BioBlitz News

We came. We saw. We counted.

Over 60 volunteers descended on the land for a 24-hour period from Friday at 3:00 pm to Saturday at 3:00 pm. The Wintergreen BioBlitz was made possible by the generous support of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

Here are some highlights from the press release prepared by Anne Robertson from the Kingston Field Naturalists, and coordinator of BioBlitz 2015.

Bioblitz newsField observers spread over the property collecting information on everything from night time moths to early morning birds and from beautiful dragonflies to forest ferns. Participants included Kingston Field Naturalists, fellow naturalists from further afield, professionals, neighbours, and youth. The weather on Friday was rainy with temperatures around 13C, but we persisted and set our minnow traps and pitfall traps for invertebrates. By 9:00 pm the rain had stopped and we spent 3 hours with moth lights identifying many beautiful species of this group of insects. Saturday, with temperatures in the mid-twenties and sun, was perfect. A delicious BBQ was held at noon on Saturday with quiz questions to identify natural objects for which prizes were awarded.

Karen Smereka (Operations Manager and Biologist) giving the initial tour
Karen Smereka (Operations Manager and Biologist) giving the initial tour

Guided walks were held throughout the event on a variety of natural history topics for those wishing to participate and learn about the ecology of the area. Topics included bird watching, and pond dipping as well as moth identification and dragonfly and butterfly listing and a plant identification walk. A couple of canoes were available to explore some wetland habitats. Other participants waded up to their waists to access the bog mat for different species. This year our non-species-listing activity was a sketching nature workshop held on the porch of the house (out of the rain).

All observed species were noted, from those that are very common to those on the endangered end of the scale. Plants varying in size from plankton in the pond to ferns, grasses and all herbaceous and woody plants were added to the tally. Spore-bearing species including fungi were included. All identified invertebrates including insects (butterflies, damsel and dragonflies, moths, flies, beetles, bees) and non-insect species (including spiders, ticks, centipedes, millipedes, slugs and snails), that were observed were also added to the tally. All vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) were noted.

bioblitz news
Luna moth

The minnow traps left in the water overnight with bait and light sticks to attract species were well filled by morning. Observations enjoyed by participants included several Grey Ratsnakes, Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies pollinating Wood Lilies, an Arrow Spiketail (a lifer dragonfly for a professional naturalist), Luna Moth, Giant Leopard Moth and a Clearwing Moth. The Daisyleaf Moonwort and Rattlesnake Fern were new species for many. Three species of hawk were seen soaring about the same time. They were Red-shouldered, Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Active nests of Red-eyed Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak were noted. Several special sightings of unusual or species-at-risk or of particular interest were added to the tally. A patch of 50 Showy Orchis was found, just past flowering. Several endangered Butternut trees were seen. A Fisher, a mid-sized mammal, was observed in the late evening. A Five-lined Skink (our only lizard) was an exciting find: a species of special concern. One Whip-poor-will, a threatened species, was heard calling.

Anne Robertson, coordinator of the event said, “Despite the wet weather on Friday the overall annual BioBlitz event was very successful and enjoyed by the participants, with plenty of ‘special’ species over a variety of different wildlife groups.”

How many species were found? The final tally is not in but we are hoping for about 600. We do know so far we have 7 mammal species, 58 birds, 3 reptiles and 4 amphibians. Within the invertebrates 22 dragon and damsel flies, 16 butterflies and roughly 50 species of moth were recorded. The final tally of plants including seed and spore bearers is well over 200 including 11 species of fern and 24 sedge species.

The Kingston Field Naturalists hope that future generations will also have the thrill of finding as much variety of life in this area in one day and would like to thank all those who joined us at this annual party held in a different location each year.

Indeed, since the Kingston Field Naturalists will choose a different location next year, we hope that we will be able to host another BioBlitz at Wintergreen in 2016, building on this year’s work. Stay tuned!

BioBlitz coming up June 12 and 13

bioblitzWe hope to welcome many people to Wintergreen at 3 pm on Friday, June 12 — really, any time over the 24 hours period from Friday at 3 pm to Saturday at 3 pm.

For those of you who are new to the idea, the BioBlitz is a world-wide movement where the general public, along with naturalists and scientists and biologists, come together to identify as many living species as possible within a 24-hour period. This year, the Kingston Field Naturalists are holding their annual BioBlitz at Wintergreen, and we’re excited to be learning more about the richness of life that our 200 acres holds.

