Nature Club News

Nature Club News May 2019

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS May 2019

by John Dickson

On Tuesday April 9, at Grey Roots, Audrey Armstrong delivered two presentations of Monarchs in the Queen’s Bush. Her detailed research and up to date information on these majestic migrants really helped to clarify the timetables and challenges they face, in order to produce butterflies here where we live, who are able to fly successfully to the home of their ancestors from several generations before them. Armstrong also provided support materials for the two audiences, including pamphlets and seed packages of swamp milkweed, the primary food source on which the Monarchs rely to raise their young.


On April 11, Bob Knapp presented Rocks and Rock Formations to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists club, highlighting distinctive rocks with interesting shapes, sizes, patterns and stories, which many in the capacity audience recognized from popular locations along the Niagara Escarpment. I received a message just the other day from someone who is now searching out these special landmarks, while she is hiking, and consequently, Knowing Nature Better, as the OSFN motto encourages.

Bob Knapp’s follow-up, guided hike to visit some of these locations is now scheduled for this Saturday May 4th.

Bob Knapp

Bob Knapp

You can also learn about a new field trip planned for May 8th – Springtime Woodland Stroll – on a naturally diverse property part of which is also adjacent to the Long Swamp, sure to be teeming with Springtime activities.


On Saturday April 20, the Sydenham Sportsmen Association held their annual clean up event in honour of Earth Day, with crews of volunteers heading out from behind City Hall. Some of their members are also working on a project to build Loon nesting platforms for the Rankin Resource Group, with expected installation at Boat Lake and Isaac Lake in time for their use next year.

On the same day, the sold out, fourth annual Celebrate Earth Day presentation aboard the Chi Cheemaun, featured U of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson whose lively story telling and passionate musical renditions really struck a chord with the audience.

Doug Larson. (Supplied Photo)

Doug Larson. (Supplied Photo)

As a bonus, Islay Graham presented the impressive display from her OSFN first prize winning entry in the Bluewater Science and Technology Fair.


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On Saturday morning April 27, the NeighbourWoods North team were busy in the fresh snow, planting replacement trees at the Hospital, in Owen Sound.

You too can join them this Saturday, May 4th, for Nurture the Forest of Hope & Healing, 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. As announced on their web page, throughout May “We will be caring for the trees at the Hospital Forest of Hope and Healing for the next three Saturday mornings. On the last Saturday in May we will be working at Kelso Beach.” Check their events page at https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com/events-1


Bill Moses was extra busy this past weekend hosting a Hike to the Creek for the OSFN Saturday, April 27, where many trees, and flowering shrubs were identified, including the colourful Daphne, and many different Willows, Dogwoods, Hazelnut, Rock Elm, the very thorny Honey Locust, both European Larch and native Tamarack, plus several roses, including Dog Rose, or Rosa canina.

Then, on Sunday, Jody Johnson Pettit reports “The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club had a beautiful hike, April 28th with Bill Moses at the B&C Moses Sunset Bed and Breakfast just outside of Owen Sound. The children compared the needles and cones of the different pine and spruce tree species and looked closely at the various tree buds in the Moses Arboretum. Bill showed the kids how to make paper planting pots and showed off his hut, which is made of wooden pallet walls and covered with dried phragmites stalks for protection. He says it keeps about 90 percent of the rain and snow off the plants inside.

Bill Moses and his bee habitat, made from phragmites (photo by John Dickson)

Bill Moses and his bee habitat, made from phragmites (photo by John Dickson)

The highlight for many was the snapping turtle that was spotted sunning itself during the hike to the creek at the back of the property.”

Snapping Turtle (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

Snapping Turtle (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)


As for birding activities, meanwhile, on the other side of town, Jim Hastie was paddling with three companions on Shallow Lake, and observed that Great Blue Herons were occupying at least ten nests in the Rookery or Heronry there. Throughout April David Turner has been rewarded with terrific sightings in the Flesherton Hills, and in the Beaver Valley, of American Bittern, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, many waterfowl, including on April 28, “seeing the great egret in breeding plumage is VERY encouraging. It’s the first time I’ve seen it since living here.” Many of Turner’s photos of flowers and mammals are also exquisite.

American Goldfinch (photo by David Turner)

American Goldfinch (photo by David Turner)


Kiah Jasper reported seeing his first Piping Plover of the year at Sauble Beach on Tuesday April 30, which is, I think, pretty much right on schedule.

Piping Plover (photo by Kiah Jasper)

Piping Plover (photo by Kiah Jasper)

Then on May 1st, Bruce Edmunds reported “Birding in the rain today with the Bruce Birding Club. Came across this Northern Waterthrush (warbler). Checked the radar. Ran back to the car and got the camera. Was not disappointed.” May 1, 2019, Kincardine, ON


This weekend May 3 to 5, The Sources of Knowledge Forum taking place in Tobermory is intended to demonstrate how research in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park, and the surrounding community contributes to knowledge of the Bruce Peninsula’s natural and human history. To learn more please visit https://www.sourcesofknowledge.ca/

At 7PM Wednesday May 8, the premiere screening of – Resilience: Transforming our Community – A different kind of climate change film – will be held at the Roxy. This uplifting film offers ways to build resilience in ourselves and our community by transforming the way we live. The film’s message, “let’s talk about it,” offers solutions at the individual, community and municipal levels – Doors open at 6PM, and admission is by donation.


The next night, May 9, in the auditorium of the Public Library, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists Members’ Night will feature several varied presentations by club members. Topics will include Fleabanes, wildlife images captured by a trail camera on a Nature Reserve, NeighbourWoods North, A Taste of Belize, Spring Wildflowers, and Islay Graham’s Piping Plover food and habitat display, entitled “Rake, Wrack and Risk”. The evening gets started with refreshments and social time just after 6:30, with the meeting itself getting underway at 7PM. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

To close, a Nature quote from Birgit Stutz and Larry Scanlon, extolling the majesty and beauty of Mount Renshaw and of Mount Robson – “the stunning highpoint of the Canadian Rockies… where climbers who reach its almost four thousand metre summit glory in views that extend one hundred kilometres in every direction, and rave about its vast meadows and many lakes, as well as the glaciers…. that spill into the aquamarine waters of Berg Lake…”

Nature Club News April 2019

Friday, April 12th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS April 2019

by John Dickson

On March 13, Nikki May’s presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) – Prairie Ecosystems – featured intriguing details of the resilience of the root structures of various prairie grasses, and their ability to stay alive underground in spite of drought, floods, foraging by bison, and fire. Some of these grasses have both shallow roots and deep roots to ensure their access to nutrients.

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)


On March 20th, the Bruce Birding club witnessed two to three thousand Tundra Swans, in a staging area near Grand Bend. Here they rest and fuel up to fly across Lake Huron, and across Lake Superior, to Manitoba, eventually arriving at their destination – the tundra. The BBC members also visited Pinery Provincial Park, where the resident Tufted Titmouse population and a few wild turkeys were observed at very close range through the large windows of the Visitor Centre there. Another highlight of the day was the discovery in Kincardine, of a pair of Snow Geese, with a Ross’s Goose (a smaller relative of the Snow Goose) keeping them company, and likely migrating with them. Within a day or two of this outing, David Turner of Flesherton, reported that there were about 25 migrating Tundra Swans along with a selection of other waterfowl, at Lake Eugenia.

American Woodcock, April 1st, Kincardine. Photo by Bruce Edmunds.

American Woodcock, April 1st, Kincardine. Photo by Bruce Edmunds.


On March 24, a full busload of the Owen Sound Young Naturalist Club visited the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, to see and learn about, first hand, the many exotic butterflies on hand there.

An exotic "Ricepaper" butterfly from the conservatory. (File photo/Brian Robin)

An exotic “Ricepaper” butterfly from the conservatory. (File photo/Brian Robin)


One of the Young Naturalists, Kate Burridge-MacDonald also created artwork for a toque, which was voted the winner in a nation-wide contest as the basis for a design that will grace the hats of over 10,000 Junior skiers nation-wide next year! It featured a smiling polar bear, on skis, looking up at a puffin flying by, along with some clouds and snowflakes in the air. Congratulations Kate!


