TLC staff and volunteers visited the Atkins Road Covenant on August 13, conducting the annual repeat photography and monitoring of this beautiful site that is sandwiched between Millstream Creek and the Galloping Goose trail.
Even though the site is small (approximately 4 acres) it has three distinct ecosystems: one is a cedar and salal dominated riparian area, another is a Douglas-fir and sword fern dominated riparian area, and the third is a Garry oak meadow. Unfortunately, all three areas have invasive species to contend with: daphne laurel, English holly, English ivy, St. John’s Wort, and a beautiful but noxious weed called the policeman’s helmet (on account of the flower shape) aka Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).
Policeman’s helmet has some interesting facts tied to it- the flowers can be made into jam; the green seed pods, seeds, young leaves and shoots are all edible, and it has high nectar production making it an attractive choice for pollinators. This all sounds pretty wonderful, so why is it considered a noxious weed? Well, the aggressive seed dispersal combined with the high nectar production allow it to outcompete native species, and when it grows along streambanks and the plant dies back in the winter, it contributes to bank erosion. Despite its lovely appearance, TLC plans to revisit the Atkins Road covenant this fall to remove it and other invasive species before damage is done. If you’re interested in joining for the work party, please get in touch with Torrey at email@example.com for more information.
Continuing onwards, the crew delighted in seeing and hearing a belted kingfisher who was apparently quite upset that we were near his favourite fishing spot! Fish fry were clearly evident in Millstream Creek, which houses cutthroat trout and potentially rainbow trout and small mouth bass. Other interesting things seen included a birds nest found on the forest floor and turkey tail mushrooms on a rotting log.
After conducting the repeat photos to track landscape change, and filling out an ecological data collection form, the crew pulled and cut as many invasive species as they could before enjoying lunch in the Garry oak meadow. TLC staff looks forward to showing others just how special this site is this fall during a work party to clear the area, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to experience this gem yourself!