I am firmly entrenched in long hours of field work once again for the next few months, as I try to complete as much work as possible during the brief timing windows I have to survey for birds, amphibians, turtles, and other wildlife. Part of the year is fairly slow for me work wise and I spend a good chunk of my autumn and winter holed up inside the office writing reports. But this year starting in April, field work began to trickle in. These things always come through last minute and by the end of May I was in full blown work mode!
I am incredibly fortunate to be able to practice my hobby as my job; well, for part of the year. It is not always fun and games though up here in northern Ontario, between the long hours, lack of sleep (5 hours straight is almost unheard of!), and biting insects. Right now we are in the delightful overlap period where mosquitoes, black flies, and deer flies are all flying in big numbers. And of course, surveying for birds on a site can be a little disheartening when you know that a year from now, this site will likely no longer exist as it does today.
But sometimes, something happens which makes up for all the tough parts of the job. A few days ago, a co-worker and I were surveying a site south of the French River, documenting the birds, vegetation, watercourses, and any other important natural features which could impact the extent of a development. It was a gorgeous site on the Canadian Shield only a few dozen kilometers from the shore of Georgian Bay. Fens, marshes and bogs were interspersed with woodlands composed primarily of White Pine, Balsam Fir, Trembling Aspen, and Red Maple. Extensive networks of rock outcrops weaved through the forests and wetlands. Here is a photo of a similar looking area a few hundred kilometers south of here.
My co-worker and I were walking the edge of a wetland on Thursday when we noticed a turtle basking on one of the logs in the pond. It got away on us (they spook easily, sometimes) but it was likely a Blanding's Turtle, a Threatened species in Ontario, and one that is afforded habitat protection.
The following day, after completing my morning point counts, I focused my efforts on the pond with hopes of turning up the turtle again. A quick scan with the bins revealed a turtle, and it was a beautiful Blanding's!
I spent the next fifteen minutes in stealth mode, as I attempted to sneak up to the basking turtle without it seeing me and spooking into the clear water. Using a beaver dam to hide behind, I was able to get some documentation photos of the turtle, and eventually some good quality images. This one is my favorite of the bunch.
Not only did we find the Blanding's, but we had a few Eastern Whip-poor-wills calling in the vicinity during our evening surveys; also a Threatened species in Ontario that is afforded habitat protection.
The following day we recieved word from the client that they withdrew their plan to develop to property. With the Blanding's and the Whips present, essentially 90% of the site would be off limits for development. The client will likely move on to a different area to build their aggregate pit, but it will be in an area without protected species like Eastern Whip-poor-wills and Blanding's Turtles (as well as the abundance of other species that share similar habitats).
While development will continue to happen in Ontario and throughout the world, it is a little satisfying that we were able to save this little piece of paradise. May the ol' yellowchins continue to live on in peace...