At the Bluewater Science and Technology Fair, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists award was won by Islay Graham, for her Piping Plover Project, demonstrating conclusively their preference for beach habitat with debris and vegetation, which not only provides some much needed shelter from predators, but also encourages the presence of more food for the Piping Plovers to find when they forage in the sand.


NeighbourWoods North is gearing up for its 2019 campaigns of developing and nurturing our urban trees. In a recent communication, with the heading Branch and Root news, they announced “It’s springtime and we’re getting ready for the spring planting and gardening season at the Owen Sound Hospital. Right now it looks like we will be busy tending the Forest of Hope and Healing every Saturday morning in May. Keep updated on these events through our website, or on Facebook, or Twitter.” For more information on how you can help here is the website link https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com/


On Tuesday April 2nd, Bob Knapp presented Rocks and Rock Formations in the Owen Sound Area, to a capacity audience in the theatre at Grey Roots. If you missed that one, Bob is also giving the same presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists at 7PM Thursday April 11, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library.

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On Tuesday April 9, Naturalist Audrey Armstrong will twice present Monarchs in the Queen’s Bush at Grey Roots, at 1PM and again at 2:30PM. For more details please visit https://greyroots.com/

On Thursday April 18, at 7PM, Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation hosts its Earth Film Festival, at the Roxy theatre, featuring Project Wild Thing, and The Messenger. This fund raising event will support projects of the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation. For ticket information please call the Roxy at 519 371 2833.

On Wednesday May 8, at 7PM, the film Resilience: Transforming Our Community created locally, will have its first screening also at the Roxy theatre. Admission is by donation. More information is available at www.resiliencedoc.info

The Celebrate Earth Day event, presented by OSFN, on Saturday April 20, featuring renowned Ecologist and Scientist Doug Larson, aboard the Chi Cheemaun, is almost completely sold out, with only a handful of tickets ($5. each) still available at the Ginger Press. For information about this event or other activities of OSFN please visit www.owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/programs

To close, a Nature quote from Doug Larson and Peter Kelly, referring to the forces responsible for the rocks, trees and ecology of the Niagara Escarpment: “The relentless pressures of human development …may be the most imposing force in the Escarpment’s long history.”

Nature Club News March 2019

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS March 2019

by John Dickson

NATURE CLUB NEWS MARCH 2019

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists and Young Naturalists Club met on February 10, to learn about the Flesherton Hills and the rest of the property behind Grey Highlands Secondary School, all of which was, at one time, part of the Bentham Heritage Farm. In addition to learning about the diverse natural features and species of the property, it was explained that at one time there was oil exploration and drilling taking place there, along with such other locales as Hepworth. The quality of the oil, however was not high enough to justify continued pursuit of an oil industry here.

Springs and ponds in the Flesherton Hills are also the beginning of the Boyne River, which meanders to Hogg’s Falls and to the Beaver River. Nesting ducks, beavers, otters, and mink have been regular inhabitants of the wetland there for decades. Guidance for the day was provided by Richard Bentham, and John Burton.

This sign is a reminder of the good work and partnerships forged in the past to preserve this special habitat. (Photo by John Dickson)

This sign is a reminder of the good work and partnerships forged in the past to preserve this special habitat. (Photo by John Dickson)

This tree displays the many holes created by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in the forest of the Flesherton Hills (Photo by John Dickson)

This tree displays the many holes created by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in the forest of the Flesherton Hills (Photo by John Dickson)


On February 14th, Brian Robin brought his innovative and detailed nature photography to share with the audience at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hall. There were ooh’s and ah’s galore, and a lot of laughs, while folks were still learning about the many “bug” species who were captured by Robin’s camera lens.

Brian Robin keeping his audience enrapt, with the shared learning experience of his observations and his presentation. (photo by John Dickson)

Brian Robin keeping his audience enrapt, with the shared learning experience of his observations and his presentation. (photo by John Dickson)


On February 28th, Leanne Robinson demonstrated how she and her husband and small children travel by canoe in the far north, surviving on what they are able to harvest along the way, supplemented by the little they bring with them. Their son Emile learned to walk on uneven ground and while he was in the canoe, soon was able to recognize rose hips along the shore, and demand that they stop so that he could enjoy this wild food he enjoyed so much.

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On March 2nd, there was a good turn out for Jeff Kinchen’s annual tracking outing, and even with the fresh new snow from that very morning, Kinchen was able to demonstrate how the evidence in the snow, on nibbled saplings and bushes, plus on the tree trunks, told the stories of who made those tracks, and why. Tracks observed included Jack Rabbit, Coyote, Fisher, Skunk, and White-tailed Deer.

This image shows where deer had rested for a while in the snow.

This image shows where deer had rested for a while in the snow.


Members of the Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association (SSA) have recently been inspecting, cleaning out and readying duck nesting boxes for this Spring’s arrival of Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. They have also installed some newly constructed boxes which they have built in preparation for this upcoming season. Sites for this work include Hibou, Bognor Marsh, and the Sydenham River. Jim Hastie reported that all of the boxes at the Bognor Marsh had been occupied since the last inspection. While on site at the Bognor Marsh, we observed several chickadees feeding on the fronds of last year’s cattails there. Cheryl Jobbins also found a pussy willow there which had already opened.

Already opened Pussy Willow, found by Cheryl Jobbins on March 6th at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

Already opened Pussy Willow, found by Cheryl Jobbins on March 6th at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

Newly constructed and installed nesting box for waterfowl (Photo by John Dickson)

Newly constructed and installed nesting box for waterfowl (Photo by John Dickson)

SSA's Jim Hastie, Cheryl Jobbins and Wally Cunningham after having completed a work detail with nesting boxes, at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

SSA’s Jim Hastie, Cheryl Jobbins and Wally Cunningham after having completed a work detail with nesting boxes, at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

On Thursday March 7th, their monthly speaker was Stephanie Nickels of the Grey Bruce Health Unit, with her presentation on Lyme Disease, breaking it down into signs and symptoms, prevalence in our area. She then discussed the tick program at the health unit (personal protection, surveillance program, types of ticks in our area, submission process, etc.).

To learn more about the Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association please visit http://www.sydenhamsportsmen.com/


There have already been some reported sightings of Red-Winged Blackbirds, and of an Eastern Towhee, back to find and claim territories for sharing with mates when they arrive. The Bruce Birding Club is usually out for a day of birding, twice per month, to observe and document the birds that are in our area on those days. More information can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/brucebirdingclub/home

There have also been some owls observed in the area, including the Great Horned Owl, plus both grey and red morph Eastern Screech Owls.

This red morph Eastern Screech Owl was photographed by Cheryl Jobbins

This red morph Eastern Screech Owl was photographed by Cheryl Jobbins

I have been hearing more vocal Cardinals, with Spring on their minds, and many of the willow trees in the area definitely have that extra bright glow that tells me they are getting ready too.


On March 7th the Friends of Hibou invited Bruce Trail and OSFN members to join them in a snowshoe hike along the ice-bound shore and on the woodland trails at Hibou. Conditions were excellent and hike leader Marie Knapp shared some of the history of the property, now owned by Grey Sauble Conservation. We were able to hear several woodpeckers and there was also evidence of recent Beaver activity in the wetlands there.

Frozen shoreline at Hibou - photo by Carol Harris

Frozen shoreline at Hibou – photo by Carol Harris

John Dickson, Marie Knapp and Frank Bouma - photo by Carol Harris

John Dickson, Marie Knapp and Frank Bouma – photo by Carol Harris


Registration is now open for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival in late May and early June at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. This Festival continues to grow and to attract the best guides, on an even wider range of topics. To learn more visit
http://friendsofmacgregor.org/page/huron-fringe-birding-festival


This Thursday March 14, in the Library auditorium, Nikki May, former President of the Saugeen Field Naturalists, will discuss Prairie Ecosystems, speaking about the different kinds of prairie in North America and Ontario in particular, their extent, history and ecology. The talk will feature iconic fauna and flora and their role in the prairie ecology. Learn about species you can grow in your own back yard to attract butterflies and bees.

