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Newsletter 18

The Meadow: Now part of Thicksons Woods Nature Reserve!!!

Thanks to the generosity of many hundreds of people, as well as a number of naturalist clubs, corporations and foundations, The Meadow has become part of Thicksons Woods Nature Reserve.

bird graphicThis 8-acre parcel of pasture and old orchard truly was a "missing link." Left to naturalize, it now connects the beautiful wooded valley of the east branch of Corbett Creek with Thicksons Woods. It also joins Corbett Creek Marsh with the fields and plantings along the Waterfront Trail west of Thickson Road, completing a band of natural habitat stretching more than four kilometres along the Lake Ontario shore. Most people agree its one of the most scenic and welcoming stretches of the Trail, despite its urban setting.

There are no marked trails through the meadow, but a pathway follows the south and east edges. Come explore if you can and let us know what you find.

Of course, this special place wont be truly secure until the mortgage is paid off. Including interest, we still need to raise more than half a million dollars to accomplish that goal. Already many folks have devised innovative ways to raise money to help.

If you havent got involved yet, why not devise your own fund-raising plan and pitch in? It will give you a warm glow inside.

Tax receipts will be issued for all contributions.

Stories from the Front Lines

Pat Tozer of Dwight, Ontario, is not only one of the most practical and efficient people on the planet, she loves to knit. When she heard about the meadow fund-raising project last fall, she dug out her knitting needles, bought bundles of colourful cotton yarns and began knitting kitchen hand towels that fasten on drawer handles. Whenever she went to a gathering of people, she hung her towels on a portable drying rack, put up a sign, and started telling folks about the meadow.

At $10 apiece, the towels went like hotcakes. Pat's goal is to sell 50 towels and donate $500 toward the meadow--and she's nearly there!

Jack Gingrich of Toronto also found a unique way of raising money to help purchase the meadow: "In September 2001 I was selected for jury duty, and picked for a coroner's inquest, which started on October 22--and lasted until February 8, 2002! For this I was paid $2150.00, and I have decided to donate half of this amount to Thickson's Woods and the rest to other charities. Thus I enclose a cheque for $1075.00."

Four months on a jury was obviously long enough to make new friends, for he added: "One of the other jurors wanted to buy two of the geometric models which I make as a hobby. I do not make them for sale, but I agreed to give her the two she wanted, provided she make a donation of $87 to the Thickson's Woods Land Trust. Her cheque for that amount is included."

Another intriguing tale comes from Ken Carmichael of Nestleton, who sent a donation in memory of A.G Markham, "...a bird watching friend of mine for 40 years. Jack Markham was a navigator in a Lancaster Bomber during the Second World War. He was shot down in France, and with the help of the French Underground made it to Spain, then returned to England to continue his flying career. During this time he acquired a Walther P38 9 mm pistol, which he said he got from a German officer. It was his wish that any monies from the sale of this gun go to Thickson's Woods Land Trust. "

Jack and I made a few trips to Thickson's Woods over the years and I know he would be pleased with the donation. I'll bet it's the first from the sale of a firearm."

Gifts That Will Last Forever

Many metres of the meadow have been saved in the name of: Ashling Amato, Dennis Barry, Bob Bracht, Kim, Chris and Laura Brown, Beverly Jean Brunet, Elynor Carney, Margaret Carney, Geoff Carpentier, Peter Dales, Barbara Fallis, Hallie Fishel, Rachel Grover, Teressa Jacenty, Kim Lendvay, Dr. R. Alexander Lindsay, Anne Macdonald, Angus and Winnie McDonald, Craig MacLauchlan, Nancy and Graeme Melcher, Kathryn Mills, Julia Mohr, Cindy Nawrot, Ed Nawrot, Patricia Rosnak, June M. Smith, Helen Surrage and Eleanor Verette. Shirley Horner gave two metres for a friend.

Thank you to everyone who gave a friend or loved one a share in this living legacy a gift that will last forever!

(If you would like to give a Meadow Gift to a friend or relative, you can download a gift certificate from our website, or contact us and we will send you one.)

