Thursday, September 17, 2009

Planting at Riverdale

For the last couple of weeks of stewardship at Riverdale, we prepared a slope for a planting which took place on the last night.

This was the slope in the Spring. There were a lot of logs and vines.

The same slope in September after we cleared some of the logs and pulled as much vine as we could. We chose this slope because it's not too shady compared to most of the Riverdale site.

Stewards getting busy. We had about 50 plants to put in the ground.

We planted hemlock, witch hazel, raspberry bushes, white pine and sugar maple.

It's always a challenge to plant on a slope.

We finished late and unfortunately, the after picture is not very good. I'm still trying to figure out how to take good pictures at night. I'll have to go back in the day time to take a picture of the newly planted slope.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Benthic video

I made a video from the benthic macroinvetebrates workshop of last week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We're back (finally)!

Stewardship has resumed last week after six weeks of interruption due to the garbage strike. As in previous years in August, it was time for the benthic invetebrates workshop. This workshop was offered to all the stewards including those of other sites. There were about 20 people in attendance. The workshop was presented once again by a member of Citizen's Environment Watch. My post from last year's workshop explains in details the process.

Stewards getting ready to wade into the ponds.

Walking in the ponds. It's hard to keep your balance.

We applied a slightly different method for the collection of insects this year. One person was simply walking in the pond in order to bring the insects closer to the surface as they tend to remain at the bottom, while a second person was moving the net back and forth in order to collect the insects.

Among the insects collected were midges and sow bugs which are the most common.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visit to another site

Spadina Quay: A downtown wetland.

Since the beginning of the City strike, we haven't been able to go to Riverdale Farm even for a visit since the park itself is closed. However, some of the other stewardship sites are not out of bound so today, I paid a visit to the Spadina Quay Wetland.

It's located on the waterfront right at the foot of Spadina. I received an eMail from the leader of the site which, for the first year, was going to have a regular weekly stewardship team. Of course, the strike put an end to that, at least for the time being. In previous years, the site was attended only on an occasional basis. I remember going there with my Beechwood stewardship team one evening last summer.

This wetland site is small but quite interesting. The stewards battle invasives such as thistle, bird foot trefoil, and most prevalent, cow vetch.

It is also home to a variety of birds such as the red-winged black bird. The Toronto Star had a funny article in June about this bird battling a goose that got too close to a nesting site.

Last year, there was also a beaver in residence. I'm not sure if it's still there this year.

Other sightings include swans and black-crowned night herons.

(photo by Don Watcher)

(photo by Don Watcher)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Time to tackle DSV

We got started on Dog Strangling Vine this week, one of the worst invasive species. First of all because it's just about everywhere and second, it's almost indestructible. Or so it seems. The only way to tackle it right now is to dig it out with all its roots. It's quite a job. The only other possibility is to use pesticides which is really not ideal for environmental reasons and can be quite costly because the plant is so spread out. So, we just do what we can and hope that one day, somebody will discover a bug that kills it.

After working for an hour, I managed to clear a small path.

We also did a survey of the plants and shrubs we planted the last couple of years on the meeting house slope. We are happy to report that most of the plants are in good condition.

The wood ducks are also back this year. This is a picture from last year, I couldn't get a good picture when I was there last week. I will have to try again.

We have some pretty nice views from the top of the slopes. It's worth to take a break and enjoy it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

On with the workplan

The garlic mustard is now more in control at Riverdale (at least for this year) so we can work on other invasives.

We came back after a week off to a ton of stinging nettle. It's pretty much everywhere.

The stewards are being very careful at protecting themselves and they were practically shovelling it out of the way.

The park is closed in the evening so we don't see people walking by but the creatures seem curious about what we're doing. Too bad we can't give them our brochures about the program.

We also started removing burdock which we have managed to keep in control over the past few years. I found several web sites discussing this plant and even though some of them praise the medicinal values of it, most agree that it can be highly invasive and even dangerous. The burs that it produces can damage the fur of animals brushing against it and they can also kill birds. This Ontario Wildflowers website has an interesting article about it.

The stems remind me of rhubarb.

Dog Strangling Vine (DSV) is also very friendly with burdock. We started removing some of the DSV, although it's still a bit early for that.

On one of the slopes at Riverdale, we also saw another invasive called Dame's rocket . According to Wikipedia, it is a herbaceous plant species in the mustard family and is cultivated in many areas of the world for it's attractive spring blooming flowers. However, as pretty as it is, it's a non native invasive. Luckily, we don't seem to have as many of it at Riverdale compared to other areas of the Don.

Dame's Rocket at the Goulding Wetland site.

Monday, June 1, 2009

No stewardship last week

There was supposed to be a thunderstorm last week so stewardship was cancelled even though the storm never materialized. While looking at my pictures from previous years, I found these which I took last year at the Beechwood Wetland site. I found them interesting at the time but I had forgotten about them. It's a good example of some of the weird stuff you can find in nature.

Look at the base of the tree stump. No, it's not a present left by some animal.

Here's a closer look. Can you start to see a shape?

Can you guess what it is?

It's called Dead Man's fingers. I'm not kidding. And no, we didn't find a dead body. Believe it or not, it's a fungus commonly found in forests and woodlands that grows at the base of rotten tree stumps. As you can see, it is appropriately named, though its latin name is Xylaria polymorpha.

It grows on decaying hardwood stumps and logs, usually at or near the base. It sometimes appears to come out of the ground but it is actually attached to buried wood and it grows alone or, more commonly in clusters, like the pictures you see here.

It's a bit creepy but fascinating at the same time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

When you think you're done...

This week, we thought there was so little garlic mustard left, we would be done in 15 minutes and would have to look for something else to do. Well, we were in for a surprise when we realized that one of the higher slopes was literally covered with it. We haven't worked there much in the last couple of years and it clearly needed some attention. So, we took a few stewards up hill to tackle this task.

We got our arms (and buckets) full.

The only thing competing with it is (of course) our favourite, the infamous dog- strangling vine also known as swallow-wort.

The genus name is cynanchum . Cynanchum comes from Greek and means "to choke a dog". It's kind of depressing don't you think. But I wouldn't want to discourage anyone so soon, so I'll talk about it some other time.

Meanwhile, another group of stewards got acquainted with stinging nettle, a nasty herbaceous perennial flowering plant that owes its name to the fact that when a person brushes against it, they can get a stinging and burning sensation. Despite our best precautionary warnings, there are always one or two who get stung badly.

Stinging nettle

We're lucky to have a very enthusiastic team of stewards this year and we manage to have a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Garlic Mustard Month

I think we should officially declare the month of May Garlic Mustard Month, at least as far as the stewardship program is concerned. This highly invasive, non native, is everywhere on the site and we usually spend the better part of the month pulling it. It has round shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that when crushed smell like garlic.

A new steward giving the thumb down to garlic mustard.

The new stewarship season brings both new and returning stewards.

The slope where we worked extensively last year had less garlic mustard this year, although it acquired a few tulips from the slope next door. We think the squirrels might have had had something to do with their displacement.

As usual at this time of the year, the ponds appear quite clear but we know it's just a matter of weeks before they become murky again with duckweed.

The gardening folks at Riverdale have gone all out with the tulips.

Alliaria petiolata or garlic mustard

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Springtime at Riverdale Farm

Spring is here and in a little more than a month now the new stewardship season will begin. However, stewards don't often have the opportunity to visit the farm on the evening of stewardship, there's too much that needs to get done. So I decided to post a video graciously provided by Don Watcher, who paid a visit to the farm last week. Enjoy!