Nature Club News, November, 2018

Monday, November 5th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS November 2018

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club has been been bustling along this past month – Bill Moses led a well-attended session of All Things Woody, demonstrating tree identification and seed collecting at the Inglis Falls Arboretum, on October 8.

On October 11, Jenna McGuire gave an illuminating talk about Metis culture in Grey and Bruce. She shared the history of the Metis people in Grey and Bruce, and in the Southampton area particularly, relating to the fur trade and the fishing occupations. She also brought with her many samples of as well as historical photos and documents, plus basketry and clothing, as well as her delicious home made bannock to share at snack time.

Some of Jenna's baskets and historical photos. (Photo by John Dickson)

Some of Jenna’s baskets and historical photos. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bob Gray, while thanking our speaker, also spoke for many in the area, who have been mostly unaware of the Metis presence and activities here in the past two centuries.

Bob Gray thanking Jenna. (Photo by John Dickson)

Bob Gray thanking Jenna. (Photo by John Dickson)

On Saturday October 13 Bob Knapp reprised his popular Marshall Woods Old Growth Forest Hike, exploring the trails along the Rocklyn Creek, near Walter’s Falls. Highlights included a visit with what may be the largest and oldest Eastern White Cedar tree in Ontario. Large, old Yellow Birch trees are also in good numbers there.

On Sunday October 21 Ron Gatis led a tour of trails on his property above (overlooking) Colpoys Bay. OSFN member Lynda Chiotti reported –

Members of Owen Sound Field Naturalists enjoyed a guided walk by Ron Gatis recently on his property at the north end of the village of Colpoy’s Bay. As we proceeded from the fields, still farmed for hay, into the forest, Ron described his family history in the area, dating back to the 1800s. In the forest are trails groomed for cross-country skiing and several side trails and the main Bruce Trail, edging the northern side of Colpoy’s Bay itself. With Jan Pugsley, I took the Whicher Side Trail, which rewarded us with a bounty of tiny late season mushrooms and ferns.

Our thanks to Ron for his generosity!

Throughout October, NeighbourWoods North planned 5 work sessions with volunteers to complete the Hospital Forest Project and to work on the final stages of the “Build a Forest” project, which entailed the planting of over 3000 trees. A cairn marking this historic development was unveiled on October 27th and appreciation was expressed to the group, as the volunteers put some of the finishing touches on this major undertaking, planting, mulching, wrapping and staking trees on the hospital property.

(Photo by John Dickson)

(Photo by John Dickson)

In the afternoon of October 27, the Young Naturalists Club members were given an educational tour of Keppelcroft, by Bill Loney. Highlights included discreetly placed bird nests near the centre of small trees, and the opportunity for youngsters to take home some huge Sycamore leaves as souvenirs. Several varieties of Oak trees are on the site, as well as Beech, Tamarack, Black Cherry, and the heritage apple and crab apple trees from the earliest dwellers on the property. Bill’s engaging personality and efforts to showcase interesting natural features, as well as planting interesting groups of trees as well as other plants and flowers, had the kids full of questions and answers. Loney also makes an effort to commemorate those who have left their mark in the community, with poetry by Archie Campbell, and a Nature trail named after naturalist Norm Fidler.

View from Keppel Croft. (Photo by John Dickson)

View from Keppel Croft. (Photo by John Dickson)

Coming up at 7PM on November 8, the area forest health technician Sue McGowan, of the MNRF, will share the latest information about the forest health conditions in Ontario. Regular monthly Indoor Meetings take place at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Library auditorium. Admission is free, although donations are welcome, including charitable donations for such club activities, as LEAF (Local, Educational, Action Fund), LBCF Lorraine Brown Conservation Fund primarily for Nature Reserve properties, and NWN – NeighbourWoods North operations.

Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Membership and donation details can be obtained in person at the meeting or by visiting and the facebook page.

Birders have been reporting an influx of Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and already a Snowy Owl, along with Juncos, and even Crossbills, migrating into our area.

