Monday, 11 December 2017

Sgwd Yr Eira, Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys

With the recent heavy snowfall across Wales it was the perfect time for Bethan and I to visit Sgwd yr Eira, a magnificent waterfall deep within the valleys of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Craig y Dinas, 'Fortress Rock'
Many geological and natural features which can be seen from the path to the falls, which follows the Afon Mellte and form the Dyffrynnoedd Nedd a Mellte, a Moel Penderyn SSSI which is listed due to its important semi-natural woodlands which contain a wide assemblage rare bryophytes and lichens as well as it old quarry faces, cliffs and gorges which give a window into Wales geological past.

From the car park your immediately met with a huge contorted slab of Carboniferous Limestone, known as Craig y Ddinas which roughly translated means 'Fortress Rock' due to the presence of Iron Age earthworks on the summit, although today much of this was covered by snow. The scrubby woodland which features around the base of the rock was mainly Sessile Oak Quercus petraea Ash Fraxinus excelsior Hawthorn Crataegus sp., Hazel Corylus avellana and at least one Small-Leaved Lime Tilia cordata. The north facing cliff face was covered in Maidenhair Spleenwort
Asplenium trichomanes and Hart's Tongue Fern Asplenium scolopendrium which thrive in the cool damp conditions.

The path skirts the top of the wooded valley, with only the background noise of running water. Some areas of native semi-natural woodland remain along the top in a rough mixture with moorland although large areas look like it was planted up with Larch between the wars, which has recently been clear felled, perhaps due to Phytophthora although the evidence of this was lost in the deep blanket of snow. The odd old Ash or Oak tree was left in the middle of these clear fell, too old to be planted with the larch, these were a hark back to a time when large blocks of conifers became a blight in the landscape, acidifying the rivers and reducing the native flora.

The gorge at the meeting of the Afon Hepste and the Afon Mellte.
Significant stands of conifers can be seen on the horizon

With the snow covering much of the flora, we made it relatively quickly to the path leading down the face of the gorge towards the falls. Even from quite a distance we could hear the roaring of the waterfall. The setting of the waterfall is in a deep gorge where the Afon Hepste plunges over a band of resistant gritstone to form Sgwd yr Eira or Fall of Snow, the obvious choice of waterfall to visit in this kind of weather condition. An old drovers track passes behind the falls, the walls of which are covered with bryophytes, Green Spleenwort Asplenium viride and a species of Dryopteris. The track would have witnessed the shepherds moving their flocks to the hills in the summer and back to lower grounds in winter but these are merely ghosts of the past, now its just used by curious walkers and tourists, its previous use consigned to history.

Sgwd yr Eira, the Falls of Snow
Although there were no Dippers in the river there were plenty of Robins Erithacus rubecula about, they seemed drawn to us, hoping a misplaced step would turnover a rock and expose some worms. Most sat attentively in the trees close, never more than a couple of meters away and we wandered about the falls, although occasional it flashed past to skirmish with an intruder. Even after leaving the falls one stuck close for a good 20 minutes, occasionally swooping down to grab an unseen morsel. Up on the higher ground there were very few birds about, most likely due to the snow which has forced them down into the valleys. A pair of Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula were busy nipping off buds, a single Jay Garrulus glandarius crossed the open ground into a copse of trees. A pair of Red Kites Milvus milvus circled in the fading evening light,.signalling our time to leave this wonderful valley.

An attentive Robin Erithacus rubecula, never far behind us

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Asters of Prince Edward Point, Ontario

Asters are one of two genera of plant families to bloom in Autumn in temperate North America, they also happen to be one of the harder families to distinguish due to the diversity and similarities shared between the species.

The two books used, and a selection of Aster species.
With a range of different habitats found at the point there's a number of aster species which could be present. Although I'm in no way an expert and I've been slowly keying out (with many wrong answers) some of the species out using 'The Common Asters Species of Southern Ontario' which was lent to me by Sheila, 'Newcomb's Wildflower Guide'. and the brilliant guide by Walter Muma on ontariowildflowers.com

One of the most obvious Aster species present at the point is the New England Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae. This is mainly due to its intense purple flowers which allow it to be easily identified in the field as no other common aster would look similar.


Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster)

As mentioned this species is very obvious and easy to identify due to its large purple flowers. It is often one of the few plants any of the visitors can identify, which may be in part due to its common use as a garden plant. Its leaves, when crushed have a distinct spicy smell which can also be used as an identification feature.

