Nature Club News for January 2023

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club (OSFN) is kicking off its series of Winter 2023 Talks with Springtime Wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains, and guest speaker Walter Muma. While early Spring still has Ontario in its grip, the Great Smoky Mountains put on a spectacular display of wildflowers during the latter part of April. Many species found there are familiar to us while others will be new to Ontario naturalists. Join Walter Muma as he shows us the many varieties of wildflowers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This event is scheduled for 7pm Thursday January 12, at the Bayshore Community Centre. Everyone is welcome, and admission is free or by donation. OSFN also plans to offer this as a hybrid event sent via zoom to a virtual audience too. Typically the zoom link is emailed to OSFN members, and is available upon request to interested members of the community, upon receipt of an email, in advance, to with Walter in the subject line. For more information about this event and OSFN, please visit

Walter is an avid, experienced field botanist who focusses much of his botany explorations on Grey and Bruce counties, and from Newfoundland to Lake Superior and down into the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. His outdoor interests, which he has pursued since his teenage years, include tracking and wilderness survival, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and just generally “wandering the wild areas”.

He is the curator of the Ontario Wildflowers website, as well as the Ontario Trees, Ontario Ferns, and Ontario Grasses websites, which are “go to” sites for parks staff, environmental consultants and others who are in the business of identifying wildflowers and other plants in the field. In addition to these sites, he has created many other websites relating to survival, tracking, and the outdoors.

In his work life he is a busy self-employed accounting software consultant, custom software developer, and accountant.

Walter and his wife Julie reside in Grey County on their 100 acre natural and farmland property.

The local annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) have all been held, and here is a sampling from the count results: 

Tobermory – December 14 – Tyler Miller, Compiler

From sunrise to sunset on December 14, 2022, 33 volunteers searched over 300km of the Northern Bruce Peninsula, including throughout Bruce Peninsula National Park, trying to spot as many birds as possible. This was the 50 th time that local birding enthusiasts have taken to the landscape for the Tobermory Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running, most widespread bird census in the Western Hemisphere. The first count took place at 25 locations in 1900, and today, there are more than 50,000 citizens participating at over 2,000 count areas. The data collected helps scientists describe multi-continent patterns in bird ecology and has been used in hundreds of conservation and climate-based scientific papers. The benefits of participating in the bird count are social, too! The annual count builds comradery, community and inspires seasoned and novice birders alike to cultivate a love for birds and birding!

This year’s participants in Tobermory’s Christmas Bird Count saw a total of 1187 individual birds representing 47 different species. On average, 40 species of birds have been spotted over the past 50 years, but the total number of birds seen was down this year. On average, over 1600 individual birds are usually spotted in the area’s Christmas Bird Count. Some of the notable statistics from the 2022 count include:

  • a new high record of 41 Canada Geese and 6 American Black Ducks were counted;
  • the lowest number of Black-capped Chickadees since 1978 were counted; and
  • Trumpeter or Tundra Swan, Green-wing Teal, and Merlin were all spotted, each for
    only the second time in Tobermory’s Christmas Bird Count history.

Parks Canada is pleased to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count as the results gathered from this year’s survey will be used to help ensure the protection of this region’s natural heritage. The count was also an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and beauty of the region’s natural protected spaces with fellow birders, and to invite new birders into Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Read more in the  “50th Annual Tobermory Christmas Bird count Summary Report” (prepared by Tyler Miller and Tanya Markvart)

Kincardine – December 15 –  James Turland,  Compiler

Hi all; Because of bad weather on Kincardine’s count day only a few participants were out. They did manage to find 50 species. Along with the species found during count week that’s an impressive 64 species. Thanks so much to all who helped out and hoping for a better weather day next year. Cheers James.

Group of ducks mostly Redheaded ducks sleeping away at Bayshore. January 2, 2023 (Photo by Fely Clarke)

Neyaashiinigmiing – December 17 

The twelfth annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 17, 2022. The day began with snow flurries and mainly cloudy skies, with sunny breaks later in the morning and through the afternoon. Winds were southwesterly, ranging from 13 to 25 kph. Temperatures hovered around -1.0°C all day. The waters of Georgian Bay and streams were open, but non-flowing inland waters were ice-covered. There was at least 10-15 cm of snow on the ground, with some of it having freshly fallen the previous night.

