About Author

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Michael Kent

Mike is a Park Naturalist with a degree in Biology and Geography. At a young age Mike could be found catching frogs, snakes and insects and while at university he became particularly interested in invertebrate biology and natural history subjects. Mike has traveled extensively for work and for pleasure, with a focus on nature and conservation. A member of th

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It was a warm evening with a slight overcast and a bit of wind on April 15th, 2017. Tonight was the night of the Timberdoodles and Bogsuckers event held at Perch Creek Management Habitat. This event was brought back by popular demand and was well attended again. The conditions weren’t perfect, but we still hoped the star of the show has his stage set. This evening’s celebrity was the of course, the American Woodcock, otherwise known as a timberdoodle or bogsucker.

Pete Chapman was the host of tonight’s show, guiding our group along the trails and interpreting what we saw.

We arrived early while the evening was still bright so that we could ready ourselves for the woodcocks’ dazzling performance that was slated to begin a half-hour before sunset and last until a half-hour after sunset, weather dependent. Although Aldo Leopold once wrote that their mesmerizing sky dances alone were enough to stop a man from hunting or to “pose [them] gracefully on a slice of toast”, it is an awkward celebrity at best and looks itself like a balancing slice of toast with a long tapered butter knife for a bill. But as we know, looks can be deceiving and nature almost always has a purpose.

 

The woodcock is slightly smaller than a pigeon but does less head bobbing and more body wobbling. It has a disproportionately long bill that makes the bird look like it’s about to about to topple over at at any moment. Think of John Belushi in the Blues Brothers, except instead of sunglasses in front it’s beady eyes are positioned up high near the back of their head. Photo by Dave Bourne.

The American Woodcock is a soil invertebrate specialist adapted to a life of sensing and probing for creatures beneath the earth. Their awkward wobble is believed to make vibrations causing earthworms to move slightly underground. It is unknown how woodcocks exactly detect these minute movements though it thought they may use their feet and/or ears. Along with a long-tapered bill that is extra sensitive and flexible at the tip and a long sticky tongue, they are adapted to be expect extractors. With most of their senses being occupied searching for creatures beyond view underground, their eyes were free up to be positioned top of their head so that they keep watch for potential danger from above. As we know, looks can be deceiving and nature almost always has a purpose.

Before we positioned ourselves near the woodcocks’ stage, we meandered along the trails that move through forest edges and grassy meadows. Along the way, we heard the amphibian orchestra with wood frogs, green frogs, western chorus frogs, grey treefrogs, toads, and potentially others announcing their presence to their loves and fellow competitors.

We even got close looks of a wood frog, identified by its zoro-like eye mask and contrasting light-coloured upper lip.

We also payed our respects to the giant gnarly oaks along Perch Creek. Clearly withstanding the test of time, we wondered how old they might be and what tales they could share if only they could speak.

During this time of year it’s best to wear rubber boots while visiting Perch Creek Management Habitat as there are lots of puddles and mud patches. Some adventurous members of the group hopscotched around the puddles and through the mud to see if they could get closer looks of any other crepuscular creatures.

As time neared, we positioned ourselves along one of the pathways with the forest edge behind us and the grass meadows surrounding us in front. As the sun receded and began to cast orange and pink hues over the sky, we knew the stage was set. Our large group waited in silence, our ears attuned for the woodcock’s nasal calls, our eyes readied for any aerial displays.

Then suddenly something flew over top of us, A WOODCOCK?! No, it was a bat, “likely a little brown bat, a common species in this area” added Pete.

