My name is Charlotte Large, and I am pleased to be the new supervisor for the Wheatley River Improvement Group for the 2019 field season! I am from Charlottetown, PEI and a recent graduate from the University of Prince Edward Island with a Bachelor of Arts. Although I have never worked at a watershed before, I am excited to begin hands on work restoring some of the habitats and ecosystems surrounding our local waterways. I look forward to a busy summer learning and working with the crew at Wheatley River!
My first week started with quite the exciting day on Friday the 14th working with the Hunter Clyde Watershed group at Environmental Fun Day! We had kids in grades 5-6 from Gulf Shore and Central Queens join us at the Gardens of Hope to spend a day outside learning about the environment.
Although it seemed like it was going to be a rainy day for us all, the weather cleared right up to give us a beautiful sunny afternoon! We divided the eighty or so students into small groups to learn about various topics such as water chemistry, fly fishing, at risk wildlife, forestry, the monarch butterfly, and falconry. During lunch, we were given the amazing opportunity to watch a flying demonstration by Jamie Stride from Island Falconry Services with his young hawk in training.
At the end of the day, students were given bagged tree saplings to take home and plant! The entire day was an excellent opportunity for all the students to learn from professionals in a variety of fields. A huge thanks to all the presenters who volunteered their time to make this event possible!
After the weekend, the real prep week began with a tour of the watershed and a handful of site visits to various landowners interested in facilitating our planting of trees and shrubs along the riparian zones within their properties. By planting new trees along the fifteen meter zones bordering our local waterways, we hope to minimize erosion and the silting of the rivers and streams. Soon the field crew will begin planting some of the nearly 800 trees we have ready for the summer, with even more on the way! If you are interested in helping WRIG by giving us a healthy home for these trees, let us know and we would be happy to work with you. You can get in contact with us through our office number: 902-963-3198.
This week also marked the beginning on my work creating a pollinator garden for Rackham’s Pond! This garden is going to replace approximately 530 square feet of what is currently long grasses, and be full of colourful, nectar rich flowers in order to attract a variety of pollinators to the area! The garden will provide food, shelter, and protection to a variety of pollinating insects such as bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles, moths, and many more! Not only will the garden provide healthy habitats for pollinators, it will also be a beautiful addition to the park and to the community.
The end of the week was spent getting familiar with the activities of the watershed and upcoming events such as the Canada Day tree giveaway and weekly presentations at the beach hut in Cavendish. We met up with the Hunter Clyde Watershed Group to go over plans for upcoming community events that we will be doing together and any collaborative projects we could work on in the future. I’m looking forward to engaging with the community and meeting people at our outreach events! I’ll be with the crew on Canada Day in the parade and giving away 150 of our trees to anyone willing to give them a happy home!
Our crew for the summer started this week and I’m excited to welcome Taylor and Garett to the team! The crew split up this week as Taylor and I participated in the Basic Chainsaw Course put on by the Department of Environment, Water, and Climate Change, while Garett and Brittany worked back in Wheatley River to prepare for our Canada Day celebrations with Hunter-Clyde, upcoming tree planting, and other summer projects.
Taylor and I spent our entire week, along with six other souls from various watersheds and programs around PEI, at the forestry offices of the Department of Environment, Water, and Climate Change learning about chainsaw safety and maintenance, as well as how to effectively and safely cut down a variety of trees. While our first two days were spent inside the forestry office in Wellington learning the ins and outs of chainsaw safety, maintenance, and our island forests, our last two days were spent in the forest in Brookvale! Each person cut down two to three trees each, limbed them, and then cut the remaining wood into eight foot logs to be taken away. Despite the rain, I think it’s safe to say that everyone enjoyed their time outdoors! On Thursday, each person was given their wallet card and certificate for the successful completion of the course.
Having completed this training, Taylor and I will now be able to operate a chainsaw in order to clear streams, removing pesky alders and fallen trees more quickly! The summer may have just started, but there’s plenty of work to be done. A big thanks to Eastern Forest District’s Head Crew Chief Joe Hughes and Western Forest District’s Head Crew Chief Clarence Brown for being excellent and enthusiastic teachers for us all this week. They made the course even more engaging and enjoyable for everyone!
