GIS and GPS in Resource Management at Hullett Marsh
To maintain and properly manage the multitude of habitats and species in Hullett Marsh, Friends of Hullett uses ArcGIS; a complex computer program that records, stores, and analyzes information based on physical features. GIS can do many wondrous, mind-boggling things, such as generating detailed maps on habitats, nesting boxing, water levels, parking lot points, road conditions, locations of water structures, sightings of phragmites, locations of endangered species and many other subjects.
The uses for Geographic Information Systems are vast and continue to grow. Its ability to communicate complex land-resource information in the form of analysis maps, allowing managers to better visualize areas and site-specific issues.
For example: Wood Duck box positions have been mapped and its data has been added to the database. Over the years, data is collected on the boxes; if they were successful in raising ducklings if there was proof of predation, how deep the water is, the condition of the box. Over the years, the result from each year can be compared, to previous years and to neighbouring boxes. Several years of such data enable managers, with the help of GIS, to discover which boxes continually produce wood ducks and which ones don’t. This information can then be used in deciding which areas new boxes will likely be successful.
Another example: FOH occasionally plants trees to improve wildlife habitat. Using GIS, FOH staff can deduce what areas need habitat improvement as well as what species of trees should be planted and where which areas need to be cut and what areas are to be left unmanaged. If FOH was focusing on a specific species that only lives within 4 km of a water source, only eats acorns and profuse dense woodland with edge habitat, we could add all these criteria into GIS to help us find the best location for that species.
GIS is a powerful tool that is used on a regular basis at Hullett. It saves time and enables wildlife values to be accurately measured and managed. From these measurements, features can be statistically analyzed and compared to other features and informed management decisions made.
Bird banding is an important tool for surveying and managing various bird species from passerines to waterfowl to birds of prey. When banded, a bird then has a unique identity and can be distinguished from any other individual bird. Data gathered at a first capture could be compared to the data in a later capture. Data gathered can include the following: species, location, date, age, weight, wing cord, and gender. Useful information that can be obtained includes survival rates and migration data. With this information, bird populations can be monitored, waterfowl hunting regulations can be set, endangered species can be protected and the effects of environmental contaminants can be assessed.
In Canada, the bird banding is coordinated by the Canadian Bird Banding Office (C.B.B.O.), and administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service (C.W.S.). There are a number of banding projects that occur at Hullett. The C.W.S. bands Canada geese and ducks and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (O.M.N.R.) band ducks. Pheasants are also banded by the Friends of Hullett. After the birds have been banded they are released without any harm done to them. The band does not affect them in any way; it is very small, light and made of a weather resistant material.
When a young bird is banded, it is fitted with a larger band so it will have room to grow. A special permit is needed to band birds with the official bands coming from the CBBO. The CBBO compiles all the collected data and stores it in a database and can be obtained upon request.
In addition to the CWS and OMNRF the FOH also band birds. Every year, FOH bands selected pheasants. These bands are associated with specific prizes. When you return the band and present your $10 ticket stub, you will receive a prize. This is part of our Pheasant Challenge, rasing funds to continue to release pheasants into the marsh.
Occasionally during wild bird banding programs, some birds will have a second band placed on their other leg. Prize money is given if the band is returned with the appropriate information. This is to encourage people to gather the information and send it to the Canadian Bird Banding Office.
In many cases, a banded bird will be found an extensive distance from where they were first banded or many years after they were first captured. All the information gathered on an individual bird is beneficial to the entire bird species worldwide.
Here is what you can do if you find a bird with a band. If the bird is alive please do not remove the band, the bird could be injured by this process. Data you can record:
1. numbers, in sequence, appearing on the band or bands
2. colors and materials of any bands or markers in addition to a metal band
3. date on which the bird or band was found, or observed
4. exact location the bird or band was found or observed
5. species, sex and age of the bird (if known)
6. whether the bird was alive, dead, injured, free, or trap died (if known)
If you want any other information regarding bird banding or birds in general, drop into the Interpretive Center here at the Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area. If you come upon a trap out in the Marsh, please feel free to observe, but do so at a distance. The traps are checked twice daily, and the birds will be comfortable even when captive, but coming too close will cause the birds unnecessary stress and reduce the effectiveness of the trap itself.
The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), is "a member of the thrush subfamily" and can be distinguished from its cousins, the Western and Mountain Bluebirds, by its brilliant blue back and red throat and chest. The Eastern Bluebird requires areas of "at least 8 ha (2 acres) of undisturbed fields, hay-field, meadow, or lawn with some of it mowed". Males also need perching spots for proclaiming their territory, such as fence posts or shrubs, and of course, water is essential that should be nearby! (Laubach, R & C. 1998).
