Jun 212019
 

Now that summer has officially arrived, I want to look ahead to some of the events in nature that we can expect over the next three months. As for the long-term weather forecast, seasonal temperatures are expected this summer with frequent swings from hot to colder. These swings will mean a higher risk of severe storms. Above-normal rainfall and muggy conditions are expected, as well. Unfortunately, this appears to be the perfect recipe for abundant mosquitoes.

In addition to the events in nature listed below, I have included a number of outings, which are open to the public. For more information on outings, go to peterboroughnature.org/events/

Late June

  • Today, June 21, marks the summer solstice. The sun rises and sets at its furthest points north. Take note of where the sun rises and sets in late June and then again in late December. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
  • Turtles can still be seen along roadsides and rail-trails laying their eggs. Remember to slow down in turtle habitat.
  • Monarch butterflies have returned – the “grandchildren” of those that flew to Mexico last fall.
  • On June 30, Dave Milson and Matthew Toby will be leading an all-day search for breeding birds of Peterborough County. Meet at Riverview Park and Zoo (north parking lot) at 7:30 a.m.
  • Late June nights are alive with fireflies. The male will typically fly low over a meadow and flash his heatless light in a specific pattern, colour and duration. The female then responds with her own luminous signal, usually from the ground, thereby allowing for a nocturnal rendezvous.
  • With bird activity winding down, now is the time to pay more attention to our many species of butterflies. Tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, white admirals, northern crescents, European skippers and clouded sulphurs are particularly noticeable.

July

  • Cedar waxwings nest any time between late June and early August as berry crops, their main source of food, begin to ripen. In late June and early July, reddish-purple serviceberries are a common source of food.
  • Family groups of common mergansers are often seen feeding and traveling along shorelines on lakes in the northern Kawarthas. Because broods of mergansers sometimes combine, it is not uncommon to see a female with a parade of 20 or more young in tow.
  • Common milkweed is in flower and its rich, honey-sweet perfume fills the early summer air. The scent serves to attract insects whose feet will inadvertently pick up the flowers’ sticky pollinia – small packets containing pollen – and transfer them to another plant.
  • A huge number of other plants are blooming, as well. In wetland habitats, watch for common elderberry, swamp milkweed, Joe-Pye weed, yellow pond lily and fragrant white water lily. Along roadsides and in meadows, common species include bird’s-foot trefoil (often on lawns), ox-eye daisy, yarrow, viper’s bugloss, black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, purple-flowering raspberry and orange hawkweed.
  • Join butterfly expert, Jerry Ball, to explore the diverse habitats of Sandy Lake Road (off County Road 46) and its abundance of butterflies. Meet at 9 a.m., July 14, at the Country Style at the corner of Hwy 7 and Old Keene Road.
  • Identifying and photographing dragonflies is also a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon. Among the most common July species are the dot-tailed whiteface, common whitetail, four-spotted skimmer, and chalk-fronted skipper. Some of the most frequently seen damselflies are powder-blue in colour, hence the common name of “bluets.” Go to odonatacentral.org/ for pictures of all Ontario dragonflies and damselflies. Click on “checklists” and then type “Ontario” in the search box.
  • By mid-July, the buzzy, electric song of the dog-day cicada fills the void created by the decrease in bird song.
  • Watch for mushrooms such as white pine boletes and fly agarics. Summer – not fall – usually produces the greatest variety of fungi. The wet conditions this summer should result in a large mushroom crop.
  • Mid-summer is a wonderful time for learning about ferns. On July 21, Sue Paradisis and Trent MSc candidate, Kathryn Tisshaw, will lead an outing to discover the ferns of the Warsaw Caves Conservation Area. Of special interest is the rare walking fern. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Riverview Park and Zoo or at 10:30 at the Warsaw Caves park gate house. Wear sturdy footwear, and bring binoculars, your phone, insect repellent and cash for park admission
  • Late July through September offers some of the best shorebird watching of the year. Semipalmated sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers and greater yellowlegs are several of the most commonly seen species. Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a great shorebird destination.
  • The ghostly-white Indian pipe blooms in the heavy shade of hardwood forests.
  • Being opposite the high-riding summer sun, the summer moon travels low in the southern sky. This translates into the longest moon shadows of the year.

