Here is a wee taster of the spectacular that is Fall in Ontario. With lots of people are out and about looking at the crazy colours, there's even big road signs warning drivers to go slow as people go a bit daft with Fall fever and are apt to park anywhere and leap out to see the best trees! See here for where to go for the best colours. Full of great birds and hot weather, my adventure to the Bruce Peninsula and southern Ontario has been so much better than I'd ever dreamed it would be. There's been little time to blog so lots more will follow one day soon! In the meantime, there's some camping to be done, Algonquin Park here we come...hoping there are still a few fiery sugar maples to be seen although it looks like they are past peak. There is still bears and wolves and moose though, that is something to think about from inside a tent...!
Friday, 9 September 2016
Every morning and every evening a great streaming rabble of corvids makes it way out of and back into the heart of the city of Timisoara. Leaving in great waves, they first circle up out of the park and then head on to breakfast. I estimated that at peak flow was about 100 birds per minute and it lasted for well over 50 minutes with maybe 90% were jackdaws with rooks making up the remainder. Where do they feed, how far do they travel, and why do they make this daily journey? And does each wave travel to a different sector? On the way to the arboretum we passed a hay field full of foraging corvids, maybe 10km from the roost site.
"The Mayor of Timişoara, Nicolae Robu came up with another crazy idea concerning the crows that had invaded the park behind the Metropolitan Cathedral in Timisoara. Instead of scaring them away by means of ultrasound, our resourceful Mayor wanted to feed them contraceptive pills." However, it looks like they are here to stay, with previous attempts to dissuade them being of no use whatsoever.
Sibu has also has a huge gathering of crows (see here). And this happens all over the world, like in Davis, California with their massive roost of American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). In fact, corvid roosts are an ancient phenomenon. Why they do it is not known but there are some plausible explanations.
Corvids flying in to roost in Timisoara
Thursday, 8 September 2016
I'm standing at the foot of my garden. Over there across the valley two Sequoias quietly tower over the woodland. Those gentle giants have always been on my horizon, watching in their way, as I have watched the sun rise behind, and set on, them for nearly four decades. I return to the house to pack because today is a special day - today I get to share the magic of tree climbing with an amazing lady! We will climb one of these gentle giants, S2.
Climbing trees and just being in trees is very special. Earlier in the year I spent a day up there, reading and I also measured this fine Sequoiadendron giganteum at just over 34m. This time the rigging took a little longer than I'd intended as the first throwline snapped just as the ropes reached the top! This meant I had to start all over again and re-climb to rig the SRT lines (100m SS climbing line, 60m SS safety line). Anyhow, we climbed to 30m in the gorgeous evening sunlight and watched the last of the sun before it began to sink below the hills to the north.
A very happy and triumphant Carla at 30m - top work!!
Descending the tree on a Petzl ID
Wednesday, 7 September 2016
Sleeping out in the summer or autumn is the way to go and for me, sleeping out in a DD hammock is the bees knees. To set up that hammock of course you need something to suspend it from, and nothing is finer than a tree rooted in the very earth below your feet. The chosen tree doesn't have to be vast like a Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana) or even a Champion Tree, and a few feet above the ground is height enough to feel a bit of that that magic: being in a tree instantly surrounds me in a deeper sense of contentment and harmony. Relative to us the great trees grow slowly and steadily; maybe it is this lack of feverish haste that offers a chance to again taste the essence of slow time.
Monday, 5 September 2016
We arrive in the dusk and stand on the clifftop looking out to sea. Out there the lights of fishing vessels grow brighter and then fade, and all is momentarily lit by the regular turning beam of the big lighthouse to the north. It is in this darkness that storm petrels dare to venture to land when sharp eyes and beaks of marauding gulls are safely tucked under wings. Storm petrels come ashore only to breed and so spend the rest of their lives out at sea, feeding on "planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering." Highly vocal in their breeding burrows and around the colony, storm petrels sound so strange - here is a fine example - quite eerie to say the least! We play recordings of these calls to entice any birds to visit and they are then carefully ringed, weighed, measured and then released back out into the night, to flutter off like a large bats, visible for a fraction of a second and then gone. These passing birds may have bred in Shetland, islands off the west coast of Scotland, or even as far as Portugal
In the quiet spells we watch shooting stars and the constellations, and a trawler heads out to sea, all lights blazing: we watch it until it is a tiny stuttering flicker on the southern horizon. 17 of these beautiful birds come a-visiting, and they now each carry a tiny unique BTO ring. We are still learning so much about the movements of even common birds and this data is vital to help us understand how and what to conserve. As we pack up just before the sky gets light, it is wonderful to know that out there there are storm petrels ahoy! See blog from last year for photos of stormies.
Saturday, 3 September 2016
Thursday, 1 September 2016
A few weeks ago I was very privileged to work as a Instructor for The Great Big Tree Climbing Company at Wakehurst Place, Kew's garden in Sussex. In my spare time I was able to explore a little of the great expanse of gardens and trees, finding many wonderful trees. The staccato calls of green woodpeckers percolated out of the thick green and in the valley below the big meadow, the forest seemed vast, as if never-ending, as if I could walk for miles in any direction and still I would be deep in the heart of it.
Some of the gems to be found at Wakehurst.
The funky cones of the Monteray pine, Pinus radiata and the incredible lanky cones of Pinus wallichiana, the Bhutan pine.
Check out the giant needles of the Apache pine Pinus engelmannii! And below is another pine with a super silhouette.
There are many fantastic redwood at Wakehurst. This Sequoiadendron giganteum is my favourite, with a great tall stem and maybe around 20m to the first whorl of branches. Tucked into the edge of the trees it stands there, humble, understated, a true gentle giant.
And of course you can't talk about Wakehurst without mentioning their new world record for the longest straw bale picnic table ever constructed!
Tulip tree leaf after rain