Monday, May 17, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Keji Seaside Adjunct
I can't believe it is our last full day here. Although I will be happy to see friends, family, students, and of course my Dolly, I will really miss Nova Scotia and the people I have met. After learning about the formation of Nova Scotia (Chris did his undergraduate work in geology) we headed out to Kejimikujik Seaside Adjunct. We took a long hike through the park. We saw harbor seals, porcupine, several seabirds, and a heron in flight. In fact, Lycos the Wonder Dog found us three porcupines! One of them didn't stay around too long and disappeared into the brush, but I actually got some great shots of the other two. The harbor seals were too fast and too far away to get shots. We also tried to do some bat detecting, but it was too cold still. We're still picking ticks off of ourselves at a steady rate. I think that will be ONLY thing I won't miss from this trip. It has been amazing! This won't be my last post either. I still have pictures to share from our trip to Halifax, and I'll also share my follow up projects.
I'd like to wholeheartedly thank HSBC in the Community for sponsoring me. I've not only learned an incredible amount about many different things, but I feel very recharged as an educator. These are important experiences that I will want to share.
Thanks to Earthwatch for creating these types of opportunities for laymen to learn more about our world. The Live from the Field program is invaluable!
I'd also like to thank Dr. Christina Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman for the patience and care they show toward their volunteer teams. They made the information interesting and understandable. Their stories were immensely entertaining and they are also good cooks!
Thanks to my school for allowing me the time out of my classroom, the tech department for setting up the Skype sessions, and my substitute for taking care of my class and doing the extra work with the Skype sessions.
I couldn't have done it without everyone who supported me. This was an experience I will use in my teaching throughout my career.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Happy Earth Day!
We started our day hoping to catch something in our traps. Unfortunately, there was nothing. Trapping here wasn't as successful as at East Port Medway. Our trapping in the grasslands is part of a long term study that Chris and Christina are doing on the small mammal populations. The seasons seem to be arriving later, so the hibernating animals are taking longer to come out of torpor (hibernation). Did you know that it takes a lot of energy for animals to do that? I didn't. If there are some nice warm days the animals may use their energy to come out of hibernation, but then if it turns really cold again they will go back into hibernation. That uses up more energy and will make it difficult for the animal to survive. After we collected all the traps, we cut down a few more trees to open up the edges of the grassland. The last one we worked on was too hard, so our handsaw just wasn't doing it. They will have to come back with power saws. It was looking really good by the time we were finished, but I of course forgot to take a picture! Later on we learned some forest survival skills. So now in theory I can start a fire and trap animals! It was pretty interesting. We finished a bit early so I was able to Skype with both Mrs. Vieau's and my class this afternoon. Thanks to both classes for the great questions. I was so busy answering questions that I forgot to mention that it is Earth Day! Well really everyday is Earth Day. You don't even have to do big things to be more conscious of helping our earth. Even little things like buying food locally, turning the heat down a bit and wearing a sweater, or just making sure that you respect living things is a way to do your part in taking care of our natural resources. Last week we set camera traps. Camera traps are a way to monitor animal activity without live trapping. The cameras are activated by motion and takes pictures in bursts of three. Chris set one by the compost pile. Although we got many pictures of crows and seagulls there were also several of raccoon and there were even two of a fox. I'm posting the fox and one raccoon. We had a talk this evening with Chris about the geology of Nova Scotia. As the glaciers of the ice age advanced, Nova Scotia was stripped of much of its topsoil. Then as the glaciers retreated, large glacial erratics were dropped onto the province and glacial rivers formed carrying large amounts of sediment and depositing them off the coast of Nova Scotia. As a result, Nova Scotia has a very thin layer of top soil, no subsoil, and then bedrock. I think one of glacial erratics is what got me in East Port Medway! What is a glacial erratic? We were supposed to go bat detecting, but it is too cool. Although the days have been very warm, the evenings are getting into the low to mid 30s. That is still a bit cool for hibernating animals. So, it's too cold and wet for bats to be out. Why don't you think they would bother to go out? Here's a hint, think about why I said bats are beneficial to have in your woods. However, I do have a great video of Dr. Chris Newman explaining how the bat detector works. I was fascinated! I did it in two part, because I thought the file might be too long. In fact, it's taking forever to upload. I'll try again tomorrow. I'll also post some beaver video tomorrow. We'll be looking at our data that we gathered this week, and then we'll see what's on the camera traps that we set. Hopefully we'll have some good photos! The afternoon will be spent at Keji Seaside Adjunct. We're hoping for decent weather. Not many animals are active at this time of year, so we hope to get a glimpse of the few that are.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
What a day!
