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Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve

Located within the Hay Marsh Wetland, a provincially significant coastal wetland composed of fen, swamp and marsh.

About

Located just north of the lake and directly bordering the northerly boundary of the Long Beach Conservation Area, the property was purchased in 1970 by Ontario Nature on behalf of the Niagara Falls Nature Club.

Hidden within the 14-hectare (34-acre) Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is possibly the last mature hemlock forest on the shores of Lake Erie in the Niagara Region.

Mature hemlock © Ed Krolow

Stewardship

The Niagara Falls Nature Club are the official stewards of this property. Their stewardship has been integral to furthering protection of sensitive habitat on the property.

“Stewarding at the Harold Mitchell Nature reserve in Wainfleet has been a continual learning journey, a chance to feel an extra special connection with a magical swamp forest and an opportunity to meet many fine and supportive folks through this volunteer effort with Ontario Nature. The staff at Ontario Nature have been unfailingly professional and supportive of the unique management needs at Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve, so it has been a pleasure to do what I can to bring people together in caring for this woodlot.” Kerry Kennedy, Harold Mitchell steward.

We are looking for additional stewards to join the Niagara Falls Nature Club. To learn more about volunteering as a nature reserve steward, please see our Volunteer as a Steward page.

Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve © Niagara Falls Nature Club

History

The nature reserve is named after Dr. Harold Mitchell, who was an avid birder and former president of the Buffalo Museum of Science. Dr. Mitchell originally bought the property to save it from development, and then sold the land to Ontario Nature to ensure that it would be preserved in its natural state. Gus Yaki, a renowned Niagara region naturalist, arranged the purchase.

Starflower © Rick Young

Plants and Animals

Surrounded by an agricultural landscape, the wetland and treed habitat provide important refugia for many animals including pine grosbeak and boreal chickadee, saw-whet owls, red-tailed hawk, ruffed grouse, great horned owl. The nature reserve’s mature hemlock forest also hosts shagbark hickory dating between 351 to 416 years old.

The nature reserve is rich with pockets of vernal pools that support a wealth of life. Provincially abundant but locally rare plants can be found such as northern spicebush, blue flag iris, winterberry holly and maidenhair fern.

As one of the few mature stands in the area, the nature reserve’s hemlock forests provide shelter for deer and their fawns.

Great horned owl © Tony Carver CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Visiting

To protect this rare habitat, this property does not have a marked trail system and is not open to members of the public. Please help us prevent the spread of the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid pest by staying off the property.

If you have any questions about research on the property, please contact Ontario Nature at 416-444-8419.

Western chorus frog © Scott Gillingwater

Maintenance

Hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like invasive insect from Asia, is present on the property. This poses a significant threat to one of the last remaining mature hemlock stands on the shores of Lake Erie. Human disturbance at the site can worsen the situation and potentially spread HWA to other hemlock-dominated forests in Ontario. Ontario Nature is currently working with various partners to research the ongoing impact of HWA and mitigation strategies.

To learn more about HWA visit the Invasive Species Centre website for more info.

Wetlands, Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve

“Stewarding the nature reserve in Wainfleet has been a continual learning journey. It’s given me the chance to feel an extra special connection with a magical swamp forest and an opportunity to meet many fine and supportive folks. The staff at Ontario Nature have been unfailingly professional and supportive of the unique management needs at Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve. It has been a pleasure to do what I can to bring people together in caring for this woodlot.”
– Kerry Kennedy, Harold Mitchell steward

© Kirsten Dahl


George G. Newton Nature Reserve


The Harold Mitchell Nature Reserve is generously supported by:

Invasive Species Centre logo, high resolution