Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tyrcuill Butterflies

Yesterday, no one would play with me.

No One Will Play With Me

Laura was busy at her computer all day and most of the afternoon, setting up the Raindancing Dragons blog. My Mum went out shopping and my Dad went out to shoot photographs. Then, after dinner, Laura and my Dad went outside to juice apples for their next batch of cider. Laura had said that I could help them, but then my Mum wouldn't let me. She made me come inside but then she wouldn't play with me either. She just sat down and watched television.

The only good part about yesterday was that I got to sleep lots and, when Laura brought the apple juice inside, our kitchen smelled yummy.

Our yard smelled yummy too from all of those nice apples. Some pulp got left behind on the lawn and this morning our yard was full of butterflies attracted to all of that appley goodness.

Laura and I saw a beautiful Mourning Cloak and an Eastern Comma. Then Laura and our Dad and I went back outside with our cameras. Laura saw a Red Admiral and a Painted Lady, but they didn't have time to have their photographs taken today. The Eastern Commas, however, were eager for a photo shoot. (Or perhaps just too interested in the apple pulp to bother about moving out of the way of whatever was going on around them!)

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

Look carefully. This is another picture of an Eastern Comma.

Eastern Comma

When their wings are folded up, they are camouflaged really well. If you blink, you may not be able to find a resting Comma again until it spreads its wings and shows you its bright topside once more.

That little silver hook-shaped mark on the underside of its wing is how the Eastern Comma gets its name.

I sat outside with my Dad for a long time and helped to watch for butterflies

Butterfly Watcher

but our Mourning Cloak never returned.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Childhood Haunts

Yesterday, Laura and I returned to our childhood home to visit our friend Cheryl.

I had not seen Cheryl in many years, because she had been living in British Columbia and that is too far away for even a Super Camper like me to hike! Yesterday was also my first time returning to my old home town since Ashton and my Mum and Dad and I moved away three years ago. We live pretty far away now too, but yesterday Laura had to drive our Mum and Dad to a wedding that was almost all the way there, so we decided to drive on a bit further and visit Cheryl.

When we arrived at Cheryl's house, the first thing Laura and Cheryl wanted to do was go hiking. (Laura's friends seem to do a lot of that sort of thing. Laura's friend Tracy even competed in a marathon recently. That's over 42 kilometres! Whatever has become of good, wholesome appreciation for rest and relaxation?)

Cheryl took us out to Hilton Falls, which is where she likes to hike. The forest there is pretty, but the falls weren't exactly falling while we were there. There was just a dry riverbed, then a steep drop into another dry river bed. I took the opportunity to lie down and rest while Laura and Cheryl discussed seasonal vs. long-term changes to the local water table.

After Hilton Falls, we went back to Cheryl's house for dinner. Then it was time to pick up our Mum and Dad and head on home. Laura has been at her computer all day today, busy setting up yet another blog and I have been taking the opportunity to rest up in bed. (It is hard work, sleeping in the car for such a long ride!)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Rondeau Adventures

Last Thursday, Laura and I took my Dad to Rondeau to introduce him to all of our butterfly friends. He brought along his big camera, which can take better photographs than the little point-and-shoot Laura and I had along on our camping trip. All of the monarchs had left, however. We went right to the south point of the peninsula and only saw one monarch and one red admiral. Several white cabbages and clouded sulfers were still flitting about -- Laura even saw a bright orange clouded sulfer -- but no one would pose for a photograph.

We showed my Dad the Marsh Trail too. Still no butterflies, but Laura got some beautiful shots of the sunset.

Marsh Trail Sunset

Rondeau Bay Sunset - soft

Rondeau Bay Sunset

Rondeau Bay Sunset

We also took some photographs of Laura doing yoga

NaNoWriMo Sun Salutation - Asana 12

Laura designed a whole sequence of asanas as part of a big November project for which she is gearing up. I think she will be telling you more about that in her own blog next week.

Yep, that's correct. For all of you fans of Laura the Rainbow Dragon out there, Laura has promised to start using her very own blog and posting regularly, beginning October 1. Until then, you'll need to keep checking in with me to find out what she's been up to and the Polyphagous Dragon to find out what she's been eating.

I am a Super Camper!

Super Camper Award

My friend Laura gave me this award because I was such a Super Camper on my very first camping trip!

