Ecotour highlights species diversity in the Niagara River Corridor

Saturday 6 August 2022 07:00 AM

By Alice Gerrard

A wind blew across the water in Beaver Island State Park at 7 a.m., July 30. I climbed into the kayak for the first eco-ride of the 2022 Paddles Up event at the park beach and was pushed. The water was a bit choppy as a group of kayaks led by retired government biologist Paul Lochner began to travel the river, heading around the island.

We were there, at the river, to explore nature at the restored spots, including the East River Marsh and Motor Island.

Leuchner described the birds we saw on our trip: “Motor Island is the only Morocco heron on the Niagara River. So, the rookery is where all these types of shore birds live, like the great blue heron, the common heron, the black-crowned heron, and the black-crowned heron. Little green All these birds are largely solitary They live in the environment, except when it’s time to breed. Then they meet in colonies. They may still not like each other, and they do not form any lasting mating relationships. Herons have no love for each other …they will take off from their nest and leave when the young are ready to set out, fly, and are pretty much alone. Then they are done, and the whole colony disintegrates. While they are together they are very protective of each other, though they occupy different classes on the island.”

Various places on the island of Motor are occupied by birds, and people can only visit them by boat. Currently, tourists are not allowed to walk on the island.

“The colony is stratified, so, at the top, you have the great blue heron. In the middle part, above the tier of the bush, you have the common egrets. Under the normal egret, which you probably can’t see today… I couldn’t Seeing it…there is a black-crowned night-heron.The night-crowned heron sits there, and I don’t know if they are opportunistic birds to take advantage of the feeding that runs over them or if they just need this special cover.They are generally night-feeding birds.

“At ground level, you’ll have a little green heron. We also heard a swamp sparrow, and someone was asking me about it. A swamp sparrow is a little sparrow with a really big mouth. It can sing, and puts patterns into song to mark its territory. You can hear it, but often You can’t see it. They’re very common here in wetland areas. There were some of those there as well.”

Paddlers enjoy a fun paddle board at Paddles Up.

A view of geese on Motor Island


Although the birds do not like each other, they will fight to defend their departure from the invaders. One day, Leuchner said, a bald eagle flew into the sink looking for something to eat. That little bird didn’t know what he was getting into.

“They (the roosters) have their own areas that they occupy. They don’t really interact with each other until there is an emergency. When you have an immature bald eagle flying into the colony, looking for a quick snack, you crowd the whole colony. They go out and do whatever they can To make sure that doesn’t happen. I remember the day I saw that, as they attacked this teenage bald eagle, and I’m sure he learned a lesson not to go to the roost again.”

Leuchner said that the young bald eagle would not return, even with his mate.

“We’re talking about these two against hundreds of birds coming at you from all directions,” Leuchner said.

He also noted that herons can also be dangerous to humans. “Bad herons. If there’s a wounded heron on the side of the road, you’ll never want to go near it. The first thing they’ll do when they’re in trouble is look for your eyes. Call and get help. Don’t deal with a wounded heron or a wounded egret. They They’re not the kind of bird you want to mess with.”

Wetlands were once considered useless and disease-infested places that were best avoided, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Leuchner said wetlands are now known to be among the most productive ecosystems in the world, with a great diversity of plant and animal species.

The great diversity of species in the Niagara River Corridor has earned it a great deal of appreciation.

“The Niagara River Corridor is home to 22 different seagulls, compared to the entire continent of Australia, which has only four species,” said Joe Minter, supervisor of the Grand Island Recreation Division.

According to Minter, the ecological importance of the Niagara River Trail was recognized by the National Audubon Society, when it declared the trail an Important Bird Area. In 2019, the Niagara River Corridor was declared a Wetland of International Importance, under the Ramsar Convention, a global treaty that supports the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and related waters. was 40The tenth Site in the United States to receive such a rating.

Leuchner talked about the tour after we left Motor Island.

“We went through the swamps and looked at pond lilies,” he said. “I told (the group) that pond lilies are a mix of native lilies, which are called Spatterdock or Nuphar advena. The other one is just called pond lily, and this one comes from the water park that was there in the 1890s, on the beach. What happened is that When Claude Monet put all his artworks together, one of them in particular was called “Puddle Lilies”, at the end of the 1890s.

“People from very wealthy families had not only gardens, but water gardens as well. They planted pond lilies in water gardens. Depression hit, and they all left. Houses were closed and deserted. Wildlife pulled pond lilies into the swamp, and they remained There since.Pond lilies are not invasive. They are non-native species, and that’s different.Non-native species actually fit into the environment, while invasive species benefit from it.These are necessary there to provide the shaded habitat that native species need to grow and live.

“So, this entire swamp was created in 2003. It has grown quite a bit, and has become very productive. Hopefully the other piece, downstream towards the Lea River, can go the same way. Now, it’s not. When they built it, they left some components out. There. The current is faster there, so it will take longer to establish it.”

After the eco trips ended, Leuchner said the experiment was a success.

“We had quite a few people there,” he said, “and they weren’t people who didn’t seem to have seen the environment before.” “They had quite a bit of background. They were very interested in hearing an explanation of all the different things they were seeing. I think they got a lot of use out of it. The only disappointment we had with the eco trips was that 15 people were limited to going to each eco tour, and it turns out that a third of them They had no respect to notify us that they were not coming.”

Speaking about the future of Paddles Up, Greg Stevens, executive director of the Niagara River Commission Greenway, said, “We may have the ability to expand. As you can see from all of the offerings here, the message is about the environment of the Niagara River and what a special place the Big Island is.”

The Majewski family, with former Deputy City Superintendent Jim Sharpe, biologist Paul Leuchner, and Roger Cook, stand with three watercraft built by Greg Majewski.

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