ERCA

Could town aid in acquiring lands in Big Creek Watershed?

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Lands in the Big Creek Watershed north of Alma St. could be one step closer to preservation.

About 250 acres of land north of Alma St. between Fox Road and Thomas Road were the subject of debate at town council last Tuesday night with Councillor Rick Fryer wanting the town to look into the possible acquisition of the lands.

The land, which local resident Greg Nemeth has long advocated preserving due to the number of species in that area, was the subject of conversations Fryer said he had with ERCA general manager Richard Wyma.

“It’s got to come from our council,” said Fryer, who chairs ERCA’s board of directors. “The (ERCA) board has said, ‘if Amherstburg is willing, we are willing.’”

Fryer said he was not in favour of the town purchasing the land on its own, but with help from ERCA and the province. He said there are now over 550 different species in that area.

CAO John Miceli stated the town is working with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), adding that MNR is aiming for increased protection of endangered species. There is the thought of having developers contribute to a fund to protect endangered species.

The town will have a report done on the matter and did not agree to any land purchases at the meeting. Councillor Jason Lavigne pointed out he did not want to consider purchasing any new land, noting that town council had heard about the town’s deteriorating road system earlier in the meeting.

Bike Tour raises approximately $20,000 for Essex Region Conservation Foundation

 

Cyclists from near and far celebrated the Essex region’s trails recently for the sixth annual Essex Region Bike Tour.

A sixth route was added this year to include the brand new Cypher Systems Group Greenway, the trail that connects Amherstburg and Essex. It was a fundraiser for the Essex Region Conservation Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA).

Approximately 275 people participated in the event, said ERCA events planner Alex Denonville, with the event raising about $20,000.

“We’re really happy with it this year,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer, who is also the chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s board of directors, was one of the participants in the recent Essex Region Conservation Foundation Bike Tour. He took a break in Malden Centre before heading out for the rest of the ride.

The bike tour included a 15 km beginner ride, a 32 km intermediate ride and a 64 km route along the Chrysler Canada Greenway trail. The 15 km event began and ended at Schwab Farm Community Entrance on the Arner Towline. The 32 km intermediate ride began and ended at the Harrow Community Entrance, and the 64 km route was based from the Caesars Windsor Community Entrance on Country Route 8, just west of Walker Road. An 80 km “Extreme Greenway” ride began at the Sadler’s Pond Park Entrance in Essex.

The road routes are largely part of the County Wide Active Transportation System (CWATS), and include a 104 km advanced ride began and ended at the Vollmer Culture and Recreation Centre in LaSalle. The 58 km road route began and ended at the Essex County Demonstration Farm, located next to Holiday Beach Conservation Area on County Road 50.

The tour welcomed riders from all over southwestern Ontario, Michigan, and the Greater Toronto Area.

All funds raised will support regional trails development and maintenance in the Place for Life.

“Our trails and conservation areas are one of our region’s greatest gems and most important assets,” said Charlotte Loaring, a foundation board member.

Bob Hedrick of LaSalle rides his recumbent bike near the Essex County Demonstration Farm on County Road 50 during the Essex Region Conservation Foundation’s Bike Tour. Amherstburg was on some of the routes that cyclists took.

The bike tour once again welcomed the Windsor Tandem Cycling Club with a two-for-one discount. The Club gives blind, partially-sighted, deaf-blind and fully-sighted cyclists an opportunity to share an enthusiasm for cycling. The tour offered discounted rates to the club to promote accessibility and ensure all can enjoy and celebrate the region’s trail system.

The event also implemented a brand new “Bike Tour Ambassador” program, which invited community leaders and local athletes to promote the tour and lead the ride from their starting location. This year’s ambassadors included ERCA Board Chair and Amherstburg Councillor Rick Fryer, ERCA board member and Councillor Fred Francis, Councillor Rino Bortolin, Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Lakeshore Councillor Dave Monk, ERCA’s 2016 Athlete of the Year Carrie Lee and City of Windsor 2016 Commuter of the Year Paul Dubois,.

 

 

Festival of Hawks draws hundreds to Holiday Beach Conservation Area

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

The Festival of Hawks is Essex Region Conservation Authority’s annual celebration of the great migration.

Described as one of the hidden gems of the Essex Region, Holiday Beach is home to one of the most spectacular animal migrations in the natural world. With the cooperation of the timing and weather, thousands of hawks soar overhead. Members of The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory are on the hawk tower from September to early November and the festival is designed to add some more family friendly elements.

Bob Hall-Brooks with The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory speaks to a crowd of birders at the Festival of Hawks Saturday about the birds they have recently caught and banded.

Events planner for the Essex Region Conservation Authority, Alex Denonville explained this is his third year being involved with the festival. He said his favorite part is seeing the families who come out and experience the event.

“One of the first families that was here this morning, they were here at 8:45, they came from South-East Michigan and we had the bander, Bob Hall-Brooks, capture a hummingbird, something they had never seen in their lives,” said Denonville. “To be able to experience that up close and personal, and for me to be a part of that and kind of facilitate that interaction, that’s the more rewarding part. When I see little kids just in awe of that, I know it’s making a difference and it’s getting them to think about it and hopefully when they grow up they will want to protect that.”

Hall-Brooks said the organization was started in 1974, when a group found Holiday Beach to be the best place to watch the fall migration. The tower itself, he said was set up in 1987, and he came along just two years later. At the time however, he was not a birder.

Cindy Cartwright member of Holiday Beach, founder and lead researcher for hummingbirds Canada looks for hawks on the hawk tower at Holiday Beach during the Festival of Hawks Saturday. Cartwright is one of the official counters of the hawks. She was on location Saturday and Sunday answering questions.

