NATURE CLUB NEWS
by John Dickson
A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Wednesday, June 10, 2017
This Spring we are delighted that we have been able to offer even more field trips with some new hike leaders in different areas across this region.
On Tuesday May 9, life-long naturalist Stew Hilts led a delightful saunter along the Mac Kirk Side Trail on Old Baldy, overlooking the Beaver Valley. This Wildflower Walk drew folks from as far away as Owen Sound and Barrie, and a plethora of Spring flowers were in bloom or soon would be. These included the blossoms on Pin Cherry trees, Spring Beauty, Dogtooth Violet or Yellow Trout Lily, both red and white Trilliums, Dutchman’s Breeches, Canada Violets and many other flora, along with an abundance of Elderberry bushes opening into flower throughout the higher sections of hardwood forest. Several bird species were noted, including a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, and Nashville warbler. Many photographers in the group also took advantage of the panoramic opportunities presented by the various promontories. Hike leader Stew Hilts, also shared his knowledge of the geology of the Beaver Valley, and the Niagara Escarpment, on which we were standing. Stew also maintains an active blog, and you can read more about this hike at Seasons in the Valley.
On Thursday May 11, even the couple from Barrie, joined us in Owen Sound for Walter Muma’s much anticipated presentation – Wildflowers of Ontario. In spite of several club members being away at Point Pelee, there was a large audience on hand to see and hear Walter with his enthusiasm for finding and learning about the nature around us. Through his superb photos, and his congenial personality he certainly delivered on his promise to take us on a journey through the botany that enriches our province, from the rare to the unusual to the common, across many habitats. And yes, many did indeed leave with an enhanced appreciation and knowledge of Ontario’s flora.
The very next day found club members on a field trip entitled – Spring Bounty – the birds, bees and everything in between – co-led by Esme Batten and Anthony Chegahno, at the Shining Rainbow Deer Nature Reserve. One plant showcased in this pavement alvar habitat, was the Hill’s Thistle, introduced to us the evening before by Walter in his presentation. Other highlights included various sedges, Dwarf Lake Primrose, Twin Flower, Balsam Ragwort with a lovely yellow flower, and the shrubs Ninebark, and Creeping Juniper. There was a lovely slide past by a beautiful ribbon snake, complemented by the fly past of two Bald Eagles, and a brand new boardwalk carried us out over a part of the wetland to see a Great Blue Heron, Tree Swallows, and Yellow-Rumped Warblers, plus hear the complex and lyrical song of a winter wren. Esme’s comprehensive work with the Nature Conservancy Canada is making a strong impact in the area and this is her second field trip for the OSFN this year. Anthony Chegahno also shared with us several insights from his First Nation heritage, in regard to edible foods, and of the roles our fellow creatures play, in that enriched understanding of this world we all care so much for.
On Thursday, May 18, Beth Anne Currie led club members for some Grassland Birding to habitats where sightings of several species could be found. These included Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, Kingbirds Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Bluebirds. The earlier strong winds lessened somewhat so that the sounds of some birds were also evident, even if not seen, including the Upland Sandpiper. A rare sighting indeed was a family of ravens with several young in the nest.
On Sunday May 28, The Owen Sound young Naturalist Club had its final outing of the season, at the Bognor Marsh, guided by Krista McKee of Grey Sauble Conservation. Soon the youngsters were learning about the various amphibians and reptiles – identifying which types of frogs were on hand, followed by crayfish, and snakes, and snails. Not only did the Young Naturalists get some first hand knowledge of these various lifeforms, from baby water snakes and frogs, to full sized ones, but they and their parents made some new friends too.
This Thursday June 8, is the final club meeting of the season, to be held in the Hall, of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on 1st Ave East, by the Sydenham River, featuring a potluck dinner which starts at 6PM. If planning to attend, please bring your own plates, cutlery and cup or mug, and bring a food dish to share, along with serving utensils.
This will be followed by a brief Annual General Meeting, and then the featured presentation, by Dr. Larry Peterson, of the University of Guelph – The Fascinating Biology of Orchids. Topics will include pollination mechanisms, associations with beneficial fungi, adaptations to a wide range of terrestrial habitats and the success of this group as epiphytes. The amazing diversity in floral forms has led to a multi-million dollar horticultural industry, but has also resulted in many orchid species being poached from the wild. Because of this, and destruction of habitats, over 300 species are listed as endangered or threatened.
Admission is free. Donations are welcome. These club meetings are excellent opportunities for you to see how the club operates, and have some delicious refreshments, while socializing with others interested in Nature. Students are especially welcome. Above all, these gatherings are for learning and Knowing Nature Better.