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Notes from the Field – Spring 2018

Meagan Coughlin beside the Black River at Ron Reid Nature Reserve. photo: Dave Hawke

We are stewarding Conservancy lands like never before, with new citizen science monitoring teams being added every day.  Check this page regularly for updates



Peter and Don

Peter Wigham and Don Trumble are the new Reptile Monitoring Team at the Kris Starr Sanctuary.  The weather doesn’t always cooperate for that first orientation visit, but Peter and Don’s background with the Orillia Fish & Game Club has turned them into pretty decent naturalists.

They spotted Otter scat beside the Head River, 8 Wood Ducks, and the remains of a Snapping Turtle at the side of the road who had unfortunately been run over.   They bushwhacked over to Wildlands Provincial Park next door and returned soaked and happy.

Also on the Kris Starr stewardship team are Gerry Church and Tony Hodgson, who do General Property Monitoring and Trail Maintenance.  Tom Wilson monitors the water quality of the Head River.    Thanks team!   – June 28, 2018



While its called “Boyd’s Creek” and does slowly flow into the Green River, it often looks like a wetland. photo: Lorraine Brown

Alexander Hope-Smith Nature Reserve is getting a lot of stewardship love this year with the addition of frog, salamander and reptile monitoring teams. Last year we re-introduced a general property monitoring team, and added a water team to keep an eye on Boyd’s Creek.   It was our water team of Lorraine and Jerry Brown who took this photo. 

Lorraine and Jerry live nearby, and walk the trail up to “the sitting rock” once a month to measure the temperature and depth of the water.  Lorraine remarked that it was a very peaceful place to be on a humid day.

Thanks to the whole Alexander Hope-Smith team of Mel Tuck, Jordyn Burns, Courtney Baker, Jane Smith, Meagan Coughlin, Jane Brasher, Noella Storry, Peter Robinson, Pam MacLachlan, Mary Juneau, Lorraine & Jerry Brown.   Also an honourable mention to Cathy Massig for her many years of stewarding this landscape. – June 17, 2018

Thanks to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Youssef-Warren Foundation for making this citizen science project possible



A mother Snapping turtle laying her eggs at a Conservancy property June 11th (photo: Charon Varty)

June 11, 2018:  It’s turtle nesting season, and our  volunteer reptile monitoring teams are on the case.  For the next few weeks turtles will be moving around, mating and nesting.  A sunny spot with soft moist soil is perfect for a turtle nest, so you will sometimes see turtles digging nests and laying eggs on the side of the road.

If you see a turtle nesting or her eggs on or near a Conservancy property, please let us know (705) 326-1620.  If you see a turtle nesting anywhere else in the region, contact the Scales Nature Park Turtle Hotline:    (705) 955-4284

And remember, if you see a turtle trying to cross the road and want to help, don’t try and change the direction they are going in.  They will just come back and try again later.  Read more information on helping turtles to cross the road here


photo: Charon Varty

Update June 13th:  Tonight Scales Nature Park  joined our volunteer Reptile Monitoring team to revisit the nests discovered above and provide some protection from predation. 

99% of turtles never hatch  because of predation by raccoons, skunk, fox, and coyote.   This nest now stands a fighting chance. 

Several other nests on this property had already been predated.  Thank-you to our dedicated reptile monitors and the team at Scales Nature Park.   Again, the number for the Turtle Hotline is:  (705) 955-4284. 





Holly & Jill, new property monitors for the Adams Nature Reserve, dared not take off their bug jackets on their recent visit. photo: Dorthea Hangaard


June 1, 2018:  Who has time to think about mosquitoes when you’re trying to absorb a lifetime of knowledge in a few hours?

New Property Monitoring Team Holly Brown and Jill Russell-Baird took their first visit to the Adams Nature Reserve.  While the mosquitoes were epic, having Dave Hawke on the trip meant they were furiously taking notes and photos, hoping to absorb a lifetime of knowledge in a few hours.  Who had time to think about mosquitoes?  

Among the highlights were a dragonfly emerging from its exoskeleton and a strange unidentified aquatic fungus.  See the photos here


Youssef-Warren Foundation





Doug Varty. photo: Dorthea Hangaard

May 30, 2018:  Our timing was bad on the first Reptile Monitoring visit to the T.C. Agnew & Fawcett Nature Reserves:  too hot.  On the other hand, the team we have on the case is good:  thoughtful conservationists, Doug and Charon Varty, who moved to the area last September. 

We were on the lookout for basking turtles and snakes, but most everyone was underwater staying cool.  We did have one positive Reptile sighting, and the frogs were varied and abundant. 

Now that the Eastern Wood Pewee has been listed as a Species of Special Concern in Ontario, we’re always listening for them, and are happy to report they are doing well at this Nature Reserve. 




Fred Kallin and Morris Ilyniak will be keeping a thermometer on cold water streams flowing into Mill Creek. photo: Dorthea Hangaard


May 29, 2018:  For two years now we’ve been showing you photos of Morris Ilyniak and his Water Team partner out in the snow at Scout Valley, monitoring the water quality of Mill Creek.  Morris and his team mates have come to be known as the Extreme Citizen Science Team. 

We have a great baseline of water quality data now, and have broadened the team’s  horizons to include the entire length of Mill Creek, as it flows through Scout Valley. 

Both Morris and Fred Kallin have taken on the special assignment of monitoring the temperature and volume of the cold water seeps that run into Mill Creek, along with surveying Mill Creek for fish and invertebrates. 




A Red Eft Newt at Alexander Hope-Smith. photo: Dorthea Hangaard


May 17, 2018:  Basking Turtles, Snakes, a Newt, and Frogs were all in evidence as our new Reptile Monitoring Team of Jane Brasher and Meagan Coughlin had their first visit to Alexander Hope-Smith.  

