Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bruce Trail @ Berry Tract

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Location: Bruce Trail @ RBG Berry Tract & Borer's Falls Conservation Area
Directions: Take York Road from either Burlington or Dundas, turn off at Valley Road. Before Patterson Road, there's a small area on the left side to park at
Obscurity: Low - it's the Bruce Trail
Data: GPS Track

Since I'm undergoing the process of catching up on blog posts, I'm going to make this as short as this hike is! The hike only took about 10 minutes as a loop, less than I had thought, so I walked a bit down into the valley as well. I'll be returning soon to continue the trail through the valley.

Muddy/snowy day

The Upper Hopkins Cascade, down in the valley

One of the few private sections of the Bruce Trail

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Princess Point Trails - Shore Section

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Location: Princess Point Trail @ RBG Cootes Paradise & Princess Point Park
Transit: Take the HSR #8 to Princess Point
Directions: Take Longwood Road North from Westdale, until it meets Macklin Street North, and park at the lot
Species of Note: Carolina Wren
Obscurity: Very low -- a lot of joggers frequent these trails
Data: GPS Track

This was a nice short hike along the shore of the Desjardins Canal. Due to the inclement weather I was expecting to instead walk the Desjardins Recreation Trail, a paved trail, though I got sucked in via a paved portion of this trail that then became unpaved, and by then I was hooked.

This section of the RBG is one where a tallgrass prairie is being restored, although you almost wouldn't be able to tell by looking. There's no real tall grass yet, but it's in the early stages of restoration. Many signs here educate the onlooker about the work being done here to naturalize the space better.

I may have ended up muddier than I expected, but it was a nice walk in any case, and I even got some nice pictures of the melting waters. One of them even made it somehow onto the CBC.

Muddy, muddy trail!

24 hours earlier, this had been froze solid enough to skate on

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chedoke Woodland Trail

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Location: Chedoke Woodland Trail @ Chedoke Civic Golf Course
Directions: Take Aberdeen Avenue, turn south on Chedoke Avenue, then park near the end of Glenside Avenue
Transit: Take the HSR Aberdeen bus, get off at Chedoke Civic Golf Course
Obscurity: Medium-high -- few know there's a trail in here!
Data: GPS Track (includes walk from work parking lot)

This one's a quickie: the car battery died, so while I waited to get a charge, time for my daily hike. I knew of a trail I used to walk when I lived in the neighbourhood, it was almost more of a hike to reach the trail than the trail itself, but still worth it!

What I'm dubbing as the "Chedoke Woodland Trail" runs from the west end of Glenside Avenue, then into the woods heading south. There's a clearly defined path here that goes on for about a ten minute walk. It's easy, short, and on public land. Easy!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Spring Creek Trail

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Location: Spring Creek Trail, Dundas Valley CA
Directions: From Governor's Road, take Bridlewood Drive to the end and park there
Obscurity: Medium Low -- well known DVCA trail, near oft-travelled rail trail
Data: eBird Checklist | GPS Track

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Red Hill Trail at Globe Park

Location: Lower Red Hill Trail, Globe Park, Hamilton
Directions: Off Burlington Street, take Woodward Ave to Brampton Street, go east to the end and park
Species of Note:  Many finches and hawks
Obscurity: Low, well known trail
Data: GPS Track | eBird Checklist

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Headwaters Loop

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Location: Powerline Trail, Gravel Pit Trail, and Headwaters Trail @ Dundas Valley CA
Directions: Take Highway 52 to Powerline Road, turn east and park at the dead end
Species of Note: Red-tailed Hawk, Cedar Waxwings
Obscurity: Medium
Data: eBird Checklist | GPS Track

Friday, January 25, 2013

DVCA Trails @ Old Dundas Road

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Location: Monarch Trail (fr. Old Dundas Rd to Artaban Rd) @ Old Dundas Road, Ancaster
Directions: From Dundas, take Old Ancaster Road; from Ancaster, take Old Dundas Road
Obscurity: Medium-Low - you'll usually see other hikers here
Data: GPS Track

