It was a crisp but sunny morning on March 24 when members congregated at the Wilkinson Tract. Maple sap was just starting to flow well after a cool week of weather. We assisted Helmut and Janice Enns, who make maple syrup at the Wilkinson Tract, collect syrup from about 40 taps around the property.
After collecting sap, we tasted the various concentrations of boiling sap from the stove.
Donor George Wilkinson joined us around the fire and some non-members also came to learn more about the creation of maple syrup. It was a wonderful start to spring!
written by Paulette Hebert
When asked to write an article about my activities as a volunteer property steward I thought the timing could not have been better. The end of the month will mark one year since I first began monitoring at the Wilkinson property. I have watched the land and the life forms that depend on it evolve and thrive through an entire cycle of the seasons.
I head out to the Wilkinson property once per month to check up on it. I look for signs of vandalism or misuse and make observations about general conditions, changes, wildlife, and plants. I am fascinated by the endlessly changing palette of blooming flowers. Even the chorus of birds and frogs evolves as each species takes its turn to dominate the soundscape. On each visit I find something I have never seen before. I bring a bag full of my favorite field guides to help me identify the new and mysterious things I discover.
The weather is always beautiful, because I plan it that way. Today the leaves are beginning to change. It is aster and goldenrod season: gold, white and purple. As a property monitor, I get to pretend I am a photographer. The plants are such cooperative subjects.
Only on the windiest days do they refuse to stand still. I photograph each blooming species and identify it in my notes. I don’t even try to capture the birds and mammals although I do have a few mediocre shots of wood frogs and leopard frogs.
Birds are always the first thing I notice when I arrive. Birds love to advertise themselves with their songs and being able to recognize bird songs has been an invaluable monitoring tool. The chickadees and an eastern phoebe always greet me first. And then, the blue jays complain and alert the rest of the inhabitants, which is probably why I seldom see any of the larger mammals. I know they are there however, because they leave their tracks in the muddy trail or at the water’s edge where they come to drink: coyotes, white-tailed deer, weasels, raccoons, beaver, muskrat and, of course, the resident black bear.
Regular monitoring increases the chances of detecting rare and vulnerable species that may live at the property. In the spring, I was lucky to spot a big old Blanding’s turtle among the multitude of painted turtles that live in the swamp. It has remained elusive ever since. Regular visits also allow me to keep ahead of unwanted invading species which I remove and/or report.
I have a favorite spot at the Wilkinson property. Deep in the hemlock forest there is a fallen tree on which I like to sit to watch, listen and feel this beautiful place. I take stock of what I have learned, take some notes and wonder at the privilege I have been given to be a steward of this land.
On a drizzly Saturday morning, eleven members met at the end of Pogue Road to walk around the Wilkinson property. We first walked north along the road allowance to visit the marsh and enjoy the beavers’ handiwork before walking the loop by the sugar shack.
We saw flowering plants including trilliums (red and white), marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), serviceberry (Ameliancher sp.), heartleaved foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia), and jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). We also saw the leaves of partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadensis), trout lily (Erythronium americanum), meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens), and mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum).
In the mud of the forest, there were bear tracks.
We heard spring peepers and leopard frogs. We also saw or heard the following birds: redwing blackbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, common yellowthroat, black-and-white warbler, northern waterthrush, wood thrush, veery, tree swallow, and barn swallow.
This walk took place in conjunction with For the Love of Wood, an annual event held at the Hilton Heritage Hall (old Brighton Township office at 50 Chatten Rd.).
Five members and friends gathered at the Wilkinson Tract for a fall walk on Saturday, October 10 – probably the most gorgeous day so far this fall. The morning was lovely and crisp, the sky nearly cloudless, and the fall colours were in full display.
First we walked down the length of Pogue Rd., and even though it was fall, a few Red-winged Blackbirds were still singing from the marsh and several Ruffed Grouse were drumming. We had great looks at a Pileated Woodpecker (first of five seen or heard), as well as a small flock of Rusty Blackbirds – a boreal forest breeder passing through here on migration. We explored the eastern forest noting the different types of trees here including the uncommon Blue Beech. Then with much enthusiasm we traversed the marsh on the overgrown causeway and walked through the western forest.
Highlights from the west side included seeing the last few living Butternuts on the property – an officially Endangered species that is being wiped out by an introduced blight. On a brighter note the mature hemlock/maple peninsula was stunning in fall colour and was also great for fungi, ground pine (a club moss relative), and Christmas Fern and Polypody – the two evergreen ferns on this tract.
On our way back to the parking area, as the temperature began to warm up, we saw several small parties of migrating Turkey Vultures plus a Northern Harrier and two Red-tailed Hawks.
Thank you to all for coming out to enjoy one of the properties that, through a generous donation by Pat and George Wilkinson, Lone Pine is committed to protecting.