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STORM DRAINAGE POND PROJECT

November 16, 2022

Article by Brian Reid

For most of the spring and summer of 2022, the storm drainage pond located immediately south of the Toronto Street parking lot to the SWNA has been the focus of attention and concern by committee members and the public.

Such ponds are created by developers to capture and filter storm runoff from residential areas. The grounds around this particular pond had become a significant center of biodiversity with a variety of songbirds, waterfowl, insects and amphibians calling it “home.”

iNaturalist data has identified approximately 100 species including: 13 species of dragonfly and damselfly;11 species of butterfly (the area is heavily used by monarchs during the fall migration as a nectaring and roost site); 3 amphibian species; 2 reptile species (a painted turtle was also observed in the pond this year) and 30 species of plants (11 or which are introduced species to Canada).

A yellow backhoe with it's bucket resting against the ground and a small white truck with a dumping trailer on it parked beside the backhoe in a meadow green with plants and a tree border.
A small orange backhoe, and an orange mini backhoe in a field that had the foliage cut down. There is a tree line along the back of the field.

When heavy equipment was moved into the area in late August, we were surprised. We were aware through municipal staff that the developer had an obligation to clean-out and complete the landscaping according to the approved engineering drawings under the subdivision agreement unfortunately, the developer mobilized prior to notifying the committee to complete the work. The work was halted while administrative matters were addressed, but by this time much of the ground cover which serves as a food source for monarchs had been destroyed. We suspect that this had a direct impact on the monarch butterfly population and therefore the reduced numbers that we were able to tag this year. (see blog article Monarch Numbers Down? on this site).

Several small diameter trees lined up in two rows sitting in pots.

The remediation work resumed after several weeks. The developer had the necessary consultants on site to rescue all amphibians/creatures during the work and had them relocated. Landscaping of the site began in late September. A significant variety and number of native shrubs and trees were planted including white pine, eastern cedar, spruce, trembling aspen, oak and maple.

A small pond surrounded by many newly planted trees.

So what remains to be done? We have been advised that some localized spraying will be done next spring to remove remaining invasive weeds from the site and the in water works at the storm pond outfall are anticipated to be completed sometime over the winter. We have also requested that some type of barricade be installed to prevent vehicles from accessing the area.

It is expected that much of the ground cover will recover naturally over time, but the overall appearance and composition of the area around the pond will be much different from what they were previously.

Photos by Leo Blindenbach and Brian Reid

MONARCH NUMBERS DOWN?

November 7, 2022

by Brian Reid

Our monarch tagging event on Saturday September 10th had everything we could have hoped for: terrific weather, a large enthusiastic crowd of participants, good media coverage – everything except the butterflies!

It was exciting to be able to hold the event as an in-person public event this year after two years of covid. Those attending were able to observe the tagging process, although it was more limited than in previous years.

Six people standing around a table with a person sitting at it recording information. There is also a butterfly net on the table.
Photo by Leo Bleindenbach

Author and activist Carol Pasternak from Toronto, known as the Monarch Crusader for her work with monarchs over the years, provided a display of caterpillars and pupa which everyone found fascinating. There were also activities for children provided by our friends at OPG to give them the opportunity to celebrate and learn about these iconic animals.

Until data is compiled by Monarch Watch and other organizations, it is too early to draw conclusions about provincial or national numbers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the overall migration was smaller than in previous years. Having said that, significant numbers of monarchs were observed passing through the area only two- three days after our event. The photo below was taken on September 14th along the waterfront, only 4 days after our event, and shows a sizeable Monarch roost.

A pine tree with several Monarch butterflies on it and several more flying around it.
Photo by Prof. Tom Hossie

It may well be that the migration period was simply delayed and condensed. Interestingly, numbers reported in the maritime provinces were at a 22 year high this year! In any given year, many factors can impact the size of the monarch population and migration. The survival rate of monarchs over- wintering in Mexico is one variable. Cold or other extreme weather events along the route north from Mexico can reduce the numbers of any of the multiple generations that return, thereby reducing the breeding stock. Weather extremes after arrival here, such as a late frost or an unusually hot, dry spring and summer, can affect hatch and survival rates, the availability of food sources etc.

A person's hand holding a stem of goldenrod that is still attached to the plant and has a Monarch butterfly perched on it.

