The Preserving Biodiversity Series
This spring, we launched the Preserving Biodiversity Series to celebrate 20 years of conservation! This series of events promotes biodiversity and the important role of land stewardship in its protection. The series began with two workshops which promoted stewardship on privately owned land. The workshops were funded in part by WWF-Canada’s Go Wild Community Grant!
The first workshop, The Birds, the Bees, and Everything in Between, focused on species at risk. We wanted to cover those rare species and ecosystems that are characteristic of the Grey-Bruce area and how landowners can help support existing populations.
Jarmo Jalava, a professional ecologist, started the day off with rare habitats, flora and herpetofauna species. We learned about the habitat requirements of a variety of flora species like Hill’s Thistle. He also brought some good news! Due to population increases the Eastern Milksnake might be removed as a species at risk! He even provided helpful tips as to where to locate near-by populations of rare flora like Dwarf Lake Iris and Lakeside Daisy!
Jody Allair from Bird Studies Canada gave us an overview of the state of our birds. He focused on forest birds and briefly spoke about the massive decline in aerial insectivore populations. He emphasized that there are several birds at risk that many of us don’t realize are at risk because they seem to be everywhere – like the Barn Swallow and Wood Thrush – or because we don’t know we should be looking for them – like the Cerulean Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. He gave us examples of their habitat requirements and told us that there is still much to learn about the range of many of these species.
The day ended with bumblebees at risk presented by Sarah Johnson from Wildlife Preservation Canada. She showed us how to identify bumblebees and report observations through Bumblebee Watch. WPC’s new initiative had her team build over 200 bumblebee boxes which are being placed in locations across Ontario. The goal is to better understand how man-made bumblebee boxes are used in nature; will the bumblebees use them? Will they be used by non-native bee species? Participants were given the opportunity to bring home materials and instructions to build their own bumblebee box. Those who chose to take home these materials have the chance to take part in the beginning stages of this citizen science project!
The next workshop, Alien Invaders 101, covered invasive plants and was facilitated by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. Kellie Sherman talked about phragmites, garlic mustard and buckthorn. Providing useful information on identification and approaches to control and removal of these plants. Kellie also provided landowners with native alternatives to garden plants with invasive tendencies.
Allison Morris covered reporting methods for invasive species. She went into detail about the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS). This allows citizens to report invasive species in their area through the website or a smartphone app! If you aren’t sure if you are looking at something invasive, take a photo and submit it. Staff will use the photo to confirm the observation or they will conduct an on-site inspection. You can also give them a call if you want more information on invasive species management!
The workshop ended with an outdoor expedition! We all went outside and located a single buckthorn on the property. Kellie demonstrated both how to identify the plant as well as how to remove it using…wait for it…an Extractigator! A handy tool that pulls out these plants right from the root!
Remember to always report your observations. You know your land better than anyone and you know what’s on it! It doesn’t have to be a species at risk or an invasive species. Many of these applications want observations of all species so we can build on our baseline data. This will allow us to track changes in populations and better understand species distributions! If you aren’t sure what it is, take a photo, guess at a possible species and submit it! Easy to use applications are available for eBird, Reptile and Amphibian Atlas, Bumblebee Watch, and EDDMapS. The more we know about where species occur, the better our understanding of their populations and distribution!
The series will continue with two bioblitzes on June 10th and 11th. A bioblitz is an intensive biological inventory wherein participants survey an area and identify as many things as possible! Members of the public are encouraged to attend these events to better understand the diversity of life that occurs in their backyards. We will have experts join us to help identify flora and fauna and conduct an intensive survey in the morning. In the afternoon, we will host a guided blitz which will be open to the public and you will get the opportunity to explore one of our nature reserves. Experts will bring you to the most exciting areas of the property and be sure to show you any rare observations. This will also be your chance to explore the site and make discoveries of your own!