Hot, Dry Summer – Hard on Willows and Trees

The Dry Spell is Over – Hopefully

This has been a long hot and dry summer, which has been hard on both our willows and trees that we have planting in recent years. Fortunately, yesterday evening, our first rains have come and today there will be more of the same. It is September 13th today and I can’t remember when we got our last sprinkle, but it was some time ago.

The native willows and trees from previous riparian plantings are starting to turn color and some are showing dead leaves on the terminal ends. However, the plants are established enough to tolerate this past drought. They are planted close enough to the water’s edge that the stream has kept them alive.

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Above: These willows that were planted on an eroding stream bank on the Bighill Creek are showing signs of the drought on their terminal ends. However, they will survive, especially with the rain yesterday and today. The photo was taken last week.

Bow Valley Habitat Development has two more fall plantings planned for mid-October, so any moisture from either rain or snow will help prep the ground for those plantings. A good drenching this week should stay in the ground longer, with the cooler fall weather. Any previously planned plantings are dependent on some luck from our fall moisture prior to the events. Once a date has been picked in advance, we always stick with it. If all goes our way, we will have the fall crop in the ground and dormant for the winter months.

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Primer For Willow Planting Event on West Nose Creek

The Fall 2017 Planting Event

Bow Valley Habitat Development has partnered up with Evergreen Canada and HSBC to complete a fall riparian planting event on West Nose Creek. The planting will take place on Saturday, October 14th, starting at 9:00 AM. The planting is part of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program and Evergreen’s “Uncover Your Creeks Program”. If you live in or near Calgary, Alberta, and you would like to participate, please email me at: info@streamtender.com for maps and details. Below is a primer to familiarize you with the methodology used in this planting event.

How the Planting is Carried out

The system of riparian planting that will be used for the October planting event is called push planting. It involves the careful handling and planting of willow and tree cuttings that have been grown until there is both root and top development. The cuttings are handled below the transition spot between the top growth and the root systems, when they are removed from the bundles. Then, handling only the area where the roots are developed, you push the cutting into the soft ground along the water’s edge.

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The plants are carefully removed from the bundles and placed in planting bags. Handling the cuttings below the top growth. Avoid touching the leaves and branches at the top of the cutting.

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Grasping the cutting on the rooted area will not hurt the plant. The root systems are already started and they will continue to grow if they are sheared off when pushed into the soft – moist ground, along the water’s edge.

The soil is tamped around the stalk of the cutting after it is pushed into the ground. You can use your hands and then finish off with your feet, to tamp the soil. The planting goes really fast using this method.

 

The event will include an educational talk on why the program is being done and the long term benefits to the stream’s riparian eco-system. This event should be good fun and I hope that you will join us if you are interested. Kids over the age of 8 years old can participate in this planting, but they need to be closely supervised by parents. I will be capping the attendance at 100 volunteers, so please contact me ASAP to insure a spot on the team.

The September issue of “Stream Tender Magazine” is now available to view. There is a link on the cover page and in the top index.

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August 2017 – Riparian Planting Report

Great Growing Season Along the Creeks

This past week I visited a few planting sites on both Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek to see how the plants from previous riparian plantings were doing in the dry weather. It has been a dry summer, but getting the rain at the right time this spring made all the difference in survival for this year’s planting program.

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The native willows and trees from this year’s planting and from a few previous years are growing great. During the hot summer days the nights are generally cool enough that there is a good coating of morning dew on the grass and willows along the stream’s edge. This moisture helps maintain a damp soil at ground level and this sustains growth. The plants that we planted are also in the capillary fringe, so wet soil from the water in the creeks keeps them growing during the dry weather.

The forecast is for some rain in the next few days, so as always, I hope that it comes at this time of the month. If so, the willows and trees should make it thru our drought, in good shape for the fall. I will keep you posted.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – July 2017 Update

Great Growing Season – So Far.

Here it is, mid-July has past and the growing season draws to an end. The good news is that our crop of native willows and trees are in great shape at this point in time. We have received rain at the right time to keep the plants growing fast this season. Throughout the spring and summer, I have visited the planting sites from this year’s program on West Nose, Nose and Bighill Creeks and they are all doing well.

During the spring planting program, a total of just over 7,800 plants were put in the ground along the stream banks of all three streams in the program. There are more plants yet to be planted this year, in the fall program, so we will definitely break the 8,000 mark by the time the first snow flies. Another great year and it is not over yet. The key to great survival by the first frost, will be dependent on enough rain thru the later part of the summer months, during the typical dry period.

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Left Photo: This sandbar willow was planted along West Nose Creek, in Calgary, in the first week of May and the photo to the left was taken mid-July this year. Sandbar willow is an ideal plant for developing dense roots and spreading out along the stream bank. It forms a clonal colony from its network of roots. The willow plant is also well equipped to handle heavy beaver grazing, once it has established a thicket. The plant is a good nitrogen fixer and it will help enrich the soil along the creeks.

Great growth rates during the growing season, for our willow and tree crop, will help insure a better survival rate come next spring. The majority of spring planting was completed by the end of May this year, so the plants definitely had a head start to the growing season. When they were planted, the plants already had both root and top development; this was the key to advanced growth this spring.

