One of the routes I can take into town leads through a wetland. I love this attractive place. On one side of the road, cattails line the ditch and it is difficult to see inland. In winter it becomes obvious that this marsh is home to a host of muskrats, whose winter shelters become snow-covered igloos. You can see pictures of Muskratville here.
On the other side of the road, the wetland is more open and swampy. Of course, in a sane world, there would be no road running through the middle of a wetland. How ridiculous! But there is, and on one recent sunny day I stopped to help a small turtle cross to the other side. He was stopped in the middle of the road, inviting disaster. It was a smallish painted turtle. When I picked him up, he quickly withdrew his legs and head into his colourful shell. I carried him over to the shore towards which he was headed and gently placed him in the water. He rapidly reemerged and swiftly sped away, disappearing into the vegetation. Turtles may be slow on land, but they can get around just fine under water.
It was a very pleasant day, and I took a few minutes to hunker down at the water edge and appreciate the view. It’s not too busy a road, and it was quiet and serene there. Nature can’t often be appreciated at the speed of a video game. It takes time to sit back and let the natural world reveal itself. As I sat there, a large darner dashed by. These big dragonflies are almost impossible to photograph. They move very fast and rarely pause. I noticed a frog watching me though.
He doesn’t know how lucky he is. Sure, there’s a road right beside his home. No doubt road salt and oil run off the road into his habitat. But at least he has a pond. That’s more than many former wetland denizens can claim. A Ducks Unlimited Canada report, released in October 2010, states that:
Seventy-two per cent of southern Ontario’s large inland wetlands have been lost or converted to other land uses and this loss continues at an alarming rate. The decline to the wetland base has been most drastic in southwestern Ontario, parts of eastern Ontario, Niagara and the greater Toronto area, where in some regions the loss is greater than 90 per cent.
By-and-by a meadowhawk landed nearby. Meadowhawk species are difficult for the amateur to differentiate, but it may be a Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (genus Sympetrum). A moment later, I noticed a golden female dragonfly, possibly of the same species.
Few wetland losses have been more egregious than the damage done to the South March Highlands by an extension of Terry Fox Drive in Kanata on the fringe of the City of Ottawa. The South March Highlands are a Provincially Significant Life Science Area and contain a Provincially Significant Wetland Complex. The Highlands are home to the densest array of biodiversity in the Ottawa area. Eighteen known Species At Risk reside here, including the threatened Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii).
Every level of government participated in this wanton act of environmental destruction. The Harper Conservatives, renowned for their monumental disregard for all things linked to the environment, contributed cash through their Infrastructure Funding project. In response to protests by concerned citizens, the city made a token gesture of concern, and included plans for specially designed fencing and walls to prevent wildlife access to the roadway and work zone, and culverts to provide access to lands within the urban boundary.
The road will connect the north and south ends of Kanata, making the commute a little easier on Kanata north residents. “This is very good news for us,” said Karey Mulcaster, a resident of rural Kanata. “This road is definitely going to facilitate travel for Kanata north people,” said Mulcaster. “Can you tell we’re anxious for it to be opened?” (From Ottawa River Keeper site)
There is a wonderful video about the South March Highlands on Youtube. It is beautifully filmed and well worth viewing.