Those wishing to support the work of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory can do so by attending the annual fund-raising dinner Saturday November 17, at Stone Tree, with special guest speaker and author, Professor Bridget Stutchbury. Ticket information is available at

To close, I would like to leave you with the poetic “Reflections from Hibou” (by Carol L. Harris and Marie Knapp) that appear on the October page of the Friends of Hibou 2018 calendar. The thoughts expressed herein also apply to the many hikes and bike rides and runs through the bounteous leaves on the forest floor, which I especially enjoy at this time of year. “SHUFFLE THROUGH AUTUMN LEAVES. LISTEN TO THE WIND. FEEL YOUR SENSES AWAKEN.”

Nature Club News, October, 2018

Monday, November 5th, 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.”

Piping Plover Habitat Protection, Public Hearing, Oct 22-24

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Anne Bell, Director of Conservation and Education, Ontario Nature would like to make our Club aware of the timing and location of the hearing regarding the stop work order to protect piping plover habitat at Sauble Beach.

This hearing will be taking place next week, October 22 – 24 in Owen Sound at the Quality Inn.

Ecojustice will be intervening on behalf of Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence to uphold the stop work order.

This hearing is open to the public.  Members of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists are invited to attend. Additional details for anyone wishing to attend:

  • the hearing will take place in the Chats Room at the Quality Inn in Owen Sound (Quality Inn Owen Sound – 950 6th Street East, Owen Sound ON)
  • the hearing begins at 8:30 am on Monday morning
  • the room is not huge and public seating will be first come first served, so good to arrive as early as possible
  • no cheering or booing or chewing gum
  • cell phones off
  • everyone must be respectful
  • the hearing officer has a broad power to evict unruly spectators

Nature Club News, September, 2018

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS September 2018

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club is off to a busy start for the 2018-19 season.

On August 31st, OSFN members joined in with the Community Tagging Day hosted by the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores. OSFN Director Brian Robin reports that the monarchs were on hand in abundance for the event, and flying everywhere. “Over three dozen were tagged on the tagging day, and I understand BGOSS has tagged over 600 to date. More than 80 people turned out for tagging day, and we spoke to many passers-by about what we were doing and about monarchs in general. Many kids were able to tag and release a butterfly for their first time, so that’s always cool. In addition, one 5th instar monarch caterpillar was found at Perkins Park and a lone White Admiral, Limenitis arthemis arthemis, was flying around trying to look inconspicuous. There is another tagging day scheduled for Sept. 8, 10am-12noon.”

OSFN President Gord Toth was also on hand to witness and participate in this very engaged community activity and shared a few photos of the tagging process.

Tagged Monarch, ready to be released. (Photo by Gord Toth)

Tagged Monarch, ready to be released. (Photo by Gord Toth)

On Tuesday September 4th, popular hike leader Barbara Palmer invited club members to join her to check out the new facilities at Singing Sands and walk the shoreline trail, visiting a local Alvar to see what’s blooming.

She reported that “7 people were on hand, and we basically had the place to ourselves, which was quite something considering the heavy traffic SS has had this year. Species seen include Sneezeweed, Grass of Parnassus, Asters- purple stemmed, calico and flat topped, Goldenrods-Canada, bog and Ohio, Small fringed gentian, Small flowered agalinus, Nodding ladies tresses, Milkweed, Sweet white clover, Kalm’s lobelia, Ninebark, alder-leaves buckthorn.”

A few photos from Barbara showcase some of these beautiful plants.

Small-flowered gerardia (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small-flowered gerardia, Agalinus paupercula. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small fringed gentian, Gentianopsis virgata. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Small fringed gentian, Gentianopsis virgata. (Photo by Barbara Palmer)

Later that same day, I received this message from Meaford resident Joe Buchanan –
“Yes, I was just watching the murmurations. About 5 years ago the starlings grouped over the same woodlot each evening for about ten days running. No guarantees but I’m hoping they will do the same this time as after their dance routine they are settling at sundown for the night in the same trees as before…last night and tonight the dance went on between 7.45 and 8.00pm The best place to view is from the large parking area along side the fire hall on Stewart Street. Small groups gradually approach from all directions and join up to form two or sometimes one giant dancing formation not unlike a “huge whale in the sky”. The sound of their wing rush is nerve tingling. Fingers crossed our starlings will return for at least a few more evenings. Joe”

