Blanding’s Turtle Diary

In mid September, 2010, the Concord West Residents Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) began assembling materials for the creation of the Save Concord West website. We sent out a call to residents for pictures taken within the green space, so that everyone would be able to see exactly what it is we are all fighting to protect. It is not just some empty grid on a planner’s drawing board, longing to be paved over with concrete and flooded with cars, but is a living, complex, very much inhabited natural environment; an extraordinarily rich and diverse ecological niche. And deeply loved by the residents of Concord West as their greenspace.

On September 24th, AHC members were delighted to receive, as email attachments, numerous photos taken by Mr. Archie Haslauer, a long-time resident of Concord West and a Director of the Concord West Ratepayers Association, a passionate lover of the greenspace and a frequent visitor to it. By September 26th, Alexandra Correa had completed the collection of images for what is now the Walk in the Greenspace gallery on our website, and began indexing and trying to identify the many plants and animals depicted in Archie’s wonderful photos (which now form the core of the Greenspace Life gallery on this website). This was a most pleasant exercise, identifying what many of us often see but don’t know the proper name for – and it required some research. Among the many intriguing images, she found one of a curious turtle that she had never seen before:

– and so, she determined to find out what it was. After much searching, she came up with a probable identification of what is known as a Blanding’s Turtle – a species which, as she found out, is protected both under the federal Species at Risk Act and provincially, in Ontario, by the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement of the Planning Act (see also Brennan Caverhill’s marvelous picture of a young Blanding’s).

Trying to reach a definite identification of the turtle,  on September 27, 2010 Alexandra sent an email to Mr. Bob R Johnson, Curator of Amphibians & Reptiles at the Toronto Zoo, and attached the photograph taken by Mr. Archie Haslauer. She wrote –

___________________________________________________________________
To: Mr. Bob R. Johnson
Curator of Amphibians & Reptiles
Toronto Zoo
361A Old Finch Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M1B 5K7

Dear Mr. Johnson,

I am attaching a recently taken picture of a turtle, in Vaughan, Ontario, which I have identified as a Blanding’s Turtle.  Being an amateur, I wonder if you could either confirm, or correctly identify the species from the photo?

I would be most grateful for your assistance with this.

Best regards, and thanking you in advance,
Alexandra Correa
________________________________________________________________________

On the same day, Alexandra sent the same email to Mr. Christopher B. Edge at the University of New Brunswick, a Blanding’s turtle worldwide expert who has authored numerous technical reports on the species, including technical reports for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the World Wildlife Fund Canada, The Canadian Association of Herpetologists Bulletin and Amphibian Voice:

________________________________________________________________________
Mr. Christopher B. Edge
Canadian Rivers Institute
University of New Brunswick
100 Tucker Park Road
PO BOX 5050
Saint John, New Brunswick E2L 4L5

Dear Mr. Edge,

I am attaching a recently taken picture of a turtle, in Vaughan, Ontario, which I have identified as a Blanding’s Turtle.  Being an amateur, I wonder if you could either confirm, or correctly identify the species from the photo?

I would be most grateful for any assistance you can give me with this.

Best regards, and thanking you in advance,
Alexandra Correa
________________________________________________________________________

Mr. Bob Johnson of the Toronto Zoo replied to Alexandra’s email almost immediately:

________________________________________________________________________
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2010 16:16:57 -0400
From: Bob Johnson
To: Alexandra Correa
Subject: Re: Blanding’s Turtle?

Hi Alexandra….

It is most definitely an adult Blandings turtle….where in Vaughan did you see it? if you can, or have not already done so, please submit the turtle sighting to our Turtle Tally that you can access from the button on our web page www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond.

If you prefer we will enter your sighting if you give us the exact location where you saw it. This is a great sighting and thanks for sharing.

Bob Johnson, Curator, Amphibians and Reptiles
Toronto Zoo
361A Old Finch Ave.
Scarborough, ONTARIO
M1B 5K7    CANADA

Toronto Zoo is accredited by CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association). For more information, visit http://www.caza.ca or http://www.aza.org
________________________________________________________________________

Mr. Christopher Edge, too, replied immediately upon receiving Alexandra’s email:

________________________________________________________________________
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2010 18:35:32 -0300
From: Christopher Edge
To: Alexandra Correa
Subject: RE: Blanding’s Turtle?

Hi Alexandra,

That is definitely a Blanding’s Turtle and a nice photo as well. They are not very common in Ontario outside of Point Pelee and Long Point, so nice find. Thanks for sending the photo.

