Another inspiring day at Windebank!

One of the best things about working in the conservation sector is witnessing first-hand the amazing ability of nature to rebound and the dedication of community volunteers to help out. This was reinforced to us yet again during our latest work party at Windebank Creek this past weekend…

Our great group of volunteers!

Our fantastic group of volunteers!

This salmon bearing stream in Mission has been continually impacted by us humans: it has been diverted from its original course to create enough land to build a shopping mall; its natural channel width has been limited by land use of the surrounding landscapes; it was illegally cleared of it riparian vegetation in 2008; it regularly experiences large amounts sediment and debris washing downstream during heavy rain events which alters the stream bed; and yet, the salmon continue to return to spawn every year!

It was great to have our regular volunteers return along with lots of new faces help us clean-up our section of Windebank Creek on Saturday. We continued our battle against the blackberry which will allow the native plants to establish themselves and eventually out-compete the blackberry. This will ultimately create a more diverse riparian habitat to shade the stream and provide habitat for non-aquatic species, and we can already see areas of improvement. We repaired sections of damaged fencing and removed a pick-up truck load of garbage from the site; we are installing sensitive habitat signage in an effort to dissuade the ongoing inappropriate use of this property.

We learned about the work the Mission of Stream Streamkeepers group has been doing monitoring the site (8 spawning Chum counted along this stream last week, and 37 the week before!).

Learning about the Mission of Streams Streamkeepers work!

Learning about the Mission of Streams Streamkeepers work!

A group of BCIT Ecological Restoration students have taken on the site for their project and will be doing all sorts of interesting surveys and restoration work on the site in the coming year. It is very exciting to see all the enthusiasm to help this site return to a functioning ecosystem.

BCIT students on their search to find out what kinds of salamanders might be on the site

BCIT students on their search to find out what kinds of salamanders might be on the site

Thanks everyone!

Volunteers needed for a Clean-up at Windebank!

It’s that time of year again!

We are looking for volunteers to help us clean-up our Windebank property on

Saturday November 14th from 10am to 2pm.

Removing blackberry near Windebank Creek

The salmon are currently spawning in the creek so it’s the perfect time to clear out some blackberry and observe these amazing fish!  We have had some good success fighting against the blackberry over the past year but this persistent plant will just not quit.  We are looking for volunteers to help remove blackberry and prune some of the native plants.  We will have some gloves and extra pruners on hand but if you can bring your own that would be great.  Please dress appropriately for the day – who knows what the weather will bring!  The ground can be quite mucky this time of year so rubber boots are recommended. We will also be removing some garbage from the property and will have appropriate safety gear for that activity.

This fall clean-up event will take place at the usual location: the dead end at the west end of Logan Street in Mission (you will see the gate to our property which lies below the mall at the Northeast corner of Lougheed and Cedar Connector).

We will have a guest speaker at lunchtime to talk about what the fish are currently up to in the creek.

If you can confirm you will be attending  that would be great, send us a quick email to let us know so we have enough supplies on hand. If you want to just decide and show up on the day, that is fine too – the more the merrier!

Thanks for making Yarrow Nature Day so much fun!

Thank you to everybody who joined us for Yarrow Nature Day!  We were really excited to hear about all the interesting animals that have been seen in Yarrow.  We look forward to continuing our work in this unique environment through our Nature Steward Program.  If you missed hearing about our free Nature Steward program at this event and want to learn more follow this link! We are especially grateful for all the kids who helped us test out some new educational games and brought great spirit to both nature walks.

 

Pamela Zevit, from the South Coast Conservation Program, led two very interesting nature walks.  Some participants were lucky enough to see an at-risk Pacific sideband snail and a Western red-backed salamander.

 

 

We also want to thank all our project partners who made this event a success! We had a huge variety of educational games and displays!

We also had in attendance a special guest… a Coast Painted Turtle who hatched this spring!

We also had in attendance a special guest... a Coastal Painted Turtle hatched this spring!

 

Ever Wonder What it’s Like to be a Summer Student with FVC?

