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The Jr. Egrets Return With a Popular Christmas Bird Count for Kids

By |2019-03-12T11:57:26-04:00March 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|

The Jr. Egrets Return With a Popular Christmas Bird Count for Kids

Written by Jessica Middleton for The Egret – Issue 35 – Number 1

After a 21 year rest, the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club for kids, known as the Jr. Egrets, is back in action. The new Jr. Nat’s committee consists of Kory Renaud, Andy Paul, Jeremy Bensette, Sarah Renaud, Jessica Middleton and Gina Pannunzio. Our goal is to inspire and support a community of young field naturalists by providing opportunities for kids to connect with nature and each other. For our first event, we wanted something that would be relatively easy to set up and would attract a big and broad audience. We decided that a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at the Ojibway Nature Centre would be a perfect fit!

The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is inspired by the traditional Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and has been growing in popularity since its inception in California in 2007. The CBC4Kids is similar to the original CBC, but more kid friendly, lasting only half a day and often accompanied by some fun team names and hot chocolate. In 2010, Bird Studies Canada partnered with the founders and held Canada’s first CBC4Kids in Port Rowan, Ontario.

On the morning of January 12th 2019, 12 children and 17 adults gathered at Ojibway Nature Centre to embark on our birding adventure. After a brief introduction, Kory gave an interactive skill-building workshop that included how to use binoculars, what to look and listen for, and some practice spotting camouflaged owls. We then took to the trails with binoculars (many of which were lent by Ojibway Nature Centre), laminated field guides of the most common winter birds of Windsor-Essex, touques and mittens.

Christmas Bird Count Participants. Photo taken by Andy Paul.

Our birding experts (Kory and Jeremy) and professional educator (Andy) led the group around the park to find as many birds as possible. One of the highlights was a sighting of a Red-tailed Hawk perched near the trail. Other exciting finds were several cute tufted titmice and a bush full of sparrows (“Eighty-three House Sparrows!” exclaimed one particularly enthusiastic kid). The group was also treated to hand-feeding chickadees and nuthatches, and some hot chocolate and cookies back at the Nature Centre. In total the group counted 148 individuals of 17 different bird species (full results below).

After the success of this event, we are eager to keep the momentum going. Plans are already in the works for a spring herp hike and an activity at the Earth Day celebrations at Malden Park. Jr. Naturalist membership comes with a family membership to the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club. If you know of any kids that might be interested in joining please let us know!

CBC4Kids Count Results

Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow, Blue Jay, Red-tailed Hawk and Downy Woodpecker taken at the CBC for Kids. Photos by Jeremy Bensette.

Tufted Titmouse (6), Black-capped Chickadee (7), American Tree Sparrow (1), Starlings (2), Mourning Dove (2), House Sparrow (83), White-breasted Nuthatch (10), White-throated Sparrow (1), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Gull sp (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Downy Woodpecker (5), Hairy Woodpecker (1), Blue Jay (2), American Goldfinch (8), Dark-eyed Junco (7), Northern Cardinal (1), Potential new Jr. Egrets (12)

Note: The cartoon egret at the top of the page is a character named “J.E.” from the original Junior Egret team, drawn by Anne Barbour.

Click here to read the Windsor Star article published about January’s CBC for Kids.

Thanks for reading, and we look forward to this event becoming an annual tradition!

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25th Annual ECFNC Weekend Trip to Pelee Island, Ontario. Saturday May 4 & Sunday May 5, 2019.

By |2019-03-12T11:43:28-04:00March 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|

25th Annual ECFNC Weekend Trip to Pelee Island, Ontario. Saturday May 4 & Sunday May 5, 2019.

Written by Dave Kraus for The Egret – Issue 35 – Volume 1

Leave at 10:00 am Saturday from Leamington Dock aboard the M.V. Pelee Islander II (be at the dock by 9:20 am). We will return to Leamington Dock by 5:45 pm Sunday.

We will likely see: migrating waterfowl & warblers, wildflowers such as trilliums & waterleaf, basking turtles and snakes, bullfrogs, historic sites, and hear a chorus or two of American Toads, to suggest a few of the many enjoyable experiences on Pelee Island in spring. We should also get a chance to visit the Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO bird banding station) and some of the recently acquired Nature Conservancy of Canada properties: Red Cedar Savannah ESA, Stone Road Alvar ANSI, Brown’s Point and Woods, and Brown’s Road Alvar. We will have plenty of time to walk, observe, and relax on the excursions to some of Pelee’s most beautiful natural habitats, including: Fish Point Provincial Nature Reserve, Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserve, the Stone Road Alvar Complex, Sheridan Point ESA, and many other stops along the way (including natural habitat restoration work completed on my property).

