Written by Doug Hoy
Not far behind the early birders, Sloane Watters led an expedition into the hidden marsh near the Trail entrance to see a Rock Elm at the limit of its range here. Alas, it had succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease. Perhaps it will have spread some seeds though, and like its similarly-afflicted cousin the American Elm, it may be regenerating nearby. Something to watch for. (If that’s not challenging enough, try for a Shagbark Hickory, common enough in Carolinian Forest, but only very slightly possible in our area. You never know, though. The Nopiming has its secrets.)
The wet spring made the plant life particularly lush, with so many shades of green that they really should have a dozen more colour names on the spectrum between yellow and blue. The moist woods were particularly resplendent with ferns, with 21 species identified by Lis Allison and Mary Marsh. There was even an unconfirmed report of a Daisy-leaf Fern, but no photo or additional info, so it will have to wait for future botanising to make the list. Comfortingly, the Walking Fern that Charles Macnamara found so many years ago is still walking where he found it. A favourite stop was a large patch of Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchids, and the diffuse lighting from the cloudy sky helped a number of photographers to get great shots of this spectacular flower. Overcast is good for flower photography.
The 178 plant species recorded on the weekend provide a solid start to an exhaustive inventory of the Macnamara Trail. In a month or so a whole new crop of plants will be flowering, so there’s lots of fruitful work left for anyone interested in plants. Liverworts, anyone?
We also expect the fungi count to go up in the fall, although George White and his wife Carol gave it a good start with 16 species. They were all Latin Names at first, but with some prodding George produced a few delightful common names such as Dryad’s Saddle and Black Witches’ Butter (not to be confused with Yellow Witches’ Butter).
A smattering of mammals were seen, especially the usual suspects of hardwood forest like White-tailed Deer, Porcupine and Red Squirrels. In future BioBlitzen, the smaller rodents would need overnight live-trapping, as the Kingston Field Naturalists do, and some serious stalking may be needed for the shy Fisher and Pine Marten.
Insects were not abundant at all, but Alicia Salyi did turn up a striking White-striped Black Moth on some Jewelweed, and an early damselfly— a Spiny Baskettail. Sloan found a very odd (true) bug in leaf litter, which, judging from its not-very-detailed photo, was some sort of Coreidae, or Leaf-footed Bug. Phyllis Hereford got a cool photo of a Phantom Crane Fly, a black-and-white construction of spindly legs that looks like it would be at home in the Costa Rican rain-forest. Thankfully, mosquitos and black flies had apparently missed the Bulletin and missed a great Bioblitz as well.
So, after a rather grey start the day turned out well. Once on the Trail and out of the breeze it was comfortable for hiking, and the clouds broke around noon to a brilliant blue sky. There was an air of excitement as participants hunted for species and shared knowledge with fellow naturalists. Although watching birds at our backyard feeders or during solitary hikes is fascinating, it’s a real treat to stroll down such a diverse trail, chatting with people who share our interests in nature. In all we made 571 sightings, comprised of 178 plants, 66 birds, 15 fungi, 11 insects, 7 mammals, and 4 amphibians, for a final total species count of 282.