Since 1984

The Big Picture Network: Norfolk County

Also available is the 'Caring for Nature in Norfolk' factsheet, part of a Carolinian Canada wide series. This factsheet is an excellent overview of Carolinian Canada habitat restoration and conservation work being done in Norfolk County. The Norfolk factsheet is available for download here (PDF 1.5 MB).

Big Creek Valley – South Walsingham Sand Ridges

Location: just northwest of Long Point

Dates: 1984 to present

Partners: Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Norfolk Field Naturalists, Bird Studies Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Carolinian Canada Coalition

The Big Creek Floodplain and the South Walsingham Sand Ridges (sometimes collectively referred to as the South Walsingham Forest) are just northwest of Long Point. The dry slopes and crests of the high, undulating sand ridges (deposited thousands of years ago by a glacial lake) are wooded with oak and pine, along with Carolinian species such as Sassagras, Tulip-tree, and Eastern Flowering Dogwood. In the depressions, maple swamps include Pumpkin Ash. An intensive biological survey of the South Walsingham Forest was carried out in the 1990s. One of the key conclusions was that the more complex the forest structure, the more diverse the bird and other wildlife species present. A management strategy for public and private lands within the site was produced in 1999. Open floodplain communities of river valley systems in the Norfolk Sand Plain region have been lost as drainage projects facilitate the conversion to agricultural land. But at this signature site, a multitude of private, public, and non-profit landowners have banded together to steward the forest and oak savanna. More information is available in our Carolinian Canada Signature Sites booklet, available for order on this website.

DeCloet Forest Stewardship

Location: adjacent to Backus Woods off Concession

Dates: 1991 to present

Partners: Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Forestry Association, Trees Ontario

Paul DeCloet, a Tillsonburg area tobacco farmer, began diversifying into timber production over 25 years ago. He and his family currently own 700 acres of woodlots, some purchased and some established on old tobacco land. Paul’s firm belief is that, once established, a well-managed hardwood woodlot can produce as much income per acre as some agricultural crops. He has proven this with a 62-acre woodlot, purchased in 1980, which has already returned him several times what he originally paid for the property. He carefully harvests his woodlots on a rotational basis, taking 5 to 6 trees out of one spot and creating sunny openings so tree seedlings can thrive. This practice of natural regeneration has worked well in establishing small stands of tulip trees, black gum, sassafras, and other Carolinian species. Currently a trustee with the Trees Ontario Foundation, Paul is a recipient of the Ontario Forestry Foundation’s Tree Farmer Award in recognition of his innovative forestry techniques.

Delhi Big Creek Valley

Location: between Delhi and Lynedoch

Dates: 1984 to present

Partners: Long Point Region Conservation Authority, private stewardship, Carolinian Canada Coalition

Roughly halfway between its source (at the northern border of Norfolk County) and its mouth (near Long Point on Lake Erie), Big Creek cuts a steep-sided valley for about five kilometres. Many small, spring-fed creeks and continuous seepage along the ravine banks provide Big Creek with a steady source of water. This vast reservoir of spring water is particularly pure, as it percolates through the deep fine sands of the Norfolk Sand Plain.

The eastern slopes of the valley’s upland forests are hot and dry with oaks and hickories, while the western slopes are cool and moist with cedars and hemlock. Floodplain depressions – traces of the former stream meanders and channels – comprised of cedar swamps, flank the creek. Edging the rim of the valley are small praiirie remnants with plants such as Little Bluestem, Flowering Spurge, and Round-headed Bush Clover.

More information is available in our Carolinian Canada Signature Sites booklet, available for order on this website.

Forest Corridor Project

Location: Long Point Region, former townships of Charlotteville and South Walsingham

Dates: 1995 to present

Partners: Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Ontario Power Generation, Norfolk Field Naturalists, Carolinian Canada Coalition, several private landowners

The Forest Corridor project considers a concentration of forest fragments stretching from Turkey Point through Spooky Hollow to the St. Williams Forestry Station. This stretch of forest fragments was chosen for monitoring and possible connective plantings for a number of reasons: this area is within the zone of cooperation; it contains a Life Science A.N.S.I. (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest), Class 1 Wetland, Significant Natural Areas and ESAs (Environmentally Sensitive Areas), a Carolinian Canada site, Turkey Point Provincial Park, and a Forestry Station. Creating an unbroken corridor would connect marsh, shoreline and inland ecosystems. The fact that the gaps between existing natural areas are relatively small makes the long term objective attainable.

