An Exemplary Ecological Reserve Warden: By Garry Fletcher
From the: THE LOG FRIENDS OF ECOLOGICAL RESERVES NEWSLETTER AUTUMN/WINTER 2014
An Exemplary Ecological Reserve Warden
By Garry Fletcher
Since the Friends of Ecological Reserves (FER) started its new website at www.ecoreserves.bc.ca two years ago, the opportunity has been available for Ecological Reserve (ER) Wardens to submit wardens’ reports and field notes. These reports and field notes on reserves are added to the website for indexing under the individual reserve pages. Some wardens have taken advantage of this ability to get permanent documentation archived about their reserves, and have submitted good reports documenting their reserve visits.
In the past, these reports would end up in difficult to access files in the various BC Parks offices around the province. They now have a permanent home where valuable information is not lost, and is available to future researchers in the reserve.
We would like to acknowledge in particular, one warden who has far surpassed our expectations for regularly submitting excellent quality reports. He sends us copies of his monthly reports from March to November each year.
Laurie Rockwell from Summerland is the ER warden for Trout Creek ER # 7. We urge you to go to the contents page for Trout Creek ER at:
https://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/trout-creek-7/ and click on “Warden’s Reports” to find a list of at least 40 reports by Laurie, which go back to 2010.
I met up with Laurie Rockwell in the fall of 2012 and he showed me through the Trout Creek Reserve. Coming from Vancouver Island, the unique assemblage of plants and animals in this Okanagan Ecosystem were new to me.
Laurie has a good working relationship with Sara Bunge of the local BC Parks Office, and has helped facilitate repairs to the fence line and signage of the reserve. He also is a keen observer of monthly occurrences in the plant and animal communities and records their seasonal changes.
I was impressed with his knowledge of bird-song so that he could develop a good species list of what he had encountered on his visits without having to even see them. Laurie is also continuously on the lookout for patches of invasive species, regularly removing them to prevent them from re-seeding. Sulphur cinquefoil, toadflax and knapweed, are on his hit list, and he has managed through the years, to gain the upper hand, preventing them from spreading and threatening the native species of the reserve.
When people doing research on the ecosystem of the reserve obtain permits from BC Parks to carry out a project in the reserve, Laurie is the first to be contacted as he knows more than anyone else about the workings of this area.
As with most ER Wardens, there are often issues where BC Parks has to be notified. He is regularly reminding BC Parks staff about continuing issues. For instance “fence repairs are outstanding” appears in many of his warden’s reports.)
Following is one typical report from Laurie:
Warden’s Report, Trout Creek Ecological Reserve, Oct 5. 2014
- It was an absolutely superb fall day;15c at 8.30 am, a periodic light breeze, and sunshine flirting for prominence with wispy clouds.
- I saw or heard 15 species of birds that were for the most part active and vocal. I was delighted to see a Pileated Woodpecker (male) which is seldom seen on the reserve. A few migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Western Bluebirds(9) helped make my day, so to speak. I also got the ‘slam’ on nuthatches: Pygmy, Red and White-breasted.
- I saw one insect, a small black fly with delta-shaped wings and large red-orange eyes. It reminded me somewhat of the Urophora fly that attacks knapweed flower, but the colouring was off.
- The only sign of mammals were two Red Squirrels that I heard, some old coyote and bear scat, and a few fresh deer tracks.
- In flower were Rabbit Bush (Ericameria nauseosa), Douglas Knotweed (Polygonum douglasii) and Pasture Sage (Artemesia frigida). I was surprised to see so many Toadflax (Linnaria genistifolia) in seed on the south slope where bio-control beetles have been active. I dug out two small Sulphur Cinquefoil ( Potentilla recta) plants and found none in seed. There is a lush growth of Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Pseuodogenaria spicata) this year. I am happy to see that the old road through the reserve and the trail leading to the reserve are almost overgrown now.
- I found a small, lone Puffball emerging from the soil on this road; is probably Lycoperdon perlatum, the one that explodes when it sends forth its spores. I don’t recall seeing it on the reserve before.
- Fence repairs are outstanding.
- It no longer appears that the golf course is allowing its irrigation water to soak the dryland vegetation on the reserve. This excessive watering encouraged non-native vegetation to grow and flourish.
- There was no sign of human activity. I am always vigilant this time of the year, looking for signs of deer hunting. One positive aspect of this water free reserve is that there is little green plant growth outside of spring to encourage deer and, therefore, (illegal) deer hunters.
The efforts of Ecological Reserve Wardens like Laurie go a long way in providing the level of Citizen Science that would be valuable in every Ecological Reserve. His seasonal records of plant occurrence and phenology and animal migrations can prove invaluable in the long term ecological monitoring of Ecological Reserves. They also provide a good rationale for just why we need to have the Ecological Reserve level of protection in the BC Parks System.
- If we were to reinstitute the recognition once provided by BC Parks at Annual Wardens’ Meetings, Laurie would be the leading candidate for the “BC Parks Ecological Reserve Warden of the Year award.”
Ed Note: Laurie Rockwell passed away in early March of 2017.
Kathryn McCourt has provided this Obituary