Thank you, You Wonderful People!

Once again we regret that current legislation keeps us from mentioning individual donors by name without their written permission. You know who you areand how generously you gave! Thanks so much!!

We are very happy to be able to publicly thank the Willow Beach Naturalists, who doubled their original donation of $5000 to $10,000.

Profound tbutterfly graphichanks to the EJLB Foundation of Montreal for donating $10,000, as well.

Kudos to all our corporate sponsors to date, for being such great community partners: Lofthouse Brass, $5000; CoSteel-LASCO, $1000; Atlantic Packaging, $1000; Sklar-Pepplar Furniture Corporation, (details unavailable as we go to press).

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Town of Whitby, which ran an article about the TWLT meadow project in Whitby Perspectives.

Thanks so much to the ONTBIRDS web site for posting many messages about the meadow project. Also to Jean Iron and the Ontario Field Ornithologists for spreading the word in the OFO newsletter. Donations of all sizes have come in from members of the Toronto Field Naturalists.

Many people have pledged items for silent auctions and bucket raffles, including Karin Fawthrop, Betty Pegg, Don Pegg, Margaret Roberts and Rosemary Speirs.

We are gathering pledges of wildlife paintings for a major raffle of fine art next year, and have already heard from Mark Barrie, Jane Brooke, Paul Harpley, Shirley Heard and Barry MacKay. Any other nature artists out there who would like to contribute?

Energetic engineers from Lofthouse Brass constructed a wooden bridge over the drainage ditch on the way into the meadow, directly opposite the entrance to the woods--just as they did for the woods a year or two ago. When you step into the meadow with dry feet, thank Phill Holder and company!

Thanks to Lucas, Katie, Cathy and Warren Brailsford, Julia, Douglas and Barb Haynes, Kevin and Matthew Gillette and Ray and Judy Bryson for helping to fold and stuff  newsletters.

Human nature being what it is (ever more so the older we get) its possible weve forgotten to thank some wonderful person for their generous and unique contribution. We may even have spelled your name wrong.

Please let us know of any oversights! We apologize in advance, and promise to make up for it in future newsletters.

Nature Notes
by Dennis Barry

In early April the first wave of spring migrants paused in Thicksons Woods, as they met some of the wintriest weather of the year. Golden-crowned kinglets sang as they fed in the shelter of the tall pines. Even a few brown creepers, which normally save their songs until they arrive on their nepine cone graphicsting territories, couldnt resist the urge to sing.

In the brushy tangles along the border of the meadow, song sparrows paused to refuel, unaware of the first baby cottontails of the season hidden in their cozy nest among a clump of weathered goldenrod stems. Sheltered among the willows at the north edge of the beaver pond, a pair of wood ducks and three hoodies engaged in their courtship ritual. Male redwings puffed themselves up in song, flashing their red epaulets in hopes of attracting a striped female, soon to arrive.

With the warm front during the second week of April came the next wave: sapsuckers and winter wrens, towhees and fox sparrows, hermit thrushes and white-throats. What will the next warm front bring? Listen for pine warblers singing from high in the white pines. Their song, a muted, more musical version of a chipping sparrows trill, gives a clue as to their whereabouts. If you're lucky, you may spot one gleaning insects along a high pine limb. Yellow-rumped warblers may be high in the pines, too, or among the catkins in a spreading silver poplar. Or look for them along the edge of the beaver pond.

The Best Job in the World
by Margaret Carney

Who could have dreamed that the deal for the meadow would actually go through? The flurry of donations in response to the appeal for help was truly amazing. I know - I was a witness. As TWLT secretary, I had the privilege of having every single note, letter and donation form pass through my hands, on the way back from Brian Steele, our stalwart treasurer. It was an incredibly moving experience.

More than once Id unfold a piece of paper, eager to get on with the task of responding, and be totally blown away by someones generosity, or heartfelt words. A few times I was so touched I burst into tears. How often does that happen in the course of a normal day?

A fair amount of wit and humour comes in as well. I've developed a true appreciation for Gordon Bellerby of Niagara-on-the-Lake, for example; he suggested the Seniors Challenge (every year donate the amount of your age) and keeps a steady stream of donations coming.