Great Rainbow Trout Hatch on the JP Creek in 2016

This July, thousands of juvenile rainbow trout were observed on the Bow River, in the Town of Cochrane. The small trout were present as a result of a successful spawn and hatch during the 2016 spring spawning season on Jumpingpound Creek.

I first spotted rising juvenile trout in the Bow River, in the first week of July, while doing an early morning walk down to the river. In order to confirm that they were rainbow trout, I decided to conduct an angling survey a few days later. I would need to use a small trout fly pattern to catch such tiny trout, but this is something that I have done before and it is actually good fun.

After countless numbers of small trout hitting my fly pattern and some briefly being hooked, I did manage to hook a number of juvenile rainbow trout and some brown trout while conducting my angling survey. This was great news to report when I had landed and identified both juvenile trout species, while fly fishing the river. It not only confirmed a successful spawn and hatch of rainbow trout in 2016, but I was also able to confirm successful reproduction of brown trout as well. Good news for the future of the fishery.DSCF1691 cropped

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Left Photo: This small rainbow trout was from the 2016 spawning event on the Jumpingpound Creek. There were hundreds of them in the reach of the Bow River that I was fishing in early July this year. It has been a few years since the last successful rainbow trout hatch on the JP Creek, so seeing a new generation present, is great.DSCF1693 cropped


Right Photo: This is a Juvenile brown trout
DSCF1693 cropped is from either the Bighill Creek spawning or a known spawning habitat in the our reach of the Bow River. It is about time I had some good news to report about our reach of the Bow River’s fishery. Especially after the reported whirling disease outbreak in the Bow River, this past year. None of the trout showed signs of the disease.

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2017 June Riparian Planting Update

Native Plants are Growing Fast

This year, we have experienced great growing conditions in our area. The ground along the stream banks has maintained good moisture since our first plantings in early May this spring. If we don’t get any significant floods on the local streams, the riparian plantings on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek should fair well. The lush growth along the streams has also distracted rodent populations from focusing on our new native willows and trees thus far.

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Left: This willow plant was planted in the first week of May this spring. The photo was taken in the third week of June, so you can see the plants are doing well this early in the season. Good growth by the fall will help insure high survival rates for the entire crop of native willows and trees.

The plant in the photo is one of many planted on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. Over 4,000 plants will be planted on this stream in 2017, so it is another great year.                                                                                           

In total, there will be over 8,000 native willows and trees planted this season. The distance of stream bank planted will be approximately over 7 kilometres on all three streams in the program. The riparian plantings are part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The program is an ongoing riparian recovery project carried out by Bow Valley Habitat Development and its many partners.

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Spring Riparian Planting Program Complete

June 8th, ATCO Planting on West Nose Creek

On June 8th, of this spring, the final spring riparian planting was completed on West Nose Creek in the City of Calgary. A total of 12 volunteers from ATCO planted 500 native willow plants along the stream banks of West Nose in a matter of a few hours of volunteer time. 400 plants were provided by ATCO and another 100 by Bow Valley Habitat Development for the event.

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left: Volunteers from ATCO pose behind the 500 native willow plants at the start of the June 8th planting event on West Nose Creek. It only took a few hours of hard work to plant the native crop into a soft – moist soil along the edge of the stream. This is the fifth year that ATCO has participated in the riparian recovery program.

ATCO got involved with the riparian recovery program that Bow Valley Habitat Development organized, back in 2013, when they completed their first planting on Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. They have always provided a great planting team of volunteers for our riparian recovery program and it is my hope that this will continue into the future.

The planting was part of the ATCO “Day of Caring” annual event. The planting was also part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. Bow Valley Habitat Development has more planting planned for the fall of 2017. So far this year, we have planted a total of 7,730 native willow and tree plants on Bighill Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek.

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June 2017 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

New Issue of Magazine

I just recently uploaded the June issue of Stream Tender Magazine. Hopefully, you will check this publication out for the latest news and updates. The magazine is formatted to be viewed on a computer screen, so keep this in mind.

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Update

So far this spring, the total number of native willows and trees planted is 7,230, which is a great start to this year’s BVRR&E Program. There are more plantings in both June and later on this fall, which will bring the total to over 8,000 plants. Another great year.

Recently, I visited West Nose Creek to see how the plants from the first week of May’s planting are doing. I am happy to report that the survival rate is high so far, with limited rodent damage. It has been a good spring for plantings so far, with plenty of moisture in the ground along the area streams.

While inspecting this year’s plantings, I also stopped off at last years sites. Despite a major flood in July on West Nose Creek, there are still a good portion of last year’s plants that are doing well. Dealing with floods and rodent damage is part of the program, so seeing survival numbers in some planting locations high is very rewarding.

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Left: 

This is one of the plants that was planted three weeks earlier on West Nose Creek. The willow plant is off to a good start for this year’s growing season.

