Hamilton Harbour Fish and Wildlife Restoration Project
Wednesday December 28 2011
As Site Coordinator the next post will be a year in review at Elements Photoblog.
I wish everyone a great New Year with the Optimism we need to keeps Nature reviving.
Many new images of people, places and a few older images.
All the best
In 1997 the operation of a carp barrier/fishway began at the Cootes Paradise marsh, blocking the passage of carp into the marsh during spawning season but allowing the migration of all other spawning fish. As a result, aquatic vegetation has made a dramatic recovery throughout Cootes Paradise and the harbour. Fisheries monitoring has indicated a positive change in the composition of the fish community, including an increase in numbers of top predators and in species diversity. Recently, over 200 spawning pike were counted at the Cootes Paradise fishway. Prior to restoration, only 19 pike were recorded at the fishway. Similarly, waterfowl numbers in Cootes Paradise have increased dramatically due to the increased distribution and abundance of aquatic plants. Birds have been staying longer in the marsh and gaining strength for their migratory flight south.
The Grindstone Creek pike spawning marsh has been a 20-year restoration effort. The Grindstone Trail, connecting Cherry Hill Gate to Sunfish Pond is open to the public and provides educational interpretation and protects the flood plain by directing the large number of visitors to the boardwalk. Tours are open to groups and can be arranged by contacting Royal Botanical Gardens.
To date, habitat restoration efforts and improvements to public access have laid a strong foundation for continuing enhancement. Research and monitoring provide essential feedback for the design and construction of the next phases of habitat and public access projects.
Scientists with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Canadian Wildlife Service, McMaster and Brock Universities and the Royal Botanical Gardens are co-ordinating monitoring and research to advance fish and wildlife habitat restoration throughout the Great Lakes. The Fish and Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project in Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise proposes to create 372 ha of fish habitat, 299 ha of wildlife habitat, 16 km of shore habitat for fish and wildlife and 9 km of trails. Substantial progress has already been made:
Shoreline rehabilitation and a new trail at Chedoke Creek
Development of a carp barrier/fishway, aquatic plant nursery and breeding and nursery ponds for amphibians and reptiles in the Cootes Paradise marsh
Pike spawning habitat, rehabilitated flood plain habitat and a new boardwalk at Grindstone Creek
Restoration of the lower Grindstone Creek, employing recycled Christmas tree
Shoreline naturalization and development of underwater reefs at Bayfront Park
Shoreline naturalization, beach restoration, development of reefs and a new trail at LaSalle Park
Shoreline naturalization, and the development of colonial nesting bird islands, underwater reefs, trail and lookout at the Northeastern Shoreline
Sand dune rehabilitation and a new trail at Burlington Beach
Decline and Recovery of Cootes Paradise
Once nearly 100% covered by emergent and submergent
aquatic plants, the extent of marsh vegetation has declined to
85% cover in the 1930s, and to only 15% in 1985. A variety
of stresses were responsible for this decline. Human development
and farming in the watershed contaminated the marsh’s
tributary streams with sewage effluent, eroded soil, and chemical
runoff. Within the marsh, carp activity physically damaged
and destroyed the marsh plants. Carp activity and eroded soil
from the watershed also muddy the marsh water, limiting light
penetration and plant growth. Controlled lake water levels,
and the introduction of non-native plant species have also
disrupted marsh ecology. For the restoration of Cootes Paradise
to be successful, RBG and other partners in the HH-RAP
agreed that an effective carp control program and pollution
abatement programs in the watershed were necessary.
The Grindstone Marsh Trail and Bridle Trail (north) and Bridle Trail (south) is at 680 Plains Road West on the border of Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario Canada. At Plains Rd. West you go over Wolfe Island Bridge to RBG up from that from the York Street area is Beth Jacob Cemetery where you will find the Bridle Trail Loop. The Bridle Trail is a short loop off the Hendrie Park Gardens, in Aldershot (Burlington).
The Lake Ontario Waterkeeper says, within the Grindstone Creek watershed you will find five provincially wetlands: Grindstone Marsh, Lake Medad, Medad Valley, Hayesland Swamp, and Flamborough Centre. The environmental assessment in this area includes 85% of the streams in the Grindstone Creek watershed are designated small riverine management zones. Nearly 14% of Grindstone Creek is intermediate riverine zone confined mostly to the main branch of Grindstone Creek. Geographically, Grindstone Creek watershed is located north of Hamilton Harbour.