The seasonal pools were plentiful, and it was here we discovered a Red Eft Newt.  Newts in the Red Eft stage become terrestrial for a few years, before becoming adults and returning to the aquatic environment to mate.  This one must have just been moving on to land when we saw it. 






Obligatory Gryke Selfie at Wolf Run Alvar. Cameron, Dorthea, Tom. photo: Cameron Curran


May 16, 2018:  The Carden Field Naturalists, led by Tom Wilson, have taken on the responsibility of stewarding  Wolf Run Alvar.  This 303 acre property is not easy to get to, and we’re grateful for Tom’s dedication to regular monitoring visits. Tom also generously invites the public to accompany him on Wolf Run Walks, and he says he gets between two and 12 people signing up. 

As with most remote properties, making the effort to get there is worth it!  We observed Species at Risk, had a fantastic encounter with a Broad-winged Hawk,  and found evidence of Moose, Deer & Coyote.     Visit our Flickr album “Citizen Science Notes From the Field” here to see Cameron’s beautiful shot of the Broad-winged Hawk, Tom Wilson napping on the Alvar, and much more! 



Youssef-Warren Foundation



Northern Water Snake. photo: Dorthea Hangaard


May 14, 2018:  Jane Sloley & Carol Sinclair made their first visit to the TC Agnew & Emily Fawcett Nature reserve to monitor Salamanders. Jane and Carol are long-time members of the Agnew/Fawcett property monitoring team and have taken on the additional responsibility of monitoring for salamanders throughout the spring, summer, and fall.  They were rewarded on their first visit with a Red-spotted newt sighting in a vernal pool.  They also saw basking Midland Painted Turtles, a Northern Watersnake, and Green Frogs.   To see photos of the Red-spotted newt and more, click here





photo: John Wright


May 1, 2018:  It’s a Frog’s Life.  Did you know that we now have 34 volunteers monitoring our protected landscapes for frog calls?  Most visits are made in the evening, 1/2 hour after sunset, when mating is most active.   Western Chorus Frogs, however,  are best monitored in the afternoon, and that’s when Morris Ilyniak and John Wright (photo) saw this Leopard Frog, and a Frog egg mass.    






Carol Sinclair (red jacket) measures the pool and Emma Horrigan examines a Wood Frog egg mass (photo: Dorthea)


May 3, 2018:  Emma Horrigan of Ontario Nature visited the Adams Nature Reserve to give a Vernal Pool workshop, and the pools put on a great show.   Couchiching Conservancy volunteers and staff, Muskoka Conservancy volunteers and staff, and Georgian Bay Land Trust (GBLT) staff all participated in this afternoon workshop.

We saw the larvae and the adult Four-toed, Red-backed, and Spotted salamander, as well as Wood Frog and spring peeper larvae.  Bill Lougheed, E.D. from the GBLT, tried to find us and instead got charged by a mother otter defending her young.  See the photos here





Beaver at Adams Nature Reserve

A Beaver at the Adams Nature Reserve (photo:  Kim Ariss)


May 1, 2018:  The daytime temperature was a  scorching 26 degrees when volunteers  Kim Ariss & Kartrina Hunt took their first visit to the Adams Nature Reserve to monitor frogs.  In this out-of-whack spring, there was still some ice on one of the ponds.

The spring peepers were in good form and they also heard some Wood Frogs on their way out. 

Bats whizzed overhead, hunting down the first of the mosquitoes. An inquisitive beaver made  several passes as he tried to figure out why these strange guests were out so late!





An evening visit to Monitor Frogs at the Roehl Nature Reserve:

Jordyn, Darlene & Jane (photo: Dorthea)

April 24, 2018:  With evening temperatures of plus 10 but ice and snow still covering sections of the Roehl wetland, it was anybody’s guess what they would hear.  On cue at dusk, the first trills and choruses of the male spring peepers started up and subsided, started up again, and subsided; as though warming up their vocal chords for the main performance.  

By dark they had identified three or four distinct choruses of Spring Peepers around us, and are happy to report that spring is definitely back and hopefully will not be thwarted again.

Darlene and Jane will continue to monitor this site with occasional assistance from Jordyn. 

All over Conservancy wetlands, volunteers are now monitoring frog calls for the season, and we look forward to reporting back their results to you. 



Porcupine photo by John Wright


Wilson’s Snipe photo by John Wright


John Wright and Morris Ilyniak are monitoring for frogs on Bluebird Ranch. 

Not only did they hear frogs, but they caught this porcupine shimmying up a tree and a Wilson’s Snipe hanging out on a fence post. 

-April 24, 2018



Youssef-Warren Foundation



Agnew Tree MaintenanceVolunteer Bruce Duncan visited the Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve on April 5th, ready to manage a number of hazardous trees. 

There were seven trees that were dealt with – some had fallen across the trail, others were likely to fall soon! Learn more about this property and visit the trails. Thanks Bruce for helping keep the trails safe!



Liz Schamehorn Painting on Roehl

photo: David J. Hawke


March 23, 2018:  The sun is shining and the blackflies are absent… what better time to be outdoors painting a scene for our 25th Anniversary Legacy Landscape art show. Liz Schamehorn is on the bank of the Head River within the Kris Starr Sanctuary. She was ‘discovered’ by Dave Hawke while he was doing some trail work on the property. Be sure to book time to see the art show in November!





photo: Dorthea Hangaard


March 23, 2018:  Meagan takes an unplanned dip in one of the streams at Roehl Wetland Reserve, officially marking the beginning of the spring field season.

We’re planning for a new Water Team who will monitor the two streams that flow through the Roehl Reserve, eventually emptying into Sparrow Lake.








To read our Winter 2018 Notes from the Field click here