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.