Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tobermory 2006: farewell

Good news – Melody is all better, and I’m back in the saddle.

I started nighttime roadkill monitoring two weeks ago. On the Tuesday and Thursday, I had fragmented days at work, so that I would work in the mornings and get the afternoons off to head out in the evening with my supervisor, Melissa. We are hoping to see a difference in the number of live occurrences on the road. So far, it hasn’t been very eventful.

However, on Friday we had an exciting morning since the one Massasauga who we were monitoring on Cove Island gave birth recently. We observed three babies – they were less than 20cm long, with a little button of a rattle, and were quite aggressive. We caught them and took measurements, which was fun. The babies stay with their mother for about 3 days before venturing out on their own.

Tuesday and Wednesday were busy days last week with preparations for the Grand Opening of the new Visitor’s Centre. All Young Canada Works students and many staff members helped out on those days – setting up chairs, cleaning, last minute completions of the exhibits, etc. The Opening Ceremony was memorable. Chiefs of neighboring native reserves, MP’s, CEO’s from Parks Canada’s National Office, other Parks staff, and approximately 500 visitors attended the event. Speeches were made by people of importance, native drummers were performing, caterers were giving out free food, flying squirrel and snake demonstrations took place. One of my jobs was to provide water, complimentary on part of Parks Canada to everyone who wanted some. I gave out so many bottles of water - it was crazy! Wednesday night’s party was awesome. Staff, family and friends attended for great food and raucous times.

I am now approaching my final week in the Bruce – no doubt I’ll miss it here, but I look forward to returning to Guelph and B-town to see you all.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Tobermory 2006: Georgian Bay Islands National Park

Things were a bit crazy for me with planning for a big trip to the Georgian Bay Islands National Park for Young Canada Works. I came up with the idea, planned, reserved, borrowed, emailed, informed supervisors, wrote a funding proposal, and got money for this trip. It was a little stressful when budget was looking tight, but everything worked out in the end and the trip turned out well! It was a three day trip (July 23-25, Sun-Tues), with 8 people; myself, the team leader; Michelle, the supervisor for highschool YCW students; a staff member on exchange from Parks Victoria in Australia; and 5 other YCW students.

We camped at Awenda Provincial Park in Penetanguishene, which is a nice area. Through my camping experience, I learned that an air mattress is an important thing to have and that sharing one just won’t cut it. Sunday afternoon we went to Wye Marsh, a conservation area of sorts in Midland. The group went on a guided tour, and on a canoe ride through the marsh.

Monday, we visited the administration office for GBI National Park to meet with the staff member (an ecologist named Andrew) whom I had been in touch with through email. He informed us about the park, his career etc. After meeting Andrew, our group headed over to Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, also in Midland. I’m not really into history and culture, but most people enjoyed it, and it was somewhat interesting for me. Wye Marsh and Sainte Marie Among the Hurons were places that I planned us to visit since the trip was supposed to be educational and career related, but the main focus of the trip was to visit another national park. Monday night, just for fun everyone went out for dinner and went to see Stompn’ Tom. Watching Stompn’ Tom was an experience… as was watching some of the hillbillies that came to see him too hehe. That night, as we were driving back, our caravan train of two pulled over to inspect the lights of the van I was driving – the two front ones weren’t working! It was a Kia rental van used for work, so naturally it hadn’t been used at night. I switched driving that van over to Amber since I don’t see my best at night, and sure enough as we passed through Penetanguishene, we got pulled over by a cop. Luckily, the cop let us off and Amber had to drive the van back to the campsite with fog lights/high beams on.

Tuesday, we met up with Andrew again to head over to GBI itself. The species at risk technician and GIS specialist (satellite mapping) and Andrew took us by boat to the main island, Beausoleil for a brief hike on the North end of the island, where the Canadian Shield shows through the ground. The area was surprisingly over developed compared to the Bruce, complete with fake beaches, water trampolines, million-dollar condo developments, and hundreds of boats passing through daily… totally cottage country. One of the highlights for me that day was that our group got to meet and hold Pinapple, the big and friendly Eastern Fox Snake! We left for the Bruce around 2pm that afternoon and got back around 8pm.

Saturday, the Visitor’s Centre hosted a butterfly count, where groups of four went out to different areas of Bruce and Fathom Five to observe and record different species in the parks. I learned a few new things, and it was something to do for the day… like those little white typical butterflies are called Cabbage Whites J

I am now one of the priviledged few who have gotten to ride the huge Coast Guard boat… they included me (and two others) on their daily cruise. The boat is so big that it uses at least 100L of fuel per hour. It has four places where it can be skippered, complete with sophisticated machinery. The Coast Guards share the Marine Operations Base with researchers and wardens of the national parks. They even have their own house which overlooks the harbour when they’re on for a two week on/two week off period… competition for the two-million dollar neighbors!

Thursday and Friday were full days for me. I started at 6:30am on both days to do snake monitoring, then headed over to Flowerpot Island as a YCW event to help the Friends of Fathom Five. We got guided hikes of the island and caves, ate excellent food (we were given a dinner on behalf of the Friends for their appreciation of our help), and we had great weather. I went back to the mainland for the night, but several others stayed on the island overnight (in the supposedly haunted museum). I helped sand and paint the porch of the Lighthouse Keeper’s House (which is the museum), complete with a great view!

Unfortunately, Melody somehow injured her leg and has been lame for the past few days. It’s not severe – I think she bruised the bone of her pastern, for those of you who know what that is. I’ve been visiting her daily to wrap her legs, and to give her TLC.