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  • Merri-Lee M.

Tribute to a Changing Landscape

Updated: Apr 18

"Beyond feeding and clothing and sheltering ourselves even abundantly, we should be allowed to destroy only what we ourselves can re-create. We cannot re-create this world. We cannot re-create 'wilderness'." -Alice Walker



This blog began last Fall as a documentation of some of the species found in Autumn along the shore road between the 10th and 12th of Kincardine; however, it has "evolved" into an attempt on my part to come to terms with the loss of an area of wilderness that I have loved and wandered for decades. Parcels of land along Sprucedale Road have been sold as estate lots in the past few years, and large tracts of forest are being completely clearcut to make room for new homes.


Our 2 acres, with its 150-year-old log cabin, sits in the midst of the devastation, and provides a small amount of shelter for the wide variety of bewildered wildlife that has lost habitat. Of course it cannot begin to compensate for all that has been destroyed. Perhaps some of the salamanders, snakes, mammals, birds, insects, etc. that have escaped the heavy machinery will be able to relocate to nearby "wild" spaces that have been left untouched, but the complete removal of everything on these lots makes it unlikely that anything that had been living in trees, undergrowth, leaf litter, or soil has survived.


Here are just a few of the species that will be affected by the destruction:

a returning Yellow-bellied Sapsucker pair that has nested for years in this area will need to find a new nesting place in the Spring,


as will the Great-crested Flycatcher families.


Red-bellied, Garter, and Water Snakes that managed to evade bulldozers will need to have found shelter for the winter, as will the little Woodland Salamanders that have lost their rotted logs and ground cover.


Hopefully, Compton Tortoiseshell Butterflies and their cousins that overwinter as butterflies will have discovered alternate shelter, now that their natural hiding spaces have vanished. Other insects that overwinter in tree bark or dead leaves have been removed altogether.


The list goes on and on: American Redstarts, Magnolia and other Warblers,

Smooth Greensnakes,

Leopard Frogs, Red-spotted Newts, Eastern Whip-poor-wills... many, many native species, along with food sources, will either have been eliminated completely, or will be forced to find new places to survive and raise their young.


And so, this blog has become an expression of grief for irretrievable losses, a celebration of all that has been, ... and, I suppose, a prayer of hope for what might still be.



The roadside trees and bushes along Lake Huron have always been smorgasbords of insects for migratory birds in the Spring and in the Fall. I took the rest of the photos in this blog in late September and early October of 2020, before 2 of the several-acre forest lots had been cleared. It remains to be seen whether or not these avian visitors will continue to grace us with their presence in an area that they will not recognize when they return in Spring.


On September 29, I was out for a walk along the "Shore Road", and found many migrants feeding in trees and shrubs beside the road along the lake. There were pockets of birds here and there among the vegetation, and it was a special privilege to stand in the middle of a diverse flock of hungry Warblers that landed and foraged within a few metres of me, as I stood very still and watched (and photographed!). Some of the Warblers looked much as they had in the Spring, and were easily identified; others were dressed quite differently than they had been a few months earlier, and were a bit more of a challenge. I needed to check my ID books for several of these, and have identified these Fall Warblers to the best of my ability....


This Nashville Warbler, with its white eye rings, yellow/white/yellow underside, and gray head, is just a slightly "duller" version of its Spring self.

I believe that this Nashville Warbler is a juvenile. It lacks the distinct markings of an adult, and appears much grayer. The eye ring is a giveaway, though.


Delicious grubs were still moving around in the wild Grape leaves, and tiny Warbler bills are adept at picking them out of their hiding places.


A family of Black-throated Green Warblers nested near our cottage, and the young ones were joining in the feeding frenzy. No black patch on the throat means that this little beauty is a female.


Quite a few Cape May Warblers stayed high in the trees. There was a variety of patterns and colours on the Cape Mays....


Juvenile females are coloured in shades of soft gray; however, the streaking on the breast, gold-green edges of the wing feathers, and slightly downturned bill indicates that this is another Cape May Warbler.



Autumn Bay-breasted Warblers lack the strong "bay" colouring that they exhibit in the Spring, but in most cases we can see hints of rust along the sides.



