Please join us on Thursday evenings in July and August to view local gardens featuring native plants. Each tour will commence at 7:00pm. Learn from the garden experts about creating gardens with native plants to attract wildlife and benefit our environment.

July 20th – Naturalized Downtown

This is actually a tour of four downtown gardens. To begin, meet at the park at the corner of Christina and Davis.

Our starting point is the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Garden.  This was one of Shawn McKnight’s first native gardens and is in the process of transformation from predominantly flowering tallgrass prairie species to lower growing drought tolerant species with a lot more grass. Our speaker will discuss the tough site conditions.  All the downtown gardens have tough site conditions, but this one probably the toughest. It could be our native gardening in tough places workshop! Problems included: wind, salt, poor or shallow soil, blowing garbage, foot traffic, weed seed…

Next is the Scotia Bank garden which has also underwent same transformation as above, but in this case the transformation is complete and we are very pleased with how this garden is performing. It’s a business, so Return the Landscape has had to find the right balance of wild and tidy.

The garden at First Sarnia Place is a series of large square concrete planters behind the apartment building. It represents a more corporate style of planting using only native plants.

The residential garden at the corner of Vidal and Cromwell has had both the front and side gardens naturalized. This location has an awesome rain garden just feet away from the sidewalk and people frequently do a “double take” when they walk by.

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As the date of the 2107 Pelee Island camping trip approached, all the poor weather forecasts suddenly changed to show pleasant conditions for the entire duration of the trip!  A wonderful group of 20 LWI campers began arriving on Thursday for a great weekend of birding.  Lake Erie was smooth for the 1.5 hour long ferry ride aboard the SS Jiiman from Leamington.

SS Jimaan

Ferry Loading

Many of the campers had been to the island in previous years and some were visiting the island for the first time.

As a group, we moved around the island to observe the migrating birds, with an occasional detour to the bakery for vital nourishment (see earlier post photo).  High water and waves kept us away from Lighthouse Point (on the northeast corner of the island) for the first two days, but by Saturday the winds had shifted and we made it to the point to see some interesting birds.  Some of the best birding of the weekend came on the beach at Fish Point early on Friday evening, with numerous warblers hungrily eating up insects that were being warmed by the sun right along the edge of the beach.   A great looking Lake Erie sunset on the same beach capped off a perfect day.

Cape May Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Indigo Bunting

Migrating shorebirds were also located in some farm fields where large pools of water had accumulated.  The group was thrilled to get quite close to a large flock of Black-bellied Plovers, with Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlins mixed in.

Black-bellied Plovers

Baby Brown Snake

Lighthouse Point

Palm Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Such were the abundance of birds on the island that we even observed warblers from the comfort of the campsite, including Yellow-rumped, Black & white and Northern Parulas.  Other notable birds observed included Summer Tanager, Night Hawk, Red-throated Loon, Indigo Bunting, Red-headed Woodpecker, and we even heard a “Whip-poor-will”!

Black & White Warbler

Spotted Sandpiper

Red-headed Woodpecker

The time seemed to go by quickly with each day’s activities beginning at 7:00 AM, and when it was time to pack up and catch the next departing ferry it seemed like the excursion had been too short.  Well, there is always next year!

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LWI had two Sunday outings in May to look at wildflowers in Mandaumin Woods. Nick Alexander was our leader. He has a background in horticulture, works with Return the Landscape, and has a fascinating amount of information to share about the plants at Mandaumin Woods. On our first visit we were treated to quite a display of trillium. Two week later, on Mother’s Day, some of the trillium had started to turn pink as the blossoms aged. There was the occasional red trillium mixed in as well. May 13th was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods and it was remarkable to see the difference in the surroundings after just two weeks. On both instances, rubber boots were a must as the woodlot has significant amounts of water and the trail was muddy.

Each time I go on a plant walk, I am determined to take notes, but never do. Next time!

