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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UPDATE ON OSPREY NESTING and MORE…

The ospreys have fledged and it is time to update our neighbours on the nesting success of the couples that build their “homes” along Colonel By Lake and the River Styx. Here are the locations from 2002 to the last update of 2013, three years ago. What has changed in the last three years? This is the latest for 2016.

osprey map 2013

The “big star” in this map is the couple that started their nest in 2002, the first osprey settlement on Colonel By Lake since we monitored them. Jack Colden had erected a telephone pole with a 6×6 nest box on top two years  before and in 2012 the couple started to make their home. For more click here.

The nest toppled over in the spring of 2014 just before the arrival of the birds from their wintering grounds in Florida. The pair moved to another empty platform about 200 meter to the east, also set up by the Coldens just as an extra site , in this case a good backup. There, the ospreys successfully hatched two young each year from 2014 to 2016. This couple produced over the years more than thirty offspring. Survival rate in the first year is about fifty percent, so probably fifteen or more of their young have families now and some of these are around our area on Colonel By Lake and the River Styx.

osprey dickinson july 19 2016 This is the original nesting area on Colonel By Lake. The parents might be the 2002 originals.  Here one parent and a young is shown, the other young is inside the deep nest and the second parent is hunting for food. Photos by Henk Wevers.

osprey dickinson july 19 2016 b

At the end of June and early July the first chick is almost the 2/3 the size of an adult and they start to flex their wings. First one, then the other wing can be seen  spreading awkwardly over the edge of the nest. This young is almost ready to fledge and leave the nest which happened a few days later on July 21. The family does gather around 6 pm for supper and one can see the two adults and two young on the nest, eating and hanging around…

On the River Styx …

osprey river styx july 2016 hwA couple have built their nest since 2011 on this large dead tree stump dating from the time that the Rideau Canal was built. It sits in a large bay a the north-west end of the river. In this photo one parent is hunting while the other watches over two young.  The young sit side by side their bodies seemingly one with the youngest in front of the older sibling. in front of that pair it looks like there is a third young a body with dark juvenile feathers is crouching low in the nest. Anyway this couple has been very successful in producing young during the last five years. Note the difference in size between the oldest and younger siblings.

Other nests on the map have disappeared over time some because the natural trees they had used to build their nests toppled over in mid-season, or might have been raided by raccoons. These nesting sites  were abandoned the following year. One nest at the end of Aragon Road that the Keirsteads erected on the side of the canal was abandoned in the early breeding season in 2015 and 2016. Two years before that the couple produced two young each year for three years in a row.

Lately we see them huddling together on  a tree stump enjoying the fruits of their work building a robust nest. Hopefully this will be their next year’s domicile at the entrance to the canal between Colonel By Lake and the River Styx.

osprey harriet point july july 31 2016

osprey harriet point july july 31 2016 b

It is amazing how they have woven the branches together to make a nest that can withstand the winter. One would think that a couple that can built such a nest would be successful in hatching two or three chicks and bringing them up to young adults that can migrate this coming September to winter ultimately in Florida or somewhere along the Atlantic coast or other open water, during our winter.

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New to our area is a Bald Eagle couple that was discovered by Mark Fleming in the early spring of this year. Its nest is located in a large mature white pine tree near the marsh at the north-west corner of the River Styx. That is also the location of a couple of Mute Swans who swam around that corner of the Rideau with three young and then later only two. There are many more breeding Mute Swans along the river going towards Lower Brewer Mills Locks. Bald Eagles are also observed along the Rideau Canal in the quiet wetland areas of the large lakes farther east, according to Parks Canada staff.

bald eagle young fleming jyly 2016

A young bald eagle photographed by Mark Fleming one of our neighbours on the Aragon Road who is a serious nature photographer who takes his kayak out on the water to scout for wildlife in the marshes and shallow water of Esther March Bay and the River Styx and parts of Colonel By Lake. For more photos of the bald Eagles click here.

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To go to the INDEX, click on the icon  below another photo of the Bald Eagle by Mark Fleming.

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New Wildlife on Colonel By Lake 2016

SPRING IS HERE…

duck mother eight young may 2016

During the 2016 spring migration old acquaintances came back, first the Canada Geese, many of which never left or migrated just a short distance where open water provided food. They have already bred large groups of offspring that flock together in the lake and in the river.

