I paid my last visit of the season to New Jubilee Forest on Saturday, 16 September. Fall colours were deepening, and my feet made a distinct crunch as I walked the pathways. Shortly upon entering the forest I heard wax wing trilling, and wondered if they were early winter Bohemians or the last of the summer Cedars - more likely the latter, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of one. A little later, I came across a flock of at least a dozen robins - it was heartening to see them, as there haven’t been too many in my neighbourhood recently. They scattered and gave their piping alarm call and tail pumping as I approached.
My route took me all around the forest today - north through the main path to the river, east along the river, down the path on the east side to the clearing, and then returning west along the south edge of the forest - to touch base with all of the places I have come to know. Along the way, I spent some time sitting in a new spot - an open spruce stand within a predominantly maple and poplar section of the forest. I had the opportunity to watch two wasps while there. One was a little larger with a red abdomen, and landed on a small maple sapling. The other was smaller with a black abdomen, and landed on a smaller plant - I’ve forgotten who exactly, but I think it was an aster. I’ve learned to recognize the wasps by the way their antennae are vibrating as they walk along the edges of plants. I suspect they were looking for places to lay eggs, and I wonder if some kind of gall will appear on the plants they landed on. With long patient observation over many years in one place, one might learn firsthand which wasps produce which galls on which plants.
My photos today show some fall colours, and some familiar plants. Thank you dear readers for following me this summer. I hope you were inspired to take a closer look every once in a while at what’s happening in your own backyard, front yard, park, garden, or wherever you visit! I look forward to returning to New Jubilee next summer.
I came prepared with long sleeves this Saturday afternoon, and found there were much fewer mosquitos this week than last week - though there were still quite a few nearer the river, so I was glad I was prepared. Signs of autumn are accumulating incrementally. Chokecherries have turned red, and many sarsaparilla leaves have dropped.
I paid attention to spiders’ webs today, and took many photos of places where they were, although the camera didn’t necessarily capture the webs themselves. Orb webs in particular tend not to show up (orb webs are the classic webs with radial lines, and then a spiral crossing them). Funnel webs have shown up and were quite numerous in some places, and I saw a few sheet webs as well.
Kelly joined me for the latter part of my walk today, and introduced me to the largest tree in the forest. We saw a few cool fungi growing on stumps along the way, as well as some Lily-of-the-Valley, looking different with the dark red berries and no leaves.
Visited the forest on a Saturday this week, as it was raining hard Wednesday evening. The sun was shining, and the forest had a different character with the rays of the mid-day sun angling in from the south. I was greeted by a road duster (common type of grasshopper around here), and by a few birds at the edge of the forest - made me wish I’d taken my binoculars because they were too far away for me to identify with my naked eye, but they very likely could have been chickadees. The forest soon fell silent though, as I ventured in deeper - perhaps the birds are more interested in the garden than the forest at midday.
I took a direct walk through the forest to the river today - found the main trail that goes from farm side to the river side of the forest with a few turnings and windings along the way. I did hear (both voice and tapping) and then later see a pileated woodpecker, and caught a brief glimpse of a robin. I also saw a few very short amber coloured skimmers by the riverside, among the toadflax, and one very short black-coloured skimmer. On my way out, near the entrance to the forest I saw the wings of a dead moth - dark grey coloured with a white stripe.
I was wearing shorts because of the warm sunny weather, but that did leave me unprotected from the mosquitos, clouds of whom became thicker as I approached the river, so I kept on the move except when I stopped for photos. Many visually interesting mushrooms are still popping up here and there throughout the forest, and I caught a few of them on camera, but by no means all of them that I saw. I also kept my visit to a little over an hour … next time I will have to wear long sleeves, and perhaps stay a little longer.
It was nice to walk through a stand of spruce forest on my way to the river today. I’ve also been noticing that there are actually more Manitoba Maple in this forest than I initially thought - I conflated them with the poplars. I think it was because I was used to seeing decapitated Manitoba Maples in Mill Creek Ravine, with clusters of suckers growing out of the ends of lopped off branches. The Maples in New Jubilee Forest don’t look like that, so I didn’t recognize them at first, but now I notice I do see plenty of trees with their three-lobed leaves.
Thunderstorms were in the forecast for this Wednesday evening, but though the sky was overcast when I arrived at New Jubilee forest at 5:00pm, nothing was falling from the sky just yet. I could see evidence of the wetter weather we have been having recently, as more mushrooms of all kinds have popped up everywhere in response. Most of my photos today are of new mushrooms, and some interesting old ones. The other striking difference I noticed in the forest was the yellowing of the sarsaparilla leaves - always the first to turn, and how dramatically the forest floor is transformed when they do!
I spent most of my time today preparing for the forest tour - walking through the route and the invitations. By the time I was through my practice run, rain was beginning to fall. I put on my rain gear, and stayed a little longer, walking to the clearing and back, but as the rain began to fall harder I decided to cut it short and say goodbye early.
