. Several more pussy willows in other areas of the islands have started to showing their fuzzy "pods". 
The freshly graded road and the parking lot being open now, has attracted the teenagers and their cars back, doing "donuts" in the sand of the parking lot. 


11 April 2002 (Bill Bower)

I went to Petrie this morning, first time in over two months, to look for waterfowl. Actually I did quite well. I found 7 species including Wood Ducks, Hooded and Common Mergansers and a couple Bufflehead. More geese on the river than you could count.

I saw Jim's Pileated Woodpecker nest hole at the far end where the path crosses between the two ponds. Looks like she means business. The hole is about 40 feet up so it will be hard to get good photos. Other sightings included Brown Creeper, Killdeer and Fox Sparrow.

There is a "useful" old dock that floated in near the big culvert. It is about 10 feet long. I pulled it in a bit. It would make a great loafing platform. Even has an "eye" to attach a wire to for a weight. Two guys could lift it over to the inner side.

No activity around the "Wood Duck Tree" next to the office.

Now for the surprise. I told certain people some time ago that I would find turtles by April 15th. Last year I found my first one on April 16th. Except for the main river channel and the back channel there is very little open water. In the odd place there is a bit of open water next to shore. In the Turtle Pond, in the cove next to the parking lot, I found a male Painted Turtle. You could cover the area with a sheet of paper. There was a bit of sunshine but not much. So now I have pictures of a turtle on ice. At one point it attempted to go down through a hole in the ice but the hole was too small. Photos never lie you know and of course you can't doctor them. Jim told me that one. Anyway, our distinguished leader was there to have his picture taken with our "earliest" chelonian friend. Actually, it has only been 140 days since I saw my last turtle back on November 22nd. Who says it's a long winter for a turtle!


5 April 2002 (Jim Robertson)

It was a nice bright morning when I looked outside. It seemed like a nice day for a walk so I headed to Petrie. I soon I felt like I was in space - one side of my body was chilled with the brisk north breeze coming off the river, while my other side was well warmed by the sun. 
The road to the parking lot, past the access to the sand operations, is quite rough as it is covered with frozen potholes. 
While the main river channel has been ice-free for several weeks, the inland water bodies, as well as the south channel, are still frozen over. 
A good portion of the main trail is covered with spring sugar snow. The western portions more so than the eastern portions. 
There were few four legged animals around, just a chipmunk and a few squirrels, but scans of geese flew over every 3-4 minutes. Some quite low, others higher. 
I watch a pileated woodpecker working on a new nesting hole for about 10 minutes. The wood chips were flying as it laboured quietly (for a change). Its body, almost fully blocking the hole, prevented the usual loud hammering noise from being heard. It managed to get about ¾ of its body into the hole at this point so I expect it will be all the way in a day or so. 
The pussy willows are almost fully out, but with the cool weather, they have shown no inclination to move to their pollen stage yet. 


24 March 2002 (Jim Robertson)

It was a winter wonderland at Petrie this morning with all the trees and shrubs dusted lightly with fresh snow. The long shadows of the rising sun were spreading out over the deep fresh white snow. But this is the end of March after a mild winter ! What is going on ??? 
Last week most of the snow was gone, today it was 4-6 inches deep with drifts up to 20" deep! Cross country skis were the order of the day to go any distance. The river water level is down 12-15 inches which made crossing previously flooded sections of the trail interesting as the ice "bridges" collapsed under the skis. 
The red-winged blackbirds on bull rushes looked strange with the marsh solid white with snow. There were two male and one female mergansers out in the main river channel, three downy woodpeckers were continuing to tear apart the top branches of dead trees. The pileated woodpecker was working as well, he was no where to be seen, but he certainly was to be heard ! A group of starlings were after the red seed "pods" on top of the sumacs at the narrows. A nuthatch and a few chickadees completed the bird sightings. 
A few black and grey squirrels were collecting seeds, but no other animals were to be seen. There were lots of tracks around though, more rabbit tracks than with the past few visits. There was no sign of any beaver having broken through the ice and come up on the snow looking for fresh food. The muskrats had not been up out of the open water around the culvert on the trail. There were 4 or 5 areas where skirmishes had occurred over night between four legged animals but no tufts of fur or other evidence of damage being done to each other. 
There were several holes in the snow , varying in diameter from 2-3 inches to 6-8 inches that were meccas for animal tracks - both the homeowner and others looking for a meal. These holes were mainly in woodpiles or old beaver lodges, but they were also in heavily matted grassed areas. 
The pussy willows have burst their buds and showing their "fur". Guess spring will be back with us soon. 


