Springtime Adventures in Harper Park

It’s early on a crisp Tuesday morning, much of the city is still asleep, and the sun has just risen over the horizon. This is not normally a time of day that I have appointments in my schedule, but for the last several weeks I have been joining a group of experienced ornithologists, cataloguing the incredible bird life that is migrating through Harper Park. This has been part of an effort over the last few months to catalogue as much of the flora and fauna in Harper Park as possible. Although I am not personally a biologist, I had the pleasure of accompanying some of the most experienced ornithologists, herpetologists, botanists, entomologists and ichthyologists that Peterborough has to offer. The knowledge and experience that this park attracts is testament to the incredible diversity of life that exists within Harper Park.

The Poplar trees near the entrance of the park are particularly popular with the migrating spring birds. (Basil Conlin, 2017)

On a weekly basis for much of the spring, we walked in the early morning hours through the fields, marsh and forest of Harper Park to catalogue as much of the diverse bird life in the park as possible. Personally I learned a great deal about birds on these journeys, and I think I added a number of birds to my life list. For those of you not familiar with ebird, it is a website where people can upload their sightings in an area of all the different bird species that they encounter. Other users of the site are able to visit the listed “birding hotspots” and see what other birders have encountered in that location. This past year Harper Park was listed as an official ebird hotspot and the bird species list in the park is already comparable to other sites around the City of Peterborough. You can find a recently updated bird list at our resources page.

A Red Breasted Grosbeak. One of the multitude of bird species you can find in Harper Park (Basil Conlin)

Our spring efforts were not just confined to birds. Although not an expert botanist, I spent a great deal of time cataloguing as much of the plant life that I could find in the park. I also had the pleasure of sharing some of my excursions with the talented and knowledgeable Emily Johnston. Armed with my wetland and forest plant guide book I was able to identify a substantial list of plant species that call the park home. Spring ephemeral flowers have always been something that have personally interested me, and the bloom in areas of the park is nothing short of spectacular. One of the most striking visuals in the park are some of the fields of marsh marigolds that bloom in the shallow spring water seeps.

Bloodroot is just one of the multitude of spring ephemerals that can be found in Harper Park (Dylan Radcliffe, 2017)

The diversity of plant and animal life in this park is nothing short of breathtaking, and I would encourage anyone who needs a quick getaway in the city of Peterborough to pop down and visit this hidden gem our city has to offer. I’ll take some time to chronicle some of our other findings within Harper Park in the coming weeks.