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What’s New at AWMA 2021

New AWMA Brochure

A new brochure for the AWMA has been designed and is available in view stands #1 & 3.  The updated version is in full colour and reflects the changes that have and will be occurring at AWMA. 

Osprey Nesting Platform

Our osprey nesting platform installed late in 2019 did attract a single osprey for a short period last season. With the restoration of the water in the Tundra Swan Pond (west cell), the fish population is expected to bounce back this year to provide the osprey with a sufficient food source. It may take several more seasons to attract more ospreys and for the fish population to increase. Failing that, the nest structure is strong enough to handle our bald eagles if they would like to take up a closer residence.

Pairing Ponds

The five pairing ponds dug in the autumn of 2018 by the ESC have all successfully held water during past year and are being naturalized through the colonization of assorted aquatic plants, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles. A colony of painted turtles are continuing to utilize the installed basking logs and turtle nesting sites as observed last season.  Additional aquatic colonizers are anticipated this year. Pond/wetland complexes in front of viewing stands #3 & 4 have enhanced observation opportunities for various migratory and shore birds.  The pairing ponds will provide more habitat for migratory waterfowl nesting and feeding. All the ponds are surface runoff/precipitation fed so water levels will seasonally fluctuate.  The three northern pairing ponds are designed as cascading overflows via swales into the tundra swan cell.  A seed mixture of dry and wet meadow species have been planted around each pairing pond to provide cover and food for wildlife. Last year a variety of native trees and shrubs were planted for additional cover and mast.  The southern two ponds drain naturally into the Fuller Municipal Drain. Construction of a fifth viewing stand overlooking the northern pairing ponds was delayed due to the pandemic but hopefully be under consideration again this summer.

Water Cells Refurbishment/Maintenance

Ducks Unlimited Canada has undertaken a multi-year refurbishment and maintenance of the west and east wetland cells.  This past season required a full drawdown of the west cell (Tundra Swan Pond) and continued the partial drawdown of the east cell (Heron Pond) with the removal of stop logs out the water control devices. Several full mow downs of around the west cell were undertaken to try to control the invasion of phragmites and cottonwood that threatened to overwhelm the cell last season.  Refurbishment work on the western cell has been completed and the re-flooding commenced early November successfully to its maximum level.  This was done in an attempt to drown out the remaining cottonwood seedlings.  Unfortunately to control the phragmites, the west cell will be drained in late June of this year so that an eradication spraying of the phragmites can be accomplished.The complete drawdown of the east cell has been re-scheduled for 2022 due to the pandemic.

Invasive Species Eradication

Giles Restoration has been hired by ESC to spray the numerous patches of phragmites that are spreading inside and outside the wildlife refuge compound as well as the remaining woody invaders of the tall grass prairie for this summer.  This winter the invasive eradication program continued to remove common buckthorn, multiflora rose, Russian and autumn olive and other invasive plant species from the wildlife refuge.

Black Walnut Maintenance

Black walnut trees that were planted at AWMA several decades ago are being pruned to improve timber trees as a demonstration of proper forestry practices.  This project is being undertaken by the membership of the Elgin-Middlesex Woodlot Owner’s Association, a chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association.

Purple Martin House

The footing for a new purple martin house has been installed just north of viewing stand #2.  The house and pole will be in place this spring for the arrival of purple martins.

Bat Houses

As several species of native bats are endangered, two large bat colony boxes will soon be installed.  This is to provide safe diurnal shelter and maternity wards in support of local bat populations.  A special thank you to the St. Thomas Field Naturalists for the construction of several bat colony boxes for distribution to all the wildlife management areas.

Blue Bird Program

The St. Thomas Field Naturalists continue their efforts by providing 33 new bluebird boxes to AWMA.  The new boxes were installed this past autumn by students in the East Elgin SS Environmental Leadership Program along the Barn Trail and Canada Way.  Refurbishing of older bluebird boxes and relocation to poles is on going.

Duck Baiting

Duck baiting was performed from August  19 to December 16.

As permitted by Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), 400 lbs of shelled corn feed was broadcast into the baiting area every Monday, Wednesday, Friday by volunteers including the EESS Environmental Leadership Program following Covid-19 protocols.

A 400 m no hunting exclusion zone was posted as required by the CWS.

An application for baiting permission has been submitting and awaiting approval.

Duck Banding

Despite the pandemic, there was a return to duck banding after a two-year hiatus.  Due to the drawdown of the west cell, the duck trap was installed in pond # 3 which had been baited.  Duck banding occurred between August 19 and September 18, and was performed by the CWS licenced volunteers this past season.

Year-Round Bird Feeding

Several bird feeders have been installed in front of viewing stand #3 providing niger seed, black oil sunflower, millet, mixed grain and suet to assist the residential and migratory species and to improve birding opportunities for our patrons.

Waterfowl Hunting

Three hunting blinds and parking lots were prepared for the autumn waterfowl hunting season as usual. An early harvest of the soyabean fields followed by the planting of winter wheat provided an excellent hunting field this past autumn.  The hunting blinds were well used with new hunters making use of the opportunity.  Please note that small game, deer and turkey hunting are not permitted at AWMA nor is any target or practice shooting.

Tall Grass Prairie Maintenance

Last April, WildFire Specialists successfully carried out  low-complexity burns  at AMWA and FMWA in accordance with MNRF regulations.  This prescribed burn has reinvigourated the growth of the prairie grasses and forbs.  Additional prairie seeding will be performed this spring to infill areas left open by destroyed woody vegetation.

Tundra Swan Fall Migration

The usual swan sightings at AWMA this autumn were typical with small groups stopping for a few hours before continuing south.  The early open winter has allowed up to 1200 tundra swans to overwinter in the open waters of Long Point and Rondeau bays. Frequent sightings have been reported this winter along Erie’s north shore and occasionally at AWMA when the water was open.

Tundra Swan Spring Migration                        

Last year’s migration was short; lasting only 21 days from March 4 to March 25 with a total of 20,755 tundra swans being counted.  The migration peaked between March 11 -15 during the full moon phase.  The Swan interpretation program was terminated on March 16 due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The feeding program continued until the end of the migration.  Due to the continuing pandemic, there will be no Swan interpretation program or promotion of the migration this year.  The feeding regiment will continue but viewing stands #1 & 3 will be closed due to their enclosed nature for public safety.  The outhouse will also be closed.  Viewing stands #2 & 4 will hopefully remain open barring another lock down order.

Duck Boxes and Nesting Tubes

The five nesting tubes have been refurbished and installed for the upcoming season. An additional 15 wood duck boxes were installed this autumn by EESS’s ELP class bring the total of new nesting boxes to 27.  All boxes have been cleaned and wood shavings restocked.

There were no successful nests in any of the twelve boxes installed last year. Additional wood duck boxes are planned for this season.

Donations

A memorial donation in the name of Walter Frederick was made by the family.  Walter was part of the original Rotarian Swan feeding team. 

All Donations are used to feed the wildlife and maintain the property for passive public recreation and enhance wildlife habitat.

Elgin Stewardship Council

The Elgin Stewardship Council is responsible for the care and maintenance of the three Wildlife Management Areas in Elgin: Aylmer, Calton Swamp, and Fingal under an agreement with the MNRF.

AWMA Manager

Ron Casier- (519)318-5279, ronjcasier@gmail.com                              

Please report vandalism or issues to manager