The last day of 2018 was sunny, which made a nice change from the rain that we’ve been getting lately. For my daily walk, I decided to follow the trail that travels beside Eagle Creek and goes to Squint Lake. As usual, the walk was enjoyable. There are always interesting things to see and photograph in nature. I took all of the photos below on New Year’s Eve.
The predominant colours of nature in winter here are dark green, brown, very pale yellow, and grey. It’s so nice to see some brighter colour in the form of holly berries. English holly (Ilex aquifolium) is classified as an invasive plant where I live, so I shouldn’t admire it. Its glossy leaves and bright red berries are such a cheerful sight in winter, though, especially during the Christmas season.
The species is dioecious, which means there are separate male and female plants. I see both types on my walk to the lake. I have to admit that they do seem to be spreading because I’m seeing more holly bushes than I used to, including some very near to the start of my walk along the Eagle Creek trail.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is another plant that is sometimes invasive in my part of the world, though like holly it isn’t a major problem in my neighbourhood at the moment. It’s an attractive plant that grows on tree trunks and over the ground, but luckily not excessively. Cultivated varieties of the plant are popular in gardens. The familiar, lobed leaves represent the juvenile and vegetative stage of the plant. The stems of the adult and reproductive stage produce oval leaves with a pointed tip and don’t climb.
Western Sword Fern
Unlike the previous two plants, the western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is native to my area. The fern often grows in the understory of coniferous forests. Like English ivy, it exists in a cultivated form as well as a wild one.
The fronds of a western sword fern grow in clumps and emerge from a common structure in the ground. The result is a very noticeable plant. The leaflets or pinnae of a frond have a lobe at their base. They are attached to the stipe, or stem, at a single point instead of by the whole base of the leaflet.
Rows of round reproductive structures can be seen of the underside of the leaflets. Each one is called a sorus and contains multiple sporangia, or spore sacs. The sori (the plural of sorus) are pale green at first and turn brown later. The sporangia and spores are interesting to examine under a microscope if one is available.
Northwestern Crow Beside Eagle Creek
Northwestern crows (Corvus corinus) are common where I live. They are confident and clever birds and are always interesting to watch. It would have been nice to have gotten a better photo of the one above, but I didn’t have a camera with a telephoto lens with me. I tried to use a slow and non-threatening approach to get as close to the crow as I could.
Several thousand crows roost in the trees by another local body of water. It’s awesome to see a mass of crows flying to their roost at dusk, especially when they’re backed by a dramatic sky.
When I reached the lake, I found a couple of Douglas fir trees that had dropped their cones and a few branch tips, enabling me to get the photo above. The scientific name of the Douglas fir is Pseudotsuga menziesii. The tree is a conifer. It has leaves in the form of needles and bears cones. The needles are relatively soft and surround the stem. Male and female cones are borne on the same tree. The three-pronged bract above each scale of a female cone is distinctive. An old tale says that the bracts represent the legs and tail of a mouse hiding in the cone. The tree is not a true fir, despite its common name.
Eagle creek drains into Squint Lake. The creek continues at the other end of the lake and carries the water to a much larger body of water called Burnaby Lake. Squint Lake is small. In fact, before the golf course was created, the local people used to joke that the lake was so small that you had to squint to see it. This gave the lake its name. The public can still visit the lake, even though the far side lies next to the grass of the golf course. They can’t walk on the grass unless they are golfing, though.
The photo above shows the golf course and the fountain in the lake. In spring, summer, and autumn, attractive landscaping is on show at the golf course. Mallards can be seen all year on the lake and crows often pay a visit. Other types of ducks can often be seen on the water during summer as well as a wider variety of birds in the trees. Although the area around the creek, the lake, and the golf course is more attractive at other times of the year, even in winter it’s interesting.