Posts Tagged ‘Garter snake’


When it comes to hiking, the weather just doesn’t get any better than it was last weekend. On Sunday, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get out and enjoy what may be one of the last perfect days of the year. We decided to travel to Charleston Lake Provincial Park and because it was such a gorgeous day, settled on one of the more challenging trails.


We set off along the 10 km Tallow Rock Bay trail. After a short walk from the trailhead, the path divides into west and east arms of the loop, and, based on my trail guide’s recommendation, we took the west fork. The woods soon gave way to a boardwalk through a wetland area. Most of the ground was pretty dry, as we’ve had an extended period of low precipitation, but a pretty stream runs through the clearing.


A few of the trees along the boardwalk had Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea) nests. These nests are often confused with the better-known tent caterpillar constructions, but tent caterpillars are mostly seen in spring. Tent caterpillars and Webworms are spring and fall phenomenon.


The tree has time to recover after the spring Tent Caterpillars and grow new leaves. In the case of Fall Webworms, the tree is about to lose its leaves for the winter anyway, and can grow again in the spring. Thus, the insects don’t kill their host tree. For more on Webworms visit Jeepers! Creepers! here.


The trail has helpful distance markers. Here is RailGuy standing by the 1 KM marker shortly after leaving the boardwalk behind and re-entering the forest.


This tree is reportedly one of the oldest trees in the forest. Sadly, it seems to be dying and had already lost its leaves for the year, making its fork-tine branches more conspicuous.


The rustling of the dried leaves littering the ground brought this garter snake to our attention.


The first few kilometres of the trail are undemanding, following the gently undulating landscape up and down with few steep inclines. Rocky outcroppings bordering the trail remind you that you are on the Frontenac Arch, part of the Canadian shield. You can read more about the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve here.


Many of the rocks support a rich mosaic of lichens and mosses and ferns.


The bright cerise-red centre of this plant caught my eye. I didn’t recognise it, but Seabrooke was able to identify it for me as Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana). It has already lost the blue berries it would have had earlier in the season. The berries are inedible (by people), but the waxy, tuberous roots, as the common name indicates, taste like cucumber and can be used in salads.


At one point, the trail curls around the edge of an open wet meadow, encircled with white birch trees.


Just after the 4 KM marker, a short side trail leads down to the waters of Tallow Rock Bay.


What a beautiful, peaceful spot! The water was still and quiet and a picnic table was welcomingly positioned on the little beach. We sat down and had a pleasant rest, eating the lunch RailGuy had kindly backpacked in for us.


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Yesterday, we had a lovely rainy day. The rain was much needed. While we have had occassional storms roll through, prescipitation has not been enough to offset the steamy hot days of July and the land is dry. Our little backyard stream, which gushes along like a raging river in spring, has been reduced to a series of puddles joined by a trickle of water. Today dawned bright with a scattering of clouds. After lunch, I took a stroll down to see how the river was doing. It was up significantly from its pre-rain level, though still low.


A big plastic box of newspapers had somehow made its way into the river. Hard to guess how it might have got there, here in the middle of an agricultural area. Everywhere people go, it seems, garbage follows.


I sat and watched the river flowing by. It was very quiet. As I approached, a Great Blue Heron retreated, but otherwise the only creature stirring was a single dragonfly. It obligingly landed near me, a Common Whitetail (Libellula subornata), a member of the skimmer family.


The temperature was quite pleasant, and the deerflies and mosquitoes weren’t pestering, so I carried on down to look at our pond. Along the way I passed a Barn Swallow family. This youngster, perched on the electric fence, is newly fledged. His parents took a dim view of me stopping to photograph their baby and made several close passes to discourage me. These youngsters are late, and I was glad to see them doing well, as the Barn Swallow population is in serious decline.


As I approached the pond, this pair of Painted Turtles, comfortably sunning themselves on a log, looked up suspiciously and soon decided to take their leave, slipping into the water and disappearing.


The low water level in the pond has revealed a number of burrows not usually visable. I’m not sure who lives here. A muskrat, maybe.


The mix of sun and cloud was perfect for creating beautiful reflections in the water.


It was pretty quiet down by the pond, too. Although there were a few dragonflies and frogs and waterstriders about, there was surprisingly little activity. I headed back toward the house, saying hello to Diva and Ivory on the way. They were too busy to visit.


As I walked through the garden, I noticed this garter snake keeping a close eye on me.


I admired today’s blooms as I walked back to the house. Here’s a closing photo from the garden, daylily ‘Asiatic Pheasant’.


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When I went out to see what was blooming in the daylily patch last, someone else was already admiring the flowers. This little garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) prepared to make a swift exit as he kept a wary eye on my approach. I have to admit to having no desire to pick up or otherwise interact with snakes, but I’m glad to have them visit my garden, even if they’re not so eye catching as Kenton and Rebeccas’ corn snakes! Here are some of the blooms the snake and I enjoyed.

Prague Spring (Lambert 1989)

Prague Spring (Lambert 1989)


Chance Encounter (Stamile 1994)

Nile Plum (Munson 1984)

Cameroons (Munson 1984)

Trahlyta (Childs 1982)

Trahlyta (Childs 1982)

Starman's Quest (Burkey 1989)

Starman's Quest (Burkey 1989)

Starman’s Quest is an offspring of Trahlyta. The family resemblance is easy to see, with Starman having a more spidery form. By the time I had visited all the flowers, Little Snake had decided I was no threat and settled down to enjoy the garden in peace.


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While the Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchids are the star of the show at this time of the year, they are by no means the only feature of interest at Purdon Conservation Area. Twinflowers (Linnaea borealis) were also blooming in the fen. These delicate, moisture-loving flowers are the smallest members of the honeysuckle family. Their upright stalks terminate in a fork, with each side bearing a single pale, pinky-white trumpet-shaped flower.


The Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) is carnivorous and uses insects for food. Rainwater collects in the hollow leaves of the plant, where an insect-digesting enzyme is mixed with the water. Insects are attracted into the leaves and are unable to escape because of smooth hairs at the opening. In this way, pitcher plants are able to survive in nutrient-poor environments where other plants could not. In early summer, wine and green-coloured flowers are produced on stems separate from the tubular leaves.


Flowers aren’t the only attraction. I also saw a sampling of wildlife. Here is a Green Frog (Rana Clamitans). Check out the green upper lip on this dude!


Several White Admirals (Limenitis arthemis) floated by. These woodland butterflies are common and widespread. Interestingly, White Admirals and Red-spotted Purple butterflies are different morphs of the same species. Their larval food plants include willows, cottonwoods and poplars.

I disturbed this Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis), who had been contentedly sunning itself on the boardwalk until I arrived on the scene, prompting his hasty departure.


The fen lies at the bottom of a hill, where it is fed by water runoff. Climbing the trail to the lookout on top of the ridge offers a view over the pond that borders the fen. The pond was created in the 1960s by introduced beavers, who dammed the small creek that was draining the area. The conservation area thus features 3 kinds of wetland, with marsh and swamp around the edge of the pond complimenting the fen. A fen differs from a bog in that it has a groundwater source. The moving water brings nutrients and reduces the build-up of acidity. A bog has no water source except rainwater and snowmelt. It is therefore nutrient-poor and highly acidic.


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Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

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