On Canadian or American Thanksgiving many of us gorged ourselves on a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s. Apparently some residents don’t realize their original cousins, the wild turkey, live right in our own backyard!
Wild turkeys are native to North America, the most common subspecies being the eastern turkey that inhabits our area. They were once abundant, but by the early 1900’s through the usual folly of mankind, they had been hunted heavily, almost to extinction, and much of their range here in Southern Ontario, as elsewhere, was eliminated due to logging and the clearing of forests for agriculture. Reintroduction programs began in the 1940’s in the U.S.; later biologists in Canada tried unsuccessfully to introduce captivity-raised birds into the wild. In the early to mid-1980s, the province embarked on a restoration program partnering with several Canadian environmental groups and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, using contributions of wild turkeys from the U.S. In multiple exchanges over a series of years Ontario provided river otters to Missouri and Nebraska, gray partridge to New York and moose to Michigan in exchange for birds. Approximately 4,400 wild turkeys were released at 275 sites across Ontario (according to MNR in 2007 the last release in our ‘wildlife management unit,’ a section that stretches from Lake Simcoe south to Stouffville and east to Uxbridge, was in the winter of 2002 of 33 birds). The turkey population now has exceeded the numbers projected by the Ontario Wild Turkey Management Plan, has re-established its former range, even expanding it due to climate change as far north as Parry Sound, and is considered one of the most successful wildlife restocking programs in Canadian history! The province wide estimate is a population of 100,000, and “that trend is stable or increasing,” says John Almond, Area Supervisor for the Aurora District Ministry of Natural Resources. The objectives for the wild turkey program have shifted now from restoration to sustainable management, with a spring hunt of males only, and in some areas, an additional fall hunt.
Why should we care? Wild turkeys have been restored as an important part of bio-diversity that existed in pre-settlement Ontario. In my own experience fall and winter are even better times to spot flocks, and Mr. Almond confirms that this is when family groups congregate, and you might see a flock of up to 150 birds! They are semi frequent visitors to backyards between Aurora Rd and Lakeshore, and apparently Rick Wigmore came across a flock just the other day on the road itself, (as he says, another reason to drive carefully and obey the speed limits, for their sake, and yours).
Since we share the environment, here are a few things to know about wild turkeys. (And if you want to know more, there are several groups you can glean information from, such as the Ontario Wild Turkey Working Group and the National Wild Turkey Federation – and no, I am not making that up!)
They congregate in small, usually single sex flocks, in woodlands, forest clearings meadows, and swamps. A varied habitat of both open and covered area is essential for wild turkey survival, which need open areas for feeding, mating and habitat, and they use forested areas as cover from predators and for roosting in trees at night. During mating season in spring nests are built in shallow depressions in the ground, and it is not uncommon for the female to raise a brood of 12 – 15 poults. Interestingly, the young, almost right after hatching, leave the nest and feed themselves. Wild turkeys do not hibernate or fly south, thus they forage for food year round and their diet changes depending on what’s available. They are omnivores, consuming mostly seeds, mast and grasses but also berries, nuts, vines and flowers, insects, small frogs and lizards, slugs and snails.
Apparently they have very good hearing, have even better eyesight than humans during the day and can see in colour, but have poor eyesight at night. They can run at speeds up to 40 km/hr.; yes, and they can fly, albeit short distances, as fast as 90 km/hr. (unlike the unfortunate turkeys thrown from the plane in the “WKRP In Cincinnati” famous holiday turkey giveaway… ‘oh the humanity!’). When excited, the males’ (which are polygamous, like deer) head and neck can actually change colours between red, white and blue. They can make at least 30 different calls, one of which, the male ‘gobble’, used to attract females, can be heard up to a kilometre and a half away! Wild turkeys have become adapted to living in fragmented landscapes such as ours, and will generally flee from people.
Various wildlife and environmental protection agencies suggest tips for preserving their habitat, like leaving a high percentage of mature mast-producing trees, such as beech and oak, and encouraging the growth of grape vines, junipers, hawthorns and winterberry to produce food and cover. A few edge rows of corn in isolated areas can also be a winter food source.
Although turkeys can cause damage in some cases, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources this is rare. Damage reported by farmers to agricultural fields is often misattributed to turkeys, because they are highly visible, especially in those large flocks, instead of to other creatures such as deer, raccoons, skunks and squirrels, which are nocturnal, arboreal or small. They will scavenge the unharvested waste grain that provides a late fall food source. Turkeys may scratch in flowerbeds and mulched areas or visit bird feeders. Do not feed wild turkeys – this makes them more susceptible to disease, and encourages them to roost in places you might not want, like your roof. If there are concerns about human turkey interaction, clean up spilt seed from any bird feeders or remove them entirely. Scarecrows, reflective tape, noisemaking devices, and dogs will all scare them away.