The project aims to help landowners help themselves. By providing landowners with inventory data on their forests, and an opportunity to expand these natural areas where appropriate, LPWBRF is helping local people to make informed decisions about the future of their forest within the context of the larger forest ecosystem.

Volunteer efforts in this project have been impressive. Organized in partnership with Long Point Region Conservation Authority, over 40 members of the Norfolk Field Naturalists and Society for Ecological Restoration helped plant trees and acorns on private land this spring. Local youth also got their hands dirty when students from Port Dover Secondary School helped reforest another property, formerly planted to corn. (Taken from

Konrad Property

Location: Long Point near Port Rowan

Dates: xx to present

Partners: Nature Conservancy of Canada, Norfolk Field Naturalists, Long Point Basin Land Trust

"The Konrad property is a 40 ha (97-acre) property acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The Norfolk Field Naturalists and the Long Point Basin Land Trust have carried out restoration work on two post-agricultural fields on this property using assistance from the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Community Wildlife and Fish Involvement Program, the Stewardship Rangers, Working for Wilderness (NCC, FON) and others. The property has been used for research, birding, photography, education, training volunteers, restoration demonstration and hunting. The Konrad property supports several Species at Risk including Jefferson Salamander, Hooded Warbler, Black Ratsnake, Eastern Foxsnake and Eastern Hognose Snake. Natural habitats include vernal pools, Pumpkin Ash swamp, Royal Fern - Buttonbush - Sphagnum glade, and Eastern-Hemlock-Tulip-tree forest.

"Two small fields had been planted by the previous owner10-12 years ago with White Pine and a mix of deciduous trees. The perimeter of these fields was planted with Multiflora Rose. The Ministry of Natural Resources formerly encouraged the planting of Multiflora Rose - an ill-conceived means of supplying wildlife habitat. In contrast, it is a serious exotic invasive that destroys habitat. The Multiflora Rose, in this case, had grown into a 10-metre deep impenetrable hedge that prevented native species from colonizing the plantations. This hedge was cut into small pieces and sprayed repeatedly.

"One section 800 metres long was more than 90% dead in June - a fantastic result after the hard and painful work of cutting it. (Tip of the day: personal protection is achieved by wearing heavy-duty, duck coveralls – available locally). In addition, White Pines were thinned, White Spruce was removed altogether (not native) as were many of the stunted and diseased offsite Black Walnut. During the whole process of restorin g the Konrad property there has been an ongoing invasion of Autumn Olive from roadside plantings. I was puzzled by the appearance of huge numbers of seedlings that continually sprang up despite our diligent efforts at eradication. One day I made a significant discovery. I was examining a dense patch of new Autumn Olive seedlings when I realized that they were sprouting out of deer fecal pellets. The deer had been feasting on berries and were sprinkling seeds over our restoration site. (Venison is a delicious source of protein.) At last, with the help of the Stewardship Rangers the majority of Autumn Olive shrubs have been destroyed. Now our restoration plantings of native trees and shrubs are no longer hidden in the dense haze of Autumn Olive."

By Mary Gartshore

Taken from Lotus, a newsletter of the Norfolk Field Naturlists, January 2005.

Long Point Provincial Park

Location: Long Point near Port Rowan

Dates: xx to present

Partners: Ontario Parks,

This 150 ha (345 acres) Recreation class Park is part of a 40-kilometre-long sandspit in Lake Erie that has been recognized as a biosphere reserve by the United Nations. It is a world-renowned refuge and stopover for migrating birds in fall and spring. Waterfowl viewing is excellent in March. The fragile dunes and marshes of Long Point are home to waterbirds like the Common Loon and American Bittern, songbirds, spawning fish, turtles and frogs. The park is in the core range of the Threatened Fowler’s Toad. Other rare species such as the Prothonotary Warbler, Least Shrew, Swamp Rose Mallow and Showy Beggar’s Ticks are also found here. For more information go to

