BioBlitz: Kemptville Creek

Canoe

So, last Saturday we went struck out on Kemptville Creek, more or less in the name of (citizen) science. Here’s a map from Google Earth of the stretch we paddled:

Kemptville Creek

We basically travelled from the bottom-left corner to the top- right one.

Creek DepthWe started off (as we often do) at the bridge in Bishops Mills, and went downstream as far as the Highway 20 bridge. Water levels seemed to be high lately, but the gauge at the latter bridge put the level at “1” (units unclear). Anyhow, the creek was high enough that we didn’t have to worry about bumping into any underwater obstructions while diligently scanning the skies and shores for species. We had a HOBO trailing in the water and another in the boat for the duration of the trip, and while the water temperature seemed to be steady around 16C over the course of our paddle (roughly three hours), while the air temperature dropped about by about 5C (25C -> 20C). It was a beautiful day for a paddle… funny how the first jaunt of the year coincides with first mosquito bites of the year. Can’t have one without the other, I guess.

But enough of that for now; let’s get to the BioBlitz species count. By the by, it looks like there’s been quite a bit of interest in the project — there are almost 50 participants signed up so far. For fun, I’ve included philatelic representations of species in my account where appropriate! Plenty of photos too, for the kids.

To begin, we noticed great numbers (~12) of the Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula). Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) were also out en force, and we probably observed half a dozen mating pairs. The odd Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) crossed our path as well.

Red-winged Blackbird

As novices, we were bound to end up playing one of the best games you can play in a canoe: “Muskrat or Beaver?” The Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) we saw were only confidently identified as such after we came across what was obviously a Beaver (Castor canadensis) — which is noticeably larger, and has a distinctive face. At a distance, though, it can be hard to tell which is which.

Five-cent Beaver

We also passed by an unfortunate (and by that I mean “dead”) Racoon (Procyon lotor) who was peaceably floating along. Speaking of floating, there were Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens) all over the place,

Leopard Frog

… along with an Egg Clump of unknown origin.

Frog Eggs

Fred headed out later on to see if he could get an idea where the Leopard Frog chorus was located, and while by the bridge where we started out he noticed a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). Hmm.

Along the way, we collected some shells (or should I say “freshwater invertebrates?”) which have since been identified as Bulimnea megasoma and Helisoma trivolvus. Also some Gyraulus, but I don’t know exactly which species we’re looking at here.

Not only did we see stuff, we also heard stuff. We paddled through some rather vocal frog choruses, both Leopard Frogs and Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer). At one point the calls surrounding the canoe were almost deafening — seems like it’s going to be a good year for the frogs.We also heard what we believe to be a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). We did not hear the well known “kee-eer” descending scream, but rather an unusual “upslurred” one. You can listen to the calls here. Also audible was some woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus?) activity. We didn’t actually see the bird, so its species remains unknown.

Woodpecker Stamp

(That’s a Pileated Woodpecker on the far-right!)

As far as plants go, I don’t have much to identify here. We came across many different kinds of moss and lichen, though. I have little hope of identifying them, however. Nevertheless, I’ll pass on a few photos… there’s a photogenic old wooden bridge that is host to a multitude of species.

Lichens

More Lichens and Moss

Now, one of my favourite bits of this stretch of creek is a swampy area filled with Red Maple (Acer rubrum, also known as Swamp Maple, appropriately enough). The water level was high enough that we could paddle among the trees, which afforded some neat views. It always reminds me of that awesome arboreal level in Myst

Moss and Roots

You can see that the Red Maples are just coming into their glory at this time of year:

Red Maple

On a side note, I might point out that the Red Maple was featured on a 1994 Canada Day issue:

Red Maple Stamp

Of course, any good trip down the creek wouldn’t be complete without the requisitite curiosities. This time we found a sorely deflated basket ball, a hubcap from an old cadillac, and an old election sign (“Vote for Sandra Lawn!”)… well, if it’s for PC it probably belongs on the bottom of a creek anyhow.

Sandra Lawn

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