My friend and colleague Josh accompanied me on my visit today to prepare for delivering a Forest Tour later this month. Along the way we discussed plant, mushroom and insect ID. As we returned to the parked vehicle, two pileated woodpeckers flew out of the forest and above our heads.
The sky is showing its overcast visage again this week. Winds are gusting, and instead of blue sky providing a visual backdrop to the forest, the roar of air moving through leaves would be the constant sonic backdrop to my visit. The ground is wet from rainfall early in the day, and drizzle would continue sporadically. I don my somewhat ill-fitting “shoe sleeves” or “gaiters” over my worn hiking shoes, the fabric frayed to the point of actual holes in some places, my intransigence compelling me to make them last for one more season in spite of that: I must get every last minute of use out this expensive investment in footwear! With this article of clothing in place, I am covered from head to toe in water-proof rain gear, only my face showing, making the mosquitos less of a factor in my direct experience of the forest people today.
So with my feet doubly clad, instead of bare, I embark! And whom did I meet? Well, I caught my first glimpses of a yellow warbler pair today, whom I failed to capture on camera. I also had my first interaction with a red squirrel, which did oblige me for the taking of a photograph. Many fungi made their presence known through their blooms, pulling my attention toward them - warping the fabric of space time in a positively Einsteinian fashion (these are well represented in the images below).
Near the end of my visit, I find myself in the circular clearing on the east end of the forest, and I spend some time sitting cross legged in the centre on a patch relatively clear of grass, just the right size for me to make bum-contact with the earth. I feel my sit-bones, or “rockers” convex against the soil, the inversion of the arches of my feet, a feature of my embodied geometry that I find fascinating. I play with shifting my weight forward and backward, and side to side, in ways that don’t work the same way when I am standing on my feet. The heads of the grasses around me are at eye level now; it is as though my spine grows like a stalk out of the plant-pot of my pelvis. I can twist and sway from here, like a grass in the wind. I feel like I could become privy to the conversations of the grasses and wildflowers, if I stayed and listened long enough. My legs, which ordinarily keep me so elevated above the plane of grass and wildflower communication are folded neatly in front of me, through the great range of motion allowed by my hips, moving out of the way to allow direct contact between bum and lap of the earth - opening a channel of communication with which chairs insidiously intervene. I wonder what it would be like to be buried waist deep, the bottom half of my body coming home to the earth as roots, the way the bodies of plants remain - they never left the ground to sacrifice their place for new dimensions of mobility.
But now through overcast skies the lighting has dimmed, almost imperceptibly, and I am ever so gently nudged from my comfy seat, to return to the flatter forests of cars, overpasses, train tracks, skyscrapers, busses, and finally gridded clusters of houses before darkness falls comprehensively over both.
I actually did spend most of my time near the entrance to the forest today. It was a clear warm and sunny day, and the blue of the sky provided relief from the greens, brown, and whites of the forest. So many plants are in bloom, and so many are transitioning to seed and berry forming too. The bulk of my notes are in the photos today, as plants reveal their identities overtly and spectacularly - this is the time of year to learn their names, and then remember where you saw them so that you can learn to recognize them at other times of the year too. The orange and black butterflies have become familiar companions now. I heard chickadees, the flute and rattle of red-winged blackbirds, the bouncing song of song sparrows, cawing crows, and robins, and an unfamiliar bird sound, twee-twee-twee-twee-buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz.
Mosquitos pricks made a constant somatic music on the flesh of my legs, and at the end of my walk, a touch of stinging nettle layered on a differently timbered note as I continue to take in this forest, in her many voices.
I was greeted by a brilliant orange, black and brown butterfly, and by a chipmunk as I approached the entrance to the forest today. There are a lot of plants and insects right near the entrance, and I realized that if I brought a guidebook with me, I could probably spend all my time within a few metres of the entrance, sleuthing IDs for plants I don’t already recognize.
Today, however, mosquitos were thick, much thicker than they were last week, and I opted to keep covered and on the move. Instead of going to the horsetail clearing, I decided to try to find my way to the river. Taking the path I have walked down before, through the middle of the forest in the general direction of the river, I eventually landed up at a wider less overgrown trail going perpendicular to the one I was on, with the choice to go either right or left, but not forward. I chose to go left, and presently found myself walking alongside an old chain link fence for some distance, before the path finally curved round to meet the river. In the end, I only spent about 20 minutes there, but along the way I met quite a few interesting insects, and was delighted to come across what I took to be an owl feather. It was relatively short and wide, with brown and white patterning. I wasn’t able to catch photos of all the insects I saw, but they included a white and black triangular moth, orange and yellow butterflies with black checkers, smaller orange butterflies with tiny black dots arranged with varying density into detailed patterns, and a large fly sporting a bulbous red abdomen with black hairs, and wings splayed stiffly out to the side, rather than folded over the thorax. I can’t find any of these on the Insect of Alberta web site, so I think I will have to submit my photos to iNaturalist!
