Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tobermory 2006: farewell

Good news – Melody is all better, and I’m back in the saddle.

I started nighttime roadkill monitoring two weeks ago. On the Tuesday and Thursday, I had fragmented days at work, so that I would work in the mornings and get the afternoons off to head out in the evening with my supervisor, Melissa. We are hoping to see a difference in the number of live occurrences on the road. So far, it hasn’t been very eventful.

However, on Friday we had an exciting morning since the one Massasauga who we were monitoring on Cove Island gave birth recently. We observed three babies – they were less than 20cm long, with a little button of a rattle, and were quite aggressive. We caught them and took measurements, which was fun. The babies stay with their mother for about 3 days before venturing out on their own.

Tuesday and Wednesday were busy days last week with preparations for the Grand Opening of the new Visitor’s Centre. All Young Canada Works students and many staff members helped out on those days – setting up chairs, cleaning, last minute completions of the exhibits, etc. The Opening Ceremony was memorable. Chiefs of neighboring native reserves, MP’s, CEO’s from Parks Canada’s National Office, other Parks staff, and approximately 500 visitors attended the event. Speeches were made by people of importance, native drummers were performing, caterers were giving out free food, flying squirrel and snake demonstrations took place. One of my jobs was to provide water, complimentary on part of Parks Canada to everyone who wanted some. I gave out so many bottles of water - it was crazy! Wednesday night’s party was awesome. Staff, family and friends attended for great food and raucous times.

I am now approaching my final week in the Bruce – no doubt I’ll miss it here, but I look forward to returning to Guelph and B-town to see you all.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Tobermory 2006: Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Things were a bit crazy for me with planning for a big trip to the Georgian Bay Islands National Park for Young Canada Works. I came up with the idea, planned, reserved, borrowed, emailed, informed supervisors, wrote a funding proposal, and got money for this trip. It was a little stressful when budget was looking tight, but everything worked out in the end and the trip turned out well! It was a three day trip (July 23-25, Sun-Tues), with 8 people; myself, the team leader; Michelle, the supervisor for highschool YCW students; a staff member on exchange from Parks Victoria in Australia; and 5 other YCW students.

We camped at Awenda Provincial Park in Penetanguishene, which is a nice area. Through my camping experience, I learned that an air mattress is an important thing to have and that sharing one just won’t cut it. Sunday afternoon we went to Wye Marsh, a conservation area of sorts in Midland. The group went on a guided tour, and on a canoe ride through the marsh.

Monday, we visited the administration office for GBI National Park to meet with the staff member (an ecologist named Andrew) whom I had been in touch with through email. He informed us about the park, his career etc. After meeting Andrew, our group headed over to Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, also in Midland. I’m not really into history and culture, but most people enjoyed it, and it was somewhat interesting for me. Wye Marsh and Sainte Marie Among the Hurons were places that I planned us to visit since the trip was supposed to be educational and career related, but the main focus of the trip was to visit another national park. Monday night, just for fun everyone went out for dinner and went to see Stompn’ Tom. Watching Stompn’ Tom was an experience… as was watching some of the hillbillies that came to see him too hehe. That night, as we were driving back, our caravan train of two pulled over to inspect the lights of the van I was driving – the two front ones weren’t working! It was a Kia rental van used for work, so naturally it hadn’t been used at night. I switched driving that van over to Amber since I don’t see my best at night, and sure enough as we passed through Penetanguishene, we got pulled over by a cop. Luckily, the cop let us off and Amber had to drive the van back to the campsite with fog lights/high beams on.

Tuesday, we met up with Andrew again to head over to GBI itself. The species at risk technician and GIS specialist (satellite mapping) and Andrew took us by boat to the main island, Beausoleil for a brief hike on the North end of the island, where the Canadian Shield shows through the ground. The area was surprisingly over developed compared to the Bruce, complete with fake beaches, water trampolines, million-dollar condo developments, and hundreds of boats passing through daily… totally cottage country. One of the highlights for me that day was that our group got to meet and hold Pinapple, the big and friendly Eastern Fox Snake! We left for the Bruce around 2pm that afternoon and got back around 8pm.

Saturday, the Visitor’s Centre hosted a butterfly count, where groups of four went out to different areas of Bruce and Fathom Five to observe and record different species in the parks. I learned a few new things, and it was something to do for the day… like those little white typical butterflies are called Cabbage Whites J

I am now one of the priviledged few who have gotten to ride the huge Coast Guard boat… they included me (and two others) on their daily cruise. The boat is so big that it uses at least 100L of fuel per hour. It has four places where it can be skippered, complete with sophisticated machinery. The Coast Guards share the Marine Operations Base with researchers and wardens of the national parks. They even have their own house which overlooks the harbour when they’re on for a two week on/two week off period… competition for the two-million dollar neighbors!

