A QUIET MOMENT IN NATURE

Mid August later in the afternoon nature seems to take a break from the feeding frenzy and the fight between the species to survive. Cormorants rest on old tree stumps in Colonel By Lake left over from the flooding of the banks for the Little Cataraqui River to finish the Rideau Waterway at Kingston in 1832. Other waterbirds hide along the water’s edge protected by the dense shrubs, overhanging trees and dead branches. Here are some of those that I discovered with my binoculars and then tried to photograph.

A solitary wood duck resting in the curve of some old roots and stump that floats in the water partly stuck in the mud or the shallow bay that is  part of the Kingston Mills Marsh, a provincially significant wetland. Look good and there are two painted turtles sunning just in front of her.

A male wood duck swimming lazyly among the waterlilies and occasionally taking a nibble from the duck weed that floats on the surface of the clean water in the bay.

A green heron stands like a rigid sculpted figure on a log near shore and near our dock. It shares the space with a family of painted turtles unlikely company.

A solitary sandpiper visits our bay. I have seen flocks of these from our boat, feeding on the dense carpet of water lily leaves where there are many insects on the wet leaves and small critters in the water. These small hyperactive birds are irregular visitors on Colonel By Lake. They breed in the northern part of Canada but are migrant throughout the Great Lakes area in Canada and the US. They winter around the Gulf of Mexico. When the conditions are good they gladly seem to take advantage of the food supply on our lake during their migration.

Wood ducks got the name because they like to perch in old dead trees near the water, these two seem to have found the ideal spot. They blend in with the tangle of branches and weeds, but obviously the area is good for their health, they are fat and plumb. This might be a pair because there were several younger looking ducks of the same family around in the water to just float of feed.

Can you spot mother duck sitting satisfied on a branch while her flock are busy to paddle around in the water and snack on the weeds?

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WHEN A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST…

A more than 150 year old oak tree didn’t fall in our forest, but it shed a large branch in a violent windstorm one night. The trees around it didn’t protect her. The branch was almost as old as the trunk. In the middle of the night a sound different from howling wind caught our ears, it was a rushing then crashing sound as if an electric bolt from a thunderstorm had hit the tree. The next day showed the damage.

Almost a year later, Mark Fleming, a resident on our road started to cut boards out of the branch to make a coffee table and other pieces of woodcraft. Here is a photo reportage you might enjoy.

Mark cut the boards that are from one to 1.5 inch thick with a chainsaw guided by a portable saw jig. The very broad cut at the crotch of the branch was cut free-hand. The piece that came off is now a very artistic coffee table.

 

 

The Old and New Graham House

You might remember this… October 2016. Cecil Graham’s former rental property was for sale on a 10 acre piece of land. The house was initially trucked in from across Colonel By Lake. It was a small wood-frame house  and Cecil clad it in Angel stone. When the property sold they dismantled the old little house and build a three thousand square foot house instead.

And this… July 2017.

And the newly built house…

June 2018, the new house was built in part on the old foundation, Why? Maybe that way the planning department allowed two extra lots to be severed for a small estate development of three houses.

Spring 2018, Unusual Sightings

 

This creature walked from our front door to the back door and then around the house to offer us a good look.  Our daughter from Burlington looked up from her reading and said, “What in the world is THAT? ”  There would be one more and as a couple they strutted towards the edge of the woods and disappeared. 

Wild turkeys, they were. This was early March 2018. These birds are surprisingly big and well fed after a harsh winter. They must know a thing or two to survive and do remarkably well around our area. 

Later in April I saw two wild turkeys flying overhead, crossing the lake towards Kingston Mills. The had a powerful wing beat like Canada geese. Very good flyers. Their red throat flaps were swinging in their bodies’ slipstream.

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It’s early spring. The ice still covers our bay at the north-west corner of Colonel By Lake. Our granddaughter from Burlington spotted a river otter near shore. It entered the water through a soft spot in the ice and every few minutes appeared with a small fish in its mouth. A quick thrust with its neck and gobble, gobble the fish was gone. The otter eagerly slipped back in the water, to catch its next snack. It repeated this ritual for at least half an hour. Otters are here during the winter and summer. They have a very interesting breeding habit, and are well adapted to our climatic extremes. They prefer unpolluted bodies of water, so we should be happy to have them as our neighbours.