On May 13th the wild geranium were in bloom. In the wild, each plant supported only a few blooms and each plant was quite low growing. This is a contrast to the same plant grown in a garden setting. Garden plants are much taller and bushier with an abundance of blooms. Wild geranium is an indicator species of a Carolinian forest. Mandaumin Woods has an abundant supply of this plant as well as other Carolinian species. We have sugar maple, shagbark hickory, American beech, ironwood and muscle trees quite close to the trail. The hickory saplings are very distinctive as the leaves make a large flowerlike bud before they emerge. The woodland does not have a lot of non-native species and we have been attempting to get rid of the buckthorn that was near the road.

We saw spicebush, nannyberry, wild ginger, jack in the pulpit, trout lily, mayflower with early fruit, and anemone which were finished blooming by the second visit. There was quite a discussion about common names as some plants are known by as many as four or five different common names for the same plant. There is something to be said for learning the Latin names to avoid confusion.

For example my wildflower book says this is a large flowered bellwort but I think Nick said this was some kind of lily and a desirable garden plant. It looks rather wilted and but the drooping nature is just how it looks.

We passed around a small stem from a spicebush which was very aromatic.  One of our fellow trekkers informed me that it was the host plant of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly and that their native plant garden has had caterpillars of the swallowtail on their spicebushes.  We will be touring that native garden this summer as one of our native garden tours. The tour on August 10th has the incorrect address included in the brochure. The correct address should be 6719 Old Mill Road.

On the latter part of the walk we saw a red headed woodpecker and this grey tree frog among the trout lily leaves. Trout lily is a spring ephemeral which will disappear later in the summer.  The frog can change colour from grey to green depending on its surroundings.

This was an enjoyable outing. Next year we will be looking at wildflowers at Reid’s Conservation Area.

 

View Bank and Northern Rough-winged swallows in their nesting colony as they hunt insects to feed their young.

Ron and Linda Core are hosting Lambton Wildlife to view a colony of swallows that nest in the banks of a gravel pit at the rear of the family farm.  Bank swallows excavate tunnels in the bank to nest  and the Northern Rough-winged swallows have been known to re-use cavities developed by the Bank swallows.  There will also be an opportunity to hike in the family’s woodland trail to view trees that Ron has planted and view plants and trees of the area.

The walk leader is Larry Cornelis.  Larry is naturalist local to Lambton-Kent, where he has lived all of his life.  He is a very knowledgeable resource of the flora and fauna of the area.  He is an avid bird watcher and will tell you that he doesn’t get enough time to pursue the hobby.  He is a board member of Sydenham Field Naturalists and Lambton Wildlife Incorporate. Larry is a busy guy and always happy to be outside working with nature.

The event begins at 10:00 AM June 10 on the farm of Ron and Linda Core.  The address is 4082 Confederation Line, which is east of Mandaumin and about 2.5Km west of Oil Heritage Road.

The Swallow viewing is considered to be an easy event with only a short walk to the viewing site.  The woodland trail portion is a longer walk, about a kilometre, but still considered easy.  At this time, we are unsure if we can drive back to the swallow viewing or if we will walk.  The walk, should we need to walk, is less than 1Km.

The walk is open to everyone without charge.  Binoculars are recommended.  Footwear appropriate for the weather.  Photo opportunities exist throughout the tour.  There are no facilities available on the farm.

Contact Anne Goulden at anniegou@gmail.com for any questions.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Meet: 10:00 am, 4082 Confederation Line

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On May 7 the newest Nature Reserve for Ontario Nature was officially opened!  Lambton Wildlife was instrumental in making this 190 acre purchase possible, primarily due to the hard work of Larry Cornelis, and through a large donation from LWI.

Red-backed Salamander

Larry Cornelis

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

The property is situated near Alvinston and includes a significant portion of the Sydenham River which is one of the most biodiverse habitats in North America.  The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is home to several species at risk, some of which are found almost exclusively in the Sydenham River.  More information about the property can be found here: https://www.ontarionature.org/protect/habitat/sydenham_river.php

Trout Lily

Red Admiral Butterfly

 

Below are two of the opening speeches giving some insight into the tremendous importance of this Reserve.

