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Posts Tagged ‘forests’

porcupine eating maple

Over the past year, chewed tree branches too high for deer to reach indicated a porcupine was likely dining regularly in the backyard.  This week I finally spotted the suspect in action, munching on maple.  Since porcupines are usually active at night, I was surprised to see him late on a bright, sunny morning.

porcupine in sunlightHis black claws and the long hairs of his fur shone in the sunlight.  As soon as he heard me, he froze.  His underbelly appeared soft and vulnerable.  Porcupines are protected by law in some North American locations as they are easy, nutritious prey for humans lost in the woods who may be armed with nothing more than a stick.

When I decided to move closer, his brunch interrupted, he slowly came down from his perch on the tree stump next to the branches, and made his way into the bush.  His quill-covered back was huge but seemed so well camouflaged in its woodland setting.  You wouldn’t want to step on that by mistake.  Another reason to walk, not run, in the woods.

porcupine heading into bush

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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Cone Talk

The cones have tales to tell this fine spring day.  Do you have a minute to hear what they have to say?

old black spruce cones

Let the old gray cones speak first.  They’ve likely seen better days but are still holding on tight to the even older black spruce that bore them years ago.  Neither the young nor the old should underestimate the value of tenacity.  Hang in there baby!

spruce cone leftovers in woodpile

These spruce cone leftovers on the woodpile reveal a spot where at least one red squirrel likes to dine regularly.  Hopefully the neighborhood cats aren’t paying attention.

closed spruce cone in bog

A closed cone in a boggy area doesn’t want to expose its seeds to the wetness if there’s still a chance it can disperse them farther in drier weather.  It’s only natural for all of us, even small pine cones, to aspire to reach out to the world beyond our little neck of the woods.

open cone indicating dry forest

A spruce cone on the forest floor is already open, even though it rained heavily here a couple of days ago.  A sign of a dry summer ahead, it’s also showing an increased risk for wildfire.

speckled alder cones and seeds

Speckled alder cones have only a few seeds left in them, but are proud to say they helped feed a good many hungry chickadees this past winter.   When you hear the chickadees sing, you can thank the alders.

red spruce cones

Red spruce cones announce to the world that they’re open for business.  Pollination business that is.  Their bright red bract scales are ready to receive the male gametophytes that will produce a new crop of seeds.  They’re so spectacularly beautiful, a close-up is warranted…

red bract scales on red spruce

Green cones appear for the first time atop a tall balsam fir I transplanted as a seedling years ago while holding a baby on my hip.  It’s always a thrill when your babies start having babies of their own, whether these babies are humans or trees 😉

green balsam fir cones

Get outside and hear what nature has to say to you today.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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The trees of the Acadian forest have something to say.   Ever since the Europeans arrived here, they’ve been patient, but they’ve put up with our foolishness long enough.  It’s time for us to listen up.  This past week, forester and law student Jamie Simpson took it upon himself to help them get the word out.

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
~ Dr Seuss, The Lorax

Last Friday Jamie put up a billboard between the two bridges in Halifax along much travelled Barrington Street to increase awareness of our government’s clearcutting policy.  As you can see, in this larger version of the billboard photo,  a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Whole tree harvest cut near Upper Musquodoboit Nova Scotia ~ Photo Jamie Simpson

Despite its promises, Nova Scotia’s NDP government has done nothing to stop whole harvesting of our Acadian forests.  It’s not just wrong.  In Jamie’s words:  ‘It’s shameful.’  By allowing a loose definition of a clearcut in the fine print, despite its new policy, the NDP government continues to allow harvesters to transform more of our mixed growth forests (with the potential for partial harvesting) into mud pits.

Northern Pulp biomass harvest ~ Photo Jamie Simpson

Northern Pulp, the company that ravaged the tract of land shown above, was sold to Paper Excellence Canada, which in turn is owned by a conglomerate of Asian and European owners.  Like the Lorax in Dr Seuss’ book of the same name, perhaps we need to get angry while also retaining a seed of hope. We need to tell our government representatives that they have to be more creative in finding a solution that works both for the forests and the forest workers.  Now, before our landscape is ravaged any further.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.
~ Dr Seuss, The Lorax

For more information concerning the decline of Nova Scotia’s forests since the arrival of Europeans, see my earlier post on  The Fall of the Tall Trees.

To help Jamie get the word out, visit his website for a list of government contacts at Clearcut Nova Scotia:  What to do.  MLA Becky Kent is the representative for Cole Harbour/Eastern Passage.  Her contact information is listed here.

Text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.
All photos shown courtesy of Jamie Simpson.

