Despite the 200m walk along Hockley Road from the car park to the trailhead, this stretch of the Bruce Trail is simply wonderful, especially in spring. Yes, there are more than a few ups and downs from moraine ridges into river valleys, but the trail volunteers have done their job well as the trails are excellent. We parked in the car park near 2nd Line, then hiked in the main trail as far as the Isabel East side trail, then took the Tom East side trail back down to Hockley Road – a total of about 7.5km.
From a birder’s perspective, this is a rich area; we saw over 40 species today without trying too hard. It was exciting (and a bit of a relief due to reduced numbers) to see and hear both bobolinks and meadowlarks, right at the car park, then an indigo bunting not too far in. As we entered the more mature, mostly deciduous forest, there were a variety of warblers: black-throated green, black-throated blue, bay-breasted, Nashville, chestnut-sided amongst others; followed by red-eyed vireos, rose-breasted grosbeaks and the most delightful song of a wood thrush. Upon reaching the series of streams, a “braided” tributary of the Nottawasaga River, Laura was expecting to see or hear a water thrush and, as expected, it made its appearance, but not until the return loop took us back to the same series of bridges.
Spring forest wildflowers were equally well-represented with the expected white and red trilliums, foam flower (see left) trout lilies, blue cohosh, baneberry and Canada violets, plus jacks-in-the pulpit, squirrel corn and yellow bellwort. The wildflowers were particularly rich and diverse along the Jack East side trail, less than a kilometre from the trailhead.
One of the unexpected “finds” were groupings of maidenhair ferns in a few different locations. It was also nice just to walk the forest trails amongst the emerald greens of the new leaves with the near constant birdsong and no highway noise or air traffic. There are not many places like that in southern Ontario any longer. The few small brooks in the area were running clear and clean, as well as the series of streams mentioned above, also running clear. They are forested along their banks with some potential for landscapes, but also look a bit “scrubby” and unphotogenic in places.
Hockey Valley Nature Reserve has a great mix of photographic potential and is well worth the two or three (or more) hours spent there.