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Snowshoeing in the Carp Hills

MFNC was invited by club member, Janet Mason, to explore her property on the Carp Ridge, a large, beautiful area of almost 300 acres.  Seventeen of us joined in on the outing.  Field trip leaders were Jeff Skevington and Gord Vogg, who interpreted the geology, flora and fauna for us along the way. We examined shrubs and trees, fungi, animal signs and tracks.  We found fisher tracks, coyote scat and followed trails to two porcupine dens.  One porcupine was lazing about in a tree for all of us to have a look.  We observed beaver ponds, dams and lodges. In fact, we found so many interesting things to see and do on the ridge that we didn’t come off the trails until almost 5 o’clock, one-half hour past our scheduled end time and obviously too late for our planned social.  So the socializing will have to wait until our next gathering on February 20.

Below are excerpts from field notes that Janet Mason prepared. 

The Carp Hills are formed from a 13 km long and 3 to 4 km wide band of Canadian Shield highlands that rise above fertile farmland. Outcrops of exposed bedrock are folded into glacial-scraped ridges and troughs of ponds and wetlands that are acidic. Scattered trees, shrubs, sedges, and grasses grow in small pockets of soil or wherever they can put down roots to extract limited nutrients and moisture. The rocks are covered with mosses and lichens that can survive complete dehydration.

At the entrance is a 2 acre area with deeper organic soil than the rest of the property. It supports a deciduous forest of: Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra), Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Blue Beech (Carpinus caroliniana), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Red Oak (Quercus borealis), Basswood (Tilia americana), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinum), Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), and a few remaining Elms (Ulmus americana). I have planted some White Oak (Quercus alba) that we might look for.

The rest of the property is rocky uplands, wetlands, and beaver ponds. These are dominated by Eastern White Pine (P. strobus), Red Oak, Red Maple (A. rubrum), Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana), and White Spruce (Picea glauca). Unusually, there is a grove of naturally occurring Red Pine (P. resinosa). Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) and Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) are scattered throughout. There is one American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) on the main property.

Dominant woody shrubs on the rocky parts of the property are: Beaked Hazel (Corylus cornuta) and Serviceberry (Amelanchier) likely A. arborea. There are also scattered groves of Maple-leaved Viburnum (V. acerifolium) and Juniper (J. communis). Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is unfortunately everywhere.

In the wetlands are found: Speckled Alder (Alnus incana) and some Winterberry (Ilex verticillata).

There are multiple beaver ponds each with its own lodge. One 50-foot dam holds back about 40 acres of water that’s 4-6 feet deep.

The ponds support heron rookeries; 7 Great Blue Heron families nested by the large pond last summer. Unfortunately the 5 nest tower that the large pond is known for finally rotted away in the late fall and fell into the pond.

A porcupine lives in a large Red Oak near the pond. White tailed Deer winter here and Coyotes hunt for rodents – their scat is often seen. Black bears come out in the spring.

Fisher tracks have been seen.

Pictures by Maureen Carrier

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