Our mandate is to preserve habitats in two counties — Frontenac County and Lennox and Addington County. The region stretches from the islands in Lake Ontario through the limestone plains to the boreal forests in Canadian Shield country to the north.

The south part of Frontenac County is cottage country and many lakes and marshes dot the landscape. Further north, the land becomes more rugged with granite outcrops and a more rocky terrain. Given the lack of good, deep soil in most places, farming was never easy here. Much of the land was logged but otherwise undeveloped.

Lennox and Addington County has a gentler topography with fewer lakes and more rivers, notably the Napanee, Salmon, and Skootamatta. The central Napanee Plain is a large area of limestone, alvar, grasslands, and wetlands that provides habitat to at least 19 species at risk. The northern most part of the County is Crown land and mostly dense coniferous forest.

The transition zone between the limestone plain and the granite of the Shield is species-rich. This zone, now referred to as The Land Between, is the northern limit for some species — for example, White Oak, Yellow-throated Vireo, Chorus Frog, and Common Crow — and the southern limit for others — for example, Grey Wolf, Moose, American Raven, and Jack Pine. High species diversity characterizes the overlapping of these two geologically different areas and makes this part of Southeastern Ontario ecologically significant.
Our region includes part of the UNESCO-designated Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve and the Algonquin to Adirondack conservation focus area.

Habitat protection is crucial to the preservation all species. There are many species at risk, which live in our two counties for some or all of the year. For example, birds such as the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike, the only predatory song bird, and the Cerulean Warbler, a song bird that eats mostly insects and winters in South America, require specific habitats for feeding and breeding in the spring and summer. Unless their habitats are preserved, these birds will continue their decline and soon disappear.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Description: Males have a glossy steel-blue back and upper wings, a rusty-red forehead and throat, a short bill and a broad blue breast band above its tawny underbelly, with long tail feathers that form a distinctive, deep fork. These birds nest almost exclusively on built structures such as open barns, bridges, and in culverts.

Level of Risk: Threatened provincially and nationally

Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Description: A medium-sized, grassland bird. Breeding males are black, with white on their backs and a yellow patch on the back of the neck, while females and non-breeding birds are brownish and stripey. In Ontario, Bobolinks are highly dependent on cultural hayfields and pastures.

Level of Risk: Threatened provincially and nationally

Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor

Description: A medium-sized bird, with cryptic plumage, long wings, a wide mouth and a short bill. They are ground-nesting birds, found in open or semi-open areas such as farmland, open woodlands or even urban rooftops.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and Threatened nationally

Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna

Description: A medium-sized, grassland bird. A brown and yellow bird with a bright yellow throat and belly, a black “V” on its breast and white flanks with black streaks, and with a strong beak and a relatively short tail. In Ontario, Eastern Meadowlarks are highly dependent on cultural fields and pastures.

Level of Risk: Threatened provincially and nationally

Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens

Description: A small forest songbird, they are olive-gray on their upper parts, with pale undersides, and pale bars on their wings. They have a distinctive “pee-a-wee” song

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Golden-winged Warbler  Vermivora chrysoptera

Description: A small songbird in the wood-warbler family, they are gray, with pale undersides, yellow wing patches and crown. Males have a black throat and mask, where females have pale gray.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and Threatened nationally

Whip-poor-will Caprimulgus vociferous

Description: A medium-sized, ground-nesting bird, with mottled gray and brown feathers. A species that is active at dusk and in the dark, it is more often heard than seen.

Level of Risk: Threatened provincially and nationally

Wood Thrush Hylocicla mustelina

Description: A medium-sized songbird, they are rusty-brown, and have white below with dark spots on breast and sides. They are a species of mature deciduous and mixed woodlands.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and Threatened nationally

Five-lined Skink Eumeces fasciatus

Description: A small lizard with dark black or gray color, and five white to yellow stripes the length of its body. Adult males have broad heads with reddish-orange jaws and chin, and juvenile animals have bright blue tails.

Level of Risk: Great Lakes – St. Lawrence population is Special Concern provincially and nationally

Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum

Description: This snake is grey or tan, with alternating red or reddish brown blotches that are distinctly outlined in black along its back and sides. They use a variety of habitats, but tend to use open habitats such as rocky outcrops, fields and forest edge, and can be common around barns.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Ribbon Snake Thamnophis suaritus

Description: A slim snake, with three bright yellow stripes running the length of its body, in sharp contrast to a dark background color. These snakes are slimmer, have longer tails, and narrower heads than the similar Garter Snake, and are typically found near wetlands or water.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Blanding’s Turtle Emydoidea blandingii

Description: A medium-sized turtle, with a smooth, domed shell. This turtle has a bright yellow throat and jaw.

Level of Risk: Threatened provincially and nationally

Northern Map Turtle Graptemys geographica

Description: A turtle with shell markings that resemble contour lines on a map. The shell is typically olive green and has a distinct centre keel, while both the head and legs have yellow lines on a dark background.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentine

Description: Canada’s largest turtle, with large dark shells (black, olive or brown), often covered in algal growth. Their shell is keeled, and their tails have triangular crests along their length.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Stinkpot Turtle (also known as Musk Turtle) Sternotherus odoratus

Description: A small, aquatic fresh-water turtle. The turtle exudes a musky odor from glands located at the margins of its shell.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Monarch Danaus plexippus

Description: Large and bright orange, with black lines and white spots, this is one of our most easily recognized butterflies. Larvae feed exclusively on milkweed, and adults migrate to Mexico to overwinter, their offspring returning to Ontario to continue the cycle.

