About Author

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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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There are some wonderful nature trails near Port Franks that are worth a visit.  The trails wind through the large Lambton Heritage Forest and there are a couple of ways of accessing them.  The first trail we explored starts out from Outer Drive.  There is a 911 address sign for the trail, number 7101, and the trail access is located on the north side of the road just before the road curves sharply to the right.  At the time of year that we walked this trail (early June), there were plenty of mosquitoes, so apply repellent generously before heading out. Consider using one  which also helps to protect against ticks.  The trail is easy to moderate, with a few slopes, and forms a loop that’s perhaps 1.5 kilometers long.  Most of the wildlife we sighted was on the first half of the loop, the section to the left.  There is a nice bench to sit and relax on at the midpoint.  The trail also connects to another trail that we didn’t fully explore. (more…)

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As the date of the 2107 Pelee Island camping trip approached, all the poor weather forecasts suddenly changed to show pleasant conditions for the entire duration of the trip!  A wonderful group of 20 LWI campers began arriving on Thursday for a great weekend of birding.  Lake Erie was smooth for the 1.5 hour long ferry ride aboard the SS Jiiman from Leamington.

SS Jimaan

Ferry Loading

Many of the campers had been to the island in previous years and some were visiting the island for the first time.

As a group, we moved around the island to observe the migrating birds, with an occasional detour to the bakery for vital nourishment (see earlier post photo).  High water and waves kept us away from Lighthouse Point (on the northeast corner of the island) for the first two days, but by Saturday the winds had shifted and we made it to the point to see some interesting birds.  Some of the best birding of the weekend came on the beach at Fish Point early on Friday evening, with numerous warblers hungrily eating up insects that were being warmed by the sun right along the edge of the beach.   A great looking Lake Erie sunset on the same beach capped off a perfect day.

Cape May Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

Indigo Bunting

Migrating shorebirds were also located in some farm fields where large pools of water had accumulated.  The group was thrilled to get quite close to a large flock of Black-bellied Plovers, with Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlins mixed in.

Black-bellied Plovers

Baby Brown Snake

Lighthouse Point

Palm Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Such were the abundance of birds on the island that we even observed warblers from the comfort of the campsite, including Yellow-rumped, Black & white and Northern Parulas.  Other notable birds observed included Summer Tanager, Night Hawk, Red-throated Loon, Indigo Bunting, Red-headed Woodpecker, and we even heard a “Whip-poor-will”!

Black & White Warbler

Spotted Sandpiper

Red-headed Woodpecker

The time seemed to go by quickly with each day’s activities beginning at 7:00 AM, and when it was time to pack up and catch the next departing ferry it seemed like the excursion had been too short.  Well, there is always next year!

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After seeing multiple e-Bird alerts for the Dickcissel, we headed out in the morning on Friday for a short drive south to try and find this rare bird.  We found the birds on McCallum Line just a bit west of Brigden Road.  (more…)

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On May 7 the newest Nature Reserve for Ontario Nature was officially opened!  Lambton Wildlife was instrumental in making this 190 acre purchase possible, primarily due to the hard work of Larry Cornelis, and through a large donation from LWI.

Red-backed Salamander

Larry Cornelis

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

The property is situated near Alvinston and includes a significant portion of the Sydenham River which is one of the most biodiverse habitats in North America.  The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is home to several species at risk, some of which are found almost exclusively in the Sydenham River.  More information about the property can be found here: https://www.ontarionature.org/protect/habitat/sydenham_river.php

Trout Lily

Red Admiral Butterfly

 

Below are two of the opening speeches giving some insight into the tremendous importance of this Reserve.

Felecia representing LWI

Felicia Syer-Nicol, co-president of Lambton Wildlife, spoke on behalf of LWI:

On behalf of Lambton Wildlife, we’d like to express how thrilled we are to have been part of the purchase of the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.  We are so thankful to Ontario Nature, the Sydenham Field Naturalists, and many other donors that made this possible. With the huge list of species at risk and unique situation along the Sydenham River, this property was a hidden gem in Lambton County that couldn’t have been uncovered by anyone other than Larry Cornelis, one of our greatest advocates for nature.  We’re just going to quickly explain who Lambton Wildlife is for those of you who don’t know, how we became involved with this project, and what we hope for the future.