I had a good time camping with Laura -- especially the parts where I got to rest nice and quietly while Laura took photographs of butterflies and deer -- but I was glad to get back home again too and sleep in our nice big bed. Laura, on the other hand, is already surfing through the Ontario Parks web site, scouting out where we can go next.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 5 - Breaking Camp

I took one last luxurious roll in the grass of Willow Glade, then we headed back to Oak Grove to pack up camp.

Laura is an expert camper and can tear down camp all by herself when she needs to, but today I was there to help by doing the very important job of supervising. (I am such a super camper!)

Once everything was packed up, I enjoyed my last camp meal (yummy duck kibble - another gift from my fans at Home County) and laid down to rest while we waited for our Mum to come and take us home.

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 5 - Time to Go

Today we are going home.

Today we are having a truly lazy day.
(Laura says it wouldn't be a lazy day if we had been REAL camping.)

This morning Laura and I ate a cold breakfast, then set off for a very short walk. There was a tiny piece of Manning Road and Rondeau Avenue we had not hiked yet which we needed to get in before going home. Then we went to Willow Glade to sit by the water and enjoy our last few hours of camp.

Resting in Willow Glade

The bay is calm this morning, the sky is clear, and the geese are noisy.

Blue Skies

Laura took some photographs of a Great Blue Heron we saw standing in the shallow water.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Here he is again, with a friend:

Great Blue and Friend

Then our camera said, "Change the battery pack," and turned itself off.

It must be time to go home!

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Last Night

Laura made the biggest campfire of our whole trip tonight. The winds had died down so she easily got the fire going with only one match and she burned up all the rest of our wood.

"There is something about the last campfire," Laura says.

All of our other fires Laura has put out as soon as she finished cooking over them, but tonight's fire she built up good and hot. Then she cooked herself a yummy dinner of onions and sausage and garlic and potato and parsnips. Then she cleaned up and battened down camp for the night by the fire light. Then she sat down by the fire and watched it slowly die down to embers, lying back to gaze up at the stars. (It was our first cloudless night and, even with all of the lights from Lakeshore Road and the camp buildings and other campers using artificial lights in their camps, there were still far more stars out than we could ever see in London.)

Me, I went to bed straight after dinner and fell asleep to the singing of the crickets and the frogs and the calling of the geese and the occasional loon. I needed my beauty sleep after all of our camping adventures!

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Willow Glade

Before returning to Oak Grove, Laura and I walked all the way around the outside of the campground and we stopped at Willow Glade on Rondeau Bay to sit by the water for a bit there.

Willow Glade

Willow Glade isn't a swimming area, so I was allowed to go there. Plus, it is nice and close to our camp, in a pretty, sheltered spot, and, best of all: there are no flies!

The sun was getting low in the sky and Laura enjoyed watching its reflection on the water.

Willow Glade Sunset

Willow Glade Sunset

Willow Glade Sunset

Willow Glade Sunset

Then we returned to camp for dinner.

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Flies!

Finally the deer finished her lunch and moved on and so did we.

We covered a stretch of Harrison Trail to get to the group camping area. It would be a pretty nice place to camp if you were willing to pay over $40 per night for your site. Secluded in the middle of the peninsula, the group camping area was quiet and sheltered from all sources of artificial light. You would need to trek all of your water into the sight, however.

We heard lots of songbirds on Harrison Trail and saw a cardinal, a blue jay, a sparrow, and some squirrels. At the Visitor Centre we saw a dove, a cute little chipmunk and a couple of people with a little dog. On the homeward bound stretch of Harrison Trail, we saw a whole flock of sparrows nesting in a field of tall blue grass.

Finally, we made it to the dog beach -- and the place was swarming with flies.

Nasty, yucky flies everywhere. Laura tried swatting them and I tried eating them, but there were far too many. We tried moving around the beach to get away from them, but it was no use. Those horrid flies followed us wherever we went and some of them even bit me! That wasn't very nice.

I felt badly because I knew Laura really wanted to be by the water but I just couldn't stand it on the beach with all of those flies, so we set off for Oak Grove. Before I leave our story of the dog beach behind, however, I have a word for all of you doubters and naysayers:


Yes I went into the water. I went in and got all four paws wet right over the tops of my toes!

I got all four paws wet!

So there!

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Celebrity Cervidae

We walked the long way to the dog beach today because Laura wanted to check out the group camping sites. Good thing that we chose the route that we did because, on our way down Rondeau Road, we saw a deer!


She was right on the side of the road, grazing.