Cheers,
Chris
________________________________________________________________________

So, when later on the same day the Ad Hoc Committee, on behalf of the Concord West community, presented their submission to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation regarding the August 26, 2010 notice of Commencement of Transit Project Assessment Process, they were able to confidently report the sighting of Blanding’s turtle.

On September 28th, Alexandra received the following email from Curator Bob Johnson at the Toronto Zoo. This email also copied others involved in amphibian research at the Toronto Zoo and the Adopt-a-pond Wetland Conservation Programme. If you are interested in this programme, they have an excellent website at http://www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond/.

________________________________________________________________________
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2010 08:10:37 -0400
From: Bob Johnson
To: Alexandra Correa
Cc: Brennan Caverhill , Erin Nadeau, Julia Phillips
Subject: Re: Blanding’s Turtle

Alexandra… this is indeed a significant find and your proposal for linking habitats is what is required to sustain this species…we call it a “landscape” turtle here as it needs large areas of wetlands often linked by streams which the turtle uses over a season…we will take a look at your area and see what we can add to your discussions….we just do not have the resources to assist much further but we can give you what the turtle population will require to sustain this species at risk…
________________________________________________________________________

Of course, everyone in the Ad Hoc Committee was delighted with the news that the Toronto Zoo would be willing to assist us in understanding the habitat requirements of this species, and Alexandra immediately let her Zoo correspondents know that we would be happy to walk with them in the area and to make available, on the Save Concord West website, any information they might be able to provide us with, so that our entire community could better understand the importance and fragility of both this species and its habitat. We have learned, for example, that a Blanding’s turtle was monitored to have traveled 6 km in one week! Which certainly emphasizes – apart from our community’s profound desire – the need to maintain the integrity of the Bartley Smith Greenway. Indeed, we note that the land we are trying to save by having it transferred to the TRCA, is placed right where the Greenway is so narrow that, without this land, its width would reduce to ~20m!

We have also learned that a Blanding’s turtle will travel overland more than 2.5 km to nest, and will nest up to 410m from the nearest water source.  Terrestrial habitat “is generally upland wooded areas, consisting of mixed deciduous or coniferous forest.” (see COSEWIC Assessment on the Blanding’s Turtle, 2005, p. 10).

At the end of September, Mr. Hauslauer entered the sighting in the Zoo’s “Turtle Tally” via their website at http://www.torontozoo.com/adoptapond .  Here is a photograph taken by Alexandra very near the location of the original sighting:

On October 14th, Alexandra sent email to Bob Johnson, Brennan Caverhill (an outstanding Species at Risk Stewardship Biologist and a Blanding’s expert), Ms. Erin Nadeau (Toronto Zoo’s Outreach and Communications Coordinator), and Ms. Julia Phillips (The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Program Coordinator) to let them know that the Save Concord West website was up and running and that we would now have a venue to post educational material. To our great delight, we were immediately contacted by Mr. Brennan Caverhill, who expressed his desire to meet with us as soon as possible and to set up an exploratory trek to the sighting area.

And so, on October 16th, Dr. Paulo Correa and Alexandra Correa spent the late morning and early afternoon with Brennan Caverhill exploring the segment of the Don River that runs along the eastern border of the Concord West greenspace. We are delighted to present the pictures taken by Mr. Caverhill as well as the report generated by this visit.

To conclude this brief introduction to the discovery of the Blanding’s turtle at Concord West: given that it was too late in the season to attempt a more in-depth study of turtle populations in this area, it was agreed that come springtime we will meet again with Mr. Caverhill to see what more may be learned about turtle populations along this endangered corridor – which may well include more than the Blanding’s already sighted. In particular, as Mr. Caverhill explained to us, the local habitat appears even more suitable for Wood Turtles , an endangered species accorded the highest level of protection.

2 Responses to Blanding’s Turtle Diary

  1. plantgirl,

    We reported the sighting to the Toronto Zoo Turtle Tally. According to the link below, when the sighting is reported to the Toronto Zoo’s Turtle Tally, the Ministry of Natural Resources is notified of this report –

    http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@species/documents/document/stdprod_070894.pdf

    “If you spot a Blanding’s Turtle you can report your sighting to the
    Natural Heritage Information center (NIHC) or to the Toronto Zoo’s
    ‘Ontario Nature Turtle Tally’. Sightings submitted to Ontario Turtle
    Tally are sent to the NHIC so you only have to make one report.”

  2. plantgirl says:

    Please note that Blandings Turtles are also protected under the Ontario Endangered Species Act. All records of rare species should be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources to assist them in protecting species.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s