“I used to laugh at birders but my wife and I were driving around the county and we found Holiday Beach conservation authority, came in, saw the sign that said Hawk Tower,” said Hall-Brooks. “We climbed up and this was about mid-October and the fella up on the tower showed us, and shared with us, four different species of hawk flying about 20 feet over my head. I was doing a high-stress job at the time … and it just seemed to be a nice place to come and de-stress. Looking out at the marsh, looking up and counting the hawks, so that’s how I started.”

From there, he came out every Sunday to watch the hawks. He began helping with the counts two years later, and continued with that for 15 years before taking over the songbird banding. Hall-Brooks is one of only three people in all of Ontario who is able to band a hummingbird.

Elaine Guitar van Loo works with sepia ink during the Festival of Hawks, doing an ink study of the trail.

“I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years with my kids,” said event attendee Emma Poirier. “We love nature and I just like to bring them here so they can experience nature and experience the birds and learn about whatever the Essex Region Conservation Authority has to offer. It’s just a good way for them to learn all kinds of things about nature and interact and ask questions. This was the first time that they saw the birds of prey up close, so that was really exciting. They really love birds of prey and we actually saw some hummingbirds on the way here too.”

The Festival of Hawks continues next weekend, Sept. 16-17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory will also be on location for an additional weekend. For more information on the festival, visit http://hbmo.ca/blog/festival-of-hawks-2017. People can also visit http://www.erca.org/birding.

“Festival of Hawks” returns to Holiday Beach this weekend

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

All eyes will be on the skies this September as local birders and nature lovers take in one of North America’s greatest migrations.

These watchers will call the Holiday Beach Conservation Area home as they take in a grand spectacle: tens of thousands of hawks and raptors flying overhead on their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south.

In recognition of the amazing sight, Essex Region Conservation, in partnership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO), will host the 2017 Festival of Hawks. The festival, which runs the second and third weekends of September, features a range of free educational activities and nature-themed programming.

HBMO experts will be on-site conducting hawk banding and adoptions. Event goers will get up close and personal to a variety of raptors as experts measure, tag, and then release these birds back into the wild. Visitors will also be in awe at the live raptor display of Kingsport Environmental, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates raptors and promotes falconry through education programs.

Free educational programs will compliment the ongoing banding and live hawk display throughout both weekends. Local experts will be on-site to teach on a wide range of birding and nature-related topics.

A staff member and Titan the Harris Hawk from Kingsport Environmental engage with festival-goers in 2016. The 2017 edition of the Festival of Hawks runs at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Sept. 9-10 and Sept. 16-17.

These programs include:

  • HBMO’s Bob Pettit will share his years of experience on identifying hawks in flights.
  • Ted Kloske, of Henry’s Windsor and Maple Grove Studios, and Glenn Gervais, of Southshore Outdoor Photography, will help budding photographers get their best nature shot.
  • Bird Studies Canada’s own Amanda Bichel will be on-site to discuss the significance of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas across Ontario
  • HBMO’s Jeremy Hatt will share his tips and tricks on using mobile applications like iNaturalist

“There’s something for everyone at the Festival of Hawks. The programs are designed to be accessible to everyone, from amateur to expert naturalists,” explained ERCA’s Director of Community Outreach Services, Danielle Stuebing. “It’s also a great event for families, as we also host an educational Hawk Fest Scavenger Hunt and offer free face painting for kids.”

The Festival of Hawks runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9-10 and 16-17. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at www.erca.org/birding

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre approximately 15 km southeast of historic Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, a half hour drive from Highway 401 and only 40 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge for those coming from Detroit.

About 160 runners get “wet and wild” at Hawk Run

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Runners and walkers returned to Holiday Beach Conservation Area again this year and were doused with water along the way.

The “Wet and Wild” Hawk Run was held Sunday morning at the County Road 50 conservation area, with ERCA event planner Alex Denonville stating about 160 runners and walkers took part overall. That figure included the kids’ dash that preceded the run itself.

Runners get drenched with water as they compete in the "Wet & Wild" Hawk Run Aug. 20 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

Runners get drenched with water as they compete in the “Wet & Wild” Hawk Run Aug. 20 at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

At least that many volunteers were on the route itself, spraying runners and walkers with water, throwing buckets of water on them or arranging that they walk through a makeshift tunnel of foam. The Amherstburg Fire Department was also on hand to make sure the participants got wet.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” said Denonville.

Denonville added he was pleased with how the event turned out.

“It was awesome. You couldn’t ask for better weather,” he said. “Holiday Beach is an incredible place to be. It’s all about friends, it’s all about bringing family out. It’s a great event to host.”

ERCA partners with Walkers and Runners From Around the County of Essex (WRACE) and has other area sponsors as well, Denonville noted, with ERCA’s proceeds from the event to stay at Holiday Beach. He noted such projects as the eco-washroom and new cottage that will be soon available for renting as projects done at the site.

Megan and Heather Gagnon cross the finish line at the end of the kids’ dash as part of the "Wet & Wild" Hawk Run held at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Aug. 20.

Megan and Heather Gagnon cross the finish line at the end of the kids’ dash as part of the “Wet & Wild” Hawk Run held at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Aug. 20.

“This is one of the great events that highlight our conservation areas,” Denonville added.

Each participant received a medal and children received water guns as well with a free lunch also offered, thanks to the sponsors. The run/walk itself was 5K and took place within Holiday Beach.

To see the RTT’s photo album on the event, click here.