The Mute Swans were back in numbers with up to a dozen hanging around Colonel By Lake and with some of them setting up home on the River Styx in the large marshland at the north-western end of the river.

Ospreys returned to their old nests, the couple that inhabits the federal land beside the Dickinsons have been breeding there since 2003. Other nests at Casey Island and at Keirstead are occupied, and one nest on a large tree stump in the River Styx has also a breeding couple.

A pair of Bald Eagles has set up residence in a tree in the north-west corner of the River Styx. Here are some photos that Mark Fleming took. Mark is a neighbour on our road who loves to be on the water in his kayak and with his camera at the ready.

mark fleming swans 2016 aHere are two mute swans side by side, Pa and Ma perfectly lined up except for their heads. Cygnets have a comfortable ride. End of May, 2016, River Styx.

mark fleming bald eagle bA Bald Eagle watching over its nest site. A little later his or her mate flies in with food.

mark fleming bald eagle aAnd to prove the point, here is the nest with at least two young.

mark fleming bald eagle dThank you Mark for sharing these photos with all your neighbours and friends who are interested in the natural history of the Aragon Road. 

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The weedy areas of Colonel By Lake were the nursery for a few days last week, May 23-25 with lots of Carp mating. The entire day the sound of splashing and gurgling water whipped up by the large fish was overwhelming. Here are a few shots of the mating game. The carp are at least 75 cm to one metre in length.

spawning bass 8 may 19 10

carp spawning may 24 2016

carp spawning may 24 2016 dPhotos taken by Henk Wevers, from our dock in the shallow Draper Bay at the northwest end of Colonel By Lake. 

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floxes nice 2015

Four Historic Homes on Aragon Road

Congratulations to the owners of four homes on our Aragon Road that have been added to the Heritage Property List of the City of Kingston. These four are:  the John Hogan House at Aragon nr. 13, built in circa 1863; the Michael Burke Farm at nr. 204 built after 1861; The Corrigan House at nr. 384, built before 1860 and the Draper Farm at nr. 464, built prior to 1860.

farm hogan end of roadThe John Hogan House, now owned by Art and Thea Tidman.

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The Michael Burke Farm, owned by the late Cecil and Wilma Graham

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bob w house jan 2010 1200x 700

The Corrigan House, currently owned by Bob Wolfe and Jackie Duffin

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quintin house oct 2013The Draper Farm, currently owned by Phil and Judith Quintin
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There is one historic house left of the list and that is the house previously owned by the Lockett family, and currently owned by Jamie Carson and Catherine Dhavernas. According to Ryan Leary,  Senior Planner, Heritage, it will be added later.

I have no idea why it was not listed as it is built in the same period as the Michael Burke farm house, better known as the Graham farmhouse. The Locket house was original red brick but Colonel Fair would by farms, ‘modernise the farmhouse by stuccoing the outside,severing it off with a parcel of land  and sell it for a profit.

lockett house after renovation The Lockett house, now owned by Jamie Carson and Catherine Dhavernas 

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The owners of these historical houses received a letter with extensive documentation about the farmhouses, an aerial view of the property, part of a historic map by Putnam and Walling, 1860, a section on the architectural merits of the house, historic data and the criteria used to assign the Cultural Heritage Value according to Ontario Regulation 9/06

The Putman and Wallling map is included in this website at: https://aragonroadhistory.wordpress.com/historic-map-of-the-glenburnie-area-and-the-aragon-road/

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graham trees oct 14 2015 ineke

The Swans Are Back

The mute swans have come back in large numbers. Today we saw five swans landing in Draper Bay at the northwest end of Colonel By Lake. They joined several others who already enjoyed the clear water of the bay around this time of the approaching spring. Here is a group from around the same time last year. Given a chance we will try to take a photograph of the 2016 early arrivals.

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They breed in the River Styx where there are much larger wetlands with less human traffic nearby. An invasive species they are nevertheless a beautiful sight.

Other recent arrivals are: Blue Herons, Kingfishers, Canada Geese, Cormorants, Terns, lots of ducks and …the Ospreys.

Have a great time observing the rich wildlife around our Aragon Road.

The photo in the heading of this blog was taken a few days ago with a decent camera and good telelens from across the bay.

