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Newsletter 21

Exciting Fall Events for Everyone

Something for everyone—that’s the thrust of happenings this fall.  If you have kids or grandkids and want to share with them your own passion for nature, come to the Birds, Butterflies and Beavers Nature Festival in the meadow on Saturday, September 13. Experts will make certain you learn lots about wildlife, while you spend an entertaining, busy day in the meadow, woods and marsh.

If you love the beauty and serenity of nature and want to have it inyour home, come to the great Wildlife Art Auction, an elegant wine and cheese event on Sunday, October 19, at the lovely Heydenshore Pavilion in Whitby. More than 50 donated works of art will be available to choose from, including pieces by Robert Bateman and David Blackwood.

If you prefer a quiet, solitary ramble out-of-doors, listening to crickets trilling and waxwings whispering, stop by the Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve anytime. Watch for hawks from the viewing platform in the meadow, and monarch butterflies congregating in the shelter of the woods, waiting for the right winds to carry them south to Mexico.

If you can’t get out at all, but want a soul-satisfying feeling that you’re helping to protect nature on this fragile planet, please send a generous donation to the Meadow Project, Thickson’s Woods Land Trust, Box 541, Whitby, ON L1N 5V3.

Stuff Needed for the Fall Festival!

Lots of donated goods and services are needed to make the nature festival silent auction a success. We already have a baseball bat signed by Blue Jays first-baseman Carlos Delgado, two colourful bird clocks from Sears, complimentary dining from Gordon Birsch Brewery Restaurant,and a personalized half day nature outing with internationally renowned birder James Kamstra.

Do you have a unique skill or talent you might share? Could you ask a favourite store or business you patronize to donate their specialty?  The more goodies up for auction, the sooner we’ll pay off the meadow.

Help make our traditional bake sale a success by whipping up your favourite baked goods and seasonal preserves!

Also needed: nature-related items for the bucket raffle.

Volunteers are the key to the success of our nature festival. Phone (905) 725-2116 if you can help for a few hours.

Portrait of a Patron: Winifred McRae
by Dennis Barry

One of the first people to greet me when I attended my initial Oshawa Naturalists Club meeting in the early sixties was "Win" McRae. I well remember her infectious smile, her hearty chuckle, her wry sense of humour. As a founding member of the club in the mid-fifties, she helped shape the direction and the philosophy of what later became the Durham Region Field Naturalists.

Win was an inspiration to all who met her. While she later walked with a cane due to MS, she never let that curb her enthusiasm for nature or her participation in all manner of club activities, including outings to Thickson’s Woods. We would often park beside a small grey cottage at the south side of the woods (where Margaret and I live today) and walk north along a sandy roadway that, at that time, extended into the centre of the woods. Win never tired of pointing out subtle plumage differences so confusing to a beginning birder like me. And to this day I quote her translation of  the magnolia warbler's song, "Truly, truly, truly I do."

Now in her mid-80s, Win still visits her cottage at Presqu'ile, where she whizzes about on her motorized scooter. When we spoke a few days ago she proudly mentioned that her two daughters have developed a keen interest in birds. We’ll never know how many others she's inspired with a similar love of nature, but I’m sure the number is legion.

Win doesn't get to Thickson's Woods much anymore, although she confessed she does come to watch the beavers. But if you see her scooting about the roadways at Thickson’s some May morning, stop and say "Hi" and "Thank you!" Because it’s just possible that if Win McRae hadn’t shared her love of these woods those many years ago, Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve might not exist today.

Treasurer's Corner
by Brian Steele

One of the largest expenditures in any landowner’s budget is property taxes. Fortunately, Thickson’s Woods has for many years qualified in a government scheme that exempts environmentally sensitive lands from property taxes—the Ontario Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program.

After purchasing the meadow in February 2002, we inquired about getting it registered as well, but found there’s a freeze on new applications. As a result we had to pay a whopping $8,727 in property taxes on the meadow last year.

Almost as soon as the purchase went through we applied to have the meadow rezoned from industrial to an open space designation. After playing $1,500 in fees to the Town of Whitby and $150 to the conservation authority, plus having the required sign made up to announce our intentions ($259), we were successful in changing the zoning.

Our original tax bill for 2003 was $22,484, a staggering $14,000 more than the year before. That’s an awful lot of donations! But with rezoning, our revised taxes for 2003 will be only $3,080. The $19,000 saved can be put toward paying down the mortgage—a great return on our $2,000 rezoning investment.