This week started off rather rainy, but that stopped no one on Canada Day! WRIG joined with Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group for the parade in North Rustico and to give away trees by donation at our booth at the event grounds in Seawalk Park. Although the parade was cancelled due to rain, the weather took a turn for the better and the afternoon picked up tremendously! We took our 200 trees to Seawalk Park and set up our booth early.
Our booth offered not only a wide variety of trees to take home and plant, but also information regarding our local watersheds, what we do, details on HCWG’s work PIT tagging fish and other project’s around Campbell’s pond, and the opportunity to support either of our groups with annual memberships. Despite it being a bit chilly and damp, we all had a great time meeting with members of the community and talking about our work! All 200 trees that we brought out were given away to be planted! A big thanks to everyone that donated and took a tree home.
Tuesday was our first day out planting trees! Taylor, Garett, and I spent the morning planting various trees and shrubs along the south end of the Wheatley River to try and control erosion and silting along the banks of the estuary. As the trees grow, the root systems stabilize the banks, as well as provide habitat for birds and other animals in the area.
The afternoon was WRIG’s turn to do presentations at the Cavendish Beach Hut! From 1:00pm- 4:00pm every Tuesday, either WRIG or HCWG will be at the beach hut with Park’s Canada putting on various presentations about local wildlife, the work we do at the watersheds, and other natural phenomena.
This week, while Park’s Canada had information and interactive activities on local birds and shells you’ll find on our local beaches, I shared information on the local amphibians you might find on PEI around your waterways. There are six species of frog and four species or salamander living in ponds, streams, and deep in the woods of PEI! All amphibians require slow or standing water in order to lay their eggs and for their young tadpoles to grow. With habitat destruction, silting, and pesticide runoff, it is becoming harder and harder for amphibians to find safe places to breed and for their young to grow. Our work in watersheds helps mitigate these problems, improving the necessary habitat for these amazing creatures! Despite the cold and windy weather, we had plenty of people come to the booth interested in learning, and I’d like to give a big thanks to Lindsey and Ashley from Park’s Canada! They were excellent partners to work with and I look forward to possibly working with them again.
In the coming weeks, we will be back presenting on subjects like water quality monitoring, ducks and other local fowl, and local fungi and lichens. If you’re in the Cavendish area, make sure to come to the beach and check us or HCWG out on Tuesdays from 1:00pm- 4:00pm! I
Midweek saw the crew heading out to the Macphail Woods in Orwell to participate in their Tree and Shrub Identification Course! We spent the morning learning how to identify various local trees and shrubs in order to know more about our local forests. Our teacher for the day, Gary, gave us a tour of the Macphail property, showing us the various species that are grown in their various gardens, as well as the types of trees grown in a natural Acadian forest.
Our afternoon was spent learning how to do patch cuts and proper tree pruning in order to create healthier forests. The goal when planting trees should be to create a healthy Acadian forest more quickly then the forest could recover naturally. In order to do so, careful cutting and planting and pruning or natural species is required. We spent time learning the best ways to prune, making sure that the trees experience minimal damage from losing branches and how trees deal with various problems. By the end of the day, we all had a much better understanding of our local forests, and how we will be handling the tree planting around Wheatley River! I also greatly enjoyed meeting the folks working at the Macphail Woods Forestry Project and finding out more about the work they do. If you’re interested in finding out more about what they do, the courses they offer, and volunteer opportunities, then visit their website at https://macphailwoods.org/ ! They are an excellent resource for those seeking opportunities to learn and improve their natural environment.
On Thursday, the crew and I headed out to Strathgartney Provincial Park and met up with various other watershed groups in order to learn more about tree planting and stream maintenance. We split into two groups, and our group spent the morning learning how to properly plant trees along stream banks and in patch cuts. The afternoon was spent walking along the stream in order to see the various ways in which it could be worked on and how to do so properly in order to create better fish and insect habitats. Things like leaving logs along the stream banks, raking up and placing more rocks in the stream beds, and creating brush mats to help with silting and narrow the stream when needed, are just a few of the ways in which watershed groups can create healthier streams.
