September 22 saw TLC staff members Torrey and Andrew visit the Caromar Covenant, located near Duncan. The Caromar Covenant will one day be a park in the Cowichan Valley Regional District but for now remains relatively undisturbed, bordered by housing development on only one side.
The 27 hectare (68 acres) parcel is home to many different species, including the Western toad, a species listed as special concern under SARA (Species At Risk Act). During monitoring, Torrey and Andrew bumped into two people who were tracking a Western toad, toad #39 as they called it, using radio telemetry to determine how far and where the toads travel after leaving their breeding pond. While no toads were observed during this years’ monitoring visit, there was at least one toad seen last year. Hopefully toad #39 was found eventually!
After walking the northern boundary of the covenant to ensure no infractions had taken place where development was occurring, Torrey and Andrew bushwhacked along deer trails from the northwest corner of the covenant to the southwest – this was no small feat as the topography changes included a steep cliff and only deer trails exist within the covenant. The hard work paid off when they found the southwest corner pin and a seasonal pond adjacent to the southern covenant boundary. This pond may be used by the Western toads as a source of moisture, and it was evident that deer used it as well as prints in the mud were everywhere.
Another prolific species in this region included fungi – many species were seen, including puffballs (Basidiomycota spp.) which are edible when young and delightful to poke when old due to their spore release mechanism. Their name suggests their action as when you poke the fruiting body (commonly known as “mushrooms”) a little puff of “smoke” (spores) comes billowing out! They disperse their spores this way, hoping that animals will step on them and the spores can be carried by the wind to other areas to find suitable mates and create a larger mycelial network with more fruiting bodies. Another fungal species found was the toothed jelly fungus, a.k.a. cat’s tongue (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum). This bizarre species resembles an opaque, white-coloured jujube and is actually edible, though fairly bland. One recipe for this species is to add a few drops of peppermint oil to the mushroom and then roll it in sugar to create peppermint “candies”! We’ll have to try that one day.
While no bears were seen that day, bear scats were everywhere! Uncountable piles of dung littered the area and were almost entirely composed of crabapples. Evidently it was crabapple season at the Caromar Covenant, and bears were stocking up on the apparently high-fibre food.
On the way out of the covenant, Torrey and Andrew collected garbage that had been discarded along the main trail. As they had forgotten to bring a garbage bag they made do with what they had. Soon, an old tire became the basket into which all other garbage was carried, via a stick slung across the shoulder a la “Littlest Hobo” style. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, Andrew! Torrey was tasked with finding all the small pieces of litter and stuffing them into the car tire, and also carrying back a very neglected old toaster, hung decoratively off of Andrew at the end of the day for a photo-op.
All in all, the Caromar Covenant is in good health aside from some litter and of course invasive species (most notably Scotch broom). TLC looks forward to this area being open to the public when it is converted into a regional park and until then will monitor to ensure Caromar’s ecological health is upheld.