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A little known gem of a nature reserve

The Daily Observer,
Ken Hoole,
August 9 2016

I was really pleased to hear that the attendance was good at the Reilly Bird Nature Reserve Day held on Saturday, July 23. It is hard to believe that it has only been a couple of years since Reilly Bird donated this land to Ontario Nature for future generations to enjoy.

Few people are aware that our local Pembroke Area Field Naturalists club acts as a steward for this area on behalf of Ontario Nature. The club assists with the monitoring of the property, some mapping, clearing the odd trail in the spring, and following up on some of the research projects like the Salamander count.

As previously stated, the land was donated to Ontario Nature by Reilly Bird who emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1967 to work at AECL in Chalk River. Reilly was very enthusiastic about our Canadian wilderness and enjoyed backpacking and taking canoe trips throughout the area. He purchased the nature reserve property so he could enjoy nature when he was not away on his journeys. In 1992, he asked Ontario Nature to protect his property in perpetuity after he died. However, he became anxious to secure the property and expedited the transfer to Ontario Nature just prior to his death.

The Reilly Bird Nature Reserve is 27.5 hectares consisting of hardwood forest along the Ottawa River, not far from the Town of Deep River. The reserve protects half of Meilleurs Bay shoreline, which provides habitat for turtles and spawning fish. Great Blue Herons can often be seen wading along the shoreline.

The reserve also has mature stands of aspen, red maple, white pine, balsam, fir, and paper birch that overlooks the river and is excellent habitat to a variety of birds such as Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Blue Jays and several warbler species.

There is a stream (Huey Creek) that passes through the property. This stream is lined with mossy cedar and yellow birch that often plays host to both Ruffed Grouse and Belted Kingfishers.

For the botanist in the family, there are a variety of plants throughout the reserve, including two types of orchids: the dwarf rattlesnake-plantain, and the broad-lipped twayblade. Both of these orchids are often found in the shade of the cedar trees.

To get to the reserve, travel Highway 17 towards Rolphton for approximately 14 miles once you are past Deep River. The reserve stretches to the south of the highway and includes a portion of Meilleurs Bay. Just west of the bay is a driveway with parking spaces. If you go to visit, please remember to bring water and insect repellant. There is no charge.

The Pembroke Area Field Naturalists are proud to be part of the project, and I cannot wait to get up there and do some bird watching during the fall migration. Enjoy!

Elsewhere, on the local scene, the shorebird migration started last week and is in full force now. Up to now, it appears that most of the adult shorebirds have been passing through our area without stopping. However, there have been a few reports of Greater Yellowlegs, Semi-palmeated Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpipers in the area. In the next week or so the large population of this year’s shorebird fledglings in the north will make their first trek south. This will continue from now until the end of November. These little birds will pass through our area and can sometimes be found at Riverside Park Beach, the Pembroke Marina, and anywhere there is a beach or mudflats. Let me know if you see any of these young shorebirds. I hope that some will be spotted on the Marina Walk this year.

On July 21, Bernice Krantz of Pembroke was excited to spot a baby Ruby-throated Hummingbird extracting nectar from a red flower in her daughter’s garden in Perth. Nice sighting! You do not often see the young ones.

The next day, Allan Mills of Elizabeth Street informed me that he spotted a Merlin and a Gray Catbird in the Mountainview Drive area. These are two nice birds to spot!

Finally, on July 29, Don Krantz of Pembroke observed a mother Ruffed Grouse with two fledglings at a bush lot on Colby Lake Road, Nice photo, Don! I do not usually get up-close photos of the fledglings.

Please call me with your bird sightings at 613-735-4430, or email me at hooles@bell.net. For more information on upcoming nature events and other links to nature just Google the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists’ website, or ‘like’ the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists on Facebook.