A couple other birds and frogs got our attention and then a nasal toy-horn erupted…. peent….peent…peent..peent..peent.peent.peent. A male woodcock, was beginning his performance. Once the nasal peents went silent we knew the bird had launched itself in the air beginning its upward spiraling ascent. As the bird flew up towards the clouds, a twittering sound was produced. We learned that this sound was not being produced from their mouth but rather their three outer wing feathers that are stiff, narrow and spread apart during flight. The air rushing through causes them to vibrate, producing a high, mechanical, twittering sound. After disappearing beyond view, the twittering became intermittent, and the bird soon begins a zigzag descent.  Zigzagging down, chirping as he goes, the male attempts to land silently (near a female, if she is present). Once on the ground, he resumed peenting and the display started over again. We learned that woodcocks often land with remarkable precision very close to where they took off from. This is probably good practice for when a female arrives and the male must impress her with his aerial displays but must make sure he lands nearby to receive his reward. As the show went on, a couple other males joined in. Peents were coming from almost all directions, twittering spirals were popping up, and zigzags were zooming over our heads as the sun receded beyond view. Alas, the time was right and the woodcocks took flight.

Even though we were not the intended audience, we thoroughly appreciated the male woodcock’s dazzling performances and hope that participants continue their own timberdoodle legacy by going out in early spring to enjoy sunsets while looking and listening for the timberdoodle sky dance.

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Lambton Wildlife Incorporated (LWI) has been protecting nature for over 50 years by bringing those with a love of nature together to work towards common goals in conservation, preservation, and protection of the natural environment in Lambton County. Through a range of programs and events we aim to foster an environment that encourages appreciating, learning, and teaching about the natural environment.  In order to continue the voice and values of LWI, we must reach out to our younger generation to provide them with positive experiences in nature.


Why Connect Kids with Nature?

Nature deficit disorder may be a coined phrase but the symptoms are real.  Today children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago with much of this time now devoted to viewing digital media. Time spent playing outside is correlated with increased physical activity, mental creativity, decreased aggression and better concentration in children. Recent research has also shown that children who play outside are more likely to protect nature as adults. The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11. This is where we come in. (more…)

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Thirty-eight people gathered on a cold Sunday morning in February to enjoy the many waterfowl that visit the St. Clair River during the winter months.  Our first stop was at the Bluewater Bridge where we were treated to a good view of the peregrine falcon that flew past and landed on the bridge.  Our scopes came in handy and some of the participants had great success with “digiscoping” (using your camera/cellphone to take a photo through the scope).  We saw a pair of cackling geese which was the highlight of this first stop!

Can you spot the pair of peregrines like likes to hangout at one of Sarnia’s most iconic spots?

Can you pick out the pair of cackling geese from Canada geese in this flock?

Here’s a closer look. Hint: Cackling geese can be distinguished from their Canada counterpart by their smaller size.

I think the funniest event at this stop was when two walkers stopped to ask our large group, with scopes and binoculars pointed out toward the lake, “What is coming?”  My response was met with the most incredulous look I have ever witnessed … as my response was “we are looking at ducks”.  At this point he paused and said “What?”  I said again “we are looking at ducks … and geese.”  He replied with a chuckle and said “Well, there are lots here.” And continued his walk.  I guess it takes some getting used to the idea that a group of people are willing to brave the cold wind to stand and look at ducks and geese!

Further down the river we stopped at Guthrie park to observe the dabbling and diving ducks around the warm water outflows, the ice-taxiing gulls, and eagles staging their hunt at the head of Stag Island. Then, without warning, thousands of birds took to the air from their water rafts to put on an aerial orchestra. Was it an eagle or a boat that caused the commotion? We weren’t sure, but the fleeting moment was spectacular!

The flocks were estimated to contain over 8,000 birds.

Here’s a portion of the flock. Can you identify any by their shape?

We continued to enjoy the day with several stops along the river, ending at a great little restaurant in Sombra.  Although we saw bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, swans, and lots of waterfowl I think from the reactions of the participants I would have to say the highlight of the day was the lesser black-backed gulls!

Can you identify the different gulls in this picture?

 A big thanks to Paul Carter for leading the group and making sure everyone had the opportunity to see the different birds and explaining what to look for when identifying different species.

