Local Durham Conservation area has much to offer

Friday May 11th, 2018

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A treasure hunt, a nature immersion course, an enlightening walk in the woods. The big bioblitz and nature festival happening in Heber Down Conservation Area this weekend is open to everyone. And guaranteed to expand your horizons, no matter how much or how little you already know about the birds, plants, reptiles, fungi, mammals, insects and amphibians you come across.

That’s the goal — to discover biodiversity, by identifying as many species as possible in this interesting natural area. And to learn together — experts, novices, young, old, families, friends. Straddling the Glacial Lake Iroquois shoreline where it’s cut by the clear waters of Lynde Creek, Heber Down is a great place to get over any "nature deficiency" ailments after a long winter indoors.

First of all, for the wildflowers — spring ephemerals bursting into bloom before trees leaf out overhead. Bright yellow dogtooth violets, ankle high, greet you not far from the parking lot. Trilliums are plentiful, bloodroot already in bloom, and high up the hill, in the patch of mature hardwood forest preserved there, clumps of hepaticas flourish — tiny, delicate, precious.

Heber Down has a great mix of trees, starting with impressive, massive cedars growing in the creek valley. Bioblitzers will also explore the ironwood, beech, yellow birch, sugar maples and basswood climbing the slopes, interspersed with the hemlock and white pines of a climax forest. Plus keep an eye out for non-native, invasive garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine and phragmites, which, without prompt and careful control, will swallow up and suffocate a natural area.

Spring migration is reaching its peak this weekend, with warblers, tanagers, thrushes and hummingbirds flooding through Durham woods. Mourning warblers nest in Heber Down, and may be just returning. One year a rare Louisiana waterthrush nested there! Listen for the rattling calls of kingfishers along the creek, and soft courtship conversations of blue jays amid the cacophony of other birdsong.

Not many moths or butterflies will be out yet, but bioblitz organizers will encourage participants to send in reports of species they find in Heber Down throughout the summer, to capture a fuller picture of life in this wonderful island of biodiversity.

For bioblitz registration, information and scheduling: www.ontariobioblitz.ca or 416-889-9158.

Nature queries: mcarney@interlinks.net or 905-725-2116.

— Margaret Carney is a nature-appreciation columnist for Metroland Durham newspapers.

by Margaret Carney
Margaret Carney is a nature-appreciation columnist for Metroland Durham newspapers. She likes to write all about her different bird sightings, most times spotted right from her own backyard.

Email: mcarney@interlinks.net

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