Friday, February 15, 2013

Island Hopping

A friend lent me his pair of snowshoes and I went for a lovely winter walk on the river early in the week. I crossed over to a couple of islands that I normally only see from my sit spot or have passed in my canoe.
It was neat to look back at my sit spot from the place I usually have my gaze fixed on.
You can just barely make out the depression in the snow from where I sat the day before.
This small island has a lot of cattails growing on it, a few small willows and I think those plants in the foreground are purple loosestrife.  See the line of trees in the background, just to the left of the tower, (the ones that are in my sit spot spot pics)?  That's another island.  I made my way there next.  
This island is mostly covered in ash trees, all of which show signs of succumbing to the emerald ash borer, which means the island will be quite bare of mature trees before too long.  :(
I was excited to see lots of evidence of what I'm almost certain are last year's fertile fronds of the ostrich fern, which means fiddleheads in the spring!

Winter is one of my favourite times to look for new foraging grounds, which might sound strange at first.  But as you can see, it's very easy to spot certain plants poking above the snow with no greenery obscuring the view.  If you know what your favourite wild edible and medicinal plants look like in their winter wear, it's a great way to spot them.
I will definitely return to this island by canoe in the spring and see if I am correct and if these are indeed ostrich ferns.  If the population can support it, I'll indulge in a small harvest and steam me up some yummy fiddleheads.

The sad thing is: if all the ashes die and no longer provide shade cover, the fiddleheads may lose their habitat and die off as well.  I'd like to keep an eye on this island over the next few years and see if there is anything I can do to help maintain a healthy balance.  Perhaps I will dig up and transplant some ferns into a new habitat that can support them.  Maybe I'll guerrilla plant some saplings on the island to try and increase biodiversity.  It might just be best to let nature take its course and observe succession over time.  Either way, I will visit again, by foot and boat!

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