Owl in Fairwinds North, photo by Desiree McCarthy

2016 REWIND: The forests, creeks and animals that call Stittsville home

(Barred Owl (also known as a hoot owl, for its distinctive call) in Fairwinds North, photo by Desiree McCarthy.)

If you ask me, the best thing about living in Stittsville is the abundance of nature right at our doorstep — and sometimes, right at our bus stop.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJQvgUfete8

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One of my favourite stories on StittsvilleCentral.ca this year was a three-part series from biologist Nick Stow, who took us for a hike along Poole Creek. The creek just may be Stittsville’s most important natural feature, meandering from the Trans Canada Trail to the Carp River, crossing through neighbourhoods old and new, playing a crucial role in our community’s ecology.

Footbridge Over Poole Creek. Photo by Nick Stow.
Footbridge Over Poole Creek. Photo by Nick Stow.
Poole Creek winter wonderland. Photo by Michelle Legault
Poole Creek winter wonderland. Photo by Michelle Legault.

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Residents on Savage Drive took these photos of footprints after they saw that they thought was a cougar.
Residents on Savage Drive took these photos of footprints after they saw that they think was a cougar.

 

If you’re out walking in the woods, keep your eyes open and your camera at the ready. Back in May, neighbours on Savage Drive (south of Hazeldean) reported spotting what they thought was a cougar coming out of Amberway Park. As Devyn Barrie reported, wildlife experts say it’s not impossible, but it’s awfully unlikely there are any cougars wandering around Stittsville. After all, there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of a wild cougar in this province for 132 years. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who are certain the experts are wrong…

We can however confirm that Stittsville is a very popular nesting spot for snapping turtles, and many species of birds like this Barred Owl in Fairwinds and brightly coloured cardinal behind Riverbank Court.

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Looking west from near the lookout on the Trans Canada Trail. Photo by Glen Gower.
Looking west from near the lookout on the Trans Canada Trail. Photo by Glen Gower.

 

Sometimes, nature becomes news.

The geography in this area is perfect for wetlands: large, low-lying flat areas with surrounding high areas, and hard, impermeable bedrock. On top, there’s a thin layer of soil, just enough to hold the water. Like a sponge in a soap dish, it holds water and creates wetland. Centuries ago, before human intervention, all low-lying area was almost certainly wetland, but as European settlers arrived and agriculture spread, those original wetlands were drained.

In June, about 60 residents packed into the old Goulbourn Town Hall on Huntley Road on a stormy summer night to hear about the findings of the Flewellyn Cumulative Effects Study. The study looked at why wetlands surrounding Stittsville were changing, and what areas the Province of Ontario should designate as Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW).

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Shea Woods, November 2016 after a snowfall. Photo by Glen Gower.
Shea Woods, November 2016 after a snowfall. Photo by Glen Gower.

 

Finally, we closed off the year with what I believe is a positive step for protecting forested areas. City Council unanimously approve a change to the Official Plan that should do more to proactively protect “significant woodlots” in the urban area: wooded areas at least 40 years old, and 0.8 hectares in size. A City of Ottawa study noted that urban forests help improve physical and mental health, foster neighbourhood identity, can reduce crime rates and lead to higher property values.

Also of note, the 2016 budget approved this month included $200,000 to help acquire land in the urban area including a 7-hectare segment of the Shea Woods, the cedar forest that’s well known to dog owners as Stittsville’s unofficial dog park. Maybe I’ll see you there when I’m walking my boxer, Roscoe.

(This post is part of our end-of-year 2016 Rewind series. Read more here…)


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