Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
Protected Forever: Why MacGregor Point Belongs

Our “Always protectedThe series shares why each and every park belongs to Ontario Parks. In today’s post, Kathleen Houlahan Chayer tells us the story of MacGregor Point.

I worked as a discovery leader at MacGregor Point Provincial Park for four years, but it wasn’t until I started working at Pinery (another park that I’m glad is protected forever) that I fully appreciated why MacGregor Point belongs in the Ontario parks system.

Representative Ecosystems of MacGregor Point

Located on Lake Huron, MacGregor Point is an excellent example of the importance of preserving representative ecosystems in the Ontario park system, where parks are protected for their unique characteristics to preserve the enormous diversity of ecosystems found in Ontario.

Although Pinery, Point Farms, and Inverhuron are also located along the Lake Huron shoreline, MacGregor Point is incredibly different from these other parks and offers a wonderful glimpse into the importance of wetlands.

MacGregor Point Provincial Park.

MacGregor Point is situated on an important bird migration route called the Huron Fringe.

Lake Huron funnels birds migrating north to the boreal forest along the coast, meaning the protected habitats at MacGregor Point are a vital resting place on their journey.

The rocky, cobblestone shoreline and thick white cedar trees adjacent to the shoreline are prime habitat for mosquitoes, stoneflies, and mayflies—the perfect snack for migrating warblers.

Two people bird watching at MacGregor Point.  One looks through binoculars, the other looks at the sky.This special migration corridor also makes the park a perfect place for bird watching, and is why the Friends of MacGregor Point’s annual birding festival (the Huron Fringe Birding Festival) is always a highlight! success!

The cobblestone shores of MacGregor Point are often found interspersed with coastal marshes and Great Lakes marsh ecosystems.

In fact, MacGregor Point protects numerous wetlands of provincial significance.

In recent history, wetlands have not always been appreciated as “useful” land, however, we now know that wetlands are full of life!

They act as nurseries for amphibians such as frogs and salamanders, clean our water and control flooding, and are critical habitat for species ranging from muskrats to egrets.

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Representative species of MacGregor Point

Protecting every species in Ontario is a crucial part of maintaining a representative park system. Just as we want to protect each type of ecosystem, we want to protect each species represented in an ecosystem, from towering pine trees to tiny beetles.

Here are some important species that MacGregor Point protects:

1. Dwarf lake iris (The rainbow of the lake)

This stunning little wildflower is one of the happiest signs of spring at MacGregor Point.

Dwarf Lake Iris (Iris lacustris).Dwarf lake iris (The rainbow of the lake)

This special type of iris lives exclusively in the Great Lakes area and is a species of special concern under the Endangered Species Act.

2. Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus)

This elegant little snake looks very similar to the more common eastern garter snake; however, eastern ribbon snakes are wetland specialists.

A great way to tell the difference between the two species is to look for a small white crescent in front of the ribbon snake’s eye that garter snakes do not have.

Ribbon snake sunbathing in a bush.Eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus)

Ribbon snakes are semi-aquatic and are almost always found near one of the park’s many wetlands. Unfortunately, due to widespread loss of wetland habitat in Ontario, the ribbon snake is listed as an at-risk species.

3. porcupine (Eretizon dorsatum)

These adorable but prickly mammals are frequently seen at MacGregor Point and can often be spotted in the tops of the aspen trees.

A porcupine in a tree. porcupine (Eretizon dorsatum)

Fortunately, porcupines cannot “shoot” their quills, and if you give them space and respect, there is no reason to be afraid of them.

4. American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

This striking little bird is one of the many species of warblers that nest at MacGregor Point.

An American redstart in a tree.American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

They can be observed foraging for insects in the trees and shrubs that border the park’s numerous wetland habitats.

Look for flashes of orange as they hop from branch to branch in search of flies, grasshoppers, beetles and moths!

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5. Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

MacGregor Point is home to ten species of carnivorous plants (plants that consume animals, such as insects)!

The strange and beautiful carnivorous plant is the easiest carnivorous plant to spot in the park due to its larger size and bright mauve flowers.

Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)The pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

The park owes the presence of these abundant carnivorous plants to the nutrient-poor conditions of the park’s swamps. By not getting everything they need from the soil to thrive, carnivorous plants have evolved to obtain sustenance from other beings.

The staff at MacGregor Point have helpfully built numerous boardwalks and viewing platforms to help visitors enjoy the unique wetlands where carnivorous plants are found, but Please remember that these areas are sensitive, so we ask that you never get off boardwalks or platforms into wetlands.

The representative heritage of MacGregor Point

Lake Huron and the glacial lakes, such as Lake Algoma and Lake Nipissing that preceded it, have shaped human history on the land that would become MacGregor Point for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The glaciers that formed these glacial lakes as they retreated left behind large rocks known as glacial erratics. These rocks are usually gneiss and granite; However, quartzite boulders have also been found that originated in the La Cloche Mountains around Killarney Provincial Park.

MacGregor Beach

These rocks form the pebble beaches found along the coast, but are also found on the ground throughout the park. In many places in the park, these rocks have been gathered into rock fences in an attempt to clear land for agriculture.

While enjoying the park’s bike trails and beach, it may be interesting to consider the long journey these rocks have taken to reach MacGregor Point Provincial Park.

Visit the park I love?

If you’re an avid naturalist, consider sharing your sightings through the Ontario Parks iNaturalist project! We use this information to track the biodiversity of these our parks.

Stay tuned for more posts from Forever Protected about the incredible natural spaces that make up our network of provincial parks.