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Creek Side Walk

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Location: Creek Side Walk & Hidden Valley Multi-use Trail, Burlington, ON
Directions: Park at Hidden Valley Park, just off Hidden Valley Road, Burlington
Species of Note: Rough-legged Hawk
Obscurity: Very Low - lots of hikers go through here
Data: eBird Checklist | GPS Track

This is my first real hike of the year in Burlington, where the RBG's Hendrie Valley runs through. Grindstone Creek runs through here, and right now with the cold-warm-cold-warm phase this winter has gone through twice, there's a lot of ice chunks pushed up and on to the Creek Side Trail!

This hike began with a brief section of the multi-use trail in Hidden Valley. I think I save that trail as a whole for another post, when I can do a more thorough walk of it.

Today's highlight was a rather large hawk, one I later identified (not by photo, but by notes I made after seeing through binoculars) as a Rough-legged Hawk. During the whole time I was walking on the trail section it was scouting, it just sat there, turning its head every few seconds.

Could be nearly any kind of hawk, if we're ID'ing by photo
This is a tricky trail to hike in this kind of winter. A lot of the trails is very literally creek-side, in that a bit of erosion and it'd be in the creek. It really needs a bit more of a buffer between the hiker and the creek at many points. This made for a very slippery trail, one that was best to walk beside more than walk on. One slip, and you could be in the cold creek!

This trail connects up with a larger loop, one I'll be back for soon. The trails I took today were about an hour, if you account for about ten minutes of me staring at this bird. If I was looking for a good two-hour hike, the loop connected to the end of Creek Side Walk would have been a nice choice.

The trail is close to eroding into the creek...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lafarge 2000 Trail @ Concession 6 W Flamborough

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Location: Lafarge 2000 Trail @ Concession Road 6 W, Flamborough
Directions: Heading out of Dundas, take old Highway 8 towards Cambridge, then turn right at Middletown Road. Take Middletown all the way to Concession Road 6W, and park at the intersection.
Species of Note: White-tailed Deer
Obscurity: Medium-high - not many know about this trail, and if they found out about it by coming to this section, they might sooner wish to forget about it
Data: GPS Track

If you like climbing steep trails, you'll love this section of the Lafarge 2000 Trail. I can't imagine how this was ever used as a road. Even with the winding switchbacks, it's a steep hike. You'd have to be in amazing shape to reach the top here and not be at least somewhat winded.

What's more amazing about this hike today though, was that apparently some yellow tape at the entrance of the trail was supposed to indicate the trail was closed due to a bridge being out. OK, even if I knew, I can always just turn back once I get to the bridge, no big deal, right? Well.. here's what apparently was enough to close the trail, officially:

Yeah, doesn't look to safe to walk across... wait, what's under the bridge?
As you can see, the bridge is merely a boardwalk, about 2 meters long at most. Since vehicles aren't allowed on the trail anyways, I figured there must be some serious water underneath that boardwalk...

The creek the bridge crosses. Creek, or a two-inch-wide trickle of water.
So, I'm not sure what the HCA was thinking when they announced the trail is closed. If you can walk up the steepest hike in all of Flamborough, you should probably be able to step over a creek that's a wide as about a quarter of an average stride. Maybe, if there was a slight off-chance someone on a scooter could ever possibly get to this part of the trail, I could understand it being closed. Weird!

Just as I went to turn back at the half-way point, I saw a full herd of deer running up the next hill.

Not to get repetitive, but a better camera would be nice...
All-in-all it was at least 15 deer that saw me and split off into two groups. This is certainly the largest single herd of deer I'd ever seen, though I've seen more in separate encounters on a single hike in Dundas Valley before.

In any case, I've now walked from both ends of this grueling section of the Lafarge 2000 Trail. Someday a full walk from end-to-end and back of this section would be nice as an endurance challenge (3 hills, 2 of them very, very steep would make for a lot of exercise).

