Don's Diary

Notes and observations that might be of interest.


December 28,2000 The end of the year. We have been having a "normal" winter. The big storm of early November did not appear this year, but it turned cold with snow about the middle of the month. Except for the one major melt with 29mm of rain on Dec. 17th, it has been continuously cold and snowy. There has been a lot of cyclonic snow and that is good for the Great Lakes. This means new water in the basin. At our location high up in Dufferin, we have seen some squall activity as well. This has dumped moisture into the watersheds but is closed loop moisture as far as the lakes are concerned. With the heavy snow there has been lots of activity at the bird feeders. Junkos, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals sparrows and nuthatches are the regulars here. Today I spent some time with the chickadees, letting them feed from my hand. This is an amazing experience. You can feel their feet on you but it seems as if they have no weight at all. They seem to prefer the sun flower seeds, taking these into the cedars, cracking them on a limb. The grey squirrels are the bullies of the feeders though. Everyone waits while these characters do their dance. For content and drama, the feeder certainly beats day time TV. I am waiting to see if this winter fits my belief that we get only six weeks of real winter (temperatures staying below freezing for most of the time) followed by more wild fluctuations in temperature with a messy mix of precipitation leading into spring.

August 27,2000It has been a long summer with lots of rain and and cloud but no real heat. This is a real change from the past several summers of dry heat. We had the privelege of visiting Wye Marsh and Tiny Marsh in early August. These are only about an hour or so away from Dufferin and are a must visit for anyone interested in nature.
In early August to just a week ago black birds had been flocking in the thousands to a nearby grassy marsh each evening. The main species was the red-winged, but many common grackles were also flocking but into the adjacent ceder trees. The last time I visited the site a Great Blue Heron was also present.
I am not sure why they flock to this site but the neighbours tell me that they do this every year. I have an idea that this might be connected to the birds feeding upon millions of small moths that infest the thick grasses. I will be spending some time over the next few years trying to confirm this or other explanations.
Rainfall for July was a bit reduced and it would have been a much drier month save for a large storm that hit on the 31st. The rainfall data for this location are now available on a seperate page.

June 4,2000 Today I took my first hike ever on part of the Bruce Trail. I am almost ashamed to admit that, having lived in the area for 16 years. The Murphy's Prospect loop and the main trail running down to the Boyne river from the north were my targets today. In all it was a 6 km walk with some good up hill and steep down hill sections. The view from the prospect is wonderful and I hope I didn't startle the couple having an intimate picnic near the top. The area was once farmed, though I can not imagine anyone being able to make a living from these steep slopes. There are many old orchards, stone piles etc. testifying to the labour that was invested here. Nature rewarded me with a fine Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) singing to another from high in a tree. The sound of many species, including the Great Crested Fly-catcher (Myiarchus crinitus) filled the air. A Mourningcloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa Linn.) posed for the camera. I hope to have that photo on the site soon. Perhaps the high light of the walk was the White Tailed Deer that crossed the trail just before the river. I spotted her before she saw me and I had a good few minutes watching her graze and poke about. The point where the trail crosses the Boyne River is a little paradise. Quite glens full of fern and the sound of rushing water made it a great rest stop. In August of 1999, volunteers from the Highland club constructed a solid foot bridge. I am sure hundreds of hikers have said a silent "thank-you" for that wonderful effort.
Total rainfall for April in the upper Pine River was 122 mm, and for May was 169 mm.

April 14,2000 Yesterday was a beautiful, almost summer day. I was rewarded by seeing a female wild turkey in Wellington County and a nice plump Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) along 15 Side Road in a White Pine (Pinus strobus L.) plantation. We also saw a large white water bird flying overhead. It may be an egret of some type but we could not make a positive I.D. Since we were not expecting to see an egret, we didn't know which characteristics to look for. There are three species to choose from. Perhaps the recent warming trends will make them more common in this area. On this line, it seems that some farmers are planting already. At least some are getting a jump start on preparing the land. This may be a real test of the warming if crops are actually going in. Normally we will have some killer frosts yet and grain and potatoes are vulnerable. I will keep an eye on this.
April 8,2000The March lion pounced last night. By the time it cleared this evening we had about 10cm of snow. It was heavy and sticky but wind blown just the same. The roads had improved a great deal but still many areas snow covered and icy. It is obvous that many more, and much better, wind breaks are required. The open stretches of County Rd. 124 north of Shelburne are very bad.
The total amount of rain for March until last night was 58mm. This new snow was nearly all new cyclonic moisture so that is good news for the great lakes basin and the local watersheds. Many farmers and fishing folk will be happy too.

April 5,2000 On Sunday, the 2nd, I observed a Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) on the pond down the road. This is the most unique bird sighting for me so far. It wasn't easy doing the identification as both my field guides are not totally accurate. This includes both Peterson's and the Golden Guide. However, it was very enjoyable watching the little fellow paddling about the pond. There was no sign of any female or any other individuals. The book says this is a rare species around Dufferin. The same day I spent another fine half hour watching the courting ritual of a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). This was no singles bar pick up and despite the male's best efforts, the female had not accepted. I hope to check them out again next weekend. I have seen two beaver as road kill this week. It seems they are moving around now and very vulnerable.



