“Out in the field”—a term originally used by farmers, and shamelessly stolen by biologists. When I’m having a lucky day free from grant writing or reporting, I’m often ‘in the field’, which could involve anything from invasive plant removal and monitoring past restoration projects to landowner consultations and leading school field trips. The reason I feel lucky when I’m in the field (other than getting to enjoy the amazing natural landscape), is that I often get to see some REALLY COOL things. In this article, I thought I’d share with you the three coolest things I saw in the past week while ‘out in the field’.

The Wetland is Waking!

One of our newest and largest habitat restoration projects is in a 10 hectare wetland. Now, some of you may not have experienced the joy of wading through a wetland, trying to guess if the water will still be lower than the top of your gumboots step after step. But let me tell you, those who risk wet feet are amply rewarded with a bounty of natural spectacles. When conditions are perfect, there is more life packed into a wetland than any other place. This past week, with the first warm days of spring, the wetland really started coming come back to life! The most abundant large residents of the wetland were out in force; Pacific chorus frogs. While cutting and sticking live stakes I was fortunate to run into at least 50 of these amorous amphibians and hear hundreds more. This is what they sounded like! As you may know, the chorus frog is a master of camouflage; changing the colour and patterns on its skin over a period of days to match its surroundings. Here are some of the colour varieties I saw all in one day.

What’s that in my eye?

Everyone has different reactions to pollen; fortunately for me I don’t seem to be particularly allergic to anything. However, the sheer volume of Douglas fir pollen falling out of the trees right now is enough to irritate anyone’s eyes. If you were wondering what that yellow dust covering everything was, now you know! However, I like to find the beauty in even the most irritating of natural spectacles. In the photo below you can see the two different types of cone (conifer flowers) on our most common tree, the Douglas fir. The larger upright cones on the left are the female cones, and the smaller downward cones are the males. It’s the males causing all the irritation of course. The females will catch the wind-driven male pollen (reproducing while practicing physical distancing), and as they mature they will hang downward on the branch and turn into the more familiar ‘pine cone’ my boys so love to throw at me. First pollen in the eye, then a cone to the head. I can’t win….

The Price of Rescue

I have a big hole in my backyard. It’s a long story involving a grumpy septic system. This morning, I noticed one of my favorite local creatures had become trapped in the hole overnight. I carefully rescued the poor girl by placing her on a log and lifting her to safety, but as a price for freedom, she had to be my model for a photo or two. I think she held up her end of the bargain quite well. Like the rest of our amphibians, rough-skinned newts breathe through their skin, and the oils on our hands can hurt them. If you find yourself in a position where you need to handle one of these creatures, please avoid touching them with your bare hands. The females are currently walking back to the ponds to breed.

To learn more about the cool things happening all around us, book a free landowner consultation by contacting our local Biologist Rob Underhill at info@mayneconservancy.ca.


Kate · April 4, 2020 at 9:40 am

Thank you for this pleasurable evocative reading. It put a smile on my face and has encouraged me to walk around my place to look for signs of spring.

    Rob Underhill · April 6, 2020 at 7:33 am

    Thanks Kate. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

maureenpearl · April 4, 2020 at 1:56 pm

Loved this write up Rob. So interesting. Thank you. Maureen

    Rob Underhill · April 6, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Thanks Maureen!

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