Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

Wye Marsh and Waggle Dances

May 25, 2014

My previous workplace, the wonderful Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, has recently installed a glass-walled beehive that allows visitors to observe activity inside.  This reminds me of my second year at university as our Animal Behavior class included a few weeks of staring at bees in a similar manner.  I cannot remember what my group worked on but I do remember the empowering feeling of mastery when suddenly I could find waggle dances.

There might be a photo here.  I am attempting to embed a Facebook image.  If it doesn’t work, try this link.  Or, try this link anyway for more Wye Marsh stuff.

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My excellent friend and onetime co-worker at the Marsh, Nick, loved the Fibonacci sequence and I suspect it was demonstrated here.  For around thirteen minutes, I saw nothing but squirming bees in a well-lit but claustrophobically tight box. I was about to give up. Then I saw my first waggle dance.  More squirming bees for another, let’s say, eight minutes followed by my sighting of another waggle dance.  Five minutes later, I saw another.  Three minutes later, two minutes later, one minute later and one minute later I saw them again. Then I was keyed to see any waggle dance.  Some time afterward, I was able to find the queen after a brief search.  It really felt like magic.

 

For most youth, now and probably in my day too (ah, Jumpman), the playing of computer games is what teaches similar concentration and patience.
I was going to make this post some kind of lesson or sermon, but heck, learn how to spot bee waggle dances – it takes a few minutes but it really wows friends!

Updated: …And use your knowledge of waggle dances to find the healthiest environments!

 The researchers chose an area of 94 square kilometers around the hives that included urban, agricultural and protected areas, and divided that area into 60 square blocks. Then, by videotaping and painstakingly decoding over 5,000 waggle dances over the course of two years, they could see where the bees preferred to go.

The scientists found that overall, bees were significantly more likely to give an approving waggle to land that had been targeted for more intensive restoration of grasslands or of margins around the edges of agricultural fields compared with areas having less stringent requirements. Oddly, they also found that bees seemed to specifically avoid some areas that had been targeted for low-level restoration. Couvillon says that this may be due to how these schemes are managed—frequent mowing, for instance, may reduce the number of flowers. But the bees were often on target. The scientists found that two blocks most frequently tagged with a waggle—after correcting for distance from the hives—each contained a protected nature reserve.

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tough day at the farm

March 23, 2014

Today’s work was on the orchard hill.  Or maybe it is a very low, stoneless mesa.  In the midst of hectares of flat rice, cabbage, potato and such fields, my father-in-law’s orchard is on a flat hill maybe three metres above the fields.

The main crop on the hill is persimmon fruit.I asked my brother-in-law about the strange bottoms of the tree and he suggested it was because of the way the tree grew from cuttings.    That was only his guess but it seems possible.  More on growing trees from cuttings.manure work (5) I have always loved the tree frogs at the farm.  After a year away, it was good to see a few again.  This guy could sit on the final joint of my thumb.  Please excuse the blurriness.  I really like my new phone but I seem to have trouble holding it still enough.manure work (4) Korea’s wonderful little tractor, the kyeongungi.  I can drive one when it is attached to a cart, but would leave a terrible plow line.manure work (3) manure work (2) I have a really annoying cold right now.  Despite the great weather, I was pretty miserable at the farm.  I think this pic captures my whininess during the day.  Oh, behind me are little piles of manure under each tree that I carted by wheelbarrow.  I guess I should be grateful my sense of smell was sub-par today.manure work (1)As is so often the case, I usually more proud of my farm work and adventures after a few days.  Perhaps in a week or so, when the smell is gone from my SUV, I will look back on the work as character building rather than horrible.

 

Unnecessary canals

March 2, 2014

I used an ocean of pixels in attacking Lee Myoung Bak’s plan for a canal from Incheon up the Han River to Gangwondo and across to the Nakdong River (which also starts in Gangwon Province) and south to Busan.  The whole canal idea was ridiculous; the ocean offers a open water route between Incheon or Seoul and Busan and there are never traffic jams or delays for locks to fill and empty.  See here and here if you are interested.

A new canal is in the news, and although not in Korea, it might be similarly redundant.  Nicaragua may soon get a canal to compete with Panama’s.

The environmental impacts could be considerable.

A final route for the canal has not yet been announced, but the proposed routes pass through Lake Nicaragua, which covers about six times the area of Los Angeles and is Central America’s largest lake.

The lake is a major source of drinking water and irrigation, and home to rare freshwater sharks and other fish of commercial and scientific value, Huete-Pérez and Meyer say. The forest around it is home to howler monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, and countless tropical birds–not to mention several groups of indigenous people (some of whom have challenged the project in court, so far to no avail).

I’m a citizen of the world and benefit from international commerce.  I know nothing about the environmental impact of either Central American canal but I know I benefit from the one that currently exists.  It will be interesting to see what arguments are made against the proposed new canal and how the current one succeeds or fails on those aspects.

Late Fall at the Wye Marsh

November 19, 2013

The school groups aren’t doing much at the Wye Marsh this month.  We were incredibly busy in October but there are only occasional groups coming until, I guess, next year when cross country skiing starts up.  A coworker and I felt the need to canoe and see what the marsh looks like in mid-November.

