Part 1 of a 3 part series on local nature destinations
People often ask me where they should go to see birds and other wildlife. My initial answer is usually “just about anywhere.” Although this is true, I realize that a little more detail might be helpful. This week I’d like to begin a series of three articles on nature destinations in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. I haven’t written on this topic for over six years, and I’ve either discovered or been told about many new locales. But first, a little background information is helpful.
Peterborough County and the Kawarthas is largely defined by the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Kawartha Lakes. It also embraces two of Canada’s main physiographic regions. Driving north from Peterborough along Highway 28, we enter the southern edge of the Canadian Shield at Burleigh Falls. Suddenly, beautiful pink granite and other Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks are easily visible along the roadside and conifers like White Pine become much more common. Satellite images clearly show a largely unbroken expanse of dark green tree cover on the Shield, interspersed with lakes, wetlands and rock barrens.
The land south of the Shield is lower in elevation and has more fertile, calcareous soils. It belongs to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowland, a region of younger sedimentary rock. Limestone, laid down 490 million years ago during the Ordovician period, overlies the basal Shield rock deep below. This limestone is most visible in road cuts all along the edge of the Shield such as the southern entrance to the village of Buckhorn.
This mix of Shield country, lowlands and waterways makes for one of the richest assortments of habitats in the province. These also include rarer habitat types like the bare rock ridges and acidic bogs of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and the flat, open limestone pavement habitat of the Carden Alvar.
With such a wide variety of habitat types, the Kawarthas enjoys one of the greatest diversities of plants and animals in the province. Nature-watching destinations abound. The list of locations that I am proposing is by no means exhaustive, nor is the list of Highlights that accompanies each locale. To see a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular destinations (e.g., Jackson Park, Little Lake, Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary, Lakefield Sewage Lagoons, Harper Park) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough, click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance. You can choose different date ranges, as well. I suggest Jan-Dec, 1900-2017 (or present year).
Readers may wish to email me their own favourite locations (preferably within an hour of Peterborough), which I may be able to include in the next two articles.
City of Peterborough and Vicinity
The best birding and general nature-viewing destinations in Peterborough are often along the Otonabee River-Little Lake corridor and adjacent green spaces. Linear green spaces such as rail-trails can also be excellent. Birds, butterflies and mammals often travel along these corridors.
Little Lake: Located east of George St. south. Good observation points include Little Lake Cemetery, Mark St. boat launch, Edgewater Blvd. and Lock 20. Highlights: Waterbirds in early spring, late fall and winter (ice conditions permitting) including diving ducks, grebes, loons and uncommon gulls; Bald Eagles possible in winter; land birds in the cemetery (e.g., Merlin) and a wide variety of mature native and non-native trees
River Road: Also called Co. Rd. 32. Located on east bank of Otonabee River between Trent University and Lakefield. Highlights: Diving ducks such as goldeneyes and mergansers during migration and in winter; migrating swallows in spring; Bald Eagles and otters sometimes seen
Otonabee River South: Located just north of the Peterborough By-Pass (Hwy. 7), this section of the river is best viewed either from Sherin Ave. on the east or Cameron St. on the west. Highlights: Diving ducks and sometimes grebes during migration and in winter; Bald Eagle possible.
Lock 19 on Otonabee River: Take Sherburne St. south from Lansdowne St. Turn left at Morrow St. and follow to Lock 19 parking lot. Highlights: Spawning Walleye and suckers in early April; diving ducks in late fall, winter and spring
Crawford Rail Trail: From Monaghan Rd., just south of Lansdowne St., to Crawford Dr. Highlights: Good general birding, especially at Crawford Dr. end
Harper Park: Located west of Harper Rd. /Rye St. Access from entrance to Harper Rd. Composting Facility where Harper Creek passes under Harper Rd. Highlights: 150-acre natural environment park, provincially-significant wetland, coldwater creeks, meadows, forest, wild brook trout, deer, diverse native birds and plants not normally found within city limits (e.g., Great Horned Owl, Great Lobelia, Cinnamon Fern), numerous migrants in spring. Go to harperpark.ca for more information including a trail map
Kawartha Heights Park: Located between Kawartha Heights Blvd. and Redwood Dr. Access from south end of Crestwood Ave. – Highlights: birds, plants, butterflies, amphibians, mature trees
Loggerhead Marsh: Located on north side of Ireland Dr., east of Brealey Dr. Highlights: Provincially Significant wetland, two large ponds, diverse shorebirds and songbirds during migration; wetland species like rails, warblers, snipe, herons, and ducks, raptors such as Osprey and Cooper’s Hawk, amphibian chorus in spring. Go to loggerheadmarsh.org for more information.
