Our next plan was to learn how to identify trees after their leaves fall. Alicia said the first step is to determine whether a tree is coniferous or deciduous – and the coniferous species were decidedly easier to remember! She showed how Eastern White Cedar needles lay flat and look like the scales of a snake, and that White Pine needle bundles of five are easy to remember because “white” has five letters. Once we had the coniferous trees figured out, Fergus explained the difference between alternate and opposite branching, and how only maple and ash trees have opposite branching. The rest of our walk consisted of looking at trees and assessing their characteristics including their bark patterns, seeds, leaves found on the ground, buds, and habitats. Gordon helped us identify a few remaining fall fungi, explained tree “cankers,” and gave a little lesson on local geology.
An exciting moment saw American Crows, Blue Jays and Black-Capped Chickadees “mobbing,” a possible predator. Fergus explained that mobbing occurs when birds find a hawk or owl and attempt to drive it away by ganging up on it in a noisy “mob,” making the neighbourhood too uncomfortable to hang around. Based on the habitat at the time, it may have been a roosting owl.
We definitely got up close and personal with autumn’s sights and sounds along the Macnamara Trail, and our Young Macnamara took home a pile of great information, thanks to our club experts.