I started the day watching the sunrise over the harbor. I actually had my camera with the memory card and it was a beautiful sunrise! Then we headed out to Cook's Lake to check the traps. We only caught one meadow vole and it was the same one we caught yesterday. The sad part is that it was dead. Christina said that there was plenty of hay and food in the trap. She said yesterday that it was possible that a bird of prey had gotten it and that is why the hairs were gone on the back of the neck. It may have been dropped into an area that it was not familiar with, so that is why it kept going in our traps. It needed shelter. That's why it's important to leave wild animals in the environment that they know. It is also possible that it could have had a parasite that doesn't allow the animal to eat. It was just that animal's time to die. Still we all felt badly. Our shrew traps were empty. Christina said that she knows that is boring for us, but that scientifically it is interesting. Remember, we're not really here so that we can just see animals. We're here to gather data about mammals and climate change. After lunch we went to the grassland area to cut trees. Yes, CUT trees. The land is being restored to the grassland ecosystem that it had been 20 years before. Why is it important to maintain the grassland/meadow ecosystem? Some of us took down several trees along the edge of the grassland, and others pulled up the little saplings that were just growing in the field. Tomorrow we'll finish the area we started. The trees were getting larger and less cooperative, and we were getting tired. Poor Christina, we're not as skilled at using the saw as she is, so she did a lot more work than she should have. When we left Cook's Lake we headed to Cherry Hill Beach. There are sometimes seal, coyote, or piping plovers found there. The piping plovers are an endangered bird here in Nova Scotia, and there are only 61 found in the area. When they begin nesting part of the beach will be blocked off so they are undisturbed. They only breed in rocky/sandy coastline. The best part of the day was the evening! We headed out to a small lake to watch the beavers. As soon as we got there we saw a muskrat swimming around. We saw another muskrat later on, too. The beaver lodge was pretty large and impressive. We had to sit very still and quiet. When we moved we had to move slowly. Beaver do not have good eyesight but they can detect motion. We watched them for about an hour and they didn't disappoint us. In all there were three beaver and two muskrat. There was an older beaver which was very big and then there was a smaller beaver that kept checking us out. That one did a warning slap twice, but Christina said that because it is young the older beavers didn't pay much attention. I was glad because I didn't want them to hide. We could even actually hear the beaver chewing the wood. It kept coming up on this little piece of land where you see it, and it chewed off a piece of wood from a fallen tree. Then it would head back into the lodge. I have a video, but it isn't clear enough for the blog. We stayed until it got too dark to see anything. OK, I'll be talking to you tomorrow. I hope you have some good questions for me!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Trapping at Cook's Lake
I'll try to answer some of the questions from comments that I received first. The eagle was just flying away, Lorlei, but it was pretty spectacular. Shrews will eat any insects that they can find, and one field sign that a shrew is in the area is insect parts left over. They like to eat the meaty bits as Christina puts it. The tadpole eggs that are exposed will probably not make it. Either they won't hatch, or the tadpoles will die because they don't have enough water. That a good example of how climate change can effect living things. Now, the difference between horns and antlers is that horns are made of hair tightly packed together. Antlers are bone. In fact, when deer shed their antlers they will sometimes turns around and nibble on them for the calcium and other nutrients. Other animals will also do that if they come across shed antlers in the forest. That's also why antlers can have more than one point. The older the animal the more the antler will branch each time it grows back. Since a horn is just tightly packed hair it grows out like our hair does, but it stays in one bunch. Now, why DO deer shed their antlers every fall? Today turned out to be pretty nice. It was windy but dry. Guess what pest likes drier weather? TICKS! Yuck! We are finding them all over us, and lucky me had two dug in. Anyway, out at Cook's Lake we only caught one meadow vole today, and we caught that one twice. That vole did have a big black mark on its back so we thought it had been clipped by another team. Christina thought that it had probably escaped a predator which either pulled or cut the guard hairs on the back of its neck. No shrews were trapped, so we were disappointed. Hopefully we'll trap some tomorrow! As we checked the shrew traps we closed them if they weren't already closed. We had one closed trap, but it was a false alarm. We also did several quadrats for deer and snowshoe hare droppings. Chris thought we would find a lot of evidence of deer and little evidence of snowshoe hare. It turned out just the opposite. When we did the quadrats we only found a couple of deer droppings. When we did field sign transects later on we found more. We also found the remains of a deer which had probably been killed within the last couple of weeks by a coyote. We also saw bobcat scat, fox scat, porcupine scat, and of course deer, coyote, and snowshoe hare scat. So we know those animals are around. We'd just like to see them! We also saw raccoon tracks in the mud. This evening we had a talk about the different mammals that are found in Nova Scotia. As Chris listed each animal and talked about gestation periods (Do you remember what that is?) I marked them in my mammals of Wisconsin book. We have many of the same mammals! Tomorrow we hope to spend the evening beaver watching and bat detecting. It may still be too cold for some of those animals, but we're going to give it a try. Since we're doing much of the same things tomorrow that we did today, I'll back track a bit and talk about our trip to Halifax. I didn't forget...Happy birthday Ashley and Jake! I hope you both had a wonderful day!