The event is free (bring your own food); you can see plenty of detail under the workshops tab of our website, or simply click here. Hope to see many friends of Wintergreen at the event!

The BioBlitz is supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

We captured the Camino spirit!

DSCN3191Wow. What a weekend. It is hard to describe the euphoria that many experienced in sharing the songs, sounds, and sights of El Camino. Camino spirit begins to capture it… but only begins.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.55.46 PMThe presenters were generous and insightful (thank you Peter, Alfred, Roberto, and Anita), the food was amazing (yeah, yeah, we know that many  Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.56.35 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 5.56.16 PM of the photos are about the food — thank you Louise, Chris, Zinta, Diane, and Nick), and the company grand. Even spring came out to play, with the first crocuses in the garden blooming their hearts out!

After the weekend was over, we ruminated about the possibility of making this a yearly event. So stay tuned… more to come.

BioBlitz at Wintergreen!

bioblitz wintergreenThe BioBlitz is a world-wide movement in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible over a 24-hour period. There have been BioBlitz events all over Canada, the United States, Australia, Africa, China, and Europe— and in 2015, the Kingston Field Naturalists will hold their Bioblitz at Wintergreen!

Our goal is to locate and identify at least 600 species during the Wintergreen BioBlitz, which will take place June 12 and 13, 2015. The Bioblitz will be powered by the network of professional and amateur naturalists associated with Kingston Field Naturalists, who volunteer their time and expertise to help identify species and share their knowledge with the general public in Bioblitz related activities.

We’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to  cover the costs of hosting the Bioblitz at Wintergreen. Please help us build awareness about the diversity of living organisms on the 204 acres of Wintergreen by volunteering for the BioBlitz or contributing to the campaign — or both!

More details can be found here.

April Camino Weekend

april caminoOn the heels of a magnificent Camino evening in November, we’ve created an entire weekend to explore and celebrate the Camino pilgrimage. It’s our first spring event (yes, it’s spring — finally!), and it will take place April 11 and 12. Click here for more details and to register.

You can’t walk the Camino in a weekend, but you can experience the spirit of the journey. Join us as we hear the tales from those who have walked before. Through film, photographs, music and stories — to say nothing of the delicious Camino-inspired meals prepared in the Wintergreen kitchen — you will learn about the many ways of making this epic journey. You’ll have time, too, to enjoy our many trails. By April, there will be wildflowers … hepatica, for sure.

april caminoWhether you are planning your first Camino or embarking on your annual adventure, you’ll be inspired by this event. You can come for the entire weekend, or come join us for Saturday afternoon and evening — hear a presentation by Peter Coffman, while enjoying the evening meal.

Musings on this last day of February …

Eric Collins from Quantum Renewable Energy

Yes. It’s been a long and cold—some would even say brutal—winter. But here, on this last day of February, the light of the morning sun is already almost unbearably bright. Beautiful. Promising. And February has been an amazing month at Wintergreen.

We have enjoyed a number of first-time events at Wintergreen this February, despite the record cold temperatures. There is a saying something to the effect that there is no bad weather, merely bad gear. And do we have great gear and facilities for our winter visitors!

Several visitors, including the staff from Quantum Renewable Energy and a group of graduate Aboriginal students from Queen’s, Trent, and the University of Victoria, spent time at Wintergreen this month. And while much of that time was spent in our cozy lodge, almost everyone also ventured out to the trails—and enjoyed the deep snow, thanks to our amazing snowshoes from Trailhead Kingston. For those of you who have been following our winter programming developments, you will be aware that we received support from a number of organizations to expand Wintergreen’s offerings into the winter months. We are extremely grateful to the Frontenac CFDC (under the Eastern Ontario Development Program) for leading the charge, and also, for the matching funds from the County of Frontenac. We also received contributions from Trailhead Kingston, Quantum Renewable Energy, Sustainable Eastern Ontario, and Friendly Fires.  Thank you, one and all.Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 9.29.38 AM

Now that winter is nearly over (only 20 sleeps until SPRING!), we will continue to reap the benefits of our winter funding and programming, as our trails and buildings are in fine shape for spring visitors. Our next public event—a weekend featuring the Camino—will take place April 11 and 12, and given the theme of the weekend, we expect that many will venture out on the land as the weekend progresses. Hopefully, though, without snowshoes!


