January 20, 2002

Large parking lot on the 2nd line west

Meeting report by Alexis Burnett
Photos by Walter Muma

Our hike began from a large parking area for Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. We started with 15 people and were joined by 2 others a little later. From here the trail led us between two small ponds and over some rolling meadows. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of action in terms of wildlife moving through this area to our knowledge, but many tracks may have been erased from the snow. We did come across some beaver sign and a lodge in one of the ponds as well as some small rodent and squirrel activity up the trails a ways.   

Some of us gathered around an unknown bird's nest and tried to come up with what kind of bird had made it. It was in the middle of the meadow in an apple tree, made of mostly grasses and no mud. Our best guess was a sparrow of some kind judging by size and location.

Just up the trail we came upon a mystery tree? Growing on an old fence line, it seemed to belong to the birch family judging by the bark and catkins. The seeds looked like a birch as well as the small unopened catkins. Many of us puzzled over this tree and I'm sure are trying to look it up right now?

Research done later by Walter showed this to be most likely a cherry (black) birch. However, the problem is that this tree has been officially reported in Ontario in only one location: Port Dalhousie on lake Ontario, about 100 miles away!

So, what are the characteristics of this tree that point towards it being a cherry birch?

1. Twig has a strong wintergreen odour and taste. Yellow birch has moderate wintergreen odour and taste.
2. Very dark bark, almost black.
3. The wings that accompanied the seeds were very large. We didn't measure them, but they were bigger than those that yellow birch has.
4. Location: yellow birch likes wet feet. This tree was situated on a dry hillside in a field.

Can anyone help us with this???  

We also came across a huge old ash tree that was hollowed out through the center and many people climbed inside to have a closer look. Upon observation of the field in this area it was noted that there were quite a few small ash trees beginning to transform the old field with their growth. 

Lots of goldenrod and milkweed stems were still standing through the snow and we talked briefly about the use of the milkweed plant for cordage and tinder. They are also very important plants that have a close relationship with monarch butterflies. 


From here we ventured onto the Bruce trail and set out down through the hardwoods to the river valley bottom below. The landscape changed dramatically from this point on as we entered a more forested habitat. Here we found many leatherwood shrubs growing in the under story of sugar maple, beech, ash, elm and hemlock.
We knew that our chances of finding tracks in the snow would increase, especially with the river nearby. Soon we stumbled upon what we figured to be a coyote trail moving up the trail and across the hill-side in a 'determined' fashion: a straight and narrow trail leading across the landscape with a purpose. 

Just down the hill from here we came across some amazing small rodent trails. Tiny little tracks and a 'tunnel' like trail including a tail drag mark! It was noted by Walter that the animal was walking as opposed to running because of the 'waddle' or side to side movement of the tail. This little guy traveled a long way through the snow, occasionally going under the snow and leaving only a hole, only to pop out again just a ways away. Really cool!


As we neared the river we came upon a set of deer tracks coming out of some cedar trees. They came over to an apple tree where he/she nibbled a few buds and continued on back into another small patch of cedars. 
We took a short break at a nice spot by the river and had some lunch. The water was moving quite fast here and looked very beautiful with the hillside in the background and all the snow.

Click on the small photo to watch a movie of the Credit River rushing past.

(MPEG format, 371 KB)

After lunch the group ventured up river towards the waterfalls and into the cedars. There were lots of tracks here and we spread out quite a bit as some people ventured here and there looking at the tracks while others moved on up ahead towards the falls. There were lots of deer moving through this area as well as what we thought to be a coyote trail or two. There had been lots of people and dogs down this trail so it took some close examining to differentiate between the two. Some of the highlights on this part of the trip included cottontail tracks, scats and runs, grouse tracks, mouse trails, woodpecker holes, porcupine hair and sign and chickadees singing overhead.
Mouse tracks. In the upper center of the photo the tracks show where the mouse leapt off the small shrub into the snow.

We also came across some more small rodent trails and holes where there was also a weasel too! We were not sure if it was a short or long-tail weasel, but we inclined more towards the tracks belonging to a short-tail. They bounded in an erratic 2-2 pattern with strides around 16-19 inches and a 2 inch trail width. There was also a short stretch where it followed the rodent trail. In one of the tracks Julie found a hair that probably belonged to the weasel as well! This was a really cool find and I wish I would of spent some more time here unraveling this mystery.

The trail climbed up  a steep embankment as the river below ran through a deep ravine. We knew that we were approaching the falls. There were some beautiful views of the ravine and waterfalls as the river dropped several feet of elevation in this area.

We stopped for a short while at the viewing platform as we took in the splendid view. There were quite a few other hikers on the trail here and our group became separated at this point. We hiked up the stairs to the top of the hillside and headed back to the parking lot. Not long after this we realized the whereabouts of everyone in the group and it felt a lot better to be 'joined' once again. It is hard to stay together as everyone's interest may vary, but it is important that we all know where each other are at all times. Especially when some people do not know the area too well. Just a friendly reminder.
Anyways, we traveled back to the cars from this point in good time passing some big black cherry and sugar maple trees along an old fence line. By this time we had looped back around to part of the trail that we came in on and headed back down it towards the parking lot.
On this trail we stopped again at the big old hollowed out ash tree as it works like a magnet, inviting you into its hollow center. Someone spotted what looked to be a wasp-nest, but also looked like a Baltimore oriole nest? I was not there to see it, but I suppose it was one of the two.

As we returned to the cars we all went our separate ways as we ended the hike where we had begun. We are happy that everyone came out on this day and wish to thank everyone that was there. It was good to have some new-comers as well as people who have been with us before. We look forward to seeing all your faces again soon.


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