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There are many indicators that spring is about to happen in Canatara Park. For some it is seeing old friends that have not been in the park since last fall. Others look forward to the return of the Warblers and the first Yellow Rump. Others are looking for spring flowers. But for some, it is sighting the first turtle of the year. This year, I understand the first turtle was seen in February during the unusually warm pre-spring weather. The turtles usually start to appear when the ice has melted and the weather has warmed.
Canatara has two turtles that are commonly seen in Lake Chipican and surrounding canals. The Midland Painted Turtle is the most common native species and the Red Eared Slider in also common, but it is not native to Canada. It is referred to as “the pet shop” turtle. People buy this species of turtle for a pet and when it grows too big or is no longer wanted, their owners abandon them in Lake Chipican.

Red Eared and Painted Turtles. Photo credit: Dick Wilson

Painted turtles have black shells with dark red or orange markings. Red Eared Sliders have a shell that is higher domed than the Painted Turtle and has yellow marking. Not surprisingly, the Red Eared Slide has a “red ear”! The “ear” is a red spot behind the eye.

Snapping Turtle. Photo credit: Dick Wilson

Not commonly sighted, but also not rare, is the Snapping Turtle. Snapping Turtles are the largest turtle in Lake Chipican and have a prehistoric look. Snapping Turtles can be aggressive and slow on land, but will slide away and hide when in the water.

A fourth turtle, a Blandings Turtle, has been seen in or around Lake Chipican, but it is an extremely rare siting. Only one has been seen in recent memory.

Other species of Ontario native turtles, such as the Northern Map, Spiny Softshell and the Musk (Stink Pot) Turtles are found on the Sydenham River and in the Mitchell’s Bay area, but not in Lake Chipican.

A more descriptive species description and range maps for some species can be found at OntarioNature.org. Use the Protect, Species, Reptiles_and_Amphibians, Turtles, Species Listing tabs to locate the range maps. Another excellent turtle site is TorontoZoo.com. Search for Turtle Tally.

The number of turtles in Lake Chipican is unknown, at least to me. In doing a non-scientific survey, I found that:
The Midland Painted Turtle is much more common sighting than the Red Eared Slider.
The Red Eared Sliders, that I observed, appeared to be of the large variety and they are usually larger than any of the Midland Painted Turtles.
I have not identified any small younger Red Eared Sliders.
The Midland Painted Turtles come in various sizes from 5cm to larger turtles.
The Red Eared Slider appears to be the more hardy species and can be found sunning more often in cooler weather than the Midland Painted Turtle.
There are a variety of spots to look for turtles around Lake Chipican. The spot that consistently has the most turtles is the “Turtle Log” located on the northern third of the east side of the lake.

You will not see a lot of Snapping Turtles

You may see turtles on land.

From mid-April to mid-May, 2017, I recorded 17 daily turtle sighting. In that time, I recorded seeing 305 Midland Painted Turtles, 79 Red Eared Turtles and 3 Snapping Turtles. Midland Painted Turtles are most certainly observed most often.

Do your own survey and compare the results.
Pictures of the more common turtles in Canatara are included.

Young Naturalists

June 17th—Slimes and Scales Moore Habitat Management Area 1pm-3pm

Ssss! – slimy, scaly, secretive and species at risk! We have a diversity of reptiles and amphibians here but some can be hard to find. Learn some tips and tricks on how to find them and how to use your cell phone to be a part of science.

Where to Meet

Moore Habitat Management Area.

What to bring –

  • water
  • sunblock and insect repellent (wash hands thoroughly after application for the sake of our amphibians)
  • hat
  • reptile/amphibian field guide
  • Ontario Nature – Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (ORRA) App (free – optional)
  • pen / pencil & notepad

View Bank and Northern Rough-winged swallows in their nesting colony as they hunt insects to feed their young.

Ron and Linda Core are hosting Lambton Wildlife to view a colony of swallows that nest in the banks of a gravel pit at the rear of the family farm.  Bank swallows excavate tunnels in the bank to nest  and the Northern Rough-winged swallows have been known to re-use cavities developed by the Bank swallows.  There will also be an opportunity to hike in the family’s woodland trail to view trees that Ron has planted and view plants and trees of the area.