At the point it is often found in the more open areas in full sun, helping to make it even more obvious than many other species.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae flowers




Leaves of Symphyotrichum urophyllum
Symphyotrichum urophyllum (Arrow-Leaved Aster)



A common aster of woodland edges, I found the specimen photographed at the edge of the lake, under a thicket of prickly ash but it can be seen all over the point, often within the woodland

The leaves of this species are relatively distinctive with alternatively, shallowly toothed leaves and winged petioles.

It's flowers are on upright panicle shaped heads with stiff stems. Its flowers are usually white although they can be pale pink or bluish. the flowers change from having yellow centres to purple centres like most Asters.

Flower head of Symphyotrichum urophyllum

Distinctive dead leaves of
 S
ymphyotrichum lanceolatum.
Symphyotrichum lanceolatum (Panicled Aster)



A very common species which is often found in moist open or lightly forested areas. At the point it could commonly be found close to the swamp or the lake in areas which were more likely to inundated with a little more water.

By the time it is in flower many of its lower leaves have dried and fallen off whilst smaller dead leaves higher up the stem tend to be rather curly. Its flowers are often spread out along the branches in a rather open manner.







Flower of Symphyotrichum lanceolatum 

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (Calico Aster)

Symphyotrichum lateriflorum growth form




A common, and very easily identifiable aster due to its unusual form. Also known as the starved aster due to this form once you know what it looks like its an easy one to pick out. With its long horizontal spreading branches with its sparse flowers its not the nicest aster to look at.


This species was most often found within the woodland and along the paths and on the edges of the fields where it gets the dappled light it prefers.







Flower head of Symphyotrichum lateriflorum

Symphyotrichum cordifolium leave
Symphyotrichum cordifolium (Heart-Leaved Aster)





Another fairly common species, which was again often found within the woodland at the edge or paths or the woodland edge. It's pale blue flowers are arranged in a dense rounded panicle.


Its jaggedly toothed, heart shaped leaves also help aid identification and are present on the plant throughout the flowering season.






Flowerhead of Symphyotrichum cordifolium 


Symphyotrichum ericoides (Heath Aster)

Probably the commonest aster on the point, this species can be found across the large areas of abandoned fields and drier areas. It gets its name from its small crowded leaves which are similar to Heather Calluna leaves.

The white flowers are small and often overlap each other on the flowering stems which gives this species the alternative name of Many Flowered Aster. Unlike other species its mainly reproduces by runners and roots.

A stand of Symphyotrichum ericoides flowers

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Dog Days of Summer, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, Ontario

Its been a pretty exciting time at the observatory, between August and the 22nd of September we've been experiencing the dog days of summer. Its definitely turning into a Indian Summer with temperatures hovering around +25°C and with more sunshine than you'd expect at this time of year.

Although the weather hasn't always been settled. On the 7th September a huge front of thunderstorms moved up through Lake Ontario creating the perfect conditions for the formation of waterspouts. I hardly expected to see one let alone the which formed at the front of the storm offshore.

Waterspout over False Duck Island

Dog-Day Cicada, Tibicen canicularis
To me the dog days are characterised by warm lazy days, the constant hum of cicada's and crickets and the disappearance the local swallows, heading south to a warmer climes. The cicada, although obvious to the ear took quite a while  of searching.With one eventually turning up as by-catch in one of the mist nets. The species present at this time of year is the aptly named Dog-Day Cicada Tibicen canicularis, which as suggest is far more often seen than heard.

New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Late summer is also when the once dry Alvaar comes to life. A sea of yellows and white with the blooming of several species of Aster and goldenrod. One of the most distinctive species is the showy purple flowers of New England Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, A common and unmistakable species, unlike many of the other members of the family which I will detail in a later blog post.




Eastern Milk Snake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum
It's still a good time of year to see plenty of reptiles and amphibians. Northern Leopard Frogs Lithobates pipiens are everywhere, making it difficult to avoid stepping on them. Garter Snakes and Northern water snakes often quickly slither off the path but it was the Eastern Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum I was hoping to find. It is an uncommon species in the county, where it is often associated with old barns and meadows. I was lucky enough to find two individuals which were close to the observatory in early August but haven't found any individuals since.

