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Newletter 26
Spring 2005

Three Down and Two to Go!

Champions of the Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve come in all sizes, all ages. Two brothers, Andrew and Trevor Fox of Ottawa, ages 11 and 9, sent in $9.00 between them this quarter, to help save the meadow. A heartwarming donation!

Equally heartwarming was a contribution from the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation—for ten thousand dollars. The news caused a great ripple of excitement throughout the board, for it "caught us up" to the payment schedule we must meet to retire the mortgage two years from now. It even put us ahead a bit. This is the third incredibly generous donation the foundation has made to the meadow project, hugely helping us to reach our challenging goals.  Thank you, George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, and to John Lounds, for initiating this very welcome gift!

One joyful letter came from Josephine Marshall, who wrote: "We truly believe in Nature and the beauty of seeing, hearing, watching and walking. Earl and I were married on December 31, and wanted to give a gift to this wonderful place. We have walked there different times and attended your different functions. Thank you!"

The meadow project has received support from lots of generous and enthusiastic people. When the mortgage is finally paid off—two years this spring, hopefully—the accomplishment will be due to many humans who care about sharing space with other creatures on this beautiful planet, and ensuring they have a home.

Don't miss these events!

Saturday, May 7: Breakfast and Bobolinks

Fresh spring air and pure Ontario maple syrup make pancakes taste extra delicious. Work up an appetite on your free guided tour birding in Thickson's Woods Nature Reserve. Then browse at the bakesale, bucket raffle, silent auction. Door prizes, sweatshirts, birding gear.  Native plants for sale. Make a wish at the Wishing Tree! From 9:00 till noon in the meadow. Baked goods and nature-related items for the auction/raffle needed and welcome!!
Saturday, June 4: Pickering Naturalists Garage Sale

All proceeds will help save the meadow. Heather Jessop's driveway, 1547 Woodruff Cres, west Pickering, from  9:00 to 1:00. Yard sale stuff wanted!!  Worthy items can be dropped off at Heather's home.  From White's Road North turn east on Stroud's Lane, north on Aspen (the first street), then east on Woodruff (the second street). Phone: (905) 837-1775.
Saturday, September 17: Birds, Butterflies and Beavers Nature Festival 

Fourth annual and better than ever! Explore the wonders of wildlife with a helping hand from many experts. All-day nature programs, tours and events, plus crafts, bakesale, harvest preserves, sausage-on-a-bun lunch and more!! Fabulous door prizes. This event is fascinating for people of all ages. Don't miss it!

Thickson’s Migration Oasis
by Ron Pittaway

Two hundred years ago, in 1805, there were 263 acres under cultivation and 104 people living in Whitby Township. The waves of migratory songbirds crossing Lake Ontario on spring nights had extensive shoreline forests waiting for them. Arriving migrants found shelter from predators, areas to rest, and food to replenish fat reserves before continuing northward. There was nothing special about Thickson’s Woods as we know it today because of abundant habitat to the east and west. However, today’s migrants arrive to fewer and fewer quality stopover habitats such as Thickson’s Woods because of ongoing urban sprawl along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario.

As a birding hotspot, Thickson’s is becoming like Central Park in New York City. Central Park is a top birding spot, but years ago there was nothing special about it with forested habitat on all sides. You might wonder how Thickson’s could ever resemble Central Park, but imagine Durham Region in 25 years with an international airport in north Pickering and the Pickering to Newcastle corridor forming a mega city whose urbanization stretches to the Oak Ridges Moraine. As Thickson’s becomes increasingly surrounded by development, its status as a migration oasis will become even more important to weary spring migrants crossing Lake Ontario.

While increasing numbers of future migrants will use Thickson’s because of habitat loss, conversely the number of breeding species will likely decline as the reserve becomes more island-like. Studies of breeding birds on islands show two main differences from mainland areas. First, the more distant an island is from the mainland the fewer the breeding birds. Second, the smallest islands have the fewest species of birds. These two factors work together. Thickson’s is tiny, with only 16 acres of woods and 8.5 acres of yet to be acquired meadow. Fortunately, Corbett Creek and Marsh bordering Thickson’s is under consideration as an ANSI - Area of Natural and Scientific Interest - by the Ontario Government. This designation would help ensure the area’s biodiversity.

Viewing the concentrations of migrants at Thickson’s should be done with their welfare in mind. When normally wary spring birds are tame, it is a sign that they are tired and hungry. Studies show that exhausted migrants seeking food to build fat reserves to continue on migration are more at risk to predators. When birding at Thickson’s, it is important to stay on trails to give migrants space to rest and feed. Birders benefit by staying on paths because rare birds will not be pushed farther back out of sight; they will actually be easier to find.

Thickson’s Woods is an important stopover site for migratory birds in southern Ontario. Most warblers, vireos, thrushes, flycatchers, tanagers and orioles seen in May are Neotropical migrants, having flown long distances from their wintering grounds south of the Tropic of Cancer. Last year Thickson’s in May was as good as Point Pelee to see and hear Neotropical migrant songbirds. I birded Thickson’s many days in May last year only to return home to read on Ontbirds that I was seeing as many birds as were at Pelee. I hope to see you birding at Thickson’s this spring.