Following the tagging event in September, members of the SWNA Management Advisory Committee undertook tagging on their own, at various times, until well into October. We were able to capture, tag and release approximately 125 monarchs.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in this year’s tagging. We look forward to examining overall migration data. We also look forward to seeing you all for next year’s event!

DINNER’S READY!!

August 18, 2022

As we prepare for our annual Monarch Butterfly Tagging event on September 10th (see the poster elsewhere on this blog), Mother Nature has been doing her part to “set the table” so to speak.

The wildflowers planted in this and previous years along the strip of parkland on Lakebreeze Drive, where our tagging event will take place, are in bloom. Observers have reported significant numbers of monarchs in that area, although it is still a bit early in the migratory season.

After a somewhat slow start, and despite the dry conditions, the pollinator garden in the Cobbledick meadow is awash with colour.

wild flowers including black-eyed susans and wild bergamot
wild flowers including black eyed susans and blazing star

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), wild asters, Wild Bergamot (also known as Bee Balm) and clover are present in large quantities, and some Blazing Star are also present.

wild flowers including Joe Pye weed

These plants are supplemented by large concentrations of native goldenrod and Joe Pye weed, both of which are favorite food sources for monarchs and other pollinators.

field of golden rod

So there is an abundance of food for hungry monarchs when they begin to make their way through Newcastle on their annual migration to Mexico.

Bon appetit!!

Article and Photos by Brian Reid

THEY’RE BACK – AND SO ARE WE!!

August 18, 2022

After a two year disruption due to Covid, we are able to resume our annual public Monarch Butterfly tagging event. Save the date: Saturday September 10th, 2022

BEE – ING ALONE

July 19, 2022

By Brian Reid

When most people think of bees, they think of honey bees or bumble bees, but there are actually 800 species of wild bees in Canada, and 420 in Ontario! By way of comparison, there are only 80 species of mammals in the province.

Other facts that many people are not aware of are that honey bees are not wild and are not native to Canada. They originated in Asia (some earlier research suggested Africa) and were brought to North America for honey production and crop pollination. In fact, there are no native bee species in Canada that make honey.

We also tend to think of bees as living in hives where large numbers threaten “intruders” with painful stings. In fact, while our 37 species of bumblebees are “social” – meaning they do congregate in hives of anywhere from 150-200 individuals – about 90% of wild bees are “solitary”.

Ontario’s native bees can be roughly grouped into these two categories—those that are social and live in colonies, and those that are solitary. Social bees have a queen, female workers, and males that all live in a communal nest together and divide up the tasks of the colony among them.

Unlike social bees, solitary bee females establish and provision nests on their own with no assistance from other individuals. There is no division of labor into queens, workers, or drones. Because nests are established by lone females, these bees will not attempt to defend their nest sites through aerial sting attacks. In other words, you are in little danger of being stung by the vast majority of bees that you will encounter in Ontario.

The main types of solitary bees are Leafcutter, Digger, Carpenter, Miner, and Mason bees. Interestingly, a single mason bee can pollinate the same amount as 120 worker honey bees! Solitary bees are often overlooked but are of the utmost importance to the environment.

Solitary bees use holes in decaying wood or mud banks, dry hollow tubes/stems from a variety of plants etc. as nest sites. This is where our newly installed bee hotels come in.

A bee box which is a small wooden box filled with pinecones, hollow reeds, and small pieces of wood with holes, mounted on a metal pole with only one side open at the front which is about to be closed in with a mesh frame.
Photo by Leo Blindenbach

To assist our native, predominantly solitary bee population to find suitable nesting sites, we have installed a number of specially designed “bee hotels” at various locations throughout the SWNA including in and adjacent to our wildflower meadow garden. Installation was completed on Friday July 15 by Committee members Leo Blindenbach, Brian Reid and super volunteer Kevin Leckie.

These special boxes were constructed by students at Courtice Secondary School as part of a program sponsored by O.P.G. and donated to our Committee. They are made entirely from natural materials. Kevin affixed backing plates and u bolts to each box so they could be held securely on U bars provided by the municipal works department.

You will see in the photo that tubes of various diameters have been collected and placed in the box, together with pieces of wood and various cones used as spacers. Holes have been drilled in other larger pieces of wood.

