Thursday, July 28, 2016

Torrance Barrens

I spent the weekend exploring a few different areas in Central Ontario. On Saturday I was at the Torrance Barrens near Gravenhurst with Lev Frid and Amanda Guercio.

Something a bit strange I've noticed is that a lot of the most interesting places for a naturalist are really marginal habitats where plants and animals are severely limited by harsh conditions. Nowhere is this more exemplified than on Canadian Shield barrens, where hot dry rocky upland areas with little to no soil transition into nutrient-poor bogs and fens in lower areas. Despite the inhospitable environment, there are a lot of cool things to see!

Virginia Chain Fern (Woodwardia virginica) is an interesting species that is abundant in the bogs here. I haven't seen this species in very many other places. The fronds grow vertically and singly in large patches.

Although they have a much wider distribution, for me the Common Loon is the bird emblem of the Canadian Shield.

I was very pleased to see my first White Fringed Orchids (Platanthera blephariglottis).

Although I only saw my first ever Coral Hairstreak this summer, they were pretty common at this location. Like many butterflies, this species is attracted to animal scat, where they often allow very close approach. It seems they are reluctant to leave such a delicacy!

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) is a widespread flower, but one that I find very hard to photograph as it waves wildly in even the slightest breeze.

At one point I flushed this Common Nighthawk off of her two eggs. She started making some very odd noises, and pretending to be in distress to lead us away, which we quickly did to leave her in peace.

Grey Hairstreak was a lifer butterfly for me. Its presence here is perhaps not surprising given the abundance of Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina), but I have previously spent lots of time in areas with lots of Sweetfern without ever seeing this lovely little butterfly. Unlike other hairstreaks, this species often opens it wings when resting.


  1. Certainly an interesting place! I plan on being at Torrence Barrens next Thursday.

    1. Have fun! One of my favourite places. If you're not aware, this is crown land so you can camp for free.