Alfred Bog, Alfred, Ontario
My birder friend, Gerhard, gave me a call to tell me he was going to be showing a group of Dutch folks around the Alfred, Ontario area. He wondered if I might like to come along with my cameras. He keeps hoping I’ll learn a little Dutch, I think, as it was the language of the day. My language, of course, is pictures.
Gerhard always wants to be on the road by dawn (or earlier). He is a keen birder. I, on the other hand, am a keen sleeper :-). However, when he invites me on a birding outing, I rarely say no.
The group gathered in the east end of the city early in the morning (I live on the opposite side of the city so needed to get up earlier :-)) and headed out to the sewage lagoons near Alfred, Ontario. Sounds like a terrible place to go to spend an early morning moment but ask any serious birder where the sewage lagoons are anywhere in the world and they will likely be able to tell you!
A chilly wind was blowing and the temperature wasn’t much above freezing as the group set out on their outing but spirits were high and winter clothing was welcomed. Whatever happened to the +30C weather only a few weeks earlier?
I kept asking myself, “What could be more fun than getting up at 6AM to join Gerhard and his Dutch group to walk around a sewage lagoon near Alfred Ontario?” :-).
After a bit of time at the lagoons, we transferred our attention to the public boardwalk that allows visitors to walk through a piece of the Alfred bog without getting their feet wet.
The bog lands in this area of Ontario provide an opportunity to see flora and fauna close at hand that would normally require a trip much further north to duplicate. On this particular visit, the Cotton Grass (Eriophorum sp.) was putting on a wonderful display.
I had hoped that the pitcher plants would be in full bloom considering the warm Spring weather this year but they were still just at the emerging bud stage and the bog laurel buds (Kalmia polifolia) were likewise almost ready to open their delicate pink petals but not quite opened. The Pitcher Plant is an insectivore/carnivore living in very acid soils (bogs) where natural nutrients in the soil are insufficient to sustain them without the additional nutrients gained by “trapping” some insects. The pitcher plants found in the Alfred Bog area have fused upward pointing leaves which form a cup or pitcher containing a small amount of liquid. Once an insect crawls into this cup-like structure, they are unable to crawl back up the sides because the sides are slippery and lined with down-pointing hairs which impede upward movement of the insect. Once trapped in the liquid, the insect eventually drowns and its body is dissolved by the liquid (enzymatic and chemical process) and resultant component nutrients are then absorbed by the plant as nourishment.
After taking a bit of time to look for a Common Yellowthroat, the group left the Alfred Bog boardwalk and headed back to the parked cars where one of the drivers demonstrated how the Dutch can use a car tire to plug a large hole in a culvert :-). It seemed funny to some of us but not all that funny to the driver. I got the easy task. I attached the tow rope to my car and let my car do the pulling. The others got to do the pushing. Not sure exactly how it happened but one wheel ended up in a large hole with one corner of the car resting its frame on the ground. Probably a break in the culvert, under the field access roadway, had created a mini sink-hole effect which the driver unfortunately found. Thankfully, once we decided how to get the car out, if actually came out of the hole quite easily.
With a bit of pushing and pulling all went well and we headed home in good spirits.