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Newsletter 19

Wanted: Warm Bodies, Big Smiles

owlSeptember is the peak of hawk migration, a time when hundreds of raptors stream over the Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve, riding thermals along the Lake Ontario shoreline on their way south for the winter. To celebrate this great end-of-summer event, we're planning a huge Birds, Beavers and Butterflies Nature Festival for Saturday, September 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the meadow.

Volunteers have lined up an exciting number of nature activities for kids and adults, with a great roster of experts to help out. Pond dipping, bug and botany ID, bird and Monarch banding, guided nature walks, nature photography workshops, dried flower arranging, storytelling, a live bald eagle from the Metro Zoo - the list of events goes on and on and on. Held in tandem will be a bucket raffle, silent auction, and bake sale and harvest preserves table, to help raise money to pay off the mortgage. Plus a yummy sausage-on-a-bun or hotdog lunch!

To make the day a complete success, we need all sorts of help! Bodies to man booths, lead walks and take tickets. Nature stuff for the bucket raffle and silent auction. Baked goods, pickles and preserves.

If you can help out at the festival in any way, for any length of time, phone (905) 725-2116 or email us at thicksonswoods@interlinks.net.

If you have nature-related objects or baked goods you'd like to donate, bring them along to the fund-raising tables in the meadow the day of the festival. (Already donated are a hydrofoil ride across Lake Ontario, and a professional massage!)

And if you have kids or grandkids, plan a fascinating day's outing with them! Entrance for children 12 and under is free.

Want to fly like a hawk? The $5 entrance fee to the festival includes a chance to win an airplane flight along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Please spread the word to everyone you know.

Stories from the Front Lines

"The Seniors Challenge is a good idea," wrote Lize Van Helsdingen of Claremont. "Although some early, I send this cheque in case I may forget to do it. Chris'll be 94 the 18 June and October follows mine. Life is good and beautiful." How good and beautiful of Lize to help save the meadow!

"It gives me great pleasure and pride to send you this donation," wrote Judy Bryson of Oshawa. "It represents the profit from our ways and means projects in the past year. 'We' are the members of the Beta Sigma Phi chapter, Laureate Gamma Ida. When I requested that we make this donation, the motion was passed unanimously. I hope to bring several of my sorority sisters to the woods and meadow so they can understand the need and our appreciation of their donation." Amen and thank you, Beta Sigma Phi!

A familiar face was absent from the woods this May - Mac Smith passed away suddenly last winter. Continuing the couple's long and generous support of Thickson's Woods, June sent in an annual donation, a May-rathon contribution, plus a cheque for $160 in her husband's memory.

Mac, it turns out, had been given a special box of cigars years before at a conference he attended in Vancouver. When a delegation from the Philippines showed up without basic supplies and accoutrements, Mac took them under his wing and made sure they got what they needed. The cigars were a thank-you gift. Mac and June not being smokers, the box sat about the house for decades as a keepsake. When clearing out his effects, June gave the cigars to their son to auction on the Internet. The highest bid - $160.

Attention, wine makers! Peter Clute was clearing out his effects, too - moving from a house to a condo. He didn't have room for his "bird bottle" collection - nearly 100 wine bottles with pictures of birds on the label. So he's donating the whole lot for the bucket raffle at the nature festival in the meadow on September 21 - which will surely make some lucky birder/vintner very happy!

Donations Fall Short of Amount Needed to Pay Off Mortgage

Our treasurer, Brian Steele, reports that after paying $6555.11 in interest this quarter, there were sufficient funds to pay off only $7444.89 from the principal. This is some $12,500 less that the $20,000 we need to pay off the principal quarterly in order to stay on track to pay off the mortgage within the five-year term.

Brian is worried that the momentum has slowed in terms of donations and that the future of the meadow may be in jeopardy. As a board we realize that spring and summer are busy times for everyone, especially birders. (Why is it that grass and weeds in our yards always grow fastest at the peak of May migration?) We've tried to assure Brian that, with the approach of fall, people will be a little less busy and donations to ensure that the meadow remains a meadow will increase.

Like all good treasurers, the more money Brian has to count, the happier he is. When he's happy, Brian has a wonderful smile. Please keep him smiling. Send money!

Happy Birthday, Edge Pegg!

One of the most heartfelt stories to date involves long-time supporters of the woods, Edge and Betty Pegg. This spring, in response to the Gordon Bellerby Challenge, they sent a cheque for $225 - $90 for Edge's age, $79 for Betty's, $55 for their wedding anniversary and a dollar to round off the total. But they wanted to do more.

