I remember learning in Grade 5 that trees which shed their leaves in autumn are called “deciduous” and those which keep their leaves (or needles) all winter are called “evergreen” or “coniferous”.
The Tamarack (known as “Larch” in Europe and Japan) breaks this rule. The needles turn a brilliant yellow in autumn and fall off just as deciduous tree leaves do.
There are a few Tamarack trees at Ashbridge’s Bay but most are Larch trees. I’m told that these Larches are a hybrid of Japanese Larch (for resistance to urban pollution) and European Larch (for strength and size). You can tell Tamarack from Larch by the size of the cones.
Scientists tell us that cone-bearing trees (coniferous) were present on earth about 150 million years before the origin of deciduous trees.
Here are some photos of Ashbridge’s Bay as it looked this morning in 5 degree temperatures and some light rain.
Bird Highlight: Merlin
I see Merlins infrequently and this one was very close for quite some time. They were called Pigeon Hawks when I was a child.
Merlins eat mostly birds. Common prey include House Sparrow, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, and other shorebirds.
Species list: double-crested cormorant, mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, gadwall, bufflehead, long-tailed duck, common merganser, red-breasted merganser, lesser scaup, American coot, merlin, ring-billed gull, black-capped chickadee, golden-crowned kinglet, ruby-crowned kinglet, brown creeper, northern cardinal, house sparrow. (19 species)
Ashbridge’s Bay is one spot where you are almost guaranteed to have a chickadee feed from your hands.
It is also a good place to see Common Mergansers:
and a Jack Pine loaded with their odd-shaped cones:
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.
– Edgar Allan Poe (1809–49)