Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There are those people in the region, even on council, that can only see miles of docks in Whitby harbour or in Oshawa harbour, as being, wall to wall pavement with traffic to match that of the 401, the inevitable result of allowing pleasure vessels to use small harbours such as Whitby or Oshawa.

Sailors on the other hand dread the thoughts of those same beautiful harbours, lying waste just so a few ducks and geese can be comfortable.

Speaking of the comfort of the ducks and geese, there are still a few of us around that recall Whitby Harbour when is was mostly a bullrush swamp, and the water covered over with green vegetation, and Oshawa harbour being mostly a coaldust basin. Both were void of wildfowl.

That changed In 1967 when seven men of vision looked over the little used inner portion of the harbour beyond the main turning basin, with its abondoned barges, no access roads, and much silted shallow water. They saw a wonderful location for a yacht club.

In the early years there was a problem with the green vegetation growing on the surface of the water. Dr. Fred Vincent, club veterinarian member, said the problem was that the harbour was completely void of wildfowl. If we could, somehow, attract wildfowl, they would clean up the bay for us. That green stuff was like caesar
salad to some wild geese.

Dr. Fred obtained a permit for the club to acquire six wild Muscovite Ducks with their wings clipped. They swam around the bay, cleaning up the floating menace. They also walked on the club property. One Sunday afternoon, Mel Goreski, John Vickery, and a few of the “originals” (maybe Jim Stewart was there, ask him) had a contest to see if anybody could walk from the old club house to the end of the gas dock and back, blindfolded, in barefeet. I leave the rest of that story to your imagination.

The last of the original flock of Muscovites, “Old Bill” died off a couple of years later, but as promised, by that time, Canada Geese had been attracted to the bay, and they are still with us. We haven’t had a problem with the floating green stuff for nearly 30 years.

But we have had a problem with Canada Geese, a beautiful and intelligent bird.

To day they are a nuisance. In the springtime we see nests hidden everywhere, in the storage piles of winter boat cradles, in long grasses, wooden thickets, around the Gas Dock. As the days grow longer little fleets of five, six, eight bits of fluff' swimming in formation with one parent leading and one bringing up the rear, or little clusters poking at the grass or weeds along with shore, one parent or the other constantly on the watch for danger. The bits of fluff soon grow to scraggy imatures and flying lessons begin. Somehow it never quite happens, but often formations come so close that skippers wonder how they manage to avoid flying right into their sails.

At Christmas we witnessed a huge flock of those beautiful fowl busily fertilizing the lawn for next spring, Instead of being down south distracting the attention of the Texans from war with Iraq.

The problem is that about six or seven years before Fred Vincent introduced Muscovite Ducks to the Whitby Yacht Club, in 1965 to be exact, despite concerns about the increasing dependence of the birds on artificial feeding by humans and the environmental imbalance which might result from their presence in ever increasing numbers. the wings of six pairs of Canada Geese, the originals of the present colony, were clipped to encourage them to nest on Toronto’s Centre Island.

A little arithmetic indicates why concerns were justified. Geese mature in about two years. They can live and are able to produce for close to thirty years.

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