© John Ha

Long Point World Biosphere Reserve

Location: Long Point near Port Rowan

Dates: 1986 to present

Partners: Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Parks,

The Long Point World Biosphere Reserve (LPWBR) is comprised of several natural areas situated along the 40 km long sandspit on the north shore of Lake Erie. The core of the Reserve is the 3250 ha (8,028 acres) Long Point National Wildlife Area managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada since 1979. The Long Point Provincial Park described above is a part of the Reserve, as is the Provincial Crown Marsh and the Big Creek National Wildlife Area. The Reserve was designated as an example of Great Lakes coastal habitats, including long uninterrupted beaches, undisturbed sand dunes, grassy ridges, wet meadows, woodlands, marshes and ponds. The core – the National Wildlife Area - is relatively undisturbed and well-protected. It was purchased in 1866 by a group of businessmen/sportsmen who put together a management plan and stewarded it well for over a century. In 1979 the Long Point Company donated about half to the Canadian government with the provision that it was to be protected. Some of the rare species found here include the Brindled Madtom (fish), Eastern Fox Snake, Spiny Softshell and Spotted Turtles, and the King Rail (bird). Rare plants include Cucumber Magnolia and Great Plains Ladies' Tresses (orchid). For more information please check out


Location: South Walsingham

Dates: 1991 to present

Partners: Mary Gartshore, Peter Carson

"Almost twelve years ago, Mary Gartshore and Peter Carson purchased a tobacco farm; they named it Pterophylla. Much to the horror of some of their neighbours, their intentions were never to grow tobacco, but to restore the land. Pterophylla is located in old South Walsingham, an area that would have been covered in black oak savanna and forest many decades ago. The main large field measuring about 60 acres was used for tobacco and sat in rye at the time of purchase. The next spring, the restoration began. Slowly at first, a few black oak and white pine seedlings were planted to create a windbreak. Then acorns and seeds were scattered in rows to get something other than quack grass and rye growing. One strip was planted with a mixture of about thirty plant species. Many of the planters were volunteers from the Bird Studies Canada office.

"In the spring of 1992 things got serious. An organized crew of volunteers was arranged, many of them inner city office workers who came out to get dirty. The group of about twenty people came for the May 24th weekend and camped out. They hoed, dug, scattered seeds, planted plugs and watered. The plan was to plant seeds and seedlings in five strips about one meter wide running the entire length of the field. The idea was that once these strips were established the wind would spread their seeds into the rest of the field. After two long hot days of labour a party was held. I may point out that my main responsibility at this point, being a youngster of about twelve, was carrying water to the hard workers. It was a tough job, people sure drink a lot when the weather is warm!

"The planting "bee" as it was to be known was so popular and worked out so well that it was organized again for the next year and got bigger. With more help (around 35 people) more activities could be planned and more beer drunk. Strips of the field were still seeded using the same hand dispersal methods. Fence posts and brush was used to create fencing to stop all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles from entering the field and doing damage. Quack grass and goats beard was now becoming a problem in the more open areas, so many people worked on removing these. By the end of the third summer some definite improvements could be seen. Some species, such as Wild Bergamont, Brown-eyed Susan, and Butterfly Weed were even flowering.

"From 1993-1995 Ernest Liptak headed up the exotic removal committee. These brave people used a variety of tools including machetes, tree trimmers, and long handled pruners to exterminate Multiflora Rose, a very long reaching and prickly exotic invasive plant that looks something like an octopus and inflicts nasty scrapes drawing blood. In the spring of 1994 the local Ministry of Natural Resources burned the field to simulate a natural prairie burn. This proved very efficient in removing all the rye - it never returned. When flames got to about 30 feet tall, it was calmly suggested maybe the water tanker should be positioned a little closer to the barn. The field was burned again in 1996, and every year since. It has never gone up again the way it did with the rye though.

"The last year of strip seeding was 1995. Many volunteers still came out every year to help with projects on other properties and activities other than planting. In the five years of planting, about 35 species where added to the field. As some species were already there, actually more than 35 are present today. One such example is Upright Bindweed, which now grows in spectacular colonies that survived 100 years of cultivation as rhizomes. Today the windbreak stands at about 15 feet tall. It effectively stops the wind and sand from blowing.