The past two days working with the various watershed groups in the area has been amazing! It’s incredibly important to keep in touch with the watershed groups around us and provides opportunities to collaborate on bigger projects. I look forward to potentially working together in the future!
Friday was spent driving around the Wheatley River area in order to do some water quality monitoring in the various local streams. Using the YSI meter, we can measure the temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, salinity, pH, and conductivity of our waterways to determine their health and what they might possibly need from us in order to be better maintained. We took measurements in the Wheatley River, Crooked Creek, Luke’s Creek, Hornes Creek, and Rackham’s Pond.
In the afternoon, we planted more trees! We have planted 192 trees so far with plenty left to go! If you’re interested in having trees planted on you property this summer, please contact WRIG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 902-963-3198!
We started our week off by finishing the tree planting at our first site of the summer! The landowners of this site had contacted us to let us know about the erosion happening along the banks of the estuary, as well as the wetland area that almost entirely open to the elements with very few trees and shrubs as cover. Thankfully the weather cooled off after a sweltering Cavendish Beach weekend and created the perfect week to plant our seedlings to improve these issues. The trees and shrubs planted alongside the banks will help control erosion and silting thanks to what will hopefully grow to be strong root systems, as well as provide habitat and food for wildlife such as birds, insects, and small mammals As the trees and shrubs grow, they will also provide shade over the water and wetland which allows for the water temperature to drop to levels that are less stressful for any fish or other wildlife living in the area.
On Tuesday morning, the crew and I took the YSI and our canoe out to make our way up the Wheatley River estuary to measure the severity of anoxic events. An anoxia survey is done every month along the estuary in order to track temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, salinity, pH, and other elements that affect fish and wildlife in the area. We surveyed eight points along the estuary, also assessing elements such as water colour, clarity, and the abundance of sea lettuce within the water.
We made our way up from Rackham’s Pond to the mouth of the estuary at the bridge. At the end of the summer, our readings from this week and two more surveys to come will be compiled to assess the health of the estuary.
Wednesday was an exciting day as we had a representative from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to participate in the Community Aquatic Monitoring Program or CAMP! CAMP is a program that offers assistance with the monitoring of the health of local watersheds. From June to August, watershed communities sample their estuaries from six different points and then that information is used by scientist with DFO to determine the health of the bays and estuaries, as well as determine what we can use as indicators of what is healthy or unhealthy. Our day was spent at six different points along the Wheatley River estuary, where we used a special weighted net in order to capture a sample of the fish living just along the shore.
Despite the overabundance of ulva, or sea lettuce, we counted hundreds of mummichogs, silver sides, three and four spines, black spotted, sand and grass shrimp, flounder, four small eels, and a single green crab. The green crab, being an invasive species within island waters, was removed and taken away in a snug little cooler.
All the fish captured were counted and recorded for DFO. We also recorded temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH using a YSI, as well as observing what sort of sediment comprised the riverbed and what kind of plant life was present there. All this information provides us with a better understanding of the state of the estuary, and what needs to be done in the future to improve it.
Thursday the crew started planting our remaining trees on our new site surrounding a small stream on the Malboro Road, and on Friday we got together with Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group to do our annual Shore Cleanup and BBQ! We walked along sections of Barachois Beach and the shore around Oyster Bed Bridge collecting trash, bits of plastic fishing net, old cable, cigarette butts, and a single rubber tire.
At the end of the day, we had a whole truck bed of garbage to take to the dump. In the afternoon we had our beginning of the summer barbecue at HCWG’s office in Greenvale! We set up our tent and had burgers and sausages despite the rain, with HCWG crew member Zora teaching us how to walk on stilts.
The Shore Cleanup and BBQ was the perfect way to end a productive week at the watershed! Next week the crew and I will be starting our pollinator garden project at Rackham’s Pond.
