Nature Club News


Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

Nature Club News October 2021

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) presents renowned Canadian explorer and best-selling author Adam Shoalts LIVE for pre registered OSFN members only, at the Bayshore Community Centre, for its monthly Indoor Meeting at 7pm Thursday October 14. OSFN is also hoping to present this event simultaneously on ZOOM, to its membership. Others who would like to attend the Zoom event may request a zoom link by emailing with Adam in the subject line. An engaging and popular speaker, Shoalts returns to tell us about his latest adventure and launch his brand new book, The Whisper on the Night Wind: The True History of a Wilderness Legend.                                   

It’s the fascinating story of a century-old wilderness legend from the Labrador wild and Shoalts’s attempt to unravel it, which involves lots of natural history content.

Shoalts has a Ph.D. from McMaster University in History, is a National Champion of the Trans-Canada Trail, and the Westaway Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. A regular guest on television and radio, his books include Alone Against the NorthA History of Canada in 10 Maps, and Beyond the Trees, all of them national bestsellers.

Adam Shoalts (supplied photo)

More upcoming OSFN events include field trips with a variety of themes – This weekend in the Thornbury area – Waterfowl and other Birds with David Turner; Geology and Fossils with Bob Gray; the following weekend a tour of an Old Growth Forest with Bob Knapp; and on the last Sunday of the month – the Young Naturalists programme. These are open to the public, and to learn more about these, as well as OSFN membership, please visit

Jody Johnson, Coordinator of the Young Naturalists Club, shared this report, about a very successful start to their season:

The Young Naturalists Club kicked off their first meeting of the year with the help of Elaine Van Den Kieboom. The group cleaned out the bird boxes at the Grey Sauble Conservation administration building and it was noted that most of the boxes had been inhabited by house wrens and tree swallows. The group then set off to explore along the Sydenham River to watch the spawning salmon and discovered a dead snapping turtle – allowing us to get an up-close look at the prehistoric looking creature. The next Young Nats hike is scheduled for Sunday, October 24th at 2pm at the Grey Stone Trails. If you are interested in joining, email Jody Johnson at

Elaine explaining the finds from inside the Bird boxes (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
Young Nats at the Sydenham River (Photo by Jody Johnson)
Snapping turtle foot (Photo by Jody Johnson)
Snapping Turtle, deceased (Photo by Jody Johnson)

Birders from far and wide flocked to the Leith area in September to get a look at a Northern Wheatear that had been found by Miriam Oudejans and Warren Steckle, in their yard there.

Miriam shares her story here: “On September 15, a very rare bird, one whose normal migration route takes it from Greenland to Africa by way of the Atlantic, touched down in our backyard near Leith, east of Owen Sound. Around 6:00 pm, I happened to look out the window and spotted something near the small pond about ten meters away. At first glance, the small bird looked different enough that I grabbed my binoculars. It was facing me on the ground with a slightly orange wash on the front, somewhat like a bluebird but with a more upright posture. Within seconds, I knew I was looking at something I’d never seen before. It was a Northern Wheatear. My husband quickly took a few shots for the record with his camera in case the bird suddenly flew off. I contacted a couple of birders that night, filed an eBird report and by morning, the news was out.

“Warren Steckle captured the Wheatear on the rock the evening we found it.” (Sept 15th, photo by Warren Steckle)

Over the next five days, between 60 to 70 people visited our yard, coming from as far as Cornwall and Sarnia. For most, it was a “lifer” – a term birders use for when they see a bird for the first time. The visitors ranged from well-known experts to neighbours who were curious about all the activity. The Wheatear was exhausted when it first appeared; it didn’t move a lot the first evening and following morning. By that afternoon, it became more active and subsequently spent most of its time the next few days feasting on grasshoppers and other insects on the lawn and adjacent horse paddocks at the Jack Pine Equestrian Center. Peter Middleton commented that the grazed pasture was very much suited to the Wheatear and Palm Warblers.  

Northern Wheatears are a migratory species that breed in the far reaches of the Arctic, from northeastern Greenland to Alaska as well as Eurasia. They are one of the few songbird species that breed in North America but winter in the Old World. They are quite rare in southern Ontario, with most sightings being that of vagrant birds – far off course. Birds of the large, bright, Greenland race, leucorhoa, make one of the longest transoceanic crossings of any songbird on earth. Sightings from ships suggest that some Wheatears cross the North Atlantic directly from Canada and Greenland to southwest Europe. Birds breeding in eastern Canada are thought to fly from Baffin Island and Newfoundland via Greenland, Ireland, and Portugal to the Azores, crossing 3,500 km of the North Atlantic before flying onwards to Africa. The bird we had in our yard was an immature on its first migration.

Naturally, no one knew when it would leave but the last day or so, it fed less and spent more time perched on the fence lines. The last confirmed sighting was September 19. Truly a memorable few days!” 

 Kiah Jasper tells us of his Northern Wheatear observations too: “I arrived and stepped out of the car, and under 20 seconds later it popped up on a fence post. I found a spot to watch it, a nice shady patch of grass hidden under a tree, and settled in for the next 45 minutes. Definitely one of the more cooperative rarities I have seen, it spent the entire time hunting insects along the fenceline beside me, sometimes coming as close as 15 feet away. Its foraging style reminded me a lot of a bluebird, sitting waiting for insects, then diving after one before returning to the fence again. A small flock of Palm Warblers kept it company, which was cool to watch as they were hunting in a similar manner. Just a magical experience, not much else to say about it!”

Northern Wheatear (Photo by Kiah Jasper)

Congratulations to Mike Campbell and the  Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, plus all of their community supporters and partners, for their very successful Bruce Peninsula Gravel Gran Fondo, a fundraising cycling event held this year on October 3rd, after missing 2020 due to Covid-19. Campbell reports that the funds that are “raised go towards environmental projects on the Bruce.  This year’s  ride raised $40,000, John, and I am attaching a link to some photographs of the event.”

I encourage you to visit their website and look at the impressive array of projects, programmes and accomplishments of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, all worthy of your support, at

Sandhill Cranes (Photo by BettyAnne Pickering)
“OMG!!! that BIG eh!!! Sandhill Cranes at Spry Lake area.” (Photo and Caption by Fely Clarke)

While I was enjoying a Fall Colours Hike led by Lilla Fodor for OSFN, I overheard some conversation about Snapping Turtle hatchlings, and was curious to learn more. So, thank you to Bo Penny for sharing her story here –
“Hi John, yes they’re about 1 1/2” diameter and they hatched from the nest on our property. Brian always puts a protective cage over the nest when we see mother turtle walking around looking for a spot to dig. We’ve been successful for the past few years. Cage is affixed to the ground so that racoons can’t move it and it has a small opening so that babies can come out. We start watching the nest daily usually mid August – it’s exciting so when we see them finally coming out we help them along by carrying them to the creek on our property.  The creek is a tributary to Beaver River just off Grey Road 7 and Side road 7A outside of Kimberley.

Snapping Turtle hatchlings (Photo by Bo Penny)

“It’s wonderful when you can save the little creatures and help them reach their destination. There are many dangers on their first “hike” to the creek and I’m always worried about stepping on one in a deep grass, so that’s why we monitor the nest and help them along when they hatch. This year we got 6 that hatched and we helped them to the creek. Here are few pictures; by the time I went to get my phone to take a picture a few had already gone in the water. Last year we saved 30 but this time only 6 and they were much later than other years for some reason. I guess it was a weird year overall in a way.” 

First swim! (Photo by Bo Penny)

Bob Gray also shared with me the next planned  key event of the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team (GBCAT), a citizen-led group of volunteers who are residents of the Township of Georgian Bluffs and whose mandate is to offer information and educational opportunities to the public on current issues that relate to climate change and its impacts “Because it affects us all. Please consider registering” for: Treading Water: How flooding affects property values and you! What can you do about this?”  October 20, 2021, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.                 
Dr. Blair Feltmate, Head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, University of Waterloo  will present practical solutions to limit community and residential flooding and financial losses

Dr. John T Anderson will present a local perspective Wetter Weather in Bruce and Grey Counties” For additional Information contact:

With all of the Nature highlights I have enjoyed recently, two really stand out for me:

First of all, I reached out and was delighted to discover that not only is Paul Aird alive and well, (now at age 91, he and his wife, Linda Pim, were here a week ago for a Nature holiday on the Saugeen  Bruce Peninsula) but he has just this Spring published his collected nature poems (and more, including songs) in an elegant book entitled Butterfly  Beautifly Beautiful: Nature Poems, with many pages that are graced with samples of Thoreau MacDonald’s Nature Art.   

Inspired by some 60 years of observing and experiencing the natural world as a conservationist, forest scientist and professor, Aird takes us along on his nature travels throughout Canada and shares his impressions through poetry, at times with humour and whimsy, at others with deep concern about humans’ impact on the environment, and always displaying an abiding respect for Nature. 

I first met Paul Aird, and Linda, at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in 2008, at the opening of an exhibition featuring the exquisite pen and ink drawings of Thoreau MacDonald, many of which adorn the pages of my copy of his first book Loon Laughter Ecological Fables. I met him again in 2017 when he presented many of those stories himself to an OSFN audience in the auditorium of the Public Library here. 

Linda Pim kindly shared with me that they were able to self-publish as Inglewood Nature Press — here is their website, which is entirely devoted to the book, Butterfly Beautifly Beautiful: Nature Poems: “People can read a few of the poems on the website and may listen to Paul recite a few poems as well.  Reading and listening are here: The Poetry Portal – Inglewood Nature Press

“There has been wonderful feedback on the poetry book (which is so exciting for Paul) and we are about to go into a second printing.  We have placed a small ad in the Winter 2021 issue of ON Nature (comes out early December).From a naturalist’s perspective, Paul’s other publication of interest since we were at OSFN was his reflections on his 40 years of searching for, and finding, the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler in Ontario and Quebec.  His article was published in Ontario Birds in 2018, which I’m sure you know is the journal of the Ontario Field Ornithologists.  Here’s the link (starts on page 92):” This Kirtland Warbler article also demonstrates Aird’s resourcefulness and his ability to put Nature first. I certainly recommend it to any ornithologists helping with bird surveys these days.

