On May 28th TLC Covenant Manager Torrey and summer intern Karen took a crew of volunteers down to the Atkins Road Covenant, a little gem in the middle of a very busy neighborhood, bordered by residential homes, industrial businesses and the Galloping Goose. However, it only takes a few steps into this little 1.67 ha covenant to observe its diversity. Within this small lot there are three different ecological zones; riparian, Garry oak meadow and mixed woodlands.
First, the group walked along the trail down to Millstream Creek to conduct repeat photography and plant species inventories. The group hunkered down and spent two hours investigating the lush diversity of a riparian area which was only approximately 3 square meters. It’s always exciting when the whole group is really jazzed about identifying all the species present! One species that was encountered was the heart-leaved spring-beauty (Montia cordifolia) along the south side of the stream. This species is often confused with Siberian miner’s-lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) however it has strictly white petals and heart shaped basal leaves and is a lot rarer! What a treat to find it.
The group walked along the stream-side trail and stopped at the second repeat photography point for lunch and another species inventory. It is incredible how the group travelled only 150 meters down stream and experienced a completely different set of plant life. The first stop the group made was beside a portion of the stream where the water was travelling relatively straight, and was shallow with large woody debris. The stream banks were covered in Herb-Robert, ferns and mosses, whereas at the second stop the stream made a 90-degree curve, the water was travelling much slower and was much deeper. At this spot, bulrushes and red alder trees were abundant and fish fry were observed in the stream.
The final stop was over the hill and through the meadow, but it’s never so simple. Along this trek Torrey found a western-bumble bee digging ferociously into the trail. Upon further observation we concluded this was a queen bee and it was digging into a rotting log just beneath the path. Western bumblebees live in or near Garry oak meadows and thus are becoming rare species due to habitat loss. They also have a short breeding and feeding season. Soon after the spring the queen looks for suitable hibernation in old rotting wood. Watching this bee dig through tough soil and wood was quite the sight!
Atop the hill the towering Garry oaks presented shady spots to conduct our last repeat photography stop for the day. This area was the site of the work party which last fall TLC and the Greater Victoria Green Team removed invasive St. Johns Wort. Other than a few returning plants, it was obvious the space made allowed for native plants to grow again.
You can help support the protection and monitoring of the Atkins Road Covenant by donating to TLC’s Covenant Program. In celebration of TLC’s 20th year of conservation, Board Chair Frances Sloan Sainas is matching gifts towards the program up to $20,000. Donate online today!