Welcome to Petrie Island’s biodiversity blog.
The Biodiversity Campaign is a project to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Friends of Petrie Island. It aims to profile the depth and breadth of biodiversity at Petrie Island and educate visitors about the key and various species on Petrie Island. Petrie Island’s unique environment of wetlands, Carolinian forest, being on a major watershed and along migratory pathways, offer an amazing richness in resident and visiting species, some of which are considered species at risk.

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    #8- Trees of Petrie Island
    By Councillor Matt Luloff

    My two favourite things to do at Petrie Island are to take a paddle around the island in a canoe and to take a hike up the Basswood Trail. I am always struck by the beauty and biodiversity of the trees in the area. Petrie is home to well over 20 species of trees, the most common being Silver Maple, Eastern Cottonwood, Common Hackberry, Basswood and American Elm, though if you look hard enough, you can find Butternut, Black Ash, Bitternut Hickory and more.

    I deeply love the peace and quiet the Southern areas of the island offer for contemplation and active meditation. A canoe provides the opportunity to admire the smaller islands that remain largely untouched by humanity. I highly recommend taking a solo paddle in the area and experiencing the calm beauty of Petrie’s South and West sides.

    Les deux activités que je préfère à l’île Petrie sont de pagayer autour de l’île en canoë et de faire de la randonnée sur le sentier des Tilleuls. Je suis toujours ébloui par la beauté et la biodiversité du secteur. L’île Petrie abrite plus d’une vingtaine d’espèces d’arbres, les plus communs étant l’érable argenté, le peuplier deltoïde, le micocoulier américain, le tilleul et l’orme d’Amérique. En regardant plus attentivement, il est également possible d’observer le noyer cendré, le frêne noir, le caryer cordiforme et bien d’autres essences.

    J’aime profondément la paix et la tranquillité que les parties méridionales de l’île offrent pour la contemplation et la méditation active. Une promenade en canoë donne l’occasion d’admirer les petites îles qui demeurent largement épargnées par l’activité humaine. Je vous recommande fortement de pagayer en solo dans le secteur pour découvrir la paisible beauté du sud et de l’ouest de l’île Petrie.

    #7- Peregrine Falcon
    By Mike and Therese Dupuis

    July 3rd, 2021 offered us a close-up encounter with a Peregrine Falcon. Perched in plain sight, high up a dead tree on the Bill Holland Trail.

    The bird sat peacefully for a few minutes but Peregrines can reach speeds of 320 km/h diving towards prey from a kilometre in the air.

    This was our only Peregrine sighting in 2021, we were able to get a few photographs of our chance visit.

    Peregrines became an endangered species in Canada in 1978 after years of declining numbers starting in the mid 20th century. Some are still under the category of Special Concern.

    Hopefully the Peregrine population will continue to rebound and they will drop by more frequently at “Our Small Wilderness”.

    #6- National Indigenous Peoples’ Day
    By Rev. Nancy Arthur Best

    Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day! Petrie Island has been a place for our First Nations to fish and gather for millennia.
    We are honoured to share some reflections from Reverend Nancy Arthur Best, a strong supporter of the Friends of Petrie Island and a proud member of Indigenous Peoples. Meegwetch for your teaching Nancy.

    “I acknowledge that we are on Unceded Territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people.
    Petrie Island is a holy place to me. I am of Mohawk heritage as well as a United Church of Canada Ordained Minister. Petrie Island allows me to embrace both sides of my spirituality. Our Indigenous Teachings use the phrase “Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren”—all my relations. This embraces the diversity of all creation, on the land, in the water, and in the sky. Petrie Island embodies this.
    Immerse yourself in the multitude of senses experienced year round at Petrie.