"The Pterophylla restoration project is an excellent example and teaching aid. Suggesting its health, the prairie is home to several species of rare insects, a large number of nesting birds and provides a feeding site for migrating birds. A large number of people visit it every year, from students to garden enthusiasts and photographers. It is an extremely successful creation planted using all local seed. It was one of the first private restorations and is unique in its large size. Considering the field is only about 60 acres that is a pretty scary thought. Personally, I find it quite amazing that the field I look at today, with its rich orange and gold tones and many varied flowers, was not very long ago a normal crop field. This is encouraging; with a little sweat and elbow grease we can create or improve our natural areas instead of destroying them. Oh, and now, that it's many years later, I don't have to carry the water, I get to drive the tractor."

By Jennifer Carson

Taken from

Rock Point Provincial Park

Location: southeast Norfolk on Lake Erie near Dunnville


Partners: Ontario Parks

Rock Point Provincial Park is an excellent place to go to view fossils that were formed 350 million years ago beneath a tropical sea. They can be found in limestone shelves along the beach marked by glaciers 12,000 years ago as they passed across this part of the continent.

Today Rock Point Provincial Park is a good place to go to view a diversity of animal and plant life . A Canadian Migrating Monitoring Station is located within the park where migratory songbirds are banded and released to resume their migration. The Park is also home to several rare species. The Eastern Hognose Snake, for example, is a very rare snake, and is federally listed as one of Canada’s “Species at Risk”. It gets its name from its turned-up nose and is totally harmless. Another rare species, Fowlers Toad, is found in only a few places in Ontario. Rock Point Provincial Park is one of these. A small Carolinian forest occupies the upland portion of the park, while over 600 metres of beautiful sandy beach line the shores of Lake Erie. A trail system leads along the top of a lakeside bluff, through fields and into a Carolinian Woodlot. Viewing platforms overlook Lake Erie and nearby Mohawk Island and lighthouse. For more information go to

Rowanwood Sanctuary

Location: 5 km south of Aylmer

Dates: 1854 to present

Partners: Ontario Heritage Foundation, Norfolk Field Naturalists,

"Rowanwood is an 87 acre wooded property owned by the Ontario Heritage Trust and managed by the Norfolk Field Naturalists. The property includes a broad range of habitat types, including floodplain, wet meadow, open/semi-open grasslands, conifer plantations, and mature Carolinian forest. Rowanwood supports a broad diversity of plants and animals including migrating waterfowl in the spring, various species of warblers, woodpeckers and other forest birds, insects, spring flowers, rushes, and trees.

"Rowanwood Sanctuary is managed by the Norfolk Field Naturalists with the guidance of a management plan and an informal technical committee. Between eight and ten years ago volunteers began to work to phase out the conifer plantations to increase ecological function and biodiversity. Prescribed burns were also introduced (conducted by Ministry of Natural Resources) to convert old pasturelands to oak savanna. Wildflower seeds were collected from the forest and scattered through the plantations. These activities have been successful in promoting natural regeneration and recovery of native flora and fauna on the site and inspired the present work.

"In Rowanwood, we had noticed that clearing a few White Pines of the plantation next to the natural forest, allowed that forest to spread into the plantation. Native wildflowers depend largely on spring light before deciduous trees leaf out, but are limited by the perpetual and dense cover of conifers. White Pines were thinned by 90% along the forest edge to a depth equal to the deciduous tree heights to mimic a normal tree gap in a natural forest. This would allow native flora to colonize the plantation. Furthermore, an additional 50% of pines were girdled 20 m back from perimeter of the plantation.

"These trees would die, shrink and disintegrate over the next few years allowing the natural forest to advance. In thinning the pines, huge amounts of debris were generated. These were stacked and burned in discrete fire pits. Logs were bucked and stacked to provide habitat. Stumps were left standing at various heights. By rotting upright, a minimum of the ground would be buried so that there was plenty of opportunity for wildflower seedlings to grow unhampered. The fire pits themselves were stacked with logs or filled with duff from the forest floor to prevent weeds from establishing where fire had scorched the soil. Great care was taken not to damage dormant wildflowers.

