Lambton Wildlife Inc. is pleased to announce that we are re-opening both the Mandaumin
Woods Nature Reserve and the Karner Blue Sanctuary for hiking. With many parks reopening
we feel it’s appropriate to open our trails too. Please continue to observe physical distancing
guidelines when visiting LWI trails and follow the signs for direction of travel so that you do not
have to step off the trail to pass oncoming hikers.

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Goderich Ontario has some of the most spectacular sunsets along the shores of Lake Huron. The “prettiest town in Canada” is a small, historically rich town with character and beauty. It is nestled on top of bluffs overlooking the lake, which allows sunset lovers to take in the sunset twice every day!

In the video below, Nature Lover Canada takes you along St. Christopher’s Beach to experience one of Goderich’s sunsets during a calm evening in June. Sit back and enjoy the peaceful music and the sounds of the lake.

Click below to watch the video now.

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The Pinery Provincial Park is located along the shores of Lake Huron in Lambton County. The park features a variety of trails that takes hikers through diverse habitats including Oak Savannas and Coastal Dune Ecosystems. Naturalists can find over 800 vascular plants throughout the park and over 300 bird species have been spotted throughout the year!

The park offers a large number of campsites and roofed accommodations, comfort stations, a park store, a pet exercise area (beach), picnic shelters and a Visitor Centre. Visitors can also rent bikes, canoes, paddle boats and kayaks to either explore the Old Ausable Channel or other parts of the park. Whether you are looking for an amazing place to spend the day or to camp, the Pinery has so much to offer and it’s open year-round.

One of the most popular and beautiful aspects of the Pinery is it’s 10 kilometres of sandy beach which boasts spectacular sunsets, shallow water and 9 different access points. They even have an entire beach just for your canine family members!

To experience the beauty of the beaches of the Pinery, watch the video below and listen to the calming sounds of the gentle waves washing upon the shore.

Sydenham River Nature Reserve Tree Planting

On October 5, twenty enthusiastic naturalist from Lambton Wildlife Inc. (LWI) and Sydenham Field Naturalists (SFN) planted more than a thousand tree seeds, as another step toward restoring Sydenham River Nature Reserve (SRNR) to its natural state.  Oak, Hickory, Beech, Ironwood, along with other tree species were planted; all from seeds that were gathered from SRNR. The purchase of this property, by Ontario Nature, was made possible by the generous donations from both LWI and SFN.  Both LWI and SFN continue to support SRNR by being stewards of the property, and with on-going donations towards its restoration.

 

Monday, January 28 is the LWI Annual Member’s Photofest

Four LWI members will be showing off some of their favorite nature photos at our Member’s Photofest Night.  Past events have been a real treat as we all get a chance to view some of the amazing images our members capture during their forays into natural areas.  It’s a natural way to kick off our first indoor meeting of the New Year, so please plan to attend.  Social time begins at 7:00 PM.

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What a beautiful day for a paddle!  The weather looked threatening but by 9:30 it had cleared up and the sun even came out.  We began our paddle at the Wilkesport Boat launch and a few minutes after leaving we were lucky enough to see a muskrat swimming along the shore.

Where the Sydenham splits into Bear and Black Creek we stopped and talked about the numerous species that can be seen along, and in, the river – several of which we were lucky enough to see on our paddle.  There are 34 species of Mussels that have been found in the Sydenham River (11 of which are on the species at risk list) – more mussel species than any other body of water in Canada! The Sydenham also has 83 species of fish, many of the turtle species that can be found in Ontario (all of which are at risk) and many bird species.

As we talked about the importance of the Sydenham River a Green Heron flew right toward the group – it was a great sight as usually these birds fly away from you, not toward you!  A little further down Bear Creek we spotted the Great Horned Owl – which we got to see several more times – what a treat.  We also saw several Map and Painted Turtles, muskrats, Great Blue Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, and many other bird species.

Everyone who came out enjoyed the paddle.  A big Thank You to Dawn Mumford and the Wallaceburg Canoeing Club for providing canoes for the outing.

