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Notes From the Field – Summer 2019

photo: David J. Hawke

“It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.”  Guardians of the Blueberries are fierce this year.  – July 22, 2019

Joelle and Jan on the banks of the Head River. Photo: Dorthea

The Kris Starr Sanctuary straddles both sides of the Monck Road.  Dave Hawke best describes how to get there:  “Drive past Sebright, Quaker Oaks, keep going, and when you feel like you’ve gone too far, you’re almost there.”  

The north side of the road borders QEII Wildlands Provincial Park.  The Head River meanders through the south side, and on July 22nd our new water monitoring team of Jan Walinck and Joelle Burnie made their first visit.  

They will be monitoring the Head River for Temperature, Turbidity, Phosphates, Nitrates, Alkalinity, pH, and Dissolved Oxygen each month.  Measuring depth is more challenging than at many of our other sites, due to the width and depth of the river, which can flow wildly in the spring.  

Many thanks to Tom Wilson who monitored this site for two years.



Roland Rehhorn, Toby Rowland, and Joan Vincent. photo: Dorthea

The trial period for our new Bat Monitoring Program is underway, and we’ve surveyed four properties as of July 18th. 

We don’t often mention McIsaac Wetland because it is an inaccessible hardwood swamp, but that doesn’t mean it’s not significant habitat.  Last year it started getting more attention when we established a frog monitoring program there, and on July 17th we visited to survey for bats and discovered it’s a hotspot! 

With the monitoring device we rented hoisted onto a selfie stick, Roland immediately started hearing clicks on the headphones, while Joan kept notes.  The monitoring device translates the bat’s sonar into clicks that can be heard by human hearing, and also records the calls which will be identified to species later in the fall.  Bats raced overhead, sometimes dropping to within a dozen feet of us, as fireflies danced in the grass and the full moon rose.  

Thanks to the frog monitoring team for alerting us to the bats in the area, to the Ontario Land Trust Alliance for the equipment and training, and to everyone who donated to the Angela Rehhorn Citizen Science Fund.  


Midland Painted Turtle photo by Marilyn Clark

We’re not always sure when we establish a citizen science monitoring activity on one of our Nature Reserves if it will pan out.  Sometimes our teams need to be good sports and go along with our hunches…and we’re wrong.  

Our reptile monitoring team of Marilyn Clark and Mary Ellen Mulligan is a case in point.  We thought we had set them up with a Nature Reserve that would be excellent for Reptile Monitoring, but their one observation was hard-won.  Recently they were rewarded with this basking Midland Painted Turtle and Marilyn captured this excellent photo.  Knowing that a particular habitat is low in reptile populations is just as important for us as knowing there are lots – although it’s not as much fun for the volunteer.  




Black Bear at Sulphur Springs Ranch. Photo: Dave Hawke


While checking out Sulphur Springs Ranch (Carden Alvar) for invasive plant species, Stewardship Manager Dave Hawke, and summer field staff Alycia and Adrienne had a close encounter with a resident.  Once Dave got its attention, the bear looked a bit baffled as to why people were wandering around its home turf.  No dog-strangling vine found, horray!  – July 12, 2019







Ava and Abbey from St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School in Barrie will be monitoring a stream near their home.

Seven new volunteers joined the Water Monitoring Team after taking our training program June 26th.  Some will be monitoring streams on our Nature Reserves, and some will be monitoring other critical streams in our region through partnerships with the Orillia Fish & Game Conservation Club and Jeff Cole’s Environment Club at Patrick Fogarty Secondary School.  

Special thanks to Jane Bonsteel and Meagan Coughlin who volunteered their time to help with the day-long training program along with Dorthea Hangaard.   See photos from the day and other photos from our field season here





Morgan Roblin & Jeff Driscoll from OLTA, Meagan Coughlin & Toby Rowland from the Couchiching Conservancy. photo: Dorthea.


Bat Monitoring:  It’s all happening!  Thanks to your generous donations to the Angela Rehhorn Citizen Science Fund, the pilot year of our Bat Monitoring Program has launched.  On June 24th, staff from the Ontario Land Trust Alliance delivered an Acoustic Monitoring Device for recording bat calls, and taught staff how to use it.  

Eleven people have already signed on to help us monitor bats on Nature Reserves, and through the month of July we will be taking them out in small groups to follow transects through five properties, hoping to record bat calls.  

In September, the calls recorded will be sent to OLTA for analysis.  We hope to discover which of our properties have bats, and which species are present.  There are eight species of bats in Ontario, four of them listed as Endangered.  

To read more about this citizen science fund, click here





June 24th:  Turtles are on the move, looking for a good place to lay their eggs.  

Happily, this Snapping turtle made it (photo: Dorthea)

It’s a precarious time for turtles as they attempt to cross roadways looking for a nice patch of sand or gravel to lay their eggs.  This Snapping turtle was trying to cross a busy overpass on a Monday morning, with several passers-by stopping to help.  It was dangerous for both the turtle and the helpers, but luckily nobody was hurt.  The turtle carried on in the direction of the Thomas C. Agnew and Fawcett Nature Reserve near Washago.

Scenes like this are playing out all over Ontario, and our summer Citizen Science Field Technician, Toby Rowland, has been transporting injured turtles from our region to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough.  

If you see a turtle attempting to cross a road, remember to carry them in the direction they are travelling.  Lift up the tail, slide your hand underneath the carapice, hold the tail firmly, and carry them across the road to the shoulder.  


Olivia & Robert Sparrow monitoring for Reptiles along the Black River (photo: Dorthea)


Sometimes it’s not so bad working on a Saturday.  

On June 22nd , CC staff took Olivia and Robert Sparrow on their inaugural paddle down the Black River, to learn the basics of monitoring for reptiles along the river.  

Olivia and Robert are new to the Conservancy this year, and recently moved to Toronto from Minneapolis.  They were looking for a way to explore the outdoors north of Toronto, but wanted to do so with a purpose.  

This winter they took two of our citizen science courses, and now they’re putting their knowledge to use along the Black River.  Welcome Olivia & Robert.




Ann Gray all dressed up for date night with Neil

It’s no secret that the Blackflies, Deerflies, and Mosquitoes are at OMG! levels this year, and some of you have been sending in photos of your bug net attire.  Ann Gray worries that her husband Neil now considers their evening frog monitoring visits “date night”.  

Joelle & Courtney Whip-poor-will surveying











See more photos of the latest in bug net attire here



Eastern Whip-poor-will are extremely difficult to see and photograph. Photo by Toby Rowland.


Whip-poor-will monitoring started in earnest this June around the time of the full moon, ‘though some teams were so keen to get out they started in May.  

What started out as a two-year project may continue indefinitely, due to its popularity.  

This year our main focus is on the backroads of Ramara and Carden township.  Teams begin their surveys 1/2 hour after sunset, travelling 1 kilometre and then stopping to listen for the sound of the Whip-poor-will, travelling another kilometre, stopping to listen, and so on.  

Since Whip-poor-wills lack sonar to track their prey (insects) in the dark, they are most active on a clear moonlit night.  

Thanks to Environment Canada for the funding to complete this important survey work.  Whip-poor-wills are listed as Threatened in Ontario.

Read about our Whip-poor-will survey program in the latest edition of ON Nature Magazine by clicking here. 


See our Spring Notes from the Field by clicking here