Lambton Wildlife is a non-profit, volunteer organization that is dedicated to the conservation, preservation, and protection of the natural environment in Lambton County. We organize outings to different natural areas throughout the county, invite experts from throughout southern Ontario to speak at our meetings through the winter, and have a young naturalists group for children and youth. We also have a dynamic website where we have several active writers contributing nature sightings and information for public education. We own two properties in Lambton County, the Karner Blue Sanctuary in Port Franks and Mandaumin Woods just outside of Sarnia.

Just over a year ago, Larry Cornelis told LWI about this unique property for sale on the Sydenham River just outside of Alvinston. We knew that as a club, we didn’t have the finances to purchase the property, nor the man power to manage it on our own. Along with SFN, we contracted John Urquehart to speak with ON Nature on our behalf. We are so thankful to ON Nature for taking on this project to fundraise and successfully acquire this property. 

We’d like to give special acknowledgement to Sydenham Field Naturalists, a small but mighty club that fundraised a large amount of money for this project. As for our contribution, a large portion of it came from a donation from the estate of Robert Bell. This gift has gone a long way for conservation.

Going forward, LWI and SFN will be sharing the stewardship of this property with ON Nature. Mike Kent, Roberta Buchanan, and Dick Wilson will represent LWI, Larry Cornelis will represent both clubs, and Taylor Jones from SFN. This group is just in the beginning stages of their work, but we look forward to seeing the process unfold: from baseline studies to a management plan. We hope to see opportunities for our members to be engaged in habitat projects, bioblitzes, and educational tours.

It really is a special thing to protect a forest like this in Lambton County. The list of species at risk for this property is incredible, but even those species that aren’t at risk: the huge sycamores, swaths of Virginia bluebells, and many other woodland plants are hard to come by in this region. With less than 9% forest cover in Lambton County (most of which is logged every 20 years or so), the protection of this property is significant. We are so happy to be stewards of this property and we thank everyone here for their contributions to its protection.

Thank you

The new sign unveiled

Kevin Thomason, President of the Board of Directors for Ontario Nature gave the following speech: 

Thank you to everyone for joining us today to celebrate this very exciting achievement for nature conservation.

We would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Attawandaron (Neutral) and Wendat peoples.

Today, this area is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island including Walpole Island First Nation,

Chippewa of the Thames, Aamijiwnaang First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware Nation, Kettle and Stony Point First Nation and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to convene on this territory.

My name is Kevin Thomason and I am the President of the Board of Directors for Ontario Nature.

Many of you here today are Ontario Nature members and we are so very grateful for your ongoing support.

Since 1931, with the support of our members, we have been protecting wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.

Ontario Nature is built on a strong foundation of commitment and love for natural places and wildlife that is shared by a province-wide network of groups and individuals. Together with more than 150 local grassroots community conservation groups, we are Ontario’s Nature Network, a strong voice for nature across the province.

We are joined today by two of our member groups who have been instrumental in creating this spectacular reserve – Lambton Wildlife and the Sydenham Field Naturalists. Indeed, this project would not have materialized had it not been for the tireless efforts of the volunteers in these organizations.

Thank you for identifying this opportunity, for engaging with the community, for your fundraising efforts and for your own contributions to the project.

Thank you especially for committing to act as the Sydenham River Nature Reserve’s stewards, which means caring for this special place and the species that inhabit it for the long-term.

We are joined by several of our other Nature Network groups who also gave generously towards this project. Welcome to the members of Essex County Field Naturalists, Nature London, Nature Guelph, The Ingersoll Nature Club, and Waterloo Region Nature.

I’d like to thank our local ‘experts’ who are sharing their knowledge about the reserve and wildlife with us today: Erin Carroll, Biologist with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority, Todd Morris, Researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and last but not least, Larry Cornelis, with the Sydenham Field Naturalists and Lambton Wildlife. Larry deserves a special thank-you for the role he played in making this Reserve a reality.

The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is widely recognized as a conservation priority due to the number of at-risk species recorded there and its contribution to natural forest cover in a landscape with only eight percent remaining.