Edge wasn't able to do a "May-rathon" as he has in the past. But when friends and family asked what he'd like for his 90th birthday, he suggested they contribute toward saving the meadow.

His birthday celebration at the Greenwood United Church one sunny day in late May was proof positive of how many good friends this warm-hearted couple have drawn to them over the years. The place was overflowing with people; the stories and accolades were boisterous and stirring, the contributions profuse. Edge has loved nature his whole life, and it was quite moving that this special celebration of his life should be marked by the protection of wildlife habitat.

Thanks to all of Edge and Betty's many relatives and friends, who together contributed more than $1,300 toward saving the meadow. "If Edge Pegg turned 90 every month, we'd have the mortgage paid off in a year!" one TWLT board member exclaimed.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

To all you generous people who've sent donations to save the meadow as a wildlife reserve, thank you so much! Because of you, this challenging five-year project to pay off the mortgage is launched and underway.

Though for legal reasons we can't print your names in our newsletter, we're very grateful to every one of you. Raising half a million dollars happens one donation at a time, from caring individuals who love nature. Thank you!!!

Lots of folks worked hard to make our May pancake breakfast a huge success. Staff and management of Lofthouse, Inc. in Whitby supplied and cooked the yummy pancake breakfast. Let's have a ringing round of applause for George and Amber Matthews, Sue and Phill Holder, and Jackie Gilkes.

Worthy of other special mention: Esther Allin, Carol Apperson, Sheila Bowslaugh, Cathy Brailsford, Lucas Brailsford, Carla Brechin, Gilbert Brown, Judy Bryson, Charlene Day, Jeane Ennis, June Ernest, Karin Fawthrop, Geraldine Goodwin, Anne Fox, Gord Gallant, Derek and Lois Gillette, Barb Glass, Dot Hooker, Carol Horner, James Kamstra, Doug Lockray, Dianne Pazaratz, Hugh Peacock, Diane and Otto Peter, Pat Preyde, Debbie Reynolds, Edna Ridge, Margaret Roberts, Alfie Salomon, Jennifer Schipper, Ron Scovell, Susan Smyth, Molly Tharyan, Alan Woods.

Among many fun and fanciful donations to the silent auction and bucket raffle were two huge rainbow trout on ice, which Carol Apperson caught fresh from her trout pond near Uxbridge. And two decadently rich, delicious chocolate cheesecakes made by gourmet cook Debbie Reynolds of Bethany. Many members of the Durham Region Field Naturalists and Pickering Naturalists showed up with yummy baked goods.

Gerry Ernest not only stepped in as official photographer of the meadow opening ceremony, he's working on a slide presentation of the Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve to show to interested groups.

Uxbridge Nurseries donated the tall red oak that was planted inside the gate at the meadow-opening ceremony. It will shade visitors to the meadow for years to come.

Richard Woolger gave half the proceeds from his popular native plants sale to the meadow, as well as baby white pines, hackberry and pawpaw trees to be planted there. Sandy Cappell of the Toronto Field Naturalists donated a dozen Kentucky coffee trees he raised from seed.

Many helping hands planted 170 baby white spruces as a future windbreak earlier in spring, including Ursula and Anna Toaze and Heather Brown, who have helped out with tree planting every year since they were toddlers. Thank you, Pebblestone Multiservices, for picking up and recycling all the garbage gathered that day!

And a special thanks to Christopher Baines of the Ontario Nature Trust Alliance, who showed up with a gigantic cheque for $5,000 in aid of the meadow project.

Thanks also to Canada Life, TD Friends of the Environment and West Humber Naturalists for generous donations to the cause.

Gwen Sheppard is the latest artist to donate a painting to our future nature art auction - a lovely landscape of a Canadian shield lake. Rosemary Speirs donated a dramatic painting of a bald eagle from Dr. Murray Speirs's estate.

Wise Words from an Early Conservationist

Before his untimely death in 1948, Aldo Leopold formulated many ideas that helped lay the foundation for the conservation movement in North America. More than half a century later, as we endeavour to prevent some of our few remaining natural areas from being lost forever, it's worth thinking about what he had to say, and asking ourselves how far we have progressed. The following are excepts from Leopold's A Sand County Almanac with essays on conservation from Round River, Oxford University Press, 1966.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.

There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to the plants and animals which grow upon it. Land is still property. The land-relationship is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.

A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.

Land is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals. Food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil.

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Recreation is valuable in proportion to the intensity of its experiences, and to the degree to which it differs from and contrasts with workaday life.

