Hazel Bird Day, Rice Lake Plains, ON (Photo by Cameron Curran)

Hazel Bird Day, Rice Lake Plains, ON (Photo by Cameron Curran)

Celebrating the birds

Black-capped chickadee, Hazel Bird Day, Rice Lake Plains, ON (Photo by Cameron Curran)

Black-capped chickadee, Hazel Bird Day, Rice Lake Plains, ON (Photo by Cameron Curran)

On Saturday, May 12, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) welcomed more than 100 supporters, neighbours and bird enthusiasts to the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve for the first-ever Hazel Bird Day. The family-friendly event offered hikes, talks and a BBQ lunch.

The nature reserve was named for local naturalist and bird-lover Hazel Bird. It provides important habitat for grassland birds, including the eastern bluebird. For many years Hazel put up nest boxes for the vivid, deep blue- and rust-coloured bird. Her son, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were in attendance at the event.

This year commemorates the 25th anniversary of International Migratory Bird Day (now World Migratory Bird Day), the first hemisphere-wide celebration of migratory birds. This annual event highlights the need to protect migratory birds and conserve their habitats, which range from Canada to Argentina and the Caribbean. It also celebrates the volunteers and conservation projects that help birds.

Located on the Rice Lake Plains north of Coburg, Ontario, the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve is part of a unique area once dominated by massive black and white oaks and grasses. Big bluestem, Indian grass and switchgrass once grew more than two metres high. Today, the Rice Lake Plains are badly fragmented and overgrown with non-native species. A refuge for species at risk, including many grassland birds and eastern hog-nosed snake, the Rice Lake Plains remain a priority for conservation.

Thanks to a three-year, $663,200 Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation made in late 2017, NCC will be able to do even more to help conserve habitat for grassland birds on the Rice Lake Plains. This new funding will be used for the restoration of important tall grass prairie and oak savannah habitat in the Rice Lake Plains Natural Area.

To date, NCC and our partners, through the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative, which includes Alderville First Nation, have conserved more than 2,500 acres (1,084 hectares) on the Rice Lake Plains. The Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, and other Rice Lake Plains properties, has been generously supported by funding from the Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and other donors.

To learn more about Hazel Bird or to find out how you can visit this property, check out NCC's Nature Destinations.

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