The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are preparing for their 35th season with a diverse array of speaker presentations and many field trips throughout the area. Much of the new season, including events in September, will be posted at www.osfn.ca over the next week or so. To ensure you receive up to date information from the club, it is recommended that you purchase or renew your membership online.
Of note, on September 9, Bruce County Forester Kevin Predon will be leading a Bruce County Hike at the Amabel Tract in Sauble Beach, on trails from Rankin Bridge Road through both County and Crown forests, adjacent to the “Hell Hole” Provincially Significant Wetland complex, the Sauble River, and into some spectacular hardwood and conifer forests.
Then, at 7pm September 14 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, popular speaker, hike leader and author Beth Gilhespy will present Building Sydenham: the Making of “Walking through Time.” Beth will discuss how she approached her Beaver Valley and Sydenham geology books. These sections of the Bruce Trail have lots of great geology to discuss. Her Beaver Valley book will be available for purchase and signing.
In addition, OSFN hopes to once again sponsor two local high school students to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit at Lake Couchiching September 22-24. OSFN has sponsored many students in recent years, and has received excellent feedback from those who have attended the Youth Summits.
The weekend is designed and situated to provide learning opportunities in an exciting and motivational setting with 90 fellow high school students, all with an interest in Nature studies. Potential candidates should email John Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than August 30, indicating their interest and availability to attend, as the registration deadline is September 5. For more information please visit https://ontarionature.org/events/youth-summit/
The Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) is hosting a Monarch Butterfly Festival at Alvar Bay and at Bruce Peninsula National Park’s Visitors Centre on August 25th and 26th.
Experience two days filled with nature hikes, monarch tagging and release activities, captivating butterfly documentaries, and thrilling evening bat walks. Explore the beauty of Alvar Bay, learn about the vital work of EBC, and get your hands on free milkweed seeds to support Monarch conservation. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn about and celebrate the wonders of nature and the extraordinary journeys of Monarch butterflies!
Monarch tagging and release activities that play a crucial role in monitoring their population and understanding their migratory patterns. By participating in tagging and release, you contribute to important research efforts and help protect these magnificent butterflies for future generations to enjoy.
In addition to the Monarch festivities, EBC will also be celebrating International Bat Day on the 26th with evening evening bat walks (Friday and Saturday at 8pm). Discover the fascinating world of bats and their vital role in maintaining our ecosystem’s balance.
All activities for this Monarch Butterfly Festival are free.
James Turland of the Bruce Birding Club (BBC) has much of its fall season lineup organized, with several different leaders helping out.
The BBC is a group of avid bird watchers based in Southampton, Bruce County, Ontario Canada. The club also includes many members from Grey County, and meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month except during the summer. The outings are most often in Bruce County but several excursions each year take the group farther afield.
Still with ornithology, Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, along with his crew, have now returned to Cabot Head for a new season of migration monitoring, from August 15 to October 31; 78 consecutive days. During this first week, most birds that were caught, banded and documented were Red-eyed vireos and 11 species of warblers. In addition, there were observations of a Bald Eagle pair with an eaglet on the nest, a young Peregrine Falcon, a young Cooper’s Hawk, a Great Horned Owl after a successful hunt and a Common Nighthawk. For more information please visit www.bpbo.ca
At this time of year I especially enjoy seeing the blooming Goldenrod and other wildflowers all aglow, waving in the summer breezes, and the Staghorn Sumac fronds, comprised of tiny individual flowers that glisten in the morning sunshine.
Another late summer treat I discovered back in 1992, while I was cycling along a road allowance in Sydenham Township, is to be accompanied by a flock of American Goldfinches, as they fly along with me, escorting me through their territory. A year ago, a dozen or more Monarch Butterflies performed a similar dance, fluttering along close by me in the morning sunshine, northeast of Kemble.
Then, just this past week, I was delighted to be led by a family of Eastern Kingbirds, guiding me as they flew along from fence post to wire to roadside bushes, during a couple of sunrise bike rides, while I was still cycling within the City of Owen Sound.
To close, a Nature quote from Verlyn Klinkenborg’s More Scenes from the Rural Life: “The grace of wildness changes somehow when it becomes familiar. When I say the grace of wildness, what I mean is its autonomy, its self-possession, the fact that it has nothing to do with us. The grace is in the separation, the distance, the sense of a self-sustaining way of life.”
The Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) next featured speaker is Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO). He will be giving an overview of Birds on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula: Changes across the years since 2002, as seen at Cabot Head, where the BPBO is situated. The observatory also serves as a training ground for interns working there under Menu’s supervision, monitoring and documenting the bird species migrations each Spring and Autumn. Menu is scheduled to speak shortly after 7PM, Thursday October 10, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Another popular aspect of these monthly Indoor Meetings, as they are called, is “Sightings”, an opportunity for audience members to share recent interesting nature observations they have noted. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.
The BPBO also held an open house on September 28, showing visitors the operational steps involved in documenting the migratory bird observations, including the mist nets where birds are gently and briefly captured, and carefully removed for detailed identification of species, sex, age, and condition, before banding, all of which are noted, prior to release again to re-join their flocks. Often, those in attendance, especially children, are given the opportunity to hold a bird in their hands for that release, a memorable experience, for sure.
The Bruce Birding Club, (BBC), led by Judy Duncan on September 18, travelled to Tiny Marsh, near Elmvale, to check out the birdlife present in the diverse habitat there. An immediate observation by Kiah Jasper’s keen eyes and ears was of more than 30 American Pipits in the field across from the parking lot there. That they were nestled into the ridges in the field made them extra challenging to see, as their grey coloring blended into the earthy tones of the ground, until they would suddenly rise and swirl in the air before settling once more into the stubble to forage for insects in the low vegetation, and fuel up, for the next stage of their journey from the Arctic to the southern USA. The 54 other species seen at Tiny Marsh also included Marsh Wren, Palm Warbler, Northern Harrier, and Greater Yellowlegs.
The BBC’s October 2 tour of the areas from Southampton to Kincardine, led by Bob and Anne Marie Taylor, resulted in 70 species being observed, including 8 species of warblers, and 15 of waterfowl. The BBC outings are usually held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, from September to June, with some extra special tours added throughout the year.
Also flocking to this area were the Field Botanists of Ontario (FBO). According to local FBO member Barbara Palmer, they “held their AGM at Grey Roots Museum and Archives on September 21. A light supper was followed by Jennifer Doubt’s presentation on the inner workings of the herbarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.”
Doubt said of the weekend “It was all fantastic, and a real highlight for me – besides spending time among people with a shared passionate about plants and nature! – was exploring some of the sites that botanists have documented in the past. Owen Sound has a rich history of botanical exploration and some of those past findings are outlined in publications and vouchered in the herbarium where I work. After a while working with those accounts and specimens, you can get to feel a kinship with some of the botanists who’s specimens assist you in your current projects, even if they died long before you were born. It was fun and thought-provoking to be in the places they were, to see some of the same botanical and other features they saw, and to reflect on the changes (in landscape, society, plant communities) that have taken place between their visits and ours.” Palmer continues – “Jennifer’s specialty is bryophytes and her outing found her and fellow moss enthusiasts at the Inglis Falls Conservation Area examining the many mosses and liverworts.”
Other outings offered on the weekend included trips to Neyaashiinigmiing with Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon(Anthony Chegahno), Isaac Lake Macrophytes (an Aquatic Plant study) with Tyler Miller, and a Fish Hatchery Forest tour was led by Will Van Hemessen. This forest has been suggested as the site of a future OSFN botany hike, perhaps in Spring of 2020.
Finally, in 2007 FBO initiated an award that recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of field botany in Ontario. That award is named the John Goldie Award for Field Botany. The award recognizes Goldie’s pioneering efforts in conducting surveys of vegetation in Ontario and New York State in the early 1800’s. The Goldie Award is presented each year at FBO’s AGM. The winner of the Goldie award this year at Grey Roots for 2019, was Paul Catling, recently-retired curator of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s National Collection of Vascular Plants, and prolific ongoing botany researcher.
Owen Sound’s Joan Crowe was presented with the Goldie Award by the FBO in 2015
David Morris led an OSFN field trip on September 5th, entitled Sarawak Saunter, near Indian Falls, where we were welcomed to the childhood homestead of Val Radbourne. The focus was on invasive botanical species that are found quite commonly now in our locale. In addition to the often negative effects of the invasive species, including – Japanese knotweed; goutweed; multiflora rose; knapweeds; Lamium; cleavers bedstraw; white bedstraw, English ivy; colt’s foot; and periwinkle – the colours on display that day were positively magnificent. Especially beautiful were Goldenrod meadows, (some loaded with honey bees), against a backdrop of green trees, in yellow sunshine, under a blue sky. All around were blossoms of red, blue, purple, pink, orange, and white – and soon the footpath brought us to the multi-coloured walls of the Gorge at Indian Falls, with red clay below a green clay, beneath grey rocks, splashed by a clear waterfall.
