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Lots To Do at Birding Festival PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Spraque   
Apr 24, 2014 at 03:00 AM



                              Thursday, April 24, 2014                                      

I seem to remember that it was a chilly, winter day in 1997 when a handful of us gathered at a building on the outskirts of Picton to banter around the possibility of a spring birding festival. They had been successful elsewhere in the province. Why not here?  The first one that same year was a simple affair, but successful enough to warrant repeating and expanding. Almost 20 years later, that event has evolved into a week long program that now draws members of the binocular brigade from across Ontario, Quebec and parts of the U.S. Every year we try new things. Some are successful beyond belief, while others have been tried, and then abandoned due to low attendance. I remember one volunteer that first year or two offering his expertise and agreeing to hold a photography workshop. When asked how many he had, he replied enthusiastically that he had attracted three people, “Me and myself and I”. Today most workshops are full to capacity.
The Spring Birding Festival still focuses its attention on Prince Edward Point, and for good reason. It is the site of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, the group that now works almost nonstop to organize this event annually. It is also a peninsula that attracts phenomenal numbers of birds in spring as they cross Lake Ontario. The migrants tend to “pile up” along this important stretch of land jutting into Lake Ontario as they recover from the strenuous flight across open water. Once arrived, they begin to exploit the rich habitat for insect larvae before continuing on with their journey.
It has been a long flight for many of these neotropical migrants - birds that spend their winters in the tropics, and migrate to Canada to breed. For some, like the delicate northern parula, a brilliant species of warbler that winters in Central America, it is an important refuelling station as it will continue flying north into the spruce and northern hardwoods of Ontario where it will finally stop to nest. Others like the blackpoll warbler arrive later as their route takes them from their wintering grounds in Brazil to perhaps as far north as the Yukon and Alaska to nest. Many casual observers are not aware, for example, that a bay-breasted warbler seen feasting on insect larvae at the top of a shagbark hickory in the protected woods at Prince Edward Point, had likely dined with bananaquits and motmots in Ecuador only a few days earlier. It will forage its way along until it builds its nest in a few weeks in the Hudson Bay Lowlands somewhere.
Just to get everyone revved up for the Bird Festival that takes place May 10 to the 19th, there are a couple of workshops thrown in that precede the Festival itself. Picton area birder Pamela Stagg will be introducing novices to bird identification on the weekend of April 26-27 in a “Boot Camp for Birders”.  It’s a fun weekend of finding out just how much you really know, then building on that knowledge with an intense day of learning new birds – with a mini-field trip to learn how to use binoculars and a presentation on bird-friendly coffee. Day two will take you to rugged Prince Edward Point for a guided bird walk. Then you’ll have a special tour of bird banding operations at Prince Edward Point, followed by an introduction to birding by ear. I have the pleasure of assisting during one of those days, along with Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory Board member Kathy Felkar and Bander in Charge at the Observatory, David Okines. The weekend concludes with a mini-Birdathon. This boot camp will allow beginners to learn about birds ahead of time, and then come back and really enjoy the wide variety of birds that can be seen during the Festival. The Saturday sessions take place at the Jackson’s Falls B & B at Milford.
The following weekend at Jackson’s Falls B & B, Pamela will be “Birding Beyond the Basics” as she takes interested participants on a day-long adventure into how to identify birds more quickly and how to sort through the large variety of warbler and shorebird species that pass through our area every spring. There will be a mini-field trip to varied local habitats and a fascinating in-depth look at the life of everyone favourite bird, the common loon.
During the Festival itself, Pamela will be doing a workshop on May 17th called “Tricks and Tricksters: Shortcuts to Bird Identification”, and I will be conducting a workshop the previous Saturday on “Those Confusing Sparrows” More information on these workshops and the entire Spring Birding Festival can be found on my website at www.naturestuff.net by clicking on EVENTS  from the Main Menu and scrolling down the page until you see them listed. Convenient links will direct you to the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory website where registration for all the above workshops can be made. Please join us if you can.


