We have been out in the ravines setting up our research plots, we are recreating the plots that were set up in 1977 in order to resurvey the canopy cover by identifying all of the trees over 3 diameters at breast height and the under story vegetation. This will give us a quantitative baseline of tree species composition and allow us to track changes in the ravine. Because the plots are large, 80×50 meters we are setting up 10×10 grids within each plot in order for our resurvey to be manageable and have been lucky enough to be able to use a Trimble GPS system. Using a precise GPS system allows us to accurately plot the grids very quickly, we were able to do four plots in an afternoon, which would have taken us twice as long with a measuring tape and compass, though a compass will always come in handy when you are out in the field.
Last week we got up very, very early (5am!) to go out birding at all four of the ravines in our study, Burke Brook, Moore Park, Park Drive and Rosedale Valley. We were joined by two expert birders, Mark Peck an Ornithology Technician (what a great title) at the ROM and Daniel Riley from Birds Study Canada: http://www.birdscanada.org/. Watching them in action was impressive, they were able to identify most birds just by their calls and Mark had an eye for finding nests. In Moore Park he found a Red-eyed Vireo-Vireo olivaceus nest which was being monitored by the Brown-headed cowbird-Molothrus ater a blackbird that only lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. In total they found a total of 46 bird species in the four ravines, the species composition was fairly consistent across the ravines though interestingly they found more migrant Neo-tropical birds in Rosedale Valley, the only ravine with a road running straight through it. The most exciting sighing was a pair of Great Horned Owls in Park Drive; watching the large creatures fly among the trees in the middle of downtown Toronto was thrilling!