I asked the newsletter editor if I could write a short piece sharing what its like being on the receiving end of all this love of nature - an incredible affirmation of the goodness of the human species!

Let me tell you, its the best job on the board. Maybe in the world.

bird graphic 2

Tips for Birding Thicksons Woods in Spring
by Dennis Barry

First a disclaimer. Murphys Law of Birding says that the day you decide to stay home will be the best day of the spring. A corollary to that law says that rarities will either fly off just before you arrive, or be discovered immediately after you depart. These apply in Thicksons Woods, too, but here are some clues and suggestions that may help.

Tip number one is to visit Thicksons every morning during May. Come early, move slowly and stay around for a few hours. While I realize this advice is impossible for many people to follow, those birders who do visit daily always catch the waves. If you cant visit every day all spring, try to come several days in a row.

The number of migrants in the woods on any given spring day can vary widely. One day there may be thousands of white-throats or warblers, the next very few. Weather is the key. Ideal conditions for creating a fallout, i.e. causing birds to come to ground instead of continuing their journey north, are very specific. Several days of cooler than normal weather with strong north winds, followed by a warm front with southerly winds and thunderstorms around midnight, and then a sudden shift to strong cold north winds between midnight and dawn, will often cause large numbers of birds to postpone their migration and wait for more favourable weather. If a cold front arrives before dark or during the early hours of darkness, birds farther south will not take off, and birding in Thicksons Woods is likely to be less exciting the next morning.

After a fallout, if the weather stays cold, many of the grounded birds will remain to feed for several days, although numbers will gradually dwindle, and most will leave on the first calm night.

On pleasant, warm mornings the number of birds likely to stop in the woods is harder to forecast. There seems to be a pattern of movement on alternate days, but this doesnt always happen. In this type of weather with light winds, birds will move out of the woods early in the morning. The later in the season, the earlier in the morning birds will fly off to the north across the meadow and up Corbett Creek Valley. Birds such as evening grosbeaks and rusty blackbirds can often be heard early in the morning but will be gone before 8:00 a.m. The Carolina wrens are most vocal at dawn and dusk, and may be difficult to locate during the day.

Waterfowl are affected by weather patterns as well, but tend to move perhaps a day earlier in the weather cycle than land birds. Larger songbirds such as thrushes and orioles seem less affected by moderate north winds, and tend to move earlier in the cycle than small birds such as warblers.

Wind direction is an excellent clue as to where birds will be concentrated in Thicksons Woods. Especially in cold weather, they tend to feed on the lee side of the woods, perhaps because insects are more active there. If the wind is from the north on a cool, sunny morning, look for warblers in the trees along the lakefront. If the wind is west, birding may be best along the edge of the marsh or in the centre of the woods. An east wind will push birds to the trees and yards along Thickson Road. Light or southerly winds will often send birds to the north along the Waterfront Trail and into the Meadow. In cold weather large flocks of swallows take advantage of the protection of the woods to hawk for insects over the lake and yards on the south side of the woods, or over Thickson Road and the fields to the west.

Just as fruiting trees are excellent places to bird in the tropics, look for flowering trees in Thicksons. Early in the season check the silver poplars for sapsuckers, kinglets and warblers. In mid-May the flowers on the tall sugar maples in the middle of the woods attract tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and warblers. Later in May the red oaks along the laneway toward the west side of the woods, as well as those along the east side of the beaver pond, are favourite feeding spots for indigo buntings and vireos. Since trees tend to flower before their leaves develop, birds are often more visible in oaks and ashes later in the spring than in earlier leafing species such as maples and chokecherries.

While warblers are less numerous early in May, southern rarities that overshoot their range are more apt to appear then.