At the river, I noticed quite a bit of wild vetch, goldenrod, and red osier dogwood. Red osier dogwood berries are actually edible, even though they are white. Some are already ripe this year (they are early) and I tasted a few, spitting out the seeds afterward. They are somewhat bitter, and not to everyone’s taste, but I like them.
The Introduction to David Abram’s “Becoming Animal” inSpires me today -
“Between the Body and the Breathing Earth”
ShoeS and SockS come off, Leave-ing soleSkin on soilsKin
But before that I greet a venerable spruce, hands on short low branches, they come away with sap on them - the specific stickiness of spruce a blessing to accompany me into -
I feel the shape of the arch of my foot in the pressure gradient that emerges from contact with earth
Vibrant palette presses on specialized receptors, where moments ago a foot shaped screen made the entire world opaque
Dry: thin shifting layers of leaves, thick rolls of poplar catkins
Wet: Sudden slipperiness of mud - now soles are smeared like palms were earlier, with -
Another lesson in boundaries …
I now feel fully enclosed, contained, yes - bounded, like I never have before, as though I had always had one side missing, absent from perception, leaving my sense of identity egregiously incomplete With this keystone in place, I am suddenly aware of the entire organ of my skin, where previously I had only felt sensations against specific skin regions without a sense of the whole upon which these sensations situate themselves Reminders of crucial domains of orientation rise up to me from the forest floor through my bare feet priming me for -
Now Mosquitos coMe to add their Medicine to the Mix. Their nuMbers have Multiplied Magnificently
Through punctures on newly self aware membrane, I allow my body to feed the forest, I remove the windbreaker, to surrender as fully as I can without going out of my way … intensification of sensation contained by new endowments, to introduce me to -
The spirit of this forest
is ever so still, like the spaciousness of this summer day without wind - an atmosphere both limitless and close, like the half-sleep of a lazy afternoon nap where for some indeterminate interval, a human doesn’t know whether they were dreaming or waking Now I am ready to listen, to harmonize my being with those around me, to ask how I may contribute my own voice to the silent symphony, a human voice …
Later at my house, I will spend 30 minutes scrubbing the stickies off the soles of my feet before entering through the back door.
It was another idyllic summer day when I arrived: sunny, not too hot, and little wind. Darners (the large blue dragonflies) were the first to make an impression on me as I made my way towards the forest’s edge. There were plenty of damselfies hovering around near the entry to the forest too, and ants were carrying white sacs up one of the wide poplar trunks. I heard red-breasted nuthatches, as well as the usual yellow warblers, red-eyed vireos, and least flycatchers. I didn’t register any sparrow songs, but I also didn’t get as close to the river as I did on my last visit.
I found myself in less of a mood for wandering around, and more for sitting in one spot this time. I’m still learning the forest trails though, and it took a while before I found the clearing with the horsetails. I took a wrong trail for a while, through a quiet and flat region of the forest with lots of ground cover. I didn’t quite feel welcome to linger there, so I wandered back the way I came, and eventually did find the trailhead of the right trail. There I decided to take a rest before continuing on to my destination. I sat on a log at the trailhead for a while, and a few mosquitos hovered around me. One landed on my left arm and extracted some blood from it - sweet reciprocity for the gifts I am receiving from the forest. So far mosquito populations have been very low this summer. I wonder if/when they will increase, and make their presence known.
Once I arrived at the horsetail clearing, I did feel welcome to sit there for a while. I noticed a few kinds of beetles - one black and round, one black, thin, and long. I noticed an ant carrying what looked like a small millipede, somewhat longer and thicker than the ant. A few orange & black coloured butterflies landed on the low foliage near me. Their ID is still a mystery to me - they are neither painted ladies nor pearl crescents, which would be my go tos. I read a bit in my garden bugs guide about pearl crescents, and how they only appear in Alberta once every 10 years or so, when their populations grow to the point where they need to migrate to find food.
Next time I will have to remember to take a notebook and pen with me, as well as my camera.
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Hi! My name is Nathan Binnema. My grandparents are from the Netherlands, and I have lived my whole life in the city of Edmonton, as a settler on this land that I have learned to call Amiskwaciy Waskahikan. Growing up my family attended Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, which is how I am connected with Doug Visser. Around 2012/2013 I joined the public activism to fight the rezoning of the northeast agricultural land, and was introduced to the farm and the forest. I stayed in touch, and a few years later Kelly asked me to do bookkeeping for Lady Flower Gardens. Though I haven’t pursued studies in ecology or biology professionally, I have always been a biophile, and for nearly seven years now have been with a practice called phenological engagement, which involves visiting a small area consistently throughout the year, and trying to get to know all of the living creatures who also visit there, and how they are related.