Felecia representing LWI

Felicia Syer-Nicol, co-president of Lambton Wildlife, spoke on behalf of LWI:

On behalf of Lambton Wildlife, we’d like to express how thrilled we are to have been part of the purchase of the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.  We are so thankful to Ontario Nature, the Sydenham Field Naturalists, and many other donors that made this possible. With the huge list of species at risk and unique situation along the Sydenham River, this property was a hidden gem in Lambton County that couldn’t have been uncovered by anyone other than Larry Cornelis, one of our greatest advocates for nature.  We’re just going to quickly explain who Lambton Wildlife is for those of you who don’t know, how we became involved with this project, and what we hope for the future.

Lambton Wildlife is a non-profit, volunteer organization that is dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and protection of the natural environment in Lambton County. We organize outings to different natural areas throughout the county, invite experts from throughout southern Ontario to speak at our meetings through the winter, and have a young naturalists group for children and youth. We also have a dynamic website where we have several active writers contributing nature sightings and information for public education. We own two properties in Lambton County, the Karner Blue Sanctuary in Port Franks and Mandaumin Woods just outside of Sarnia.

Just over a year ago, Larry Cornelis told LWI about this unique property for sale on the Sydenham River just outside of Alvinston. We knew that as a club, we didn’t have the finances to purchase the property, nor the man power to manage it on our own. Along with SFN, we contracted John Urquehart to speak with ON Nature on our behalf. We are so thankful to ON Nature for taking on this project to fundraise and successfully acquire this property. 

We’d like to give special acknowledgement to Sydenham Field Naturalists, a small but mighty club that fundraised a large amount of money for this project. As for our contribution, a large portion of it came from a donation from the estate of Robert Bell. This gift has gone a long way for conservation.

Going forward, LWI and SFN will be sharing the stewardship of this property with ON Nature. Mike Kent, Roberta Buchanan, and Dick Wilson will represent LWI, Larry Cornelis will represent both clubs, and Taylor Jones from SFN. This group is just in the beginning stages of their work, but we look forward to seeing the process unfold: from baseline studies to a management plan. We hope to see opportunities for our members to be engaged in habitat projects, bioblitzes, and educational tours.

It really is a special thing to protect a forest like this in Lambton County. The list of species at risk for this property is incredible, but even those species that aren’t at risk: the huge sycamores, swaths of Virginia bluebells, and many other woodland plants are hard to come by in this region. With less than 9% forest cover in Lambton County (most of which is logged every 20 years or so), the protection of this property is significant. We are so happy to be stewards of this property and we thank everyone here for their contributions to its protection.

Thank you

The new sign unveiled

Kevin Thomason, President of the Board of Directors for Ontario Nature gave the following speech: 

Thank you to everyone for joining us today to celebrate this very exciting achievement for nature conservation.

We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Attawandaron (Neutral) and Wendat peoples.

Today, this area is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island including Walpole Island First Nation,

Chippewa of the Thames, Aamijiwnaang First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Kettle and Stony Point First Nation and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to convene on this territory.

My name is Kevin Thomason and I am the President of the Board of Directors for Ontario Nature.

Many of you here today are Ontario Nature members and we are so very grateful for your ongoing support.

Since 1931, with the support of our members, we have been protecting wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

Ontario Nature is built on a strong foundation of commitment and love for natural places and wildlife that is shared by a province-wide network of groups and individuals. Together with more than 150 local grassroots community conservation groups, we are Ontario’s Nature Network, a strong voice for nature across the province.

We are joined today by two of our member groups who have been instrumental in creating this spectacular reserve – Lambton Wildlife and the Sydenham Field Naturalists. Indeed, this project would not have materialized had it not been for the tireless efforts of the volunteers in these organizations.

Thank you for identifying this opportunity, for engaging with the community, for your fundraising efforts and for your own contributions to the project.

Thank you especially for committing to act as the Sydenham River Nature Reserve’s stewards, which means caring for this special place and the species that inhabit it for the long-term.