August

  • Listen for the high-pitched “lisping” calls of cedar waxwings and the “po-ta-to-chip” flight call of the American goldfinch. Waxwings often perch on the branches of dead trees and sally out to catch flying insects.
  • August is a good time to check milkweeds for the yellow-, black-, and white-striped caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. They are easy to rear in captivity and provide adults and children alike with a first-hand lesson in insect metamorphosis.
  • On August 15, join Paul Elliott for a night walk in Jackson Park. Paul will be using ultrasonic detectors to pick up the high-frequency sounds made by foraging bats. Meet at the lower parking lot off Fairbairn Street at the corner of Parkhill Road at 8:45 p.m.   
  • By mid-August, ragweed is in full bloom, and its pollen has hay fever sufferers cursing with every sneeze. The higher CO2 levels and longer growing season associated with climate change are greatly increasing pollen production. It is also causing Poison Ivy to thrive like never before.
  • Small dragonflies known as meadowhawks abound. Mature males are red, while females and immature males are yellowish.
  • Bird migration is in full swing by mid- to late August, with numerous warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and common nighthawks moving through. One of the best places to see nighthawks is Back Dam Park near Warsaw. Migration peaks around August 20 but continues into the first week of September. Go in the evening and watch the sky for loose flocks.
  • On August 24, the Peterborough Field Naturalists will be travelling to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to view shorebirds and other fall migrants. The fall monarch migration will be starting, too, and arrangements are being made with park staff to conduct a demonstration of monarch tagging. Meet 7:00 a.m. in the Sobeys parking lot on Lansdowne Street west, adjacent to the Tim Horton’s.
  • Watch for underwing (Catocala) moths, named for the bright colours of the underwings. The forewings, however, which often hide the underwings, look very similar to bark. These moths can be attracted by applying a sugary concoction to tree trunks. A cup of white sugar, two or more mashed bananas, one ounce of molasses, a bottle of beer, and a pinch of yeast to help with fermentation will usually do the trick. Look for the moths once it gets dark.
  • Goldenrods reach peak bloom at month’s end and become the dominate flowers of roadsides and fields. These plants are veritable insect magnets, drawing in an amazing variety of species with their offerings of pollen and nectar.
  • Pegasus, the signature constellation of fall, becomes visible along the northeastern horizon in the late evening. It reminds us to enjoy summer now because it won’t last!

September

  • Monarch butterfly numbers are at their highest. Monarchs congregate at peninsulas on the Great Lakes such as Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a jumping off point for their migration across Lake Ontario. Don’t miss the monarch tagging demonstration at Presqu’ile from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on August 31 and September 1. Monarch expert Don Davis will be on hand to answer questions and even let you or your kids release a tagged butterfly.
  • Chinook and coho salmon leave Lake Ontario to spawn in tributaries of the Ganaraska River. Huge salmon can be seen jumping up the fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam on Cavan Street in Port Hope.
  • By late September, asters reign supreme. Their purples, mauves, and whites light up fields and roadsides and bring the year’s wildflower parade to a close. The most common species include New England, heath, panicled, and heart-leaved asters. They make a great addition to any pollinator garden.
  • Most years, Virginia creeper vine, poison ivy, chokecherry, and staghorn sumac reach their colour peak at about the fall equinox, which occurs this year on September 23.

