SPECIES: Some of the Beauty That Lives on the Moraine
The unusual diversity of faces inhabiting the Oak Ridges Moraine is due largely to the Moraine's vast array of habitats ranging from old growth forest, to kettle lakes, to the rare tallgrass prairie.
A walk through some of these special areas may reveal such beauties as the Eastern Bluebird, Red tailed and Red shouldered hawks, Jefferson Salamander, Brook Trout, and Gray Tree Frog.
The Eastern Meadowlark was once a common bird of spring in Ontario. It is known by its penetrating whistle, said to sound like 'spring is here'.
Meadowlarks may often be seen perched on fence posts and can be readily identified by the distinctive black "V" on their bright yellow breasts.
Preferring fallow fields and open prairie, Meadowlark populations are under threat as we continue to lose Ontario's farms and grasslands.
The bright blue breeding plumage of the male bluebird makes it a spectacular site and a favourite of birding enthusiasts. These birds nest in cavities, in open habitats like farmland, and are easily out-competed for nesting space by other bird species.
After the bluebird population had seriously declined due to habitat loss and pesticide use, the bluebird has made a comeback thanks to the provision of nesting boxes. These boxes have become a common sight on fence-posts all over rural Ontario.
Red-Tailed and Red-Shouldered Hawk
Raptors riding the thermal air currents as they rise up the slopes of the Moraine, are a graceful and common sight.
The Red-tailed Hawk is one of our most common hawks, recognizable by the distinctive rusty reddish feathers in its fanned tail. Its incredibly expansive range includes almost all of North America from arctic tree line to desert. While they might not always be seen, they are often heard, recognizable by their rasping 2-part descending screech.
The Red-shouldered Hawk, although it looks similar to the Red-tailed Hawk in size and shape, is distinguished by its reddish shoulders and darkly banded tail. Requiring a well-forested landscape, the Red-shouldered Hawk has been relegated to a very small portion of Southern Ontario. The Red-shouldered Hawk may be seen in the densely forested parts of the Moraine such as Happy Valley forest.
The best known and most common of Ontario's large mammals, the white-tailed deer is our only species of small deer and our most common. Most often seen in the early morning or late afternoon, white-tailed deer tend to have a home range of between one and three hundred acres.
Deer tend to favour open habitat of fields and the 'low browse' that results from forestry. This is one reason why the population of deer on the Moraine has fluctuated considerably over time as the percentage forested area has changed.
Also known by some as the "Speckled Trout", a healthy Brook Trout shines with iridescent copper-coloured scales and beautiful bright speckles of gold and red.
Some ecologists believe that Brook Trout are the among best indicator species for water quality in Southern Ontario streams. Requiring a comparatively cold, clean habitat, Brook Trout like the naturally cooled and filtered water that percolates up from the Moraine's giant aquifer, filling the many water courses that originate on it.
Brook trout may be easily displaced by larger, more aggressive fish like stocked rainbow trout or brown trout.
Included here are links to some resources for further reading and education concerning the Habitats and Wildlife of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Ontario Recovery Strategy Series:
Recovery Plan <820 Kb pdf> for the Jefferson Slamander, which may be found on The Ministry of Natural Resources website at: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Species/2ColumnSubPage/287133.html
Caring for your Land: A Stewardship Manual for Oak Ridges Moraine Landowners
A Stewardship Manual For Oak Ridges Moraine Landowners <3.69 Mb pdf>
Headwater Wetlands Information:
Headwater Wetlands Of the Oak Ridges Moraine <223 Kb pdf>
The Oak Ridges Moraine Technical Plan:
Technical Paper #2 on the Significant Wildlife Habitat
Technical Paper #3 on Supporting Connectivity
Technical Paper #6 on the Identification of Significant Portions of Habitat for Endangered, Rare and Threatened Species