I then forwarded this information to several keen birders and Wednesday evening I received this (edited) message from Peter Middleton

“Thank you Joe for this marvellous tip. We arrived this evening in Meaford to the sight of the birds in the midst of their remarkable display. I attach a couple of shots that I managed to take of them, even against the darkening background, just before a heavy rainfall began. It was a treat to see it. These miracles surround us at every moment, if only we have the eyes to see them. I am glad that you had the eyes to see them Joe.”

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Starling Mumuration in Meaford. (Photo by Peter Middleton)

Due to the excessive heat on Wednesday, September 5th, the hike to a nature reserve property near Irish Lake, and hosted by Marg Gaviller was deferred to Thursday, September 6.

On September 5th Hayley Roberts, Plover Lovers Outreach and Education Coordinator shared a final report, indicating the successful fledging of two Piping Plover chicks, which did successfully fly away from Sauble Beach, and were identified on Chantry Island August 4th, as they worked their way south for the winter. Thanks again to all in the club and in the community who have helped with this vulnerable species, facing so many challenges for continued survival.

This Saturday, September 8, Jenna McGuire will lead an outing at the Lindsay Tract Trails, showcasing “the Métis perspective of our relatives with roots, medicinal, dye and fibre plants plus the indigenous perspective on plant ecology.”

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)

NeighbourWoods North reported recently that “discussions are also taking place between NeighbourWoods North, Grey Bruce Health Services and the developers of the Bremont property on the east side of the hospital. Our hope is to transfer as many as 30 mature (20 foot) white spruce from there to the hospital grounds. If this does not happen, they will be destroyed. A variety of other ideas, suggested by members and by the City of Owen Sound, are also being considered. In order to keep up to date on NeighbourWoods North activities go to our website.”

The Young Naturalists club is gearing up to have another great season, getting started on September 23. Director Elaine van den Kieboom and her team have created a diverse and educational program of learning and fun, including hikes, birds and trees, snowshoes, and hot chocolate with bannock. For more details and to see the year at a glance poster, please visit There is plenty of room, but the first event is just a couple of weeks away. It has been a distinct pleasure to see the kids engage with the environment throughout the seasons. OSFN also gratefully acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Caframo for youth projects.

At 7PM Thursday September 13, in the auditorium of the public library, OSFN offers its first Indoor Meeting of the season, featuring acclaimed naturalist Bruce Mackenzie. Entitled “Wings Along A Cliff”, his presentation features the diversity of nesting birds and the plant ecology on the iconic cliff face at Bon Echo Provincial Park. Bruce will take us on a trip through time, and through the species living there at Bon Echo, as the cliff is constantly calling out to the curious naturalist.

Bruce Mackenzie (Supplied Photo).

Bruce Mackenzie (Supplied Photo).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Bon Echo Provincial Park (Photo by Bruce Mackenzie).

Everyone is welcome to attend. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. It is also a good opportunity to purchase or renew your membership, ($25 single, $40 family, $15 student) or even to make a charitable donation to the various target areas for spending which include LEAF – local educational, and action, LBCF – Lorraine Brown Conservation Fund for nature reserves, and NN, NeighbourWoods North, enhancing urban forestry. Membership benefits also include the current club newsletter (the Hart’s Tongue Herald), and invitations to all field trips, and being on the mailing list for all announcements and updates. For your convenience, membership registration and renewal can also be done online, by visiting and clicking on the membership icon there, on the right side.

Also be sure to visit the Tom Thomson Art Gallery to see the current popular exhibition Trailblazers, which has been extended to November. One of the featured paintings which help to celebrate 125 years of Ontario Provincial Parks, is also entitled Bon Echo. Painted by Canadian artist Charles Comfort, it captures some of the majesty of this two kilometre long escarpment on the shores of Lake Mazinaw.

