Tag Archives: Downey Woodpecker

The Crows Nest Side Trail

May 18, 2019

The Forks of the Credit has a lot of interesting history, much of which can be easily accessed from The Bruce Trail or one of several side trails in the area.  Parking is very limited along the side of Forks of the Credit Road near Dominion Street.  Our intention was to cover both the Trimble Side Trail and the Crow’s Nest Side Trail as well as having another look at the Stonecutter’s Dam.  The map below comes from the Belfountain Conservation Area Management Plan and shows the Trimble Trail in brown and the Crow’s Nest Trail in Blue.  It also shows the location of many of the historical features of the Willoughby Property.

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We saw several people going down the road on skateboards with a vehicle following them to take them back to the top for another joy ride down the hill and around the hairpin turn.  The Trimble Trail enters the Willoughby Property beside the river.  There is a great deal of local history on the property which had been explored and described in our previous post called Stonecutter’s Dam.  Therefore we won’t go into much of that detail again here.  From the vantage of the trail you can see the curving trestle of the Credit Valley Railway that was instrumental in developing the market for the sandstone that was being quarried in this area.  We looked at that trestle and an old lime kiln ring in our post on The Devil’s Pulpit.

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One of the ways to tell a Downey Woodpecker from the slightly larger Hairy Woodpecker is by the size of their bill.  A Downey Woodpecker bill is small and thin and only about half as long as the head of the bird.  The Hairy Woodpecker has a thicker bill that is at least as long as its head.  The Downey pictured below is a female bird as it lacks the characteristic red marking on the head that is unique to the male.

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Jack-in-the-pulpit is one of the longest lived perennial plants as the corm can survive for up to 100 years.  The plant contains oxides in the form of raphides that cause a burning sensation if ingested.  Under magnification they resemble tiny shards of glass.  One folklore tale suggest certain native people would poison meat with the cut up corm of the plant and leave it for their enemies to find and consume.

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At one time there were literally hundreds of dams strung across the rivers and creeks in the GTA.  Early ones were often wood cribs filled with rocks and required annual repairs that were often quite dangerous.  Earthen berms were built across the floodplains and later concrete dams were constructed.  Through disasters like Hurricane Hazel and then flood control projects most of these have been removed.  Perhaps the oldest surviving dam is a masonry one on the West Credit River that has come to be known as The Stonecutter’s Dam.  The area was known for quarries and this resource was put to good use here as this bit of workmanship has outlasted many newer dams.

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The penstock was also made of blocks of cut stone and has been churning away for decades since it last supplied power to a local industry.  There remains no plans to restore this dam and it has become inaccessible due to erosion along the end.  It is now posted to keep people from finding their way onto it.  More pictures of the dam can be seen in our earlier post The Stonecutter’s Dam.

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The Crow’s Nest Side Trail is a 1.1 kilometre loop that takes you around some test pits from the old quarry but avoids the original site.  It leads off the Trimble Trail on a boardwalk but soon turns into a dirt path.

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Dryad’s Saddle can grow to be up to 12 inches across and can be found from May until about November.  They are considered edible and we found places where people had recently harvested them.  Also known as Pheasant’s Back the soft edge parts of the cap can be sauteed and eaten.

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The trails were remarkably empty considering how nice the day was.  That is usually a good thing if you are hoping to see the local wildlife.  The Trimble Trail had people coming and going from the conservation area but the Crows Nest Trail was deserted.

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A fence line separates the Crows Nest Trail from a steep drop onto Forks of the Credit Road.  In many places this fence has become secured to the trees which have grown around it.  The picture below shows one of the trees with a fence roughly in the middle of the tree.

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There were white trilliums scattered throughout the woods but the red ones were somewhat more elusive.  Finally we came across a large patch of them as we approached Belfountain Conservation Area.  The red trillium does not have any nectar and so isn’t pollinated by the same assortment of bees and insects that visit the white ones.  They rely on flies that are attracted by the smell of rotting meat that is given ff by the leaves.  On close inspection the six stamen in the centre of the flower are different to the nectar bearing ones on the white flowers.

