Saturday, 24 October 2020

A Visit to SpruceHaven with John and Michelle

      Covid-19 has made changes to the lives of most of us, few of which are welcome, and one of the consequences of the pandemic is the lack of contact with friends. We had  not seen John and Michelle since before the inception of the virus so it was with great pleasure that we were able to meet up for a tour of SpruceHaven in order to show them the modifications to the landscape since their last visit.

     How pleasant to stroll down one of the many pathways.

     And on into the woodlot where the true glory of fall is showcased at its best.

     The ladder you see at the bottom left of the above picture is used to access the various nest boxes we have installed throughout the woodlot.
     This upscale residence, complete with a complimentary layer of wood shavings, has been home to an Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) for the past two winter.

     Is there any doubt that the owl is inhabiting prime real estate?

     Michelle took this great shot of an Eastern Red-backed Salamander ( Plethodon cinereus), still easily found beneath rotting logs, or under the boards we have placed for them, but soon they will be seeking shelter deep in the soil as the iron grip of winter descends upon their woodland home.

     There are several colour morphs of this familiar lungless salamander, the two most common in our area being the redback shown above;  leadback coming in a close second.
     I am woefully inadequate when it comes to identifying ferns, but there are a few species which present no great difficulty, such as Intermediate Wood Fern (Dryopteris intermedia), one of our more common species in a maple/beech woodland.

     Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum) has but recently ceased blooming, but the leaves remain an agreeable feature to enjoy on a bright autumn day.

      The grassland we are restoring, appropriately named Sanctuary Field is coming along splendidly.

     If I am not mistaken these berries are Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus), not a true cranberry, but winter forage for a number of species. 

     Giant haybales in the field across the road from SpruceHaven reminded us that fall is a busy time for the  farmer too.

     Hardy little Myrtle Warblers (Setophaga coronata) are always the last of the warblers to leave Ontario in the fall, and many were fattening up in preparation for their departure.

     White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) were no less concerned with bulking up for their journey south.

      Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a deep-rooted, hardy grass that will form the backbone of our prairie ecosystem. It can attain a height of around 250 cm.

     Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina) were finding an abundance of food as the grassland delivered its bounty of seeds.

     Michelle was intently focussed on something that had caught her eye.

     Those tussocks of grass all around her look like ideal nesting places for Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) and we have high hopes that this species will discover the Sanctuary Field next year.
     The seeds of Tickseed (Coreopsis sp.) are highly favoured by American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) and other seed-eating birds.

     Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is past its prime but has been a colourful and prolific component of our emerging prairie landscape.

     There is a low-lying area adjacent to the grassland we call The Swale, always wet in spring, that is now being modified into a proper wetland, where we hope to see various species of duck during migration, and perhaps induce Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) to breed there. Shorebirds may also favour us with their presence once the restoration is completed and provides attractive habitat for them.
     Work had just begun.

     When I returned two days later, the whole area had been modified and I was excited to contemplate the species we may see there next spring. 

     Run-off from surrounding higher ground should quickly fill this depression, creating a pond rimmed with vegetation.

     The magic of it all causes me to pinch myself every day. 
     It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to share it with Michelle and John.
     I will end this post with something completely unrelated. 
     Recently I led a walk for a group of young children from an alternative school and two of their teachers who wanted to have their students exposed to outdoor education. It proved to be a wonderful adventure for all concerned and at the end of the walk the kids presented me with cards they had made from leaves they had collected and pressed. 

     Of all the things I do, the education of young people is the most significant. For that I need no thanks; to watch them learn is thanks enough. 
     But to see the effort, and the thought, they put into these items was heart-warming indeed.

     Thanks to Katherine and Kayli, two fine, dedicated young women, exceptional teachers, and to a group of children who made my day special.
     It really doesn't get any better than this.


  1. Hi David,
    Good to see you have had a trip out and about already as you say this pandemic has stopped our interaction with our friends, we are not solitary beings and need this to survive in a good mental state. The cards made by the children are such a statement from them to show how much they appreciated the time and effort displayed by you, as you say it does not get any better than this, well done.
    You both stay safe and well

  2. ...wonderful images of your observations! Never leave the smallest thing unnoticed.

