Nature Club News, May, 2018

Sunday, May 6th, 2018


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Thursday April 5, 2018.

Dan Ostler’s April 12th presentation about climate change 1500 years ago was comprehensive and illuminating, linking volcanic eruptions to changes in temperatures and growing conditions, and the plague.

Dan Ostler

Dan Ostler

The results of these natural phenomena included blocked sunlight radiation and cooler temperatures, which affected the growth of grain and other food crops, leading to starvation, and to disease from spoiled food sources. Human population growth was then stalled, (and in some cases devastated) and so was the advance of civilization in the population centres of Europe and even Central America. It took a while for the climate to get back closer to the previous normal for plant growth and animal sustenance. Comments from audience members included this one from long time OSFN member, Jim Coles – “I thought the lecture Thursday evening was one of the best I’d heard anywhere – very informative and very professionally presented. A great mix of history and current facts.”

On April 19, Bob Knapp led a tour of the trails at Hibou, shared with OSFN, and the Friends of Hibou. Highlights included seeing the huge poplar trees that are still there, on the inland trails, and the high water levels along the shore.

The next day he also led a tour of the Kemble Rock property with OSFN and Sydenham Bruce Trail Club members. Highlights on this hike included two separate sightings of an American Woodcock.

Of note too, is that in the first two to three weeks of April there seemed to have been more snowfall, locally, than we had received here in the entire month of January 2018. Snowshoes were needed for both of these outings, which had not been expected when these hikes were initially planned. Nature certainly keeps us guessing!

On Sunday April 22, OSFN presented its third Annual Earth Day Keynote Address, this year featuring Canada’s “Indiana Jones” – Adam Shoalts. This popular speaker is also an author, an archaeologist, a naturalist, and an explorer. On this, his third talk in Owen Sound, he shared many images and stories of his 4000 kilometre solo journey by canoe and portage, from the Alaska Yukon border east all the way to Baker Lake, near Hudson Bay, as his personal way of celebrating Canada 150 last summer. He also adroitly modified his talk to celebrate Earth Day with this audience of naturalists. The capacity crowd had plenty of questions and many of them chatted with Shoalts as they purchased his books afterward. The event was held on board the Chi Cheemaun and was sponsored by Caframo. Proceeds from this event are being directed to fund OSFN’s youth projects.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists is also continuing to support the Bluewater Science Fair, with awards going to presenters with nature and environment themes.

We have received a detailed ‘Thank you’ for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists award from Bluewater Science Fair participant, Alex Burling, outlining the silver medal winning project that involved the digestion of plastic by meal worms. Congratulations Alex!

Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, capable of digesting plastics and kale. (Photo By Brian Robin)

Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, also capable of eating plastics. (Photo By Brian Robin)

On April 28 – NeighbourWoods North began its tree planting programme at the hospital. Committee Chair Lloyd Lewis reports –

On a cold and windy grey morning, about 40 community tree planters descended to the hospital grounds at 8:30am in order to plant and eventually create a living wind break of 60 white spruce. After a demonstration of the correct planting and mulching techniques, our eager volunteers got to work, partially in order just to stay warm. The wet soil made for easy digging and by 10:30am most of the work was done. The hospital had warm drinks at hand along with a variety of food choices. Home Depot provided much of the hardware, and the conservation authority delivered the trees, paid for by an anonymous donation to NeighbourWoods North. In 10 short years, the trees will look even more beautiful and they will provide significant protection for the entrance to the hospital emergency entrance from the snow and wind. Hooray!

As for future plantings, on Saturday May 5th and 12th, we are ambitiously attempting to plant a 5 acre forest in the NW corner of the hospital grounds. Thousands of trees will be going in the ground and many helpers are required. Finally, on May 19th the hospital staff will be planting 40 crabapple trees along the west entrance to the emergency area.

White Spruce planted at Hospital grounds (Photo by John Dickson)

White Spruce planted at Hospital grounds (Photo by John Dickson)

Lloyd adds this message –

Let’s Build a Forest!

Do you have a tree/shrub sapling or seedling you are willing to dig up and donate? You can add to the tree biodiversity of our hospital forest, by making a donation on Saturday May 5th or 12th, between 9am to noon at the NW corner of our hospital grounds. For more information contact Lloyd Lewis at 226 256 8804 or

Young Naturalists Club coordinator Elaine Van Den Kieboom reports –

Our latest meeting on April 29, 2018 had the Young Nat’s being led by Naturalist Bill Moses through the Arboretum at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority’s administration property. During this hike Bill educated the kids about trees and shrubs and various other aspects of the natural world. It was a sunny day and even though there was a cold wind, the kids didn’t seem to mind and were eager to learn about the trees. Bill’s knowledge of trees and shrubs and his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge with children, made for a great hike. The kids were also very pleased to be able to take home a young tree from the arboretum as a gift from Bill. On behalf of the group I would like to extend my Thanks to Bill for making it a great day for the kids.

Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)

Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)

Coming up at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library at 7PM on Thursday May 10th the club hosts its members’ night when several presenters give short presentations on diverse topics. Expected at this time are a short film, a follow up to Dan Ostler’s reference to spoiled crops contributing to disease, a slide show from a lifetime of nature activities, and a taste of local natural highlights. For more information please visit the Members’ Night event.

For some recommended reading with a nature theme, I refer you to a couple of Pierre Berton’s many books. My Times – Living with History 1947 -1995 and The Great Lakes. Through these you may learn as I did a while ago, that Berton, known to many as a journalist and broadcaster, gradually became a naturalist. He soon became an avid birder with an annual May trip to Point Pelee for over 40 years, and a planter of many species on his property near Kleinburg, who also noted the creep of development nearby that eliminated wetlands and wetland species. In these books you will learn of the famous Indiana Dunes, much of which was lost to Bethlehem Steel and others before the people mounted a vigorous campaign to save these unique landforms, with some of the greatest diversity of life anywhere in North America.

To close, a quote from Glenn Gould – “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”

Nature Club News, June, 2017

Thursday, July 13th, 2017


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Wednesday, June 10, 2017

This Spring we are delighted that we have been able to offer even more field trips with some new hike leaders in different areas across this region.

On Tuesday May 9, life-long naturalist Stew Hilts led a delightful saunter along the Mac Kirk Side Trail on Old Baldy, overlooking the Beaver Valley. This Wildflower Walk drew folks from as far away as Owen Sound and Barrie, and a plethora of Spring flowers were in bloom or soon would be. These included the blossoms on Pin Cherry trees, Spring Beauty, Dogtooth Violet or Yellow Trout Lily, both red and white Trilliums, Dutchman’s Breeches, Canada Violets and many other flora, along with an abundance of Elderberry bushes opening into flower throughout the higher sections of hardwood forest. Several bird species were noted, including a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, and Nashville warbler. Many photographers in the group also took advantage of the panoramic opportunities presented by the various promontories. Hike leader Stew Hilts, also shared his knowledge of the geology of the Beaver Valley, and the Niagara Escarpment, on which we were standing. Stew also maintains an active blog, and you can read more about this hike at Seasons in the Valley.

Stew Hilts (on right) and the Old Bald Wildflower Hike participants.

Stew Hilts (on right) and the Old Bald Wildflower Hike participants(submitted by Dennis Knight).

On Thursday May 11, even the couple from Barrie, joined us in Owen Sound for Walter Muma’s much anticipated presentation – Wildflowers of Ontario. In spite of several club members being away at Point Pelee, there was a large audience on hand to see and hear Walter with his enthusiasm for finding and learning about the nature around us. Through his superb photos, and his congenial personality he certainly delivered on his promise to take us on a journey through the botany that enriches our province, from the rare to the unusual to the common, across many habitats. And yes, many did indeed leave with an enhanced appreciation and knowledge of Ontario’s flora.

The very next day found club members on a field trip entitled – Spring Bounty – the birds, bees and everything in between – co-led by Esme Batten and Anthony Chegahno, at the Shining Rainbow Deer Nature Reserve. One plant showcased in this pavement alvar habitat, was the Hill’s Thistle, introduced to us the evening before by Walter in his presentation. Other highlights included various sedges, Dwarf Lake Primrose, Twin Flower, Balsam Ragwort with a lovely yellow flower, and the shrubs Ninebark, and Creeping Juniper. There was a lovely slide past by a beautiful ribbon snake, complemented by the fly past of two Bald Eagles, and a brand new boardwalk carried us out over a part of the wetland to see a Great Blue Heron, Tree Swallows, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers, plus hear the complex and lyrical song of a winter wren. Esme’s comprehensive work with the Nature Conservancy Canada is making a strong impact in the area and this is her second field trip for the OSFN this year. Anthony Chegahno also shared with us several insights from his First Nation heritage, in regard to edible foods, and of the roles our fellow creatures play, in that enriched understanding of this world we all care so much for.

Beth Anne Currie turning the screws on a bird box (submitted by Donna Giesler)

Beth Anne Currie turning the screws on a bird box (submitted by Donna Giesler)

On Thursday, May 18, Beth Anne Currie led club members for some Grassland Birding to habitats where sightings of several species could be found. These included Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Kingbirds Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Bluebirds. The earlier strong winds lessened somewhat so that the sounds of some birds were also evident, even if not seen, including the Upland Sandpiper. A rare sighting indeed was a family of ravens with several young in the nest.

On Sunday May 28, The Owen Sound young Naturalist Club had its final outing of the season, at the Bognor Marsh, guided by Krista McKee of Grey Sauble Conservation. Soon the youngsters were learning about the various amphibians and reptiles – identifying which types of frogs were on hand, followed by crayfish, and snakes, and snails. Not only did the Young Naturalists get some first hand knowledge of these various lifeforms, from baby water snakes and frogs, to full sized ones, but they and their parents made some new friends too.

