The management of the eco-systems on the property brings a natural abundance of wildlife. Though initially stocked with 100 inch-long goldfish, the large ponds now have had a couple of seasons for fish to stabilize and breed, so 4-inch goldfish are starting to appear. Additionally, stickle fish, a natural freshwater scavenger, assist in managing the algae growth. Tadpoles make their appearance after heavy rains and quickly transform into frogs that provide a welcomed chorus at night.
The Plantation has been the beneficiary of rescued reptiles, amphibians and birds from the local island animal rehabilitation centre. Feral rabbits cause extreme damage to gardens in the area and though the Plantation is heavily fenced for both rabbits and deer, occasionally they still get in and eat everything in sight. The Salt Spring Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has released merlin falcons and goshawks in the area that now do a great job of managing the rabbit population. Additionally, red-eared sliders, an introduced turtle species that fights and kills the indigenous painted turtles, are brought to the Wildlife Centre frequently – having been hit by lawnmowers, automobiles, etc. Because the Plantation premises are fenced, we are one of very few depositories for these specific turtles. We have over 12 in the largest pond on the property, appropriately known as the “turtle pond” – a favourite with children of all ages!!
The Plantation also has been the recipient of ducks from the Wildlife Centre. One in particular has become a “pet” since he was born “out-of-season” (January 2011) and imprinted on the owner when he was forced to stay indoors until his feathers grew out and he could stand the cold. Named “Little Zee”, his full story can be read here and videos can be viewed at our page on YouTube or here. The other resident duck is a cross between a Welsh Harlequin and domesticated mallard named “Big D” for ‘big duck’ as he is quite large (read: well-fed!) and cannot fly.
There are over 11 types of song birds that feed or nest on the premises. These include junco, chickadees, robins, towhee, nuthatch, finch and woodpeckers. One chickadee, from a family that nests on the property and believed to be fifth generation, is so tame, he will often land on the owner’s shoulder at feeding time. Guests should keep their cameras handy – especially when the red-headed, downy or pileated woodpeckers are present – it is quite a sight!
Not all bird and reptile residents are favorites of our guests, but in the case of these two, they are necessary and are rarely, if ever, seen by the guests. Mosquito larvae develop in water, but are also the main source of food for the small bats living on Salt Spring. Bats are known to consume in excess of 3,000 mosquitoes per day, so their nocturnal presence assists in keeping the mosquito population to a minimum.
Garter snakes are also a great help to the gardener – they have a voracious appetite for slugs and snails. Again, they are rarely seen on the premises, preferring to make themselves scarce around humans, but the plants are very thankful for their late evening and nocturnal presence. Ducks also eat slugs, and to augment slug management, guests may see cups of beer placed in the gardens (particularly the delphinium and dahlia beds). The sweet smell of beer hops attracts the slugs, which then drown in the cup. If ducks wandering around the property appear to be intoxicated, they have probably been feeding on the drowned “captive” slugs!
The spectacular heron sculpture on the side of the turtle pond that bobs in the wind and provides a very tranquil effect serves a greater purpose than being “artistic”. Herons are territorial, and any herons citing this “rival” from the sky tend to move on and leave the premises to the rival. This helps protect the 100+ goldfish in the pond.
The bald eagle may perhaps be the most majestic of all birds and a mated pair frequents the area from October to June. Their favourite perch tree is just a few meters from the property and guests have a full view from the verandah.