January 6, 2002

MONO CLIFFS - 25th Sideroad entrance (North side)

Meeting report by Nathan and Alexis Burnett
Photos by Walter Muma


We started the hike at 10 a.m. with a handful of people at the north end of Mono Cliffs park. Later others joined us, swelling the group to about 15.

As we walked down the old road into the park we stopped a number of times to I.D. some of the many species of trees and shrubs that grow on either side of the road.  Black cherry, white ash, white elm, and trembling aspen were among some of the trees that we discovered.  During winter the trees really seem to captivate us with their beautiful silhouettes.  It can be a challenging time of year to identify different species, but it also helps you to look closely at some of the subtle differences between certain trees. 


We planned to devote a lot of time on this hike to winter tracking, but with the fresh snow over-night and this morning, there were not too many visible tracks left on the ground. 

As we moved from the road into the meadow we began to see more signs and "older" tracks and trails left in the snow. 


We could see how the deer were moving through the field and what they were feeding on. There were many tracks in the snow around the apple trees where they had been eating the buds from the branches.  

They were also eating some of the Scots pine needles and buds as well.

You can see the end of this Scots pine twig has been chewed off.

Also visible is an unopened Scots pine cone.


From the trails and tracks we could tell that they like to visit this area frequently, especially at this time of year.

Here is a photo of opened Scots pine cones. 

There was a lot of evidence of porcupines that had chewed the bark off of a number of the pines.  We didn't spot a porcupine here, but we have seen them here on a few occasions in the past.

This Scots pine has been partially de-barked by a porcupine.


There were some hare tracks spotted here in the snow, but we couldn't tell if they were snowshoe or European hare?  There was a coating of snow over them, but the track pattern was still quite visible.  There seemed to be some fox and coyote tracks too, but they were faintly visible besides the oval compression shapes. 
Walter pointed out to some of us how if you looked at all the trees you could see that they were slightly bent towards the south-east, showing that our prevailing winds in this area blow out of the north-west.  This is a good tool to help with aidless navigation (ie, without map or compass) and finding the directions.  We discussed how some trees are great indicators and some are more subtle.  Some of the better trees for indicating which way the prevailing winds are blowing seemed to be conifers: spruce and pine.  

Yet if you look closely the deciduous trees will be good indicators as well.

Note in this picture how the branches are all turned towards the right. This reflects the prevailing wind which comes from the left (north/west).

We fumbled trying to I.D. a spruce tree after this.  We knew it was a spruce, but were a bit confused between some of the distinguishing characteristics between white, black and Norway spruce?

We decided that this certain tree was a white spruce because of the smell and the needle and bud formation.


By this time some of the guys were engaged in a huge snowball fight and left some of their own tracks in the snow.  There is something that seems irresistible to some when the temperature rises and the snow begins to "pack" really well.  There was definitely some good times had by all who participated in the "snowball-fight".  You could hear the screams of joy as all animals within 2 miles fled from us! 
Nearby we found a couple of deer lays (places where deer spend the night) under a balsam fir.
All along the way we stopped frequently to discuss the finer points of tree identification, as well as to examine the mosses and lichens growing on them.


We hiked to the northern outlook which looks over the whole park.  What a beautiful spot!

A gentle snow was falling.


We stopped here for a while and re-grouped before heading downhill towards McCarston's lake.  As we walked down the trail we could see where some cottontails had stopped for a nibble on the Rubus (raspberry & blackberry) canes and spruce needles.  There were some red squirrel tracks here that crossed the trail as well.  Good cedar habitat here for both mammals. 
As we continued on we noticed all the spikes on the honey locust trees that could have easily been mistaken for hawthorns with a brief glance.

ADDENDUM: Oops! Later research and experience showed that it IS a Hawthorn!! (note added Feb 2004)


At this point the forest turned to mostly hardwood trees as we neared the lake.  There are many beautiful gullies and hills in this part of the park.
It felt good  as we took in the view of the frozen lake surrounded by the rolling hills covered in a splendid beech/maple forest.  There were some snow-covered deer tracks moving through the woods here and we speculated that there were probably some deer in the coniferous trees off to the west.  We decided to "off-trail" back to the cars.  There were quite a few tracks that we found on our way, but they were snowed in pretty good and it was hard to tell what animal had made them.  There were definitely some deer and what we guessed could have been a fox or coyote?  Some of the freshest tracks of the day were that of a gray squirrel running full-tilt away from us!  
As we walked back through the meadow we noticed some bird nests as well as an antler rub used by a white-tail deer.


We found an unusually bent-over black cherry tree.
From here we walked back to the cars where a surprise had been left for us by one of the groups that had departed earlier!


Even though there were not too many fresh tracks in the snow, we all had a good time being outdoors for the day in such a  beautiful area.  Not only did we learn a lot, but it seems like once you are outside it is quite hard not to have a good time!!!!  Thanks to all who came!
For more Tree ID information, visit the Ontario Trees & Shrubs website

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