"All of the above work was carried out in March to minimize disturbance. We were eager to observe the results. Right away White-footed Mice entered from the forest using the new log piles as cover. The Long-eared Owls used the high stumps to hunt mice leaving regurgitated pellets on top of the sawdust. In May a torrent of wood ants poured into the freshly cut wood and established new colonies. Wood ants are very important for the dispersal of wildflower seeds. Wildflower seeds have an oily elaisome attached to the seed as an incentive for ants to carry the seed. The elaisome is eaten and the seed discarded in ant tunnels. Trilliums, hepaticas, sedges,wood-rushes, bloodroot, violets and wild ginger are all dispersed in this way. This association is called myrmechory. Ants tend other insects such as the larvae of Lycaenid butterflies, aphids, and treehoppers. Ants provide protection while ‘milking’ sugary fluid from the other insects.By May the newly cleared site was a profusion of wildflowers.

"The fresh log piles provided additional moisture and protection and the plants grew very large and set seed. Log piles provided important steppingstones for predators, pollinators, and seed-dispersers to perform important ecological functions in the newly thinned pines. In the process native biodiversity is conserved and enhanced. In addition to the pine thinning, exotic invasive shrubs were cut and glyphosate was painted on the stumps. Small but increasing patches of garlic mustard were sprayed. These were marked with flagging tape so that they could be treated again in 2005."

By Mary Gartshore

Taken from Lotus, a newsletter of the Norfolk Field Naturalists, January 2005.

St. Williams Dwarf Oak Forest and Conservation Reserve

Location: southwest of Simcoe

Dates: 1890s to present

Partners: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Norfolk Field Naturalists, Carolinian Canada Coalition,

St. Williams Conservation Reserve (SWCR) is located in the former townships of South Walsingham and Charlotteville, 15 kilometers southwest of the Town of Simcoe. It is composed of 1033.95 hectares of Crown land that was formerly operated as part of the St. Williams Provincial Forest Station. The conservation reserve is managed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR).

St. Williams is one of the largest blocks of forest and other natural habitats in the Carolinian life zone of southern Ontario. It is recognized regionally, provincially, and nationally for its exceptional biological diversity and its globally imperiled oak savanna. The reserve includes two large but separate tracts of Crown land, the Nursery Tract, and the Turkey Point Tract located next to Turkey Point Provincial Park. The conservation reserve is on the Norfolk Sand Plain, deposited as a large delta in a glacial lake. Well formed sand dunes are prominent features on the Nursery Tract, but less frequent on the Turkey Point Tract. The dunes in SWCR are prone to wind erosion in the absence of vegetation cover and underlying root mat.

The total area covers 1034 hectares (2,554 acres). The ecological communities found in the Reserve include oak savanna, oak woodland, other tallgrass communities, sand barrens, forests, wetlands and streams supports one of the highest concentrations of species at risk in Ontario and Canada. The St. Williams Dwarf Oak Forest comprises a portion within the larger, publicly owned tracts of the St. Williams Crown Lands. The whole site has been the focus of intense conservation efforts in the past few years, and groups such as the Norfolk Field Naturalists have lobbied the provincial government to protect this extraordinary ‘hot spot’ for species at risk. Among the many species at risk known to occur at the St. Williams Crown Lands are American Chestnut, Eastern Flowering Dogwood, Dwarf Chinquapin Oak, American Ginseng, Sptted Wintergreen, Bird’s-foot Violet, southern Flying Squirrel, and Hooded Warbler.

These lands were part of Ontario’s first Provincial forest station, in operation from 1908 to 1998. The tree seedlings produced at this forest station and its demonstration forests played a major role in the environmental conservation and soil stabilization efforts in southern Ontario in the twentieth century. More information is available in our Carolinian Canada Signature Sites booklet, available for order on this website.

