The Frontenac Park Christmas Bird Count took place on an unseasonably warm day on December 15th. There were a record 59 participants out enjoying the weather this year, 53 field surveyors and 6 bird feeder watchers hiked 85 kilometres of laneway/trail and drove 385 kilometres of road.
Despite many surveyors describing this as a slow year, the 2018 count tallied 3,346 individual birds from 49 different species – almost three hundred more birds than the previous record (3,053 birds) in 2017. And although the total number of species was unchanged from last year, the group added seven new species on count day plus one new species on count week to the Frontenac Circle list.
The new species included: merlin, peregrin falcon, evening grosbeak, field sparrow, hoary redpoll, pine grosbeak, and redhead. The commonly sighted species were blXK capped chickadee (550) closely followed by Canada geese (538). Among other plentiful birds were European starlings (245) blue jays (240) wild turkeys (172) rock pigeons (151) and morning doves (147).
The 2019 Christmas Bird Count is set for December 14th.
The Frontenac Park bird count is presented by the Friends of Frontenac Park and incorporates some family friendly events. (the following was submitted by the Friends of Frontenac Park)
Christmas Bird Count at Frontenac Park
Celebrate winter birds and be part of the Frontenac Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Admission to Frontenac Provincial Park is free on December 15, so drop by anytime to meet our local birds, enjoy holiday crafts, and count birds for science. Family-friendly morning activities include a CBC for Kids from 11 am to 12 noon, then warm up afterward with hot chocolate and snacks. At 1:00 pm, join a team on a guided hike of park roads and trails as part of the official Frontenac CBC. A great opportunity to learn more about birding from local experts while exploring different habitats. Dress warmly, and bring binoculars if you have them. Information: 613-376-3489. This is a free event, between 10 am and 3pm.
This has been the current greeting in Sydenham for the past few weeks, and rumours are flying.
The Project: Public Works held a public information meeting about the Bedford Road & George/Portland intersection projects some time ago; last spring or possibly before that. The event was complete with maps, timelines and budget information and there was a reasonable turn-out of local residents. But it takes a bunch of big machines, traffic slow-downs and a huge hole In the middle of the village beside a busy intersection to really bring out curious and indignant taxpayers. We’ve tried to get answers for some of the current concerns.
The Problem: Bedford Road from the site of the former beer store to the corner of Alton Road has become a very heavily travelled road, specially during commuter times and summer, when Frontenac Park is busiest. Constrained by a ditch, large trees and a stone fence on one side, a sharp drop to private lawns on the other and utility poles on both sides, it’s barely wide enough for two lanes of traffic. Walkers and cyclists dodge along the edges: it’s unsafe for everyone.The corner of George, Portland and Bedford includes the exit from Foodland and the crossing of the Cataraqui Trail. It’s become a sprawling mess, made worse by an off-road shortcut across the corner of the beer store lot and the trail and into the grocery parking lot.
The Plan: The current project has been planned to address these problems by widening Bedford to include a pedestrian walkway and a cycle lane similar to the ones through the village along Rutledge. The corner will be reconfigured with the goal of making it safer for all users, and more attractive as an entrance to the village.
The Money: $1,800,000 was budgeted for the project over a two-year period. An $80,882 grant came from the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program. Bricaza Corp, a family owned Kingston company was awarded the winter contract. Their bid of $1,490,941 was almost $200,000 below any of the other three bidders.
Bedrock and The Tank: Public Works Manager Mark Segsworth said that when the water mains were put in along Bedford and Portland, bore holes showed bedrock to be at a reasonable depth, so no further tests were deemed necessary for installing a runoff water management tank at the top of the park, only a few feet closer to the creek than the water mains. The ‘stormcepter’ tank is intended to provide a settling tank to catch any of the salt and sand not already trapped in the several sumps that will be located along Bedford and the first 200 feet of Portland, before discharging the rest of the runoff into the creek.
The Big Dig and Its Resolution: Bricaza began to dig. And dig. Below a few feet of topsoil, there was sand, all the way down to below lake level. The bottom of the hole, 25 or more feet deep, filled with water, and bedrock was found to be another ten feet further down. By this time, the hole was pretty impressive, for the sides had had to be widened to prevent the sand walls from caving in. The bottom of the hole, basically quicksand, had become an unsafe work environment. A geotech engineer assessed the problem, and recommended that a geogrid be put in three feet below the tank, and topped with gravel and a concrete slab. This would support the tank, and once the hole is filled in around it, allow it to to ‘float’ in a stabilized manner. According to David Holliday, Public Works Area Supervisor, the cost overrun falls well within the project’s contingency fund. The project is still well within budget.
