The weather did not co-operate for the LWI Frogs and Toads outing in April of this year. North winds were blowing over the Dow Wetlands and the temperature was a bit above zero. Everyone thought they were dressed for the outing. Most soon realized that they could have been better covered. Toques, hoods, gloves and winter coats were needed. Regardless, twenty people were interested enough to meet tour leader Kim Gledhill for the tour.
The LWI Guide to Natural Areas of Lambton County, 2009, reports “the idea for the Dow Wetlands was born when a large quantity of clean soil was required to cap a former Dow landfill site. Dow worked alongside local environmental groups and environmental firms to design the wetland complex. In 2002, the original 7 acre Dow Wetlands grew to 20 acres and is home to 8,000 trees and shrubs. The 7 ponds and streams are host to emergent plant life such as cattails, bulrushes and arrowhead which provide food and shelter for wildlife. The property is owned by Dow Chemical Canada Inc. but is open to the public during the day.”
The Wetlands are situated at the southwest corner of LaSalle Line and Highway 40.
Kim started the tour from a floating dock at the edge of one of the middle ponds. She explained that under normal conditions, we would see Leopard Frogs, Green Frogs and American Toads. We should have also heard them singing. This night, the frogs and toads had found warmer locations. She also explained that the Wetlands is home to Herons, Meadowlarks, Swallows, shorebirds, snakes, turtles and other birds and animals common to Lambton County.
Prior to the tour, Kim dipped the pond water looking for frog eggs. She didn’t find any, but came up with a few leaches and other insect eggs. She told us that usually when she steps onto the floating dock, the fish, that live under the dock, surface looking for a hand-out. This night, the fish didn’t show and were happily submerged at a warmer water level.
Passing nesting boxes along the trail, Kim talked about the Swallow population and how it changes from year-to year. Some of the Swallows, like the Tree Swallow, would nest in the boxes while others, like the Barn Swallow, would nest under the nearby Talfourd Creek Bridge on Highway 40. She also talked about the hills and grasses that exist at the Wetlands. They were designed into the site to discourage large numbers of geese. Geese still nest at the site and although hunting is prohibited, someone still took an arrow shot at a nesting goose. The arrow evidence is still present at a nest in the middle of one of the ponds. A goose still nests beside the arrow.
As we continued the tour, a bird was flushed out of the reeds. The lighting was poor and the sighting was short as the bird settled back into the reeds. Speculation was that we had seen a Sora.
Further North on the trail, Kim talked about Talfourd Creek and how it was totally separated from the Wetlands. She also talked about the beavers and how the liked to dam up the creek. Rain and higher water levels keep the beavers busy with repair work. Cedar Waxwings were also seen along this portion of the trail. Last year’s berries attracted the birds. Waxwings are not spooked easily. They sit just above eye level and wait for traffic to pass.
The tour was coming to an end as we came upon a couple more large ponds. Kim explained how the Wetlands regenerated themselves. The Wetlands were built so that water could be moved from a pond at the lower end of the chain and be re-circulated back to the beginning or upper level ponds. The water flows from the high level pond through the system of ponds and ditches back to the lower pond. To keep the environmental theme, the water is pumped by a wind mill. As long as the windmill moves the water, the Wetlands will remain.