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Temporary Road Closure Affecting Access to SWNA

April 23, 2021

ABOUT FACE!

May 3, 2021

Every year, the cobblestone beach takes on a slightly different look as wave action and fluctuations in the lake level do their thing. Even the outflow of Wilmot Creek can shift significantly.

This also means that the path leading to the beach on the east side of the creek also shifts. This past year, the shift was such that the interpretative sign located at the edge of the beach was now at right angles to the path.

As seen below, another “friend of Samuel Wilmot” resolved the problem for us.

Daniel Albi brought his high torque impact wrench and quickly repositioned the sign.

Young man kneeling on ground next to informational sign with torque wrench poised for repositioning sign

Thank you Daniel for your assistance!

Article by Brian Reid

Photo by Leo Blindenbach

HOP TO IT!!

April 30, 2021

When Monica Taylor and Joanne Carr asked us if we would like an unusual tree to add to our pollinator/wildflower garden, we jumped at the offer – or, rather, we “hopped to it“.

The tree was one of three Common Hop trees (Ptelea trifoliata) that they had growing in their own Bowmanville gardens. Hop trees are native to Ontario but are normally only found in southwestern Ontario and in the Niagara region. These had been sourced from a native plant grower north of Pickering. They were listed as a species of concern in December, 2016. “We wanted it to have a good home“, said Monica and Joanne who knew of our efforts at SWNA to improve pollinator habitat. Hop trees are pollinated by a large variety of bees, flies and beetles and are larval host plants for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly, itself a rare species.

Close up of flower on Hop tree
Hop tree in full bloom
Close up of keys on Hop tree

Monica, Joanne and SWNA Committee members Leo Blindenbach and Brian Reid carefully removed the 5 foot tree and replanted it in one corner of the one-acre wildflower plot in the Nature Area. “It should complement our other plantings very nicely“ said Reid.

Three people, two with shovels, digging up the Hop tree

Hop trees can grow to a height of 20 feet and prefer direct sunlight. The site where it has been placed will allow it room to grow and meets the requirements for sunlight. It will also be visible from the trail which runs along the length of the pollinator garden.

Two people standing behind the Hop tree planted

Thank you Monica and Joanne for your gift!!

Article by Brian Reid

Photos by Leo Blindenbach

MONARCH TAGS RECOVERED

April 23, 2021

As reported in this blog late last year, our annual fall Monarch Butterfly Tagging event had to be curtailed because of Covid restrictions. Tagging did take place, but was done by Committee members and a small number of experienced volunteers working individually, or in family “bubbles“, throughout the migration period.

The recovery of tags has also been curtailed by Covid as fewer persons were involved in the process this year. That means that monarch observers will not have as much data to work with as they have had in previous years. It should be noted that this does NOT mean that fewer monarchs were successful in reaching Mexico. Rather, it means that fewer tags were recovered because overall recovery efforts were reduced. However, we were delighted to learn recently that two tags affixed here in Newcastle by Committee members Patrick Bothwell and Tom Hossie were recovered in Mexico. A third, tagged in the Nature Area by volunteers John and Dianne McFeeters, was recovered in Illinois.

Closeup of a tagged Monarch butterfly being held by someone
Photo by Tom Hossie

Article by Brian Reid

ENJOYING THE TRAILS AT THE SAMUEL WILMOT NATURE AREA (SWNA)

April 23, 2021

With the Water Front Trail portion going through SWNA now paved, and more people enjoying SWNA to relieve some of the pandemic stresses, there is a large increase in usage of SWNA this year. If we all adhere to the rules and have respect for one another, we can make our time in the Nature Area a great experience for everyone. Thank you!

Pictogram of rules for sharing and using the trail.

Article by Brian Reid

THEY’RE BACK!

April 22, 2021

Some of us of a certain “vintage“ will recall the Leon Rene song “When The Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”.  Written in 1940, the song has been recorded by many prominent artists including Pat Boone, The Ink Spots and Bing Crosby. According to Wikipedia, it was written as a tribute to the annual springtime return of the cliff swallows to Mission San Juan in southern California.

Well, The Tree Swallows Have Returned to SWNA again this spring ( I’m still working on the song!) Committee members Rod McArthur, Leo Blindenbach and Brian Reid undertook our annual bird box cleanout and monitoring task on Thursday April 15th. Many swallows were dipping and diving overhead urging us to finish. One “early bird“ had already taken up residence and appeared to be as surprised as Leo was when he opened the box to clean it!

