Bay of Quinte has no shortage of great destinations for an autumn stroll. Lace up your walking shoes and take advantage of fabulous hiking opportunities available at beautiful conservation areas managed by Quinte Conservation and Lower Trent Conservation. While you explore, keep an eye peeled for some increasingly rare flora and fauna. According to the Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the talley for “species at risk” stands at well over two hundred. Quinte Conservation areas might just represent your best chance to catch sight of a few of them.
Half the known sites in Canada where this increasingly rare plant can still be found exist right here in the Bay of Quinte area. Generally one to four metres in height, the Dwarf Hackberry has small, rounded orange fruit, a light grey bark and stiff, leathery oval-shaped leaves which taper towards the tips. Sand dunes, oak savannahs and other known habitats for the Dwarf Hackberry have begun to disappear while disease, bark beetles, hungry deer and other invasive plant species make survival a constant struggle. If you spot one, alert the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
At approximately 30 cm in length, this small heron’s size compares roughly with that of the North American robin. Fond of marshy areas surrounded by cat-tails and open water, the Least Bittern can be identified by its brown/beige feathers, light tan throat with whitish streaks, white belly and bright yellow beak. A black crown and back appears lighter in females and juveniles. Primary threats involve loss of wetland habitat, but their low-flying habits sometimes lead to collisions with cars and power lines. Conscientious birders respect the fact this easily spooked and very shy bird has been known to abandon nesting sites when frightened and make sure they give it plenty of space.
Capable of growing close to 80 centimetres and more than 5 and a half kilograms, this large coppery to yellow/green-sided sucker has a white belly and reddish tail. With a flat head, prominent snout and the ability to ingest food by means of teeth contained within the throat, its similarities to other Redhorse species can make identification tricky. The River Redhorse inhabits river systems scattered throughout central and eastern North American, including the Trent River and Bay of Quinte. Threatened by the type of pollution which sometimes accompanies large scale agricultural operations and increasing urbanization, this fish requires clear water to thrive. Dams often impede migration to important breeding areas. Environmentally-conscious land owners can contact the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association to check out programs designed to improve fish habitats and inquire about possible funding assistance.
Found primarily along shorelines when waters recede in summer and fall, toothcup has all but begun to disappear from many traditional habitats in southern Ontario. About 40 centimetres in height, this green leaved annual herb belongs to the Loosestrife family and prefers sandy or gravelly soil atop Precambrian bedrock. Toothcup seekers should look for a red tinge in the leaves in late summer, as well as small, pinkish-white flowers. Major threats to this plant involve loss of habitat and invasive species.
Easily identified by its heart-shaped white face, golden body, long legs, lack of ear tufts and a distinctive hissing or screaming cry, this mid-sized owl hovers precariously on the edge of extinction. Today fewer than five pairs of barn owls exist in Ontario. They roost in barns and abandoned buildings, as well as natural holes in trees and cliff faces near the Great Lakes. Living year-round at the nest site, barn owls feed on prey found in open grasslands, orchards, meadows and fallow fields. Primary threats involve loss of habitat for both the owl and its prey.
At 30 centimetres, this rare bird represents Ontario’s largest rail. If you’re lucky enough to spot one of the 30 pairs estimated to remain in the province, you can identify the King Rail by its long curved bill, long legs and tall, thin body. Look for a dull orange chest and neck area, brown and rust streaked back and thin, vertical white bars on the sides of a blackish body. Most King Rail birds live in large, coastal wetlands, making their dinner-plate sized nests in dense marshes with access to shallow, open water. Wetland destruction takes most of the blame for declines in the King Rail population, although predation by feral cats and collisions with cars also pose significant problems.
Known for calling out its own name over and over again at dusk, the Eastern Whip-poor-will frequents open forested areas where its brown/grey plumage acts as perfect camouflage. The Eastern Whip-poor-will’s diminishing numbers can likely be attributed to loss of habitat and destruction of food supply due to pesticides.