Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sydenham Nature Reserve Tour

Today was a special tour organized by Ontario Nature at the Sydenham Nature Reserve near Alvinston.  The morning dawned with dense fog as it usually does this time of year when the days are too warm.  It was quite foggy the whole drive to the site.

Late last year, funds were secured and a wonderful 193 acre piece of land was preserved for nature along the east branch of the Sydenham River.  About 2 km of the Sydenham winds through the unique property which is very biologically diverse.

As many of you know, the Sydenham is known for rare fish and mussels, some of which are found nowhere else in Canada (up to 34 species mussels).  Near the end of the tour, we had a demonstration along the banks of the river by a couple of employees of St. Clair Conservation.  They showed us many of the species of mussels that can be found at this site.

Mussel Site

As there was a large group of people, the tour was divided into two separate groups.  One went up to the Buttonwood entrance (open to the public) where they observed the largest Sycamore tree in Ontario.  I had heard about this tree many years ago, but today I opted to go on the tour led by Larry Cornelis (so I did not see it!).  Many years ago the diameter was measured at 263 cm.
We went on to look at other trees and plants.

Red-headed Woodpecker Area

Larry showed us an upland bean field which some day will be restored to nature.  While there, an Olive-sided Flycatcher flew in and briefly alighted on a snag.  I took too long looking at it to take a photo!

Trek to the Kentucky Coffee Trees

We next went down into the valley woodland and looked at a stand of Kentucky Coffee trees.

Kentucky Coffee Trees

These trees are basically from one tree, as they sucker out to form several trees.  There are male and female trees, so these trees of one gender will never seed out.
The trees here were very tall.

While there, we could hear a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers calling.  They nested here this year, and a couple of the group even saw them feeding young birds.  A late nesting I suppose!

Portion of the Sydenham

Along the way, Larry pointed out Beak Grass, which is an "S1" plant very rare in Ontario.  We saw a few clumps of them.  They will grow 2-3 feet and in late summer produce triangular 'seeds'.

Beak Grass
There is a healthy population of Beak Grass along the Ausable River, as mentioned in Pat Deacon's blog post. 
That site was found some time ago by Dorothy Tiedje.

The woods were rather quiet for birds, but it is great in the springtime, especially during migration. There are several pairs of Cerulean Warblers that nest in the area, as the habitat is prime.

It was a pleasant weather day and a wonderful day to walk through the woods!

Pandora Sphinx Moth caterpillar


  1. Since the Sydenham Nature Reserve is around the Middlesex-Lambton border, it would be good to note where the Olive-sided was. I'm sure we are approaching record late, if we haven't already surpassed it. Seems to be a good year for them (just look at the Middlesex BirdTrax!)

    1. I think a good portion of the reserve is in Middlesex--it is right on the border. The Olive-sided, I think, was in Middlesex. However, maps on eBird are often inaccurate around the county borders.

    2. The eBird maps certainly could use an update to become more accurate!

    3. Looking at Google Earth, the Olive-sided was within Lambton. The Red-headed and some other birds were in Middlesex!

    4. Good to know...RHWO is a great breeding bird in Middlesex. I wonder if the immature bird I found last December was from that location.