There was still one species of Amphibian which I was also hoping to find. The Blue-Spotted Salamander Ambystoma laterale, a common woodland species which had managed to elude me in the spring. Luckily for me when a group of volunteers came to build a new fence at the observatory, they uncovered one under a piece of cedar rail and brought it to me. Quite an impressive looking animal and the first salamander I've managed to see in any country!

Blue-Spotted Salamander, Ambystoma laterale
Its been a relatively busy month for birds as well. Large numbers of Bobolinks caught in August and early September and arriving with one of these flocks was a less familiar species. A Dickcissel Spiza americana, a species your much more likely to encounter on the prairies. It was caught right towards the end of the bobolink period on the 5th September.

 HY Male Dickcissel, Spiza americana

Other notable species caught included a HY Northern Rough-Winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis on the 13th August, a AHY American Woodcock Scolopax minor on the 18th, a HY Broad-Winged Hawk Buteo platypterus on the 19th and several Cape-May Warblers Setophaga tigrina between the 22nd and the 29th of August.

Broad-Winged Hawk, Buteo platypterus

Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis
A Connecticut Warbler Oporornis agilis was the first of six caught on the 11th of September. As well as a HY Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, which was caught in the afternoon on the lake shore.

A Clay-Colored Sparrow Spizella pallida was caught on the 14th alongside a Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina allowing us to see a nice contrast between the two species.




Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla


Monarch, Danaus plexippus
It wasn't just birds which are on the move, the final brood of Monarchs Danaus plexippus has hatched out and some are on their way south. Similarly the huge numbers of Green Darners have been somewhat astonishing, with tens of thousands present some evenings and mornings.

Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes
Plenty of other species of butterfly and dragonflies have also been seen at the point, one of the most impressive species is the Giant Swallowtail Papilio cresphontes, the largest butterfly in Canada. It can regularly be seen laying its eggs on Northern Prickly-Ash Zanthoxylum americanum, where its bird dropping like caterpillars are common or feeding on thistles.

Down close to the lake, plenty of small damselflies are seen flitting from cattail to cattail. Occasionally the much more colourful Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Libellula pulchella wizzes past on its constant search for food. Although a common North American species, its surprisingly colourful, mainly due to its spotted wings which are an uncommon feature on species found in the UK.

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella
All in all its been a good start to the season, with the weather looking warm for a while yet hopefully it won't be long until the colder wind starts to blow and we'll be inundated with migrants and saw-whet owls.






Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Blackpill SSSI, Swansea

Having spent the weekend in Breacon Beacons with friends from France and sadly not being able to follow them onto Mid Wales it was nice to bump into a small patch of vegetated dunes on the edge of Swansea Bay at Blackpill.
Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum dominated dunes at Blackpill beach
Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum





Although designated as a SSSI due to its importance for hosting internationally important numbers of wading birds they were all way to far away to photograph due to the tide being out, so I stuck around the vegetated dunes to see which species I could find, unsurprisingly there was nothing of too much note but it was nice to see the Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum in flower.






The sea wall was largely covered in Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides, a common coastal plant and plenty of Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum. Once a highly prized foraged herb but now sadly out of fashion, probably due to its intense salty, parsley taste but I quite like it.

Sea Sandwort,Honckenya peploides
Where the Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria was most abundant, Sea Spurge Euphorbia paralias was often dotted around and close to the edge of the dunes the delicate pink flowers of Sea Rocket Cakile maritima was abundant.

Sea Rocket, Cakile maritima growing amoung the Marram, Ammophila arenaria
Canadian Fleabane, Conyza canadensis






The sea wall which runs along the entirety of the bay sadly cuts short the majority of the dune habitats which would normally be present and forms an unnatural climax vegetation. This was comprised of a number of non-native species including Canadian Fleabane, Conyza canadensis and Fennel Foeniculum vulgare, another herb I regularly seek out to forage due to its lovely aniseed taste. 

One native species could be seen among all the invaders the small Autumn Hawkbit Scorzoneroides autumnalis.




Autumn Hawkbit, Scorzoneroides autumnalis



Down below the high tide mark were a few islands of vegetation, these were comprised of an endemic species which only originated in the 1870's in Southern Britain. 
Common Cordgrass Spartina anglica is an allotetraploid species derived from the hybrid Spartina × townsendii which came about due to the introduction of Smooth Cordgrass Spartina alterniflora, most likely in bilge water which then hybridised with the native Small Cordgrass Spartina maritima. 