  3. My internet must have bogged down. You photo don't want to upload. Not most if them. It's a struggle.

  4. Those youngsters are a bright note in our world.

  5. Great that you were able to get out with your friends again. I just love all those Fall colours. Love the pictures the children made for you.

  6. Hooray for excited and grateful youngsters and for those who feed that excitement. Take a bow Katherine, Kayli and David.
    And the usual very grateful thanks (albeit with no card) from me in Australia.

  7. Love the yellow of your autumn there.
    Very good to receive cards from the children. What you did was certainly appreciated.

  8. David - glad you were able to re-connect with your friends, but the cards from the kids stole the show. It always warms my heart to see kids connecting with nature and being truly grateful for it!

  9. The magnificent symphony of autumn colors in the middle of the forest.

  10. Wonderful fall colors! And those cards are wonderful treasures.

  11. It's nice to see Black-Eyed Susan who blooms late in your area too. The cards you got was very pretty. Beautiful fall photos!

  12. Well that was a really interesting tour of a very beautiful area and some very plump birds. The warming highlight was, however, the thoughts behind the cards.

  13. Great photos of your nature observations!
    I admire children's creativity!
    Take care of yourself dear friend !

  14. Hi David.

    Nice that you could go into nature with your friends.
    Beautiful areas and beautiful autumn colors.
    How nice the works of the children you have taken into nature.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  15. Hello David,

    It is nice you were able to meet up with your friends for a walk. The forest and colorful trees look beautiful. Nice shots of the birds. I am sure it was a pleasure to take the children out for a walk too. Take care, enjoy your day. Have a great new week!

  16. Maravilloso paisaje otoñal, buen recorrido y buen arreglo de terreno para convertir en humedal. Pero lo mejor de toda esta entrada es el cariño mostrado por esos niños con sus trabajos, dedicación y gratitud hacía tu persona amigo David, es lo más reconfortante que puede suceder, y eso siempre deja huella.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu compadre y amigo Juan desde Alicante-España. Os deseo feliz domingo.

  17. Hi David - great you and Miriam were able to meet up with your friends ... and they obviously enjoyed 'their tour' around Sprucehaven - it looks amazing. Wonderful to see the 'wetland' coming to life - probably being filled right now - but I see no real rain due yet. You could come here - it's tipping it down!

    Must be special for all those animals ... including humans!

    Isn't that wonderful to see the children's cards - and how much pleasure you obviously gave them ... so good to read about. Delightful art ... such fun to see.

    Take care - all the best Hilary

  18. LOVE those cards made of leaves. Fall is such a pretty season...and your woods show the epitome of such.

    Thanks for linking in with us!

  19. I'm delighted to hear that you caught up with your friends after such a long separation, and it would seem that SpruceHaven was the ideal meeting place. The new wetland project there is extremely impressive, and I look forward to hearing how it develops.

    Is Michelle trying to get into the Guinness Book Of Records for the 'lowest-slung binoculars'?!

    I'm sure that you will treasure those beautiful cards from the school children for evermore. Well done you!

  20. What a wonderful trek. We had one Friday, in the 23 C. temps. It was amazing! THe fire is on today, though!

  21. Hi David, beautiful photos, I love the salamander en the warbler. It's nice you could met John and Michelle. The collection of the leaves are very beautiful of the kids. Happy sunday. Greetings Caroline

  22. That's such a nice area to walk and enjoy Nature. I love all of your photos and so happy you got to spend time with friends outdoors! I'm a sucker for haybales, that has to be my favourite photo of the series! :)

  23. Beautiful walk in the forest. The Eastern Screech Owl had used is box, love them.

  24. The woods look beautiful at this time of the year, glad you were able to have a trip out with friends. But my faves today are the cards the kids made for you, they're wonderful. Kudos to you for taking them out birding. Have a great day, I'm having a day off today! Hugs, Valerie

    1. Maybe the children have crafting in their genes!

  25. Children and their gratitude is such a heart-warming thing!

  26. Great post today...all about what can be found in nature...and how people may have a beneficial impact upon the areas that are available and conserved wisely...from making a grassland area to a well as interactions shared with friends and young people. I salute you!

