Saturday, October 5, 2013

Long Staying Palm Warbler & Battle of Moraviantown Anniversary

Long-staying Palm Warbler?
I noticed this Palm Warbler in my backyard a few weeks ago, and grabbed my camera to document it. Then, for the last two nights in a row, I had a Palm Warbler in the same tree so it has me wondering,... Has this Palm Warbler been hanging out in my backyard for the last two or three weeks?

Not a bad bird to see in your backyard while |BBQ'ing!

My attempts at birding have been pretty lackluster over the last week. I drove out to Comber which had the famous flooded field two years ago. This week, I found it pretty good, but not great. Not what it was two years ago when you would have 20 Hudsonian Godwits hanging out. This week, I had seen Dunlin, Pectoral, Solitary, Semipalmated, Least Sandpipers. Golden (2) and Killdeer (80) Plovers as well.

Killdeer, Dunlin, Least, and Solitary Sandpiper Shorebirds from left to right respectively. 

Today, I stopped by Holiday Beach with my family. There were very few raptors. Two Accipiters and two Turkey Vultures in the course of an hour. Some passerine birds included Eastern Phoebe, Yellow rumped Warblers, White throated Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Flickers, and Downy Woodpeckers. The best bird being a generously perched Brown Thrasher.

Battle of the Thames at Moraviantown (Oct 5th, 1813)

I've taken an interest in history lately, and couldn't help but notice recent newspaper articles about historical reenactments taking place regarding the "Battle of the Thames" which took place on Oct 5th, 1813 (exactly 200 years ago today!). Oddly enough, three years ago as I was driving home after going to "Skunks Misery", I found myself in a cool area with some native american cultural influences. I did not realize at the time, but I think I had accidentally driven through Moraviantown!

It turns out that during the war of 1812 (1813 in this case of this event), the British had lost the battle of Lake Erie, and (due to the lack of supplies) were retreating up the Thames River. American army troops followed up the Thames River, and the Natives took arms at Moraviantown to stop the Americans from going further north. Chief Tecumseh, a hero in Canadian History was killed in this battle, and many historians consider his death a major blow to the native peoples chance of fighting the west moving frontier of american settlers across the US.

More on the Battle of Moraviantown:

There is a two-hour historical documentary tonight on TVO (TV Ontario) tonight (Saturday Oct 5th, 2013) at 9pm. It might be something worth watching if you are reading this in Ontario today. A media write-up is pasted below this google map of Moraviantown. I will surely be watching this between 9-11 pm tonight!

Good birding,

View Larger Map

TVO film brings 'real' War of 1812 to life
Jim Hagarty, Postmedia News | Sep 28, 2013

A remarkable two-hour film about the War of 1812 and its effects on the people and communities of southwestern Ontario is scheduled for TVO. A Desert Between Us And Them: Raiders, Traitors and Refugees in the War of 1812 will be aired by Ontario's education channel on Saturday Oct. 5 at 9 p.m., the 200th anniversary of the Battle of the Thames.

The grandly titled documentary is certainly educational but beyond that, it is much more than a passive two hours of TV watching. It's a cinematic experience for not only the brain (fitting right in with TVO's slogan "makes you think") but also the senses.

From the terrific graphics, illustrations, artwork and maps to the stunning photography and the skilful, authoritative narration by R.H. Thomson, this movie is well worth the time in front of the tube. The period costumes are interesting and colourful and the settings historically realistic. The musical score itself is a marvel.

As the title suggests, A Desert Between Us and Them is about the people involved on the ground in the two-year war between the U.S. and Canada, either as combatants or as collateral damage. There is no focus here on aspects of the war which are more widely (if vaguely) known by the average Ontarian. No mention at all, for example, of the burning of the White House in Washington by a daring band of Canadians. Laura Secord gets one shout out but her contribution to the war effort is not described.

In fact, it is a safe assertion that most of the stories and information in Desert will be new to the average viewer including this writer who wonders how he graduated with a couple of degrees from a university located practically in the middle of all this action without knowing these basics about the event.

This film does not overdramatize the horrors of this war but it also does not spare them. And what it goes out of its way to do is refuse to glorify any aspect of it.

In fact, there is basically no declaration of who actually won the war except for a brief mention near the end by one of the historians that the Americans came and left and the Canadians were still here. And while there is an attempt to lighten the terror and gloom with the telling of a few humorous tales, it's clear that for every lighthearted moment there would have been many more that were filled with a million tears.

The historians and other commentators in this production are excellent. Some of them are descendants of those involved in the war including two whose ancestors were among a group hung by the British as traitors. The pain in their faces is still evident after all this time.

The man whose name is front and centre on this fascinating documentary is Zach Melnick, director of the Ontario Visual Heritage Project. And there is some irony in the fact that he led what was practically an army of his own into this battle to unravel the truth of how the war affected the people who fought it and those unlucky enough to be in its path.

In total, about 450 people were involved in the making of A Desert Between Us and Them including 350 war reenactors and regular folks who responded to an audition call. The makers of this film definitely did not phone it in. In fact, the making of Desert is almost as interesting as the documentary itself beginning with the fact that from conception to completion, the project took twice as long as the war itself.

It was based on information from a number of books, but the sources relied on the most are the Moravian Diaries by the Champlain Society (edited and translated by Dr. Linda Sabathy Judd); Profits, Plunder and Paroles: A Social History of the War of 1812 by Dr. George Sheppard, and The Civil War of 1812 by Dr. Alan Taylor. The research and scriptwriting lasted about a year.

Filming of the re-enactments took place mostly in 2012 although a few additional scenes were shot in early 2013. The producers shot 150 scenes over 35 days all throughout southwestern Ontario in the very heart of all the action and viewers no doubt will recognize some of them: Backus Heritage Conservation Area, Norfolk County; Backus-Page House Museum, Elgin County; Ceilidh Stables, Norfolk County; Duff-Baby Interpretation Centre, Windsor; Fanshawe Pioneer Village, London; Haldimand County Museum, Cayuga; The Hoover Cabin, Selkirk; John E. Pearce Provincial Park, Elgin County; Longwoods Road Conservation Area; Maidstone Woods, Essex Region Conservation Authority; Myrtleville House Museum, Brantford; Selkirk Provincial Park; Otterville Mill, Oxford; The Park House Museum, Amherstburg and the Westfield Heritage Village, Rockton. These would all be good places to visit to follow up if the film inspires viewers to want to learn more.

This is an independent project of the Living History Multimedia Association, a small

non-profit association based out of Brantford that Melnick and colleagues started more than 10 years ago to create tools that teachers can use to teach history - natural or cultural - in the classroom. Funding in the form of grants and scholarships came from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Department of Canadian Heritage (War of 1812 Commemoration Fund), the Sand Plains Development Fund, TVO, The Western Corridor War of 1812 Bicentennial Alliance, and most of the major municipalities from Burlington to Windsor.

This fall, 900 copies along with course guides will go to schools in Southwestern Ontario. The film is actually three 50-minute segments but the slightly condensed two-hour version is the one being aired Oct. 5. TVO will show the complete series next spring.

Jim Hagarty is a freelance journalist in Stratford.


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