By Glen Prevost, Special to The News
It’s really no surprise that Joanne Tunnicliffe can call 58 birds.
“I’m a linguist and I speak a lot of languages, so to me bird calls are just another language,” she said.
Hamilton is a hot-spot for birds, especially around Cootes Paradise and the Royal Botanical Gardens, where Tunnicliffe lives.
When she first moved to the area, the area was used as a dumping ground. Previous owners had stacked up years of yard waste, and a farmer dumped everything from oil barrels to old fencing. Nothing could grow but invasive species.
Being an avid naturalist whose nickname is Mother Nature, Tunnicliffe couldn’t stand it. The RBG encouraged her and her husband to become “stewards” under the Hamilton-Halton Watershed Stewardship Program and apply for a grant to restore the area with native plants. They now have two years left on a three-year grant, and Carolina wrens live in their bird houses.
“Cootes Paradise is an amazing place for birds because it is one of the few places in Southern Ontario that has all the things that are required for birds,” said Tunnicliffe. “It has been good foresight to set this area aside..”
Tunnicliffe thinks the Dundas EcoPark is equally essential.
At 3,325 acres, the Dundas EcoPark will create a major habitat corridor linking Lake Ontario to the Niagara Escarpment. A recent RBG study showed the area is one of the most biodiverse in Canada and home to eight endangered, nine threatened and 14 special concern species.
“You know what a quilt blanket looks like? Well, because we have destroyed 90 per cent of our forest and wetlands in southern Ontario, we are left with these little pieces of habitat, but by making corridors from one section to another, you are going to really help nature,” said Tunnicliffe.
“When animals in Cootes Paradise have babies, those babies need somewhere to go. We are running out of room and need to have corridors for animals to move.”
The Dundas EcoPark will include the north and south shores of Cootes Paradise, a provincially significant wetland and part of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere reserve.
It will run from Burlington Heights and Highway 6 in the east to Desjardins Canal and Dundas in the west.
The Hamilton Conservation Foundation is heading up a $5-million fundraising campaign to help acquire significant natural lands within the Dundas EcoPark.
For more information on the Dundas EcoPark or to donate, contact the Hamilton Conservation Foundation or visit DundasEcoPark.ca.