Giving Tuesday: Strong Attachments to Bebensee Tract

Leading up to Giving Tuesday 2021, we are excited to present the stories of TTLT supporters and their relationships with our nature reserves. The final story that we are honoured to share is that of Lenore Patterson and her strong attachments to Bebensee Tract.

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Giving Tuesday: Memories of Hawk Cliff Woods

Leading up to Giving Tuesday 2021, we are excited to present the stories of TTLT supporters and their relationships with our nature reserves. The second story we have the privilege to share is from Bob Johnstone highlighting the sights, sounds, and more that bring him back to Hawk Cliff Woods.

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Giving Tuesday: Prescribing Joany's Woods

Leading up to Giving Tuesday 2021, we are excited to present the stories of TTLT supporters and their relationships with our nature reserves. First up is the story of Lynn Vander Vloet and her connection to Joany's Woods.

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Stories from 20 Years: Just the Beginning

Many great stories begin with someone taking a chance, and that is how my story with Thames Talbot Land Trust began.

In April of 2019, I was fresh out of college with my post-graduate certificate and looking for the opportunity to gain traction in the environmental field.

Previously, I had struggled immensely to find an environmental job. After graduating university in 2017, I sent my resume and cover letter far and wide, but no one was interested in hiring someone who had no environmental work experience. After a year of no luck, enrolling in the Environmental Management and Assessment post-graduate certificate program at Niagara College was my next step, and as it came to an end, I wondered if I would have the same difficulties.

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Stories from 20 Years: Remebering Jane Bowles

To those long acquainted with TTLT, the name Jane Bowles is a familiar one but, to those newer to the organization, her legacy may be less well known. A passionate advocate for the Trust since its early years, she had a profound influence on its evolution that continues to be felt today.

Raised in Kenya by a botanist mother and a nature-loving father, Jane acquired her naturalist skills at an early age. She proudly told stories of birding with Roger Tory Peterson and hobnobbing with the Leakeys of anthropology fame. After graduating in Botany from the University of Aberdeen, she came to Canada to study the effect of recreational pressure on the sand dune ecosystems of Pinery Provincial Park, which led to her obtaining a doctorate in Plant Sciences. 

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Schools Program Moving Forward

Oh, how time flies! It seems like yesterday that we were filling out an application for the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grow grant to grow the Thames Talbot Land Trust’s (TTLT) Schools Program. The goal was to teach youth about ecosystem restoration and provide hands-on experiences to improve local natural areas (i.e TTLT nature reserves) and empower students to make a difference in their communities. June 2021 marks the third and final year of the OTF Grow grant, so we thought it would be a good time to reflect on all that the students have accomplished and what this means for TTLT’s Schools Program moving forward.

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Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina)

The dinosaur-like Snapping Turtle is under special concern status in Canada, which means that it may be threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats. They are Canada’s largest freshwater turtle, growing 20-36 cm in length and weighing between 4.5-16.0 kg. Snapping turtles have large black, olive, or brown shells, usually covered in algae. Their tails can be longer than their bodies and have dinosaur-like triangular crests.

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My Time at TTLT as a Co-operative Education Student

Hi, my name is Ryan Luksys, and I am a grade 11 student at Catholic Central High School (CCH) in downtown London. For the past month or so, I have been on a co-operative education placement with TTLT, and it has been an amazing experience. I have been able to  do so many things and learn so much that I would never have been able to do in the classroom. From interacting with turtles, to plant identification and health assessment, TTLT has taught me so much and shown me what careers in the environment sector may be like so that I can plan for my future.

Here I am holding a snapping turtle and helping it cross the road.

Nature has always been important in my life. Whether I was building a tree fort in the woods with my friends, or fishing at the local pond, I enjoyed time spent in nature, so when I found out about the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) that was offered at CCH, I knew that was the program for me. Sadly, that plan fell through because of conflicts with a program I was already in. I had to take another pathway, but I stayed in touch with the ELP teacher who recommended a few co-op placements, like TTLT. TTLT was one of the only organizations that was accepting co-op students, and that turned out to be a huge blessing, because most of the other kids in my co-op class only got to do online placements where they did desk work most days. I am so happy I was able to get out of the house and get my hands dirty while spending time in nature. 

