City Nature Challenge 2020 Fri Apr 24 to Mon Apr 27

View iNaturalist page:  City Nature Challenge 2020: The Maritimes Umbrella Project

“Five areas from around the Maritimes have been registered to participate: HRM, the Valley, CBRM, Saint John and Westmorland County, NB. Each of these areas has its own CNC iNat project page. This umbrella project brings all of these individual project together – we have common goals to not only introduce/promote iNaturalist but to also simply encourage people to get outdoors and explore our part of the world.
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Sandy Lake Beach Park, Jack Lake Regional Park closed to restrict spread of COVID-19

Clarifying words from the Premier about accessing trails. If you have to drive to a trail – don’t. If you can walk to a trail – get your boots on.
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Ecology Action Centre asks supporters to send Sandy Lake Valentine

From EAC

Sandy Lake and the Sackville River is a popular nature space just outside of Halifax’s urban centre. It’s home to Atlantic Salmon, endangered Wood Turtles, lichens and moss nestled among some of Nova Scotia’s scant remaining old-growth forests. The rich biodiversity found at Sandy Lake has made it a beloved place to walk, hike, snowshoe, and swim.

But time is running out for Sandy Lake…With Valentines Day just around the corner, we want to remind councillors that hundreds of people love Sandy Lake, and want to see it protected.

Read more and send a valentine here!

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Critical park/wilderness budget debate Wed Jan 29, 2020

Halifax regional Council Council will be debating the Park budget on Wednesday, January 29 at 9:30 am. Members of the public can speak for 5 minutes. Also, letters etc would be helpful.

The Green Network Plan was unanimously supported and brought communities together with a shared vision. While we we wait to act on this plan, we lose rich natural spaces, essential and important corridors, and opportunities for Haligonians to experience the benefits of nature, large areas of Sandy Lake & Environs amongst them. HRM’s Draft Capital Plan commits $500 thousand, with the same estimated in the following year to parks/wilderness land acquisition. This is less than in previous years and is clearly not enough to address the needs identified through the Green Network Plan.

Please attend this meeting and/or contact your councilor to express support for increasing the budget for parks/wilderness land acquisition.

The Budget Committee meeting starts at 9:30AM this Wednesday (29th). It will be in Council Chamber, 3rd floor, at City Hall (1841 Argyle).

For writing a letter or calling: you can contact the councillor representing your home address as well as any councillors representing the site of your projects. Make sure to Cc. the clerk’s office (

The agenda can be seen here. Public participation is the first major agenda item and should commence soon after the meeting is called to order.

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A species to watch: freshwater mussel


Empty mussels are common on shore and
in shallows amongst aquatic plants
Click on photo for larger version

The freshwater mussel Pyganodon cataracta occurs in abundance at Sandy Lake.

I have viewed many living specimens while snorkelling in the shallows (down to 2-3 m) and discarded shells are common amongst emergent wetland plants around the fringes of the lake. The latter could be the remains of river otter luncheons.

Living mussel

It was thus with some interest that I caught this title: A freshwater mussel apocalypse is underway—and no one knows why by Carrie Arnold on, Dec 16, 2019. From that article:

Throughout the U.S. and Europe, staggering numbers of freshwater mussels are dying. To make the matter worse, no one knows why, prompting investigations into everything from infectious diseases to climate change to water pollution…

…mussels are crucial to their ecosystems, both by cleaning water of impurities and creating shelter for other species via their shells (after their decades-long lifespans are over)…Tony Goldberg, a wildlife disease expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, puts mussels’ importance more bluntly. Without them, he says, “the freshwater ecosystem will change forever.”

So together with the turtles and frogs and salmon and trout and other valued species we still find in Sandy Lake, the mussels are one to keep an eye on.

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The NW Pinch Point

Pinch-points (also known as bottlenecks or choke-points) are areas where animal and plant movement is funneled through narrow linkages. Pinch-point modeling methods are based on current flow models from electrical circuit theory. Locations where current is very strong indicates constrictions where linkages are most vulnerable to being severed… Pinch-points can be the result of both natural and human-made landscape features. Pinch-points may be conservation priorities as they are locations where loss of a small area could disproportionately compromise connectivity because alternative movement routes are unavailable. Loss of these areas may sever migration routes or impact other important movement needs.”*
*Source (with minor modifications) Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group—>Columbia Plateau Ecoregion Addendum: Habitat Connectivity Centrality, Pinch-Points, and Barriers/Restoration Analyses

One such pinch point in the proposed Sandy Lake-Sackville River Regional Park lies at its NW corner where there is only a narrow band of undeveloped or minimally developed land bordering the Sackville River.