Jackson Park: Located at junction of Parkhill Rd. and Monaghan Rd. in Peterborough. Highlights: Migrant land birds in spring and fall, stream invertebrates, numerous old-growth trees such as White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar and American Beech, diverse ferns and wildflowers (e.g., Turtlehead, Zig-zag Goldenrod) along rail-trail and especially in the wooded section of the path that borders the east side of the lagoon.
Fairbairn Street Wetland: Located on west side of Fairbairn St., just north of Co. Rd. 19 (Line Rd. 3). Highlights: Wetland species like bitterns, gallinules, rails and ducks. Occasional rarities like Nelson’s Sparrow (Oct. 2017)
Trans-Canada Trail: From Jackson Park, east to Omemee Highlights: Wide variety of trees, shrubs (e.g., Silky Dogwood), ferns and wildflowers border the trail; wetland species at Lily Lake and east to Ackison Rd. (e.g., Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrow, Beaver, River Otter, Snapping Turtle, Nannyberry, High-bush Cranberry); Fringed Gentian and Ladies’-tresses Orchids just east of Hwy. 7 overpass
Parkway Trail: A paved trail extending from corner of Fairbairn St. and Highland Rd. to Cumberland Ave. Highlights: Hilliard to Cumberland section has large concentrations of migrant sparrows in fall and robins in winter, occasional Barred Owls, abundant Virginia Creeper and Wild Grape. Chemong to Hilliard section has a section of wetland (e.g., Common Yellowthroat) and a large retention pond with ducks and herons.
Trent University Nature Areas: Numerous trails traverse a variety of habitats on both sides of the Otonabee River. These include the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary trails east of University Rd., the Canal Nature Area west of University Rd., the South Drumlin Trail south of Nassau Mills Rd (especially along the west side of the canal during migration), and the Promise Rock Trail, which can be accessed opposite the small parking lot on the west side of Nassau Mills Rd. near Lock 22. Highlights: wetland, forest and meadow habitats, diverse birds (e.g., migrating warblers in May, late August, September, and early October; Winter Wren; American Woodcock; Great Horned Owl; Red-headed Woodpecker; Great Blue Heron nesting colony; active Tree Swallow nesting boxes), butterflies, amphibians, etc.
University Road wetland: Located just north of the Warsaw Rd. (Co. Rd. 4) on University Rd. Highlights: Impressive frog and toad chorus in spring
Rotary-Greenway Trail: A 20 km, mostly paved trail from the Ecology Park on Ashburnham Dr., through East City in Peterborough and north to Lakefield. Highlights: Birds (especially in the marsh just north of the Trent Science Complex), butterflies, amphibian chorus in spring.
Meadowvale Park: Located at west end of Frances Stewart Rd. at Ashdale Crescent W. Extends west of Rotary Greenway Trail. Highlights: woodland, field and stream habitat; excellent destination to see migrating songbirds in May and then again from late August to early October; large numbers of American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Gray Catbirds, and Warbling Vireos during the breeding season
GreenUP Ecology Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Highlights: wide variety of display gardens, native plant nursery and sales, diverse butterflies and nesting songbirds (e.g., American Redstart, Gray Catbird), winter bird feeder trail maintained by the Peterborough Field Naturalists, migrants in spring in fall, nature education programs, gardening workshops
Beavermead Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Best locations include Tollington Bridge area and Beavermead Campground. Highlights: ducks and herons along Meade Cr., spring and fall migrants in campground