Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bring Back the Don newsletter

I wrote an article about Riverdale Farm Ponds in the Fall 2008 issue of the Bring Back the Don Newsletter. It pretty much summarizes the work we do all summer and it contains pictures from this blog. Take a look.


While we were taking samples from the pond this week for the Benthic macroinvertebrates study, we were in the company of several black-crowned night herons. I've never seen so many at that spot, usually there are only one of two. And they were pretty close too. We tried not to disturb them but they were probably wondering what we were doing. However, I don't think they were interested in the macroinvertebrates insects, there was plenty of goldfish for them to feast on.

Monitoring water quality

Benthic macroinvertebrates

This week, we did the annual collection of benthic macroinvertebrates. They are animals found on the bottom of a water body that are large enough to be seen with the naked eye and lack a backbone and internal skeleton. They are relatively sedentary and widespread, with varying tolerances to changes in water and sediment quality.

As in previous years, we were joined by members of Citizens Environment Watch, an organization which provides education, equipment and support for community-based environmental monitoring and stewardship. The monitoring procedure that CEW developed enable volunteers to sample stream habitats for benthic macroinvertebrates. The procedure includes necessary information to collect, process and identify benthic macroinvertebrates found in southern Ontario watersheds.

Collecting samples in one of the Riverdale ponds

The sampling is performed using a D-net (so-called because it's in the shape of a D) which is placed firmly against the stream bottom. Afterwards, the D-net is emptied into a sieve over a bucket or large tray and stewards use squeeze bottles and water from the stream to rinse the net. Once this is done, it's time to look for the bugs and try to find them. Unfortunately, at Riverdale, there is so much mud that it's very difficult to see anything. We managed to find a few, including isopoda (sow bugs) which have a tolerance value of 8 or high tolerance to poor conditions.

We should soon have the results of our experiment and I will post them as soon as they come.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Massey/Goulding estate

Last week, the team went on an outing to the Massey/Goulding estate on Dawes Road north of the Danforth. It is part of the Taylor Massey Creek and the group Friends of the Don East has been maintaining the site. They basically removed all the Manitoba Maple and other non native trees from the area and planted native species so the area now offers a lot of diversity for birds and wildlife. We observed a lot of goldfinches there. However, even though the Manitoba Maples have been removed, there are still a lot of saplings and this kind of tree grows very fast so after our tour, we proceeded to remove those invasives. The size of the saplings is pretty impressive, especially when you only expect some small shrubs.

Some of the Manitoba Maples that we removed.

Water testing

I'm a bit behind with my posts but I'm now catching up. A couple of weeks ago, we tested the water in the ponds and the results were actually not bad, in spite of all appearances. The water in the ponds moves slower than other sites so factors such as water and soil odor, water appearance and dissolved oxygen showed poorer results. All the pictures in this post were taken at the Beechwood wetland site but the exact same test was done at Riverdale and the results were surprisingly similar.

The dissolved oxygen rating was poor

The phosphate level was fair.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that acts as a fertilizer for aquatic plants. When nutrient levels are high, excessive plant and algae growth creates water quality problems.

The ph level was 8 which is considered to be good.

The pH is a measurement of the activity of hydrogen ions in a water sample.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Second part of the season

This week, we started the second part of the stewardship season. Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks we had to cancel because of Canada Day one week and a huge thunderstorm the other. Therefore, there is a lot of work to do. We continued with the invasive removal along the paths and worked on huge patches of stinging nettle.

Black-crowned night heron (photo curtesy of Sherry)

When we walked down to the site at the beginning of the evening, we saw a night heron down in the pond. Their breeding habitat is fresh and salt-water wetlands. These birds stand still at the water's edge and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects and small mammals.

Grapevine on top of our pile of removed invasives

Grapevine going up a tree

Later on, Sylvia and I struggled to remove a huge grapevine that had twirled itself on large trees and we managed to win this battle. Those vines are very invasive and they can do a lot of damage to trees and plants.


I'm on vacation this week so I had the opportunity to walk around the site one morning. I found a large patch of fleebane. There are quite a few around the site.