Thursday and Friday were full days for me. I started at 6:30am on both days to do snake monitoring, then headed over to Flowerpot Island as a YCW event to help the Friends of Fathom Five. We got guided hikes of the island and caves, ate excellent food (we were given a dinner on behalf of the Friends for their appreciation of our help), and we had great weather. I went back to the mainland for the night, but several others stayed on the island overnight (in the supposedly haunted museum). I helped sand and paint the porch of the Lighthouse Keeper’s House (which is the museum), complete with a great view!

Unfortunately, Melody somehow injured her leg and has been lame for the past few days. It’s not severe – I think she bruised the bone of her pastern, for those of you who know what that is. I’ve been visiting her daily to wrap her legs, and to give her TLC.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Tobermory 2006: Wigwassi jiiman

I spent a morning with some of the Fathom Five National Marine Park researchers monitoring fish abundance in some of the bays. With waders up to my chest, I helped collect nets in shallow water that had been set up the day before. These were large square nets with forty-five degree angle ‘wings’ to guide the fish into the traps. We dumped the contents into a bucket and the researcher counted how many of each species were present in each of the traps. One of the nets had a huge pike fish, nearly a metre long. Most of them had some lost turtles, which we tossed back into the water.

Outside of the Bruce: I went home for one weekend for a change. Mom had me busy on Saturday, playing in a golf tournament for her ski club. It was a good thing that we played best shot, where all players put their ball beside the best ball shot in the group or else we probably would have been out there for quite a bit longer. That evening, one of the ski club (and sailing club) members had a barbeque…I played lots of volleyball, jumped on the trampoline, and had a Cockatiel on my shoulder. A nice finish to the barbeque was when a wooden figure with skis, paper face and a shirt that said ‘Pot bellied stallion’ on it was put on a piece of wood jutting out from a ladder that went over the fence line of Terry’s property. He lit it on fire, and it slid along the piece of wood to drop onto a pile of wood, and among all the drunken cheering of everyone present, it immediately erupted into flames… goodbye potbellied stallion. That Sunday was pretty much catching up on shopping and driving back to the Bruce to see Melody before the sun went down.

Friday was a busy day despite the fact that I had the day off. In the morning I went on a long hike to Cave Point, which has this huge cave on the shoreline – really neat! Afterwards, I headed over to the Visitor’s Centre where the month-long birchbark canoe project was finished. This was a large birchbark canoe (Wigwassi Jiiman) that was made from scratch by Aboriginals who were hired for the project. The canoe was portaged from the Visitor’s Centre to the shoreline (by the Grandview restaurant). A large crowd, including the man who named the Chi-cheemaun on the shoreline, and the Fathom Five boats were watching in the water as the canoe was launched… and the Chi-cheemaun itself came in and blew its horn as they paddled the birchbark canoe around the harbour – it was awesome!

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Tobermory 2006: Bruce Peninsula and Fathom Five

My mom visited me for a bit a couple of weekends ago. I took her on a tour of Bruce Peninsula National Park. Fathom Five National Marine Parks consists mostly of islands and shipwrecks, so we didn’t see much of Fathom Five aside from the Big Tub lighthouse and view of the islands from the Visitor’s Centre viewing tower. We visited the famous cave, the Grotto on the Georgian Bay; hiked the Singing Sands shoreline of Lake Huron; and went to Emmett Lake. The brand new visitor’s centre had their ‘soft’ opening, with construction still continuing, now open to the public. Mom got to see the fabulous video called “Life on the Edge” on the big screen with surround sound. By the way mom: closed captioning is on its way to being implemented in the movie. Always the advocate… hehe.

Amber and I have gotten well into our routine amphibian and reptile roadkill monitoring. Three times a week we patrol four roads with the van, but now we have started to monitor everyday for better estimates. We are doing this to get an estimate of the number of reptiles and amphibians killed on certain roads during the summer. Let’s just say, there will be lots. As the EMR team, we have been exploring potential new gestation sites for the Massasaugas. A gestation site is where a female rattler stays when she is gravid (pregnant), until after she gives birth. It’s like a den/area, where she can protect her young before they venture off on their own. As the warmer weather approaches, we will be starting earlier (probably 6am on some days).

One Wednesday, I spent the day hiking with other colleagues, setting up bear bait stations. Essentially, these are timber sticks that have been nailed onto trees 1km apart (we did 16 that day), just out of reach of a human since a black bear is about the same height as a human. At each station we drizzled sardine juice (that’s smelly stuff!) from half opened sardine cans onto the trees for the scent to waft in the breeze (to attract the bears), and hung the containers on a string from the stick. The following week, the bear crew went to those stations and observed if a bear had visited (you can tell by claw marks on the trees, and the chewed up sardine cans). It was a different experience and fun to spend the day hiking too!

