Friday, 31 August 2007

The other rainy day

Today the heavens opened again, but for only the second time - we'd been incredibly lucky with the weather. We visited Thomas Raddall Provincial Park, and although we saw lots of mammal tracks and signs the animals themselves were elusive. The animal in this photo is not a grey wolf - unfortunately they're now extinct in Nova Scotia. The clue is that grey wolves don't retrieve sticks from the ocean:-) No, this is Lycos, Christina and Chris's husky/German shepherd cross (although his name is Greek for wolf).
Soaked again today, we returned to Cherry Hill early to start our packing:-(

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Nova Scotia's megafauna

I'm talking about the vole there - not Sophia:-) Bet she hates this picture, but someone had to be photographed posing with our 'quarry' and it wasn't going to be me:-) This is a red-backed vole (trust me - I know it's too small to see!). This was the species most likely to be caught in our live traps. Today's work concluded our team's activities at Cook's Lake.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A show-off in the woods

We came across this spruce grouse when we were checking our small mammal traps in the woods today. He was so busy displaying (to no-one in particular) that I managed to get quite close for a photograph.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Monster moth in the making

Whilst we were doing a vegetation survey at Cook's Lake today, we spotted this huge caterpillar. If it doesn't get eaten, it will eventually turn into the largest moth species in North America - the cecropia - with a wingspan of five or six inches. Thank you to Diane for the loan of her little finger to illustrate scale:-)

The beaver's neighbour

Sophia joined me for my morning walk today, and we had an unexpected sighting at the local beaver lake - a muskrat. Although it looks like a very small beaver, the muskrat is actually more closely related to voles. In this photo you can just about make out its 'cylindrical', tapered tail - very different from the beaver's flattened 'paddle'.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Cherry Hill's 'city centre'

My pre-breakfast walk this morning was uneventful, but the village church looked rather picturesque in the morning sunshine so here's a photo! After breakfast, we returned to Cook's Lake to set our small mammal traps in a new area, and continued with the other survey work.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

At Kejimkujik National Park

Today we visited 'Keji' as it is locally known, to look for mammal signs and perhaps the animals themselves. Keji is quite a busy park (especially on a Sunday), so the only mammals we saw on our walks were North American red squirrels. They are even smaller than Eurasian red squirrels and just as quick. I finally managed to get a photo of one near the main picnic site, where the animals have obviously become more habituated to humans (and their lunch leftovers no doubt:-)).
We saw evidence of beavers too - classic gnawed tree trunks.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The seals save the day

I somehow managed to persuade most of the rest of the group to join me on a whale-watching trip (and therefore felt a bit guilty later on when a few of them were a little seasick - sorry guys!). Our only whale sighting was a fin whale, which was good to see but impossible to photograph, and the captain did throw the boat around a bit in his attempts to get ahead of this fast whale as it moved around.

On the way back to the quayside, the captain took us to see some seals hauled out on the rocks - mostly harbour or common seals, but I spotted a couple of grey seals in the water too. I suspect these animals are the 'guaranteed wildlife sightings' on this trip - in case the whale and dolphin sightings are poor - and it was great to see them so close. By the time we got back to port everyone was feeling OK again and we headed to a local pub for food.

Blue skies in Lunenburg

Today the blue skies returned, as you can see from this photo of a rather funky weather vane in Lunenburg where we spent our free day. This coastal town is a World Heritage Site, but I was more interested in the fact that it offers whale-watching trips.

Friday, 24 August 2007

The heavens open

Well, this was Nova Scotia, and we had so far experienced unbelievably blue skies and warm temperatures. But today it rained with a vengeance and we got well-soaked:-( No photos today - my camera didn't even come out of its nice, dry bag! We collected in our small mammal traps early and headed for home, making plans for our free day on Saturday and hoping for better weather.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Elusive beavers (2)

After dinner today, we drove to a second beaver lake near Broad Cove Beach. The midges and other biting insects attacked us relentlessly as we patiently waited for a sighting. To escape the attack, I walked across the road to the beach and as the light faded I took this picture on a long exposure, so the waves have turned to mist. One beaver did eventually put in an appearance on the other side of the lake, but it was almost impossible to see in the poor light.

Elusive beavers (1)

We took another pre-breakfast walk to the beaver lake at Cherry Hill today, but its main resident proved elusive. Even so, the lake is a beautiful location especially in the early morning light.

More small mammal trapping, surveying and path clearing at Cook's Lake today.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Cheeky chipmunk

We returned to Cook's Lake, and after checking the small mammal traps a small group of us surveyed the habitat and vegetation along the edge of a large field. On the way back, we encountered this eastern chipmunk. Apologies for the 'mistiness' at the bottom of the photo - a badly positioned leaf but, fortunately for me, right out of focus:-)

Dawn encounter with a deer

I went for another early morning walk, this time on my own (Sophia decided to snooze for a bit longer that day). I walked towards the beach again, and on the way back encountered this white-tailed deer youngster. It will lose its spots as it gets older, but in the meantime they will help to camouflage it in the dappled light of the forests.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

We rise before the sun

Sophia decided she wanted to see the sunrise (6:23am!), so we got up nice and early:-/ and walked down to the beach with Bella. It was definitely worth the early start - the sunrise over the Atlantic was beautiful.

We drove out to Cook's Lake again after breakfast, and set our small mammal traps (the animals are caught alive and released). We checked and reset them in the afternoon, and in between times got involved in other tasks such as clearing new pathways (to make surveying more easy), doing habitat surveys and looking for mammal signs (especially droppings!).

Monday, 20 August 2007

We meet the resident beaver

There are several small lakes in and around Cherry Hill, and one of them - only about 1/2 a mile from our house - had a resident North American beaver. My room mate Sophia and I decided to go for a walk before breakfast and see if we could spot it. As we discovered over the next two weeks, the beaver appeared fairly reliably at about 7:15am each day, but the views we got on the first morning were not to be surpassed. He/she seemed curious about the two creatures hanging around at the edge of the lake, and swam over for a closer look.

After breakfast, Chris briefed us on the research we would be helping with, and in the afternoon we paid our first visit to the research site at Cook's Lake.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

The metropolis of Cherry Hill

I arrived at Halifax International Airport, Nova Scotia, and met up with our project scientists Christina and Chris, their dog Lycos, and 11 other volunteers. The other folks had travelled from the UK, the States and Japan, although some had been in Nova Scotia for a few days and were a bit more lively than jet-lagged me:-) Chris drove us to the metropolis of Cherry Hill on the southern coast of the province, where we would be based for the next two weeks. Cherry Hill has a church, a hybrid village hall/auxiliary fire station, no mobile phone reception, and not a lot else... apart from the wildlife of course:-)