Nature Club News, May, 2018


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Thursday April 5, 2018.

Dan Ostler’s April 12th presentation about climate change 1500 years ago was comprehensive and illuminating, linking volcanic eruptions to changes in temperatures and growing conditions, and the plague.

Dan Ostler
Dan Ostler

The results of these natural phenomena included blocked sunlight radiation and cooler temperatures, which affected the growth of grain and other food crops, leading to starvation, and to disease from spoiled food sources. Human population growth was then stalled, (and in some cases devastated) and so was the advance of civilization in the population centres of Europe and even Central America. It took a while for the climate to get back closer to the previous normal for plant growth and animal sustenance. Comments from audience members included this one from long time OSFN member, Jim Coles – “I thought the lecture Thursday evening was one of the best I’d heard anywhere – very informative and very professionally presented. A great mix of history and current facts.”

On April 19, Bob Knapp led a tour of the trails at Hibou, shared with OSFN, and the Friends of Hibou. Highlights included seeing the huge poplar trees that are still there, on the inland trails, and the high water levels along the shore.

The next day he also led a tour of the Kemble Rock property with OSFN and Sydenham Bruce Trail Club members. Highlights on this hike included two separate sightings of an American Woodcock.

Of note too, is that in the first two to three weeks of April there seemed to have been more snowfall, locally, than we had received here in the entire month of January 2018. Snowshoes were needed for both of these outings, which had not been expected when these hikes were initially planned. Nature certainly keeps us guessing!

On Sunday April 22, OSFN presented its third Annual Earth Day Keynote Address, this year featuring Canada’s “Indiana Jones” – Adam Shoalts. This popular speaker is also an author, an archaeologist, a naturalist, and an explorer. On this, his third talk in Owen Sound, he shared many images and stories of his 4000 kilometre solo journey by canoe and portage, from the Alaska Yukon border east all the way to Baker Lake, near Hudson Bay, as his personal way of celebrating Canada 150 last summer. He also adroitly modified his talk to celebrate Earth Day with this audience of naturalists. The capacity crowd had plenty of questions and many of them chatted with Shoalts as they purchased his books afterward. The event was held on board the Chi Cheemaun and was sponsored by Caframo. Proceeds from this event are being directed to fund OSFN’s youth projects.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists is also continuing to support the Bluewater Science Fair, with awards going to presenters with nature and environment themes.

We have received a detailed ‘Thank you’ for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists award from Bluewater Science Fair participant, Alex Burling, outlining the silver medal winning project that involved the digestion of plastic by meal worms. Congratulations Alex!

Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, capable of digesting plastics and kale. (Photo By Brian Robin)
Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, also capable of eating plastics. (Photo By Brian Robin)

On April 28 – NeighbourWoods North began its tree planting programme at the hospital. Committee Chair Lloyd Lewis reports –

On a cold and windy grey morning, about 40 community tree planters descended to the hospital grounds at 8:30am in order to plant and eventually create a living wind break of 60 white spruce. After a demonstration of the correct planting and mulching techniques, our eager volunteers got to work, partially in order just to stay warm. The wet soil made for easy digging and by 10:30am most of the work was done. The hospital had warm drinks at hand along with a variety of food choices. Home Depot provided much of the hardware, and the conservation authority delivered the trees, paid for by an anonymous donation to NeighbourWoods North. In 10 short years, the trees will look even more beautiful and they will provide significant protection for the entrance to the hospital emergency entrance from the snow and wind. Hooray!

As for future plantings, on Saturday May 5th and 12th, we are ambitiously attempting to plant a 5 acre forest in the NW corner of the hospital grounds. Thousands of trees will be going in the ground and many helpers are required. Finally, on May 19th the hospital staff will be planting 40 crabapple trees along the west entrance to the emergency area.

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

Lloyd adds this message –

Let’s Build a Forest!

Do you have a tree/shrub sapling or seedling you are willing to dig up and donate? You can add to the tree biodiversity of our hospital forest, by making a donation on Saturday May 5th or 12th, between 9am to noon at the NW corner of our hospital grounds. For more information contact Lloyd Lewis at 226 256 8804 or

Young Naturalists Club coordinator Elaine Van Den Kieboom reports –

Our latest meeting on April 29, 2018 had the Young Nat’s being led by Naturalist Bill Moses through the Arboretum at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority’s administration property. During this hike Bill educated the kids about trees and shrubs and various other aspects of the natural world. It was a sunny day and even though there was a cold wind, the kids didn’t seem to mind and were eager to learn about the trees. Bill’s knowledge of trees and shrubs and his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge with children, made for a great hike. The kids were also very pleased to be able to take home a young tree from the arboretum as a gift from Bill. On behalf of the group I would like to extend my Thanks to Bill for making it a great day for the kids.

Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)
Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)

Coming up at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library at 7PM on Thursday May 10th the club hosts its members’ night when several presenters give short presentations on diverse topics. Expected at this time are a short film, a follow up to Dan Ostler’s reference to spoiled crops contributing to disease, a slide show from a lifetime of nature activities, and a taste of local natural highlights. For more information please visit the Members’ Night event.

For some recommended reading with a nature theme, I refer you to a couple of Pierre Berton’s many books. My Times – Living with History 1947 -1995 and The Great Lakes. Through these you may learn as I did a while ago, that Berton, known to many as a journalist and broadcaster, gradually became a naturalist. He soon became an avid birder with an annual May trip to Point Pelee for over 40 years, and a planter of many species on his property near Kleinburg, who also noted the creep of development nearby that eliminated wetlands and wetland species. In these books you will learn of the famous Indiana Dunes, much of which was lost to Bethlehem Steel and others before the people mounted a vigorous campaign to save these unique landforms, with some of the greatest diversity of life anywhere in North America.

To close, a quote from Glenn Gould – “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”