vrijdag 27 mei 2011

Wye Marsh for the Birders!

On our way up North to Parry Sound, we visited Wye Marsh. This Wildlife centre is located on 3000 acres of wetlands, fen and forest in Midland. Wetlands are one of the most divere ecosystems in the world. There are fourteen species at risk that call Why Marsh their home so this ecological jewel needs to be conserved at all costs!

Our hike starts with a beautiful forest and a Spring-green collection of fresh Ferns. Alomng our way we've met the Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator). This large swan has been succesfully reintroduced in Wye Marsh in the early nineties.

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

En jullie kennen natuurlijk allemaal het Forget-Me-Notje! Wij noemen het hier op onze trip: We-Do-Not-Forget-Youtjes. Coming up ladies and gentlemen: beautiful people in Rosseau, Thurber enjoys his stay in Parry Sound, On the water in Georgian Bay and Black Gardens goes International!


T H and Th-Preparing for the RoadTrip.

maandag 23 mei 2011

Down South feat.Selby!

Our next stop was Saint Catharines, Selby -son of Aspen Valley's GM, Julia- llives in a small appartement with Guiness, his dog! We took over his living room for a week while discovering the area: Vineland, Port Dalhousie, Saint Catharines, Jordan Village, Toronto and the Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls
This is without a doubt one of the biggest tourist attractions of the country. The city build around the falls is like one big amusement park, it's just crazy! The Honeymoon Capital of The World...we don't get it???
Anyway the waterfalls are magnificient! There are two major sections: the Canadian side or Horseshoe Falls and the American side or American Falls. During peak flow season, almost 6000m³ drops down every second...incroyable!

Forest Hike - Ball's Falls (Jordan Village)
It was our first day down South without rain so Selby took us on one of his favourite local hikes! The forest was at its best, everything was fresh and spring's perfume was delicious. After all the rain the river that crossed the forest had become one wild flood! Selby had never seen this before...and I have to admit I've never seen a greener forest before. Flowers, insects, birds and raccoons...beautiful.

Saint Catharines Area
We had a lot of fun and we took the dogs wherever we could: Canadian geese (Branta canadensis) at Port Dalhousie, a shipwreck in Lake Ontario, the artist in Selby Harris and a local game of Lacrosse, one of Canada's national sports. Lacrosse is basically Air Hockey and pretty agressive! It's all about the ball in the net...

The Owl Foundation - Vineland
When I was working with the owls in Aspen Valley I heard about the OF in Vineland. I contacted them to ask if I could visit the foundation and the answer was positive. They promised us two hours of their time and we ended up staying five, which was great! Thank you, Annick for your time and the great tour you gave us.
The Owl Foundation is founded in the early Seventies by Kay and Larry McKeever. The original idea was to breed injured owls and to release the juveniles. Kay and Larry McKeever proved to the world that it's possible to breed injured owls in captivity as long as you give them the habitat they need. Owls need to have choices: high and low perches in different sizes, sun shade and rain, open and hiding spots, seperate and social areas.

As an architect Kay has designed all the enclosures in a way nobody did it before. She and the staff succesfully bred 14 of the 16 native owl species in captivity. Kay is 86 now and still active in the Foundation. Thanks Kay for having us over! One of the species that's never been bred in captivity is the Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus). This almost endangered species needs a special breeding complex, one of the Foundation's future projects.

Three injured owls came in when we were there and we could join Annick in the examination room. Two of them were Northern Saw-Whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus). These little owls are smaller than a pigeon, incredible! Annick examined the general condition, the age and the sex of the birds. It's interesting to see the age of an owl by examinating the new versus the old feathers. This migratory species only sheds his feathers partly each year, a fresh feather contains bloodtracks and colors pink underneath a black light.

We watched, we enjoyed, we learned and we drove back North after a very nice week in the Niagara Region! Thanks Selby for the entertainment and the hospitality. It was great and we'll keep in touch! We're back in Parry Sound now, at Brenda's place! We said good bye to the sanctuary and we're preparing everything for the big roadtrip in front of us! Keep on reading folks...the Winter has gone, long live the Blackflies and Mosquitoes!


T H and Woewoewoewoe...

dinsdag 17 mei 2011

AVWS - Week Six.

My last week was different, first of all it wasn't the same without my lady. A different atmosphere was covering Aspen Valley...Spring brings busier times and that means that the tension rises at the sanctuary! Some things went perfect, other projects failed, you win some...you loose some! Anyway...Springtime after all! The first Swallows, Hummingbirds...and Flowers are popping everywhere...

Often I wandered through the sanctuary looking for what we had lost and I mostly ended my trips with a visit to the Artic Wolves. The sisters are shy but once they get to know you, all they want to do is play...they are just happy and smile!

One of my dearest friends was laughing lately about the fact that he couldn't see any wild bears on the picture of the sanctuary property. Here you go Jean...a juvenile bear challenged me by standing up on his backlegs as I approached him! The other one is the most impressive black bear I've seen so far...I just wished he'd stood up towards me like the juvenile!