Some Further Questions and answers from Public Workls
What are they doing with all that sand? It’s being stored on Trousdale’s property at Moon’s Corners, and will be returned to fill the hole, and to be used in other parts of the project.
Isn’t that an awfully big runoff pipe? Yes: it’s designed for an exceptional storm. The rip-rap stone is there to diffuse the outflow and the pipe opening will be closed over with a metal grid.
Is any of this project likely to slow traffic along George St? Evidently research consistently shows that changing the environment can have a traffic calming effect.
Where did all that sand come from? Good question: ask a geologist. And consider: the graveyard is all sand, there’s a big sandpit behind Altons’ homestead, and that continues into Harrowsmith swamp and the creek: a line of deep sand continuing from Sydenham lake, following the creek…
When will this project be finished? So far, the completion date is still July 1st.
What if I have further concerns, questions? The Bricaza Site Supervisor is Randy Thompson, phone 613 561-8497. (posted on exit door of Foodland). He has been keeping in close touch with the residents of Portland St and Bedford Road who are most affected by all this disruption, and will gladly answer questions about the project. South Frontenac’s Public Works’ Other Current Projects
Harrowsmith Intersection Nearing Completion
“A transformative project,” is what David Holliday, Public Works Area Supervisor, calls the changes to the centre of Harrowsmith. By July, work will have been completed on the drastic redesign of the tangle of roads intersecting and crossing Road 38.
“Parts of roads have been closed, a new road has been built, a derelict building removed, the creek has been accommodated. The result will be a much safer intersection, two small parks, more parking spaces; a more visually appealing village centre. This coincides with Harrowsmith’s community improvement grant, to help businesses ‘spruce up’ their properties.,” he said
The Harrowsmith-Sydenham road will be resurfaced in a somewhat different manner this summer: the current asphalt base, rather than being removed, will be kept and topped with a ‘SAMI’ or stress absorbing membrane interlayer, then a final asphalt layer will be added, wide enough to accommodate paved shoulders with bike lanes. This SAMI layer is intended to lessen the problem of surface cracking.
“Got Our Picture on the Cover”
The bike lane up Rutledge Road through Sydenham is featured on the (back) cover of Share The Road’s 2017 Bicycle Friendly Communities Yearbook. One by one, as South Frontenac’s roads are resurfaced, bike lanes are being included.
Perth Road Fire Hall
This spring will see the completion of the site work for the new Perth Road Fire Hall.
Hannah Barron is a researcher with EarthRoots, which is a “grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the protection of Ontario's wilderness, wildlife and watersheds, through research, education and action.” according to the description on its web site
She runs an Earthroots project called Wolves Ontario, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of the status of the current status of the wolf population in Ontario, advocating for better policies that govern wolves, and achieving meaningful protection for wolves and wolf habitat.
The focus of her efforts recently has been in identifying the range and population density of the Eastern Wolf, which has recently been re-named the Algonquin Wolf. According to Barron, and her view is supported by researchers affiliated with Trent University, there are about 500 Algonquin Wolves, most of them living within or near Frontenac Park, where they are protected from hunting and trapping.
Barron made a presentation recently to the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Frontenac Park. In it, she talked about three species, the gray wolf, the Eastern/Algonquin Wolf (which is genetically identical to the Red Wolf – which is the subject of a recovery effort in North Carolina) and the Eastern Coyote. In Ontario, Gray Wolves, whose territory is generally north and west of Algonquin Park, are doing well. Coyotes, located south of the park and throughout eastern and southern Ontario, are also plentiful, but the Eastern Wolf is in peril and has been for some time.
As Barron explained in a subsequent phone interview with the News, “it could be that the numbers of Eastern Wolves has been about 500 for quite some time, decades even.”
But whether the Eastern Wolf population is steady or on the decline, that number makes them vulnerable. An outbreak of mange, a decline in the beaver, deer or moose populations or a difficult weather season or two could reduce the population to the point of no return.
And the Eastern Wolf is also important for the genetic health of the other wild canids in Ontario and Eastern North America.
“Grey wolves will mate with Eastern Wolves, and Eastern Wolves will mate with Coyotes, but Grey Wolves will not mate with Coyotes,” Barron said, pointing out as well that Coyotes and dogs will mate as well.
Hybridization of wolves, Coyotes, and dogs has been going on for a long time, and this makes the science complicated. It is not possible to distinguish between a Coyote and an Eastern Wolf by looking at them, listening to them yip or howl, or by their paw print. While wolves are much larger than Coyote, hybridization has blurred those lines over the years. It requires a DNA sample to determine the difference, according to Barron.
