With its wide variety of forest, wetland, and open country habitats, birds are greatly attracted to the Timiskaming area. Many boreal forest species, such as Boreal Chickadee and Spruce Grouse, are year round residents here. Other species that pass through southern Ontario during spring and fall migrations breed here in Timiskaming, so good birding can be experienced in July and August when areas further south are in the birding doldrums. Sandhill Cranes, Solitary Sandpipers, Boreal Owls, Black-backed Woodpeckers, and Ovenbirds are all regular denizens. Winter birding, though offering many challenges, also offers many rewards, with an abundance of boreal species that many birders in southern Ontario consider only occasional rarities.
Timiskaming District lies at the northern margin of the transition zone between the Eastern Boreal Forest and the Upper Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Forest, straddling the southern edge of where true, unbroken Boreal Forest begins. It is a region of relatively warm, short summers and long, cold winters. The area receives an average of 800mm of precipitation annually. Daytime temperatures average 22°C in summer and -15°C in winter.
An agricultural area known as the Little Claybelt dominates the southeastern third of the area, where the topography is very gentle and large areas of almost flat landscape gradually slope southward towards Lake Timiskaming . Most of the landforms created by the retreat of the glacier have been buried by clay deposits on the bottom of glacial Lake Barlow-Ojibway, which is now uplifted to form this rich agricultural area.
The Montreal River is the most dominant waterway. Much of the lower part of the river follows a major geological fault that marks the western edge of the flat open country. West of the Montreal River the terrain is much rougher, with bedrock controlled uplands and extensive forest cover. Some of the highest elevations in the province occur here, including the highest point of land in Ontario on the Ishpatina Ridge in Donovan Township. Smaller rivers and creeks densely permeate the entire landscape.
The forest succession follows the classical boreal mixedwood successional pathway of poplar or white birch as the pioneer species succeeding into a white spruce, black spruce or balsam fir forest. Balsam fir has not formed a large canopy component in recent years due, presumably, to the massive spruce budworm infestation that took place in the area between 1968 and 1995. Typically, black spruce and larch are found in the organic deposits. Red and white pine, sugar maple, red maple, and yellow birch are found on the warmer sites. White cedar, white elm, balsam poplar, and black ash are common on the flood plains. Jack pine forests are abundant on sandy soils and where large fires have historically occurred.
Despite containing the highest elevations in the province of Ontario, there are no landforms that are constraining to bird movements. Migrations therefore move through the area on a broad front wherever each species finds suitable habitat. Certainly, the migrating species that prefer open country make extensive use of the agricultural corridor that begins north of us in the Timmins, Iroquois Falls area, extends down through the Little Claybelt, and then continues southward along the shores of Lake Timiskaming and the Ottawa River. Consequently, the local migration surge in populations of Rough-legged Hawks, Harriers, Kestrels, Sandhill Cranes, Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and other open country species is probably higher than for most other areas of northern Ontario, excepting perhaps only the Rainy River District west of Thunder Bay.
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