CLIMATE CRISIS NEWS

Don’t miss the CBC News series on the climate crisis called In Our Backyard. As the series’ website states, “Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and it’s in our backyard in devastating, even deadly ways. Its fingerprints are all over this spring’s floods and wildfires.” In addition to looking at floods and fires, the series details how the climate crisis is affecting the lives of Canadians through extreme heat and Arctic thaw. To find the series online, go to cbc.ca/confrontingcarbon and scroll down to the In Our Backyard links. I would also recommend subscribing to CBC’s environmental newsletter, What on Earth? and the CBC podcast entitled Front Burner, especially the episode from June 18 on what it would take for Canada to meet its climate targets. As Diane Saxe, the former Environment Commissioner for Ontario says repeatedly, the climate crisis is far worse than you think. For an excellent overview of the situation in Ontario, search “Diane Saxe speaking on Climate Action – YouTube”

 

 

 

Jun 142019
 

Spring in the Kawarthas is synonymous with a ubiquitous yellow dust that descends upon everything from cars and patio furniture to rivers and lakes. Even the edges of puddles become marked with what looks like yellow chalk. For cottagers, the strange powder is most visible in June, when it piles up on shorelines and beaches.

What you are seeing is pollen – a manifestation of the sex lives of our trees as copious amounts of the magical dust are released to the wind. When the weather is hot and dry, you will sometimes even notice what looks like a yellow cloud around conifers when the wind jostles the branches.

In May, most of the pollen comes courtesy of the flowers of deciduous trees like Sugar Maple and White Birch. In June, however, the main culprits are the male cones of conifers such as pine, spruce and fir. Cones – named after their shape – are the reproductive parts of an ancient branch of plants known as gymnosperms. In this respect, they are akin to flowers. Conifers form the largest group of living gymnosperms, but Ginkgo trees also belong to this class of plants. About 300 million years ago, the gymnosperms became the dominant trees on the planet. They continued their dominance throughout the Triassic and Jurassic periods – the age of the dinosaurs. Their cones were even a favourite food of species like duckbill dinosaurs. The gymnosperms reigned supreme until the rise of the angiosperms – the flowering plants – during the Cretaceous period.

As is the case with many flowers, cones can be either male or female. Except for junipers, both occur on the same tree. Let’s look at the female cone first. These are the typical hard, brown, woody cones. They consist of a central stalk surrounded by stiff, overlapping scales, reminiscent of wooden shingles. The ovules, which when pollinated become seeds, are located at the base on the inner surface of the scale. If you pry open the scales of a mature cone before it falls from the tree, you can often see the seeds inside. In White Pine and Balsam Fir, the female cones are located high up in the tree at the tips of the branches. In most other species, they can also be found lower down.

The male or pollen cones are much smaller – often only a centimetre or two in size – softer and less conspicuous. Usually located on the lower branches, they are usually light brown or reddish in colour and resemble little spikes or buttons. They have a central axis, which bears pollen-producing structures. You’ve probably brushed up against them, causing a smoke-like puff of yellow dust. Soon after the pollen is released, the male cones whither and drop from the tree.

All conifers are wind-pollinated. Unlike deciduous trees like cherries, basswoods and, to some extent, maples, conifers do not rely on insects to spread their pollen. Cones therefore lack bright colours, nectar rewards, or tantalizing perfumes to attract pollinators.

White Pine

The reproduction story of the White Pine is typical of many conifers. In the spring, before the female cones develop, pale yellow-brown pollen cones appear in clusters at the base of new shoots. They are usually located in the lower part of the crown, although some appear even on the bottom branches.

The green-coloured, seed-producing female cones are larger and tend to be in the upper part of the crown. Female cones become receptive to the wind-blown pollen at precisely the same time as the pollen grains are being released. At this time, they are soft, pliable, and their scales are partially separated.

As pollen grains are carried off by the wind, some inevitably encounter female cones and sift down between the open scales. With luck, a pollen grain will come to rest on one of the two ovules attached to the bottom inside of each cone scale. The egg cell within the ovule thereby becomes fertilized by the male gamete (sperm cell) contained within the pollen grain.

After their pollen is released, the male cones soon wither and fall away, often dropping from the trees in a veritable shower. Dry and shriveled male cones are a common sight anywhere pine trees occur and often cover the ground under the trees. We sweep them up, muttering “dirty tree” – often with no idea what they even are.