She spends much of her time these days in the field, mostly to the east and south of Algonquin Park, looking for wolf tracks, and gathering hair and scat samples where they are fresh to send off to the lab at Trent for DNA sequencing, the goal being to determine the concentration of Eastern/Algonquin Wolves outside of the park.
This work is taking place in the context of the development of a provincially mandated recovery strategy for the wolves.
In 2016 the Algonquin Wolf was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). At the same time the wolf was given the new name Algonquin Wolf, and defned as a “hybrid group that collectively represents a genetically discrete cluster with morphological characteristics” in COSSARO’s words. The term Algonquin Wolf used in order to “differentiate it from other populations that have been labeled Eastern Wolf” by COSSARO.
The ‘Threatened’ designation under the Endangered Species Act triggers a responsibility on the part of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ontario to develop a recovery strategy.
The strategy was prepared and released on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for a commentary period, before being adopted.
Among the measures that are called for in the strategy is a ban on hunting and trapping all canids, wolves or coyotes, not just in and around Algonquin park, as has been the case since 2001, but all the way east to the border with Quebec and west to Georgian Bay.
The territory roughly corresponds with a region that is considered moose country, and, according to Hannah Barron, there is good reason to ban trapping canids in moose country if you want to encourage he Algonquin Wolf population to a) remain healthy and b) refrain from hybridizing further with the Easter Coyote population.
“Coyotes do very well in populated areas and around roads,” said Barron. “They do not tend to get run over and they use road as easy travel routes. The Algonquin Wolves do not do as well at all. But, since they are bigger, they will hunt moose, and Coyotes don’t. It is only in moose country, where there are fewer roads, that the wolves have a competitive advantage.”
Barron’s view, which is supported by research from Trent University, is contradicted by the trapping community.
Not only do they see a ban on trapping Wolves and Coyotes those zones (which are north of the Frontenac News readership area) as a threat to their livelihood as trappers, they consider the science that justifies the ban as dubious at best.
The Ontario Fur Managers Association submitted a position paper during the commentary period for the strategy. The Association’s President is a trapper from Central Frontenac, Willis Deline, who is also a member of the Frontenac Trapper’s Association.
In Deline’s view, and that of the association, the first question is about the existence of the Eastern or Algonquin Wolf in the first place. They argue that there are only two species, Wolves and Coyotes, and the Algonquin Wolf is merely a hybrid of the two. Their position is supported by research sponsored from Princeton University, which published a study of the wolf/coyote genomes in July of 2016 in “Science Advances”.
The results of the study were the subject of an article in Science by Virginia Morelli.
The “study of the complete genomes of 28 canids reveals that despite differences in body size and behavior, North American gray wolves and coyotes are far more closely related than previously believed, and only recently split into two lineages. Furthermore, the endangered red and eastern wolves are not unique lineages with distinct evolutionary histories, but relatively recent hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes,” Morelli wrote.
The author of Princeton study, Bridgett Vanholdt challenges the notion of genetic purity in the first place and still thinks the Eastern (Algonquin) and Red Wolves should be protected.
In Willis Deline’s view, and that of his colleagues, the population in and artoud the park as well as the population further south where the Frontenac Trapper’s Association have their lines, are hybrid populations.
“The Coyotes that we see are nothing like what we saw before. They can weigh 50 and 70 pounds, and they are often in packs now,” he said, “this is a sign of hybridization.”
As Deline points out, Coyote pelts are now one of the few pelts that are marketable, and in his position with the Fur Manager Association, he has his members interests to think about.
But, he argues, the real opposition from the trapping community to the ban on hunting is based not only on the reality of the existence of the Algonquin Wolf, but also on the implications of a ban on the balance between the wolf, moose, beaver and deer population in the region.
“The history, on the ground, shows that sustainable trapping of Coyotes and Wolves does not lead to a decrease in the population although the packs are disrupted. But you also have to think about what ha[[ens when you stop hunting and trapping the top predator but keep huting and trapping the prey species” he said.
Deline also pointed out that the Trapper’s are a source of information that has not been tapped.
“No one asked us to work with them, to collect DNA samples so we can all be working from better science,” he said.
That is all changing, now. The Fur Managers Association and Trappers Council’s across the region will be sending samples to the Trent lab from now on, in the hope that a clearer picture will emerge about the relationship between coyotes and wolves in the entire region.
Last week, in response to all the submissions they have received, the Ministry of Natural Resource took the decision to delay implementation of the Algonquin Wolf Recovery Strategy for 18 months.