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Volunteering to Enhance Your Life and Career

I belong to a Facebook group called Wildlife Science Career Network where people who work in wildlife or conservation give online advice to newbies – like me. New graduates from conservation, wildlife, or environmental programs post often, and the one question I see the most begins with, “Help! Nobody will hire me. I have no experience. What can I do?” Guess what the most common answer is!

Volunteer. Volunteer. Volunteer.

New grads typically do not like this answer and reply, “I don’t have time”, or “Volunteering is for the privileged, I can’t work for free.”

I’m graduating this April with my Science degree. I do not want to be in the no-experience-boat, and I don’t want you to be either! To avoid the “no experience” dilemma, I will share with you what I know about volunteering and how it is affordable, does not take up a lot of time, and is not just for the privileged.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Eastabrook

Julia Eastabrook: Former Staff, Current Volunteer, Forever Supporter

Julia’s story begins like many environmentally minded people, in the trees. As a child, Julia would explore the forest floor then oversee the woods by climbing the trees. As Julia grew older, she never lost her passion for nature and the environment, but also developed interests in the community and political issues.

Julia started working at TTLT in 2012 because “protecting nature and natural spaces is critical work”. Being involved with TTLT provided her the opportunity to be immersed in a network of environmentally conscious individuals with a lot of knowledge for nature. Julia described her experience as helping her to see “the forest for the trees. To understand how our ecosystem works and how it is interconnected.” Julia’s experiences also sparked her hobby of native plant gardening.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Cathy Hamel

Cathy’s story begins in Germany where a Canadian military couple were stationed and adopted her. They brought her back to Canada with them when she was 3 years old. “My dad always called me his souvenir of Germany.”

She spent her childhood years in North Bay and her teenage years in Niagara Falls. After studying Environmental Biology and Women’s Studies at University and a “short” 11-year stint working at Agriculture Canada, she became an autoworker for 30 years where she got heavily involved with the union. “Social activism led to much volunteering for various organizations, and I’d always been very interested in the natural world. I’ve been an avid birder since I was a teen and have belonged to various nature groups, so I was able to combine these two passions as a volunteer bird bander for Birds Canada for two seasons.”

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Volunteer Spotlight: Kaitlin Richardson

You may know Kaitlin Richardson as Thames Talbot Land Trust’s current President, but she is, and has been, a part of many environmental organizations in London, ON and surrounding areas in several capacities. Holding Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Environmental Science, as well as diplomas in Ecological Restoration and Rehabilitation and Environmental Assessment, Kaitlin strives to protect, steward, and restore nature for Ontario’s biodiversity and Species at Risk. Her passion has led to many years of experience within the environmental non-profit sector. In the past, she was the Stewardship Coordinator at TTLT, Project Manager at ReForest London, and an Urban Forestry technician at the City of London. She is currently a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and as well as being TTLT’s President, serves as chair of TTLT’s Property Management Committee (PMC), a committee that she has volunteered with for many years. Her passion for the environment also spills over into her spare time. “I’m often tending to my native plant garden, volunteering for environmental organizations, and taking long hikes to admire the local plants, birds, and turtles.”

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Conservation Spotlight: Enagagement

Along with protecting and restoring nature, here at TTLT we also nurture nature and nurture relationships with nature. Read about the launch of our revamped Volunteer Program, the success of a hybrid Biodiversity Boss program, and our journey into the world of webinars.

 

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Volunteer Spotlight: Matthew Palarchio

Matthew Palarchio is one of Thames Talbot Land Trust’s newer and (probably) the youngest of our consistent supporters. His interest in the natural world started from a very early age. “When I was a boy, my mother took me on hikes in local natural areas of London, ON. I am also lucky to have a cottage on Lake Superior, where I spent the summers. In eighth grade, I had a little infatuation with trees, as I discovered that the forest was remarkably diverse. Into high school, I self-studied trees, so by the time I volunteered with TTLT in Grade 11, I could identify most trees in London’s natural areas, even when leafless.”

