President’s Message

Summer 2017, President’s Message

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

This year the summer solstice brought deep sadness to our club and to my neighbourhood. Freeman Boyd was one of our original OSFN founders. He was integral to the club’s ongoing vitality with his keen mind and broad interests. Many knew him as a mushroom expert, or as a birder, a farmer or philosopher. I knew him as a dear friend and neighbour for 35 years. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.

It is another reminder that life is fleeting. We know we are only here for a very short while. All living things will eventually die – must die – to foster new cycles of life. Freeman had recently recommended The Hidden Life of Trees as a good book to read. He was so right! The patterns and relationships of life and death in forest communities are incredibly complex. It is easy to see the parallels with our human communities.

In our OSFN community there is a deep abundance of knowledge about various aspects of the natural world. The monthly (Thursday evenings) indoor series offers education, entertainment and wonder from a wide array of speakers. And there are snacks! An excursion on an OSFN outing with members always astonishes me with the depth and breadth to be found in our midst. It gives me hope when so much else seems bent on destroying our natural world: political ignorance, invasive species, urban sprawl, pollution, climate change. Etcetera.

Perhaps that’s the key to sustaining hope for the future: focus on what’s here, now. Learn what one can promote or protect; take what action is possible. Celebrate nature’s amazing diversity, share this passion with others, cultivate positive change.

The OSFN, with generous support from Caframo, is cultivating a new crop of naturalists in a number of ways. The funds from Caframo are targeted mainly toward youth activities. Two youths were sponsored for Camp Kawartha for one week this summer. Then in September two high-school students are sponsored for the OnNature Youth Summit at Lake Couchiching. And of course our own Young Naturalists program offers local outings monthly on Sundays for kids 7 – 12. Please get in touch with one of us on the OSFN Board of Directors if you know someone who would enjoy any of these opportunities.

This week I learned a new word : biophilia. “Love of all living things.” I also learned about a new pathology: Nature Deficit Disorder. Look it up. Then go outside!

Kate McLaren, President

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

Winter 2016, President’s Message

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

I am writing this just after we have turned our clocks back, autumn is lingering with gorgeous colours, dramatic light and kind temperatures. Paddling a quiet lake yesterday meant having to strip off layers of clothes, just short of indecency, because the sun was so hot and the air so calm. Most of the fish have gone to the lower areas of the lake but one spunky pike still took the bait.

This autumn the OSFN meetings have been very well attended, with many new members joining us. Welcome to you, especially if you are also new to the area. Our club can help you learn more about the nature of this diverse landscape and show you many hidden natural treasures. Monthly indoor meetings provide opportunities to learn things you may not ever have thought to be interested in: freshwater mussels, for example. A subject that seemed at first glance to be rather ordinary was quickly and thoroughly turned into an amazing world of extraordinary wonders! The following month we were mesmerized with stories from an explorer who is mapping remote areas mostly via canoe – and alone. Then a passionate presentation about phragmites and the very serious impacts it is having on wetlands and shorelines gave us much to ponder.

OSFN partnered with the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory to host a presentation of the beautiful film The Messenger. Such tragedy. There is so much to be concerned about, that it almost overwhelms viewers. There were great questions raised and lots of lively discussion afterward.

Outdoor activities have also been well attended, especially when the weather has co-operated! Weather has been the focal point of most conversations lately, it seems.

The warm fall has tricked some of the dogwoods into thinking it’s spring: they are in full flower once again.

My old farmhouse has almost no cluster flies this fall for the first time in 35 years! Is that also caused by the drought? Or is it the warmer climate? Did the predominance of catbirds this year affect their numbers? While enjoying a home eerily free of this plague, I will not be complacent. Winter forecasts are dire due to the relatively warm waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Expect deep snow and high winds. At least that’s one view. Another one says that snow won’t stay on the ground until swamps are full – which they are definitely not. How often have you been able to walk through wetlands in your running shoes and still have dry feet? (Such an odd feeling, as I am accustomed to checking my rubber boots for leaks before heading out.)

A local maple syrup producer claims we’ll only get snow that stays on the ground after three significant snowfalls.

