Spring Fling Starts off the 2017 Season

By Ted Farnworth. Over thirty-five people showed up to the Sunday Spring Fling pot luck. Many new faces showed up to join volunteers back from last year. The IC tables were covered with a wide variety of goodies, finger food, and desserts that were enjoyed by all. Short presentations gave everyone a better idea of what we have planned for the 2017 season.  Many people asked questions, and a wide variety of topics were covered that helped newcomers understand what we do at the Fletcher, and how we do it.

Thanks to all who participated and contributed.

The plight of the bumble bee

by John Davidson

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Tricoloured Bumblebee at work in the FWG’s Butterfly Meadow

Punch “bees” into your search engine and, within seconds, you’ll get a screenful of headlines, something like this:

Why are bees dying?
Plant flowers to help declining bee populations
Could pesticides be limiting the ability of bees to reproduce?

We are all aware of the crucial role bees and other pollinators play in the plant world. And we are growing aware of the perils these species face. As alarm bells ring over declining bee populations worldwide, scientists and environmentalists are attempting to answer the question, why?

Bumble Bee Watch

This summer (2016), the Fletcher Wildlife Garden became one of the focal points for Bumble Bee Watch (bumblebeewatch.org), a continent-wide effort to gather data on and better understand the health of bumble bee populations. During July and August, representatives from Friends of Earth Canada, a partner in the program, held several presentations at FWG. Each included a talk, a documentary film, a question and answer session, and finally an on-the-land hunt for bumble bees.

The program encouraged “citizen scientists” to look for bumble bees and upload data on their findings to their website, including date and time of the sighting, location, species identification, and a photograph.

Why Fletcher Wildlife Garden? Because, “it’s a gem!”

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Beatrice Olivastri, chief executive officer, Friends of the Earth, Canada.

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth, Canada, said that when her organization was trying to sort out how to involve people in Ottawa, “It was very obvious that we wanted to work with the people from Fletcher Wildlife Garden, the volunteers and the people who do interpretation.

“I think this garden is an amazing gem in Ottawa. I don’t know if everyone in Ottawa is aware of it: if they aren’t they should be! Friends of the Earth is so happy to have been able to work with the Fletcher Wildlife Garden folks. I hope we’ll be able to do some good things together and hope we can attract more volunteers to help out with all of the good things Fletcher Wildlife Garden is doing for Ottawa and for nature.”

I tried out the Bumble Bee Watch ID program on the web several times and found it quite easy to use, although, even with tips and graphic aids on the site, it was tricky for this unpracticed eye to identify the precise species among the 48 that inhabit North America. Luckily, the uploaded photo was there to allow scientists with Bumble Bee Watch to confirm the IDs.

Although the Friends of the Earth count ended on August 15, Bumble Bee Watch is ongoing and you can submit your photos and data any time.

We know more about honey bees that the wild native species

Ms Olivastri visited Fletcher Wildlife Garden on June 26 to explain the program.

“Many people have become concerned about bees, typically honey bees, and their exposure to a particular kind of pesticides, called neonicotinoids. And while honey bees have a voice —the beekeepers, and their associations — we don’t know nearly enough about how wild bees are doing.

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David van Olst (grey tee shirt) of Friends of the Earth, leading a Bumble Bee Watch bee identification field trip at the FWG.

“We do know that they are stressed out by climate change. We do know that they are negatively impacted by habitat loss through urban development or land converted to commodity crops, such as corn and soy and canola. And we know they are affected by diseases, sometimes shared from honey bees or even from domestic bumble bees which are used in greenhouse operations and which sometimes escape.

“We know that there is a decline.

“We know that there are specific wild bees, like the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee that was remarkably common the 70s in Southern Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec, and is completely gone now in Canada. It is listed as endangered, and was last seen in Canada in 2009, around Grand Bend, Ontario.

“Six other species in 2016 have been listed for protection under the federal Species at Risk Act.

“So, something is happening.”

Let it bee

Ms Olivastri said, “What we are trying to do at Friends of Earth is, first of all, inform people about how remarkable and important wild native bees are.

“By helping us count them, by helping us take pictures and recording them on Bumble Bee Watch, it will help scientists learn more about these threats, and what we can do differently to help us protect these bees,” she said.

How you can help in your own backyard

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Even if you missed the four Friends of Earth presentations at the FWG this summer, you’re still in luck. Neil Losin and Morgan Heim’s award winning documentary film A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, that was part of the presentations, has been posted on line. You can watch it here.

