What better way to instill in your children a respect for nature and a lifelong love of the great outdoors than by introducing them to Bancroft Eagles Nest Park through a number of family friendly activities. We encourage you to take the time to hike a different trail each time you visit as the park has a variety of different ecosystems to offer. Don’t forget to post a photo of your visit on our Facebook page at Bancroft Eagles Nest Park!
Family Friendly Ideas for Enjoying Bancroft Eagles Nest Park with Children
- Children of all ages can learn about the natural environment around them and the need to respect it. These suggested activities can be adjusted to the age of your child. The important opportunity is to give your child the time to experience the beauty of the forest and to help them become more observant of the natural things around them. These early experiences will ensure future generations will become good stewards of Bancroft Eagles Nest Park.
- Take a different hike every time you visit so you and your children can learn about all Eagles Nest Park has to offer. Bring along a picnic lunch or snack to enjoy in the great outdoors.
- Make your next hike a “Tree Identification Hike”. Bring along a reputable forest guide and teach your children how to identify all the different types of trees in the park by looking at the bark and the leaves of trees, and feeling the texture of the bark. Check out the “Eco-Challenge” on one of the main kiosks by the upper parking area.
- Help your children find all the points they know in Bancroft from the view on the Hawkwatch platform.
- Take a walk along the Gerry Whyte Plant Identification Trail to learn more about plants found in the park.
- Take a hike to Brethour Lake along the Christy Trail to introduce your children to how the Algonquin people considered these Northern Peat Bogs, a “garden”.
Point out evidence of the work of beavers at Brethour Lake.
- Print the Scavenger Hunt Bingo from our website and provide assistance as per your child’s age level in achieving a BINGO, or perhaps completing the entire card!
- Bring your child’s attention to not only things they may see but also encourage them to use their other senses. Are their birds singing? Can you hear the sound the wind makes in the trees? Can you smell pine trees or perhaps decaying leaves on the forest floor? Can you feel the difference between the bark of a red pine tree compared to a birch tree? to help with bird identification visit this website.
The Story Beneath Your Feet
The rock you are standing on is primarily Faraday granite, composed chiefly of quartz and feldspar, two relatively hard minerals that are resistant to erosion.
The granite mass, or batholith, formed 1,250-1,240 million years ago when granite magma seeped upwards through the Earth’s crust and pooled as a large mass.
The bedrock of the surrounding area is mainly softer rock composed of metamorphosed sedimentary rock.
Over the past billion years, the action of erosion has scraped away 10 – 15 kilometres of the Earth’s crust to bring this body to the surface, making it the high point of land we know as Eagles Nest.
As you visit the park, watch for clues to the process of glaciation, such as, the U-shaped river valley, rounded hills and the fault line that created the sharp cliffs north to south along the York River Valley.
How Does Geology Affect Topography of the Landscape?
When many of us think about geology and rocks most of us think about finding mineral deposits and extracting resources to produce the modern conveniences we enjoy. Rarely do we realize how much the bedrock geology affects the topography of our landscapes.
Looking out from the scenic spots along the edge of Eagle’s Nest we have an excellent opportunity to think about geology and the landscape. From the Eagle’s Nest lookout, a hill which is part of a system of hills extending to the north, south and east, we observe the York River slowly winding its way through a broad gently sloping valley, bounded to the west by a line of rounded hills. Let’s take a moment to contemplate the view we see. How did it come to be? Why are we standing upon a high point of land here, looking down into a river valley to the west? Why did the river form at all?
Erosion is the reason we have the topography we see, but what types of erosion are happening? We live in a comfortable temperate climate, without local deserts, so erosion by wind is minimal. Water is the major player, both as liquid and as ice.
Everywhere that rain lands we will observe water erosion. Rain falls on hillsides, plains and valleys, running downhill and collecting in low points. Collecting as creeks and streams, it gains energy to carry sediment particles. These particles scrape the bedrock and slowly erode a groove. Because the energy is greatest along the riverbed that is where the greatest erosion occurs. Rivers cut down into their riverbed and form what is called “V-shaped” valleys. Steep sided slopes leading down to the river or stream. As we look out into the York River valley what is seen is not a “V” shaped valley but rather a “U” shaped valley. This is formed when water frozen in the form of ice flows through a valley scraping the valley floor and sides evenly with sand and gravel and boulders that are frozen into the bottom of the ice sheet. Similar to a huge sheet of sandpaper scraping over the landscape. Instead of the erosion action being concentrated only on the river bed the erosional action is spread all along the valley floor and lower sides, creating a “U” shaped valley.
The gently sloping “U” shaped valley, along with the well-rounded hills, are a clear indication of glacial action. Ice sheets which covered this region, up to a kilometre or two thick, a mere 100,000 years ago dramatically impacted our landscape.
