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Newsletter 32
Summer 2007

Come to the Birds, Beavers and Butterflies Festival

Saturday September 15 - 9:00 to 4:00

If you love being in nature, you won’t want to miss this year’s Birds Beavers and Butterflies Nature Festival in the meadow. The day-long event will be crammed with hands-on opportunities to learn about many aspects of the natural world, from the rocks beneath your feet to birds flying overhead. And monarch butterflies!

Set out on an insect safari, or build your own nature box. Get your face painted, or paint a rock. Check out all the ferns and wildflowers at the native plant sale, and start Christmas shopping for nature lovers on your list. Our fifth annual festival’s guaranteed to be lots of fun, and educational for the whole family. Enjoy many favourite activities and special events, plus some new ones.

We’re excited that Lick’s has agreed to cater the food, serving up their famous hamburgers, veggie burgers and jumbo hotdogs. The Cookie Shoppe will provide their delicious organic coffee, tea and other goodies.

See the attached flier for more details. If you can post it somewhere in your neighbourhood, that would be great!! Invite all your friends, too.

As always, we need lots of baked goods for our very popular Bake Table. Get out the secret ingredients and whip up your winning recipes. Although we’re not having a Bucket Raffle this year, we definitely need items for our Silent Auction, including things for a ‘Kid’s Table.’

Call Dianne at 905-433-7875 for more information, or if you have something to donate. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thickson’s Woods Nominated as one of Canada’s Seven Wonders

Recently the CBC asked Canadians to nominate their candidates for the Seven Wonders of Canada. Kate Harries chose Thickson’s Woods. Here’s how she eloquently made her case.

"My nomination is Thickson’s Woods, a natural and human wonder. The ancient towering white pines of Thickson’s Woods in Whitby predate European settlement. Condos were slated for the site in 1983 but locals and naturalists combined to save the woods, raising more than $100,000 (and another half million since then to buy an adjacent property). If you look for Whitby on Google Earth, the woods are a green island in a sea of paved and tarmacked land. They look that way to weary migrating birds searching for a resting spot after navigating Lake Ontario – this 16 acres is an exceptional natural oasis in the GTA, a vital refuge for birds and butterflies.

Now it’s a nature reserve, citizen owned and operated. It would have disappeared had not these people stepped up to the plate to save it – no level of government was involved. A shining example of the commitment of Canadians to preserving natural wonders in the face of very powerful economic forces."

Thanks, Kate. We’re honoured by your nomination.


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

Leona Cockerill
Marion Davidson
Reta Harbron
Helen Keeler
William Knowles
Colin Larson
Bill Little
Marion Stacey

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.

Gifts That Will Last Forever

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

Cheryl Hudson, Pat Patterson and Freddy Whillans.

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

Reta Harbron

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Reta Harbron, a long-time supporter of Thickson’s Woods. Reta was a schoolmate and lifelong neighbour of Edge Pegg. When Edge asked her to support him on his birdathon to raise money for Thickson’s Woods back in the 1980s, she responded generously, and had been making regular donations ever since. Her son, Lloyd, who still lives on the family farm near Greenwood, sent a recent donation in her memory.

Let’s Hear It for our
Newsletter Mailing Team

John and Karin Fawthrop, Judy and Ray Bryson and Sigrid and Werner Valentin have spent many hours over the past year ensuring that you get your newsletters. Putting stamps and labels on hundreds of envelopes, and then folding and stuffing newsletters into them, is a big job. When you see them, say, "Thank you!" And if you’re able to help lighten the load in future, please let us know.

Thank you, Earth Day Tree Planters!

So many willing workers showed up at the berm planting in late April that 337 trees and shrubs were in place by midmorning. And registered on the United Nation’s 2007 Billion Tree Campaign website the following day!

With the planting completed, volunteers turned their focus to eradicating garlic mustard, a 15 year effort that’s at least keeping this insidious alien invader in check in Thickson’s Woods. The latest ammunition: pickling vinegar sprayed on the leaves of first-year plants.

Meanwhile the buckthorn brigade was clearing the meadow of another unwelcome invader. TWLT director Otto Peter wielded his chainsaw, followed by a clean-up crew headed by Rosemary Kennedy and Larry Sugden, supporters who drove all the way from Guelph to help. Thank you, all!

This summer’s drought has taken its toll on the new plants, but some struggle valiantly. Naturalizing the berm is a work in progress, in the hands of Mother Nature, with a little help from us humans. A fascinating process to watch unfold!

by Brian Steele

Here we grow again! That’s right. Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve has just gotten bigger. On July 31, we completed the purchase of a lot in the southwest corner of the woods, east of the first lane that runs parallel to Thickson Road. The lot itself is quite large, 50 feet wide by 200 feet deep, or about of an acre.

From the bird sightings box, take the path running west and you’ll be walking alongside the new lot--a long, forested strip on top of the slope to the south. People who have been coming to Thickson’s Woods for a long time might remember a small foundation and the remains of a fireplace that were visible from the roadway. They’re now overgrown and hard to see, but it is easy to see the number of mature pine trees on the property!

Although the Town of Whitby is not allowing any development in the area, we had concerns that because a house had once stood there, an exception might be made. The risk of losing these trees was too great, so we took the plunge and bought the lot.

We were fortunate that a generous supporter has loaned us $25,000 against a note payable, in order to complete the purchase. So we are once again fund-raising to get out of debt. Can you please help?

Since the mortgage on the meadow was paid off in May 2006, donations have fallen drastically. This is as it should be, because we did not need much money to keep things going. So far in 2007 our donations total just over $6,000, or less than $1,000 per month. Remember when we had to pay $6,000 per month to meet our meadow mortgage obligations?

