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Newsletter 31
Spring 2007

Earth Day Planting in the Meadow

Come honour Planet Earth this spring at the Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve! On Saturday, April 21, nine till noon, we’ll be planting shrubs and trees around the new earthen berms on the west side of the meadow. The screen of vegetation that grows up will serve as a sound barrier and help shelter the woods from prevailing winds and urban effects.

What better way to celebrate our home planet than by digging in the earth? What better legacy to leave for future generations of migrating birds than a leafy perch to welcome them each spring?

We hope to be planting a mix of donated and purchased trees and bushes. In response to an appeal in our last newsletter, John Geale phoned to offer young oaks and maples from his property. John Overs and Paula Duff gave generous donations earmarked for the “future forest.” If you have young plants to spare on your property, or know of some that need a new home, phone: 905-725-2116 so we can determine how they’ll fit into the master plan for the meadow.

Native species for the berm:
Cucumber magnolia Gray dogwood
Prickly ash Red oak
Red maple Serviceberry
Shagbark hickory Staghorn Sumac
Tamarack Sugar Maple
White cedar Virginia creeper
White spruce White pine

The tops of the berms are already seeded with thirty species of tall-grass prairie wildflowers, a future nectaring source for bees and butterflies.

The berms consist of good topsoil that’s been settling nicely over winter. However, if it’s raining, they could be a muddy quagmire. In that case we’ll plant a week later, on April 28.

Because we’re concentrating on planting the berms this spring, we won’t be holding our traditional May pancake breakfast. However, we’ve asked the “plant man,” Richard Woolger, to come sell his wonderful native ferns and wildflowers on April 21st instead.We’re hoping enough volunteers show up so we can remove some of the invasive buckthorn growing up around the meadow. There’s lots to do and everyone’s welcome.

Earth Day Berm Planting

Where: Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve, along Thickson Road
When: Saturday April 21, nine to noon
Rain date: Saturday, April 28.
What to bring: Shovels, work gloves, energy,


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

Gordon Bellerby
Rick Brown
James Burke
Dave Calvert
Marjorie Lick Cooper
John Crawford
Marion Davidson
Winnie Ellen McDonald
Susan Morgan
Michael H. Murnaghan
Beatrice & Thomas Murphy
Jim Smith

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

On our website we recognize all past donations made in memory of friends and loved ones.

It’s always sad to lose members of the Thickson’s Woods family. Jim Smith has attended events in the meadow. His mother, Mary, has been a long-time supporter who made many donations as Christmas and birthday presents to family members over the years. Last fall donations were made in Jim’s memory. Our condolences to Mary and her family.

Angus and Winnie McDonald have also been enthusiastic supporters of our efforts over many years. They started sponsoring a chickadee flock to welcome visitors to the woods. Angus sent this letter.

Trenton, Ontario
Oct. 5/06

Dear Friends,

Once again it is time to sponsor the flock of Chickadees that welcome visitors to Thickson’s Woods and the meadow. My wife, Win, loved Chickadees and I know she would be happy to have me carry on this tradition again this year. She died on March 21/06.

Again let me congratulate your organization for pulling off a tremendous undertaking.


Angus McDonald


Despite losing three family members and four close friends last year, Angus refuses to get depressed. Angus, we hope you get to visit Thickson’s Woods this spring. We’re sure your chickadee flock will greet you with love and affection, as will all your other friends here.

Gifts That Will Last Forever

Metres of the meadow have been saved in the name of:

Ray Bryson; Ted & Paula Duff; The Duff Grandchildren; Jesse & Jonah Emond; Clayton Ginn; Liam Godley & future siblings; Mary Lou Harrison; Cheryl Hudson; Lauren Hutchinson; Megan Hutchinson; Marjorie Middleton; Pat Patterson; Dianne Pazaratz; Nora Read; Robert Bruce Roden.

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

A Billion Trees for Planet Earth

Mary Lou Harrison of Whitby emailed in the most heartwarming news this month. The United Nations Environment Department has set a goal for us humans to plant a billion trees in 2007. People anywhere on Earth can click on the project’s Web site and record what number of trees they’ve planted, or pledge whatever number they choose to plant in the appropriate season.

Another amazing thing: nearly two-thirds of the billion-tree total have already been pledged, in countries from Mexico to Poland to South Africa. More than a million have already been planted. Every time you look at the site, the totals grow. There are clearly a lot of enthusiastic tree planters around the globe!

