Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Some Natural Areas of Chatham-Kent, Part 7 (Paxton's Bush)

This post will feature another woodland area, a bit smaller than the previous one and even closer to Chatham: Paxton's Bush. It has been known as Paxton's Bush for decades, and visited by many local folks. It has recently been named the O'Neil Nature Reserve. It is great to know that this site is now in municipal ownership and accessible. The first photo shows its location, being east of Baldoon Road and north of Oxley St. The 'O' is Oxley Mid-Wood Park and the 'T' shows the entrances at the corner of this park, as well as the Thornhill Park on the lower right of the woodland.

There is a trail system through this woodland of approximately 12 hectares (20 acres), some of it official and is known as the Rotary Eco-trail, where there is a good fine gravel base.....
....and there are a few unofficial sections, which can be a little muddier depending on the weather conditions.
It is always fun to explore this site in late April and early May, as the spring wildflowers are at their prime. Some examples are:

Spring Beauty
Spring Cress

It is also an excellent time to find birds. With so few woodlands in this part of C-K, any woodland can be an attraction for migrating birds. There are currently about 110 species of birds known, which is excellent considering its small size. Being so accessible makes it easier for birders to check it out. On one mid-May day in 2017, I had 19 species of warblers in only a couple of hours!

Some migrant species are:
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Scarlet Tanager
Wood Ducks, as well as Mallards, can be found here. I don't know if the Wood Ducks successfully nest here, but the creek system going through attracts them on occasion.

Locally, one of the best known species is Great Horned Owl. A pair has been here for many years, and it was in 2013 when the pair nested in a cavity created by a broken branch of a Black Cherry tree. The bonus was that it was quite low and very visible just a short distance from the trail, and gave some amazing views. It got lots of media coverage and people from quite a distance came to view and photograph them.

Since that time, the owls have chosen broken tree stubs quite a bit higher and a lot less visible, but it is still a regular thing to see the adults, and eventually one or more young, perched high up in a tree.

The forest here is fairly typical of most southwestern Ontario woodlands, made up of Sugar and Silver Maples, Basswood, Sycamore, Black Cherry, etc.
Black Cherry
Black Cherry
A less common tree species is Common Hackberry. It is often found along southwestern Ontario rivers, but is less common inland. Its bark is one of the most identifiable characteristics.
Common Hackberry


  1. What a wonderful name - Jack-in-the-pulpit - and so suitable hiding under it's own cover . It brings to mind choir boys pranking around in the church waiting for the vicar or choir master!
    Also loved the great horned owls, very special.

    1. Hi Paula...thanks for your comments. Wildflower names are always a curiosity and makes one wonder what people were thinking of when common names were first made.