Environment Today is a Dirty Word PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Spraque   
Apr 23, 2014 at 03:00 AM



                              Wednesday, April 23, 2014                                      

Our natural environment is under siege. Hard to believe considering that we depend on it and its biodiversity for our own survival.
There was a time, not too many years ago, the term “environment” was respected. No one dared disturb that which was protected. No one wanted to anyway as we saw its importance to our survival, so it was seldom an issue. Laws and legislation and policies were, for the most part valued, and we found ways to alter our plans to accommodate those laws that were in place. Somehow we knew, without being told, that the environment was revered and an entity to be valued and respected.
When did we lose respect for that which sustains us? Today, it seems fashionable to ignore legislation and circumvent policies if someone has enough power and money to make it happen. Developers can barely keep a straight face as they feign a concern for habitat and wildlife that is destroyed as they boast of plans to create new habitat as part of their project. There – we’ve done our bit for the tree huggers – now, let’s get on with it. The saga surrounding the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing launched by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists regarding the inappropriate placement of wind turbines at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County continues. It just boggles the mind that thousands of dollars had to be raised by true environmentalists, in touch with the real world, to protect an environmentally significant property against a decision made by environmental agencies that they, themselves, are supposed to protect. Pro-turbine letter writers have a mindset. They babble on disparagingly about birds as though that was the only argument; they just can’t wrap their minds around the much larger picture.
We are seeing more and more of this trend today, where laws and legislation, in place to protect our natural heritage, are altered to accommodate development. We have to wonder why protective legislation is in place to begin with, if these same laws can be ignored in favour of streamlining large scale development. We have already seen that power and money can result in a permit to “kill, harm and harass” endangered species, but if a member of the public were to harass a bald eagle or any one of a number of species, they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. At the end of the day, the decision is always about who has the money and power to do what they want. Bottom line is, the wind turbine issue across Ontario has absolutely nothing to do about “clean and green”, or efforts to offset climate change – today’s new marketing buzz words. With few exceptions, only those who stand to gain financially appear to be in favour of this uncontrolled raping of our natural heritage.
When did we in the last decade or so lose our appreciation and respect for wildlife, regarding it as some sort of roadblock instead of something we should be cherish and look after? When did we decide that swallows and bats were no longer needed to control our insect populations, or undeveloped wild spaces were no longer required to serve as escapes from a world out of control? Was it when irresponsibility became fashionable and we no longer had a desire to do anything about our burgeoning human population, or was it when we decided that doing our bit in our backyards was boring.
As our world population explodes out of control, we worry about mega projects that will destroy so much. We shake our heads as developers run roughshod over residents on Amherst Island and turn this bucolic community into a war zone. The majority of residents there are aghast over plans to erect over 30 wind turbines, in an area that stands to lose so much. Here, it seems only a handful of land owners stand to gain and that’s enough to create a permanent blight on the island.
We need to slow down and think what irreversible harm we are doing to the earth when developers care not a whit about the environment they are destroying in their overzealous attempts to seal and sell a product at any cost. The term “clean energy” is nothing but a marketing tool. And it is a tool that has become very cruddy and abrasive through misuse, fuelled by dirty money. What is clean and green are those efforts to work together to preserve what few wild spaces we have left. When we lose the biodiversity that maintains us a human race, it is gone forever. We can never bring it back. It’s time to stop re-writing legislation to appease the wealthy, and it’s time for so-called “environmental agencies”  to stop destroying bald eagle nests like they did in Fisherville last year to make way for a wind turbine access road under the guise of “overall benefit”. It’s time to stop regarding our environment as an inconvenience when we are so dependent on it for our very survival.
Heron Farm - For Sale ! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Spraque   
Apr 19, 2014 at 10:47 PM
F O R   S A L E !


86 acres, Mitchell Crossroad, Picton


Heron Farm house

Heron Farm houseAn 86-acre property on Mitchell Crossroad, midway between Picton, Milford and the Black River with cleared acreage at roadside and forest beyond.  A storey and a half, one bath, three bedroom house 200 feet from the road, decorated in warm, bright colours. Both the living room and dining room have walkout to separate decks. The organized kitchen is all set up for the chef, complete with breakfast counter and pantry. Master bedroom on main floor and 2 bedrooms upstairs with walk in closets. House is partially screened by a grove of lilacs, a scruffy but honest outbuilding, as garage, and too much storage.  Flower and vegetable gardens, both separate and probably too large, yet hinting at self-sufficiency.