    Meegwetch Mother Earth and Turtle Island.”
    Rev. Nancy Best

    #5- Northern Watersnake
    By Paul Lefort

    Northern Watersnake
    Nerodia sipedon sipedon
    La couleuvre d’eau est devenue plus rare, en raison de la destruction de ses habitats. Elle est présente uniquement le long de l’Outaouais et dans la partie sud du Québec, ce qui signifie que ce reptile est susceptible d’être déclaré vulnérable ou menacé. Depuis une vingtaine d’années aucune couleuvre d’eau n’avait été aperçue à l’île Petrie. En 2022, une seule couleuvre d’eau a été vue à l’île. Elles sont relativement abondantes sur la rive nord de la rivière. On peut espérer un accroissement de la population locale. Aspect: écailles dorsales de cette couleuvre sont carénées, coloration sombre avec de larges bandes brunâtres ou rougeâtres, ventre pale avec motifs variables de coloration rouge ou orangé. La tête est entièrement grise ou brune et les lèvres sont marquées de barres foncées verticales. Peut atteindre plus d’un mètre de long.
    La couleuvre d’eau vit en bordure des cours d’eau et des plans d’eau, marais et étangs là où la végétation aquatique est riche. Elle est vivipare, donnant naissance à une trentaine de petits.
    Espèce susceptible d’être désignée menacée ou vulnérable (statut provincial). Principalement présente en Outaouais. Autres populations localisées dans le Sud du Québec.

    THE WATER SNAKE Northern Watersnake Nerodia sipedon sipedon

    The Northern Water Snake has become rarer, due to the destruction of its habitat. It is present only along the Ottawa River and in the southern region of Quebec, which means that it is likely to be declared vulnerable or threatened. For about twenty years, no water snakes had been seen on Petrie Island. In 2022, only one water was spotted on the island, but they are relatively abundant on the north bank of the river. We may hope for an increase in the local population. Appearance: dorsal scales of this snake are keeled, dark colour with wide brownish or reddish bands, pale belly with variable patterns of red or orange. The head is gray or brown, the lips are marked with dark vertical bars. May reach more than a meter. Non-venomous, but sometimes aggressive if disturbed.

    This snake lives along rivers and bodies of water, marshes and ponds where aquatic vegetation is abundant. It is viviparous, giving birth to about thirty young.

    #4 Snapping Turtle- A dinosaur at work

    By David Seburn

    Early one morning at Petrie Island I watched a large Snapping Turtle laying her eggs. It was a quiet part of the island and it was easy to imagine I was in a primordial world with this dinosaurlaying eggs like her ancestors have done for more than 200 million years. She laboured for over an hour, then covered her eggs and lumbered back to the river, sliding into the dark water. So many turtle nests end up as food for raccoons and other nest predators. A female Snapper often lays 20-30 eggs but I have seen nests with more than 60 eggs so those nest predators are robbing Petrie of many future turtles. This year we will try to collect and incubate some nests to help ensure a future for Petrie’s turtles.

    #3 Closed Bottle Gentian

    By Sherry Nigro

    There are a few special features that I love about this wildflower.

    I love that they are late bloomers, bringing their vivid blue colour to late summer and fall. The elliptical shaped flowers stay tightly closed which presents a real challenge to pollinators. In fact only bumblebees are strong enough to push their way into the flower. The pink ladybeetles in the photo must be frustrated.

    Another reason this wildflower is special to me is that I found it with the help from our community of nature lovers at Petrie Island. The generosity and passion of the folks who travel our trails and waterways is inspiring; as is the closed bottle gentian.

    #2- Pink Heelsplitter ( Potamilus alatus)

    Walking and photographing at Petrie over the years has revealed to me many intriguing and less-obvious species living here. Freshwater mussels, also called “clams”, live away from shore in shallow water. Live mussels are not easy to observe, even if their more-recognizable empty shells are frequently found scattered on the beaches. Freshwater mussels live out their lives on the river bottom, nestled in the sand, often under or nearby to plants and wood debris. They contribute to the ecology in important ways by filtering and removing toxins from the water and aerating the surroundings with their movements. Globally endangered, freshwater mussels are protected in Ontario. The Pink Heelsplitter is one species that I see regularly at Petrie Island. Named after its pink-tinted inner lining and the sharp edge of its outer shell, Pink Heelsplitters are one of the unseen but important creatures contributing to the rich wetland biodiversity at Petrie Island.

    By Carol Howard Donati

    #1 Great Blue Heron

    By Michael Ricco

    Oh, how I am captivated by the Great Blue Herons. They are easily my favourite bird and the most enjoyable to photograph.

    The Herons love the shallow bays and wetlands of Petrie Island, and this is where I often see them during my morning visits to Petrie Island. They love to tread slowly through the marshes or fly just above shallow water, looking to catch their next snack or meal.

    They share their space freely with the other birds and the waterfowl that populate Petrie Island.

    In 2021 I was most fortunate to photograph this wonderful bird over 2,200 times.