Although at first it was seen as a key species for fighting coastal erosion it then went on to stabilise tidal mudflats, a key problem for wading birds however the species has since had a natural die back of unknown cause has reversed the spread.





An Island of Common Cordgrass, Spartina anglica





Sunday, 2 July 2017

Skomer, Pembrokeshire

For a few years now, Bethan has been nagging me to take her to Skomer to see the Atlantic Puffins Fratercula arctica but when ever we've attempted to go either the weather hasn't played ball when we've tried or I've been tied up with work during the peak puffin season.

Middleholm and Skomer from Martin's Haven

Puffin Raft off Skomer
So with a couple of days off we went, before hand we stayed with a lovely couple (who we found on Airbnb) in . An early start at Martin's Haven and a long wait in the queue but we manage to make the first boat of the day and the weather was perfect.

It didn't take us long to spot the first puffin, as soon as we were near Middleholm we started to see birds busy bringing fish in to their chicks. By the time we'd reached Skomer rafts of hundreds of Puffins could be seen offshore, all waiting to come in. After bumping into two friends after landing, we wandered to the far side of the island past the old farm. The previous time I'd been to Skomer was early in the season when the Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta were at their peak, this time it was the Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum which was at it's peak. It was everywhere and provided a wonderful backdrop to any photographs being taken.
Sea Mayweed, Tripleurospermum maritimum covered slopes

Sea Mayweed, Tripleurospermum maritimum

Young Rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus feeding in the Sea Mayweed 
After wandering around the North of the island and seeing the usual Seabirds we made our way towards the Wick. By far the best place to see breeding seabirds on the cliff ledges and the puffins which nest in the deep soil close to the path.

Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus also burrow here and had obviously had been breeding judging by the number of young about. Some happily feeding next to visiting tourists, although it was the puffins they had come to see.


Puffin, Fratercula arctica coming into land on The Wick

Puffling looking out of its burrow
Puffins are always top of peoples lists, admittedly their striking colours and character makes them a joy to watch but I think people would think the same if they sat down and watched any species for an extended period of time. Skomer has around 10,000 pairs of puffins making this the largest population in the southern Britain. The Puffins around the Wick don't have much fear of people and are quite happy to wander across the path in front of people. Many with fish for their chicks, Some of which were taking their first tentative look at of life outside the burrow.

Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica

Although the puffins are what Skomer is known for its the birds that many visitors don't see which the island is more important for. With 310,000 pairs on Skomer and 40,000 more on its sister island Skokholm, around half the worlds population of Manx Shearwater, Puffinus puffinus can be found breeding here. Although this time I didn't see any. Whilst walking back to the quay, deep within a burrow we could hear the distinctive eerie call of a shearwater, a lovely end to a lovely day.



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Seabirds of the Mountain, Pico do Arieiro, Madeira

Madeira is the top of a massive shield volcano that rises 6km from the sea floor in the northern Atlantic Ocean forming an archipelago of four islands. It is roughly 520km away from north western coast of Africa. Madeira is well known for its unusual plants and endemic species although throughout its history it has been changed by man. Due to the climate the island was once covered by subtropical rainforest known as laurisilva (laural forest) which has existed for 1.8 million years. Sadly it is now only common in a few areas of the island but is home to few species of endemic birds and plenty of plants which will be detailed in another post.

Pico do Arieiro at sunset

I'd been lucky enough to be invited by Mark Cutts with the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society (RNBWS) for a week of birding (and botany for me),and with luck and the help of Frank Zino to hopefully see one of the island rarest inhabitants.

A sea of cloud below the peaks
Running through the spine of the island is an area of jagged peaks, one of these is particularly special due to an unusual breeding species. At 1,818 m (5,965 ft) Pico do Arieiro is Madeiras third highest peak, high above the clouds its the last place you'd expect to find one of the rarest bird species in Europe . Its also a treasure trove of endemic plant species which either cling to the rocky cliffs or survive on the narrow shallow ledges.

Pride of Madeira, Echium candicans
One strange thing about travelling up towards Pico do Arieiro is the layer of cloud which you have to travel through to get to the top, the mountain sitting within a sea of cloud making it seem you were at a much lower elevation. Although barren looking, any crevice or ledge was covered in plants. Of these by far the most spectacular in flower was the Pride of Madeira Echium candicans, a large sub-shrub member of the family Boraginaceae.