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The Marsh Lake Dyke

Views of the dyke

I had viewed Marsh Lake from south of the lake  in 2017, but it wasn’t until Oct 9, 2019 that I walked some of the northern shore. I did so with a friend, Bob K.,  from the NS Wild Flora Society.

We got there via a powerline to the north, passing through hemlock dominated forest as we proceeded south down the slope of a large drumlin.

As we approached the lake, we entered into some low lying damp forest and then, just before we reached the marsh that borders the lake, we encountered what seemed to a be a dyke or levee.

It is 2-3 m wide;  on the marsh side it rises up about 2 meters from the wet marsh, on the forest side about a meter from the forest floor and supports some very big white pine and hemlock… Read more

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Forest north of Marsh Lake

Glimpses of forest north Marsh Lake in 2017
from the area where Perverill’s Brook
enters Marsh Lake.
Click on images for larger versions

Forests north of Marsh Lake were on my bucket list to investigate from the time I caught my first glimpses of them in 2017 (photos at right). They looked to be magnificent mixed Acadian forest.

On Sep 20 and 22, 2019, I walked a few routes into forest on a large drumlin just south of the Sackville River, accessed via a powerline.

I chose those particular areas because, as well as having ‘the area north of Marsh Lake’ on my bucket list,  I wanted to check out a report that there were/are ‘some magnificent ash trees’ in that area, or words to that effect.

I was hardly disappointed. I found some of those magnificent ash trees – and a lot of magnificent specimens of other species including many of eastern hemlock, red maple, sugar maple, yellow birch, and red spruce that qualify as “Big Trees” (trees 20”, or 0.5 m, diameter at breast height and greater).

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A salmon jumped right out of the water in Sandy Lake!

Modified Sep 27, 2019

About 10 days ago, a salmon was sighted in a “classic pose” jumping right out of the water at Sandy Lake.

I am told that grilse have been caught over the last two years – as by-catch of fishing for small mouth bass; they are returned.

As I was told the story 2nd or 3rd hand and reported initially, I understood that the fish observed jumping was an older salmon, but that stands corrected. Says the Observer: “I’m certain it was a grilse—not an adult salmon. It jumped clear of the water and I happened to be looking in that direction and saw it in perfect profile. After having fished the diminishing stocks of NS rivers for years I’ve spent a lot of time scanning the water for signs of these fish and a with a clear, clean leap it’s easy to recognize the species.

Peverill’s Brook close to where it flows into
Marsh Lake. The “digger log’ was installed by
the Sackville Rivers Association in 2012.
Pic on Aug 17, 2017.
Click on image for larger version.

Regardless, it is good news, and reflects the efforts of the Sackville River Association to re-establish salmon in the Sackville River system. Those efforts have included placing digger logs on Peverill’s Brook.

It also says something good about the habitat and water quality of Sandy Lake.

Welcome Home, Atlantic Salmon!

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Tues Sep 24 2019 at 6PM at Halifax City Hall: Important Public Hearing on Green Network Plan – re Wildlife Corridors

UPDATE Wed Sep 25, 2019: The Amendment “to the Regional Plan’s conservation design development agreement policies to specifically reference the Important and Essential Corridors shown on Map 5)”  received unanimous approval at yesterdays meeting of Halifax Regional Council!!!!   Walter Regan (Sackville Rivers Association), Karen Robinson (Sandy Lake Conservation Association),  David Patriquin (Sandy Lake-Sackville Regional Park Alliance/NS Wild Flora Society)  and Kathleen Hall (Backlands Coalition/Williams Lake Conservation Co,) spoke at the Public Hearing. View DocsSep24_2019toRegionalCouncil (submissions by David P & SLSRPCoalition)


Map 5 in the Halifax Green Network Plan
Click on image for larger version and legend

Halifax (HRM) is blessed with phenomenal natural assets. In June of 2018, Regional Council tabled the Final Draft of the The Halifax Green Network Plan  which “provides land management and community design direction to:
– maintain ecologically and culturally important land and aquatic systems;
– promote the sustainable use of natural resources and economically important open spaces; and
– identify, define and plan land suited for parks and corridors”
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