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Mark & Roberta Buchanan

Roberta and Mark Buchanan are nature enthusiasts who are always eager to share their outdoor experiences with others. Roberta is a retired educator with a passion for birding, and Mark is a retired engineer who enjoys photography.

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Point Pelee National Park is an amazing park filled with natural wonders. There is a large diversity of habitats, from the sheltered canopy of the southern Carolinian forest to the expansive sea of cattails in the marsh. In autumn, songbird migration is in full swing, while dragonflies and Monarch butterflies drift by.

 

For further information visit the Lambton Wildlife Website: http://lambtonwildlife.com/blog/point-pelee-national-park-camping-trip-2017/

Please Contact:

Paul Carter at 519-466-8555.

Date:  September 4-7, 2018 (Please note the change in dates from the program)

Place:  Point Pelee National Park

Time:   Anytime Tuesday through Friday – When you arrive at the front gate let them know that you are with the Lambton Wildlife Group

What to Bring:  Camping gear, bicycles, canoe (if you have one – rentals are available)

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What a beautiful day for a paddle!  The weather looked threatening but by 9:30 it had cleared up and the sun even came out.  We began our paddle at the Wilkesport Boat launch and a few minutes after leaving we were lucky enough to see a muskrat swimming along the shore.

Where the Sydenham splits into Bear and Black Creek we stopped and talked about the numerous species that can be seen along, and in, the river – several of which we were lucky enough to see on our paddle.  There are 34 species of Mussels that have been found in the Sydenham River (11 of which are on the species at risk list) – more mussel species than any other body of water in Canada! The Sydenham also has 83 species of fish, many of the turtle species that can be found in Ontario (all of which are at risk) and many bird species.

As we talked about the importance of the Sydenham River a Green Heron flew right toward the group – it was a great sight as usually these birds fly away from you, not toward you!  A little further down Bear Creek we spotted the Great Horned Owl – which we got to see several more times – what a treat.  We also saw several Map and Painted Turtles, muskrats, Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, and many other bird species.

Everyone who came out enjoyed the paddle.  A big Thank You to Dawn Mumford and the Wallaceburg Canoeing Club for providing canoes for the outing.

(Photo credits: Tricia Mclellan and Paul DeLaDurantaye)

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Bear Creek is a beautiful tree-lined river with many opportunities to see birds, turtles, and other wildlife.  Please join us as we meander along this ecologically important waterway.

If you are interested in participating in this canoe/kayak outing please contact Roberta Buchanan at roberta.buchanan@icloud.com or phone 519-864-1475.

Date:  June 2, 2018

Place:  Wilkesport boat launch

Time: 9:30 am – 12 noon

What to Bring:  water, insect repellent, hat, sunscreen (Safety equipment will be provided by the Wallaceburg Canoe Club)

The Wallaceburg Canoe club is providing the canoes so the number of participants needing a canoe is necessary.  If you are bringing your own canoe please let us know. 

For more information on location and what to expect please visit: http://lambtonwildlife.com/blog/natural-areas/paddle-the-sydenham-river/

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Sunday offered amazing viewing of several thousand Tundra Swans along Greenway Road just North of The Lambton Heritage Museum!  There was also good viewing along many of the side roads in the area – we randomly took roads around the area and in every flooded field there were hundreds of Swans.  These striking beauties migrate from the south to the Arctic to breed each year.  They breed on lakes and ponds in Alaska and Canada, preferring wetlands and lakes with long shorelines where they feed on plant matter (and some mollusks and arthropods).

During migration we are lucky enough to have upwards of 15,000 birds stop-over in Lambton County for anywhere from 15 to 30 days.  They began arriving on March 1 so there should be good viewing for at least one more week.  Normally the swans will start to dwindle in number as early as March 8 with most gone by the end of March.

If you have the time it is well worth seeing these magnificent birds resting before their long flight north!

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It has been an amazing couple of weeks with the return of Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, Turkey Vultures, Common Grackles, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Sandhill Cranes.  We have been lucky enough to see all of these returnees and it makes us think of spring!

We saw our first Killdeers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Turkey Vultures in mid-February.  On February 26 we were lucky enough to see three male Eastern Bluebirds looking to scout out the best habitat.

On March 1 we saw a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks – in full breeding colours – and they stayed around for three days!  Their beautiful flute-like songs certainly made it seem like spring had arrived even though they were singing in the snow!

Also migrating through are the Tundra Swans and the Sandhill Cranes on their way to their summer breeding grounds.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the returning birds – spring is just around the corner!

