The Importance of Open Spaces in Haliburton County
Look at any satellite photo of Haliburton County and a few things stand out. We live in a sea of trees, dotted with a myriad of lakes and wetlands. Many other counties in southern Ontario are not so lucky and have lost virtually all their wild spaces. As important as these forests are, open habitats are equally vital. Fields and grasslands, like the one you see before you, are a relatively rare habitat type in Haliburton County and are crucial to maintaining biodiversity in the region. These open, sunny places provide habitat for many species of butterflies, moths, birds, reptiles, and plants. As you roam through this open area, listen and look for some of the residents that call this grassland home. Eastern Bluebirds can frequently be heard giving their plaintive “turlee” calls.
These birds are thrushes and are closely related to our ubiquitous Robin. Bluebirds likely benefited from European colonization as early forest clearing practices created a mosaic of open spaces, hedgerows, and fruit orchards….ideal habitats for this species. With intensifying agricultural practices and the introduction of aggressive exotics such as the European Starling and the House Sparrow, they declined severely during the middle of the last century. By the early 1980s, bluebirds were considered rare in Canada. Thankfully, the population has rebounded successfully, due in large part to dedicated nest box programs that target this species. The Land Trust has been actively erecting nest boxes in appropriate habitat within Barnum Creek Nature Reserve in the past several years, with success. Today, bluebirds are once again a common sight in open spaces like the one before you. This grassy field is actively managed by the Land Trust because if it were not regularly mowed, it would soon be lost to regenerating forest and this special habitat would vanish.