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Conservation Halton, Ontario, Canada

Featured Site Created By Brenda VR and Conservation Halton Staff

Conservation Halton in Ontario, Canada, engages in innovative educational activities to help citizens understand the importance of creating habitat for wildlife. Brenda, a Natural Heritage Ecologist on staff, began YardMapping Conservation Halton on her lunch hour. She discovered YardMap is a great place to document the preservation efforts of the organization and to store important citizen-science data. The many conservationists and ecologists on staff identify more wildlife each year that are benefiting from Conservation Halton’s features such as the wildflower prairie, bioswale, and nest boxes. To learn more, read about their featured site and visit their YardMap.

EcoRegion: Lake Erie Lowland
Planting Zone: 5a

What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?

Monarch on Milkweed

Photo © Brenda VR
The office is an old school so we are recycling the building itself and giving it a new life. The turf grass in the former school yard was removed and re-planted with a mix of prairie plants and native wildflowers. We call this the Renaturalization Area. The edges, close to the neighboring properties with mature trees, were planted with a mix of tree saplings and shrubs to provide a transitional edge buffer. More recently, the flower beds were redesigned and re-planted using only local, native plants. The plants were chosen to provide food and cover for our local pollinators and birds.
Renaturalization Project

Photo © Brenda VR

We used only native plants that are listed in our Conservation Halton’s Landscaping and Tree Preservation Plan Guidelines because we require those to be used for any plantings adjacent to natural areas. We felt we should follow our own guidelines and provide a real example of the plants that could be planted. For ideas on places to purchase native plants in the Ontario region, consider these locations: St. Williams Nursery, Bakers Forestry & Nursery and Verbinnen . Or, use the SER Ontario Native Plant Resource Guide to find a nursery near you that carries natives.

What are some successes that you've seen since the improvements were made? (alternatively, "What are you most proud of, or excited to share about this site?")

Red Belted Bumblebee

Photo © Brenda VR
The native wildflowers in the Regeneration Area are thriving and provide great pollinator habitat. We have a lot of bumblebees, small native bees, and numerous butterflies who visit and birds love to eat the seeds. At some point a few nest boxes were added to the regeneration area and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows moved in to raise their young and now are regular tenants.
Barn Swallow Nest

Photo © Brenda VR

After many years of only having one pair of nesting Barn Swallows, in 2014, we had three pairs nest on the building! It is very exciting to see our small population expand, especially since the provincial government just listed them as threatened.

Bioswale Maintenance

Photo © Brenda VR
We are most proud of Conservation Halton as an organization and of the amazing staff. The Conservation Authority of which Conservation Halton is one of 36, has willingly supported staff initiatives to create more native habitat. Over the years we’ve had many great individuals take-up the initiative to help our environment and promote stewardship of our office site. Most recently a bioswale project was completed when the parking lot needed redoing. And, we are confident there will be more projects as time goes on.

Photo © Brenda VR

We asked the staff to share their favorite wildlife spottings. And, this is what they said:
Brenda: My favorite are Tree Swallows, I can’t help but love their cheerful song and playful behavior.

Julia: My most exciting sighting was when I saw a Bald Eagle fly over the parking lot one day.

Andrea: I once saw a Pileated Woodpecker.

Holly: I am most entertained by the Barn Swallows. Last year, just after they had fledged, they all lined up along the roof by the staff entrance. I watched them and while perched, six or more of the young were still begging for food from the parents. The parent swallows seemed to be turning a deaf ear saying “You’re on your own now guys.”

Cory: I have a few. I’ve heard woodcock in the spring doing their mating dances behind the staff parking lot. Also, I’ve seen Eastern Meadowlark on the rear fence and on the birdhouse in the same area. For mammals, I’ve seen a red fox on the mowed pathways in the same area.

Yves: I’d prob have to pick Bluebirds, if I must choose one. But I’ve also seen: ATSP= American Tree Swallow; AMGO= American Goldfinch; RTHA= Red Tailed Hawk; TUVU= Turkey Vulture; AMCR= American Crow. The RTHA might give the Bluebirds a run for their money as my favorite. And the ATSPs are not far behind.

Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?

Renaturalization Area

Photo © Brend VR
Invasive species control can be a challenge. Originally the Regeneration Area was to be burned every few years but the timing window is small and the weather often does not cooperate so we’ve tried other methods of invasive species control and meadow management.

We have a limited budget and limited space on the site. Also, we are located in the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area, so it can make balancing organizational and environmental priorities a challenge when we do renovations or expansions, such as the parking lot and new septic system. We try to come to a compromise that balances as many goals as possible.

To see more images of Conservation Halton, visit their Flickr Pages