26 Oct 2012

Muskrat Mayhem…


If you’ve been down to the Visitor Centre in the last month or two, you may have noticed the large, gaping hole in our bird garden.  We were visited by a muskrat in mid-August.  At first, we thought “wow, what a neat opportunity, we have a new animal to interpret to visitors”.  But then it dawned on us…muskrats burrow.  And that’s what he did…burrowed right into our pond liner.  For quite some time the garden was a sad, sorry sight.  But in the past few weeks we have been able to get to work and transform our leaky pond into a beautiful, bubbling water feature which will be sure to attract many species of birds and frogs…but no more muskrats!

Although we still have some planting to do around our new pond, and we are only open for one more weekend, we would like to invite you down to check it out and see if you check any fall migrants off your bird list.


The new pond
14 Oct 2012

Construction Complete

Tulip Tree Trail Boardwalk Extension

The Friends of Rondeau and Rondeau Park are pleased to announce that our new Tulip Tree Trail boardwalk extension is complete and open for hiking! Over the last few weeks, Rondeau staff have been busy placing posts, laying deck boards and screwing in handrails in order to finish the boardwalk in time for Fall! Tulip Tree Trail is now fully accessible from beach access #10 through the rest of the loop. I hope you all come out for a nice autumn stroll!

11 Oct 2012

Disapearing Phrag…

Wow! What a busy September we have had!  The weather has been great, and we have had lots of visitors coming out.

 We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made it out to the Monarch Butterfly Migration Festival this year.  The event was a huge success with just over 800 people in attendance!  I would like to personally thank the Friends of Rondeau and all of our amazing volunteers who helped the day run so smoothly. 

 I thought I should also update you on the success of our recent shoreline cleanup.  We are very grateful to the 30 volunteers who came out and roved our beach for garbage.  They collected many items including car tires, plastic bags and old fishing nets.  In total just over 1200 pounds of garbage was taken off our beach! Combine that with the stats that are pouring in from 1,600 other cleanup sites across the country and we will have some truly astounding numbers.  A big thank you to everyone for helping keep Rondeau’s shoreline beautiful!

 If you happen to be in the park and notice some pesticide signs along the South Point Trail, don’t be alarmed.  We are working to eliminate a highly invasive, non-native plant Phragmites australis or Common Reed.  This plant was introduced to the Eastern Seaboard sometime during the 19th Century and made its way to Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River in the mid 1980’s.  Growth of phragmites is extremely aggressive and the plant will quickly form dense colonies which severely alter wetland habitats and out-compete native plants.  The resulting loss of habitat for dependant wildlife, including species at risk, increases each year as phragmites continues to colonize and expand.

Here in the park we are working to eliminate some of these large colonies that have worked their way into our forested sloughs and wetlands.    

Once the phragmites has been removed, the newly opened habitats recover very quickly and native species flourish and biodiversity is restored. Check out these before and after shots!


Test plot before removal
Test plot after removal of phragmites
05 Sep 2012

September already!

Well, summer is officially at an end.  It hit me when I arrived to an empty Visitor Centre and was cleaning turtle tanks all by myself.  All of our summer staff have left us again and are back at their respective universities – we wish them all a very successful year.

 That leaves Brady and I to prepare for a few large events that are coming up later this month.  The first is our annual Monarch Migration Festival on September 16th.  If you’ve been to this event in the past, you know that it is a beautiful way to spend a late summer day.  We will have events for the whole family including guided butterfly hikes, monarch tagging demonstrations, a children’s craft, face painting, a BBQ lunch, art show and a native plant sale.  This year we are excited to have guest speaker Dr. Scott Taylor at the festival to provide a special program focusing on the fall migration and how these tiny insects make such an incredible journey.  This presentation begins at 2:30pm in the Visitor Centre and will be followed by a guided hike, so bring your walking shoes! 

 On September 22nd,RondeauPark will be hosting its first annual Shoreline Cleanup!  This program calls for volunteers to head to their local shorelines with one main goal—to rid shorelines and waterways of harmful litter.  This program has humble beginnings, starting with a few dedicated staff from the Vancouver Aquarium and has since grown to span the entire country and now engages tens of thousands of volunteers…and you could be one of them!  If you are interested in the program contact Brady at the Visitor Centre at 519-674-1768.  You can learn more about the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at ShorelineCleanup.ca.

 Those are some exciting programs, but we also have some great guided hikes and another Owl Prowl coming to you this month.  So check out the activity sheet and keep your weekends clear so you can come out and join us in beautiful Rondeau!

 Hope to see you all soon

27 Aug 2012

Monarchs and the Wacky Weather

Dry, dry, dry! It has been a rainless summer so far. This has caused some unusual goings on in the animal kingdom here at Rondeau. Our sloughs, or forest wetlands, have been dry since late spring. While there have been some upsides to the lack of rain such as much fewer Mosquitoes than normal, there are other, more sinister changes that are only now becoming apparent. 

