You’ve perhaps read W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, or seen classic film Field of Dreams, but odds are even if you haven’t you’ve heard the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” In the story, the main character is instructed to build a baseball diamond for the spirits of baseball legend. He does, and sure enough, the ghostly players show up once their terrain has been prepared.
Skip across a country, out of the pages of a novel and into the world of reality, and the same still holds true at Perth Wildlife Reserve. Not, of course, with long-dead ball players, but with a plethora of wildlife species, some of which are rare or endangered. This Rideau Valley Conservation Authority property located just outside of Perth is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and the site of an active wildlife management program. The conservation authority increases wildlife habitat though initiatives such as reforestation, nesting sites, and annual plantings of alfalfa and clover.
Visitors can hike the 2.5 km looped trail around the property, which is punctuated by interpretive signs, provided they stay on the path and leave their dogs at home. Also available at the front entrance is a handy trail guide with more information about the various habitat enriching projects you’ll pass along the way.
Setting off on the trail, I watched some butterflies flitting around a meadow, then saw chipmunks and red squirrels racing along an old stone fence. I paused by a viewing screen that overlooks a pond and caught sight of some ducks sitting serenely in the afternoon sun. A little further along, I stopped to see if I could spot any Stinkpot or Blandings turtles in the basking area that has been built for them at Jebbs Creek. They were camera shy, but I did have to stop and yield the right of way to more hopping frogs than I could count and one slithering snake as I crossed the marshy area. I climbed up the stairs of another observation platform, and was treated to a striking view over the Tay Marsh.
One of the wonderful things about this area is that every visit will be different, depending on the season, the day, and which of the reserve’s residents venture out to areas where they can be viewed. Deer, ducks, Canada geese, rabbits, bluebirds, wild turkeys and other species all make their homes here, but don’t always choose to show themselves. If you’re quiet and attentive, however, the odds are definitely in your favour that you’ll catch sight of some of the creatures that live here. Perth Wildlife Reserve is a particularly exciting place in the fall when migratory birds create a feathered flurry of activity as they pause here on their journey south.
One of my favorite things about the information panels along the trail were the hints and tips on how we as individuals can help to make our properties more inviting to species such as monarch butterflies, turtles, and flying squirrels. It’s encouraging to think that there are small things we can do to enrich the environment and the life around us. Another way you can participate in the conservation effort is to fill out the form in the observation tower by the main entrance to let the conservation authority know if you have spotted any species at risk. The task is made simple by interpretive signage in the observation tower and along the trail letting visitors know what they should keep an eye out for.
Interactive and interpretive, Perth Wildlife Reserve lets you take a walk on the wild side and leaves its visitors inspired to keep their eyes and ears open, on their next visit to the reserve and in their own backyards.
Perth Wildlife Reserve is only one of many Conservation Areas in Ontario that offer great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. To find other Conservation Areas near you, go to www.ontarioconservationareas.ca.
Melissa Rodgers is a student at Carleton University. Her passions include history, cooking, reading, and the great outdoors.
Flowers growing along the banks of the Tay Marsh
A secure nesting site for waterfowl
Looking through the window of the observation screen
The view over the Tay Marsh from the observation tower