On September 19, OSFN members and guests – as Eileen O’Connor shared -” had a lovely afternoon walk on “Anglesea”, the property of Don Rawls located at the north end of an area known as the Klondike Hills, south-west of Chatsworth. Don and his dog led us on trails that he has made over the years up and down drumlins, through forested areas, past ponds and erratics, all of which provided a great variety of trees and shrubs, ferns and mushrooms as well as a few remaining wildflowers and birds. Also on the property are the remains of a lime kiln which would have been constructed most likely by the first settlers around 1870. Afterwards, Don displayed his albums of the many photos of the flora and fauna he has noted over the years and we all came away with a very comprehensive list of species and a guide to this beautiful terrain.Visitors are welcome by donation and pre-arranged guided tours are available. Don said that May is an excellent time to visit but you are welcome to contact him or his son Mike any time.” 519-794-0561 or email email@example.com
As a speaker I found that Beth Gilhespy had an excellent way of making Geology easier to understand clearly, returning often to the “sandwich of layers”, as she had pointed out at the beginning of her presentation on the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment. She also explained that she was enthusiastic about fossils, primarily for the stories they told about what the climate, habitats and water levels were like when those creatures were alive and dwelling here.
As Eileen O’Connor, once more, relates – “As a follow-up to her very informative indoor meeting talk of September 12, Beth Gilhespy led an outdoor geology hike on September 28, an overcast day but mercifully rain-free. We met at the western end of East Linton SR, where Beth, with all her years of experience with hikes, distributed excellent hand-outs about what we would be seeing and organized us into carpools to get to the entrance to the GSCA Glen Management Area on county road 17. Any geological information here is shamelessly lifted from Beth’s hand-out. We soon descended to the floor of the Glen, which is an example of a ’re-entrant valley’ created by scouring from retreating glaciers 12-14,000 years ago. We learned that lichens are more often found on erratics which are more acidic and of which there were quite a few than on dolostone where moss is more likely. Incidentally, this area would be fantastic for a mushroom hike as there was an astonishing variety and abundance of species all along the trail, especially after mild, damp weather. But caution was needed as the rocks were slippery and the paths muddy.
A very special feature of the Glen floor are the water-filled sinkholes created by meltwater dissolving the Manitoulin Dolostone layer and then, it is surmised, draining at contact with the Queenston Shale below, the lowest geological layer in our area. These sinkholes were discovered by Ron Savage, for whom this section of the trail is named, as he hikes here often. One sinkhole is at least 15 feet deep! During the hike Ron was particularly good at spotting fossils in a higher geological layer known as Fossil Hill Dolostone, some of which he had earlier marked with tape for our benefit. Towards the end we climbed uphill to the Amabel Formation, the dolostone layer which we see so visibly on the top of the escarpment. But then we climbed down into and walked along the base of narrow crevices where the blocky dolostone chunks were very evident but where we were also treated to the sight of plentiful Hart’s Tongue fern and some Walking Fern although we had already seen many other ferns during the outing. Unfortunately we ran out of time to cover the Frank Holley side trail located near our start point that day but also worth a visit if you don’t know it. And, if you ever get the opportunity to go on a Beth Gilhespy hike, don’t hesitate!”
On Friday September 20, Grey Sauble Conservation hosted a celebration at Hibou, recognizing contributions of the many volunteers associated with the organization and the Foundation, including the Friends of Hibou. Bob and Marie Knapp also led tours of the Hibou Interpretive trails.
The Young Naturalists Club kicked off their 2019-20 season, September 29, meeting at Grey Sauble Conservation Headquaters, where they registered with new co-ordinator Jody Johnson Pettit. Then Krista McKee led the youngsters through some exciting games of predator and prey, where hiding and camouflage were emphasized as important survival skills. This was followed by a visit to watch the salmon who have come back to where they were hatched in the area several years ago. The afternoon wrapped up with a hike around the Arboretum, and the cleaning out of bluebird nesting boxes to prepare them for next spring’s returning residents. Next month, an afternoon nature hike is planned in the Pottawatomi area, led by Judy Robinson.
For more information about the Young Naturalists Club, NeighbourWoods North, and OSFN, visit www.osfn.ca
The Tom Thomson Art Gallery is also featuring Nature in a new exhibition – Footprints in Time: Painting Around Georgian Bay. Following in the footsteps of artists featured from the Gallery’s Collection, including Norval Morrisseau, Tom Thomson, Fred Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Daphne Odjig and John Hartman, you are invited on a tour around Georgian Bay. Beginning on Manitoulin Island, you will travel down the Bruce Peninsula to Owen Sound, head east toward Honey Harbour then north to Killarney. See the many ways in which this distinctive landscape has inspired successive generations of artists producing a rich cultural mosaic.