Everywhere I looked it seemed another stunning endemic plant which had managed to get a foothold in the crumbling rock making it seem like a botanist paradise, which of course it was. Many of the plants had adapted to the extremes of temperature which can occur daily at Pico do Arieiro. Succulents were common and well adapted with fleshy leaves, although not easy to identify. The Disk Houseleek Aeonium glandulosum was one such plant, endemic to the islands which make up the Madeira archipelago where it is limited to these high barren rock faces. Many species look similar to plant species found withing Europe and North Africa but have eventually evolved due to their thousands of years of isolation, one such species was Madeiran Thrift Armeria Maderensis which looks superficially similar to the species I regularly see on the sea cliffs of Mid-Wales.

Although I was distracted by all the flora, it was really the fauna I had come to see but for that we'd have to wait until it got dark. Whilst waiting we had plenty of time to watch the endemic Plain Swifts Apus unicolor screaming over the ridges and into the valleys below. A male Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata was announcing his territory from a dense bit of scrub, while his partner was busy collecting caterpillars to feed their brood in a low gorse bush. A few tattered Macaronesian Red Admiral Vanessa vulcania bathed on the eroded summit, gathering the last warmth from the sinking sun.

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata
After setting the nets along a narrow ridge, all we had to do was wait. Just like clockwork, at 10.45 each evening we heard some strange sounds calling from the inky blackness. For many years the shepherds of Curral das Freiras mistakenly thought this to be the sounds of suffering souls of the shepherds or nuns who lost their lives in the mountains. The source of the noise probably never went silent but was forgotten about, believed extinct until in 1969 Alec Zino played a call of Fea's Peterel to a local Shepard who recognised the eerie walling and took them to the area now regarded as the breeding ledges. For us the journey was easy, well maintained paths allow us to view the area in relative safety, for Frank and his father back in 1969, a narrow shepherds track was all that separated them from a drop into the deep valleys on either side, a treacherous place for a nocturnal walk. I don't think i'll ever forget the first time I heard that strange wailing in the distant inky blackness or the occasional shadow pass over the starlit sky. To me the calls didn't sounds eerie, they sounded almost friendly. Frank noted the number of calls each 15 minutes, keeping count with a clicker. Although the calls were regular for a couple of days all I managed to see was a few glimpses of these mysterious birds.

Then at 11pm on our third night as I was walking to the far end of the net something hit the net in front of me, a pale bellied shape hanging in the gloom. A Freira Pterodroma madeira, more commonly known as Zino's Petrel, named after the family which have done so much for the identification and conservation of this species. Originally the birds found breeding within macaronesia were thought be part of the Soft-plumaged Petrel Pterodroma mollis complex but but mitochondrial DNA analysis and further differences in size, vocalisations, breeding behaviour have shown that the macronesian birds are not closely related to Pterdroma mollis. Sangster further recommended splitting between the macronesian birds, which was further supported by Nunn & Zino based on analysis of feather lice on birds from Madeira and Bugio Island which have been estimated to have split 850,000 years ago. More recent work has splitting the birds found on the Desertas islands from the birds found on Cape Verde Island creating the Desertas Petrel Pterodroma deserta and the Fea's Petrel Pterodroma feae although the identification of this complex of species is still confusing, especially in the field.

The Freira, Pterodroma madeira. Europes rarest seabird.
The Freira is the most endangered species of sea bird in Europe with an estimated population of 80 known pairs. Due to this it was a little surprising then that the bird we caught was a new un-ringed bird allowing Mark to ring it. The population is well monitored with majority of chicks ringed in the nest and many of the adult bird caught during the previous years, even more surprising was the second bird caught a couple of nights, during quite a blow, I watched nervously as it bounced out  of the net, only to go in again seconds later by which time I was already upon  it. Being a new bird gave me the opportunity to ring a bird, under the supervision of Frank. They really are a very pretty bird with an amazing wingspan, their webbed feet and sharp claws, their delicate soft plumage which gives the name to their relatives is evident in the hand.

Madeiran rings, you know its special if you find one of these
Freira's are one of two species to be ringed using Madeira rings (the other being the Deserta/feae Petrel complex). Although the moult sequence, and ageing birds is currently not feasible, if anyone would know it would be Frank who seemed to think both of these birds were likely to be third year birds checking out the breeding colony before breeding themselves. Blood samples and bio-metrics were taken for each of the birds before they were released back in the night, hopefully to be re-caught in a subsequent years. As each individual is an important breeding bird, which will help to increase this fragile population.

