Marker posts for Fixed Point Photography along the TRCA hedgerows. I'll also be taking dimension measurements

Marker posts for fixed point photography points along our hedgerows. I’ll also be taking  measurements (height, width) at regular intervals

Yesterday- Earth Day 2019- felt like the warmest day yet this Spring here in Ontario- a balmy 19 degrees, a perfect day to get started on the monitoring programme for our Mount Wolfe Farm hedgerows.

We  planted two hedgerows here at the farm in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 hedge was started in the fall of 2017 but completed in 2018 and was planted by volunteers and marked the first ‘performance’ of the Hedgerow Rite.  The 2018 Hedge- was planted by a TRCA team last fall. The plantings have been made possible by the generous support of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) who supplied the plants and labour and continue to support the Hedgelaying In The Ontario Landscape (HOL) Project.

My long-term aim is to set up a long term citizen-science monitoring programme for hedgerows that we plant as part of the HOL project, and also to fine tune recommendations for organisations and groups who want monitoring programmes for their hedges. I have worked with hedgerows and citizen scientists for 10 years, and created the Hedgerows for Dormice project at People’s Trust for Endangered Species (2009-11) and Hedgerow Heroes at Surrey Wildlife Trust (2017-ongoing).  I have created a draft monitoring calendar for a range of taxa associated with hedgerows.

SurveyCalendarAPR2019

This Earth Day was fixed point photograph (FPP) day! I spent the afternoon setting up FPP points around the farm which I will use to capture images of how the hedge grows and transforms the local landscape.

I have had a couple of camera traps (thanks Grant!) set up on Hedgerow TRCA18 with nothing captured so far although there is a good evidence of coyote Canis latrans using the adjacent paths, and the white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus are already nibbling the tops of some of the plants- though thankfully the damage is localised both on the plant and within the hedge.

 

All pictures were taken with my Samsung A10 Mobile Phone which has serious limitations (offers of a proper digital camera gratefully excepted!), although it does allow me to switch to the compass feature and GPS to get a bearing and location (not that accurate sadly) without changing instruments!

It was a wonderful day to be distracted by the wildlife on the farm though. An American robin Turdus migratorius was searching for insects in a wood chip pile. A Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis was singing its heart out from the top of an old sugar-maple on the drive. While down near Hedge TRCA17, I spied what we had thought was an Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus  seen from the house a week earlier. I’d been advised through I-Naturalist I(Sarah and I are using the App to record all widlfe sightings on the Farm) that it was a little too early to see these and my correspondent had suggested instead an Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe. I had recently downloaded the I-Bird App and played both calls through my phone. Sure enough my friend took a real interest when the phoebe calls were played. and so too did another bird which I haven’t seen before- the chipping sparrow Spizella passerina with its dark eye stripe and bright red haircut! Later I sat for a while and watched three tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor whip and dive above the front 10 acres, above the nest boxes where they nested last year. Soaring high above them a turkey vulture Cathartes aura was a crack in the sky.

Today its raining so I’ll be planning small mammal surveys, moth surveys ( Peterson’s Field Guide on order from my local bookstore Forsters Book Garden, along with Robert Macfarlane’s new book Underland!) and butterfly transects. I have seen the first butterfly on site yesterday- a mourning cloak Nymphalis antiopa next to the hedgerow Sarah and I finished laying. I’ll also be sourcing some ‘tins’ for the reptile surveys

Peterson Moths

I’m going to need to up my skill level for the invertebrate surveys and soil fauna- and hopefully find a suitably qualified friend to help out! I expect it is within the invert communities that we might be able to detect differences in the species or functional groups present in and around the hedgerow, from monitoring sites which I will also set up in grassland, wetland and woodland plots. The fact that Mount Wolfe Farm is a site with mixed habitats will make it difficult- perhaps impossible to show an effect from the planting of the hedgerows and so I look forward to being able to develop a project at a site with very little or no woodland where the presence of hedgerows should have an immediate impact on the biodiversity within the landscape.

I’m embarking on these surveys to develop a database on the biodiversity of Canadian hedgerows but also partly to develop my skills identifying Canadian biodiversity and to maintain a survey practice  much as one would develop a for a musical instrument or a for yoga. Its easy to slip out of these important rituals, especially if like me your career had taken you out of the field towards a more strategic focus. Use it or lose it, I think I heard someone once say!

