Four Seasons at the Braham Tract

A male bobolink at the Braham Tract. (credit: Leslie Abram)

by Leslie Abram
Each time I visit Lone Pine Marsh I know I am in for a surprise. My very first visit to Lone Pine Marsh was in February, and a walk in the woods revealed a Barred Owl with half a rabbit in its talons. Later in February I heard Eastern Bluebirds flying over the nest boxes. Though no bluebirds used the nest boxes this year, once spring came the boxes were occupied by 4 families of Tree Swallows and 5 families of House Wrens. One highlight of my monitoring was a canoe tour through the marsh at the end of May. We heard and saw Least Bittern, American Bittern, Great Egret, and Pied Billed Grebe. Countless Grey Tree Frogs were calling. Summer brought a high count of 35 Bobolink in the upper fields. It was fascinating to watch the males performing their display flights and calls. In late summer, insects were the stars of the show. On a late August visit to the property I was treated to the sight of hundreds of Monarch Butterflies, as well as numerous dragonflies, damselflies, and bees. My visit in October yielded a Merlin keeping a close eye on the marsh, and barely any other birds. This property is a gem, and I cannot wait to see what I find on my next visit.

Doe Fight at McColl Tract

The trail camera at McColl captured a magnificent “doe fight” this winter. The camera captured two does in a face off — standing on their hind legs and circling, until one backed down and moved off. An unexpected and wonderful capture!

animal mammal deer 2018

Introducing McColl Property, a new woodlot

Through the generosity of Dr. William and Judith Mills, the land trust has acquired a new 68 acre woodlot along the Old Wooler Road near Codrington. It is part of Judith’s McColl family farm which was purchased by F. H. McColl in 1934.

Early attempts at agriculture by the McColls were not very successful due to the sandy, erosion prone soils. Therefore, in the 1950’s the McColls began a tree planting program using scots and red pine. Planting continued into the 1970s and also included sections of white spruce, Norway spruce and black walnut. The forest has been maintained as a registered managed forest since 1975.
Thinning of the planted stands was carried out in 2003 and again in 2011. As a result, the regeneration of hardwoods (most notably red oak) is progressing very well. It is the goal of the land trust to allow a natural regeneration of the reforested areas to mature mixed forest.

The rear of the property is transected by the main water course of Cold Creek and features an impressive stand of 40 year old white pine. The rear section also contains an eight acre swamp.
A series of forested ridges transect the middle of the property. Between two of these ridges is a very moisture rich cedar valley which contains many seeps and vernal ponds.
In early June we were saddened to hear of Judy’s passing. She had always wished that the property be conserved in its natural state. We are honored to become stewards of her cherished property.

Grassland Management for Threatened Species

written by Doug McRae
The acquisition and wise stewardship of biologically important properties is a land trust’s greatest responsibility and we take this very seriously, which is why all of our holdings have management strategies that guide our actions.
Our flagship property, the Lone Pine Marsh – Braham Tract, has seen great changes since we acquired it nearly a quarter century ago. The original purchase by our founder, Murial Braham, was essentially the large cattail marsh only. A subsequent purchase allowed us to take control of the adjacent cornfields and begin the conversion to habitats more suitable to our biodiversity goals. While the marsh habitat itself hasn’t changed significantly, the surrounded lands are now unrecognizable from their corn field days.
Some areas along the western boundary regenerated naturally and have since filled in with alder and birch, while others areas were planted with hundreds of trees. Those earliest plantings now constitute a 20 year-old forest that connects to the existing forest along the southern boundary. This spring we had two Grade 9 classes from Cobourg plant 200 more trees in this area to fill in some gaps that didn’t take in the first planting.

The two fields north of the marsh are being managed as grassland habitat to provide a nesting place for Bobolink and Meadowlark, both listed as Threatened under Provincial and Federal legislation. At present we have about 8 pairs of Bobolink and one pair of meadowlarks nesting here. To improve their chances of breeding successfully we do not permit hay to be cut from the fields until August, well after the young have fledged.
We suspect that the area could support greater numbers if we undertake some management efforts so we are presently investigating our options regarding improving the quality of this habitat through reseeding the fields to benefit grassland birds, butterflies and other pollinators.

Another issue we have looked at is the thin line of conifers that were planted along the west side of these fields, and in an east-west line dividing them. These trees were planted about 15 years ago before we had defined our grassland management strategy and unfortunately they are now starting to get to a height where they will negatively impact grassland birds that prefer wide-open spaces. Short shrubs like the dogwood and sumac that are currently there are not a problem, however a wall of tall trees will be. Once the spruce and pine get much taller they will reduce or eliminate the suitable grassland habitat.
After much discussion and consultation with the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT holds an easement on this property) and others, we have decided to cut the row of planted conifers. While we generally don’t like to remove trees (besides invasive species which we remove regularly) this is a necessary action for the long-term health of our grassland habitat.