Members of the TWLT board are proud of achieving this huge tax reduction and of having the meadow now protected with a zoning that doesn’t allow development. We wish to thank Bob Short, Janet Anderson and John Taylor in the Town of Whitby Planning Department and Ryan Ford at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation for helping to guide us through the necessary steps to reach our goal.

Supporters of the Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve can help with the tax issue by phoning or writing your MPP. Ask that the provincial program exempting environmentally sensitive lands be reinstated—a powerful incentive for private landowners to protect natural areas.

Properties such as the meadow require virtually no municipal services (garbage pickup, water and sewer) so shouldn’t have to pay for them. Plus they contribute significantly to the quality of human life in the community, offering opportunities for nature enjoyment, exercise, stress reduction, recreation and education. Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve infuses significant tourist dollars into the Whitby economy, as visiting birders from across the province and the continent spend money on food, accommodation and shopping.

How We’re Doing with the Mortgage

Previous balance:
August 2  payment:    
Current balance owing:

Big Hearts, Warm Smiles

Want to see Brian Steele's lovely smile?  Just mention the Pickering Field Naturalists. Because he’s treasurer and deposits all donations, Brian has the best grasp on how we're doing, paying off the meadow mortgage.

Every few months the Pickering Naturalists send in proceeds from their fund-raising efforts, and Brian smiles. After their successful yard sale in June and silent auctions at spring meetings, their July cheque was a crisp $1,000. Thank you, Heather Jessup, Doug Lockrey, Susanne Bittersweet, Al Johnston, David Oliver, Alan Woods and all Pickering Field Naturalists!

Other groups that have made Brian smile this summer:

Auto Workers Community Credit Union
IBM Canada's Matching Grants Program Peninsula Field Naturalists
West Humber Naturalists

Supporters of the upcoming fall festival already include: Birders Journal, 1350 CKDO, Home Depot, Lofthouse, Marigold Ford Lincoln Motors, McDonalds, Wm. Medland and Sons, Metro Toronto Zoo, Mitchell Brothers Lumber, Swarovski Optik, Waterfront Regeneration Trust, White Rose.

Thank you all! And thanks to all our volunteers and donors, with special mention of Phill Holder and the Lofthouse staff for putting on yet another delicious pancake breakfast in the meadow in May.

Attend Thickson's Woods Land Trust Art Auction

Select from over 50 pieces of wildlife art, including works by Robert Bateman and David Blackwood

Help Pay Off Thickson’s Meadow Mortgage

Sunday, October 19, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Heydenshore Pavilion,
589 Water St., Whitby

$10 Admission
Cheese and Wine Reception

About the Art Auction

We are fortunate to have Ron Tozer, a well-known naturalist, as our Master of Ceremonies for this event.

Over 50 pieces of nature-related art work, photographs and crafts, such as a fireplace screen, will be auctioned.

A silent auction will be held throughout the afternoon for works valued at less than $400, while items of higher value will be auctioned by our auctioneer at3:00 p.m.

Please come out, join the fun, and support this valuable cause!

Why are you helping Thickson's Woods Land Trust?

In a quiet corner of Whitby, along the north shore of Lake Ontario, a stand of towering white pines remains. In Thickson's Woods, children can wrap their arms around a living organism older than their great great grandparents! They can also watch for the thousands of songbirds that shelter there each spring and fall on their migration.

Today, as natural open spaces are converted to other uses, there is an urgent need to buffer the woods, marsh and creek valley from development and pollution. Purchasing an 8 acre Meadow just north of the woods will help to accomplish that goal.

Your contribution will help save our wild friends’ homes and be treasured by the many people who enjoy this wonderful place!

Tickets Available at:

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa
The Station Gallery, Whitby
Lord Russborough's Annex, Port Hope
Inverlynn Art Inc., Whitby
Anthony's Gallery P'lovers, Port Perry
or at the Door


from Hwy 401, take Thickson Rd. South. Go West on Victoria St. to South Blair St. Go South on S. Blair St. to Water St. Turn West on Water St. and park in the parking lot across from the Pavilion.

