As soon as the ice is off the ponds and the sun starts to warm the air and water, painted turtles start climbing out onto logs to sun themselves. Certainly after a Canadian winter we all like to get out in the bright sunshine, soaking up the rays and feeling glad that spring and summer are coming. A good way to see painted turtles up close is from a car window at a roadside pond. Turtles can see and hear you coming from a long ways off, but those that live in ponds close to gravel roads get used to the vehicles and don't see them as an immediate threat, these big noisy things whizzing past don't come diving into the water trying to catch turtles. (At least not intentionally.) If you can find a spot on a quiet backroad where it is safe to pull over on the shoulder and not block traffic, you may get a good view of turtles basking on logs, like these two eyeing me suspiciously when I rolled down the window and took a few photos with a 300 mm zoom lens.
Friday, 5 May 2017
"April showers bring May flowers." I think something is reversed this year, we had some hot dry days in April, and now May is bringing us a soaking and some flooding in the region. Even Lemoine Point had to close some of its lakeside trails due to Lake Ontario being so high., debris was washed right over parts of the trails.
Springtime is our favourite season for observing birds and their behavior, most of the migrants have arrived and are busy staking out territories, displaying for and choosing mates, and most important of all, nesting and producing the next generation of birds. Once again May bird walks are being led by Kingston Field Naturalist leaders on Wednesdays both in the mornings and evenings. This year's walks are being held at Lemoine Point Conservation Area, the location of this site being on the north shore of Lake Ontario on the west end of Kingston, an ideal place to see migrants where they land over a passage of water, joining the resident birds in feeding and singing. These walks are open to the public, see the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Kingstonfieldnaturalists/ for a schedule. Leaders will take you on the higher drier ground, but be sure to wear waterproof footwear and bring bug spray.
One of our resident birds, the ruffed grouse, is also struttin' his stuff this time of year. Listen carefully in the woodlands, you'll hear them drumming. They'll pick out a fallen log or dry open area, stand upright, and then start flapping their wings in a manner that cups and "drums" the air, slowly at first, and then picking up speed, like an ATV engine revving up. Whump. Whump. Whump. Whump-whump-whump-whumpwhumpwhumpwhumpwhumpwhump! This is a good time to try to see them, the males are so busy trying to show off that you may even be able to sneak up and get a good look at one of these wary birds. They are so well camouflaged that most often you don't know one is there until you startle it and it takes off flying. They seem to like gravel roads, not only do they find grit but if there is enough loose sand it's a good place for taking a dust bath. Here is a photo of one that was in the middle of the road, when I came around the corner in my vehicle it picked its way up the hillside. It is certainly an example of how well camouflaged these birds are in their environment, the colours and patterns of the feathers blend right in with the dead leaves, rocks and sticks around it.