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Grazing Bison. (photo by Rick May)

Grazing Bison. (photo by Rick May)

To close, a nature quote from Richard Outram, referring to the nature losses occurring around us, “Unless the prevailing misrule is corrected, a heritage loved and inhabited as such, will be gone.”

Nature Club News, February, 2019

Friday, February 8th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS February 2019

by John Dickson

OSFN Celebrates 30 Years
On Thursday January 10, 2019, Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy presented this Certificate of Recognition to Club President Gordon Toth, at the regular Indoor Meeting of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists in the Library Auditorium.

OSFN President Gord Toth and Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy (phot by B. Robin)

OSFN President Gord Toth and Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy (phot by B. Robin)

President Toth got a strong showing of hands from the capacity crowd, when he asked the audience how many were there 30 years before, on Thursday January 5th, 1989, when President Lorraine Brown presided over the Inaugural Indoor Meeting of the Club. During the fall months of 1988, an initial gathering, chaired by Andrew Armitage at the Library, took place to gauge the level of interest in forming a Naturalist Club. With the endorsement of those present, the creation of the club took place – planning, programming and organizing, with help and guidance from members of the already established Saugeen Field Naturalists.

On this occasion 30 years later, (2019) Audrey Armstrong and Willy Waterton gave an informative and entertaining presentation entitled Bruce Trail: 856 kms of Discovery, based on their end to end hike, with references to science, geology and history all along the Niagara Escarpment with a healthy emphasis on our area. (i.e. black bears, rattlesnakes, ferns and a plane crash!).


Young Naturalists Club report by Elaine VanDenKieboom

Our outing on February 2, 2019 had the Young Nat’s snowshoeing in mixed hardwood forest and some conifer plantation, searching for signs of wildlife. The animal tracks that were observed included Snowshoe Hare, Red Fox, Fisher, and American Mink. We were also fortunate to see the resident porcupine resting up in a tree. The conditions were excellent for snowshoeing and we were lucky to have a mild day in the midst of some recent poor weather. Afterwards, gathering around an open fire, the Young Nat’s enjoyed some hot chocolate, and roasted bannock on sticks over the open fire. The conditions of the day made for a great hike, and the kids really seemed to enjoy being out in the woods.


On Monday February 4, NeighbourWoods North chairman Lloyd, and Rhiannon Lewis hosted a dinner and presentation, featuring Toni Ellis, who started and continues to lead the volunteer program called NeighbourWoods, out of Centre Wellington (Elora and area) in 2006 and since its inception, have planted and maintained over 1500 trees in their local communities. The organization runs annual workshops on learning tree skills and educating the public of the critical role trees play in our towns and how we need to foster their continued good health. It was at one of these workshops that Lloyd was introduced to the idea of school yard greening, which he applied to a school where he taught in Guelph. In addition, the organization does a great job collecting tree data, which is used to map the town species and monitor their health.

I was delighted to finally meet Toni, as I had heard about her from Lloyd, when he first approached the Owen Sound Field Naturalists to see if NeighbourWoods North might be a good fit for working together. Guests at the dinner found Toni’s infectious enthusiasm, and love of Nature, to be key factors for Lloyd’s inspiration, upon moving here to form Owen Sound’s NeighbourWoods North organization. Watch for more news about NeighbourWoods North’s upcoming projects in this column.


This entire 2018-19 OSFN season, we are celebrating 30 years of what our motto says – Knowing Nature Better.

One highlight is the Celebrate Earth Day event with Doug Larson’s Songs and Stories of Nature and Ecology. University of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson was the club’s first guest speaker, in January of 1989. This year he returns on Saturday April 20, 2019, at 2PM, aboard the MS Chi Cheemaun, berthed in Owen Sound harbour, with songs and stories of nature and ecology. In recent years he has also been crafting his own guitars, and these instruments also have tales to tell, some of which are outlined in his book The Storyteller Guitar.

Tickets (only $5 each) are now on sale for this 4th Annual Celebrate Earth Day event and are available at Ginger Press, Owen Sound Farmers Market (Saturdays, from Sheila Gunby), OSTC Springmount office, and at OSFN meetings – (Jan 10, Feb 14, Feb 26, March 14). Once again this event is sponsored by Caframo, and is hosted by Owen Sound Transportation. All proceeds are directed to OSFN youth projects. Don’t miss out – tickets continue to sell quickly.


This Sunday February 10, from 1PM to 3:30PM, the OSFN Club and Young Naturalists will be on a field trip snowshoeing to the Flesherton Hills and the Bentham Heritage Farm, starting from Grey Highlands Secondary School. This outing will be led by Richard Bentham, whose property received high praise from legendary naturalist Mark Kressman, and by John Burton, former teacher at the school, known for leading many outdoor activities and expeditions, with his students there.


Coming up soon, on February 14, OSFN Board Director, and member of the Owen Sound Camera Club, Brian Robin, will present Nature Photography – Armed with a camera, a desire to learn, and the ability to enjoy the underappreciated, Brian will take you on a lighthearted photographic tour of his favourite nature observations. This is not one to miss, as Brian’s enthusiasm and sense of fun, along with the quality of his images and intriguing approach to both Nature and photography are indicative of his engaging personality, and his artistic flair.

Because the Library is undergoing some renovations, this meeting will be held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 856 1st Avenue West, and we are encouraging folks to arrive by 6:45 if possible. Admission is by donation.


Of special note is a bonus presentation on Tuesday February 26, also at St. Andrew’s, with admission by donation and proceeds going to OSFN Youth Projects. There will be an even earlier start time of 6:30PM, as some parents may wish to attend with their “little ones” to see and hear –
Travelling by canoe with little ones by Leanne Robinson and
Harvesting food from the land by Dwayne Wohlgemuth

Owen Sound native, Leanne, and her spouse Dwayne and their family live in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. They seek to harvest food from the land, pack less food, and take the routes less traveled. They live a life that allows them to get out for long summer canoeing adventures, enabling their two children to have nature nurture them. At the age of 1, Emile learned to walk over uneven ground, identify and pick berries and feel at home in the wilderness on a 2 month canoe journey in the Northwest Territories.

Leanne Robinson hopped in a canoe early with her family in Owen Sound ON but didn’t really get into canoe travelling until she moved to Yellowknife, NT, where her love of canoeing was fostered by the uncountable lakes and rivers of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Her spouse, Dwayne Wohlgemuth chooses not to buy food for their family but relies on what nature provides and what society discards. They now have two little ones, both of whom were taken on multi-day canoe trips before the age of two months, they are dreaming of how and where they will teach their second child, Aleksi, to walk.Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto, the previous weekend, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto on the previous weekend, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

Leanne canoeing (photo by Brian Kinzie)

Leanne canoeing (photo by Brian Kinzie)

Leanne Robinson hopped in a canoe early with her family in Owen Sound ON but didn’t really get into canoe travelling until she moved to Yellowknife, NT, where her love of canoeing was fostered by the uncountable lakes and rivers of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Her spouse, Dwayne Wohlgemuth chooses not to buy food for their family but relies on what nature provides and what society discards. They now have two little ones, both of whom were taken on multi-day canoe trips before the age of two months, they are dreaming of how and where they will teach their second child, Aleksi, to walk.

Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto on the previous Saturday, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

This may be especially interesting for parents who have their children in cubs, scouts, guides, as well as the Forest School, etc.

 


To close, a Nature quote from Winchell Price, (1907-2003) once known as the Painter of the Bruce – “Winter created a breathless beauty, as all hummocks, dells, knolls and recessions are covered in deep snow, which on a clear cold day had lots of long blue shadows cast on the ground. Many a time I spent painting out in the snow, in the bushland,”

Nature Club News, January, 2019

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS January 2019

by John Dickson

 

The December 13 Indoor Meeting of Owen Sound Field Naturalists was very well attended, for John Reaume’s  Spiders of Eastern North America. He featured many of his own superb photographic images along with detailed and entertaining commentary.