Following pollination, the scales on the female cones fuse together, and a pitch-like material seals the outside. Over the next two years, the cone gradually grows to full size. In White Pines, the seeds are ripe by August or September of their second summer. At this point, the cone scales open again, and the seeds are released to the wind.

White Pines may start to bear female cones when 5 to 10 years old. Large numbers of cones do not usually appear, however, until the trees are about 6 m (20 ft) tall. The abundance of cones varies greatly from one year to the next. Their relative abundance has a major impact on the populations of birds and mammals that eat the seeds.

Pollen grains

Pollen grains are fascinating structures. First, they are extremely small, which means that a scanning electron microscope is often needed to make out their details. In the case of conifer pollen, they are also uniquely designed for wind travel. Two air bladders give the grains buoyancy and enable them to take what amounts to a balloon ride.

When pollen grains land on a lake, they form a temporary film but soon sink to the bottom. That is not the end of the story, however. Because they are protected by a tough outer wall, they are highly resistant to decay. The grains therefore become microfossils that remain unchanged in the bottom sediment for thousands of years. Because the wall is often sculptured and can even bear spines, the markings can be used to identify which genus or species of plant the pollen came from. This allows paleobotanists to describe with great accuracy the history of the vegetation of an area. And, by knowing what kind of vegetation existed, scientists can also theorize what the climate was like. For example, by examining the pollen grains found in deep peat bogs, scientists have been able to piece together the story of the changes in climate and vegetation that occurred during and since the last Ice Age. As the glaciers retreated, vegetation followed. The pollen grains in these peat bogs show that the first trees to repopulate the land were firs and spruces. Later, pines and tamaracks came along, followed by birches and elms. Finally, oaks and maples appeared on the scene. You can see the northward advance of spruce forests since the last ice age by Googling “spruce pollen viewer”. There is a similar video for maples.

Allergies

Pine pollen often gets blamed for allergy symptoms. However, these symptoms are usually caused by the much lighter wind-borne pollens of birch, ragweed and various grasses that are often present at the same time. Also, the chemical composition of pine pollen makes it less likely to produce allergic symptoms. People with tree pollen allergies sometimes assume that trees with colorful flowers – like apple or cherry trees – will trigger their symptoms.  Flowering trees usually have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn’t blow in the wind or cause symptoms. The same is true for goldenrod pollen.

Because the climate crisis is extending the frost-free season, trees and other plants have more time to grow, flower, and produce pollen. Some plants, too, like ragweed and many grasses, benefit immensely from the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This allows them to grow faster and bigger and to produce even more pollen than before. Unfortunately, allergy sufferers can expect longer and more intense pollen seasons as we continue to dump more carbon into the atmosphere. This is just one more example of how greenhouse gas emissions are already damaging Canadians’ health.

Take the time to go out and closely examine the male and female cones of our conifers this month. Their colour, shape, texture and location vary widely from one species to another, but they all share a special beauty. The deep red female cones of the tamarack (larch) are particularly attractive and almost look like scrumptious little fruits decorating the branches.

Climate Crisis News

A growing number of local groups and citizens want the City of Peterborough to declare a Climate Emergency. Several hundred Canadian municipalities have already done so, including Kingston, London, Burlington, Halton Hills, and Ottawa. There are still too many Peterborough citizens who are not engaged with this issue. Some people still think, “If things were that serious, our elected officials would be saying so.” This is the essence of why a declaration is so necessary. It would be a call to action on the part of the entire community. A Climate Emergency declaration would also support the Greater Peterborough Climate Action Plan, which city council has endorsed. Strategies in the plan include the need to “foster a culture of climate change awareness” and to “encourage civic engagement around climate change.” Citizens need to be informed in they’re to act in their own best interests, such as preparing our homes for the coming severe weather events. A declaration might also inspire people to get involved in the upcoming election and provide the “social license” to share their concerns about the climate crisis with others. Right now, it’s a no-go zone for many people. In many ways, the quickest path to meaningful action on climate change is at the municipal level.