Stead Property

Location: near Normandale on Lake Erie

Dates: 1990s to present

Partners: Ken Stead – landowner, Norfolk Field Naturalists,

"The NFN started planting Stead’s 50-acre property 8-10 years go. It has grown up into an impressive young oak savanna –sand barrens with many rare species. The Stead property has been used for insect films, forbirding, for seed sources, hunting, fund-raising and for a MSc. project. Most of the property is in good condition but there are a few residual invasive exotics and scattered stands of Quack Grass. The farthest field is dominated by Quack Grass. From an ecological perspective, quack grass is a pervasive exotic invasive that strategically kills trees and other native plants. It achieves this by piercing young tree taproots with its underground rhizomes. Quack sequesters all of the soil moisture and nutrients for its own use while providing cover for destructive rodents. Permanent removal of quack is essential to good restoration. This may not be easy as most agricultural fields, lawns, roadsides and tree plantations are full of quack. Quack grass easily launches itself into sites from these places. In the case of Stead’s, the fields are surrounded by good forest. It is therefore possible to eliminate quack grass forever – our goal. With this in mind the entire field was treated with 1% glyphosate using backpack sprayers in early spring when Quack had sprouted to the three-leaf stage. The change in this field over the course of the summer was remarkable. First early-successional natives such as Spreading Dogbane and Ground Cherry suddenly appeared over large areas. Tree seedlings such as Black Oak and White Oak started to grow even though they had been seeded two years previously."

By Mary Gartshore

Taken from Lotus, January 2005.

Turkey Point Provincial Park

Location: near Normandale on Lake Erie

Dates: 1990s to present

Partners: Ontario Parks,

The wide diversity of habitat in Turkey Point includes everything from sandy beaches with warm shallow waters, to marshes, black oak savanna, oak-pine woodland, and prairie openings, as well as great bluffs and majestic forests. The temperate climate and the deep soil combine to create a distinct ecosystem. In the forests, tree species such as Tulip, Sassafras, Chestnut and Flowering Dogwood can be found. Fern-leaved False Foxglove, Cylindrical Blazing-Star, Green Milkweed and Bird's-Foot Violet can be found in the prairie and savanna remnants. The park is also an excellent place to view a variety of birds including waterfowl, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl and Sandhill Crane in season. Hiking trails lead to as fish culture station and a hatchery pond.

The park also supports a wide range of songbirds. The wild turkey from which the park derives its name was once extirpated in the area, but 10 years ago they were reintroduced to the park and today there are an estimated 8500 wild turkeys roaming the park. For more information go to

YU Ranch Prairie Restoration and Forest and Stream Stewardship

Location: near Normandale on Lake Erie

Dates: 1990s to present

Partners: Bryan Gilvesy, Norfolk Land Stewardship Council, ALUS

Norfolk farmer Bryan Gilvesy has established an 8-acre tallgrass prairie pasture on his 350 acre YU Ranch near Tillsonburg. Raising hormone-free Texas long-horn cattle on his ranch, Bryan hopes the prairie pasture, consisting of native switchgrass, Indian grass and big bluestem,, will provide grazing opportunities for his cattle in dry summers, when domestic grass pastures shut down and stop growing. Other beneficial management practices Bryan has implemented on his demonstration farm include: fencing the cattle from his 100 acres of significant woodlands which contains an important water supply for his farm and a trout stream flowing through a wooded ravine; solar powered watering for his cattle; setting up a bluebird nesting box trail, and; switchgrass hedge rows for wind erosion control and wildlife habitat. The project is a joint one with the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, Pterophylla Native Plants and Seeds, the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture and the Norfolk Land Stewardship Council. Funding, in part, has been supplied through the pilot Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program in Norfolk County.

Backus Conservation Area and Jacson Gunn Old Growth Forest

From towering 600 year old forests to expansive coastal wetlands, Norfolk is recognized internationally for its unique natural ecosystems, thanks to generations of landowners with foresight. Since 1798, the Backhouse family preserved the giants of the Carolinian forest so now you can walk among 30 m (100 ft) Tulip Trees at Backus Conservation Area. The Long Point Basin Land Trust stewards the spectacular Jackson-Gunn Old Growth Forest, where giant tree hollows provide a winter haven for Carolina Wren and Eastern Pipistrelle Bat. Today, landowners are choosing to leave pockets of woodland undisturbed to restore the magnificent forests of southwestern Ontario for the future.

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