Coincidentally, the Royal Ontario Museum has a current exhibition entitled Spiders – Fear and Fascination, still on display but closing January 6.   For more information please visit –  https://www.rom.on.ca/en/spiders

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club have a planned outing to the Bognor Marsh on January 20, for snowshoeing, nature sightings, and even some hot chocolate with bannock.

Mmmmmmm Bannock. (Photo by Brian)

Mmmmmmm Bannock. (Photo by Brian)

This entire 2018-19 OSFN season, we are celebrating 30 years of what our motto says – Knowing Nature Better.

One highlight is the Celebrate Earth Day event with Doug Larson’s Songs and Stories of Nature and Ecology. University of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson was the club’s first guest speaker, in January of 1989. This year he returns on Saturday April 20, 2019, at 2PM, aboard the MS Chi Cheemaun, berthed in Owen Sound harbour, with songs and stories of nature and ecology. In recent years he has also been crafting his own guitars, and these instruments also have tales to tell, some of which are outlined in his book The Storyteller Guitar.

Tickets  (only $5 each)  are now on sale for this 4th Annual Celebrate Earth Day event and are available at Ginger Press, Owen Sound Farmers Market (Saturdays, from Sheila Gunby), OSTC Springmount office, and at OSFN meetings – (Jan 10, Feb 14, March 14). Once again this event is sponsored by Caframo, and is hosted by Owen Sound Transportation. All proceeds are directed to OSFN youth projects. Don’t miss out – tickets are already selling fast.

On Thursday January 10, the OSFN kicks off 2019, with – Bruce Trail: 856 kms of Discovery – featuring Audrey Armstrong and Willy Waterton whose presentation is “based on our end to end hike, with references to science, geology and history all along the Niagara Escarpment with a healthy emphasis on our area. (i.e. black bears, rattlesnakes, ferns and a plane crash!).” The meeting begins at 7PM, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

(In addition, Waterton’s evocative photography can also be seen at the Roxy Theatre until January 13, and at a new show at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, opening January 11th – SALT OF THE EARTH: PEOPLE OF GREY & BRUCE COUNTIES.”)

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Details about all OSFN programmes, Young Naturalists, online membership and donations can be found at www.osfn.ca

Apropos to the season here are a couple of Nature quotes from Knud Rasmussen – “the moon shimmered in the ice crystals, and the trembling arc of northern lights played over the edge of the wood…” and, since we have just received a fresh blanket of new snow here in Grey Bruce overnight, Rasmussen, in Northern Canada, in 1923 also writes ” a glittering carpet of innumerable tiny crystals;  and across it moved the caribou in their hundreds.” 

In recent weeks, Christmas Bird Counts took place in our area and many OSFN members were helping out with these surveys. Here are  excerpts from some of the compilers’ reports:

Owen Sound – December 15 – Compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom reported that although some numbers were down, good sightings included a red morph Eastern Screech Owl, and a Northern Goshawk, along with 14 brown-headed cowbirds, 30 Bohemian waxwings, a Northern shrike, a snowy owl, a Northern flicker, house and purple finches, pine grosbeaks and redpolls.

I was with a team in Harrison Park just after 7AM where we counted an amazing 600 or so mallard ducks arriving steadily in small groups for about 40 minutes, from wherever they had spent the night. I was also fortunate to see a single Bald Eagle, circling high above the Jubilee bridge around midday.

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Hanover – Walkerton   Compiler Gerard McNaughton 

The Hanover-Walkerton CBC took place under excellent conditions on Saturday Dec 15, 2018.  There was very little wind which meant birds were easy to detect by call, and once the early fog lifted birds were easy to spot but not concentrated at feeders as in the past few years.
Overall 53 species were detected on the count day itself with 1 additional species found during count week bringing the total to 54 which ties the highest total recorded (2004, 2007, 2012, 2016).

1 species set new high count record       Red–breasted Nuthatch 45 birds (43 in 1999)

3 species tied high counts records          Belted Kingfisher (4 in 1998, 1999), Red-bellied Woodpecker (11 in 2016) and White-throated Sparrow (3 in 1983)

Winter Finches seen included                  Pine Grosbeak (1), Common Redpoll (181), Evening Grosbeak (8)

3 Owl species were recorded                  Eastern Screech Owl (12), Great Horned Owl (1) and Snowy Owl (2)

1 meadowlark species was recorded just outside Walkerton, feeding in a wet grassy area with Starlings (not recorded since 1978)

Notable misses included Wild Turkey not seen on count day but were seen during count week.

Total number of birds seen 6509.
Next Count will take place on Saturday Dec 14, 2019

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Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon (Anthony Chegahno), co-compilers report that the eighth annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 15, on the beautiful Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula.

Count weather was spectacular, with sunny skies, light winds, and pleasant temperatures ranging from -3.5C during pre-dawn owling to +3.5C in the afternoon. The waters of Georgian Bay and streams were open, but non-flowing inland waters were generally ice-covered. Fifteen cheerful participants of varying ages and skill-levels tallied a total of 39 species, which is about average for the count. The 1,025 individual birds tallied was considerably higher than the average of 824. Highlights included only the count’s second Redhead and third Common Grackle. No new taxa definable to species were documented, but a very interesting find was a Brewer’s/Rusty Blackbird, which was well-described, but with not quite enough detail to conclusively settle on one species or the other. All-time high counts were tallied for seven species: Bufflehead (68, previous 39, average 21), Ruffed Grouse (25, previous high 9, average 4.2), Horned Grebe (10, previous 8, average 2.1), Barred Owl (2, previous 1, only the second count record), Great Horned Owl (3, equaling previous high, average 1), Hairy Woodpecker (9, previous 8, average 3.1), Pileated Woodpecker (5, previous 3, average 1.2) and Brown Creeper (4, previous 2, average 0.8). The only regularly occurring species for which a low count was recorded was Blue Jay (8, previous 15, average 32.2). This was the first Neyaashiinigmiing CBC with no American Tree Sparrows. House Sparrows have now been absent for five years, down steadily from the 45 individuals reported in 2011. Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation for hosting this very special birding event, and the always delicious breakfast and dinner feast.

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Wiarton CBC Jarmo Jalava compiler The 45th (not quite annual) Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 16. Count weather was spectacular, sunny and mild, with little to no wind. Temperatures rose from -1 in the early morning to +5C in the afternoon. The waters of Georgian Bay were open, as were creeks and rivers, but most inland waterbodies were frozen, and the shallows of more sheltered bays of Lake Huron had a thin layer of ice. Twenty-seven enthusiastic participants and three feeder watchers tallied 63 species, tying the all-time high set in 1997, and well above the 45-year average of 48.7 species, and the 10-year average of 52.8. The 4,793 individuals counted was also well above the 45-year (3,436) and 10-year (4,417) averages. One new species for the count was found, Barred Owl. It was heard within the circle shortly after the round-up dinner. Barred Owls are uncommon but widespread residents on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, so it’s a bit surprising it’s taken almost half a century for one to be found on the Wiarton CBC. The bird-of-the-count prize (again) this year has to go to a hardy Winter Wren. Wiarton Winnie? Prior to 2016 there had been but two Winter Wren observations since 1971. Presumably the same individual has now been found at the exact same location for the third year in a row! Other notables included Gadwall (3rd count), Glaucous Gull (5th count), Golden Eagle (2nd count) and White-throated Sparrow (8th count). A presumed “Great Lakes Gull” (Herring X Great Black-backed hybrid), which would be a first for the count, was also found and photographed. Winter finches, most of which have been absent for several years, were represented in low numbers but good diversity, with 27 Pine Siskins, 19 Evening Grosbeaks, 6 Purple Finches, 4 Common Redpolls and 3 Pine Grosbeaks. All-time highs were tallied for Mute Swan (16, previous 13), Bald Eagle (21, previous 17), Red-bellied Woodpecker (9, previous 7) and Common Raven (86, previous 81). Second highest-ever counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (65, all-time 71), Red-breasted Nuthatch (52, all-time 54), Brown Creeper (7, all-time 11). No regularly occurring species had record low counts, and there were no notable misses. Thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable day! Jarmo Jalava

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Michael Butler & Tricia Stinnissen (co-compilers) for the 46th Tobermory Christmas Bird Count.