As a team of three summer students working for the Fraser Valley Conservancy we had many interesting experiences. While a large part of our job was removing Himalayan blackberry, a necessity for any conservation work in the Lower Mainland, we also took part in a variety of different projects and picked up new skills along the way!

Our crew began in May conducting snail surveys at the Three Creeks site in Abbotsford. We learned to identify some local species, specifically the red-listed Oregon forest snail and the blue-listed Pacific sideband snail. We were lucky to find several of each in our plots, as well as a very friendly ensatina salamander.

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Pacific sideband snail

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Common ensatina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then travelled to the man-made Peppindale Wetlands in Aldergrove where our crew was taught how to complete topographic surveys. We surveyed wetland plants and also searched the area for bullfrogs, looking for the large egg masses and listening for the unmistakable plopping sounds made by young frogs.

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Removing invasive American bullfrog egg masses.

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Conducting topographic survey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our time at these sites we began work with the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition, a partner organization with the FVC. At their sites in Yarrow, we helped to survey fish at a stream in the Yarrow Eco Village. The crawfish were definitely the trickiest to retrieve though I am happy to say that we all survived without injury!

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Our crew of three surveying fish in Yarrow.

While our other experiences were definitely memorable, we all agreed that our favourite part of the summer was working by Ryder Lake in Chilliwack during the mass migration of juvenile western toads. We were amazed to see thousands of these dime-sized toads travel across roads from their breeding ponds to their forest habitats. During the migration, we assisted with toad surveys and learned how to hold and measure these little amphibians. Our crew also helped to install directional fences to corral the toads towards the FVC’s new amphibian crossing structure dubbed the “toad tunnel”.

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Western toads caught on the wrong side of the fence using an “escape hatch” to crawl to safety.

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Sub-adult Western toad who has made it safely through the tunnel to the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field experiences and learning opportunities this summer were priceless. The knowledge, industry contacts and hands-on experience will help our careers and has left us with some great memories.

Chilliwack Toad Fest 2015

Thank you to everybody who came out to support the official opening of the newly constructed “Toad Tunnel” in the community of Ryder Lake this past weekend! The day started with an official ribbon cutting ceremony with some of our project partners and City of Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

 

Representatives of some of our funding partners (TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Lafarge, the Langley Concrete Group, and Environment Canada)

Representatives of some of our funding partners (TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Lafarge, the Langley Concrete Group, and Environment Canada) assisted Mayor Gaetz cut the ribbon and open the toad tunnel.

David Redfern of Lafarge Canada presented a $10,000 cash donation to the Fraser Valley Conservany's

David Redfern, Vancouver Vice President and General Manager for Lafarge presented a $10,000 cash donation to the Fraser Valley Conservany’s President John Vissers and Executive Director Joanne Neilson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ribbon cutting ceremony was followed by lunch, updates on the 2015 toadlet migration, and kid friendly activities at Ryder Lake Hall. Thank you to Save-On-Foods for donating hot dogs and the Chilliwack Corn Maze for donating to our door prize!  This project would not have been possible without continuing support from the local community.  Thank you!  We enjoyed sharing the success of the first migration through the amphibian crossing structure and are looking forward to continuing to monitor these amphibian populations.

Enjoying some cake!

Enjoying some cake!

Checking out some toad displays and kid's crafts.

Kid’s crafts and toad displays at Ryder Lake Hall.

Aleesha serving some fresh local corn!

Aleesha serving some fresh local corn!

 

Getting a 'toad's eye view' of the new crossing structure.

Getting a ‘toad’s eye view’ of the new crossing structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Christina Toth for the great photos!

Toadlet Migration 2015

The Sub-adult Western toad migration in Ryder Lake is wrapping up for 2015.  These tiny toads started migrating on June 22 this year which is the earliest migration since the Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) started monitoring this population in 2008.  Local landowners also indicated that this is the earliest that the toads have started migrating (to their recollection).  The Western toads took advantage of the warm weather to develop quickly from eggs to tadpoles to sub-adult toads (affectionately called “toadlets”).

