Submitted by Adele Stapleton (photos) and Margaret Graham (text)
It was a great day for a field trip to the newly restored Dufferin Wetlands beside Dufferin Elementary with Kirsten Wourms who is in charge of the City of Kamloops Nature Parks. Accompanied by Shane, one of her fellow workers, Kirsten explained the history of the wetlands from the 1800’s when cattle grazed in the area to the city’s attempts to create soccer and baseball fields. Because of the level of the water table, these attempts were abandoned, and the wetlands are now being restored to their natural state. They are also used as a catchment basin to collect excessive runoff from the surrounding hills.
There are currently three ponds which are surrounded by an attractive wooden rail fence. Cattails, reeds, sedges, and native grasses have been planted in and around the water. Large logs have been strategically placed in the ponds to allow for perching and one tall log is an ideal lookout for a raptor. As we listened to Kirsten, there were red-winged blackbirds calling from the cattails, a mallard and a pair of gadwalls floating in the pond, tree swallows darting over the water, and a killdeer occasionally calling out as it flew around. Several aspen trees have been planted on the north side of the pond. School children have eagerly volunteered their time to pull out invasive weeds such as the ever-present mustard and everything looked very lush and healthy. No mosquitoes were seen as they are controlled by application of Bti, an environmentally friendly microbicide that attacks the digestive system of the larva.
As well as birds, some of the other fauna found at the wetlands include western terrestrial garter snakes, spadefoot toads, and long-toed salamanders. A hibernaculum has been built to encourage the snakes to overwinter, although whether or not they will use it remains to be seen.
Plans for the near future include a viewing platform and boardwalk in the centre of the ponds and an open-air education centre with signage detailing what can be found at the wetlands. There will soon be a pit toilet at the parking lot. The development of the wetlands and the construction of these amenities are thanks to Kirsten’s efforts in applying for grants from community partners which help to reduce the portion paid by City taxpayers.
Dufferin Elementary and a couple of other schools are already using the wetlands for educational purposes and one of the high schools is building bat houses and bird houses to be erected at the site. The wetland is a wonderful addition to schools in the area as it will save them a long trip to McQueen Lake for their pond study programs. It is also a great place to visit for the naturalist who doesn’t want to travel too far to view bird life.