A Big Shout Out!

We were amazed at the outpouring of community and volunteer support for our recent efforts in monitoring for turtles at select sites around Haliburton County! During the months of May and June, the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust had volunteers monitoring turtle activity at up to eight different sites on roads across the county. This was the first part of a comprehensive study on Turtle Road Mortality funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk proOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgram.

The collective effort by 136 volunteers covered nearly 2,800 hours of observation, seven days a week throughout May and June. This incredible effort must make this one of the larger citizen science based research projects in recent history in Ontario, especially when considered within the context of intense effort over a very short period of time. While the committee is meeting to prepare for the next phase of this three year project, we want to pause to thank the volunteers involved to date. This group of extraordinary people came from all age groups and all walks of life. They stepped up and committed to offer their time in all weather conditions, and throughout the height of spring bug season. An amazing level of commitment from an amazing community!

Our monitors have witnessed more wild life in two months than many Canadians will see in a lifetime. This project has informed Haliburton residents of the challenges that these Species at Risk face on our roads. It is no longer socially acceptable to drive over a turtle for sport or fun. More and more people are stopping to help turtles cross busy roadways, even those who have never handled a turtle in their lives. Everyone seems to have a turtle story to tell, either a rescue, a near miss, or sightings of turtles nesting, basking, hatching, or just passing through. The Land Trust would love to hear yours!

 

While we are on the subject of gratitude, we would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made this project possible; the Ministry of Natural Resources who funded it, the property owners and residents who allowed us to store equipment in their yards and driveways and sheds, the local media who covered our efforts, the many residents and visitors who stopped to show their support to our hardworking volunteers, and the community who has collectively become more aware of this vulnerable group of species in our midst!

 

For more information on this project, see:  Turtle Road Mortality Project

 

project partners:

The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, Glenside Ecological Services, Ltd, U-Links Centre for Community Based Research

 

NEW VIDEO: Turtle Mortality in the Haliburton Highlands

Turtles in Haliburton County – and throughout Ontario – are at risk from extinction due to extremely high rates of road mortality. Females in particular are frequently killed on our highways, wiping out future generations of these special creatures. Listen to wildlife biologist Paul Heaven describe the risks that turtles face and learn about the efforts the community in the Haliburton Highlands is taking to ensure our roads are safer for turtles in the years to come.

Road Mortality from Haliburton Highlands Land Trust on Vimeo.

The turtles need our help. If you can volunteer some time to help out on our Turtle Road Mortality Species at Risk project, please get in touch. See this post for more information.

Give a gift that lasts forever

giftAdopt an acre of Dahl Forest in the name of a loved one. They’ll get a certificate marking your generous gift and you’ll know you’re helping to protect this precious part of Haliburton County.

Introduction to New Chair – Dianne Mathes

In June of this year, Sheila Ziman finished her term as Chair of the Land Trust and I was elected as the new Chair.

My name is Dianne Mathes and I am delighted, if apprehensive, about being the Chair. Having worked closely with Sheila over the past few years, I know how hard she has worked for the Land Trust and the commitment and accomplishments that have resulted. They are big shoes to step into. I am the first Chair of the Land Trust who is not retired: I am a full-time social worker/therapist in private practice and I do counselling with children, adults and families. I believe strongly that volunteer work has to be shared by all of us and if we want the energy and visions of younger people, we have to make not for profits work for all of us.

As a professional, I have a background in not for profit management. I was the founding Executive Director of the Emily Murphy House in North Vancouver, BC and the founding Executive Director of the Barbra Schliefer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto, both resources for women who have experienced trauma in their lives. And I can only hope that my life’s work as a therapist has given me some skills in working with people from many different walks of life.

My husband and I are permanent residents of Haliburton County, having lived here for the past six years. Originally a native of Newfoundland, I grew up in Ontario and also spent seven years on the West coast of Canada. I am an avid canoeist, my father was a tripping instructor on the Muskoka Lakes back in the 1940s, and before I could walk he put a paddle in my hands and started to make sure that I loved and appreciated all that nature is and holds. While I lived and raised a family in Toronto, the woods and lakes were always my sanctuary and my home and it is this connection and respect that made me join the Land Trust and further my commitment to the protection of land.

While my reasons for joining the Land Trust are personal, this organization is young and has grown quickly and I hope that my experience in management and with people can contribute to supporting the Land Trust in this new phase of growth. The Board of the Land Trust has worked extremely hard in this past year to develop a vision and practical goals to support our growth for the future. We need to expand our membership and secure our funding base, and while we are excited about these new goals, we will be asking all of you to help us. For you, our membership are the Land Trust and the reason we are able to protect the lands we own and we need your energy, your ideas and your time as we undertake this next phase of growth.

I look forward to this challenge and to working with all of you,

Dianne Mathes

Outdoor Fun!

What a fun night we had on December 13, 2012! We had 42 participants at our Winter Night Sky & Candlelight Walk event. Although it was a pretty cloudy night, participants patiently laid on their blankets or laid back in their lounge chairs – and each time the group saw a shooting star, a collective exclamation of oohs and aahs was heard. The meteors, combined with the warm hot chocolate and the candlelight walk in the forest, was a pretty neat experience!

Thank you to all that joined us – and to those of you who haven’t joined us yet for our Nature in the ‘Hood: Discovery Days programs, please consider doing so. We have monthly programs planned until July 2013. We invite participants of all ages to come explore and enjoy the natural world around you in the Haliburton Highlands. For more information on our upcoming programs, please visit Events & Programs section of our website.

Event Participants
Photo by Walt Griffin of The Highlander

 

 

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.