Nature Club News November 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS November 2019

by John Dickson

The next featured presenter for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists is Adam Shoalts – naturalist, explorer, best-selling author and popular speaker. An active member of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Shoalts will be sharing stories about his solo canoe trip from the Yukon-Alaska border to Baker Lake near Hudson Bay, in 2017. He is also expected to be sharing images of the Blue Racer, an elusive snake on Pelee Island, which he was engaged to find and photograph in 2018.

Often referred to as Canada’s Indiana Jones, Shoalts’ newest book, Beyond the Trees, which documents that monumental journey, quickly acquired a prominent place on the bestseller lists in Canada, and will be available for purchase, at the presentation.

VENUE CHANGE Please note that this event has been moved (from the Library) to the Bay Room at the Bayshore Community Centre, and will start at 7PM Thursday November 14. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. For more information, please visit

An Old Growth Forest expedition in the Marshall Woods, on October 12, introduced the small group of intrepid hikers to a forest where large old trees have been allowed to keep growing, resulting in impressively tall and thick specimens of Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar, Sugar Maple, Basswood, and Yellow Birch. The topography there is also of interest, with a watercourse that is naturally terraced, as it descends the hillsides to join the often enchanting Rocklyn Creek, just below the Niagara Escarpment there. Of this third annual hike in this richly diverse location, leader Bob Knapp declares – “I always see something new, even though I have visited there lots of times.”

At this time of year I especially enjoy seeing the Tamarack trees turn golden, especially against a green backdrop of other conifers who are keeping their foliage for the winter. Another bonus in this season is discovering nests, suddenly revealed to us when the leaves are scattered below.  Both in urban settings and deep in forests, I have recently seen at least three Baltimore Oriole nests craftily suspended in trees along with the same number of impressive hornet nests, also engineered and constructed to withstand the elements in the canopy. 

NeighbourWoods North held its final Big Dig event at the hospital grounds, on October 26, the focus being to plant newly donated trees before the ground freezes. Young trees need to be protected from voles, rabbits, and other small critters by wrapping. Fall mulching helps to protect the young trees from weather extremes. The turnout was impressive considering the weather forecast, and the work that day helped to ensure a healthier Forest of Hope and Healing. To learn more please visit

On October 27, Judy Robinson led the Young Naturalists club (YNC) on a hike to Jones Falls, and back, teaching them to observe closely the special places along the trails, and to discover those wildlife forms that have their homes right there among the rocks and trees and even on a Goldenrod stalk. They also explored the impressive rock formations and crevices, and were rewarded by arriving at the waterfall along the trail there.

Exploring rock formations (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Porcupine Quills (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

The youngsters were also advised to have a good look at sites there, to see if they might be able to pick them out in February when Judy Robinson leads them here again, on snowshoes. The YNC monthly outing is generally from 2-4PM on the last Sunday of the month. For more information please visit

The Bruce Birding Club tour on November 6, led by Lynne Richardson and Shirley Harrison sampled some birding hotspots in the area from Thornbury to Collingwood. As Fred Jazvac reports “The hike centred on waterfowl habitat and any land birds we could find while looking for ducks.  In the best birds of the day department, the BBC’s first Northern Shrike of the fall stood out.  Finding 3 species of Scoter on any hike has the ability to put smiles on a birder’s face.  The 3 Greater Yellowlegs who are late migrating were a surprise, and so was a late fly by of a Double-crested Cormorant.”

The BBC’s two October outings ranged from Southampton to the Kincardine area on October 2, a hike which featured many warbler species not really expected this late in the season, while the October 16 tour from the Chesley lake area to south of Port Elgin had a wide variety of waterfowl, and many other birds either migrating through, or settling here for the winter.  There have been a few reports of flocks of Sandhill Cranes west of Copperkettle, and near Elsinore. 

Orange-crowned Warbler  (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)
Sandhill Cranes (Photo by David Turner)
Sandhill Cranes (Photo by David Turner)

Stew Hilts saw when he travelled “east to Stayner, past the little Edenvale airport, and off on a sideroad to Strongville, hundreds of Sandhill Cranes – the further we looked across the field, the more we saw. We drove around the entire large concession block and saw several more flocks.  We estimated about 1000 or more in total.  I can’t tell you how exciting this was.”

I too have seen several flocks of fifteen or so Sandhill Cranes flying over Owen Sound in the last month or so. However, I was very surprised to see two of them displaying acrobatic flight skills just a week ago, over Owen Sound Bay, swooping and diving, and then climbing again as they seemed to revel in the gusty southwest winds that morning.Others have been sharing their enjoyment of seeing the Paper (white) Birch trees, holding onto their yellow leaves, against a backdrop of sunshine, blue skies and – yes – newly fallen snow, creating a beautiful and delightful picture.  I have been told by more people this year than ever before, that Autumn is their favourite season. I happen to agree with that sentiment myself.

To close, a nature quote by Bob Bowles, who grew up in the Markdale area, and now lives in Orillia:

Those of you that have taken any of my Ontario Master Naturalist Courses or Workshops will have heard me say many times that in nature, everything is connected to everything else. Nature is an intermingled web of many species and when you pull at one you find it connected to everything else. This is really illustrated well in our fungi, mosses and lichens workshops since we find mushrooms, mosses, liverworts, and lichens all mixed together. It is not surprising when you read a very interesting report of one species of fungus that uses lichens and mosses to survive between major fires which helps the species survive and thrive.

Bob Bowles