Conserving Habitat in Rice Lake Plains

Eastern bluebird

Hamilton Township – The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the Government of Canada have announced the conservation of the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve in central Ontario’s Rice Lake Plains.

The 117-hectare reserve is named after the late Hazel Bird, a well-known naturalist with a strong personal connection to the property. With the help of volunteers she installed, managed and monitored hundreds of bird boxes resulting in thousands of eastern bluebird broods, leaving behind a wonderful legacy.

The nature reserve hosts a rich mix of forest, savannah, including the globally rare black oak, and grasslands. The reserve provides crucial habitat for grassland birds such as whip-poor-will, and for reptiles including threatened eastern hog-nosed snake.

The site is also one of the last places where wild lupine, the main food for Karner blue butterflies, has been found in the Rice Lake Plains. While these butterflies are no longer found in Canada, the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve gives hope for their reintroduction.

“This is a highly significant property,” said Mark Stabb, NCC’s Central Ontario Program Manager. “Not only does it provide habitat for a number of rare and at-risk species, but it is also a landmark in the local community. It was visited frequently by the late Hazel Bird during a successful decades-long effort to help local populations of the eastern bluebird.”

Funding for this project was provided by the Government of Canada and through generous donations from the Three Guineas Charitable Foundation, John and Margaret Catto and many other individual donors. The latter group includes members of the Willow Beach Field Naturalists, in honour of Hazel Bird.