And now, to end with a view of the trail down the hill...

This is much steeper than it might look in a photo

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ginger Valley Trail

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Location: Ginger Valley Trail, RBG Cootes Paradise
Directions: Park at Parkview Dr in Westdale, next to Churchill Park
Transit Directions: Any HSR #5 bus into Westdale, and walk north to the RBG. This trail can be entered via Ravine Road Trail or Churchill Park
Species of Note: Red Fox, Hairy Woodpecker, Carolina Wren
Obscurity: Very Low - popular area to hike
Data: GPS Track | eBird Checklist

Another very cold day at Churchill Park! A chilly -16 degree Celsius was at least accompanied by some sun and very little wind.

Even though this hike was a relatively short 25-minute hike, it was fairly eventful. After last week's encounter with Pine Siskins working out so well because I had my old camera 4x zoom camera with me, I've decided to bring it along until I can get a better one. That was a good choice on my part.

First up: a red fox! I've never seen, nor heard of anyone seeing a red fox in Cootes before -- until now. It's been nearly a year since I last saw one near Walkerton.

I do need a better camera

Following that excitement, came some loud-and-proud singing Carolina Wrens, right in front of me. Not just singing, but also making some of their territorial noises too.

I really do need a better camera
Following, this a couple Hairy Woodpeckers!

And to end off the hike, some American Goldfinches..

Hard to see, but there's a few Goldfinches in the photo
.. and a bright male Northern Cardinal.

Time to start researching good lightweight point & shoot zoom cameras...

Monday, January 21, 2013

RBG Rock Chapel

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Location: Escarpment Trail (eastern section) @ RBG Rock Chapel Sanctuary, Flamborough
Directions: Area is along Rock Chapel Road. Parking area is closed in winter, park along the road.
Obscurity: Low, well known conservation area
Data: GPS Track | eBird Checklist

Today's hike was a quick and relatively uneventful excursion. Uneventful, but not boring. The Escarpment Trail (part of the Bruce Trail) is an oft-hiked scenic-vista-filled experience -- never a dull hike. The views over the multiple lookout points over Hamilton and Dundas are always amazing.

For a nice 30-minute or more loop, you can walk the Rock Chapel Trail combined with the eastern half of the Escarpment Trail.

As always, the most interesting species encounter was at the end of the hike. Just where the parking lot is, there was a red squirrel chewing away very loudly. Earlier, as I had started the hike, someone was trying keep their dog from going into the bushes, barking the direction of where this squirrel was standing tall, chewing away loudly. Now I know why! Unfortunately, he wouldn't stand still enough to get a photo -- I'm not even sure if my iPhone can even zoom that well anyways.

In the far-off blurry distance: Hamilton downtown. In my future: a better camera.

One of many educational signs here

A view over the eastern area of Dundas

A light sprinkling of snow on the trail

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Secret Trails Day

Location: Private Property near Walkerton, ON

Today's hike was on private property at the place we were staying at. No maps, and I'm keeping the checklist private but we saw some great birds at a farmhouse bird feeder. Lots of Dark-eyed Juncos (of the slate-coloured subspecies) and a lone Red-bellied Woodpecker came to visit the feeders.

Our hiking was a rough ordeal too, as the wind was strong and the snow was blowing around us constantly. At one point it did stop and we got some great pictures.

The Saugeen River, with ice swirling and Canadian Geese hunkering down

Blowing snow!

Snow drifts

A break in the weather

Later in the day: a nice pic from the drive home

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bruce County Rail Trail

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Location: Bruce County Rail Trail @ Brant Sideroad 5 South, Walkerton, ON
Directions: Best to use the map. Park at the side of the road where the trail crosses.
Species of Note: Northern Shrike
Obscurity: Low - Locally known, well signed.
Data: eBird Checklist

Today was wet. Very wet. We caught a break from the wet weather late in the day, and decided to hit a very easy walk where there was no chance to slip and fall down a hill or anything. Rail trails are great for days like this!