Should we experience inclement weather, we can visit the Pelee Island Heritage Centre, tour the island in the comfort of our rented bus and/or lounge at the Anchor and Wheel Inn.

I have arranged for bus transportation while on the island – no other vehicles are necessary on the trip. There is parking at the Leamington Dock area. I have reserved space on the ferry for all registered, walk on passengers attending this trip – we will meet in the ticket office at the dock on Saturday morning by 9:30am.

Accommodations have been reserved at the Anchor and Wheel Inn. The motel and bed and breakfast style rooms are rustic, but comfortable and are situated on spacious grounds. Reservations are generally set for two persons per room. However, people do not need to register in pairs or groups – everyone is welcome and will be accommodated based on their wishes and room availability.

The Anchor and Wheel Inn contains a clean and comfortable restaurant where I have arranged for our delicious meals. We will break for meals regularly (lunch at noon and dinner at 5:45 pm on Saturday, breakfast at 8:30am and lunch at 12:45pm Sunday) and hot meals and snacks are also available on both ferry crossings.

All interested persons need to do is: sign up with me and then show up at the Leamington Dock by 9:20 am Saturday morning with warm outdoor clothes and accessories, overnight necessities, $210 cheque (payable to David Kraus) or cash per person, and a few additional dollars for extra snacks, etc. if desired. The trails are elevated and dry, but you may wish to bring along rubber boots to access some swampy areas on my property and at the bird banding station, especially if it has been rainy. Carl will hopefully arrange for good weather as usual!!

I will contact each person that registers should any time or location changes for the ferry occur, otherwise the above outline is the basic schedule, rain or shine. I will hand out detailed schedules on the Saturday morning ferry trip, but with our own driver and rented bus, we can be flexible and able to visit various sites depending on the weather and the group’s wishes

To register for this trip: see me at the ECFNC meetings, call, or email/text:
Dave Kraus phone: 519 825 7491 (leave message)
E-mail address: david.kraus@publicboard.ca
Text: (519) 257-8674

I look forward to your company on this ECFNC outing!!!


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Reptiles and Amphibians need our help! In fact, all wildlife does!

By |2019-03-12T12:10:22-04:00March 12th, 2019|Uncategorized|

Reptiles and Amphibians need our help! In fact, all wildlife does!

Written by Steve Marks for The Egret – Issue 25 – Number 1

As springtime approaches, and everything in nature comes alive again, reptiles and amphibians are no exception! In spring, it is normal for these animals to exit the hiding spots they have hidden away in for the winter, and venture out to their foraging/breeding grounds for the warmer parts of the year, and this often requires crossing roads!

Each spring and autumn, migration to and from winter quarters mean long journeys for some animals – and shorter journeys for others. There are records of reptiles being recorded as far as 60km from their den site! In southern Ontario, movement is largely limited to wildlife by the sheer density of roads. We have the largest human population in Canada here is the deep south, so it’s not surprising that we’ve got more roadways. The statistic that is tossed around the most states that in southern Ontario, it is not possible for a terrestrial animal to travel in any direction for even 1.2 km without running into a road that seriously threatens survival. We’ve also used up most of the decent habitat for farmland, towns and highways, so the animals are sometimes forced to make unusually large movements between sites. Case in point: an endangered Blanding’s Turtle was crushed in a Tim Horton’s Drive-thru in our county!

This is where mitigation is required… better-designed roads, better-informed drivers, and just better practices are necessary if we are to see any improvement. Lessons learned already includes harsh realizations that signs alerting drivers to the plight of the local fauna are just not helping! Signs are largely ignored by drivers – sometimes intentionally (e.g. speed limit signs!).

Here in Essex County, our wildlife is “conveniently” concentrated in certain spots. This is due to the simple fact that very little natural habitat remains in our part of the country. Therefore, since effort to avoid impacting wildlife should essentially be easier in our area than in areas with more widespread natural areas, we really have no excuse! A lot of our remaining natural areas are surrounded by urban development, so we’re already supposed to be driving cautiously, for the sake of playing children, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

So what CAN we do?

Slow down in natural areas! This is a fairly simple concept, yet people are busy, rushed, late, behind, or otherwise hurried. Life seems to be busier and busier with each passing year, but if we don’t look after natural areas, they will simply disappear. It’s not just road mortality – there are lots of issues with roads being close to nature. Driving SLOWLY and watching for animals approaching the roadway is paramount. There are active campaigns afoot to try to encourage drivers to slow down on their own in areas like Matchette Road in Windsor’s Ojibway Complex – an area known to have a very high toll on endangered wildlife.

