The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

Posts tagged ‘wildlife’

And Then, the Rains Came

A few days after our fire, the rain finally came. It rained for most of the last half of September. In fact, it has been one of the wettest second halves of September on record.

We were glad to get the forest dampened down. Forests need to be damp. The trees need to drink and, well, you’ve just seen on a very small scale how dangerous things can get when the woods dry up.

But we decided to show you another aspect of forest fire aftermath that occurs in this area, something that happens when the rain comes after a bad fire. So, the Scribe and I went for another walk with the camera.

The burned area after the rainy latter half of September. Notice how bare the bedrock is.

Here in the Boreal Forest, the soil takes a very long time to build up. Elizabeth tells me that she used to work as an archaeologist in this region, and one of the things that always impressed her was that in the ten thousand years since the Ice Age (that sounds like it must have been a fun time…), there was often only about 30 cm or a foot of soil built up where she would be digging. Where in other areas of the world whole cities have been buried two, three or more times over and they use backhoes and shovels to dig the remains of civilisations up, here they use trowels and popsicle sticks and those ever so carefully!

So, when a forest fire comes along and burns all the organic matter, there really isn’t very much soil left. And, since it is the trees and other smaller plants that are holding the soil together, when those burn, the soil is washed away by the rain or spring run-off when it comes. You can see how that has happened in our burnt over area. The bedrock is naked except for the dead tree roots suspended above it.

As we surveyed the burnt area, Elizabeth said to me, “Look at those tree roots, Stella. They’re like the bones of the forest.”

Then she looked a bit closer. She always does that. She walks with her eyes constantly scanning the ground. I think that is left over from her archaeological days, too. I could see that she’d seen something odd now, but I had no idea what it was. She walked over closer to the bottom edge of the bedrock and started taking photos. She put the lens cover of her camera down so you could get an idea of size… (Click on the first one to see the photo gallery full size!)

Now, how did I miss that! When I went over to take a sniff, I was surprised to find that it smelled just like all the soil around it. It was so old that there was nothing left to chew on it. I looked at Elizabeth. “In the words of Wilkie Collins,” she said, “What does it mean?”

She poked around in the soil a bit but couldn’t find any more bones. She says it is not a butchered bone, nor has it been cooked (until our fire, BOL).

Elizabeth thinks she knows what it is. She says that she’s not 100% sure, but she thinks it is a bear femur. Bear bones look a lot like two-legger bones, but she thinks this is too heavy for a two-legger. She thinks another animal probably dropped it here after picnicking on it. One thing she noticed about it is that, in the last photo and at the right end, part of the bone is broken off, and she wonders if that might have been a hint of what led to the bear’s demise. But it might have broken off after it died. She’s hoping Lil the Egg Lady will put in her two cents and help us solve the Mystery of the Lone Bone.

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Crossed

One of Elizabeth’s local blogging friends wrote this about one of our furry neighbours. Foxes are big teases, and they hang out on the Campbell Estate. All Elizabeth ever sees with me around, though, is their footprints in the snow!

wildlifeperspectives

fox-1

On the way home from a fishing trip the other day (one splake), Lil and I spied a cross fox in a field beside the road. The fox was quite cooperative, and let me stop the truck, get my camera out of the bag and take several shots. It looked like it was intent on a mouse, or more likely, a vole, but no luck (although good luck for the vole). Eventually, the fox wandered off.

A cross fox is simply a colour phase of the red fox. Across the range of the red fox different colour phases are often seen, but in this area, the common and classic bright orange red fox is actually quite rare. Most of the foxes here are crosses. They are called cross foxes because they have a blackish cross on their back, across their shoulders.

We also have a fair number of black foxes around…

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UFOs & Aliens?

I guess all of you my faithful readers have been wondering if I was abducted by aliens, eh?

Well… No. But I had a close encounter yesterday!

We were just heading off for our early morning walk. I reached the end of the wooden path when I noticed something very peculiar:

Could they be Crop Circles?

Could they be Crop Circles?

As a Bookshop Dog, I have developed a very open and scientific mind. I’ve heard about this phenomenon two-leggers call ‘Crop Circles’. The theory is that these things are made by alien spacecraft when they land or take off. Elizabeth knows a lady who says she knows the people who made the original Crop Circles in Britain, though, and that the whole alien thing is a hoax. I decided to see who was right. I took a closer look at one.

Certainly looks like something was spinning here...

Certainly looks like something was spinning here…

As a dog, I have an advantage over two-leggers. I have a sensitive and highly developed olfactory system. I have a nose for detection. And I detected a new-to-me but definitely animal scent trail. Well. I guess that technically, Aliens are probably animals too. Only one thing to do… follow my nose to the source.

I nearly bumped into this:

Yikes! It looks like a Stegosaurus tail!

Yikes! It looks like a Stegosaurus tail!

I checked it out from another angle.

Look at those claws!

Look at those claws!

But when I backed up and got some perspective, it turned out to be

the rear end of a Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)!

the rear end of a Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)!

The Snapping Turtle is the largest of Ontario turtles and can live up to 70 two-legger years or more. I can’t imagine living that long! They are not endangered, but they are on the watch list. They have a low reproductive rate and take a long time to mature. And two-leggers, well, some of them, like to hunt and eat them. Or just to kill them because they think they are mean old ugly things.

Once Elizabeth was invited to have some by one of the lake people she knew. She almost tried some, but when the old man mentioned that he kept them in his freezer and that they took an awfully long time to die, she just couldn’t accept any. She doesn’t really like these turtles, but they fascinate her.

This one fascinated me, too.

Snapping Turtle 1 miniI felt I had to examine it from all angles.

Snapping Turtle 3 miniAlthough she looks shy in Elizabeth’s photographs, she wasn’t really. This is a very aggressive stance, as I found out.

See how her rear end is slightly elevated?

See how her rear end is slightly elevated?

This female had made the trek up from our bay to find a place to lay her eggs. She needed to get the job done, and I guess she thought I was trying to interfere. Suddenly, she reared up on her hind legs and tail, and her head shot forward at me! She tried to snap my nose off!

Fortunately, I didn’t know her, so I was being a bit cagey myself. I managed to avoid her lunge. I thought it was very rude of her, and I began to move in to teach her a lesson. One does not snap at the Queen of the Boreal Forest without suffering the consequences!

Elizabeth grabbed my collar and took me for a little walk. I’m still ticked off with her. She shouldn’t interfere with me when I’m on the job. This was obviously a very dangerous turtle. It needed first to be taught a lesson and, second, to be banished to its watery domain.

When we got back from our walk, she was just about the same place. Elizabeth didn’t notice until she was looking at the photos today that it appears to be blood on the right side of her carapace. While I don’t condone her behaviour, neither do I wish her any harm. I hope she makes it through laying her eggs and back through the forest, down the hill and into the river again.

She does have rather lovely little eyes...

She does have rather lovely little eyes…

Elizabeth put me in the house and then went out to talk to the turtle and get some more pictures of her. By the time we had to leave for Church, the turtle seemed much more relaxed.

This is the only one Elizabeth took with her telephoto lens. The turtle didn't snap at her when she got her camera in close for the facial portraits! Hmmph.

This is the only one Elizabeth took with her telephoto lens. The turtle didn’t snap at her when she got her camera in close for the facial portraits! Hmmph.

When we got home, the Snapping Turtle had continued her uphill quest in search of sandy soil deep enough for her to make a nest for her eggs and cover them in such a way that no one would ever guess they were there. Maybe I will meet some of the baby turtles after they hatch and begin their journey down the hill to the bay….

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