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On a warm sunny winter day, if you venture outside, you may notice what looks like pepper sprinkled on the snow. Look more closely and you will notice that the pepper is moving! Indeed it’s jumping great distances for its size. Its common name is very apt as they can catapult themselves up to 100 times their own body length using an abdominal appendage called a furcular. This structure is what gives the group its name – Springtails. The furcular folds beneath the body and is held under tension until needed, once tension is reached the end slips out of a receptacle and snaps against the snow which throws the Springtail into the air.

Click here for a brief video of a magnified Springtail

Springtails play an important role in natural decomposition, feeding on decaying organic matter in the soil and thereby recycling nutrients for plants. They are able to withstand the bitter temperatures of winter thanks to a “glycine-rich antifreeze protein,” which binds to ice crystals as they start to form, preventing the crystals from growing larger.

Springtails belong to the subphylum called Hexopoda – six-legged arthropods. They are commonly called Snow Fleas but they are not related to fleas in any way!  There are many species of Hexapoda in Canada and all are quite small, about one millimeter in length. They live in the soil where they are seldom encountered, however they can be extremely numerous with populations reaching 250,000,000 per acre.

So if you are out walking in the winter look in depressions in the snow where Springtails like to congregate.  A foot print or other depression offers a microhabitat that is just a little warmer, is protected from the wind, and the snow is saturated with liquid water.  And say thank you to these important little environmentalist for their help in recycling plant nutrients!

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We enjoy canoeing on the Sydenham River in the spring and summer, but probably our favourite season for paddling this river is autumn.  This year the month of October had warmer than normal weather and we took advantage of a forecasted picture perfect day with no wind and sunny skies for our last paddle of the season.  Heading upstream (north) from near Wilkesport, the north branch of the Sydenham River begins where Black Creek and Bear Creek merge.  Either of these tributaries is interesting so we paddled both.  Trees on the riverbank were showing their fall colours and leaves floated on the river going neither north nor south as there is very little current this time of year.  Temperatures were comfortable and the bright sun sparkled on the water’s surface.

 

Coming around the first bend in Bear Creek, we spotted a group of Wood Ducks in the water under an overhanging tree.  They didn’t notice us and we were able to glide closer and see what we believe were first fall males along with adult males and females.  It was a great juxtaposition between the young and mature males: the juveniles are colorful, but their feathers look scruffier.  The adult male however is a gentleman of distinction; beautiful colors and smooth overall.   Before we got any closer than 60 meters the group took off and headed upstream.  We saw them again from a distance, but then they were wary of us and we never got close again.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

 

Wood Duck adult male

Great Blue Herons were abundant on both creeks; we observed at least five individuals, all immatures.  These birds typically enjoy having long sections of the river to themselves and in some cases they clearly didn’t appreciate the proximity of other Herons, vocally scolding the heron who encroached into their range.  We were lucky enough to watch a Great Blue Heron catch a fish; close enough (40 meters) for decent photos but far enough not to disturb the bird.  The herons stand motionless, and then lunge into the water with startling speed to snatch an unsuspecting fish.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

 

The Herons also put on quite a show in flight, with their plumage reflecting the bright blue sky and fall colored leaves in the background.  It’s amazing to see the way individual flight feathers are used when the bird is landing.

Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying the powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps.

 

Great Blue Herons are excellent fishers.  They exhibit great patience, standing very still in shallow water or on the shore, waiting for a fish or frog to stray too near.  Sometimes the Herons stand on one leg, which doesn’t appear to affect their ability to remain motionless.

For the most part, despite the near silence of a canoe, it’s hard to approach ducks much closer than 75 meters and the Mallards we saw were no exception.  At the first glimpse of the boat they would burst into the air in a flurry of water drops and wingbeats.

Along the riverbanks we observed numerous small birds, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Robins, a few different species of Sparrows, American Goldfinch, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays.

 

After five hours of paddling up and downstream, we were back to where we put in, a Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead in a cloudless sky making his trademark shriek.  Another awesome fall canoe trip was over.  We highly recommend canoeing the Sydenham; it’s truly a hidden gem of Lambton County.  For more information on this river and how to locate the boat launch site, please refer to our post from last year: http://lambtonwildlife.com/blog/natural-areas/paddle-the-sydenham-river/

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Fall is a spectacular time to paddle!  We were fortunate to have a picture perfect day to canoe through the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.

The water levels were very low (see below) which meant getting out of our canoe often but both the weather and the water were very warm.  In the spring the water level is high and there are rapids and a swift current to contend with so this would not be the time of year for novice canoeist to paddle through the Reserve.

