Loons on Sandy Lake lose a chick

Two adult loons, no chick, off of Sandy Lake Beach Park on Aug 3, 2020

Sandy Lake is 74 hectares in area, good for one pair of loons, usually not more and one pair of loons have been observed to nest on Sandy Lake for many years including 2020.

Chicks hatch about the beginning of July, and two adult loons with one chick were observed on Sandy Lake until recently.

I saw two adults close to shore at Sandy Lake Beach Park a few days ago; I could not see any chicks. I inquired of some local residents and was told that they had seen the two adults with one chick until about 2 weeks ago, but after that the chick was missing and has not been seen since.
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Today is National Parks Day, and we need some good news!

UPDATE JULY 22, 2020: We indeed got some Good News! HRM Council did NOT accept the recommendation of city staff and voted unanimously to approve the $750,000 contribution towards the NS Nature Trust purchase of Connector Lands (see below). I am told over 800 people and groups wrote to council in favour of HRM. That’s impressive. As well, this council has a good record in the relation to the Halifax Green Network Plan – voters will remember that when the fall elections come up.
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The Chebucto Peninsula is potentially a highly significant conservation area within NS – but we need to ensure connectivity between Parks and Protected areas within the peninsula and across the peninsula to the mainland to make it so. Click on image for more about the Chebucto Peninsula

Today is our National and Nova Scotia Parks Day. It’s a day to celebrate and reflect on our Parks and Protected Areas (PPA).

CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, released its annual Parks Report Healthy Nature Healthy People, yesterday and appeals to Canadians to Take Action and encourage the federal government to “put parks and protected areas at the heart of recovery” from Covid19, noting:

In June the federal government reaffirmed its commitment to protecting 25% of land and ocean by 2025 and 30% by 2030, which is an important step. Now they need to invest in implementing this promise on the ground.

The recent global pandemic has forced us to consider the link between nature, human health, and economic health and to re-think our future. Investing in nature protection as part of recovery will help rebuild a healthier, more equitable and green society and economy.

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Four breeding age female Eastern Painted Turtles were deliberately run over near Marsh Lake

Photo of Eastern Painted Turtle on Wikipedia by Victor Young – New Hampshire Fish and Game Department,

UPDATE Aug 1, 2020: View Turtles facing a tough road across the country
By Staff in Halifax Today, Aug 1, 2020.

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One of the special attributes of Sandy Lake & Environs is the presence of three of Nova Scotia’s four freshwater and land turtles – the Eastern Painted Turtle, the Wood Turtle and the Common Snapping Turtle (the 4th, Blanding’s Turtle, is found only in SW Nova Scotia).

All four  turtles are on our endangered species list. So it was with some alarm that a hiker recently found and reported to the NS Turtle Patrol four turtles near Marsh Lake that appeared to have been run over.
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White Perch caught in Sandy Lake

A White Perch caught in Sandy Lake in June 2020. Photo contributed by M.C.

I am familiar with Yellow Perch from fishing days as a kid, but not white perch (Morone americana). A few days ago I received an e-mail with this pic showing a White Perch caught in Sandy Lake in June 2020, apparently the first record (see Species Lists).

Some of what I gleaned about White Perch follows.

From the the Freshwater Fishes of Nova Scotia by DA Livingston (1953):

RANGE: Atlantic coast of America, from the Maritime provinces to South Carolina.

OCCURRENCE  IN NOVA SCOTIA: In lakes throughout the province except in the granite areas and on the plateau of Northern Cape Breton. The White Perch is also found in the sea,.

DESCRIPTION: The White Perch reaches a maximum length of 15 inches, with a weight of about 3 pounds, but most taken by anglers are much smaller than this. Observations by field workers of Nova Scotia inland fishery survey on the La Have River indicate a seaward migration during the summer

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‘Heard a Mink Frog’s wooden “cut, cut, cut” lately?

Mink Frog (photo by Mike Ostrowski on Wikipedia)

There has been an interesting discussion on the NatureNS listserv (reported publicly on Nova Scotia Bird News by Date) about Mink Frogs.

