Category Archives: Nature Club News

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JUNE 2024

Nature Club News for June 2024

by John Dickson

This Thursday, June 13 at 7pm,  Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) present Scott Parent, and his daughter Acadia who, in 2019 voyaged together on their tandem stand up paddle board over a distance of 480km, from Drummond Island, Michigan to Penetanguishene, Ontario.  

While retracing the migration route their ancestors travelled in 1828, together they collected water samples along the route to be later analyzed for microplastics research. They also gathered plastic trash and hauled it out on their board to the next garbage bin. Out of this expedition, Scott Parent produced the documentary film   Three Waters.

 Learn more about their journey and the Three Waters Foundation, focused on caring for the remote islands of Lake Huron, and helping wildlife who reside in those areas impacted by plastic pollution.

Scott Parent is a water guardian and visual storyteller from Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and resides with his family on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.  Parent has dedicated his career toward fostering relationships between people and the water. His photography, and writing has been published by Mountain Life Media, Canadian Geographic, and Paddling Mag. 

Parent is currently serving the role of creative storyteller for the Biinaagami Project, and is the successful recipient of the Trebek Initiative 2024, selected by the National Geographical Society and Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in support of his current film project on the waterbirds of the Great Lakes and the impacts of anthropogenic debris on wildlife.

 Parent is also the Founder of the Three Waters Foundation.

This final speaker event of OSFN’s 2023-2024 season will take place this Thursday, June 13, at the Bayshore Community Centre, beginning with a social time at 5:45, followed by the club’s AGM and award presentations at 6:30pm expected to conclude shortly after 7pm, to then welcome guest presenters Scott Parent and Acadia with their documentary film, Three Waters. 

 This event will be ‘in person only’ with no zoom feature available. Everyone is Welcome. Admission is free or by donation. For more information on this event and others, please visit www.osfn.ca


Sora – near Woodford, June 8, Photo by Rob Wray

Peter Middleton has shared this timely and comprehensive report about: 

Chimney Swifts in Owen Sound

A number of years ago, the sultry summer evenings in Owen Sound were graced by the sight and sound of chittering Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica), as they coursed  the skies in search of flying insects.  An individual swift could sweep up to 1,000 insects from the air daily, as it fed.

Sadly, those days are largely gone; but if one knows where to look,
one can still see some of the beauty and skills of these aerial
specialists in Owen Sound, as they gather to roost each night.
       

Communal roosts (large chimneys and hollow trees) are used by
swifts during spring migration and the post-breeding build-up in fall.
These communal roosts are crucial habitat during these periods. Only
a single pair occupies a chimney or hollow tree for breeding.

The chimney in the Old Courthouse in Owen Sound is the last of the
communal roosts in our town. Most other chimneys have been
dismantled, or capped, removing a vital resource. This is a classic
example of habitat loss affecting a species.

Since 2008, the chimney roost at the Old Courthouse has been
monitored, more recently as part of the Ontario Swift Watch program
that coordinates and gathers information from  identified sites across
the province. These roosts provide a statistically important census of
the total breeding population of the species, before it disperses to
individual breeding sites. From May to early June, the roosts are
monitored, starting before sunset and continuing until the last
bird is seen to enter the roost.

Numbers over the years have been dropping. In Owen Sound, nightly
counts in the period from 2009 to 2015, were in the upper three
hundreds; the average count is now in the mid to upper one hundred
range. This year, the average is 158 birds entering the chimney on
any evening. 

Chimney Swifts entering the Old Courthouse Chimney in Owen Sound

Since 2009, Peter Middleton has monitored Chimney Swifts at the Old Courthouse and submitted the data to Ontario Swift Watch at Birds Canada.


Congratulations to the NeighbourWoods North team whose many volunteers assisted with tree planting and care during May at the Hospital in Owen Sound.  Also, the lawn at the Grey County Building is being transformed into a Food Forest. NeighbourWoods North is working hard at greening Owen Sound in practical ways. Thank you all!


In addition to the changing colours of feathers in Springtime, I have been enjoying the parade of yellow wildflowers – first coltsfoot, trout lilies, large-flowered bellwort, violets and dandelions, followed by buttercups, bird’s foot trefoil and now yellow lady’s slipper orchids too. What a treat it has been this past week to enjoy the wild roses now with their pink petals and delicate fragrances! I hope to be seeing the amazing pink of showy lady’s slipper orchids soon. After the wondrous lilacs and trilliums of May, I almost missed the amazing horse chestnut blossoms, and am now seeing many waving branches of Locust trees, laden with their fragrant white blossoms, being visited by many bees and other pollinators. 


Today it was a Swamp Sparrow with an offering. No sign of the fledgling, but the parent kept looking around for a response (Photo by William Gray)

To close, two Nature quotes – first from My Lucky Life, in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke, at Laurel Canyon: “L.A. was gorgeous back then…In the morning the canyon filled in with fog that gradually gave way, as the sun rose, to breathtaking views… Depending on the time of year, the air was ripe with the fragrance of orange blossoms, honeysuckle and other flowers and the mostly undeveloped hills were still home to deer and other wildlife that made it seem as if you were far from the city.” 