Fourteen participants tallied a total of 37 species, below the average of 39.7. The 769 individual birds counted was well below the average of 1,027. Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a new species for count day. Otherwise there were no big surprises, but 69 Bohemian Waxwings, 3 Evening Grosbeaks and a Pine Grosbeak were nice finds.

There were no high counts, but low counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (2, average 12), Ruffed Grouse (1, average 8), Blue Jay 2 (average 49), Golden-crowned Kinglet 2 (average 9). Notable misses were Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated Woodpecker (each missed on only one previous count). Winter finches were limited to the Evening and Pine Grosbeaks.

Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation community for hosting this always special birding event. Compilers – Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon (Anthony Chegahno)

Owen Sound December 17 Erik van Den Kieboom, Compiler:

The 2022-2023 Christmas Bird Count marked the 52nd year of the Owen Sound count. On December 17th, 45 participants tallied 10165 individuals of 69 species. The total number of individuals was down slightly compared to last year; however, the species count was higher. The weather proved to be admirable throughout the day, with no precipitation of any kind and temperatures hovering between -2 and 0 degrees Celsius.

Some highlights from this year’s count included the first Blue-winged Teal and Brown Thrasher for the count, as well as Rusty Blackbird, Pied-billed grebe, American Coot, and Common Grackle to name a few. Additionally, several rare species were recorded during the week of the count but not on count day, including Harlequin Duck, Grey Catbird, and Mountain Bluebird. The large Sandhill Crane flock found last year returned this year, totaling 652 individuals. For the sixth count in a row, a male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted in Owen Sound harbour. This rare duck has become quite the regular visitor!

This year, six species were counted in higher numbers than ever before: Canada Goose (2,608), Redhead (20), American Coot (5), Rock Pigeon (946), Common Raven (58), and Bohemian Waxwing (695). This has been an excellent winter for Bohemian Waxwings, with the previous high being 185! A few species were seen in lower numbers than is typically expected, including Bufflehead (9), Ruffed Grouse (3), and Snow Bunting (47). Oddly enough, no owls were found this year.

There has been a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings feasting on wild grape and buckthorn near my home. These are just a few…(North of Kimberley) (Photos by Ingrid Remkins)
There has been a large flock of Bohemian Waxwings feasting on wild grape and buckthorn near my home. These are just a few…(North of Kimberley) (Photos by Ingrid Remkins)

Wiarton – December 18 – Jarmo Jalava, Compiler

The 48th Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 18, 2022 (it was actually
the 51th anniversary of the count, but three years were missed).

Temperatures ranged from between -1°C at 7:00 a.m. to 1°C at 5:00 p.m. under overcast to mainly cloudy skies. Light to moderate (9-15 kph) westerly breezes made inland birding pleasant, but winds were stronger at exposed areas along the Lake Huron shore. The waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron were open, as were faster-flowing creeks and rivers, but most interior waterbodies were ice-covered, as were some near-shore areas of sheltered bays of Lake Huron. Up to 15 cm of snow covered the ground in most areas.

Twenty-five participants and three feeder watchers tallied 62 (+1 count week) species, well above the long-term and 10-year averages of 50 and 53 species, respectively, but just shy of the record of 63 set in 1997.

The total of 6,090 individual birds was also much higher than the previous overall (3,431) and 10-year (4,185) averages and the third highest total overall (the all-time high was 6,283 in 1997).

One new species, Eastern Bluebird, was recorded. This raises the overall count day total to 131 species (plus 6 additional count week species). Other good finds this year included Merlin (3rd count), Green-winged Teal (2nd count), Ring-necked Duck (9th on count day and the first since 2001), and a count-week Red-winged Blackbird (5th count).