I thank Ken Ridge for historical information about Whitby Township.

Learn from a Professional!

Wonderfully committed to raising money for the meadow, the ever inventive Pickering Naturalists have come up with "Pro Sessions"—where you can bid on a private lesson with an expert.

Puzzled by all those warbler songs? Jim Fairchild will help you sort them out!  Always secretly wanted to play guitar? Enjoy a lesson with Ted Simonds!  Does your backhand need work? Pick up hot tennis tips from Alex Bittermann! E-mail heatherlynnjessop@yahoo.com with your bid.

You could be a winner! The bidding for two special Pro Sessions will close at noon at the Breakfast and Bobolinks festival on
May 7:

A half-day sailing and sunset barbecue hosted by seasoned sailors and gourmet cooks Rosemary and Jonathan Oliver. For two adults, from Frenchman's Bay. Date to be arranged. Top bid as of March 10: $90

Banding waterbirds with well-known ornithologist Chip Weseloh, for two adults. The winners of this unique and adventurous outing  will get an inside, up-close look as one of Canada's top wildlife scientists goes about his work studying colonial waterbirds. Like canaries in a coal mine, Chip's studies help keep tabs on the health of Great Lakes ecosystems. Starting bid: $30.00.

Treasurer's Corner
by Brian Steele

I look forward to the day when the most important thing I have to write about is not how we are doing with paying down the mortgage. But until that day comes, our priority is to whittle away at the debt. In February 2005, we made a payment of $30,000. After interest of $3,307.30, the principal was reduced by $26,692.70, and the balance owing currently sits at $160,755.24. This very good payment was made possible by strong donations in December and January, including $10,000.00 from the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation. We now have eight payments left on the mortgage and are about $2,400 ahead of schedule, the first time we’ve been ahead for quite a while. This should help cushion the payments in May and August, which are sometimes smaller due to reduced donations in summer.

Since we began our campaign, in September 2001, we’ve raised over $412,000. This is an incredible amount of money, and I constantly marvel that so many people care about a tiny woodlot and meadow in Whitby and donate so generously to protect them. I often wonder what it is about Thickson’s Woods that inspires such devotion. What experiences have people taken home from the nature reserve that make them want passionately to defend it and dig deeply into their pockets to do so? Then I think about my own memories of Thickson’s Woods and realize why so many provide the donations we so desperately need. My favorite recollections include:

Watching young Great Horned Owls emerge from the nest and take their first flights.

Being called over by Margaret Bain and shown my first Kentucky Warbler.

Watching a Peregrine Falcon dining on a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the top of one of the ancient pines.

Seeing little children leaving the meadow after our Birds, Beavers and Butterflies Festival, with their faces painted, wearing an orange Home Depot apron and proudly carrying bird boxes they’d constructed.

Observing a Great Gray Owl, the first I’d seen in seven years, perched in the meadow, and knowing that if we hadn’t made the effort to purchase it there would now be a factory on site.

Being in the woods on a “fall-out” day in spring when bad weather grounds the birds and they are “dripping off the trees.” Where would they go to rest and feed if Thickson’s Woods wasn’t there?

Feeling the peace and serenity that envelopes me whenever I walk through the gate.

We’d love to hear your Thickson’s Woods memories Send them in and we’ll publish them in future newsletters.

May-rathon for the Meadow 2005
by Dennis Barry

Thanks to the enthusiasm among the ever-increasing  ranks of our “May-rathoners” and the amazing generosity of their supporters, the annual Thickson’s Woods May-rathon has become one of our most important sources of funds to help pay off the mortgage on “The Meadow.” Last year May-rathoners raised more than $10,000 in pledges.

The traditional May-rathon, which was started in the 1980s to help pay off the original mortgage on the woods, involves trying to see how many birds can be found during the month of May in a circle within one mile of Thickson’s Woods. Several of the current May-rathoners maintain that tradition. Others count birds for a 24-hour period in any area of their choice. Gus Yaki chose to do his May-rathon near his home in Calgary. Carol Horner recorded every species she saw in Ontario during May, but still enjoyed some of her most exciting birding in Thickson’s Woods. Our president, Margaret Bain, chose to do a one-day May-rathon last year, but is debating returning to the traditional format this May.

No matter what form your May-rathon takes, it’s always fun, and there are invariably exciting surprises. A highlight for Margaret and me last year was a once-in-a-lifetime look at a Least Bittern viewed from the bridge over the east branch of Corbett Creek. Jim Fairchild’s discovery of a Summer Tanager in the woods was certainly memorable for him.

Many May-rathoners write an account of their adventures to share with their sponsors. (Don’t forget to send us a copy!)

We hope you will choose to join the May-rathon team this year.  There’s always a friendly rivalry with an underlying spirit of cooperation for the common good.

The following people did a May-rathon last year, and we know most of them are planning to be involved again in 2005. If you can’t do a May-rathon yourself, consider sponsoring one of them.

