A Celebration of Nature!
The meadow has its charm in every season, but none is quite so colourful as autumn with its brilliant blue New England asters, bright yellow goldenrod and deep purple wild grapes. Come experience the season in all its splendor at this year’s Birds, Beavers and Butterflies Nature Festival on Saturday, September 14, starting at 9:00 a.m.
Yesterday’s TV news featured local magician Warren Toaze, mesmerizing crowds at the Toronto Busquerfest. He’s always a big hit with folks at the festival. So you’ll want to arrive early to get a good seat to see what new trick he’s got up his sleeve (or under his hat). Just when you’re sure you’ve figured out his secret, he works his magic to produce an object so large, it seems impossible he could have hidden it until that moment.
Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve is famous for the numbers and variety of birds that come and go at all seasons. But seeing a white-throated sparrow or chestnut-sided warbler close up at the bird banding station at the festival is a unique experience you’ll never forget. Banding happens only until noon, so plan your visit accordingly. Just follow the signs along the path to the northeast border of the meadow where Elizabeth and Roger will share with you the importance of bird banding.
We’re so lucky once again to have geologist Norbert Woerns share his vast knowledge of rocks and minerals. He and his enthusiastic assistant, Margaret Carney, are kept busy all day long showing visitors a great variety of rocks and crystals, and sharing experiences with other rock connoisseurs.
Don’t forget to get your bids in early for the bargains at the Silent Auction tent. Check back later to see if you need to up the ante.
On centre stage at 10:00 a.m. and 2:p.m., the stars of the Muskoka Wildlife Show strut their stuff. Who knows what exciting guests will appear this year; a sleek cougar, a sleepy possum, maybe a regal peregrine falcon. And at 11:00 a.m. you’ll be able to get up close and personal with some of the featured performers from the Creepy Critters cast.
Always wanted to see honeybees at work? Beekeeper Bryan Shanks is bringing along a hive with a viewing window so you can view all the action.
It’s not hard to find the Home Depot work station. Just listen for the hammering and happy chatter as budding carpenters put together their treasures. Ellen wasn’t in charge last year, but she checked in anyway to make sure everything was running smoothly. We hope she’s back this year to welcome all the eager hammerers.
Want to know how jewelweed or touch-me-not got its names? Join Rayfield, John, Geoff, or Don on a walk along a winding path through the woods and meadow to discover the answers to this and many more secrets of nature. Or check out the bugs, beetles and butterflies on your own and ask Carolyn, Otto or Steve about them at the insect display.
New this year at the festival, Paul Elliott from Trent University is bringing along some creatures of the night, little brown bats. Learn about their habits and the challenges they and their relatives are facing in our changing world.
After all that excitement, you’re probably starving. Follow your nose to feast on a delicious Licks burger, Nature Burger or hotdog. (If you’re lucky, there may still be some yummy goodies left at the bake table.)
You may think astronomy happens only after dark, but Durham Skies will have their giant telescopes set up during the day to safely view the sun. Of course, if skies are clear in the evening, they’ll be back to help you discover mysteries of the night sky as well.
See you in the meadow Saturday, September 14
Calling All Bakers!!
You did it again!! Last year, all your yummy goodies were snapped up at the bake table in record time.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Any more melt-in-your-mouth specialties in your repertoire? I can almost smell the delicious aromas now.
I met him in an evening Spanish class years ago: "Ricardo" with his great laugh, personal warmth, and terrible Spanish accent, even worse than mine. We were all trying to improve our communication skills for traveling in Hispanic-speaking countries—for me, because half the birds of the world live there. For him, gardener extraordinaire, in great part because so many exotic species of plants and shrubs could be found throughout the lush, tropical Americas.
Ricardo and I met up again years later, wearing different hats and different name tags. Richard Woolger now, he wanted to help not only pay off the debt on the nature reserve, but to add to biodiversity as we naturalized the meadow. Richard had a great heart and a green thumb, and diligently went to work helping out with both efforts. Every spring at our pancake breakfast fund-raisers he’d sell native plants he propagated in the greenhouse he’d built in his backyard in Whitby—maidenhair and wood ferns, lady slippers, trilliums, trout lilies, native hibiscus. Every year he donated half the money he took in, which meant he wasn’t even covering his expenses. He regularly contributed plant material to enhance species in the woods, often doing the planting himself, after we’d figured out the best spot.