Record high numbers were recorded for:

  • Canada Goose (1,556, previous high 1,329 in 2021; for the first 18 years of this CBC, the high count was 33 birds, and pre-1995 this species was not recorded annually);
  • Mute Swan (62, previous high 23 in 2021);
  • Green-winged Teal (3, previously just 1);
  • Bald Eagle (25, previous 21);
  • American Crow (407, previous 257);
  • Bohemian Waxwing (347, previous 326).
  • Other relatively high counts included Trumpeter Swan 16 (record 17), Ring-necked Duck 4 (record 5), Great Black-backed Gull 12 (first double-digit total since 1994, when 22 were observed), Pine Grosbeak 44 (first double-digit total since 2007) and Evening Grosbeak 99 (highest count since 1995 for this far-from-annual species).
  • Aside from no Common Redpolls, there were no particularly notable low counts.
  • Winter finches were limited to Pine Siskin (16), Pine Grosbeak (42), Evening Grosbeak (99) and Purple Finch (2), and American Goldfinches were at feeders in moderate numbers.

Thanks to all the volunteers for your efforts!
Jarmo Jalava

Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Owen Sound January 8 (Photos by Carol L. Edwards-Harrison)
Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Owen Sound January 8 (Photos by Carol L. Edwards-Harrison)

Meaford – December 28 – Lynne Richardson, Compiler

Hello Meaford CBCer’s,
Here is a quick draft summary of our Meaford Christmas Bird Count:

The 52nd annual Meaford Count was held on Wednesday December 28th under somewhat favourable conditions! After a rather intense winter storm over three days a few days prior to the Count the weather cleared, temperatures warmed up and snow melted down somewhat for Count Day.

The combined efforts of our 28 field observers resulted in the third highest total – 55 species – in the 52 years of the Count! This total continues the trend of the past 10 years of finding over 50 species in the Meaford circle. Prior to that, the long-term average was 46 species. The top three totals have been in 2021 (61), 2020 (59), and 2012 (58).

Total individuals at 4724 birds were slightly over the past-count average.

Two new species were added to the 52-year cumulative total for this count – Ruddy Duck (yay Team 5) and Winter Wren (yay Team2)! This addition brings the all-time cumulative total to 126 species. A total of seven new Highs were recorded this year. which is higher than usual for new high counts. You’ll see on the attached tally sheet the new highs and the previous highs for these six species: Hooded Merganser, Horned Grebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Robin, Bohemian Waxwing, Purple Finch and White-throated Sparrow.

Eastern Bluebirds made an appearance again this year, continuing their trend of the last few years of overwintering in this area (5 of the past six years). These results, along with time & travel data will be posted on the Birds Canada Christmas Bird Count website. It was a good count.  Hope you enjoyed it! Thanks again, and happy, birdy, New Year to all!
Lynne Richardson,

Pike Bay December 29, and Cape Chin December 30 – Andrew Keaveney

Good evening friends,
I have for you the final results for both of the 2022 season central Bruce Peninsula CBCs.This completes the 9th Pike Bay CBC and the 7th Cape Chin CBC. This season we had a combined 62 species including count week species which is wonderful when you consider it is winter! The combined count day and count week Pike Bay CBC total of 61 species ties last year’s record, though the count day tally of 55 species is a bit shy of last year’s record of 57. A few more observers would surely have increased our count day totals for both counts. This and other peninsula CBCs provide a wealth of valuable bird presence and abundance data for a time of year when few observations are being recorded and fewer visitors are making the trip up.

I’ll try to touch upon the count results here.
Two large concentrations of Bald Eagles (9 and ~14) were a delight for 2 groups and resulted in a huge number of records this year, almost tripling our previous high. Both groups were on the Huron islands.
Brown Creepers continue to be a difficult species to detect on these counts, with none this season. To be clear… they are here… they are just quiet and stealthy. Both Snowy Owl and Snow Bunting numbers seem to be depressed this season. Raptors in general were mostly absent with no Rough-legged Hawks recorded.

Bohemian Waxwings

Five new species were recorded on the Pike Bay CBC which is rather astounding given we added several last season too. This year we had a Great Horned Owl during count week and we FINALLY added Barred Owl to the overall count total thanks to the keen eyes of Area 2 participant Miptoon who recorded it in Area 4… hmmm. Haha. Our excellent Area 2 observers (Miptoon and Jarmo) also got eyes on a Hermit Thrush, perhaps overdue as it is a scarce winter straggler in southern Ontario.

