Nature Club News April 2020

Nature Club News April 2020

by John Dickson

Although many planned Nature events and activities for humans have been suspended, re-scheduled or completely cancelled this Spring, the normal  routines of Nature seem to be right on track, and going ahead as usual, whether or not there are people on hand to observe, document, or just enjoy them. Many birds are establishing and protecting nesting sites. Robins are now finding worms to eat, a menu item that was likely hard to find a few weeks ago. The males of the American Goldfinch, although here all year long, are now well into a wardrobe change, donning their bright yellow costumes, accented by black tails, wings and caps. Meanwhile, snowshoe hares are  gradually transforming their white fur to brownish hues. Some of the earliest wildflowers are blooming, and many trees are starting to leaf out.  

Several Nature events have also been adapted to online formats using some of the newer technologies introduced in recent years.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) planned April 9 screening of the film Resilience, is being delayed while film presenter Liz Zetlin and her team plan to do a trial run with another group, along with a zoom post-screening facilitated discussion. Then hopefully the OSFN event can be re-scheduled too. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to watch the locally produced, but globally significant film on their own time at

The four part lecture series by Dr. Thorsten Arnold – How Can Food Systems Regenerate Our Earth? – has been converted to an online Webinar Series, which began with a successful first lecture recently and will resume at 1:30PM on April 19, 26, and May 3. To take in these engaging presentations, please visit eventbrite.

It is priced at $5, $10, and $15  according to your budget. To complement the lecture series Dr. Arnold also recommends these two supplementary sources: Movie: Symbiotic Earth – How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution (link to background, or watch here) and Essay: Charles Eisenstein, “The Coronation

As I was reminded by Stew Hilts, the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day will be on April 22. Efforts are now underway to convert OSFN’s Celebrate Earth Week event (originally to be held on the Chi Cheemaun) to be presented in an online format by renowned Naturalist and performer, Jarmo Jalava, and accompanied by his son Noah. They are aiming for April 25th, still part of Earth Week, and hope to confirm that soon. Updates will also be posted at

In addition, many offers of learning opportunities for the young (and not so young too) are posted on the websites and/or facebook pages of  the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, and Grey Sauble Conservation.

Brown Creeper (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)
Eastern Bluebird (by Bruce Edmunds)

Sightings of migrating birds are increasing too. Although the Bruce Birding Club has suspended its group activities, BBC members are still able to report sightings of interest from their isolation and mental health walks, and often from their own yards. As Fred Jazvac of Southampton shared recently -“Spring is here and if we look around, we can see the changes in local bird life.”  Marshall Byle of Kincardine reports an impressive number of first of the year birds seen today (April 7) on his property.  

“A wave of migrants showed up here today bringing a number of firsts for the year along with big numbers of Dark-eyed Junco 57, Song sparrow 17.  Firsts were Winter wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, and Brown Creeper.  The zip-line cable that I stretched across the pond seems to be a hit for a pair of Belted Kingfishers.”

Fred, along with Marilyn Ohler, reported “Around our house, on a mental health walk, in our neighbourhood, we saw a few interesting things as well.  We found where our local Merlins are building a nest near the top of a spruce tree, and then found a 3rd Merlin flying by.  The next mystery to solve is, are there two nesting pairs in adjacent territories.  We also saw a plethora (I like that word) of Dark-eyed Juncos today, mirroring the numbers that Marshall saw.  Their migration is probably at a peak. Singing birds heard today were Eastern Phoebe and Fox Sparrow. The Song Sparrows are dominating the neighbourhood.  A single Great Blue Heron did a fly over of our house, our first of the year along with a first sighting of a Cowbird.” 

Sharp-shinned Hawk, April 4th – a little north of Wiarton (Photo by Kiah Jasper)

Personally, I have been fortunate enough to see a Northern Shrike near the forest’s edge; to first hear and then see an American Woodcock performing its acrobatic and acoustic flying routine; to hear the wetlands come alive and louder with sounds of frogs and toads, as well as geese and ducks; to watch a Red-tailed Hawk and a Turkey Vulture share an ascending circular flight path together; and to see a Crow fly right in among the branches of a big pine tree, likely looking for the nesting sites of the grackles who did their best to drive it out of there. Many others in Grey and Bruce have reported: Sandhill Cranes with some courting manoeuvres; Wild Turkeys in mating displays; White-tailed Deer with a fawn; Baltimore Orioles have been seen in the Goderich area, and a few Mourning Cloak butterflies have been seen warming in the sunshine

A Raven and a Bald Eagle at Lake Eugenia. (Photo by David Turner)

New for the area, the fledgling Beaver Valley Birding Club, hatched by David Turner of Flesherton, has now really taken flight with frequent posting and sharing of images and information, again, on Facebook. This is a wonderful new avenue for observation and participation.

Common Grackle. (Photo by David Turner)

However, here are just some of the many Nature events that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 virus:
Grey Sauble Conservation has cancelled its PD day camp (April 24) and the Annual Arbour Day Tree Sale (April 25);
The Earth Film Festival, a major fundraiser for the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation, has been postponed to October 9;
 The Sources of Knowledge Forum at Tobermory, hopefully to be rescheduled for this fall;
The Huron Fringe Birding Festival has been cancelled for this year.

To close, a welcome Nature quote from the painter David Milne (1882 -1953) whose formative years were spent near Burgoyne and Paisley – “On a bright day you go out and stand for a moment: a burden falls from you, you are refreshed, stimulated, uplifted.”