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.

Freeman Boyd

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

George Freeman Boyd, a long time farmer and vendor at the Owen Sound Farmers Market, passed away unexpectedly in Meaford as a result of a cardiac incident on Thursday June 22, 2017 at the age of 64.

Freeman was a strong proponent of the local food industry. He obtained a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Guelph and was a life long learner. He served as past president of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. He was best known as an outdoorsman, an avid birder and knowledgeable Naturalist.

Freeman was a son of the late Charles Keith Boyd and his wife Eleanor Frances Down.

He is the lovingly remembered husband of 42 years of Marion (nee Janssens) Boyd and the much loved father, “Dad” and “Poppa” of his son Eric Boyd of Toronto, daughter Jennifer and her husband Ryan Dorgelo and their children Blake and Jena of Meaford and Karen and her husband Jordan Cunningham and their son Joel of Orillia. He was a dear brother to sisters Eleanor and her husband Glenn Campbell of Midland and Elizabeth and her husband Don Morley of Elmwood.

Freeman will be recalled fondly by Marion’s family and by his several nieces and nephews and their families.

Cremation has taken place and family will receive friends at the Ferguson Funeral Home in Meaford on Tuesday June 27 from 6 until 8 p.m.

A family service of committal and interment of his ashes will take place at a later date.

If so desired and as your expression of sympathy donations to the Bruce Trail Conservancy would be appreciated and may be made through the Ferguson Funeral Home, 48 Boucher St. E., Meaford, ON N4L 1B9

Freshwater Mussel Field Trip

Saturday, June 17th, 2017
Freshwater Mussel Field Trip
Thursday, July 20, 2017
12:00pm - 3:00PM - All Ages
Saugeen River, Canoe Access Point #4 (map)
Concession Rd 10 west of Elmwood.
Other Info
Join Dr. Todd Morris and some of his students on a freshwater mussel field trip in the Saugeen River. See mussels in their natural environment, learn sampling techniques, ID tips, life history, luring and possibly seining methods for fishes.

To whet your appetite, see this earlier post rounding up a few articles on freshwater mussels.

Limit: 15 people

Time: 12pm-3:00pm

Location: Saugeen River, Canoe access point #4. Concession Rd 10 west of Elmwood.

Bring:Chest waders, hip waders, rubber boots, water shoes. Come prepared to get wet! Snacks and drinking water.

Register with: John Dickson,

Todd Morris

Todd Morris

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Butterfly ID Workshop (Ontario Nature)

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Butterfly ID Workshop Poster

Butterfly ID Workshop (Ontario Nature)
Sunday, July 16, 2017
9:00am - 12pm - All Ages
Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve (map)
Other Info
Learn to identify Ontario's butterflies with expert James Kamstra at the Kinghurst Nature Reserve.

This event is hosted by Ontario Nature, please register in advance at

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Nature Club News, May, 2017

Sunday, May 28th, 2017


by John Dickson

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

April was a very busy month for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. Thankfully the weather was warm and sunny for most of the many outdoor activities.

On April 13, kick-starting two weeks of Earth Day celebrations, Robert Burcher of Meaford, enhanced our knowledge of John Muir, who had spent a couple of years in our environs, botanizing, and exploring, before returning to the USA after the Civil War was over, and where he later was the driving force behind the notion of creating and preserving National Parks there.

One intriguing result of Burcher’s research is the discovery that Muir likely scouted some of the same Niagara Escarpment route that, 100 years later, was followed by Robert Bateman and his friends in establishing what would become the Bruce Trail. OSFN Club members will be invited to join Robert Burcher in September for an in-depth exploration of John Muir’s activities near Meaford.

A find from the Kemble Mountain hike. Submitted by Donna Giesler

A find from the Kemble Mountain hike. (Submitted by Donna Giesler)

On Wednesday April 20, Bob and Marie Knapp led a superb Nature Ramble, skirting a beautiful wetland near Kemble Mountain, where Nature’s diversity was evident. A spectacular section of the Bruce Trail near there featured luxuriously thick blankets of moss on limestone walls, caves and crevices, with snow still in some of them. There was a wide variety of trees, many stone bridges over crevices, and even a garter snake sunning itself along the trail there.

