Nature Club News, January, 2018


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Thursday January 11, 2018 .

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists presentation on December 14, featured Angie Littlefield, an engaging speaker, who enlightened the audience about the “Nature” knowledge of Tom Thomson, who, in his formative years, spent many hours on nature hikes, and in the company of prominent contemporary naturalists, some of whom had family connections for him. One of her sources, suggests that “Tom had his naturalist bent from Uncle Brodie” – (Dr. William Brodie). Also shared were examples of Thomson’s more detailed nature art, of wildflowers, and fish species, as well as some of his more iconic painted images, and even many of his photographs. Some of Thomson’s paintings also document the some of the effects of human activities – showing the devastation of forested landscapes through logging, fire and construction of dams. Littlefield’s research also led her to suggest that Thomson spent some time with Grey Owl during his trip to western Canada, and that both are included in a photo of swimmers in the Banff area in 1913. Thomson was also noted for his preparation of tasty cuisine.

Angie Littlefield (supplied photo)
Angie Littlefield (supplied photo)

The next presentation in our speaker series is at 7PM Thursday January 11, at the Public Library in Owen Sound, and features Peter Middleton with “Ancient Plants of Grey and Bruce”. Here is Peter’s outline –
“The two counties we call home are also the place where a number of remarkable plants that have occupied the earth for aeons find a place to live. From the escarpment face to the forests and fens, mosses, liverworts, ferns and trees thrive. This program will introduce a few of them and their remarkable histories.”

Peter explaining the characteristics of a bracken fern.
Peter explaining the characteristics of a bracken fern. (Photo by Brian Robin)

On January 28 the Young Naturalists will share their outing with the regular OSFN club members at Bognor Marsh for a snowshoe Nature hike. There is still room for more Young Naturalists to participate in club activities. Visit for more information.

Christmas Bird Counts

Many area naturalists participated in Christmas Bird Counts throughout the area, from December 14 to January 5. Here are some excerpts and highlights from many of them.

The 47th Annual Owen Sound Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. 33 observers in 8 groups recorded 6286 birds of 63 species. There were several count highs this season, especially with woodpeckers. There were count highs for Red-bellied Woodpecker (16), and the second highest count for Hairy Woodpeckers (50). There were also count highs for Rock Dove (675), and Red-breasted Nuthatch (45).

Other sightings of note include:
One male Barrow’s Goldeneye, a species recorded only once before on a count in 1977.
The first Ruddy Duck ever recorded in the history of the Owen Sound CBC.
1 Broad-winged Hawk, previously only recorded on the count in 2006 (referenced on the Audubon CBC website for the Owen Sound area).
1 American Coot, a bird not recorded every year on the count and always in small numbers.
3 Brown-headed Cowbird, a bird not recorded in the count since 2002, and a Common Grackle, not recorded since 2012.
Other unusual birds recorded this season include 1 Tundra Swan, 4 Eastern Bluebird, 1 Northern Flicker, 2 Merlin, and a Snowy Owl.
The lack of certain winter finches was notable, with no Purple Finch, Common Redpoll, and only one Pine Siskin this season.

Compiler – Erik Van Den Kieboom

The 42nd annual Hanover-Walkerton Christmas Bird Count also took place on Dec. 16, 2017 with 28 participants searching woodlots, open fields and feeders in search of their feathered friends.

By the end of the day 49 species had been recorded totalling 6375 birds with an additional 3 species being recorded during the count week period. One new species was recorded when 2 Ring Neck Ducks were observed at Chesley, bringing the overall total species seen to a impressive 105 over the 42 years. 4 species would set new record highs they were Great Black-backed Gull 11, Blue Jay 307, Bald Eagle 30 (23 were observed in one field alone), and Golden Eagle 2.

Compiler – Gerard McNaughton

Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) CBC
The seventh annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 16.
Eighteen participants eked out a record low total of 35 species.

However, two new species for the count were seen – Lesser Scaup (1) and American Coot (1), raising the composite seven-year total to 77. A count-week Ring-necked Pheasant was also new for the list. All-time high counts were tallied for Canada Goose (3, previous 2), Hairy Woodpecker (8, previous 7) and Northern Cardinal (13, previous 12).

Compiler – Jarmo Jalava

Wiarton CBC
The 44th Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 17.
Twenty-four participants and three feeder watchers tallied 50 species (close to the 44-year average of 48.4, and the 10-year average 50.5) and 3,818 individuals (44-year average 3,405, 10-year average 4,135).

