Notes from the Field: Fall 2021

In 3 - Fall, Bats, Birds, Carden Alvar, Community Science, Events, Fauna, Flora, Nature Reserves & Easements, Property Maintenance, Species at Risk, Stewardship, Truth and Reconciliation, Water by couchiching

Left: Val Holt’s husband helps to clear brush from one of the Church Woods signs (photo: Val Holt). Right: Val Holt and Laurie Stanford monitor Church Woods earlier this fall  (photo: Dorthea Hangaard)

While most of our Community Science monitoring activities have finished until next spring, the work of Land Stewards and Maintenance teams never stops. 

This fall, Val Holt and Laurie Stanford picked up the mantle of stewarding Church Woods for the very active group of volunteers living around this popular nature reserve in Shanty Bay.  They not only make regular monitoring visits and report back on incursions and trail conditions, but also work to control garlic mustard, remove human-made structures left behind in the forest, and keep the property and trail signs in good condition.  

Welcome Val and Laurie!

We are proud to partner with the Ontario Trillium Foundation to offer this  Community Science Program

Left: Meagan & Trudy Coughlin. Centre: Allan and Melanie Tuck. Right: Jane Bonsteel

Our Water Monitoring Program has almost sputtered to a complete standstill over the past two pandemic years.  In 2020 we shut the program down out of concern that the kits could become vectors for the spread of Covid.  In 2021 we wanted to start up again, but supply chain issues made it difficult to replenish our water testing supplies.  

There were some sites we didn’t want to lose track of, and handed out the kits to two teams so they could keep going.  Meagan & Trudy Coughlin monitor critical headwaters and also McGee Creek on the Carden Alvar.  Jane Bonsteel monitors Sundial Creek at Grant Wetland, which is facing multiple threats to its health.  

Melanie and Allan Tuck are new water monitoring team members at the Sweetwater Nature Reserve, and refused to take “no” for an answer!  We gave them a metre stick and a thermometer, and they’ve kept going these past two years, turning in reports every month.  

We anticipate being able to re-activate the Water Monitoring Program in 2022, and Aiesha Aggarwal looks forward to working with all who have signed on.  

Left: Shawn with a freshly extractigated Buckthorn plant. Middle: An extractigator. Right: One of two hand-dug wells discovered while they were working.  Photos: Brandon Guoth

Land Stewards at Sweetwater Nature Reserve, Brandon Guoth and Shawn McClinchey, have been keeping an eye on two large patches of Common Buckthorn, and decided it was time to take action.

Common and Glossy Buckthorn are invasive species in Ontario that can grow up to three metres tall.  They form dense bushes that crowd out and shade native species.  

Shawn and Brandon chipped in to purchase an Extractigator for the Conservancy, and spent a Saturday in November pulling out 150 Buckthorn plants.  They suspended the pulled plants in trees throughout the forest to dry out and die.  

Thanks, Brandon and Shawn, for your initiative, your donation, and your hard work.  

Left: Roland Rehhorn, Doug Bedford, Tim Stott, and Jamie Atkinson testing out the new bridge. Right: Tim Stott packs in wood for the project. Photos: Ryan Lamoureux

Have you tried out the new bridge at the Adams Nature Reserve yet? 

Crossing the outlet flowing into Heather’s Pond at the Northern edge of the trail loop was getting a little dicey:  The old bridge was starting to rot.    The Adams Land Stewardship team of Holly Brown and Eileen Atkinson had been warning it needed to be replaced for months.

Ryan Lamoureux recruited volunteers, came up with a design, coordinated the build, and sought donations for the project.  Holly’s partner, Randy Skidmore of Muskoka Lakes Construction, made a very generous donation of over 320 feet of cedar for the new bridge.   