 

 

 

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Left:

There are three plants in this photo, from last year’s planting on West Nose Creek. Later on this summer they will be hidden in the tall shoreline grasses, but right now they stand out. Some will be grazed upon by rodents such as muskrats, when the plants are still this small.

 

 

Stream Bank Stabilization Sites on West Nose Creek

As of this year’s planting program, there are over 100 stream bank stabilization sites on West Nose Creek. This spring some major erosion sites were planted with the first treatment of native willows. Due to the high flow events on this stream, during heavy rainfalls in the spring and summer, the first plantings were done high on the banks.

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Left:

This eroding stream bank has its first planting of native willows, high above the waterline. Hopefully, these new plants will stabilize this stream bank over time.

 

 

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This close up photo shows the first planting treatment on the eroding stream bank on West Nose Creek. The root systems of these plants will help to hold the exposed soil on the bank in place, over time.

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Spring Riparian Plantings Moving Along

Student Planting Event

On May 25th, a group of CW Perry Middle School students showed up on a planting site on Nose Creek, in the City of Airdrie. The teacher, Mike Dow, had contacted me earlier in the year about getting involved in the riparian planting program along Nose Creek, which flows close to the school. We organized an event for a student group in late May and yesterday the project was completed as planned.

In approximately 2 hours, the group of 4 adults and 12 students planted 200 native willow plants over approximately a 200 metre reach of the Nose Creek. The planting went very fast, most likely attributed to the cool morning temperatures that encouraged all of the young planters to keep moving to stay warm. It was good fun and the kids did a great job of planting the new crop of riparian growth.

Due to the nearby location of the school, both teachers and students can monitor the recovery of the riparian zone at the planting site in future years. There is a good chance that we can get together and do another planting next year.

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Bighill Creek Bank Stabilization Sites

There are a total of 58 stream bank stabilization sites that have been planted in recent years, as part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The stream is close to my home, so occasional visits to the sites is common practice. This spring, some of the plants from previous plantings are starting to stand out on the eroding stream banks that have been planted. Over time, the root systems from the native willow plants will help to stabilize the eroding slopes and reduce the amount of annual silt loading.

DSCF1547 enhanced small fileAbove: This stream bank stabilization site on the Bighill Creek has a good crop of native willow plants that had been planted over the previous three years. The growth is slow at the site, but the surviving native willows are well rooted and helping to hold the soil in place on the steep outside bend in the stream channel.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2017 – May 21st Update

2017 Program Underway

The 2017 BVRR&E Program is well underway, with good numbers of native willows and trees in the ground so far. The planting program started in the first week of May and conditions for planting have been really good, with moist ground along the stream banks making the soil ideal for planting the new plants.

As of today, May 21st, there are 5,800 plants planted along the stream banks of Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek. Most of the planting over the past 3 years has occurred on Bighill Creek’s limited planting area of approximately 1.7 kilometres of stream bank, with a number of bank stabilization sites added on to this length of channel. Because of this intensive planting on the Bighill Creek, the multiple plantings are showing the best results.

DSCF1507 cropped and enhancedAbove: Willows from previous plantings are standing out along the stream banks of Bighill Creek these days. The multiple plantings on the BH Creek in recent years has resulted in the most obvious recovery in the riparian zone, especially along the water’s edge.

On Nose Creek and West Nose Creek, new lengths of stream channel are getting the first planting, so the recovery of the riparian zone will take longer to be recognized, but it will happen over time. The Bighill Creek planting program is getting close to being completed, so you can expect more photo evidence of this in future publications of this blog and the Stream Tender Magazine. I look forward to showing you some good before and after photos in the near future.

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Great News for Bighill Creek Trout Fishery

Upper Spring Creek Brook Trout Hatch a Success

One of the most important spawning tributaries to the Bighill Creek is located further up the system. Its location makes it a very important spawning habitat for recruiting new generations of trout into the Bighill Creek annually. It is better to have recruitment on the upper reaches of the Bighill Creek, because the newly hatched trout will easily work their way down the system, rather that have to fight their way upstream. Due to a number of beaver dams, the task of upstream migration is very difficult for trout of all sizes.

In the fall of 2016, there were record numbers of brook trout redds, mapped and documented on the Upper Spring Creek. It was very important that a successful incubation of those eggs and a hatch of new trout would occur this spring. I am happy to report that the eggs are hatching and new trout are emerging from the spawning beds this spring. With an emergence window of over two weeks, the signs of early hatching and the appearance of juvenile brook trout fry holds great promise for the tributary.

IMG_5801 cropped small fileAbove: This 2017 brook trout fry was holding in shallow lateral margin habitat, and I was able to take this close up of the tiny trout. It thought that it was safe, holding in a cover of detritus while I stocked in close for a photo or two. The large head and eyes are a dead giveaway for a newly hatched trout fry.

With successful hatches also occurring on Millennium Creek and Ranch House Spring Creek this spring, we can look forward to a huge increase in the trout populations on Bighill Creek. There was also substantial spawning that occurred in the main stem of the Bighill, but verification of that hatch is very difficult to determine, without a timely investigation. However, I suspect that with the clean flows of the creek during the fall and winter, there should be a relatively good hatch as well.

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