Sunday, January 4, 2015

Misery Birding and Tecumseh

The weather seemed fitting for today's event as it was miserable first thing this morning with fog and rain. The first Skunk's Misery CBC was held today.  The area is good in the breeding season with lots of uncommon birds but it has not been thoroughly covered this time of year.  It has some great potential.

The circle is centred about Bothwell and includes the Crown Lands of Mosa Forest plus a couple of conservation areas and lots of private woodlots.  There are many large woodlots, several creeks and endless cedar hedge rows.
I covered the western part of the circle north of the Thames River and and up to Lambton Line.
I thought a good starting point was the bridge on hwy 21 south of Thamesville.  Here we have an old cemetery dating back to at least the mid 1800's. It stretches back a fair distance and is good for a walk.

There are lots of large trees along the valley of  the Thames River.  I noticed in my travels today, many of Common Hackberry.

At the bridge site, the abutments of the old bridge dating back to the 1870's still remain.

stone abutments from 1874

The current bridge, built in 1936, is actually a rather rare structure.  It is of the cantilever truss system of which very few were built in this small size.  I read somewhere it was the only such one built by the Department of Transport.  Currently it is due for some rehabilitation, so hopefully it will be retained.

I must also mention that this is the site we find the American Rubyspots and Smokey Rubyspots in the summer.  I stopped here last summer and mentioned it in one of my blog posts.

Farther east on hwy 2, there is a pull-off situated along the river on old highway right-of-way.  It is a good spot to see some birds, and I was not disappointed today.  It would have been much better if it was a nice day!

Thames River at Tecumseh Memorial

The main attraction here is the Chief Tecumseh memorial.  Tecumseh played a pivotal role in the War of 1812, but was killed not far from here in 1813.  His body was buried near the battle site, but the remains were later moved due to fear of desecration.  

As the story goes, the bones were secretly moved to St. Anne's Island west of Wallaceburg, almost directly across the west end of Baseline Road.  If you look on a map, Baseline Road's east end is right near the Tecumseh memorial east of Thamesville!

Interpretive Panels

In 1910, a delegation from Wallaceburg located the burial site and examined the bones.  As the story continues, it was concluded the bones were those of Tecumseh. When Tecumseh was young, he sustained a leg injury which broke a bone.  Wallaceburg's Dr. Mitchell (third from left in photo) examined the bones and noted a scar on one of the leg bones.  

My grandfather, only 13 years old at the time, was with this group and recounted the story to me when I was younger.
At some point, the bones were divided up among 3 elders of Walpole Island and the whereabouts were kept secret.
There is a monument on Walpole that allegedly contains the bones of Tecumseh, but my grandfather always insisted that they were not.  It remains up to speculation to this day.

Back to today's events and just before I got to the Tecumseh site, I spotted a large bird flying away in the mist.  Turned out to be a Great Blue Heron.  I had to pull off the road to get binos on it in order to figure out what it was!

Dark-eyed Juncos were the bird of the day.  They seemed to be everywhere, as I tallied over 200 in my area alone.  The first flock I encountered had over 60, and it was a pure flock.

Lots of little creeks crossed the road which looked intriguing.  A more normal winter (for number of birds) would likely produce more birds in those areas.

There are several woodlots that will need to be investigated in the future.  I noticed a good variety of trees in some of them.  As I mentioned, lots of hackberry was present.

Black Cherry
Lots of large Sycamores

Along one back road, I came across an interesting ravine near Florence

The top corner of my area ended at Florence.  Not far from the edge of the circle is where Lambton Line crosses the Sydenham.  It is a good place to look for dragonflies in the summer.

The results should be interesting. so far, I heard that a Gray Catbird was found as well as an Evening Grosbeak.

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