Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Nature Crawl in the Dundas Valley

The Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy joined forces with the Hamilton Conservation Foundation (HCF), the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program (HHWSP) and the Giants Rib Discovery Centre (GRDC) to recognize the year’s donors and volunteers and all the efforts to preserve and enhance the Dundas Valley Area through a special Nature Crawl, The Shades of Autumn.  Free to all donors, the crawl featured a BBQ and two guided hikes into the beauty of the Dundas Valley, in the height of its fall colours.

HCF and HHWSP were also highlighting their receipt of a donation by the RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grant of $45,000 dollars for an upcoming pilot project entitled Made in Dundas Solutions to Managing Stormwater.  This grant will fund the  HHWSP’s work with landowners and volunteers in the built Community of Dundas to encourage, design, implement and demonstrate lot level retrofit projects to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff into Spencer Creek, which flows into Cootes Paradise, Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario.  More about the HHWSP

One of the guided hikes was led by Giant’s Rib volunteer hike leader, Ron Plinte. Ron is one of a half dozen volunteers who leads weekend interpretive hikes for the GRDC. The “Giant’s Rib” was an early name for the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.  The Giant’s Rib Discovery Centre is a small interpretive centre in the Dundas Valley’s Trail Centre building, which educates visitors about the Niagara Escarpment. Fossil displays, interpretive panels, an escarpment library, taxidermy and crafts for kids are a few features visitors can enjoy on weekends, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers. As part of the Giant’s Rib Escarpment Education Network (GREEN), the Discovery Centre also features a monthly artist or photographer on display, monthly lectures, curriculum-based Rocks and Minerals teacher’s kits for grade 4, and an escarpment website. The Giant’s Rib is a partner in the Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision. GREEN holds volunteer appreciation days in the spring and fall and was excited to share this event with the Foundation and contribute to the excellent program enjoyed by all.   More about the Giant’s Rib Discovery Centre.
The Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision is a comprehensive community centric initiative which is focused on conservation efforts that are meant to preserve or enhance the Dundas Valley Community and Area. It was my pleasure as Project Manager for the Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision to recognize the efforts of many, and to share how they are helping the community and the Hamilton Conservation Authority realize several elements of the 50 Year Vision. 

After the key note address and the cheque presentation by RBC to the Hamilton Conservation Foundation, two guided hikes were offered into the Dundas Valley. As the Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision Project Manager I led a guided hike to the Hermitage and back along the Main Loop trail. The valley floor and tree canopy provided a spectacular variety of colours for those participating in the hike, and there was plenty of opportunity to highlight the unique natural features of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area including the Carolinian Forest, the Niagara Escarpment, and the history of Sulphur Springs, Sulphur Creek and the Hermitage.  The comprehensive 50 Year Vision recognizes the unique architectural and cultural heritage the history of the area provides; the promotion and preservation of this area is central to the 50 year vision, and sharing it with people is essential. 

The Nature Crawl event provided the opportunity for the Hamilton Conservation Foundation to recognize the donors and volunteers that make environmental, and conservation efforts possible throughout our watershed. In the future, this event will provide the opportunity for partnering organizations, and those fulfilling elements within the vision, to promote their work and reach out to like-minded people, be it organizations, or possible donors/volunteers. 

To donate to the restoration of the Hermitage, please visit the Hamilton Conservation Foundation’s website and select Hermitage Ruins Restoration in the “Fund to Support” drop down menu.  Or contact the Hamilton Conservation Foundation  at 905-525-2181 between 8:30am and 4:30pm, Monday to Friday.

John Williams
Project Manager; Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy
Hamilton Conservation Authority

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

What's Alive in Hamilton

On the heels of a two year survey of natural areas in Hamilton, here at HCA we've been fortunate to witness all sorts of wildlife in the area. Now, our native wildlife may not be as exciting as lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!), but we have had a few surprises. Every 10 years or so, HCA and local environmental partners conduct a Natural Areas Inventory with the purpose of monitoring changes in habitat and species in the area.