Picturesque scenery was the word of the day and we enjoyed an interesting array of flora and fauna as we paddled.

The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is home to an incredible 34 species of mussel, 11 of which are listed as at-risk; making it the freshwater mussel capital of Canada!  Freshwater mussels are the longest-lived invertebrates. They are living water filters moving as much as eight gallons of water per day in through their siphon and over their gills to get oxygen and food.  This makes mussels exceptionally vulnerable to water pollution so the importance of keeping the Sydenham River and its ecosystem protected is of paramount importance.

Mussels move by extending their foot out of their shell and into the river bottom, then they retract the foot and pull themselves along.  In the photo below you can see the furrow that this mussel has made as it moved to a new location.

One of the highlights of the paddle was visiting the huge Sycamore tree that is in the reserve.  Ontario’s largest recorded Sycamore tree, near Alvinston, measures 263 cm at breast height.

The biodiversity found in the Sydenham River is impressive and we were thrilled to see so many butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies (including the American Rubyspot pictured below), waterfowl (a pair of American Widgeons are pictured below), and many other birds (the Bald Eagle pictured below flew past us several times and landed along the river to watch our progress).

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Ontario Nature organized a wonderful day to thank both Lambton Wildlife and the Sydenham Field Naturalists for their generous donations that helped make the purchase of 193 acres along the Sydenham River possible.  On September 17th members of both clubs were invited to visit the site and enjoy a hike to the largest Sycamore tree in south-western Ontario, tour the south side of the property to look at the great variety of flora and fauna (led by Larry Cornelis, a member of both Nature Groups and driving force behind the acquisition of the property), and to hear from experts about the many species of fresh-water mussels that are found in the Sydenham River.

This property is now known as the Sydenham River Nature Reserve and is an incredibly important land acquisition that will forever protect the many endangered species that are found in and around the Sydenham River.

Justin Nicol, co-president of Lambton Wildlife and a member of the Sydenham Field Naturalists thanked Ontario Nature at the end of the day for the opportunity to hike the property and for providing a wonderful lunch in a beautiful setting.

Below is an excerpt from the Ontario Nature Website:

Thanks to you, the Sydenham River Nature Reserve is a reality. Ontario Nature has purchased a spectacular 193-acre property – forever protecting one of Ontario’s most biodiverse waterways. Located in the Carolinian Life Zone, this new reserve brings Ontario Nature’s province-wide nature reserve system to 25 properties and more than 7,000 acres.

The new reserve saves a ribbon of extraordinary diversity of plants and animals in a region that is under intense pressure from development driven by hosting 25 percent of the Canadian population.

The reserve represents some of the provinces best remaining examples of imperiled and vulnerable habitats. An almost two-kilometer stretch of the Sydenham River winds through the middle of the property. Representing Ontario Nature’s first riverine reserve, the property is teaming with life:

  • 23 species at risk including birds, plants, reptiles, fish and, of course, freshwater mussels;
  • 34 species of mussel, 11 of which are listed as at-risk provincially or nationally making the property the freshwater mussel capital of Canada;
  • Two-thirds of Canada’s non-marine reptiles including the at-risk eastern spiny softshell turtle; and
  • Half of Ontario’s bird species breed in or pass through the area during migration.

In 2014, two member groups – Lambton Wildlife and the Sydenham Field Naturalists – alerted Ontario Nature about a special property on the mussel-rich Sydenham River that was up for sale. After some initial discussions and exploring the property, in February 2016 Ontario Nature signed an agreement to purchase, pending raising $860,000.

The new Sydenham Nature Reserve was announced on December 19, 2016 after those funds were successfully raised. Many individuals, foundations and organizations gave generously in support of this effort. Lambton Wildlife and the Sydenham Field Naturalists were instrumental in the fundraising, and now share the responsibility to steward the property with Ontario Nature.

This riverside property is a largely-wooded biodiversity oasis in a landscape dominated by cash crops such as corn and soybeans. It forms part of the Carolinian Canada Sydenham River Signature Site, so designated because it was identified as a critical natural area. There are major challenges conservation organizations face in sustaining the ecological connections and biodiversity along the river corridor.

The reserve is open to visitors and Ontario Nature is already planning to create new trails so that the public can explore this extraordinary landscape without damaging sensitive flora and fauna. The best way to explore the property is by canoe. If you have any questions, please contact Ontario Nature at info@ontarionature.org or 416-444-8419.