We are joined by several of our other Nature Network groups who also gave generously towards this project. Welcome to the members of Essex County Field Naturalists, Nature London, Nature Guelph, The Ingersoll Nature Club, and Waterloo Region Nature.

I’d like to thank our local ‘experts’ who are sharing their knowledge about the reserve and wildlife with us today: Erin Carroll, Biologist with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Todd Morris, Researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and last but not least, Larry Cornelis, with the Sydenham Field Naturalists and Lambton Wildlife. Larry deserves a special thank-you for the role he played in making this Reserve a reality.

The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is widely recognized as a conservation priority due to the number of at-risk species recorded there and its contribution to natural forest cover in a landscape with only eight percent remaining.

Located in the Carolinian Life Zone, the Reserve represents some of the province’s best remaining examples of vulnerable habitat for numerous species at risk, several of which are found almost exclusively in the Sydenham River. The nature reserve forms part of a vital habitat core along one of southwestern Ontario’s few remaining green corridors.

We have already begun work in collaboration with conservation science experts to survey for species at risk and also map invasive species that may present a threat. An aquatic survey last fall confirmed the presence of 15 species of freshwater mussel!

In the upcoming field season, Ontario Nature staff, field naturalists and experts from the Field Botanists of Ontario, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority will be on site to conduct further inventories and mapping.

This information will be used to write the management plan which will ensure that habitat requirements for species at risk are addressed and that the impacts of invasive species are mitigated.

This field work will also include gathering the information needed to develop the ecological restoration plan for the agricultural fields on the property, and to design appropriate trails and signage for sustainable visitor use.

Some priorities include:

Restoring agriculture lands within the reserve to natural cover to create more core habitat for area sensitive birds such as Cerulean Warbler and Easter Wood Pewee, both species at risk;

Creating turtle nesting habitat to ensure healthy populations of at-risk species in and adjacent to the reserve;

Planting riparian zones and stabilizing the river banks to ensure healthy and diverse mussel and fish communities;

Building a new canoe access trail so that people can visit and enjoy the reserve without disturbing or damaging the sensitive flora and fauna.

The success of this project was thanks to a community of nature lovers. I would like to thank Donna and Kathleen Clements, the former property owners who made sure that property was sold to Ontario Nature and turned into a nature reserve.

I would like to thank Paul and Sarah our local neighbours here who have opened up their driveway and property for us to cross today.  In the future most access will be on the Eastern side of the reserve and we ask that you respect their privacy and property, however please enjoy things here today and we thank them for their hospitality!

I would also like to give a special thank you to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, as administrators of the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program.

Thank you to Environment and Climate Change Canada for investing in conservation.

Thank you to Lambton Wildlife, the Sydenham River Field Naturalists, Essex County Field Naturalists and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada for their generous gifts. 

Several foundations donated significant gifts to the project including:the Echo Foundation, the Gosling Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

I would also like to thank our excellent corporate partners Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Aecon Utilities.

Finally, I would like to thank over 500 Ontario Nature members who responded to our urgent call to protect this spectacular natural area.

I’m so very pleased to officially welcome you to the new Sydenham River Nature Reserve!

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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.

Native Plant Sale – May 13, 2017

Return the Landscape and DeGroot’s Nurseries work as a team to promote and supply customers with Native Perennials.

Experts Shawn McKnight and Nick Alexander will be on site on Saturday May 13 to help you make the right choices for your garden.

The plants sold at DeGroot’s are harvested from construction sites, or seeds are collected from areas in Lambton County.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation staff grow the plants in their state of the art greenhouse so they are ready for retail sales at DeGroot’s.

New perennials are stocked weekly all summer in the retail greenhouse at DeGroot’s, and there is a terrific assortment of trees and shrubs to select from as well.

 

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Great turnout for the first Spring Walk

On Sunday, 25 people braved the damp and cool weather to join Nick Alexander for the first of his two spring walks in Mandaumin Woods.  Nick shared a wealth of information about the trees and plants found along the trail that winds through the 25-acre LWI property.

