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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature to SpruceHaven

14 September 2019

Leader: David Gascoigne

Club members participating: Miriam Bauman, Shirley Bauman, Betty Brechun, Theo Byrne, Catherine Campbell, Lynn Conway, Daniel Entz, Fraser Gibson, Anne Godlewski, George Greer,  Brad Hale, Cathy Hale, Bill Hall, Victoria Ho, Dale Ingrey, Nina Ingrey, Adriaan Kemp, Barb Kemp, Denise Leschak, Hugh McCaul, Louise McCaul, Alan Morgan, Anne Morgan, Janet Ozaruk, Meg Slater, Frank Steinmoeller, Marj Steinmoeller,  Henriette Thompson,  Selwyn Tomkun, Don Voisin, Mary Voisin, Andrew Wesolowski, Lorraine Wesolowski, Stephen West, Susan Youngson.

Guests: Nicholas Bauer, Sarah Colter

     Judging by the impressive attendance for this annual outing I can say with confidence that this is the most anticipated event on the Club's schedule. There was a nucleus of regulars supplemented by many members visiting for the first time, and a couple of guests.



      Everyone is not in the picture above, but it gives you an idea of the level of participation.
     We always begin our day's activities in the barn which houses our Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) colony, which is where it really all started.




     This majestic old structure is looking quite grand this year having received  a fresh coat of paint and repairs where necessary.
     It is a great pleasure for me to have so many people interested in what we do and to explain the full scope of our monitoring and research activity.





        Newcomers are filled with knowledge before they leave and veterans of this event are always happy to learn of improvements in tracking devices, and to hear of discoveries we have made during the season. There is no doubt that these birds still hold many secrets we have yet to discover.
     The swallows have all departed for South America, but the nest below reminds us that they called SpruceHaven home for another breeding season. Given the conflagration in the Amazon, and the uncertainty of the conditions awaiting these migrants, it is unclear how many will survive to return next spring. It is with no small measure of sadness that we contemplate the  future of Barn Swallows and other aerial insectivores, when it seems that anthropogenic interference and continued habitat degradation and elimination, renders their existence ever more precarious -  to say nothing of the poor choices we continue to make in electing our political "leaders."



       We moved outside to continue with our walk and it seems that Selwyn Tomkun was anxious to point out something to me.


  
     We have installed numerous boxes for Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) and have had a reasonable level of success in attracting these charming little owls to use the boxes as winter roosts, but so far none have bred in them.



     We continued with our walk.




     And there was more to do in terms of explaining the various programmes we have underway at SpruceHaven and the success of our nest boxes.



     This past season Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) fledged record numbers of young and we also had great success with Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) and House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). We continue to be motivated to help cavity-nesting species who find fewer and fewer natural nest sites and we have plans to erect more nest boxes this fall in readiness for next year's breeding season.
     We were lucky to have Fraser Gibson on hand to explain the features of the latest advances in beehives.





     The "jewel in the crown" this year is the conversion of approximately forty acres of farmland to native grassland. Soil samples were taken and the land seeded with the mix of plants that would have been characteristic of a tall grass prairie at the time of European settlement of our area.



     It looks a little weedy right now, but as the new growth establishes its dominance this will start to change. We have a reasonable expectation that by next year we will attract Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna), followed by other grassland species in succeeding years. It is a very exciting prospect.
     Already I have noticed an increase in Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis), and Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows were seen hawking insects over the field , and Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were feeding on the ground in large flocks . When Kevin and I were banding last weekend Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris) flew overhead.
     


     There was more to explain!



       Everywhere is awash with Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) at this time of the year, and it is both beautiful to see and provides rich foraging for butterflies and other pollinators.




     A Wooly Bear Caterpillar was seeking a place to hibernate for the winter; it will pupate in the spring to emerge as an Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).



     These fungi on a tree were very interesting, but I am afraid that I am unable to identify them.



     We went into the woodlot to introduce everyone to our salamander monitoring project.



      I was lucky that under only the second board I turned over there was a cooperative Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) for all to see.



