Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Great Lakes United

Living in the Great Lakes Bioregion is an enviable privilege that we should not take for granted. This is the single largest inland fresh water network in the world. Over the decades the Great Lakes have had their share of troubles, such as pollution and waste from the industries and the major urban centres that hug their shores. But the latest threat, the invasive Asian Carp, could be utterly devastating, changing our lakes—and our lives—forever. So it is imperative that the asian carp do not pass into the Great Lakes.

If you want to follow this issue or participate by adding your voice, you need to know about this amazing organization: Great Lakes United. Join, donate or subscribe to their informative newsletter to track all the issues currently impacting our beautiful lakes. Both Canadians and Americans who share these lakes can now share in the dialogue to save them. In GLU's own words, we who live here "enjoy one of the highest standards of living on the planet. It is now time to focus our prosperity on restoring the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This responsibility falls on all of us."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Birds Are Back

At White's Wetland, we have been welcoming returning bird species all week, a sure sign of spring. Taking up residence this weekend: a pair of mallard ducks, a blue heron, a screech owl, two pairs of Canada Geese and more robins, sparrows, crows and mourning doves than you can count. With warmer days coming by the end of this week, we hope to see many more birds and many more signs of life.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

Well, mostly the birds this time.

Spotted on Tuesday: two downy woodpeckers. They flew in, and a few moments later flew out. Obviously just passing through! They were not seen again. All winter long we have been visited by several pairs of red-bellied woodpeckers, but never any downy woodpeckers. Until today. So this was a rare and special treat.

Now, the story of "our" Canada Geese. Every March for the past several years a pair of Canada Geese have claimed our pond for themselves, shooing other pairs away bold enough to intrude on the idyll. Monday morning, right on cue, two Canada Geese flew in. They took turns in the water; while one stood guard on the bank, the other glided around the pond. They lingered for hours, dividing their time between the bank and the water, dabbling at the water's edge or grazing on grass. Watchful yet oddly relaxed. They might not be the same geese every year, but observing this pair, one gets the definite impression that they know this spot well. You know, like those tourists who return to the same resort year after year.

Then suddenly both took to the water together. As if connected by an unseen thread, they were never more than a few inches from one another. Gracefully, elegantly, they swam in unison, making wide, leisurely circles on the glass-green water. Canada Geese, generally speaking, mate for life, and these two soul mates were a beautiful sign of spring.

Spotted today: two pairs of Canada Geese! "Our" geese (assuming, that is, that they are the annual regulars) have finally decided to share the pond with another couple. A truly lovely sight – four Canada Geese gliding gracefully on a morning-still pond drenched in sunlight, undisturbed, unhurried.

Unfortunately, yours truly left her camera and camcorder in Toronto. So no pretty pics for the blog this time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Comes to My Corner of the Earth

So it's definitely starting to look like spring at White's Wetland. Oh, there may be flurry or two left in the season. It wouldn't be Canada if we didn't have frost and flurries in April. Still, the earth is waking up. You can see it: tiny, early shoots poking up through the ground. A robin bobs across the grass in search of a meal. All morning I've watched an indefatigable black squirrel carry last year's leaves up to its nest in the hollow of a maple. Like homeowners flocking to Home Depot this weekend, the wild creatures are preparing for spring in their own way.

And you can feel it. It's not so much a matter of temperature; rather, it's in the slant of the sun, the tilt of the earth. The natural world is responding. So breathe deep, fill your lungs with the fresh, cool air. Celebrate spring. Celebrate planet earth. A tune keeps running through my head ...

Like every humming bird and bumblebee
Every sunflower, cloud and every tree
I feel so much a part of this
Nature's got me high and it's beautiful
I'm with this deep eternal universe
From death until rebirth

This corner of the earth is like me in many ways
I can sit for hours here and watch the emerald feathers play
On the face of this I'm blessed
When the sunlight comes for free
I know this corner of the earth it smiles at me
So inspired of that there's nothing left to do or say

That's how I feel about White's Wetland. It's my corner of the earth, and coming home this first weekend of spring, it sure feels like the earth is smiling at me.

So for those of you who are feeling a little frisky with the arrival of spring, join the chorus, kick up your heels and celebrate with nature. To get you into the spirit, here's a little music, courtesy of White's Wetland ... and Jamiroquai, of course!

This Corner of the Earth

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tell SARA You Support the Protection of Endangered Species in Canada

Did you know that the public is invited to comment on matters pertaining to the protection of endangered species? Yes! Your voice is important. The Government of Canada is committed to working with all Canadians to ensure that species at risk and their critical habitats are protected. SARA (the Species At Risk Act) actively supports this commitment, providing the public with an opportunity to comment on proposed documents. Visit the Species at Risk site and get involved today.

