St. Williams Conservation Reserve Is Preserving The Carolinian Forest

St. Williams Conservation Reserve Is Preserving The Carolinian Forest

Nestled deep in the heart of Southern Ontario, the St. Williams Conservation Reserve is 1085 hectares of reclaimed Carolinian forest. In the early 1900’s the settlers had cut down the original forest for timber and the light sandy soil had begun to erode without the tree roots and forest floor holding it in place. The area was quickly becoming a desert when pioneering conservationists began replanting trees to bring back the forest.  This is how the St. Williams Forestry Station came into existence.FB_IMG_1524513090341

In 2007 the St Williams Conservation Reserve was established under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves act to protect the extraordinary biodiversity and unique cultural and natural heritage of the site. A not-for-profit Community Council oversees the day to day management of the Reserve and works in partnership with the MNRF to protect and restore the lands contained in the Reserve, while also encouraging the public to enjoy compatible recreational and cultural opportunities within the Reserve.

I joined the St Williams Conservation Reserve Community Council this winter and have enjoyed working with a team of people dedicated to forest restoration and conservation. The Reserve is home to many different types of birds, animals, reptiles, and insects, many of which are Species at Risk in Ontario. The Council works closely with MNRF staff to ensure that these species are protected.

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Wintergreen
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Coyote Track
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Wild Turkey Track

 

The SWCR provides a refuge for species at risk and also provides a location perfect for researchers, scientists, citizen scientists, and the public who are interested in studying the flora and fauna that call this southernmost part of the Carolinian zone home.

 

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Notes From The Field-May 30 2017

Notes From The Field-May 30 2017

Today was a busy day, although it started out slow, with a weather delay. I was scheduled to help the Long Point Basin Land Trust with the annual Fox Snake survey but we had to delay due to a morning rain shower. I spent the morning trudging through bush and fields looking for the elusive snakes but yet again we were disappointed. My time wasn’t wasted though as I was taking pictures of all the plants I found interesting. Many of them I haven’t identified yet.

If anyone knows what the following plants are, I’d love to know.

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On one of the properties surveyed, there is a very healthy deer population. There are subtle signs of their presence everywhere you look if you know what to look for.  Tracks and scat are the obvious signs to look for and there is plenty of that. By looking carefully, one can also find deer hair, laydowns (bedding areas) shed antlers in the spring and lots of game trails. Can you see the game trails in the photos below?

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After the snake survey and the subsequent removal of several ticks, I went off in search of some fishing. I went to one of my favourite spots and ate my lunch while watching the birds. The spot I fish at is the mouth of a small creek that flows out of a provincially significant wetland. The creek on one side of the road is contained within the boundary of a national wildlife reserve. I was standing on that side, in the reserve, when I looked down and saw movement in the water. My first thought was that I’d found a water snake!! But no, this was much much better. I had stumbled upon a school of spawning Longnose Gar!!! I estimated there to be well over 50 individual fish in the school and they were amazing!! Up till that point I had only seen one or two and here there were scads of them and I could watch them in their natural habitat and watch their spawning behaviour. Longnose Gar is an ancient fish, practically dinosaurs, and they are one of very few fish species that breathes air. They perform a gas exchange by skimming and snapping along the surface of the water and this behaviour was very apparent today. I was mesmerised!

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While the bugs were horrible and I did get a sunburn, it was all told a wonderful day in the field in Norfolk County!!