Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pollination Study

I wrote my last post a couple of days ago and I realized that I had said earlier I was going to talk about the pollination study. This is a study that was performed by the stewards at all the stewardship sites throughout the summer in order to identify pollinators and the flowers they were visiting. We had forms to fill out as part of a kit and it was part of a national survey put together by Pollination Canada. We did what we could to try to identify pollinators and some stewards were better than others at the identifying test. I wasn't very good but it was interesting nevertheless. Take a look at the site to find out more about it.

Butterflies are pollinators too

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Last week of stewardship

Here we are, the last stewardship session at Riverdale for this summer. We finished the season tonight by tagging invasive trees such as Manitoba Maple, Norway Maple, Black Locust and Tree of Heaven.

We put orange ribbons to mark those trees.
City workers will come to remove them. They won't remove them all but they'll decide which ones they can get rid of.

We had a pretty good turnout for the last week and some other stewards continued to remove invasive species. I must say that we haven't been able to kill all the DSV but we sure tried our best. It will be back next year but with some luck, there won't be as much. One can only be optimistic.

Cheryl found this interesting looking "thing" that was attached to the leaves of a sumach. Is anybody out there able to identify this? I apologize for the poor picture but it was getting pretty dark when I took this.

This one is not much better but maybe it can help.

Working at the site has been a lot of work but we also had much fun. I feel a little bit sad that it is now over but I'm hoping to see some of my co-stewards at one of the many planting events organized by Green Toronto this fall.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Studying Benthic Invertebrates

Note: this is a cross-posting from Don Watcher. I am repeating the posting here because it happened at Riverdale Farm Ponds.

A collection of clips from the Benthic Invertebrate study at Riverdale Farm Ponds

This week I went by Riverdale Farm Ponds to participate in a study to monitor pond organisms. The point of the study was to collect benthic invertebrates from the bottom of the pond. Benthic invertebrates are a group of creatures that live in an aquatic environment and include fully developed insects; insects in a larval stage; some crustaceans; and worms and leeches. Benthic Invertebrates can be used to measure the health of a pond. Since some species are more tolerant of pollution, the presence or absence of them can be used as a general water quality gauge.

The collection process involved donning hip waders, wading into the pond and collecting samples from the bottom muck with a special scooping net. Once the samples were collected, we went up to one of the buildings and sifted through the debris looking for different creatures. During our investigation we encountered aquatic sow bugs, midges, aquatic worms, scuds, leeches, and snails. All of these are mostly pollution tolerant and the species found indicated that water quality was low, about 7 on a scale of 10 (1=pristine water, 10=absence of life).

However, there is some good news. Last year an aerator was installed to inject air into the water. Due to several longterm problems, the ponds suffer from anoxic conditions which means that not much can survive here. A similar study was done before the aerator was activated and a grand total of 8 creatures were found. This year between 50-100 organisms were found. So things are looking up for the ponds.

Nathalie and Heather from Citizens' Environment Watch help facilitate the collection process

Looking for bugs in mud

A closer inspection reveals...

...a blurry image of a bloodworm

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Benthic invertebrates revisited

This coming Tuesday, August 21, the Riverdale team will be participating in another session of benthic macroinvertebrates (aquatic) testing in the sanctuary pond. This is a monitoring study which involves taking samples from the pond and collecting insects from these samples. The benthic zone is the lowest level of a body of water. It is inhabited by organisms that live in close relationship with the ground, called benthos or benthic organisms.

Once again, we will work with members of Citizens' Environmental Watch, a community-based ecological group which organizes monitoring and stewardship programs. They use benthic invertebrates or "water bugs" as biological indicators to assess water quality. In order to collect these samples, we will have to get into the pond wearing hip waders and using nets to try to pick up as many "bugs" as possible.

Volunteers collecting specimens

Looking for signs of life

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wet weather

Last night, we worked in a different spot (at least, I had never worked there). We went on the right side of the sanctuary pond where invasives are having a field day. Aynsley told me that she did some planting there a few years ago but it now needs a lot of work. There is so much stuff, we could be working there until the end of the season. It's full of japanese knotweed and there is also grapevine, which is native but extremely invasive.

The pond is a great environment for the grapevine but there is really too much of it.

The weather was uncertain at the beginning of the evening but we decided to go on anyway. After about an hour, we had to stop because it was really coming down. Still, we had 5 brave souls who showed up.

We saw these ducks but couldn't identify them. They may be just mallards. (We keep hoping we'll see the wood ducks we spotted at the beginning of the season).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hot night

The weather was hot tonight for the stewardship but 6 people showed up nevertheless. Cheryl suggested we only work for an hour and nobody argued with that. In addition to the pollination study (stay tuned for a post on that coming soon) and the watering, we went on a hunt for more DSV killing (we'll never get rid of that stuff but we sure keep trying).

