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Flora and Fauna

These are rough notes on species of the Inner Harbour, February 23, 2011 including the Great Cataraqui Marsh north of Belle Park as well as the Orchard Street Marsh south of Belle Park. The following is from a variety of sources including the Ministry of Natural Resources:


Terrestrial vegetation  surrounding the Kingston Inner Harbour is mixed: woodland areas include red oak, sugar maple, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine, white cedar, red pine, hickory, white ash and beech.  Thickets include speckled alder, winterberry, choke cherry, hawthorn, dogwood and nannyberry.  Open herbaceous vegetation areas include pasture, meadows, open disturbed ground or open bald ground. Wetland vegetation exists in abundance, the largest area being the Great Cataraqui Marsh. (approx 623 ha north of Belle Island).It consists mainly of bullrushes with some sedges and grasses.  The second largest marsh is the Orchard St. Marsh south of Belle Island. A 1983 study found 596 species of vascular plant species in the Great Cat. Marsh, the Great Cat. R. and adjacent shores representing a relatively high diversity of plant species. No endangered species have been noted.  These wetlands have been described as waterfowl feeding areas of high potential.


Benthic invertibrates consist predominantly of small organisms, the majority being midges, caddisflies and amphipods.  Composition is similar to that in other parts of the Great Lakes.Fish: Species diversity is similar to much larger bodies of water in Lake Ontario.Most of the warm-water species are regionally common, relatively pollution-tolerant, and reproductive generalists in spawning behavior and habitat.   The marsh is considered an excellent spawning ground for the northern pike.Reptiles and Amphibians:  Sixteen species have been noted. Of five turtle species, three are designated rare provincially: 1) the Northern Map, 2) the Stinkpot, and 3) the Blandings.Surveys are incomplete.  Most species have been found near Hwy 401 probably in part because of the inaccessibility of the marsh. Numbers of map and stinkpot turtles have also seen at the berm south of Belle Park. Preferred nesting sites for turtles include gravel fill at 401, the tannery berm and the CN railroad.

Mammals:  Available information is limited and largely anecdotal.

Birds:   Extensive information is available.  Blancher (1984) lists 206 species.  (Also see Weir (2008)). Endangered species include the king rail* and loggerhead shrike (summer residents) and the red knot (winter migratory).  Threatened species include the least bittern*, the common nighthawk, the chimney swift and the red-headed woodpecker (summer residents) and the golden-winged warbler and hooded warbler (winter migratory).  Birds of special concern include the black tern* and short-eared owl (summer residents) and the peregrine falcon (winter migratory).

Large numbers of red-winged blackbirds, marsh wrens, swamp sparrows and mallards exist throughout the marsh.  Several generally rare species are known to nest here including black terns and least bitterns.

The marsh is considered an area of importance in spring and fall migrations for both waterfowl and terrestrial birds.

*Marsh residents