Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Skunk's Misery, Clear Creek Forest and butterflies!

I decided to spend a bit of time inland today. The overcast skies work well with forest photography, so I had a couple of places in mind: Skunk's Misery and Clear Creek Forest.

Skunk's Misery is a large complex of woodland area at the conjunction of Middlesex, Elgin and Lambton counties and the municpality of Chatham-Kent. The bulk of it is in Middlesex. Much of it is privately owned, but the County of Middlesex and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority own a significant amount. The forests are extremely lush at this time of year.

There are various stories about how this place got its name. The one that I hear the most is when several decades ago, a petty criminal used to hide out in this rather large almost impenetrable forest complex, but when he was finally apprehended by the local constabulary, the officer was quoted as saying it was one heck of a skunk's misery of a place.

Even though much of it has been cleared over the decades, what remains is still a fairly massive area. Much of it is wet, which makes it a haven for mosquitoes. They were out in full force today.

One of the endangered species that occurs here is Eastern Flowering Dogwood. It can be seen in open areas and along the woodland edges.

The white 'flowers' at this time of year are quite noticeable, but by the end of May, they will have finished flowering.

The white parts aren't really the petals.....they are sepals, and the actual petals are tiny to the point of being almost inconspicuous. By fall, there will be clusters of red berries.

One of the reasons this dogwood is endangered is due to an anthracnose that arrived via horticultural dogwoods. In very open parts of the woodland, the Eastern Flowering Dogwood is hanging on, but in areas of denser forest, it is believed that the higher levels of humidity enable the problematic anthracnose to thrive, to the detriment of the dogwood.

One of the highlights of today's visit was the presence of butterflies. I have seen very few butterflies so far this spring, so I was delighted to see four species for the first time this year: Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail (no was too active an on the move) and Juvenal's Duskywing (I'm not 100% certain of the correct ID of the duskywing, but it is what it appears to be).

Giant Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Juvenal's Duskywing
They all seemed to be happy along and on the gravel road. I'm not sure what they were sipping, but they didn't seem to want to leave. I wonder how butterflies got along without roads :-).

Clear Creek Forest
Clear Creek Forest is a provincial nature reserve a bit north of Talbot Trail (Hwy 3) east of Rondeau Provincial Park. There is some impressive older growth forest in one small section above the creek valley.

Self portrait
The photo above, taken via a delayed exposure, is the largest American Beech tree on this site, and likely one of the larger ones in Ontario.

Very few people know about this place, or visit it. The creek valley is quite wet, but the upland area, other than a few vernal pools or depressions, are mostly dry. The main forest type at this point is American Beech, Sugar Maple, Basswood and Black Cherry. A narrow trail follows the upland edge and leads to an attractive overlook of the creek. Due to the sandy/gravelly substrate and the well shaded conditions, it is one of the few places in Chatham-Kent where a cold water stream is present, which would support a different variety of fish than most warm-water drainage ditches in the municipality.

Due to the relative quiet, birds such as Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager were heard in full song without the competition of traffic and other human origin noises.


  1. Monica Evenden29 May 2014 at 14:52

    Beautiful shots and great info.
    A few years back, I lost my untouched forest due to a lumber company! The old man died and his family sold out for the cash! So sad, it's been 4-5 years and still looks like a bomb hit the area.

    1. Thanks, Monica. Forests that are relatively untouched are few and far between, unfortunately. Even if they are 'properly' harvested, they can take a couple of decades to regain their quality appearance, but if a logger is just let loose to take what he wants, untold damage is done and it will take several decades to overcome the damage :-(