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We checked out a small trail beside the bridge and found that it led to an apiary.  With our bee colonies in severe decline we decided not to interfere in any way.  Although the trail may have gone further we didn’t.  Instead we made our way back to the car.

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The Willoughby Property is interesting because of the wealth of history that it holds.  It is the type of place that you can still find new things with subsequent visits.

Google Maps Link: Crow’s Nest Trail

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Back Tracks – The First Five Years

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Greenwood Conservation Area – North

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Greenwood Conservation Area is 283 hectares and after seeing a visitor post from #hikingblogto about it, we decided it was time to check it out.  A quick look told us that there are three parking areas, all of them free.  The park is split in two by the fifth concession and we decided to start with the section north of it.

We decided to start with the trail that follows Duffins Creek and along the way we saw several of these nests hanging from the forked branches of trees.  These nests are carefully woven of twigs and branches as well as pieces of paper wasp nests.  Nests like this are likely from Red-eyed Vireo.

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Ever since Groundhog Day we have had a series of snow storms and very cold weather.  This isn’t the time of year that you expect to see spider webs but we found several funnel spider webs on the underside of a large tree branch.  The warmer weather of the past couple of days has woken the spiders up but I’m not sure they will have found too many insects to break their fast on.

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From the trail you can see a straight line in the trees which always indicates a man-made object.  Upon closer inspection we found a foundation for farm building.  A old roadway is visible running from the foundation back toward the fifth concession.

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The park is well posted to inform pet owners that dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.  We saw several people walking dogs but not one of them was on a leash.  From the looks of things, this trail will be quite a mess in the spring when the snow melts but the poo doesn’t.

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Duffins Creek flows through the conservation area and the ice has broken up a few times previously.  The creek was full of Atlantic Salmon when the Europeans arrived in the area.  Atlantic Salmon were also one of the first species to disappear as a result of human activity.  The Duffins Creek watershed is being restocked in an effort to revive the species.  The creek meets the waterfront after flowing through Alex Robertson Park where there are multiple enchanted carvings.

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There are a couple of places along the trail where someone has decorated trees for Christmas.  I find this to be in very poor judgement.  It may look cute for a short time leading up to Christmas but unfortunately, no one comes back to clean it up.  The ornaments get broken and become so much litter in the woods.  There are a couple of broken ornaments on the tree pictured below.

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Trails in the park are multi-use.  There are several kilometres of mountain bike trails and The Great Trail passes through the middle of the park.  As with all multi-use trails it is important to respect the other users.  One of the key ways of doing this in the winter is to allow cross country skiers to have their own trail.  Don’t walk where they ski as it makes it very difficult to ski.

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The snow was gently coming down as we made our way through the forest.  Winter hiking can be quite enjoyable but by this time of the season we begin to get a little tired of white and brown blogs.  We received 63.4 cm of snow in January 2019.  This was the most in a single month since February 2014 when we got 65.3 cm.

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The trail leads toward Highway 7 where we came across several buildings elated to Pickering Museum Village.  This is the largest pioneer village in Durham Region.  There are close to twenty buildings in the village which tell the story of life in the area prior to about 1910.  The Puterbaugh House has been made over to represent a one room school house similar to the ones that Pickering children would have been educated in during the early 1800’s.

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With the village closed for the season, we decided to return via another route.  This time we passed the shell of an old barn.  The side panels look to have been scavenged because the frame and roof appear to be in pretty good condition.  The outside of the barn can be seen in the cover photo.

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We followed the upper trail on the return trip along several different bike trails.  We came to the other end of the road that leads to the foundations we had seen on the way in.  It’s always interesting when the guard rail closes a road that can no longer be seen because of the new growth on the right of way.  This road can still be seen from the creek side trail as a straight line through the woods.

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Downey Woodpeckers are the smaller of the common woodpeckers on Ontario.  They very closely resemble the larger Hairy Woodpecker but are not related to them.  These little birds are among the more common woodpeckers in the area.

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Greenwood Conservation Area is large enough that it will take several visits to explore the whole park.  It also seems that a trip to the Pickering Museum Village might be in order.  You can see some pictures of early Pickering in our post Duffins Creek.

Google Maps link: Greenwood Conservation Area

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