Ecopassages are great! They can actually re-connect islands of habitat for multitudes of plants and animals, or simply connect two areas divided by a road for the sake of a single species. The problems with ecopassages are cost, space limitations, and upkeep/maintenance. Better design, better materials, better applications are sure to be developed in the coming years, but even some of the options available today are infinitely superior to what was being utilized just a few years ago! As citizens, we should be pushing our governments (local and higher) to install more of these structures as part of more routine road maintenance. We should be taking steps to improve our overall success by thinking outside the box and changing the way we do things!

Be better stewards! Most folks want to help wildlife. There are very few people out there that truly dislike nature, or don’t care whether species disappear or not. Generally speaking, people are still nice! It’s just that very few seem to know just what to do if presented with a situation involving wildlife. It’s a scary situation for some to approach a wild animal, knowing full well that if they don’t pick it up and help it across a road, its fate is uncertain at best. I assure you, anyone can be taught to safely pick up and move even a huge snapping turtle! I’ve even taught young children to do it! It does take a little extra effort to look for wildlife on road surfaces while you’re already trying to safely operate a motor vehicle, keeping the kids safe, getting to work on time, arguing with your hubby, etc. – but if you practice, you’ll get better at spotting critters on the road.

Helping wildlife across the road! The thing that tends to escape most people is to remember to think about the animal’s intention! If she’s headed west, why would you turn her to the east? That simply does NOT help! She’ll just turn around after you’re gone, and try to cross that road anyway.

Another mistake people make is to forget their own safety! A woman was hit and killed while trying to help a turtle on Highway 401 a few years ago. Please think about your own safety and the safety of any other people – including drivers – in the area. Children are taught to look both ways before crossing roads. Animals aren’t taught this – but people should know better!

Once you’ve ascertained a level of safety regarding traffic, approach the animal and decide your course of action. In most cases, all that will be required is for you to stand guard while the animal crosses safely. Standing back a fair distance so the animal isn’t concerned by your presence can help! In other cases, chasing the animal in the direction it was going can hurry the process. Sometimes there are no options besides picking it up and moving it to safety. Approaching a snake can be a big deal for some. Snakes in this part of the world are harmless except for rattlesnakes, and even those need our help crossing roads! If you’re unsure as to which type of snake you’re dealing with – simply use a stick or your car’s snow brush to coax the snake off the road. Here in Essex County, it’s safe to presume it’s a harmless snake you’re dealing with – simply pick it up and take it across the road and let it go hide in some vegetation! Frogs can just be caught up and moved in their direction of travel too. Turtles are no different. Simply pick them up and move them in the correct direction! Snapping turtles are the only turtle to cause slight hesitation as you walk towards it.

How to help a snapping turtle across the road! You don’t have to be a wildlife biologist to pick up a snapping turtle! Even children can do it! Making sure you’re safe from cars is far more challenging! When you approach the turtle, you simply immediately place a hand on its tail and don’t let go. This is how you stay safe – by keeping the bitey end away from your fingers! Once you’ve got it by the tail, simply slide your other hand underneath the belly of the turtle from behind. You’ll find a convenient handle built right in to the snapper’s body! The plastron forms a great handle to help you safely support the turtle while you take her across the road! Grab on and walk her across the road. This gives whole new meaning to “helping little old ladies across the street”, as snapping turtles get much older than people! Now, if you just can’t bring yourself to lifting her up, simply grab a stick (or snowbrush) and wiggle it in her face. She’ll bite it (defending herself from you – the horrible predator) and you can literally DRAG her across the road. This totally works! She’s a tough old bird – she just can’t take on a car!

The biggest thing we can do to help is make everyone around us care as much as we do! Teaching folks to spend time in nature will replenish our respect for it. We should be finding every way we can to undo some of the damage we’ve done, and that starts with re-connecting people with what they’ve become separated from in the first place. Nature isn’t dirty, yet folks seem to think it is! Cities are dirty. Pollution is dirty. Human practices are dirty. Nature cleans our mess up, provides us with food, oxygen and fresh water. If we don’t undo some of the damage we’ve done, we’ll be hurting for those items faster than most folks know! We need to act now – save every scrap of nature we can. It all starts with helping a little old lady across the road…

A Yellow Warbler killed on a southwestern Ontario roadway. Photo: Scott Gillingwater.
Three endangered Blanding’s turtles of a total of 8 killed on a single morning on a southwestern Ontario highway. Photo: Don Scallen.
A tiny northern brown snake trying to use a road as habitat! Photo: Chevaun Toulouse.
A young lady demonstrates how to help a snapping turtle across the road! Photo: Scott Gillingwater.
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