This past year, the elusive and nocturnal Southern flying squirrel made a surprise appearance at our offices, allowing us a rare opportunity to view and share information about this cool little creature.
This past spring we had a report of an American badger having been seen in the Greensville area. HCA ecology staff went out to investigate and found a den which appeared to fit the size, shape and dimensions of a badger den. Since this creature is endangered in Ontario and rarely spotted here in Hamilton, this had the potential to be an exciting find. Badgers can roam up to 200 kilometres, so the possibility exists that a badger has wandered in from Norfolk County.
american badger
"The American Badger is gray, with dark legs and bold black and white stripes on its head and face. Badgers are built for digging. Their dens can be up to 3 metres underground and contain up to 10 metres of tunnels, with an enlarged chamber for sleeping. Badgers have long strong claws and a streamlined skull enabling them to create these dens and dig prey out of burrows. In Ontario, badgers are found in a variety of habitats, such as tall grass prairie, sand barrens and farmland. These habitats provide badgers with small prey, including groundhogs, rabbits and small rodents. Since badgers are primarily nocturnal and quite wary of people, not many people are fortunate enough to spot one in the wild." - Government of Ontario, Species at Risk (SARO)
With this in mind, HCA set up a motion-sensing wildlife camera around the den. Thanks to our dedicated summer staff who poured over hours of video, we're able to show you the species which came by the den. Some are common species we see every day, but others are a little less common. The badger.... well, you'll just have to watch and see!

Chris Hamilton
Information Officer

Friday, 25 July 2014

Michigan Lilies in Stoney Creek.                

By Bruce Mackenzie

Something new popped up this June along the Dofasco Trail!

The Dofasco Trail - on the Mountain in Stoney Creek - passes through many different habitats and there are always some surprises to please the trail walker. We often think of wild flowers as adorning the forest in the spring. Spring wild flowers take advantage of the sunshine in the forest before the leaves come out on the trees that shade the forest floor. After the trees create their canopy of leaves overhead wildflowers mostly disappear from the shaded forest floor. There are some exceptions of course, and the Michigan Lily is one.

The lily starts growing in April but because of its large size it is not ready to bloom until the end of June with just exceptional orange blooms. The Michigan Lily is not commonly found in our area so it is a real treat when one comes across it. If you find one you are likely to find a hundred or more. At the very east end of the Dofasco Trail there is a lovely woodlot that the trail cuts through just west of the 11th Line. Here the Michigan Lily grows along the trail. Most of them are just on the other side of the fence (private property) but all are easily viewed from the trail. They are pretty big plants so their beauty can be enjoyed close and at more of a distance.

Michigan Lilies are normally considered plants to be found in Tall Grass Prairies in Ohio and Michigan and points west. Finding them growing in the woodlot is indeed a treat. They are perennial plants that sprout each year and they grow from a corm. A corm acts like a bulb. The lily’s corm has the appearance more like a funny clump of white rice. They generally spread by seeds released in the fall.  They grow up to almost 2 m. in height and depending upon their age the number of blooms on each plant will increase. As many as ten blooms on one plant have been found. Most of the plants in this woodlot are about a meter in height with 2 or 3 blooms.  Canada Day always seems to be when the blooms seem to be at peak.  The show usually lasts until mid July.

This June there was a whole new stand of these lilies next to the trail with several hundred plants. But this new patch is not in the woodlot but just adjacent to it on the east side of the woods in a most beautiful meadow. Here the plants are growing in full sunshine and in full competition with the grasses, milkweeds and vetches. Wow, what a sight… but why this year? Lilies have not been seen growing here before.

Well, one difference this year is that cattle that normally graze in this field have not been put out in this pasture to date. Just maybe in the past the cows have taking a liking to nibbling on Michigan Lilies in the past. This year we can thoroughly enjoy the fact that the cows are somewhere else. We will wait to see what happens in June next year.