  
          It is a measure of the deep interest that our group has in the natural world, that very few participants had dropped out along the way, and those that faltered did so only due to mobility issues and not from any lack of interest.



     It was time to head to the house for coffee and refreshments and we wended our way across the future grassland, slowly I might add, as everyone stopped to check out every treasure that revealed itself.



      I am sure I am not the only one who cast a glance across this rolling terrain with visions of a tall grass prairie blowing in the wind a few years hence.
      Everyone enjoyed warm Westfall/Hill hospitality and relived the events of the day and marvelled at just what SpruceHaven has come to mean to us all.






     Dave, Sandy and Jamie have proven themselves to be true visionaries and custodians of nature. Their commitment to habitat restoration and the preservation of the natural world extends far beyond what one might reasonably expect from even the most dedicated conservationist. As one who gets to deal with them every day I am constantly reminded of their largesse, the magnanimity of their philosophy and their fundamental decency.
     I know that you will all join me in saluting these champions. It is a privilege to have them in our lives.

66 comments:

  1. Nice trip, beautiful photos. Especially the salamander. Greetings Caroline

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  2. Hari OM
    My word, is it really a year since you were last here? Boy did that speed by!!! It looks to be splendid place and I agree, the vision and selflessness that keeps it going is something to applaud. YAM xx

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  3. The Wooly Bear Caterpillar deserves its name and is a natural beauty! The role of the Conservationist is more important than ever and you have gathered a nice lot of them. Whether we know it or not such folk are the treasure-keepers of our world.

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  4. What a wonderful gathering to share the knowledge with people who have the same interests and concerns about nature. Beautiful photos as always.

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  5. Una agradable y bella jornada amigo David, que a buen seguro, todos disfrutaron de tus conocimientos y charlas como buen profesor. Es esplendido todo el trabajo que desarrolláis.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

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  6. We have to thank you very much for the work you do for the pre-creation of the environment, ensuring that the meadow is now the closest thing to the original. A pleasure this visit, the bird shelters and the hives and especially see that Goldenrod of Canada!
    Many hugs!

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  7. Thank you, David, for all you do. You are an inspiration to so many.

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  8. The Wooly Bear Caterpillar was very beautiful, David.

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  9. That is always so nice to see people with such a beautiful passion! Amazing pictures☺

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  10. Que bueno es juntarde con amigos que comparten los mismos gustos y aficiones David. Buen recorrido por la naturaleza. Nunca había visto una oruga lanuda, que colores más brillantes tiene. Gracias por compartir.
    Te deeo buena noche.
    Un abrazo.

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  11. A very successful trip, judging by the number of people attending this annual outing, their keen interest shown in , the monitoring and research activities done to preserve the natural world!

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  12. It’s heartening to see folks in sweaters and jackets. I hope some of that cooler air ventures our way SOON! Interesting bee hives and beautiful golden rod (if it doesn’t make you sneeze).

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  13. A wonderful outing, group and project. We need more of these visionaries. Many more.
    Thank you, and all the participants.

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  14. A wonderful place to ramble about in, and terrific shots!

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  15. We spotted a Spring Peeper frog- distinctly copper coloured- in the middle of the future tall grass prairie field. It was at least 150 metres away from the nearest woodlot and bound for who knows where. The mergansers in the pond next to the house were nice to see as well, the adult female keeping an eye on the young one. Thanks for all the work you do, David and for sharing your knowledge with others.
    Dale and Nina Ingrey

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    1. A couple of people told me about the Spring Peeper and I wish I had seen it with you. It is not a species I see often, yet their chorus in the spring is deafening. Great find!

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  16. What a turn out of support! The new grassland is so exciting...It's like a clean slate to fill in...

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  17. It’s great that your group is bringing back the native grasslands . We visited an area in Colorado where that is happening...big increase in birds there too im sure.

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  18. What a lovely outing for you all. I loved how the happy face on the bearn set up the whole character of the owners. As always, a very interesting post.

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  19. Good to have such a good turnout. I love that old barn.

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  20. Wonderful group of interesting people, wonderful gathering that was such a pleasure to read about, wonderful photographs to look at!!!