 

 

 

Jun 102019
 

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Jul 01, 2019 04:39 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Chase Memorial Park, Gannons Narrows, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Eastern Screech owl – red phase – 9th Line of Selwyn Twsp – March 11, 2017 – Kathy McCue

Red-headed Woodpecker – May 28, 2017 – Buckhorn Lake -Nima Taghaboni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (2)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 11:00 by Dave Milsom
– Peterborough–Trent University Canal Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “2 birds seen well. Nest detected in slim dead tree.”

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (2)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 14:35 by Brian Wales
– Dummer Alvar, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57753148

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (35)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 11:00 by Brian Wales
– Peterborough–Trent University Canal Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57753081
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “approximately 80 nests under footbridge over canal”

Canada Tiger Swallowtail:  I got this shot on Sunday, June 23, on Lower Buckhorn Lake. Robin Blake

Canada Tiger Swallowtail – Robin Blake

Red-headed Woodpecker on River Road, near Hastings – Don Pettypiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported Jun 23, 2019 11:00 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “red head, black back and wings, white primaries; seen 70 m N of old boardwalk SE from Blue trail; observed sallying from dead trees”

Blue-winged Warbler and Clay-coloured Sparrow
– Reported Jun 19, 2019 05:15 by Geoff Carpentier
– 1232 Peterborough County Road 10, Fraserville, Ontario, CA (44.181, -78.461), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Merganser family parade:  As I was working on my dock at the top of Lake Muskoka a couple of days ago, I heard a ruckus, ran up to the cottage for my camera, and managed to get a couple of shots of a mom and her babes out for a paddle.  When one on her back dropped off, another would climb on. All the while she merrily paddled along. Greg Piasetzki, Lake Muskoka

Note: Female Common Mergansers are famous for adopting abandoned or lost ducklings from another female merganser’s brood. They will also lay some of their own eggs in another female’s nest -sometimes even that of a different duck species. Check out this article. D.M.

Female Common Merganser with 12 ducklings – June 17, 2019 – Muskoka – Greg Piasetzki

Female Common Merganser with ducklings on her back – June 17, 2019 – Muskoka – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Blue Herons nesting: The heronry on Deer Bay Reach (Lower Buckhorn) now has about ten nests, all in use high in the pines. They’re on the secluded side of Three Islands, accessible by canoe or kayak once you get to that part of the lake. Ospreys used to nest here. Now one occupies a nest atop a lone dead pine at the west end of Three Islands facing Buckhorn. Three Bald Eagles (one adult, two juveniles) have been seen at their old nest at the northeast end of Black Duck Bay, toward the dams into Lovesick.  Janet Duval

Great Blue Heron nest at Trent Wildlife Sanctuary -June 28, 2016 – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robins nesting: I thought you might like to see our new neighbors. Clever place to put their nest, which is safe between the two downspouts. They christened our new fencing too! Clever critters they are.
We have a great influx of tent caterpillars, so that is helping things along. Gord Young, Peterborough

American Robin nest – June 18, 2019 – Gord Young

 

 

 

 

 

Polyphemus Moth: Late last summer I almost stepped on this big green caterpillar on my front walk. It carried on its way and I thought that was the end of it. On June 12 I came home to see a freshly emerged Polyphemus Moth hanging by my garage door. The caterpillar I saw was actually a Polyphemus caterpillar, probably one and the same! Kim Mitchell, Maple Dr., Ennismore 

Polyphemus caterpillar – Kim Mitchell

Polyphemus adult – Kim Mitchell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon nest: John and I canoed to the cliff on Anstruther Lake yesterday. An adult Peregrine flew off the nest to a branch of a pine tree, and we could see, very clearly, two young ones sitting on the nest looking like fluffy ookpiks. They were already a fair size and quite active. The day before, standing on the dock, we heard falcons calling. We then saw two adults coming, and just as they were above our heads they joined their talons, while flying, and tumbled down a few feet. Then, one went in the direction of the nest and the other went back were it came from. We were lucky us to be able to witness this! Marie Duchesneau

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 16, 2019 09:05 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5740226,-78.2863426&ll=44.5740226,-78.2863426
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57419901
– Comments: “Singing spontaneously around 100 m E of utility pole AET27J (3232/4777) by old bench S of #155 at 09:28 h, then on W edge of road singing from large red oak just S of 50 kph sign.”