So, I was able to discover that the new poetry book is really quite wonderful and is available at the Kimberley General Store. Last week I swooped by and practically cleared out their supply of Paul Aird’s Butterfly Beautifly Beautiful: Nature Poems, so my shopping is off to a good start. 

The second highlight for me was to meet Jason W. Johnston, MSc, Interpretive Program Coordinator, Cape Croker Park, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, Neyaashiinigmiing. On October 4th he led an Indigenous Interpretive Hike – At Home on the Land, for OSFN and shared his knowledge, training and heritage with us, including stories and lessons from his Grandfather, Basil, one of those people I feel so very fortunate to have known, even a little. For me, it was a genuinely special time at a magical location. To learn more about Jason and the important work he and his team have planned, please visit

Back to Adam Shoalts, thanks to a special request by Marilyn Radbourne, his film, Alone Across the Arctic has been confirmed to play Oct. 22 & 23 at the Port Elgin Cinemas, and Advance tickets will be available on the distribution company website: So with a nod to Shoalts, a closing quote by explorer and filmmaker, James Cameron, from his foreword to The Explorer Gene, by Tom Cheshire, about three generations of Piccards – Auguste, Jacques and Bertrand who: “travelling first a journey of the mind … and then with exceptional will, made it happen in the real world – pitting their strength, their resolve, and indeed their very mortal existence, against the great unknown, and prevailing.”


Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Nature Club News September 2021

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) kick off their new season with a special presentation, inspired by the naming, last year, of the new Tenth Street Bridge. It will take place via Zoom, at 7pm on Thursday, September 9, and is entitled  Gitche-Name-wikwedong – Great Sturgeon Bay, with speakers Sidney Nadjiwon, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Elder; Ryan Lauzon, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Fisheries Assessment Biologist; and Alexander Duncan, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia.

Learn about the history of the Sturgeon in the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territory, including their biology, their historic importance to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and current status in Lake Huron/Georgian Bay. We will also learn about the Saugeen Ojibway Nation fisheries assessment program, and related fisheries research projects.  The meeting will be held virtually, in the form of a webinar on ZOOM, and is open to the public – If you would like to attend but have not received the link sent to OSFN Members, please contact with Gitche or Sturgeon in the subject, preferably prior to the event which starts at 7PM.

The club also has field trips lined up throughout September, November and October, with such diverse themes as botany, geology, ornithology, old growth forests, and even history. These and membership information are all listed at plus a special mention for the Grand Opening of the Trout Hollow Nature Reserve, from 10am to 4pm, on Saturday September 18 near the Riverside Centre, just outside Meaford. This is a truly unique property of 160 acres along the Bighead River watershed, with historical, industrial and natural significance in the Meaford area.  Generously donated by the Knight family to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) earlier this year, it will be stewarded by OSFN. 

This Grand Opening will feature opportunities for you to discover and learn, as several themed (birding with Beth Anne Currie, botany with Barbara Palmer and history with Robert Burcher) hiking tours are planned. Registration is required, mainly so that the organizers will have an idea of how many to expect. Please visit this link: 

and this one to register, primarily so EBC knows how many people to expect. 


Together with Grey Sauble Conservation, Friends of Hibou are again offering guided hikes/walks this fall. More may be offered later in the season depending on weather and Covid so watch their website  and Face Book page.

 All hikes will begin at the parking lot by the Pump House at the Southern entrance to the trails. Covid Restrictions will be followed. Please have a mask handy and keep a safe distance from others. These are the hikes being offered: 

Sept 20  Monday 10:00am till 12:00   Adapted Forest bathing walk with Marie Knapp;

Sept 30  Thursday 9:30 till 12:00  A guided hike on the Interpretive Trail with Bob Knapp;

Oct 7 Thursday 9:30 till 12:00  A guided hike on the Interpretive trail with Barry Lewin. 

Barbara Palmer led a botany hike for OSFN recently and shared this report:

On a sunny September morning, a group of plant enthusiasts met at Black Creek Provincial Park for a stroll to observe flowers and plants.

Goldenrods and asters were abundant and colourful. Hairy goldenrod lined the trail in a couple of spots. Asters included calico, smooth, panicled and purple-stemmed. The purple-stemmed asters were particularly showy, with tall, fuzzy stems and lots of purple flowers. Despite its name, this species doesn’t always have purple stems! 

Other flowering plants included turtlehead, cardinal flower, small flowered agalinus, and  boneset. Many other plants were observed that had previously bloomed, leaving us with seeds or just leaves to notice. Poison ivy kept us on the trail as it was everywhere!

A Massasauga rattlesnake found lounging beside the trail was a highlight. All in all, a good morning of botanizing.

Lots of colours at the Welcoming Garden in front of the Hospital in Owen Sound by John Dickson

I have been enjoying the wide spectrum of colours in the blooming flowers of the Welcoming Garden in front of the Hospital building, as well as the trees, bees, birds, butterflies and mushrooms as I jog along a stretch of the Healing Path that meanders through the meadow there. 

Speaking of spectrums, bright  sunlight and a couple of brief showers on the morning of Labour Day produced some lovely rainbows – even double ones.

Double Rainbow on Labour Day, in Owen SOund  by John Dickson

NeighbourWoods North is now planning the various steps and schedules for the fall. Lloyd Lewis sent me this update: “It will be a busy Fall with the start of the Meadow Garden and moving about 25 trees to accommodate an expanded visitor parking lot.”

To learn more about the good work of this group, please visit

With the fall migration of birds now underway it is hard to ignore the changes in the weather as flocks of Monarch butterflies are also getting ready to fly to Mexico. While I was cycling with friends on a road north east of Kemble almost two weeks ago, I was surprised, and delighted, to see about 10 Monarchs fluttering right in front of me, and even more of them along the edge of the adjacent field.

Photo from Cycling with Friends and Monarchs too – north east of Kemble,  August 27, by John Dickson

 Coincidentally, earlier that morning, on this same stretch of road, also cycling we had met Willy Waterton and Audrey Armstrong, who had held a very successful…

“…Monarch Tagging Workshop August 21 at Isaac Lake. We had 43 participants over two time slots and two days.  With assistance from Brian Robin and Patti Byers, we tagged 69 super generation monarchs as Citizen Scientists for Monarch Watch.  There were 9 family members who came out for a preview day on August 20 when we were astonished at the numbers of nectaring monarchs in the meadow overlooking Isaac Lake. Estimated over 100 monarchs nectaring along with clouded sulphurs and cabbage whites on clover. We hosted members from OSFN, Saugeen Nature and a few out of town guests. Everyone who participated successfully netted at least one or more monarch. Even the youngest member, aged 4, netted one with a child’s net.

The morning of August 21 started early with a radio interview on CBC with Jason de Souza on Fresh Air.  There were lots of big smiles as members said “Adios mariposa” releasing their “tagged” monarchs for the 4,000 km flight to Michoachan, Mexico. Commenters included: 

Kate McLaren who wrote:  “Thank you Audrey and your team for the great workshop yesterday! When we stopped by the viewing platform on the way out from Isaac lake I found a beautiful chrysalis! Watched 10 Sandhills cruising the sky, a pair of swans, saw a fisher run across the road… ”  

…and Patricia Heath who wrote: “Thank you Audrey for a wonderful lesson and experience.  It was awesome indeed”

Photo of Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis – this summer, by Robert Taylor, Tiverton

Stephane Menu, from the bird observatory ( at Cabot Head entitled his most recent weekly blog “Walking through a Cloud of Monarchs!” Here is an excerpt – 

“… afterwards, an intense thunderstorm moved through Cabot Head. The sky cleared later in the morning but the wind stayed too strong to open mist nets again. We spent the rest of the day watching mixed flocks of migrants moving through, as well as numerous Monarch butterflies arriving from Georgian Bay in seemingly endless streams. Bay-breasted Warbler was the most abundant species, with an estimated total of 50 birds, an unheard of number for Cabot Head in any given day in fall (or spring, for that matter). Ten other species of warblers were also detected that morning, albeit in much smaller numbers, with boreal forest specialists like Tennessee, Cape May and Blackburnian Warblers.. On August 29, another storm rolled in during the evening: please check the pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

During these stormy days, dozens and dozens of Monarchs roosted and stayed at Cabot Head in numbers I have rarely seen before. They favoured branches of trees lining the road to the station at the end of our regular net checks. We were walking through clouds of Monarchs, an orange fluttering of wings, seemingly fragile and insignificant, but actually ready for their incredible migration to the high forests of Oyamel firs in the central highlands of Mexico. When the contrary winds stopped, when the unsettled air blew away, when dawn came clear on a North wind, they left us, resuming their journey on a wing and a butterfly prayer. very different from the full view of resplendent plumages in the bare branches of spring.”

Misty morning hummingbird and native jewelweed. August 30, Owen Sound, by Carol Edwards
American Redstart – by Carol Edwards  – August 31, Owen Sound

Female Common Merganser…Baie Du Dore. Photo by Fely Clarke, Aug. 30th

The Bruce Birding Club started up its new schedule on the first day of September, with a tour led by Kiah Jasper, visiting birding hotspots southwards from the mouth of the Saugeen River. As Fred Jazvac shared,

“It was a nice summer day, one of the nicest in the last three weeks. The wind only felt brisk at Baie Du D’Or. It’s funny about life. On one hand we have expectations that don’t workout, but on the other hand we are offered a substitute that is very successful.  That is how it happened today.  The last little while the migrating warblers were coming through in large numbers.  Our expectation was to see them in all of their confusing, fall colours. They laughed. They took a day off and decided to thumb their noses at us… So we moped about that loss for a while, but ignoring their rejection of us, we had a rewarding day in a couple of ways. We ended up seeing 61 species of birds, not bad for a fall outing, with one of the birds being a species I have been looking for the last few years.  There it was, at the entrance of MacGregor at the tower trail, sitting on a dead limb in plain view – an Olive-sided Flycatcher. 

It didn’t end there. We had 9 species of shorebirds at Chalmer’s Pond. We have driven for hours to Mitchell’s West Perth Wetlands to get fewer shorebirds than that. It was a great birding day and great to see many of you again.

Thank you, Kiah for leading us today on a very successful outing to start the resurrection of the Bruce Birding Club.  Your leadership was exceptional!”