The bee females create cells for their eggs in the tubes and holes openings by depositing the eggs and partitioning each cell with a ball of pollen stuck together with nectar for the larvae to eat. Interestingly, they lay their eggs placing females in the back and males in the front of the tubes/holes because males emerge sooner in the spring. The cells are then capped and sealed using materials such as mud, leaves, or sap. When the bees hatch, they emerge, mate, and start the cycle again.

Seehttps://www.keysforbees.com/about-solitary-bees for more information

A gentleman is mounting a bee box on a metal pole.
Photo by Brian Reid

We would like to express our appreciation to the students of Courtice Secondary School and O.P.G. for their support for our habitat enhancement program and to Port of Newcastle resident Kevin Leckie for his assistance with installation.

3400 and Still Counting!

June 3, 2022

by Brian Reid

The truck from Chalk Lake Greenhouses rolled up to the gazebo along Lakebreeze Drive at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 28th to begin yet another day of wildflower planting.

The back of a white cube truck with the door open and two men in the back, and one woman standing on the ground with a tray of plants in her hands. They are unloading plants.
SWNA Committee members Leah Bourgeois and Rod McArthur help Chalk Lake Greenhouse owner Martin Galloway (rear) offload flats of wildflowers 
Photo by Brian Reid

An older man standing in a grassy area with Lake Ontario behind him. He is smiling and holding a tray of plants and a woman is standing beside him holding a pair of work gloves and smiling.
Committee members Leo Blindenbach and Kristen Brent
Photo by Willy Woo

In May 2017, the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area Management Advisory Committee began what has become a popular annual spring event – planting wildflowers along a strip of parkland along Lakebreeze Drive in the Port of Newcastle. The project is part of an overall initiative to enhance habitat and food sources for monarch butterflies and other pollinators, including many native bee species. Covid 19 prevented the Committee from undertaking planting in 2020, but with that one exception, the project has been continuous. Including the 700 plants placed this year, approximately 3400 native wildflowers of different varieties have now been planted: Blazing Star, Purple Cone Flower, Wild Bergamot, Common Milkweed, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed and New England Aster.

Native plants in a pot being transplanted
Photo by Brian Reid

Funding has been generously provided each year by Ontario Power Generation, without whose support the project would not have been possible.

Committee members undertook the plantings on their own in 2021 because of the restrictions imposed by Covid. However, in all other years, including this one, the plantings have been a public affair. Between 40 and 50 people, including many children, helped out this year. The 700 holes were marked and pre-dug the day before to make the planting itself that much easier.

Two young ladies kneeling and planting native plants with several people in the background in various stages of doing the same.
Photo by Willy Woo
Two women bending over planting native plants in a long grassy area with Lake Ontario in the background.
Photo by Willy Woo
Two people smiling and kneeling while they are planting native plants with several others in the background in the various stages of doing the same off to their left. To their right is Lake Ontario in the background.
Photo by Willy Woo

Historically, planting has been focused largely along Lakebreeze Drive. However, it was extended this year to the Cobbledick side of the Nature Area to supplement the wildflower meadow garden established there two years ago. Three hundred plants were placed there and additional seeding will take place in the next week.

A group of nine people standing around a sign entitled "No Abandoned Fields Here!" with a field of native plants in the background
The Cobbledick Crew
Photo by Ken MacNaughton

Thank you to our committee members and volunteers for making this another successful event!

Special thanks to Ontario Power Generation for its continued support of this and so many other environmental and community projects!

DOING THEIR BEST, DOING A GOOD TURN DAILY, HELPING OTHER PEOPLE AT ALL TIMES…

May 10, 2022

By Brian Reid

The above words are all part of scout “law“, and were on display recently at the Nature Area. Members of the 4.5 Bowmanville Scouting Group, their leaders, and a number of parents, linked up with members of the SWNA Management Advisory Committee on April 26th to install a dozen new bird boxes.

Missing from the above photo are a number of cubs who made boxes and leader Terri Strawn (Akela)

The enterprising youngsters made the boxes from plans provided by the Nature Area Committee, and wood and materials donated by Rona Hardware of Newcastle. Rona owner John Albi has been a generous long-time supporter of any number of worthwhile causes in our community and we thank him for all he has done for our organization.