To build a road is so much simpler than to think what the country really needs.

May-rathon 2002 Results

This spring nine enthusiastic people undertook a "May-rathon," raising more than $4000 for the meadow. The champion in terms of money raised was Carol Horner, at $1363.06, with Ken & Mary Lund close behind at $1181.40. Carol also recorded the most species, at 182 seen in Ontario in May.

Among those who restricted their "May-rathon" to the one-mile circle surrounding Thickson's Woods, the person who won the competition for the most species was Margaret Bain, who found 168. (Her birding ability is only one of many reasons why she's president of TWLT.) Dennis Barry also saw 168 species, but Margaret kept reminding him that he had an unfair advantage because she had to commute from Cobourg. Margaret Carney was close behind with 166 species, but made up for it by seeing several species no one else found, including sanderling, goshawk and two new species for the Thickson's Woods checklist, harlequin duck and black-headed gull. Jim Fairchild recorded 136 species in eight days of birding in Thickson's. Unique to Jim's list were blue-winged warbler and osprey.

Frank Pinilla, who chose to combine his "May-rathon" with this year's Taverner Cup, added a "lifer" at Presque'ile Provincial Park, a prairie falcon. Highlights for Linda Cole were the many colourful warblers in Thickson's Woods, especially the Canadas.

Highlights among the 188 species seen by May-rathoners in Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve were: Red-throated Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Green Heron, Brant, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, Ruddy Duck, Osprey, Merlin, Whimbrel, White-rumped Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Black-billed Cuckoo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Sedge Wren, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, American Pipit, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and Orchard Oriole.

All the participants agreed that the "May-rathon" was a fun way to help pay off the mortgage on the meadow. They're all looking forward to next year. Why not join them? Start planning and collecting sponsors now. We hope to have a sponsor sheet available on our website soon. Or you can use last year's form and change the date, or let us know and we'll send you forms. Let's aim to double the number of May-rathoners and triple the number of sponsors!

Nature Notes

by Dennis Barry

In April Gilbert Brown donated several nest boxes to be put up in the nature reserve. Within a few minutes after three were in place in the meadow, tree swallows had discovered them and were circling about in small courtship groups. Soon a pair was busy collecting grass stalks to begin a nest in one. A male house wren laid claim to another and started to fill it with twigs.

The finishing touch to the lining of a tree swallow nest is a cup of white feathers to camouflage the half dozen translucent white eggs. If a female house wren approves of the male's choice of home, she removes just enough sticks to add a nest of fine grass lined with a delicate arch of beautifully coloured feathers that will hide her clutch of six or seven pinkish eggs with cherry-rust squiggles.

Bird neighbours of the wrens and swallows include catbirds and cardinals, willow flycatchers and yellowthroats. All take advantage of the cover provided by clumps of red osier dogwood and nannyberry growing up in the old pasture. Yellow warblers hide their nests here too, lining them with soft plant down. The eastern kingbird nest is on a higher limb in a hawthorn in the hedgerow bordering the beaver pond. A favourite lining is sheep's wool.

Woodcocks that could be seen at dusk in May, performing aerial courtship displays over the meadow, are now busily searching for earthworms in the woods. Other night visitors to the meadow include the coyote family hunting for meadow voles and cottontails, and white-tailed deer pawing patches of ground bare to get at minerals in the soil.

Several visitors commented on the hundreds of starlings that have gathered in the meadow. After watching for a while we realized that the attraction was the ripe white fruit on the red osier dogwood shrubs. Although the fruit tastes bitter to us humans, more than 80 species of wildlife eat it.

A pair of great crested flycatchers was checking out a nest box in our yard in early summer. Red-breasted nuthatches and chickadees both brought young to our feeders in June, and at least two ruby-throats visit the hummingbird feeders regularly. Red-eyed vireos call from the woods, but pewees seem to be absent. The late, cold spring seems to have had a devastating impact on flycatchers and swallows. A phoebe has been calling each morning at dawn since April. Perhaps it found a mate, but I've never seen more than one.

We have been considering what flower species might be appropriate to plant in the meadow to attract and feed butterflies. Dale Leadbeater suggested bergamot. Last month Bob Allin and I were happy to discover that bergamot is already quite widespread in parts of the southern sections near the Waterfront Trail. Butterflies have been scarce this year, with some species present in low numbers and others absent completely. At the moment (early August) there are small numbers of summer azures, monarchs, mourning cloaks and orange sulphurs, with an occasional great spangled fritillary, eastern comma and black swallowtail. A few eastern tiger swallowtails were about in mid-July.