The headwaters of this watershed originate near Harpers Corners in North Flamborough. It traverses the Niagara Escarpment near Waterdown, and winds through Hidden Valley in Burlington before emptying into Hamilton Harbour and Burlington Bay. Grindstone Creek Marsh and river mouth join Carroll’s Bay in the north-western corner of Hamilton Harbour. At the Bridge are trail signs posted at one end of the Boardwalk – Graindstone Marsh Trail and both Bridle Trails. The trail winds through the centre of Grindstone Creek Marsh and crosses underneath Plains Road. Here, you will find plenty of birds and waterbirds, such as, the Great Blue Heron. Grindstone Creek winds its way through the center of the Grindstone Marsh Trail. This has labels of RBG, Trail System, Hendrie Valley – Grindstone Creek Marsh Trail.
Grindstone Creek originates above the Niagara Escarpment in Flamborough. It drains an area of 90 square kilometres making it one of the main tributaries discharging into the northwest-end of Hamilton Harbour. A 50 hectares Marsh (Grindstone Marsh) lies in Hendrie Valley where the lower end of Grindstone Creek flows. This highly productive, shallow wetland is northeast of Cootes Paradise providing crucial spawning and nursery and adult habitat for many native fish as well as food and shelter for a variety of birds, mammals, amphibians and insects. The Stewardship of Grindstone Creek comes under the Halton Conservation Authority Grindstone Creek Watershed Plan. The Grindstone Creek Watershed occurs in the following municipalities: Region of Halton, Region of Hamilton, Town of Dundas, Town of Flamborough, City of Burlington. And the Burlington waterfront communities circumference includes eleven creeks, namely: Grindstone Creek, Falcon Creek, Indian Creek, Hagar Creek, Rambo Creek, Roseland Creek, Tuck Creek, Shoreacres Creek, Appleby Creek, Sheldon Creek, and Bronte Creek.
It is evident at Grindstone Creek Marsh an invasive 16 ft. high plant is taking over the bullrushes. The Wetland Planting Guide for Northeastern U.S. describes several species that are possibly invasive including Eurasion Watermifoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) and Flowering Rush. Exotic plants are not native ! Their species are largely present because of intentional or inadvertent human activities. Invasive refers to species that reproduce so aggressively they displace native vegetation resulting in a loss of floral and fauna habitats and species diversity. A report by Andy Hagan, Environment Canada, Environmental Conservation Branch, Ontario Region said “Currently the science of establishing vegetation in Canada is in its infancy with limited long-term results.” Part of the problem is there are few references describing the Canadian experience in wetland restoration. The ecological restoration is the process of renewing and maintaining ecosystem health.
Source: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Environment Canada
I welcome you to join me on a journey to the hidden gems in Hamilton, Tobermory, Niagara Falls, and many other places. My hope is that together we enjoy an enlightening experience, to gaze through the camera lens together, to see the power, beauty, and wisdom of Mother Nature’s gift.There is much history Living in Hamilton we are very lucky to have Cootes Paradise , Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario. Exploring your environment helps you to understand what we can do to help conserve this natural Beauty.While hiking in Cootes Paradise yesterday I noticed Algae that looked like raw sewage. If you look at the ducks Bill “picture below” it is oily and on the feathers there is a brown slime.Otherwise every hike, bike ride into cootes paradise is very interesting.Enjoy the Images
In the Hamilton area are fortunate to have many local wetlands. Wetlands were thought to be dirty places and had a reputation for being dangerous. Movies like “The Swamp Thing” came from the imagination of people who were raised in a time when wetlands were considered of little value or even frightening. We now know that they are important habitats that provide homes for many endangered species and that they help to control floods and filter some pollutants. It is hard to imagine thinking of them as undesirable today, which is good because 33% of Ontario’s and 14% of Canada’s land mass is covered by wetlands. . Unfortunately, up to 90% of southern Ontario’s wetlands have been lost to urbanization and agriculture.
As you walk along the shoreline of Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour you will notice plants and their herbivores seldom occur in isolation, The red-wing black bird flies to the top of the Cattails (Thypha). These plants have eleven species in the flowering plant family Typhacease. What is interesting is how the name of this plant varies across the world, for example, Bulrush or Reedmace (England, UK ), Punks or CornDog Grass (America), Cumbungi (Australia), and Raupo (New Zealand).
In the past week Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour have been inundated with water.
