Today is a day to raise awareness about species that are at risk, and to promote their conservation for the future. To celebrate this day, we have created a quick overview of the endangered species that have been observed on OFT protected properties.
The Butternut is a medium sized, deciduous tree that looks very similar to the Black Walnut (OMECP(a), 2021). One way to tell the difference between a Butternut and a Black Walnut is to look at the shape of the fruit. Butternuts produce oblong nuts that smell like citrus and are sticky to the touch, whereas Black Walnuts produce round fruits that are not sticky (OMECP(a), 2021)! This tree likes to grow in sunny areas where it does not have to compete with other trees for sunlight. The main threat to the Butternut tree is the Butternut Canker, a fungal disease that specifically targets this species (OMECP(a), 2021). When we observe Butternuts on our protected farms, we make sure to document the health of the tree and if signs of Butternut Canker are present. This way, we can monitor the overall health of each Butternut annually.
Henslow’s Sparrows are small songbirds that possess a typical tan colouration like other sparrows. However, the Henslow’s Sparrow can be distinguished by vertical dark streaks on its back and olive tinged feathers on its head (OMECP(b), 2021). The distinct song of this sparrow is one of the easiest ways to identify this species in the field (listen here). Did you know that the Henslow’s Sparrow has the shortest song of any songbird in North America (OMECP(b), 2021)? These birds live in open fields with tall grasses and some shrubs (OMECP(b), 2021), a type of habitat that is rare in Ontario. As such, they are often found living in pastures and hay fields on farms that act as suitable substitutes!
Common Five-lined Skink
The Common Five-lined Skink is the only lizard native to Ontario (OMECP(c), 2022)! The Skink is usually black, with five cream-coloured lines running vertically down its back (OMECP(c), 2022). Juveniles even have bright blue tails! During the summer, this lizard can be found sunning itself on rocks and logs in clearings around wetlands and in open forests, or hiding under woody debris. There are only two populations of this species in Ontario, one along the southern end of the Canadian Shield, and another along the shores of Lakes Huron and Erie (OMECP(c), 2022).
The Ontario Farmland Trust is the only province-wide land trust that focuses on protecting both the farmland and the natural features of a farm property. Our Farmland Easement Agreements protect the entire farm ecosystem, including habitat for many species of wildlife. In addition to the endangered species listed above, we have observed many other species at risk (species classified as special concern and threatened by the government) on our protected properties. These include Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Snapping Turtle, Eastern Musk Turtle, Monarch, and more!
Read more about our protected properties here!
Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (OMECP) (a). (2021). Butternut. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/butternut-species-risk
Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (OMECP) (b). (2019). Henslow’s Sparrow. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/henslows-sparrow
Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (OMECP) (c). (2019). Common five-lined Skink. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/common-five-lined-skink