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Newsletter 37
Spring 2010

Taking Care of the Earth

There’s something deep within us that wants to take care of this beautiful planet we live on. We’re in this adventure together, drinking the same water, breathing the same air, shaded by the same trees, and we all want to share, help out, give back.

So happy Earth Day! The resurgence in spring gives us reason to celebrate this exquisite web of life we’re part of, and reminds us to be better stewards of the small corner of Earth we call home.


Spring Cleaning at Thickson’s Woods

Saturday April 24 from nine to noon

Don’t call it work, call it play! Housework is always more fun at someone else’s place, in good company. Come play in the nature reserve, home to chipmunks, foxes, yellow warblers and snapping turtles.

It’s an ironic fact of our times that every chore on our Earth Day list has a root cause with us humans.

  • Garbage cleanup: help pick up plastic bags and coffee cups blown into the meadow, and refuse dumped into the marsh
  • Garlic mustard control: help dig up this invasive species introduced by early settlers, now threatening woods across North America
  • Loosening beaver guards: if southern Ontario was still covered in forests, we wouldn’t have to protect precious large trees from our Canadian beaver’s prodigious teeth. Time to clip that chicken wire so the trees can grow and flourish!
  • Nest box clean-out: if we hadn’t imported European starlings, and cleared 99% of our forests, there would be lots of natural tree hollows for our native birds to nest in
  • Tree planting: help create the precious hedgerows warblers and saw-whet owls love, in the heart of an industrial wasteland
    Bring work gloves, plus tools for your preferred task: hand trowels, wire cutters, spades.

After lunch, local birder and naturalist Don Docherty will lead a walk around the nature reserve, enjoying the sights and sounds of spring.


Join in the Jim Fairchild Mayrathon

We’re dedicating this May’s fund-raising flurry to our good friend Jim. Count all the species you see or hear from Jim’s bench, and you could win a prize! See inside for details, and start signing up supporters and friends.


Mark September 18 on your calendar!

And keep that Saturday free to attend our annual Birds, Beavers and Butterflies Festival, a day crammed with nature events enjoyed by kids and adults of all ages. Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve at the peak of fall perfection!


IN MEMORIAM

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

Emily Pearl Barry
Ron Cole
Ed Crouch
Darlene Dalke
Renwick Day
Paula Duff
Jim Fairchild
Harold Farrant
Arthur Gryfe
Robert Hambley
Katharine Martyn
Bill Morris
Ian W. Nicoll
Ernie O’Byrne
Ian Patterson
Donald & Florence Murnaghan

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.


With thanks and sympathy
by Margaret Carney

It’s poignant how, when long-time friends of Thickson’s Woods pass away, you automatically expect to come across them where you often did over the years. When wood thrushes are searching the leaf litter come May, I’ll be looking for Darlene Dalke’s warm smile along the pathway beneath the great pines. When great-crested flycatchers announce their return with their glad, raucous call from the treetops, I’ll expect to meet Ron Cole near the entrance to the woods. Kay Martyn always came by with birding friends Mary Lund and Jacquie Brookes, walking out to the lakefront to check for grebes and loons. Paula Duff lived just down the road, a pillar of support for the whole Thickson’s Point community.

I know I’ll be glancing up many times this spring, expecting to hear familiar greetings and laughter. And I’ll "see" them there, and we’ll have a little chat, and I’ll thank them silently for all those years of friendship.


Kay Martyn’s Marvelous Gift
by Mary Lund

Kay Martyn brought intelligence and commitment to all her friendships and to everything that interested her, and her interests ran wide and deep. The greatest bond between us was bird-watching. We went to Thickson’s Woods, Rondeau, Point Pelee, Pelee Island and other birding hotspots many times together since we became friends some twenty years ago.

I learned many things from Kay: 1) a sewage lagoon is one of the most beautiful places on a sunny spring day, because often there are good birds there. 2) one does not change plans to go birding because of a "little rain," even when the destination is an open marsh and the wind is growing stronger. 3) a new language, "avianese," in which "I brought a light lunch" means "I brought six sandwiches, half a pie and a quart thermos of coffee" and "there’s a lovely little spot just ahead" means "we’re coming to the sewage disposal plant." "Let’s leave fairly early" means "I’ll call for you at 4:30 a.m."

