It is no surprise that Greenway Park in London, Ontario is one of my favourite locations for birding and to take photographs. The mixed habitat and adjacent Thames River are home to a wide variety of wildlife, and those of you that follow me often see posts and images from this area. Several species found in the park are currently listed as at risk on Ontario’s Species at Risk list, making it one of the best places in the city to view these fragile species.
This past week while visiting the park, I observed the largest daytime flock of Chimney Swifts (currently listed as threatened in Ontario) that I have ever seen circling over the park and Thames River. Mixed in with this flock were several Barn and Bank Swallows (both listed as threatened in Ontario). Basking on the river banks next to the path were both Northern Map Turtles and Spiny Softshell Turtles (listed as special concern and threatened respectively in Ontario). Finally in the open field a little further down the path I observed four Monarch Butterflies (listed as special concern in Ontario). Observing so many Species at Risk in a forty yard section of the park left me feeling happy and optimistic for the future of these fragile species.
As I rounded the corner of the path, I came across a sign stating that pesticides had been used in the area and to stay off. I called the number on the sign to find out more about the pesticide use. The representative from the company that was contracted by the City of London to apply the pesticides gave me an explanation and stated that the method of application was the safest possible method. Understanding their logic, I thanked them for the information and ended the conversation.
The reality of this situation is that when dealing with Species at Risk, there are no safe pesticides or safe methods to apply them. That would be like saying there is a safe way to smoke a cigarette. If a sign is required telling humans to stay off, how safe are insects or birds whose weight is measured in grams not pounds? Furthermore, are we really supposed to believe that these harmful chemicals do not make their way into the adjacent river with runoff?
Pesticide use has far greater negative impacts than we are often led to believe, and many times the intended target is not the only species being harmed. As an avid nature lover and advocate for Species at Risk, it upsets me to know that our tax dollars are going toward the use of pesticides and potential demise of these species that are supposed to be protected.
In addition to pesticide use, The City of London, for reasons yet to be determined, has mowed the largest section of Milkweed in the park. We all know how important Milkweed is to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly, so I cannot fathom why the city would do this. The really upsetting part is this area was likely still hosting Monarch caterpillars and pupa. I can only image how many future Monarchs were destroyed by this senseless cutting.
These unnecessarily destroyed caterpillars and pupa would have developed into the generation of Monarchs that will soon migrate to their wintering grounds in Mexico. It is this same generation that begins migrating north next spring to continue the cycle.
I emailed my City Councillor to express my concerns and he forwarded my email on to the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of London. I will be interested to hear what their reasoning is for these two acts that jeopardize Species at Risk and their habitat.
If you are as fed up as I am with the ignorance and blatant disregard for Species at Risk and their habitat, by all levels of government, please share this. If you are a resident of London, Ontario, I encourage you to contact your Councillor to express your concerns.
London’s new City Council has the opportunity to become nationwide leaders when it comes to preserving and protecting Species at Risk. Collectively we can work toward becoming the solution and not the problem.