I think the greatest story of the day comes from the By The Bay store in Pike Bay when owner Sarah Carson got her camera to ask me about some birds she’d been seeing at the feeders that they tried to identify themselves. The first was a Red-bellied Woodpecker and well done on the identification. The second was more of a mystery and they were assuming it was another plumage of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. It was in fact a handsome juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker. The photos were taken in November so I didn’t get too excited, but she then let it slip that both birds were still coming to the feeders regularly. As if! Well we watched for a while with no results. We then went off to scan Lake Huron and I decided to coming back through for a second shot early afternoon. Jackpot! The bird spent the whole time in a large tree across from the back picnic table feeder. Lots of photos were taken and 5 of us eventually got on it.

Juvenile Red-Headed Woodpecker

Two Northern Shrikes recorded on the Cape Chin CBC was the only species that was absent on the Pike Bay CBC. The Snowy Owl present the day before across from the Tru Food Cafe was playing hide-and-seek on count day and nowhere to be found! Several participants frequented the By The Bay store and Tru Food Cafe and nothing but good things could be said about the food and service.

It is a pleasure putting together these counts each season. It is a surprising amount of work though so I appreciate your patience. Best to all in 2023 and I hope to see you out for next season’s CBCs.

Andrew Keaveney

On January 4th, 31 field observers and 4 feeder watchers went out around the Southampton area to participate in the annual Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count. It was a dreary sort of day, rainy and foggy throughout with temperatures ranging from 1C to 5C. Some inland water was frozen, however the majority of Lake Huron remained open for count day.

Despite this, birders still managed to see 53 species. This is exactly average compared to the historical average of 53, but considerably below the all time high of 66. 

An ALL TIME HIGH was recorded for total individual birds, with a whopping 18,427. This is over 6,000 higher than the previous high count.

The highlight species of the 2022 count were Tufted Titmouse (2nd count record), Cackling Goose  (3rd count record), Northern Flicker (4th count record) White-throated Sparrow (3rd count record)

All time high counts were recorded for the following species:

  • Cackling Goose (5, previous 2)
  • Greater Scaup (51, previous 40)
  • Snow Bunting  (10,152!!, previous 4,090)
  • Bohemian Waxwing (237, previous 154)

Low counts were noted for numerous waterfowl and Ruffed Grouse (1), also raptor numbers in general were quite low this season. This trend has been seen all across Bruce County, and is likely due to a crash in rodent populations. 

The poor weather conditions on count day can likely be blamed for making us miss Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper completely, something that hasn’t happened in a number of years. It was also a very poor day for finches, Pine Grosbeak and Evening Grosbeak were missed completely, and only 1 Purple Finch and 1 Common Redpoll were recorded.

3 Count week birds were recorded, Common Grackle, Belted Kingfisher and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Thanks to all the participants!

Kiah Jasper, Compiler

Chillaxing Male Cardinal in our backyard (Photo by Fely Clarke January 2, Owen Sound·)

While we wait and wonder what weather is in store for us, some of our neighbours have wildflowers showing new growth.

 I have been seeing flying insects outside near Woodland areas and some summer birds appear to be staying with us for the winter.  

So the question David Turner, of Beaver Valley Birding, says he is being asked all the time is: “Where are the Snowy Owls this year?”. His answer: “Well, there was a collapse in the Lemming population last year, so the Snowy Owls population didn’t do too well. That means that there aren’t many down this way for this winter.”

“Look up, Rusty, way up”
Curious Red Fox watching a bird up in a tree.
(Photo by Pat Gillies, January 3)

To close, a Nature quote about Claude Monet, from Mad Enchantment – Claude Monet and the Painting of The Water Lilies, by Ross King: Monet loved birds and animals, even leaving the windows of his dining room open so the sparrows could help themselves to bread crumbs from the table. Japanese chickens, a gift from Clemenceau, ranged freely through the gardens and even in the studio, where the master fed them from his own hand.