This week we started work on our pollinator garden project at Rackham’s Pond! Monday the crew dug out the high grasses and sod to prepare for our topsoil delivery. Once we’ve laid the topsoil, we will begin planting native island flowers and shrubs in order to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, beetles, wasps, and other insects and birds to the area to improve it. Some native plants which make particularly good pollinators include black eyed susans, golden rod, and lamb’s ear to name only a few. We hope to plant plenty of different varieties soon.
On Tuesday we continued to remove the topsoil from Rackham’s Pond before heading out to Cavendish Beach for Beach Hut!
This week we presented information about local ducks and geese, with plenty of visual aids for beachgoers to examine. It was a scorching hot day and there were plenty of people out and interested in our presentations! We brought duck mounts of five different local species: a male and female mallard, black duck, wood duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye duck, and a Canadian goose. We talked about their habitats, how common or rare they are on PEI, as well as other bits of information to answer questions. We also learned about ducks and geese that aren’t from PEI! Many beachgoers from Quebec talked to us about snow geese and what kinds of ducks they see regularly back home. Again, thanks to Avery and Rilla from Parks Canada for working with us!
Wednesday and Thursday were spent planting trees at one of our final sites of the summer.
This site featured a small wetland area that used to have a beaver habitat on it, although the beavers have long since vacated the area. We filled this reedy area with red osier dogwoods and larches, species that are water tolerant and will help keep the area stable. The rest of the site consisted of a large field bordering a wide pond and small stream running through the property. This open field has been filled with hundreds of trees and shrubs of a wide variety that will hopefully grow into a healthy grove in the coming years.
On Friday we went out with the YSI and did our weekly water monitoring of the different points of Luke’s Creek, the Wheatley River, Crooked Creek, and Hornes Creek. Our assessment results will be compiled at the end of the summer to see how healthy the streams are and what kind of fluctuations we’ve seen over the summer. In the afternoon, we wrapped up tree planting at our site from Wednesday and Thursday! With less than one hundred trees left to plant, we will be gearing up to start stream clearing in the coming weeks.
We started our week off with our weekly water monitoring! Like every week, we drove to 22 different points within the watershed, assessing the different tributaries in the area. It was a beautiful sunny day! Perfect weather for driving around Wheatley River and doing our assessments. In the afternoon, we did our weekly maintenance at Rackham’s Community Pond, cutting the grass and ensuring that the community park is well kept for everyone to enjoy.
On Tuesday we started our one patch cut of the season! We chose a site that was particularly overrun by alders, with very few other trees or shrubs to stabilize the stream bank, meaning the stream bed was very silty and had very little runoff protection. Alders grow all around our local streams, often causing problems when their overarching branches break and block the water flow. This means that fish cannot move up and down the stream and the flow of the water slows, causing the stream bed to gather more silt. Removing the alders and replacing them with water tolerant shrubs helps improve these issues.
To start our patch cut, we cleared an old ATV path through the forest in order to reach the site, taking all our equipment and our 70 trees down to the stream to start cutting and planting. Using our chainsaw, we removed the thick patches of alders and moved the deadwood covering the forest floor to create a sun dappled clearing to plant trees. With this area cleared, we planted a variety of shade tolerant trees and water tolerant shrubs to diversify the area and strengthen the stream bank. When the shrubs grow, they will provide the protection the stream bank needs, without the risk of broken branches causing blockages.
We finished our patch cut Wednesday morning and spent the afternoon putting up posters for WRIG’s Celebrate Our River Day and posting our summer newsletter around the community. Celebrate Our River Day will be taking place on August 24th starting at 12:00pm at Rackham’s Pond with a free barbecue lunch, games, and the Annual River Duck Race! Participants can buy tickets that get them a numbered duck, and all the ducks will be raced down the stream. I look forward to putting this event on and meeting people from around the community for a day of fun and games! This event not only brings the community together, but also helps support WRIG so that we can continue our work year after year.
