Tour the ecological restoration projects including numerous wetlands and acres of tall grass prairie on the King family farm.  There has been approximately 90 acres of restoration work done by Ontario Nativescapes.  Refreshments provided.

The walk leader is Larry Cornelis.  Larry is an experienced landscaper and has restored/naturalized numerous projects, including his own farm.  He 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 and other local boards. Larry is a busy guy and always happy to be outside working with nature.

The event begins at 10:00 AM August 26 on the King farm.  The event is south of Watford 1.2 Km east of Navuoo Rd on Churchill line.  Proceed past St James Church and over the bridge.  Look for activity on the north side of the road.  Carpool meeting spot is the parking lot south of St Clair High School in Sarnia at 9:00 AM

The tour is considered an easy one.  Longer walks may be necessary to view all areas of the restoration.

The walk is open to everyone without charge.  Binoculars are always recommended.  Footwear appropriate for the weather.  There are no facilities available on the farm.

Contact Mary Martin for any questions.

Please join us on Thursday evenings in July and August to view local gardens featuring native plants. Each tour will commence at 7:00pm. Learn from the garden experts about creating gardens with native plants to attract wildlife and benefit our environment.

August 10 Residential Native Garden – 6719 Old Mill Road in “the Maples” subdivision off of old Lakeshore Rd **Please note the change in address from that published in the brochure.

This garden, owned by LWI members, is on a small, subdivision lot. Originally there was no landscaping other than turfgrass and a few foundation plants in front of the house as part of the builder’s package. The soil is heavy, compacted clay, and both the front and back yards are in full sun all day. Today, the property showcases an alternative to the suburban lawn that provides natural habitat and pleasing aesthetics. Last year the Sarnia Horticultural Society visited this garden.

The back garden was installed by Return the Landscape in 2013 and expanded by the homeowners in 2016. The front garden was installed by RTL in 2014.  RTL also installed dry creek beds in the back garden to direct rainwater from the downspouts to a wet meadow complex with a diversity of plant species in the back corner.

The plants are native to the local eco-zone and were selected for their wildlife value, particularly for native pollinators such as butterflies and moths.  Because of the clay soil and full sun exposure, most grasses and wildflowers selected are found in prairie or wet meadow environments.  Wet meadow plants include Boneset, (Eupatorium perfoliatum ) Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum ) and Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum).   During this visit, some of the more imposing prairie plants such as Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) will be in bloom.

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Larry Cornelis giving introductory talk

If you plant it, they will come…

LWI members were privileged to be invited to visit the Enbridge Solar Farm, in Sarnia, on June 21st to observe how the restored tall grass prairie habitat has attracted rare bird species.  Resident expert Larry Cornelis led this 3-hour outing.  28 members, including Larry, participated. The group included novice through to very experienced birders.  Weather was ideal: clear, sunny but not too hot.

Savannah Sparrow

The Enbridge Solar farm is the largest in Canada and has a total of 257 hectares covered with 1,300,000 solar panels, enough to power 12,000 homes on a sunny day.  Due to electrical grid limitations there will be no more panels installed on this site.  The remaining 188 hectares of the Enbridge property have been designated for conversion to tall grass prairie and these areas were the subject of our visit.  The very secure property is normally inaccessible to visitors so this was a unique opportunity to see these large grassland areas close-up.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

The highlights of the outing were multiple sightings of Grasshopper and Clay-colored Sparrows. Both rare species were observed in the tallgrass prairie rehabilitated areas and these birds are evidence that restoring habitat does have the positive outcomes expected.  Other bird species observed were: Killdeer, Brown-headed Cow Bird, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Eastern Kingbird, Turkey Vulture, Cedar Waxwing, Meadowlark, American Crow, Yellow Warbler, Field Sparrow, Hairy Woodpecker, Great Blue Heron, Grasshopper Sparrow (3), Clay-coloured Sparrow (7), Mourning Dove, Common Yellowthroat, Starling, Common Grackle, Northern Flicker, Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Red-tailed Hawk, Robin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

Clay-coloured Sparrow on cup plant

Kudos to Larry for organizing and leading this activity, it really was an awesome day!  A special thank you to Enbridge for allowing us to visit the property and for planting this habitat.  Indeed it is encouraging for all naturalists to see the relatively short term effects of planting tall grass prairie.  Imagine what might be possible when other land areas are restored in this manner.

Goldfinch enjoying the natural habitat

Please join us on Thursday evenings in July and August to view local gardens featuring native plants. Each tour will commence at 7:00pm. Learn from the garden experts about creating gardens with native plants to attract wildlife and benefit our environment.

August 3 – Mixed Habitat – 2200 Churchill Line. This is Nick’s place (LWI board member and current board secretary) located between Telfer and Brigden Line. For parking, take long driveway up to house and park on the mowed grass along the driveway.