Although the birds breeding ledges are protected within the Parque Natural da Madeira national park and they have shown an increase in productivity over the last 20 years they are still at risk. The fact that only six ledges are used for burrowing and nesting means that degradation to the vegetation from grazing goats, wildfires and predators could still spell disaster for this species. A fire in August 2010 swept through the breeding site killing three adults and 25 of the 38 chicks. Vegetation around the nest sites were destroyed, leaving them open to predators and at risk of erosion. For an island which evolved without ground dwelling mammals, its no surprise that they can cause huge problems. Rats played a significant role in decimating the petrels numbers early on but active trapping has helped eliminate them as such a risk. Feral Cats are now the main cause for concern, previously these were trapped after 10 adults were killed by a single cat in 1990. The government of Portugal have since made trapping cats illegal leaving this delicate population once again at risk from these troublesome tabbies. While up at the breeding ledges we saw several cats but little can be done about it until permission from the government is granted, sadly it may be a long time coming.

This really was one of the most special experiences I've had and will always be one of my birding highlights and it was an honour to be allowed to ring one of these special birds. Frank Zino is tireless in his effort of furthering the protection of these and several other seabirds species in Macronesia, its not often you get to see a species named after the family of the person who shows you but now I needed to see a Pterdroma at sea.



Friday, 2 June 2017

Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Woodville, Ontario


With the migration season over it was time for a bit of rest and relaxation, I was lucky enough to be staying with Mike and Kathy in the County but they decided to take me out for the day to the wonderful Petroglyphs Provincial Park.


A beaver pond close to Minnow Lake

Wild Sarsaparilla, Aralia nudicauli
Petroglyphs Provincial Park  was designated a historical class provincial park in 1981 due to the large assemble of first nations petrogylphs present on the site. The rock carvings were rediscovered in 1954 by a prospector and contain about 1200 carvings, representing humans like figures, animals and a dominant figure whose head may represent the sun. The carvings were made using Gneiss hammers around 900 to 1100AD by either Algonkian or Iroquian speaking people. Today first nations people
call the petrogylphs, Kinomagewapkong which means "the rocks that teach" or "the Teaching Rocks".

The forest which surrounds the petrogylphs is rich in Red Pine Pinus resinosa and Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis. Creating a rich acidic soil, although plenty of other species could be found growing on the smooth granite rocks which surrounded Minnow Lake and form Islands between stands of pines.

The plants were similar to many of the species I'd come into contact with in Scandinavia allowing me identifying many of them relatively quickly although some species such as White Trillum Trillium grandiflorum are North American specialists.

White Triulliums, Trillium grandiflorum

One of the more attractive species to be found was the Winged Polygala or Gaywings Polygala paucifolia, which can be found over much of Eastern North America. With its delicate Winged purple flowers it was a lovely little plant to see spread across the forest floor.

Winged Polygala, Polygala paucifolia
Out on the more open areas where the granite broke through the substrata drifts of Pale Corydalis Capnoides sempervirens could be found. It is also known as the Rock Harlequin due to it habit of growing almost out of the smallest of cracks in the rock.

 
Pale Corydalis, Capnoides sempervirens


Canada May-Lily Maianthemum canadense






Three other species of plant were common on the edges of the gloomy moist pine forest, Starflower Lysimachia borealis named after its distinctive shaped flowers and Canadian Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis which was often found growing on old moss covered stumps and logs, later its edible red berries would later be an important food source for migrating birds. Canada May-Lily Maianthemum canadense is another sub-boreal specialist species and could be found growing in abundance.










Starflower, Lysimachia borealis

Canadian Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis
It wasn't just plants which could be found in the sunny glades, Dragonflies of all sizes were busy hunting the plentiful mosquitoes which provided a constant hum in the background. The first species I came across was the Twin-spotted Spiketail Cordulegaster maculata a large and impressive species which perched for a long while on a dead stick. A more plentiful species was the Common Baskettail Epitheca cynosura,which were busy catching small insects in almost every clearing we encountered. 


Twin-spotted Spiketail, Cordulegaster maculata



Common Baskettail, Epitheca cynosura
All in all it was a lovely wander through the sub-boreal forest and a chance for me to see some interesting flora and fauna.
Minnow Lake