So keep your eyes out for the brilliant orange blooms of the Michigan Lily along the Dofasco Trail. If you miss the Michigan Lily don’t be disappointed for there are many more flowering plants along the trail that will be blooming throughout the summer and into October. The Yellow Jewelweed is another favorite that is found along various sections of the Dofasco Trail.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Farm Crawl with HCA

A variety of farms opened up their doors and fields to the community this past weekend at another successful Farm Crawl, this time on the western edge of Hamilton. This area's farms, are big on community and on sharing their products and way of life. Saturday was overcast and rainy, but people flooded into the fields.  Ticket sales were estimated at several hundred, not including the many children who could learn and take part for free. This family and community orientated day exemplified the importance of agriculture as an industry and a lifestyle.

The Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy along with the Hamilton Halton Stewardship
Program were graciously hosted by Weirs Lane Lavender and Apiary for the afternoon. The Hamilton Halton Watershed Stewardship Program had assisted the farm establish a native/pollinator garden. This project would benefit their bee keeping and lavender honey-making venture, but the garden also provides a living teaching tool.

The staff of Weirs Lane Lavender and Apiary are enthusiastic about not only their craft, but also in their roles as hosts and teachers that day. The Hamilton Conservation Authority’s Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy were there in recognition of the farm’s commitment to the community. This agricultural leadership is community focused, and will help preserve and enhance the Dundas Valley as it is today and how it could be tomorrow.

If you'd to view these farms and their products and practices, please follow the links below to their webpages for contact information.  Click here for information on the conservation efforts and the work of the Hamilton Halton Watershed Stewardship Program (including the pollinator garden at Lavender Apiary).

Click here for more on the Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy or complete our survey if you have any ideas or comments about the Dundas Valley area now and in the future.

Hamiton Farm Crawl http://www.farmcrawlhamilton.ca
ManoRun Organic Farm http://www.manorun.com/
Lotsa Hostas & Jerry’s Berry’s http://www.jerrysberries.ca/
Weir’s Lane Lavender and Apiary http://www.weirslanelavender.com/

John Williams
Project Manager; Dundas Valley 50 Year Vision and Strategy
Hamilton Conservation Authority

Friday, 18 July 2014

Experience Valens Lake Conservation Area

Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all, but don't want to travel hours away from home to get away? While your in luck Valens Lake Conservation Area boosts many qualities of the great north while being just a short drive from the city. If you have yet to discover the wilderness of Valens Lake you have a great opportunity to explore what nature has to offer, if you have been there before you will be able to relate to our friend Jeff who most highly recommends the area. 

Read Jeff's story below and be inspired to make your next trip to Valens Lake Conservation Area!

We go to Valens all year round, and just love it.  It is like being in Algonquin Park. When we stay overnight camping, it feels like we are in a different place, far from our home in Hamilton. In fact my wife commutes to work in Burlington from our site. Our children are reacquainted with nature, and you can be put to sleep listening to the coyotes howling along with the many night birds and frogs. Looking around at night at other campfires and hearing all the night sounds makes it tough to believe we are in Hamilton!

Scientifically, four hours walking the beautiful trails in Valens gives you ten days worth of feeling of well being!

You can also bring or rent a boat and float around and fish on the lake.  No motors.

We have been going for years and always get our annual membership, so that we can go anytime we want!  It is a great way to get the kids interested in nature (their electronics get shut off at the gate).  We have seen myriad frogs and butterflies, hawks and many other birds including owls, turtles, racoons, and deer there.  Being there stretches the day into another of many treasured Valens memories.

We feel ownership in a way, regarding Valens.  There is a big field where kids gather and play and a nice quiet beach.  Most highly recommended!


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Do It Yourself Composter that Works!

A Composter That Works!!

This is a basic outline describing a composter built at home.  Organic matter broke down so fast that one to two feet of finished compost could be removed from the bottom of both composters every year.  The composters are wood and are painted black.  The black colour blends in with the colour of the asphalt driveway.  The driveway is a very handy location especially in winter when snow is on the ground.

We never mixed or stirred the material in the composter.  We just left it alone and it broke down.

