15 June 2014

A misty day at the (squeaky new) Carden Alvar Provincial Park

Carden Alvar's an important bird area, and a lot  of work over a long time has got it designated a provincial park.  This ought to help preserve the habitat, important for Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper, and other other grassland species like grasshopper sparrow, bobolinks and bluebirds.  I was up there yesterday as part of the annual Carden point count; teams of volunteers head out to specific points, and count birds.  (The good birders, who can do it by ear, do most of the counting; I get to manage GPS co-ordinates and scan the horizon.  Lots of crows this year and turkey vultures this year; sandhill crane and northern harrier in other years.)

It's been wet, lots of rain, and parts of the access road were twice the road width in stupendous puddles.  It was a misty, cool (~10 C) and dim morning where it almost rained, so not surprising that the overall number of birds counted was down a bit this year.  (They're there, but if they're not singing they're really hard to see.)

Since there aren't any wood buffalo on hand, the vegetation is maintained by grazing cattle; they're generally pretty calm, which is sometimes surprising given the presence of calves and the nigh-certainty there are bears.  (Black bear are seriously hungry until after the major berry crops have been and gone; it's not at all difficult to imagine a black bear trying for a calf in June.)

Probably a bear cub.
Tracks are much too small for an adult bear; that mark in the lower right is some of one of my boot prints.  I'd be happier with the identification if there were claw marks, but the shape and five toes showing sharply limit the options as to what else it could be.
Early in the weathering process
Alvar's a landscape that results from a relatively flat limestone layer at the surface; karst topography.  This bit's new, something's scraped the dirt off it recently.  (No idea what.  The delicate parallel scratches suggest ice, but I wouldn't think there was enough slope where I took this for that to happen.)
Typical alvar outcrop
Here we have what alvar is expected to look like; low, flat weathered limestone outcrop with deep crevices dissolved in the limestone, shallow surrounding soils, and a variety of vegetation adapted to "goodness, what a lot of calcium ions you have" conditions.
Beaver hydrology low water channel
This is up Wylie Road; there's some marsh there (Phoebe, including a rather adorable "wait, wait, grabbing vertical stalks as a perch, I studied that! flaple-grab-wobble-wobble-whew, fledgeling), sedge wren, and random bitterns (they're there all the time, but the calls? by which you may hope to confirm the presence?  those are plenty random).  There's also a beaver lodge, and a new dam, so there's high water in most of the marsh and low water in the stream channels below the dam.  Doesn't seem to be hurting anything, but you can see the accumulated black muck round the roots and a yellow water lily that wasn't planning on being that far out of the water when it grew.

I did manage to see upland sandpiper, snipe (calling!) and shrikes; also common loon (flying over and calling) and bluebirds.  It's hard not to call it a good day when you get a good look at some bluebirds.


Mark Z said...

I so want those to be badger tracks.

Graydon said...

That would be very cool but also painfully unlikely, range expansion in historical time or not.


suggests they haven't made it over the Escarpment, never mind east of Simcoe.