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Conservation Spotlight: Blain Farm Restoration

Welcome to Blain Farm, a 67-acre farm property with 1.3km of frontage along the Thames River on the edge of the Skunk’s Misery natural area. Thames Talbot Land Trust purchased the property in 2009 from Wilbert and Eleanor Blain, who’s family had farmed the land for over 70 years. TTLT recognized the importance both of agriculture in the area, and of the natural features of property, including a forested buffer along the river. This riverine forest serves as a natural corridor connecting the Thames River to the core of Skunk’s Misery, one of southwestern Ontario’s important natural areas.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Mick Dawdy

Mick Dawdy has had many different interests and hobbies over the years. In the 60s, reading science fiction was centre stage, followed by photography and sailing in the 70s and 80s, then micro computers in the 80s (necessitated by his role as a Professor at Fanshawe College). In the 90s, roller blading and martial arts captured his attention and in the current century, hiking, motorcycling, and off-roading in his Jeep occupy his time. At the age of 10, he began selling New Liberty magazines door-to-door, which inadvertently led him to a deep interest in chemistry. Depending on the amount of sales made, one could earn coupons that could be used to purchase a prize from the Prize Book. Mick ended up being quite the salesman and chose the ChemCraft Chemistry Set as his prize. He continued to fund this newfound interest through his teen years by delivering papers, doing drugstore deliveries, and babysitting. He would go on to pursue and complete a BA in math and economics, a MSc in computer science, and some work towards a PhD in Systems Engineering at Western University (more on that here).

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Conservation Spotlight: MeadowWoods

MeadowWoods is one of the newest additions to TTLT’s roster of nature reserves, with the official paperwork being signed this past September. Tucked in the southwest corner of Elgin County, MeadowWoods spans along 100 km of the Lake Erie shoreline as part of a larger coastal wildlife corridor. Its mixture of deciduous forest, wet meadow, and wetland provides ideal habitat for a variety of flora and fauna species, including the 200 species of migrant and resident birds, as well as many rare species.

 

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Behind the Scenes: Attaching a Radio Transmitter to a Snapping Turtle

Ever wondered what it’s like to attach a radio transmitter to a Snapping Turtle? Allow us to show you through this series of captioned photos. All photos were generously provided by Cathy Hamel.

First, we need to find a turtle. Lucky for us, this lovely female Snapping Turtle just finished laying eggs, making her easy to spot. All we had to do was sit and wait until she left her nest.

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Volunteer Spotlight - André Lachance

Nature and science have always been a part of André’s life in one form or another. André grew up in a suburb of Montreal. As a child, he found science to be extremely interesting, even though it wasn’t a strong feature of his elementary education. “My favourite subject was science, but the science class only lasted about 5 minutes late Friday.” At home, he would go to his basement “laboratory” where he would mix random chemicals and hope for something cool to happen. He jokes, “I did manage to release chlorine gas and sulfur oxide.”

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The Meadowlily Nature Preserve

Some land trusts are formed as people rally to protect a cherished natural area that is imperilled by development or some other threat.  However, for the first two years of its existence, the Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT) was a landless land trust.  It was an incorporated charity with a board of directors, by-laws, policies and several committees but – alas – no property to its name.  It was a vision in search of its first tangible expression.

TTLT’s Mary Kerr with Carol and Rick Richardson at the dedication ceremony for the Meadowlily Nature Preserve  (Photo credit: Dave Wake)

The Trust needed someone to take a leap of faith, someone to take a chance on an enthusiastic but young, and largely unproven, organization.  Fortunately for TTLT, that someone – actually two “someones” – came along in the persons of Carol and Rick Richardson.  For many years, Carol and Rick had enjoyed the charms of their 14.5-acre property on Meadowlily Road South in London.  It featured several acres of mature hardwood forest, a meandering stream and an open meadow along the banks of the Thames River.  Adding to its allure was the fact that it is situated directly across the road from the City of London’s Meadowlily Woods Environmentally Significant Area.

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Stories From 20 Years; Founding Member Profile – A.K. Betz

Grand visions are all well and good – even necessary – when launching a new organization, but there are some inescapable practical matters that soon also demand one’s attention.  One of them, of course, is where the money is going to come from.  Start-up costs abound, even for an all-volunteer organization, as the Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT) was in its early years.  These include everything from the extraordinary – paying legal fees for incorporation – to the mundane – renting a post office box.

