Peregrine Falcon - Photo Brian Ratcliff

Member Profile: Thunder Bay Field Naturalists

Peregrine Falcon – Photo: Brian Ratcliff

 

 

How long have you been around, and who helps run your land trust?

The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Club (TBFN) is an all-volunteer non-profit established in 1933. The Nature Reserves Committee began operation in 1990. Committee members assist with fundraising, species inventories and monitoring of the club’s fourteen reserves, which total 4,000 acres.

What is a project or program that you are especially proud of, and you would like people to know about?

TBFN has an ambitious goal: to keep the north shore of Lake Superior wild! In Northwestern Ontario, it is still possible to be proactive and protect areas before they are badly degraded. TBFN works in conjunction with other private groups and governments, to protect ecologically important areas where natural processes can continue without human interference. This also ensures that adventurers continue to have wild places to explore.

Large coastal wetlands like the Provincially Significant one at Pine Bay Nature Reserve are rare on the rocky Lake Superior shore. This area supports migrating birds, spawning fish and hundreds of regionally rare Purple-fringed Orchids. Inland, a string of mesas provides hunting grounds for Peregrine Falcons. Until TBFN acquired it, the property was threatened by cottage development.

Purple-fringed Orchids Photo: Mike Bryan

Purple-fringed Orchids Photo: Mike Bryan

Hare Island, near the tip of the Sibley Peninsula, was protected to ensure that cottage development and related boat traffic would not interfere with migration monitoring at the nearby Thunder Cape Bird Observatory. The island also is home to Barn Swallows that nest on rock shelves of a cliff. This was their original natural habitat before barns and other buildings provided an alternate nesting habitat.

Barn Swallow Photo: David Bradley

Barn Swallow Photo: David Bradley

Further east of the city, on the Black Bay Peninsula, TBFN protects the open habitat on the Everard Fen, including a lek site where a group of male Sharp-tailed Grouse annually perform their mating dance. While logging is a threat on the peninsula, few people make the difficult trek to this isolated wetland. However a web cam recently captured the mating ritual of this bird.

Sharp-tailed Grouse Photo: Nick Escott

Sharp-tailed Grouse Photo: Nick Escott

Bowman and Paradise Islands are part of an archipelago in the open waters of Lake Superior. Although designated an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest for natural and geologic features, the land had been subdivided for cottage development. Now the ancient lichen-covered cobble beaches and remnant communities of Arctic-Alpine and Krumholtz vegetation are protected by the naturalists, awaiting the return of Woodland Caribou. These animals, which still inhabit the Slate Islands, were seen on the Lake Superior ice in the winter of 2014, raising hopes that they may soon return to another area TBFN protects on the mainland near Terrace Bay.

Caribou running on Lake Superior ice from Slate Islands toward Jackfish Bay.

Caribou running on Lake Superior ice from Slate Islands toward Jackfish Bay.

What is on the horizon for Thunder Bay Field Naturalists?

With another acquisition on the lakeshore in the works, TBFN continues to make progress on its goal of keeping outstanding areas on the north shore wild.