First, I found this wonderful swan-foot print and needed to compare it to my own hand.  Sure, my foot is longer, but this is huge for a 12 kg animal.

DSC09976 b We were using a smaller canoe so we explored areas we couldn’t earlier in the giant ten person canoes.  Here, the edges of the channel were so narrow, we just pulled our boat through.DSC09971 b Did I say, November?  I meant Movember.  Squint or click on the image to increase the size if you cannot see my luxurious mustache!DSC09971 cWe had passed this beaver den almost every day for around five months.  After three weeks away, we arrived to find a cache of small trees and branches with delicious bark for the beavers to access through the winter in front of the den.
DSC09968 b This kestrel is the Marsh’s newest resident of the Birds of Prey program.DSC09966 c

I guess this back end of a cheetah needs a little explanation.  My son loves cheetahs and this is around half of a Christmas gift I am working on for him.  There is more, and another mustache shot at Creativiti Project.  Midland Wood Carvers is a group of carving hobbyists that I sometimes join to beg for assistance and wisdom.  Their workshop is at the Wye Marsh. DSC09981 b

Cheetahs and other cats of the Toronto Zoo

October 21, 2013

On Saturday, The Little Guy and I went to the Toronto Zoo.  We were there in part to meet an old roommate from  university but we also had a set of animals we had to see.  Those animals were Pandas, cheetahs, Komodo Dragons, and Orangutans.  The other animals were expected to be interesting but not nearly as important to The Little Guy.  In fact, it was only with difficulty that I convinced him to see the pandas.  My tiny knowledge of Hanja allowed me to read one character in each of the pandas names.  Er Shun was ’2′ Shun and Da Mao was ‘great’ Mao.  My friend and I chuckled that ‘Great Mao’ might have been a dangerous name to have not too long ago.

I gotta say, this is a great time to visit the Zoo.  We were among perhaps fifteen people who entered at the nine AM opening and we didn’t feel crowded at all during the day.

 

The animal that most caught my attention was this feral cat carrying its lunch into a ravine.DSC09822 b The Little Guy and a lion.DSC09785 bTLG and a orangutan statue- the plaque is in honour of a friend of mine.DSC09816 b Three chameleons.*DSC09815 b A resting cheetah.DSC09795 b

The single best part of the trip of TLG’s interactions with one of the cheetahs.  It saw him running along the path and ran to meet him.  Then the two had a few running races.  I wish my camera had a better focus as I think it focused on the fence and not the animal inside but here it is clearly interacting with TLG.

 

 

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* I think there is only one chameleon in the picture.  As with Ninjas, one can never be sure.

Cycling, in October, and more

October 4, 2013

I’ve been trying to cycle to work every other day, weather permitting, and really enjoying it.   I’d always been an early riser and my son really is so I am definitely up and ready in good time.  The weather has been cooperating, too.  It hasn’t always been sunny, but it has been obviously poor or obviously great in the morning so I haven’t been caught in miserable conditions.

One fly in the ointment is my weekend work.  This weekend are two rides I’d like to be involved in but I am scheduled to lead some cub scout activities at my workplace.  On Saturday, in Nobel, a village near Parry Sound is a 7.6km ride.

October 05th (Saturday) Parry Sound Area Active Transportation presents a “Fall Fun Ride” starting at the Parry Sound Mall and wrapping up at the McDougall Recreation Centre (7.6kms). It’s a free event with registration from 09:00 am to 10:00 am, with the ride starting at 10:00 am. Register and ride for an entry into a bike draw. The Rotary Club of Parry Sound will have a BBQ at the finishing point. For information call 705 746 5801. www.psactivetrans.org

This would be a great event for my son and I, again, if I were not working.  While searching for online info about the Nobel ride, I found the Sudbury Cycling Union page, which has information about work to create bike trails around Georgian Bay.

On Sunday,  the United Way is running a series of rides from 25 to 100km in Simcoe County near Barrie.

 

On Facebook, friends shared two videos that fit with today’s topic.  One is about a man who was fined for not riding in the bike lane in New York and so wen tout of his way to show how dangerous the bike lanes were  The video is interesting but his method - crashing into obstacles left in the bike lanes - seems a little too personally costly to me.

The second video was made by a Dutch visitor to the US and compares the cycling culture in the two countries.  Briefly, he feels that the way cyclists locally (Canadian bike culture is nearly identical to American) dress up and prepare for riding shows it is not yet normative or entirely accepted.  I get this: one doesn’t really need spandex and lycra to ride.  The situation reminded me of hiking in Korea.  Korean hikers often dress in brand name hiking clothes and boots, and with poles and packs suitable for Nepal when shorts and running shoes are entirely sufficient.  Perhaps Thorstein Veblen’s views on conspicuous consumption are still relevant.

Back to the video.  The Dutch rider also compares infra(structure) in the two countries and this is fair although I think geography is at least equally relevant.  I don’t know much about the Netherlands but my impression is that it (they?) are pool-table flat and so more bike-friendly from the get-go.