I remember the phone call when he told me he’d like to plant cucumber magnolias, a Carolinean shade tree, in the meadow, just ten years into its transition from a cow pasture. I was the sole volunteer on the "berm committee", in charge of manifesting, for free, the earthen mounds that serve as a sight and sound barrier between Thickson Road traffic and the eight acres of meadow. I’d never seen or heard of a cucumber magnolia, but told him sure, go ahead, confident by then he knew what he was doing. We walked the meadow together and decided where to place them, having a good visit in the process.
his first year’s efforts were chewed off by voles, cottontails and
deer, Richard got stubborn. He came back the following year with more
trees and meter-high metal mesh guards for them. Some were nipped off
by deer, but many have now grown beyond the reach of the nature reserve’s
largest vegetarians, and are starting to stretch their large, lime-green
leaves toward the sky.
Hasta la vista, Ricardo. Vaya con Dios, mi amigo!
A Walk on the Wild Side
by Dennis Barry
Late summer is, perhaps, the best time to get to know some of the smaller residents of Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve. In May, birders and photographers alike hurry to catch glimpses of elusive colourful warblers before the emerging leafy canopy hides them completely from view. This year, abundant spring rains kicked the growth rate of all greenery into overdrive. Some jewelweed in front of our house towers more than two metres high, great cover for a skulking northern yellowthroat or Lincoln’s sparrow, but frustrating for anyone hoping for a leisurely look.
Fortunately, many insects prefer more open sunny sites. The many bumblebees and their smaller relatives flit from one orange jewelweed blossom to another, sipping the nectar hidden away far down at the base of each flower. They’re far too busy to take notice of a human standing motionless nearby. The colour of pollen stuffed into the tiny baskets on their hind legs can be a clue as to its source. Bright orange might have been gleaned from the heart of a golden zinnia.
Along a meadow trail, tiny blue butterflies flit about. A few more energetic ones are a bit larger than the rest. These are the summer version of the azure complex, paler both above and below. More abundant and noticeably smaller are eastern tailed blues. Identified by orange spots near the base of the hind wing and a tiny "tail" still intact in newly emerged specimens, males are bright blue above, females a darker sooty gray. They fly low to the ground among taller weeds and grasses, sometimes chasing each other about in a not so aggressive fashion.
A fast-flying orange and black butterfly shoots past, sorry, not a monarch, but a look-alike viceroy with its more purposeful erratic flight. A similar darting individual on smaller yellow-orange wings is an orange sulfur, so much more in a hurry than its paler yellow cousin, a clouded sulfur nectaring on a newly opened goldenrod blossom.
More difficult to get good looks at are the numerous dragonflies dashing about overhead. One hangs for a moment from a twig on a trailside nannyberry. Its large size and long slender abdomen identify it as a darner, but which one? The pattern of blue rings and spots at the junction of the thorax and abdomen suggest it’s a male shadow darner. Easier to identify, even in flight, are the more boldly marked common green darners. The male’s bright blue abdomen is striking, but the green thorax is clearly visible in both sexes. These are migrants heading south to winter in warmer parts of the Americas. They are the offspring of migrants that arrived last April or May.
An open glade near the south edge of Corbett Creek marsh has patches of Joe-pye weed and purple loosestrife, being visited by a variety of bees. Overhead large dragonflies patrol. One lands regularly on the tip of a dead dogwood. The purple sheen on its dark body identifies it as a slaty skimmer. Then a passing darner chases it off its perch and it’s gone.
Leading toward the cattail border of the marsh is a faint trail through the grass and sedge. Curiously, the vegetation seems to be bent over in the direction of the marsh. A few peeled sticks at the entrance to a narrow opening through the cattails reveals the reason. A beaver has been dragging harvested willows back to the safety of water before stopping to enjoy a midnight snack.
