We saw many of these plants loaded with colourful red berries, “highbush cranberries,” either the native North American or introduced European subspecies of Viburnum opulus. According to the experts present, these berries are edible, but when raw they are very sour, and have an unpleasant taste and smell. According to one source, “When you eat these berries raw, it tastes as though you are eating poisonous berries.” They are a winter survival food for wildlife.
by Greg Zbitnew
On September 7, 20 people enjoyed a late summer field trip to Petrie Island. The marsh, so good two weeks ago, unfortunately had no shorebird habitat due to the rise in the river, and even other marsh birds were hard to find, although prior to the arrival of most of the group, a Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) vocalized. Two exceptions were Great Blue Herons (Ardea Herodias) and Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) in many locations. After crossing the bridge, we started on the Sunrise trail and heard a vocal House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) and a few warblers, most of which remained unidentified. A Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) and Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularis) on or near the beach were our only two shorebirds. A few people trailing the group had a look at a Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia). A Merlin (Falco columbarius) gave good looks just west of the beach.
We had some luck when a Carolina Wren (Thyrothorus ludovicianus), present since August 31, started calling near the visitor centre, and a few people got a glimpse of this elusive bird. Further west from the visitor centre, an adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) posed majestically on a dead tree, affording good views by all.
Plenty of Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), but very few warblers were present on the main western trail to the end of the island. A few warblers, including a male Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens), were glimpsed on the return trip.
At about 10 am, light rain became steady, and as it was now very difficult to see or hear anything, the trip ended a bit early.
The weather was not ideal, and the woods were unexpectedly quiet, but overall it was a pleasant trip. Petrie Island is well worth repeated visits, especially in the fall.