Northern Flicker at Independent Pond, Photo by Marilyn Ohler
Fringed Gentian at MacGregor Provincial Park near the beach. Photo by Marilyn Ohler
Grass of Parnassus at MacGregor Provincial Park near the beach. Photo by Marilyn Ohler

To close, a human nature migration quote from Basil Johnston’s iconic book Crazy Dave : “In mid-summer the little band … resumed their trek northward … to the mouth of the Saugeen River. From there they struck inland to Owen Sound, then known as Great Sturgeon Bay, the principal town of the Saugeen-Nawaush Chippewas.”


Friday, August 20th, 2021

Nature Club News August 2021

by John Dickson

On the morning of July 19, many hands made light work when the Friends of Hibou met to do trail clipping and cleaning litter along the length of shoreline. Marie Knapp shared this – report. It has been a challenge to find a time when pandemic restrictions allowed it.  This event was a little different from usual. We contacted our current list of volunteers and found the number we needed. Three pairs of volunteers worked on three different sections along the rough shore. Because the water level has dropped more litter was found. Several bags of garbage were left for staff to dispose of. Great work. No problem with distancing when working this way.

Meanwhile two groups of two and three worked on clipping the Interpretive Trail. Some areas were quite overgrown. Flooding in a few spots was unusual but understandable given the downpours we have had. The clipping went well and we gave the mosquito population an opportunity to feast.

It was great to see new volunteers join us. Everyone deserves an applause for the hard work and volunteering to enhance what we have at Hibou. We may have another event in the fall.  We welcome new volunteers. If interested, please contact

American Bitterns all over the place!! Right out in the open!! July 26, Wiarton by William Gray

On August 3, Andrea Gress, the Ontario Piping Plover Program Coordinator, on behalf of Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada hosted a season wrap up event online, for the known nesting sites around Ontario. Most of the event was recorded, and can be viewed at the link below.  It includes the presentations of updates by:

Marina Opitz of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, where they had 5 chicks successfully fledged and able to fly away south by mid summer;

Caleb Johnstone, on behalf of Plover Lovers of Sauble Beach, reported that they had just one late nest with only three eggs. Although all three did hatch, by that time there were even more juvenile gulls on the beach and they are one of the major threats for predation. Within a day or two of hatching the first two chicks were predated, and when the third egg hatched, the chick was predated soon afterwards by a Merlin. The local team continued to develop strategies to make the enclosure area less accessible to the gulls with closely spaced bamboo poles, as an example that may be promising for future campaigns. In addition, several visitors became quite interested and supportive of the efforts to provide support to Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach, as they face significant challenges to even maintaining their populations;

Monica Fromberger- Darlington Provincial Park reported two nests of four eggs each, of which only one nest was successful, with those four chicks hatching, eating and growing, fledging, and eventually leaving to head south.  

Because of the pandemic, no teams of volunteers were working with the Piping Plover campaigns on the Ontario beaches this year. 

To view the presentation please visit this link

Praying Mantis, Owen Sound August 16, photo by John Dickson

NeighbourWoods North held their Fourth Annual Yard Sale Fundraiser on Saturday, July 17 and reported “Thanks to all our supporters we made over $2300 at the Annual Yard Sale. That’s a lot of trees! Thank you to both supporters and workers for making this event a success.”In addition, the Tuesday evening sessions of tree care will now be discontinued as they have been so successful, that the goals for the summer have already been reached. “Thanks to so many volunteers, new and old, we were able to complete a 

path through the Forest of Hope and Healing this summer while still mulching trees, cutting overgrowth around young trees, and watering when it wasn’t raining.  To be clear, this is not the larger Healing Path that will eventually circumnavigate the Owen Sound Hospital but rather a smaller path to encourage people to come see the young trees up close.”

I can say from personal experience that this section of the path is a delight, as I have been running sections of it since last year, and have often observed the changes in the trees’ growth and colours, as well as Monarch Butterflies, and the many bird species the path has brought me to, including Eastern Meadowlarks, American Goldfinches, Killdeer, and even a Wilson’s Snipe that startled me when it flew up beside me there last fall. 

The most recent announcement is that NeighbourWoods North and the GBHS Hospital in Owen Sound held an official opening earlier this week for the amazing and beautiful Welcoming Garden (which was begun in 2020), and a reception to thank those who have been instrumental and supportive of this special venture. 

I was delighted to see this visitor this morning:
the Black-billed Cuckoo…
(North of Kimberley) August 8, Ingrid Remkins

Bob Knapp of the Sydenham Bruce Trail club sent me this report: “On Friday August 13th a bioblitz was organized by the Bruce Trail Conservancy to look at flora and fauna.   The event was held at the recently purchased 75 acre Bruce Trail property called Colpoy’s Cavern close to Bruce’s Caves.The group was led by Mara McHaffie, an Ecologist with the Bruce Trail.    Taking part were five Trail Ambassadors, students hired for the summer.  Seven Land Stewards from the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club also participated.   We hiked all through the property, recording anything of interest.We found lots of wild ginger and many types of ferns along with a few salamanders.   The large ash trees still appeared healthy, but it is likely they will be affected by the ash borer.  What was notable was, there were no invasive species recorded.   This area has had very little human presence, except where the Bruce Trail is located, along with the caves.It was good to meet the young ambassadors who were very knowledgeable and environmentally conscious.   The Land Stewards each have another property they are responsible for.   They enjoyed looking at this unique property with knowledgeable young people.The data recorded will be used in making a plan for this property.We are indeed fortunate to have so many Bruce Trail volunteers in the area who are interested in the preservation of large natural areas.”

It is now mid August and the wildflowers are putting on a fabulous display all around Grey and Bruce, as I have observed while running, and biking here and there – blues, yellows, purples, pinks, whites, and various shades of these draw the eye to the roadsides and across the meadows.  Many young birds with their parents are more noticeable lately – I have been seeing and hearing young Chipping Sparrows, Baltimore Orioles, Northern Cardinals, American Redstarts, and this morning a young Gray Catbird.  Two weeks ago I noticed a flock of about one hundred Red-winged Blackbirds swirling around from the gravelly edge of a road to the nearby wetland just at the edge of the City. On Tuesday of this week I asked David Turner of Flesherton if the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs have been migrating through here yet, and if so, where they might be found  – his reply: “Yes, both are starting to come south now, mostly females and juveniles. Along the lakeshore and some inland, and there will be more arriving over the next few weeks. Warblers are on the move south now too. I ran across a large mixed flock in Stayner today.”

Cedar Waxwings at Clendenan Dam, August 11, by Nigel Eves

Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN)  held a Moth Night on Wednesday, August 4 with guest facilitator Alan Macnaughton. The event was held at the Arboretum area of Grey Sauble Conservation, with about ten human participants that evening and many dozens of moth species, due in great part to the variety of habitats on hand there. Several lamp devices were placed and later visited to observe which moths were attracted, and how many. The weather also cooperated, and even the mosquitos were not a problem. People maintained their distance, while still having a close look at some of the more striking specimens, including Tiger Moths, Little Lined Underwing, and many more.

Many thanks to Rebecca Ferguson of Grey Sauble Conservation for her help in making some of the arrangements to use the site, which proved to be most suitable for hosting the event.In addition to Wednesday evening’s activities, Macnaughton was able to set up several lamp devices overnight Wednesday and Thursday, and then examine the results in the mornings of August 5 and 6. I was able to visit with him briefly on the morning of August 6, and I too was amazed at the colours, shapes, and sizes that I witnessed. 

Macnaughton’s report went on to say – “On my 2-night visit to Owen Sound, I had 151 observations of 124 species of moths. I tried to take pictures of every moth I observed because I knew that there weren’t many records of moths in Grey County.

The most attractive species was the Great Tiger Moth, or Garden Tiger Moth (scientific name Arctia caja). I found this in the traps on August 6th. There were 3 specimens of this species. The wingspan is about 3 inches, so it is a big moth.  The link below is actually to 4 pictures — one is shown by default, and then you click on the thumbnails below the image to show each of the 3 others: It is not found in the Waterloo Region area, and this was the first time I had encountered the species. Wonderful. The most surprising observations were two underwing moths (genus Catocala) that were some distance from previous observations: The Judith Underwing is rare (36 observations in Ontario) and has been found previously near the north shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, so Owen Sound was not expected.”  

OSFN President Pam Kinchen was also on hand and related: “It was a good night for moths and the OSFN members!”

Alan, left, uploading a moth image to iNaturalist (Photo by Pam Kinchen)
An underwing attracted to one of the lights (Photo by Pam Kinchen)

Alan‘s enthusiasm was catching as he showed all the various ways to attract the moths, show them off and take pictures. He has a vast knowledge that was well evident. The event was so successful, and Macnaughton was so pleased,  that similar events will likely be held again. Macnaughton said afterwards:  The moths one will see vary quite a bit over the season. Probably about every 3 weeks in the season a mostly different set of moths will be seen. 

Great Egret on a prowl….Harrison Park, August 13, by
Fely Clarke

More outdoor programmes are planned by OSFN including a Flora Field Trip with David Morris, and a Monarch tagging workshop with Audrey Armstrong. For details on these and other activities please visit

To close, a Nature quote from The Healer by former Owen Sound Sun Times reporter and columnist John Wright: “Only now, it was the coolness under the trees, scented air upon their faces, upon their interests, upon their curiosity of the flora and fauna so rich that they still amazed themselves that this was their home…Occasionally, a stream tickled rocks in the woods beside them. As desert dry men, they felt refreshed just by so delicious a sound.” To learn more about this book and the rest of the series, please visit

Nature Club News For July 2021

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Nature Club News July 2021

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists were treated to some diverse programming by OEC Director Deb Diebel for their final outdoor event of the season. Here is her outline:  On June 27th the Young Naturalists visited the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre for a visit to Boat Lake and some critter dipping! The magical forces of youthful enthusiasm and mud puddles kept the youngsters cool on this hot day, and kept the showers at bay! 

