Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Provincially Insignificant Wetland (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

14 June finds me stopped to photograph the little wetland along the west part of Highway 43 in Kemptville, Ontario.  The sun beams through the tall trees at the far side, highlighting the red-tipped new growth of the willow bushes.  "Check-check, Check-check, Bleeeee!" scolds a Redwing, flapping overhead like a black moth, all feathers spread, blunt-tipped wings and fanned tail.  Back and forth, persistently calling, effectively distracting my attention from wherever his nest is among the cattails beyond the ditch.  When he flies low I can see his bright red epaulettes fluffed up like little pompoms.  He is so concerned about my potential as a threat to his family, but he doesn't know the real threat to his home.  Several metres from where I stand is posted a sign that reads, "2 Acres Commercial, Will Build to Suit" along with the developer's name and phone number.

I call this painting "Provincially Insignificant Wetland" because the only wetlands that are protected from development are those large enough or with enough rare plants to be designated "Provincially Significant."  That leaves vulnerable all the little pockets of wetland that enrich our countryside with wildlife and help to stabilize the water table, and I wonder what great percentage of southern Ontario's wetland is made up by these precious little pockets and corridors of land that were too wet for agriculture, but now not too wet to build over if the area is regarded as commercially valuable.

Our records from this site began in 1996, when we began to be concerned about the regional decline of Chorus Frogs (then Pseudacris triseriata, now genetically denominated P. maculata). Chorus Frogs had always called from this marsh and on 20 April 1996 we recorded 1 call by this species. After that, one was heard on 14 April 1998, calling intermittantly, through loud road noise. from the middle of the pond, but that was the last Chorus Frog we heard here. Since then there's been Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper) Bufo (now Anaxyrus) americanus (American Toad), Rana (now Lithobates) sylvatica (Wood Frog), and R. (now L.) pipiens (Leopard Frog), but no more Chorus Frogs. 

This pond has historically been a destination of one of the great migrations in the region, the movement of Leopard Frogs from Kemptville Creek across a kilometre of built-up Kemptville to mingle with migrants from the Rideau River and the Kemptville Creek estuary in the the waterbodies in the swampy woods behind the pond. On 16 April 2001 we had the first intimation that this migration was beginning to fade, when Fred noted “NO:Pseudacris triseriata, NO:Rana pipiens calling - the water is too shallow here and in adjacent woods for Leopard Frogs to breed.” On 21 April 2001 he wrote “few calling, circa 20 DOR [dead on road], trace of rain, wind & loud traffic noise. The DORs (most of which look to have been quite large) are in a narrow stretch just south of the pond, and while there are none alive to show the direction of movement the concentration here only makes sense if these are frogs that found the gap between the
Kemptville Building Centre building and the Kemptville Mall.” We haven't since heard a full chorus of Leopard Frogs from this pond, though on 10 July 2006 there was a “DOR, AOR [alive on road] moderate slaughter on [the] highway.”

On 28 July 2009 the “marsh mostly filled in with gravel roadbed & side pads. Signs (which have been up for some time) advertise the destruction of the site,” and on 2 May 2010 there was “a high gravel pad across Chorus Frog pond, & road heading north between field and forest. So the destruction of habitat proceeds apace here.” On15 May 2010 we heard a small chorus of Spring Peepers from the diminished pond.

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What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?