It has been an ongoing effort at HCA to help turtles find safe and suitable places to nest within our watershed, and particularly along the lower Spencer Creek. Turtles like to nest in areas that are sandy or gravely, which is often around roads and trails. As you can imagine, this can put our hard-shelled friends and their offspring into grave danger.
For the last eight years, HCA has been installing and maintaining turtle nest beds along the lower Spencer Creek Trail in Dundas, providing safe and suitable habitat for turtles to lay their eggs. In 2016, three nest beds were installed and later in 2019, further nesting material was added.
Most recently, in March 2023, HCA added supports, as well as new nest bed materials since the old gravel was very compacted. The supports will ensure that the new material won’t slide down the slope.
During this maintenance, it was decided to only fix two of the three nesting beds, and remove the signage as well. When the beds were fixed in 2019, interpretive signs were installed to provide information to the public about the project. This seemed like a good idea initially, but it was found that people would stand on the nest beds to read the signs. Standing on nest beds can lead to eggs/hatchlings getting crushed by accident and contribute to compaction of the nesting medium. The third nesting bed wasn’t being used or preferred by the local turtle population, so it was not repaired. It was decided to leave the sign in place at this bed to provide information to the public.
An ecologist was present to watch for any eggs or hatchlings while construction maintenance was occurring since some species can overwinter as hatchlings in nests. Turtles don’t nest until May so this was a great time to perform some maintenance work on the nest beds. Now they are ready for the turtles to use this summer!
Monitoring of the nest beds at lower Spencer Creek is done by the Dundas Turtle Watch. Volunteers check in on the nests through the summer, and will install nest protectors if they find a turtle has laid eggs. This prevents predators, like raccoons, from disturbing the nest and eating the eggs.
Environment and Climate Change Canada, through the Great Lakes Protection Initiative (GLPI), helped to fund the project at Spencer Creek in 2016 and 2023.
Other turtle nesting projects at HCA
At Valens Lake Conservation Area in 2022, new turtle nest beds were made with leftover materials from the cabin construction. The new beds were created near the reservoir to allow turtles a place to nest without having to cross the main road through the area. In the past, some hatchlings had been found squished on the road from having to cross over to get back to the reservoir.
HCA has also used the turtle nest protectors that were built by student volunteers. Learn more.
This project was undertaken with the financial support of Environment and Climate Change Canada.