Indeed, Kay stretched my bird-watching world far beyond the woodland birds whose colours and songs had given me such joy for years, and I became happy to lug the telescope along a rough trail beside a windy marsh in search of herons and ducks and shorebirds, with Kay as my companion.

Once on a woodland path at Point Pelee we were delighted to see two brilliant scarlet tanagers just yards away. We whispered to people following behind us, "Look…scarlet tanagers…" Their reply, not whispered, was "Oh, we have them already," and they kept on going. Kay never lost her sense of wonder and privilege, no matter how many times we saw or heard a beautiful bird.

We used to fantasize about what bird we would like to be, should we return in another life. A stunning musician like the hermit thrush? A bird quick and dexterous in flight? I have realized there is no one bird I will associate most with Kay. I think she will be walking with me wherever I go to look and listen.

I had hoped to have her for much longer, but what a gift I have had.
An ardent supporter of nature herself, Mary gave us permission to print excerpts from her memorial tribute to Kay.

An ardent supporter of nature herself, Mary gave us permission to print excerpts from her memorial tribute to Kay.


Treasurer’s Corner
by Brian Steele

Since our last newsletter, in summer, we’ve been making good progress in paying off the lot that we purchased last June, the one with all the great pines, at the south edge of the woods. I am hoping donations that may follow this spring issue of the newsletter will be enough to put us over the top. It will be great to be debt free again.

As treasurer I am fascinated by the donation patterns we often see. Right after a newsletter goes out, contributions come pouring in for about a month—thank you very much, all you Thickson’s Woods supporters! Then things tend to quiet down until the next newsletter. At the end of the year a number of people make last-minute donations so they get the tax contribution for the year. The other time the financial arena is busy is after the Birds, Beavers & Butterflies Festival, with everyone so charged up about the wonders of nature.

I have also noticed over the past couple of years an increase in the number of donations honouring supporters who pass away. It touches us deeply when grieving families think enough of Thickson’s Woods to ask friends and relatives to donate to nature instead of the many other worthy causes out there.

There was good news for charities in the last federal budget. The government has cancelled the rule that said groups had to spend 80% of donations received in a year on their charitable endeavours the following year. This regulation has not impacted us over recent years because the land we purchased qualified as an expenditure, so we were spending more than 80%. However, as we paid off our debts, it would have prevented us from accumulating funds for a future project.

Now that we’re allowed to accumulate a "surplus" I would encourage donors to continue to support Thickson’s Woods financially, so that we will have a sustaining fund available whenever an opportunity to preserve nature presents itself.

Again, thank you all for your generosity and your love of nature.


Thank you for your support!

Bicycles Plus
CIBC
CLOCA
Crestview Investment Corporation
Durham Region Field Naturalists
Envirosponsible
Home Depot
Johnson Controls
Medlands
Mitchell Lumber
Ontario Power Generation
Toronto Zoo
Wild Republic


We Get Letters…

September 28, 2009

Hello, All,

Today we received a report from the Bird Banding Office. A White-throated Sparrow which we banded on September 20, 2008 at the Thickson’s Woods Fall Festival was found in January 2009 in Berkeley County, South Carolina, just north of Charleston. That’s a good long-distance recovery for this species.

Elizabeth Kellogg

Dear Margaret,

It was again an interesting newsletter as always; but now an S.O.S for the garlic mustard plant. My son, Ernst, has discovered them also on our property (100 acres).

This is my final cheque to help out for a good purpose, to save the Great Pines.

Edge and Betty Pegg are the inspiration for Chris and me, both nature lovers and bird watchers. My parents and whole family were like them. It’s not an accident we became neighbours and friends.
A pleasure for nature lovers is this Thickson’s Woods you have! Together we will save the beautiful nature for the future for the whole of humanity!

