On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
You can accomplish an amazing range of projects with a little community teamwork! Here are some more ideas to help you get started.
Improve a Nature Trail
Trails provide all kinds of benefits. They serve as a link between different natural communities, and they also allow the human community to observe and learn about nature. By planting particular species of trees and shrubs along the way or putting up nest boxes, you can improve trails for wildlife.
Sometimes protective measures are in order too. Consider putting up a wooden fence along the trail to protect the flowers!
Improving a trail is a great way to get people working together, but it will require a fair amount of maintenance. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Set a date for a planning session and a preliminary survey of the trail.
- Invite members of the community to the session and ask them to join your project.
- Once the preliminary survey is finished, decide on needed improvements.
- Draw up a timetable for the work.
- Conduct a second, in-depth trail survey, making note of existing wildlife.
- Research what other animals might be attracted to the area.
- Tie ribbons to trees and bushes to mark out the area you're going to improve.
- Use a different colour of ribbon to mark places where you'll be doing some planting. (Remember to remove the ribbons when you've finished the work.)
- Before you start work, clear litter from the designated area.
- Request a contribution of volunteers, equipment, or supplies from the community.
- Ask the local media to publicize your project.
- Provide recognition for sponsors and volunteers by posting a sign near the trail.
Invite Senior Citizens
Working on a trail is a perfect opportunity to get help from the senior citizen community. Many seniors have spare time on their hands, are nature buffs, and love to get outside. They'd be a good bet to help identify species. Contact a local seniors' group or residence, outline your project, and ask for volunteers!
Interpret a Trail
You could also make an interpretative trail in your schoolyard or in any number of places: at a seniors' residence, outside city hall, on church grounds, or in a park. Identify existing vegetation and put up signs noting the species. Consider laminating the signs so they Don’t get destroyed by the weather.
Create a Songbird Trail
Now that you know the basics of setting up a trail, how about making one for songbirds? Decide on a bird that you'd like to attract; then research its habitat requirements and plant its favourite type of vegetation.
One way of attracting songbirds to your trail is by putting up nest boxes. The basic design for nest boxes is the same for all species that use them (some don't!), but their dimensions and location vary according to the birds they're built for. Consult a nest box design book or a local expert for specifics.
The following are songbirds that you might want to attract to your trail. Those marked with an asterisk will potentially use a nest box.
|Great crested flycatchers*||Bluebirds|
Reclaim a Railway Corridor
Abandoned railway corridors make great bluebird trails. Better yet, they run through different municipalities, so they're perfect for a regional project! Maybe you can put up a series of bluebird nest boxes on a one kilometre stretch of abandoned railway.
Befriend a Bat
Bats are among the most misunderstood animals. Contrary to popular belief, they do not get tangled in hair and they are not blind! Bats can contract rabies, but they do not "carry" the virus, as previously thought.
The two most common species in Canada are the little brown bat, which likes to live in hot, dark places like attics, church belfries, and barn roofs during the summer; and the big brown bat, which prefers cooler, more ventilated locations such as outbuilding rafters, rock crevices, and tree hollows.
Bats eat a lot of insects, including flies, mosquitoes, moths, midges, and beetles. By building a bat house, you can practise a natural form of insect control! Keep the following tips in mind:
- Locate your bat house where there are many insects. Among the best places are wood lots, forest edges, meadows, valleys, marshlands, rivers, and ponds.
- Give the house two seasons. If it remains unoccupied, try moving it.
- Put up a cluster of houses in the same area to increase your chances of attracting occupants.
- Use 2-cm-thick unplaned, untreated wood.
- Make opening 1–2 cm wide and keep clear of obstructions like branches.
- Caulk loose-fitting external seams and joints.
- Secure box to side of building or tree-trunk 4–5 m from ground. Face southeast or southwest to receive warmth of sun.
Start a Biological Survey
Keeping track of wildlife activities in your area could reveal some interesting facts. And we want to know about them! If you put up a nest box or bat house, for example, make note of what wildlife, if any, moves in. Include the following information in your report:
- Date of observation
- Time of day
- Weather conditions
- Content of boxes or houses (twigs, hay, grass, etc.)
- Description of wildlife species, how many were found, and what they were doing
Give a Toad a Home
Toads feed on insects and other invertebrates and are particularly fond of slugs, sow bugs, earwigs, cutworms, and gypsy moths. They like to hide in cool, dark places during the day and come out to hunt for food at night, but they don't like manicured lawns. You can provide two types of accommodation for them: a toad home or a toad hole.
- Use old clay pot about 10 cm high x 20 cm in diameter.
- Make entrance hole.
- Place pot upside down in shady spot near water source.
- Use existing rock wall or dig small hole.
- Cover floor with sand.
- Make sides and top with flat stones no more than 15–20 cm wide.
- Put 12-cm-long piece of 7.5-cm-diameter pipe at edge of rocks.
- Shade opening with small plant.
Adopt a Community Frog Pond
Did you know that frogs lead a double life? As amphibians, they're equally at home on land and in water. A pond is an ideal place to observe them, as well as other wildlife like toads, salamanders, songbirds, and ducks. You could protect an existing pond or build one of your own — it makes a great community project!
If you can't put a pond in your schoolyard, ask a nearby industry if you could build one on its land. Maybe the company would like to help make it and would even provide funding!
Before you begin excavating, make sure that the pond will be within reach of a garden hose. You may need to add water during periods of low rainfall or to freshen up the water if it becomes stagnant in late summer. And try to link your pond to nearby fields, gardens, or unmowed sections of lawns.
Don't be disappointed if amphibians don't take up residence in your pond right away. Sometimes they are slow to expand their range. And don't catch frogs or toads and relocate them in your pond. Imagine what a shock it would be if someone picked you up and plunked you down in someone else's home! Amphibians have been known to travel over one kilometre to return to the pond where they grew up.
For more information, you can contact the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo about its Adopt-a-Pond program. And remember to consult local naturalists and wildlife experts!
Put Up a Resting Stick
Dragonflies act as an early warning system for pollution. When these pond dwellers disappear from an area, other wildlife usually follows suit unless the water is cleaned up. Dragonflies are also avid bug eaters — mosquitoes are one of their favourite foods!
Dragonflies like to rest on high objects in the water. So do them a favour: gather a few branches to stick in your pond. Maybe you could make a little fence for them!
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