Unfortunately, along the same path, the DSV is rampant. We haven't worked along this path, but it seems to me it needs a lot of attention.

I also found another large patch of stinging nettle along the path of the middle slope which we haven't visited either. I think I'll try to tackle that next week.

Every Tuesday in Riverdale Park, there is a small market from 4:00 to 7:00 P.M. and I'm told this is one of the reasons why the stewardship is held on a Tuesday at this site. At any rate, stewards can have an incentive to show up early or on time for our 6:30 start time.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More clearing

This week, we continued clearing paths of weeds and we went a little further. We're slowly making our way to the east slopes which I know from previous years are still in bad need of care.

I worked on a huge patch of stinging nettle and it feels so good to chop that off. We try to clear as much as possible of it because groups of children walk along the paths at Riverdale and it's really not fun to be stung by this nasty plant.

Stinging nettle

All chopped off

At least, not everything is invasive and non native. There is also a silver maple along the path, which is nice to see.

I also remember last year working on a patch of Canada Thistle. It's back this year but there doesn't seem to be as much.

Canada Thistle

The best part of the evening was that we finally saw some wood ducks. We had been looking for them since the beginning of the season because we spotted them once of twice last year. We don't see them very often. We only saw a female with ducklings, it'd be nice to see a male some day as they are very colorful.

A female wood duck with ducklings.

This week's turnout was great, 14 people showed up. You can get a lot done in just about one and a half hour.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Clearing out the paths

This week, we focused on a couple of the paths in order to remove invasives. In addition to garlic mustard, we worked on burdock, stinging nettle and DSV. I talked about dog-strangling vine a year ago in my blog.

The pile of cut plants is getting higher and bigger.
A couple of years ago, we used to bag a lot of the plants we cutted but now, we just pile it up in a corner for pick up at a later date. At least this way, we can measure our progress.

This year, we also decided to monitor the level of water in the ponds. Apparently, this is something they used to do a few years ago. We don't know how accurate this measuring stick is or if it's slowly sinking in the mud but we're checking on it every week nevertheless.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tree planting

Now that we removed most of the garlic mustard on the slope where we've been working for the past 3 weeks, we were able to do a planting. We planted pretty much the same trees as last year, eastern hemlock, white pine, dogwood and also sugar maple and chokecherry. About 12 people showed up so the planting went quickly.

Let's get going

Now we can see a little more clearly without all the GM

Great team work

Hope the trees won't mind the slant too much

Sugar maple, my favourite.

One dedicated steward also removed more garlic mustard after she finished planting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A good start

The new stewardship season was off to a good start tonight. We had a turnout of 11 people, the weather was perfect (not too sunny, not too warm, no rain, no wind) and we set ourselves to attack some garlic mustard. Some of the plants already have flowers and right now at Riverdale, that's pretty much all you see. The slopes are covered with it.

Stewards getting ready to pull the nasty plant from one of the slopes.

We managed to remove it from about half the slope.

Garlic mustard was introduced in North America as a culinary herb (it's edible and used in salads and pesto) and is an invasive species in much of North America and is listed as a noxious or restricted plant.

Luckily, Riverdale also has beautiful scenery that makes it all worthwhile.

Since we started early this year, we were able to admire the fields of tulips that have been planted by the Riverdale Garden Club.

And the ponds, which look decidedly poetic in the spring.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

2008 Stewardship Season

Welcome to the 2008 Stewardship Season.

At long last, Spring is here and I can revive my blog about the Riverdale Community Stewardship program. It's great to be back after such a long and harsh winter.
Tonight was orientation for the Community Stewardship program and the turnout was very good, almost double from last year. We got about a dozen stewards who signed up for the Riverdale Farm site and it's a great start. We begin the work next week and we expect that more people will probably show up.

This year, we're starting the season earlier and our first task will be to start pulling garlic mustard. This is the best time of the year to tackle it because the ground is still soft and it's easy to pull. It's also a good way to start the season without exerting ourselves too much at the beginning.