And, a Nature quote by another famous American, John Muir, from My Summer of Glorious Freedom, by Robert Burcher. Burcher also recently presented ‘John Muir Lived Here in Grey County’ as a Lecture at Grey Roots and writes: “From his “botanizing” in the Holland Marsh, Muir discovered a very rare orchid, the Calypso borealis… In his memoirs Muir talks about finding this plant as one of the three most pivotal moments in his life.  ‘But when the sun was getting low and everything seemed most bewildering and discouraging, I found beautiful Calypso on the mossy bank of a stream, growing not on the ground but on a bed of yellow mosses… like a snowflower… It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met.’ “

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR MAY 2024

Nature Club News for May 2024

by John Dickson

I asked the internet – “Is there a Turtle Month?” and learned that ‘Certainly! Turtle Month from Earth Day April 22 to World Turtle Day on May 23 is dedicated to raising awareness about the world’s turtles and tortoises.’

Well, it just so happens that Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) is presenting a Turtle Talk entitled The Beautiful World of Turtles, with Jenna McGuire beginning at 7pm Thursday May 16, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Doors open by 6:30pm 

An Ecologist, a Scientific Illustrator and a favourite OSFN presenter and hike leader, Jenna McGuire invites us all to explore the life histories of our local turtles in-depth. We will travel through turtle evolution, biology and ecology through photos, illustrations, models and more. Most importantly we will review the many ways we can help support these incredible, ancient beings! 

Everyone is welcome and Admission is free or by donation. 

OSFN also plans to offer this as an online webinar, via Zoom. To request a Zoom Link, please send an email, in advance, to  web@osfn.ca  with Turtles in the subject line.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak  May 11, in West Grey. Photo by Angie Milan

NeighbourWoods North (NWN) has some ongoing tree care work scheduled at the Hospital grounds in Owen Sound on the remaining two Saturday mornings in May, (the 18th and 25th) from 9:30 to 11am.  Plan to meet by the NWN shed past the emergency entrance and be sure to wear gloves and bring rakes, shovels, buckets, etc.

They also recently assisted the City in planting new trees at the Owen Sound Kiwanis Soccer Complex. 

I recall skiing the perimeter there on the skimpy snow this past winter, and noticing a crew near the central buildings, cutting and chipping the many White Ash trees that had been killed through the infestation of Emerald Ash Borers there.

Over the next few months I often encountered the same crew around the City, clearing other sites of the dead trees, especially where safety would be a concern if the trees were left standing much longer. Many thanks to those crews for doing this important work, and for the NWN volunteers for planting new trees there at the Soccer Complex! 

I have also been seeing quite a few Ash trees that have lost upper limbs, or completely fallen over along fence lines, etc.  You may visit NWN here  https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.ca/  or on facebook.


new leaves back-lit by setting sunbeams May 5, Owen Sound  Photo by John Dickson

For me, along with enjoying migrating birds and butterflies, pretty tree blossoms, wildflowers and the scent of lilacs, one of the loveliest sights of Springtime is of new, still translucent tree leaves of green (or red) illuminated by the bright, low-angled beams of sunrise or sunset. 

A bonus this year has been the amazing Northern Lights seen here on May 10. It reminded me that John Hlynialuk’s Aurora Alert presentation back in March suggested that we just might be in for quite a few special sightings.  

John says” The recent event is due to a massive sunspot complex on the Sun … Our atmosphere is still taking “hits” from solar flares which keep erupting and we have another CME impact due May 13 or so…

We are at the peak of the current 11-yr sunspot cycle and expect the activity to continue for many months yet, perhaps even a year or more.”


Palm Warbler at Hibou, May 11. photo by Rob Wray

The Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation has an important fundraising campaign currently underway, with a silent auction until May 23, and an Earth Film Festival at the Roxy on May 16, featuring two special films: “The Water Walker”, which will captivate audiences with the inspiring journey of Autumn Peltier, International Indigenous Rights & Water Activist; “Becoming Tom Thomson” will transport viewers back in time, exploring the life and legacy of Canadian wilderness painter Tom Thomson, presented by Canadian Actor, Director, and Producer, Steve Belford.

Films start at 7:00 pm. The lobby will be open at 6:00 pm for a social time, displays, and exciting door prizes.

Before the evening film presentations there will be a Dinner Fundraiser hosted by chef Zach Keeshig, at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market, from 5pm – 6:30pm. Indulge in a creatively cultivated 3-course menu featuring progressive Indigenous Cuisine with local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. This culinary journey will be held at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market 

Tickets for the film presentations are $30 each, or you can enjoy both the dinner and film presentations for $150.

Please note that tickets for the Dinner + Films package are only available at the box office. To get yours, please call 519-371-2833 or visit    www.roxytheatre.ca


Baltimore Oriole liking the orange and bird jelly (only a little at a time!) feeder.
May 7 photo by Carol Edwards-Harrison

I would like to draw your attention to the Guest Gallery at the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op, and one of the three featured artists during this month of May, Frank deMatteis.

