Nature Trail at Fairbank Oil

October 29 @ 12:00 pm4:00 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.

Mystery Falls Hike

October 14 @ 9:00 am2:00 pm

 

Meet at 9am at Lambton Mall parking lot near Canadian Tire, or 10am at Elm Tree Road, west off Sylvan Road, at trail head.

Let’s enjoy the fall colours on one of the most scenic trails in our area to see Mystery Falls and the unique habitats.

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.