Closeup of a tree swallow inside nesting box with a small pile of twigs beside it.
“Hey – how about a little privacy here!”

The SWNA Committee maintains 70 to 75 nest boxes located throughout the nature area. Occupancy rate, as measured by the presence of nesting materials from the previous season, historically has been very high – between 90 and 95%. To our surprise this year, many of the boxes were empty. This set off alarm bells about declining numbers. There has been a significant decline in the number of aerial insectivores in many areas in recent areas. However, we believe there is another explanation.

Empty swallow nesting box with door open

It appears that some well-intentioned person or persons had undertaken to clean out many of our boxes without our knowledge. 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 and others had additional screws affixed in such a way that it made opening them for cleanout more difficult.

While we certainly appreciate the effort, we would ask that this not be done in future without our prior knowledge and consent. In this way, we can avoid duplication of effort and, more important, the loss of valuable occupancy data.

Article by Brian Reid

Photos by Leo Blindenbach

SWNA GETS NATIONAL EXPOSURE

April 21, 2021

While we wait eagerly to see the first blooms in our brand new one-acre wildflower/pollinator garden, we have been busy sharing our story.

Screen shot of Zoom meeting participants at presentation by Brian Reid on Best Practices at the Rights-of-Way Habitat Workshop
Virtual Presentation by Brian Reid on Best Practices for Rights-of-Way Habitat

Committee Chair Brian Reid (top left) made a virtual presentation on April 6th to managers and staff of the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s (CWF) Right-of-Way Habitat Restoration Program. The program is a national one, mandated to promote habitat restoration for pollinators. roadsides, power line corridors, and natural areas such as meadows and municipal parklands can make ideal sites for restoration projects. SWNA had been asked by the CWF to be part of a workshop to showcase Best Practices. Other presenters included B.C. Hydro, the City of Calgary, and the City of Oshawa and City of Cornwall in Ontario.

One of the most interesting aspects of the workshop was the vastly different scale of the various initiatives. The City of Calgary, for example, had set aside a budget of approximately $450,000 for its efforts which include virtually all of the trails and parklands within Canada’s third largest city. Our project, at the other extreme, focused on just what can be done by volunteers with no budget or dedicated professional expertise. We also placed our garden project squarely within the larger context of what we have been doing at SWNA over the past several years to improve habitat for monarchs, other pollinators, and even other species such as tree swallows and bats.

For more information about the Canadian Wildlife Federation and its Right-of-Way Habitat Restoration Program, just google the above or go to:

Article by Brian Reid

DIGGING UP THE DIRT!!

November 30, 2020

Our most recent blog entry covered the development of a one-acre wildflower/pollinator garden on the west side of the Nature Area.

After cultivation of the site began, we were approached by long-time friend of the Nature Area, Mr. John McFeeters of Oshawa, requesting permission to conduct metal detecting at that location. John is a retired elementary school Principal and former science teacher, an avid outdoorsman and amateur naturalist, a birder, and a skilled artist and carver. He has done metal detecting on many public and private properties over the years, including abandoned homesteads, schools and churches. Locally, this includes Ebor House; the site of the Samuel Wilmot homestead and Fish Hatchery; and the original Massey foundry site. A little farther from home, John has even unearthed Roman coins in England!

A picture of an older gentleman named John McFeeters with grey hair and a beard using a metal detector
John McFeeters

Below are photos of some of the artifacts that John found on his latest trip to Samuel Wilmot Nature Area (SWNA).

Six old rusty farming tool parts

1) – this is the tip of a plow. It is called a SHARE. No tractor used here, all horse power with the land owner walking behind the plow

2) – this is a metal wedge. I would think that it too was part of the plow, perhaps for adjusting depths. Similar to the wedges put into old woodworking planes.

3) – threaded bolt with nut

4) & 6) – horse tack – leather straps would have passed through the loops.

5) – small musket ball

Previous visits to the SWNA by John produced the following items:

Rusty old end from a pitchfork with 5 tines, 2 of which are broken
Hay Fork
Two rusty old clock parts and part of a rusty old hand forged chain
Clock Parts and a Length of Hand Forged Chain

John notes that the links of the hand forged chain are quite slender so were probably not used for any heavy duty work. It is more likely to have been used for something like keeping a gate closed.