Here, a somewhat smaller
dragonfly is perched on a dead twig closer to the ground. Its wings seem
to have some amber colouration. The abdomen shows a pattern of yellow
and black, a bit wasp-like. Most striking are a series of alternating,
diagonal blackish and pale green stripes on the thorax. Many dragonflies
have somewhat similar patterns, but none with a total of eight stripes.
A quick scan through The Dragonflies and Damselflies of
Suddenly a slightly larger glittering emerald-green dragonfly lands on the mud at the beginning of the beaver channel. No trouble identifying this individual, but every sighting of a female eastern pondhawk is still breathtaking. Like phalaropes, the females of this species sport by far the most beautiful dress. Sort of like humans, when you come to think of it. Male pond hawks look like a somewhat paler, slightly longer version of a male blue dasher.
On the way back along the beaver trail toward the barrier beach, a violet dancer perches on a grass stem near the ground. This aptly-named damselfly is the only member of its family to reveal itself today.
Wanted! Items for the Silent Auction
What do you have around, preferably with a nature theme, that you could donate, an item, a service or something from a local business you patronize? Think hard and let Dianne Pazaratz know what you have. 905-433-7875
Where are the Monarchs?
Monarch numbers are frighteningly low this summer, a result of a combination of difficulties these orange beauties have had to battle against. Widespread drought across much of the southern United States last fall meant the blossoms monarchs depended on to refuel on their long flight to Mexico had shriveled and died. So did many of the butterflies, so that numbers arriving in the high mountains northwest of Mexico City were drastically reduced.
Those who did struggle through, often found their roost trees gone. Heavily armed rogue loggers had slipped in overnight. When the densely shaded cool fir forests are opened up to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, temperatures rise, rousing the butterflies from their inactive state. Without food to sustain activity, many don’t make it through the winter.
As the survivors of this super generation heads northeast in early spring, they hope to encounter sprouting milkweeds on which to lay eggs before dying. These eggs are needed to spawn the next generation to continue the journey back to Thickson’s meadow. But with genetically-modified, herbicide-tolerant corn and soybean varieties, farmers now spray millions of acres, killing the milkweed that used to grow along the edges of fields and even on plowed or fallow ground.
Chip Taylor, a professor of insect ecology at the University of Kansas, and head of Monarch Watch, suggests that 100 million acres of Midwest farmland that used to provide breeding sites for monarchs, no longer has any milkweed due to herbicide use. Estimates are that monarchs are losing habitat in the USA and Mexico at a rate of 6000 acres daily.
As the older generation of farmers retire (surveys show that a large majority are already over 55 years of age), family farms disappear, swallowed up by large conglomerates using huge machines that can plant 48 rows of crops on each trip down a field. Obviously, there’s no room for fencerows where these monsters roam.
Monarch Watch is encouraging several initiatives to try to aid monarchs in their fight for survival. Chip is encouraging the Kansas Department of Transportation to include milkweed seed in the mix they use to replant roadsides after reconstruction projects. He says, "We want to discourage the practice of making roadsides look like people’s front lawns. We need a new ethic in approach to a lot of our landscapes." Amen to that!!
Monarch Watch also encourages people to establish monarch waystations by planting milkweeds and also flowers to provide refueling stops during migration. The response has been overwhelming and more than 5000 such stations have already been set up.
Monarchs have great people appeal. Hopefully, that, in combination with a mushrooming public backlash against genetically modified foods, will once more see Thickson’s Woods and meadow, and all of our autumn skies, filled with monarchs.
Thank You! Thank You!
So many individuals and organizations make it possible for Thicksons’s Woods Land Trust to continue to protect the precious natural areas within the reserve. Thank you so much to each and every one.
We’d especially like to thank:
Johnson Controls and Ontario Power Generation for their generous donations.
Jack Alvo for his fund raising efforts on behalf of the Baillie Birdathon, and for choosing Thickson’s Woods Land Trust as the organization to share the funds raised.
Alan Brochu, next door neighbour to the meadow, for helping with garlic mustard control along our shared boundary.
Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority for participating in our fall festival, and for sharing their research and expertise regarding Corbett Creek Marsh and other concerns.