Monday, April 19, 2010
The responses to my questions yesterday were pretty much right on. A quadrat is a 10m x 10m area. The deer don't like the old growth forests because the greens they want are too far up, and the trees are so tall and dense that there is no understory for them to eat. Well done! Today we set out for Cook's Lake. The area we are in is a plot of Crown Land. That is land that was given to settlers by the Crown of England to homestead much like we had in the US. The Cooks settled in 1720 and the lake although shared by several families was named for them. Christina's parents purchased the land several years ago, and now she and Chris manage it and do their data gathering on it. We set our first fifty traps in the grassland, but we left them closed. We are hoping to trap short tailed shrews. Shrews are insectivores and need to eat almost constantly to keep their bodies warm. We will only trap them during
the day when we can check them in an hour or two. These shrews are larger than the shrews we would have seen in East Port Medway, so the shrew escape hole wouldn't do them any good. The other traps were placed in the hardwood brush. We hope to trap voles, jumping mice, and maybe a flying squirrel! We wore our Wellies today and it was a good thing. Yesterday it rained and there was a lot of flooding on parts of the path. We even got some rain while we were out working, so I slipped on my waterproof pants as well. I stayed nice and toasty while we were out. You can hear the wind blowing on the video I posted. Christina told us that when the paths are flooded it creates little ponds that are needed for amphibians to lay their eggs. So, eventually they hope to build little boardwalks over those areas like the one we are walking on. The other picture is of frog eggs. She said that there hasn't been as much rain this year, so these eggs will probably not make it. The jelly like substance around them will protect them from some dry days, but the water is almost gone. We also had the chance to look at the skull of a cow and a deer. I didn't know the difference between antlers and horns do you? See if you can find out and I'll post the answer. Christina thinks that the cow skull has been on the property for at least 50 years. Even she was surprised at how it had not decomposed. The deer was another story. There was plenty of deer hair and other parts of the skull to show that this deer had probably been killed recently by a coyote or a pack of coyotes. On our walk through a small part of the property we saw a few different areas with evidence of beavers, and we saw a pair of loons in the lake. On our trip back we saw a bald eagle flying. Hopefully we'll have a good day of trapping tomorrow. Thanks everyone for your concern about my leg. It is doing fine. I hardly even notice that something is wrong. Everyone on the team was very helpful and concerned when it happened so I am well taken care of!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Our day started out with a walk in the light rain at Keji. Kejimkujik is a Mi'kmaq word meaning "place of the spirits". The Mi'kmaq are the native people in this area. It cleared up and we had a beautiful cool day. We walked for a total of about 4 miles through the forest, and then we checked for deer droppings. Our first little hike took us by these rapids. Chris said that just 3 weeks ago there was snow on the ground and the lakes were frozen. As you can see the river is moving quickly because of all the snow melt. After lunch we took a longer hike through the forest to the old growth hemlocks. This picture is of what they feel is the oldest tree in the forest at 500+ years. They took a core sample to count the rings. You'll also see that we are walking on a wooden boardwalk. That is to protect the fragile roots of the hemlock and preserve the trees. We talked about lichen and mosses in science so I took some great pictures of nurse logs, moss, and different lichen. We saw a couple of red squirrels, and we heard what we think was a pileated woodpecker. It was VERY loud! I love walking in the woods, because it's so peaceful. At one point we passed an area where there had been a controlled burn. Remember we had talked about this in class. The forest needs to do a little housekeeping to keep it healthy. Forest fires are needed to do that. The burnt material also adds nutrients to the soil. This one was controlled so that things that are in the park like buildings, signs, and benches were not destroyed.
It was a really nice hike, but then we had to get back to business. We drove to a place where Chris was fairly certain the deer would gather. Why don't you think the deer liked the old growth forest? Hint: think about what they need, and what is missing. When then used our surveying poles to mark of a quadrat. Do you remember what a quadrat is? We stood in a line and looked for deer droppings. Chris and Christina have a mathematical equation that can help them figure out how many deer are in an area. We lined up at one end and checked the ground for droppings. This was way easier than looking for hare droppings. Here is a picture so you can look in the woods by your house. We each chose a place to survey, and I apparently am no good at thinking like a deer. I even got two tries because I was the only one with zero droppings in my quadrat! The second try only had one. Sigh. After checking for deer droppings we headed home. On our way out to Keji we saw two road kill porcupines (Chris asked me to record where and when we saw the dead porcupines). That is part of the data they are keeping.We also say an osprey nest, so I asked if we could take a picture on the way back home. Lucky us! There was a bird in it on the way. I took a picture, and of course after I closed my lens it opened its wings and flew away. I would have liked to have gotten a picture with its wings open. Chris found out that it rained and sometimes hailed in Cherry Hill all day. I guess we had the right idea going to Keji today! Paige, I saw your comment about finding a squirrel skull. Great job being aware of field signs where you live! Tomorrow we head to Cook's Lake. It is supposed to be a more level area that is more attractive to deer. However, after the rain today we were told that our Wellies will probably be needed!