Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Windermere Basin Hike

April 25th. It is a perfect day for a hike.  I, at least am seeing a part of Hamilton that I have long known about but never actually visited; The Windermere Basin, once a contaminated site, now a remediated natural parkland and getting closer and closer to what it was before: a Great Lakes costal wetland and mud flat, benefiting diverse and local wildlife and fish.

City of Hamilton (the owners of the land) can be proud.  A startling sight it is to observe the industrial stacks on the horizon, puffing gently today (north, west and south). Below, along the harbour, fishermen wait patiently for fish to bite.

Breeding cormorants and seagulls dot the landscape and tall, native prairie grasses come to life in the wind. We are lucky: we have two birders with us: Len Manning from the Hamilton Naturalist Club and Caleb Scholtens from Arocha.

Together, they tell us, a group of twenty odd nature enthusiasts about the habits of the tree-swallow, a species with nesting colonies in the specially made wooden boxes of this parkland. Looking through Len’s powerful binoculars, he point out that males are the beauties of this species—gorgeous, iridescent blue backs, diving in and out of the grasses while a small falcon watches, his chest puffed, silent.
“They’re in trouble,” Len tells us. Loss of habitat is one major culprit.
Other species like the Common grackle and the Chimney swift are also on the decline. Chimney swifts eat insects on the fly, so if there are no insects---they starve to death. That’s why projects like this are so important for birds, insects and wild life.

Then there is the issue with invasive Sweet White Clover—which is not so sweet. It grows in these grasslands and we hear from the Redeemer College student who is accompanying us on the walk, that napping it in the bud when it flowers is the best way to get rid of it, since the roots die if you do this.  Who wants to take ownership of this land and steward it further?

Windermere Basin is a receiving basin for the Red Hill Creek prior to the water entering Hamilton Harbour and is located at the south east corner of Hamilton Harbour (adjacent to the Queen Elizabeth Way (Q.E.W.), Eastport Drive and Woodward Avenue). The creek serves a watershed of parts of Hamilton, Stoney Creek and Glanbrook.

Note: covered our hike. Read here.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hamilton Environmental Summit: We were there for Earth Day!

A productive morning today at the Royal Botanical Gardens for the Hamilton Environmental Summit.

We learned a lot and shared a lot. People were excited to learn about creating their own pollinator patches and contributing to habitat creation in our city.

Thanks to the organizers for the opportunity!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do your duty: Create habitat for biodiversity.

For Vince Fiorito, founder of Friends of Sheldon Creek Watershed (Burlington), creating pollinators and wildlife habitat could be the single most important action individuals can take in tackling the devastating loss of biodiversity in our communities.

Loss of habitat caused amongst other factors, by urbanization, land conversion for agriculture and logging practices, resource extraction, as well as climate change and the spread of invasive species, threaten entire ecosystems—to the point where seriously degraded, they will cease to be effective at cleaning our soil and water, or producing oxygen.

“Ecologically, our natural areas are becoming overrun with invasive species," Fiorito says; "they are not going to be a refuge for wildlife. Our forests are transforming into buckthorn, our farmlands are toxic to pollinators."

Fiorito points out that invasive species are a global problem, which is leading to the "McDonaldization" of ecosystems: "Eventually it won't matter where you go. Every ecosystem with become variations of the same one."  Sort of like how you can get the same hamburger at a McDonalds anywhere on the planet.  "All "natural" areas globally will eventually all look more or less the same and consist of more or less the same plants and animals."

What's left?  For Fiorito, “our urban areas have high potential for planting native species and attracting pollinators.”
by Madeleine Kay
That's why Fiorito's life purpose is to raise awareness for environmental and ecological consideration –trying to convince people to restore habitat and grow native plants.

Originally from Thunder Bay, Fiorito had a rural upbringing, hunting and trapping since the age of fourteen (drop him anywhere in Ontario with just a knife and he'll survive). This is where he became interested in creating habitat for the species he was tracking so as to improve the quality of the trap lines.

Currently, his day job is teaching software for cloud computing to corporations, but the rest of his time is dedicated to environmental activism. “I love to teach. The software thing is a wave that is going to happen--but trying to cause social change is significant."

Fiorito says he is focusing on high school kids and schoolchildren because "the adults are programmed to think that yellow flowers in a green lawn is ugly."

Get rid of your lawn.

The lawn. Ah. The lawn. In North America, its sacredness is comparable to that of the automobile. But the lawn is death. It has no intrinsic value as a functional, diverse ecosystem.

Sterile, devoid of bio-diversity, “even a pile of rocks would be better,” Fiorito says, since it has that more habitat for insects to crawl under.

Fiorito is ready to argue that as a whole, the development of the Athabasca Tar Sands will be less destructive than our current landscaping choices are (he calculates as much as 190,000 square kilometers of lawn and sterile gardens of alien/exotic ornamental flowers).

He is not joking when he says that “tulips, lilacs, daffodils are cruel practical jokes we play on pollinators.” They have nothing to offer by way of food.

“But for every single ornamental plant we have, there is an equivalently beautiful native one.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pollinator Paradise Project: We'll be at the Hamilton Environmental Summit (Advancing Environmental Responsibility and Stewardship).

Hamilton Environmental Summit.

Advancing Environmental Responsibility and Stewardship
Focus areas include:
· Natural areas and biodiversity
· Environmental education
· Local environmental initiatives

This is an opportunity for participants to:

· Celebrate successful local environmental initiatives that have been started and/or completed since the previous Environmental Summits
· Identify issues and opportunities related to advancing Hamilton’s environmental sustainability (exploring the roles of individuals, organizations, businesses, and the City)
· Provide input to help inform the Vision 2020 renewal (Our Future Hamilton… Communities in Conversation)
Catch us there!

Earth Day Native Plant Sale at Royal Botanical Gardens was a ball!

April 18th:
What a fantastic day it was to pick up some plants for your new pollinator gardens.

Here's who was there from local nurseries:

St. Williams Nursery & Ecology Centre
Sassafras Farms,
South Coast Gardens
Not so Hollow Farm
Baker Forestry Services, Nursery and Consulting
Matt Mills

B-Sweet Honey

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making a Bee Box with the Pollinator Paradise Project.

Thanks to Kathy Renwald at for making this wonderful little video of a workshop we had last week at the Environment Hamilton offices, on how to build a bee box.
Kathy also wrote an article about the project: Home sweet home for native bees.

Armed with hammer, nails, hooks and hollow tubes, 22 people cobbled together bee nest boxes they hope will become homes to native bees. The production line took up every flat surface in the Environment Hamilton offices Tuesday night.

"We can't keep up with the demand," said Jen Baker of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club. Every time they offer a class, it sells out.

The club, along with Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Community Foundation offers the bee box building workshops as part of the Pollinators Paradise Project.

Mary Johnston cut hollow tubes where bees will lay eggs, and pushed them into the small bee box. Though she has a good population of bees on her property, she likes the idea of doing more.

"I'm interested in doing anything I can to attract bees and butterflies to my garden," she said.

Read more here.