Fall 2019 Notes from the Field

In Nature Reserves & Easements by couchiching

Alvar Runoff:  The recent rain and snowmelt have created a lot of water on the alvar at Bluebird Ranch.

Although it may appear to be “just sitting there”, it is actually following an eons old route of seeping across the grassland areas and joining a seasonal stream that feeds westward toward Lake Simcoe…eventually.    – December 10, 2019

Peter & Noella at First Creek. Photo: Eileen Atkinson

What makes the office stewardship team happy?   Knowing that we have citizen science teams bumping into each other in the field!

On November 17th, Holly Brown and Eileen Atkinson arrived at the Adams Nature Reserve for their fall Land Stewards’ visit, and found Noella Storry and Peter Robinson monitoring First Creek.

This was Noella and Peter’s last visit until spring (the cold creek water turns hands and feet to ice), but Holly and Eileen will be back at Adams for a winter visit.

The fence around this overgrown turtle nesting area, originally built in 2011, keeps quad vehicles and hikers at bay. Photo: Toby Rowland

With snow and ice nipping at their heels, a gang of hardy volunteers were unwilling to give up on a turtle habitat enhancement project planned for this fall at the Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve.    Who knew that the previous Saturday’s chilly rain would make Saturday November 9th seem like a warm spring day?

Led by Toby Rowland, our Citizen Science Field Technician, there were two main goals: (1)  Weed and rake a couple of  turtle nesting sites and return them to the gravelly-sandy conditions a turtle likes to nest in.  (2)  Introduce 9 new basking logs to a couple of ponds to increase their desirability as a home (like adding deck chairs around the pool) and make it easier for our reptile monitoring teams to spot them.

Yes, it did snow, and yes, ice had already formed on the ponds.  Thanks to Bill Anderson, Kim Ariss, Jane Brasher, David Cowl, Katrina Hunt, Morris Ilyniak, Karl Schulz, Jane Sloley, Alan Smale, Al and Mel Tuck, Charon Varty, Jan and John Walinck, and John F. Wright.    See more photos here

Aster in the foreground on the Thomas C. Agnew & Robert and Emily Fawcett Nature Reserves. photo: Doug Varty

Many of our Land Stewardship teams were able to get in their fall monitoring visit before the snow started, and Doug Varty captured this image on his visit to the Thomas C. Agnew & Robert and Emily Fawcett Nature Reserve near Washago November 8th.  These Stewardship visits are invaluable in giving us eyes and ears on the ground.  On this trip, for example, Doug identified several trees down across the trails, and some trail markers in need of repair.

Most of our Nature Reserves have a Land Stewardship Team, and we will be recruiting for additional properties soon – stay tuned.  Check the “Volunteer” section of our website in December.

The Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve was donated by his granddaughters, Joan Berndt and Susan Campbell, in 2011.  Right beside it is the Robert and Emily Fawcett Nature Reserve which was donated to The Nature Conservancy of Canada (“The NCC”) in 1991.  In 2013 The NCC donated this parcel to us.   We steward both nature reserves as one parcel and call them the “TC Agnew/Fawcett Nature Reserve” for short.

John Pitts at Kris Starr

John Pitts. photo: Dorthea Hangaard

One excellent feature of the new Pitts & Milligan Nature Reserve is a clear, cold stream that we’ve named Stickleback Stream.  On a monitoring visit this fall to map out a habitat restoration project, Dave Hawke and Toby Rowland both captured footage of the  fast-flowing stream.  Stickleback can be found in this stream and are a good indicator of stream health.  We will be keeping a close eye on this important cold water stream.  Watch below:

Jane Sloley and Toby Rowland beside the TC Agnew & Emily Fawcett Nature Reserves in Washago. Photo: Dorthea Hangaard

We’ve been monitoring the salamanders at the TC Agnew/Fawcett Nature Reserves  for two years now, and observations have been low.    It was time to move the salamander boards to a new location and see if maybe our board placement is the problem.

October 13th was the perfect fall day for the job, and Jane Sloley accompanied Toby and Dorthea to get the job done.   Jane Sloley, Carol Sinclair, and Jim Langman are our salamander monitoring team at this Nature Reserve.

We place 2 foot by 1 foot pine boards on the ground in suitable salamander habitat which volunteers then check under, photograph, and record the results.  It can be quite effective and we have had excellent results on some of our properties.

As we forever remind the citizen scientists, recording the absence of species is just as important as recording their presence.

Finger’s crossed for next year!

See our Summer 2019 Notes From the Field by clicking here