Saturday morning, Earth Day – was sunny and warm for a ramble along the rail trail from Benallen. Birds and butterflies, a beaver,frogs, along with many tree species were there for discovery and learning. Just-opening Spring flowers, plants, and camaraderie were all enjoyed by the thirty or so, who joined the OSFN in celebrating Earth Day, with its motto – Knowing Nature Better.

In the afternoon of April 22, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists hosted a celebration of both Earth Day and Canada 150. Professor of Environmental History Dr. Alan MacEachern’s keynote address, the Dominion of Nature traced some of Canadians attitudes and actions toward the environment from 1867 to 2017. A prolific author and columnist, he had also met with local high school students the day before, to share some of these perspectives on Canada’s environmental history.

Alan MacEachern and Kate McLaren

Alan MacEachern and Kate McLaren. (Submitted by Dennis Knight)

MacEachern explained that he was drawn to this field of study because, early on, he became aware that Nature was often left out of our historical documentation. Later he was able to rescue from disposal, the hand written records from meteorologists, with their extra notes in the margins, and ensured their permanent availability for research, by arranging their deposit in the archives at Western University. His visual displays, which included early and current images from Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the Prairies and Banff, plus the many questions from the audience rounded out the presentation.

OSFN extends sincere gratitude to the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 6 staff and volunteers, for their warm hospitality, and delicious refreshments. Proceeds from this event, which was once more generously sponsored by Caframo, will be directed to OSFN’s Youth Programmes, sponsoring one local high school student to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit, held at Geneva Park in September.

On Saturday April 29, OSFN member and volunteer, Bill Moses led a tour of the Inglis Falls Arboretum, with a group of keen naturalists, who engaged him with plenty of good questions and much discussion. This field trip involved first touring the propagation area, followed by the one kilometre section of native trees and shrubs. and then the “trees of the world” area. Topics discussed included collection of seeds; propagation techniques; tree and shrub identification; the state of our ecosystems; native vs. non-native plants – pros and cons; as well as diseases affecting these trees – Elm, Ash, Beech, Butternut, and American Chestnut.

Bill has also let us know that, this year, if there is enough interest, the Arboretum Alliance will be having weekly Arboretum tours. Time and day of week to be determined. People could bring woody plant material to be identified and so on. To find out more, you may contact Bill Moses at

On the same day, the Directors of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, hosted a meeting of other Naturalist Clubs in our Great Lakes West Region. Representatives were on hand from Stratford, Guelph, Waterloo Region, the Saugeen Club, Goderich area and the Upper Credit River area.

Held in Harrison Park’s Community Hall, the Owen Sound Club provided warm hospitality, while Willy Waterton kept a welcoming fire in the fireplace. These regional meetings, held twice each year, provide an opportunity to network and build friendships with other club members, while learning from each other. In addition to sharing highlights from each club’s recent activities, special delegations were welcomed by Coordinator Lisa Richardson, of Ontario Nature. Popular local naturalist, Beth Anne Currie presented a comprehensive overview of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, and Dan Reilly of Canadian Wildlife Services explained about a new ebird campaign to find and preserve early birding reports to incorporate into the body of data that is currently available. Both presentations prompted insightful questions and discussion. The meeting was capped off with a photography clinic by Willy Waterton and a hike to Weaver’s Creek Falls, before all headed for home. Special thanks go to Audrey Armstrong, in her new role as liaison between Ontario Nature, and OSFN.