And, speaking of Art, many people I know, (even my daughter is there canoeing and camping with friends) are spending a little time in the area of Algonquin Park these days, and until October 20, I would encourage you to take in a visit to the Algonquin Art Centre there, for “A Tribute to Robert Bateman”, a special exhibit that looks at his deep connections to Algonquin and its role in his development as an artist and environmentalist.
On Saturday, September 14, renowned Canadian wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman received The Algonquin Park Legacy Award at a special event at the Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park. Bateman was presented the award by his long-time friend, the acclaimed wildlife artist and naturalist Michael Dumas — who was the recipient of the inaugural award last year. Established by the Algonquin Art Centre, the Algonquin Park Legacy Award recognizes artistic excellence, outstanding contributions to art in Algonquin Park, and life-long dedication to nature and wildlife. Bateman, who is now 89, also started out as a Junior Naturalist, through a programme at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he got an early start, learning about the many species around us. He was also sketching, as he says, like most youngsters, but he “just didn’t stop.” The Algonquin Art Centre, located on the shores of Found Lake in Algonquin Park, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is voluntary, but a valid Ontario Parks permit is required to visit the centre.
And to close, a Nature quote from Bobby Bateman, as OSFN Life Member George Peck once knew him – “In 1947 at the age of 17, I landed a dream job at the Wildlife Research Camp, north of Lake of Two Rivers. I was a student ‘chore boy’ but I observed nature and drew and painted my surroundings for four glorious summers. The land is in my blood.”
We are proud of our achievements. Here are but a few:
A group of OSFN members have drawn on their expertise and authored eight high quality nature/field guides on such topics as the unique Ferns, Orchids, Geology, Vascular Plants, Wildflowers, found in Grey and Bruce Counties. Thousands of copies have been sold, enabling local people and naturalists from far afield to learn more about the rich natural heritage of this unique area. (See Publications)
Constructed a boardwalk through the woods at Hibou Conservation Area, in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Owen Sound.
Built an extensive boardwalk with interpretive panels through the Oliphant Fen on the Huron shore of the Bruce Peninsula in collaboration with the Saugeen Field Naturalists. Recently we produced and erected a new interpretive panel sign for the Oliphant Fen. It presents 24 unusual wildflowers that grow in the fen, along with their blooming dates.
Constructed an avian viewing tower at Baie du Dor on Lake Huron, where numerous Bald Eagles gather each winter at the warm water outflow at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station.
Produced a tourism brochure for the City of Owen Sound. Called “Natural Owen Sound”, this brochure directs visitors to four walks where visitors can enjoy birds, plants, geology and other aspects of nature in and around Owen Sound.
In collaboration with the Canadian Friends of John Muir, we organized a day-long event celebrating the time John Muir spent in our area.
Established Butterfly Counts in Owen Sound, at MacGregor Provincial Park and the Bruce Peninsula National Park in association with the North America Butterfly Association.
Conducted Chimney Swift surveys in collaboration with Bird Studies Canada SwiftWatch monitoring program for several years.
Established the OSFN Young Naturalists Club and provide it with ongoing support, in collaboration with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. Each year we send one or two young naturalists to Ontario Nature’s summer camp.
In addition we support, sponsor and maintain a miscellany of various ongoing projects such as highway cleanup under the Adopt a Hwy program, provide judging and awards in the annual Bluewater Science Fairs, established Purple Martin nesting apartment houses at the Bayshore property in Owen Sound, erected Osprey nesting platforms at McNab and Isaac lakes, etc.
We have also provided funding towards important nature reserve land acquisitions and projects over the years:
to the Bruce Trail Association toward the purchase of lands at Skinner’s Bluff.
to the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies near Wiarton.
to the Peregrine Falcon Release Project in Owen Sound.
to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) towards the purchase of 200 acres in the Malcolm Kirk Nature Reserve.
to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy towards the purchase of lands in Long Swamp.
to the NCC the purchase of land near Gillies Lake/Cabot Head.
to the NCC towards the purchase of lands in the Northern Bruce Peninsula
We have entered into Stewardship agreements with the NCC to provide ongoing support , monitoring and caretaking of some of the above, and other properties.
And we have established the Lorraine Brown Conservation Trust Fund with the objective of supporting ongoing conservation activities and acquisitions, and new conservation initiatives of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists in Grey and Bruce Counties.