To fund this early phase of the Trust, a limited-time class of membership – termed Founding Member – was established.  A Founding Member was any individual or organization contributing $1000 or more to the Trust during its first five years of existence.  Fortunately for TTLT, nineteen individuals and three organizations answered the call, providing a firm financial footing from which to launch this bold undertaking. 

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What Is It Wednesday: Milksnake

Name: Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum)

This week is our grand finale of our blog series “What is it Wednesday”, which will be featuring the Milksnake. The Milksnake can be found in Southern Ontario and Quebec with a northern range to Sault Ste Marie. This long, slender snake can reach a length of about 90 cm, while its body is no wider than its head. Being tan with reddish-brown blotches gives it a similar appearance to the Northern Watersnake, Eastern Foxsnake, Eastern Hog-nosed snake and Eastern Massasauga. Its key identifying features are the bold black outline around the blotches on its back and the V or Y shaped mark on its head. Having a similar appearance to the eastern Massasauga rattle snake comes in handy, as the Milksnake is able to use mimicry as a defense mechanism. When threatened the Milksnake will shake its tail, which creates a buzzing sound similar to a rattle snake’s while vibrating against dry vegetation. This defense mechanism isn’t always effective as raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes will still prey on them. The life span of a Milksnake in the wild is about 7-10 years. This isn’t very long considering that it takes them about 4 years to reach sexual maturity. Living in captivity they are known to live up to 20 years.

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What Is It Wednesday: Barn Swallow

Name: Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Barn Swallows are very distinguishable by the blue of their head, wings, and tail against the rusty cinnamon of their chest and belly. Their forked tail adorned with white spots is a dead giveaway while in flight, as is the fluidity of their wingbeats and their quick, acrobatic grace that allows them to make tight turns and dives in the blink of an eye. When perched, they tend to have what I like to call the hunched, grumpy stance. Their heads flatten into their body causing their neck to disappear, while their broad shoulders spread out. Very distinct and very cute.

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What is it Wednesday: Eastern Hog-nose Snake

Name: Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

The Eastern Hog-nosed snake is one of the most fascinating snakes in Ontario. The colours of the snake range from a grey and brown striped pattern to a blotchy yellow-orange and black, like that of the Fox snake, to a solid blue-grey, like the Blue Racer snake. The Eastern Hog-nosed snake also mimics the shape of the Massasauga Rattlesnake with a fat body and can reach lengths of about 1 meter long.

The Eastern Hog-nosed snake continues its mimicry of many other snakes in its multiple defense mechanisms. It’s first tactic is to lie motionless and depend on its camouflage to disguise itself. Failing this, it will puff out its neck, like a Cobra or Puff Adder, raise its head up and stand in a striking pose. Similar to a rattle snake, it will start to rattle its tail while holding its striking pose. Then it will strike, while keeping its mouth closed. This is all a bluff as its venom cannot affect anything larger than a small mammal. Its last tactic is to play dead. The snake will flip onto its back, exposing its belly and lie there with its mouth open and tongue hanging out. To top it all off, it will release a foul-smelling odour or even regurgitate its food. This is to deter predators that avoid rancid or decaying meals. It’s as if this snake is trying to take the identity of every other snake in the world.

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Stories From 20 Years; Mary Kerr

For many years, one of the hotspots of environmental activism and heritage protection in London was not in an elaborate board room but a modest home on Elworthy Avenue in the city’s Old South community.

A force of nature and a force for nature, Mary Elizabeth Kerr’s advocacy work began in the 1980s when she felt she needed to move from simply enjoying nature to actively working to protect it.  Once Mary set her mind to something, there was no stopping her.

