The western painted turtle is the last remaining species of freshwater turtle found in the capital region. (Photo courtesy of Paige Erickson-McGee)

The western painted turtle is the last remaining species of freshwater turtle found in the capital region. (Photo courtesy of Paige Erickson-McGee)

Metchosin Earth Day event celebrates western painted turtles, biodiversity

Inaugural event filled with nature walks, food, music

Metchosinites are invited to celebrate turtles and biodiversity and Earth Day with live music, a barbecue and guided nature tours on April 14.

The inaugural Metchosin Community Earth Day Celebration takes place at the Boys and Girls Club on Metchosin Road and is co-hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of Victoria, Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Metchosin Biodiversity Project.

Since 2011, the District of Metchosin has been the focus of a series of biological inventories conducted by the Metchosin Biodiversity project.

The group has hosted events called bioblitzes and mycoblitzes (fungus and mushrooms), which are expert-led inventories of all flora and fauna found on that day. The events have helped identify 2,400 different species in Metchosin, ranging from slugs to orchids to mushrooms to plankton.

This year, the Earth Day Celebration is another event that the organization has decided to take on with the help of other local groups.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore nature on a beautiful property in the community,” said Paige Erickson-McGee, stewardship coordinator at Habitat Acquisition Trust. “The Boys and Girls Club have been dedicated HAT habitat stewards on this property for over eight years and they’re hosts to two endangered animals: the western painted turtle and the blue-grey taildropper slug.”

The Boys and Girls Club provides a home for the western painted turtle which is the last remaining species of freshwater turtle found in the capital region. The painted turtle needs to have access to good quality nesting near their ponds and several of the turtles have been struck by vehicles on the road as they try to get from pond to pond.

Erickson-McGee said providing good nesting spaces for the turtles near ponds can help prevent them from getting hit by vehicles.

At the Metchosin Outdoor Centre property, five painted turtles have already been spotted this year and are out of hibernation by mid-March. The turtles will lay their eggs in the summer from May to July and the hatchlings will come out of their eggs but stay in their underground nest over winter.

They typically emerge the next spring between March and April.

“If the distance between nest and pond is small, there will be reduced risk of predation of the turtle hatchlings,” Erickson-McGee said.

Habitat Acquisition Trust will be hosting a nesting restoration work party during the event and will be installing a time-lapse wildlife camera to hopefully catch the nesting in action over the summer.

The Earth Day Celebration is open-house style and will take place between noon and 3 p.m. It is free to the public and barbecue food will be available by donation.

The Boys and Girls Club offer outdoor games and indoor crafts between walks.

Visitors will be able to discover 99 acres of wilderness through expert-led walks and the Metchosin Biodiversity Project will be offering training on the use of the iNaturalist phone app to do biological inventories yourself.

There will also be a photo scavenger hunt, a keep-the-earth alive big balloon bounce, interactive games, nature displays and prizes.

More information can be found at metchosinbiodiversity.com.

Schedule of walks:

Noon – iSpy – How to use iNaturalist; smart phone-based photo ID and list-making of local species.

1 p.m. – Plants Galore! A Native Plant Walk for all knowledge levels.

2 p.m. – Habitat Walk – Who lives where? Great for the whole family.

The address is 3900 Metchosin Rd. Parking will be at the main lot. Follow the signs to the camp centre, additional parking will be on Brotherstone Road and down Duke Road.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com

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