Pond Dipping
Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit

The young naturalists were equipped with dip nets and buckets, small bottles, and rubber boots, and were able to get their feet wet while exploring the lake shore for invertebrates, fish, turtles, and snakes!  One minnow was captured and released, along with Whirligig Beetles, Dragonfly Nymphs (both the shed exoskeletons and living nymphs!), one Mayfly Nymph, and some Leopard Frogs!  Potions were mixed, buckets were refreshed, and the time flew by too quickly!

Monarch caterpillar.
Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit

The walk to and from the lake also afforded us an opportunity to see Sandhill Cranes, learn to identify poison ivy, and to see many butterflies, caterpillars, and moths in the field! The Young Naturalists monthly programmes start up again in September, with details available near then at

Matthew Cunliffe, Chief Park Naturalist of MacGregor Point Provincial Park,  shared this report with me: 

The butterfly count at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, held on July 3rd,  was a great success this year despite the challenges of COVID-19. We designed the count for family groups to remain together in designated areas and all data was submitted electronically. We had eight volunteers and six staff participate this year. The weather was cooler and cloudy in the morning but warmed up for the afternoon and brought out some great species.

We had a great mix of butterfly species including red and white admirals, monarchs, viceroys, checkerspots, crescents, fritillaries and a multitude of skippers. Members of the Brushfoot family were well represented!

Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly. Photo by Bruce Edmunds

In terms of trends, we had fewer butterfly counters in the field this year, so it’s difficult to compare this year’s data with past years. However, we did notice a major increase in Northern Checkerspot, with over 300 individuals counted in MacGregor Point alone.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly. Photo by Bruce Edmunds

On July 4th, OSFN member David Turner led a group of keen birders to various habitats in the southern Beaver Valley. Club Vice-president Brendan Mulroy shared this report: ” As David predicted, we did find the Grasshopper sparrow, as well as numerous Savannah and Song sparrows.  A White-Throated sparrow serenaded us from a wooded area and finally came into view.  We saw several bobolinks.  There was a lovely view across a field of a Redtailed hawk sitting on a “hale of bay” as one excited member of the group put it.  We heard, but never saw, a Warbling vireo, and then all went quiet as we climbed out of the valley just north of Talisman.  There was a Merlin perched high on a dead tree, conducting the whole orchestra into silence.”

Another birder was impressed with the leadership of David Turner. “I enjoy how David knows his audience. He can speak to someone at any level of interest and make them feel comfortable and enthusiastic about birding. It’s a very casual informal atmosphere and a great place to connect with like-minded people. I really enjoy learning about how much more there really is to see in our immediate environment. Often times you glaze over the things that are right in front of you. So many birds in this beautiful area we live in that if we didn’t take the time to look we might never see.”

Eastern Meadowlark. July 4, Beaver Valley. Photo by David Turner

In most years the Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival would take place in early June at Tobermory. 

This year, however, in collaboration with Bruce Peninsula National Park, The Friends of Bruce District Parks Association will bring you Wild Discoveries: Orchids and Pollinators. The event will feature a wide range of topics, presented virtually, to unlimited numbers of participants, over Zoom, and, the real bonus, it will be FREE! The talks will start on July 15th and will continue over the following evenings. Many knowledgeable and interesting speakers are booked for this virtual festival. There will be two presentations each evening at 7 and 8 PM. I caught one evening’s presentations last year, and was very impressed with both the speakers and the material. 

July 15th: Brian Popelier (Orchids) Tyler Miller (Alvars)

July 16th: Audrey Armstrong (Creating Habitat for Birds, Bees and Butterflies); Megan Bonenfant (NCC- Vidal Bay) 

July 17th: Peter Raspberry (Orchids/Photography)   Parks Canada (Virtual Hike/iNaturalist)

To learn more about the presenters and their topics, and to find the zoom links for each evening’s offerings please visit

NeighbourWoods North 

Tree Helpers Wanted
 Here is a message from Lloyd Lewis of NeighbourWoods North: We are seeking volunteers who want to assist us in maintaining the 3000+ trees we have planted at the Owen Sound Hospital. 

Every Tuesday evening, continuing again on July 13,  we will be meeting at the Hospital Forest, opposite the emergency entrance, at 7pm and working till 8:30. Throughout the summer we will be mulching, cutting the encroaching grass and watering the plants in order to maintain the thriving health of the trees and shrubs.

 Any assistance is more than welcome. Just show up with gloves and gardening tools if you have them or for more information, call Lloyd at 226 256 8804.  Appropriate Covid precautions will be taken. 

They also have plans for their Fourth Annual Yard Sale Fundraiser from 7:30 to Noon 

on Saturday, July 17, taking place at 1625 7th Avenue East, Owen Sound

All covid protocols will be followed at the Yard Sale.

With so many contributors, the annual yard sale always has some great finds whether you’re into sports, music, household decor, or more.   If you would like to contribute an item or two to the sale, please contact us to make arrangements.  Remember every single dime of the proceeds goes to planting more trees at the hospital!  

To learn more about  NeighbourWoods North please visit

Plover Lovers at Sauble Beach have recently announced some hatching of the three eggs which had been incubated for the past four weeks. 

It would appear that only one Piping Plover chick had survived these early days, and both parents were doing their best to keep it safe, while it ran around looking for food — and adventure. Innovative techniques, including closely spaced bamboo poles, were introduced in an attempt to lessen the risk of predation by gulls. However, I received a sad update Wednesday afternoon from Caleb Johnstone of Plover Lovers, of Sauble Beach. Here is an excerpt – 

“Unfortunately we have lost all three of our chicks this year. From the very beginning Nancy and Bo (the two parent birds) had quite the task ahead of them; late nests usually fledge fewer chicks given the larger number of people and predators, such as gulls, on the beach. The first two chicks hatched on Saturday, and were pretty quickly predated by juvenile gulls. The third egg hatched a couple days later and we were lucky to be able to see the little guy or girl running around and taking its first steps outside the exclosure. Unfortunately, at around 11:00am today a Merlin predated this remaining chick. Bo and Nancy are both still around and searching for their chick, it really is all quite sad.

We want to thank everyone for helping us this year!  Whether we talked to you on the beach or if you read and responded to our emails, your support is crucial to everything we do here. There were so many different people working hard this summer to help Nancy and Bo fledge these chicks and we are all sad to see it end this way.”

Juvenile Green Herons, July 13th.
Photo by Mike Schwan.

On June 10, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club (OSFN) hosted, on Zoom, its Annual General Meeting along with its final monthly get together of the 2020-21 season. One highlight of the evening was President Pamela Kinchen’s presentation of the club’s Community Conservation Award to Robert and Marie Knapp, and this citation: In recognition of their many important and diverse contributions to  community and to conservation in Grey and Bruce Counties over the past five decades, including: the successful campaign to save,  for public use, what became Hibou Park, telling that story in a book and initiating the Friends of Hibou; their long-time active support of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, offering talks, field trips, hospitality, and their support of such organizations as Ontario Nature, the Bruce Trail Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy Canada; their socially conscious activities on behalf of the Family Y, MS Society, Mental Health initiatives, and their writing; building trails for hiking and skiing, teaching kayaking to future explorers, and building bridges – literally and figuratively. They both offer a magnificent example of conservation, sharing, and caring, while always continuing to learn. 

Congratulations and thank you to the Knapps!

The club has several field trips this summer involving botany, butterflies, moths, and more. To learn more please visit

Bob and Marie Knapp at Hibou.

To close, a Nature quote from Rachel Carson published at least 60 years ago in The Sea Around Us – “Now, in our own lifetime we are witnessing a startling alteration of climate… It is now established beyond question that a definite change in the arctic climate set in about 1900, that it became astonishingly marked about 1930, and that it is now spreading into sub-arctic and temperate regions. The frigid top of the world is very clearly warming up.”

The Ospreys: There were actually two young ones, but the other was hiding.
(Lake Eugenia).
Photo by Ingrid Remkins.


Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Nature Club News June 2021

by John Dickson

Kudos to the organizing committee of the 2021 Huron Fringe Birding “Festival Lite” Webinars, featuring these seven terrific presentations, and reaching good audiences each evening: Birding in Algonquin Park with Michael Runtz; Black Bears of the Bruce Peninsula with Dr. Martyn Obbard;  Fifteen Years of Ontario Piping Plovers with Andrea Gress; A Holistic Approach to Learning Bird Songs and Calls with Ian Shanahan; Birders Gone Wild: 24 hour Bruce Peninsula Birdathon with Ethan Meleg; Bird Banding at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory with Stéphane Menu; The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas: Focus on the Females, with Mark Peck. 

If you missed any or all of these, I highly  recommend visiting their website at for links to each webinar, all of which were recorded for later viewing.

Great Egret near Isaac Lake May 31, by Les Anderson

A new birding club, with a familiar name, is being hatched by the Blue Mountains Public Library   (BMPL) via Zoom on-line. Here is an excerpt from their recent announcement:

 The Dorothy Crysler Bird Club begins Saturday June 19, 2021

 9:30am – 10:30am.  Join Curator Andrea Wilson as each month we learn about our wild avian friends, their habits and habitats. This will not only help you identify birds, but you will learn about migration, nesting, environmental needs, species at risk and more. This is a collaborative study group, where participants will share as we grow knowledge together.  

The club is named for Dorothy Crysler, a remarkable local artist, journalist, author and birder! This club takes her cue, as she was “the messenger not the expert”. This group is for anyone, new or established as a birder. Once you have registered a zoom invitation will be sent.  To learn more contact Andrea at  5195993681 or by Email: Website:

Upland Sandpiper June 5, by Bill Hatten

The Plover Lovers of Sauble Beach have announced that there is now, finally, a nesting pair of Piping Plovers on the beach, with one egg in the nest as of June 7.  An exclosure was installed to keep out larger predators, plus a wider area perimeter fence around that.  Careful monitoring is being provided by volunteers and staff, in order to enhance the likelihood of success, as these Piping Plovers face many challenges in sustaining their population.

Ospreys on nest in Georgian Bluffs June 6 – Photo by Mike Tettenborn

Tree Helpers Wanted Here is a message from Lloyd Lewis of NeighbourWoods North: We are seeking volunteers who want to assist us in maintaining the 3000+ trees we have planted at the Owen Sound Hospital. 