Lize Van Helsdingen

Lize Van Heldingen and her late husband, Christiaan, bought part of Edge and Betty Pegg’s farm in North Pickering after Edge retired. Lize was the first person to respond to Gordon Bellerby’s "Seniors Challenge" where folks each year donated a sum to Thickson’s Woods equal to their age.

To all at TWLT

I appreciate the opportunity to honour Ian’s life and love of nature through the dedicated work of the Trust, & hope this will be another year of growth and success on all fronts.

I greatly enjoy the TW newsletters. Wish I were closer for hands-on experience.

Pat Peterson

Ian and Patricia Patterson lived in North York. Pat now resides in Kelowna, British Columbia.

I enjoyed Dennis Barry’s remembrance of Jim Fairchild in the newsletter. I too have missed seeing Jim this spring and summer. I think about him often when I am out birding and will look forward to sitting on his bench when I visit Thickson’s Woods.

Dave

(David Worthington)

Unable to be at the festival, but will be there in spirit. This is my contribution.

I remember it (Thickson’s Point) as Corbett’s Point when taken to visit my cousin’s great-aunt in a stone house on the west side, a farm. I was about ten years old, and chased the fireflies. A lovely memory.

Mary Smith

Mary is a faithful long-time supporter who lives in Oshawa.


Playback of Recordings of Bird Songs Prohibited in Thickson’s Woods

With the proliferation of recording and playback devices in recent years, it has become necessary to address their use in Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve. A photographer who visits the reserve regularly had the courtesy to request clarification on our policy in this matter. Thank you!

At our recent annual meeting it was decided that the use of playback devices to attract birds for either viewing or photography will not be permitted. While there is no proof that the occasional use of these devices in isolated areas, using common sense and discretion, is detrimental to birds, in an area of concentrated use such as Thickson’s Woods, it is not acceptable.

There are several reasons for this. With regard to migrants, the prime value of Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve is to provide a rest and refueling stop for weary, hungry birds that may be under severe stress already. Encouraging them to waste time and energy responding to taped recordings of possible "competitors" is not in their best interest, and, in fact, is the exact opposite of our statement of purpose as an organization.

There are also many resident nesting species within the reserve. Causing them to take time away from the task of raising young may be detrimental to their successful breeding by exposing them or their nests to potential predators, and using up time and energy better spent finding food for themselves and their offspring.

Because they interfere with the pleasurable and peaceful enjoyment of nature by other visitors to the reserve, the use of playback devices is also unacceptable. Most birders depend on their ears to some extent to determine what birds are present at any particular time, and then move quietly closer to try to catch a glimpse of some elusive skulker. To arrive at the source of the song only to discover that it’s in fact a recording being played over and over again by some unthinking human is annoying to say the least. It changes in a moment a mood of excitement and anticipation to one of disappointment and frustration, emotions you may have come here to escape.

Also, Thickson’s Woods Land Trust regularly conducts surveys and other events such as Mayrathons that depend on identifying birds by song or call. If these endeavors cannot accurately reflect the population makeup of birds within the reserve, due to the use of playback of bird songs, they become worthless, and the time and effort that went into them are wasted.

So if you encounter someone in the reserve playing recordings of bird songs, politely let them know that this is not permitted. If they persist in the activity, politely inform them that Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve is private property which they have the privilege of enjoying, but also the responsibility to be considerate of the birds using the reserve as a refuge or a home, and also the responsibility to be considerate of the needs of other reserve users.

A birder or photographer who, unaware of the rule, innocently breaks it and is asked to refrain from the practice should apologize politely and stop. On the other hand, those extremely rare individuals who put their "needs" and wishes above those of the birds and other visitors in Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve, are not welcome here.


Gifts That Will Last Forever

Metres of the nature reserve have been saved in the name of:

Gord Geissberger & Family; Cathy Grant & Family; Tina Greer; Sasha Lambrinos; Annette Macdonald & Family; Robert & Evelyn Stogryn; Yvonne Storm & Family.