Located in the Carolinian Life Zone, the Reserve represents some of the province’s best remaining examples of vulnerable habitat for numerous species at risk, several of which are found almost exclusively in the Sydenham River. The nature reserve forms part of a vital habitat core along one of southwestern Ontario’s few remaining green corridors.

We have already begun work in collaboration with conservation science experts to survey for species at risk and also map invasive species that may present a threat. An aquatic survey last fall confirmed the presence of 15 species of freshwater mussel!

In the upcoming field season, Ontario Nature staff, field naturalists and experts from the Field Botanists of Ontario, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority will be on site to conduct further inventories and mapping.

This information will be used to write the management plan which will ensure that habitat requirements for species at risk are addressed and that the impacts of invasive species are mitigated.

This field work will also include gathering the information needed to develop the ecological restoration plan for the agricultural fields on the property, and to design appropriate trails and signage for sustainable visitor use.

Some priorities include:

Restoring agriculture lands within the reserve to natural cover to create more core habitat for area sensitive birds such as Cerulean Warbler and Easter Wood Pewee, both species at risk;

Creating turtle nesting habitat to ensure healthy populations of at-risk species in and adjacent to the reserve;

Planting riparian zones and stabilizing the river banks to ensure healthy and diverse mussel and fish communities;

Building a new canoe access trail so that people can visit and enjoy the reserve without disturbing or damaging the sensitive flora and fauna.

The success of this project was thanks to a community of nature lovers. I would like to thank Donna and Kathleen Clements, the former property owners who made sure that property was sold to Ontario Nature and turned into a nature reserve.

I would like to thank Paul and Sarah our local neighbours here who have opened up their driveway and property for us to cross today.  In the future most access will be on the Eastern side of the reserve and we ask that you respect their privacy and property, however please enjoy things here today and we thank them for their hospitality!

I would also like to give a special thank you to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, as administrators of the Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program.

Thank you to Environment and Climate Change Canada for investing in conservation.

Thank you to Lambton Wildlife, the Sydenham River Field Naturalists, Essex County Field Naturalists and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada for their generous gifts. 

Several foundations donated significant gifts to the project including:the Echo Foundation, the Gosling Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

I would also like to thank our excellent corporate partners Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Aecon Utilities.

Finally, I would like to thank over 500 Ontario Nature members who responded to our urgent call to protect this spectacular natural area.

I’m so very pleased to officially welcome you to the new Sydenham River Nature Reserve!

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This year, to commemorate of our 50th Anniversary, Lambton Wildlife sponsored five Lambton County Science Fair Awards.  The Lambton Wildlife Inc. Natural Environment Award was presented to students in the Lambton County Science Fair whose projects best demonstrated a keen interest in Nature and the Environment.  The projects could include nature, biology, conservation, ecology, or other related disciplines and have an application to the conservation, preservation, and protection of the natural environment.

Lambton County Science Fair was held April 7 and 8 and over 125 aspiring scientists from Grades 3 to 12 took part.  We were lucky enough to be the judges for the Lambton Wildlife Awards and it was so wonderful to hear each of the students express their concern for the environment and the importance of conservation and protection of the natural world.

It was a difficult decision, but in the end the following were selected as the award winning projects in three age categories; Grades 3 to 5, Grades 6 to 8, and, Grade 9 and 10.  Congratulations to all the winners and good luck in future competitions.

Marin Feniak (Grade 5) From Ducks to Trucks (using duckweed as a source for biofuel)

Safia Deol (Grade 5) Innovative Solar Energy Absorption: An Improved and Efficient System

Lanna Iacobelli and Annabelle Rayson (Grade 6) Oil Be Damned: Ferrofluids to the Rescue (oil spill clean-up methods)

Madhumitha Parthiban (Grade 9) Veggie Fuel (using vegetable oils to produce biodiesel)

Mavi Deol (Grade 10) A Novel Filtration System to Reduce Carbon Dioxide from Car Emissions    

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Spring is such an incredible time of year.  As you walk through Mandaumin Woods in the springtime you will be treated to so many wonderful sights and sounds.