Thursday and Friday marked the start of our work doing stream clearing and restoration, and we cleared 0.6 kilometers so far. Every year, we choose a section of stream within WRIG’s boundaries to clear of problematic alders and deadwood blocking the flow of water. This year, we are working on a large section of stream between Rt 2 and the Confederation trail in Brookfield that has not been restored in quite a few years. Using our chainsaw as well as loppers, the crew and I began cutting down the large alders that had grown over the stream.
We also cut up large tree trunks that had fallen into the stream and completely blocked the flow of water, old beaver dams, and some debris from surrounding farms such as old pallets and construction materials. In the coming weeks, we will be focusing mainly on stream restoration during the hot august weather!
We started off a very hot week by continuing our stream clearing. So far, the stream we have been working in is surrounded by open fields and properties with stands of alders providing only minimal shade and stability. As a result, the stream bed has overall been very silty, with very few fish being observed. The alders grow very low over the water, with their branches blocking the water flow or breaking off to eventually create small dams. The crew and I have been slowly removing these blockages and trying to mitigate the silting as best we can.
On Tuesday, the crew continued stream clearing in the morning, and in the afternoon, WRIG went to Cavendish beach for beach hut! This week we presented on the various mammals of PEI, including native, non-native, and extirpated. The native species we talked about include little brown bats, red foxes, and racoons while the non-native species include eastern coyotes, skunks, and beavers. Extirpated species include martens, wolves, black bears, lynxes, river otters, moose, snowshoe hares, and flying squirrels.
Many of these species were hunted to extirpation on the island due to the fur trade in the nineteenth century while others were hunted due to their treat to livestock. Although it was a scorching day at Cavendish, we had plenty of folks coming up to learn. Another warm thanks to Parks for working with us!
Wednesday morning, we received a call from Department of Fisheries and Oceans regarding severe anoxic events within the Wheatley River estuary. The anoxia within the estuary has reached its most severe levels recorded, which is a serious problem for the health of the estuary and its marine life. To say the estuary is severely anoxic means that the water has been depleted of dissolved oxygen, a necessity for fish and plant life. As water heats up, it holds less dissolved oxygen. The intense heat wave this week exacerbated the anoxia in the estuary. We did our assessment on the hottest day of the heat wave, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius with the humidity factored in.
As we took our canoe out to assess different points within the estuary, we observed an excess of dead alva (sea lettuce) floating on top of the water and often the smell of hydrogen sulfide gas. The water was also very cloudy and green, indicating an excess of bacteria flourishing due to the anoxia. WRIG in partnership with DFO will be keeping a close eye on the estuary for the rest of the season, with anoxic events this severe are cause for concern.
In the afternoon, we did our weekly water quality monitoring, observing how the heat wave was affecting the various tributaries in the watershed. Some creeks had dried up considerably due to the heat and our YSI readings were very out of the ordinary as a result. This week’s readings have been filed away and will be compiled with the rest of our assessments at the end of the season. Although less concerning then our estuary assessments, WRIG will also be closely monitoring our tributaries during a hot and dry August.
On Thursday and Friday, the crew continued our stream clearing by starting from a different point farther downstream and working our way up towards our previous work. We have cleared a little over 1 kilometer of stream so far. This area is more forested, meaning the stream bed is composed of rocks with very little silt, which is much healthier than the heavily silted stream beds down river. There were schools of fish swimming through the stream, as well as wood frogs in the area!
However, a more forested area meant that there were many large trees that had fallen across the stream, blocking the water flow and causing the stream to divert in multiple directions and silt buildup. This causes very shallow streams that fish cannot pass through. The crew and I painstakingly removed many large trees and stumps from the streams, opening up areas that had been blocked for an extended period of time and hopefully allowing fish to move more freely up and down stream.
Saturday evening, Brittany and I set up our booth at the River Clyde Pageant! Our table was setup at the top of the hill where after the pageant, the crowd and performers came up to share a meal and socialize.