The walk leader is Larry Cornelis.  Larry is naturalist local to Lambton-Kent, where he has lived all of his life.  He is a very knowledgeable resource of the flora and fauna of the area.  He is an avid bird watcher and will tell you that he doesn’t get enough time to pursue the hobby.  He is a board member of Sydenham Field Naturalists and Lambton Wildlife Incorporate. Larry is a busy guy and always happy to be outside working with nature.

The event begins at 10:00 AM June 10 on the farm of Ron and Linda Core.  The address is 4082 Confederation Line, which is east of Mandaumin and about 2.5Km west of Oil Heritage Road.

The Swallow viewing is considered to be an easy event with only a short walk to the viewing site.  The woodland trail portion is a longer walk, about a kilometre, but still considered easy.  At this time, we are unsure if we can drive back to the swallow viewing or if we will walk.  The walk, should we need to walk, is less than 1Km.

The walk is open to everyone without charge.  Binoculars are recommended.  Footwear appropriate for the weather.  Photo opportunities exist throughout the tour.  There are no facilities available on the farm.

Contact Anne Goulden at anniegou@gmail.com for any questions.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Meet: 10:00 am, 4082 Confederation Line

On Tuesday May 9, 2017 I went hiking and paddling at the Pinery Provincial Park.

I hiked the Carolinian Trail and then I paddled along the river (south of the store and canoe rentals).  While there I was able to see a Muskrat, Pileated Woodpecker, Green Heron, Sandpiper (not sure what species) and the highlight of the day was spending time observing a pair of Sandhill Cranes with two chicks.  It was a great day to be in the park and enjoy my first paddle of the season!

For those who might be concerned please know that I shot these pictures with telephoto lens and I was careful not to get too close or disturb the Sandhill Cranes.

Every year members of Lambton Wildlife head to Pelee Island in the spring to catch the migration. This year was no different.

Here you can see the members that attended this year, outside of Lambton Wildlife’s Pelee Island Headquarters – Conorlee’s Bakery. Coffee and a cinnamon bun before heading out for some bird watching. Sounds delicious.

In 1973 the Honourable John T. Clement, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations issued a Charter for the Incorporation of Lambton Wildlife.  “Lambton Wildlife Incorporated … Subject to The Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act and The Charitable Gifts Act: (a) encourage and promote the conservation, preservation and protection of the natural environment, plants, animals, natural resources and wildlife; (b) collect moneys by way of donations, gifts, devises, bequests, dues or otherwise… (c) print, publish, sell and distribute literature of every nature and kind …. (d) purchase, acquire, take by gift, devise, bequest or donation property, both real and personal.”

Native Plant Sale – May 13, 2017

Return the Landscape and DeGroot’s Nurseries work as a team to promote and supply customers with Native Perennials.

Experts Shawn McKnight and Nick Alexander will be on site on Saturday May 13 to help you make the right choices for your garden.

The plants sold at DeGroot’s are harvested from construction sites, or seeds are collected from areas in Lambton County.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation staff grow the plants in their state of the art greenhouse so they are ready for retail sales at DeGroot’s.

New perennials are stocked weekly all summer in the retail greenhouse at DeGroot’s, and there is a terrific assortment of trees and shrubs to select from as well.


Join us for our 3 Wednesday walks in Canatara Park.

View resident and migrant birds.

Each spring, migrant birds move through Canatara Park on their way to their nesting grounds. Walk with an expert birder to view resident and migrant birds.

The walk leader is Eric Marcum (519-332-6122).  Eric is a long time birder with experience in the NE United States, northern Canada and many hours in and around Sarnia.  Eric’s experience in hearing and identifying bird songs adds to the experience.

There are three walks scheduled starting on May 3 and continuing May 10 and May 17, 2017.  Start time at 6:00 PM. 

The walk, beginning at the main entrance to Tarzan Land (south-west corner of Christina St and Cathcart Blvd), is an easy one over flat chip covered paths and sidewalks.

The walk is open to everyone without charge.  Binoculars are most useful.  Photo opportunities exist throughout the tour.

See the Tourism Sarnia-Lambton web-site www.tourismsarnialambton.com/listing for more information about Canatara Park.

Photo Credit: Richard Wilson

Photo Credit: Richard Wilson