A reminder too that the superb nature exhibit Ice Age Mammals, now at Grey Roots will close September 16. See evidence that some of these wondrous animals lived and roamed right here in our own backyard.

To close, a nature quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh – recommending that we maintain a “Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life…”

Forest Health with Susan McGowan (MNRF)

Sunday, August 26th, 2018
Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Susan and Ariel, BBD Plots (supplied photo)

Forest Health with Susan McGowan (MNRF)
Thursday, November 8, 2018
7:00pm - All Ages
Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library (map)
824 First Avenue West
Owen Sound, ON N4K 4K4
Other Info
This presentation will include the latest information on forest health conditions in Ontario attained through the 2018 forest health field program delivered by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Hear first hand from our area forest health technician about the pests and diseases affecting Ontario Forests in 2018.

Susan McGowan (supplied photo)

Susan McGowan (supplied photo)

« Back to the calendar

Looking toward a growing forest at the Owen Sound Hospital

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

A message from NieghbourWoods North:

Hello Tree Friends,
We recently noticed that the death rate of the newly planted hospital seedlings is at about 30%, despite your heroic efforts. Consequently, we are going to step up our collective efforts to save these trees, by scheduling a weekly watering every Thursday at 7pm, until the end of August.

1. Please, do not feel you have to commit to any of this. We all have our own interests and personal schedules. But, the consistency of a weekly watering will help those who are interested to plan ahead.
2. If in a given week, we only get a minimum number of helpers, then that is OK. We will only do what we can and we will always finish by 8:30pm
3. If we get a wet week and we don’t need to water the trees, we can mulch and use whipper snippers ( weed whackers ) to cut back the encroaching long grass. If you have such a device, then please consider bringing it this week.
4. For those interested, we will always meet in the Mudtown Station for a refreshments by 8:45pm. Let’s try and also turn this into a bit of a social event.

We know, that in years to come, we will all look back at this growing forest with a great deal of pride. But, in the meantime………….phew…..’s a lot of work. ????

Lloyd and Gord
NeighbourWoods North

PS……Check out our new website

Plover Lovers – Beach Talk – Sauble Beach Speaker Series 2018

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

The Plover Lovers Beach Talks are underway for 2018. Happening every Wednesday, you can find more information at the Plover Lovers website. The remaining scheduled speakers are:

June 27, A Natural History of Bruce County Shorelines: Ancient to Present, Peter Middleton.

July 4, Phragmites australis, Janice M. Gilbert, Ph.D.

July 11, Plovers in South Africa, Andrea Gress.

July 18, “Who’s calling in my yard?” A short guide to identifying the frogs in your backyard, Hayley Roberts, M.Sc.

July 25, Lyme disease: what is happening in Ontario?, Andrew S. Peregrine, BVMS, PhD, DVM, DipEVPC, DipACVM.

Be sure to visit the Plover Lovers for more information, directions, and any changes.

Nature Club News, May, 2018

Sunday, May 6th, 2018


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Thursday April 5, 2018.

Dan Ostler’s April 12th presentation about climate change 1500 years ago was comprehensive and illuminating, linking volcanic eruptions to changes in temperatures and growing conditions, and the plague.

Dan Ostler

Dan Ostler

The results of these natural phenomena included blocked sunlight radiation and cooler temperatures, which affected the growth of grain and other food crops, leading to starvation, and to disease from spoiled food sources. Human population growth was then stalled, (and in some cases devastated) and so was the advance of civilization in the population centres of Europe and even Central America. It took a while for the climate to get back closer to the previous normal for plant growth and animal sustenance. Comments from audience members included this one from long time OSFN member, Jim Coles – “I thought the lecture Thursday evening was one of the best I’d heard anywhere – very informative and very professionally presented. A great mix of history and current facts.”

On April 19, Bob Knapp led a tour of the trails at Hibou, shared with OSFN, and the Friends of Hibou. Highlights included seeing the huge poplar trees that are still there, on the inland trails, and the high water levels along the shore.