Every Tuesday evening, starting June 15 th , we will be meeting at the Hospital Forest, opposite the emergency entrance, at 7pm and working till 8:30. Throughout the summer we will be mulching, cutting the encroaching grass and watering the plants in order to maintain the thriving health of the trees and shrubs.

 Any assistance is more than welcome. Just show up with gloves and gardening tools if you have them or for more information, call Lloyd at 226 256 8804.  Appropriate Covid precautions will be taken. 

Blue-winged Warbler June 6, South-East of Owen Sound  by William Gray

Although the birding activities are getting lots of attention, other aspects of Nature are just as eye-catching these days. Butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, moths and bees are everywhere and new Spring wildflowers are emerging almost every week. 

Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid  June 7 by David Turner

Lately the orchids, and paintbrushes have been really putting on a show throughout the region.  Additionally, on recent outings I have been encountering lovely pink and scented wild roses along roadsides and pathways. 

In most years the Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival would take place in early June at Tobermory. 

This year, however, in collaboration with Bruce Peninsula National Park, The Friends of Bruce District Parks Association will bring you Wild Discoveries: Orchids and Pollinators. The event will feature a wide range of topics, presented virtually, to unlimited numbers of participants, over Zoom, and, the real bonus, it will be FREE! The talks will start on July 15th and will continue over the following evenings. Many knowledgeable and interesting speakers are booked for this virtual festival. There will be two presentations each evening at 7 and 8 PM. 

July 15th: Brian Popelier (Orchids) Tyler Miller (Alvars)

July 16th: Audrey Armstrong (Creating Habitat for Birds, Bees and Butterflies)  Megan Bonenfant (NCC- Vidal Bay)

July 17th: Peter Raspberry (Orchids/Photography)   Parks Canada (Virtual Hike/iNaturalist)

Monarch egg on a common milkweed leaf, Grey County, June 9, 2021 (Photo by Brian Robin)

There have been many recent sightings of turtles, locally, as many are seeking suitable locations for laying their eggs. It has been encouraging to hear stories, and see for myself, motorists stopping carefully on secondary roads to wait or assist with their road crossings. In addition lots of snakes, frogs and toads have  been observed in recent weeks.

Snapping Turtle hoping to cross a Grey County Road (she made it), June 2017, Photo by Brian Robin

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists monthly meeting will take place at 7PM this Thursday, June 10, online, via Zoom. It will include the Annual General Meeting  followed by featured guest speaker David Turner and “Birding different habitats in the Beaver Valley.”  Explore and discover where in the Valley, and why, so many birds call it home, or at least a nice place to visit. Enjoy David’s exquisite photographic images, and his contagious passion for Nature. 

David Turner (Supplied photo)

If you do not receive a link to this event but would like to attend please contact with “Beaver Valley” in the subject line.

On a sadder note OSFN extends condolences to the Willmott family on the recent passing of 96 year old Don Willmott. He was a beloved long-time naturalist and former club President (2003-4) who, along with his wife Elizabeth, had been an OSFN club member since 1992.

Don Willmott (supplied photo)

To close, a June Nature quote from Archibald Lampman (1861-1899), considered to have been Canada’s best writer of Nature verse- 

All day in garden alleys moist and dim,
The humid air is burdened with the rose;
In moss-deep woods the creamy orchid blows;
And now the vesper-sparrow’s pealing hymn
From every orchard close
At eve comes flooding rich and silvery;
The daisies in great meadows swing and shine;
And with the wind a sound as of the sea
Roars in the maples and the topmost pine.


Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Nature Club News May 2021

by John Dickson

Early in the last week of April, Kiah Jasper of the Bruce Birding Club looked at the weather projections and made his own bird migration forecast – Here is an excerpt –

26 Apr 2021 -Tomorrow looks like it will be awesome for migration in Bruce (and most of Ontario).  There are some very strong southwest winds coming all the way from the gulf coast and Texas. The wind will start to pick up later today and will continue until Tuesday night, when it starts dying down and shifting west. 

As far as rain goes, it’s looking pretty good! Looking at it now I see a massive, rain-free channel for birds all the way from the Texas coast. This means a huge number of migrating songbirds will take advantage of these tailwinds to move north. 

I feel like the Tobermory area could be good…”
Photo by Les Anderson – May 9 Rose-breasted Grosbeak – South Bruce Peninsula

Late April, Greater Yellowlegs, Photo by Peter Middleton at Isaac Lake

Sure enough, as Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, (BPBO) near Tobermory, titled his second  report of the season – “Riding the tailwinds in droves!  On April 27, we focused our eyes and binoculars on the immense stream of birds flowing through Cabot Head like a feathered river in spring flood. A total of 53 species, the highest of the season so far, were detected including five species of warblers (the forest gems), with many species in incredible numbers. American Robins for example, were seen milling in flocks of up to 150 birds, with a morning estimate of over 700 birds. The most abundant bird though was the Yellow-rumped Warbler: we estimated over 900 birds moved through Cabot Head. Purple Finches put on a show too, adorning the bare branches of trees with their rich red, singing as if spring was here, and all in all being in record high numbers! Just like Pine Warblers, they broke the previous one-day record of 83 birds on April 24, 2016: 91 Purple Finches were counted on April 27 this spring, a remarkable number.Even after 16 seasons at Cabot Head, I am still in awe and delighted by these mornings of intense migration, when the Earth herself seems to pulse with birds.”

Menu’s third report of the season featured even more superlatives, with the setting of a new record for the most species of warblers (8) on one April day.

“What took us by surprise though, were the waves upon waves of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, which were everywhere in the cedars and the birches, chittering away and hungrily devouring midges. They also hit our nets like a gentle green tsunami of little fluffballs. Between April 29 and May 5, we banded an amazing total of 419 Ruby-crowned Kinglets! (With a season total, so far, of a cool round 500 birds).”

Closer to Owen Sound and area, by May 3rd both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, plus Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were arriving, as well as Pine Siskins and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Some nesting Bald Eagles now have eaglets in their nests, Ospreys are active and in one case a Great Horned Owl pair took over a platform nest that is usually occupied by Ospreys. Shorebirds being observed include Greater Yellowlegs, American Bitterns and Spotted Sandpipers. In addition, more wildflowers are blooming and being noticed too, along with sightings of Turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, not to mention butterflies and bees, and just this morning – morels.

Baltimore Oriole photo by Renee Anderson May 4, Owen Sound

Bob Gray of the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team (GBCAT) shared this with me: “On May 17 we are sponsoring a Zoom presentation on Lyme disease.  I have seen this doctor speak on this topic and she is excellent.  Anyone who enjoys the out of doors in the local area should be encouraged to attend. Come and learn about ticks: the different species, how to identify them, their life history and ways to prevent bites. Inform yourself about the contraction, symptoms, treatment etc. of this disease. Discover the impact of climate change on these disease carrying ticks which has increased their population density and broadened their habitat. Dr. Anne Uings is scheduled to give this presentation from 7 to 8:30pm, Monday May 17. Please register here:      For more information, contact:

Morel by Bill Elder May 4

Nature news from the newsletter of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library – Order Seeds from the Seed Lending Library! There is still a good selection of seeds, all donated by our generous community. This year the Seed Lending Library is not available for browsing. Please contact Carolin at or 519-376-6623 ext. 214 for a current inventory. *Please include your name and library card number with your request. Consider saving and donating seeds this fall to keep the Seed Lending Library going next year. Information will be included with your seeds. 

More and more Nature talks are being produced and premiered locally, and are available for viewing on an ongoing basis on various YouTube channels. Recommended examples include Spring Wildflowers of the Beaver Valley Area, by Stew Hilts, who I still remember leading a couple of Wildflower Walks on Old Baldy for OSFN a few years ago. Hilts produced his first Nature video earlier this year featuring Waterfalls of the Beaver Valley Area, and it has been very popular, with close to one thousand viewings already. Searching either of those titles will bear fruit too. 

Still in the Beaver Valley, Rogers TV has produced and released a Wandering Grey Bruce video interview of Birding with David Turner by another Naturalist, Krista McKee. Searching online for those key words and names works very well too. The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) also have a growing catalogue of recorded Webinars, on such various themes as Geology, Botany, Being a Bird in North America, etc., and they can be found at

David Turner Palm Warbler at Collingwood Harbour trails, May 3

Although group field trips are currently suspended, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) continues to provide monthly presentations online using the ZOOM platform. On May 13,  at 7pm Marg Gaviller shares her photos and research about The Horses of Sable Island, and the journey from there back to Newfoundland.

Photo by Marg Gaviller

The Sable Island horses, originally domestic animals, are now the main occupants of the island. They roam freely in the natural environment, comfortably in the temperate summers, but battered by high winds and ferocious storms in the winter, and without human interference. These feral horses are, indeed, a joy to behold.

This is a ZOOM webinar, and is presented free to the public. If you are interested and would like to participate, please contact with “Sable Island Webinar” as the subject title to receive a link to the webinar which will be open at 6:45pm. To learn more please visit 

To close, a May Nature quote from Winston Groom’s A Storm in Flanders  – “On May 2nd, [2015] at the height of the Second Battle of Ypres, a friend of Major John McRae’s, Lieutenant Alex Helmer, was killed…and after conducting the burial service himself, McRae went to sit on the step of a field ambulance, …took out a pad and pencil and within twenty minutes had penned one of the immortal poems of the war, In Flanders Fields. Those who were present recorded that the sky was full of larks: that the poppies for which Flanders is renowned were beginning to bloom in the fields and sprout between the crosses in the growing military cemeteries.” 


Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Nature Club News March 2021

by John Dickson

In recent days I have been able to fit in a little more skiing, through beautiful open forests, and alongside a fast flowing stream, to an idyllic waterfall. Conversely, I have also been out for a run in shorts and T-shirt, hearing and then seeing my first Red-winged Blackbird of 2021. I hope you too are enjoying the sunlight, warmer winds, and even the rain as the transition to Springtime is well underway.