The exciting aspect of birding in Thicksons Woods is the diversity of habitats in a concentrated area. Whether its a red-necked grebe or red-throated loon in Lake Ontario, a snowy egret or glossy ibis in Corbett Creek Marsh, or a yellow-throated or Townsends warbler high in the pine in the woods, spring visitors to Thicksons Woods have learned to expect the unexpected.

bird graphic 3

Join our Birding May-rathon for the Meadow

Back in the 1980s, when Thicksons Woods was saved from development, quite a number of people gathered pledges from friends and neighbours and went birding to help pay off the mortgage. Perhaps the champion of this effort was Edge Pegg from Greenwood, who raised thousands of dollars.

bird graphic 4Now that "The Meadow" has been added to the Thicksons Woods Nature Reserve, the mortgage challenge is even larger. But so is the number of people committed to maintaining Thicksons Woods as an oasis of nature in a human-dominated environment.

One of the most popular birding challenges in the 1980s was to see how many birds could be found in and around Thicksons Woods during the month of May. Most birders managed to find more than 150 species during the month.

But you can do your spotting anywhere: in your yard, your neighbourhood, maybe just in the meadow, or in some exotic foreign destination. And choose any time period you wish: a day, a week, a month. Just give your sponsors an idea as to how many species you think you might find. They can choose to sponsor you for a set sum, or for a certain amount per species. (With the former, they can pay you on the spot, avoiding the hassle of collecting your pledges later.)

Tax receipts will be issued for all contributions. Use the form included with this newsletter. (Photocopy it first because youll likely get lots and lots of sponsors.)

If you don't wish to do a birding May-rathon personally, you can always participate by sponsoring someone who is. Or you can collect pledges for them.

Our president, Margaret Bain, has agreed to participate. Also doing May-rathons for The Meadow are Margaret Carney and Dennis Barry. To sponsor one of these birders, just send an e-mail to nature@thicksonswoods.com, or send us a note.

So if someone approaches you in Thicksons and asks you to sponsor them, smile, say Yes! and be generous. You'll feel good. After all, its for a great cause.

Tours and Outings

Clubs or individuals who are supporters of Thicksons Woods are invited to contact us if you would like a guided tour of the woods, the meadow, or any of the other great birding spots in the area. Write, send an e-mail, or call to make arrangements.

Tree Planting

We need to begin planting a windbreak/sound and visual barrier along the west side of The Meadow bordering Thickson Road. The first planting bee is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Come join us! Bring a sharpened shovel and wear work gloves and appropriate footwear.

In Memoriam

Donations have been made in memory of many special people:

Frank Browning
Mary T. Carney
Helen Curry
Jeanette Earp
Florence Hart
Don Hocking
Runnar Konze
A.G. (Jack) Markham
Margaret McGill
Thomas and Beatrice
(Molly) Murphy
Pauline Pengelly
Lois Ratcliffe
Doris and Murray Speirs

We join their families and friends in mourning their passing, and acknowledge their unique contribution to the rich web of life on planet earth.

A reminder to anyone who pledged to donate this year: If you do so by the end of April, your contribution will help to pay down the mortgage. Interest on the $407,875 owing comes to a whopping $78.22 per day! Our first quarterly payment is due May 2, and any amount on hand after the $6,648.92 interest is paid will go toward the principal.

Quilt Raffle Update

We're eager to start distributing books of raffle tickets for the beautiful York Heritage Guild quilt, donated this winter. Unfortunately, raffle arrangements are being held up by the OPSEU strike. So we've decided to hold the draw for the quilt at our great Hawk Festival in the Meadow this fall, September 21-22. This will give us all summer to sell raffle tickets.

Please sell lots of tickets, to everyone you know!

For tickets and information phone:
Susan Morgan, coordinator (905) 655-4895;
Cathy Brailsford, Whitby (905) 576-1979;
Margaret Bain, Cobourg and east (905)373-1202,
Sheila Bowslough, Oakville and west (905) 825-2799

Donated Services

Warren Brailsford, artist and carpenter, said he might consider doing work for a client in exchange for a donation to Thickson's Woods Land Trust. What a great fund-raising possibility -exchanging services for donations. Thank you, Warren!

Once again, many thanks to those who have contributed to the Save the Meadow campaign. For those who are still planning to contribute, donations can be sent to Thicksons Woods Land Trust, Box 541, Whitby L1N 5V3

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