Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Wilds of Ontario

I've been MIA for the past few weeks because I've been at the Koffler Scientific Reserve on a field course. It was all very last minute, but it was a fantastic experience and if you ever get the chance to visit the reserve, take it! It is a stunningly beautiful place.
I think I've mentioned it once or twice, but I'm actually in school for Zoology. The plan is to be a behavioural ecologist and research wild animals, although I spend an awful lot of my time with domestic animals. KSR is an incredible place to see Ontario's biodiversity, such as the wild orchid (Yellow Lady's Slippers) in the photo above, which my professor found growing in a large group in the middle of a marsh.
And there's a Green Frog!
People tend to think of Ontario's flora and fauna as rather boring, because their view of it is usually restricted to city gardens and House Sparrows. But KSR is host to a whole bunch of different habitats, and it's really amazing what you can see if you're looking. I thought it might be neat to share a few of my favourite photos, before diving back into the shelter business (which, of course, is booming).
I did my research during the course on Tree Swallows, so I have about a million photos of them, but this is one of my favourites. Tree Swallows are not an uncommon bird (you can find them in nestboxes in several Toronto parks), but they're one of my favourite species. They're so stunning, and it's incredible to watch them fly! Which I did, for six hours straight, every day...and it's still impressive.
How cute is this guy? He's a Savannah Sparrow, and he's all poofy because it was quite a chilly morning. These guys were all over an old horse racetrack on the property. They buzz like insects and sit on fences to keep an eye on their territories.
This photo, which I think is hilarious, is from one of my favourite moments of the trip. It's a Pileated Woodpecker, our largest woodpecker. They are normally very shy and I'd never seen one before, but this handsome guy showed up right outside our door one morning, while we were having breakfast!
This is an Eastern Kingbird, a pair of them posed beautifully for me early one morning, on a willow overhanging the pond.
I mostly focused on birds because I love bird-watching, and the course mostly focused on plant life, but there was no shortage of other organisms hanging around.
This stunning moth was pure white and furry. He showed up one night when we set up a sheet and light, and he seemed rather content to be carried around by people. He was promptly dubbed 'Herman'.
This beautiful guy, who I think is a Garter Snake, was basking in the road and was quite upset that I moved him into the grass. Lucky him, though, because a car roared by only a few minutes later.
The forest was also full of white Trilliums, which were at their flowering peak and blanketed the ground, spotted with the occasional red one (a separate species). Trilliums are the provincial flower of Ontario, and it takes them 10 years to reach the flowering stage, which is why it's a good idea not to pick them.
And this is a Gray Tree Frog, which was a lucky find as we walked the trails. These guys make a lovely high pitched trilling sound, which carries straight through the trees.
We also found an Eastern Newt eft, which is the juvenile stage before it becomes totally aquatic as an adult. He was bright, fiery red and a very impressive sight!
This is a baby Midland Painted Turtle, a native species that is threatened by an invasion of released pet Red-Eared Sliders. This little guy will get to be about the size of a dinner plate when he's done growing.
This is an Indigo Bunting, a truly stunning bird that can be found in High Park in Toronto. This fellow sang right at the top of the hemlock outside our dining room every morning, which was a nice little treat.
And speaking of blue birds, here's an actual Bluebird! This beautiful boy had a nest near my observatrion post, and I spent my lunch hours watching him and the missus feeding their chicks.
And there's one of the chicks, sticking her head out and begging for food!
I have about a thousand photos from this trip, but I suppose I'd better stop before this post gets too ridiculously long. Long story short: Ontario has amazing wildlife and if you ever get the chance, you should visit Joker's Hill.
Tomorrow, shelter stuff! It's going to be cute, because baby guinea pigs have arrived!

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