There seemed to be no shortage of insects for the Warblers to eat. This Bay-breasted Warbler has found a good-sized meal.


Tennessee Warblers, with their greenish backs and light eye lines, stayed low in the brushes and evergreens.




2 Northern Parulas appeared in the small trees along the lakeshore. This tiny Warbler, with its dark upper bill and orange lower bill, and broken white eye ring, is such a pretty visitor. The first photo shows the typical Parula rust patches on the sides of the breast, and a dark throat.

Warblers move quickly, and these Northern Parulas were no exception. They were finding small insects in the leaves of the Birch and Poplar trees.


A young Northern Parula, with its clear yellow breast, sat for a very brief moment.


An Orange-crowned Warbler stopped by, ducking behind branches to avoid having its picture taken! The Orange-crowned Warbler has no wing bars, a split pale yellow or white eye ring, and -- a mostly invisible little orange patch on the head!


I think that this is a Blackpoll Warbler, with its yellowish feet, white wingbars, short tail and prominent eyeline.


Such a wonderful collection of Warblers all in one spot!



A Blue-headed Vireo appeared briefly, high in the trees, with the Warblers. This Vireo has a relatively large bill with a hook on the tip. It has a wide white eye ring, 2 yellowish wing bars, yellow-tipped tail feathers, and a white belly with yellow sides.


A Swamp Sparrow, with its gray face and breast, rounded tail, and reddish wings, hopped around near the ground, enjoying the bugs and seeds in roadside grasses. The Swamp Sparrow has a rust-coloured cap, white throat and dark lines behind its eyes.



There were Song Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow, and several White-crowned Sparrows foraging on the ground in the sparse grass and wildflowers.


In mid-late October, the trees along the lakeshore were alive with Kinglets -- mostly Golden-crowned. It is easy to miss the details on these wee birds when they are flitting about in the brush, foraging. They really are beautiful! Hemlock and Cedar trees were their choices for insect hunting on the days that I was watching them, possibly because leaves were falling from the deciduous trees by this time of the year.





A single Ruby-crowned Kinglet joined its Golden-crowned cousins in the evergreens along the lakeshore.


A family of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers nested in the forest during the Summer; this young one was poking about in the lakeside trees.

Out in the rough waters of Lake Huron, a Mute Swan found bits of plant material. We had seen 7 Mute Swans floating together and feeding on a day earlier in the Fall.


On a sunny Autumn afternoon, a Watersnake basked in the sun on the dirt road (and I carefully moved it to one side!),


and tiny Leopard Frogs enjoyed a few last days of sunshine in shallow pools along the shore.


Compton Tortoiseshells were sunning themselves, and checking out openings on our shed to find suitable places for their Winter resting season. It is amazing to think of these fragile creatures hibernating for the cold Winter months as butterflies.


Chipmunks and Red Squirrels are 2 animals that will likely adapt easily to increased human presence and loss of natural habitat!


So many forms of life were apparent on the 2 days in which all of these photos were taken along the Lake Huron shoreline. There is (or has been) boundless diversity in this ecosystem. The changes that have already taken place, and all that are to come, will have a huge impact on plants and animals that have either been completely removed, or find themselves unable to adapt and survive in an unrecognizable landscape. The ramifications of human activities on non-human inhabitants are staggering and permanent.


I struggle with unbridled development in wild areas. Through phone calls and emails, I have learned that there are no bylaws or protections for forested building lots. When asked about the removal of all trees on a lot, municipal authorities informed me that landowners can take out as many trees as they wish, if they are building a home. It would seem that even areas that have been wetlands are not safe, if they are not considered "provincially significant."


In the end, we do what little we can to try to "hold things together" for this beautiful world that is ours to steward. We add native trees to our landscapes, and grow as many native plants as our gardens will hold. To the best of our abilities, we try to restore habitat that has been lost, and fight to preserve ecosystems that are as yet untouched.

We can make these efforts, but we simply "cannot re-create wilderness" once it is gone.


As always, I welcome your comments. Please sign in to the blog, or go to the Contact page on this site, or email me.

And I promise that the next blog will be a happier one!! (Think Spring birds with babies!)

Thanks for checking in,

Merri-Lee









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