Rest assured, the trees planted at the Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve on Earth Day will be registered with the UN’s inspiring project and added to the global total.

We Get Letters

Crestview Investments Corporation
1135 Leslie Street
Don Mills, Ontario

Please find enclosed our Corporate Donation in the amount of $2,500 to the Thickson’s Woods Land Trust.

As you know, Thickson’s Woods has become close to the hearts of many of us and we are pleased to continue to aid the good work of Thickson’s Woods Land Trust and the greater benefit of Nature.

Keep up the good work!


Bert A. Grant

Golder Associates Ltd.
100 Scotia Court, Whitby

December 5, 2006

On behalf of the staff of Golder Associates Ltd.’s Whitby office, please find enclosed a cheque in the amount of $500 as a donation towards “The Meadow.”

Our office is located within walking distance of the Woods and Meadow and many of our staff members enjoy them on their lunch break. As environmental consultants, we understand the importance of the Woods and the Meadow in our community. The efforts you have undertaken to preserve and protect the Woods and Meadow are greatly appreciated.

Yours truly,

Sherry Eaton, M. Sc., P. Geo.
Senior Environmental Specialist

Dear Dennis & Margaret

Read Newsletter #30 thoroughly. Won’t be attending most likely, but I’m sending along some ammunition for the Future Forest.

I remember the first Jack-in-the-pulpit I ever saw and the first Cardinal Flower. If you have them, good! If not, and they are suitable to replace, please do.

All the best!

John E. Overs

When we made the momentous decision to try to raise the down payment to buy The Meadow, John’s cheque was first to arrive in the mail. Thanks again, John.

Garlic Mustard:
Toxic to Native Plants

Back in the 1980s, when Oshawa botanist George Scott identified garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), a new plant species in Thickson’s Woods, he was quite excited. Little did we know then the consequences of that discovery. Within a short time it became obvious that garlic mustard easily out-competed native wildflowers and ferns, crowding them out with its dense stands. The plant has a two-year cycle. Seeds dropped in June sprout the following spring and grow over the summer and fall. The plants stay green all winter and begin growing early in the second spring before native wildflowers emerge. Starved for nutrients and light, the native wildflowers decline.

Alarmed by this, we began pulling up the garlic mustard plants to allow the native plants to thrive. Garlic mustard seedlings are easily destroyed shortly after they sprout just by brushing them out of the soil with your hand. Once their taproot system has developed, however, they need to be loosened with a trowel, and then pulled out. Once blossom buds form on the plants during their second spring, they will continue to flower and produce seeds even after they are pulled out, unless the plants are disposed of properly.

In the spring of 2006, Professor John Klironomos, a botanist from the University of Guelph, released results of research that was even more disturbing. Garlic mustard not only competes with native plants for nutrients and sunlight, it produces chemicals toxic to fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with hardwood trees. The fungi form a network of microscopic threads in the soil which provide nutrients to native trees in exchange for energy provided by the trees. Tests showed that tree seedlings planted in soil contaminated by garlic mustard grew only one tenth as fast as seedlings planted in soil that was garlic mustard-free. Even when the garlic mustard was removed, the toxic chemicals remained and inhibited tree growth.

Garlic mustard is tolerant of a variety of habitat conditions. It thrives in very dry to very wet soils, and in full sunlight to dense shade. When the seed base is large, thousands of seedlings sprout per square metre producing a dense carpet of medium sized plants, each of which produces several dozen seeds. When a single seed sprouts in a new location, the resulting plant can grow to as much as a metre tall and produce thousands of seeds.

Researchers in Michigan are investigating possible biological controls, from insects that attack the foliage to tiny beetles that eat the seeds, but any possible help along this line is uncertain, and probably years away, even if it happens.

In the meantime, we need to control garlic mustard in Thickson’s Woods. If we can get enough volunteers to help, we should be able to eliminate the remaining patches and prevent the destruction of the trees and wildflowers. Starting in April, this year’s crop needs to be eliminated before other vegetation turns green and makes the garlic mustard plants difficult to locate. Later in spring, next year’s crop needs to be removed. A check in fall after other plants become dormant will eliminate any strays missed in spring.

If you are able to help, please let us know. Sitting around in the woods digging up garlic mustard, while spring migrants sing overhead, isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours in Thickson’s Woods.