I am sure that if you visit the woods, and see the lot and the trees on it, you will agree that we had no choice but to purchase. I am also certain that you will respond to this request for donations and support the TWLT board’s decision to preserve more precious natural habitat in an ever more urbanized world.

We Get Mail

We are extremely grateful to folks from across North America who support Thickson’s Woods.

Recently Bill Holding from near Georgetown wrote "Congratulations on your successful Meadow project. It feels good to have been a small part of it."

And from the West Humber Naturalists: "We really enjoy supporting your work of saving more of the meadows and neighbouring properties for future generations."

Thanks to everyone for your support and for your notes of encouragement and appreciation. They help to remind us that this is a team effort and that together we can make a difference.

Change in our e-mail Contacts

As of October 1, 2007 our e-mail address info@thicksonswoods.com will no longer be available. You can still contact us at nature@thicksonswoods.com. The change is to reduce the amount of SPAM we have to deal with each day. Please update your address book.

An Important Addition to Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve

While the newly purchased land appears to humans and wildlife alike to be an integral part of the reserve, in fact it was a residential lot. A fire many years ago destroyed a small seasonal dwelling on the property. Our treasurer, Brian Steele, negotiated the purchase and arranged the financing. Many thanks, Brian!

Brian explains the significance of the property elsewhere, and indicates its location.

When the original purchase of the woods was made, in 1984, several parcels of land were involved. The eleven acre block in the centre contained most of the woods, plus a portion of the western part of Corbett Creek Marsh. In addition, there were several smaller parcels, totaling five acres--all the roadways, plus the lakefront land from Thickson Road to the last house along Crystal Beach Boulevard.

Also included were two building lots still owned by the developer from whom we bought the property. One of these is transected by the trail running west from the sightings box, containing perhaps the two largest white pines in the reserve. The tall pines on the hill on the new property provide a wind barrier for them, and for other pines to the north.

In the western corner of the woods, near the new addition, is the only slippery elm in the reserve, and one of very few in Durham Region. It grows as a clump of several trunks that could, at first glance, be mistaken for a Manitoba maple. The leaves are typical of elms in having the two sides of the leaf base offset or uneven. Like American or white elms, the seeds mature in early summer and are surrounded by a sail that aids in their dispersal. In late summer this tree is a favourite roosting site for migrating monarch butterflies. To the east of the slippery elm is a dense and expanding patch of Virginia waterleaf.

Over the years a number of rare avian visitors to Thickson’s Woods have utilized the property for shelter and food. Birders have been delighted to spot a Townsend’s warbler, a yellow-throated warbler and more than one summer tanager high in the pines and poplars. Among the dense understory of chokecherry and mountain maple, Kentucky, worm-eating and hooded warblers have been glimpsed.

Of course all the usual spring and fall migrants congregate here as well. Nesting species include northern flicker, red-breasted nuthatch and pine warbler. More unusual past winter visitors include great gray owl and black-backed woodpecker.

A Warm Welcome to our Newest Board Member

Carol Horner is a frequent visitor to Thickson’s Woods and a long-time "Mayrathoner," helping to raise money to pay off the meadow mortgage. She’s an active member of the Ontario Federation of Ornithologists, an enthusiastic birder, a talented photographer and a computer wiz. Welcome to the team, Carol!

Great Summer of Monarchs
by Margaret Carney

This may be remembered as the Great Summer of Monarchs. Dennis and I walked through the woods one day in late August and found monarchs everywhere, hanging like dead leaves on twigs and branches. We found ourselves tiptoeing and whispering, for the slightest sound sent clouds of sleepy monarchs through the air, in a starburst of fluttering wings.

How many were there? Literally thousands. I soon gave up counting and just gazed in awe, glad to be keeping company with so many beautiful butterflies. And profoundly grateful that Thickson’s Woods still exists, to shelter us all.

Thank you, Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise!

If you haven’t walked through Thickson’s Woods yet this summer, you’ll find a surprise awaiting: boardwalks in the low wet places. Instead of picking your way along a corduroy path, sometimes a bit boggy in spring, you’ll cross on sturdy wooden bridges, compliments of the Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise.

The energetic Rotarians donated the whole project--materials, engineering and construction. They special-ordered long-lasting hemlock lumber instead of pressure treated wood that would leak polluting chemicals into Corbett Marsh. Crew leader Bob Jarvest studied the two sites and designed the boardwalks, which were built in May by cheerful crews of volunteers.

We owe a huge thank-you to Bob, as well as to Peter Irvine, Tom Fitzsimmons, Roger Williams, Don Fleming, Carl McFarlane, Sean Perry, Richard Robinson, Blair Buchanan and Debbie Morgan.

Tom Fitzsimmons, president, said that of the many service projects Rotary Whitby Sunrise completed in his year at the helm, he was perhaps most delighted with this one.

Next time you cross the practical new boardwalks, think warm thoughts of our wonderful local Rotarians

Johnson Controls, Good Partners and Good Neighbours

Just like last summer, our closest corporate neighbour, Johnson Controls, went on a big clean-up spree. Forty-five volunteers from the auto parts company combed the nature reserve meadow and creek valley for an hour and a half one hot day in late July, collecting 23 bags of garbage, including one of recyclable bottles. They carted off two rust-covered oil drums that had been lying around, half-buried, for years.

Maintenance experts from Johnson Controls re-erected the big green sign for the reserve, which had blown over in high winds.

And then Jason Frankow, their environmental coordinator, presented another surprise—a $1,000 donation toward our ongoing land protection fund.

Thank you so much, everyone at Johnson Controls!

Thank You, OTG Financial

Many thanks to OTG Financial for their very generous donation. The money was used as part of the down payment for the most recent addition to the reserve.

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