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What Is It Wednesday: Prothonotary Warbler

Name: Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

Prothonotary Warblers are a unique Carolinian Zone species. From head to belly, this bird is a bright golden-yellow with wings and a backside of olive-green and a dark blue-grey at its tail end. Compared to most other Warblers, they have unusually long bills and short legs. Their longer bills are essential for nest building - in North America, they are the only species of Warbler that creates its own nesting cavity by excavating dead or dying trees. They will also nest in pre-existing cavities made by Chickadees and Woodpeckers, natural cavities, and nest boxes. They sing a very clear and fast “Tsweet-tsweet-tsweet-tsweet”, which you will primarily hear in deciduous forests of the Carolinian Zone. Their foraging habits take place in the forest understory and on the ground, where they slowly hop around, looking for a tasty meal.

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What Is It Wednesday: Tulip Tree

Name: Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Also known as: Yellow Poplar (in terms of lumber)

Tulip Trees are fast-growing and are one of the taller trees that grow in southern Ontario. Most trees reach a height no greater than 20-30 m, but Tulip Trees, along with a few select others, reach heights of 35 m, sometimes greater. This majestic species can live up to 300 years, if given the time and room to grow. They are not related to Tulips (Tulips belong to the Lily family, whereas Tulip Trees belong to the Magnolia family), but somehow have leaves and flowers shaped like tulips. Odd, yes, but convenient for identification. The leaves of this tree grow to be 7 to 12 cm in length and are light green with 4 lobes that draw out the resemblance of a flat tulip. It’s 6-petaled flowers are yellow-green with an orange base. The flowers bloom in the summertime between May and June for at least a month but depending on the age and size of the tree, there may not be any flowers to be had. This is because it can take 15 years for a Tulip Tree to mature. Even once flowers are produced, they may still be out of sight as they tend to start blooming at the crown of the tree first before covering its whole length. Amazingly enough though, once a Tulip Tree starts producing flowers, they continue to do so every year for the rest of their (hopefully) long-lived life.

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What Is It Wednesday: Midland Painted Turtle

Name: Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata)

Who doesn’t love baby turtles?! Here at TTLT, we are obsessed! When turtle nesting season arrives, we call up the turtle experts and scan the countryside, hoping to safely secure as many nests as possible for the incubation lab. We then impatiently wait for fall, when all the hatchlings start to poke their little, baby heads out of their cozy eggshells. Of the eight species that occur in Canada, Midland Painted
Turtles are one of the more common types of turtle nests that we find in the field.

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What Is It Wednesday: Sandhill Crane

Name: Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

Sandhill Cranes are tall birds with long legs, long necks, short tails, and stubby bodies. Their plumage is gray, except for the very top of their heads which are capped bright red. Measuring in at 3-4 ft tall and a wingspan of at least 5 ft, these birds could be mistaken for Blue Herons at a distance. Although, Sandhill Cranes don’t scrunch their necks like Blue Herons do and their bodies are considerably bulkier. These birds also make a loud, distinct call that sounds like a rattling, bugle-like “kar-r-r-r-o-o-o”, which can be heard from up to 4 km away (listen to their call here). They also make moaning, hissing, and snoring noises, as well as goose-like honks. The diet of the Sandhill Crane differs depending on where they end up because they are opportunistic eaters (i.e. they eat whatever is available to them). For the most part, they eat insects, roots, invertebrates, and, when available, cultivated grains.

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What Is It Wednesday: Buttonbush

Name: Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Also known as: Common Buttonbush, Eastern Buttonbush, Button Willow, and Honeyballs

Spiky ping pong balls, pincushions, honeyballs, and snowballs – all words used to describe the very distinct flower head of the Buttonbush shrub. Buttonbush is a multi-stemmed shrub that commonly grows 6-12 feet in height but can sometimes be found much taller. Its leaves are dark green, which are oppositely arranged along its stems, and have pointed tips and tapered bases that extend 2-6 inches in length. Most notable of all are their round, tubular flower heads. Each flower head is about an inch in diameter and is made up of a bunch of tiny, white, 4-petaled flowers. The flowers are rich in nectar and attract many pollinators with their honey-smelling fragrance. Blooming occurs between June and September and each flower head will bloom for approximately a week before dying off and turning into a brown seed cluster full of upside-down, pyramid-shaped seeds. Ducks, geese, and shorebirds love to snack on Buttonbush seeds, while songbirds use the shrubbery for nesting sites.

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