 

Two pictures from recent rides I have taken.  The first can be found in a previous post but is worth showing again.  It is a Dekay snake or Northern Brown snake that I shooed off the bike trail.

DSC09531 bThe colors are just turning around Midland and the views are only going to get better in the next two weeks.  I predict an incredible Thanksgiving next weekend.  The bike trails around Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay and Tiny Townships will be the places to go!DSC09564 b

Northern Brown Snake – my first sighting…and my second, and third

September 28, 2013

 

I’m in the biz, so I don’t expect to see a snake new to me very often.  I’m happy (ah, not quite ecstatic, but thrilled enough to write about it) to say today is one of those days.

Lots of info about North Brown snakes can be found here.

Here is the first of the three I saw today.  I found it on the Tay-Midland Trail at the mouth of the Wye River.DSC09534 b

 

I included my cycling glove to give scale to these scalies.DSC09531 b

I don’t know it was because they were sliding on the asphalt, but they really seemed to side-wind across the cycling path to escape. DSC09529 b

Finally made it to Algonquin Park!

September 13, 2013

On Tuesday, I rented a beautiful single seater canoe from Swift  and took it to Access Point 3 in Algonquin Park. marked algonquinmap

Here is my full load for the canoe.  NOT packed were eating utensils and a big ziplock bag for the map.DSC00005

 

Although I described the canoe as beautiful, the sleek lines and speed came at the cost of forgiveness.  This canoe was one for hijinks.  After the first portage, I waded out with the canoe, lifted one sandaled foot out of the water, shook the water out and stepped into the canoe.  Mostly in the canoe, I shook the other foot, still hanging over the side… and rolled!  I hopped out so the canoe was only a third full of water but I was in belly deep water and my camera was in my shorts pocket.  I raced ashore and opened the camera up, took out the battery and all that, then set it on a rock while I tended to the rest of my gear.  By Wednesday evening, it had dried enough to take acceptable shots again. Basically, there are no pics until the last day of the trip.

I had planned to paddle (and portage) to Misty Lake and the clerk at the Park Office in Kearney remarked that it was a beautiful place but after the drive and the paddling and portaging, I had only made it to Little Misty by 5:15 and chose not to do the final portage and just camp there.  The site was great and involved 935 metres less canoe-and-gear carrying.


During some downtime, I carved two clothespins for the drying line, a spoon and a spatula.
DSC00024 Each of the three days had their best weather in the afternoon with the mornings being warm enough but ranging to dark and threatening to full downpour.
DSC00015 c

For the Big Hominid, some unidentified scat with remarkable fungal growth I had to step over during a portage.

DSC00038

I saw several beavers, otters, great blue herons and a few moose.  Here are a mother and child shot I took in the pouring rain on my return home.DSC00040 c

I’m glad I traveled solo and I felt comfortable doing so but this is the sort of trip that I won’t really enjoy until more time has passed.  It will feel better in hindsight.

(Somewhat) Poor Man’s photography

August 18, 2013

This is going to sound like..No, it is a first world problem.  I have a great little Sony camera and one of the few things it lacks is a really powerful zoom.  As a sort of workaround, I occasionally  try to use telescopes or binoculars.  It is really too hard to hold binoculars steady enough but a mounted scope works surprisingly well.

 

Here is the Bushnell scope at the far observation blind at Wye Marsh.DSC09625There is a tiny turtle at the end of the log, more or less in the middle of the picture.DSC09626 b

Here he is shooting through the scope with my camera at maximum zoom.DSC09627This is a painted turtle, quite small and likely only a few years old.

 

It is difficult to hold the camera steady enough and being even slightly off results in a picture like this if  you are lucky.DSC09624

 

So I had the camera at maximum zoom as it seemed to focus better and the automatic range-finding worked best.  At wide-angle, I only got the eyepiece of the scope in focus.

 

Now, all I need to take great long distance shots is for a mounted, high-quality telescope to be on location.

Dobsonfly larva on my hand

August 14, 2013

At the Wye Marsh, while dip-netting with children, I make a big deal of carrying any animals they catch into the collection basins.  I mean, I try to show they are not dangerous and can be handled without fear.  I have one exception; catfish, which have sharp spines in their pectoral and dorsal fins and can draw blood.  I still carry them but warn the visitors not too.

Now, I may have another exception, the dobsonfly larva.

DSC09605 b

DSC09604In the second picture you can see the larva is longer than my finger is wide and in the first, you can see the mandibles. From Wikipedia:

Hellgrammites [another common name for the larva]  live under rocks at the bottoms of lakesstreams and rivers, and prey on other insect larvae with the short sharp pincers on their heads, with which they can also inflict painful bites on humans.

More info to be found here.

I wasn’t bitten but was cautious and nervous while carrying them.  After reading the above, I may set them on leaves or the like to transport them.

I don’t know if I need to tell my reader(s) that I do carry leeches in my bare hands to the basins.  I do tend to pass them from hand to hand so they don’t have time to stick.  I think they are too upset or afraid to concern themselves with food but I, at least, feel better giving them a bumpy ride.

Finally, all captured critters are released at the end of the session.

 


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