In late July visitors and Waterfront Trail users alike were dismayed to find that the beaver dam east of the meadow had been breached and most of the water had drained out. Whether this occurred naturally after a heavy rain, or was the work of heartless, misguided humans, remains to be determined. Beavers are still in the area, but have made no attempt to rebuild the dam as yet. Meanwhile the exposed mud flats have attracted a variety of shorebirds, while juvenile great blue and black-crowned night herons and green herons are exploiting the shallow waters of the remaining pools for fishing.

After last year's dearth of wild food, this year's crop of fruit and seeds is bountiful. Already robins and waxwings are gathering to feed on the hanging bunches of chokecherries. White spruce cones are abundant and yellow birch and white cedar limbs already are bending under the weight of their own cones. Any winter finches reaching southern Ontario this year should be well fed.

In Memorium

Donations have been made in memory of many special people:

Mary T. Carney
Owen Hawkins
Anthony Victor Mason
Margie McGill
Stu Munro
Margaret Robinet
Mac Smith
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.

Gifts That Will Last Forever

Many metres of the meadow have been saved in the name of: Sheila Bowslough, Kathy Beckett, Marj & Johnny Cavanagh, Julie Ditta, Anna deGruter-Helfer, Jim Griffith, Jennifer-Lynn Gunn, Mackenzie Gunn, Shirley Horner, Graydon Horton, Jason Korn, Edge Pegg, James M. Richards, Kyle W. White

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

Meadow Gift Forms

In response to many requests, we are once again including with this newsletter a copy of the Meadow Gift certificate. Many people have used it to give a gift of lasting significance to family members and friends. It has been used for birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day and just to say "Thank you!" or "I'm thinking of you." Put it aside until the right moment, then fill it out and send it to that special person, and mail us a cheque for the amount you choose. ($15 per square metre) We will recognize them in our next newsletter, on our website, and in some more permanent manner in the future.

Additional copies may be downloaded from our website, or we will send you extras. Just let us know how many you need.

A Wide Web of Friendship, a Global Response

It's interesting to note that, of contributions received to date, the one that came the farthest was from T'aoyuan village in Taiwan. Other donations have come from England, Belgium, California, B.C. and Yukon. One meter of meadow was saved in honour of Anna deGruyter-Helfer's high school graduation, in Austin, Texas. Congratulations, Anna!

Perhaps the oddest amount received to date: $78.22. "One day's interest!" explained the thoughtful donor, Ian D. Smith of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Illustrations Needed for Future Newsletters

If you are an artist, or know someone who is, please consider providing some nature-related sketches or line drawings to enhance the appearance of future newsletters. Board members and readers alike will be most appreciative, and we will give you credit for the use of your work. Our print run is about 1500 copies, so many people who love nature will get to admire your handiwork.

News Flash!

You'll find a big surprise in the middle of the meadow next time you visit - a wide, sturdy hawk-viewing platform built by some of the project's staunchest supporters, Phill Holder, George Matthews, Phil Reyenga and Shane McInnis. Employees of Lofthouse, Inc., the men took two days off from work mid-August to construct the platform. "We saw a merlin, a kestrel, an osprey, two sharp-shins and two harriers, plus a doe and a fawn", Phill, chief designer and engineer, reported. Several species of butterflies were flitting about as they worked.

Lofthouse supplied construction materials, and donated another cheque for $5000, making them our most generous corporate donor to date. Thank you, Phill, George, Phil, Shane, and Lofthouse!!!

Needed: unique, original (or even ordinary but effective) fund-raising ideas, and people to make them happen!

Preserves, Baked Goods, and Nature Stuff Needed for September 21

Festival When you are making pickles, jams and preserves, consider making an extra jar or two to donate to our sale on September 21. Items for the silent auction and bucket raffle would also be appreciated. Baked goods delivered on the morning of the festival are always a big hit as well.

Our Mailing List

At every mailing some newsletters get returned to us. Don't forget to send us a change of address card if you move. Our newsletter is mailed to some twelve hundred people and distributed to several hundred more. If you got this newsletter by some means other than via Canada Post, and would like to be on our mailing list, please let us know. If you know someone else who you think would enjoy hearing about Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve, send us their name and address. If you have been receiving our newsletter for a number of years, but have never made a donation, you might want to do so to help offset newsletter expenses. On the other hand, if our newsletters are no longer of interest to you, tell us and we'll take your name off our distribution list.

A very special thank-you to artist Todd Norris for the use of his sketches of whimbrels and twelve-spotted skimmer.

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