Tiny Marsh Hike and Black Terns

While visiting my family up in Collingwood we decided to go check out Tiny Marsh.

Tiny Marsh entranceTiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area

Josh wanted to try again for the Marsh Wren and they also have a breeding colony of Black terns. Both would be life birds for us.

black tern nesting location at tiny marsh
Students out in a canoe checking on nesting Black Terns

We ended up hearing the Marsh Wren and seeing about 10 Black Terns. 250 different species of birds have been reported in the Wildlife Management Area.

Black Terns and Tiny Marsh

Unfortunately Black Terns are a provincially threatened species.

That is one reason why the Important Bird Area and the conservation plan at Tiny Marsh were put into place, as well as to protect its populations of resident and migratory birds.  Birds here can be monitored, studied, and enjoyed by scientists and us.

Tiny Marsh consists of marshes, open water, bog, and upland forest, where the headwaters of the Wye River start. This is a perfect place for the terns to feed and nest.

woodland section at tiny marsh
Upland forest
Tiny Marsh Panorama
Panorama view as you enter the marsh
birding tiny marsh
Viewing the Black Terns

A threshold of 50 pairs for significant colonies has been used in a Canadian regional study and records indicate hundreds of Back Terns breeding here. This makes the breeding population at Tiny Marsh nationally significant.

Tiny Marsh panorama

In August, when the babies are big enough to fly, the terns spend several weeks at feeding sites on bays and open water of the lower Great Lakes. From early to mid August you’ll be able to see significant numbers in the western basin of Lake Erie.

Then they migrate inland, either by themselves or in small groups, through the United States to marine habitat along the coasts of Central and South America. Here they lead a pelagic (spending a significant portion of their life on the open ocean) lifestyle while wintering.

Tiny Marsh water plants

Black Terns in Trouble

Since the 1930’s the number of Black Terns in Ontario has declined.

This species breeds in cattail and bulrush marshes with good stretches of open water. They live in small colonies and usually return to the colony in which they were born in order to breed. Because these wetlands are being drained for agriculture and urban and industrial development there aren’t as many locations now to feed and nest.  Also the nest is virtually at the water’s surface, meaning that it may easily be destroyed by wind, wave action, or changing water levels (Ducks Unlimited Canada manages the water levels at Tiny Marsh ensuring that the Terns are not stressed during breeding season.) Usually only one chick is raised for each nest of two to three eggs.

Another possible factor, effecting everything in the natural world, is pesticides.  Black terns have been observed foraging for insects behind ploughs and over grain fields on sprayed agricultural land. It has been suggested that reduced hatching success may be due to agricultural contaminants.

Part 2 on the Tiny Marsh Turtles is next.

Part 3 Mushrooms at Tiny Marsh

Marsh Wren at Bull’s Point

A sighting for a marsh wren popped up at Bull’s Point in the RBG Cootes Paradise Sanctuary so Josh and I decided to try and see it.

Bull's Point Trail, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

Unfortunately it was a little late in the day and very hot so most of the birds were pretty quiet. Marsh wrens sing more often at dawn and dusk.  We did see a caspian tern, mute swan, and heard a virginia rail.  Along the walk we heard several warblers and had a lovely close sighting of an indigo bunting.

The Birds of Cootes Paradise Marsh, Hamilton

The Marsh Wren at Cootes Paradise

Marsh wrens nesting at Bull’s Point is an indicator of the marshes good health. Restoration efforts, including keeping carp out of the bay, have helped to increase the vegetation required for these birds. RBG staff also try to increase the native species by planting seedlings and fencing off certain areas to protect fragile plant life.

RBG Cootes Paradise Sanctuary, Hamilton

The boardwalk through the Marsh is an excellent spot to try to see the wrens. Because they spend the majority of their time in the cattails, being a ground forager, getting above them gives you a better chance of a sighting.

Marsh Walk, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

They have more than 50 variations to their song and some males will sing right though the night.

Birding on the Marsh Walk trail, Cootes Paradise, Hamilton

Trail system RBG Cootes Paradise Sactuary

If you would like to hear the Marsh Wren’s song and see pictures of it check out BirdNote’s page here.

 

First Hike Through the Cherry Hill Gate

Through the Cherry HIll Gate opens the Hendrie Valley Trail system. Everything is still overwintering but there are plenty of birds, squirrels and chipmunks around. Make sure you bring some seed because they will come and eat from your hand. Unfortunately we didn’t have any.


Grindstone Marsh Trail Trumpeter swan, Grindstone Marsh Trail Boardwalk along the North Valley Trail, Hendrie Valley Park Grindstone Creek, Hendrie Valley Trails Hendrie Valley Trails

We did find some signs of spring in a patch of early snowdrops.

Snowdrops

We also wandered though the RBG grounds and found the Bloodroot Sculpture. It’s part of the larger Dan Lawrie International Sculpture Collection

Bloodroot Sculpture

The Hendrie Park Gates  – surrounding the South end of the Scented Garden – were constructed in recognition of the Hendrie family, who previously owned the lands on which the garden now sits. The fountain isn’t yet in working order but it’s still a lovely spot.

Hendrie Gates

Espace Felix Leclerc Walking Trail

On Orleans Island, 15 minutes east of Quebec City, there is a lovely walking trail from Espace Felix Leclerc down towards the river.

It commemorates the life of songwriter, poet and playwright Felix Leclerc.

The trail may not be for everyone because there are some steeper parts.

You begin in a field, basically, where they are starting an arboretum. After this sunny stretch you reach the shade of the escarpment. The path here is steep taking you down to another plateau.  This plateau is partly in sunny field and then enters the old growth forest. Many trees are marked to help you learn more about the local flora. There is still another terrace down before you get to the St Lawrence but the path ends before that. You can continue, but, the paths quickly ends in swamp.