Before heading into the meadow where the boxes were to be placed, the scouts gathered to drill mounting holes in the back plates of the boxes and affix plastic ties for securing them to t-bars which had been previously installed.

L-R : Ted Watson, Scout Kent Watson and Scouter Rob Maciver

The nesting boxes were placed just north of the waterfront trail along Toronto Street to complement others previously located in that part of the Nature Area. Although all of the boxes shared a common design suited to bluebirds and tree swallows, some were built with smaller openings to serve as homes for wrens.

We would like to thank the scouts and their leaders for their initiative in providing additional homes for our feathered friends.

Scout Bennett Austin and Scouter Justin Hughes

Photos by Brian Reid

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK

May 9, 2022

By Brian Reid

My mother taught me a long time ago that “many hands make light work“, and once again it has proved accurate. The annual spring cleanup of the Port of Newcastle, the community of Bond Head and our own Nature Area brought 180 volunteers together on April 23rd to pick up litter along streets, ditches and trails.

Four people standing on a grassy trail next to a creek wearing gloves and holding bags of collected garbage
Photo by Sharon Grant-Young

The event is an annual affair and participation has grown every year. Even the somewhat iffy weather this year was no deterrent. Volunteers were dispatched throughout the above areas starting about 10:00 a.m. By the time they had returned to the Admirals Walk Clubhouse at noon, approximately 20 cubic yards of assorted detritus had been gathered for pickup by the municipality. One of the worst areas for litter was along Toronto Street. Household garbage and yard waste (including plastic pots); cans and bottles; foam and paper cups from fast-food outlets; construction materials – you name it, we found it.

Three young people standing near a silver cargo van and they are wearing gloves and holding bags of collected garbage
Photo by Sharon Grant-Young

Back at the Clubhouse, Palmieri’s No Frills Newcastle donated the provisions for a barbecue of burgers and hotdogs which were prepared by Shane Armstrong (Owner of Kelsey’s Roadhouse in Bowmanville) and Greg Lewis (Greg Lewis Insurance). Algoma Orchards provided apples and cider. Kaitlin Developments made the Clubhouse and parking lot available and provided coffee and hot chocolate. The Municipality of Clarington provided the cleanup supplies and arranged to pick up the gathered refuse. All in all a true community effort!

Thanks everyone!

So yes, “many hands do make light work“. It is unfortunate that a few hands can create a lot of it!

PLANTINGS FOR POLLINATORS

May 6, 2022
Plantings for Pollinators Event on May 28, 2022 at 10 am. A Dad with his teenage son and two young daughters are all bending down with shovels in a meadow. The Dad and one daughter are holding a plant together to place it in the ground.

EMPTY (the) NEST SYNDROME

April 19, 2022

Early April is time for spring cleaning so on Thursday April 7th we undertook our annual clean out of our nesting boxes.

Three distinguished gentlemen standing next to a nesting box in an open field in early spring. One gentleman is using a screwdriver to open the nesting box, while one is using his hand to steady the box, and another is holding a clipboard.
John McFeeters and SWNA Committee members Rod McArthur and Carmen Aiello
Photo by Brian Reid

Tree swallows circled overhead as we worked, eager to begin nesting for another season.

It seems someone else was eager as well because most of the boxes we checked had already been emptied. Several had been secured to the t- bars with coated wire, something which we do not use; some had been repositioned to face the wrong way; others had additional screws affixed in such a way that it made opening them for cleanout more difficult.

Similarly, someone has constructed a large vertical nesting box with multiple compartments and affixed it to our martin house pole in the Cobbledick meadow.  Again, the addition of nesting boxes is not unwelcome but it must be remembered that the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area (SWNA) is municipally-owned property entrusted to our committee to “manage“. With respect to nesting boxes, it is our responsibility to ensure that numbers, locations, specifications, timing of installation, cleanout and monitoring meet our requirements and are compatible with our overall goals.

We do appreciate that others wish to help but when such things are done without our prior knowledge, it results in duplication of effort and, more importantly, interferes with our ability to capture valuable data on occupancy rates etc. Accordingly, we ask everyone to contact us before undertaking anything of this sort.

Thank you.

Brian Reid, Chairperson

Samuel Wilmot Nature Area Management Advisory Committee