For more information, contact:

Susan Morgan 905-655-3895 (Brooklin)
Margaret Bain 905-373-1202 (Cobourg)
Dianne Pazaratz 905-433-7875 (Oshawa)

Butterflies of Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve

Here's a list of the butterflies spotted within one mile of the centre of Thickson’s Woods. No doubt there are others that should be added, especially skippers and hairstreaks. If you have seen other species in the woods, the meadow or nearby, please let us know.

Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor summer rare
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes spring & summer fairly common
Giant Swallowtail  Papilio cresphantes summer rare
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus mid-summer fairly common
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Papilio canadensis late spring/early summer fairly common
Cabbage White Pieris rapae spring and summer abundant
Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice summer/autumn common some years
Orange Sulphur Colias eurytheme summer & autumn common some years
Banded Hairstreak Satyrium calanus summer uncommon but regular
Striped Hairstreak Satrium liparaps summer uncommon but regular
Everes comyntas late summer can be fairly common
Spring Azure Celastrina ladon spring common
Summer Azure Celastrina neglecta summer common
Great Spangled Fritillary Speyeria cybele summer uncommon
Aphrodite Fritillary Speyeria aphrodite summer uncommon
Pearl Crescent Phyciodes tharo late summer fairly common
Northern Crescent Phyciodes cocy latespring/summer common
Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis uncommon spring & summer
Eastern Comma Polygonia comma fairly common resident, winters
Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa fairly common resident, winters
American Lady Vanessa virginiensis uncommon spring & summer
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui uncommon spring & summer
Common Buckeye Junonia coenia rare summer
Red Admiral Limentis arthemis arthemis uncommon to common spring & summer
White Admiral Limenitis archippus common spring & summer
Viceroy Limentis archippus uncommon summer & early fall
Eyed Brown Satyrodes eurydice uncommon  summer
Common Ringlet Coenonympha tullia uncommon summer
Common Wood-Nymph Cercyonis pegala uncommon summer
Monarch Danaus plexippus abundant summer
European Skipper Thymelicus lineola  common summer
Dun Skipper Euphyes vestries fairly common summer

Birding Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve
in Autumn
by Dennis Barry

Weather is always an important factor to consider when birding in Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve in spring or fall. While warm south winds encourage migrants to head north in spring, the journey south is triggered by cool north winds. Cold fronts in August bring waves of warblers and vireos. As they feed, they move gradually westward through the woods and then fly off along the lakeshore, to be replaced by others arriving from the east.

South winds and rains slow migration and lead to a build-up of monarch butterflies that shelter in the centre of the woods, hanging like dead leaves from branches just as they do in their wintering fir forests in the mountains of Mexico.

Songbird numbers tend to build gradually when the wind is from the south. This is a good time to stroll about the meadow, stopping frequently to look and listen. Birds that in May are glimpsed silhouetted high in the top of hundred-foot pines in the woods can often be admired close-up now as they glean insects from goldenrod and dogwood.

The most exciting birding happens after the passage of a cold front. As the skies begin to clear on a cool September or October morning, and the northerly winds increase in strength, hawks start moving along the shore, heading west.The earliest to move are often sharp-shins and kestrels, flying just above the trees and swooping down over the cattails in Corbett Creek Marsh. Later, when temperatures rise, hawks move higher in the sky. By mid-morning, "kettles" of broad-winged hawks may appear. The platform in the meadow offers a spectacular panorama of the sky and a comfortable place to watch the parade of raptors.

If the skies clear completely, migrating hawks fly so high that they are mere dots in the sky, visible only through binoculars and even then only to those with the keenest eyesight. Often clear skies are accompanied by lighter winds. This allows the birds to follow a more northerly route along the old Lake Iroquois Shoreline, or even the Oak Ridges Moraine, so hawk watching along the lake is not as productive.

On the other hand if the wind increases to a gale with low scattered clouds, the hawks may be pushed out over the lake, or will follow a route right along the shore, utilizing the shelter of the woods. Under those conditions, the lakeshore bluff, the barrierbeach between Corbett Creek Marsh and Lake Ontario, or the fields along the Waterfront Trail west of Thickson's Woods offer a better vantage point.

Cold, crisp, sunny mornings in late October and November are another fine time to sit on the platform in the meadow and watch the passing show.  At that time small flocks of bluebirds, pipits, late warblers and blackbirds are heading west. If there is a poor cone crop in boreal forests to the north, pine siskins, purple finches and evening grosbeaks may fly by as well.

May-rathon 2003 a Great Success!
Thank You!

