It is with great sadness that I post about the passing of our dear friend Colin Horstead. After a lengthy battle with cancer, he passed away peacefully on Saturday at his home surrounded by his loving family. Click here to read the family's announcement in the Toronto Star newspaper. Services will be held this Wednesday.
Colin, an avid hawkwatcher, was instrumental in helping Frank find and establish the Rosetta McClain Gardens Raptor Watch back in 2004. After meeting Frank at the High Park Hawkwatch and seeing his keen interest in hawks, Colin taught Frank about identifying the birds. One of my favourite lines Colin said was "I taught Frank everything he knows about the hawks but not everything I know." I guess I too fall in to that same category as he taught me much of what I know as well. Colin knew that the hawks followed the shoreline of Lake Ontario during migration and suggested to Frank that they try an area somewhere closer to home to watch for them so that Frank wouldn't have to travel across the city by TTC everyday to High Park. Great suggestion my friend, the rest as they say is history!
Here are a couple of photos I took of Colin and Frank during the 2011 Hawkwatch.
Unfortunately, due to Colin's failing health he was unable to join us during last year's Watch. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
The following is a blog post Frank did on November 17th, 2011 with a special write-up from the London Free Press:
I had to post this article,which appeared on Nov 12th in The London Free Press about Hawk Cliff and a man near and dear to me,my "raptor mentor" Colin Horstead.
While other watchers at High Park helped me along,during my initial forray into raptor watching,Colin "took me under his wing" as it were. He saw how keen I was and nutured it. He would take me aside and tell me what to look for and why a bird was what it was. The only reward he asked for was that I pass it on. He often jokes,"Ive taught you everything you know(dramatic pause)but not everything I know.",in his good natured manor. He took me out winters and we did road trips,so my crash course in raptor identification could continue even in off season. He took me to Beamer Memorial Park Hawk Watch(Niagara Pennisula Raptor Watch) several times each spring early on so Id keep learning. He took me to Hawk Cliff,by which time I was fairly skilled at identification and spotting. I owe Colin a great deal. Not only did he help me to be very proficient at raptor ID,but he became and remains a very valued and even cherish friend. Because of him I not only started the watch at Rosetta,but have met so many wonderful friends. Ive tried to honour the committment to Colin to "pay it forward",since then by teaching all I am able to the many new raptor watchers at Rosetta. Id like to think what he taught me is being passed on in a way he'd be proud of or at least satisfied with.
From The London Free Press
These hawks are no ‘dicky birds’
THE WORLD OUTDOORS
By PAUL NICHOLSON, Special to QMI Agency
Dave Brown's modest reference to the skilled and loyal corps of volunteer hawkwatchers at Hawk Cliff on Lake Erie east of Port Stanley is "the usual suspects."They scour the sky rain or shine, seven days a week, logging every raptor sighting from late August to November. Brown, who is based in Mitchell, co-ordinates schedules and publishes the detailed daily findings on the organization's website (search "Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch.") The Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch is one of about six Ontario hawkwatch sites west of Toronto and is one of about 200 sites in North America that are linked to the Hawk Migration Association of North America. The common goals are to conserve, study and appreciate raptors such as hawks and eagles.
The information gathering is a form of "citizen science" and takes advantage of observers such as Tom Bolohan, Ches Caister and Ronnie Goodhand to create a continentwide understanding of the status of raptor populations.An example of a population shift would be the recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons in Ontario after DDT was banned in the 1970s. As an umbrella organization, the Hawk Migration Association establishes standard methodologies for counts and is a focal point for research. Scientists also liaise directly with the Hawk Cliff crew, which has local data going back to 1974.
Jim Dunn was relied on to lead the daily count from late August, when this fall's migration started. From early September to early November, Colin Horstead was the lead counter. For the past five years, Horstead has been a lead counter with the Hawkwatch. He is a Torontonian, but he checks into the Kettle Creek Inn in Port Stanley for two months each fall.Asked about the roots of his interest in hawks, Horstead recently explained "Way, way back I was fishing on the Pickerel River. This would have been in the mid-1950s. There were ospreys around, but I didn't know what they were so I got my first bird book and found out." He has never looked back. "I got into the migration after I retired in 1992."
Perhaps because of those first osprey sightings, he does still focus on birds of prey. "I like the raptors. I just like to specialize. It's the type of person I am. I call everything else a 'dicky bird,' but I'm just joking." He confesses an admiration for those birders who are good at non-raptors. Mary Carnahan is one of the hawkwatchers who is relied on to report sightings of non-raptor species.
The balance of the migration that wraps up November 30 will be charted by Brown and the London-area watchers.Regarding this year's fall migration, Brown remarked "It's been an excellent season for birds, but a rotten season for weather." Said Horstead, "This year's been tough because of threatening rain," but tough or not, Horstead will return: "I'll be back next year. It's a passion." This sentiment reflects the remarkable commitment of all "the usual suspects."