This weekend we were up north in Bruce County visiting family and getting away for the weekend, thus the trail I'm logging here is nowhere near Hamilton!

The hike was fairly normal, nothing much to talk about until the very end. I don't know why, but it seems most of my best bird finds happen just at the end of a walk. This time it was a lone Northern Shrike, perched atop a tree clear in view. Well, clear for someone with binoculars. The shrike is not a common sight, a rare example of a predatory songbird.

Looking forward to returning in the spring, when this rail trail system is a great resource for finding breeding songbirds.

Friday, January 18, 2013

McCormack Trail North

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Location: McCormack Trail, Governor's Road Conservation Area / Dundas Valley Conservation Area
Directions: Take Governor's Road west out of Dundas, and just past the entrance to the DVCA is an intersection on the right. Park at the intersection off to the side, not in front of gate as farm vehicles use this road for access.
Transit: Take HSR #5 to Pirie at Governors. Walk west until you reach the trailhead.
Species of Note: Horses, Great Horned Owl (not found today though)
Obscurity Rating: 2.5/5 - A lot of people drive by here without knowing there's a trail here. Expect to encounter either no one or a couple of people. Part of the Bruce Trail.
Data: eBird Checklist | GPS Track

If you've driven by this area and thought that this tract of land was just a regular farm, you could easily be forgiven. A sign is now finally up at the trailhead for this amazing hike, but unless you turn your head towards this old road entrance you'd miss that it's even part of the conservation area.

Today was a great day for this trail: a new fresh coat of snow, and a bright sun overhead.

This is probably one of the top hikes in Hamilton for having a rich variety of landscapes, vistas, and varying types of trail. Some of it is flat and easy. Some is a bit steep, some in the woods, some in the fields. At the highest point, you can see over the whole of lower Dundas. The trail is not overcrowded (most people don't know of it), and you can either just walk the old road, or go deeper and explore more rough terrain. It has everything for the beginning hiker to the more advanced naturalist looking to explore a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, deciduous and coniferous forest, rolling hills, open field, and trickling creek.

For those who love to see farm animals up close, you might be able to see grazing horses along the road portion of the trail.

Last time I was here in mid-September, I heard (but did not see, sadly) a Great Horned Owl hooting in the woods. I'll be back again to look and listen for this owl again some day soon.

Snow falling from the trees as I was walking

The old road section

The eastern section is partly rolling hills

The view over Dundas

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sulphur Creek Trail East

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Location: Eastern section of Sulphur Creek Trail @ Dundas Valley Conservation Area
Directions: From Old Ancaster Road, take Turnbull Road right to the dead end and park
Transit Directions: Take HSR #52 and get off at Orchard Ave, walk to Turnbull to the dead end
Species of Note: Pine Siskins, White-tailed Deer
Obscurity Rating: 2/5 -- the trail off the Main Loop in DVCA may be known, but this entrance is likely not as well known, and traveled less
Data: eBird Checklist | GPS Tracker

The eastern end of Sulphur Creek Trail appears to be a former continuation of Turnbull Road, making it a ghost road of sorts. As you walk along this trail, it's pretty clear that at one time there was once a farm back here. The orchards typically found at abandoned farm sites in the DVCA become evident within about ten minutes of walking.

These kinds of areas are great for finding Northern Cardinals, Cedar Waxwings, and apparently Pine Siskins! I can't recall ever seeing these birds before, and I was lucky to dust off my unimpressive 4x zoom old Canon Powershot camera and bring it along with me. It's not very good for taking pictures of birds (unless they're two feet in front of your face), but at least with the digital zoom I can get a potentially adequate photo for identifying the species. Maybe.

And it worked! Being able to study the photo a bit, plus making note of certain characteristics (the tail-feathers in this case) helped me quickly identify these birds on iBird.

Along with this crowd of siskins was also some woodpeckers and chickadees. And a few White-tailed Deer!

Blurry, grainy Pine Siskins

Still no real snow!