It was difficult to photograph the animal with the white snowy background and the dark blackish wet furcoat of the otter contrasting so much. We hope you enjoy this photo.

River otters are abundant in areas where the shore of a lake or other body of water offers many natural nooks and crannies under fallen trees or abandoned dens of beavers and muskrat. Colonel By Lake does offer such a natural littoral area especially in the many shallow bays.

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Our Mute Swan couple is back on our part of the lake. As soon as the ice was gone in the canal and in other areas of the lake where the current is strong, the water birds were back. It seemed as if they were lingering nearby on Lake Ontario and move inland as soon as they can, to claim possession of their breeding territories.

We assume this is one of the breeding couple, the male most likely, scouting out this part of the lake that was their breeding area a year ago, in 2017.  The open water is nearby. March 2018.

Here they are: the Mute Swan couple that bred last year across form our place along the shore of Edenwood Park. The collection of ducks don’t seem to bother the pair, but the swans do go after geese with a vengeance. We have seen one of the swans pursue a nearby goose across the lake and then back towards Kingston Mills, gradually closing the distance between them. We  imagine that the goose is in a bad spot when the swan catches up with the intruder. April 8, 2018.

 

RURAL ROAD MAINTENANCE 2018

City road maintenance crews started work on the Aragon Road, March 2018. As a result of complaints about the methods of brush clearing in 2015 the Rural Advisory Committee discussed with the Manager or Road Maintenance a policy for improved brush clearing.  Aragon Road citizens argued that it could be considered a heritage road and should be maintained with this special status in mind.

The current march 2018 brush clearing  has been completed, and the results are  in: well done, compliments to the road maintenance crew who executed the work plan and stayed in touch with citizens on the road. Thanks also to Bill Linnen, Operations Manager Public Works and Adam Mueller, Public Education and Promotion Coordinator Public Works who communicated with Bob Wolfe , member of the Rural Advisory Committee and a citizen living on the Aragon Road.

The Volvo Busher in action after clearing smaller selected trees by the forestry crew, which worked selectively and sensitively with chainsaws along the forested areas that make the Aragon Road so special.

Citizens living on the Aragon Road have on multiple occasions before the Rural Advisory Committee and through the Planning Department, emphasized that the Aragon Road should be considered a heritage road.

It is a “forced” road, which is different from the county road system that British surveyors laid out in the late 1700-s.  A forced road has spontaneously developed from an early path between farms to a dirt road and a gravel topped paved road without any formal road allowances. The special legal features of the forced road has come up on Amherst Island in conjunction with the wind-farm.

In a report to council earlier this week, Dave Thompson, the township’s director of infrastructure services, wrote that ownership of road allowances on the island evolved in a “radically different manner” from the rest of the municipality. The forced roads on the island generally evolved from commonly traveled routes and were built without official Crown surveys and public ownership. Click HERE for the full article in the Whig Standard.

Another piece of information: When it  comes to forced roads, there is no standard width to be found in any legislation or common law decisions… From Township’s Solicitor Jim Baird of Township Asphodel-Norwood

Maybe it is time to consider different road maintenance policies for major highways, two lane highways, county roads and secondary rural roads many of which are forced roads with important heritage features.

See also: FOUR HISTORIC HOMES ON ARAGON ROAD

and: TREES ALONG THE ARAGON ROAD

and: HERITAGE ROAD AND PARK MAINTENANCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Wildlife Along the Aragon Road

Neighbours sent us some rare photos of the  wildlife along our road and in the River Styx. Enjoy!

Jackie Duffin photographed these turkey vultures roosting in a tree bordering Colonel By Lake. We counted fifteen but there might be more. 