The Friends of Hibou have now resumed offering guided hikes and there are still two available in March.  For their hikes, you must register in advance. Register at These two hikes will start from the Parking Lot by the Pump house at the most southerly entrance to the trails. Time: 1pm to 3pm. Reminder – social distancing will be in place, and masks should be quickly available in the case of closer contact than planned. They will keep numbers manageable at about ten in total per hike leader.  Tuesday March 16th. Bob Knapp will lead a snowshoe/hike on the Interpretive Trail. Depending on the group and the weather, he may offer an extension to another section. Tuesday March 30th Don Sankey will share photography skills on parts of the shoreline and the Interpretive Trail. You may bring your camera. Learn more about winter light, snow and more.  I had a lovely ski there just this past week, and I highly recommend their Spring Newsletter at

Tufted Titmouse, March 9, at Pinery Provincial Park (photo by Nancy White)
On March 6, in Georgian Bluffs, by Mike Tettenborn
Female Snowy Owl 

The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association has launched its Red-headed Woodpecker funding drive for a habitat enhancement stewardship program to help protect this endangered species on the Bruce Peninsula. Their Silent Auction is now open, with many attractive and valuable items to bid on, including a two hour star gazing session, 2 nights stay in Lion’s Head, a parks merchandise package, a Red-headed woodpecker painting, an EcoAdventures Forest Escape and EcoAdventures gift cards plus much more. The auction is open until March 15th. The highest bid receives the item. This organization does some amazing work for Nature and this is a chance to “Win something cool and help protect the Red-headed Woodpecker!” Visit their Facebook page at Red Headed Woodpecker Silent Auction to see all of the items, and to bid on your own favourites, for yourself, or perhaps as a gift for someone else.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) at 7PM Thursday March 11, on ZOOM host Members Night – a potpourri of several brief presentations by club members, with a variety of nature themes. These include OSFN’s popular publications, a Piping Plover video, a Name that Bloom quiz, plus one on local trails, with lots of Nature photos too. This is open to the public and you are welcome to attend. If you would like to attend this event, but did not receive the zoom link via email, please contact with Members’ Night as the subject title, or visit

OSFN’s Jody Johnson Pettit shared this update on the Young Naturalists who were once again able to get together last month:”On Sunday, February 28th, the Young Naturalists club had the opportunity to snowshoe through the forest at the Outdoor Education Centre with Deb Diebel. The group followed porcupine tracks and found evidence of the porcupine at the bottom of several trees and broken limbs off of Hemlock trees. We discovered what could possibly be a porcupine den, and wild turkey tracks in the snow. The children and adults played an owl and mouse camouflage game and were able to walk along the frozen lake shoreline. The snow was wet and heavy, making for tough snowshoeing conditions.

Snowshowing (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Porcupine Quills (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

“The first YouTube presentation by Stew Hilts is a winner! As David Morris points out, it is “An excellent presentation by Stew Hilts courtesy of the Blue Mountain Public Library, Arts and Culture Committee. Good discussion of the geology of the falls, some history and lots of pictures of many waterfalls, big and small”

The Blue Mountains Public Library invites you to: “Join Stew Hilts, who presented three Lifelong Learning courses at the library, to hear about one of his favourite topics. Learn how the geology of the valley and adjacent areas influence the waterfalls. Open your eyes to a greater appreciation of our amazing group of waterfalls here in the Grey/Bruce area… and learn about three secret waterfalls to boot!”  Visit them at and you will find this excellent video and their YouTube Channel under Books & More, then Virtual Branch. I am sure you will enjoy learning from Stew, just as I did.

Skunk – Flesherton March 10  photo by David Turner
Eastern Bluebird in Beaver Valley March 10, photo by David Turner

The Bruce Birding Club has now resumed its twice monthly club get togethers, but via zoom. Fred Jazvac explained that “The purpose is to chat, answer questions, report sightings, show your photos and have people speaking on various topics.” On March 3rd Kiah Jasper spoke about the Breeding Bird Atlas, particularly in Bruce County, and Fred explained about the difference in feet between a Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle. On March 17, among other items, Lynne Richardson will give details on the latest, new bird list for Grey and Bruce County of which she, James Turland and Dave Fidler were the people who worked on this task.   Lynne is also in charge of the Breeding Bird Atlas for Grey County.” To learn more about this club and its activities, please contact Fred at

The team of Bob and Mary Beth Gray shared with me this wee taste of Maple Syrup producers’ activities, observations, concerns and motivations: “Hi John: You seem to have a pretty good sense of all things natural.  Am just in now from the sugar shack.  It was our first boil today and it was used to “set up” the sugar content in the evaporator.  We didn’t get any syrup off today, but we will on our next boil, likely tomorrow. We have had two sap runs here so far this season.  The first was on Sunday, Feb. 28, and second was today – Monday, Mar. 8.  We used the first run to flush our sap lines out, so did not collect any sap that day at all.  And now our evaporator has been set up with the second run.  With the next run, we should be pulling off syrup.The sugar content here in the sap today was 2.8 Brix (which means 2.8% sugar content).  We like to make our syrup at 67 Brix which is a little
on the thick side.  If you take the number 88 and divide it by the sap sugar content (2.8 today), that gives you 31.4 which is the exact ratio of sap to syrup at 67 Brix.  In other words, with this high sugar content in the sap (which we find is typical for the beginning of the season), it takes 31.4 parts of sap to make 1 part of syrup.  That is important to know, because it means that you can make a lighter grade syrup (less time on the fire to get to syrup, so it does not have a chance to darken as much.  The flavour of this “first run” syrup is quite delicate. The grade is Golden. Because you are evaporating less water vapour off to make syrup, you are making syrup faster and with less fuel wood.  These are all good things if you are a sugar maker.

Sap flow is all about the weather.  One needs a good hard frost at night
(at least minus 3 C in the woods) and plus temperatures (not greater
than plus 10 C).  And it does not like to run in an east wind (too
cold).  There also needs to be adequate moisture in the ground such as
from a melting snow pack or rain to feed the tree roots with water.  So
with all these factors required for sap to flow, there often are not all
that many sap runs in a season when one can make maple syrup.
During syrup season, every morning is like Christmas morning.  I get a
kick out of heading out to the bush first thing in the morning to see
how much sap has collected during the night, or to see when sap has
started to run again for the day.  And it is a great opportunity to see
and hear spring migrants as they arrive daily.  This morning we had our
first red-winged blackbird, and our first gulls flying by this afternoon.  WHAT A GREAT TIME OF THE YEAR! Bob.” 

Then this message Tuesday – “Hi John,Bob has just returned from our bush where he says the sap run for today has already started ( 9:47 am).Enjoy the sunshine,Mary Beth” Definitely a cause for celebration!

Mink at the Bruce National Park, photo by Maureen Elliott

To close, two Nature quotes, both apropos to these final weeks of Wintertime – From Pierre Berton’s The Arctic Grail – After the death of Charles Hall, the remnants of his expedition, on March 30, 1873 were on “a flat frozen slab drifting alone among hundreds of icebergs – slow-moving mountains of crystal ploughing through the glassy sea.” From Steve Podborski’s Skier’s Source Book: “The aesthetic experience of skiing, of absorbing the splendors of the great outdoors and communing with Mother Nature in her winter wonderland, makes the spirit soar. When you take advantage of winter and turn the snow into a source of pleasure, it makes you think that the migrating birds and hibernating groundhogs have it all wrong.”


Friday, February 19th, 2021

Nature Club News February 2021

by John Dickson

In recent years this upcoming weekend has become an opportunity for celebrating many things – Family, Heritage, and Nature too.  The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is scheduled for February 12-15, inviting people to report their observations of bird sightings, as well as share their photos, and watch on a map of the world as count data are applied to a visual representation of a world wide activity.

My own best memory of this event was from a few years ago, on the coldest morning of the winter, when I counted 29 Cedar Waxwings and one fluffed-up Robin, enjoying the remaining fruit on a Mountain Ash tree visible from our window. Alas, most winters since then, that tree has been fruitless, as has been my checking for the return of the waxwings! To learn how you can participate please visit

February 9, Owen Sound, Male Cardinal, by Renee Anderson
February 9, Owen Sound, Male Cardinal, by Renee Anderson

The Grey County Master Gardeners are offering the second of three zoom seminars on Saturday February 27 at 1PM  to help you create and maintain an environmentally sustainable and beautiful garden. Entitled Gardening with Nature – Building Gardens from the Ground Up it will feature Julie Anne Lamberts, local gardener and operator of By the Bluffs Nursery near Wiarton. 

By the Bluffs Nursery is an ecological plant nursery and permaculture orchard, and Julie is a nature lover and conservationist. Her nursery, orchard and gardens are grown in harmony with the environment using techniques that restore the health of land, water and air. To register for this event please visit

The hikes planned for February by the Friends of Hibou, (FoH) were suspended during the current COVID-19 lockdown. In the meantime FoH reminds you that the trails are still open for your use.  To check and to verify whether any guided hikes have been rescheduled after the planned easing of some restrictions February 16, please visit

 Beaver Valley February 2, by Ingrid Remkins
January 24 Brown Creeper, by Ingrid Remkins

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are offering their monthly presentation entitled Tanzania: Cultures of Maasai and Lions; and Zanzibar: A World of Spices, at 7PM Thursday February 11 online, via Zoom. The guest speaker is OSFN President Pamela Kinchen, who documented her journey to Africa with photographs, research and special memories. Kinchen describes it as A Dream Trip realized to see it All – Before it’s Gone! Three weeks of “Pinch me – I’m really Here!” These events are open to the public as well as OSFN members.

If you would like to attend this event, but did not receive the zoom link via email, please contact with “Tanzania Webinar” as the subject title, or visit

Female Snowy Owl in Georgian Bluffs February 2 by Mike Tettenborn
Rough-legged Hawk February 4, in Georgian Bluffs by Mike Tettenborn

Another local organization I can recommend is the Bruce Grey Woodlands Association, which has recently posted several learning opportunities related to trees, tree pests, invasive species, new initiatives for wood products, etc. To check them out please visit

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is now offering online learning opportunities too. For example, Mark Peck shared his article Animal Crossing describing and explaining about how the nomadic winter finches are irruptive migrants who plan their travels based on food supply. Other offerings can be found at “ROM at Home”, or under “collections and research” at Mark Peck is Manager of the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity at the ROM, and has given presentations to OSFN with his father, the late George Peck.