In the meantime, here is just one of the species on the endangered list — the Eastern Foxsnake, pictured above. White's Wetland, being situated in the Carolinian forest zone of southwestern Ontario, is particularly concerned about the plight of species such as the Eastern Foxsnake, whose numbers have been severely reduced by the extensive loss of wetlands through drainage and development. From what I have observed, with the push of industrial and residential development ever southward from the City of London, this loss of habitat is only going to get worse in the future. Land is being sold at unprecedented rates and small wooded areas along Wellington Road, some of the last remaining stands of woods in this area and no doubt home to small mammals and other species, will soon be bulldozed.

We need to remember that ALL species, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to humans, play an important role in the scheme of things. Biodiversity must be protected.

Here is some data, courtesy of SARA, about this endangered snake:

The Eastern Foxsnake is found only in the Great Lakes region of North America. Approximately 70% of the species’ range is in Ontario, Canada, with relatively isolated locations in southeastern Michigan and northern Ohio in the United States. Within Ontario, the species’ distribution is highly disjunct, occupying three discrete regions along the shorelines of Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Eastern Foxsnakes in the Essex-Kent and Haldimand-Norfolk regions constitute the Carolinian population, and those further north, along the shores of Georgian Bay, constitute the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence population.

There are no reliable estimates of population sizes for Canadian populations of the Eastern Foxsnake. Despite the lack of direct quantitative data demonstrating a decrease in the Carolinian population, the sheer magnitude of wetland loss in southwestern Ontario, along with the proliferation of roads in that region, makes the probability of range contraction and population reduction extremely high.

The Eastern Foxsnake is the second largest snake in Ontario; it typically reaches lengths of 91 to 137 cm.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity

“Much of the food we eat depends on the services provided by a diversity of pollinating insects and animals.”

The United Nations proclaimed 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity and people the world over are starting to realize that biodiversity is crucial to human survival.

But what is meant by “biodiversity,” and why is it so critical to protect, preserve and maintain it?

Biological diversity encompasses all living species on Earth and their relationships to each other. This includes the differences in genes, species and ecosystems. Having many different living things allows Nature to recover from change.

So, if too much biodiversity is lost, there is a problem, because Nature finds it increasingly difficult to compensate and adapt. The web of life is weakened.

Humans depend on Nature to survive. It's that simple. We cannot continue to recklessly and irresponsibly destroy habitat and species. By doing so, we condemn ourselves.

Did you know that Canada has a Biodiversity Strategy? Yes! The vision for Canada?

"A society that lives and develops as a part of nature, values the diversity of life, takes no more than can be replenished and leaves to future generations a nurturing and dynamic world, rich in its biodiversity."

You can read the entire document by visiting Environment Canada’s Canadian Biodiversity Information Network (CBIN). This site offers a wealth of information on Canadian biodiversity topics—documents, reports, news and events. Learn about the factors that contribute to biodiversity loss and the actions that can be taken to conserve biodiversity.

Thanks to Environment Canada and the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy for the above quotes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Great Organization Working for Wildlife

"Coyotes have a tremendously positive impact on an area's biodiversity and ecological integrity..."

The Ontario SPCA Wildlife Centre is located in Midland, Ontario. It provides care and treatment each year to nearly 1,500 animals, including more than 100 species of mammals, birds and reptiles. Their goal is to rehabilitate these animals for release back into their wild habitat.

But the Centre works hard to educate the public as well, and this is really important, because in crowded, urbanized Ontario, wildlife and people will continue to come into contact with one another. And sometimes even the most well-intentioned efforts do more harm than good. So we all need to know how to help the right way. The Centre's website provides access to two series of Fact Sheets: Living With Wildlife and How to Help Sick, Injured or Orphaned Animals.

In the Centre's own words:

"...there are simple and humane solutions to help us coexist in peace with these amazing survivors who deserve our compassion and respect. When dealing with wildlife please consider the enormous hardships wild species encounter because so much of their habitat has been destroyed. Each year they are forced into closer contact with humans and must compete with us for food, shelter and space. With a little understanding, patience and a few precautions and common sense steps, we can all enjoy the wonderfully interesting wild animals who share our backyards and cities."

In light of the current hue and cry about coyote encounters, I invite you to read the fact sheet provided by the OSPCA. Please!

So, before acting in haste or out of fear, take the time to consult the experts and learn. It's a wonderful feeling to know that you have acted responsibly to help an animal in distress or that you have learned to understand a wild creature's needs.

Thank you, OSPCA Wildlife Centre!

Hurry Spring!

It's great to be back at White's Wetland this week, and March is such a special time of year. While there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground, the drip-drip-drip from the eaves, the puddles in the lane, and the abundant sunshine are all positive signs. Winter is on its way out, and even if we do have to deal with one more snowstorm (but let's hope not), spring is not far away now. You can feel the anticipation in the air, as all of nature is poised, at the ready, for the new season to begin.