Monday, August 10, 2015

Bala Bash

Recently, a number of nature-minded folk from Wallaceburg were invited up to the Ackert property near Bala in Muskoka. The hosts were Janet Fraser and Bill Ackert of Chatham who own a fabulous 100 acre property just outside the village of Bala.
Their summer home sits at the end of a narrow, bumpy track through the woods.  It was built fairly recently with all the modern amenities.

The property is purely natural complete with a couple of lakes; the smaller one just in front of the house.  Of course, the area was extensively logged in the late 1800's and a fire went through in the 1930's, so there are no very large trees.

I arrived around 1:30 Thursday afternoon and the weather was great.  A few members of the Muskoka Field Naturalists joined us for a tour of the property, looking mainly at plant life. Here is some Wolf's Claw Moss that we found.

Note the Wintergreen plant also.  It is a plant I learned when I was really young going to summer camps near Rosseau.  It is extremely abundant on the property.

Always on the lookout for butterflies, I caught sight of a hairstreak.  Barely recognizable, I determined it to be a Banded.

Hardly any butterflies were seen during my trip....not surprising given the situation this year.  The only other butterfly on the property that I noticed was Northern Pearly-eye.

Evening View (same as below)

The lake has an island which is actually a floating bog.  It moves around!

The evening was spent beside a campfire, then later we did some star gazing under clear skies.  It was a view we cannot get around here!  Several meteors were seen.  Too bad the trip did not coincide with the Perseid Meteor shower this Wednesday.

The next day an outing to Torrence Barrens was on the docket, only a half hour away.  I always wanted to visit the place, and this outing was a good starting point.  Although our visit in the morning only lasted two hours, it was ably led by George Bryant.

Years ago I corresponded with George about birds, so it was finally nice to meet him.  The tour focused on plants, but we looked at anything.  Common Nighthawks were circling overhead as we walked around.

One of the first plants we looked at was Three-toothed Cinqfoil, a hardy plant that grows on barren areas.  It is the only location known anywhere near here!

George mentioned Atlantic coastal plants which grow in the area.  I am not a plant person, so I forget some of the ones we looked at.  He first noted the ferns growing along the edge of the lake.

Here is the flower of the Yellow-eyed Grass, a small plant of which there are several similar species.


Some of the views at Torrence Barrens were breath-taking.  The openness of the area is unique and attracts certain species of birds.  One of the first birds was an Eastern Towhee.  George mentioned that Lincoln's Sparrow nests here. Whip-poor-wills are plentiful on the barrens too.

Too bad we did not have more time to look around, but we were happy with the tour.  Next time I am in the area, I will take a long hike!

Atop the Rock! (as seen in the distance of the first photo)

Friday afternoon, a couple of us went with Janet and Bill towards the south side of the property.  to get there, we have to cross the lake by boat......or Argo!

Janet and I took the canoe, while Bill played with his toy.  I got a closer look at the floating island as we paddled by.

The south part of the property remains largely unexplored, but has a larger lake.

There is an old logging trail through it, more recently used as a snowmobile trail.  However, it is not used as much anymore.

We veered off the old trail and walked to the lake to get a view.  A couple of young Hooded Mergansers were swimming around in the distance.

Few birds were seen the trip, but Common Nighthawks were around at dawn and dusk and a few warblers, woodpeckers, as well as ravens.  On Friday night (actually about 2:30 Saturday morning), I heard a Barred Owl call briefly.  It was something I was hoping for there!

early morning view

They talked about all the different wildlife they have seen over the years, including Bobcat, Moose, Bears, Otters, etc.
Massasauga Rattlesnake is on the property, but as luck would have it, I could not find one!  Earlier in the summer would be easier I think.

Saturday guessed it (Hint:Weekend).....started with light rain.  It lasted until mid afternoon.  I took off around 09:30 to visit other places.  More on that later.

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