Then there’s “the bigger the woodpile, the fiercer the winter” adage. Does that mean I should not be concerned that dry firewood has yet to arrive in my shed? Wishful thinking….

What does the Farmers’ Almanac say about winter of 2016-2017?

Of course any naturalist knows the only reliable predictor is the Wooly Bear Caterpillar; but I can never remember what matters most – a narrow band is a short easy winter or a long tough one?

Nature must be leaving clues everywhere, if only we knew how to read them. I’m sure many of our OSFN members can provide some details about that. Please send me a note if you have the key to predicting what the coming seasons may bring.

I hope it brings all of our OSFN members good health, great hiking (or snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing…) lots of reading and time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Kate McLaren, President

Summer 2016, President’s Message

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Last autumn John Dickson asked me to join the OSFN Board of Directors. Although I refused for several weeks, he persisted and I was parachuted into the role of Vice-President; and now I am your newly-minted President.

I am not sorry!

I was involved with the OSFN at its inception and for many years derived great pleasure from the wide array of activities and opportunities it presented. Spending time with friends like Lorraine Brown, Nels Maher and Malcolm Kirk enriched my life immeasurably and I miss them sorely.

The OSFN represents a deep well of knowledge with such diversity and wisdom in our membership and the broad scope of programs presented, both indoors and out. There is huge virtue in this shared communion with nature that brings us together as a club. Now, maybe more than ever, knowledge, support and care for nature is needed on the ecological front but also the psychological front. Knowing nature better within our own club is enormously valuable, but it may be a bit like preaching to the choir. In our increasing community of urban citizens the need to touch, hear, smell and see the natural world is enormous. We are learning that there can be grave consequences for living in isolation from nature. Sharing our passion and knowledge is a vital service we are uniquely capable of providing.

My attention was diverted away from the club for several years, much to my own dismay. There are still only 24 hours in a day and I was swamped with other demands. Thankfully some of the pressure has eased.

Some years ago I was working with a group of highly educated and strongly motivated people on environmental concerns. Lacking their education and talents I asked myself out loud at one of these intense meetings “What do I bring to this effort?” One of them answered: “Enthusiasm!” So that’s what I bring to the OSFN. Enthusiasm!

I am proud to be part of this group, glad to have a strong Board of Directors to guide me and excited to see what the next two years will bring!

Kate McLaren, President

September, 2016

Spring 2016, President’s Message

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Writing for the Spring newsletter happens when it is Winter, and Spring is yet a month away. As is often the case, our weather fluctuates a great deal – last Saturday and Sunday it was -24 Celsius, and I was blessed with visits by 29 Cedar Waxwings (my favourite-looking bird) who joined a solitary, but robust, American Robin, in the Mountain Ash Tree on my neighbour’s front lawn.

Today, a week later, it is now +44 Fahrenheit, (quite a spread in either scale), some rain has eliminated a substantial amount of our snow cover, especially in the open areas, and our solitary Robin is on the newly-exposed lawn, looking for worms. In between these two weekends, I was able to fit in two wonderful Ski outings on the magnificent Bruce Peninsula. In addition to the wide assortment of healthy trees – Beech, Black Cherry, Paper Birch and Yellow Birch, Maples, Red Pines and many more – I was reminded of winter bird-life, when three startled Ruffed Grouse did their best to startle me, a Downy Woodpecker announced his presence with a pleasant knock-on-wood, and a Pileated Woodpecker called a fond farewell as I glided along the gentle roller-coaster features of the Rankin Trails.

Along the way, the brilliant February sun gilded the lovely Yellow Birch Trees, and applied a warm glow to the majestic Red Pines near Beatty Lake. The pristine blanket of fresh snow displayed the recent traffic patterns of various mice, rabbits, squirrels and White Tailed Deer, while the gentle breezes played sweet music, rustling and caressing the still-clinging, burnt-gold leaves of Beech Trees. These are just some of the local ubiquitous “Sights and Sounds of Beautiful Nature in all its Glory!”