Enjoying the midday rest after a heavy lunch? These birds eat almost exclusively carrion and one wonders where they find all that around here. I assume there is road-kill and in the fields there might be a lot of dead animals killed by predators and other causes?  In any case they are valuable for cleaning up our environment.

In flight one only sees the dark profile of the bird with its characteristic bend-up wing tips when soaring on a thermal updrafft, but in this closeup we see the primary wing feathers. Below the anatomy of a bird’s wing. Click the photo for more information.

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Mark Fleming a professional photographer on our road took these photos of the bald eagles that nest in the marsh of the north-western tip of the River Styx.

This is the one young they hatched this year, 2017.

Parent number one and below number two. Mark tells us that subtle differences show who is the female and male. Any birders who can see the difference?

The young fledgling in flight.

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Not all of us might like the cormorant but they are magnificent flyers skimming at low altitude over the water and the waves. This one is taking off by splashing its webbed feet on the water for extra lift.

The Ministry of the Environment must have done some culling because the numbers of cormorants on our lake is way down, compared with last year. Is it wise to interfere with nature?

To go to the INDEX click here.

 

 

Mince Meat Bucket; A Short Story

This story  that happened at Kingston Mills, is by Garth Scott a participant in Later Life Writing  at Cross Road Church, Kingston, Ontario, 2016.

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What do a mincemeat bucket and Jaques Cousteau have in common? A lot more than you might think.

mince meat bucket b

I met Terry Walker in 1942 and we became lifelong friends. My friend could build cedar strip canoes, works of art. That someone can take some strips of wood and make from them a thing of beauty and utility never ceases to amaze me.

Terry always had a love for the water and for historical exploration and to satisfy these loves, in later life he became an accomplished SCUBA diver, exploring old wrecks in the water around Kingston.

Terry’s grandmother had a cottage at Kingston Mills and he and I spent many happy summer days on the water at the Mills, in a rowboat Terry had built. At the time we were both around twelve years old.

One day, when I called on my friend, he excitedly showed me his latest creation: a diving helmet. It would allow us to dive under the waters. Terry was certain there were historical artifacts present in the wreckage of an old boat whose timbers we could see from the surface of a small bay above the Kingston Mills locks.

Picture and inverted wooden bucket with a sort of rubber jacket securely affixed to it. The jacket was made from an automobile inner tube attached to the open end of the bucket. This went over your head with its rim resting on the shoulders. A drawstring threaded through holes in the jacket allowed it to be drawn tightly closed around the chest and arm openings. An eye hole cut in the bucket and covered with heavy celluloid and water proofed allowed underwater visibility. The air supply to the diver, who was to be me, consisted of a length of garden hose screwed onto a fitting on the top of the bucket. Air would be forced down the hose to the diver by a tire pump mounted in the boat on the surface. Thus outfitted I would be free to move around the bottom of the bay and explore. The simplicity of the diving helmet design was beautiful and I couldn’t wait to try it out. We agreed to begin our underwater explorations the following Saturday.

We didn’t reckon on Terry’s mother uncovering our  plan and she, being unwise in scientific matters, chopped the diving helmet to splinters and burned it.

Just imagine if Thomas Edison would have had a mother like that.

Terry did eventually explore the wreck without the helmet, and artifacts were recovered.

This is the water above the locks at Kingston Mills. The two cottages are from the time that Garth’s story takes place. However there are more cottages at Kingston Mills and it is unknown if Terry’s grandmother owned one of these or another.

The Graham Farm Sold

The Cecil and Wilma Graham farm was sold by the Estate Trustees John and Isabel Turner, to the George Patrick and Marie-Ann Carey, owners of two century farms on Paterson Road, just north of the Aragon Road where the Graham farm was located.

The Graham farm was assembled over time by acquiring smaller land grants given by the British government to workers and military personnel who participated in he building of the Rideau Canal from 1826-32. See Wilma Graham remembers…click HERE for more.

The land north of the Aragon Road from the Quintin property farm to Keirstead’s land is mostly designated as “Prime Agricultural” by the Province of Ontario and local planning laws. It is for this reason that estate development along the road is limited to fill-in estate lots, such as currently advertised by Century 21.

