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Stream Tender Magazine

Articles by : Guy Woods and Contributors

November 2018 Issue

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Planted Willows Are Providing Great Overhead Cover

    Native willows and trees that were planted along the water’s edge on Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek are now providing shade and overhead cover for resident fish, including trout. This is classified as trout habitat, so we can add that to the list of our accomplishments in our riparian planting program.

    Every year that we plant, we are creating new fish habitat, which will mean more trout in future years, if they fishery is managed properly. Planting native willows and trees right along the water’s edge, on small spring creeks, is a super good way of creating fish habitat, at a low cost, which is always an important factor!

Above: These willows were planted on the stream bank on Bighill Creek, four years earlier, and they are now providing overhead cover.

The Signs Of A Beautiful Fall  -  Brook Trout Spawning

    The most beautiful trout to spawn in our local streams is the brook trout. The male brook trout develops brilliant colors during the later part of the open water season, in preparation for its spawning ritual. Dark olive, with a splash of bright red, orange and white make the trout easy to spot in

the shallow water where they spawn a new generation of trout eggs.

    The clear flowing headwater springs are the best location to observe the colourful brook trout, while they spawn. The murky waters of the main stem of creeks like Bighill Creek makes it harder to spot them

on the bottom of the stream channel, over gravel beds, where they lay their eggs.

    Both brook trout and brown trout are very colourful during the fall spawning season. It is something that I look forward to watching every year.

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program  -  Update

    It has been five years of planting in the BVRRE Program so far and we are starting to see some promising results. The plantings we did three and four years ago are starting to grow large enough that they stand out in a photo.

    By planting right along the water’s edge, new habitat is being created by the native willow and tree varieties used in the riparian planting program. Both the volunteer planters and the partners in the program have been waiting patiently for their investment in time and dollars to show some positive benefits, and this is now happening along the stream in the program.

    Bow Valley Habitat Development will continue to showcase some of these great results in future publications of this magazine and the Stream Tender Blog site. Our video contributions will continue on YouTube as well.

Student Volunteer Planters Commit To 2019 Planting Season

    Bow Valley Habitat Development has already received a commitment to participate for the 2019 planting program. CW Perry Middle School has planted on Nose Creek during the 2017 and 2018 program, and they are now confirmed for the 2019 planting program in the City of Airdrie, Alberta.

    The middle school students are great planters and their contribution will be something to admire into the future, when the small native plants start to shape the landscape along Nose Creek. The students walk from their nearby school to plant, so they will also be in a position to inspect the results in future years.

    The annual planting event also provides some environmental education to add extra interest to the school class outing.

Spawning Trout Numbers Are Down On Bighill Creek This Year

    There is a definite decline in the number of mature trout spawning in the main channel of Bighill Creek these days. Even the brook trout that were spawning this fall were smaller in size, than in previous years. I could count the number of large brown trout spawning on one hand this fall, which is alarming.

    When the fishing regulation change went into place in 2017, from a one trout under 35 cm harvest to a two trout of any size daily limit, I knew trouble for the trout population was on its way. I contacted the local fisheries biologist and warned that the new regulation change was unsustainable on a small stream like the Bighill Creek, but my concerns were rejected.

    Local fly fishers have been working to restore the fishery on Bighill Creek for many years now, and the lack of provincial support is very annoying; to say the least.

Native Willow and Tree Plants Grown From Cuttings

    In the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” all of the native plants are from existing native stock in the watershed. Cuttings are collected, grown and then planted, so that indigenous plants can continue to dominate the watershed and maintain historic biodiversity in the riparian zone.

    All of the cuttings are small in diameter and when they are collected, the source crop of willows and trees is left intact with little noticeable impact. Bow Valley Habitat Development prefers to use straight cuttings of a certain length, so not every branch is acceptable on a willow bush.

    BVHD has been collecting cuttings from the same locations for years, without any complaints or damage to the existing natural landscape. The trimmings from the cuttings are gone from site after one year’s growing cycle. The ground grasses cover the trimmings and they bio-degrade into the topsoil.

    Using this method of planting, we can insure that only native varieties of willows and trees are used to restore riparian areas where no willows or trees are present. Invasive shrubs and trees can alter a streams entire eco-system if plants other than those that historically grew along the riparian areas of a river or creek.

Stream Bank Stabilization Sites  -  Coming Along Nicely

    If there is one facet of our riparian recovery work that stands out, it would have to be the stream bank stabilization sites. By planting and stabilizing eroding slopes on the stream channel, we have reduced the amount of silt loading considerably. This has a direct positive benefit to the water clarity and the cleaning of the streambed, down to cobble and gravel in some areas.

    Each and every year, tonnes of soil, clay and silt end up in the creek, due in part to collapsing slopes on the stream bank. These erosion sites are usually on the outside of bends, oxbows or meanders in the stream channel.

    By planting our native willows and trees directly into the unstable soil on the eroding stream banks, we can create a network of roots to help hold the loose soil in place. Eventually, the willows and trees will provide overhead cover for resident trout. The new growth will also be prime nesting habitat for song birds, etc.

    The newly planting willows only take a few years to totally stabilize the eroding stream bank and prevent tonnes of material from entering the stream. The differences that our planting has done on Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane are significant, in just a few years.

Left Photo: This photo shows an eroding stream bank on the Bighill Creek, in the early spring, one year after it has been planted with native willows. You can seen how the soil is collapsing into the stream channel. The root systems from the snowberry shrub are too shallow to provide good stability.

Right Photo: This photos shows the same stream bank, four years after planting of new willows along the water’s edge. The root systems from the willows have totally stabilized the eroding stream bank site and they are already providing overhead cover for trout. Behind the willows, on the left side of the photo, the native snowberry shrubs are thriving. The snowberry provides excellent nesting habitat for water fowl and upland birds.






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