Archives for 2012

Mike Jaycock Interviews the Land Trust

Listen to a radio interview by Mike Jaycock of Canoe FM.  Mike interviews Sheila Ziman, Chair of the Land Trust, and Simon Payn, Board Director about the Barry Wetland acquisition.  They also get a chance to chat about the Dahl Forest: Adopt an Acre fundraising campaign.

Dahl Forest Winter Trails
Photo by Peter Dahl

Land Trust Acquires Fourth Nature Reserve

The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust has acquired its fourth nature reserve – a wetland complex near South Lake.

The 100-acre property, which is home to many important species and habitats, strengthens a block of nearby protected areas, which include the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park, Snowdon Park and adjoining Crown land.

The property was given to the Land Trust by Dennis Barry through Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides tax incentives to people who wish to donate ecologically important land for future protection.

Dennis and his wife, Margaret Carney, are keen birdwatchers who run the local Christmas Bird Count. They are also heavily involved in the Thickson’s Woods Land Trust, which is dedicated to protecting an area of old growth White Pines on the edge of Lake Ontario near Whitby.

“Margaret and I feel it is critically important to ensure long-term protection for the wetland complex…” said Barry. “We feel that the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is in the best position to bring this about.”

The Land Trust already protects three other nature reserves in Haliburton County: Norah’s Island, a much-loved island on Kennisis Lake; Dahl Forest, a 500-acre property straddling the Burnt River near Gelert; and Smith Forest, near Black Lake, north-east of Haliburton Village.

“We are delighted that Dennis Barry has donated this land to us,” said Sheila Ziman, Chair, Haliburton Highlands Land Trust. “Our major concern is that this important wetland habitat be protected in perpetuity. Part of this extensive wetland complex is on surrounding Crown land, so having the Land Trust own the heart of the wetland should help ensure that surrounding areas are protected as well.”

Beavers have occupied the wetland continuously since at least the 1940s, and probably since long before the first settlers arrived. Their presence increases the possibility that the nature reserve is home to a large and diverse number of species.

The wetland is confirmed habitat for Blanding’s Turtle, which is a threatened species in Ontario. Canada Warblers and Olive-sided Flycatchers, which are also Species at Risk, have been documented there. Two dragonflies – Incurvate Emerald and Brush-tipped Emerald, have also been seen in the nature reserve. Incurvate Emerald is extremely rare in Ontario.

The nature reserve is at the headwaters of Kendrick Creek, which eventually joins the Irondale River, a tributary of the Burnt River, which runs through two of the Land Trust’s other properties: Dahl Forest and Smith Forest. “It’s interesting that everything is connected, as nature tends to be when it is not messed about by us!” says Ziman.


Nocturnal Music: Nature’s Gift

By Ruth E. Walker

Photo by John Cassady

Just after nightfall, relaxing before the dancing flames of our campfire, we were interrupted by a noisy neighbour. You know the type, the I-don’t-care-if-you-love-peaceful-nights- I’m-gonna-be-as-loud-as-I-wanna-be kind of neighbour.

But this was not an ordinary noisy neighbour. This was the thrilling and remarkable call of an Eastern Whip-poor-will.

Now, I can distinguish the morning trill of a robin and the squawkery of a blue jay, but I’m no birder. However, one does not need a birder designation to identify this nocturnal resident of Haliburton – there’s no mistaking that “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” song.

Whip-poor-wills are a threatened species, which made our night time music show bittersweet. Bitter because whole populations have disappeared in Ontario. Sweet because if I heard that song, then it’s not too late for Haliburton County.

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are fussy about their homestead: no dense forests but no wide open spaces either. Laying eggs directly in leaf litter, they prefer rocky outcroppings or forests that are in early transition, often after a forest fire or other disturbances such as intensive logging or wind damage. They are hard to spot because a) they are dressed in soft tones of browns, grey and white with lighter shades on belly, wingtips and tail feathers , and b) because they are most active at night, helping to control the insect population that is their food source.

Given the number of mosquitoes, moths and fireflies we saw that night, I’d say their food source is fairly good. But it is possible that suburban behaviours, like trimmed and pest-free lawns, are not helping this fragile population. Being “Wild about Nature” is not a bad thing in Haliburton County.

You just need to hear the song once to know this is a species we should nurture. I’d sure like my grandchildren to share that amazing call with their grandkids. You should too.

Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning Ontario writer and has a cabin tucked between the Burnt and Drag Rivers in Haliburton. She is an active member of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.

Lights! Action! Camera!