Evening Grosbeak, Flesherton. January 29 David Turner

Almost a year ago, Beaver Valley Birding was launched on a  Facebook platform, by David Turner of Flesherton. Observing that the club has been very active with its sightings and photographs, I asked David about what he had in mind when he created the group, to which he replied

“So I started the Beaver Valley Birding page on March 29th, 2020, as a way to connect local birders together for the purpose of sharing information and their love of local birds. I thought it would be a great way to share locations of interesting birds to some folks who don’t know where to look for birds and to meet other birders from the area. Birding is a great way to share outdoors activities and two sets of eyes are always better than one. One of my main hopes was to have people meet and go birding in groups. This still happens now with small numbers, but I’d hoped to be able to have people meet me, then I could show them some of the best spots to go. The site has become more popular than I ever thought it would, with 285 members. Hopefully we can all have a big birding event when the Covid crisis is over. Seeing the amount of seasoned birders willing to help new birders out with ID’s and other information is the best bonus so far with the page. Also the quality of photography is impressive. Lot’s of help for beginners there too.”

I have certainly found the site to be fascinating, due to the terrific postings of excellent photos, and helpful advice and tips for identification. Kudos to David Turner for this very successful initiative.If you are interested in seeing for yourself, visit Beaver Valley Birding on Facebook.

Bald eagle, close to the Valley’s centre – February 8 Beaver Valley by David Turner
Northern Shrike, FEB 1, by David Turner

In response to my tribute last month to Gus Yaki, I have learned from an acquaintance of mine, here in Owen Sound, that she and her future husband met on their first field trip led by Yaki, and went on several more of his well organized trips. His leadership skills, his understanding of the group dynamic, and sharing his nature knowledge made for very educational and memorable experiences.

To close, a Nature quote from Farley Mowat’s Grey Seas Under, set in Canada’s Atlantic provinces “…February of 1938 was more violent than any of its predecessors for thirty years. It began with a full-blown hurricane and went on from there to try to make its opening days seem like an idyllic June.”


Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Nature Club News January 2021

by John Dickson

In spite of the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, many people are paying closer attention to Nature activities as they try to cope with the restrictions and safety guidelines. In addition, with few or no in-person indoor or outdoor group events, some are creating artwork with nature themes, or sharing photos of birds and animals, or their tracks, plus winter forests and fungi. There are also many online programmes for viewing from home, with some question and answer exchanges possible in many of them.

This is part of a four foot stretch of these on a Beech Tree trunk lying on the ground in Harrison Park, when I was skiing there on January 8 – Turkey Tail Bracket Fungus – photo by John Dickson

Locally, the Grey County Master Gardeners present “The Eco-Responsible Gardener”, a series of three Zoom seminars, to help you create and maintain an environmentally sustainable and beautiful garden. The first seminar on Native Plants for Grey and Bruce Counties is Saturday, January 30 at 1pm. Well known author, Lorraine Johnson, shares her extensive knowledge of native plants, and how to incorporate them into the home garden.Lorraine Johnson is the author of numerous books on environmental issues and gardening. Former president of the North American Native Plant Society, her areas of expertise include gardening with native plants, urban agriculture and biodiversity conservation.Her most recent book, co-authored with Sheila Colla, “A Flower Patch for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators”, is available as a free download at

Registration is required by January 23. Please email with “GCMG Zoom Seminar 1” in the subject line. A registration email for this seminar will be emailed to you, with further instructions.

The Friends of Hibou launched their winter hike series in December. 

With the Point Trail as her focus, Annette Patrick led a group around the loop, pointing out different features referencing the ancient history of the landscape. It was a cold sunny day and the hike was enjoyed by the group.Friends of Hibou are limiting their numbers to nine plus the leader and follow Covid19 restrictions and guidelines. They suggest participants bring a mask in case distancing is difficult in some areas.

Supplied photo from December 31st hike at Hibou Conservation Area

On New Year’s Eve Day a small group of adults enjoyed a hike around the Interpretive Trail with features identified by both  Krista McKee and Bob Knapp. Krista’s granddaughter was a pleasant addition to the hike group.

Bob Knapp’s hike on January 12 attracted a small group, which is in keeping with the Covid restrictions. He led the group around the Interpretive Trail, making their way around some of the flooding. His hike included a walk along the link trial to the Tom Thomson Trial. Bob is always a wealth of information related to how Hibou became part of Grey Sauble Conservation land.On Monday Feb 1st Barry Lewin plans to lead a hike around the Interpretive Trail. Barry walks that trail more frequently than most. He will point out birds, the beaver lodge, trees and other interpretive features. He will review some of the history of Hibou and point out some of the information from the book written by Bob Knapp. If you are interested in these hikes, register early as the numbers may be further restricted from the nine people limits so far.

To register, go to You must register for these scheduled hikes in advance. Let Friends of Hibou know if you would like to see more scheduled hikes later in February and in March email

Congratulations to Artist and Naturalist George McLean, recently announced to receive the Order of Ontario Award. McLean also received an Owen Sound Cultural Award for Lifetime Achievement a number of years ago and designed the logo of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) depicting a Hart’s Tongue Fern, a species that is rare in North America, but very common in our region. I recommend reading Rob Gowan’s interview with George McLean in the Sun Times January 11.

This Thursday, January 14, at 7PM, OSFN presents  Exploring the Polar Regions: A Guide’s Perspective with Bella Waterton and Paul Scriver. They have been working in the polar regions for the last decade, most recently along the Hudson Bay coastline guiding at, and managing a National Geographic Polar Bear Lodge. They will speak about their experiences, the wildlife of that area, plus tourism there and in the broader polar regions.

This ZOOM webinar is open to the public and will be active from 6:45pm. If you are not on the OSFN mailing list, but would still like to access it, please contact

A bonus online presentation – Being a Bird in North America – is being offered at 7PM Thursday, January 28, with Robert Alvo, a conservation biologist, bird expert with special emphasis on loons, and the author of Being a Bird in North America. For more details on any of these, please visit

Crossbills have been sighted in many spots this year, and we have especially enjoyed their presence in nearby Spruce trees. Winter has provided many close-to-home treasures in this season of lockdown/isolation!
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) were held recently throughout the area, with Public Health guidelines being observed. Here are results selected from some of those CBCs.  

Owen Sound: Following the 50th annual Owen Sound CBC, compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom reported that some species observed were lower in number than usual with only one Brown Creeper and no Golden-crowned Kinglets. However, some of this year’s highlights included the count’s first Winter Wren, the return of the Barrow’s Goldeneye for the fourth year in a row, and several out of season birds, including Tundra Swan, Peregrine Falcon, Black Scoter, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle.             

Tobermory:  Michael Butler, compiler for the 48th annual Tobermory CBC, December 16th, reported a lower than average total birds counted, but two more species than average. A highlight was a count-first Golden Eagle seen flying near Driftwood Cove. Also notable was a new record high of 56 Common Mergansers (average is 9). Wild Turkeys have been observed every year since first detected in 2008. This year’s count of 49 nearly doubled the previous high. Two each of Great Blue Heron and White-crowned Sparrow tied the highs for these species logged in 1997 and 1977, respectively.  Southern Ontario, including our area, experienced an unprecedented flight of the much-loved Evening Grosbeak this fall but none remained to be seen on the count. Other so-called “winter finches” were noted, among them 12 Pine Grosbeaks and 50 Common Redpolls. Additional species that were missed on the day of the count, but seen within the count week period, included a Long-tailed Duck in Little Tub, a Common Loon in Big Tub, a Snowy Owl in Corisande Bay, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings at the Golf Course and an American Robin on Big Tub Road.

January 11   Bohemian Waxwings 
The Covid Crankies.
Photo by Ingrid Remkins
Northern Shrike January 9
Photo by Ingrid Remkins

Meaford compiler Lynne Richardson: The 50th annual Meaford CBC was held on Monday December 28th under somewhat unfavourable conditions, but the Count results were surprisingly great!

Our 24 participants found 59 species, continuing the trend of the past 10 years of totaling over 50 species in the Meaford circle and total individuals at 4324 birds were slightly over the past count average. One new species was added to the 50-year cumulative total for this count – Hoary Redpoll – 2 of them.  This addition brings the all-time cumulative total to 123 species.No exceptional all-time highs or lows were recorded this year (remember that lousy weather…) but diversity was good due partially to the lingering winter finches from this falls’ “superflight” of those beautiful boreal birds!  Bohemian Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, the new Hoary Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbill all put in special and rare appearances. Lingering migrants included several Northern Flickers, a White-throated Sparrow, and the Count Week Pintail, Bluebirds and a Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker.

? Dashing thru the snow…..?
Red Squirrel
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021
Northern Cardinal
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021

Kincardine CBC, from compiler James Turland: Held on December 19,this is only the third time in its thirty year history that more than 60 species were found, due in part to the Finch irruption and lingering summer species. A Savannah Sparrow found at a feeder is new to the count. 

Saugeen Shores January 4th: Compiler Kiah Jasper reported that “the overall count was slightly down on total numbers of individual birds, but we  recorded a new high number of species.. 67! Highlights were Tufted Titmouse, Bohemian Waxwing and Eastern Meadowlarks. Notable misses included Snowy Owl and Golden Eagle.”

January 10 Flesherton
Evening Grosbeaks , Mrs. and Mr.
Photo by David Turner
Winter Finches come in different sizes,
Female Evening Grosbeak and Male Common Redpoll. Flesherton
Photo by David Turner

Finally, I learned just this week of the passing of Gus Yaki last August. Born in Saskatchewan, he developed a keen interest in nature through curious observation, during his daily three mile walks to and from school. Later, when he was based in Ontario he became active with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON), the Bruce Trail,  and even started up the Niagara Falls Nature Club. You can read about that beginning at  

Gus Yaki 1932-2020
Birding in Winter – supplied photo

I met Gus Yaki in the spring of 1972, through Bob Comber, who had invited him to advise on the design of a Nature trail near Williams Lake. I remember his advice about the value of leaving some dead tree trunks standing in the woods to support the wildlife there, as a source of food and habitat, etc. 