Here is a partial list of bird species we enjoyed throughout the morning:

  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Cackling Geese
  • Hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks
  • Mallards
  • Buffleheads
  • Herring Gulls
  • Crows
  • Starlings
  • Northern Cardinals
  • Canada Geese
  • Hooded Mergansers
  • Bald Eagle
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Common Merganser
  • Lesser Black-backed Gulls
  • Greater Black-backed gulls
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Canvasbacks
  • Redheads
  • Mute Swans
  • American Black Ducks
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After months of keeping it a secret, we’re finally ready to announce the winners of our 2016 Photo Contest.

In total, over 200 photos were entered entailing a diversity of plants, animals, mushrooms, scenes, and landscapes that truly highlighted Lambton County. It was a difficult judging process with many excellent entries. The panel of judges were from the Sarnia Photographic Club, the Petrolia Camera Club and Lambton Wildlife. Judging was aided by several other members of the Sarnia Photographic Club who made the process much more efficient with the use of a scoring machine and volunteering their time and effort.

One of the goals of the contest was to encourage the citizens of Lambton County to enjoy the outdoors and share their experiences through the medium of photography. By sharing these experiences we bring awareness to our area’s unique natural heritage. After going through all the photos, we felt like we succeeded!

The most rewarding part of the contest was that it was all captured by YOU! YOU explored the natural areas.  YOU braved and/or basked in the elements. YOU took the time to capture special moments that can be shared. We THANK YOU for that.

The winners were announced and awarded their prizes at the “Members Photofest” event on January 30th.  At the event, they had the opportunity to share any comments or stories behind their photo and answer any questions. It served as the perfect celebratory cap to Lambton Wildlife’s 50th Anniversary.

Keep on exploring and taking wonderful pictures!

The winners for each category are:

Youth Excellence

1st Place - Alexi Czyczurko with “Sunset Seagull”

Youth Excellence – 1st Place – Alexi Czyczurko with “Sunset Seagull”

Youth Excellence - 3rd Place - Lexi McCormick with “Turtles”

Youth Excellence – 3rd Place – Lexi McCormick with “Turtles”

Honourable Mention - Vidal Hart with “Take Off”

Youth Excellence – Honourable Mention – Vidal Hart with “Take Off”

Flora

Flora - 1st Place - Charlene Graham with “Trilliums”

Flora – 1st Place – Charlene Graham with “Trilliums”

Flora - 2nd Place - Sharon Nethercott with “Butterfly Meadows, Warwick Conservation Area”

Flora – 2nd Place – Sharon Nethercott with “Butterfly Meadows, Warwick Conservation Area”

3rd - Stephen Hunt with “One in a Million”

Flora – 3rd Place – Stephen Hunt with “One in a Million”

Honourable Mention - Alexis with “Milkweed”

Flora – Honourable Mention – Alexis B with “Milkweed”

 

Fauna

1st Place - Frank Rodin with “Scratchin’ an Itch”

Fauna – 1st Place – Frank Rodin with “Scratchin’ an Itch”

Fauna - 2nd Place - Peter DeBurger with “Meeting of the Minds”

Fauna – 2nd Place – Peter DeBurger with “Meeting of the Minds”

3rd Place - Janette Baillie with “Doe a Deer”

Fauna – 3rd Place – Janette Baillie with “Doe a Deer”

Honourable Mention - Shuff with “Indigo Bunting”

Fauna – Honourable Mention – Sid Huff with “Indigo Bunting”

Honourable Mention - Lorraine Morill with “Red-breasted Merganser in Mating Ritual”

Fauna – Honourable Mention – Lorraine Morrill with “Red-breasted Merganser in Mating Ritual”

Landscape

1st Place - Daniel Belly with “Blue Point Sunset”

Landscapes/scenery – 1st Place – Daniel Bellyk with “Blue Point Sunset”

George Roesma with “Bluewater Bridge”

Landscapes/scenery – 2nd Place – George Roesma with “Bluewater Bridge”

