By Clarke Birchard (click here to go to gallery photos of event)
On the morning of September 26 a dozen SFN members set out in a light drizzle to explore the section of the Bruce Trail that passes through the upper portion of the proposed Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve north of Wiarton in the Bruce Peninsula.
The rain did not last long. The wet forest smelled like fall, colours were muted and beautiful. We stopped numerous times at the lookouts along the escarpment to enjoy views over the forest below and the water and islands of Colpoys Bay, sometimes through mist and fog, and once in filtered sunlight.
Eleven-year-old Luke in his bright red ball cap was the trailbreaker and leader most of the way. Kim and Walter were the plant consultants. Some botanical highlights were the abundance and variety of mushrooms including one log covered in oyster mushrooms, a choice edible. We encountered several stands of beech drops, a natural rock garden of northern holly ferns and many colonies of maidenhair spleenwort on rocks and in cracks and crevices and numerous others.
Dave, Jerry and Joan kept watch for birds which were rather scarce but they pointed out small groups of chickadees and kinglets gleaning insects from the shrubs and trees along the cliff edge. The distant croaks of ravens were heard from time to time and a pileated woodpecker called loudly as it flew by.
Clarke drew attention to some of the geological features, including terraces of the Amabel, Fossil Hill and Manitoulin formations, the beginnings of crevice caves and a dramatic unspoiled alvar area.
Photographers John, Gerard and Doug were busy documenting the outing in the soft autumn light. We may see some of the results of their efforts on members’ night in January.
All of us, including Janice and Herb, enjoyed the exercise, fresh moist air, scenic views and natural richness of the property. Some who walk 3 or 4 km for exercise a few times a week were amazed that it took us over 4 hours to hike the 5.3 km.
We may plan a spring birding and wildflower outing along the logging road on the lower level of the nature reserve.
Those wishing to learn more about this future nature reserve may see the current issue of “ON nature” magazine, click on Natural Wonders at http://onnaturemagazine.com or go to the website http://www.ontarionature.org/protectmalcolmbluffshores/.