Date: December 19th, 2018.

A record high number of participants (56) enjoyed exceptionally mild weather and the usual fine camaraderie. Recent thaws had left very little snow cover allowing for excellent access to the backcountry. Indeed, 13 parties logged a remarkable 103 km (61.5 hours) on foot . Despite the increased coverage of the circle area, most parties reported that birds were scarce and feeders were poorly attended.

Total species: 44 (average=40).

Total individuals: 1243 (average=1637).

NEW SPECIES: 

  • Trumpeter Swan: 1. Karen Connoy photographed a young swan in Eagle Harbour which, after much consultation, was identified to this species. In the frame of one of her swan photos was a Mallard which proved to be the only one encountered on count day  – all waterfowl were scarce.

HIGHS:

  • Bohemian Waxwing: 144. This count is just shy of 1999’s record high of 148.
  • Chipping Sparrow: 1. Only the second record for the count (the first was in 2015).
  • Evening Grosbeak: 104. Only the second occurrence since 2001.

LOWS:

  • Red-breasted Nuthatch: 14 (average=41), down from last year’s record high of 155.
  • Blue Jay: 4 (average=41). This is the lowest number tallied since 1975.
  • Snow Bunting: 1 (average=33).

MISSES:

  • European Starling:  This is only the second time the species went undetected on count day (average=27).

ADDITIONAL COUNT WEEK SPECIES:

  • European Starling.
  • Swamp Sparrow (2nd record for count period).

Lost and Found: Someone left a black, zippered Mountain Equipment Co-op jacked at the Visitor’s Centre. Email me if it’s yours.

Much gratitude: Many thanks to all who participated in the count or helped out with preparation and clean-up of the delicious breakfast and dinner. Thanks as well to Bill and Judy Caulfeild-Browne for hosting a cozy and tasty pre-count gathering on Tuesday.

47th Tobermory Christmas Bird Count: WednesdayDecember 18, 2019.

 

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Meaford CBC – Lynne Richardson, Compiler 

The 48th annual Meaford CBC was held December 28th in balmy, snowless conditions thanks to a spring-in-December day with temperatures rising to +12; no wind, a bit of sun in the afternoon. Georgian Bay was completely open with no ice-edge and most other water bodies were partially open with barely a skim of ice on still areas.

21 count participants found 55 species, continuing the trend of the past 10 years of totaling over 50 species in the Meaford circle, up from the average of 46 over the previous 30+ years of the count. 55 species ranks 4th highest in the all time totals.

Total individuals was about on average at 3534 birds.

No new species were recorded leaving the cumulative total at 120 species.

Interesting sightings included 14 Brown Creepers foraging together which contributed to a new high for this species, and the only new high for the count.  A tie for high was made by Horned Grebe at 9. Two American Tree Sparrows were a somewhat unusual low. Missing were the Golden Eagle(s) of the past 6 counts.

A Carolina Wren was a count 2nd; 1 Northern Pintail was the count’s 4th ever, and Evening and Pine Grosbeaks put in an appearance for only the 3rd times in the past 14 years.

Thanks to the dedicated participants who so diligently covered the count areas!

Bohemian Waxwings on a wire (Photo by Lynne Richardson)

Bohemian Waxwings on a wire (Photo by Lynne Richardson)

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The results from this year’s Pike Bay, (December 29) and Cape Chin (December 30),  Counts are as follows…

Andrew Keaveney, Compiler 

Pike Bay: 17 participants, 39 species + 6 ‘Count Week’ species; most numerous species were Snow Bunting (700), Black-capped Chickadee (261) and Common Redpoll (217); New to the count were Mute Swan (2 at Pike Bay), White-winged Crossbill (1) and Horned Lark (count week). Birds of interest were Hoary Redpoll (1), Pine Grosbeak (6) and White-throated Sparrow (1) at a feeder in Howdenvale. Absent on Count Day were Pileated Woodpecker and Brown Creeper, always difficult to find in the winter months. Count Week produced a flock of over 2000 Snow Buntings and several Lapland Longspurs.

Andrew Keaveney, Compiler 

Cape Chin: 20 participants, 36 species + 3 ‘Count Week’ species; most numerous species were European Starling (327), Black-capped Chickadee (277) and Common Redpoll (171). Appearing for the first time in many winters, 111 Evening Grosbeaks were recorded at a few feeders and they always travel in crowds. One group was even photographed feeding naturally on sumac. The only new species recorded was an immature Northern Goshawk in the Dyer’s Bay area during Count Week. Perhaps the most talked about bird was a Belted Kingfisher found along an open creek by three separate groups, much to their surprise. Another Hoary Redpoll was carefully picked out of a group of more than 100 Common Redpolls and Dyer’s Bay once again produced an excellent number of winter grebes with Horned (25) and Red-necked (12), despite waterfowl being extremely scarce across most counts in the region this winter.

At least 3 Snowy Owls have been present in the count circle areas but only 1 was recorded on the weekend, during Count Day.

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Saugeen Shores CBC  Norah Toth, Compiler, 

reports that fifty-five species were recorded by 24 citizen scientists during the Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count which was held on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.  This is an average number of species for the count.  The number of individual birds was slightly above the average at 6441.  The fact that Lake Huron remains open and that there is not a lot of snow cover will have contributed to an all time high for the number of Canada Geese seen throughout the day.  The volunteers found the temperatures cold and crisp with clear skies in the morning and snow flurries in the afternoon.

Common Raven vs Snowy Owl (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Common Raven vs Snowy Owl (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Hermit Thrush (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Hermit Thrush (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Northern Shrike (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Northern Shrike (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)


Nature Club News, December, 2018

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS December 2018

by John Dickson


Fred Jazvac (Photo courtesy of Jim Punnet).

Fred Jazvac (Photo courtesy of Jim Punnet).

On Sunday November 4th, on a cool but mostly sunny day, and Fred Jazvac felt that it was perhaps the largest turnout (almost 40 birders, including some from the Bruce Birding Club) in his more than ten years of leading Around the Bay with Fred – Waterfowl ID: Tips and Techniques. And, coincidentally, almost 40 different species were observed and noted during the four to five hours of this annual outing of the Owen sound Field Naturalists. Highlights included 48 Greater White-Fronted Geese, at Leith, and a rare sighting of a Red Phalarope at the East Side Boat Launch plus about 20 various species that are found near water, along with a Bald Eagle and a few songbirds. Having announced that this would be the final time he would lead this event, Fred was given a rousing cheer, and a round of applause, in appreciation.

Scanning for birds. (Photo by John Dickson)

Scanning for birds. (Photo by John Dickson)


On November 8th, in the auditorium of the Public Library, Susan McGowan, Forest Health Technical Specialist for the Midhurst – Aurora Districts, enlightened the audience on her role, in monitoring forests, and reporting her findings on the relative health of trees, including ones threatened by disease, or insect infestations. She shared details of wooded areas right here in Grey Bruce, and farther afield, with details about Beech, Elm, Ash, Spruce, Oak, as well as the cyclical activities of the Forest Tent Caterpillars. There were many questions afterwards, and McGowan invited folks to report cases where healthy specimens are thriving, and could have greater disease resistance, possibly through genetics, and potentially providing a good source of future seedlings. Visit the OSFN website for her contact information as well as a list of online resources related to her talk.

Gypsy Moth Pupa, an invasive defoliator. (Photo by Brian robin)

Gypsy Moth Pupa, an invasive defoliator. (Photo by Brian robin)


On November 25, Brian Robin led the Young Naturalists Club on a field trip at Kinghurst Nature Reserve. His main focus was to show and share information about winter survival for many of the local fauna. Bird nests, Beaver lodges, cavities in trees – all of these were there to be discovered. Robin also brought with him and showed samples of butterfly cocoons, and even a wintering home of a Praying Mantis. Later he pointed out a vernal pool in the middle of forest, where amphibians may be able to find some mud, and where many critters even have a type of anti-freeze component in their bodies. The members of the Young Naturalists Club had many engaging questions questions answered and as one parent, Yulia Belov, reported –
“Thank you so much for the great hike today at Kinghurst! My family and I really enjoyed it! We found it very informative and interesting.”