Western toad tadpoles developing in Hornby Lake.

Western toad tadpoles developing in Hornby Lake. Some are developing legs and getting ready to complete their metamorphosis.

Thousands of Western toad tadpoles gathering along the shore of the breeding pond.

Thousands of Western toad tadpoles gathering along the shore of the breeding pond.  Some have even completed their metamorphosis and are emerging on shore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) completed 9 road surveys monitoring the toadlet migration this year.  In 2014, 59 permanent survey plots were laid out every 50 meters along Ryder Lake, Elk View and Huston roads (in the vicinity of the breeding pond).  We monitored the same plots this year and will be able to compare the results between the years.  An initial review of the data shows that there were many fewer toads found per survey where the fencing and crossing structure was installed this year compared to the same locations last year. Further analysis of the data is required to accurately report on the migration and the resultant impact of the crossing structure.

We also used time-lapse photography to see how many toadlets were using the crossing structures.  Photographs were taken every minute in several survey sessions and show hundreds of toadlets making their way through the culverts.  We quickly analyzed 2 hours of data from June 25, 2015 and found over 3500 toadlets using one of the crossing structures (that’s an average of about 29 toads/minute)!

Toadlets using the existing culvert to cross under the road.

Toadlets using the existing culvert to cross under the road.

A minute later... More toadlets using the crossing structure!

A minute later… More toadlets using the crossing structure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The toadlets were also using the new crossing structure!  Can you spot the tiny toads amidst the rocks and leaves?

At least 43 toadlets using the new crossing structure!

There are at least 31 toadlets visible on their way safely to the other side of the road!

 

Tiny toads moving along the fence towards the crossing structure.

Tiny toads moving along the fence towards one of the crossing structures.

Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program funding has supported the FVC staff in their development and implementation of this project and have committed to continue to support our work in the years to come. We look forward to continuing to monitor the amphibians in the Ryder Lake community and will report further on the migration once we have had a chance to go over more of the data!

Amphibian fencing installation!

On June 24th 2015, a great group of Lafarge Canada employees volunteered to help us install fencing to guide migrating amphibians through the new crossing structure.  Ten volunteers and and five FVC staff members installed over 350 meters of directional fencing.  Local landowners graciously allowed the FVC to install fencing on their properties which allowed for optimal layout of the fencing. Funding to support the fencing installation was provided by Vancity and the TD Friends of the Environment Fund.

We took inspiration from other projects throughout BC to design our toad guidance system.  Due to local site conditions we anticipate having to install and remove the amphibian fencing for each migration.  This means our system has to be simple to install and durable.  We chose to use silt fencing material (black plastic fabric material used primarily around construction sites for erosion control), wooden stakes, and a staple gun.

Volunteers installing directional fencing to guide amphibians to the crossing structure.

Volunteers installing directional fencing.

To attach the fencing to the ground, so the tiny toads can’t crawl under it, we used two methods.  In the forest and along the road we buried a piece of the fabric material with soil and rock.  On the hay field, we used old garden hoses and landscape staples to secure the fabric to the ground. Both methods worked to prevent the sub-adult Western toads (“toadlets”) from moving under the fence.  We also left a piece of fabric overhanging at the top of the fence to discourage amphibians from crawling over the fence.

Securing the fence to the ground with soil and rock.

Securing the fence to the ground with soil and rock.

Securing the fence to the ground using old garden hoses and ground staples.

Securing the fence to the ground using old garden hoses and landscape staples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our toad guidance system directed the migrating toadlets to two safe passages across Elk View road.  One of which is the new crossing structure installed in early June. The other safe passage was through two existing drainage culverts.  These culverts are dry when the toadlets migrate in the summer and provide another way for the toadlets to move safely across the roads towards their foraging grounds in the forests.

Directional fencing... as seen by a toad migrating away from the wetland

Directional fencing… as seen by a toad migrating away from the wetland

The fabulous fencing crew in front of the completed directional fencing.

The fabulous fencing crew in front of the completed directional fencing.