All-time highs were tallied for Cooper’s Hawk (3, previous 2), Pileated Woodpecker (12, previous 6), Blue Jay (445, previous 385) and Dark-eyed Junco (70, previous 58). No regularly occurring species had record low counts, but numbers of dabbling ducks, European Starling, House Sparrow and winter finches were well below average.

Compiler – Jarmo Jalava

The 47th annual Meaford CBC was held on Thursday December 28 under cold, but windless conditions.

55 species were tallied; up from the last-20 year average of 49.7 and reflecting the continuing trend towards higher species counts over the more recent years of this CBC. 55 species is the third highest total in 25 years; 4th highest in all 47 years. Total individuals was 3817, slightly lower than average. No new species were found, leaving the cumulative count total at 120.

Winter finches included 12 Purples, 2 White-winged Crossbills and 16 Common Redpolls. House Finch (including one male counted in the bill of a Northern Shrike!) were back to a low count of 10, after recent better years. Bald Eagle was missed for the first time in 5 years. 2 Golden Eagle confirmed their continuing trend of overwintering in the area. Cooper’s Hawk was absent for the first time in 10 years. Two days after the count Mark Wiercinski called in 3 Eastern Bluebird going in & out of a nest box. Great birds for Count Week! Bluebirds have been recorded on 3 previous counts in 47 years. They’re hardier than they look!

Compiler – Lynne Richardson

House Finch and Northern Shrike (Photo by Ethan Gosnell)
House Finch and Northern Shrike (Photo by Ethan Gosnell)

Results Of the 2017 Kincardine Christmas Bird Count (KCBC) on Friday December 15th. The first ever Baltimore Oriole seen brought the historic 33 year total to 121 species. The Oriole was an anticipated find for it had been eating peanuts at a feeder on the south side of Kincardine for a week prior. Many people are familiar with the Oriole’s beautiful song and orange color during our summer months. Orioles along with most song birds migrate south but on occasion stragglers get left behind.

Here are the complete 2017 Kincardine Christmas Bird Count results. Twenty-two participants counted 2366 individual birds of 51 species. Goldfinch and Juncos were found in greater than usual numbers. Baltimore Oriole was new to the count.

Compiler – James Turland

Subject: Pike Bay and Cape Chin CBC’s – Dec. 29th and 30th, 2017
These two CBC’s cover the central Bruce Peninsula and provide a great snapshot of winter birds present on the peninsula this time of year.
This was the second year the Cape Chin count has been held and Pike Bay just graduated from year 4.
Pike Bay CBC Dec. 29th (known for having Canada’s first Eurasian Tree Sparrow on a CBC!!!)

37 species; 1607 individuals.
Cape Chin CBC Dec. 30th (one of the newest CBC’s in Ontario, with some of the highest verticals – Cabot Head!)
31 species; 907 individuals.
New species for count: Common Grackle (feeder bird)
Winter Finches (combined counts):
Common Redpoll (172)
Pine Siskin (101) – scarce but 1 flock of 100
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 29 and 8. Quite high for the Pike Bay count.
Brown Creeper – just 3, but still a new high for Pike Bay CBC. They are notoriously difficult to find in winter.
Ruffed Grouse – 17 and 6. Smashes the old records. I do think it is a good year for them and that this isn’t just an anomaly.

Compiler – Andrew Keaveney

Tobermory Date: Dec 20, 2017. Participants: 40. Total Species: 41 (average=40).
Total individuals: 1108 (average=1646).
Noteworthy Highs, Lows and Misses:
Wild Turkey: 29. Record high. Wild Turkey was first detected on the Tobermory count in 2008 and the growing numbers on the Peninsula reflect an ongoing increase throughout the Great Lakes area over the past decade.
Eastern Screech-Owl: 4. Tied for the second highest count (four were also detected in 2012). In 2013, seven were recorded (average=0.7).
Red-breasted Nuthatch: 155. A record high (average=41).
Summary: Individual birds were scarce although the species total (41) was close to the 45 year average and up from last year’s tally (36)

Compiler – Michael Butler

The 14th Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count took place on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 with 28 people participating and 10 feeder watchers.
We found a total of 3504 individual birds; representing 49 species which is below the average of 53. No species were new to the count so the cumulative total remains at 102 species.

Of interest is an Oregon Junco which was photographed at the same feeder where one was recorded during the 2017 count. Some totals that may be interesting, are Snowy Owl (15), Brown-headed Cowbird (6, high for the count), Common Redpoll (40), American Goldfinch (733, 2nd highest for the count), House Sparrow (3, low for the count).

Compiler – Norah Toth