Nature Guardians Spring 2019

Nature Guardians Spring 2019 has wrapped up! Thanks to the Adventure Earth Centre and Nature Canada for continuing to support this project. We had 15 youth join us for 5 sessions from May to June, had several guest presenters, and continued to contribute to several citizen science projects.

Our first time together was on a field trip to McCormacks Provincial Park in Eastern Passage. In celebration of Migratory Bird Day on May 11, we were joined by Barbara Haley from Nova Scotia Bird Society. Barbara led us on a bird watching walk and we documented our findings on the ebird App.  Our sightings included some common and more rare species such as Common Eider, Herring Gull, Song Sparrows and an Osprey. Sadly, our most unique sighting was a dead Northern Gannet we found on the beach.  We collected the bird and took it to Andrew Hebda at the Museum of Natural History. Andrew conducted a necropsy and found the bird had broken its neck. The theme of Migratory Bird Day 2019 was “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution”.  In keeping with this theme, we held a beach cleanup after our bird watching. We documented our cleanup collection and entered into the Ocean Conservancy database as part of their Fighting for Trash Free Seas Program: In total, we found 163 pieces of trash. Much of it was from the fishing industry, but there was also quite a bit of plastic packaging from consumer items.

We returned to Shubie Park for our second session and continued with our forestry restoration of a section of the park.  We received a generous donation of plants from The Friends of the Acadian Forest who operate out of the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia. Before planting we discussed the plants and what habitat requirements they needed.  Some of the species we added to our project included Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Water Horehound, Large Leaved Aster, Bayberry, and Wild Raisin to name a few.

The next time we met, we repeated our long-term water quality sampling project. PH and dissolved oxygen levels remained stable and at good levels for supporting aquatic life.  Salinity was still higher in Lake Micmac. We also noticed it was higher in the spring, which helps confirm our theory there might be salt runoff from the highway each winter.  Once again, we found high levels of enterococci in several of our test sites. We discussed some of the trends we have started to see a result from our repeated sampling.

For session four, we were joined by Doug and Brendan who helped us build 4 Tree Swallow nesting boxes.  The Nova Scotia Bird Society let us know Tree Swallows would be good species to support with nesting boxes in this area because of their decreasing populations in Nova Scotia.  We were careful to make sure the nest box size, hole size and height from the ground were tailored to Tree Swallows in order to prevent other species from moving in – including squirrels!

For our last session we finally got to play with the iNaturalists App and did a small inventory of species at Shubie Park. We had Burkhard and Ingrid Plache from Halifax Field Naturalists join us and lead us on a walk around the park while we took photos of some spring flowering plants and shrubs.  We were treated to a nice show of Lady Slippers, Star Flowers, Mayflowers, Chokeberries, Chokecherries, Huckleberries and even a Common Slider Turtle sunning itself on a log! We entered our sightings onto the iNaturalists App, adding over 20 new species recordings to the park. For the second half of this session we had plant biologist Ron Neville, from the Canadian Agriculture and Food Inspection Agency, visit us and talk to us about some invasive species that could affect several of the tree species growing in the park. Specifically, he talked about the Emerald Ash Borer (which has been found as close at Bedford) and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (which is currently found in the south west part of the province). Ron then showed us how they set tree traps for the Emerald Ash Borer and how they check in the canopy of Hemlock Stands to see if there are signs of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. This involves shooting velcro covered racket balls into the trees with a giant sling shot. We all got to try this procedure and no one got hurt!  Ron is doing important work keeping track of where these invasive species are showing up in the Province. He encouraged us to post pictures of healthy Hemlock trees when we find them on iNaturalist so he can monitor them.  Tag any of your pictures to the ‘Healthy Hemlock Forests of the Maritimes’ in iNaturalist.

See more photos of our session at: