Early November, 2013, at the garden

by Christine Hanrahan

The FWG’s November blog is up and running now (http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_november_2013). It was kick-started by some excellent photos from Robert Berry. I’ve added a few more, and there’ll be more to come as the month progresses.

Incipient winter is felt in the decreasing numbers of birds and the almost entire lack of insects at the garden now. However, one hardy clouded sulphur was still fluttering around on the edge of the Old Field, and several flies were clustered high up on the sunny walls of the interpretive centre. A small brown moth flew up from the grass near the butterfly meadow and vanished before I could get a good look. Diane says it could be either bruce’s spanworm (Operophtera bruceata) or the autumn moth (Epirrita autumnata). There will still be a few insects and spiders, but hard to find.

As for birds, a big flock each of robins and starlings made for a cacophonous din. Smaller numbers of house finches, chickadees, cardinals, cedar waxwings, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, and white-breasted nuthatches were also found. Overhead, ring-billed gulls and flocks of canada geese. We should start to see tree sparrows and other late autumn visitors soon. I’ve found the tree sparrows elsewhere around Ottawa, and I’ve heard reports of snow buntings in the area. They sometimes appear on the farm, and in the big (recently cut) crop field by the red barn.

Black-capped chickadee nest cavity in birch tree

Black-capped chickadee nest cavity in birch tree

While walking past the Ash Woods, I saw that one of the birch snags (standing dead tree), containing an old cavity nest site, had fallen and smashed into several pieces. A few years ago in winter, a downy woodpecker began to work on this birch snag looking for food. In the spring of the following year, a pair of black-capped chickadees spent a considerable time excavating the cavity as a nest site. They worked endlessly on it, ferrying mouthful after mouthful of excavated material away from the site. But after much work, they abandoned the site. When I picked up the bit with the hole (cavity) in it, it fell apart in my hands, revealing the interior where the chickadees had worked. Pretty impressive work for two small birds!

Red squirrels are very noticeable now, and chipmunks are particularly busy stocking their underground larders before hibernating for the winter (well, they are not true hibernators, but that’s another story).

***I’ve created a new gallery to show the work of participants in Barry Cottam’s photography workshop held in early autumn at the FWG. The photos are gorgeous! I really encourage you to take a look. The three best shots of each photographer’s work, selected by themselves, is posted here: http://www.pbase.com/fwg/photo_workshop_2013

April 8, 2013 at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

I am happy to tell you that the FWG’s April photo blog is now up and running. I was at last able to drive to the garden (hooray!) and, after an absence of 10 weeks, it felt good to be back.

As I got out of the car, the first thing I heard was the wonderful sound of multiple song sparrows singing. There were at least 6 in the BYG and another 14 or 15 around the rest of the garden.

After spending a few minutes in the BYG, I walked over to the pond and new woods, and immediately saw a pair of american kestrels near the barn. It has been a long time since a pair regularly nested in the bird box there. In fact, the new bird box (now several years old) has never had kestrels nesting in it. So, who knows? We’ll keep our fingers crossed. The female flew off to the barn, while the male circled around and came back to the same tree. But after about 5 minutes, they both flew off over the Arboretum.

Another happy sign was the sound and sight of a tree swallow soaring over the pond, which is still half frozen, while snow is still deeper than we’d like around the edges. However, the promised rain and milder temperatures should get rid of it soon. Other birds included a flock of common redpolls singing away in the ash woods, juncos trilling, robins and cardinals singing away, and of course all the usual suspects, such as chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, american goldfinches, and so on. A lone common raven was calling from across the canal, and just after I left the garden, a cooper’s hawk landed on a post along Prince of Wales Drive.

Chipmunks are common around the BYG especially, and I heard a groundhog giving its squeaky call. Lots of things to see, but we can expect to see lots more over the next few weeks. If we are lucky, we will get breeding wood frogs in the pond (the ones that sound like ducks quacking), the first ones we hear at FWG. (Chorus frogs, almost always the first frogs of spring, are being heard now in other parts of the region, as are spring peepers, but, alas, not at our pond.) Last year there were very few wood frogs, but in previous years, we’ve heard them over the period of a week, though never in great numbers.

Willow catkins are fresh and fuzzy and will soon be laden with pollen, attracting a variety of early emerging insects, particularly bees such as Andrenids, Colletes, and Nomadas. Speaking of insects, I noticed Muscid flies all over the garden.

The blog has many more photos:
www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_april_2013