White River Marsh

I like where I live. It’s a small town in southern Ontario surrounded by farm fields and maple forests. Queen Street is likely the most common name for a main thoroughfare in Canada and Port Perry in no exception. Our Queen Street is two blocks of hundred year old, brick storefronts that ends at the pier jutting out into Lake Scugog. It is a pretty enough town to have twice been invaded by Hollywood film crews and portrayed as “your-town USA.”

Despite all the charm and contentment, there is something special about being here in White River Marsh. Our pensite is off Rustic Road number 22, which is a five-mile, single-lane, dirt-road that wanders through the marsh.

White River Rd. in the winter and the same section of this scenic road last week on the right. Photo: J. Duff

You can take the other route on pavement but I like the slow drive avoiding the basking snakes and turtles and listening for the crane pairs declaring ownership of their portion of this vast wetland. For most of the length of Rustic Road you can stop anywhere and turn a 360 degree circle. In that sweeping view you see only natural habitat. No buildings, towers and even farm fields, nothing human except the road and the vehicle that brought you.

For the past few days we have been expanding our wet pen to provide more enclosed habitat for this year’s costume reared cohort. That means we are working in the closed area of the marsh beyond the reach of most man-made noise. Instead, we listen to bird songs and bull frogs and stop work to watch the eagles kettle overhead.

Last weekend a team of generous volunteers showed up in the marsh with boots, gloves and insect repellent. They help us with the hard stuff like pulling out top net panels and sewing together a big one measuring 70 by 80 feet. They drove steel posts three feet into the ground and strung chain link fence though waist deep water. We are forever grateful to Bev Birks, Rich Smith, Tom Schultz, Doug Pellerin and Dawn Fronk.

Our pen new includes two roosting ponds and some upland between them. Adding the dry pen we now have over 10,000 square feet of natural habitat, top netted and protected by multiple stands of electric fence.

Check out our live camera to see it. We expect six or seven costume reared birds to arrive by private aircraft on June 20 or 21. It will be interesting to watch them adjust to life in the wild.

Tune in to watch.

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