Cecropia moths spend their winters as pupa tucked inside papery cocoons attached to tree branches. (Photo by Brian Robin)

Cecropia moths spend their winters as pupa tucked inside papery cocoons attached to tree branches. (Photo by Brian Robin)


In the month ahead many members of the OSFN, will be engaged in the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Held every year between December 14th and January 5th, the Christmas Bird Count is one of the the largest citizen science projects.

If you would like to join one of the counts in Grey or Bruce counties, the contact information and dates of the 2018 counts are listed on the OSFN website. If you are outside the area, or would like more general information about the project, head to the Bird Studies Canada Website.


On Thursday December 13, John Reaume, an accomplished wildlife photographer, naturalist, and physician, will present Spiders of Eastern North America. A popular speaker, Reaume states -“Spiders have a bad reputation but in reality these fascinating creatures are very valuable to us and have an amazing life history. Understanding more about spiders will make you appreciate them more – its true!”

John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

The meeting begins at 7PM, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

To close, a couple of nature quotes from our good friend Jake Doherty, recently deceased -“Was it a quick flurry of blowing snow, like a looming northern mirage, or was it perhaps something more primordial, left behind from an earlier time in the ancient forests?” ; “The wind picked up, and a single yellowed, withered leaf twisted, then tumbled to the ground … in the fading autumn -“

Nature Club News, November, 2018

Monday, November 5th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS November 2018

by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club has been been bustling along this past month – Bill Moses led a well-attended session of All Things Woody, demonstrating tree identification and seed collecting at the Inglis Falls Arboretum, on October 8.


On October 11, Jenna McGuire gave an illuminating talk about Metis culture in Grey and Bruce. She shared the history of the Metis people in Grey and Bruce, and in the Southampton area particularly, relating to the fur trade and the fishing occupations. She also brought with her many samples of as well as historical photos and documents, plus basketry and clothing, as well as her delicious home made bannock to share at snack time.

Some of Jenna's baskets and historical photos. (Photo by John Dickson)

Some of Jenna’s baskets and historical photos. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bob Gray, while thanking our speaker, also spoke for many in the area, who have been mostly unaware of the Metis presence and activities here in the past two centuries.

Bob Gray thanking Jenna. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bob Gray thanking Jenna. (Photo by John Dickson)


On Saturday October 13 Bob Knapp reprised his popular Marshall Woods Old Growth Forest Hike, exploring the trails along the Rocklyn Creek, near Walter’s Falls. Highlights included a visit with what may be the largest and oldest Eastern White Cedar tree in Ontario. Large, old Yellow Birch trees are also in good numbers there.


On Sunday October 21 Ron Gatis led a tour of trails on his property above (overlooking) Colpoys Bay. OSFN member Lynda Chiotti reported –

Members of Owen Sound Field Naturalists enjoyed a guided walk by Ron Gatis recently on his property at the north end of the village of Colpoy’s Bay. As we proceeded from the fields, still farmed for hay, into the forest, Ron described his family history in the area, dating back to the 1800s. In the forest are trails groomed for cross-country skiing and several side trails and the main Bruce Trail, edging the northern side of Colpoy’s Bay itself. With Jan Pugsley, I took the Whicher Side Trail, which rewarded us with a bounty of tiny late season mushrooms and ferns.

Our thanks to Ron for his generosity!


Throughout October, NeighbourWoods North planned 5 work sessions with volunteers to complete the Hospital Forest Project and to work on the final stages of the “Build a Forest” project, which entailed the planting of over 3000 trees. A cairn marking this historic development was unveiled on October 27th and appreciation was expressed to the group, as the volunteers put some of the finishing touches on this major undertaking, planting, mulching, wrapping and staking trees on the hospital property.

(Photo by John Dickson)

(Photo by John Dickson)


In the afternoon of October 27, the Young Naturalists Club members were given an educational tour of Keppelcroft, by Bill Loney. Highlights included discreetly placed bird nests near the centre of small trees, and the opportunity for youngsters to take home some huge Sycamore leaves as souvenirs. Several varieties of Oak trees are on the site, as well as Beech, Tamarack, Black Cherry, and the heritage apple and crab apple trees from the earliest dwellers on the property. Bill’s engaging personality and efforts to showcase interesting natural features, as well as planting interesting groups of trees as well as other plants and flowers, had the kids full of questions and answers. Loney also makes an effort to commemorate those who have left their mark in the community, with poetry by Archie Campbell, and a Nature trail named after naturalist Norm Fidler.

View from Keppel Croft. (Photo by John Dickson)

View from Keppel Croft. (Photo by John Dickson)


Coming up at 7PM on November 8, the area forest health technician Sue McGowan, of the MNRF, will share the latest information about the forest health conditions in Ontario. Regular monthly Indoor Meetings take place at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Library auditorium. Admission is free, although donations are welcome, including charitable donations for such club activities, as LEAF (Local, Educational, Action Fund), LBCF Lorraine Brown Conservation Fund primarily for Nature Reserve properties, and NWN – NeighbourWoods North operations.

Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Membership and donation details can be obtained in person at the meeting or by visiting www.osfn.ca and the facebook page.


Birders have been reporting an influx of Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and already a Snowy Owl, along with Juncos, and even Crossbills, migrating into our area.

Those wishing to support the work of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory can do so by attending the annual fund-raising dinner Saturday November 17, at Stone Tree, with special guest speaker and author, Professor Bridget Stutchbury. Ticket information is available at http://bpbo.ca/events/annual-fundraising-dinner


To close, I would like to leave you with the poetic “Reflections from Hibou” (by Carol L. Harris and Marie Knapp) that appear on the October page of the Friends of Hibou 2018 calendar. The thoughts expressed herein also apply to the many hikes and bike rides and runs through the bounteous leaves on the forest floor, which I especially enjoy at this time of year. “SHUFFLE THROUGH AUTUMN LEAVES. LISTEN TO THE WIND. FEEL YOUR SENSES AWAKEN.”

Nature Club News, October, 2018

Monday, November 5th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS October 2018

by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists got started this season with a flurry of field trips around the first week of September. Picking up from where we left off in last month’s column, Marg Gaviller led a half a dozen OSFN members on a tour of her property near Irish Lake. This property had a history of farming, and some reforestation. As Dan Ostler comments –

Thursday, September 5 turned out to be the perfect day for the scheduled ramble of Marg Gaviller’s Irish Lake Property. The 100 acre farm had been purchased by her father in 1972, complete with an existing house and possibly a barn. About half the property was planted in white pine in 1973 as a managed forest under the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. This area has now matured with the canopy shielding the ground to the extent that the forest floor is covered solely by a deep cushion of pine needles, a joy to hike through. Mother Nature has her own plans for this property, and there is little left of human endeavours apart from some foundations and oddly incongruous stone fences snaking through the forest floor. The land is now the home to a number of micro ecologies ranging from swamp to cedar to hardwood forest, and it invites the patient eye to unravel the subtleties of this new, more enduring plan for the site. Fittingly, the Irish Lake Property has now become part of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. Our thanks to Marg for an enjoyable afternoon’s ramble.


On Saturday September 8, Jenna McGuire led an outing entitled Metis Plant Use, on the Lindsay Tract Trails, demonstrating first hand the Metis perspective with regard to roots, medicinal, dye and fibre plants, plus the indigenous outlook on plant ecology. As Bob Gray reports –

Jenna McGuire demonstrating properties and uses of ferns. (Photo by John Dickson)

Jenna McGuire demonstrating properties and uses of ferns. (Photo by John Dickson)

I really enjoyed Jenna’s hike last Saturday. I knew virtually nothing of local Metis history and culture, so everything was all new information for me. I had no idea that Saugeen Metis were fisherman and traders in furs after the fur trade ended by sailing vessels from the mouth of the Saugeen River to the North Shore of Lake Huron. And that a Metis house (Aunt Annie’s) in Southampton is still standing to this day, dating from the 1850s. Looking forward to visiting it and learning more some time. Jenna’s demonstration of how cordage is made was amazing, as was her hand weaving.