It is for this reason that the historic Aragon Road has been preserved by the people along it, but mostly by Cecil and Wilma Graham, as the original “forced road” from the mid 1880s.

The sale of the Graham farm has added another layer to the preservation of our road’s character as the Carey’s are now owning it and have added it to their large farm that now stretches from the Paterson Road to the Aragon Road.

From Service Ontario, Land Registry. The Graham farm is marked in darker grey. The 29 acres of land south of the Aragon Road Lot 37-38, was donated to the then Township of Kingston for the “enjoyment of the  public” and is now marked as the Cecil and Wilma Graham Park.

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A areal view of the land between the Aragon Road and the Paterson Road shows the combined area the Careys farm.

The Graham farm is marked by the dotted borders, the Carey land is marked by solid lines. These borders were assumed from local observation and might not be correct. This will be followed-up. Note the land south of the Aragon Road,the Graham Park, is connected to the wooded peninsula the juts out in Esther Head Marsh, and which is federal conservation area.

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To go to the INDEX click the icon below which is Graham’s house. What happens with it, is of yet unknown.

New Life on Colonel By Lake

For us, humans, the spring has barely shown itself. There was rain, many chilly days, high water on the lakes and rivers, and the occasional sunny warm day. But, the animals around our houses, in the forest and on the water’s edge have been busy like any other year.

We have for the first year a breeding couple of Mute Swans in our bay. They most likely are the juveniles that have been hanging around our nook of the lake for the last couple of years. He or she must have picked up a mate while in warmer climes while we shivered through our winter. Other swan-couples, probably more experienced, have already their young. I made these photos today on the river Styx and on Colonel By Lake at Harriet Point at the end of our road.

The neighbourhood is a bit rough but there is room for all. The Mute Swan on her nest, on this little rock-outcropping, is a first. The place is a favorite spot for cormorants and gulls. Photo taken May 18, 2017. A week later May 24,  I spotted this swan and her mate with two or more young near the shore  of  the Isle of Man.

swans mute breeding june 2 2017 harriet point

Update June 2, 2017. This is the result, two young. The photo was taken from the marked navigational part of the canal towards the shore of Isle of Man, near Harriet Point on Colonel By Lake.

Then on the same day I took this photo of yet another couple that might have bred in the marsh of Casey Island, the couple seems to be a well established pair with no less than seven cygnets. Date June 2, 2017

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This is a couple’s nest on our bay. He or she is digging up mud and pieces of bulrushes and will put the material on a pile near the side of the nest. From there she picks up a beak-full of material and carefully distributes it around the outside of the nest to increase its size and to keep up with the rising waters.

At times the pair works together, “he” gets the building material from the swamp and piles it on the storage site, “she” takes it from the storage site and applies it to the nest. The bigger bird on the nest might  be the female?

After all that is done, it is time to get down again incubating the eggs. Her wingspan is  enormous and I wish I could have made a video of the sequence.

Careful does it, her underside is impressive, like the undercarriage of an airplane?  But if there are five or more eggs, it she must cover a large area.

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May 28, 2017, we see two young bobbing around the parents for the first time and only for a brief period. Two days later they are on the water around the nest eating weeds while the parents gobble up to eight pounds of weeds and roots each day. The marshy area in our bay provide excellent habitat for the new couple. Here are updates on our photographic observations.

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by f jpg

swans mute breeding may 31 2017. col by d jpg

For information on the breeding habits click here: Most Swans find their mates before the age of 2 years, usually during the winter season. Even though some may nest for the first time when they are two years old, most won’t start until they are 3 to 7 years old.

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This family photo x taken on May 24th must have bred in the marshland at the north-west corner of the bay in the River Styx. In this photo they were feeding and leisurely floating in the water near the navigational part of the river, in the middle of some juicy weed mats. I counted five young but on one photo it looks like one more is hiding behind one of the parents.

Mother and her cygnet have a tête-à-tête.

It looks like Mom is hugging her child she was carrying on her back in the photo above. Her head is lying on its side, a somewhat unusual pose.