3rd Place – Deryl Nerthercott with “Winter on the St. Clair”

Honourable Mention - Darren Metcalfe with “Sunset”

Landscapes/scenery – Honourable Mention – Darren Metcalfe with “Sunset”

Honourable Mention - Lauren Broeders with “Lambton Shores”

Landscapes/scenery – Honourable Mention – Lauren Broeders with “Lambton Shores”

Honourable Mention - Denise Dykema with “Country Roads”

Landscapes/scenery – Honourable Mention – Denise Dykema with “Country Roads”

 

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The November 15th deadline for Lambton Wildlife Inc.’s photo contest is fast approaching! With a diversity of wildlife and landscapes showcasing Lambton County, the gallery of entries displayed on the site thus far are wonderful. However, we could still use a lot more entries, especially for the youth excellence category.photographer-1287402_1280

If you haven’t submitted your photo(s) yet, there are still many reasons to, such as:

1) It’s free! No purchase, no entry fees, yes please.

2) You can win prizes! There’s over $1000.00 in prizes going to be given away. Need I say more? I will.

3) Submission can be done online today! Although things aren’t perfect, you don’t have to rely on pigeons or posts to submit your photos. Just check out the 2016 photo contest tab for more info and if you have any problems contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.

4) The odds are in your favour! Especially youth! We do not have many entries so far, which means your chance to win is higher. All categories could use more entries, especially youth. The odds of winning right now are higher than you might think. We know we have talented youth and children out there who are skilled with the camera and would like some of these great prizes. What a great way to get your name out there too!

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5) You and your photos will receive recognition from Lambton Wildlife and could be featured in Lambton Wildlife’s promotional materials and Earthways newletter! Amateur and professional photographers alike, you can get your name out there and for a great cause. Lambton Wildlife Inc. is all about the community and nature, submit to share your photographic proof.

6) You will be showcasing Lambton County, it’s wildlife and our natural areas! The Great Lakes, Oak Savannahs, Tall Grass Prairies, Carolinian Forest and all the patches in between that our wildlife calls home. You’ll be representing the vote-less and the voiceless, the winged and the rooted, the important and oft underappreciated!

Did I mention we need more youth entries?

 

Tell your kids, tell your friends, tell your friends with kids, tell Facebook…you get the idea.

Nov. 15th!

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Autumn is an ephemeral time of blasting colour where the asters spark up, leaves are set a blaze,
pumpkins perch as glowing beacons, and avian migrants give birders their seasonal eye check-up and
neck workout.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

If not for the sake of easing the neck pain from looking up, trick-or- treat your eyes to a fungal foray in
the forest and you’ll be surprised at all the different colours, shapes, and forms mushrooms come in.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

As triumphant green chlorophyll, the star of photosynthesis, exits the solar stage to unveil the
carotenoids and xanthophylls that give off yellow, orange, and brown hues. In some plants and trees,
anthocyanins are produced from sugars and give off brilliant red and purples. On the other branch,
evergreens have a needle with a smaller surface area and a waxy coating to withstand winter and some
manufacture antifreeze proteins to protect their leaves and roots through the winter. The palette
combinations of greens, yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and browns pleasantly teases us towards the
cooler seasons and before we know it the leaves will have dropped with the temperature.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

Temperature can affect red intensity. The combination of warm days and cool nights causes sugars to
become trapped in the leaves, intensifying reds. Colour can depend on the species of trees and even
indicate sex in the case of red maples. Males give off deep reds and purples while females turn shades of
yellow and orange. Orchestrated by the seasons, fall colour is the result of autumnal equinox when the
days start to get shorter.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

For the tree, undergoing this process is not simply a matter of subtracting greens and adding reds but
rather a tricky response to changing seasons. Anthocyanins responsible for red maple rouge are
suspected to function as a sun-screen, an antioxidant against insect and fungal attack, or a strengthener
for leaves and stems allowing them to swallow a few more precious beams sunlight. Hormones trigger
the leaves to drop so they don’t use up the water they need to keep their roots alive over the winter.
The final sugar harvest, the recycling of resources, and the conservation of water and nutrients is an
important time for deciduous plants and trees if they’re to survive the winter. It is to our joy the shift
from the growing season to dormancy in nature is so beautifully marked across the landscape. Where is
your favourite place to go to experience fall colour?

