Sunday, March 14, 2010
Neys Provincial Park hike
The mild weather continues. We headed down to Neys Provincial Park to do some biking but found that the un-plowed, seasonal road was still partially snow-covered. Instead, we parked at the seasonal gate south of tracks and walked the 5.2 km up the service road leading to the radio tower atop the centre of the Coldwell Peninsula.
As we noted in our most recent postings, there was very little bird activity. Ruffed Grouse and Downy Woodpecker were drumming but, other than American Crows, there were no recent arrivals and no trace of over-wintering finches.
By mid-afternoon we had seen quite a few insects on the wing. Tiny (~3 mm) sap-feeding beetles (Nitidulidae, Epuraea sp.) and small flies (Calliphoridae).
Most surprising as a Compton Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum) that we found basking on the trunk of a white birch (which is also an important host plant for this species' caterpillars). This is one of the most common butterflies in our area, and one of the earliest to fly in the spring, but this must surely be one of the earliest dates in the province. This, and future butterfly sightings will be added to a spreadsheet we submit each year to the keepers of the Provincial Butterfly Database. The data help in mapping out the distributions and behaviours of our butterfly fauna.
Back to the hike... for much of the ascent, we trudged through slushy snow and before long our cycling shoes were soaked. We hoped that at the summit we would find a span of rock where we could dry and warm our bare feet in the sun.
What awaited us was a sunbathed half-gazebo that opened up to what must surely be the most breath-taking vista in the park. Looking south, down the peninsula we looked down on nearby peaks and then across the Thompson Channel to the iconic Pic Island. Twenty km. to the northwest, the Slate Islands, large and small, were clearly visible.
It was an excellent day. As yet, we haven't found out when the gazebo was built (certainly in the last five years) and how the park plans to include it the visitor's experience.