Basking Water Snake

Basking Water Snake, Bognor Marsh (submitted by John Dickson).

Young Field Naturalists with dip nets (submitted by Krista Mckee).

Young Field Naturalists with dip nets (submitted by Krista Mckee).

This Thursday June 8, is the final club meeting of the season, to be held in the Hall, of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on 1st Ave East, by the Sydenham River, featuring a potluck dinner which starts at 6PM. If planning to attend, please bring your own plates, cutlery and cup or mug, and bring a food dish to share, along with serving utensils.

This will be followed by a brief Annual General Meeting, and then the featured presentation, by Dr. Larry Peterson, of the University of Guelph – The Fascinating Biology of Orchids. Topics will include pollination mechanisms, associations with beneficial fungi, adaptations to a wide range of terrestrial habitats and the success of this group as epiphytes. The amazing diversity in floral forms has led to a multi-million dollar horticultural industry, but has also resulted in many orchid species being poached from the wild. Because of this, and destruction of habitats, over 300 species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Admission is free. Donations are welcome. These club meetings are excellent opportunities for you to see how the club operates, and have some delicious refreshments, while socializing with others interested in Nature. Students are especially welcome. Above all, these gatherings are for learning and Knowing Nature Better.

OSFN Who we are!

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Freeman Boyd created this for a presentation to the Lions Club in this district.

OSFN Who We Are

OSFN 25th Anniversary

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

IMG_0720In recognition of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists 25th Anniversary Celebration, Deb Haswell, Owen Sound Mayor, presented a plaque to John Dickson, Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ President

Our Achievements

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

We are proud of our achievements.  Here are but a few:

  • A group of OSFN members have drawn on their expertise and authored eight high quality nature/field guides on such topics as the unique Ferns, Orchids, Geology, Vascular Plants, Wildflowers, found in Grey and Bruce Counties. Thousands of copies have been sold, enabling local people and naturalists from far afield to learn more about the rich natural heritage of this unique area. (See Publications)
  • Produced an updated Checklist of the Birds of Grey-Bruce which lists 340 documented species and provides seasonal, occurrence and breeding status information.
  • Constructed a boardwalk through the woods at Hibou Conservation Area, in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Owen Sound.
  • Built an extensive boardwalk with interpretive panels through the Oliphant Fen on the Huron shore of the Bruce Peninsula in collaboration with the Saugeen Field Naturalists. Recently we produced and erected a new interpretive panel sign for the Oliphant Fen.  It presents 24 unusual wildflowers that grow in the fen, along with their blooming dates.
  • Constructed an avian viewing tower at Baie du Dor on Lake Huron, where numerous Bald Eagles gather each winter at the warm water outflow at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station.
  • Produced a tourism brochure for the City of Owen Sound. Called “Natural Owen Sound”, this brochure directs visitors to four walks where visitors can enjoy birds, plants, geology and other aspects of nature in and around Owen Sound.
  • In collaboration with the Canadian Friends of John Muir, we organized a day-long event celebrating the time John Muir spent in our area.
  • Established Butterfly Counts in Owen Sound, at MacGregor Provincial Park and the Bruce Peninsula National Park in association with the North America Butterfly Association.
  • Conducted Chimney Swift surveys in collaboration with Bird Studies Canada SwiftWatch monitoring program for several years.
  • Established the OSFN Young Naturalists Club  and provide it with ongoing support, in collaboration with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. Each year we send one or two young naturalists to Ontario Nature’s summer camp.
  • We sponsor an area high school student to Ontario Nature’s Ontario Youth Summit.
  • In addition we support, sponsor and maintain a miscellany of various ongoing projects such as highway cleanup under the Adopt a Hwy program, provide judging and awards in the annual Bluewater Science Fairs,  established Purple Martin nesting apartment houses at the Bayshore property in Owen Sound, erected Osprey nesting platforms at McNab and Isaac lakes, etc.

We have also provided funding towards important nature reserve land acquisitions and projects over the years:

  • to the Bruce Trail Association toward the purchase of lands at Skinner’s Bluff.
  • to the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies near Wiarton.
  • to the Peregrine Falcon Release Project in Owen Sound.
  • to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) towards the purchase of 200 acres in the Malcolm Kirk Nature Reserve.
  • to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy towards the purchase of lands in Long Swamp.
  • to the NCC the purchase of land near Gillies Lake/Cabot Head.
  • to the NCC towards the purchase of lands in the Northern Bruce Peninsula


We have entered into Stewardship agreements with the NCC to provide ongoing support , monitoring and caretaking of some of the above, and other properties.

And we have established a Conservation Trust Fund with the objective of supporting ongoing conservation activities and acquisitions, and new conservation initiatives of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists in Grey and Bruce Counties.