Jenny and I went on a ride called “Canter for the Cure” on Sunday, which was done in support of breast cancer research. However, it was not Melody whom I rode. She managed to throw a shoe the night before, so I ended up taking a little 14.2h Appaloosa gelding named Tom - he was a good boy, yet it felt strange to be riding something so different than Melody. It was a beautiful day for our 6hr ride around Hope Bay (near Wiarton, 30 min drive from the barn). Part of the ride was on the Bruce Trail. The scenery changed from farmland to alvars, Niagara escarpment, Glacier Potholes, open fields. One of those huge fields had cows, not to mention the huge bull who nearly charged at some of the horses! There were about twenty horses on the ride and it turns out that the woman who started it is Amber’s aunt! That’s the thing about small towns… people are connected one way or another.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Tobermory 2006: new beginnings

Time flies… you can’t, they’re too fast. Lol… that was an old joke from a chemistry prof that I remembered as I was thinking about what has happened since I emailed last.

I finally found a spot in Tobermory that has wireless internet access… and a perfect spot it is; out on the patio of the Tobermory Sweet Shop, overlooking the harbour as I sip an iced cappuccino – paradise! Paradise has bad wireless connection though, so the time I can stay on is brief, and msn conversations are frequently interrupted by lost signals, which is no droubt annoying, but at least I’m outside with a great view.

Sunday morning, I went for a ride with the few boarders at Jenny’s place as a “barn get-together event”. Melody was the star of course, and lead the way for all the young ones behind. That afternoon, I went into Fergus with Melissa to check out a horse. Hails Bold Love (Hailey), is the newest addition to the barn (she was scheduled to arrive today). Now Melissa and I can ride together! We didn’t get back to the Bruce until after 10pm that night…

A new colleague and Young Canada Works student, Amber started on Monday. That day, the three of us (me, Amber and Melissa) began field work. Singing Sands is a beautiful location, a long sandy beach with rare orchids and other plant species growing nearby. That was where we caught our first Massasauga rattler. She was in the shade along the beach, one that had never been caught before. We tagged her with a microchip (called a PIT tag), and painted her rattle yellow, took measurements etc. We did this to keep track of the locations of the Massasaugas, and the paint was done as an indicator that we previously caught the snake that year and there is no reason for us to bother her again. The next day, we were up early (started at 6:30 am) and searched in another location, the George Lake area. Starting early isn’t that bad since I get to leave earlier (like 2:30pm). We caught three more rattlers at George Lake; two of them were courting at the time, excellent finds! I named the two of them Minnie and Mickey, since Minnie had a mouse-head shaped marking on her back as one of her ‘irregular spots’. The third was already PIT tagged, and we found that (on the database with previous records) she had been tagged three years prior to us finding her.

Tuesday night, I played my first game ever of ultimate Frisbee - tons of fun… Although, I managed to stop a Frisbee in mid-flight with my face! Don’t worry, I’m fine aside from a fat lip and a bruised cheek bone hehe.

Yesterday was an experience, for most of it I helped conduct interviews for new YCW students for the summer. There were three of us that went to the highschool in Lion’s Head, and also at the Visitor’s Centre in Tobermory. We interviewed four people in total for two positions, and it was obvious which ones were to be hired. One guy was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe the things he said, from what I understood amongst his mumbling, and his crazy hairdo was enough to throw us all off.

Thursday, I spent the day outside; the morning along the shoreline of the Georgian Bay looking for Lake Daisies – we found a big patch. Lake Daisies are currently ‘threatened’ and only grow on flat rock in certain conditions. The afternoon was spent eliminating an invasive species called Garlic Mustard, which essentially smells like Garlic. It’s overcome the South, and we are trying to postpone its invasion in this area.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tobermory 2006: An introduction

The day I arrived at Cyprus Lake, the people at the campground registration gave me directions to the staffhouse, which to my relief was nearby. I continued on to the staffhouse, but it was locked… and empty. I got a key, and chose a room (one of many). It reminds me of rez at Guelph: thin walls, cot-sized beds, shared-everything, and invertebrates (see attached pic). This time round I made sure to find a single room as opposed to a shared room – that way no one listens to me talk in my sleep, and there are no closets to change in. It was kinda creepy being here on my own for the first few days. It felt like no one knew I existed in this huge old cabin with random noises.

Melody is doing well. I took her on a hack the day after Heather and Brit dropped her off. It was cold and rainy, but I still went anyways. We encountered two large Canadian Shield rocks the size of a smart-cars, which were just oddly placed in the middle of a huge field. Melody thought those were quite peculiar. She seems to have adapted well in her new surroundings. Jenny who owns the place is an enjoyable person to be around. She’s the only person I’ve met so far at the barn.