Have you ever wondered just how many species of birds have been recorded in Grey & Bruce Counties? Or how many species breed here? How many species are found here only in the winter? Or only during spring or fall migration? Of the 36 species of warblers that have been found in the two Counties, how many stay to nest here? Well, you don’t have to search the ‘net or refer to numerous field guides for the answers to these questions. This information can all be found in the newly updated2020 Checklist of the Birds of Grey & Bruce.
In 2012, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists Board appointed Dave Fidler to the task of updating the old 1998 Checklist. He revived the Grey-Bruce Bird Records Committee with reps from the OSFN (Peter Middleton, Lynne Richardson), the Huron Fringe Field Naturalists (James Turland) and the Saugeen Field Naturalists (Jerry Asling). This group produced a new Checklist updated to 2013, adding 21 new species to the total species found in the two counties.
Dave Fidler resigned from the Committee in 2016, and Peter Middleton stepped in as Chair. Michael Butler, representing the bird-rich Bruce Peninsula, and Gerrard McNaughton representing the southerly area of the counties, were welcome additions to the Committee.
The last few years have seen the Committee review numerous records of birds rarely found in Grey-Bruce, add 10 new species, revise the taxonomic order of the list to match the current eBird/AOU order, change the status of various species (e.g, from single sightings to more frequent sightings, non-breeding to breeding, etc), and added new status categories including ‘Species at Risk’ and Extirpated/Extinct. A note regarding the Birding Code of Ethics has been added given the ever-increasing popularity of birding and bird photography and the sensitivity of our feathered friends to disturbance. The Committee also decided to revise the Checklist from the previous 8-page cardstock format to a single (2-sided) page that can be posted on the Club’s website and easily downloaded.
One species was removed from the Checklist – Thayer’s Gull, which was considered a separate species until 2017. It is now considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull. And there is one less warbler than there was in the 2013 Checklist – Yellow-breasted Chat is now considered a separate species. These ‘splits’ and ‘lumps’ happen from time to time as our knowledge of the genetic makeup of bird species grows.
There is a lot of information packed into this little one-page checklist!
Ten species have been newly recorded in the two counties since 2013, bringing the total list of birds recorded in Grey-Bruce to 349 species:
Eurasian Dotterel (a Canadian first!)
Reddish Egret (an Ontario first!)
The Committee will continue to meet annually to review new records and keep the checklist up to date. Reporting forms can be downloaded from and submitted to the OSFN website (www.osfn.ca) or any member of the Checklist Committee. The Committee is particularly interested in reports on birds not found on the new checklist, or any species noted as C or A (Casual, ie: vagrant/rare, or Accidental). Already, three more species new to Grey-Bruce are currently pending review, including the amazing Canada-second Scott’s Oriole, and these will soon be added to the Checklist.
The Checklist has been posted on the OSFN website. Check it out! Download a copy for your next excursion. Go birding! Enjoy!
Lynne Richardson on behalf of the Grey-Bruce Bird Records Committee
Dian Wood reports: I am surprised that a Northern Shrike would appear in the heavily forested area where I live. This immature Northern Shrike appears very healthy and although I observed the grey and rosy-pink feathers of a male Redpoll littered on my driveway, I am NOT ASSUMING it was the Northern Shrike who was responsible! To quote my good friend Bob, “Don’t assume that it is the Northern Shrike rather than a Merlin that is eating your small birds. Merlin certainly seems like a strong possibility in that case. Wait until you can actually see the bird and determine its identity.” As I have learned, it is always good to get photographs especially in our dull days of winter! Lesson learned: get PHOTOGRAPHS to positively ID unusual birds!
My interest in botany developed late in my life. I decided to specialize in the woody plants considered native to Grey and Bruce Counties. I have been volunteering at the Inglis Falls Arboretum for ten years now. There are approximately 174 woody plants that are considered to be native to Grey and Bruce Counties. At the Inglis Falls Arboretum we have a walk along which we are attempting to establish samples of each of these species. (Please come for a visit sometime.) We are in the process of populating this web page with pictures and audio. Our goal is to make visits to our many local natural areas more interesting and educational. This app should work on any platform (eg apple or android). It is also a client side app meaning that it will work without access to the internet by first downloading the files onto your device. This app can also be adapted to any plant set (orchids, ferns and so on) as well as, perhaps, to a student project. In working at populating this app, I am finding out how much I have still to learn about my chosen specialty. Therefore, to some extent, I beg your indulgence. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org if there are comments, questions or suggestions. Bill Moses