A steward (who asked to remain anonymous) on the lookout for DSV

There is still quite a bit and it's getting harder to reach.

Still, I managed to get rid of some of it.

Another black crowned night heron (or maybe it's the same one
as a few weeks ago). It's still too far, I need Marnie's camera from
Beechwood Wetland.

At the beginning of the evening, we saw a juvenile night heron,
He was standing very close to the edge of the pond but he flew away
before I had a chance to take a picture. I haven't seen them coming
that close yet. We think that they are probably nesting nearby.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The New Enemy

Ok, I thought the worst invasive was Dog-strangling Vine but now, I know another one even worse. In addition, this one can also hurt you. If you brush against it, it burns like hell. In fact, one of its nickname is Devil's Claw. What is it? Any guesses? Why, stinging nettle of course. The Riverdale site has its fair share of this dangerous and even poisonous invasive.

Julia from the stewardship team works hard
on the stinging nettle.

Meanwhile, I was removing one my old favourites:
Canada Thistle

Now you see it...

Now you don't!

The best part of the evening was when we saw a night heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Duck sighting

This week we continued to attack the DSV slope. We're almost finished now so we should be able to focus on something else. At the beginning of the evening, I took some pictures of a couple of black ducks (or at least I was told that's what they are). If anybody knows different, please let me know.

Iris Versicolor

We also went to check on the planting we did last week. On the west side of the pond, there is a little island where some people planted irises and sedges. All the plants are doing quite well.


Saturday, June 30, 2007

More planting

Newly planted Boneset at the sanctuary pond

This week, we did some more planting but this time, we planted along the sanctuary pond. We tried to plant them as close to the edge of the pond as possible. Here's a list of the plants:

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)
Knotsheath sedge (Carex retrorsa)
Bebb's Sedge (Carex bebbi)
Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Swamp Aster (Aster puniceus)

The soil is very muddy and there are also a lot of roots which makes it harder to get through. Aynsley and Cheryl were there and including myself, there were about 10 of us so we managed to get most of the planting done.

The aerator was on while we were there and seemed to be working although only in one area of the pond where the water was swirling. The rest of the pond was kind of green and scummy.

The bubbling is caused by the aerator

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The ponds

The ponds at Riverdale can be quite picturesque and at this time of the year, the water is still pretty clear.

Unfortunately, it's also easier to see the stuff that people have dumped in them. We should fish out this suitcase and open it. Who knows? Maybe there's a lot of money in it.

This looks like a hat. Must have been a windy day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cute rabbit

I noticed that Marnie, one of my fellow stewards at Beechwood, posted a picture of a cute rabbit. I decided to steal her idea and post pictures of my own. I haven't seen any rabbits at Riverdale yet but this one wasn't very far.

A slope buried in DSV

DSV or Dog Strangling Vine also known as swallowwort is everywhere in the Don Valley and Riverdale Farm is no exception. We spent most of last week's session removing some of it from one of the slopes. For the time being, we were just pulling it and trying to remove as much of the roots as possible in the process. This method of removal will have to be repeated over several years before we can get rid of it but we're just doing what we can for now. I found an information fact sheet from the city on the subject which is very helpful to better understand the problem of invasive species.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Planting and Japanese Knotweed galore

Planting on the hillside

Murky Sanctuary pond

The stewardship season at Riverdale officially started on Tuesday. Quite a few people showed up, I would say at least a dozen, which was good because we had some planting to do. The Riverdale site is mostly on slopes and that's where most of the plantings take place This makes things somewhat more complicated so the more people who show up, the better.

We planted Red Oak, Eastern White Pine, Dogwood and Eastern Hemlock.

Eastern Hemlock

Since so many people showed up, the planting was all done in less than an hour, so the rest of the time was spent removing Japanese Knotweed for the most part.
Later, the team had the pleasure of observing wood ducks in one of the ponds. Unfortunately, they were too far to take a good picture, but we observed them with binoculars.

The pond itself is looking a bit clearer than before, now that the aerator is on every night. This device was installed last year to increase the level of oxygen in the ponds.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Stewardship starting next week

This is a new blog for the Riverdale Farm Community Stewardship team organized by Green Toronto. I was part of this team in 2006 and I will post items throughout the summer to talk about the various activities that will take place. Here's a sample of the kind of activities that the stewards might take part in.
In August 2006, the team took part in a monitoring session of the sanctuary pond to study the water quality of the site. The study involved taking samples from the pond and collecting insects from these samples.We worked with members of Citizens' Environment Watch, which organizes community-based ecological monitoring and stewardship programs. They use benthic inverterbrates, or "water bugs" as biological indicators to assess water quality. In order to collect these samples, we had to get into the pond wearing hip waders and using nets to try to pick up as many "bugs" as possible.