I have thought of Gus from time to time over the years. He was active in our area here too.  Betty Adair recalls that he was occasionally at the local Conservation Authority, and Stew Hilts remembers meeting him at Dorcas Bay. One day I was looking in the archives at Grey Roots, at some nature surveys of properties near the Long Swamp (just north-west of Owen Sound), and saw Gus Yaki’s name on them too. Gus Yaki was on the board of the FON when when the seed for Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) was planted, and he was instrumental in its development. Yaki eventually moved to Calgary where he soon became a catalyst for more nature activities there.

John Lounds, former CEO of both Ontario Nature and then NCC, as well as being a native of Meaford, shared this: “Gus had worked to help set up Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) many years ago in the 1960s – My interactions with Gus at the FON were more around the trips programs that he had developed and led over the years, endearing him to many and encouraging budding naturalists to explore our world and follow their passion.  He was already a legend when I arrived at the FON in the early 1990s.  

When I moved to the NCC in 1997, I was able to meet up with Gus on several occasions through my travel to Alberta – the man never stopped in his delight and encouragement of young people, and his efforts on behalf of nature.  His knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious!.  He kept leading outings until his body wouldn’t let him anymore.  A fine man and a great mentor.”A few years ago Gus’s friend Robert Bateman introduced him at an event by calling him “The most accomplished naturalist in North America.” 

In 2017, at the age of 84, Gus organized and led a hike across southern Alberta to mark Canada 150 and support the study of birds and habitat conservation.   In 2019, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by the Governor General of Canada, and was recognized as one of Calgary’s “Top 7 over 70.” 

Here is a link where you will find a comprehensive article about Gus Yaki, along with many photos of him, plus more links to interviews and videos. 

To close, a Nature quote from Gus Yaki himself –   “Unless people learn to love and appreciate the natural world around them, they are not going to stand up to protect it.”


Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Nature Club News December 2020

by John Dickson

The energetic team of volunteers at Friends of Hibou are producing a terrific newsletter, and offering a series of five guided/themed winter hikes (wearing snowshoes may be advised) on the Interpretive Trails at Hibou Conservation Area. In fact, there are three scheduled within the next month – led by Annette Patrick 1-3PM on December 15; Krista McKee at 2PM December 31 for a New Year’s Eve special featuring a cooking fire for bannock and hot chocolate; followed by Bob Knapp on January 12, 1-3PM. You must register in advance for these events and adhere to Public Health guidelines. To learn more about this club, and to receive their engaging newsletter please visit

Area birders are still being treated with highlight sightings of wintertime visitors that include Bohemian Waxwings, Evening Grosbeaks, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, a Tufted Titmouse, Tree Sparrows, Snow Buntings, Northern Shrikes, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Snowy Owls, Barred Owls and even more. Just in the past two weeks Short-eared Owls have been observed both on the Saugeen Peninsula, and in Georgian Bluffs.

Female Pine Grosebeak, Renee Anderson, Owen Sound, December 7, 2020

On November 26, after seeing his third Gyrfalcon of 2020, Kiah Jasper reported “The next highlight of the day came in the form of two Short-eared Owls that flew in front of me on a quiet concession road. These birds were found the previous morning by Robert Taylor and Anne-Marie Benedict and they seemed to be sticking around. I checked that evening at sunset and had 7 Short-eareds, which I believe is a high count for Bruce County. ” Later, while scanning many waterfowl, Kiah added -“a small bird that was bobbing around in the water caught my attention ~ a Red Phalarope! Reds are rare in southern Ontario, with a few birds seen each fall along shorelines and in lagoons.”

Short-eared Owl in very misty conditions. Photo by Kiah Jasper

Jarmo Jalava and Tony Chegahno led an Owl Prowl event for Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) on November 29, which featured several of those same beautiful Short-eared Owls, swooping low as they hunted over a meadow. There were also good views of Rough-legged Hawks, a Bald Eagle and a bounty of Snow Buntings. Jarmo’s joyful exuberance at seeing these magnificent owls was contagious, and I think I have now caught that bug myself. I am rather envious of Tracy Fidler, who recently saw one in Georgian Bluffs. Jarmo also provided this eloquent commentary -“It’s always a thrill to see these rather mysterious crepuscular creatures fluttering moth-like over the fields in the waning light in search of prey.  I have no doubt there are several Short-eared Owls lingering on the Peninsula this autumn because of an exceptional abundance of mice and voles.  Rough-legged Hawk numbers also seem higher than normal.”  

Rough-legged Hawk December 6, by Nigel Eves

In Owen Sound harbour, one particular male Barrow’s Goldeneye has been seen in recent years, and again this past week by Erik Van Den Kieboom, and David Turner, as well as by Nigel Eves, members of the Beaver Valley Birding Club. This uncommon specimen was seen swimming amongst the Common Goldeneyes that are observed regularly.

Barrow’s Goldeneye December 6, photo by David Turner
Never take the beauty of a Mallard for granted. David Turner – December 8

This Thursday, at 7PM, OSFN also presents Geology in the age of LiDAR: What new technology is telling us about Canada’s last great ice sheets, with the return of guest speaker Dr. Nick Eyles, award-winning geologist, author and popular guest host on a series of Geology themed shows in David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things. I happened across two of his many books, Ontario Rocks and Canada Rocks (co-written) last winter, and found them to be filled with so much stimulating information that I invited him to join us this season, to give us an update in his exciting field of study.Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology is the key to autonomous driving and is also changing how the science of geology is done, by allowing mapping of the earth’s surface in unprecedented detail. This event will be shared on ZOOM, followed by a Q&A with Eyles. To learn more about this talk and Eyles himself, please visit

I just learned of the recent passing of Gwen Lewington, who along with her husband Dennis, made a tremendous contribution to the Eastern Bluebird recovery programmes, by installing and monitoring many nesting boxes, from which over 3000 birds were successfully fledged. They also donated property to Ontario Nature, creating the Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve, and were the recipients of the OSFN Community Conservation Award. We extend our sincere condolences to Dennis, family, and friends. Notes of sympathy and condolence may be made at

Pam Binnendyk shared with the Bruce Birding Club “I had an exciting afternoon Nov. 26. Crows just off my deck were making such a racket. Upon watching for a few moments 3 crows had assembled and were very agitated. I checked the area for predators expecting to see a Cooper Hawk as Kiah had spotted one near my feeders a day before. Not seeing anything in the trees, I stepped out onto the deck to check the ground area and a large bird flew out from the bottom branches of a hemlock adjacent to the deck. It flew maybe 50 ft. with crows hot on his trail and landed again. Got my binoculars out and was astonished to see a Barred Owl. I was so thrilled…  It was in heavy underbrush trees but I managed to get one pretty good shot. It was not in any hurry to leave.  After 24 years living in the bush only the 2nd time I’ve been fortunate enough to see one. Heard them more often but the visual is amazing. I have some very well fed squirrels that it may have been eying up. The Tufted Titmouse is also still here regularly at the feeders.” 

Barred Owl, Nov 26th (Photo by Pam Binnendyk)

Bob Bowles, formerly from the Markdale area, announced on November 30 “My focus for October and November has been on lichens and making a species list for a new property on Carden Alvar which is now up to 50 confirmed species after six visits. This weekend a visit was made to Bowles Alvar North to observe lichen species and compare lichens at this location to the specimens from the Carden site. I found an intact mammal skull at the location so took time out from lichen studies to key out the mammal species. This species has now been added to my growing collection of mammal skulls…..along with fisher, raccoon and squirrel skulls, and I will use it for the mammal module of the on-line winter class which is now full and starts in January of the Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Program. We are starting a waiting list for the spring program.”

Coming up from December 14, 2020 to January 5, 2021 are the annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) and here is a link to help you find CBC  information throughout Canada

Due to COVID-19, volunteers need to be mindful of Public Health safety guidelines and to avoid travelling here from other locales, as they may have done in the past, to minimize the risks of spreading the virus. 

 Thursday, December 17, 2020 – Kincardine Christmas Bird Count – James Turland –

Saturday, December 19, 2020 – Owen Sound Christmas Bird Count – Erik Van Den Kieboom –
Saturday, December 19, 2020 – Hanover/Walkerton Christmas Bird Count – Gerard McNaughton—
Sunday, December 20, 2020 – Wiarton Christmas Bird Count – Jarmo Jalava –
Monday, December 28, 2020 – Meaford Christmas Bird Count – Lynne Richardson –
Tuesday, December 29, 2020 – Pike Bay Christmas Bird Count & 
Wednesday, December 30, 2020 – Cape Chin Christmas Bird Count – Andrew Keaveney –
Monday, January 4, 2021 – Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count – Kiah Jasper –

Northern Cardinal at Kelso Beach December 6 – Photo by Erik Van Den Kieboom

Red Fox photo by David Turner, December 8

In addition to the birds that have been observed lately, the snow has facilitated the discovery of evidence to note the activities of other wildlife. I have been seeing tracks from mice, deer, and even those of a healthy red fox, which I had seen hunting in the moonlight a couple of nights previous. 

Fox Crossing. I spotted this one in the ditch and backed up to get a picture and let the kids see him….and he walked in front of the car and then jumped about 4 feet in the air into the trees (by Marsha Courtney November 29, Georgian Bluffs)

Many area naturalists have been engaging in various campaigns to combat climate change, protect water quality along with various habitats and features, including sand dunes with their ecosystems, trees that are threatened by invasive insects,  wetlands from destruction through development or by European Phragmites, woodlands and meadows that are filling in with Dog-strangling Vine, Garlic Mustard, Wild Chervil, or Buckthorn, and campaigns to protect organizations that are threatened by underfunding and downgrading of their functions. An aspect that concerns me greatly is how these changes in both policy and practice may impact students who are pursuing studies and research, hoping to have careers in the natural sciences for their love of Nature, and how disheartened and depressed these students, and indeed current employees, could easily be, facing the seemingly steady onslaught of challenges our society places before them. Kudos to these students, and staff, plus all those who are taking a stand on these issues for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants, human and non-human.

To close, a Nature quote from Raymond Massey’s When I was Young -“It was the first part of 1901, a grey winter morning, it is snowing with big dry flakes…The sound of the sleigh bells was lovely, especially when it burst through the strange silence that falling snow brings.”

Another visitor to the feeders on this snowy day…Tree Sparrow. I only see them here in the winter months. Photo By Carol L. Edwards.
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