It is not necessary to purchase new materials to construct composters. Materials used to construct these two composters were:
v  wood from one or two skids or solid scrap wood

v  two or three old metal hinges

v  screws (not nails)

v  hardware cloth

v  U – shaped hooks to attach the hardware cloth to the inside of the composter

The frame of the composters were built first.  Then the side slats were attached. Slats were situated far enough apart so that the organic matter in the composter was exposed to air.
Once composter construction was complete, the sides and top were lined on the inside with hardware cloth of a mesh size small enough to prevent animals from entering the composter. 

An access point was constructed at the bottom front of the composters so that finished compost could be removed easily.

Remove finished compost slowly in case there is a mouse in the composter.

Location of the Composter – VERY IMPORTANT

These composters were situated so that air was able to circulate around all four sides.  They are exposed to full sun and precipitation.  A composter works most efficiently if it is exposed to weather.  The composting material will not smell if it is able to breakdown properly.

These composters were placed on solid level ground.  Solid ground can be asphalt, cement, or patio stones.  This prevents animals from burrowing underneath the composter and getting into it.  It also provides a clean surface to work on when removing finished compost.  Worms and other organisms do not need to be purchased and added to the composter.  Worms and other organisms that break down organic matter will find their way into the composter naturally even if it is situated on asphalt, cement or patio stones.

Animals, other than mice and chipmunks have never gotten into our composter.  We used to have a different composter located in the backyard situated on bare soil.  Animals dug underneath it to get at the organic matter.  That does not happen now with the composter located on the driveway.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about these composters.  They were constructed separately and then joined in the middle to make a little storage shelf.

Sheila O'Neal
Watershed Stewardship Manager
At Hamilton Conservation Authority Office:
905-525-2181 Ext. 164
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
At Conservation Halton Office:
905-336-1158 Ext. 2315

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Spring comes to the Hamilton Harbour Watersheds

By March, the worst of the winter would be over. The snow would thaw, the rivers begin to run and the world would wake into itself again.
Not that year.
Winter hung in there, like an invalid refusing to die. Day after grey day the ice stayed hard; the world remained unfriendly and cold.”
Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost Giants

The above quote pretty well sums up our situation here in the Hamilton Harbour watersheds. Following a very cold and snowy winter, spring has arrived. The presence of a polar vortex this winter has kept us in its frigid grip. In a changing climate we fully expect that extreme weather events will be the new norm. The question remains are we ready to deal with these events? 

This winter saw snow and ice accumulations in excess of the 30 year average for the month of February. Temperatures for January and February were 4 to 5 degrees colder. The ice storm in December kicked off winter and was very quickly followed by a number of significant snow storms. Snow has been on the ground since December and accumulation has risen to some of the highest we’ve seen in the Hamilton area. Lower winter temperatures have allowed for thicker ice formation in creeks and ponds, making the potential for ice jams and associated flooding a real concern.

With no January thaw this year, a spring melt will generate higher than normal flows in local streams and creeks. Also of concern this year is the remnant impact of the ice storm in December as trees and other vegetation that were broken and damaged during the ice storm are now washed into creeks and carried downstream. The potential for debris jams is high which in turn elevates the potential for flooding. 

This spring, temperatures have remained below normal and this has allowed for our runoff to local creeks to be more gradual. However there has been strong daytime melting and the power of water can be daunting and should never be underestimated.

Spring is the time of year when rivers and creeks are hard at work moving sediment and
water from the headwaters of their watersheds to the confluence with a larger river or lake. As water and sediment are transported along a stream corridor important work is being done to shape the bed and banks and this allows the creek to armour itself against erosion. Higher flows now mean that a creek can access its floodplain and create new life by providing excellent conditions (nutrients, moisture etc.) for various floodplain species to grow and thrive. There is a natural balance as creeks carry on this work.
As creeks empty into Cootes Paradise there is a calming effect as the water flow slows down and water levels rise and empty into Hamilton Harbour.

The contribution of surrounding watersheds via their creeks to Hamilton Harbour is enormous. Contributions include water, sediment, ice and debris. The Harbour reflects these contributions and the resulting conditions are what you see which starts with the spring freshet.

Happy Spring!

Hazel Breton
Manager of Water Resource Engineering
Hamilton Conservation Authority