Even though I work at a conservation organization, I don’t get out much during the work week. It is not for a lack of desire, I’ve always loved nature. But mine is predominantly a desk job and I am more apt to be spreading news about the adventures of our conservation staff, than going on those adventures myself. Such is normally my plight.
So I jumped at the opportunity when Mark Carabetta, Ontario Nature’s conservation science manager, needed some help determining the ecological importance of the land surrounding our Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve. I joined Mark, Colleen Middleton and John Urquhart, on the trip to our reserve north of Peterborough in the Kawartha Lakes, which straddles the granitic rocks of the Canadian Shield and the limestone of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence forest.
Local guide and gracious host, Vic Orr, of the Kawartha Field Naturalists, plied us with coffee and homemade muffins as we pored over maps of the area to plan our route. The vista from his beautiful, exposed-wood kitchen overlooks Four Mile Lake, where we set out by cross-country skis and snowshoe. It was a clear, crisp winter day of 10 C with almost no wind and 7.5 centimetres of snow cover.
If you know what to look for, it is incredible what you can find even in the so called “dead of winter.” Mark, Colleen and John pointed out a fisher, fox, white-tailed deer, mouse, mink, squirrel (either red or flying) and possibly a coyote by their tracks in the snow. We also saw black-capped chickadees and observed signs of beaver and porcupine.
After crossing Four Mile Lake, we entered a forest dominated by red maple and white cedar trees, then scaled up to some higher ground thick with sugar maple, red and burr oak, white ash, ironwood and white pine. Working our way back to the lake, we fought through dense dogwood and alder thicket near the shoreline to complete the loop.
It was a great day and a powerful when juxtaposed against the sobering news that Ontario has lost 89 percent of its grasslands, 80 percent of its forests and 70 percent of its wetlands. For me, the trip was a tangible reminder of why I share Ontario Nature’s, 20/20 Vision for Biodiversity. If you have your own piece of nature you want to be protected, please tell us about it. And please consider adding your signature to our call for the Province to take action to stop the loss of Ontario’s biodiversity.
John Hassell is the Director of Communications and Engagement with Ontario Nature and editor of ON Nature magazine.