A bit of turkey trivia: Benjamin Franklin famously wrote to his daughter in confidence that he wished the Bald Eagle had not be chosen as the symbol of America, being a “bird of bad moral character” and much preferred the Wild Turkey, “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.”
So, there you have it: maybe you’ll have the opportunity to see a flock as you travel the area, and now you’ll know what they are: we’re talking turkey.
If you have any stories of life on and about the Lake we would like to hear from you.
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This was just the first in a series of meetings before any final decisions are made. If you want to have any input into shaping this development it is important that you attend subsequent meetings as they are announced.
We attended the Council meeting on November 20th concerning the rezoning of the Geranium lots on Lakeshore Road from an 8 home development to a 19 home development. The meeting was well attended with concerned residents and MLRA executive members. There we witnessed one of the finest presentations by local resident, Kate Greenway, who went before council and eloquently presented all her reasons backed by facts and information on why this rezoning should be seriously re-examined by the Mayor and Council. Other residents also stated their opposition to this rezoning but what struck us this night was there was no yelling or shouting and every resident voiced their concern with professionalism. We are posting the complete presentation of Kate and would encourage you click to here now to read her very informative and well researched presentation. (click here)
In a nutshell the residents near the proposed development expressed concerns that there was already a water problem in the area and problems with flooded basements. They thought this development might just make their problems worse. Lot size of only ½ acre was also a concern. The small lot sizes require a new septic system, the Waterloo Biofilter Nitrate Reducing System. This system is approved for use in Ontario; but, homeowners must have it serviced regularly (every 6 months) and if they don’t we may have an environmental issue.
In summary, the preferred option is no development but realistically that is not an option. The land is already approved for development. That leaves residents between the proverbial rock and a hard place that being the original approved option of 8 homes on 10 acres or the developers wish of 19 homes on 10 acres. Hopefully there is a compromise solution that can be reached like perhaps 10 homes on 10 acres which would mean 1 acre lots not ½ acre lots. We understand the developer has to make money but at what cost to the well-being of the existing residents. We will reach out to Geranium and allow them to make their case on this web site and see if a compromise cannot be reached.
Councillor Bannon has explained this is just the first in a series of meetings before any final decisions are made. This meeting was the opportunity for residents to raise any concerns that they might have. Now Town Staff will review these concerns plus their own and come down with a series of recommendations for the Developer and Town Council. There will also be a formal presentation by Geranium on the proposed project. So as it stands right now nothing is written in stone; however, if you want to have any input into shaping this development it is important that you attend subsequent meetings as they are announced.
In the meantime CONGRATULATIONS to Kate Greenway on a presentation very well presented and researched. The community says THANK-YOU!
And to all those residents who took the time to attend this meeting in order to gain a greater understanding of the issues and voice their concerns… THANK-YOU VERY MUCH for your participation.
You have to ask yourself: what is so important you can’t slow down to prevent an accident?
By Charlene Jones
It happens with tragic regularity on what might be called Bang Up Bend. The abrupt curve where the Ninth Line hugs Musselman’s Lake, here on the south side has again foiled the plans this time of a Saturday night driver.
The sound, a curious steady hum followed by a resounding thud seemed to come from right outside our house but when I checked, the red lights flashed ominously off and on from just up the way, just past the bend.
2011 Accident – Photo by Kevin Wigmore
After dialing 911 where the operator told me many vehicles were already on the way, I opened a front window.
The unsettling wail of despair and remorse sounded out once, then again as someone recognized the truth of the situation.
Whether substance was involved, whether emotions running high played a part, the truth is very simple: someone tried to take the bend way beyond the posted 20K.
Today the large orange and black pylons that regularly sit on the turn are there, standing upright, but the steel highway fence beyond has been thrown out of whack and the wooden posts that fix that steel in place dangle eerily in space. A long streak of dirt toward the south, veering off in the opposite direction from the lake tells the tale of how the driver swerved to avoid meeting the water. This time the guardrail held the badly damage vehicle from going into the lake. And all of it might have been prevented with a little more caution and a little less accelerator while approaching “Bang Up Bend”.
You have to ask yourself: what is so important you can’t slow down to prevent an accident?
The road around the Lake was built as a cottage road. It was never intended to hold the volume of cars, pedestrians, runners and cyclists that now use it. Even though, through the years road safety has been improved dramatically around the lake (reduced speed limits, improved guardrails and intersection re-engineering), there is still one major problem that has always been with us and still is the greatest threat to everyone’s safety. That problem is speeding. Councillor Bannon reacting to residents’ complaints about speed arranged for the York Region Police to set up speed traps. Over 80% are local residents!
Based on this data…we are our own worst enemies.
