Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wood Duck Nest Building

On Saturday November 26th Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program hosted a Wood Duck Nesting Box Workshop at Fifty Point Conservation Area. The event was led by Wood Duck expert Alfie Stanevicius (aka Wood Duck Alfie) who has worked on nesting structures for the species for many years. Alfie builds nesting boxes for Wood Ducks because their natural nesting sites have been destroyed due to a lack of understanding of the importance of allowing dead trees to stand rather than cutting them down. 

Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities adjacent to lakes, ponds or wetlands. As humans have developed southern Ontario we have removed many of these trees and consequently Wood Duck nesting sites. What makes Wood Ducks so marvellous are their bright colours, crested head and ability to perch in trees because of their unique adaptation of talons.   

Alfie is the builder and caretaker of over 200 Wood Duck boxes in the Hamilton – Halton area. Through his experience, Alfie has figured out what does and does not work. He has stories of chewed up boxes and stories of Wood Ducks literally laying eggs on the roof of a nesting box.

His presentation was motivational and his love for wildlife was infectious for those in the room. Everyone shared their tales of Wood Duck sightings, nesting successes and failures and everyone constructed their very own Alfie-designed Wood Duck box. One of the attendees was so inspired that they have begun planning a Wood Duck box building event for sometime next year. 

For me it was a great learning experience. I was completely unaware of all the benefits a wood duck nesting box can have. A single box could be used by a Wood Duck, Great Crested Flycatcher and Screech Owl all in the same year. Even Kestrels are using the structures for nesting. These boxes are providing important habitat for species at a vulnerable life stage and they’re also providing an opportunity for people to have a very personal educational experience with local wildlife.

Thank you to all who helped to make this event a success and a special thank you to Alfie for his devotion to helping out Wood Ducks.

Kent Rundle
Watershed Restoration Technician
Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program

If you’re interested in joining a future Wood Duck Nesting Box Workshop or would like plans to build your own at home please contact the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program at mark.funk@conservationhamilton.ca

Monday, 28 November 2011

Ice fishing a growing sport

For some, it is way too early to even think of how cold the weather will turn in the coming weeks…for others (including myself), the cold nasty weather that turns lakes into giant ice sheets – can’t come soon enough.

Each winter, thousands of ice anglers throughout this province will literally hit the ice by year’s end. (If I have any say in the weather, I expect to have a few trips under my belt before year end.) At Valens, we can expect to see our share of these winter ice fishers from the Greater Hamilton Area.  Plus, with the advent of better outdoor wear and specialized ice fishing equipment, the number is growing beyond your typical stereotypes. In fact I have been able to convince 2 of my 3 daughters to take the trip with me to Lake Simcoe, to take up the skill of ice fishing! 

Ice fishing at Valens is a “walk on” experience for the novice to the more seasoned ice fishing veteran.  Valens is a great location to introduce children to this outdoor sport without the 2-3 hour drive up north.   Winter game fish include – Northern Pike, Black Crappie, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, and Yellow Perch.  No bait or rentals are provided at the conservation area, so a good start is to head out to your local outdoors store.

In order to protect this man made reservoir from over harvest, a “catch & release” policy was adopted and respected by the fishing community in 2008.  To date, the fish stocks have been steadily improving and the future has never looked brighter for this fishery.

The ice fishing season at Valens will commence as soon as safe ice has been established by park officials.  Generally the season runs from January to March, weather conditions pending.   A catch & release Ice Fishing Derby is held near the end of January each year.  Over 200 participants will vie for great prizes to take home on a cold winter’s day. Check out HCA Facebook page for more details.

So if you are looking for an ice fishing experience in a conservation setting close to home – Valens Conservation Area may very well be the place for you.  Hope to see you on the ice! 

Gord Costie 
Superintendent, Valens Conservation Area

Monday, 31 October 2011

Recycling is everyone’s Responsibility

Conservation isn’t just about protecting the natural environment that we can see  around us – it’s also about the direct and indirect benefits of all environmental initiatives – like recycling.

That’s why, in 2006, HCA began a recycling initiative at our staff level.  We got rid of our individual garbage and recycle bins at our desks and created central waste stations throughout the offices. Posters were hung, showing staff and visitors how to properly sort and dispose of all types of waste. Using the waste stations has helped staff and visitors  learn proper recycling and green carting. Each week, we recycle and green cart 95% of our waste - we’re down to only one garbage bag a week for our whole main office! We’re proud to know that 95% of our waste is being reused. 