Monarch Butterfly

Monarchs are a highly specialized species. This means, simplified, that they are very picky eaters. Monarch caterpillars feed only on one type of plant – the milkweeds. While milkweed enjoys the record hot and dry weather that both Canada and the United States have been getting, there is perhaps too much of a good thing. The milkweed plants seem to have peaked early, which is troublesome for the monarch generation that is getting ready to migrate to Mexico (their winter retreat).  What will happen if the milkweed is all dying for newly emerged caterpillars, which must eat several times their body weight every day? 

 Monarchs are walking a fine line this year (or flying it, as it were). There have been varying degrees of rainfall throughout the Monarch’s range. Here in Ontario, things are not as bleak as they might appear. It is still possible to see the usual numbers of our brightest butterflies, perhaps just a bit later in the season. It is in the central and lower United States that things are starting to appear dire. The drought that has wreaked havoc on hundreds of acres of crop land down there has caused not only a sad lack of our favourite veggies, but many of the flowering plants are well past their prime. As our Monarchs move southward on their magnificent mass movement, scientists are scratching their heads as to whether there will be enough nectar to go around.

 All of this is pure speculation. Nothing will be known for sure until all the Monarchs have arrived in their Mexican roosting grounds, and the size of these gatherings can be measured. Until then, a little rain wouldn’t go amiss, so anyone with the knowledge of successful rain-dance techniques… This would be your moment!

20 Aug 2012

Summertime Stingers

As August winds down, everyone is preparing for back to school shenanigans. Making beds, getting up early, packing lunches… but as all school children know, one should pack extra, because there are lunch-time thieves lurking out there! While the weather is perfect for enjoying our meals al-fresco, a persistent insect commonly called the Yellow Jacket is out to steal your snacks and drinks.

Yellow jackets are part of the Order Hymenoptera of insects, which includes wasps, bees and ants. This is the third largest order with well over 100,000 species in the world. Scientistsknow the Hymenoptera to be the “social butterflies” of the insect world; their social life has reached the highest stage development of all other insects. Yellow jackets are part of the family called Social Vespids, who arenotorious for their potent and painful sting. In the fall, they seem to be at their most vicious, charging innocent bystanders seemingly out of nowhere, but this is no random state of affairs.

In the Spring, a queen yellow jacket will begin a new colony by building a new nest or re-using a vacant one. The nests are constructed of hexagonal,waterproof paper cells. These nests are attached to surfaces, such as the eaves of roofs or branches on trees. This single queen will head a colony of up to 25,000 individuals in one season- no mean feat!

Wasp larva will live in thesecells, hungrily taking the food offered to them by the male workers. With each gift of food, the larva will excrete a drop of saliva which is devoured by the worker, forming a ‘mutual exchange’ relationship which holds the colony together

Male workers have no purpose in life but to serve the colony. The colony functions perfectly, with the queen giving directions which are followed by her loyal subjects. However, this apparent harmony is not exactly the ‘bees knees’, as it were. The queen hibernates in solitude, and leaves her nest early to find a secluded spot where she can enjoy a long rest with peace and quiet. Once she goes, all hornets break loose! Without direction or a sense of purpose, the worker males essentially revolt.  Having gone rogue, its every wasp for himself in the search for food and survival… your lunch happens to be an easy meal!

But wait! While they may seem malicious, this order of insect is one of the most beneficial to man. The honey-bee is all important for honey, wax and pollination, and many wasps check the populations of many harmful insects, regardless of the tiny sting they may deliver now and then. Make sure to cover your lunch and keep your pop out of sight while keeping in mind that this bad behaviour is nothing more than the absence of a little discipline at home.

Yellow Jacket
14 Aug 2012

Just flying by!

Hi Everyone!

Wow! Already August 14th. Our programs are in full swing, with lots of people out at the Park trying to make the most of these last few weeks. The days are just flying by!

And speaking of flying… a couple of our staff members had the amazing opportunity of soaring into the sky and getting a birds-eye view of Rondeau. From their vantage point in the plane, they were able to take in the state of the Park. The sloughs were very visible, thanks to our unique formation, and they were able to appreciate just how vast our forest is. Sometimes it takes such an amazing view to comprehend just what it means to be the largest tract of Carolinian forest in all of Canada.

Things weren’t all perfectly peachy, unfortunately. Being up so high, they could see quite clearly the effect of one of our most wicked plants: Phragmities. This invader has marched across most of North America from Europe, leaving a swath of destruction in its wake. Also know as Common Reed, we call it by its Latin name, Phragmities australis. It grows up to 4 meters tall, and spreads by underground root systems and seedheads, maximizing its potential to reproduce. ‘Phrag’ affects nutrient cycling within a wetland, is not a major food source, chokes out native vegetation, and can completely alter a shoreline, as we have been seeing in Rondeau’s marsh. Even the dead plants can take up to four years to decompose. We as humans have a role in this too, though! Human activities have helped to facilitate the plants’ sordid plot against total take over. And believe it or not but you can purchase this plant in greenhouses for your gardens at home! But please don’t!!

Rondeau fights back! In our vegetation management plan, we attempt to control the spread of this notorious plant and to minimize its impact. We have a strategy that includes a minimal amount of herbicide spraying, crushing it down, and burning it out. Sounds foolproof! But Phragmities is resilient, and the battle is ongoing.

