Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Excursion - Eagles' Nest

They say that leaving something behind means that you intend to return. For sure, I always intend to return to the Eagles' Nest area near Calabogie. It is one of my favourite places. But I didn't leave my hand lens there on purpose.

I went there a week ago Sunday, looking for Fragrant Fern spores. I approached the area where they grow from below because, while I can scramble up the steep slope, I can't climb down! The lookout, Eagles' Nest Lookout, is the top of a sharp escarpment. The rock face is at least 200 feet high and cantilevered out over the ground below. There is a secondary trail, unnamed, at the base, which gets quite close. It ends, more or less, in an area of rockfall, and the Ferns grow in the face of the escarpment a hundred or more feet above. Here you can see some of the boulders that make up the rockfall. Can you imagine the noise when these broke off the rockface and fell and rolled? And the  forces that must have been involved?

Unfortunately for me, the area was over-run with young people on some sort of rock-climbing exercise. At least some of them were. The pair busy at the bottom of the area I wanted to climb up where not practicing rock-climbing....

So I went on by, pushing my way through quite dense undergrowth, and scrambled up beyond where they were and then bush-whacked my way back. Needless to say, by the time I got to where I wanted to be, I was hot and scratched and not a little peeved. But I found the ferns and they had ripe spores, so then I was happy again. Only when I got back to the truck did I realize that I had left my hand lens where I had inspected the ferns. Since it is a $90 Bausch & Lomb 14x lens which I gave myself for my birthday, I wanted it back!

So last Friday I went back.

The lens was right where I thought it would be, whew.

I was there early and the day was lovely and cool so I decided to explore. Since I had the escarpment on my left and a shallow meandering pond on my right, I wasn't too worried about getting lost. It was dense going but I eventually came out on an open hillside, overlooking the top of the pond, where it becomes more of a swamp or marsh. The perfect place for lunch! (Note to self - next time pack two sandwiches!)

First thing I saw on the hillside (you always see the interesting things when you stop for lunch), was the leaves of Spiranthes lacera, spp. lacera, or Slender Ladies'-tresses. I was sitting there, feet braced against a rock so I wouldn't slide down into the marsh, munching my (boring) sandwich and thought to myself, 'those look like the leaves of Slender Ladies'-tresses'. Now these leaves are not the least bit distinctive, so I suspect part of this was just wishful thinking, but this time I was right. I soon saw a lot of stems with well-developed seedpods on them. The clearing must have been a great sight a month ago!

The next thing I saw, which I found when I was trying to make a quick count of the Ladies'-tresses, was Blue Ground Cedar, Diphasiastrum tristachyum.

I have lots of Southern Ground Cedar, D. digitatum, and a few Northern Ground Cedar, D. complanatum, at home, but no D. tristachyum. If there had been more than one group of fruiting cones, I would have taken some home and sprinkled the spores in a likely place with a small appeal to magic, but I could only find one. Maybe next year.

In the marsh, I was impressed by the Joe-Pye Weed and the Boneset. Both used to be Eupatorium, now they are, I think, Eutrochium, but I'll have to leave sorting them out for a January project. I used to think there were three native Joe-Pyes, now I believe they are all grouped. Anyway, they were a lovely sight and I'm glad I planted some in my garden. I never paid any attention to the them before, but now I think they can be a great addition to the 'things that bloom in August'.

After all this excitement, I climbed back to the main trail, Manitou Mountain Trail, exchanged greetings with several people enjoying the view from the Lookout, and headed back to the road. But luck wasn't done with me yet! First I got buzzed by one of the Eagles - I heard the whoosh of his (her?) wings and saw the shadow, but didn't really see him. A young couple walking the other way got a picture on his cellphone and he told me the Eagle was no more than 25 feet above me. We watched him circle for a while, tight circles right above us. Maybe a nest was near?

Walking back to the truck I was surprised by one more thing - a pair of stems of Pinedrops, Pterospora andromedea, sticking up out of the small scrub beside the ditch.

Already only seedpods. I've never yet managed to see this plant in bloom, only in seed!

I had some seeds of this a couple of years ago, and I sprinkled them under the tall White Pines beside my driveway. So maybe that was the right place, and maybe, who knows, they might yet appear. It is supposed to take years for them to show above ground.

All in all, an exciting day!

Will I return?

 Of course!

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