(Photo credits: Tricia Mclellan and Paul DeLaDurantaye)

I’ve been lucky enough to join on with the stewardship team for the Sydenham River Nature Reserve. On Sunday morning our group went out on one of our 3 annual visits (spring, summer, fall) and here is a quick blog post to give folks a feel for what this sort of work entails – and to recruit for any other interested volunteers! The purpose of the visit is both to submit our observations on any changing conditions on the property, keep an eye out for increases in invasive species, any fallen trees, and flooding; and also to document wildlife that we encounter. On that front we were very successful, documenting a total of 43 bird species including cerulean warbler, blue-winged warbler, scarlet tanager, and noting various evidence of breeding. We also added to on-going lists of plants and insects found on the property.

The day started out with a walk down a tractor lane-way past a farm field, where we stopped and listened numerous times for birds and watching for evidence that they are not just migrants, but potentially singing on breeding territory. A scarlet tanager pair with female making trips back and forth from a cluster of high branches carrying nesting material was noted, providing strong evidence that they are readying to breed. Cerulean warblers could be heard singing but they were so far up it was impossible to get views despite forays from the main trail.

Photo Credit: Taylor Jones

From there we hiked straight up towards the fork and west into the large field; the sun was hot on our backs as we hiked clockwise around the field listening and watching. In past visits we have travelled along the ravine system around this field however this time we stuck to the field, getting good looks at butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects including shiny green tiger beetles. Also noted, seemingly out of place in the hot field, was a wood frog.

Photo Credit: Taylor Jones

Once we reached the north edge we left the hot sun in favour of the cooler forest and made our way towards the river, looking for evidence of turtles, aquatic mammals, birds, and insects along the river. As we travelled we also carefully lifted up bark and wood to look for snakes or salamanders and rocks along the river to look for insects. One such rock turned up the alien-like dobsonfly larvae shown below; and what might terrify some people delighted our group of nature nerds.

Photo Credit: Dick Wilson

The river yielded good looks and listens to other bird species including yellow throated vireo, mourning warbler, and american redstart. We also noted water conditions and took GPS coordinates of a tree stand that had been used for past hunting before we headed back out to the main path. Once back, we again heard the buzzing of cerulean warbler song and this time were rewarded with great views.

Photo Credit: Mark Buchanan

We finished the tour and back to the cars to stop over on the north side of the river for some lunch and further listening and viewing. Throughout the walk and lunch there was a lot of interesting discussion around restoration. Because the SRNR is a very new Ontario Nature reserve, there is restoration required, much of which centers around some small farm fields on the property which need to be converted into wildlife habitat. A restoration plan with numbered objectives was created by the experts at Ontario Nature, fed by lots of input including BioBlitz events in 2017, steward reports, and of course their own site visits. Talking with the stewardship team has given me a better understanding about the pit and mound techniques planned, drilling/broadcasting seed, and the succession ecology which will eventually yield the final desired ecosystem. Vernal pools and mounds will allow the best use of water resources by establishing means for the floodplains to hold and retain moisture for longer periods of time. It will be exciting to watch things develop over the next few years.
Although these properties are stewarded by local nature clubs, they are owned by other organizations; in this case SRNR is of course owned by Ontario Nature. This beneficial relationship allows the resources and structure of larger organizations to support ownership and large initiatives but still have some local on-the-ground oversight completed by passionate local individuals. The steward team is consulted as a source of information but can also help with fundraising and advocacy.

Photo Credit: Mark Buchanan

There are a lot of engaging ways to get involved in Sydenham Field Naturalists – joining one of our property stewardship teams is one of these ways! SFN stewards 5 different properties and needs people of all different levels of experience who are committed to visiting the properties, making observations, and providing recommendations. Stewardship groups can offer a unique opportunity to learn and contribute to citizen science, even for those like myself who are still learning many of the plant and animal species.

Written by Taylor Jones, Sydenham Field Naturalist

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.

Vintage Oil Well Pump

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/

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We enjoy canoeing on the Sydenham River in the spring and summer, but probably our favourite season for paddling this river is autumn.  This year the month of October had warmer than normal weather and we took advantage of a forecasted picture perfect day with no wind and sunny skies for our last paddle of the season.  Heading upstream (north) from near Wilkesport, the north branch of the Sydenham River begins where Black Creek and Bear Creek merge.  Either of these tributaries is interesting so we paddled both.  Trees on the riverbank were showing their fall colours and leaves floated on the river going neither north nor south as there is very little current this time of year.  Temperatures were comfortable and the bright sun sparkled on the water’s surface.