I do need to get some more survey equipment but I haven’t yet found a Canadian equivalent of NHBS or WildCare which were the go-to companies in the UK. Not that I have much in the way of funding to go on a spending spree but even some sampling pots would be useful! And a sweep net. and a bat detector and a….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Very interesting study. I’m exploring these non rational pathways to ecocentrism in my project The Hedgerow Rite https://thehedgerowrite.wordpress.com and in the work I do teaching rural skills. I would certainly not abandon knowledge based activities and I would suggest that some of these skills, especially those that contribute to the worker entering a ‘flow’ state in natural settings are creating deep/non rational connections that might currently evade description.

Finding Nature

Owing to the benefits to both human and nature’s well-being, and wide spread disconnection, a connection with nature is something many people and organisations are keen to increase. So there is a need to know how best to do this. We’ve already developed specific interventions, such as 3 good things in nature, but our wider framework of effective routes to nature connection has just been published in Plos One. I’m excited about this work is it provides guidance for those seeking to re-connect people with nature, indeed it has been central to much of our recent nature connections work, for example, guiding the type of activities promoted as part of The Wildlife Trusts highly successful 30 Days Wild campaign.

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Last night I tuned into Professor Danielle Basset‘s Sante Fe Institute Community Lecture  called Networks Thinking Themselves. The talk had many many inspirational moments but one I would briefly like to share is this harmony between the language used to describe elements of  network structure and a network close to my heart:  hedgerows.

In the picture on the right the network is composed of ‘nodes’ and the relationships between nodes are called ‘edges’. In the talk, Professor Basset goes on to exemplify the network model with the brain as an example, where neurons are the nodes and the edges are the connections between them.

The picture on the left is taken from the DEFRA Hedgerow Survey Handbook which shows that ‘nodes’ is the term used to define  the point where hedges connect.

Purposeful design on the part of the hedgerow survey team or a coincidence of language?

What further intrigues me is that in the network model the nodes are the ‘things’ and edges are relationships between them. In a hedge network the edges/hedges are the ‘things’ and the nodes emerge because of the connections between them.

 

A major frustration to putting on any outdoor workshops this time of year is the inclemency of the weather. The site where we held our first spoon-carving workshop in September last year  is now under a thin blanket of snow (which is thickening even as i write!) and the temperature with wind chill is  -4 0C. Not great for the fine-motor skills needed for whittling!

However, the Crandall family, owners of Mount Wolfe Farm, have come to the rescue of the Caledon chapter of the fledgling Ontario Rural Skills Network (ORSN). On the ground level of the bank barn at the farm, Seymour Arnold Crandall (aka SAC or just Arnold) carved out a space for a workshop. “Poppa’s” workshop hasn’t really been used as a workspace since 2000 and is a treasure trove of timeless tools and a miscellany of assorted wonders, bric-a-brac, and curiosities – a testimony to his love of collecting.

With a bit of tidying and sorting there is space for a small group of spoon-carvers, and even a lathe to practice on until I can build the pole-lathes that we will use in the outdoor setting.

Arnold Crandall was passionate about woodworking and the Crandall sisters think their dad would be tickled pink to see life in the workshop again.

Sign up for one of winter/spring workshops on the ORSN website here and come and see what the place looks like!

Happy New Year! I hope your festive season was restful and rejuvenating!

I have written an article on hedgerows and hedgelaying for Small Farm Canada Magazine which is aimed at the those with little knowledge of both. The article is designed to tie in with my work at the University of Waterloo on the SSHRC-funded Hedgelaying In The Ontario Landscape Project which you can read about here . You can also find posts on the project by searching with #HedgeCanada on my blog.

I hope you enjoy the article- do let me know what you think. I would be especially pleased to hear form anyone in Canada with experience of or interest in hedgerows and hedgerow management, particularly hedgelaying.

The Traditional Farm Hedgerow- Your Undiscovered Ally (Small Farm Canada)

My thanks to Tom Henry of Small Farm Canada/Southern Tip Publishing Plc and to Nigel Adams for advice and photos.

Happy reading!

Jim

 

 

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