Learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in a swamp

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - STEVEN WARBURTON

If you like frog­gies, then you re­ally need to go to Cooper Marsh. That’s be­cause the marsh, lo­cated on the south side of County Road 2 about halfway be­tween Sum­mer­stown and Lan­caster, is home to six dif­fer­ent species of frogs and toads.

Ap­par­ently, there are eight kinds of frogs and toads in this part of On­tario, the only two miss­ing from Cooper Marsh are the mink frog and the coarse frog. Both of these frogs can be found at Char­lot­ten­burgh Park but none of them has made the hop to Cooper Marsh just down the road.

That’s just one of the many facts that Bren­dan Ja­cobs, a Fish and Wildlife Bi­ol­o­gist with the Raisin Re­gion Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity, shared with about two dozen peo­ple dur­ing a guided tour of the Cooper Marsh re­cently.

Serendip­ity alert: Shortly af­ter Mr. Ja­cobs told us about the frogs, I saw a big one hun­ker­ing in the marsh just off the board­walk. I took a pic­ture of it.

For most of us (and per­haps all of us) it wasn’t the first time we’d been to Cooper Marsh but it was def­i­nitely the first time some of us saw it in a new light. Mr. Ja­cobs did a fine job of telling us about the flora and fauna that call the marsh their home, but he also told us about the dan­gers that many of them ex­pe­ri­ence.

But­ter­nut trees, for ex­am­ple, are en­dan­gered be­cause they at­tract an air­borne fun­gus that is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate.

This fun­gus at­taches it­self to the tree’s in­ner bark, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for the tree to draw nu­tri­ents from the ground. Even­tu­ally, the tree dies.

And then there’s the plight of the poor ash tree, pub­lished many times in The Glen­garry News.

The black ash tree is one of the most valu­able and sa­cred trees in the marsh. The Mo­hawks value it highly as they use the tree to make bas­kets.

Un­for­tu­nately, the pesky Emer­ald Ash Borer is de­stroy­ing these trees and has been do­ing so since the begin­ning of the cen­tury af­ter the bugs came here from Asia. Bi­ol­o­gists are try­ing to curb the prob­lem – one so­lu­tion in­volves bring­ing in a par­a­sitic wasp to eat the bor­ers – but the bugs have still proven aw­fully re­sis­tant.

And then there’s the phrag­mites, a plant that ev­ery wildlife spe­cial­ist de­spises. They are en­tirely use­less plants. They keep grow­ing and dom­i­nate any area where they land, mak­ing it very dif­fi­cult for other plant species to sur­vive. Mr. Ja­cobs says they are vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to get rid of. Cut them down one

year and they’ll just grow back the next.

In any case, we shouldn’t make this guided tour sound like a dirge for all the en­dan­gered plants. If any­thing, the tour told us that Cooper Marsh is a great place to visit and that na­ture is won­der­ful and should be pro­tected.

We learned about swamprose, whose rose­hips are ed­i­ble, high in vi­ta­mins and nu­tri­ents, and makes great jams and jelly.

We learned that the marsh is at­tract­ing more and more species of birds.

In­creas­ingly, bi­ol­o­gists are see­ing birds they haven’t seen in the area in more than two decades. On a few oc­ca­sions, there are birds be­ing spot­ted that haven’t been seen here be­fore.

We learned about wild rice, whose leaf struc­ture churns the wa­ter when the wind blows, al­low­ing for the marsh wa­ter to be more ox­i­dized.

We learned about wild grapes, which didn’t have a good year this year be­cause of the lack of rain. But that hap­pens, we learned. It’s cycli­cal.

All in all, the guided tour of Cooper Marsh was a fun evening. If you haven’t been there yet this year, I en­cour­age you to pay it a visit be­fore the cold weather ar­rives.

STEVEN WARBURTON PHOTO

IN THE MARSH: Bren­dan Ja­cobs, a Fish and Wildlife Bi­ol­o­gist with the Raisin Re­gion Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity, points to a wild cu­cum­ber dur­ing a guided tour of Cooper Marsh. Left: A cam­ou­flaged denizen.

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