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Written by Terry Spraque   
Apr 01, 2017 at 03:00 AM
APRIL IS THE TIME TO GET WILD ABOUT WETLANDS
 
(Photo credits and descriptions of photos can be seen by "mousing over" each photo. )
 
Dead Creek Marsh along the Murray Canal at Carrying Place. Photo by Terry SpragueNow that warmer weather has arrived, and the inland marshes are almost free of ice, we will have a look at some of the wetlands in the area.
 
Prince Edward County has over 21,000 acres (8,500 hectares)  of wetlands. These wetlands have been identified as either provincially or regionally significant wetlands, and range in size from small wetland corners comprising a few dozen acres to the 4,900-acre (1,900 hectares) Big Swamp and Little Swamp complex and the 5,000-acre  (2,000 hectares) Sawguin Creek system. Some of the identified wetlands are located on private property and access to them is both limited and difficult. Instead, we will touch on some of the more readily accessible wetlands, and directions on how to reach these areas.
 
Dead Creek Marsh at Carrying Place is worth a visit, but don’t attempt Canal Road on the canal’s north side at this time of the year, even with an all-wheel drive! However, Shore Road on the canal’s south side is fine, but the section that goes along the marsh is usually gated off. You will need to walk from here where the former road runs right beside the marsh, but it is worth the exercise, as birds here are not disturbed by traffic noise.
 
The Sawguin Creek Wetland is the largest wetland in Prince Edward County, extending from the Rednersville area to Massassauga Point and is easily viewed from Highway 62, County Road 28 and Huff’s Island Road, especially from the causeway which spans the cattail marsh at Huff’s Island and running to the Massassauga mainland. In addition to the many species of birds typically found in wetlands, the provincially significant Arrow Arum plant can also be found in this wetland.
 
One of the new ponds created at Big Island Marsh. Photo by Terry SpragueMuch can often be seen right from the junction of Highway 62 and County Road 28 where there is plenty of space to park and wander around. There is a fair amount of open water here that often harbours interesting wetland species. From here one can take a canoe or kayak and paddle east almost to within a few hundred feet of the causeway that crosses the marsh at Huff’s Island. Unfortunately, the channel at the Marsh Road culvert is often choked with cattail growth, but the rest of the creek east to Sawguin Island and the Bay of Quinte is open. The water in the channel is quite shallow and canoeists and kayakers are urged to do their exploring early before summer water plant growth gets under way, preferably before the first  week of June. Sawguin Creek is about three kilometres south of Belleville. The causeway between the Massassauga mainland and Huff’s Island can be accessed either from County Road 28, or by following Highway 62 south for another kilometre and taking the Huff’s Island Road east to the Stop sign and turning left at the old abandoned Huff’s Island Public  School.
 
The Big Island Marsh comprising 2,120 acres (858 hectares) can also be readily observed from either the causeway between the mainland and Big Island, or from the South Big Island Road which runs almost the entire length of the marsh’s north side. During 2013, a very ambitious wetland rehabilitation project took place in the Big Island Marsh resulting in the formation of three large ponds, one of them 12 acres in size! These have been enhanced with interconnecting sinuous channels which ultimately link to the main channel in the centre of the marsh. A good access to these channels at the corner of South Big Island Road and Sprague Road.  Provided it is early in the season and sufficient water is flowing, access to a prolific area in the western part of the Big Island Marsh can be accessed by canoe or kayak from Demorestville Creek off Gomorrah Road (runs from County Road 14 to County Road 5, bypassing the village of Demorestville). Access to the east end of Big Island Marsh can be obtained from the public boat launch at Centennial Park off County Road 15 in the hamlet of Northport. Marsh Wrens, Swamp sparrows, Virginia Rails and American Bitterns are commonly seen throughout the Big Island Marsh. Least Bitterns are rare but regular. Nelson’s Sparrow (Sharp-tailed Sparrow) and Great Egret have also been seen here and historically, King Rails were encountered here. The massive rehabilitation project opened up some of the existing channels and created three huge ponds and interconnecting channels to improve water flow and fish migration. The project was all privately funded and will greatly enhance the marsh complex and provide rich habitat for a wide diversity of wetland inhabitants.
 Northern Pintails take flight from the Kaiser Crossroad Wetland . Photo by Ian Barker
At Sandbanks Provincial Park, there are two wetlands that offer possibilities. A small one along the Outlet River within the park can be viewed from the Cedar Sands Trail, or visited by canoe or kayak. The Glendon Green Boat Launch off County Road 18 across from Log Cabin Point will allow paddlers access to either the Outlet River from the East Lake end, or an opportunity to visit a sizable wetland just northwest of the boat launch where Black Terns may be seen, along with most species common to wetlands.
 
Bloomfield Creek through about 44 hectares (109 acres) can be very productive during the spring season. Limited opportunities to observe from the roadside are available at the small bridge along Wesley Acres Road, south of Bloomfield. A canoe or kayak launched from the bridge will allow you to explore about 5 km of winding creek, right down to its mouth where it empties into West Lake. As a footnote, this is the same picturesque marshy channel that was viewed from the air near the end of the popular 1995 film, Fly Away Home. The latter part of the movie was filmed at Sandbanks Provincial Park, in the West Lake area, where a number of cattail marshes that edge the famous sand dunes can be explored by canoe or kayak, including a profitable wetland off the causeway from County Road 12 to Sheba’s Island.  Marsh Wrens, Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats and American Bitterns are regulars, with occasional sightings of Least Bittern too.
 
And don’t forget to check out the Kaiser Crossroad Cornfields, east of Lake-on-the-Mountain where waterfowl there can often number in the many hundreds. As April draws to a close though, the variety and numbers will decrease as the fields gradually become dry, but good birding is possible right into early May. Up to 700 Northern Pintails can be seen here during the peak season.
 
 
 
(Photo credits and descriptions of photos can be seen by "mousing over" each photo. )
 
Last Updated ( Mar 31, 2017 at 08:57 PM )
 
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April 24, 2017 9:15 am