November 22nd was perfect weather for the build, and now you can cross the stream in safety and style.  Thanks to everyone involved.  You can see photos of the build here  

Left: Group attending the Plants & Birds Bioblitz Right: A beautiful fall day on the land (photos: Dorthea Hangaard)

This fall a group of 34 people from around Ontario took part in a five-part Indigenous-Led Bioblitz.   Gary Pritchard of Curve Lake First Nation and 4 Directions of Conservation Consulting  led two webinars and three outdoor bioblitzes.  In the webinars and bioblitzes we learned about common myths of indigenous people and indigenous perspectives on conservation.  At the beginning of each bioblitz, Gary led  us in a smudge, and we walked to the gathering place about two kilometres from the road.  Even this late in the year we observed  Nahwi kumik zheshobeegauzod (Midland Painted Turtle), Miskwawgungned opii (red-backed salamander), & Shkiminookamik Makakii (spring peepers) calling from the forest.  Every living being observed had a place on our list.  We brewed white pine, sweet fern, and cranberry tea, and cooked up delicious bannock.  The full species list from all participants will be turned into a report.   

Miigwech, Gary!

See more photos from the day here.

Left: Tom’s collage of their October 12th visit. Right: Tom “Mr Chips” Wilson biking to the Wolf Run Trailhead (Joelle Burnie photo)

The more remote and difficult-to-access Nature Reserves such as Wolf Run Alvar are always worth the trip.  

We don’t recommend visiting without a guide, however,  and Tom Wilson has been taking members of the Carden Field Naturalists (CFN) on tours of Wolf Run since we acquired this Nature Reserve in 2010.  

Tom’s steady presence on this landscape and his willingness to host CFN tours has resulted in some excellent reports of rare and threatened species, and kept us aware of problems – greatly valued on this out-of-the way Nature Reserve. 

Liz Schamehorn painting for an upcoming exhibit and Aiesha Aggarwal posting a new map at Ragged Rapids (photos:  Dorthea Hangaard)

The Black River Road from Lewisham Lane to Victoria Falls and beyond will only be open until the snow flies, and many people have been enjoying the fall colours there before we have to say good-bye until next spring.  

Aiesha and Dorthea made a visit on October 13th to get some mapping work done at the Ron Reid Nature Reserve and prepare for the canoe launch project at Rosebush Landing, and ran into Liz Schamehorn.  Her work is well-known to anyone who attended Legacy Landscapes in 2018.  

Liz has a new project:  for the past year, she has been doing one painting every month at a Conservancy nature reserve.  We were excited to hear about this and look forward to sharing the details of her upcoming exhibit with you.

A big THANK YOU to Holly Brown and her partner Randy Skidmore, who donated over 320 feet of cedar for a new bridge at the Adams Nature Reserve.  Soon there will be a wider and safer bridge at Heather’s Pond.  

Randy has owned and operated Muskoka Lakes Construction for 40 years and counting.  Muskoka Lakes Construction | Cottage + Design + Build

Click here to download the new Adams Nature Reserve trail map

Aiesha, Dorthea & Ryan questioning whether to stay here or return to civilization

Gary Pritchard  (Curve Lake First Nation and 4 Directions of Conservation Consulting Services) will lead three bioblitzes this fall, and just in case there’s rain,  Aiesha, Dorthea, and Ryan hiked to the site and erected some shelter. 

Bioblitz #1 will focus on Water and Benthics, #2 on Wetlands, Reptiles, and Amphibians, and #3 on Plants and Birds.  Read more here:  Re-defining Ecological Perspectives: An Indigenous-Led Bioblitz. – Couchiching Conservancy

On a sunny September afternoon, Toby and Aiesha pulled on waders and wandered through the wetland at Wolf Run Alvar Nature Reserve in search of reptiles and amphibians. A variety of dragonflies buzzed through the wetland while leopard frogs and green frogs rested, half-submerged at the edges of the small streams and ponds.

We are proud to partner with the Youssef-Warren Foundation to offer this Community Science Program

Read the Summer 2021 Notes from the Field Here