Patrick W. E. Hodgson Property, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Patrick W. E. Hodgson Property, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Treasure hunting in the Minesing Wetlands

Twelve-spotted skimmer, dragonfly count, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Twelve-spotted skimmer, dragonfly count, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

On a warm, sunny July morning, 20 volunteers and dragonfly experts, armed with field guides, nets and plenty of sunscreen, descended on the Minesing Wetlands, 12 kilometres outside of Barrie, Ontario. The group was there in search of a rare gem: the elusive and at-risk Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The Minesing Wetlands is the only known location for the Hine’s emerald in Canada, which makes this place extra special.

While the species had been spotted earlier in the season, high winds and bad luck plagued the intrepid dragonfly hunters, and their hopes of spotting the threatened species were dashed. Even so, Minesing still revealed many of its natural treasures to the group.

Known as the Everglades of the North, the Minesing Wetlands comprises close to 10,937 hectares (27,025 acres) of wetlands and forests that are home to many at-risk species. Many turtle and bird species, such as least bittern and cerulean warbler, are found here.

Dragonfly count, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

Dragonfly count, Minesing Wetlands, ON (Photo by NCC)

In the spring of 2018, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) celebrated the protection of a new addition to this watery paradise: the 43-hectare (107-acre) Patrick W. E. Hodgson property.

NCC is working to restore the Hodgson property, which was once an agricultural field, to natural habitat. A mosaic of meadows, grasslands and forested areas will provide contiguity to surrounding lands already in conservation. Over the spring and summer months of 2018, Conservation Volunteers have come out to plant trees and remove invasive plants. They've also helped take stock of what species are on the land through wildlife counts, such as the recent dragonfly count.

While visiting various parts of the Minesing Wetlands, including the Patrick W. E. Hodgson Property, volunteers counted and identified a total of 1,046 individuals, made up of 33 different species of dragonflies and damselflies. This information will help grow NCC’s understanding of dragonfly activity in the Minesing Wetlands. It will also help guide further protection of this internationally significant wetland.

But like so much of our work, we could not do this alone. The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority has been a key partner in our work in Minesing. Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power have also been important supporters of our restoration work in the area.

Minesing Wetlands supports a wide variety of wetland birds and waterfowl, which flock to the area in the tens of thousands during spring migration when most of the wetlands resemble a large lake. These species-rich wetlands are also important to surrounding communities in providing flood control, water filtration, fish habitat and recreational opportunities. Over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s wetlands have been converted to alternative uses since European settlement. The remaining wetlands are threatened by non-native, invasive plant species, pollution and habitat fragmentation.

To date, NCC and our partners have protected over 5,500 hectares (13,600 acres) on this Provincially Significant Wetland, Area of Natural and Scientific Interest and Ramsar wetland of International Significance. The most recent addition was conserved thanks to the generous support of many donors, including the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, and The Patrick Hodgson Family Foundation.

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