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County’s spring beauty highlighted on International Biodiversity day event

By Cheryl Anderson

The sun was shining. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak was singing in the woods. What a glorious day to celebrate International Biodiversity Day!

Forty-two members of the county and Belleville gathered at Point Petre Rd and Army Reserve Rd and came away with a new appreciation of the South Shore. Among them were Neil Ellis, Liberal MP, Mayor Robert Quaiff and Councillor Steve Ferguson.

Mayor Quaiff and some of his family were among participants of this year's Riverwalk to explore the Mill Falls property in all its spring finery. The event was a fundraiser for South Shore Appeal Fund, and part of this year's Spring Birding Festival which was still under way as Bio Diversity Day participants enjoyed a picnic at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.

Mayor Quaiff and some of his family were among participants of this year’s Riverwalk to explore the Mill Falls property in all its spring finery. The event was a fundraiser for South Shore Appeal Fund, and part of this year’s Spring Birding Festival which was still under way as Biodiversity Day participants enjoyed a picnic at the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory.

For some it was their first visit, for others like seeing it for the first time in a brand new light. Each of the four stops needed a half day visit instead of only 20-30 minutes, but everyone came away with the intention of returning again to enjoy the impressive scenery and intriguing plants and animals that abound there.

A map of the route and a two page hand-out highlighting each site with photos of some species that we might encounter was distributed.

Within minutes we’d found two of the species in the photos – Carolinian Twinleaf, a spring ephemeral already in fruit and the American Redstart flitting in the trees at the Point Petre Woods.

Walking to view the cliffs at the shore where flowering Columbine harbours the now rare Columbine Duskywing butterfly, was a magnificent beginning to the tour.

At the Miller Nature Reserve, Dick Bird of the Hastings-Prince Edward Land Trust presented Neil Ellis with an IBA (Important Bird Area) sign, similar to those found in the National Wildlife Area, to adorn his office and remind him of this tour and how impressive the south shore is.

Participants were given permission to visit the Nature Reserve any time and invited to take two Bluebird boxes he provided to put up on their own property.

There was only time for a quick stop at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block to learn about the rare bur oak savannah along Ostrander Point Rd and in the swamp beyond, the caterpillars of the Harvester butterflies that eat woolly aphids instead of leaves as well as hearing about the Whip-poor-wills that flew over and around us during our BioBlitz there in Aug. 2014.

There just wasn’t enough time to go looking for the threatened Least Bitterns in the marshes of the Provincial Wildlife Area or Blanding’s Turtles there and at Ostrander Point but in the dust of the convoy along Army Reserve Rd we did see the tiny Bluets just beginning to flower in the harsh conditions of the alvar between Lighthall and Charwell Point Roads.

In another week or two the ground will be blue, covered by the flowers of this tiny unusual plant that can survive in extremes of wet and dry conditions, and is so rare outside the South Shore.

At Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory Terry Sprague capped off the morning sharing his vast knowledge of all things historical and natural in the County, describing how the Bird Observatory came to be when members of the Kingston Field Naturalists found warblers “dripping from the trees” after having made the long flight across Lake Ontario.

We shared a picnic at the Bird Observatory where the Spring Birding Festival was still in progress.

Finally Marc Seguin told us about the Traverse Point Lighthouse and its recent designation as a Heritage Lighthouse including some of its history and how we need to help support it.

The South Shore of Prince Edward County is a globally significant Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, includes one of only three Monarch Butterfly Reserves in Canada, supports a vast number of birds migrating through every spring and fall (almost 7 million since 2001), is the habitat of nearly 20 Species at Risk, includes three Provincially Significant Wetlands, and rare and endangered habitats such as alvar oak savannah.

For all these reasons Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and Point to Point Foundation suggest that the South Shore be considered for protection under the UN Convention of Biological Diversity 2000 signed by both Canada and Ontario to ensure that it’s high biological diversity will be preserved for future generations.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere Else

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