(There are a number of excellent internet sites that have information on garlic mustard, including photos. To easily access the University of Guelph information, restrict your search to Canadian sites)

Board of Directors Changes

Many thanks to Don Mitchell for his insights while serving on the TWLT board and congratulations to Don in winning a seat on Regional Council! He’s already busy championing the Green Belt, helping Council tackle the issue of global warming, and generally promoting an environmental perspective in one of the fastest growing communities in Canada. While we’re sorry to lose you from our board, Don, we’re glad you’re helping to make a difference on Regional Council.

We’re happy to welcome Dan Shire to the board. Dan has been personally involved with conservation easements as a tool to protect natural areas. His thoughtful, thorough approach in dealing with issues will be a definite asset.

In Praise of Wild Spaces

“The geometric straight-line pattern of drains that has come to characterize the agricultural landscape offers little hope for recreation. By contrast, every small natural stream has great recreational potential. Though small in scale, wilderness values still hold wherever water and soil have had time to establish a working relationship. Willows, small birds, occasionally herons, crayfish, frogs, dragonflies, wandering fish…of such is the stuff of dreams.

“In winter, whether on skis or on snowshoes, streams offer a touch of wilderness close to cities and towns. It is this value of being close at hand that makes every rivulet a place in which to search for small truths and childhood memories. What matter if the stream touches some landscaped lawn or sweeps beside a pasture with cows? Wherever Red-winged Blackbirds call, wilderness is near.”

The above is excerpted from an old clipping of unknown origin. Its message is particularly pertinent in our increasingly urbanized environment where even cows in pastures are disappearing from the scene. Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve forms the heart of a natural area along the Lake Ontario shore in south Whitby. To the east lies Corbett Creek Wetland and to the west the three kilometre sweep of open space along the Waterfront Trail which the Town of Whitby Council has pledged to keep road-free.

Birding in Thickson’s Woods

The following is taken from an ONTBIRDS posting by Norm Murr, October 20, 2006?a reminder not to forget Thickson’s Woods as a fall birding spot.

“We next drove to Thickson Woods where we were greeted by many Sparrows and Robins on the trail (Waterfront Trail) on the north side of the woods. In Corbett Creek on the east side of the woods we found a Lesser Yellowlegs, Swamp Sparrows and many Song Sparrows. The Trail, the meadow and the woods themselves were quite productive and following are some of the birds we found here.

 “Northern Harrier overhead, Cooper’s Hawk in the woods, Great horned Owl (great views), many Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creepers, many Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, 53 Hermit Thrushes (undercounted by far), 50+ A. Robins, Cedar Waxwings, 2 Blue-headed Vireos, 3 Orange-crowned Warblers (very close-up looks), Ovenbird, at least 11 N. Cardinals, 22 Fox Sparrows, Song, Swamp, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, 75+ Dark-eyed Juncos, 1 Purple Finch and overhead many Red-winged Blackbirds and at least 25 Rusty Blackbirds along with Common Grackles.”

Of course, spring in Thickson’s Woods is a most exciting time, too. Margaret Bain, President of Thickson’s Woods Land Trust, recently posted the following on ONTBIRDS:

“Thickson's Woods was full of song at midday today, March 27. I counted at least 5 Fox Sparrows in the northeast corner of the woods, but there could have been 8 or even more as they were very actively feeding and moving about, 2 of them in full ringing song. Song Sparrows were everywhere, dozens of them. There were 2 spring-loaded Winter Wrens near the record book, one giving floating snatches of song.  A very noisy Northern Flicker explored old nest holes, and an Eastern Phoebe sang from the edge of Thickson Road, near the Nature Reserve sign. A small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets may have been over wintering birds but one male was singing as it foraged. Spring.”

Lize Van Helsdingen sent in her annual “senior’s challenge” donation along with a message on notepaper from the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The printed message on the notepaper reminds us:

“There’s no better way to help Canada’s wildlife than by planting trees ?these woody wonders provide food and shelter for countless species.”

Thank you for you support!

American Association of Zookeepers
Bicycles Plus
BKDO 1850
Crestview Investments
Durham Region Astronomical Association
Durham Region Field Naturalists
Environmental Factor
Golder Associates
Green Tomorrow
Home Depot, Whitby
John Weiss Hair Design
Johnson Controls
Mitchell Lumber
Staples Business Depot, Oshawa Centre
United Way
West Humber Naturalists

Volunteers from Whitby Sunrise Rotary will be donating and building new boardwalks over wet parts of the trails in the woods and helping to plant the berm. Many thanks!

Our annual fall nature festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 15, so mark your calendar and stay tuned for exciting details in our summer newsletter.

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