Laura and I approached very slowly and quietly so that the deer wouldn't be frightened of us. The deer watched us cautiously but stood her ground.


Our camera only has a 3x optical zoom, but we were just about getting close enough to take some nice photographs -- when a park ranger came barrelling down the road in one of their big trucks! Of course, the deer disappeared into the woods.

Laura and I thought that was the last we would see of her but, as we approached the spot where she had left the road, we saw her in the underbrush, slowly making her way back towards us.

Laura and I sat down to wait, and we were so good and so quiet that that deer wasn't afraid of us at all. She came to within three metres of where we were sitting and allowed Laura to take many photographs!




If you ask me, I think that deer was enjoying all of the attention!


Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Staying Warm

After a little while, Laura went back into the tent and retrieved her jacket and her winter weight tights and got bundled up in them. That did not bode well.

All of our neighbours moved away yesterday. We have the whole street to ourselves. Oak Grove is nice and quiet. No sounds but the squirrels and the blue jay and the wind in the trees. A gentle sunlight filtering down through the oak canopy onto our cosy day bed.

I tried my best to keep Laura warm. I believe that she really did want to give me a nice rest today, but Laura believes that the best way to keep warm is to keep moving, and our campsite is so far away from the water, and the dog beach beckoned...

Laura snuggled into her bed for a little while and read her book while I had a nice nap, but it wasn't long before she snapped the book closed and said, "Well Kendal. How about that beach?"


Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 4 - Lazy Day

We had already covered all of the hiking trails in Rondeau Park and today was supposed to be our Lazy Day. On some level I knew that doing "whatever we want" wasn't going to translate into spending the entire day in bed, but a puppy can dream.

The day got off to a good start when Laura brought my bed out of the tent and onto the blue tarp so that I could have my breakfast in bed. (Yes, I know I am a spoiled puppy when Laura bakes me homemade cookies for breakfast and brings them to me in bed. What of it?) Then Laura sat down beside me to have her own breakfast. (The garlic had worked so well at keeping the vampires at bay yesterday that Laura had pesto for breakfast again today.) Then Laura brought her bed out of the tent and laid it down on the tarp beside mine. Naturally I gave up my own bed and moved across onto Laura's to warm it up for her.

Laura's bed is so cosy...

Cosy Bed

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 3 - Spider Web Trail

After the Deer Enclosure, we hiked our last trail of the park, Black Oak Trail.

The park's guide book calls Black Oak Trail a "pleasant jaunt" and "an excellent trail for watching songbirds". We found it to be neither.

Black Oak Trail was an interesting enough trail, but we didn't see any birds or stop to take any pictures. The lack of birds, again, may have been due to the storm blowing through. The lack of pictures certainly was. The sky had darkened such that the lighting wasn't good for taking photographs with our minimalist equipment, and it had started to rain. Laura loves the rain, as some of you may know, but we were in a thickly forested area and the skies were threatening to rain hard. We wanted to get off the trail before that happened.

As for the "pleasant" part, let me say this: If you are an arachnophobe, Black Oak Trail is not for you!

Laura and I have nothing against spiders per se. We've seen some interesting ones here in Rondeau Park and even taken a few snapshots of them. The problem with Black Oak Trail was that it obviously hadn't been as well travelled by humans in recent days as the other trails had been. I was short enought to pass beneath most of the spider webs that crossed the path, but Laura grew tired of constantly breaking them with her face and took to waving a stick up and down in front of her as she walked to clear our passage.

Maybe someday, when it is sunnier and we are well rested and have more time to devote to exploring, Laura and I will give Black Oak Trail another go, but on this trip, we were glad to be rid of it, scrape the spider silk out of our hair and eyes, and head back to Oak Grove.

The winds were still raging when we made it back to camp, so Laura didn't even attempt to start a fire. We had a cold dinner, Laura taking her pesto with whole wheat pita bread and Lancashire cheese, and went to bed.

The rain clouds blew over quickly but the high winds continued to rage well into the night and long after we had fallen asleep.

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 3 - Secret Trail

On Bennett Avenue, on route to Black Oak Trail, we saw a raccoon crossing the road. We also saw another trail -- one that isn't marked on the map!

Of course, we had to hike it.

The Deer Enclosure Trail is just a short little walk into the woods and around the perimeter of the deer enclosure.

We didn't see any deer -- which is actually the point! The deer enclosure doesn't enclose deer -- it keeps them out.

