What’s new at AWMA 2022
Addition of New Wetlands
Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Elgin Stewardship Council have created an additional seven new wetlands. Six of the new wetlands stretch across the northern wildlife corridor (northern most former runway). Two larger ponds anchor the east and west ends of the corridor with four smaller acting as linkages. A trail will be extended along this corridor for hikers to use during the non-hunting season. The planting of native shrubs and seeding of native forbs and grasses will be completed this spring as well. Interpretative signage will be installed. Wood duck nesting boxes and Prothonotary Warbler boxes will be installed. The seventh pond is located in the wildlife sanctuary in conjunction with the East Cell (Heron Pond) which is undergoing rejuvenation under the direction of DUC.
Osprey Nesting Platform
Our osprey nesting platform installed late in 2019 did attract a single osprey for a short period this past season again. With the restoration of the water in the Tundra Swan Pond (west cell),the fish population should bounce back this year to provide the osprey with sufficient food stuffs. Realistically it may take several more seasons to attract ospreys with sufficient food. Failing that, structure is strong enough to handle our bald eagles if they would like to take up a closer residence.
The five pairing ponds dug in the autumn of 2018 by the Elgin Stewardship Council in the wildlife sanctuary continue to naturalizewith an assortment of aquatic plants, invertebrates, amphibiansand reptiles. A colony of painted turtles is making useage of theinstalled basking logs and turtle nesting sites as observed last season. Additional aquatic colonizers are anticipated this year and the seeding and planting of assorted native aquatic and emergent species continues. 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 multiyear refurbishment and maintenance of the west and east water cells. This past season required a final full drawdown of the west cell (Tundra Swan Pond) and the completion of a full drawdown of the east cell (Heron Pond) with the removal of stop logs out the water control devices. Giles Restoration carried out a thorough spaying of the west cell to control the invasion of phragmites and Cottonwood that threaten to overwhelm the cell last season. Refurbishment work on the western cell has been completed and the re-flooding commence early October successfully to its maximum level. Rehabilitation of the west cell (Tundra Swan Pond) is now complete. The west cell will undergo seasonal draw downs and refloods to provide appropriate shoreline habitat for migrating waterfowl and shore birds.
The full draw down of the east cell (Heron Pond) was completed in October and will remain in phase for approximately two seasons before reflooding. The new wetland (seventh pond) and pond 5 will provide water sources for wildlife during this time as will the temporary stream generated from drainage from the west cell passing through the bottom of the empty east pond. Wildlife viewing from Stand #4 will provide a different perspective and view of rehabilitation of the pond and extensive mud flats after heavy rains.
Invasive Species Eradication
Giles Restoration has been hired by the ESC to spray the numerous patches of phragmites that our spreading inside and outside the wildlife refuge compound as well as the remaining woody invaders of the Tall Grass Prairie for this summer. Last winter,the invasive eradication program was continued to remove common buckthorn, multiflora rose, Russian and autumn olive and other invasive plant species from the wildlife refuge. In November, they returned with a forest mulcher to breakdown the standing dead thickets and prepare the sites for replanting. The plan is to continue this process this coming season.
Native Species Plantings
Numerous native shrubs to provide mast and shelter for wildlife have been purchased from the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority and will be planted out this spring. Areas that have been prepared after replanting by the forest mulcher as well as areas around the new wetlands will be the targeted areas for replant. An assortment of seeds of native grasses and forbes are being purchased for planting this spring as well.
Black Walnut Maintenance
Black Walnut trees that were planted at the AWMA several decades ago are being trimmed to make better 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
Our new Purple Martin House was installed and was visited by returning Purple Martins in the spring and autumn migrations but had no nesters. We hope to attract a colony this coming spring.
As several species of native bats are endangered, two large bat colony boxes will be soon installed. This is to provide safe diurnal shelter and maternity wards in support of local bat populations. Special thank you to the St. Thomas Field Naturalists for the construction of several bat colony boxes for distribution to all the wildlife management area.
Blue Bird Program
The numerous Blue Bird boxes along the main roadway, Canada Wayand Barn trail are being maintained and attracting several nesting birds. Refurbishing of older bluebird boxes and relocation to poles is on going.
In the autumn, duck baiting was performed from August 19th to December 15th. As permitted by the CWS, 400 lb. of shelled corn was thrown into the baiting area every Monday, Wednesday, Fridayfeed by volunteers including the EESS Environmental Leadership Program following Covid 19 protocols. The 400 m no hunting exclusion zone was posted as required by the CWS.Baiting Permission Application for this coming season is in progress.
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 was being baited. Duck banding occurred between August 19th and September 18th and was performed by the CWS licenced volunteers this past season.
Year-Round Bird Feeding
Several bird feedersinstalled in front of Viewing Stand #3 providing niger, black oil sunflower, millet, mixed grainand suet to assist the residential and migratory species and to improve birding opportunities for our patrons.
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
Invasive woody species were again sprayed to eradicate their presence. Additional prairie seeding will beperformed 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. There is no indication of tundra swans overwintering at Long Point and Rondeau Bays this season.
Tundra Swan Spring Migration
We anticipate a return to a more normal swan migration program this season. All viewing stands will be open this season. The MNDMNRF is restricting the stands to a maximum of 25 people and masks are mandatory! Morning feeding of the swans will continue but the interpretative program provided to the public may be limited due to a lack of volunteers. We anticipate a good migratory season with a full Tundra Swan Pond.
Duck Boxes and nesting Tubes
The five nesting tubes have been refurbished and installed for the up coming season. The 27 new Wood Duck boxes have been cleaned and restocked with wood shavings.
Feral Cat Problem
Ground nesting birds: Meadowlark, Bobolink, Savanna Sparrows, etc continue to be decimated by the release of feral cats into the wildlife management area. There has been no nesting of Bobolinks in the meadows for two seasons now. The loss of the Bobwhites that appeared several seasons ago can also be contributed to predation by feral cats. We ask the public to not abandon cats or any domesticated pet in the wildlife area and not to feed or assist these invasive and destructive species.
All Donations are used to feed the wildlife and maintain the property for passive public recreation and enhance wildlife habitat. Funding for a new viewing stand (#5) is being sought.
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 MNDMNRF.
Ron Casier 519-318-5279, email@example.com
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