Cerulean Warbler (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 12, 2019 15:00 by Luke Berg
– Peterborough–Mervin Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Known location. Regular at several locations in the county during the summer.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: I had a pair of Sandhills fly over my house at 11:35 am on June 11. They were going north. Gavin Hunter, Omemee 

Sandhill Cranes – Sept. 2018 – Lindsay area – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported Jun 09, 2019 16:10 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57245041

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (2)
– Reported Jun 09, 2019 07:05 by Dave Milsom
– Dummer Alvar, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57234017
– Comments: “flew across back of field, then one landed on fence post: 1.4 kms. north of railroad on County Road 38”

Jun 072019
 

Motorists need to slow down and watch out for these increasingly rare travelers.

I have always had a special fondness for turtles. As a child, I loved nothing more than catching, feeding and then releasing these ancient reptiles. They were no less than my gateway drug to a lifelong love of nature. But when June rolls around each year, I shudder at the likelihood of seeing a dead or injured turtle lying on the pavement. Sadly, the annual road carnage is already underway. As of Tuesday, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) on Chemong Road had already admitted 300 turtles to their hospital, which is higher than the same date last year. If there is a positive side to this, it shows that the centre’s outreach is working, and more people are bringing turtles in.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, five or which have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as at risk. Of these only three, the Painted, Snapping, and Blanding’s Turtles, are commonly seen. The situation for endangered Spotted Turtles is so critical that they now face imminent disappearance from the province. Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened, while the Snapping Turtle and Northern Map Turtle are designated as species of special concern. Even Painted Turtles are now listed at risk federally.

Slow down

Starting in late May, female turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. Both males and females turtles also cover many kilometers in search of mates, feeding grounds, and preferred summer hangouts. Invariably, they encounter roads in their travels. Although Southern and Central Ontario has Canada’s highest concentration and number of turtle species, it also has the country’s highest density of roads. This spells disaster. The road carnage in June is especially devastating, since egg-bearing adult females are often the victims.

So, what can drivers do? The most important thing is to slow down and carefully watch the road surface ahead, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road and traffic conditions are safe, consider stopping, putting on your emergency flashers, and moving the animal to the shoulder in the direction it’s heading – even if it’s going away from the water.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle, however, the safest technique is to push and prod the animal along with a stout stick or shovel. You can also lift or pull the turtle, holding onto the rear of the shell. Another option is to simply stand guard, and let the traveler get where he’s going on his own. It is also important not to straddle a Snapping Turtle with your car. Snappers jump up when they feel threatened, thereby hitting the undercarriage of the vehicle as it passes over them. This results in serious head trauma and shearing injuries to the carapace.

If you find an injured or deceased turtle, call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) at 705-741-5000. Remember to note the location such as the road, GPS coordinates or the distance from an intersection a given landmark. In the case of an injured turtle, carefully place it in a well-ventilated container with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer them anything to eat. The OTCC has First Responders throughout the province. They are primarily veterinarians who have been trained in emergency turtle care. There is also a team of nearly 1,000 province-wide volunteers who help get the turtles to the centre.

Turtle populations are also in decline because of habitat loss and egg predation. Predators such as skunks and raccoons usually discover the nests within 48 hours of egg-laying, dig up the eggs and have a feast. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators flourish most anywhere there is human settlement, few turtle nests go undiscovered.

If you come across a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them. Another option is to bring the eggs to the OTTC to be incubated. The centre is located at 1434 Chemong Road, just north of the lights at County Road 19. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible. You can also help to protect new nests by lightly sweeping the surface of the nests (to disperse the scent) or temporarily covering the nest with a board for the first few days.

Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre

Opened in June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre dedicated solely to providing medical and rehabilitative care to native Ontario turtles. Admission numbers have steadily climbed, and 2018 saw 945 patients. These turtles come from every corner of the province.

Because so few of these animals ever reach sexual maturity – females can take anywhere from 8 to 25 years before breeding – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. Therefore, it is essential to rehabilitate turtles that have been injured. Fortunately, turtles are resilient, and their ability to recover from injury is quite high. Once healed – often after an overwinter stay -they are released in the closest body of water to the rescue site.

Shell fractures are one of the most common injuries, and putting the shell back together is no less than orthopedic surgery. Fractures are initially stabilized using an adhesive and tape. After administering an anesthetic, shell pieces can then be wired together, using orthopedic wire and a dental drill. Although a shell fracture can be the most obvious injury, internal damage is more life threatening. Just like any animal that has experienced extensive trauma, the turtle goes into shock, hence the need for timely veterinary care. Surgery is also required for facial injuries, fractured jaws and the ingestion of fishing hooks. Hooks can become lodged in the head, mouth, stomach or intestines, and can easily become fatal.

A Snapping Turtle hit by a car on June 1, 2017, provides a great example of the work done by OTCC. This individual was suffering from trauma to the head, which is a common injury in Snapping Turtles. Unlike other species, they are unable to protect their head in their shell. When the turtle was brought in, he was given pain medication and fluids in order to stabilize his situation before surgery. He was then anesthetized, and surgery was performed by Dr. Sue Carstairs, the centre’s Executive and Medical Director. By mid-August, the turtle had recovered fully and was released to the wild by month’s end.

The OTCC also has an impressive hatchling program. Since half the admitted turtles are females and many are carrying eggs, it’s essential to ensure that these eggs are not lost. The pregnant mothers are induced in the same way as humans. Eggs are also collected from deceased turtles, which can also be checked out for disease and used in studies on environmental contaminants. All the eggs are hatched at the centre, and the babies released back into the mother’s wetland. In 2018 alone, 4011 eggs were incubated, and 2100 turtles returned to the wild.

The OTCC is a Registered Charity and depends on donations from the public. Donations can be made online at ontarioturtle.ca or in person. You can also help turtles by volunteering for the Turtle Taxi program, turtle care (e.g., feeding, cleaning tanks), fund-raising projects, and education and outreach. Complete the contact form at the bottom of the Volunteer page on the website. Visitors are always welcome at the centre, which is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Turtle Walks

To raise money to help save Ontario’s turtles, an organization known as Turtle Guardians is holding Turtle Walks this month. Tomorrow, June 8, a two-kilometre family walk will be held in Peterborough, followed by other area walks on June 15. Meet at the Riverview Zoo parking lot at 10 am. There will be face-painting, crafts and ambassador turtles like 60-year-old Jeremiah, the Snapper. For more information, go to turtlewalks.ca.

You might also want to become a Turtle Guardian yourself. Guardians help track, monitor and protect turtles across Ontario. For example, level 3 guardians can become involved with road surveys and turtle tunnel assessments. Data is gathered at known ‘turtle hot-spots’ to assess the potential of installing turtle tunnels. These ingenious passageways, coupled with a cloth barrier on the sides of the road, allow the turtles to pass safely under the road. Information can be found at turtleguardians.com

Climate Crisis News

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the cold, wet weather we’ve experienced this spring in the Kawarthas may be due to a quickly warming Arctic. Research is now linking increased Arctic warming to a weakened jet stream – the narrow band of high-altitude wind that blows west to east across the Northern Hemisphere and controls our daily weather. Instead of usually blowing straight as it used to, the jet stream is now meandering much more to the north and south like an S lying on its side. It is also becoming stuck in place. When this happens, the same weather conditions can last for weeks on end. Right now, a bend to the south over eastern Canada is allowing cold Arctic air to drop down into our latitudes. The opposite happened last summer when a bend to the north ushered in blistering heat from the south, which lasted for weeks and killed scores of people in Quebec.