It’s Time To Walk The Great Trails And See The Wildlife Again At Aylmer WMA

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A world-class viewing area for tundra swans on their way north in spring. Picture: © Elgin Stewardship Council.

Elgin County:  Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and its partners have completed a significant milestone in the ongoing habitat maintenance and restorations at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

A year of hard work has improved the wetlands and grasslands and removed invasive species, ensuring the ongoing health of the wildlife habitats. The community’s patience with the time needed to repair the wetland functions and establish new habitats has been rewarded with more birds and other wildlife to see this summer.

The restoration work completed at Aylmer WMA is a prime example of how DUC works with local partners to help communities achieve their conservation goals. The partners—DUC, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Elgin Stewardship Council—have collaborated at Aylmer WMA for more than 20 years.

As visitors return to the trails and viewing towers, they’ll be met by a vibrant ecosystem teeming with birds and other wildlife. The Aylmer WMA shelters many thousands of birds every year, including the spring-migration spectacle of white tundra swans. Remarkably, the habitat is “man-made”, evolving over decades from World War II airfield to a wildlife oasis in the heart of farm country north of Lake Erie.

Migrating and breeding birds find food and shelter in the wetlands, native plantings, nest boxes, pollinator habitat and tallgrass meadows. Avian visitors include a resident bald eagle, turkeys, ducks, geese, osprey, bluebirds, meadowlarks, warblers, savanna sparrows, bobolinks and Sandhill cranes.

The Aylmer WMA is now open to visitors again, just a two-hour drive from Toronto and less than an hour from London. Walk the trails and see the wildlife from four viewing stands—one can be reached by wheelchair. In this difficult time, we can practice healthy social distancing outside on the trails while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.

John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, said:  “The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is a real success story, turning a former air force base into a prime habitat for a variety of wetland species. I’m so very proud of Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Elgin Stewardship Council, for creating and preserving biodiversity in this valuable wetland.”

Dr. Duncan Sinclair, Elgin County resident and past president of Ducks Unlimited Canada, said: “The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is a world-class viewing area for tundra swans on their way north to nest in March. You may see hundreds to thousands of swans. Come and visit us, and see what the partnership has done for waterfall, shorebirds and other wildlife..”

Ron Casier, manager of Aylmer WMA, Elgin Stewardship Council, added: “We know it’s been a long year and we are really happy to welcome you back to come and see the wetland restoration work. Also, the council has added five new wetlands to add to the biodiversity of the area.”

“The Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is a beautiful wildlife oasis in Southwestern Ontario. We see turkey, deer, a local resident bald eagle, numerous waterfowl and shorebirds, lots of songbirds, rare birds like bobolink, meadowlark and sandhill cranes pass through here,” said Dave Richards, resource management coordinator, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Aylmer District)

“Large wetlands in Ontario are more valuable today than ever before. And at Ducks Unlimited, many of our smaller projects are located on private lands away from public view. Large, publicly accessible sites such as Aylmer are extremely important because they provide opportunities for you to go and walk on the trails and see all of the wildlife, as well,” according to Jeff Krete, conservation specialist at Ducks Unlimited Canada

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The Aylmer WMA is publicly owned land that served during World War II as RCAF Station Aylmer, an airfield built for Canada’s massive wartime pilot training program. The 338-acre (137-hectare) property was purchased by the Province of Ontario in the 1960s. Today, it is an Important Bird Area and the pond complex is a provincially significant wetland.

The site is overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and daily operations are managed through a partnership agreement with the Elgin Stewardship Council.

There are about 80 acres (32 hectares) of wildlife habitat including wetlands, tallgrass prairie, meadow and native plantings. Ducks Unlimited Canada manages the wetland habitats, funded in partnership with the MNRF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture for migratory birds.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) delivers wetland conservation that benefits every Canadian. DUC has completed nearly 4,000 habitat projects in Ontario and conserved almost one million acres of wetlands and associated habitats. (Globe Newswire).

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