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  21. Hello David, what more do you want with a group of such dedicated people for nature. The programm for the Salamander is fantastic. And wow do I like that barn. Swallows have a palace for bringing up their young. And I like the smile on the fresh painted wall. Good to read that you turning a peace of land back into native graslands.
    All the best,
    Regards, Roos

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  22. Some wonderful work going on there. It's certainly attracting a lots of nature watchers!

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  23. Hello, you had a nice sized group of nature lovers for this outing. I love the old barn and all thing nature related. It is great to read about habitat restoration and preservation. I would like to see more grassland preserved around here. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great new week ahead!

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  24. Yo habría estado feliz en el paseo, me encanta todo lo que tiene que ver con la naturaleza. Feliz semana.

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  25. Such a pleasant and interesting day!
    Some of the both grassland and woodland areas look magically beautiful.
    The bird in your (new?) header photo is a cutie.
    Finally, thank you once more for your witty comments. They make my day.
    Happy birding!

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  26. Du är en fantastisk kraft David i den värld som blir alltmer föraktfull till allt som inte går att tjäna pengar på. Vilket utmärkt initiativ att förvandla en bit mark till naturlig gräsmark med blommande örter. Jag antar att sådana områden är lika ovanliga i Canada som här, överallt har vi dessa sterila gräsmattor som besprutas med mängder av gift för att hålla ogräset (blommande örter) borta. Önskar er all lycka med detta goda initiativ!

    Jag tror att många människor vill lära och uppleva naturen men det kräver någon som du David som har både kunskap och ett brinnande hjärta och engagemang för naturens innevånare. Dessutom villig att använda sin tid för denna goda sak, det sker inte av sig själv.

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  27. Many thanks for what you are doing for the animals and the environment.
    It looks like an interesting day with a wonderful group.
    I am sad because every year I see always less swallows coming over my city. When I was a kid I remember a sky full of them and I enjoyed to watch their flights and to hear their sings.

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  28. Congratulations on attracting such an impressive group of interested and interesting people, David. And thank you for yet another insight into the work that you and members of your group do to look after the 'natural world'. Your hosts seem to be truly remarkable and wonderful people - I would that there were many more like them.

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  29. Beautiful people out and finding anything, if it's nature.

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  30. Looks like an interesting day, well done. I must say by the dress it looks quite cold, is winter already in its way there? Have a good day, Diane

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    1. The temperature was in the mid teens but there was a bit of a cool edge to the wind.

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  31. The Sprucehaven barn is certainly looking fine after its make-over. I love the smiley face. Do you have a blog post re the formation of Spruchaven? I hadn't realised how extensive it is or its goals.

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    1. Hello Helen: There is no "formation" of SpruceHaven, per se. It is still a private farm with people living on it. It is a mere three years and ten months ago that I was first invited to help out there, and the rest is history as they say.

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    2. That should say "foundation" not "formation."

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  32. Oh boy, this blog always makes me so happy. I so wish I could have attended. SpruceHaven is indeed an incredible place, and Dave, Sandie, and Jamie are just such exemplary people. Our beautiful planet needs more people like them. Thank you David and Miriam for sharing, through word and photography, this year's visit.

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  33. This (as always) is delightful.

    In my old home stomping grounds, barns that I knew (5 decades ago) have or are in the process of falling and falling into boards. Where will the sparrows go when barns are made of tin?

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  34. Now, that's a group! Looks like a fascinating day. I love seeing fungi on trees but I have no idea of what they are specifically. Sprucehaven sounds like a bit of heaven on earth.

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  35. Hi David,
    Nice report of this day! And your beautiful project about the barn swallows. I hope they come back in the spring! Poor birds, they have a hard time!
    I wonder how it goes next year with the flower meadow! Fantastic!
    Beautiful photos of the walk by Miriam!
    Warm greetings
    Maria

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  36. This is always such a lovely place to read about and it's fantastic to see so many in the group too. Lots of interesting projects to follow along with :)

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  37. Looks like a beautiful place, David!
    Have a nice day forward,

    Ida

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  38. Nice turnout! The goldenrod is pretty!
    I don't know much about birds but I did put up a new birdhouse this year in my backyard and almost immediately had some type of sparrows move in and have some babies! We got to hear them and watched them learn to fly and then they were gone. I hope more come back next year!