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Light grayish green lichens known as Old Man’s Beard hang from the trees in the forests.  Sometimes blown onto the ground on windy days, to the touch, these lichens are usually soft but sometimes stiff in dry weather.   A few are streaked with brown.

Old Man’s Beard is frequently found in clean, moist environments such as boggy woods.  Though it prefers to cling to coniferous trees in old growth forests, it also hangs from the younger birches in my backyard.  Sensitive to air pollution, it’s often found with other types of lichens, such as the foliose lichens shown below.

  

Canada’s native people harvested Old Man’s Beard long ago and added it to their diet.  It can be steamed or dried and pummeled into a powder.   A strong antibiotic, it was also used to prevent infection and gangrene from setting into external wounds.   A thousand years ago, Old Man’s Beard was already being used as a medicine to treat lung cancer.  It’s still used today as a treatment for tuberculosis in China as it contains usnic acid.

La barbe de nain illustration by Elisabeth Ivanovsky

The antibiotic properties of Old Man’s Beard make it an effective treatment for fish infections in ponds and aquariums.  Yellow warblers seek forests where the Beard is present as they consider it an indispensable construction material in building their nests. 

A french fairy tale, LA BARBE DE NAIN by Marcelle Vérité, explains that the beards once belonged to elves.  Long ago, it was customary for these kind, cheerful creatures to arrange bundles of deadwood on the forest floor as a gift for mankind.   But when men greedily began to cut down live trees, the elves hastily fled to remote mountain peaks, snagging their beards on branches in the process.  The lost beards can be found in forests to this day.

Considering the wonderful medicinal properties of these beards, their elvish origins are no surprise to me.

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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.
~ William Blake

It may be the way of  humans to want development to cease once their home is built on the edge of the wilderness  but I still shudder every time I see tracts of land cleared.  I realize that before my home was built on this spot, many wild creatures made this acreage their home. Trees once stood where my driveway now covers the ground with gravel.

Yesterday I went looking for amphibian eggs in a spot where I had seen them in a waterway near the bog years before. Chainsaws tore through trees in the vicinity throughout the afternoon.

I also looked for Boreal Felt Lichen, an endangered species that seems like it would thrive in this neck of the woods. Though none was found yesterday, I did find a cluster of foliate lichen that I had seen earlier this year. Unfortunately, this time, the tree was on the ground, freshly sawed into pieces, a casualty of the surveyor’s line.

These lands are likely slated to be developed soon.  yet, fresh evidence of porcupine, hare and deer activity was everywhere to be found.  It’s a shame that so many animals will be displaced and that all these lichen-covered trees will eventually be covered with weedless green lawns and paved driveways.

Bogs are often considered wastelands by developers who want to fill them up.  That saddens me just as much as the demise of the trees.  New trees can be planted on cleared land but a bog can’t resurface once it’s been filled with rubble.

Throughout  the walk, my friend Sybil who accompanied me kept repeating lines from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi…

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone.

Her singing was barely audible over the roar of the chainsaws.

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Old trees can easily conjure up memories of times past.  Covered with lichens, mosses and fungi, they are witnesses to history, quiet observers of human events and animal activities.  Their silent demeanor makes them privilege to secrets told beneath their branches.  Perhaps it’s because we expect trees to know so much that they spark our imaginations.


A favorite book from my childhood was The Faraway Tree Adventure by Enid Blyton. (My copy was the french translation: DEUX ENFANTS DANS UN SAPIN).  The story involved the magical encounters experienced by two children who follow an elf up a tree.  My imagination was sparked by the idea of a tree so wonder-full that it could act as an enchanted gateway to other lands and fairy folk.  

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.
~ John Muir

Two spruce trees I recently saw standing side by side in the forest reminded me of that magical tree I had read about years ago. They were wrapped up in mist and entwined in each other’s branches, still erect while others of their size were overturned by strong winds. 

Their older lower branches were bare of needles but looked strong enough for climbing.  As a child, I’d always been unable to reach the lower branches of the trees I believed held magical worlds in their canopies. At what age do we stop trying to climb up trees?

The magic that eluded us as children because we didn’t have arms long enough to reach the next branch, eludes us once again in adulthood as we become more and more attached to safe ground.  The trees must find us odd indeed, but in their wisdom, say nothing.

What tiny creature do you suppose lives in that hole among the roots?

In the tradition of  She Said, She Said, Sybil of Eastern Passage Passage has also written a post about these same trees.  You can find her post here along with marvelous close-ups of the wonderful worlds she captured with her lens.

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