The most amazing thing happened to Lacey’s Pond this spring … it rained and rained … and then rained some more. That’s a whole lot of water.
Those familiar with Lacey’s Pond in Altona Forest will know that the native cattails took hold and choked out any open water in the pond. They build a dense mat; last year’s layer of dead plant material below this year’s growth. Last summer and the one before there wasn’t really any pond at all – no open water. It became a cattail marsh. And while the grassy wetland is still a great spot for fostering natural species of the forest, it didn’t provide the open water frogs and other aquatic species require.
Many naturalists were sad to see that this area morphed to a dry and filled-in area – and hoped remediation could be undertaken to bring back the pond to enhance the forest’s viable ecosystems. It would help replace the naturally-occurring ponds that were drained and destroyed in this area during neighbourhood-building. The varied ‘terrains’ are what helps to encourage and improve biodiversity and gives Altona Forest it’s ESA (Environmentally Significant Area) status.
TRCA didn’t amend the area under its current ethos that progression within the forest is natural so the pond should be allowed to dry to a marsh. Lacey’s Pond and its sadly dilapidated boardwalk have been a great bird-watching spot, but the area had stopped supporting an aquatic ecosystem.
And then the second amazing thing happened this spring … beavers came to the pond. This is a small pond. There is no river or even real stream nearby – just a trickle of water. How they found it and where they came from will have to stay a wonderful mystery. Beavers can hear the faintest sound of water from far away and are drawn to it.
There are at least 2 beavers at the pond. They have been spending their days shoring up the south-east side of the pond… where the boardwalk goes. This is because the water leaves the pond from the southeast and flows south towards the panhandle. Beavers are diversity builders. They will help to clear the pond and make it deeper and more habitable and desirable for a number of native species… from plants to invertebrates to fish to frogs … and birds.
Beavers are architects of massive amounts of change. They can change the direction and flow of watercourses, build meadows, conserve water – promoting the introduction of other species, create clearings and thus change the plant and tree species that grow near their lodges. It’s extraordinary that we are able to see these changes in our neighbourhood – and see wild beavers at work. They do what is natural to them to create a livable space – and in doing so they may change the destiny of this pond.
They are undertaking wholly natural remediation that will change the area back to the pond it once was.
It’s a great sight… watching beavers swim around, chew on branches, and slap the water with their tails when surprised. They are very tolerant of being watched as long as it’s from a distance and with stillness on your part. Of course, they are less than enthusiastic about those who break the law with off-leash dogs. And this is a real threat not only to the beaver but many other species.
We can leave it to the beavers to naturally restore the pond to a viable and functional aquatic ecosystem.
Can we enjoy the forest in tandem with their lives and uses of Lacey’s Pond? Of course. But it does depend on many people being wildlife savvy, cautious, and kind – and giving them the space and safety they need.
How wonderful that for this Canada Day, our national symbol moved into our small conservation area and provides an ongoing demonstration of their amazing talents and capabilities!
** This area of boardwalk has been broken for some time and now south access is not possible. The north access is possible but with the higher water levels its nearly impassible at this time. If you are daring and are going to try, you will need rain boots since there’s a stretch of mud getting to the boardwalk, and then the boardwalk sinks 3-7 inches into the water with each step. The supports have rotted. The viewing deck is strong and stable and offers some great beaver viewing.
Resources ~ Begin Your Reading Here
Altona Forest Map (Lacey’s Pond and the boardwalk are between posts 11 and 12)
Beaver Whisperer (CBC full episode)
Leave It To Beavers ~ © 2017 Natasha G