Gus Yaki; DavidShilman; Christine Shaughnessy; Norman Schipper;  Frank Pinilla; Ken and Mary Lund; Carol Horner; Alex Hill and Joanna Holt; Barb Glass; Joachim Floegel; Jim Fairchild; Linda Cole;  Margaret Carney; Judy Bryson; Dennis Barry; Margaret Bain; Jack Alvo

Nature Notes
by Dennis Barry

For many, the highlight of this winter was the appearance of Great Gray Owls. Numbers in the meadow and surroundings reached at least eight during January. They perched in the dead willows in the beaver pond, in old apples trees in the meadow, and in birches and pines along the Waterfront Trail separating the meadow from the woods. They seemed to deplete meadow vole numbers fairly quickly, and moved on to new hunting grounds. While there have been Great Gray Owls here before, there are no records of such high numbers. There were no reports of interactions between the resident pair of Great Horned Owls and the Great Grays, but who knows what happened under cover of darkness. At least one Barred Owl appeared briefly, and small numbers of Saw-whets, Long-eared and Short-eared Owls were also seen in January, but none stayed long.

While last winter there were no White-breasted or Red-breasted Nuthatches or Hairy Woodpeckers wintering, this year there are at least two of each. Cardinal numbers peaked at about fifteen during cold snowy days, although visiting Goshawks, Sharp-shins and Cooper’s Hawks kept smaller birds constantly on guard. A Gray Catbird and a Northern Mockingbird spent the early part of the winter along the brushy border between the meadow and the Corbett Creek valley. Cardinals and House Finches started to sing in February and were joined by a Song Sparrow and a Kingfisher at the end of the month.

A pair of large beaver could often be seen upstream from the pond climbing up the bank on the east side of Corbett Creek to collect food. Tracks of mink crisscrossed the marsh in February.

A sudden increase in vocalization among the Great Horned Owls may mean that this year’s young have hatched, signaling the start of the season of renewal.

Gifts That Will Last Forever
Many metres of the meadow have been saved in the name of: Trudy Bain; The Birds of Thickson’s Woods; N. Fred Brown; Sheri Brown & James Anthony Brown; Madeline Cann & Charlie Dunbar; Margaret Carney & Dennis Barry; Stephen Cole; Josephine Derry and the Derry Families; The Duff Grandchildren; Karin Fawthrop; Jillian Fischer;  Dorothy Glendinning; Rachel Grover; William Robert Hambly; Barb Haynes & Family; Maya Higeli;  Sam & Chunsey Jacobs; Monika Kachel;Leonora Kern; The Lamb Family;  Earl and Josephine Marshall; Katrine Floegel Martin; Jay McCarten; Wilma McQuade; Sean & Ryan Mitchell; Elke & Matthew O’Hara; Ron & Joyce Parker; Peggy & Ted; Mildred Redfern; Janet, Ron & Nathan Reedyk; Peter Roddy; Barb & Jim Scott; Nancy & Jim Smyth; Miss Welde;  Walter Wong. 


Recent donations have been made in memory of many special people:

Dave Calvert
William Robert Hambly
Lyle Horner
Anne Macdonald
James Mitchell
Albert (Bert) Roffey
Eran Leonard John Town
Gordon Willan

Eran Leonard John Town

Losing a loved one is never easy. Losing someone in good health, in the prime of his life, can be an even greater blow, for death comes unexpectedly.

Family and friends of Eran Town, age 29, of Bowmanville, faced just such a loss this winter. His family asked that donations in Eran’s memory be sent to the Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve as a living tribute. More than three dozen people who knew him responded, saving one hundred square meters of the meadow in his memory.

We hope they each find a measure of peace when they walk there, as Eran did.

DRFN Golden Anniversary

Celebrating fifty years of “Conservation Through Education,” the Durham Region Field Naturalists are planning a grand  reunion on Saturday, May 28, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Northview Community Centre in Oshawa. The gathering will feature displays, speeches, tributes and acknowledgements, with lots of time for reminiscing with old friends and meeting new ones. For more information email: 50thanniversary@drfn.ca or phone Hugh Peacock at 905-725-0587.

Mini Quilt a Major Attraction

A wonderful hand-stitched wall hanging featuring a dozen colourful birds will be up for grabs at the Breakfast and Bobolinks silent auction on May 7. Rosemary Oliver's "Birds of the Rouge Valley" will be raffled off to the highest bidder there.  Bird lovers will want to view this lovely, hand-made work of art—and take it straight home. Don’t miss this chance to add beauty to your own life!

A Special Thank-you

In our last issue we neglected to thank Meadow neighbours Tom Crawford and his daughter Linda for spending several hours in the hot sun last August mowing grass in preparation for our Nature Festival.

Thanks, Tom and Linda!

Meadow Mortgage Progress at a Glance

Closing Date Feb.6, 2002
Purchase Price $531,000
Original Mortgage $426,875
Balance end of 2002 $343,502.80
Balance end of 2003 $272,185.74
Balance end of 2004 $187.447.94
Current Balance $160,755.24
Mortgage comes due Feb.6 2007

An Open Invitation to Tour the Woods

Once again we'd like to invite clubs or individuals who are supporters of Thickson's Woods to contact us if you would like a guided tour of the woods or meadow. Write, send an e-mail or phone to make arrangements.


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