Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A New Conservation Area and Birding Site....Now Accessible

There is a new conservation area which has been in the works these last few months.....the Keith McLean Conservation Lands, and it is just a short distance outside of Rondeau Provincial Park.

Keith McLean was a farmer and conservationist, who spent his entire life at this location. My wife and I, shortly after we were married, lived immediately across the road from Keith for more than 5 years and knew him quite well. He was very community minded, and extremely generous. He didn't have any heirs, and when he died in the fall of 2012, he left his property to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority (SCRCA). This property is over 300 acres (121 ha). It has been farmed, and in fact is predominantly farmland even to this day. However over the years, some was retained in wetland and woodland while other sections were planted into trees and tallgrass prairie. His lotus ponds were a local point of interest, and Keith welcomed everyone to stop in and view them.

In addition to the land itself, Keith left some financial support to SCRCA in order to manage this land, with the eventual hope that much of it would be restored to nature. He wished above all that these lands would be open to the public, and so they are. There is a bit of a trail system that follows farm lanes and other areas, which go by or through some of the habitats that were retained or created, as shown in some of the following images.

A viewing tower adjacent to the lotus ponds, and also overlooking some of the wetland. The next two images show part of the wetland as viewed from the tower. Being so close to Rondeau, and more or less at the head of Rondeau Bay, what birds might be found here in the future? It looks like a great spot to attract White-faced or Glossy Ibis, or a Tri-coloured Heron, Snowy Egret, etc. Maybe the agricultural fields will have the Rondeau area's first Smith's Longspur! But until that happens, it will be a great place for rails and other marsh birds. I got a brief glimpse of a Virginia Rail here today.

The next image is also taken from the observation tower, looking in the opposite direction across some of the lotus ponds towards the house.

So if you are in the area, be sure to check it out. Work is currently going on at the house as it is being prepared for a property manager.

There is a different diversity of habitats than what Rondeau has to offer, so the birds may offer some greater diversity as well. Also the tallgrass prairies will be in fabulous colour in mid-summer but grassland birds are likely to be found here before then. And it may be a worthwhile location to view migrating raptors in the fall.

Whatever the season, be sure to enjoy the generosity that Keith left for us!

Immediately adjacent to the Keith McLean Conservation Lands is wetland and terrestrial land that was left to the SCRCA by the brother and sister Les and Melba Bates, who both passed away several years ago. These lands are not accessible to the public but visible from the adjacent road/causeway, however.

I spent a bit of time at Rondeau while I was in the area. Due to the light drizzle, bird activity and song was not plentiful, and I didn't see any other birders. However along the Spicebush Trail, I noted several Palm Warblers and a single Nashville Warbler as well as a Blue-headed Vireo and lots of White-throated Sparrows and a couple of Swamp Sparrows. There were more wildflowers out also.....Dutchman's Breeches, below, are coming out nicely.


  1. Thank you for the informative Blog !The photos help to show off much of
    Keith's great work on his property too. I am anxious to roam his property,
    and looking forward to "Hawk-watching" there this Fall ! We have lost so many
    birding Hotspots in Chatham-Kent in the past 20 years, it is wonderful to
    add a new Nature Spot to our list. The new sign in front should be a great
    surprise to our May birders !

    1. Thanks Irene. There is often one or two construction type vehicles there, so it may have deterred people from stopping in. When the "Welcome' sign went up, I thought it would be a good time to let people know. The day I was there, it was very windy and raining lightly, so I didn't venture too far, but I plan to get out and get some more photos of other parts of the property for a future post. Hope to see you out there some time.

  2. Allen, this is great news. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to any maps/directions you can share in the future. One could only dream of leaving such a generous gift to a community as reverting 300 acres back to nature and making it public. Rest in Peace Mr McLean... and thank you for your wonderful gift!

    1. Hi Dwayne. Yes it is a fantastic demonstration of generosity. I do have access to a pdf map of the site. I will check with my contacts at SCRCA to see if it is the latest version and can be shared.

  3. This is great Allen! What a wonderful gift to leave behind. I will definitely be visiting this new spot next time I visit home.

  4. Hi Tianna. It is absolutely so nice to have another alternative to visit when in C-K....I hope to see you out there some time!