I am very much looking forward to our Earth Day/Week activities this Spring, centred around the Keynote Address by pre-eminent Naturalist and Author John Riley – 7PM Friday , April 22 – a stimulating address, generously sponsored by Caframo, specifically crafted for us, to be presented aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun. Tickets are only $5 at OSTC in Springmount and at the Ginger Press. Do not be disappointed – this “Signature Event” compares to past generations hearing Charles Darwin, or Grey Owl. Be sure to get your tickets and your own copy of The Once and Future Great Lakes Country – An Ecological History – well in advance, and “Let’s make this a full house!” John Riley’s fascinating book (see Freeman Boyd’s sage and scholarly review elsewhere in this Hart’s Tongue Herald) is available at the Ginger Press. This award-winning book is one you will want to have in your personal library, to return to, time and time again. In addition, we have been able to arrange for Mr. Riley to speak to High School students the day before, and we are planning one or more Nature Rambles, on and/or near Earth Day. Book-ending these activities, are Ray Robertson’s illuminating report card presentation on Earth-Friendly projects from the 1990’s, and Lenore Keeshig’s Interpretive Hike at Neyaashiinigmiing.

On behalf of the OSFN board and members, I extend to Bill Moses, a heart-felt expression of gratitude for his many years of service in maintaining and enhancing our website, as well as internal communications. A tireless volunteer and valued contributor, Bill also plays an integral role with the Arboretum Alliance, and will be leading an OSFN Spring Field Trip there May 30.

I am pleased to announce that Director Brian Robin will be providing OSFN’s primary website support and coordinating our Facebook platform, which will be another tool to facilitate communication within the club, with the wider community of Grey and Bruce Counties, and beyond. We hope you and your Friends will “Like OSFN on Facebook” too.

In the meantime, this final month of Winter promises to bring us a little more snow, so that our Young Naturalists can have enough snow for their planned activities and our tracking seminar with the enigmatic Jeff Kinchen can, once again, motivate all of us to strive toward Knowing Nature Better!


With a Song in My Heart,


John Dickson, President

March 2016

Winter 2015, President’s Message

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

As I compose this message for the Winter Issue, I am still enjoying the Autumn Colours, and there have been some wonderful displays – my red and green cabbages, orange carrots,  red potatoes; yellow, green and purple beans; beets and kale – my, what a palette! When we look around we see the beautiful red, orange and yellow leaves against the blue skies, while the orchards present their bounty of fruit in all the shades of scrumptious!

In November, the first week was amazing, featuring plenty of warmth and sunshine – eminently suitable for enjoying Nature, whether birding, cycling, or hiking trails. When I finally got out of Owen Sound on November 2nd, I discovered that my favourite fall features were well underway – the tamaracks had turned to gold against the green background of cedars and pines, while the sumacs were already a bright crimson.

As an added bonus Dennis Knight and I witnessed a most intense double rainbow, as we returned from a regional meeting of Ontario Nature Member Clubs.

The several OSFN club events this fall, have been wonderful opportunities to learn – Ray Robertson’s Tour of Agricultural Initiatives of the 90’s demonstrated effective methods to use Nature’s materials and human ingenuity to enhance water quality, and control erosion. Freeman Boyd led and then fed, while providing valuable instruction about wild mushrooms.   Dennis Knight shared his keen interest in ferns, plus other plants, critters and geology, on an exquisite section of the Bruce Trail, with even a half dozen garter snakes sunning on a hillside within the woods.

Fred Jazvac gave insightful instruction on bird identification, while Ducking around the Sound.

At Indoor Club Meetings we learned about cryopreservation and invitro conservation techniques. We also learned just how much can be achieved when the Youth of Today, harness their thoughts and their passions. We used this opportunity to honour all of the many people who initiated and then have nurtured our vibrant Young Naturalists Programme for so many years.

We were fortunate to be able to present the Reptiles at Risk Workshop for many of you – a learning experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

I am looking forward to our upcoming events with you – as we transition from our Autumn Colours activities to a whiter wintry canvas, where we will learn again how to enjoy Knowing Nature Better.


With a Song in My Heart,


John Dickson

December 2015