It has also attracted the Great Blue Heron in search of fish in the water. The painted turtle has popped up to bask in the warm sun today. And the Canada Goose has lots of goslings. These are the signs of Spring has really arrived. The Dundas Marsh (Cootes Paradise) located at the western end of Hamilton Harbour which is a shallow flooded basin of open water and marsh joined to Hamilton Harbour by the Desjardins canal. Here the shallow open water is dominated by emergent plants you can see, such as, the Cattails and Great Manna Grass (Glyceria maxima) a common emergent exotic marsh plant. Also there are the submergent Sage Pondweed (Potamogeton pecitinatus) and the floating leaves of Water Lilies (Nymphuea odorata). With advances in the Fishway Carp that disrupt the plants are controlled to allow for restoration of native vegetation.
Wetlands vary in appearance and habitat function depending upon where they are located and what conditions they exist in. Some are very open with large areas of water while others have almost no open water at all. What they have in common is the presence of shallow water that may be invisible because of the density of plant growth. The three types of wetlands found in our area are marshes, swamps and peatlands.
The kind of wetland that most people picture is a marsh. This is the most common type of wetland in southern Ontario and in the Hamilton area. Marshes have soils that are less organic than other wetlands and they are characterised by emergent vegetation.Marshes usually have an equal area of open water and vegetation. Marshes are prime duck habitat and also excellent muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) territory.These habitats can be found along the shores of the Great Lakes and in sheltered bays such as Cootes Paradise and also along rivers or in other depressions across the broader landscape. They have fluctuating water levels, particularly when they are isolated from large water bodies.
Swamps are often associated with the deep southern United States, like the Okefonokee Swamp in Georgia, but we have our own swamps right here in our area. Swamps are forested wetlands and the Hamilton area is one of the best places in Canada to see them. Most of our swamps are dominated by hardwood tree species, in particular Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum). These wetlands can form along lakeshores but are more often found along shallow rivers or in low-lying areas where the soil is not flooded all year long. By combining the properties of forest and wetland together, they make very good habitat for birds in particular. Beverly Swamp and the Valens Conservation Area are excellent places to see these ecosystems.
The rarest wetlands in southern Ontario, peatlands are wetlands where the soil is highly organic because is it formed mostly from incompletely decomposed plants. This soil is called peat and its presence is what defines peatlands. Plant material does not break down very easily in waterlogged conditions and the plants that dominate peatlands, such as Sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.) or sedges (Carex sp.), are especially slow to decompose. In addition, many peatland plants produce chemical compounds that slow decomposition further, particularly the Sphagnum mosses. These non-vascular plants are also known as ‘peat mosses’ because they form peat soils.
The slow decomposition found in peatlands results in soils that are very old. It can take as much as 1,000 years for a peatland to produce as little as 15 centimetres of peat soil. Incredible! This is why peat is not a renewable resource; it is formed over very long periods of time. One nearby peatland, the Summit Bog at Copetown, is 12,000 years old and has peat soil that is 8 metres deep. This means that, on average, this peat soil has taken 1,000 years to deepen by 65 centimetres. There are two main types of peatlands in southern Ontario, bogs and fens. Both form peat but bogs have no significant inflows or outflows of water while fens receive water from surrounding mineral soil, sometimes resulting in a mix of peatland and marsh vegetation.
Of the three types of wetlands,marshes seem to have more animal life. It is easy to find muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) in these very productive habitats.Marshes are particularly important habitats for amphibians and water-dwelling reptiles because they contain both open water and vegetated areas. The Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale), Mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus), Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens), Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) and Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) all benefit from marsh homes.Aquatic insects also thrive in this habitat, including the Giant Water Bug, also known as the Toe-biter (Lethocerus americanus), the Brown Water Scorpion (Ranatra fusca), mosquitoes (Aedes spp.), dragonflies and damselflies (Order Odonata) and midges (Family Chironomidae, which look a bit like mosquitoes but do not bite).This abundance of insects, amphibians and plants is like a meal waiting to happen for birds, which is one reason why birds are so populous in marshes.
There are the herons, such as the Blue Heron above (Butorides virescens) and their relatives the American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) and the rare Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis). Rails (e.g. Virginia Rail, Rallus limicola), and coots (e.g. American Coot, Fulica Americana) are on the rise in places like Cootes Paradise in Hamilton.Smaller birds are there too, like the Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) and the rare Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea).Fish are also an important part of the marsh fauna. Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens), Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides), Pumpkinseeds (Lepomis gibbosus) and many minnow species are found in Cootes Paradise, with help from the fish barrier that keeps out invasive species like Carp and allows these native fish to survive and reproduce. During the open water seasons, you can watch the barrier in action as RBG staff remove the undesirable fish from the trap in the barrier.
Information:Jacqueline, Hamilton Nature and Wikipedia