The last day of my stay at Aspen Valley, I managed to finish the masterpiece...the big platform for Subira is a fact! The T-post, the ropes and the logs for her to play with are there...I hope the staff will use the new construction to give this African Lioness her daily exercise, I'm sure they will!!! I want to thank Ed, Jock and Joe for helping me on this project! I couldn't have done it without you guys, thanks! I also want to thank the staff for giving me the opportunity and the trust to work in this enclosure. And thanks Subira...for your patience!

Spring brings new life, new birds...I saw eleven Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) soaring and playing, enjoying the warm breeze, looking for food above Aspen Valley. A Broad-Winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) was surveying for prey on a nearby electric wire. This raptor is no bigger than a crow and mixed forests are his favourite.

And everybody is enjoying spring, as I was wandering around I saw a fox (probably suffering from mange) having his lunch up in the forest. I saw a rehabilitating bear enjoying his now peaceful life high up in the trees and the American Robin – Le Merle d'Amérique (Turdus migratorius) enjoyed a quiet sunset.

Another chapter is written, we had a great time at Aspen Valley. We enjoyed every opportunity to work with the animals. We want to thank Julia and Marilyn for having us at Aspen Valley and for the accomodation, the good care, understanding and supervision! I want to thank Ed and Jock for the enjoyable moments we had together during work, eventhough we had to do some fucked up jobs, we kept on laughing. We want to thank Joe...for just being Joe, we loved it...thanks and take care man! Thanks to all the other Volunteers and last but not least: thank you Jan and Brenda, it was nice working with the both of you, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Good luck Aspen Valley, we wish you all the best and...so long Gandalf!!!

We're reunited and in the Niagara Region now! I promise less text, less animals and more survival news so keep on reading my dear friends...

Yours sincerely

T H&Th.

woensdag 11 mei 2011

AVWS - Week Five.

My fifth week starts at Wednesday and without Hannah...It's different and strange to be back but I still have a lot to accomplish so the days will pass by very fast. While I was gone, four new baby squirrels came in and we have two coyote puppies now...GREAT! Less people and...more feedings. I have the chance to use one of Janelene's lenses on my camera so it's time to do some Macro Fotography...hum hum, I'm learning! Marta, an other volunteer, is responsible for the baby rabbits and she's doing a great job! Do you guys remember Carlos? This baby raccoon came in as first in april, he was cold and barely breathing. Janalene, Hannah and Brenda did a great job taking care of this 'coon', his eyes are open now and his aspiration problem seems to be gone. Babies, babies and babies : )!

We finally removed Billy Bear. It was a real struggle catching this bear cub. We had to grab her with a catchpole and I can tell you, this tiny bear is wild and viscious. I was amazed how much power she had. When we finally grabbed Billy, Janalene managed to tranquilize her. When she was down we could check her weight and her sex. It's a female and she gained about 18kg since she came in on February 26th. Janalene let me do the eartags, nothing new for me because I did a few dozen of sheep in the past, it's the same system accept it's a wild bearcub now. This was a great experience for me...Billy Bear is still adapting to her life between the other young bears. One step closer to freedom!

The eight cubs were as afraid of Billy as Billy was afraid of them, they all climbed up in the trees because thats what young bears do when they are scared.

There was a big fuss going on about a mother raccoon and her three babies ending up in Labrador in a crate sended up there by a construction company. The company made everything possible for the mother to return to Toronto and after a long journey, the family ended up safe and well at Aspen Valley (; |) ! Ofcourse this story had to go in the newspaper and Julia asked me to take some good raccoon shots of the rehab animals down in Raccoon City so I did...

I have a favourite squirrel these days. He's big, he's black and his enormous tail is red. He's in charge of this place and he's really everywhere. He's fast as hell and the King of all trees...: ). And we had another visitor this week, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) came to steal some sunflowerseeds. Beautiful...Thanks Jock!

I finally started the enrichment project for Subira! I'm going to build a new platform for her. We'll feed her on the platform in the future to make her climb and work for her food. Movement and exercise are the keywords in this project. We've managed to build a solid base for the platform. I hope I can finish this masterpiece before I leave. It's freaky to work in a lion's enclosure knowing that this big cat isn't far away, she's lockd up inside but still...We decide to install and extra security door in front of the hatch that seperates us from Subira! A good and bad idea...

Did you ever saw a guy in a canoo trying to catch two beavers? This is the stunt I pulled after we had an emergency call: two beavers are stuck between the Burnel Locks in Huntsville. The moment I stept in that boat I felt the most stupid guy on earth! Anyway, I know now that beavers are smarter and faster than me. Two guys with a driftnet rescued the beavers a couple of days later.

And we finally moved Gandalf on friday. The interior of his enclosure is brand new and he has to adapt to his new environment. He's still my favourite owl but I'm pretty sure he hates me know because I was the one catching him. One thing is for sure, I loved building and creating these enclosures! I guess the combination of landscapedesign and animal care isn't too bad after all!

Sorry for the delay folks but week five was a busy week and I barely survived : )...Beware because springtime warms up the sanctuary, I wrote an article on the Owls for the local newspaper, week six will be my last week at Aspen Valley...and I encounter wild bears every day now!

One Love
...I miss you baby!