Tom Crawford for mowing the trails and spaces in the meadow in preparation for the festival.
Members of the Durham Region Field Naturalists and the Pickering Naturalists for helping out constantly with events and maintenance. We’d be lost without your help.
Karin Fawthrop and friends for looking after mailing our newsletters.
Anne Fox and Mary Lund for helping with correspondence.
Rebecca Fox for taking care of our website.
Phill Holder for rebuilding the green sightings box in the woods.
Ellen Waterson and the other Home Depot volunteers for their continued support of the fall nature festival.
Students and staff of Whitby Shores Public School for their regular help with garlic mustard control.
All the many other volunteers who help keep garlic mustard and dog-strangling vine under control, and make the fall festival happen.
Members of the TWLT Board of Directors for their many unpaid hours of planning and hard work.
And last, but most certainly not least, our many faithful individual donors who make it possible for Thickson’s Woods Land Trust to operate. Thank you one and all!!
Garlic Mustard Removal Blitz
Saturday November 9
Sunday, November 10
Meet at 9:00 a.m.at the entrance to the Waterfront Trail near the big green Thickson’s Woods Nature Reserve sign. Dress for the weather. Bring your favourite tools and wear suitable gloves and footwear.
For garlic mustard, I like to use a small, long-handled, round-mouthed shovel. I sit on the ground on a piece of cardboard folded double and uproot the plants, shake the dirt off and collect them in a large basket. The long handle allows me to reach under dense vegetation, uproot a stray plant and haul it back to where I’m seated. Other folks prefer to use garden trowels or garden forks.
The November date means leaves should be mostly down, other non-woody plants will have died back and biting insects will be gone. We’re winning the battle, but we really need your help to uproot the still green garlic mustard plants that are set to bloom next spring.
Recent donations have been made in memory of these special people:
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 nature
reserve have been saved in the name of:
On our website we recognize all past donations made in memory of friends and loved ones
Just down the street from my childhood home there’s an opening into a beautiful forest that stretches between Adelaide Street in Oshawa and Manning Street in Whitby. This woods has no formal name, but those in the area call it Adelaide Forest. I remember when the trees were skinny and the groundcover was sparse, but it’s amazing that in just over a decade the trees have grown thicker and taller, and the ground lush with greenery year after year. It seems as if this forest grew with me. It grew with the whole neighbourhood as we each spent time there.
As children we played pretend and imagined the most amazing adventures. As adults we walk our dogs and enjoy the quiet. My clearest childhood memories are from there, and I know I am not the only one who feels that way. Each time I walk through the forest, I see at least one group of excited kids, a growing family, an elderly couple, or a teenager with friends. This space is like an oasis in the middle of what can seem like never ending suburbia. That is why when the news hit our neighbourhood that this treasured place is set for destruction in the coming year, folks were so upset..
An online community newsletter reports that a road connection between Adelaide and Manning Street will be installed next year; cutting down countless trees and redirecting Corbett Creek which empties into Corbett Marsh, part of Thickson Woods Nature Reserve. These plans have been in the works since the seventies, but the city really means business now.
There are so many reasons why this destruction should not happen, the glaringly obvious being that urban forests are vanishing at an alarming rate and it’s urgent we treasure and protect the ones we still have. Not to mention the foxes, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, raccoons and countless species of birds that will lose their homes. Property values around the forest will plummet. And all of the dear memories and the new ones being made there each day will be lost
is the fact that there are a number of endangered butternut trees right
in the path of destruction. An arborist friend of mine was able to identify
three in one small opening alone; others I have spoken to have counted
more. The report from the City of Oshawa acknowledges this fact but states
that construction will still go on, and that they will no longer accept
comments on this planned action.
We now have a circulating petition against the road and a drive for protest letters to be delivered to the city. But we cannot do this alone. The devastation will occur in both Oshawa and Whitby. Concerned residents of both communities need to come together to stop this atrocity.
Adelaide Forest is a truly beautiful space that must be around for future generations to enjoy. Help us give our children a green place to play, and thus pass on to them a respect and love for nature that those less caring would steal from them.
Working together we can save Adelaide Forest!