Our Land Trust ‘At The Movies’

water reflectionsWhen I was asked to be part of a video about my volunteer experiences for the Land Trust, I figured it would be easy. Every time we head to up the cabin and pass the sign that says “Haliburton Highlands”, it feels like coming home.  It’s always easy to talk about home, isn’t it?

However, when that single camera lens is trained on you and filmmakers are waiting to capture your ‘brilliant’ words, it’s amazing how your brain deserts you.

In other words, I choked.

But in the hands of professionals Tammy Rea and Midori Nagai of Highlands Media Arts, my scattered thoughts responded to their understanding and good humour. Soon enough, I was speaking with passion about the work of the Land Trust. I shared how we need to think generations ahead. How it is more than educating our children. How we adults must relearn what we have forgotten: the natural world is ours to discover, not destroy.

The video is remarkable with gorgeous images of the land we love and rich with the voices of others who share my passion. When what you believe in truly matters, you can always find your voice. Which is what all of us who cherish the Highlands must do: find our voices and speak for the forests, the wetlands, the lakes, rivers and streams. We must speak for all the voiceless inhabitants of our incredible landscape.

It may not always be easy but if we don’t speak now, it will be our legacy… and our shame.

Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning Ontario writer and has a cabin tucked between the Burnt and Drag Rivers in Haliburton. She is an active member of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.

Extending The Five Lives of a Five-lined Skink

Skinks are not salamanders or short snakes with four legs. Skinks are lizards found throughout North America. A Haliburton skink has five stripes from nose to tail but those stripes fade as the skinks get older (kind of like our memories). Male skinks have bright orange jaws and chins.

Five Lined Skink

Photo By Scott Gillingwater

These small ground dwellers have “Species At Risk” status in Haliburton County.

So, in the interest of species conservation, here are Five-Lives Tips for our friends the skinks:

1. Always avoid exotic pet hunters:  You are Ontario’s only lizard and you better hide when unscrupulous folk try to satisfy lizard-longing terrarium owners;

2. Keep a low profile around dogs, cats and raccoons: you are busy predators, snacking endlessly on insects, worms or even other invertebrates but you have to watch out for the ‘big guys”.

3. Stick to rocky outcroppings in mixed forests of conifers and deciduous trees: loose rocks provide you with nesting and food sources but this habitat also has great hiding spots when needed (see #1 and #2.)

4. Teen skinks should wear camouflage: unlike tattoos, you juveniles have bright blue tails that fade as you age. Sassy teen skinks know those tails detach when pounced on by predators.

5.  Wear a sign that says: I’m A Species At Risk in Haliburton County.

I guess the skinks won’t be reading this newsletter. If we want this Species At Risk to survive and thrive, it is up to us. Those cute inukshuks all over Haliburton County? Those are skink habitats you are messing with. “THINK SKINK” before you move protective loose rocks on the ground.

Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning Ontario writer and has a cabin tucked between the Burnt and Drag Rivers in Haliburton. She is an active member of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.

The Butterfly Effect

Love a Weed Today for Tomorrow

Monarch Butterfly Drops In On Migration

Ruth's grandson, Charlie Walker, holds a Monarch butterfly. Photo by Elyse Baughman of Lubbock, Texas

Last month, a monarch butterfly dropped by my grandsons’ yard in Texas. The  family was delighted and our daughter-in-law took dozens of pictures. Half-joking, I announced that this visitor could be a butterfly from Canada. “Monarchs migrate south,” I said. “It could have come from around our cabin.”

Maybe that butterfly did come from Canada  – maybe it was migrating to Mexico from the Haliburton Highlands. But why was I so delighted to see this beautiful insect? Because I missed them.

When I was a kid, monarch butterflies were a common sight in Toronto area suburbs. Not so much now, and that absence may be traced to urban ‘tidiness’. Monarch larvae eat milkweed plants. Their one-note diet fills them with toxins and is their defence; no bird will eat a poisonous snack.

But when homeowners don’t want milkweeds in their gardens – or their parks, or along the roadsides and creeks –  they remove the food source for this picky eater. If a natural habitat means more to you than manicured lawns and cultivated parklands, pay attention to your local environment.

The hardy milkweed can find a home along the banks of lakes, ponds and waterways, as well as in forest margins, roadsides and waste places. The Haliburton Highlands is rich with this diverse landscape – and as long as we keep it that way, we won’t need to do much to support milkweed plants. Monarch butterflies will thank you each summer with a show of their striking orange and black wings.

And my Texan grandsons? They will thank you too.

Ruth E. Walker is an award-winning Ontario writer and has a cabin tucked between the Burnt and Drag Rivers in Haliburton. She is an active member of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.