I too was very impressed by the quick and effective creation of what Jenna called cordage – as in ropes or strings to tie objects, or to weave into more complex utensils. Discovering the fragrance of sweetgrass, was also a new and special experience for me. The hike on the trails there also offered a great diversity of interesting items and topics, including puff balls, and Beech trees covered by old marks made by the claws of black bears climbing to harvest the Beech nuts.


On Thursday, September 13, the OSFN’s first club meeting, featured a welcome by incoming President Gord Toth. A regular feature of these meetings is “sightings”, when those present report interesting nature observations they have made. On this occasion we heard about giant puffballs, and baby squirrels, along with butterflies, and rare bird sightings for our area.

The featured speaker Bruce Mackenzie, an award winning, and much respected naturalist – a recent appointee to the Niagara Escarpment Commission – shared his own recent introduction to Bon Echo Provincial Park, where he discovered surprising evidence of birds occupying the upper reaches of the iconic cliff face at Lake Mazinaw. These birds included Barn Swallows, building nests into suitable crevices, and a Peregrine Falcon family thriving in the cliff environment where Blue Jays formed at least one part of the diet there. Mackenzie’s enthusiasm for his own learning and discovery at Bon Echo, was complemented by his superb photos of details far away, up on the cliff. His observations then became stories with intriguing questions and exciting answers. By coincidence, the Trailblazers exhibition currently at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery includes a painting by Charles Comfort of the cliff face at Bon Echo. The exhibit continues until November 10.


On Sunday September 23, Bob Gray led a Geomorphology hike in the Robson Lakes area, which included a glacial moraine with deep kettles and kettle lakes. This hike brought many club members (17) out in excellent weather, to learn about this unique area, from one of OSFN’s favourite presenters.

Some of the 17 participants at the Robson Lake outing. (Photo by Bob Gray)

Some of the 17 participants at the Robson Lake outing. (Photo by Bob Gray)

This field trip coincided with the first gathering of the Young Naturalists Club, at the Grey Sauble Conservation headquarters. Club members learned about different types of bird nests and were given some birding tips by Lynne Richardson and Norah Toth, before heading out to observe the evidence of nesting this past season, in the bluebird boxes on the GSCA property there, under the supervision of club coordinator Elaine van den Kieboom.

On Thursday October 4th John Burton led a tour of the Hogg’s Falls area, which inspired Eileen O’Connor to write:

John Burton’s tour of the Hogg’s Falls area.
We were so fortunate to have the first good day of weather in a while: sunny, blue skies, breezy especially as it was the first visit to these trails for most of us. John gave detailed information about new signage in the area, new boardwalks and bridges that are planned and had photos of hundreds of bags of garlic mustard that he and students had cleared last spring. More volunteers will be needed for the huge patches they didn’t get to. By the way, it is possible to make pesto with garlic mustard leaves but maybe not on that scale! There are magnificent tall maple, cherry, hemlock, pine and other trees in this area all looking like a Tom Thomson painting at this time of year. Though nobody was an expert botanist, we did our best to identify many spring wildflowers well past their season and we did identify beautiful groupings of maidenhair fern, bracken and sensitive fern among those many other look-alike ferns.
The braver souls scaled down to the base of the falls, our final destination, on the Boyne River.

John Burton giving history of area here by the Boyne River. (Photo by John Dickson)

John Burton giving history of area here by the Boyne River. (Photo by John Dickson)

Hogg's Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)

Hogg’s Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)

Beautiful curling tresses on a Yellow Birch near Hogg's Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)

Beautiful curling tresses on a Yellow Birch near Hogg’s Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bill Moses is hosting a learning session about Woody Plants on Monday October 8, at the Inglis Falls Arboretum. Bill is always keen to help others learn about tree identification and characteristics, as well as getting more native trees planted.


Jenna Maguire will also be the featured speaker at 7PM on Thursday October 11 for the regular club meeting at the public library in Owen Sound. She will be sharing some of the cultural history of the Historic Saugeen Metis, with its important roles in the local fur trade, maritime heritage, and the local communities of this area. Everyone is welcome, admission is free, although donations are welcome. For more details on Owen Sound Field Naturalist programmes and field trips, membership information, and the Young Naturalists club, please visit www.osfn.ca, and on facebook.

To close, a Nature quote from this day, October 4th, 1924 by Thoreau MacDonald – “Leaves now turning. It wouldn’t do to think more of art than nature, for it is a kind of substitute only…. We want not those pictures which look most like nature, but those which remind us most of her.”

Nature Club News, September, 2018

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS September 2018

by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club is off to a busy start for the 2018-19 season.

On August 31st, OSFN members joined in with the Community Tagging Day hosted by the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores. OSFN Director Brian Robin reports that the monarchs were on hand in abundance for the event, and flying everywhere. “Over three dozen were tagged on the tagging day, and I understand BGOSS has tagged over 600 to date. More than 80 people turned out for tagging day, and we spoke to many passers-by about what we were doing and about monarchs in general. Many kids were able to tag and release a butterfly for their first time, so that’s always cool. In addition, one 5th instar monarch caterpillar was found at Perkins Park and a lone White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, was flying around trying to look inconspicuous. There is another tagging day scheduled for Sept. 8, 10am-12noon.”

OSFN President Gord Toth was also on hand to witness and participate in this very engaged community activity and shared a few photos of the tagging process.

Tagged Monarch, ready to be released. (Photo by Gord Toth)

Tagged Monarch, ready to be released. (Photo by Gord Toth)


On Tuesday September 4th, popular hike leader Barbara Palmer invited club members to join her to check out the new facilities at Singing Sands and walk the shoreline trail, visiting a local Alvar to see what’s blooming.

She reported that “7 people were on hand, and we basically had the place to ourselves, which was quite something considering the heavy traffic SS has had this year. Species seen include Sneezeweed, Grass of Parnassus, Asters- purple stemmed, calico and flat topped, Goldenrods-Canada, bog and Ohio, Small fringed gentian, Small flowered agalinus, Nodding ladies tresses, Milkweed, Sweet white clover, Kalm’s lobelia, Ninebark, alder-leaves buckthorn.”

A few photos from Barbara showcase some of these beautiful plants.

Small-flowered gerardia (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small-flowered gerardia, Agalinus paupercula. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small fringed gentian, Gentianopsis virgata. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small fringed gentian, Gentianopsis virgata. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)


Later that same day, I received this message from Meaford resident Joe Buchanan –
“Yes, I was just watching the murmurations. About 5 years ago the starlings grouped over the same woodlot each evening for about ten days running. No guarantees but I’m hoping they will do the same this time as after their dance routine they are settling at sundown for the night in the same trees as before…last night and tonight the dance went on between 7.45 and 8.00pm The best place to view is from the large parking area along side the fire hall on Stewart Street. Small groups gradually approach from all directions and join up to form two or sometimes one giant dancing formation not unlike a “huge whale in the sky”. The sound of their wing rush is nerve tingling. Fingers crossed our starlings will return for at least a few more evenings. Joe”

I then forwarded this information to several keen birders and Wednesday evening I received this (edited) message from Peter Middleton

“Thank you Joe for this marvellous tip. We arrived this evening in Meaford to the sight of the birds in the midst of their remarkable display. I attach a couple of shots that I managed to take of them, even against the darkening background, just before a heavy rainfall began. It was a treat to see it. These miracles surround us at every moment, if only we have the eyes to see them. I am glad that you had the eyes to see them Joe.”

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)


Due to the excessive heat on Wednesday, September 5th, the hike to a nature reserve property near Irish Lake, and hosted by Marg Gaviller was deferred to Thursday, September 6.