 

Coming around the first bend in Bear Creek, we spotted a group of Wood Ducks in the water under an overhanging tree.  They didn’t notice us and we were able to glide closer and see what we believe were first fall males along with adult males and females.  It was a great juxtaposition between the young and mature males: the juveniles are colorful, but their feathers look scruffier.  The adult male however is a gentleman of distinction; beautiful colors and smooth overall.   Before we got any closer than 60 meters the group took off and headed upstream.  We saw them again from a distance, but then they were wary of us and we never got close again.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

 

Wood Duck adult male

Great Blue Herons were abundant on both creeks; we observed at least five individuals, all immatures.  These birds typically enjoy having long sections of the river to themselves and in some cases they clearly didn’t appreciate the proximity of other Herons, vocally scolding the heron who encroached into their range.  We were lucky enough to watch a Great Blue Heron catch a fish; close enough (40 meters) for decent photos but far enough not to disturb the bird.  The herons stand motionless, and then lunge into the water with startling speed to snatch an unsuspecting fish.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

 

The Herons also put on quite a show in flight, with their plumage reflecting the bright blue sky and fall colored leaves in the background.  It’s amazing to see the way individual flight feathers are used when the bird is landing.

Great Blue Herons have specialized feathers on their chest that continually grow and fray. The herons comb this “powder down” with a fringed claw on their middle toes, using the down like a washcloth to remove fish slime and other oils from their feathers as they preen. Applying the powder to their underparts protects their feathers against the slime and oils of swamps.

 

Great Blue Herons are excellent fishers.  They exhibit great patience, standing very still in shallow water or on the shore, waiting for a fish or frog to stray too near.  Sometimes the Herons stand on one leg, which doesn’t appear to affect their ability to remain motionless.

For the most part, despite the near silence of a canoe, it’s hard to approach ducks much closer than 75 meters and the Mallards we saw were no exception.  At the first glimpse of the boat they would burst into the air in a flurry of water drops and wingbeats.

Along the riverbanks we observed numerous small birds, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Robins, a few different species of Sparrows, American Goldfinch, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays.

 

After five hours of paddling up and downstream, we were back to where we put in, a Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead in a cloudless sky making his trademark shriek.  Another awesome fall canoe trip was over.  We highly recommend canoeing the Sydenham; it’s truly a hidden gem of Lambton County.  For more information on this river and how to locate the boat launch site, please refer to our post from last year: http://lambtonwildlife.com/blog/natural-areas/paddle-the-sydenham-river/

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Fall is a spectacular time to paddle!  We were fortunate to have a picture perfect day to canoe through the Sydenham River Nature Reserve.

The water levels were very low (see below) which meant getting out of our canoe often but both the weather and the water were very warm.  In the spring the water level is high and there are rapids and a swift current to contend with so this would not be the time of year for novice canoeist to paddle through the Reserve.

Picturesque scenery was the word of the day and we enjoyed an interesting array of flora and fauna as we paddled.

The Sydenham River Nature Reserve is home to an incredible 34 species of mussel, 11 of which are listed as at-risk; making it the freshwater mussel capital of Canada!  Freshwater mussels are the longest-lived invertebrates. They are living water filters moving as much as eight gallons of water per day in through their siphon and over their gills to get oxygen and food.  This makes mussels exceptionally vulnerable to water pollution so the importance of keeping the Sydenham River and its ecosystem protected is of paramount importance.

Mussels move by extending their foot out of their shell and into the river bottom, then they retract the foot and pull themselves along.  In the photo below you can see the furrow that this mussel has made as it moved to a new location.

One of the highlights of the paddle was visiting the huge Sycamore tree that is in the reserve.  Ontario’s largest recorded Sycamore tree, near Alvinston, measures 263 cm at breast height.

The biodiversity found in the Sydenham River is impressive and we were thrilled to see so many butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies (including the American Rubyspot pictured below), waterfowl (a pair of American Widgeons are pictured below), and many other birds (the Bald Eagle pictured below flew past us several times and landed along the river to watch our progress).