Nature Club News, October, 2018


by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists got started this season with a flurry of field trips around the first week of September. Picking up from where we left off in last month’s column, Marg Gaviller led a half a dozen OSFN members on a tour of her property near Irish Lake. This property had a history of farming, and some reforestation. As Dan Ostler comments –

Thursday, September 5 turned out to be the perfect day for the scheduled ramble of Marg Gaviller’s Irish Lake Property. The 100 acre farm had been purchased by her father in 1972, complete with an existing house and possibly a barn. About half the property was planted in white pine in 1973 as a managed forest under the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. This area has now matured with the canopy shielding the ground to the extent that the forest floor is covered solely by a deep cushion of pine needles, a joy to hike through. Mother Nature has her own plans for this property, and there is little left of human endeavours apart from some foundations and oddly incongruous stone fences snaking through the forest floor. The land is now the home to a number of micro ecologies ranging from swamp to cedar to hardwood forest, and it invites the patient eye to unravel the subtleties of this new, more enduring plan for the site. Fittingly, the Irish Lake Property has now become part of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. Our thanks to Marg for an enjoyable afternoon’s ramble.

On Saturday September 8, Jenna McGuire led an outing entitled Metis Plant Use, on the Lindsay Tract Trails, demonstrating first hand the Metis perspective with regard to roots, medicinal, dye and fibre plants, plus the indigenous outlook on plant ecology. As Bob Gray reports –

Jenna McGuire demonstrating properties and uses of ferns. (Photo by John Dickson)
Jenna McGuire demonstrating properties and uses of ferns. (Photo by John Dickson)

I really enjoyed Jenna’s hike last Saturday. I knew virtually nothing of local Metis history and culture, so everything was all new information for me. I had no idea that Saugeen Metis were fisherman and traders in furs after the fur trade ended by sailing vessels from the mouth of the Saugeen River to the North Shore of Lake Huron. And that a Metis house (Aunt Annie’s) in Southampton is still standing to this day, dating from the 1850s. Looking forward to visiting it and learning more some time. Jenna’s demonstration of how cordage is made was amazing, as was her hand weaving.

I too was very impressed by the quick and effective creation of what Jenna called cordage – as in ropes or strings to tie objects, or to weave into more complex utensils. Discovering the fragrance of sweetgrass, was also a new and special experience for me. The hike on the trails there also offered a great diversity of interesting items and topics, including puff balls, and Beech trees covered by old marks made by the claws of black bears climbing to harvest the Beech nuts.

On Thursday, September 13, the OSFN’s first club meeting, featured a welcome by incoming President Gord Toth. A regular feature of these meetings is “sightings”, when those present report interesting nature observations they have made. On this occasion we heard about giant puffballs, and baby squirrels, along with butterflies, and rare bird sightings for our area.

The featured speaker Bruce Mackenzie, an award winning, and much respected naturalist – a recent appointee to the Niagara Escarpment Commission – shared his own recent introduction to Bon Echo Provincial Park, where he discovered surprising evidence of birds occupying the upper reaches of the iconic cliff face at Lake Mazinaw. These birds included Barn Swallows, building nests into suitable crevices, and a Peregrine Falcon family thriving in the cliff environment where Blue Jays formed at least one part of the diet there. Mackenzie’s enthusiasm for his own learning and discovery at Bon Echo, was complemented by his superb photos of details far away, up on the cliff. His observations then became stories with intriguing questions and exciting answers. By coincidence, the Trailblazers exhibition currently at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery includes a painting by Charles Comfort of the cliff face at Bon Echo. The exhibit continues until November 10.

On Sunday September 23, Bob Gray led a Geomorphology hike in the Robson Lakes area, which included a glacial moraine with deep kettles and kettle lakes. This hike brought many club members (17) out in excellent weather, to learn about this unique area, from one of OSFN’s favourite presenters.

Some of the 17 participants at the Robson Lake outing. (Photo by Bob Gray)
Some of the 17 participants at the Robson Lake outing. (Photo by Bob Gray)

This field trip coincided with the first gathering of the Young Naturalists Club, at the Grey Sauble Conservation headquarters. Club members learned about different types of bird nests and were given some birding tips by Lynne Richardson and Norah Toth, before heading out to observe the evidence of nesting this past season, in the bluebird boxes on the GSCA property there, under the supervision of club coordinator Elaine van den Kieboom.

On Thursday October 4th John Burton led a tour of the Hogg’s Falls area, which inspired Eileen O’Connor to write:

John Burton’s tour of the Hogg’s Falls area.
We were so fortunate to have the first good day of weather in a while: sunny, blue skies, breezy especially as it was the first visit to these trails for most of us. John gave detailed information about new signage in the area, new boardwalks and bridges that are planned and had photos of hundreds of bags of garlic mustard that he and students had cleared last spring. More volunteers will be needed for the huge patches they didn’t get to. By the way, it is possible to make pesto with garlic mustard leaves but maybe not on that scale! There are magnificent tall maple, cherry, hemlock, pine and other trees in this area all looking like a Tom Thomson painting at this time of year. Though nobody was an expert botanist, we did our best to identify many spring wildflowers well past their season and we did identify beautiful groupings of maidenhair fern, bracken and sensitive fern among those many other look-alike ferns.
The braver souls scaled down to the base of the falls, our final destination, on the Boyne River.

John Burton giving history of area here by the Boyne River. (Photo by John Dickson)
John Burton giving history of area here by the Boyne River. (Photo by John Dickson)
Hogg's Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)
Hogg’s Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)
Beautiful curling tresses on a Yellow Birch near Hogg's Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)
Beautiful curling tresses on a Yellow Birch near Hogg’s Falls. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bill Moses is hosting a learning session about Woody Plants on Monday October 8, at the Inglis Falls Arboretum. Bill is always keen to help others learn about tree identification and characteristics, as well as getting more native trees planted.

Jenna Maguire will also be the featured speaker at 7PM on Thursday October 11 for the regular club meeting at the public library in Owen Sound. She will be sharing some of the cultural history of the Historic Saugeen Metis, with its important roles in the local fur trade, maritime heritage, and the local communities of this area. Everyone is welcome, admission is free, although donations are welcome. For more details on Owen Sound Field Naturalist programmes and field trips, membership information, and the Young Naturalists club, please visit, and on facebook.

To close, a Nature quote from this day, October 4th, 1924 by Thoreau MacDonald – “Leaves now turning. It wouldn’t do to think more of art than nature, for it is a kind of substitute only…. We want not those pictures which look most like nature, but those which remind us most of her.”