Twenty three LWI members ventured out on a cool fall day to walk the nature trail on the Fairbank Oil property just outside of Oil Springs. Larry Cornelis led the hike and the group was fortunate to also have the property owners Charlie Fairbank and Pat McGee accompany us to provide some wonderful stories about the history of the property and the oil industry, as well as to explain the various oil production devices and artifacts found along the trail. Charlie’s ancestors were prominent in the oil business dating back to the first oil wells.
The Fairbank property sits above the large oil field that spawned the oil exploration and extraction industry in the mid 1850’s, and the field continues to produce oil to this day from numerous wells located all over the property. Many small oil pumps are visible along the trail, dutifully moving up and down to pull the crude oil up from a depth of close to 400 feet. The unique aspect of the Fairbank approach to oil extraction is that many of these oil wells are using technology from the 1800’s. The site is being considered as a Unesco World Heritage Site, and Charlie had recently returned from Ottawa where he made a presentation in support of the application.
The trail entrance, with parking, is located on Gypsy Flats side road just south of Oil Springs Line. The well-maintained trail meanders through prairie and riparian areas along Black Creek. There are numerous signs indicating sections of the trail that are named for historical figures from the local oil industry. A sturdy and attractive bridge crosses Black Creek and we were told that birds nest under it each year. Larry Cornelis has conducted wildlife surveys on the property over several years, with many species being observed. Although not many birds, insects or animals were seen on this day, it’s certain that in spring and summer there would be lots to see. Tallgrass prairie species have been planted in many of the areas of this trail, with plans to continue to naturalize the property.
It’s a breath of fresh air when generous people allow the public to access their property and enjoy the natural beauty that resides there. We appreciate the creation of this nature trail and encourage all LWI members to visit.
Further information about the history of the local oil industry can be found by visiting the Oil Museum of Canada, located a very short distance from this nature trail. https://www.lambtonmuseums.ca/oil/
November Indoor Meeting: Non-raptor bird species need our help too and Fascinating Freshwater Mussels.
At the last indoor meeting of 2017, we learned that sick or injured songbirds and waterfowl will soon benefit from a local non-raptor species rehabilitation clinic being constructed by Erica DiMuzio. To offer our support, Mike Kent, on behalf of LWI, presented Erica with a donation of $1,000.00. I was really inspired by Erica’s passion for helping wildlife in such a direct way. Best of luck with your new centre, Erica!
LWI wrapped up its 2017 line-up of indoor presentations with guest speaker, Erin Carroll, Manager of Biology at the St. Clair Regional Conservation Authority (SRCA). Having attended the Sydenham Nature Reserve Celebration in September, where Erin gave a hands-on, river-side presentation about Freshwater Mussels, I knew a more in-depth indoor presentation on the same topic would be interesting.
Who knew that experts come from all over the world to Lambton County to study mussels? With 34 species of freshwater mussel, no other river in Canada beats our very own Sydenham in mussel diversity. It’s pretty amazing that we at LWI helped play a role to conserve part of it!
To say these creatures have a unique life-history would be an understatement. Erin showed a video where adult freshwater mussels ‘lure’ their host fish with parts of their soft, fleshy body that look convincingly like prey. For those of you who missed the indoor meeting, I highly recommend searching ‘Freshwater Mussel Lures’ on YouTube so you can see this for yourself.
Erin also discussed the importance of mussels in the Sydenham River, each of them filtering an amazing ~1 litre of water per hour. She and colleagues at the SRCA conduct surveys of the Sydenham, where mussels and other indicator species also help them to paint a picture of our river’s health.
While, our native mussel populations do face threats such as increases in water salinity (much of which is from road salt), invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and water pollution; the news isn’t all bad in the Sydenham. Erin shared that in recent surveys by the SRCA, a new species record for this area was made, and one species not seen her in 50 years was observed.
After Erin’s talk, I was definitely excited to get out and spot some freshwater mussels. If you were too, there’s a free APP that was developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Toronto Zoo called ‘Clam Counter’ that helps you identify your neat finds in the field, right from your phone. You can also report your sightings to help the organizations working to protect Canada’s freshwater mussels.
Christmas Bird Count
Participate in the Pinery / Kettle Point CBC and help count all the birds in the count area and stay for the chili dinner and compilation at the park visitor centre.
Contact Tanya Berkers
So what is a Christmas Bird Count and how do you get involved?
First, the CBC or Christmas Bird Count (not the Canadian Broadcasting Company) is an annual event held…well around Christmas.
Lets just go to the Bird Studies Canada web site where they can tell us all about it.
LWI members have been involved in counts for years. There is a count in and around the Pinery, the Kettle Point Count that LWI birders often attend. There is a also a US count, the Port Huron Count, which covers part of Sarnia through to Mooretown along the river. This count was originally set up between the Bluewater Audubon (Port Huron) and Lambton Wildlife Incorporated. Counts are done all over the province; the Wallaceburg Count is just around the corner. As a matter of fact there are 8 counts within 100km of Sarnia!
So what’s it like? Fun! Educational! …Cold!
Usually you sign up by email with the coordinator. If you know any other birders, ask them to come with you and send in your names. If you are hoping to go with more experienced people, just ask the coordinator if they can add you into an established group. The number of people going varies greatly.
Usually you meet at a common spot – like the Visitor Center at the Pinery. The areas are divided up and off you go to count all the birds you see and hear in your assigned area. Each Count area does it differently. Sometimes you may meet for lunch, other times mid afternoon for a supper. This is when all the sightings are discussed and the tally sheets are handed in for the coordinator to do their magic and turn it into the official report. This yearly report of birds in a fixed area is a great way to take part in citizen science. It’s a fantastic way to meet other birders, and I always learn something new!
Come on and join us this year- you’ll be glad you did!
Dec 17, 2017 Port Huron ( Port Huron/Sarnia) contact Janet Fox firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec 27, 2017 Wallaceburg CBC contact Steve Charbonneau email@example.com
November 27 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Social gathering to start at 7:00 pm. Join other members for refreshments. Presentations will begin at 7:30 pm.
How long can a mussel live? How many species of mussels have been found in the Sydenham River? How many are species at risk? Erin Carroll, manager of biology with the St. Clair Conservation Authority, will explain the significance of mussels. They aren’t just clams.
Nature Trail at Fairbank Oil
October 29 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Meet: 12:00 pm at Lambton Mall parking lot near Canadian Tire, or at 1:00pm at the trail head on Gypsy Flats Road, south of Oil Springs Line.
This will be Lambton Wildlife’s first outing to hike the nature trail at Fairbank Oil near Oil Springs. It’s also an opportunity to learn about the history of the local oil industry.
October 30 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Social gathering to start at 7:00 pm. Join other members for refreshments. Presentations will begin at 7:30 pm.
Dave Bourne, a local wildlife and nature photographer, has travelled across the continent to gather photographic evidence of most of the owl species that can be found in North America. Dave will take us on a photographic owl prowl, giving us a glimpse into the world of North American owls.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-444-8419.