Britton Tract – Halton Region Forest

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Halton Regional Forests have saved over 1,700 acres of land in the past 75 years that are split into fourteen separate tracts that create a green corridor for wildlife.  The tracts consist of a wide variety of habitats that includes forests, wetlands and meadows.  Five of these tracts make up the Britton Complex and preserve land along the north and west sides of Hilton Falls Conservation Area.  The Britton Tract has parking in two places on the Six Line Nassagaweya.  We parked in the first lot north of Campbellville Road where there is only room for about 8 vehicles in official spots with maybe four more squeezed along the entrance.  Parking on the road will likely result in a ticket.  We set out to follow the trail north toward the second parking lot before heading west.  Our intention was to follow the outside loop of trails and explore side trails as the urge hit us.  We suggest you take a picture of the trail map as you begin your hike.

The Britton Tract sits on a section of the escarpment where there is a lot of hard dolomite near the surface.  Karst action has left many places where water collects leaving a lot of surface water and wetlands.  This is also displayed in areas where the water at surface level supports considerable moss growth.

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It was one of those hikes where there was an abundance of insects but fortunately not many of the biting kind.  Butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies were everywhere, a small selection  of the variety is represented in this post.  The Tawny Crescent butterfly is fairly small and has black and white knobs on the antennae.  They are partial to asters which provide shelter for the eggs, food for caterpillars and nectar for the adults.

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There were several Red Admiral butterflies along the trail, some of them brightly coloured and some more subdued.  They are one of the butterflies in Ontario that migrates for the winter.  They are often found around stinging nettle, a plant that I avoid because it lives up to its name.  This Red Admiral was making the rounds of the local wildflowers.

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The Silver Spotted Skipper are a type of butterfly known as a nectar thief because they feed on the plant without pollinating it.  They tend to probe the innermost parts of the flower which are male without contacting the outermost florets which are the female portions.  Therefore they don’t transfer the pollen and fertilize the plant.

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The trail is 3 meters wide in many places but the side trails are smaller and can be muddy in some seasons.  The trail we were following came to a place where there is a stream to cross.  Passage was easy on this day but there will be times when there is no way across here.

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The Ebony Jewelwing is a damselfly that likes to rest in sunny places on leaves.  Damselflies rest with their wings closed and the female Ebony Jewelwing can be identified by the large white spot on the end of the wings.  The male pictured below has an all-black wing.

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The Britton Tract has a wide variety of forest types including evergreens, birch thickets and mature stands of hardwoods.  In areas where the water is retained close to the surface some trees have a hard time breathing and tend to fall over and die before they reach the normal size for their species giving the forest a perpetual young look.

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Asters are a part of a large family that includes daisy, asters and sunflowers.  The family contains over 32,000 species, many of which are native to North America.  They attract a large selection of pollinators including butterflies and bees.

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Common Whitetail dragonflies are highly territorial and the males will lift their abdomens in a display of power.  Dragonflies sit with their wings open when at rest.

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The Britton Tract is full of trails and we kept mainly to the ones that circled the outside of the tract.  There comes a point where you will have to make a choice to turn and head back to the parking lot or to carry on into the Robertson Tract.  This option will take you out to the fourth line and add another hour or more to your hike.

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As we were following the trail we disturbed a toad and possibly saved its life.  When it jumped the garter snake that was hunting it moved quickly and caught our attention.  Unfortunately we didn’t see that unfolding or we might have been able to capture some interesting shots of a snake having dinner.

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Dryad’s Saddle is one of the edible mushrooms that is often seen but seldom picked.  When it is young and fresh it can be quite good and apparently has a slight lemon flavour.  When they get larger, up to 30 centimeters, they become very woody and are only good for boiling into a broth.

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The eight spotted Forester is a moth that is seen between April and June.  The larvae feed on the leaves of Virginia Creepers and River Grapes which are found in the tract.  They are distinctive for the coloured spots on their wings.  The fore wing has two large cream coloured patches while the hind wing has two white patches.  They have tufts of orange on the front and middle legs.  This moth is often mistaken for a butterfly because it visits flowers during the daytime.

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Halton Regional Forests have lots of trails and the potential for many interesting hikes.

Google Maps Link: Britton Tract

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