The next day he also led a tour of the Kemble Rock property with OSFN and Sydenham Bruce Trail Club members. Highlights on this hike included two separate sightings of an American Woodcock.

Of note too, is that in the first two to three weeks of April there seemed to have been more snowfall, locally, than we had received here in the entire month of January 2018. Snowshoes were needed for both of these outings, which had not been expected when these hikes were initially planned. Nature certainly keeps us guessing!

On Sunday April 22, OSFN presented its third Annual Earth Day Keynote Address, this year featuring Canada’s “Indiana Jones” – Adam Shoalts. This popular speaker is also an author, an archaeologist, a naturalist, and an explorer. On this, his third talk in Owen Sound, he shared many images and stories of his 4000 kilometre solo journey by canoe and portage, from the Alaska Yukon border east all the way to Baker Lake, near Hudson Bay, as his personal way of celebrating Canada 150 last summer. He also adroitly modified his talk to celebrate Earth Day with this audience of naturalists. The capacity crowd had plenty of questions and many of them chatted with Shoalts as they purchased his books afterward. The event was held on board the Chi Cheemaun and was sponsored by Caframo. Proceeds from this event are being directed to fund OSFN’s youth projects.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists is also continuing to support the Bluewater Science Fair, with awards going to presenters with nature and environment themes.

We have received a detailed ‘Thank you’ for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists award from Bluewater Science Fair participant, Alex Burling, outlining the silver medal winning project that involved the digestion of plastic by meal worms. Congratulations Alex!

Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, capable of digesting plastics and kale. (Photo By Brian Robin)

Mealworms, Tenebrio molitor, also capable of eating plastics. (Photo By Brian Robin)

On April 28 – NeighbourWoods North began its tree planting programme at the hospital. Committee Chair Lloyd Lewis reports –

On a cold and windy grey morning, about 40 community tree planters descended to the hospital grounds at 8:30am in order to plant and eventually create a living wind break of 60 white spruce. After a demonstration of the correct planting and mulching techniques, our eager volunteers got to work, partially in order just to stay warm. The wet soil made for easy digging and by 10:30am most of the work was done. The hospital had warm drinks at hand along with a variety of food choices. Home Depot provided much of the hardware, and the conservation authority delivered the trees, paid for by an anonymous donation to NeighbourWoods North. In 10 short years, the trees will look even more beautiful and they will provide significant protection for the entrance to the hospital emergency entrance from the snow and wind. Hooray!

As for future plantings, on Saturday May 5th and 12th, we are ambitiously attempting to plant a 5 acre forest in the NW corner of the hospital grounds. Thousands of trees will be going in the ground and many helpers are required. Finally, on May 19th the hospital staff will be planting 40 crabapple trees along the west entrance to the emergency area.

White Spruce planted at Hospital grounds (Photo by John Dickson)

White Spruce planted at Hospital grounds (Photo by John Dickson)

Lloyd adds this message –

Let’s Build a Forest!

Do you have a tree/shrub sapling or seedling you are willing to dig up and donate? You can add to the tree biodiversity of our hospital forest, by making a donation on Saturday May 5th or 12th, between 9am to noon at the NW corner of our hospital grounds. For more information contact Lloyd Lewis at 226 256 8804 or

Young Naturalists Club coordinator Elaine Van Den Kieboom reports –

Our latest meeting on April 29, 2018 had the Young Nat’s being led by Naturalist Bill Moses through the Arboretum at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority’s administration property. During this hike Bill educated the kids about trees and shrubs and various other aspects of the natural world. It was a sunny day and even though there was a cold wind, the kids didn’t seem to mind and were eager to learn about the trees. Bill’s knowledge of trees and shrubs and his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge with children, made for a great hike. The kids were also very pleased to be able to take home a young tree from the arboretum as a gift from Bill. On behalf of the group I would like to extend my Thanks to Bill for making it a great day for the kids.

Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)

Bill Moses with Young Naturalists. (Photo By John Dickson)

Coming up at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library at 7PM on Thursday May 10th the club hosts its members’ night when several presenters give short presentations on diverse topics. Expected at this time are a short film, a follow up to Dan Ostler’s reference to spoiled crops contributing to disease, a slide show from a lifetime of nature activities, and a taste of local natural highlights. For more information please visit the Members’ Night event.

For some recommended reading with a nature theme, I refer you to a couple of Pierre Berton’s many books. My Times – Living with History 1947 -1995 and The Great Lakes. Through these you may learn as I did a while ago, that Berton, known to many as a journalist and broadcaster, gradually became a naturalist. He soon became an avid birder with an annual May trip to Point Pelee for over 40 years, and a planter of many species on his property near Kleinburg, who also noted the creep of development nearby that eliminated wetlands and wetland species. In these books you will learn of the famous Indiana Dunes, much of which was lost to Bethlehem Steel and others before the people mounted a vigorous campaign to save these unique landforms, with some of the greatest diversity of life anywhere in North America.

To close, a quote from Glenn Gould – “I gather my inner resources from the outdoors.”

Neighbourwoods North Looking for Treeplanting Volunteers

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

*** Please note the new dates! ***

Neighbourwoods North is a new Owen Sound organization that initiates and maintains important tree planting projects in our City. This Spring, they are involved in a very large planting of trees at our hospital and we are seeking the assistance of many volunteers on Saturday, April 28, May 5th, 12th, and 19th. Can you help?

Building a Hospital Forest

Location: Northwest corner of the Owen Sound Hospital

Time:Saturdays, 9:00am- noon


  • April 28- Hand planting a line of 80 white spruce to protect from wind
  • May 5- Hand planting 2000 seedlings
  • May 12- Hand planting 2000 seedlings……..continued
  • May 19- Machine dug planting of 40 crabapple trees

Email Lloyd, or 226 256 8804, and state which day or days you will be able to assist.

  • Dress for the weather
  • If possible, bring a shovel, rake and even a wheel barrow.
  • Refreshments provided by the hospital
  • A parking pass will be provided
  • Pass this message onto your friends……we need many volunteers!

World Earth Day – April 22
Together, we can make a big impact to our community

PS ………We need a lot of trees to create a forest……..might you have a seedling, a bush, or a tree sapling you can donate?


Map of planned plantings (click for a larger version).

Nature Club News, April, 2018

Saturday, April 7th, 2018


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Thursday April 5, 2018.

March Tracking Outing

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists club offered an Interpretive Late Winter Tracking Hike with Jeff Kinchen, on Saturday March 3rd. Even though the snowcover in the open areas had diminished somewhat by then, there was plenty of snow in the woods and lots of evidence of wildlife activity, if you just knew what to look for, as did hike leader Jeff Kinchen. In addition to the partially covered skunk carcass seen the previous week by our Young Naturalists club, there were plenty of tracks from deer, and red squirrels, as well as scat from Ruffed Grouse, and raccoon.

Although some like to think of the porcupine as a pest, destroying economically valuable trees, after successfully locating a porcupine high above us, Kinchen reminded everyone that the porcupine helps to feed the other forest creatures, by nibbling a few tasty bits near the top of a tree, and then dropping the rest below, providing an otherwise inaccessible smorgasbord of nutritious, tender branches, needles, and shavings for the rabbits, deer and others to browse when there is little else for them to find to eat in winter. In addition, some animal species prefer, or even require, dead trees for their nesting habitat and food sources.

March Indoor Meeting

On Thursday March 8, Dr. Sonja Ostertag presented an engaging talk and slideshow about the migration of the Beluga whales in the North West of Canada, including aspects of the research she and her colleagues have been doing, on the health of the whales, and the impacts of pollution and climate change. The audience appreciated learning about how she was able to combine the responsibilities and opportunities of a young family, with her work, and the chance to form meaningful relationships with the Inuit who live there and rely on the beluga whales as an important food source.