Nick shows a leatherwood bush

Nick provided many details on how to recognize the plants and tree species that he showed the group.  Some of the plants and trees that he pointed out included:

Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Goldenrod, Toothwort, Bellwort, Witch Hazel, Redbud, Leatherwood, Prickly Gooseberry, Black Current, Hepatica, various sedges, Shagbark Hickory, Blue beech, Ironwood, Sugar Maple, Basswood, Trout Lily, May Apple, Jack in the Pulpit, Wild Leeks, Wood Anemone, Wild Ginger, and Spice Bush.

Toothwort

Wood Anemone

Bellwort

The trilliums were in full bloom throughout much of the woods, mostly the white variety with a few red ones intermingled.

White Trillium

Interestingly, a yellowish colored trillium was spotted; upon later investigation it appears that this was a sub-species of red trillium!

yellow colored trillium

Nick found many saplings growing and identified them and explained what characteristics will identify that particular tree.   He pointed out that many of the plants found in Mandaumin are indicative of a high quality woodlot and Nick also noted the relative absence of weeds and invasive species.  There’s little doubt that all the participants came away with improved knowledge of the native flora of Mandaumin Woods.

Nick Alexander explains how to identify a plant

Well done Nick, we appreciated the learning experience.

Nick has scheduled another spring walk in Mandaumin Woods for May 14, at 1:00 PM.  He expects more wildflowers to be in bloom for that date.  Wear waterproof footwear as some of the sections of the trail are quite boggy.

 

Join us for our 3 Wednesday walks in Canatara Park.

View resident and migrant birds.

Each spring, migrant birds move through Canatara Park on their way to their nesting grounds. Walk with an expert birder to view resident and migrant birds.

The walk leader is Eric Marcum (519-332-6122).  Eric is a long time birder with experience in the NE United States, northern Canada and many hours in and around Sarnia.  Eric’s experience in hearing and identifying bird songs adds to the experience.

There are three walks scheduled starting on May 3 and continuing May 10 and May 17, 2017.  Start time at 6:00 PM. 

The walk, beginning at the main entrance to Tarzan Land (south-west corner of Christina St and Cathcart Blvd), is an easy one over flat chip covered paths and sidewalks.

The walk is open to everyone without charge.  Binoculars are most useful.  Photo opportunities exist throughout the tour.

See the Tourism Sarnia-Lambton web-site www.tourismsarnialambton.com/listing for more information about Canatara Park.

Photo Credit: Richard Wilson

Photo Credit: Richard Wilson

Last year I attended the Birding Course put on by Lambton Wildlife over the course of several weeks. Many presenters shared their wisdom and experience on identifying, locating, and photographing birds, as well as the equipment and references needed to succeed as a birder.

The last part of the event was a morning walk through Canatara Park on a beautiful morning, April 30th, 2016. Many of the course attendees showed up with their binoculars and their new found enthusiasm to identify birds by sight and sound.

Larry Cornelis and Deryl Nethercott were two of the course’s presenters and they pointed out various birds that they heard or spotted during the walk.

There were about 30 people on the walk at any given time, although the group didn’t always stay together. The walk started on the southwest side of Lake Chipican, near the Animal Farm.

Ducks were spotted out on the inland lake, as well as some other waterfowl.

Experienced members helped point out birds in the canopy, which could be easily seen since the trees were still bare.

A common sight during bird outtings – many people pointing their binoculars in a general direction in hopes of spotting the bird everyone else has already seen. 

Birders of all levels took part in the stroll and enjoyed talking with each other about the bird course and birds they have since been able to easily identify.

Lake Chipican looked beautiful on this calm, sunny spring day.

Seeing as I only brought my 24-105mm lens, the only bird photographs I was able to take were of this tame mallard duck.

Dame’s Rockets were already blooming in the park and other plants were starting to poke out from under their leafy winter blankets.

Gorgeous reflection of the bird box in the side part of the lake. Soon those floating logs will be sporting painted turtles.