Palm Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Stop and listen to the number of different bird songs that are all around you – spring is a time when birds are migrating through Mandaumin woods and it is not unusual to see 20 or more species in a single outing!  One of my favorite groups of birds are the Warblers.  These colorful little birds find refuge in Mandaumin Woods as they find their way to breeding grounds further north.  I have yet to find a nesting pair of any species of Warbler in Mandaumin but there certainly could be Yellow Warblers nesting there.

Hermit Thrush

No other birds can match the song of the thrush.  I have seen 3 different species of thrush at Mandaumin Woods but it is during the spring breeding season that their beautiful song echoes through the woods.

Eastern Wood Peewee

 

 

 

 

 

Other bird species abound in Mandaumin Woods – I was once chased, quite incessantly, by a pair of Indigo Buntings.  They had built their nest quite close to the trail and they needed me to move along much quicker than my usual ambling pace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably the most striking bird that can be spotted in Mandaumin Woods is the Scarlet Tanager.  What a stunning bird!

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

 

Then there is the spectacular display of color provided by the spring wildflowers.  Is there anything more beautiful than a forest floor covered in trilliums in full bloom?  The constantly changing forest floor will keep you coming back week after week to enjoy the many wildflowers that bloom throughout the spring and summer.

spring mandaumin

spring mandaumin

spring mandaumin

spring mandaumin

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Great turnout for the first Spring Walk

On Sunday, 25 people braved the damp and cool weather to join Nick Alexander for the first of his two spring walks in Mandaumin Woods.  Nick shared a wealth of information about the trees and plants found along the trail that winds through the 25-acre LWI property.

Nick shows a leatherwood bush

Nick provided many details on how to recognize the plants and tree species that he showed the group.  Some of the plants and trees that he pointed out included:

Solomon’s Seal, False Solomon’s Seal, Goldenrod, Toothwort, Bellwort, Witch Hazel, Redbud, Leatherwood, Prickly Gooseberry, Black Current, Hepatica, various sedges, Shagbark Hickory, Blue beech, Ironwood, Sugar Maple, Basswood, Trout Lily, May Apple, Jack in the Pulpit, Wild Leeks, Wood Anemone, Wild Ginger, and Spice Bush.

Toothwort

Wood Anemone

Bellwort

The trilliums were in full bloom throughout much of the woods, mostly the white variety with a few red ones intermingled.

White Trillium

Interestingly, a yellowish colored trillium was spotted; upon later investigation it appears that this was a sub-species of red trillium!

yellow colored trillium

Nick found many saplings growing and identified them and explained what characteristics will identify that particular tree.   He pointed out that many of the plants found in Mandaumin are indicative of a high quality woodlot and Nick also noted the relative absence of weeds and invasive species.  There’s little doubt that all the participants came away with improved knowledge of the native flora of Mandaumin Woods.

Nick Alexander explains how to identify a plant

Well done Nick, we appreciated the learning experience.

Nick has scheduled another spring walk in Mandaumin Woods for May 14, at 1:00 PM.  He expects more wildflowers to be in bloom for that date.  Wear waterproof footwear as some of the sections of the trail are quite boggy.

 

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A large flock estimated at 500 of Lapland Longspurs was observed on Moore Line in Lambton County on April 26.  The birds were foraging in the stubble of agricultural land.  The number of birds is more evident when they fly up together.  These birds should be well on their way to the far north by now.

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I hope you enjoyed my earlier post about Pelee Island.  This latest post focuses on bird photos.

As you may know, thousands of birds migrate through this area every spring.  Pelee Island is a stopover for many interesting species, and attracts avid birders.  Having access to some very experienced and knowledgeable LWI birders who attend this event makes the trip especially worthwhile.    For some competitive birders, Pelee Island offers the annual Botham Cup.  This event is a bird “race” taking place over a 24 hour period from Friday noon until Saturday noon.  Teams try and sight as many bird species as possible.  Two teams of LWI members entered the event; one competing in the “green” category which means restricting your movement around the island to walking or bicycling.  The other team used their car.  Both teams placed well, and earned a mention at the culminating banquet held at Pelee Island Winery and hosted by author Margaret Atwood (an island resident in the summer).

Anyway, take a look at the photos and if you enjoy birdwatching and have never been to Pelee Island, you may want to plan to attend the LWI camping trip in 2017.