Our goal for this spring's May-rathon was to double the number of participants and triple the number of sponsors from last year. Happily, we did have two new participants and many more sponsors. The eleven stalwart May-rathoners raised nearly $10,000 to help pay off the mortgage on the meadow–more than twice as much as last year!–thanks to the generosity of their supporters.

In our spring newsletter we mentioned that our president, Margaret Bain, wouldn’t be able to take part this year because she couldn't walk on uneven ground due to recent hip surgery. Ever canny and imaginative when it comes to protecting nature or helping out his friends, Gordon Bellerby of Niagara-on-the-Lake challenged her to do a May-rathon from the roadways in and around Thickson's Woods, bribing her with an offer of $1 per bird.  She took up the challenge and managed to see or hear an incredible 147 species. Gordon, with a twinkle in his eye, muttered something about having to consult with his financial advisor before he could pay up. With the help of a number of other generous supporters, Margaret raised nearly $3000.

Ken and Mary Lund raised more than $1500. Carol Horner raised $1200. Despite being under quarantine as a health worker for the last days of May, she also managed to see more birds than last year, province-wide, with a total of 184 species. (One of her sponsors was Caroline Xie, so we now have supporters with last names beginning with every letter of the alphabet.) Norman Schipper, one of the two new members of the May-rathon team, raised nearly $1000.  The other, Jack Alvo, raised $500, plus an additional $260 from another birdathon that he did. Linda Cole had the most supporters of all

Among those who restricted their May-rathon to Thickson's Woods and vicinity, MargaretCarney managed to find the most birds, 159 species. Dennis Barry was second with 157.

Although Frank Pinilla didn't report any "lifers" this year on his May-rathon /Taverner Cup, he still had a great time. The highlight for David Shilman was "seeing a Red-bellied and a Red-headed Woodpecker within 3 minutes of each other in Thickson's Woods."

Jim Fairchild had perhaps the "best" bird of the May-rathon at Thickson's Woods, a yellow-billed cuckoo in Dennis and Margaret’s back yard.

Next year our goal is to double the amount of money raised and the number of May-rathoners. But we can’t do it without your help. Why not join the May-rathon team?  

Everyone who's taken part so far has enjoyed the experience, the friendly competition and the challenge of finding new birds every day or at every stop.

Birds, Beavers & Butterflies Nature Festival

Saturday, September 13
9:00am. to 4:00pm

Learn about nature from the experts
Fun for all they family

Enjoy a host of exciting family activities plus a chance to win an airplane flight

Adults $5
Kids $2
Families $10

Proceeds will help save the meadow at the Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve


Join the experts!
  • pond dipping
  • bugs and botany ID
  • bird banding
  • hawk migration
  • guided nature walks

Special Events

  • live bald eagle
  • build your own mystery box
  • raptors and reptiles
  • monitoring Monarchs
  • story telling tent

More Festival Fun

  • bucket raffle
  • silent auction
  • bakesale and harvest preserves
  • sausage-on-a-bun or hotdog

Christmas Shopping for Nature Buffs!

  • arts and crafts
  • books and binoculars
  • T-shirts and sweatshirts
  • nature cards and plants

Directions: From the 401 in Whitby, take Thickson Road south of Wentworth St. to the Waterfront Trail. Follow the signs.

Information: (905) 725-2116

Gifts That Will Last Forever

Many metres of the meadow have been saved in the name of: Dennis Barry, Bob Bracht, Doris Courtney, Lynn Dodd, Lorna Devan, Bonnie DiMalta, Chris Grandison, Chen Haihong, Rosemary Jones, Pearl Losey, Ann J. McRae, Mary Overs, Margaret Roberts, Norman Schipper, Doug Smith, Geri Smith, Jim Smith, Anastasia SoldatosAriane Soldatos, Lisa Zdanowicz.

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

Sweatshirts and T-shirts
Help Spread the Word!

Attractive, durable, high quality cotton/polyester blend

Sweatshirts S-M-L-XL-XLL, khaki or denim blue $30
Kids and youth T-shirts S-M-L; orange or royal blue $15

Please add $7.50 shipping for each item

To order, write, phone, or e-mail:
Thickson's Woods Land Trust
Box 541, Whitby ON L1N 5R5;
(905) 725-2116; nature@thicksonswoods.com

Gift Certificate
In Memorium Form
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