To keep up with the progress, or to learn more about other botanical atrocities occurring around the Park, check out the Visitor Centre for more information on more plants bent on taking over!

Check out this picture of the park from high above:

23 Jul 2012

This past weekend…

Caitlin and baby Spiny Softshell turtle

Hello Everyone!


I hope that you all took advantage of the beautiful weekend to celebrate Parks Day! Here at Rondeau, we celebrated our Park with the debut performance of “Erie Spirits”, a ghostly hike along the beach. Lead by a naturalist, guests got to encounter some of our “livelier” spirits that walked Rondeau before us. With over 140 people, what a success! If you missed this memorable performance, check out the encore at 8:30pm on August the 4th, starting from the Visitor Centre.


The August long weekend will be jam-packed with fun! Along with our Spirit Hike, the Friends of Rondeau are proud to present The Ontario Falconry Centre. This amazing group will be bringing live raptors of all shapes and sizes to the high-flying adventure of the summer! On August 4th and 5th, come on down to Beach Access #9 (by the Children’s Hut) at 1:30pm to witness these birds swoop and soar… an excellent photo opportunity!


In other reptilian news, some of our incubated turtle eggs have hatched successfully here at the Visitor Centre! While these little guys are quite early, we are now the proud “parents” of 20 tiny Spiny Softshell turtles. If you haven’t seen us around the park collecting eggs yet this summer, you should know that we and some devoted turtle researchers have dug up hundreds of eggs, in the hopes of saving them from their numerous predators. Thanks to human interference, raccoons, skunks and possums are in a population boom, fed by our garbage. Being so outnumbered, our little turtle eggs don’t stand a chance, and so we dig up as many as we can find and incubate them ourselves. An adorable toonie size, the baby Spiny Softshells are all being carefully marked by our researchers, and will soon be at home in their natural habitat.

19 Jul 2012

Happy Parks Day!

WithCanada’s Parks Day fast approaching, we thought it would be fitting to give you a quick rundown on the history of Ontario Parks.  The history of our park system stretches over 100 years! AlgonquinProvincialParkwas the first piece of land set aside in 1893 followed by our personal favourite, Rondeau, in 1894.  Today, Ontario Parks consists of 330 parks, covering 9 million hectares of our beautiful province – from the far south withWheatleyProvincialParkto the far north with Polar Bear Provincial Park.

 With over 10 million visitors annually, it is obvious that Ontario Parks are important tourist destinations and great places to relax and recharge.  But these special places are much more than that – habitats for Species at Risk, significant historic landmarks, and wilderness areas where nature can continue its natural processes without human interference.     

 We invite you all to celebrate Parks Day with us here at the park by coming to our “Eve of Erie Spirits” on Saturday July 21st.  This night hike through Tulip Tree Trail may introduce us to some of the spirits of those who roamed Rondeau’s forests long before we did.  Meet with Laura at 9:00pm at the Visitor Centre…if you dare…

02 Jul 2012

Start of Summer

Hello Everyone,

With the holiday weekend upon us, the staff here at the Visitor Centre are excited to start the summer with a new slew of programs. The kids are fresh out of school and the weather is beautiful, so there is no better way to kick off the summer than with a visit to Rondeau!

We want to take a quick second to say farewell to Scott V, a staff member who left us earlier this month to pursue a career in his field of schooling. Despite the fact that we will all miss Scott and his witty personality, we are excited to welcome Jessica R to the crew. Her friendly demeanour and great work ethic will be a great asset to our team! While you’re out in the park, take a minute to stop by the Visitor Centre and say hello to Jessica.

All of this beautiful weather has brought out many creatures who call Rondeau home. One of the creatures that have been spotted regularly during the past few months is the Eastern Foxsnake. If you’ve been to the Visitor Centre before, you’ve probably had a chance to see our Foxsnake “Pants” who has lived with us for almost 10 years. For those of you who have never seen an Eastern Foxsnake, they are easily identified by their orange coloured head and dark brown blotches that run the length of their body. The Foxsnake also grows much larger than any other snake, reaching lengths of up to 6ft, though most are smaller.

Here at the park we are taking special care to help protect the Foxsnake and its habitat. They are listed as an endangered species and desperately need our help to survive. Over the last few summers Brady and many other park staff have worked hard to catch these snakes inside the park and bring them back to the Visitor Centre to measure their length and weight. Once we do that, we insert a pit tag (a small microchip) under the skin that gives each snake a unique ID number which allows us to identify them if we happen to catch them again. Tracking the growth of individual snakes gives us a glimpse at the health of our Foxsnake population. But we would LOVE your help! Each one of you can play an important role in this research venture. If you’re out in the park and happen to see a Foxsnake slither by, give us a call at the Visitor Centre at 519-674-1768 and let us know where you are. If you are unable to call, simply keep track of when and where you saw the snake and let us know at a later time.

Don’t forget to take a look at the activity sheet for the upcoming week and go to facebook.com/pantsgloydi to stay up to date on our Foxsnake research and all the other exciting things happening throughout the park.