Wintergreen Renewable Energy Co-op AGM

wintergreen renewableThis past Friday night, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Wintergreen Renewable Energy Co-op. What an inspiration! It’s hard to believe that an initiative that started at Wintergreen Studios with a retreat in 2011 has blossomed into a separate organization with impressive accomplishments.

The mission of the Wintergreen Co-op is to develop renewable energy projects in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington and surrounding regions that bring benefits to the members and to our community. The co-op promotes the widespread understanding of the social, environmental, and economic benefits of community participation in regional renewable energy initiatives. The co-op also actively pursues partnership and cooperation with other community sector organizations as well as public bodies and the private sector. Indeed, were it not for the support of some of our long-term partners, such as Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Co-op would not be enjoying the success and stability it has achieved.

Another important partnership for the Co-op is with SolarShare. Late in December, the Wintergreen Co-op SolarShare collaboration was offered a contract to sell electricity from a 500kW ground mount photovoltaic project on Unity Road in Kingston. This was the second Wintergreen Co-op project to be offered a contract by the Ontario Power Authority in 2014.

We learned at the AGM that Wintergreen Co-op members have invested over half a million dollars in SolarShare bonds. The money that is raised from these bond sales will finance these and other co-op owned projects all over Ontario. The investment campaign will continue through 2015. SolarShare bonds are for a five-year term and pay 5% interest on a semi-annual basis.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.52.29 AMYet another highlight of the AGM was the presentation by Daniel Bida, Executive Director of ZooShare. ZooShare is a sister co-op, engaged in building a very exciting biogas project at the Toronto Zoo using “Zoo Poo” to generate clean energy for Ontario. Zoo poo… who knew?

Winter Wonderland

winterIn a world where people seem more attached to their iPhones and Android devices than to their families and neighbors, how can we slow down for a while and take a few deep breaths? By spending some time at Wintergreen Studios, where a suite of winter opportunities promises to bring balance back to your life. Come spend a night in the woods, communicating with nature and leaving your cell phone at home.

Wintergreen is inviting you to experience the stillness of the winter months by enjoying a night of solitude in one of our wilderness cabins, or by renting the entire lodge for a weekend family reunion, or by coming to one of our winter events. While at Wintergreen, you will have access to the network of hiking trails that criss-cross the 204-acre property. Wandering down the trails, you will walk through mixed forests and meadows, pass tall granite outcroppings, and gaze across frozen ponds and marshes and a glacier carved lake.

Last year, Wintergreen experimented with some winter events, and we realized that there was great potential for more winter activity. Molly Russell, a Grade 4 teacher who is now working at the Canadian International School of Egypt, spent the month of March 2014 living in the Wintergreen lodge. She says, “In March of this year—near the end of one of the coldest and most brutal winters we have experienced in a long time—I had the pleasure of living at Wintergreen. One wouldn’t think that living in the wilderness in the freezing cold would be described as “pleasure,” but the time I spent at Wintergreen was amazing. I hiked, every day, along the many trails that led to the lake. I enjoyed the heat of the woodstove in the lodge, and the warmth of the cabins. I loved the sky, the snow, the ice, and the sun. I learned so much about renewable energy, about sustainable building, about what impact we humans have on the planet. These are lasting gifts.”

winter The expansion of Wintergreen’s programming into the winter months was made possible by the support of the Frontenac CFDC, the County of Frontenac, and Sustainable Eastern Ontario. Grants from these organizations were enhanced by donations from Quantum Renewable Energy, Friendly Fires, and Trailhead Kingston. Wintergreen is now winter ready: all of the buildings have been upgraded and winterized (all with renewable energy) to bring warm comfort to those visiting during the coldest—and some say, most beautiful—months of the year. Come and join us.

Leaving tweeting to the birds…

Before you ask yourself if you can do something faster or more efficiently, ask yourself if you have to do it at all.

tweetingThat thought has given me much pause. Consequently, during the few months that have passed since I read that statement, I’ve been asking myself what things I do (very quickly, sometimes!) that I don’t need to do at all. I’ve identified several. And removing those tasks from my life has given me more time to walk outdoors. To play the piano.

What about Wintergreen? Well, it seems to me that there is something that Wintergreen has been doing that we don’t need to do at all – and that is Twitter. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. Wintergreen can survive without Twitter! And so, while we will continue to provide blog posts on our website – such as the one you’re reading now, and we will continue to post ideas and news on our Facebook page, we are signing off from Twitter. One less thing to do, to give us more time to be with one another. And leave the birds to tweet. They’re better at it, anyway.