Nature Club News, May, 2017


by John Dickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admission is free. Donations are welcome. These club meetings are excellent opportunities for you to see how the club operates, and have some delicious refreshments, while socializing with others interested in Nature. Students are especially welcome. Above all, these gatherings are for learning and Knowing Nature Better.