Pond Crea­tures find a friend

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

April 22nd is Earth Day, a day when ac­tiv­i­ties and events in sup­port of the pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment are held in more than one hundred and ninety coun­tries world­wide. This year’s Earth Day may be an his­toric one as the long-awaited Paris

Agree­ment, the cli­mate pro­tec­tion treaty adopted at the United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence last year is sched­uled to be signed by over one hundred and twenty coun­tries, in­clud­ing Canada, the United States and China.

But when it comes to the en­vi­ron­ment, some­times the ‘lit­tle’ sto­ries are just as im­por­tant as the big ones. Like the story of Og­den res­i­dent Sharon Levin, known lo­cally for her ta­lent in wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy, and her at­tempt to bring back a small na­ture re­serve to an area along the Tomi­fo­bia Na­ture Trail, in Stanstead.

“It is a nat­u­ral wet area, a part of Hall’s Creek,” be­gan Ms. Levin, a re­tired li­brar­ian, as we walked along the Tomi­fo­bia Na­ture Trail near the North Derby Road, head­ing to the spot where a healthy pond once pro­vided food and habi­tat for a wide va­ri­ety of wildlife, in­clud­ing some rare species. The pond is now al­most dried up, with just enough wa­ter to sup­port some bul­rushes and a healthy frog pop­u­la­tion, fol­low­ing an in­ter­ven­tion by the town of Stanstead a few years ago to con­trol some flood­ing in the Beebe sec­tor which was caused by some beavers.

In a let­ter re­cently sent by Ms. Levin to the town of Stanstead to shed light on the sit­u­a­tion, she wrote: “I have seen all sorts of an­i­mals, es­pe­cially when Hall’s Creek, which par­al­lels the bike path, is full of wa­ter be­cause of beaver dams. With three feet or more of wa­ter, ducks, tur­tles, small fish, make them­selves at home. Peo­ple come out af­ter sup­per, walk­ing their dogs, en­joy­ing the view. It be­comes a com­mu­nity as­set, one that gets us out to­gether and that adds to the value of the nearby houses. One boy told me it gave him a place to walk his dog. It gives this part of Stanstead some­thing un­usual and pre­cious.”

“We did some beaver trap­ping near the Junc­tion Road a few years ago. Ev­ery so many years, the wa­ter gets backed up. A res­i­dent was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some flood­ing on their land and the ex­tra wa­ter could also cause dam­age to the town’s sewer pump,” ex­plained Stanstead mayor Philippe Du­til when asked about the cir­cum­stances.

Ms. Levin con­tin­ued: “When the beaver dams were de­stroyed, the pond went from a few feet deep to just a few inches. It was no longer a good home for wildlife; they left.”

Con­sid­er­ing what a re­source the pond once was, for the an­i­mals liv­ing in and around it and the peo­ple who en­joyed lin­ger­ing on its banks, Sharon is won­der­ing if the town might take a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the prob­lem of ac­tive beavers do­ing their im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal work, if and when they re­turn. “Per­haps money could be raised to help pro­tect peo­ple’s prop­er­ties, and we could just let the beavers do their thing. I think the beavers will come back to this area. The town could put in a few benches and it would be a place where peo­ple could gather again. When the pond here dried up, quite a lot was lost,” con­cluded Sharon.

Photo pro­vided by Sharon Levin

A pair of Mal­lard ducks that used to live at the pond.

Sharon Levin, seen at the site of the dried up pond, hopes the area will one day be home to a va­ri­ety of wildlife again. photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Painted tur­tles, ex­pected to be­come en­dan­gered soon through loss of habi­tat, lived in the pond be­fore it dried up.

Photos pro­vided by Sharon Levin

A rare sight­ing of a cam­ou­flaged Bit­tern.

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