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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring flings across Ontario; Stratford's waddling swans, raptors in Niagara; Elmira maple syrup



   One-Tank Trip for March 23/13

   (c) By Jim Fox

   Swans waddling to the Avon River, hawks and eagles soaring across Niagara and the sap flowing in Elmira – those are sure signs that spring has sprung across Ontario.
   Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
    Making a splash
   Swans star as the curtain rises in the “Festival City” as the flat-footed waddlers march to the Avon River.
The musical march of the swans to the Avon River in Stratford. (Stratford Tourism Alliance photo)
   The annual pilgrimage on April 7 at 2 p.m. is accompanied by much pomp and circumstance as they are led by the Stratford Police Pipes and Drums.
   Crowds gather to watch the Grand Parade, a musical march by some 28 swans leaving their winter quarters at William Allman Arena en route to the freedom of the river.
   Onlookers cheer on the noisy procession that includes white and black swans, Chinese geese, an emperor goose and bar-headed goose.
   Cathy Rehberg of the Stratford Tourism Alliance said the salute to spring involves a weekend of family fun.
   Activities on April 6 include the Swan Quest, a search for decorated topiary swans in Stratford's heritage district; free horse-drawn carriage tours; photos with mascot BJ the Swan; swan walks; and family brunches.
   The Swan Celebration on April 7 along Lakeside Drive, between Waterloo Street and Morenz Drive, is from noon to 3 p.m.
   Along with the parade, there will be a barbecue, performance by the Other Hand Puppet Troupe, children's entertainer Madame Buskerfly on stilts, ventriloquist show, Festival City Twirlers, street performers, face painting, a bouncy castle, swan hats and crafts for children.
   There’s free parking at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival lot at Lakeside Drive and Queen Street, and along Lakeside Drive, east of Front Street. visitstratford.ca/swans; 1-800-561-7926

   Your Niagara raptors
   The annual migration of the birds of prey is called “one of the great rites of spring” in Niagara Region.
   More than 15,000 raptors – a diverse gathering of hawks and eagles – are sighted soaring and circling through the airshafts above the escarpment.
Bald eagles have been making a comeback in migrating in the Great Lakes area.
   The migration also attracts thousands of people to the Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby.
   The last two weeks of March and April are the best times to see these magnificent birds of prey, said Mike Street of Hawkwatch that has monitored the migration since 1975.
   It recorded its 500,000th raptor in 2010 as the birds make their way north to nesting territories from South and Central America, the Caribbean and U.S.
   The regal bald eagle has been making a comeback in the Great Lakes area while last year saw an “unusual visit” by a Mississippi kite, a graceful southern species rarely seen in Ontario.
   There is also an abundance of broad-winged hawks, turkey vultures, peregrine falcons and golden eagles.
   The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority along with Hawkwatch invite spectators to view the birds at the park daily through May 15from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   Hawkwatch holds its annual open house at Beamer next Friday (March 29) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
   Activities include live hawk demonstrations, migration information and a children’s program led by Carla Carlson of Niagara Nature Tours.
   There is also RaptorFest, a free event featuring the birds, on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Peach King Centre in Grimsby. npca.ca; niagarapeninsulahawkwatch.org; raptorfest.ca

   Getting sappy
   The town of Elmira, north of Kitchener-Waterloo, is getting ready to serve visitors some 15,000 plates of flapjacks washed down by 750 litres of maple syrup.
A young visitor learns about sap collecting

   It’s time again for the “largest maple syrup festival in the world,” expected to attract about 70,000 people on April 6 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   In its 49th year, visitors from Australia, Europe, Mexico, the U.S. and across Canada including the North Pole have joined the rite of spring party, said festival publicist Sabina Voisin.
   It takes the work of 2,000 volunteers through the year to celebrate the town’s history as a maple-syrup producing community, said Ken Jessop, event chair.
   There are trips to the sugar bush, a pancake-flipping contest, birds of prey show, petting zoo and toys, quilts, crafts, antiques and collectibles, plus lots of great food.
   For children, there are midway and pony rides, inflatables and musical entertainment.
   It's free to attend, while pancakes are $4 a single serving and $5 for a double along with a small fee for events. elmiramaplesyrup.com; 1-877-969-0094

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Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca

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