And in this photo she seems to encourage the little one to feed on some green snacks.

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The ospreys are back on the nest in the conservation area, near the Dickinson’s property, and at the nest on the Keirstead’s property at the canal between the River Styx and Colonel By Lake. But those are the only two nests left from the six that were once established around the lake, see: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/ospreys/

Ospreys are well established along the Rideau Canal and near other big waterways and lakes. Not to worry about a decline on our lake, it might just be a local phenomena, there is lots of real-estate for these birds to occupy and breed.

It will be interesting to find out of the Bald Eagle that nested last year in our area has come back, see for last year’s update on the ospreys and the bald eagle at:  https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/2016/07/30/update-on-osprey-nesting-and-more/

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And finally here is an osprey that flew by with a fish in its claws, landed on a hydro pole and sternly observed my actions taking the photo.  This is most likely one of the ospreys that nest at the Keirstead’s property at Harriet Point.

To go back to the INDEX, click here.

Water Levels in Colonel By Lake

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 b

Spring 2017 poured a lot of water from the heavens into the Rideau Watershed and the level of Colonel By Lake has been higher than ever.

When we built our house near the lake, the  Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, watershed management and Parks Canada prohibited the building of a basement. The floor of our first level of the house needed to be six feet, one and a half meter, above the highest recorded water level since the canal was built in 1832. We are glad we did built accordingly. For water levels over time and the targets of water management, click here.

The recent lake level was almost 20 cm above the highest recorded since 1832. The recent high water is now the record high level until it might be broken next year, or the years thereafter. The wetlands on our thirteen acre property expanded widely by absorbing the massive amounts of water that poured down for days on end. Plants and amphibians had a good time.

Watershed managers in the different areas coordinated water flow as best they could. The weir in the dam and the hydro-electric generation station at Kingston Mills worked overtime. I took some photos of the thundering water that flowed over the weir and under the road towards the waterfall at the south-east side of the blockhouse.

Kingston Mills

The original Kinston Mills engineering plan and nomenclature; from Rideau Canal a History of the Rideau Lock Stations. Almost all of this plan can still be seen. Only the lock-master’s house was not built in the shown location.

The dam and weir. The new concrete cap was installed in 2016 to stabilize the stone key-work of the original  140 feet limestone dam. The overflow seems gentle from this distance, and it is only part of the water released from the lake since the power generating station takes also a substantial outflow from Colonel By Lake.

The water thunders through the sluice that runs underneath the one lane bridge. The bridge has been completely renewed during the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017. It was scheduled to open in the middle of May but is now delayed. 

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The water flows from under the bridge and against the rock-bluff on which the blockhouse has been built. From there it flows towards the south-east side of the earthen wall of the roadway and from there it is reflected towards the rocky cliffs of the original waterfall in the river.  But the earthen wall did not stand up against the eroding water. In the photo below the road is washed out with the steel railing posts hanging in the air.  My VIDEO of the rushing water shows this in real-time, click here. 

A professional view of before and after the flood taken by a drone gives a really spectacular view of the Kingston Mills area, waterways, waterfall and power generation station. Click HERE and look for Kingston Mills drone videos, specifically “Kingston Mills Before and After the Flood”.

ki mills waterfal may 22 2017 c

The washed out road that was just rebuilt as part of the 5 million dollar restoration and upgrade of the Kingston Mills lock-station. When and how this is going to be repaired is currently being discussed. The opening of the road will be delayed well beyond the mid-May opening of the locks.

The waterfall on the east side of the hydro-electric generation station looks in this setting like it would have been before the building of the Kingston Mills locks in 1926-1932. Note the small rainbow just to the right and above the centre of the photo.

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The two large diameter pipes funneling water tot the turbines in the electric generation station. Note that the water flows over the rocks and under the pipes, a feature that has never happened. This water will join the waterfall and will flow into Lake Ontario via the Cataraqui River and the Inner Harbour at Kingston.

Image result for Cataraqui River

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To go to the INDEX  click here.