  27. Autumn looks astounding with all the bright colours. The cards the kids made are beautiful and priceless. It brings a smile to my face to know there are kids who love learning about birds and nature. Well done, David.

  28. Such gorgeous autumn photos. Looks like a wonderful place to wander!

  29. Many lovely photos, and your restoration seems to be coming along well. Seems like a pond on disturbed land will not hold water year around. Will it be more like a vernal pond?

    1. There is a good layer of clay, so we are hoping for good water retention. A vernal pond would be an attractive feature, but we are hoping for standing water.

  30. Wonderful blog David.
    How nice that you could see your friends again and went for a walk together.
    Beautiful pictures, beautiful autumn colors.
    Nice to see how you make birds from autumn leaves.
    I would have liked my grandchildren to do this now, but unfortunately we cannot visit them due to the corona.
    I don't know how long it will take.
    Greetings Tinie and stay healthy.

  31. Wonderful post, all the way through. Your restoration work is so important. As well as your work with kids.

  32. Les photos dans le bois sont très belle avec la lumière.
    Ici aussi il y'a l'herbe à Robert, j'en ai beaucoup et on reconnait bien l'odeur particulière des feuilles.
    Les petits oiseaux en feuilles sont bien mignons!
    Bonne soirée

  33. The Autumn colours are breathtaking David, you captured them so well. And it must have been fun to go bird watching with kids!

  34. Always great to get together with friends and especially after not seeing them for some time. Glad the kids were able to come and walk with you. Love the cards they made you. Hope you've had a fantastic weekend!

  35. your people are creating wetlands! I envy you. Around my town three of the wetlands are now dried out and they are farming them. :( Earlier there used to be three feeders for birds outside the town. Now there is only one left. And in the city almost all garden feeders are gone. Not fun when you love wildlife. I really hope your restored wetland will work. :)

  36. I'm sure your friends enjoyed their visit as much as you did. I loved being able to join the outing as well and was impressed with the leaf creations of the children who visited.

  37. What a wonderful collection of images and stories. It's wonderful to see children able to engage with adults and with nature in a comfortable and satisfying way, as they have here. Having people like you and Miriam who are willing to take the time for them is a real gift.

    I did smile to see your tickseed. We have a 'tickseed sunflower' here that's in the Bidens genus. It's so interesting to see how common names get applied in different areas.

    I'm wondering if any of your ferns turn white. A friend in New York posted some photos of ferns where one, or a few, fronds had turned white as snow. After some exploration, we found that it's not a sign of disease, but a coping mechanism. There's a photo or two and a short explanation here.

    1. Thank you for this, Linda. I have never noticed white ferns, and we have a good stand of wild Ostrich Fern in our yard, but I will be on the lookout for this condition now.

  38. Your photos really highlight the lovliness of autumn.

  39. Well from reading your posts over time I think pretty much anyplace in your woods seems like high end real estate.! (Except maybe when it is covered with snow. You can’t convince me on that.). But yes, the owl does have a terrific piece of property to call home.... Thank you for sharing it all with us and especially for helping the children to learn to love the natural world.

  40. Glad that you were able to go out with your friends. The yellow of your autumn there is beautiful, David. And those cards are precious!

    Happy Monday!

  41. How good to see old friends again. I can understand why you get excited about re-establishing these wild areas - so much of our landscape is destroyed in the name of progress, and it leaves our wildlife very little choice in where to live their lives.
    The cards the children made you are gorgeous! Got to love the enthusiasm of children when it comes to learning about the natural world around them.

  42. Esperemos que el humedal se llene de aves en primavera. El otoño en Ontario se ve precioso. Besos.

  43. Gosh I love the cards, so imaginative and such lovely colours provided by good old mother nature.
    I was walking in the forest last week and saw lots of herb robert still in flower in a sheltered spot.
    This wild area that you visited looks quite extensive. Who owns it?

  44. A lovely post.
    What a glorious walk that was.

    Those cards are very special indeed, I wish more children had access to the natural world, it is so important.

    Enjoy these last October days.

