(click on panoramics for higher res images)
This is the final preview in a three part series profiling our network of Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) network in the Frontenac Arch. The panoramic image posted above is from the eastern boundary of our Rock Ridge MAPS site, which is 7 kilometers away from the Hemlock Lake station and 5 kilometers from Maplewood Bog. Rock Ridge is the most remote of the stations, being accessible by portage and a short paddle to the western shoreline of a point jutting into a large deep lake in Frontenac Provincial Park. An alternate route to the site is via a roundabout hike of about an hour, which wasn’t an appealing prospect for seven visits at 4am while lugging equipment!
The site itself is a spectacular mixture of rock barrens, steep cliffs, successional forest/scrub and mature mixed forest. The avian communities are similarly diverse and includes species characteristic of open forest habitats such as Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Red-eyed Vireo and Brown Thrasher. Large portions of the site consist of rock barrens with juniper, red cedar and oak-savannah, which host dense populations of Eastern Towhee and Field Sparrow among others. The northern and western slopes are more densely vegetated with mixed-age forest containing pine, cedar and various deciduous tree species. These forested slopes contain large numbers of Black-and-white Warblers, Nashville Warblers and White-throated Sparrows with lesser numbers of Scarlet Tanager, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush. Also of interest in the area are black spruce-tamarack bogs, which are probably too small in size for Ruby-crowned Kinglets and other “spruce” specialists of the north. There are larger stands of black spruce in the region, which the extensive point count network will begin to survey in a couple of weeks time.
Traversing these rock barrens revealed a surprisingly high number of White-throated Sparrows, many of which are well into their first nesting attempts of the year. I didn’t have time to do any formal nest searching but I did GPS several locations of suspected nest sites.
Obviously there was more than just interesting birds in the area and I took particular interest in some of the recently sprouted wildflowers. With the help of our assistant Seabrooke Leckie, we were able to identify this attractive plant as Hook-spur Violet.