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Expert opinion on UXO removal from Ostrander Point

Letter from Dr. Charles R. Smith, Ph.D. to Mr. Charles Birchall Fogler, Rubinoff LLP – September 9, 2011. 

The original letter appears as a pdf. doc below.

 I’m writing in response to your enquiry of earlier today, regarding current activities to remove unexploded ordinance (UXO) from the Ostrander Point Site. I was able to visit the site on 4 and 5 September 2011, spending 8 hours in the field and walking 3.8 miles on the site, except in an area where I was excluded by workers removing UXO on the site (near Munitions Response Site 1 on the map you provided). I was not able to see personally any of the work depicted in the pictures you’ve provided by e-mail. I must say, however, given what I’ve seen in the pictures, that I am incredulous that work of the kind depicted would be undertaken without first having an environmental impact assessment of the potential effects of such work on plants and animals.

Specifically, the work is being conducted during the peak period of fall migration for many songbirds and birds of prey, including endangered, threatened, and sensitive species. Ostrander Point already is identified as an Important Bird Area and significant stopover location for migrating songbirds and birds of prey. From my own recent observations at the site, it is rich with food sources for migrating songbirds, including the fruits of two juniper species (Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana, and Common Juniper, Juniperus communis), along with substantial amounts offruits from multiple species of shrub dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and seeds from multiple species of asters and goldemods. All of these foods are essential to providing nutrition and energy to allow migratory songbirds to continue their migrations. In addition, birds of prey time their migrations to take advantage of the abundances of their songbird prey. Habitat disturbance not only disrupts the movement and feeding patterns of migratory songbirds, but also the birds of prey which depend upon the songbirds for food during migration. The work currently ongoing at Ostrander Point is destroying plants that provide important foods and cover for migrating songbirds. Clearing the areas within the circles outlined in red on the map you provided will adversely affect a significant percentage of the habitats at the Ostrander Point wind turbine site.

On 5 September 2011 , while I was walking an unmaintained road from Helmer Road to the shore of Lake Ontario, on the southwestern side of the site (including Munitions Response Site 3, shown on the map you provided), I was surprised to see a male and female Merlin (Falco columbarius), a medium-sized falcon. Male and female Merlins have different and distinctive plumages, allowing a skilled observer to identify the two sexes, especially at close range. The birds initially flew very close to me (within 20 feet or less), calling and behaving in a manner suggesting that they were territorial on the site, though it is late in the season. I watched the female for several minutes with 8 power binoculars, while she perched and called from the top of an Eastern Red Cedar, approximately 20 yards distant from me. This species was reported as a Fall migrant from the site during surveys conducted by observers working for Stantec, but no evidence of possible breeding was reported. There is a confirmed breeding record of Merlin from an area just Northwest of Point Petrie (Cadman et al., 2007, Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005, p. 192). The habitat removal currently being conducted at the Ostrander Point Site is a significant disturbance to these Merlins.

 In addition, during my recent visit to the site, I observed adults and caterpillars of the Giant Swallowtail butterfly, a species ” … considered sporadic and rare in Canada, except in southwestern Ontario, where it can be commonly encountered at Point Pelee, PeleeIsland, and a few other locations where the foodplants grow.” (Layberry, Hall, and LaFontaine, 1998, Butterflies of Canada, p. 86). Note that the area specified is west and south of Ostrander Point. The native food plant of Giant Swallowtail caterpillars is a small shrub, Pricklyash (Zanthoxylum americanum), which is common on the Ostrander Point site. The butterfly caterpillar is extremely specialized and has no other native food plants. During my visit to the site, I found at least 6 caterpillars of the butterfly along a 0.7 mile stretch of unmaintained roadway between Helmer Road and the shore of Lake Ontario, as described above. All the caterpillars were on Pricklyash shrubs. Among the pictures of current activities on the site, one picture clearly shows a corridor cut through a patch of Prickiyash. Any caterpillars on Pricklyash plants removed by current clearing activities will be destroyed, thereby affecting the viability of next year’s population of adult Giant Swallowtail butterflies on the site.

 I hope this information and assessment is useful. If you have questions, or require additional information, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Charles R. Smith, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate

 Dr C Smith Birchall-0021

Birchall

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