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


Lake-watching off Thickson’s Woods
by Glenn Coady

In the spring of 2009, I became a resident of Crystal Beach Boulevard, the private road immediately to the south of Thickson’s Woods. The marvelous views of the bay out in front of my house are very conducive to the lake-watching habits of an active birder like me. In addition to wondrous fallouts of passerine migrants at Thickson’s Woods, the passage of water birds through this portion of Lake Ontario is also most impressive.

That the waters off Thickson’s Woods provide excellent birding is hardly news. This area has always received ample coverage by birders, and the list of species observed in the bay includes such rarities as Garganey, Northern Gannet, Pacific Loon and Ivory Gull, to name but a few.

Upon moving into the neighbourhood, it was clear to me that systematic coverage of the lake off Thickson’s Woods would be certain to provide many excellent sightings. I underestimated how quickly this would be realized. The morning (March 14th) after the very first night on which I slept in my new home, I went out to survey the bay to find a huge Canada Goose flock. Among the flock was a single adult Ross’s Goose – what a nice welcome to my new home!

In the months to follow, early morning periods of lake-watching demonstrated the large number of Red-necked Grebes that stage in the bay in the second half of April, the foraging of Little Gulls in the bay in late April, and the impressive early morning flights of Whimbrel in the third week of May.

During the Toronto Ornithological Club’s Fall Field Day on September 20th, I stayed around my house and did some prolonged lake-watching. I was rewarded with nice views of a Parasitic Jaeger which flew into the bay to harass a group of feeding Herring Gulls.

In October and November, it became apparent that yet another fall influx of Cave Swallows had reached the lower Great Lakes. I began to watch the lake in front of my house every day before leaving for work. After eleven mornings of covering the lake, I was delighted to spot a single Cave Swallow moving east over the lake, directly in front of my house – definitely one of the many perks of living at Thickson’s Woods.

I look forward to many years of lake-watching out in front of my home, and I am sure there will be much more to learn about water bird migration past Thickson’s Woods.


Parking at Thickson’s Woods

Once again a reminder that the Waterfront Trail between the meadow and the woods is signed "No Motorized Vehicles." Please park on Thickson Road and walk down to the entrance to the woods and meadow. The area is patrolled by Durham Region Police.

In the past we’ve noticed a few birders and photographers driving all the way down to the old entrance to the Corbett Creek Pollution Control Plant, and even parking on the causeway to scan or take photos. This is very dangerous, as less experienced cyclists and skaters may not be able to stop when they meet you on a blind corner. This could result in serious injury to them and serious lawsuits for you. As well, folks birding or photographing along the Waterfront Trail constantly have to make way for cars that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Of course, some offenders are just "sightseers," but not all.

And please remember that Trail users have the right-of-way. Be aware of "traffic" on the Trail. Standing around chatting or viewing, or setting up tripods in the middle of the "roadway" is both dangerous and inconsiderate. With the spruces that we planted along the trail growing tall, and the apple trees blooming, this is a great place to enjoy birds. Just be sure to stay alert and use common sense to avoid an accident that could spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the area.

Those reserve users who have physical handicaps that prevent them from walking, may enter via Crystal Beach Boulevard, the roadway along the lakefront. This road and roads branching off it are part of Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve, as is the bluff along the lakefront. Please be considerate of the folks living at Thickson’s Point and conduct yourselves as polite visitors and good neighbours. This is not a way for regular visitors to access the reserve with their vehicles, although you are welcome to walk along the roadways, keeping in mind the same care and courtesy that applies along the Waterfront Trail.


Mammals of Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve

Opossum Didelphis marsupialis
Resident. Recently arrived. First sighting 2007.

Shrew sp.
Common resident. Undoubtedly more than one species present.

Starnose Mole Condylura cristata
Fairly common resident.

Hairytail Mole Parascalops breweri
Resident.

Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus
Summer resident.

Red Bat Lasiurus borealis
Regular fall migrant.

Raccoon Procyon lotor
Common resident.

Weasel sp.
Resident.

Mink Mustela vison
Resident.

River Otter Lutra canadensis
Regular visitor. (2010 most recent) Multiple individuals present during the past year along the lower reaches of Oshawa & Farewell Creeks.

Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis
Common resident.

Coyote Canis latrans
Resident.

Red Fox Vulpes fulva
Resident.

Woodchuck Marmota momax
Resident.

Eastern Chipmunk Tamias stiatus
Fairly common resident.

Eastern Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
Abundant resident.

Red Sqirrel Tamiasciurus husonicus
Resident. Repopulated the woods within the last five years.

Flying Squirrel Glaucomys sp
Tracks seen 93-94. Status unknown.

Beaver Castor canadensis
Resident

Muskrat Ondatra zibethica
Common resident.

Deer Mouse Peromyscus maniculatus
Both this species and white-footed mice apparently present in substantial numbers, but no population studies have been done.

White-footed Mouse Peromyscus leucopus
Status - See Deer Mouse

Meadow Vole Microtus pennsylvanicus
Common resident. Numbers fluctuate from year to year.

Norway Rat Rattus norvegicus
Seen fairly frequently.

House Mouse Mus musculus
Less common than Peromyscus species.

Meadow Jumping Mouse Zapus hudsonius
Resident in small numbers.

Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum
Rare visitor. 1993 most recent.

European Hare Lepus europaeus
Resident until recently in what is now "The Meadow" and on the cultivated farmland to the west of Thickson Road. May still persist.

Eastern Cottontail Sylvalagus floridanus
Abundant resident.

Whitetail Deer Odocoileus virginianus
Resident. Doe raised fawns in meadow several years. Scrape marks from bucks on saplings in meadow and woods. Numerous tracks & frequent sightings.


The Jim Fairchild Memorial Mayrathon

As most of you know, last spring we lost a dear friend and a great champion of Thickson’s Woods, Jim Fairchild. In his honour, a bench has been placed at the top of the rise overlooking the sightings box. This spring we’ve decided to dedicate our Mayrathon to Jim as a way of honouring and remembering him.

Every spring Jim would conduct his own Mayrathon to raise money to help pay off the mortgage on the meadow. He delighted in the friendly competition to see which Mayrathoner could see the most birds within the vicinity of Thickson’s Woods during the month of May. But he was always generous in sharing his most recent sighting and its last known location.

"Have you found a Cape May yet?" he’d ask. "Well, there was one in the spruces along the road. And I heard a clay-colour at the north end of the meadow!" (Jim’s ability to identify birds by their songs was legendary)


Bird Rescue Volunteers and Drivers Needed

The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) has been rescuing injured migratory birds from building/window collisions since 1993 in the Greater Toronto Area. Just an hour or two of your time every week during bird migration seasons can make a huge difference in the lives of migratory birds.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact them at 416-366-3527 or flap@flap.org

For more info, visit their website: www.flap.org and see their short video, Hitting the Streets with FLAP, at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtb8WcZBT5I


Guidelines for this Spring’s Mayrathon

Eligible Birds to Include: any bird identified by voice or sighting while the observer was sitting on, or standing in the vicinity of Jim’s bench.

Duration of the Mayrathon: anytime during the month of May

Recording your sightings: There will be a checklist in the sightings box where you can look to see if the species has been already been recorded by any other birder. If not, record the date and time of your sighting and your name (and e-mail if you wish). If you forget to record your sighting on the checklist, you can e-mail us at nature@thicksonswoods.com, or phone 905-725-2116 and we’ll record your sighting for you.

Guess the total number of species that will be recorded during the Mayrathon: Each person who makes a donation may make a guess as to the total number of species that will be recorded. A prize will be awarded to the person with the closest guess.

Supporting the fundraising effort: Use the sponsor sheet in this newsletter to sign up supporters, either for a lump sum or at a per species rate based on the number of birds you expect to see and hear from the location, or based on the total number of species recorded during the month of May by all observers. Be sure to get each sponsor’s full mailing address so that correct tax receipts can be issued!!! Or just make a contribution yourself. You can give it to one of the Thickson’s Woods Land Trust board members when you see them in the woods, or mail it to Thickson’s Woods Land Trust, Box 541, Whitby, ON L1N5V3