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Nature count uncovers rare finds across watershed

Narrow brow stretch home to threatened butternut trees

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Hamilton is home to a vast range of rare, unique and threatened plants and animals, sometimes in spots you might not expect to find them.

A Nature Counts 2 survey being conducted as part of a three-year effort to update an inventory of the city’s natural areas has already identified rare gems like the federally threatened red-headed woodpecker.

Many of the imperiled species are in the Dundas Valley – bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, Jefferson salamanders – but even the narrow stretch of escarpment running through Hamilton is a refuge for at-risk butternut trees despite being cut off by road accesses.

Nicholas Schwetz, one of the project’s crew leaders, said falling rocks from stretch’s steep cliff faces have created rare talus habitat below.

“We did find a lot of it obviously below the escarpment, which was very suitable for butternuts,” he said during a presentation on the preliminary findings at Ancaster public library. “We found a lot of butternut.”

On the downside, the assessment of the same stretch also found evidence of the emerald ash borer, which threatens to devastate the city’s ash trees, and that the tops of some trees had been cut off – perhaps to enhance views of the lower city.

The Nature Counts 2 inventory, which will update a previous one in 2003, has just completed its second year and already surveyed 39 natural areas across the watershed.

It will move to another 16 areas, mostly in Flamborough, and the Red Hill Valley in 2013.

Project coordinator Tawnia Martel said the survey will now record previously omitted dragonflies and damselflies.

She said the data has yet to be compared with the 2003 results to see how things have changed, but during a recent visit to Valens Conservation Area she heard chorus frogs clearly confused by unseasonably warm weather.

“It was November 21st and we heard spring peepers,” she said. “Something’s the matter.”

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