What it does enclose is a small patch of Carolinian forest on which deer have not been allowed to graze since 1978. The Rondeau peninsula has a higher population of deer than the forest there can sustainably support. Inside the deer enclosure, the forest is regenerating and the area is thick with bushes and sapplings. Outside the enclosure, the forest has been overgrazed and much of the undergrowth is just grasses and flowers. (The open area didn't look as bad as on the photos on the Deer Enclosure sign, however. We couldn't find recent numbers on the deer population, but it looks as if park management practices have started to bring it under control in recent years.)

Sustainable ecosystems are a delicate and complicated balance!

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 3 - Spice Bush Trail

The Marsh Trail is a super long trail that just ends in the middle of the marsh. There is nowhere to go from there, save hike back along the same path that we took into the marsh, so that's what we did. Before we left the marsh behind, I made sure to have a good roll in the marsh's scrumptious tall grass!

Now this is Grass!

Then we were back at the entrance to the Marsh Trail. The day was still young and we were feeling good, so we decided to hike down to Bennett Avenue and complete the final two trails. (Laura said that if we did all of the trails in two days, we could do whatever we wanted on the next day!)

Spice Bush Trail was pretty with lots of ferns and wildflowers on the forest floor. It was pretty easy to get around that trail too. I think it should be marked as a "barrier free" trail like the Tulip Tree Trail is. My Dad would like this trail.

We didn't see any animals on the Spice Bush Trail, just lots of plants and bugs. (Laura thought the birds may all have taken shelter as a wild storm was blowing up as we hiked this trail.)

None of the bugs bothered us. Even the mosquitos stayed away today! Laura's pesto with lamb and rice meal did the trick! (Laura had her pesto with whole wheat rotini pasta.)

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 3 - Nap Time

The sun came out along our Marsh Trail journey, and you never would have guessed that a thunder storm had ravaged this peninsula just hours earlier.

Marsh Trail

Marsh Trail

Laura and I took a rest on the side of the trail to soak up some rays and rehydrate.

Marsh Trail Nap

This was the view looking straight up from our resting place:

Marsh Trail Canopy

As we were resting beneath the shade of the tall blue grass, two little frogs came and sat with us for a while.

Marsh Trail Frog

Back on the trail after our rest, we finally got some good photographs of a Red Admiral.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

See how good his camouflage is? With its wings folded up, this Admiral looks just like a bit of tree bark!
Red Admiral

Most of these butterfiles were very shy and flew away before Laura could get our camera focussed on them, but this little guy was so friendly, he actually alighted on Laura's shirt!

Kendal's First Camping Adventure - Day 3 - The Marsh

To tell the truth, I would have been happy for today's adventure to have been sleeping in bed, but I knew it was important to Laura to hike all of the trails in Rondeau this week so I went with her.

Marsh Trail SignLaura said we could hike a little more slowly today since we have less ground to cover but, once we got onto the Marsh Trail, there were so many interesting things to see and smell that I soon forgot I was tired.

Before we even got to the trail itself, a huge bird of prey flew overhead. He swooped down so low, right over our heads, I was glad Laura was with me lest that enormous raptor took a fancy to me as a nice light morning snack!

Walking along Water Street, we were escorted by a friendly monarch butterfly. Then, on the trail itself, more Monarchs as well as Cabbage Whites, Clouded Sulfurs, Pearl Crescents

Pearl Crescent

and Red Admirals.

Red Admiral

We saw lots of birds too: little brown birds, a whole flock of black birds resting in the bullrushes, a couple of swallow-tailed birds near the north end of the marsh, more raptors circling overhead

Marsh Trail Raptor

(watch out little brown birds!) and lots of dragon flies. We saw bullrushes and tall blue grass and thickets of raspberry canes and grape vines and those white berry bushes,

Marsh Trail Berries and Grapes

pretty orange flowers, golden rod, tiny white asters, tiny buds of purple, and white & pink morning glories.

We hiked along a couple of boardwalks out into the marsh. At the end of one there was this cute little shelter, just the right size for me! It sure was nice of the Rondeau Park people to build this for me!

Marsh Trail Lookout

At the end of the other boardwalk there was a lookout tower into which we climbed. We could see water and marsh for miles around from up there, and it was super windy!

Marsh Trail Tower

Marsh Trail

Marsh Traila>

Laura really liked it up in the Marsh Trail Tower, looking out over Rondeau Bay, the wind in her hair -- but she said she was glad she wasn't out on the water in a canoe that day!