“Additional time is required to prepare the recovery strategy for Algonquin Wolf due to the complexity of the issue,” said the Ministry in its posting about the decision in what may have been an under-statement
As President of the Friends of Frontenac Park, Simon Smith has had occasion to attend gatherings with other park officials from the larger region and the province as a whole. He learns about other parks at those meetings.
“I think Bon Echo Park draws 5 or 6 times as many people as Frontenac Park”, he said when interviewed this week, “and I remember someone telling me that Sandbanks draws as many people on a summer weekend as we draw all year.”
Unlike the other parks, all of the campsites in Frontenac Park are hike or boat in sites, and the park draws more of a nature loving and hiking crowd than some other provincial parks.
Unlike the other parks, however, Frontenac Park is open year round, and thanks to the Friends of Frontenac, the office is staffed on weekends throughout the winter.
The Friends of Frontenac held their AGM last weekend in Kingston, and are entering their 27th year. Not only do the Friends help in the park office, members help with trail maintenance as well, and that is a pretty big job since there are well over 100 km. of trails in the park to go over periodically. The Friends also help with boardwalk improvement, and other extras in the park. The Friends also raise money for information signs and kiosks.
“We had a Vision session a few years ago and came up with a number of initiatives to raise the profile of the park and we have been working through them since then. One of the ideas was to support a Christmas Bird Count in the Park, which has happened and has been growing each of the three years it has been held. We have been working on signs, and a multi-language brochure, and each year we move forward a bit,” he said.
The Friends also organise educational events in the park throughout the spring, summer and fall, such as “Introduction to Back Country Camping”, “Wilderness Navigation”, and “National Canoe Day”.
Frontenac Park is known for its rock outcroppings, lakes and spectacular vistas because of its location within the Frontenac Axis of the Canadian Shield. One of its more key features is that most of it was at one time settled land. There are 15 historic homesteads, the Tett mine and others mines which were all located within the park’s boundaries. Chris Barber spent ten years researching that past and produced a comprehensive book, The Enduring Spirit, which is for sale at the park office. The historical past of the park is kept alive through signage along the trails, and through other means.
More recently the park is beginning to play a bigger role as a centre for citizen science. The Christmas Bird Count is a good example of this, as are other programs. Because of the park’s location on the edge of the Canadian Shield, the mix of species is very rich, and since the land enjoys a number of protections against both development and major disturbance, it is a good place to conduct science.
The Friends of Frontenac Park have also developed working relationships with other groups in the region and beyond, promoting conservation, the enjoyment of the outdoors and developing an understanding of the value of nature. Later this spring they will be hosting a meeting of the Ontario Nature Federation at the Park Centre.
And they are integrally involved in two challenges that have made Frontenac Park a destination even in the so-called shoulder seasons, when tourism drops way off. The Frontenac Challenge is to hike all of the trails in the park between Labour Day and the end of October, and the winter camping challenge is just that.
“The amazing thing is that people come from far away to participate in these challenges. They somehow hear about them, and they come,” said Simon Smith.
For more information about the Friends of Frontenac Park, go to the website Frontenacpark.ca
On Saturday, February 24, 2018 the Friends of Frontenac Park will be holding their Annual General Meeting. The business part of the AGM will be held at 12:00. At 1:00, we have scheduled two exciting lectures for your edification, David Miller of A2A and Hannah
Barrom of Earthroots will entertain and inform you for about 40 minutes each. Questions are welcomed. Refreshments will be served.
The Algonquin to Adirondacks Program aims to ensure ecological connectivity and help restore biodiversity within a broad region of eastern Ontario and northern New York State stretching from Algonquin Park to the Adirondack Mountains.www.a2acollaborative.org
Earthroots is a leading grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of Ontario’s wilderness, wildlife, and watersheds through research, education and action. They work in coalition with other conservation organizations to coordinate
the best strategies to move issues forward. The focus of this lecture will be on Ontario’s wolves. www.earthroots.org
Last Saturday afternoon, a crowd of friends and co-workers gathered to honour Bert Korporaal on his retirement from 40 years of park work, the last 30 as Assistant Parks Superintendent of Frontenac Provincial Park.
Bert has played an important role in the development and preservation of Frontenac Park, a popular 12,000 acre wilderness in South Frontenac. A dedicated woodsman, he’s well known for his love of the outdoors and his willingness to go the extra mile to help others enjoy the trails, lakes and campsites. Many commented on his friendliness and generosity.
Part of Bert’s responsibility has been to protect the park: from poachers, rule-breaking fishers (the two, not four-legged ones — the park has both), illegal campers who build fires in the duff, and those who scatter garbage. He makes no compromises with law-breakers, and his memory is good.
Bert’s looking at a number of options for retirement and has had several job offers, but for the immediate future, plans to enjoy hunting season.