Naturally, Hamilton! A Guide To the Green Spaces of Hamilton and Area
What is it? Does it exist in Hamilton?
In Hamilton there are:
- 800 species of native plants
- 160 species of nesting birds
- 10 species of snakes and turtles
- 12 species of frogs, toads and salamanders
- 50 species of mammals
- 88 species of butterflies
- 78 species of fishes
Surprised? Many people do not realize how close nature is to the city. Hamilton, Dundas, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Burlington, Flamborough, and Glanbrook are uniquely situated at the extreme end of Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. Such a location allows residents and visitors alike to see many interesting plant and wildlife species.
Red Trillium (Photo: Alan Ernst)/div>
Hamilton and Halton regions are at the northern tip of a small ecological zone in Canada known as Carolinian Canada which encompasses the southernmost portion of Ontario but occurs nowhere else in this country. Many species of plants and animals occur here because the summer climate approaches that of North and South Carolina in the United States. Trees such as Sassafras, Tulip Tree and Flowering Dogwood, and wildflowers such as Tall Bellflower, Horsebalm, and Yellow Giant Hyssop are Carolinian species which occur in the Hamilton area. The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly and the Virginia Opossum are also species which live here in the region but are more commonly associated with the Carolinas.
Migrating birds follow the shores of Lake Superior and Georgian Bay and then fly overland to Lake Ontario on their way south in the autumn. They follow this route back to their nesting sites in the springtime when they return from the U.S. and Central and South America. At the head of Lake Ontario, Hamilton is a stop-over or staging area for birds that fly that route. We can see many ducks, shorebirds, raptors, and song birds, such as colourful warblers during their migration to and from the south. In the winter, Hamilton Harbour and the shores of Lake Ontario are home to many waterfowl. These birds choose not to fly farther south because they can still find food such as fish, aquatic insects, and molluscs right here in Ontario.
Praying Mantis (Photo: Alan Ernst)
Beamer Memorial Conservation Area on the escarpment above Grimsby, on the east side of our region, provides an excellent vantage point to see many birds of prey such as Bald Eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures during their migration in the spring. (see Wildlife Hotspots Map, site #33).
Natural areas are designated as Environmentally Significant Areas (ESAs) when the areas meet one or more of the following criteria: they provide an important ecological function, such as corridors for wildlife movement; they provide an important hydrological function, such as ground water recharge or headwater source for streams; they have a high diversity of species of plants or animals; they contain significant earth science features of geological interest; they contain significant vegetative communities, for example tall grass prairie or oak savannah habitat; they support significant species of plants or animals, ranging from nationally endangered to regionally rare species; or they have an educational, scientific, aesthetic or historical value to humans.
In Hamilton, there are 67 ESAs comprising 11 per cent of the region. Halton has 38 ESAs, which make up 12 per cent of that region. [1995 data — these numbers have increased since then].