What is granite and how did it form?
Okay, so river erosion and glacial erosion formed the York River valley, but why there, not slightly east or west? For this answer let’s look at the bedrock. The first step is to have a close look at the ground we stand upon. If we look closely the ground around us we will see that the bedrock is granite. If we prospect this entire hill we will find that it is consistent from the very foot of the hill to the very peak where the former Natural Resources ranger tower once stood. If we take an opportunity to prospect further afield we will find that the bedrock that surrounds the hill is mainly metamorphosed sedimentary rock (such as marbles, amphibolites and schists). Granite is a rock type composed of feldspar and quartz with minor amounts of mica. Feldspar and quartz are relatively hard minerals. They are difficult to scratch, or erode, making granite highly resistant to weathering. Conversely, the metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, (marbles, schists and the like), are relatively soft, and erode quickly. The bedrock around the Eagles Nest is subject to faster erosion than the granite which makes up the hill, thereby making it likely that the river will carve its path around the granite, not through it. As the softer enclosing bedrock continues to erode over millions of years the granite is uncovered, exposed to surface, and over time becomes a high point of land relative to the land around it.
But one other large clue is visible to us as we deal with these questions. The face of the Eagle’s Nest displays wonderfully sharp cliff faces. With eons of wind and water erosion, and a great Ice Age to dramatically shape the landscape how do we still have such a sharp drop-off along the Eagle’s Nest edge? Nature has worked hard to soften the landscape and grind everything down to a flat plain, but this site still exhibits a dramatic cliff faces. The reason lies in in plate tectonics. The movement of plates of the Earth’s crust. The cliffs of the Eagle’s Nest highlight a fault line that runs roughly north-south along the York River valley. The fault line is difficult to determine south and north of the Eagle’s Nest, where the soft bedrock has eroded down on both sides of the fault line to flatten the landscape, but where the fault passes through the Faraday granite body, the land is not eroded down as much, and the “break” is clear to see. The Earth’s crust in the valley has sunk in relation to the crust on the Eagle’s Nest and the crust on the west side of the valley. So not only has softer rock caused to the river form where it has, a fault has deformed the Earth’s crust and formed a low area where water will be drawn to.
What is the geology of the Eagle’s Nest?
The entire hill is composed of granite, the Faraday granite to be specific. The Faraday granite is a granite mass which covers over 50 square kilometers in the north and northeast portions of Faraday Township, the Town of Bancroft, and eastward just past Clarke Lake. This granite mass is termed a batholith. Granite magma seeped upwards through the Earth’s crust and pooled as this large mass.
The Faraday granite is mainly pink microcline (potassium rich) feldspar, Whyte to pink albite (sodium rich) feldspar, and milky Whyte to clear quartz, with minor black annite (iron rich) mica, with minor patches of dark green coarse-grained pyroxene. It is dated between 1250 – 1240 million years old, and formed at a depth of about 10 – 15 kilometers in the Earth’s crust.
Granite is the most common rock type found on the Earth’s surface. It is an igneous rock type composed of a minimum 30% feldspar, 30% quartz, and 5% mica. Other minerals may be present, and often are, however feldspar and quartz are the major components. Being relatively “hard” minerals, they are resistant to erosion and give granite its enduring quality. An igneous rock means it was “born of fire”. It has cooled from a molten state from magma which rose up through the Earth’s crust.
Why is some igneous rock dense and dark coloured, (like basalt), while some is light coloured and less dense in weight, (like granite)? All magma starts as molten material in the mantle. It depends upon how the magma finds its way to the surface. When there is a clean break in the Earth’s crust, (such as where two plates are pulling apart, or where there is a hotspot melting through the Earth’s crust), magma can travel relatively quickly to the Earth’s surface. As such, the magma changes very little and is compositionally very similar to magma deep the mantle, which is dark coloured, iron-rich, metal rich, and dense. We see this in examples such as the Mid-Atlantic ridge spreading zone, and hotspots like Hawaii.
Should the magma travel more slowly up through the Earth’s crust, pooling in spots in the crust for long periods of time, then the nature of the magma changes. While pooled in chambers the magma begins to separate out heavy minerals from light minerals (less dense and more dense). Dark coloured iron-rich minerals, along with metals such as copper, silver, gold, lead, and the like are dense and tend to sink to the bottom of the magma chamber. When the chamber is activated and magma resumes its trip towards the surface, only the top material travels, the bottom material is often left behind. So as magma migrates to the surface slowly it evolves from dark metal rich dense magma to lighter coloured, less dense metal poor material, such as granite.
Keeping the above described processes in mind, what we tend to find is that dark basalt rock is found at divergent plate boundaries and hot spots, while granite is formed at convergent plate boundaries, where two tectonic plates are colliding together.