Heron Farm fieldManaged forest program, no commercial culling but a program designed to recreate, to enhance the forest and natural environment, to attract animal and birdlife. The environment here is shared. Local naturalist, Terry Sprague, conducted a year-long flora and fauna inventory on the property and found more than 100 species of birds. There are otters, fishers, raccoons and coyotes. A pond on the property attracts waterfowl, along with herons, Virginia rails and bitterns. The wooded wetland is host to both migratory and nesting birds. Brown thrashers, eastern towhees, ruffed grouse, woodcocks and other upland species nest on the northern portion of the property. 
house interior house interior






 house interior house interior






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Last Updated ( Apr 18, 2014 at 06:43 PM )
Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory Report PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry Spraque   
Apr 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory Report

Banding Blue JayREPORT FROM

Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory

courtesy of David Okines


   April 17, 2014 

The 17th saw a repeat of the 16th's weather, the only difference was that the wind was easterly. 42 birds were banded and many birds were repeating themselves in the traps all day. Myrtle Warblers increased to 4 and White-throated Sparrows increased to 15.Otherwise little of note in the bushes. Today’s good bird was a Lesser Black-backed Gull circling the point in the evening, this is only the second spring record with the first being seen back in 2004.
On the 16th a few Bonaparte's Gulls started to move with 20 recorded, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers continue to frequent the trees around the observatory and Northern Flickers are increasing. With the cold northerly winds the bushes were as quiet as we expected them to be and only 49 birds were banded. Yellow-rumped  Warblers are starting to become more obvious but are still only being seen in ones and twos. Chipping Sparrows numbered 15 and at least three Fox Sparrows were singing and American Goldfinches are starting to move. Bird of the day was a Pied-billed Grebe seen just offshore in the evening, this is the first one here since 2005.
Tuesday was rained out.
Most birds could be seen leaving on the radar on Sunday night and few were around on Monday, even though most had left we still managed to band over a 100 birds. Highlights were 500 Bufflehead, an Eastern Whip-poor-will that was flushed from net 8 as we opened the nets, this sighting was 6 days earlier than any previous record and is one day earlier than the first one in the KFN book, a Pileated Woodpecker, the first Brown Thrasher, Chipping Sparrows increased to 20 and American Goldfinches increased to 60.
Sunday had a a good arrival, rain overnight probably had a good hand in this. A Belted Kingfisher was seen in the harbour and a Red-bellied Woodpecker flew over. In the bushes there was plenty of activity with 20 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 50 Northern Flickers and 10 Eastern Phoebes. The bulk of the birds were made up by 150 Brown Creepers, 500 Golden-crowned Kinglets,40 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 80 Song Sparrows and 500 Dark-eyed Juncos. Supporting the bulk species were, 12 Winter Wrens, a Vesper Sparrow, 5 Fox Sparrows, 5 Chipping Sparrows, 3 Swamp Sparrows and 4 White-throated Sparrows. The first Yellow-rumped Warbler was calling near net 8, and the first Caspian Tern of the spring was offshore. The banding total for the day was an impressive 442 of 17 species, well above the average for this period.
Saturday had a small arrival with 10 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the area along with 20 Brown Creepers, 85 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 2 Hermit Thrushes, 5 Fox Sparrows and 20 Dark-eyed Juncos. Notable species seen included a Snowy Owl and a Cackling Goose.
The Observatory opened on Saturday the 12th April. The ice has now gone from the harbour and also from South Bay, the snow that was still 1-2 feet deep around the net lanes and bushes last week has now also melted creating a soggy mess in places.

To reach Prince Edward Point, follow County Road 10 from Milford, or County Road 13 from Black River Cheese, and follow for 17 km to the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.



Last Updated ( Apr 18, 2014 at 09:53 PM )
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