Catching up on Conservation
By Alan Constant (Summer Conservation Staff 2018, 2020, 2021)
What’s going on at Cedar Haven this summer?
Hey everyone! I am very thankful for the opportunity to be back at Cedar Haven this summer, and continue the conservation work in the area that I love so much. There have been a lot of different projects going on over the last two months, and there is still so much more to do. It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for A Rocha Ontario and it is so exciting to be able to be a part of it! I wanted to take some time to share a brief update about the creation care that is happening at Cedar Haven this summer, as well as some highlights and success stories from our previous work.
First off, earlier this summer we completed more nighttime call surveys around the property for frogs and toads. I got the chance to come out to Cedar Haven after sundown and just listen to the sounds of creation – in this case it was a lot of green frogs and gray treefrogs, but there were some wood frogs, American toads, spring peepers and mink frogs mixed in as well. Plus, seeing the early-summer fireflies darting around in the dark is always a magical time, a nice bonus to one of my personal favourite conservation projects.
Speaking of favourite conservation projects, a huge passion of mine is insect diversity, and so I’ve been loving the insect surveys that we’ve been conducting! Generally we’ve been focusing on bumble bees, odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and lepidoptera (butterflies, skippers and moths), however we do have fun cataloguing whatever we see during the surveys! Previously we had observed several vulnerable species of insects at Cedar Haven, and this summer we were very excited to find that most of these vulnerable species have come back! Double-striped bluets and yellow bumble bees still have distinct breeding populations on the property, and if anything their numbers seem to have increased over the last 12 months. I love cataloguing the diversity of the insect world, plus many insect groups (like dragonflies and damselflies) are great indicators of habitat health. This leads us to…
The Pond Restoration Project!
This is easily the largest creation care project we have going on this summer, and for good reason. The pond and surrounding wetlands at Cedar Haven are part of what makes this such a special place, so being able to improve the habitat quality and naturalize the area is incredibly important and fulfilling work. Last summer was a huge step for improving the habitat quality in and around the pond, culminating in planting 20 trees around the perimeter (all native species, don’t worry!), introducing more native emergent and shoreline vegetation, and removing some of the invasive curly-leaf pondweed. This summer we’re continuing with the planting plan from last year and will be dedicated to planting many, many more aquatic plants (such as water lilies, Canadian waterweed and pickerelweed) and shoreline vegetation and shrubs (like sedges, dogwood and meadowsweet). Excitingly, we’re already seeing signs of a more natural habitat – this summer we’re seeing more native aquatic plants throughout the pond compared to previous years, including Canadian waterweed, American pondweed, water plantains, water lilies and more! Even though the pond restoration project is still in its early stages, it’s fascinating to see creation’s resilience and tenacity. We spent a lot of time last summer (and this summer too!) taking out invasive plant species, and we’re already seeing native species starting to fight back in the pond and reclaim their habitat!
As a measure of how the pond restoration is going, we’ve started a number of inventory projects to assess the local biodiversity and see how the conservation work is affecting life in and around the pond. As a part of this, we are doing insect surveys (yay!), vegetation monitoring around the shoreand nearby wetlands, fish surveys and general wildlife observations for the pond area (such as the frog surveys I mentioned earlier). I have a strong passion for biodiversity in all forms, so being able to comb through plots struggling to identify plants or sifting through the grasses looking for turtles and snakes (like the common snapping turtle or northern watersnake that we saw AGAIN this year!) is a bit of a dream come true. To wrap up the pond restoration work, we’re conducting water quality testing on the property to assess key factors like temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and more. I’m looking forward to using these metrics to increase our understanding of the pond conditions, and assess how these conditions may be affecting biodiversity.
These are only some of the awesome projects that we’re doing at Cedar Haven this year, with many more either in the works or already underway. Slowly but surely, we’re getting a stronger sense of the incredible diversity at Cedar Haven and are taking steps to care for creation in Ontario, all the while looking to the Creator of it all!
If you would like to see more conservation work happen in Hamilton and the Bronte Creek, please give today.