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August 16,1999 The leaves of the maples (Genus Acer) along the roadsides are now showing definite colour. I have seen no change in the maples in woodlots. It is as if these trees are just tired and ready for autumn. This change occured about the same time in 1998. I wonder why these trees are affected but not the other maples. Here is a good project for someone.
The starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are gathering in large flocks.
August 20,1999 A good rain began last evening about 1800 and lasted until 0700. 15mm at Hornings Mills.
August 22,1999 Temperature of Pine R. at Hornings Mills is 20.6C
August 28,1999There are large numbers of crickets (Genus Gryllus) this month. They are making much more noise than the birds. There has only been a trace of rain at Hornings Mills since Aug. 20th.
August 29/99Turned very cool and windy today. August is looking more normal and perhaps we are finally coming out of the El Nino cycle and back to "normal". Fall might be cooler and shorter with an earlier, harsher winter.
August 30/99The starlings seem to have disappeared. Perhaps the cool temps and the northerly winds have sent them south. There are still large groups in the Milton area. There is very heavy dew now with patchy fog in the morning.
September 2/99A large group of starlings were in the Norway Spruce (Picea abies L.) tonight. It seems they are just moving around a lot and are still in the area. It would be an interresting project to try and observe their movements and look for explanations.
September 7,1999The Pine R. at Hornings Mills is 20.8C. I see the starlings back on the hill at the south entrance to the village. It has been about 3 weeks since they left that site. Perhaps it has something to do with food availability. We received 33.5mm of rain in the 24 hrs ending at 0700.
September 11/99Went for a drive mostly around the north end of Amaranth Township photographing some examples and just enjoying the wonderful day. I have logged 3 White Elms (Ulmus americana) for the beginning of a data base tracking local elms. There was a very active Red Tail Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) stalking the fields of the eighth concession along 30 sideroad. The most interresting event was over my own driveway after I returned home. Two ravens (Corvus corax) were chasing an unidentifiable hawk from their territory.
September 12/99 Many Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) were around today, especially in the cemetary beside us. There are still some butterflies about and a fine specimine of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) was in the cemetary. Just at dusk a Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) was hunting bugs about 50 meters above the house.
September 22/99 Heavy killing frost last night. It has been a long frost free summer but all good things come to an end. It would be an interesting project to test the relationship between climate, light levels and the trees changing colour.This would be a check of the accepted theory.
October 4,1999First snowfall of the season! We received about 2cm. Along with rain that also fell, we received the equivalent of 12.5mm of rain. Total rainfall for September at Hornings Mills was 96mm.
October 14,1999 Saw two white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) this morning on the way to work. They are so hard to see in the early twilight. I don't think all those drivers doing 120K's or more even think about deer.
October 24,1999The temperature of the Pine R. at Hornings Mills is 5.8C
November 2,1999 Heavy rain today. We received 38mm until it turned to snow about 6PM.
November 3,1999Lost electrical power about 10:30PM last night in Hornings Mills. Power was restored about 9AM today. Roads were closed and dangerous. There was much drifting and it is heavy and wet. Temperature above freezing. In the dark last night there was almost constant dim blue electrical flashing with the occasional large flash. No thunder could be heard but this was clearly an atmospheric effect, almost like being inside a fluorescent tube. Total snowfall was 33cm at Hornings Mills. Squalls were continuous until well into this morning.
November 7,1999 The temperature of the Pine R. at Hornings Mills is 4.7C.
December 18,1999The temperature of the Pine R. at Hornings Mills is 2.5C. The river is about 1 meter wide at this point and fairly fast flowing. It is still open but with some ice forming at the edges. Air temperature today is about -6C. If you define "winter" as the period when daytime high temperatures are generally below freezing, then winter probably began on Dec. 16th this year.
February 13,2000 It has been a very easy winter. I was wrong about it starting on Dec. 16th. We have lost the snow three times since then but have had consistently winter-like conditions for about three weeks now. The Pine river is still open where it is flowing fast. So far the highlight of the season has been a visit by a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) to the bird feeder. With Saturn and Jupiter high in the evening sky and Venus prominent in the morning sky, it has been a great season. The moon has made some beautiful close passes of these planets as well as staging it's own total eclipse.
The lack of freezing rain has made it an easy winter on the trees, however our worst ice can happen in March so we aren't safe yet.

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March 5,2000 The past two weeks have been generally spring like. Most of the snow has melted and many of the streams have flooded a bit and receeded. Fortunately the low snow cover made for low cresting heights on the rivers and no real damage was done. Such a rapid melt with "normal" snow cover would have been disasterous. There is still lots of snow in protected areas, mainly those in tree cover. Widespread re-foresting of abandoned land would be a good step towards slowing the run off and potential flooding. It would also help spread out the stream flows and cool the water in summer. The fish would love that.
Please visit the Dufferin County Museum (see Other Local links) at Airport Rd. and Hwy 89. It is a great experience!

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