Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tracking in Algonquin - Part 2

First thing in the morning, we recapped on the harvest of yesterday's exploration, reviewing on a map where we had come across some of our favourite discoveries.

We headed out for the day and stopped at a bent and broken chokecherry tree that Alexis pointed out, asking us what we noticed about this tree. We saw all the cherries had been picked off the tree and following some looking around, we noticed bear claw marks on the trunk of the tree, and how the branches had been broken. We had suspected the pits in the bear scat from yesterday, had possibly been cherries, but now we had proof!

The remains of a calf moose
We then headed down to the water and canoed out to a point of interest where half of the group had come across the remains of a moose calf the following evening on our return back to camp. We checked out the site, finding many chewed up bones scattered around the area. The area was filled with tons of wolf activity, mossy ground and the trail of a mourning mother moose. We scouted around and spent most of the day following bear trails, looking, feeling and measuring the tracks we were following.
Wolf Chew
Later we cracked open a bone to investigate what had been going on with the moose calf through assessing it's bone marrow– had it starved to death? had it died of disease? It was a little too late to tell, but the inside of the bone did have a surprise for us!

Maggot feeding on Marrow!
Bear Bite marks
Alexis then had us try an awareness exercise – envisioning the animals through sensory touch of the tracks, which proved a potent experience to many in the group. We shared our experience as we canoed back. Once back at the rendezvous site, we checked out some moose bones the park researchers had gathered, a good opportunity for comparing them with the ones of the calf we had seen earlier. After checking out some signs of porcupines eating plywood and taking a look at some fresh territorial bear markings on a hydro pole, we finished the day with a quiet sit spot out on the land.

Feeling the Tracks

Getting down on a bear trail!

 At the end of the weekend, I was filled with a whole new pile of information to let sink in and a deep sense of amazement and gratitude for the depth and experience of life.

Sunday, August 30, 2015 - Written by:  Lianna Vargas - 2nd year Tracking Apprentice

Tracking Algonquin Wildlife

Saturday, August 29, 2015
Written by Tamara Anderson - 2nd Year Tracking Apprentice

 There are forty seven species of mammals that call Algonquin Park “home”.  The world-renowned park includes 7,725 square km of mixed coniferous and deciduous forest.  On our latest tracking weekend, we observed the tracks and sign of Algonquin wildlife living along the shores of Lake Sasejewun near the Wildlife Research Centre.

Saturday morning was overcast as we made our way to the canoe launch.  A stop near the dam revealed Northern Flicker tracks in pursuit of ants along the dusty road.  A pile of black bear scat presented our first mystery.  There were large seeds in the bear scat.  What was the bear eating?  The answer would reveal itself (with Alexis’ help) the next day. 

We followed the bear’s trail to the edge of the lake and noted that the bear had grazed on sedges along the course of his/her travels.  Being the Park’s largest mammal, male black bears generally weigh between 70 and 150kg and females weigh between 45 and 70kg.
Bear feeding on sedges

We boarded the canoes and headed west across the lake.  The group paused along the opposite shore as Tamara and Rhonda made a quick dash across the lake to return a leaky vessel.  These sink-chronistic circumstances proved serendipitous as the shoreline revealed a formidable bear bite on a pine tree, a bear trail through soft moss, grouse scat (fibrous and cecal), snowshoe hare sign and a myriad of moose and white-tailed deer trails. 

After lunch in the boats, we journeyed to the Northwest corner of the lake where Luke and Sue had seen a moose named “Misty” the night before.  Along this shoreline, we discovered wolf tracks and a beaver lodge that had been marked with skunky urine by a fox.  Nearby, Lianna and Tamara noticed that a red squirrel had cached piles of balsam fir cones beside purple mushrooms.  Prepare yourself for a challenging tongue twister; Did the squirrel purposefully place the purple-coloured cones beside the purple mushroom?  Did she intend to camouflage the cones or perhaps organize a “balanced mushroom and cone on the cob” meal for another day?

Bear Cub Track
Other highlights of the afternoon included seeing a bear cub track beside a beaver-chewed birch tree.  A mama bear track was nearby. Everyone had a chance to jump on a fresh bear or moose trail or take time for a sit spot.  Alexis pointed out Rattlesnake plantain, one of Ontario’s orchids.  Rhonda found the bottom of a beaver skull.  A mystery brown snake appeared and went down a hole.  What are the ID characteristics of a red-bellied snake versus a brown snake without seeing the belly?  Or could it be a young Garter Snake?
On the paddle back to the station, we found the bones of a moose calf on the shore and signs of wolf feeding and rolling.  We learned that the wolves took five days to find the dead moose calf and two days to eat it.  This led to questions about how many wolves are in the park and where is the nearest rendezvous site?

Rattlesnake Plantain
The next day, Alexis showed us a chokecherry tree near the bear scat that had been pulled down.  Bear claw marks were evident on the bark.  Most of the chokecherries had been eaten, except for a few left on the branches.  We opened one up and found the matching mystery seed that had been in the bear scat.  It was a berry good find.  Bear with me as I close this story of the day with one more pun; I hope that you found this write-up amoosingJ

The Spirit of Plants

The Spirit of Plants

Our August plants apprenticeship weekend took us deeper into some questions we had dipped into in previous months, questions on engaging with the spiritual aspects of the plant world, and exploring how we could tune into understanding the gifts that plants bring to us with our hearts and intuitions, as well as our minds and hands.

The energy of the weekend was quiet and receptive, quite different from our previous weekends of adventurous exploring, meeting plants in new locations, researching species, and working with ethically-harvested wild plants and farmed plants in medicinal and culinary ways. This time we stayed on site at the home of Earth Tracks and Rebel Roots Herb Farm, and spent much of our two days under a large black walnut tree that sheltered us against the bright August sun.

The weekend was primarily composed of a series of deepening meditations that worked on our abilities to open up to intuition and deeply listen to the energies of the living beings all around us. We were encouraged to keep our minds and hearts open to visualize, imagine, dream, find metaphors, listen to our inner voices, and engage in the unseen world in whatever way worked for each of us. We made space to speak of our personal experiences of the sacred, and a container of trust and respect was created that honoured each participant’s individual beliefs and experiences.
To set the tone and bring us into a quieter frame of awareness and connection, we wove in elements of ceremony and ritual into the weekend.  Alexis incorporated some good context on the lineage of the rituals we were using, and we had opportunities for questions and dialogue on how to incorporate ceremony into our own lives in ways that felt authentic to each of us.

Along with group meditations, we had time to sit individually with plants and trees on the landscape to deepen our relationships with them, as well as to practice meditation and visualization techniques on our own. We spoke of dreams and how to find meaning in them – in a personal, intuitive, non-formulaic way - to help guide us in waking life, and we learned a useful word-association exercise for dream recall and interpretation. We also did a number of playful paired and group exercises on reading energy from each other, from plants, and from objects that we were deeply connected to.

The atmosphere of the weekend was open, exploratory, curious and connecting.
It was also nourishing and relaxed. And above all, it introduced us to a set of approaches, tools and possibilities for engaging with the natural world through spirit, and engaging with spirit through the natural world.

Written By: Malgosia Halliop - 2nd Year Plants Apprentice