Most often when two tectonic plates collide one will subduct, or descend, under the other plate. The subducting plate plunges into the Earth’s mantle and begins to melt. Not all minerals melt at the same temperature. Lighter coloured, less dense, iron-poor minerals melt at a lower temperature. As the plate descends, the minerals that compose granite are the first to melt and they separate from the descending plate and rise through the crust. This process is what we believe has formed the granites we see on the Earth’s crust today. Therefore, we can assume that there has been colliding tectonic plates and subduction occurring this region in the past, and as we collect further data we conclude that this was clearly the case.
Just over one billion years ago the southeastern coastline of the proto-North American plate ran roughly through present day North Hastings, stretching northeastwards through Pembroke and southern Quebec, and southwestwards through Haliburton and southwestern Ontario. Subduction was occurring along this coastline, similar to what we see along the west coast of South America today. Subduction of oceanic crust created folded and faulted crust forming a coastal mountain range dotted with volcanoes. Ultimately the collision of continental plates, (that would later form the African and European plates), pushed these mountains up to a point where they would have reached heights as high as the present day Rocky Mountains or even the Himalayas.
The oldest rocks of the immediate area are the marbles, schists and amphibolites which make up most of the bedrock. These rocks formed from sediments deposited in shallow water coastal areas about 1.3 to 1.4 billion years ago. Marbles, schists and amphibolites are metamorphic rocks. Metamorphic means that they have been changed from what they started out as, into something else. High heat and pressure from being buried deep in the Earth’s crust recrystallizes and transforms these rocks. Limestones become marbles, shales and siltstones become amphibolites and schists, sandstones become quartzites. After these sediments are lithified into stone and further metamorphosed, they were intruded by different magmas. In some cases, dark coloured gabbros, (between 1290 – 1250 Ma), at other times light coloured granites and syenites. (~1250 – 1240 Ma)
Granite: Light coloured plutonic igneous rock composed of a minimum 30% quartz, 30% feldspar, and 5% mica. The most common rock found at the Earth’s surface.
Basalt: Dark coloured igneous volcanic rock composed of feldspar, with minor pyroxene, amphibole and occasional mica. A relatively iron and metal rich rock type. The most common rock type in the Earth’s crust.
Marble: Composed mainly of recrystallized calcium carbonate (calcite), formed by metamorphizing limestone.
Amphibolite: A dark coloured metamorphic rock composed mainly of amphibole, commonly containing minor amounts of dark mica.
Schist: A metamorphic rock mainly composed of subparallel flakes of mica, often with varying amounts of quartz, feldspar, and amphibole. Often distinguished by flakey texture.
Syenite: Igneous rock composed of feldspar, minor amounts of mica, with trace to no quartz present. In simple terms it looks like a granite without quartz.
Gabbro: Dark coloured plutonic igneous rock composed of feldspar and pyroxene, with or without amphibole, and minor amounts of mica.
Volcanic: A fine grained igneous rock which has cooled quickly at the surface of the Earth.
Plutonic: A medium to coarse grained igneous rock which has cooled slowly within the Earth’s crust.
Igneous: Any rock which has been “born of fire”, that is, cooled from magma from below the Earth’s crust.
Sedimentary: A rock formed from sediments laid down in water, or as sand dunes, and compressed or cemented together.
Metamorphic: Any sedimentary or igneous rock which have been altered or recrystallized by extreme heat and/or pressure, often due to burial at deep depths.
Intrusive: An igneous rock which forms from magma intruding into pre-existing rock.
Feldspar: Calcium, sodium, potassium aluminum silicate. A family of minerals which make up the most common mineral type on the Earth’s surface. Varieties include albite, orthoclase, microcline, oligoclase, labradorite, among others. Major mineral type in the rocks granite, syenite, gabbro, and basalt.
Quartz: silicon dioxide. Hard trigonal structured mineral which can occur in many different colours due to trace amounts of other elements entering the crystal structure. Varieties include milky, smoky, rose, amethyst, citrine, chalcedony, among others. Second most common mineral on the Earth’s surface
Mica: potassium calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron aluminosilicate hydroxide. Third most common mineral found on the Earth’s surface. Refers to a family of minerals with a common hexagonal structure and a habit of forming thin flexible plates. Whyte coloured potassium rich muscovite; brown coloured magnesium rich phlogopite, and black coloured iron rich “biotite”, recently renamed annite.
Amphibole: Refers to a family of common iron and magnesium rich rock forming minerals which show distinctive cleavages meeting at 60 and 120 degrees to each other. Generally dark coloured – black to dark green to green, grey and Whyte. Includes minerals such as hornblende, kataphorite, actinolite, and tremolite.