It was initiated by this post (bolding inserted) by N.D. on June 15, 2020:

Heard a new (for me) sound at a marsh this morning in E Dalhousie, Kings. A wooden “cut, cut, cut” was sounding from the grassy edges all around the pond at intervals for the first time this year so I recorded it. Obviously, it was a frog and the call matches that of a Mink Frog perfectly. Wondering about their distribution in NS? I read they are much less common than other frogs. And they are often not covered in local guides such as Summer Nature Notes for Nova Scotians by Merritt Gibson (I have an old copy). Not finding much on the internet either. Info appreciate

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New report on Avian & Species at Risk Surveys identifies key habitat & wildlife corridors on lands by Sandy Lake under development pressure

Amongst the reasons to protect Sandy Lake & Environs

In March 2020, the Natural Wonders Consulting Firm (NWCF) submitted their report on Avian & Species at Risk Surveys of the proposed Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park to the Sandy Lake Conservation Association. On May 1, 2020, the Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park Coalition forwarded the NWCF Report to the RP+10 Process as part of their comprehensive Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park Coalition – Regional Plan submission (available here).

The NWCF Report updates and consolidates our knowledge of the status of the avian species in “Sandy Lake & Environs” – which encompasses the area of the proposed “Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park” (SR-SRRP) –  and of six non-avian, animal species-at-risk. A few stats on the birds drawn from the Report:

  • 117 species of birds visit or reside year-around or seasonally within the SR-SRRP
  • 99 bird species nest within the SR-SRRP
  • 15 of these species are “Species of Concern”
  • Of those 15, 7 are classified as “Species-At-Risk” and are protected under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act

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Tales of Gaspereau and Loons in Sandy Lake

Gaspereau in the shallows of Sandy Lake on June 14, 2017

I recently received this story from a Sandy Lake enthusiast…

“Yesterday at the lake I was sitting by the shore looking around when two big loons hunting along the ledge pulled up right in front of me about 12′ away. There were lots of gaspereau swirling up and down the shoreline and the loons moved slowly along about 4′ apart with their heads down scanning the top of the ledge. Suddenly one dove and I could see it swirling back and forth at speed near the surface and emerging while trying to swallow whatever it caught. I didn’t see the fish but the loon’s neck was distended somewhat. His (her) partner stopped while the other one finished swallowing and then they started hunting again.
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Now we can enjoy spring in the forests of Sandy Lake & Environs

Wild Lily of the Valley springing up on May 5, 2018
in the hardwoods by Sandy Lake

Icelanders started a bit of a trend with their urging people to hug trees to overcome isolation during our days of Covid-19.

We’re still under Covid-19 distancing rules in NS, but as of May 1, 2020, we can again visit our parks.

That’s just in time to enjoy spring with a walk in the forests accessed via Smith’s Road and the Sandy Lake Beach Park and hug some of those big old trees.
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The case for Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park goes to Halifax RP+10


Some of the Sandy Lake to Sackville River watercourse
that would be protected for conservation and recreation
by a Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park

The Halifax Regional Municipal Planning Strategy or the “Regional Plan” (RP), in a nutshell, “guides future development in the HRM and outlines how sustainable growth should take place.” View HRM Page for the Regional Plan

The first Regional Plan for the amalgamated HRM was produced in 2006 and “established policy for a 25-year horizon, from 2006-2031, with minor reviews expected every five years”.

The first review and update (RP+5) was initiated in 2011 and tabled in 2014. (By law, reviews must completed at least every 10 years.)

In 2019, HRM began the process for the next revision, RP+10. A final draft is planned by summer-fall of 2021. See Shape Your City for information about the review process.

On April 24, 2020, the Sandy Lake – Sackville River Regional Park (SL-SRRP) Coalition made an initial submission to the Regional Plan. It includes a 64-page document + covering letter and 27 Appendices, available here.
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Earth Day Webinar with EAC will highlight Sandy Lake & Environs, amongst other wild areas in Halifax

It will stream live on Facebook on Wed. April 22, 2020 from 1pm to 3pm

UPDATE Apr 23, 2020: The webinar (minus the first 10 min) is archived on the EAC Facebook Page

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Message just received:

EAC is hosting a webinar on Earth Day, featuring the work of 4 staff members at EAC. I’ll [Karen McKendry, EACWilderness Outreach Coordinator] be one of the presenters, and will focus on the last 3 large wild areas in urban Halifax: Purcells Cove Backlands, Blue Mountain, and Sandy Lake and Sackville River. I’ll also speak briefly to the health benefits for spending time in nature, including mental health benefits. I think we need the solace and calm and inspiration that nature has to offer us right now.

… Please share this Facebook post about the online event with your members:

https://www.facebook.com/EcologyActionCentre/photos/
a.10150094077403648/10158505719838648/?type=3&theater

It will stream live on Facebook on April 22 from 1pm to 3pm. People can also join by Zoom… details on that should appear on EAC’s Facebook page soon.

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