11 March 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The winds were down from their gale force of yesterday, but there were still white caps out on the main channel. The river was dotted with small chunks of ice, plus some larger floes drifting east. The extended shoreline is strewn with large shards of ice piled on their sides from the wind. 
All the ice huts are back onshore, but one dedicated ice fisherman was sitting on a chair 50 yards off shore with his back to the -18°C wind-chill. I hope he caught something to make it worthwhile. 
The walking was very tricky, the first part of the trail was undulating polished ice, I only went flying on my derrière twice. I spent so much time watching where my feet were going to step that a moose could have been 15 yards ahead on the trail and I might have missed it ! 
I did however spot 6 black squirrels, 10-15 redwing blackbirds, several red polls and chickadees, a flock of mourning doves and a nuthatch. Both Paul Lefort and myself separately saw small flocks of Canada geese flying near Petrie on the weekend 
There was not much fresh unblown snow to record tracks, but I did spot some trails of ¾” wide paws with 5 clearly delineated toes; a racoon I suspect. Another set of prints were nearby: larger shamrock shaped, 4 no-clawed toes, large pad at the back of paw. A small bob cat perhaps. (The 4 toes, rather than 5, makes the identification dubious ?) 
There were also tracks from a tiny pawed animal with no apparent tail dragging. There were three tiny oval paws about 3/8” by ½” with the footprints being 6-8” apart. (The fourth paw was within one of the three). There were several 2” and 6” dirt-surrounded-holes in the iced snow along the main trail where animals have been surfacing from the ground below the snow. 
The water level was high, but not any higher than the peak in the late fall. It was within an inch of inside top of the small culvert along the trail. You need boots to get through the open water at the trail narrows. The open water was 8-14 inches deep. 
Looks like some kids had been out winter “camping” as there was a 4 foot high “igloo” build along Beaver trail with ashes from a small bonfire in the canary grass. 
The wind had brought down lots of small twigs down, but no trees or large branches. 


17 February 2002 (Bill Bower)

I see Jim was hot on our trail out there around the islands. Thursday was a beautiful day but we (Dale Crook and myself) didn't see much bird or animal life. We found a number of squirrel nests in the Wood Duck boxes but no live squirrels. It's always exciting to remove a squirrel nest with a live squirrel (or two) in it.

Results weren't bad but not as good as they were last spring (2000). Two of our 12 boxes were down. One fell from natural causes and another was removed by persons unknown. Hope they used it as a nesting box and didn't burn it. Out of the 10 boxes we found, 4 were used by Wood Ducks. Three nests were very successful while a fourth was predated. Looked like a weasel or a mink had found the nest, climbed in and ate all the eggs. You can tell by looking at the egg shells. The female Wood Duck escaped. In total, we had about 50 eggs laid and about 40 eggs hatched successfully.

The two lost boxes were replaced with two new boxes. One new box has been installed by the office, where the Wood Duck nested successfully in the tree cavity last spring. If that female or one of her brood (female) return this spring it will be interesting to see if they choose the natural cavity again or the nesting box.

This spring will be our 15th and Petrie Island.  When I look at the results from Petrie Island over 14 seasons I note that we have had 632 Wood Duck eggs laid in our boxes at Petrie and 507 of those eggs have hatched. Not bad results from one small area. We used to have boxes at Green's Creek, the islands off of Rockland, Lower Duck Island and opposite the Rockland Golf course on the Ottawa River, but we finally gave up on those areas as we were having very poor results. We were just raising starlings. We used to have starlings in our boxes at Petrie Island but none the past two years (?).


15 February 2002 (Jim Robertson)

It was VERY quiet this morning. No birds, wild animal tracks etc. at the easterly end by the parking lot. I finally found some squirrel tracks down by the Beaver Trail. Three woodpeckers showed up for breakfast at 9 am at the western end of the Islands along with a solitary crow. No mice tracks, no rabbit tracks.

But there was a solitary animal, by its tracks I would say medium dog-sized, that had been meandering around the western reaches. At one point its tracks mysteriously ended at a stump. No back tracking, nothing to climb. Don't know where it went.

There was also signs of a smaller animal having adopted the two quite old beaver lodges on the ridge between the south channel and Muskrat Pond. Both lodges are 3-4 feet above the water line and in the fall you could see they were well weathered, I don't know how old they are. The inhabitant is obviously well trained as it has been coming out of the lodge to "relieve" itself. There were tracks coming out of a 4" hole in the adjacent old lodge that I followed for about 100 feet.  The animal then went subterranean again through a hole in snow.

There are a few areas where very large 2" thick vines have grown over several tall trees. The vines are well hidden in the summer with the leaves. As are several tiny bird nests that I spotted.

It looked like the Duck Club of Ottawa had been out cleaning the nesting boxes yesterday. Several nests must have had occupants as cleaned out nesting material was much in evidence by some boxes.

The cat tails seem to lie in wait for you. They look like a hot dog on a stick, nice and solid, but when you brush them with your leg, they seem to spring into action and "throw" their seedlings all over your legs.


