Groundhog at Trent

As I walking to my office today, I saw something large moving underneath one of the metal containers. 

Turned out it was a Groundhog.  Not sure where it was going because it was facing the parking lot.


BEE-tiful Saturday

Once again, I came to school to do some work.  One thing I found quite inconvenient about coming to Trent on the weekend is that all the buildings would be locked (that I have no access to), so there is no direct route from the bus stop to my office.  I guess the silver lining is that I can walk around the buildings and take some time to appreciate the nature around me.

Close-up on the lichens on the rock.


Alderville Black Oak Savanna - Control burning

Fire is a critical ecosystem process that has the ability to create new habitats for species and lead to the regeneration of forests and grasslands.  This process occurs both naturally and anthropogenically, and how it triggers the sprouting of dormant seeds is not very well understood (Edit: until just this Tuesday when another piece of knowledge is added to the puzzle.  Read this article and follow the link below for more information.).  Today, I volunteered to help out with managed burn of some sites at the Alderville Black Oak Savanna.  This area supports unique and important habitats (i.e., long-grass prairie and black oak savanna) here in Ontario, and you can find out more about this location at the official website


Before the actual burn took place, we went for a short walk around the site.


Song Sparrow

Walked (part way) to school today and saw this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) singing on the tree top.


Worm-eating Warbler in Peterborough!

Yesterday morning/afternoon, there was a buzz within the Peterborough birding community about a Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum) here in Peterborough.  It is quite rare because Ontario is just beyond the northern limit of its range.

I am not very knowledgeable about warblers in general because they are always found near the treetops and move too fast for me to see/photograph.  However, this particular bird was actually foraging on the ground and not very shy about people watching it.

Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum)
What a curious individual.  I wonder where it will go next in the season, back down south?

Since we were already at the Beavermead Park, we decided to look for other birds too, especially Fox Sparrows for someone's ebird list.


Konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac)

Since last Monday, there has been a special guest residing in the Biology Department office here at Trent University.  It is a Konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac) owned by one of the professors, and it is quite special because it has only flowered three times in the past twenty years.

The inflorescence, like many species in the genus Amorphophallus, emits an unpleasant odor that attracts pollinators (although I seem to have a strange sense of smell which doesn't bother me at all).

The inflorescence when it first arrived on Monday.  It consisted of the spadix (flower spike) enclosed by a spathe (a sheathing bract).  The tip of the spadix broke off during transportation.


Walks to school & Woodcock video

Came to school during the weekend to do some work.  The weather was so nice today that I decided to walk to school instead (as well as take some photos along the way).

Lots of American Robins are back.  Here is one watching the road.


Wildlife in Peterborough - Redpoll, Osprey, and Mink

Our maple sap-collecting concluded yesterday after spending almost 12 hours boiling the sap we collected for the past weeks.  It was quite an experience, and I will never again under-appreciate how precious maple syrup is. 

In the morning, looking out the back porch, I saw little birds jumping around the branches, so I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos.

I think it is a Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) because of the streaked rump and pattern of streaks on undertail coverts (from other photos not shown here), as oppose to Hoary Redpoll.  Cute birds.


Ice-covered Peterborough

On Thursday, Trent University cancelled its exams due to the predicted icy weather from the weather forecast.  Unfortunately, nothing happened at all.  And most students and even some faculty members weren't impressed by Trent's decision at all.  One student even made a video mocking Trent's decision about the weather.

However, on Friday (the day when Trent decided to resume its exams), the weather was quite bad.  The roads, cars, grasses, trees, and basically anything outside was pretty much covered by ice!

First time seeing something like this.  Quite fascinating, in my opinion.  The same student also made a follow-up video about the weather, for real, this time.



After arriving back at Peterborough yesterday afternoon, I went grocery shopping and headed home for a quick dinner.  Because shortly afterwards, I went to look for salamanders with some friends!  Since we had no luck last time looking for salamanders in Burlington, we decided to stay close to Peterborough and checked out a couple of hotspots.  The weather condition was quite perfect - warm and rainy!  Miserable for most people, but seeing the salamanders definitely made it worthwhile.

We did not see anything in the first two locations that we checked, but our third location was a success!  Many Yellow-spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and Blue-spotted salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) were found crossing the road, along with Spring peppers (Pseudacris crucifer), Leopard Frogs, and many worms!

As we drove down the road, we did our best to move all of the salamanders and frogs across the road to the direction they were headed to.  Sadly, we also saw a lot of dead salamanders and frogs and worms on the road from being ran over by cars.

Both Yellow-spotted and Blue-spotted Salamanders belong in the family Ambystomitidae (Mole salamanders) and members of this family are stout-bodied with short and rounded heads.

Yellow-spotted Salamanders is a relatively large Ambystoma (15 to 25 cm long) and is found in southern Canada and eastern US.  There is quite a variation in its breeding timing depending on the populations' location.  Populations in southern regions may breed as early as December, while northern regions may not breed until April.  Breeding in northern populations is highly synchronized and restricted to major breeding bouts following periods of rain.


Yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Visiting Ottawa for the second time

During my first time in Ottawa, I was here with my (now deceased) labmate learning how to identify bees and flower flies.  Along the way to Ottawa, I could not help but feel very sad about my labmate and the things we talked about and saw during last year's trip.  Nonetheless, I think me being here in Ottawa will definitely help in terms of moving on and appreciating life even more.

Waiting for the city bus in Peterborough to catch the Greyhound bus to Ottawa.  It takes about four hours from Peterborough to Ottawa.  I think this is a maple tree, and the flowers are showing signs of blossoming now.


Strange nature formations

On Thursday (April 4), we set up stations for tomorrow's lab where students were assigned stations along the Otonabee River and recorded the abundance and diversity of waterfowls on the river, as well as other environmental variables, including water flow, location of waterfowl on the river, and habitat type of the embankment.

We saw some interesting things, such as:

Ice bells?

Lichen growing on a slanted wood surface.


Today, I came to school and checked on our maple sap collection.  Because it was cold last night and warm this morning, all of our buckets were overflowing with sap!  How wonderful!  Unfortunately, we didn't have the big buckets readily available, so I couldn't do anything except wait for the others to collect tomorrow.  I also saw my first flower of 2013.  Hints of spring are starting appear!

I am currently in discussion with a potential PhD supervisor in the University of Ottawa, and tomorrow I will finally meet her in person, as well as meet other professors in the department, and tour the university and city.  Super excited about it!


Slow Down

Reading two different blog posts with the same title must be a sign for something, I believe, especially when they are titled "Slow Down" (posts 1 and 2).  I definitely need to slow my life down a bit and not get overwhelmed with all of the things I have to do and complete.

I am still taking photos, but just can't find the time to upload them onto my computer or blog about them.  Until now, that is.

2013.03.23 - walking to school on a Saturday.  The snow is mostly gone now.


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