My Weekly Dose of Wild (2015): the world within one tree


I was at a meditation retreat this week up in Arnprior and was able to enjoy this sprawling retreat centre with its gardens, treed yard and walking paths.  It's located near Gilles Grove, where you can find Ontario's tallest tree (an eastern white pine) so there is quite a bit of history around this area.

The grounds has many large trees but two impressive ones were the maple and the oak found behind the building, standing at attention beside the outlook to the Ottawa River.  The oak, despite its size, is comfortably tucked into a corner of the building - between the old original structure and the new wing where the dormitories are found.

It's an amazing tree with at least ten large limbs stretching up the sky.  And it provided the backdrop to a wonderful array of fauna visitors over the week's stay.  First up were the blue jays, calling from tree to tree.  It seemed that at least one family or more were claiming this yard as theirs.  A couple of days into the retreat, I saw one of the blue family members swoop down onto a limb and tap and peck on the bark.  Others followed suit.  They would flash in and out of view but you could always hear their calls.  After that you couldn't help but notice the furry creatures using the trunk as a highway.  There were chipmunks, red squirrels and black squirrels all searching for acorns.  Some of them would nip off the twigs so that the nuts would fall to the ground.  Then they would search amongst the leaves on the lawn.  One black squirrel was very territorial and chased another of his kind around the trunk in circles, their claws clattering against the rough edges of the bark around and around, until the second escaped off the tree.  Another time after the chase the second hid amongst the higher limbs.  The chipmunks were quick to go up and quick to go down, seemingly undetected by others who claimed the tree as their own.  Even the red squirrel got into it, churlish and aggressive, not caring that the black squirrel was twice his size.  And a quiet visitor who did not disturb any of the others, was a nuthatch who searched among the cracks and crannies for insects that he could claim for lunch.

It was a treat to have the time to really sit down and notice how key to the ecosystem, older heritage trees are.  This tree is over 150 years old and is a life-supporting ecosystem unto itself.  What a treasure to have discovered!

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