08 June 2017
We are very fortunate in having ready access to many natural areas close to home and we are never at a loss to find a pleasant spot to explore.
One of our favourites is the Mill Race Trail in St. Jacobs, where we have the watercourse created to drive grist mills on one side of the path, and the Conestogo River on the other.
Northern White-cedar Thuja occidentalis, sometimes referred to as American arborvitae, or Tree of Life, based on the various medicinal and utilitarian uses of this tree, is common.
Water is a magnet for wildlife, of course, and there is much to be discovered for the patient observer. This American Robin Turdus migratorius was bathing and preening at the water's edge.
Turtles of various species are commonly seen at this time of year as they seek suitable areas in which to lay their eggs. Many are killed on busy roads, unfortunately, as they try to cross, but more and more frequently one sees turtle crossings built under the road and Turtle Crossing signs abound. Hopefully, the carnage is being reduced.
This large Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina was basking in the warm sun. Perhaps it is a female, resting from a night of egg laying. In any event, it is an impressive creature.
Green Frogs Lithobates clamintans could be heard throughout, and it was not difficult to find several of them.
There were thousands of tadpoles, presumably of this species, and they seemed to prefer shallow water close to shore.
The tadpoles hatch, but do not evolve into froglets until the following season.
The fact that there were numerous adult frogs in very close proximity to the tadpoles led us to wonder whether the adults protect the tadpoles, but I can find nothing in the literature to verify whether this is true or not. Perhaps it was mere coincidence. (See the following observation from Fraser Gibson, an eminent local naturalist: I suspect the tadpoles in your photo are American Toads. They congregate in large schools in shallow water in early June. By early July they will be tiny toadlets (about 1cm long) with all 4 legs . Toad tadpoles have black bellies while (I think) all frog tadpoles have lightly coloured bellies.)
A Woodchuck (Groundhog) Marmota momax had a burrow close to the shore and was meandering up and down feeding. Every time I tried to take a picture it would scamper away and I have a great selection of blurred images! Miriam managed this one.
Dragonflies and damselflies are increasingly to be found, Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata being one of the most common.
We came away from our walk in good spirits, refreshed and renewed. Maybe it's time to go right back there to see what else we can discover.