PAUL ROEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

Wildlife and Nature Photography

City Of London Shows Disregard
For Species At Risk

Monarch Butterfly nectaring on a purple thistle flower.

Since Milkweed was removed from the noxious weed list in 2014, many individuals, groups, and municipalities have been adding it to landscapes to create habitat for the at risk Monarch Butterfly. So why would the City of London cut it down in Greenway Park?

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.

The distinctive cigar-shaped silouette of the Chimney Swift against a clear blue sky.

A large flock of Chimney Swifts was observed feeding on the swarms of insects directly above the area where the City of London applied pesticides in Greenway Park.

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.

Spiny Softshell Turtle hatchling on wet log.

The Spiny Softshell Turtle, currently listed as threatened in Ontario, is one of the many Species at Risk jeopardized by the City of London’s use of pesticides in city parks along the Thames River.

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.

Sign saying, "Warning Pesticide Use" with image of person inside circle with line through it.

Regardless of what we are lead to believe, there is no safe way to apply pesticides.

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?

Large cut swath of brown clippings.

This freshly mowed area was once a large patch of Milkweed, a plant critical to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. The City of London is responsible for the habitat destruction of this Species at Risk.

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.

Destroyed Milkweed pods, mulched and laying on ground.

These mulched up seed pods are all that is left of a large patch of Milkweed in Greenway Park after it was unnecessarily mowed by the City of London.

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.

Monarch Butterfly nectaring on light pink delicate flower of the Common Milkweed plant.

This Monarch Butterfly was photographed on the Milkweed in Greenway Park prior to the City of London cutting it down.

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.

Monarch Butterfly on a Milkweed leaf.

Monarch Butterfly on the leaf of a Milkweed plant in Greenway Park.

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.

Good birding,
Paul

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6 Responses to “City Of London Shows Disregard <br> For Species At Risk”

  1. Debbie Lefebre

    Sorting through those piles of milkweed “hash” at Greenway this morning was heartbreaking. The plants had been so thoroughly mulched that there was not the slightest chance to salvage any of the caterpillars or pupae that were on those plants. We are so disapproving of poor Second or Third World countries that destroy habitat and use harmful pesticides indiscriminately and here (with our tax dollars), the City of London is doing the same thing! A shameful set of actions!
    Thank you, Paul, for your vigilance!

    • Paul Roedding

      Well said Debbie. I agree, we are often appalled at what goes on around the world, but fail to see or do anything about what is going on in our own backyard.

  2. Christine

    I live in the US but the same thing goes on here and it is very upsetting that there is such a blatant disregard for nature and the endangered species…….we must all stand up for these poor species since they can’t do it I feel it is our job to protect them.

    • Paul Roedding

      There has been so much information presented over the past two years regarding the importance of milkweed to the survival of the monarch butterfly that I cannot imagine anyone anywhere cutting it. As is always the case in situations like these, education is key. The more people who speak up, the more those who are unaware will understand.

    • Paul Roedding

      Thank you Norah. I know of five Councillors who have been contacted regarding this. Councillor Turner was the first one I contacted when I first came discovered the cutting. He expressed deep concern and has forwarded the concerns off the the Department of Parks and Recreation Manager. Still waiting to hear a response as to why this happened, but Councillor Turner ensured me I would hear back.

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