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…)
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.
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
Below are two of the opening speeches giving some insight into the tremendous importance of this Reserve.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
The trilliums were in full bloom throughout much of the woods, mostly the white variety with a few red ones intermingled.
Interestingly, a yellowish colored trillium was spotted; upon later investigation it appears that this was a sub-species of red 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.
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.
Last year I attended the Birding Course put on by Lambton Wildlife over the course of several weeks. Many presenters shared their wisdom and experience on identifying, locating, and photographing birds, as well as the equipment and references needed to succeed as a birder.
The last part of the event was a morning walk through Canatara Park on a beautiful morning, April 30th, 2016. Many of the course attendees showed up with their binoculars and their new found enthusiasm to identify birds by sight and sound.
Winter is magical time to visit Mandaumin Woods. The sun shining through the trees casts beautiful long shadows in the glistening snow. As you wander the trail you can see the prints of squirrels, deer, rabbits, skunks, fox, and other small rodents.
In winter, voles travel in tunnels beneath the insulating snow – you can look for the tell-tale small round holes they make in the snow when they come up to the surface. Voles look a lot like house mice – with a shorter tail and a more rounded muzzle and head. Voles eat plants and seeds while moles are looking for insects. Come out and enjoy beautiful Mandaumin Woods!
Thinking of going out for a walk? Want a change- why not take a walk at Wawanosh Wetlands. Oh sure, purists will argue that it never became the wetlands that were planned, but it has still become a great place for nature- in all seasons- and it can be a very nice walk.
Wawanosh can be hard to find if you don’t know exactly where it is. It is located at 6013 Blackwell Side Road, in Sarnia. The entry way is a narrow single- car width road entrance between two residential lots. There is a large sign at its entrance- but you don’t see it until you are upon it, so drive slowly. There is a small parking lot once you drive down the long laneway. As soon as I turn off Blackwell, the radio goes off and I open the windows to see what I can hear.
The parking lot sits at the edge of the first of two ponds. There are usually some ring-bill and herring gulls, a blue heron or two and mallards that you can see from your car in the first pond. If you are lucky there are a few even more interesting birds, like Bonaparte gulls, Caspian Terns and even more unusual finding like the Franklin’s gull was seen here in 2015. Wood ducks, Green Wing Teals and Black ducks might be seen and, of course, the ever present Canadian Geese will be there for certain.
But, come on, get out of the car- there is a 2.5 km trail awaiting you, and that does not include the midway connection to the Suncor Nature Way.
I have seen 140 different species of birds here. According to E-bird, the most different species seen by one person over the years is 178! 223 species have been recorded for this location on E-Bird. 25 kinds of Warblers, Soras, hawks, waxwings…you just have to look. And the ducks – on a good day you can see redheads, canvasbacks, ring-necks, ruddy ducks, buffleheads, coots, teals and wood ducks – and there’s more.
Not convinced yet? I’ve seen hummingbird moths and praying mantises, dragonflies and bees. There are butterflies in the open areas, sulphurs , crescents, swallowtails too! There are plants and flowers and thistles. If you like nature, Wawanosh will show you something to make you smile.
Keep your eyes open for the turtles, beavers and wild turkeys.
About 1/3 of the way around the outside trail there is a bench that looks over the second pond where you can relax, and then just behind you is the bridge that leads to Suncor nature way if you want to extend your walk. The trail at this point continues along the creek, but where it slopes back down to start the return journey- I turn back. It can get very muddy down there. That doesn’t deter everyone – don’t let it deter you! By this time I’ve usually already spent about 2.5 or 3 hours and its usually time for me to head back. If you are walking and not birding, the trail takes about 45 minutes to one hour.
Everyone who regularly goes to Wawanosh has their own path they take. I always start to the right of the parking lot and walk along the cedars…where I saw a Blackburnian Warbler at eye level. The first bend to the left is where I saw my first Palm Warblers. I then always walk up along the path to the bench and stop and then check the bridge- some times you can see warbles hawking insects there…and they are at or below eye level! I saw my first Redstart, Wilsons and Blackpolls warblers here. Then I continue the walk beside the creek where I saw my first Lambton County Golden Wing Warbler. I walk to the next bend and turn back, I return to the parking lot along the path between the two ponds.
It’s along here I see my Swallows, Waxwings, and hear the Marsh Wrens.
If it is waterfowl season before I turn into the parking lot I go and check out the viewing tower to the right along the front of the second pond. It is a shame that the phragmites are so tall, at 5’3 ½’ it can be hard to see all the ducks that are often on this side – but I make it work – just be prepared to lift the kids up so they can see too.
So, next time your thinking of a walk..think- why not Wawanosh- I’m sure you wont be disappointed.
Free access……picnic tables…
Port – A – Potty during the summer
A walk through Mandaumin Woods in autumn is a bonanza of brilliant colours! Depending on when you visit the trail many different ferns and fungi can be seen; during the Mandaumin Woods bioblitz 11 different species of fungi were found (Polyporus alveolaris, Stereum ostrea, Hygrocybe punicea, Polyporus squamosus, Scutellinia scutellata, Crepidotus mollis, Pleurotus ostreatus, Hygrocybe nitida, Fuligo septica, Marasmius rotula, Panus conchatus).
There are eleven species of trees in Mandaumin Woods, including the Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata). The Shagbark Hickory is interesting because of its shaggy appearance, which also makes it an easy tree to identify. It is native to Canada and is extremely hard and dense making it very useful in making tool handles and furniture.
A Wallaceburg company, Hillerich and Bradsby, once used Shagbark Hickory trees (among other kinds of wood) in the manufacture of baseball bats and other sporting equipment. H&B were most famous for producing the Louisville Slugger Baseball bat. (more…)
Saturday was a perfect day for 45 nature enthusiasts to enjoy a beautiful hike! The hike was hosted by Lambton Shores Nature Trails and led by Klaus Keunecke who provided information about the history of the trails before we headed out. (more…)