Level of Risk: a species of Special Concern provincially and nationally

Butternut Juglans cinerea

Description: A medium-sized, deciduous tree that is in the Walnut family. The tree has compound leaves and produces edible nuts in the fall.

Level of Risk: Endangered provincially and nationally

Wood Duck boxes at Meyer Woods

In 2010, five Land Conservancy members installed four wooden nesting boxes atop long poles in the ponds at Meyer Woods. The boxes were provided by Ducks Unlimited and we report our annual findings to them. The hope is that Wood Ducks will eventually use these boxes for nesting.

The boxes are checked and cleaned every year during the winter months when the ponds are frozen, the ducks are in the south, and access is easier. To join a monitoring trip, please contact Anne Robertson 613.389.6742

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Minnows

So unlikely: so many feet above
the lake, in ponds filled with nothing but rain
minnows are springing half a finger length
out of the water, little Gothic windowsflashing and sinking back into rings of ripples.
How did they get here? — How did any of us?
A biologist friend explains they must have climbed
the tiny streams whose dry black beds run inches deepin spring and fall; or birds may have dropped them
poetic beginnings, romantic but scientific.
Until she said they’d be there I never saw them.
What else lives in here? — A lifetime couldn’t count them all yet once there wasn’t a single living thing
on earth: chemicals, complex mixes, lightning, and
something began remaking itself, stubborn,
creeping like happiness across the landscape.

John Donlan
from Spirit Engine, Brick Books, 2008

Hiking my Home Place

Observations from Gray Merriam

Follow the river upstream away from the gurgling riffle that fills the Otter Pool. Across the exposed bedrock – gneiss and mica schist. Climb up the gentle slippery slope of the tiny batholith to the moss and lichen gardens in the open veins of the rock. To where the moose cow and calf spent one night three winters ago.

And move on to where the beavers cut the gummy pines & dragged them down to their sticky lodge by the shore. Mouths full of pine pitch.

Upstream the silty shore slopes easily into the buttonbush, sweet gale and dogwoods. Shrubby lacework edging the river’s shore below the white pines and oaks.

Turning inland at the colony of fringed polygala on Beaver Point, I come to where the paper birch used to grow before the beavers felled them all to harvest the branches. All the pruned trunks towed home behind the canoe fed winter fires.

Steeply past the oak sculpted by the pileated woodpeckers. A natural art piece rising from a graying bed of sculpted chips. Not waste. Step one on the journey of nutrient molecules into the return flow to new oak sprouts. Without the flow from decomposition, the flow of juvenile nutrients from bedrock would be too slow. So would the flow from oaks into acorns. And the growth of sprouting acorns.

The slope angles up steeply and the footing is unsure. The landscape of riverside marshes spreading along the base of the slope refreshes senses above the feet.

Next springtime all the little lagoons in those riverine marshes will become frog factories. But the bitterns and the herons will see them as snack bars.

 

On top of the ridge I hit the “middle trail” and head farther upstream just below the crest of the ridge. White pines with massive trunks force my gaze upward. A few have fallen from old age or under attack by fierce winds.

Healthy neighbour trees tried to catch one giant on the way down.

The fallen matriarch snapped but still could not find rest on the ground. So it became a silent escalator for grouse and turkeys going to roost. Underneath is no place to linger.

A sudden snort and careless crashing tells of a disturbed doe and fawn as they charge upstream along the trail. Healed bark skinned on a blue beech sapling marks the fawn’s male parentage.

Following the deer down a cut through the lower ridge puts me in a seasonally flooded basin. Connected by high water to the river in spring but dry enough for slippers now. A pulsed habitat.

Turning north sees me scrabbling on a slope steep enough for cardiac testing. My hiking poles bite in and my arms help me climb. Up to the “high trail”. The winter ski trail along the very crest of the high ridge.

Heading away from the setting sun the ski trail tunnels under the tree canopy. Sky-high vistas reach from under marvelous white pines, matriarchal sugar maples and fast-grown ashes. The Salmon River to the south and Kennebec Lake to the north.

Red oak tops still bear the marks of the highest density of gypsy moth infestation in Ontario. Recovery has taken since the 70’s and 80’s. Some have struggled back, some have lost their tops and some remain only as skeletal snags in the canopy and clearings. Ashes and blue beech have filled many of the gaps.

Openings left in the canopy from the gypsy moths have encouraged white pine seedling, rather like the effects of fire. Pines arrayed from tiny seedlings to polewood search with their roots for nutrients from the Precambrian granite and the decomposers.

Among the white pines are many with branches all the way down to eye level. They grew in openings without crowding neighbours to force them upward. Pasture pines. This entire peninsula was unimproved grazing land until 1970. The remarkably beautiful forest that I now enjoy has restored itself in about 44 years.

The entire surrounding township was clear-cut in the late 1800’s. A political contribution to the fortunes of a lumber baron. In paintings from 1932, the hills north of Kennebec (then Cross) Lake were shown bald. Grass without trees. Now fully reforested by natural processes.

It is autumn and scattered across the forest floor little raised domes of fallen leaves hide this year’s mushrooms. Fungus sprouting up out of the soil to produce and distribute spores. Spore immigrants for new fungal colonies. Most fungal work is done below the litter. The decomposer factory is the mat of interconnected, hair-like cells, spread over huge areas. Wrapping and connecting into roots, the fungal web feeds the trees and many other plants.

My home place is wondrous with questions uncountable. Enough curious splendor for mylifetime and more.

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