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

While the colour palette of plants is played above, fungal networks beam below. Spending most of their
lives beneath the surface, fungi are an often over looked group. However, they come in a mind-blowing
array of colours, shapes, and forms with equally as intriguing natural histories. Matching the artistry
above you can find fungi with shades of blue, purple, green, red, orange, yellow, or brown as well. Many
fungi are important soil builders,breaking down organic matter and mining minerals into useable forms,
some form mutualistic partnerships with tree and plant roots providing a host of benefits to individuals
and to forests, and some are parasites that infect (mostly weakened) living trees. Not to mention, they
have had a cultural impact on human society for thousands of years due to their edible and medicinal
properties.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

The things we know as mushrooms that peculiarly poke from below the soil or perch from tree limbs are
called fruiting bodies, analogous to the apple fruit, of a larger but hidden fungal network called
mycelium. The fruiting bodies produce spores, analogous to the seed, which have the potential to start
genetically new individuals. Although they’re lumped in with plants at the grocery store and in our
minds, fungi are more closely related to animals. The more we uncover about this little known group,
the more interesting and important they become.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

For example, tree-partnering fungi have been shown to receive between 20-80% of the sugars that
leaves produce and, like a bank, they can store the sugars and repay them during difficult times. Fungal
networks also broker nutrients between different tree species and transfer nutrients from dying trees to
healthy young trees. Absorbing water and minerals, the things roots are supposed to be good at, are not
as good at it as we thought. Fungal mycelium is much more absorptive and covers a much greater
surface area under ground. It has been suggested that 1 square cm of soil can contain over 5km of
mycelium. To acquire nutrients fungi mine pockets of minerals in the soils, hunt and snare soil
invertebrates, break down dead animals and plants including hard to digest molecules lignin and
cellulose, or living off hosts as parasites. These nutrients get returned to the forest one way or another
in a more useable form. Mycelium not only acts like nutrient highways, shuttling nutrients through the
forest, but also as a communication system capable of warning others of an attack. In response to an
insect attack an alert sent through the network can warn neighbouring trees to get a head start in
ramping up toxic chemicals in their leaves or needles as a defense against impending attack.

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Photo credit © Michael Kent

 

Although all of these happenings cannot easily be seen, fall is evidently an active time of year above and
below the surface and a particularly excellent time to view fungi. You can see a diversity of conspicuous
fungi that decorate our different natural areas like Canatara, Lambton County Heritage Forest,
Mandaumin Woods, Karner Blue Sanctuary, and the Pinery.
Fall weather might have its ups and downs but it can easily be forgiven with sights of glorious fall colours
above or bizarre fungi below that put a show for all the action that goes on behind the scenes.
Have any fall or fungi photos? Why not submit them to the Lambton Wildlife Inc. Photo Contest? It’s
free, gives you the chance to win great prizes, and the potential to have your photo featured in Lambton
Wildlife publications.

For photo contest information check out:

http://lambtonwildlife.com/2016-photo-contest/photo-contest-faqs/

Interested in the progress of colours? Check out:

https://www.ontarioparks.com/fallcolour

https://www.ontariotravel.net/en/plan/kevin-reports

Want to ID leaves by their fall colour? Check out:

http://forestry.tennessee.edu/leafid.htm

http://www.iloveny.com/seasons/fall/foliage-report/-seasons-fall-leaf-identifier/#.WAk_0OArKM9

http://www.sibleyguides.com/2010/04/identifying-trees-by-color/