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  39. Hello David,
    Nice report of this day!
    Looks like a beautiful place, the photos are super.
    Best regards, Irma

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  40. Hi Both,
    What a magnificent gathering for the annual visit to Sprucehaven, and how the Barn appears in its new livery in preparation for next years return of the Barn Swallows.
    It appears your hosts are indeed real conservationists with the time and effort they are putting into this farm.
    Super post.
    All the best,
    John

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  41. It was certainly a very special day.
    I especially loved the picture of the Wooly Bear Caterpillar, it is so beautiful and had never seen.
    Maria

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  42. Hola David, echaba de menos disfrutar de tantas cosas interesantes que nos cuentas y sobre todo ver que hay muchas personas que aman la naturaleza y la respetan. Muchas gracias por todo querido amigo y un fuerte abrazo para todos/as.

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  43. I confess I didn't remember Sprucehaven until I saw the photos of the socializing at the end, and then I did remember. It hardly seems possible that a year has passed. It's clearly an enthusiastic group, with generous hosts and a wonderful place to ramble. It's groups such as this one that will help to form a defense against the forces attempting to dismantle what environmental progress has been made -- but I don't need to tell you that.

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  44. David - a wonderful overview of all the superb work going on at Sprucehaven. I was especially excited about the owls and salamanders. We too are busy turning our "disturbed" construction site back into prairie/woodland; I look forward to watching its progression as the years go by.

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    1. Good to hear about your restoration project, Angie. Good luck with it.

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  45. Around here there has been and continues to be restoration from hurricane damage in several areas. It's a huge project & much money being spent...but all worth the time & effort. I enjoyed this outing with you and all the members. Extraordinary!!

    Thanks for informing us all at I'd Rather B Birdin' this week with your sharing.

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  46. Successful excursion, interesting details, future projects.

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  47. Hello David!
    It was a great meeting.
    Wonderful anemones and beautiful flower meadows delighted me.
    Hugs and greetings.
    Lucja

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  48. Hello friend David :-)
    it is fantastic to see such a large group of people go crazy and participate in this trip :-))))) I also see beautiful pictures of insects, vistas in nature, solidago, caterpillars, mushrooms, snakes and lots of binoculars hahahahahaha .
    Beautiful report of this annual event.
    A big kiss from your girlfriend from the Netherlands xx

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  49. That's quite a large group. Very impressive! Wish I lived closer... I would very much enjoy joining you on one of these outings. Lilly says "hi"!

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  50. Sounds like a wonderful day that I would have loved to participate in if I lived closer! I heard a sad statistic on the news tonight - the bird population has dropped 30% in the last 50 years. That is mind-blowing!

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    1. And the future does not look bright, Amy, especially with all the destruction in Amazonia. I met Ken Rosenberg, the author of the report, in Panama in April, and he has done a great service in bringing this catastrophe to people's attention.

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  51. Like many others I do so wish I lived closer so that I could join you on one of your rambles. You have such an extensive knowledge it would be wonderful to learn a little from you. Although, each time I visit your blog I do indeed learn something and for that I thank you.

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  52. Hi David!!!.. I love these beautiful country walks enjoying nature ... Happy weekend

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  53. También me encantaría poder salir a una ruta con vosotros y disfrutar de la fotografía.
    Buen fin de semana David.
    Un abrazo.

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  54. A most special day …
    That Canada Goldenrod looks beautiful.

    All the best Jan

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  55. well written report of annual visit to a beautiful county ….

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  56. i believe i remember this outing from last year!! you had a great turnout, it nice that so many people continue to have a great interest in participating!!

    the wooly bear caterpillar....so cool looking!!!

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  57. Hi! It's nice to make many boxes for owls. Thanks for sharing.

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