The house has a natural woodlot behind it. Shawn had done previous landscaping here around 8 years ago and Nick has expanded on it over the last 3 years. It has a mix of habitats with a large diversity of plant species. The front has full/part sun meadow areas and some rain gardens. The back is open woods that range from upland to swampy and was once ash dominant but now has lots of gaps in the canopy due to the emerald ash borer. Part of this tour will include strategies about how to enhance an existing woodlot by removing non-natives and planting appropriate native species. This visit is bound to include lots of butterflies as it is prime giant swallowtail habitat.

Please join us on Thursday evenings in July and August to view local gardens featuring native plants. Each tour will commence at 7:00pm. Learn from the garden experts about creating gardens with native plants to attract wildlife and benefit our environment.

July 27 – Beachside Prairie Garden and woodlot at 1374 Lakeshore Road (East of Mater Drive).

Parking is available by taking the long driveway straight towards the beach with some parking options close to house. Visitors may need to park on the road.

This is a 7 year old garden with tallgrass prairie in front of the house and beach grass/dune habitat in back. This is one of Return the Landscape’s only full scale, full on tallgrass prairie gardens that is actually tall grass dominant. The front of the property is a natural woodlot with many native plant species, including sassafras and witch hazel.

Please join us on Thursday evenings in July and August to view local gardens featuring native plants. Each tour will commence at 7:00pm. Learn from the garden experts about creating gardens with native plants to attract wildlife and benefit our environment.

July 20th – Naturalized Downtown

This is actually a tour of four downtown gardens. To begin, meet at the park at the corner of Christina and Davis.

Our starting point is the Sarnia Urban Wildlife Garden.  This was one of Shawn McKnight’s first native gardens and is in the process of transformation from predominantly flowering tallgrass prairie species to lower growing drought tolerant species with a lot more grass. Our speaker will discuss the tough site conditions.  All the downtown gardens have tough site conditions, but this one probably the toughest. It could be our native gardening in tough places workshop! Problems included: wind, salt, poor or shallow soil, blowing garbage, foot traffic, weed seed…

Next is the Scotia Bank garden which has also underwent same transformation as above, but in this case the transformation is complete and we are very pleased with how this garden is performing. It’s a business, so Return the Landscape has had to find the right balance of wild and tidy.

The garden at First Sarnia Place is a series of large square concrete planters behind the apartment building. It represents a more corporate style of planting using only native plants.

The residential garden at the corner of Vidal and Cromwell has had both the front and side gardens naturalized. This location has an awesome rain garden just feet away from the sidewalk and people frequently do a “double take” when they walk by.

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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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LWI had two Sunday outings in May to look at wildflowers in Mandaumin Woods. Nick Alexander was our leader. He has a background in horticulture, works with Return the Landscape, and has a fascinating amount of information to share about the plants at Mandaumin Woods. On our first visit we were treated to quite a display of trillium. Two week later, on Mother’s Day, some of the trillium had started to turn pink as the blossoms aged. There was the occasional red trillium mixed in as well. May 13th was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods and it was remarkable to see the difference in the surroundings after just two weeks. On both instances, rubber boots were a must as the woodlot has significant amounts of water and the trail was muddy.

Each time I go on a plant walk, I am determined to take notes, but never do. Next time!

On May 13th the wild geranium were in bloom. In the wild, each plant supported only a few blooms and each plant was quite low growing. This is a contrast to the same plant grown in a garden setting. Garden plants are much taller and bushier with an abundance of blooms. Wild geranium is an indicator species of a Carolinian forest. Mandaumin Woods has an abundant supply of this plant as well as other Carolinian species. We have sugar maple, shagbark hickory, American beech, ironwood and muscle trees quite close to the trail. The hickory saplings are very distinctive as the leaves make a large flowerlike bud before they emerge. The woodland does not have a lot of non-native species and we have been attempting to get rid of the buckthorn that was near the road.

We saw spicebush, nannyberry, wild ginger, jack in the pulpit, trout lily, mayflower with early fruit, and anemone which were finished blooming by the second visit. There was quite a discussion about common names as some plants are known by as many as four or five different common names for the same plant. There is something to be said for learning the Latin names to avoid confusion.

For example my wildflower book says this is a large flowered bellwort but I think Nick said this was some kind of lily and a desirable garden plant. It looks rather wilted and but the drooping nature is just how it looks.

We passed around a small stem from a spicebush which was very aromatic.  One of our fellow trekkers informed me that it was the host plant of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly and that their native plant garden has had caterpillars of the swallowtail on their spicebushes.  We will be touring that native garden this summer as one of our native garden tours. The tour on August 10th has the incorrect address included in the brochure. The correct address should be 6719 Old Mill Road.

On the latter part of the walk we saw a red headed woodpecker and this grey tree frog among the trout lily leaves. Trout lily is a spring ephemeral which will disappear later in the summer.  The frog can change colour from grey to green depending on its surroundings.

This was an enjoyable outing. Next year we will be looking at wildflowers at Reid’s Conservation Area.

 

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

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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!