On September 5th Hayley Roberts, Plover Lovers Outreach and Education Coordinator shared a final report, indicating the successful fledging of two Piping Plover chicks, which did successfully fly away from Sauble Beach, and were identified on Chantry Island August 4th, as they worked their way south for the winter. Thanks again to all in the club and in the community who have helped with this vulnerable species, facing so many challenges for continued survival.


This Saturday, September 8, Jenna McGuire will lead an outing at the Lindsay Tract Trails, showcasing “the Métis perspective of our relatives with roots, medicinal, dye and fibre plants plus the indigenous perspective on plant ecology.”

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)


NeighbourWoods North reported recently that “discussions are also taking place between NeighbourWoods North, Grey Bruce Health Services and the developers of the Bremont property on the east side of the hospital. Our hope is to transfer as many as 30 mature (20 foot) white spruce from there to the hospital grounds. If this does not happen, they will be destroyed. A variety of other ideas, suggested by members and by the City of Owen Sound, are also being considered. In order to keep up to date on NeighbourWoods North activities go to our website.” www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com.


The Young Naturalists club is gearing up to have another great season, getting started on September 23. Director Elaine van den Kieboom and her team have created a diverse and educational program of learning and fun, including hikes, birds and trees, snowshoes, and hot chocolate with bannock. For more details and to see the year at a glance poster, please visit http://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/category/young-naturalists/. There is plenty of room, but the first event is just a couple of weeks away. It has been a distinct pleasure to see the kids engage with the environment throughout the seasons. OSFN also gratefully acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Caframo for youth projects.


At 7PM Thursday September 13, in the auditorium of the public library, OSFN offers its first Indoor Meeting of the season, featuring acclaimed naturalist Bruce Mackenzie. Entitled “Wings Along A Cliff”, his presentation features the diversity of nesting birds and the plant ecology on the iconic cliff face at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Bruce will take us on a trip through time, and through the species living there at Bon Echo, as the cliff is constantly calling out to the curious naturalist.

Bruce Mackenzie (Supplied Photo).

Bruce Mackenzie (Supplied Photo).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Everyone is welcome to attend. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. It is also a good opportunity to purchase or renew your membership, ($25 single, $40 family, $15 student) or even to make a charitable donation to the various target areas for spending which include LEAF – local educational, and action, LBCF – Lorraine Brown Conservation Fund for nature reserves, and NN, NeighbourWoods North, enhancing urban forestry. Membership benefits also include the current club newsletter (the Hart’s Tongue Herald), and invitations to all field trips, and being on the mailing list for all announcements and updates. For your convenience, membership registration and renewal can also be done online, by visiting www.osfn.ca and clicking on the membership icon there, on the right side.

Also be sure to visit the Tom Thomson Art Gallery to see the current popular exhibition Trailblazers, which has been extended to November. One of the featured paintings which help to celebrate 125 years of Ontario Provincial Parks, is also entitled Bon Echo. Painted by Canadian artist Charles Comfort, it captures some of the majesty of this two kilometre long escarpment on the shores of Lake Mazinaw.

A reminder too that the superb nature exhibit Ice Age Mammals, now at Grey Roots will close September 16. See evidence that some of these wondrous animals lived and roamed right here in our own backyard.

To close, a nature quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh – recommending that we maintain a “Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life…”

Nature Club News, August, 2018

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS August 2018

by John Dickson


On Saturday July 21, the second joint presentation of Owen Sound Field Naturalists and Grey Roots, featured Stu Collier’s lecture entitled “Treasures from the Bruce: Fossil Collecting for the Enthusiast.” Collier, educated in geology and paleontology, reported to the many audience members on hand, about his two decades of on-site research among the exposed rocks of quarries in the Wiarton area, on behalf of the Royal Ontario Museum. Fossil evidence of soft bodied sea animals have been preserved among these rocky layers for 400 million years, filling in gaps in scientific knowledge about their existence in various time periods.

The late Harold Stobbe, of Owen Sound Ledgerock, to his credit, took the care, time and effort to save and send fossil samples to the ROM to be analyzed. This resulted in most productive digs unearthing exceptionally well preserved samples of sea creatures including a priapulid worm, the scientific name for which will include Harold’s last name, Stobbe, from the Silurian period. Another marine animal, about 5 centimetres in length not previously found anywhere in the world, will include Collier in its identification terminology. For a more detailed summary of this lecture please read Scott Dunn’s comprehensive article published in The Sun Times, published July 22.


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

The beginnings of an urban forest at the hospital in Owen Sound (Photo by John Dickson)


Since the seemingly extra dry months of June and July, the NeighbourWoods North team has continued to be on site most Thursdays, watering, as well as trimming and mulching, to enhance the success of its major project of growing a forest at the Owen Sound hospital. A hearty congratulations and thank you to all who have been able to assist in any way with this important work! To learn more, visit their new website www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com


OSFN members are often engaged in several areas of nature appreciation. Popular naturalist and astronomer Donna Giesler recently included “HAPPY PERSEID VIEWING!” in a message to me. Finally, this morning, unable to return to sleep, I arose around 4AM to begin writing this column and, as usual, I glanced outside my window. A fleeting glimpse of a bright shooting star caught my eye, as it sped along a downward curving path, ending in oblivion, or at least, darkness. For me it was a delightful affirmation of the rewards that may come to one, just for being observant and aware of our surroundings and those with whom we share this planet, and indeed this universe.

"Just one of three fantastic cedar trees growing on Lyall Island. Only a small part of this old tree is still alive." (Photo by intrepid explorer Robert Knapp)

“Just one of three fantastic cedar trees growing on Lyall Island.
Only a small part of this old tree is still alive.” (Photo by intrepid explorer Robert Knapp)

Other recent observations include several sightings of a cluster of two or three families of Wild Turkeys, when I was cycling, shortly after sunrise. While I was watering some flowers last week, a startled Praying Mantis emerged from its resting place and seemed to be giving me “that look”.

Mantis stare down in a soy field (Photo by Brian Robin)

Mantis stare down in a soy field (Photo by Brian Robin)

On August 22, an especially observant pair of birders, Alfred Raab, and Kiah Jasper, witnessed, near Oliphant, what has been verified as the first ever, in Ontario, documented sighting of a Reddish Egret, a threatened bird, normally found in Central America, and as far north as Texas. Congratulations to both for this exceptional observation, also as members of the Bruce Birding Club.

Later that same day the Plover Lovers of Sauble Beach held their wrap up event, featuring reports by Coordinator Hayley Roberts, Bird Studies of Canada’s Andrea Gress, and Alicia Fortin, who had a new role this summer after being last year’s coordinator. In addition we had an early peek at a possible science fair project by Islay Graham, who studied the behaviour of the plovers on the beach this summer and after documenting her findings, incorporated them into an analysis of the birds activities to see if conclusions could be drawn about their preferences, and dislikes. Special thanks from Stewardship Grey Bruce were also given to Huron Feathers for their hospitality and to sponsors who helped offset costs for the programme which also included a series of “Beach Talks”.

Piping Plover from 2017 (Photo by Brian Robin).

Plover from 2017 (Photo by Brian Robin).


Tagged Monarch (Photo by Kerry Jarvis)

Tagged Monarch (Photo by Kerry Jarvis)


As the Owen Sound Field Naturalists approaches the beginning of its 2018-2019 season, many club members and others have been reporting what may be a bumper crop of Monarch Butterflies throughout our area. Indeed, the first outing or field trip will be on Friday August 31st as OSFN members are invited to join in the Community Tagging Day of the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores.

During the following week three more outings: with Barbara Palmer at Singing Sands; with Marg Gaviller near Irish Lake; and with Jenna Maguire at the Lindsay Tract will give plenty of opportunities for OSFN to celebrate thirty years of “Knowing Nature Better”. For more details on any of these activities, and to enroll or renew as a member please visit www.osfn.ca

To close, a nature quote from John L.Riley “If we do not help nature restore itself – and get creative in doing so – species will decline one by one, and be gone.”