Volunteers are needed at the Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area to help the Eastern Bluebird recover from its dramatic downfall that has occurred in the past. By building and setting up boxes in the proper habitat and monitoring them throughout the season, as well as helping to fend off competitors, predators and parasites, the bluebird will thrive! Volunteers are asked to join us at the end of the year to clean out the boxes and trim back overgrown vegetation, in preparation for the spring.
Bluebird populations have severely declined in the past because of a few factors. Severe winter or ice storms have caused many of them to suffer migration losses. Loss of natural nesting cavities due to the cutting of dead or hollow trees has also had an impact. Competition from other, more aggressive species, such as the House of Sparrow and European Starling, is another major problem and still plagues them. Your help is needed if the bluebirds are to return to a healthy population in Ontario.
If you are interested in helping out with the Bluebird Program, contact FOH at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eastern Screech Owl Boxes
The Eastern Screech Owl or Megascops asio is a common owl found at Hullett Marsh. Its colouring can vary from grey to red and is the smallest owl in Ontario. Throughout the park, boxes have been designed and created for this small owl who prefers to nest in tree cavities or similar habitats. These owls prefer wooded areas close to water which lucky for us is exactly like Hullett Property in some places. These boxes have been strategically placed for optimal usage. You can see them when walking most trails and are marked with a large number on the front, and a carving of an owl on the side. Keep your eyes open for these boxes around Hullett.
In the near future for the Spring and Summer of 2018, we hope to hold owl prowls on the property for the public. To keep track of when these events are, like us on Facebook!
Here are a few resources to compare various owls found at Hullett Marsh
Eastern Screech Owl:
Great Horned Owl: Short-eared Owl:
Motus Wildlife Tracking System installed an antenna on the orange trail in the Spring of 2013. This antenna allows researchers to track and identify specific species who have trackers within them. This includes various species at risk like barn swallows and bats. When a species who has a tracker comes within distance of the antenna, it will track their movements. All of this data is available online at https://motus.org/explore-data/
Read a brief summary of data collected at Hullett Marsh from the nesting season.
It is a misconception that Hullett is managed specifically for waterfowl. Other species are given equal consideration, however, waterfowl are a key wetland indicator species and a healthy waterfowl population indicates a healthy wetland.
We have a wide range of research and development happening here at Hullett.
Along with Mallard nesting tubes, Hullett Marsh contains over 150 Eastern Bluebird boxes, 145 Wood Duck boxes and 38 Eastern Screech-Owl boxes
The Friends of Hullett take great effort in providing nesting habitat for Mallard ducks. There are 38 mallard tubes installed in the Hullett Wildlife area. During fall and winter, volunteers check the mallard tubes, cleaning out old shell fragments or whole eggs, and replace the straw in the tube. Monitoring of active nests and egg counts will take place May-September depending on volunteer numbers.
The mallard nests are surveyed every year and the percentage of success vary from year to year due to weather and predators.
What is Phragmites?
Phragmites australis subsp. australis or Phragmites is a highly invasive grass known throughout Southern Ontario. Originating in Eurasia, this grass grows very aggressively once established; out completing native species, such as Common cattail, for water and nutrients. This plant species can be found throughout wetlands in Ontario, including Hullett Marsh. Another name that Phragmites can be known is European Common Reed.
How Do I Identify Phragmites?
Phragmites can be identified solely on the height and the density the plant grows. Stands of Phragmites can grow as high as 5 meters (15 feet) and as dense as 200 stems per square meter. Other identifying features of this plant include: tan or beige rigid stems, blue-green leaves and large, dense seedheads.
Phragmites within Hullett Marsh
Phragmites has been located within Hullett Marsh boundaries prior to 2000. Since then, Phragmites has spread to various locations throughout the marsh. Friends of Hullett is working hard to help to map and control Phragmites stands throughout the marsh, with funding assistance from MNRF, Ducks Unlimited, Maitland Valley Conservation Area, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Area and other various funding programs.
What can you do to help?
To help prevent the spread of Phragmites throughout Hullett Marsh, the Friends of Hullett recommend removing any seeds, plants or mud from footwear, clothes, watercraft and pets if you are around any stands throughout the marsh.
Fun Fact: The word Phragmites originates from the Greek term phragma, meaning fence, hedge, or screen.