The immediate solution, to making this road less dangerous lies with the residents, both drivers and pedestrians. The immediate solution lies with all of us putting our neighbour’s safety first rather than the fact we might be late for work or an appointment. Even though through the years the road has become safer, it is never going to be totally safe unless we all slow down. The solution lies within each of the residents as drivers respecting the safety of the pedestrians and also pedestrians respecting the drivers. Both pedestrians and drivers must play a major role in this common sense safety equation.
Common sense tells us that…
It is not safe to speed especially on narrow, multi-use, community roads.
It is not safe when pedestrians and cyclists do not dress to be seen and blend in with the scenery.
It is not safe for pedestrians to use this road in inclement weather.
It is not safe to have inadequate street lighting (certain residents have threatened to shoot out proper new lighting).
Please treat our lake road as a cottage road. It is neither a pedestrian board walk nor a typical road but serves our community as both. We have a very unique community with a very unique road, which with some effort can be shared safely by all.
Drivers need to slow down and also realize that the speed of 40kph is the suggested and posted MAXIMUM speed. That doesn’t mean you have to travel at 40kph when meeting other cars and/or pedestrians on the road. Please recognize this is not a safe speed for sharing this narrow road with other traffic and SLOW DOWN.
Pedestrians please help out the drivers for not only your safety but also theirs. Do not walk 3 and 4 abreast and around corners please be extra cautious and walk single file. Dress to be seen. Wear bright and reflective clothing in order to be readily seen by the drivers. It’s a safety statement rather than a fashion statement. At night, you should be wearing reflective clothing and carry a small flashlight. Help the drivers to see you and they will in most cases instinctively slow down and give you room going by.
Please avoid walking the dog or especially the kids on this road when it’s raining or snowing. It’s a very difficult road to share with vehicles on the best of days but, in bad weather you have the added risk of not only the vehicles have less traction/visibility but, also you are more likely to slip which could be fatal if a car happens by at the same time.
If our community as a whole takes safety seriously, both pedestrians and motorists will immediately find that this cottage road in our community becomes less dangerous. Everyone has to recognize that it will never be totally safe and that safety starts at home. Please respect the dangers of our local roads and be safety conscious for your own safety and for the safety of our whole community who walk, hike, bike and drive the roads on a daily basis.
Maybe we can all learn to share this unique road so we can enjoy it without our safety being threatened.
Dining and Dancing at Musselman’s Lake. These swans are frequent visitors to our Lake.
By Dan Wigmore
Musselman’s Lake is a favourite spot for these swans to visit. They are seen on the Lake several times a year with visits that vary from just a day to as long as a few days. I had an amazing time with the Swans. I got to watch them do their Swan Dance as they danced to loosen food up from the bottom of the Lake. I got to watch them preen and play and all while I was shooting both stills and video. It was a very memorable encounter that I thoroughly enjoyed and won’t soon forget. Moments like these, really make you appreciate what a special community we live in.
An important meeting is being held on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 7:00 P.M. in the Council Chambers, Municipal Offices.
Applications have been made to the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville for an amendment to the Town Official Plan (Ballantrae-Musselman’s Lake and Environs Secondary Plan) The zoning by-law for approval of a Plan of Subdivision.
Sign on property on Lake Shore Road
Photo – Bill Chen
The application proposes to create a residential plan of subdivision consisting of 19 single detached dwellings and a block for road widening of Lakeshore Road.
The official Plan amendment and zoning by-law amendment are designed to permit and implement the plan of subdivision. The proposed amendment would permit residential lots with a minimum lot area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). A public meeting to consider the applications will be held in the Council Chambers, Municipal Offices, 111 Sandiford Drive, Stouffville on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 at 7:00 P.M.
Additional information including written notice of the public meeting is available at the Planning & Building Services Department, Municipal Offices during regular business hours.
Telephone (905)640-1910 or 1-855-642-8696
PLEASE NOTE – It is important that you attend this meeting in order to stay informed as to what is planned for our community. The plan is for 19 lots with a minimum size of ½ acres. These means that it will not be a typical subdivision but more like the country estate subdivisions that we already have in our community.
The Good news, everything is proceeding… just not as quickly as we would like. New date set to finalize the land transfer deal is February 28, 2013.
Please be patient as the deal is still proceeding. Although the Park Plan deal was to have been closed this month, extensions are a common occurrence when you have three parties involved with three lawyers. New date set to finalize the land transfer deal is February 28, 2013.
Town Staff and representatives of the Estate have been working through the summer/ early fall to finalize the land acquisition. Discussions between Staff and representatives of the James Coultice Estate have occurred and as such, it is recognized that additional time is required to finalize the transaction. Staff and the Solicitor for the Estate have agreed upon a new clearance date on the Conditions for the Offer & Purchase Agreement of February 28, 2013. This additional time will allow for the finalization of the Reference Plan to create the appropriate property description and allow more time for the estate to complete these complicated negotiations with the Canadian Revenue Agency.