Wild at Heart - ALUS Canada
ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby are on a mission to create wildlife habitat that benefits the natural world around them.
ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby have incorporated wildlife corridors, erosion controls, pollinator habitat, wildlife nesting structures and many other conservation features on Fairnorth Farm, a 51-acre cash-crop operation in Langton, Ontario.
“One of the things I love about being involved with ALUS is being part of a like-minded community,” says Kathryn. “It’s a pleasure to learn from others, to share experiences and challenges.”
Since joining ALUS in 2012, the Boothbys have enrolled nearly eight acres into the program. Their 18 distinct ALUS projects include wetlands, grasslands and reforested areas that produce ecosystem services such as cleaner air, cleaner water and more biodiversity for the benefit of the community.
One of their ALUS projects consists of a dug-out wetland, which they now maintain as habitat for numerous amphibian and reptile species, as well as birds.
ALUS also helps the Boothbys maintain a native prairie grass buffer zone running between a ravine and an agricultural field. This buffer helps prevent the sides of the ravine from eroding further, reduces sediments and nutrients from entering the waterway and provides habitat for native birds and pollinators.
Passionate about gardening, Kathryn has successfully increased the number and variety of plants in a dedicated area of her farm. She enjoys starting plants from seed and researching the best host plants for butterflies.
“Kathryn was one of the first ALUS participants to install our native prairie demonstration garden,” said Stephanie Drayer, ALUS Norfolk’s Program Coordinator. Situated along the roadway at the front of the property, this impressive garden showcases the beautiful prairie grass and wildflower species used in native tallgrass prairie restoration, with ALUS signage to assist with plant identification.
“When people ask why we aren’t cutting our ‘weeds,’ I see it as a great opportunity to talk about our conservation efforts, and the benefits of native plants and wildlife corridors,” said Kathryn. “The ALUS Norfolk Demonstration Garden acts as an additional learning opportunity for visitors.”
Kathryn is also actively involved with Carolinian Canada, and has participated on the boards of several local conservation groups, including the Otter Valley Naturalists and the Long Point Basin Land Trust. Indeed, many of the Boothbys’ ALUS projects began with assistance from other groups, such as the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Power Generation, Norfolk Stewardship Council, Long Point Basin Land Trust and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
Even before joining ALUS, the Boothbys worked long and hard to transform their property into land that also works for wildlife.
“When we moved here in 2005, our first project involved removing 3 and a half tonnes of garbage from the ravine and stream, and addressing the significant erosion that was occurring there,” Kathryn recalls. “In no time, the seed heads from the newly established grasses were attracting various species of birds. That was just the beginning for us.”
They went on to improve opportunities for their woodland wildlife, such as red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers, by managing their woodlot appropriately and augmenting it with more than 10,000 trees. The Boothbys even had a drainage pipe closed to provide better bog habitat for amphibians and wet-footed plants in a swampy area of their land.
They also installed two dozen nesting boxes for Eastern bluebirds and tree swallows through ALUS, plus a snake nesting structure that is now used by Eastern hog-nosed and other at-risk snake species.
“Our purple martin colony now supports 25 breeding pairs, with over 300 young fledged in just seven years,” Kathryn reports.
They planted hundreds of shrubs and flowers in a grassland that hums with pollinators and dragonflies, as well as bobolinks, meadowlarks, and more than 60 different species of butterfly, including the variegated fritillary, the bronze copper, and the rare white M hairstreak. Even the federally and provincially endangered North American badger has been recorded on Fairnorth Farm.
Clearly, ALUS Norfolk participants Kathryn and Michael Boothby are on a mission to create wildlife habitat that benefits the natural world around them. And ALUS is only too happy to help.