Hawk Cliff sightings The golden eagles were again particularly good last Saturday. Some were soaring very high and others, including juveniles and adults, were lower and offered excellent views. More than 600 red-tailed hawks were also spotted, along with counts of red-shouldered and rough-legged hawks, turkey vultures, and other raptors. Great V's of honking tundra swans flew over periodically. They looked spectacular in the sun against the deep blue sky. Other sightings in the woods and thickets included yellow-rumped warblers, fox sparrows, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, a Northern shrike, cedar waxwings, Eastern bluebirds, rusty blackbirds and a purple finch.
I just found this article while reading something else on the internet and it caught me completely by surprise as I hadn't heard anything about it prior. I was totally unaware that our good friends across the lake in Rochester, NY had named one of their Peregrine Falcons in honour of Frank last year. Her name is 'Rosetta'.
Nothing serious, just wanted to let everyone know that I had to reset the blog's template back down to two columns in order for it to fit on my new screen properly. Everything is still here just rearranged a bit. Hope everyone is well and enjoying some winter birding between storms.
The Scarborough Mirror newspaper posted this article today. It's from a seminar that was held at the Metro Zoo this past weekend. The main focus of the meeting was about birds of Rouge Park. The photo on the right is of our friend and fellow birder Terry (Whittam) who, at the time was pointing out the 'Patagial' marks found on the wings of Red-tailed Hawks.
As stated, this meeting was held as a replacement to the cancelled Bird Count that was to be conducted in Rouge Park. Great job!
Probably not the smartest idea but Cori and I did a walk around Rosetta on Saturday afternoon. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't pretty at all! Our little park got hit hard. It's still extremely dangerous there. As we walked, ice and small branches were still falling all around. Large broken-off branches will fall from the trees when either gravity or the wind takes over. The parking lot is now closed at both ends and the park will likely be closed for quite some time. I'll let the photos speak for themselves...
Well it’s all over for another season.The birds have been counted and the party has
Yesterday’s year-end lunch party at East Side Mario’s was
our most successful to date (thanks to Lee). With nineteen of us in attendance we shared
some fond memories of our past four month’s together and enjoyed some wonderful
food and drink.(Hopefully we’ll get a
few photos to share on the blog)
Although we didn’t have quite as many birds as in the last few
previous years, we certainly had a fantastic time seeing and counting what did come
our way.It’s these variations from year
to year that make hawk-watching so fun and interesting.And although numbers may have been lower on
most species, I personally am not going to be too upset about seeing one
hundred and nine Bald Eagles and a Gyrfalcon!We also counted bird number 50,000!
A big ‘shout-out’ to the staff of Rosetta McClain Gardens
and the City of Toronto Parks Department for allowing us to continue our Hawk
Watch at the park.Their help and
understanding is always much appreciated.I’d also like to thank all of you for making new hawk-watchers and park
goers feel so welcomed and thanks for sharing what you could with them.People are always commenting on what a
friendly and knowledgeable group we have.Thank you to John for joining us this year and collecting and entering
our daily counts into the HMANA database.Thank you to Murray for bringing his Meetup group to the Watch again
this year, what a great day that was for everyone!As always, my thanks to all those who brought
scopes and cameras to the Watch, again your equipment helped to identify so
many of the birds that were way up there and others that tried to fly by at
lightning speed.Thanks to those who
shared their photos on the blog.It’s
the photos that tell the real story of the Hawk Watch! Now that a few of us, including myself have
tossed down the plastic and bought better cameras, the photos are only going to
get more spectacular…..if that’s even possible!And lastly I’d like to thank every one of you for all your endless help with
finding and identifying the birds.It
wasn’t an easy task by any means this year with day after day of nothing but
blue sky!Again, your friendship, many
kindnesses and camaraderie are what really make the Hawk Watch the success that
The following list I took from a nice email that our hawk watch
friend Kris sent…
10 Things I learned
at the Rosetta McClain Raptor Watch:
1. Just show up.Your odds of seeing a raptor in Toronto
increase significantly when you enter the park.
2.It’s always colder
than you expect; wear extra everything.
3.North West winds
good.South East winds bad.
4.Raptors possess a
magical ability to disappear into the blue – right before your eyes!
5.When everyone else
is looking South, look to the North.And
6.When you call an
airplane or a pigeon (and you will), just smile and carry-on.You’re not the first and you won’t be the
7.You never know
what else you might see.Bluebirds, Snow
Buntings and Horned Larks.Tundra Swans,
a Red-headed Woodpecker, and cute little Foxes.Oh my!
8.It’s never ever a
good time to go home.Because as soon as
you leave, 27 Bald Eagles will arrive.
9.Raptor watching is
good therapy.It’s amazing how a big
kettle of Turkey Vultures, 4 Golden Eagles, or even just a little Sharpie can
melt all your troubles away.
10.New friends can
be found in the most unlikely places.
Kris also wanted to thank everyone for making her feel so
welcome this year and wishes everyone
a Happy Christmas and Good Winter Birding.
In closing, as everyone knows, we lost our good friend Frank
earlier this year and the Hawk Watch was just not the same without him.If I could speak on behalf of the group…
Frank, this one was for you, we hope that we did you proud!
I've just added a link entitled 'Our Rosetta Bird List' in the right-hand column under the heading 'Rosetta McClain Gardens'. At present there are 199 birds on the list that we as a group have seen and identified over the last 10 years or so. Happy birding everyone!