7 February 2002 (Jim Robertson)

The snow is now deep enough for comfortable cross-country skiing. The freezing rain last week has left enough of a crust below the surface snow that your skis do not get caught up in the canary grass as they did last year. But there is a layer of water in some places on the ponds and inlets over the ice but below the snow. If you get into that, your skis grind to a halt with frozen slush on the ski base. 
Animals tracks were as usual much in evidence: rabbit, mice, (tracks on the snow and burrows below the snow) the odd squirrel and some fine-pawed animal was making the rounds all over the island. One muskrat lodge had been freshly torn open. Not sure if the predator got a meal out of it or not. One or two tufts of fur, so perhaps. 
There were several crows around, Paul Lefort mentioned that he saw 2 crows chasing a grey owl. The pileated woodpecker was hammering away, as was a hairy woodpecker. 
By the old beaver lodge, one hollowed, rotten in the centre, tree that had been girdled by the beavers two years ago has been toppled over by the wind. The trunk is torn vertically for about 15-20 feet up from the base. The tree trunk and top are caught up in the silver maple. 
There are more ice-fishing huts out now, but not as many as last year. They are also staying closer to shore east of the sand dredging area. It is likely a good idea as there are still numerous areas of open water in the main channel of the river. 
Around 9 AM, two skidoos did a tour of the south channel and part of the main trail. They must have been going too fast to see the three no ski-dooing signs they drove by. 


16 January 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Petrie is not ready yet for you to bring skis or snow shoes yet, bring waterproof boots at least 8 inches high if planning to go down the main trail. 
The water is continuing its yo-yo imitation. It was higher than last week, but still not as high as it was two weeks ago. The flow was heavy across the main trail as the water seemed to be about 3-4 inches higher in Turtle Pond than in the main river channel. That is the biggest difference I have ever seen. The different levels is odd as Turtle Pond is connected to the south river channel which is an offshoot of the river itself. I assume the large culverts in the Petrie access road are acting as a dam and thus backing up the water flow. 
I was the first human down the trails, so the animal tracks had not been obliterated yet. There were lots of mouse, rabbit and squirrel tracks. The mouse trails were evident with tracks on the surface of the snow and myriads of snow tunnels. 
A muskrat had been for a refreshing (?) walk on the snow by the small culvert on the trail. The water is still open on the north side with the heavy flow. There are two, at least, muskrats living in dens, with underwater access, in the shoreline (as compared to lodges in the shallow water) at that point. 
There were two other animals that been out last night as well. One left a short trail of paw prints with 4 toes and a central pad, the print was about 1.5 inches across. The more prevalent tracks though were somewhat larger and more dog-like with no central pad and five toes arranged in a spade like shape. (The scat left behind was not dog-like though) 
At one point there was an obvious mixing of these larger tracks with the mouse tracks. A lot of activity shown in the snow and likely the mouse suffered its demise. 
A woodpecker was busy drilling in the woods, but it was not loud enough to be the pilated woodpecker. A flock of some 15-20 house finches was around as were the usual chickadees. 
There were a few people fishing out on Crappy Bay. As I walked up the Beaver trail I was startled by a large brown "thing" out in the middle of Muskrat Bay. It was solitary fisherman huddled on his stool. That is a long way to drag an ice-auger. Hope he was rewarded with a good size fish ! 
I arrived back at the car to find two cars occupied with Tim Horton coffee drinkers, plus another person starting down the trail. And some people think Petrie is only a summer place !


11 January 2002 (Jim Robertson)

Guess I had better dig out my hip waders ! The water levels this morning were the highest I have seen them in two years, including spring. Many parts of the trails are badly flooded. 
There is plenty of evidence of the water levels having been higher since I was last at Petrie, December 29. Inch thick ice is stuck to trees, some times in 10 foot long suspended sections between trees, 10-12" above the current water level. The square bench at the west end of the Turtle trail had obviously been lapping in water and ice on three sides. 
The main river channel is wide open, but 2-3 sq. ft. shards of river ice are jumbled up in long piles off the shore. While the ice fishing huts are still in the storage yard, there were about 10 people ice fishing from chairs out on the shore ice this morning. The ice in the marsh and on the various inland waterways looks like mushy, rotten spring ice. Not sure I would want to be out there fishing. 
The Islands were very quiet, other than the people fishing. A couple of raccoon (?) tracks and some holes in the snow where small animals had been digging tossing up dirt and leaves. The rabbits seem to have been drawn to the branches of the tree that fell across the trail a few months ago. Most of the smaller branches have been recently stripped of their bark. The woodpeckers have attacked two trees in particular. Both trees were "felled" by beavers, but were hung up by other trees. The bark on the smaller branches has been flailed at by the woodpeckers leaving the branches bare, but the snow below littered with bark bits. 
Only wildlife to be seen this morning were two squirrels, a downy woodpecker, a few chickadees, finches and one nuthatch. Hopefully the beaver and muskrats have not been swamped in their lodges by the high water levels. 


Click here to read dispatches from 2001.