Willy Waterton dispensing photography tips before  the hike. (Submitted by Brian Robin)

Willy Waterton dispensing photography tips before the hike. (Submitted by Brian Robin)

Finally thwarted by inclement weather, the Young Naturalists Club postponed their planned April 30 hike to Inglis Falls until May 7, and got to learn about tree species identification, some of the local ferns, along with both red and white Trilliums, elderberry, and wild ginger. They also got to see some waterfowl at Inglis Falls Conservation Area.

Over the next two months the OSFN has many field trips, for learning about – butterflies, grassland birds; freshwater mussels, as well as snakes and reptiles. Please visit for more details. Club memberships can also be purchased online, to carry you all through next season.

Due to a last-minute change in plans for the previously scheduled speaker, the OSFN has had to change the topic and speaker for this Thursday, 7PM on May 11. We are, however, delighted to announce that Walter Muma will share with us his much anticipated presentation “Wildflowers of Ontario”. Walter, recognized as a leading botanist of North America will show us how Ontario is home to a diverse array of wildflowers. Don’t miss this special programme at the Public Library in Owen Sound, as Walter takes us on a journey through the botany that enriches our province, from the rare to the unusual to the common, across many habitats. You will leave with an enhanced appreciation and knowledge of Ontario’s flora.

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.

NCC Snake Surveys on the Bruce

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Are you fascinated by our reptilian neighbours, the snakes?

Want to learn more about their habits and habitats? Well, this might be for you!

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will be conducting two snake surveys on the Bruce this year:

Queensnake survey: May 8th to May 12th and May 15th to May 19th

Massasauga Rattlesnake survey: July 4th to July  7th and  July 10th to July 15th

If you would like to volunteer some time to assist the NCC in their work, they would love to accept your help. To volunteer and to learn more details, please contact directly the NCC Coordinator, Esme Batten at—-   519 373-4620.

Wildflowers of Ontario

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Change of Speaker – our scheduled speaker for our May 11th indoor meeting unfortunately had to cancel. However, we are pleased to announce that Walter Muma will be stepping in with what is sure to be an engaging talk on wildflowers.

WM Smokies

Wildflowers of Ontario
Thursday, May 11, 2017
7:00pm - All Ages
Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library (map)
824 First Avenue West
Owen Sound, ON N4K 4K4
Other Info
Ontario is home to a diverse array of wildflowers. Join Walter Muma as he takes us on a journey through the botany that enriches our province, from the rare to the unusual to the common, across many habitats. You will leave with an enhanced appreciation and knowledge of Ontario’s flora.

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Merle Gunby: A deep love of the natural world.

Sunday, April 9th, 2017


It is with regret that we share the news of club member Merle Gunby’s death. Merle was an honorary member of our club and greatly respected for his involvement with the local naturalist community and his gentle love of the natural world.

In the words of Bill Moses, friend and fellow naturalist:

Merle Gunby passed away on April 2nd.

I would have to say that I am not a person who seeks out and and then works at maintaining close friendships. Yet at my “70th” (orchestrated by my wife Cecilie), during my required “speech”, while pointing out and acknowledging the significant people in my life who had attended, when I came to Merle Gunby I described him as my best friend, which came as a surprise to both of us. I must admit that from that point I did work harder at maintaining that friendship because it was then that I came to realize the value that Merle had held in my life.

I first met Merle when I joined the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. That was in the spring of 2004. Prior to that I had my own little arboretum and propagation area. Taking my passion “public” was good for me and allowed me to make a more lasting contribution to the public good. I must say that this also initiated my personal interest in native woody plants, a fundamental basis of the Arboretum Design Plan prepared for the Arboretum Alliance.

I think that Merle and I hit it off because we were both “ramblers” and we both could learn from each other about our mutual interest in plants – woody plants in particular. Merle’s knowledge extended to a much broader area of flora and fauna than mine did and, on the side, I picked up a lot of from him in those areas as well.

On one typical early ramble, Merle introduced me (on a three or four hour long hike) to the Long Swamp, but Merle had a lot of health problems – the most significant, Parkinson’s Disease. Thus, over the years our rambles were reduced in time and finally just to “backroading” with occasional stops to check out a plant or collect some wild apples (once or twice picked from the car window).