We’ve also expanded our recycling initiative to include a battery recycling depot for staff. Household batteries are one of the most frequent pieces of hazardous waste that make it into our landfills and then they leak into our soil and groundwater.  

We  try new initiatives  to keep staff thinking about recycling. We’ve held lunch and learns, made a question board for those hard to figure out recyclables and – we even tried litter less lunch days – asking everyone to try to bring a lunch without any packaging that would need to be thrown away.  Everyone had to get creative to find reusable containers around their kitchen. 

Our latest project is to try to sort all of the waste generated from some of our biggest events at our Conservation Areas.  Events and services that we provide, generate waste – but we can minimize the amount of material that gets wasted. We don’t want all of that waste to end up in the landfill –we’d like to do what we can to make sure that it can be reused.

Maybe you saw us in action this year. We set up central waste stations at the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic and the Christie Lake Antique Show. Trained volunteers at each station showed people which items went in each of the recycling bins, waste containers and green carts. We were able to sort a lot of our waste while helping people to learn about recycling and green carting.

What Can You Do?
As we are starting to provide recycling and green carting at our events and in our Conservation Areas, we need your help. Next time you’re at one of our facilities, look for recycling bins, and please take the time to think about what’s in your hands and make sure you put it in the proper bin.

Keep in mind that when you throw the wrong thing in the wrong bin it “contaminates” the whole bag so that bag can’t be sent for recycling or composting – it has to go in the garbage. Everything in that bag that could have been recycled or composed goes to waste.

Jaime Overy
Project Planner
Hamilton Conservation Authority

For more information on Recycling and Garbage Collection please refer to The City of Hamilton or your local municipality.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Enjoying the Fall Colours

I took the opportunity last week to get out and explore the Niagara Escarpment and the views of all the fall colours. I hiked with a group from Escarpment Views Magazine up at the Silver Creek Conservation Area in Georgetown on one warm and sunny afternoon, and spent a little time photographing my pals, the turkey vultures (I’m sure I’ll be talking more about them some other time), up at Mount Nemo Conservation Area in Burlington. It almost doesn’t matter where you go along the Escarpment; there always seem to be excellent views of fall colours and vistas. I find that some of my favourite areas to view fall colours, though, are right here in Hamilton.

The massive Carolinian forest in the Dundas Valley, which includes the Spencer Gorge, provides some of the best colours when the conditions are right. I often hike with either one of my daughters in the Valley. My younger daughter keeps up with me (sometimes it’s the other way around) on the many trails in the DVCA. On a side note, I do also hike with my older daughter, but hiking with her is much different. When I take off to grab a photo or some video, she likes to curl up under a tree and have a nap until I get back. Don’t worry, though. I know she’ll be all right. She’s 27. Sorry Sarah, but it’s too funny not to tell. Aside from the colours, we had great opportunities to see pileated woodpeckers, white-tailed deer, hawks and vultures and all sorts of creatures. One of our best days was a salamander hunt on the Headwaters trail. But I think it was overshadowed by our early morning Thanksgiving hike in the Spencer Gorge

The waterfalls and escarpment features are a big draw in that area, but what struck us most that day was the variety of experiences we had. On the hike from Tews Falls to the Dundas Peak, there were areas of forest that looked like it was spring. The leaves were green and the sun was reflecting down through the mists in the forest even though it was the middle of October. When we came out of the forest at the Peak, we waited for some shadows to pass and watched as the Gorge’s colours were revealed. It’s always a breathtaking sight. Our next experience was walking the trail at the bottom of the Gorge along the Spencer Creek. It was almost surreal with the sound of flowing water, the golden-coloured forest floor, and the walls of the Gorge stretching upwards around you.

So, while there are still some colours left on the trees, try to get out. The sights, the smells, the experiences of hiking at this time of year will be missed in a few weeks when the blahs of winter start to settle in. Feel free to share your stories with us here or on our Social Networks. We’re just getting started with our blog and hope to bring you some interesting perspectives from some guest bloggers about climate change, environmental issues, outdoor education, recreation, water and natural resources and fish and bugs and creatures and all sorts of stuff! Until then, good hiking!

Chris Hamilton
Community Relations Information Officer
Hamilton Conservation Authority