Twelve Nights at the Beaver Dam – Trail Camera Fun

In early October, I set up a motion activated trail camera facing the beaver dam at the Lone Pine Marsh. There is a muddy area at the side of the dam where I had seen many types of tracks on my monitoring visits to the marsh. It appeared that animals had been feeding there, as well as using the beaver dam as a route across the marsh. After 12 days, I went back and picked up the data card from the camera, and put a fresh one in.
trail camera photo of coyote at Braham Tract
There is nothing more fun than loading up the photos from a trail camera to see what action has ensued. It feels like looking into a secret world. The great thing about trail cameras is that they record wildlife without disturbing the animal’s natural behaviour patterns. Trail cameras can also record in the middle of the night when we are not willing or able to sit out with a camera.
trail camera photo of deer at Braham Tract
During the first 12 days the camera was out at the beaver dam and it recorded 8 species of mammals: Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, Beaver, Eastern Coyote, White-tailed Deer, Red Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, Grey Squirrel, and Raccoon. They were definitely using the dam as a bridge across to the other side of the marsh, as I saw many of these animals heading back and forth. Beavers, raccoons, and coyotes were recorded only at night. Raccoons were photographed on every night but one and were looking for food as well as transiting the dam.
trail camera photo of rabbit at Braham Tract
In the daytime, the camera recorded images of multiple Canada geese, starlings, and robins feeding in the mud and on the plants around the dam.
trail camera photo of racoon at Braham Tract
Trail cameras are a great tool to help us record the diversity of life in our Lone Pine Land Trust Properties. Trail cameras were also an enormously helpful tool in the biological studies run by Shrew Solutions this summer, and showed us even more fascinating creatures that inhabit the Lone Pine Land Trust properties.

Spring at the Braham Tract

In early Spring at the Braham Tract (Lone Pine Marsh) there is a sense of anticipation in the air. Dozens of Canada Geese return and stake their territories, despite the ice under foot.
Canada Geese in marsh at Braham Tract
Red winged backbirds and grackles also return, filling the air with their raspy calls. Male Red Winged Blackbirds return a good month before the females, to stake out their territories.
Beavers work at the edges of the ice.
observation tower at Braham Tract
There will be a huge change in the marsh from the beginning to the end of April. More and more bird song will fill the air each day, especially after warm fronts move in from the south. Once the ice is off the marsh and stream, waterfowl return such as Pied Billed Grebe and Wood Duck.
PiedBilledGrebe in Braham Tract
Spring peepers fill the air with their mating calls as long as the temperature is above 4 degrees C.
April is the month when the marsh seemingly comes back alive after a long cold winter.

Four Seasons at the Braham Tract

A male bobolink at the Braham Tract. (credit: Leslie Abram)

by Leslie Abram
Each time I visit Lone Pine Marsh I know I am in for a surprise. My very first visit to Lone Pine Marsh was in February, and a walk in the woods revealed a Barred Owl with half a rabbit in its talons. Later in February I heard Eastern Bluebirds flying over the nest boxes. Though no bluebirds used the nest boxes this year, once spring came the boxes were occupied by 4 families of Tree Swallows and 5 families of House Wrens. One highlight of my monitoring was a canoe tour through the marsh at the end of May. We heard and saw Least Bittern, American Bittern, Great Egret, and Pied Billed Grebe. Countless Grey Tree Frogs were calling. Summer brought a high count of 35 Bobolink in the upper fields. It was fascinating to watch the males performing their display flights and calls. In late summer, insects were the stars of the show. On a late August visit to the property I was treated to the sight of hundreds of Monarch Butterflies, as well as numerous dragonflies, damselflies, and bees. My visit in October yielded a Merlin keeping a close eye on the marsh, and barely any other birds. This property is a gem, and I cannot wait to see what I find on my next visit.

Winter Walk at Lone Pine Marsh

On February 23rd, members met at the Lone Pine Marsh – Braham tract for a winter walk. It was sunny and not too cold so it made for an excellent day for a walk.

People standing in front of Lone Pine Marsh.
Members look out on the marsh at Lone Pine Marsh.

We heard bluebirds and cardinals from the parking lot while waiting for everyone to arrive.

Creek with some tracks at Lone Pine Marsh.
Creek at Lone Pine Marsh in winter.

The snow was very crunchy on top due to a thaw the previous day, followed by cool overnight temperatures. This made discerning tracks challenging. We saw caanid tracks (a fox or a local dog?), rabbit, and grouse tracks. We first went north and visited the dam at the northeast side of the property.

Willow tree and beaver dam at Lone Pine Marsh.
Beaver dam in February 2019 at Lone Pine Marsh.

On the north side of the dam, we saw an interesting fuzzy blob attached to a sapling nearby which was later identified as a cecropia moth pupa. The beavers appeared to be constructing a dam a few metres north of the human dam.

Pupa of cecropia moth.
Pupa of Hyalophora cecropia found on a sapling at Lone Pine Marsh.

We then walked south, into the small birch forest. There, beavers have been cutting many trees and a number have fallen over the path. We also saw grouse tracks in the snow.

People in birch forest at Lone Pine Marsh.
Members in the birch grove at Lone Pine Marsh.

The sun came out for our walk and we all enjoyed getting out and visiting the Lone Pine Marsh this morning!

Grassland Management for Threatened Species

written by Doug McRae
The acquisition and wise stewardship of biologically important properties is a land trust’s greatest responsibility and we take this very seriously, which is why all of our holdings have management strategies that guide our actions.
Our flagship property, the Lone Pine Marsh – Braham Tract, has seen great changes since we acquired it nearly a quarter century ago. The original purchase by our founder, Murial Braham, was essentially the large cattail marsh only. A subsequent purchase allowed us to take control of the adjacent cornfields and begin the conversion to habitats more suitable to our biodiversity goals. While the marsh habitat itself hasn’t changed significantly, the surrounded lands are now unrecognizable from their corn field days.
Some areas along the western boundary regenerated naturally and have since filled in with alder and birch, while others areas were planted with hundreds of trees. Those earliest plantings now constitute a 20 year-old forest that connects to the existing forest along the southern boundary. This spring we had two Grade 9 classes from Cobourg plant 200 more trees in this area to fill in some gaps that didn’t take in the first planting.

The two fields north of the marsh are being managed as grassland habitat to provide a nesting place for Bobolink and Meadowlark, both listed as Threatened under Provincial and Federal legislation. At present we have about 8 pairs of Bobolink and one pair of meadowlarks nesting here. To improve their chances of breeding successfully we do not permit hay to be cut from the fields until August, well after the young have fledged.
We suspect that the area could support greater numbers if we undertake some management efforts so we are presently investigating our options regarding improving the quality of this habitat through reseeding the fields to benefit grassland birds, butterflies and other pollinators.

Another issue we have looked at is the thin line of conifers that were planted along the west side of these fields, and in an east-west line dividing them. These trees were planted about 15 years ago before we had defined our grassland management strategy and unfortunately they are now starting to get to a height where they will negatively impact grassland birds that prefer wide-open spaces. Short shrubs like the dogwood and sumac that are currently there are not a problem, however a wall of tall trees will be. Once the spruce and pine get much taller they will reduce or eliminate the suitable grassland habitat.
After much discussion and consultation with the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT holds an easement on this property) and others, we have decided to cut the row of planted conifers. While we generally don’t like to remove trees (besides invasive species which we remove regularly) this is a necessary action for the long-term health of our grassland habitat.