We had perfect weather and trail conditions for our annual snowshoe event, held once again in Fitzroy Provincial Park, on Sunday, 17 February.
Club member Karen Krueger, frequent park visitor, led the group over the Carp River bridge and onto unofficial winter snowshoe trails to secret groves and escarpment vistas. Laden with bird seed, Karen restocked the network of bird feeders where chatty chickadees lit gently onto our outstretched hands for sunflower seeds.
We stopped to look for raptors in the open hydro corridor near the summit of the escarpment, enjoying the warm sunshine and stunning view down to the frozen Ottawa River in the distance.
We searched in vain for the Barred Owl that had been sighted near the waterfall, but sadly it did not make an appearance. Fortunately trees don’t wander, so we were able to admire an uncommon stand of mature and healthy Slippery Elms (Ulmus rubra) in the floodplain of the creek below the waterfall. There are three types of elms native to Eastern Ontario: American or White Elm (Ulmus americana), Rock Elm (Ulmus thomasii), and Slippery Elm. American Elms are widespread and gradually being killed by Dutch Elm Disease. Slippery and Rock Elms are scattered throughout the region and seem to have more resistance although some will die from the disease. For more information about Slippery Elm identification and ecology, including a spring time photo of the elms at the waterfall, see: http://treescanadensis.ca/ulmus-rubra-slippery-elm/
We spotted female American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) vines brightening the landscape with their ripe orange fruit. Bittersweet has male and female plants, which must be close together for fruit production to occur. American Bittersweet is a native vine that can grow well over 30 feet, twining high up into the bows of supporting trees. It can be distinguished from the aggressive Oriental Bittersweet (C. orbiculatus) by the arrangement of the fruits, which cluster at the end of the stem in the native plant compared to along the stem in the non-native Asian variety.
On our way out we admired the tall White Pines (Pinus strobus) and mature Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) lining the main road to the beach. The park’s tallest White Pine has been measured at 36 meters, which compares to the tallest White Pine in Ontario at Arnprior’s Gillies Grove, measured at 47 meters.
Betty kept the bird sighting log: Blue Jay (3), White-breasted Nuthatch (5), Black-capped Chickadee (20), Hairy Woodpecker (5), Pileated Woodpecker (1 heard ), American Crow (2).
Refreshed by our two hour snowshoe, we gathered at Karen’s house near the park for refreshment of a different kind to share stories and good company.