Ms Olivastri stressed that there are many things you can do, if you have a back yard or garden, to make a habitat that helps support wild bumble bees.

“The best thing you can do to help save the bees,” she said, “is in your own back yard. Let it be: leave your yard more natural to support the wild bee populations.”

To learn more about how to create a “Bee and Bee” accommodation in your own backyard, see the helpful guide Friends of the Earth have provided online.

More about the plight of the bumble bee

Editor’s note: John Davidson had a chance to talk further with some of our Friends of the Earth colleagues during fieldwork at the FWG and made this excellent video.

The Plight of the Bumble Bee from John Davidson on Vimeo.

Art in the FWG

29 July – 
 
Volunteer Barbara writes:
 
As you happen to walk past the birch trees behind the Butterfly Garden or over towards the unusual grafted tree near the Ash Woods, you will notice some changes in these two little areas, as created by installation artist Karl Ciesluk. 
 
Karl, an established artist with many installations and sculptures to his credit in Canada and internationally, most recently created a labyrinth for the “Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens installations”, organized by Canadensis Botanical Garden Society in the neighbouring field just south of FWG. A couple of Fridays ago he approached some Fletcher volunteers about using a natural feature at FWG as the basis for a temporary work of art.  After considering the proposal and placing some limitations as to what could be done, the Management Committee agreed that he could create something at FWG.
 
Karl has chosen two concepts: using the birch trees to create ladders to heaven, a homage to volunteers who have died, and wrapping the grafted tree (a Camperdown elm) to highlight the beauty of its limbs. No chemicals or cutting tools will be used and the treatments can be easily removed. FWG will add small signs at these two locations to acknowledge the installations.
 
There has been controversy about this decision to permit artistic expression at FWG. Karl’s purpose is to show people other ways of looking at nature and our relationship to it, in his own way somewhat similar to what the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is trying to do. 
 
***
 
A question to ponder is how do we balance natural spaces, the desire to have spaces be quiet for wildlife and the art, which will attract people to then come and observe?
 
 

What are you doing this Saturday? Why not help some pollinators!

This Saturday, June 16th, from 9 until 12:30 marks our first public work bee at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden this season. We invite anyone interested in a little hard work and not afraid of getting dirty to come out and lend a hand.

After meeting at the Interpretation Centre, we’ll head over to the Butterfly Meadow to plant over 2000 native plants beloved by local pollinators. As part of this work, we’ll be preparing planting sites by turning soil and using our fancy big manual sifters to remove Dog-strangling Vine (DSV) roots.

Other jobs include removing DSV from around existing flowers in the Butterfly Meadow, especially near Common Milkweed. Monarch Butterflies can confuse DSV with Common Milkweed as both belong to the milkweed family. However, caterpillars rely on Common Milkweed as their food source, such that caterpillars that hatch on DSV starve and die. Given the significant challenges migrating Monarchs already face with loss of food sources, they can use as much assistance as we can provide! The first Monarch at FWG was spotted on June 6th, so the sooner we clear the invasive weeds, the better!

Volunteers from FWG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers work together to plant 1500 flowers!

 

This work bee is part of our on-going project to build a giant Monarch Waystation at FWG. We currently have a small model Monarch Waystation on-site to demonstrate how easy and beautiful creating food and habitat for pollinators can be!

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a registered Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch. This project was made possible by a generous grant from Fido and the Evergreen Foundation, partners in the Share Your Care campaign, and by voters like you! Other work bees to tackle DSV will be held on weekends this summer, so stay tuned here and to our website for dates.

Uncovering the Secret World of Plants: The Nature of Things

A great episode with heaps of slow motion capture, this edition of the Nature of Things discusses allelopathy and communication between plants. Do you hear the voice of your vegetables?

Also neat is this TED Talk, where mycologist Paul Stamets lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe including cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu!

Female Cowbird Spring Self-Cleaning

Female Cowbird Spring Self-Cleaning

Christine photographed this female brown-headed cowbird taking a dip in the Backyard Garden’s upper pond. One male and two female cowbirds were happily bathing in the upper pond, along with a couple of white-throated sparrows and robins. There was almost a traffic jam as birds lined up to use this shallow and secluded enough pond.

We turned on the pond water feed just last week. There is also a bird bath, but it tends to freeze over easily with the recent cold nights.

Lots of wildlife activity in the BYG! Bring your natural, in-the-shell peanuts for the chipmunks – after a long winter they’re ready for treat!