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osprey esther marsh july 13 09 joung wings spread

 

 

 

LANDSCAPING A SOLAR FARM

Several proposals for solar farms have popped up around the City of Kingston one affects our neighbourhood directly. this is the proposal to build a solar farm on the land just north of Kingston Mills Road and Battersea Road, south of Edenwood. The city requires certain standards in landscaping and it would be wise to press the company and support our Rural Advisory Committee in improving the visual screening of the solar farm from the people that use the road beside it.

The planting of trees along the side fronting the road is useless if it is done as one can see here.

solar farm unity road treesThe visual barrier between the site and the road consists of a single row of small cedars, most of them have died during the winter. There is no visual screening of the site now and it the future since the trees grows slowly and when re-plated they start all over again from a very small size.

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It would be much better if the landscaping included a substantial earthen berm that hides the solar collectors right from the start and plant trees both on top of the berm and in front of it facing the road. This way one visually screens the solar farm from day one AND when the trees grow up it fits much better in the surrounding rural landscape. See this sketch.

solar farm berm

In this concept the berm screens the user of the road from the solar array and the trees when grown up enhance the landscape.

In this concept plan for making a solar farm more visually acceptable the berm serves as a first defence against the effect of a large solar panel array on people who travel past it and on neighbours. While the berm is initially more costly than a row of little trees, it is more effective and in the long run, in conjunction with tree planting provides a  much better boundary around or along a large solar farm.

Let us know what you think, and please try to be at the Open House that the company is planning to offer in the coming weeks. The announcement of that meeting will be in the Kingston Whig and on the City of Kingston website. We will do our best to alert you to this date as well.

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Swans on the Rideau

Our Colonel By Lake hosts at least two Mute Swans more or less permanently as reported in earlier posts. Later in early spring, we observed a flock of 10-15 adult and juvenile swans on the lake. Where would they reside we wondered?

Then, in the second week of June we saw five Tundra Swans, they were a little grey-white with characteristic black bills and straight necks. Adult Tundra swans are spotless white so these were juveniles from last years breeding season. They were way out of their regular territory which is north of the Great Lakes, where the tundra is. Being so far from home they were looking for friends among the Mute Swans, but these put up a show with their wings turned up like sails, swimming slowly and threateningly to the younger Tundra Swans, clearly indicating that they were not welcome.

swans april 2015

A Mute Swan displaying dominance…  Photo credit Henk Wevers.

© Marshall Faintich Beaver Creek Lake, Crozet, VA 2/10/13

© Marshall Faintich
Beaver Creek Lake, Crozet, VA
2/10/13

A juvenile Tundra Swan. Note straight neck, not fully black bill and less than pristine white colour. Photo from WWW at: http://www.symbolicmessengers.com/Blog2013/02_12_2013.htm

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The question of where all these swans reside for the spring and summer season, came to light when I made a trip up the Rideau with a visiting friend from Holland. Travelling on the River Styx towards Lower Brewer’s Mills Lock we noticed several flocks of Mute Swans along the shore, where pasture and wetlands meet at the entrance to the canal leading past Joyceville Penitentiary towards the locks. Each flock had at least 10-15 members, and in addition there were several pairs leisurely swimming in different areas near shore. One pair of parents had four cygnets, one baby was sitting on top of her parent, the others were closely clustered together between Pa and Ma as our boat slowly drifted by. The photos I shot would have been stunning, except for some reason my camera was on manual focus which caused all of them to be out of focus, sorry. Here is one that looks alike but is on loan from the Encyclopedia Britannica at: cygnets

swan mute cygnets

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In closing, Jackie Duffin and Bob Wolfe, neighbours on the road, canoed on the Lake and saw the Tundra Swans “hanging out” with a flock of Canada Geese.

Since all these swans and geese species are family one rejoices the fact that at least some of the family members seem to get along.

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swan mute kids

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

There is winter and then there is spring, the transition from extreme cold, snow and ice to springlike weather is almost instantaneous. As soon as the ice in Colonel By Lake starts to melT along the shore rapid changes take place.

This year we were treated to unusual visitors: Mute Swans, the largest water birds in this part of the country, an invasive species and quite aggressive, but graceful. We had fifteen of these majestic birds in our bay at the north west end of Colonel By Lake. I put them in the header of our website and show you a few more photos for your enjoyment.