    All the best Jan

  45. Hi David!!!... I love the cards of the children ... Very nice pictures... Magic Autumn :-)))
    Stay safe...

  46. hello David
    the friendships that you have built with trust and see them again after a long time is a happy moment, then the autumn colors .. the next feeling of happiness and finally the children's cards that is pure happiness
    Greetings Frank

  47. A most perfect post! The journey through the prairie grass and the vegetation is something I always wanted to try. I grew up in farmland and all the prairie and its amazing grasses left long ago.

  48. Dear david,
    so nice you could spend a day in nature with your friends. Out there it's easy to keep the required distance. And I can imagine the kids alaso loved their day out with you.
    Hope the new wetland will develop as wanted. Exciting to see the environment changing for the good.

    Best regards, Corrie

  49. The golden woods glows from within. So much yellow! The leaf art from the appreciative children is a treasure.

  50. Hi David,
    Fall is visible everywhere, as becomes clear from the pictures. To spend some time in nature during this season is rewarded quickly. Let's hope that the effect of changes in the landscape will bring the wished result.
    The cards the kids have made for you make clearly visible that they had a great time.
    Greetings, Kees

  51. What a wonderful day -- a beautiful setting made all the more so by the company of long absent friends. I love the splendid color and those berries are fabulous. It looks as thought they have been dipped into sugar or glitter, they sparkle so! I can tell it was a memorable time. Equally memorable, those heartfealt and very creative notes from the children. They're quite clever and you can tell that you made quite the impression on their young lives.

  52. It was great that you were able not only to get together with your friends, David, but to be outdoors as well. We have been doing outdoor jaunts as much as possible, but sadly without companions who feel less comfortable being out and about. The leaf cards from the children were wonderful and very creative.

  53. Un reportaje espectacular, me ha encantado. Me llama la atención la salamandra que encontrasteis Plethodon cinereus, por aquí tenemos una muy parecida que está en peligro de extinción y es muy difícil de encontrar, la salamandra rabilarga (Chioglossa lusitanica). También me ha gustado mucho la foto de la portada de los albatros, es genial. Enhorabuena David, un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España. Salud!!!

  54. Es una enorme alegría encontrarse con los amigos ,después de un largo tiempo y si es un entorno tan bello, la satsfacción es doble.

    Bien equipados que van, preparados para hacer buenas fotografías, que siempre les recuerde ese gran día.

  55. David, I have to say thank you so much for this post, it's a very big treat for me, being a lover of Autumn even if I have never experienced it ever in my life. Thank you for these beautiful colors and how the trees changed and showing a variety of birds and ferns! Love the leaf art by the children, those are touching!

  56. São belas as imagens das aves e as que nos permitem apreciar as modificações outonais da natureza.
    Juvenal Nunes

  57. It's good to finally see friends isn't it and especially in such a setting. The cards from the children are just lovely, such a rewarding day for them and you!

  58. I am really jealous, of you being able to go for a walk with friends and find so many interesting creatures to photograph. We are back in fill lockdown till mid December and cannot leave the house without a signed, dated and timed form. So far I have coped with the situation, but this further lockdown now is just getting beyond the joke. Far too many people not doing what they should be doing. Sigh.
    Keep safe Diane

  59. Hi David, you have a beautiful header. Have a nice weekend. Greetings Caroline

  60. Hi David,
    Great to see that you were able to enjoy the autumn landscape with good friends.
    Beautiful surprices along the way!
    Happy weekend ahead and stay save!
    Regards, Maria

  61. Lovely photos from the autumn walk.
    Hugs and greetings.

  62. Hello David,
    It is true that the Covid has changed the lives of many people.
    How nice and beautiful it is that you can see and speak to friends again at a given moment :-) I see a beautiful park or forest with beautiful autumn colors. Also lots of berries, birds and excavators hahaha ....
    The cards that the children made of the leaves are really beautiful to see and really beautifully made!
    Fortunately, there are sometimes nice alternatives ;-)
    A big hug,
    Helma xx

  63. The fall colours were lovely this year! Also those cards from the kids are fantastic, what a great craft idea!!!