TBFN Black Bay Conservation Area
Posted on: February 25, 2020
Winter Shoreline at Black Bay

Conservation is important to protecting wildlife and promoting biodiversity. The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists are a local organization that conserves ecosystems around the Thunder Bay area along Lake Superior.

An interview with Susan Bryan from Thunder Bay Field Naturalists was conducted to find out more about the club and the Black Bay Purchase along Lake Superior.

1. What is Thunder Bay Field Naturalists?

TBFN is an all-volunteer registered charitable organization in Northwestern Ontario with approximately 250 members.

The purposes of the club are the study of natural history, wise use of natural resources, preservation of natural areas, and public education. In support of these goals, our group runs a variety of programs, ranging from hikes to indoor educational sessions. TBFN established its Nature Reserves program in 1990, in response to concerns about the many land use demands on the forests and wetlands of Northwestern Ontario. Since that time these demands have increased, making protection of ecologically significant areas all the more critical. Currently, TBFN protects over 6000 acres (2500 hectares) of land in eighteen separate reserves, with an endowment fund to ensure protection in perpetuity. In addition to protection, the reserves are used to educate the public about natural history and habitat protection, and to offer opportunities for nature appreciation.

2. Where is the property located?

The property is located on the west shore of Black Bay, just north of the development at Superior Shores Estates.  It abuts the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority property at Granite Point Conservation Area which in turn abuts TBFN`s other property at Granite Point (see attached regional locator map and detailed map of conservation context of this property). 

3. How big is the property?

It is 566 acres (230 hectares).

4. Why is the property important?

This new nature reserve connects to several existing conservation properties in the area. Immediately to the east is the Granite Point Conservation Area owned by Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.  East again of the LRCA property is TBFN’s own Granite Point Nature Reserve, a 400 acre parcel that TBFN purchased four years ago.  As seen on the attached map, these three adjoining properties will protect a long continuous stretch of natural shoreline and interior wetland and forest.  The adjacent marshy waters of Black Bay are also protected, part of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

The large shallow bay along the shore here supports emergent reeds and cattails important to nesting and migrating waterfowl, herons, gulls, pelicans and raptors.  The rich shallows provide spawning areas for fish.  Lake Sturgeon use the waters of Black Bay year round and spawn in the rivers entering at the north end of the bay. 

The cedar and black spruce swamp in the interior is home to a number of orchids.  Perhaps of most interest to members are two documented bat hibernacula / nurseries.  Protecting these two sites from intrusion may help in the bats’ recovery from the fungal infestation causing “White-nose Syndrome”. 

5. Are there any plans for the property?

This summer the naturalists plan to document natural history values of the property in more detail.  Inventories of birds, plants, mammals and insects on the property will be started.  The Naturalists are planning a walk (open to TBFN members and the public) to explore the cedar swamps and marshy shoreline.  The last survey of bats was completed by MNR in 2008 and an update is now required on the status of the bats.  We have engaged the services of a Bat Specialist to conduct field surveys of the bats. 

6. Do you intend to have any public use?

All TBFN Nature Reserves are open to the public.  We encourage visits to take photos, bird watch, enjoy nature.  We ask that visitors do not disturb the wildlife, pick or damage vegetation, or leave trash.  Habitat protection, not recreation, is our main purpose in acquiring this land.   For this reason we do not develop or maintain any trails or facilities such as parking lots.   Motorized vehicles and hunting are not permitted.  There is no signage or maps to guide people on their explorations.  This is a wilderness area and those visiting do so at their own risk – there are bears and bugs and bogs. 

7. What are the dominant plant and tree species?

The shallow bay on Lake Superior has a marshy shoreline with reeds, cattails and other aquatic plants rooted in the silty lake bottom.  Such shoreline marshes are uncommon on Lake Superior and therefore of great value to wildlife.  Moving back from the shoreline you enter a rich cedar and black spruce swamp with moss hummocks, orchids, and watery pools. Inland the ground becomes higher gradually rising to areas of mature upland forest and even some rocky domes.  Forested areas adjacent to old logging roads have been cut in the past and now are regenerating largely with Trembling Aspen and White Birch. 

8. How can people learn more?

More information, including information about future outings planned by TBFN, will be posted on our web site www.tbfn.net

9. Are there options for people to get involved?

Yes!  We welcome the public to join up as a member of TBFN and become one of our volunteers, helping with monitoring and stewardship of this property and others that we care for.  Volunteers with an interest in the outdoors and nature are the backbone of our organization (we have no paid employees). 

We also welcome reports of casual observations and photos of interesting plants, animals or birds that visitors going to the property might see.  You don`t have to be a member to send us a picture of something interesting.  These photos or reports can be sent to our web site (click `Contact`) or shared through the TBFN Facebook page.  We appreciate getting such reports and photos. 

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