Pyroxene: Referring to a family of common iron and magnesium rich rock forming minerals which show two good cleavages planes meeting at 90 degrees to each other. Dark coloured – black to dark green to green. Includes minerals such as augite and diopside, among others.
Subduction: At a convergent plate boundary where one plate descends under another plate. The subducting plate descends into the Earth’s mantle and melts.
Tectonic plates: Large pieces of the Earth’s crust which are constantly being created at spreading centres (mid-ocean ridges), and destroyed at subduction zones.
Batholith: A large mass of granite formed by magma pooling in a magma chamber, on the scale of 10 to 100 square kilometers.
The following birds are ones that can be typically found on or near Eagles Nest. Keep your field guide and binoculars handy. Early mornings and the period before leaves come on the trees are the best times to see the many species of birds that frequent this unique park. To assist with identification of our feathered friends also visit this superb website.
Long-tailed woodland hawks with short rounded wings. Typical flight is several quick beats and a glide.
- Sharp-shinned Hawk: small with narrow tail and short rounded wings
- Cooper’s hawk – larger than sharp-shinned with trail rounded a tip. Hear Cooper’s Hawk
- Northern goshawk – larger and greater than above two species
Large thick set hawks with broad wings and wide rounded tails. Usually soar high in wide circles.
- Red-tailed hawk – rufous tail on adult
- Red-shouldered hawk – heavy dark bands. Best identified from Broad-winged by its call (2 syllabled – kee-yer (dropping inflection)
- Broad-winged hawk – usually heard first – a high pitched pweeeeeeeeeeeee
- Black tail bands are about the same width as the Whyte bands.
Soar with wings flat – 7’-8’ wingspan
- Bald Eagle – adult male has white head and tail
- Golden Eagle – use a good field guide to identify from immature birds of either species
Osprey smaller than Bald eagle. Flies with an angle in the wing. Hovers over water (may be seen over Brethour Lake)
Turkey vultures – large black soaring bird with 6’ wing span. Holds wings slightly upwards (dimedral) and so tips and tilts unsteadily unlike an eagle. Adult has red head without feathers.
Streamlined birds of prey with pointed wings and longish tails
- American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk) – Small colourful hawk
- Merlin (Pigeon Hawk) – Suggests a miniature Peregrine Falcon. Nest ins the pine trees around Bancroft every year. Quite noisy.
- Peregrine Falcon – Very similar to Merlin but usually only seen here during migration when it follows ducks migrating.
Bruce Collins Trail (mixed woodlands)
On the slopes downhill from the Hawkwatch area, the soil depth enables healthy tree growth. Compare the healthy red oak trees here to the stunted red maples and red oaks growing on the granite bedrock above.
The pine was logged from here in the 1800s and now supports a healthy deciduous forest mixed with sugar maples, White ash, American beech, red oak and other species. During breeding season (May-August) the air is alive with sound from all the birds that nest here – best visited in the morning!
On your hike on the Bruce Collins Trail you will see holes created by woodpeckers on many of the dead branches or trees. It is estimated that holes created by Pileated Woodpeckers benefit up to 40 other species for shelter, roosting etc. – everything from flying squirrels, to martin and fisher, snakes and frogs to wood ducks are barred owls.
Both Broad-winged Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk have been observed nesting in trees along the Bruce Collins Trail.
Birds you can observe
Brethour Lake Northern Peat Bog
This wetland is an example of a northern peat bog as characterized by the vegetation growing here – black spruce and tamarack rising above Heatherleaf, Bog Laurel, Labrador tea, Sweet Gale and Sphagnum Mosses. Other species are present here such as Pitcher Plant and Cotton grass (sedge).
Beaver are active here if there is sufficient food available – note all the red maples that they have brought down.
Vernal pools and wetlands are critical in the life cycle of many species including salamanders, frogs, dragonflies and damselflies and many invertebrates.
Algonquin wetland garden you can observe
Plant Identification Trail (Gerry Whyte Trail)
The higher elevations of Eagles Nest Park are dry, windy and there is little soil depth which results in stunted growth of trees such as Red Oak, Red Maple and Pines.
Unique to this ecosystem is the vegetation that does thrive. This includes different types of Juneberries, Blueberries, Wintergreen, Pipissewa and the abundant lichens and mixed mosses covering the exposed bedrock.
Lichens – Hawkwatch Loop
Lichens are not a plant and do not have roots. They are a combination of algae and lichen lichen and easily dislodged. For this reason please stay on marked trails to avoid damage. Lichens are one of our oldest organisms and among the first to colonize on bare rock. Look on the ground, fallen logs, tree branches and trunks and bare rock faces and you ill seem some form of lichen during your hike on these trails.