Dr. Sonja Ostertag

Dr. Sonja Ostertag,

At that same club meeting, those present endorsed OSFN President Kate McLaren’s continued efforts to find a balanced, long term solution for ensuring the health and viability of habitat for the Piping Plovers, plus the Dune ecosystem of Sauble Beach. McLaren actively pursued a cooperative solution, consulting with other groups and experts, and advocating a negotiated settlement and a long term programme of habitat and dune protection, compatible with all of the beach users.

March Young Field Naturalists’ Outing

On Sunday March 28, the Young Naturalists Club met at Harrison Park. Director Brian Robin reported that “Professional Potter (and OSFN President too) Kate McLaren led the youngsters and some adults, through a Toad Abode workshop, and helped them make shelters for their toady pals. Kate will be firing and returning their creations at the next Young Nats meeting. It was pretty astonishing watching Kate work and shape the clay so effortlessly, you’d almost think she’d done it once or twice before.”

Afterwards, the Young Naturalists went outside on a guided hike in the park with OSFN director Brian Robin, exploring the Weaver Creek trail.

NeighbourWoods North Update

NeighbourWoods North is continuing its preparations for Spring Tree Planting programmes at the site of the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre in Owen Sound. It is expected that most of the work will take place on three consecutive Saturdays starting with April 21. When the planting proposals and the availability of the selected tree species, are confirmed, public announcements will be made to recruit volunteers to assist with the project.

April Indoor Meeting

On Thursday April 12, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library, Dan Ostler will explain about “The Day Your Life Changed – Climate Change circa 535 AD” and how a natural phenomenon happening then, provided an excellent opportunity to observe the effects of climate change. In this presentation, he will follow the ripples of this event across the face of our earth.

Dan Ostler graduated in Biophysics from the University of Waterloo and pursued a career in medical radiation physics. Working in the areas of forefront research and product design, Dan traveled internationally, staging leading-edge seminars focusing on the implications of the latest medical imaging advances.
In retirement, he has pursued his interest in the science behind the phenomena of nature and the cascading effect of these interactions on the course of history.

Dan Ostler

Dan Ostler

Earth Day Presentation SOLD OUT!

On April 22, the OSFN presents its third annual Earth Day Keynote address. This year we are featuring Canada’s Adam Shoalts aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun, speaking about his 4000km solo journey across northern Canada last summer, and of his love for Nature. Ticket sales for this event were very strong, and on March 29, it was announced that the event had been sold out to capacity. Thanks to everyone who purchased tickets and we’ll see you on Earth Day! This Celebration of Earth Day, is once again sponsored by Caframo.

Ontario Nature Youth Summit

OSFN plans to sponsor two high school students to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit, scheduled this year for September 21 – 23 at Geneva Park near Orillia. Invitations have been sent to many high schools in our area, urging keen students of environmental science programmes or with an interest in learning about Nature, who would still be in high school in the fall of 2018, to send us a letter of interest, addressed to by April 30, 2018.

For more details please visit

Nature Novels

In recent years there has been a plethora of mystery books with nature themes, and birds, in particular. The Birdwatcher, by William Shaw and published in 2017 by Mulholland Books, in addition to its story lines involving uprooting human families migrating like some of the birds, seeking new environs (read habitat) will introduce you to the south shore of England, and some of the waterfowl to be found there, plus a few inland birds nearby. Another of my favourite writers, Sam Llewellyn was introduced to me about three decades ago as the Dick Francis of Sailing. It was only in some of his later books that I started to notice his inclusion of nature and environment themes and species details, while spinning his elegant narratives. I heartily recommend Llewellyn’s writing and his most recent mystery book Black Fish, to introduce you to some of the environmental issues around sustainable fish quotas, and of course, the challenges and rewards of sailing. An earlier book of his, the Sea Garden, relates the personalities and stages of development around a grand Victorian style garden, whose owners were sometimes able to acquire some of the exotic plants that had been promised to Kew. I am sure many of our local gardeners will recognize many or all of the flowers and plants, along with the local sea creatures and birds, in south west England.

To close off – a quote from the late Freeman Boyd –

“Every time you learn more about nature, that just adds to your appreciation, and your concern.”