We talked with various people about our watershed, what we do, some of accomplishments so far this year, and sold duck tickets for the Celebrate Our River Day duck races. Great job to all the people involved in putting the pageant together and best of luck for their final performance tonight!
The crew split up at the beginning of this week, with Taylor and Garett continuing our stream restoration work along our Wheatley River tributary south of Rt 2, while Brittany and I installed our pollinator garden at Rackham’s Pond!
On Monday and Tuesday, Brittany and I went to Island Pride Co in Hunter River to pick out a variety of perennials that will attract local pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps, and others for years to come. We planted cone flowers, milk weed, salvia, wild rose, butterfly flowers, creeping phlox, snow cap, and kobolds to name a few species. Our 500 square foot garden was filled and in the coming years, the garden should expand beautifully as the plants die back and return year after year. For the rest of August, we will be watering the garden daily and monitoring the quality of the soil. As it is now, the garden soil is very nutrients deprived and rocky, which is less than ideal for healthy flowers, but with diligent work adding compost and mulch to the soil, it should soften and become home to countless earthworms and insects. We have high hopes for this wonderful garden and a huge thanks to Island Pride Co for giving us helpful tips and information! They were amazing and a huge help to us for this project.
On Wednesday, the crew and I did our weekly water quality monitoring around Wheatley River. After picking up the YSI from Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group, we drove to various tributary points to measure temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, and other readings. Due to the hot weather and little precipitation in these last weeks, a few of the creeks had dried up. They were extremely low in dissolved oxygen with temperatures much higher than normal. One small creek just off Rt, which had almost no water, also had oil spilled in it, which interfered with our readings and is a major problem.
In the afternoon, the crew went to cut the grass at Rackham’s Community Pond and water the garden, while I started planning for our brushmat installation. I also started research for WRIG’s next beach hut! Our topic for one of our last two beach hut events of the season will be lichens of PEI and hopefully Cavendish beach will have plenty of people interested in learning about them!
On Thursday the crew continued stream clearing, this time working from the end of the stream northward, where there was very little waterflow and only minor blockages. On Friday, we began installing brush mats along the areas we had already cleared so far. Although much of the stream had a rocky stream bed and high banks, there were significant sections of the stream that had virtually no banks, few trees and root systems providing stability, with high concentrations of silt. These low, silty banks with no protection via tree roots will erode quickly come spring and the strong water currents. In order to mitigate this, we installed brush mats.
Our brush mats were made with hemlock branches, layered on top of each other and tied down with biodegradable twine and stakes to keep them in place despite the current of the stream. These brush mats will collect silt from the stream and in time, become higher, more stable banks. Erosion is lessened along the already deteriorating banks and the stream is narrowed, making for a healthier and deeper flow water.
This week, the crew worked with Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group for the pre-construction phase of their fishway project at Campbell’s Pond! In order to construct a new fishway that fish can use to more easily move through the stream into the pond, many large trees and alders must be removed. Large trees were cut down by chainsaw, limbed, and then the branches put through a woodchipper. We had people from multiple watersheds coming and helping with this ambitious project! We will continue to help Hunter-Clyde next week taking down the last of the large trees and alders growing near the current fish ladder.
On Tuesday, the crew participated in our monthly CAMP assessments of the Wheatley River estuary with DFO. There are six points along the estuary that were assessed, a large sein net being used to gather a sample of small fish, which were identified and counted. A YSI meter was used to measure salinity and temperature among other things. We also observed what the estuary bed was comprised of and the amount of vegetation present.
Due to the high levels of anoxia in the last few weeks, there was an excessive amount of dead alva (sea lettuce) along the estuary banks. So much so, that two points could not be assessed due to the overwhelming presence of both dead and living sea lettuce preventing us from capturing and counting fish. This constitutes a major problem for the estuary, as the sea lettuce throws off the ecology of the area and interferes with the habitat of the small fish living in the estuary.
Next week we will continue to work with Hunter-Clyde on their fishway project, go to the last of our two beach hut days at Cavendish, and do a depth survey of Rackham’s Pond.