IBA Little Otter Creek Complex
Straffordville, Ontario
Site Summary
ON044 Latitude
42.757° N
80.790° W
190 - 220 m
43.92 km²
deciduous woods (temperate), mixed woods (temperate), rivers/streams, arable & cultivated lands
Land Use:
Agriculture, Forestry
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Deforestation, Erosion
IBA Criteria: Nationally Significant: Threatened Species
Conservation status:
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Site Description
The Little Otter Creek Complex is comprised of three closely linked forests known as Howeys Woods, as well as a ten kilometre stretch of the creek and its ravines, centred roughly on these forests. The site is located fifteen kilometres south of Tillsonburg, near the town of Straffordville. Highway 19 cuts across the midpoint of the site, which extends five kilometres up and down the Little Otter Creek. This site is a small portion of the still heavily forested Big Otter and Little Otter Creek watersheds. Both creeks and their tributaries have cut heavily into the Norfolk Sand Plain to create valleys that are so steep and deep (up to 30 metres) that logging is difficult. As a result, there is an almost continuous wood corridor in the creek valleys and on many of the tablelands that are too small to have been cleared for farming. Little Otter Creek drains into Big Otter Creek, with the combined streams flowing south to Port Burwell on Lake Erie. The woods are mainly deciduous with an obvious element of White Pine on the uplands, and Eastern Hemlock on the cooler slopes. Away from the steep valleys are flatter lands with some old Norway Spruce and Red Pine plantations.
Portions of the Little Otter Creek Complex have provided habitat for three to five pairs of the nationally threatened Hooded Warbler for over a decade. This is primarily due to the ongoing harvesting of timber which occurs in the plantations and other flatter areas, and which provides suitable open canopy habitat for the warblers. This number of pairs is nationally significant, representing 3 to 5% of the Canadian population. Additional Hooded Warblers and an Acadian Flycatcher (nationally endangered) have also been found regularly outside of this site, just south of Tillsonburg.

In addition, it is estimated that more than 20 pairs of Louisiana Waterthrush (nationally vulnerable) are nesting in the upper Big Otter Creek valley, from just south of Tillsonburg upstream to Otterville. During the Kent-Elgin Natural Areas survey in the mid-1980s, it was estimated that a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes was on every tributary of both Big and Little Otter Creek sections within Elgin County perhaps 20 to 30 pairs. Combining both estimates (the surveys did not overlap geographically) would mean there are at least 40 to 50 pairs of Louisiana Waterthrushes in the Big and Little Otter Creek watersheds. It is not known how many Louisiana Waterthrushes are present in the section of Little Otter Creek within this site, perhaps 10 pairs, but this site certainly covers some of the prime Louisiana Waterthrush habitat in Canada.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Acadian Flycatcher 2005 SU 1 - 2
Louisiana Waterthrush 1995 SU 20
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Threats to this site are minimal because the very steep slopes are unsuitable for agriculture. Periodic logging occurs even on steep slopes, causing local soil erosion problems, but on less steep lands logging benefits Hooded Warblers. The overall integrity of the forest seems intact in the creek valley and slopes (where the Louisiana Waterthrush breeds) and also in some adjacent uplands that are wedged between steep ravines and are too small for agriculture.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.
   © Bird Studies Canada