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UPDATE: Explore Roehl Wetland on July 12

Black River paddlers

We will be meeting at the Silverpines Restaurant & Resort (1613 Kilworthy Rd, Kilworthy, ON P0E 1G0) at 9am. Registration for this event is now full.

The most interesting spots in the natural world are often at the edges – where wet meets dry, where shade meets sunlight, where granite meets limestone. The Roehl Wetland on Sparrow Lake is a shining example, for it illustrates ecological edges at multiple scales. On July 12th, you can join Janet Grand and I on an exploration of this unique reserve.

Roehl Wetland was donated to the Conservancy in 2005 by Dave and Bill Darker in memory of their grandparents. Straddling the mouth of Deadman’s Creek on the west side of Sparrow Lake, the Reserve contains both a series of marshy ponds maintained by beaver, and the adjacent dry granite barrens. So at that level, we will be able to see the way its vegetation changes along the wetland edge.

Those changes determine the wildlife in different parts of the Reserve as well. On the open sunny barrens, we may be able to see Ontario’s only lizard, the Five-lined Skink, if we are lucky. This agile little critter loves the heat, and although its name is accurate, what delights most people are its young, which sport an electric blue tail. There is a good reason for that, but you’ll have to come on our outing to learn that secret!

Along the wetland edge is the best place to find one of the Reserve’s other special creatures, the Massasauga rattlesnake. This is Ontario’s only venomous snake, but it is timid and hard to find. Its territory includes wetland as a ready source of frogs as part of its diet. A study we sponsored a few years ago showed that Roehl Wetland is right on the edge of its local range – despite intensive searching, no Massasaugas could be found on the east side of Sparrow Lake, and all reports of rattlesnakes further east turned out to be harmless species.

Roehl Wetland is also located close to the geological edge where the ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield meet the much younger limestone bedrock. This transition zone, known as The Land Between, runs in a narrow band between Georgian Bay and Kingston, and is recognized as one of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the province. Even within this transition zone, Sparrow Lake stands out because it is one of only a few locations where the nutrient-rich waters from limestone areas runs onto the acidic rocks of the Shield. This anomaly produces the richest mix of aquatic plant life in Canada, a richness well represented in this estuary.

The July 12th Passport to Nature event will spend the morning on a pleasant paddle up Sparrow Lake to the reserve, with a chance to stretch your legs and search for skinks when we arrive. You do need your own canoe or kayak, and you need to pre-register for this free event. Visit The Couchiching Conservancy’s Event Calendar and the registration link is in there. We will do our best to show you why this area is such a special place, and to convince you that edges are ecologically where it’s at!

Written by Ron Reid.