Through my association with Merle, I got to know (or at least come on the radar of) many local naturalists, Blake Smith, Nels Maher and Mac Kirk to name a few.

Merle never turned down an opportunity to take a leadership role. (I was always a backroom boy, secretary, treasurer, IT guy and so on.) Merle’s Honorary Life Member status at OSFN was very important to him as were the many other honours he garnered over the years. All you have to do is to search for Merle Gunby on Google to realize that! Merle’s wife Sheila recognized that importance and with me (and many others) will work hard to make sure that he is remembered going forward.

~Bill Moses

Earth Day Nature Ramble w/ Peter Middleton

Thursday, March 9th, 2017
Earth Day Nature Ramble w/ Peter Middleton
Saturday, April 22, 2017
9:30am - 11:00am. - All Ages
Benallen (map)
Junction of Keppel & Sarawak Rail Trails, with County Road 17
Other Info

Celebrate Earth Day with a Nature Ramble, led by Peter Middleton

9:30 - 11AM Saturday April 22, 2017
Meet at Benallen (Junction of Keppel & Sarawak Rail Trails, with County Road 17)

Everyone Welcome!

Then Continue to Celebrate Earth Day and Canada 150,
with the OSFN Keynote Address - by Dr. Alan MacEachern
The Dominion of Nature: Canadians' Attitudes & Actions toward the Environment, 1867-2017

At the: Royal Canadian Legion
1450 2nd Ave W
Owen Sound
Tickets only $5 at the Ginger Press.
Limited Seating

Generously sponsored by:caframologo

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Spring 2017, President’s Message

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Hart’s Tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium by its Latin name. (How I regret that Latin was removed from my high school curriculum just as I got there.) The Hart’s Tongue Fern is found on limestone formations such as our own Niagara Escarpment but is rare in most of the world. In the early days of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) we adopted this rare fern to be our logo and renowned local artist George McLean created the design. I’m mentioning this in case you’re new to the OSFN. Thirty-one new members joined us for the first time this year and I want to extend a warm welcome to you all! If you have questions or ideas, if you want to be involved in projects or if you have a passion to share with us please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any other OSFN director. We’re a grass roots organization. Pun intended!

Elaine Van Den Kieboom recently agreed to be on the OSFN Board of Directors. She has been very active with the Young Naturalists for several years as well as with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA). She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm: welcome aboard! Elaine collaborates with Krista McKee from GSCA to provide the Young Naturalists program. A big thank you to Krista for her participation and leadership. Parents and siblings of Young Nats often help out with the outdoor activities and they too are appreciated.

On that note, do you have an activity that would be fun for kids? Do you have a young family or know of children between 7 and 12 who’d enjoy being part of these activities? Please get in touch with anyone on the OSFN Board or call Krista at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority office in Owen Sound, 519-376-3076.

A packed house at the January meeting was the perfect opportunity to celebrate someone whose contributions to the OSFN are literally too numerous to count. Peter Middleton was presented with an Honorary Life Membership in the OSFN. Such a well-deserved award for such a vital member of our organization from its inception. Among his many gifts is his passion for nature and how it fuels his capacity for teaching others of any age in any setting. Congratulations Peter!

OSFN director Dennis Knight has been working to collect and itemize the list of projects that OSFN has been an integral part of from our beginning. He has determined which have become obsolete, which remain “status quo” and which require active stewardship. He is seeking volunteers so if he asks you, please say yes!

It was a long slog with government paperwork but our dauntless past-president John Dickson has obtained charitable status for the OSFN! Donations of $20 and over are eligible for a tax receipt. John also made the first donation to the OSFN as an official charity. Thank you John.

After last year’s dry summer, the lovely prolonged autumn, the roller-coaster winter, I wonder what spring will bring? Besides fiddleheads and peepers, blackflies and blossoms…..

Go outside!
Kate McLaren, President