We witnessed their courtship which is noisy and spectacular. The male, I presume, approaches the female who is not at all willing to participate, she flies away a short distance, maybe 50-100 meters, barely lifting off the water. The male pursues her in close pursuit. Because lift off is so slow and seemingly difficult, there are lots of splashing and sloshing sounds, when they are almost out of the water one can hear the rush of the wings that are up to 2.5 meters in span. Landing shortly after kicks up lots of water and causes waves. This goes on all day for two or three days in a row.

swans april 2015 c

 A sail past of Mute Swans in Draper Bay at the south-west end of Colonel By Lake, April 11, 2015. Note there is still ice floating in the water and there is snow on the ground.

Only a few days later that will all be gone.

swans april 2015 fA flock of ten Mute Swans on the water between the ice and the shore.

swans april 2015Showing off

swans april 2015 a A pair

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A few days later most of the swans are gone further up the Rideau. We know there is a breeding pair in the creek and marsh of the River Styx in the large north-west bay of the river, just beyond the Keirstead farm.

Enjoy this swan in flight, it is a photo from the Internet, all other photos are taken by Henk Wevers.

swan in flight www

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Let’s not forget the ospreys: they are back. First the male and then the female. The males repair the nest that has suffered from the snow, wind and other ravages of the winter, and then the female comes a week later; courtship starts.

Mark Fleming, a neighbour on the road, has already been on the lake in his kayak and observed ospreys on their nest at Keirstead. on Caseys Island at the eastern edge of the peninsula that is the federal conservation area, and on the pole nest east of the Dickinson’s house also in the conservation area. There are several more nests around the lake and the River Styx and it is safe to assume that most have returning ospreys setting up a household each yielding two to three offspring later in the spring.

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A Great Blue Heron flew gracefully in to our bay landing near the shore to pick off the first fish of the season. Then there are lots of ducks and Canada geese on the water making a racket. On land the robins, red winged blackbirds, and other songbirds are building their nests wherever they can find a safe ledge, or other shelter, Turkey Vultures and birds of prey are soaring in a deep blue arctic sky.

It is SPRING

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Bringing Nature Back to the Cottage

I  retyped this article from the Fall edition of Ontario Nature Magazine; it applies to our area as well and it might be considered by the neighbours who have quite a number of Canada geese visiting their lawns. Rather than racing after the geese with a pick-up truck to chase them away, shoreline plants and natural barriers would keep them away. Geese like to land on water and then waddle ashore. The shoreline at Alan Point Drive and the large short clipped grassy fields are made of Canada geese to graze on.

bringing back dog

Bringing Nature Back to the Cottage; A No-mow zone with happy dog.

By Jessica Middleton, Ontario Nature, Fall 2014, page 11

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When my grandparents, George and Madge Middleton, bought their cottage in the 1970s, they thought they knew how to “do it up right”—by chopping down trees, planting a lawn and removing unsightly weeds from the water’s edge. Forty years later, a new land ethic is taking root in cottage country. More and more Ontario cottagers are retiring their lawnmowers and making space for cattails, wildflowers, dogwood and willow.

This return-to-nature trend coincides with an increasing human presence and pressure on our lake ecosystems. We must not only preserve remaining natural features, but also rehabilitate areas that have been degraded. That is especially true for shorelines, where 90 percent of all lake life is born, raised and fed. This ribbon of life is sensitive to human impact and in great need of restoration.

Fortunately, dramatic improvements can be made even with minimal effort. According to Kawartha Conservation, the first step is to maintain a no-mow zone along the shoreline and remove invasive plants. This can be followed by planting native shrubs to secure the soil and wildflowers to attract pollinators. For larger projects, it is wise to consult with local conservation authority staff, as some shoreline projects require permits.

One of the challenges people face in bringing back nature to their cottage may be the neighbours. While some will embrace the idea of a more natural and garden, others may view the changes with confusion and disdain. Cottage owners undertaking such projects should take time to explain what they are doing and why, letting neighbours know that shoreline naturalization can add value to a property, reduce shoreline erosion, improve water quality and deter pesky Canada geese.

Since inheriting the Middleton cottage earlier this year, my sister and I have begun bringing nature back. Our grandparents would be surprised by some of the changes taking place but would be thrilled by the increased number of frogs, birds, and butterflies sharing our land. They can rest assured that we are making the right kind of progress, with nature as our guide and inspiration.

To see more photos of the Middleton cottage shoreline restoration, visit onnaturemagazine.com/shoreline-restoration.

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Native wild flowers and pollinator

bringingTiger-swallowtail-enjoying-the-Joepyeweed

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