Photos by Barry Wallace
The wetlands that occupy the central portion of the King City Trail
system is either a marsh or a swamp. The photo above may help you to decide which is the more accurate term. It covers almost 10 acres and is a wildlife gem. On Thursday of last week, I watched as a Black Squirrel made a rare mistake, jumping from one branch to another. It lost its grip and fell into the water. It swam a short distance to dry ground and quickly raced up another tree. It was the first time I had seen a squirrel swim.
At right is a picture of a tree that is located in a spot where the Humber River floods in the late winter and spring and washes away the topsoil leaving this tree's root system almost bare, but viable. It has survived for years like this.
The Gray birches pictured at left are quite mature, well over 30 feet and probably in the 30 to 40 year range. They are readily identified by their gray or whitish-gray bark and the dark inverted chevron markings where their branches grow. As the tree matures, lower branches fall away leaving the black inverted chevron marking.
In the first picture below, a black inverted chevron takes on the a distinct frontal outline of a flying Great Grey Owl, its wings on a down-stroke.
In the second photo below, a younger Gray Birch is seen with a growing branch still in place and anchored in the black inverted chevron.
The Gray Birch photos above and at left show an interesting aspect of the physiology of this tree. The tree appears to be healthy and maturing well, but it has that extreme leaning position. My National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees has this to say about about Gray Birches: "Its trunks are so flexible that weighted with snow, the upper branches may bend to the ground without breaking".
The guide goes on to say that the Gray Birch grows rapidly but is short-lived. "A nurse tree, it shades and protects seedlings of larger, long-lived forest trees...the long-stalked leaves dance in the slightest breeze.