Note the part at the top of the circular piece of the clock’s workings. It would have dropped into each sprocket as the tension-wound wheel turned. This would have made the ticking sound of the clock that would have been heard throughout the room.

John believes that the rectangular part would have been the main backing of the clock.

Many of the above artifacts have been donated to the Newcastle Historical Society.

We would like to thank John for his efforts in reconnecting us to this interesting part of the history of the Nature Area.

Article by Brian Reid

All Photos courtesy of John McFeeters

AND NOW WE WAIT!

November 19, 2020

There is an interpretative sign on the west side of the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area (SWNA) entitled “NO ABANDONED FIELDS HERE“. It refers to the fact that the fields in question have not been used as farmland for many, many years, but have become home to a large variety of flora and fauna. A portion of this area has now been cultivated again to accommodate a one-acre wildflower/pollinator garden.

As outlined in our blog article of August 5, 2020, this project began well over a year ago when the Nature Area was awarded a special grant by Wildlife Preservation Canada to purchase sufficient wildflower seed to establish the garden. Since only a small number of such grants are given out nationally, we consider ourselves fortunate indeed. It has allowed us to continue and expand the work we have done over the past several years to enhance habitat and protect essential pollinator species such as monarch butterflies and a variety of bees.

Green John Deere tractor mowing down weeds in a field

The labour and equipment required to cultivate and plant the site was generously provided by Kirk Kemp, owner of Algoma Orchards of Newcastle. The soil was turned over several times beginning late in 2019 to minimize future weed growth. The actual seeding was done by Mr. Kemp on November 4th. We now look forward to seeing the results of all of this next spring.

Green John Deere tractor cultivating field

Thank you to Kirk Kemp for his generosity and community spirit, and to SWNA Committee member Leo Blindenbach for spearheading this project.

Article By: Brian Reid

Photos By: Leo Blindenbach

BATters UP!!

September 3, 2020

At the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area, we are not just about “The Birds and the Bees” – or Butterflies. We DO maintain approximately 80 bird boxes, and everyone is aware of our various events and projects relating to monarchs and other pollinators. But now we have added another area of focus – BATS!

On Monday August 17th, four bat boxes were installed on the east side of the Nature Area to provide shelter for these interesting and often misunderstood little creatures.

Bat Box 1

Photo by Phil Rivait

The boxes were constructed by Port of Newcastle residents Kevin Leckie and Phil Rivait, who continue to be tremendous supporters of the Nature Area. Kevin and Phil have previously built and installed a number of birdhouses and the fishing line receptacles discussed in a recent blog article. The bat boxes were installed by Jeff Marchant of Newcastle (pictured below), a firefighter who is accustomed to being on tall ladders! Thank you gentlemen!

Bat Box 2

Photo by Cole Grammatikos

Each house measures 30” X 18” X 5“, and can accommodate as many as a hundred bats. Location is critical when placing bat boxes. They must be situated near water; must be 5 to 7 meters above the ground; must have a clear flight path to and from the boxes; and must be in a sunny location to ensure sufficient warmth for the occupants. They have been painted a dark colour for the same reason – dark colours absorb sunlight.

Generally speaking, trees are not the preferred mounting points for bat houses due to the proliferation of branches and the shade provided by foliage. However, ours have been placed on large dead trees with unobstructed southern and southeastern exposures. Look for them when walking along the path immediately west of the Sewage Treatment Plant.

Bag Box 3

Photo by Cole Grammatikos

Not all bat species native to Ontario are “communal“ (that they roost in large colonies). Those most likely to take up residence in a bat box are the Little Brown Bat, the Big Brown Bat and the Tri-Coloured bat.

About 70 percent of all bats are insectivores, including all of those native to Canada. They consume a staggering number of insects. A Little Brown Bat will eat 60 medium sized moths or 1000 mosquito sized insects in a single night of feeding!

Bat Box 4

Little Brown Myotis

Bat Box 5

Tri-Coloured Bat

For a comprehensive and very readable overview of bats in Ontario, visit:

Torontozoo.com/bats and click on Bat Conservation Guide.

Another excellent resource is:

https://onnaturemagazine.com/bat-guide.html

Article by: Brian Reid