Several of his evocative works are on the west wall of the Guest Gallery,  just a few steps from the main entranceway. I first met Frank back in the 90s when he joined our noon running group one day, and we chatted as we headed out towards Harrison Park from the Y. 

I quickly discovered that he was an artist, and that bird paintings were an important component of his work. So, I said to him that I had always been a fan of J. Fenwick Lansdowne, and Frank immediately replied “Oh, he was  my idol!” 

Fast forward t to 2017,  when Frank accepted my invitation to lead a Nature sketching  and learning segment for the Young Naturalists Club (YNs), sharing his intimate knowledge. For instance, the students learned from Frank about the funneling effect of a Nightingales’ stiff bristles (not feathers) helping to guide flying insects to its open mouth, while this aerial insectivore wings its way around in the dark of night. 

About a year ago I was in the lobby at the Hospital in Owen Sound and an amazing piece of art caught my eye. Sure enough, it was by Frank de Matteis, and featured an  exquiste underwater view of a Common Loon. So, I encourage you to make your way to the Artists Co-op soon, before the  end of May, allowing time for return visits too, while these and many other works are on display there.

You can also learn more about Frank deMatteis from his website  at https://www.frankdematteisart.com/, as well as his profile there https://www.frankdematteisart.com/artist-profile and his well-deserved accolades here:  https://www.frankdematteisart.com/critical-acclaim    In addition you can find references to his painting at the Hospital and his workshop with the Young Naturalists at this link there – https://www.frankdematteisart.com/community

One of several paintings by Frank deMatteis at the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op until the end of May

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR APRIL 2024

Nature Club News for April 2024

by John Dickson

This Thursday, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) present ‘Meet the American Kestrel Family, with John Reaume, a Renowned Naturalist and Wildlife Photographer with an Eye for Detail’. We welcome the return of one of our favourite speakers, John Reaume, at 7pm Thursday, April 11 (doors open by 6:30pm) at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. 

John Reaume says: “’For the past 4 years we have had the pleasure of watching a pair of American Kestrels nest and raise their young in a Kestrel/Screech Owl box mounted on our workshop and visible from our back porch. Learn about the life history of the Kestrel with intimate views of their nesting behaviour, thanks to an “in-the-box” camera as well as images captured from photo blinds. We will see the differing behaviours of the male and female parents as well as what the avian neighbours think of having a pair of nesting kestrels in their territories!”

John Reaume has an eye for detail and has used it in his hobby of wildlife photography these past 35 years. He started off specializing in bird photography but his interests have broadened and now include the wonders from the world of macrophotography (dragonflies and spiders) to astrophotography (sun and moon to far off nebulas). His photos have graced the covers of a number of magazines and books including Ontario’s second Breeding Bird Atlas. John lives in Grey County, is an active member of Saugeen Nature, and is a practicing rural physician in the town of Mount Forest.

Everyone is welcome – admission is free, or by donation. John Reaume’s presentation will also be shared via Zoom. To request a Zoom link, please email in advance to web@osfn.ca with Kestrels in the subject line.


OSFN is also presenting its 9th annual Celebrate Earth Day Keynote Speaker event with award-winning Naturalist, Artist and Writer Robert Bowles. Entitled ‘A Lifetime of Nature Drawing and Nature Journalling for Learning and Teaching about the World Around Us,’ it will take place at 2pm Sunday April 21, aboard the Chi-Cheemaun. Bowles will also have a selection of his nature artwork on display.

There will be delicious complimentary refreshments, but seating is limited, so it is recommended to purchase your tickets, $10. each, in advance, at the OSNGU Public Library, Sheila Gunby’s Paper Cut Designs at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market, Suntrail Source for Adventure, or at the April 11th OSFN event detailed above.

Originally from the Markdale area (Bowles Hill is named for Bob Bowles’ family property nearby), his curiosity and drive to learn contributed to his own personal growth and knowledge, which he has shared through hikes, workshops, TV shows, and his Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme through Lakehead University, both in Thunder Bay and in Orillia, his home for more than three decades. He was recently inductred into the Orillia Hall of Fame and the Robert L Bowles Nature Centre was named after Bob as a way to honour his lifetime commitment and dedication to preserving and conserving nature.

In 2014 Bob founded the Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Program at Lakehead University in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. He continues to coordinate this first of its kind program, educating citizen scientists about ‘all things nature’, encouraging all to protect and respect their environment. Bob continues to be the lead teacher at the Nature Centre offering educational programs and facilitating a deeper connection with nature.

Don’t miss this annual event – get your ticket(s) soon.


The Friends of the South Grey Museum is offering a presentation by David Turner about Birding in the Beaver Valley, at 7pm April 18, in the Annesley United Church in Markdale. Admission is by donation and streaming is also available.     David Turner’s knowledge and joy of birding, exquisite photography plus his engaging personality promise an entertaining and informative experience. For more details please visit  Beaver Valley Birding Facebook page. 

Bald Eagle in Thornbury – Photo by David Turner April 6

From Amanda Eriksen, Coordinator for the Owen Sound: The Young Naturalists met in March at Bob and Mary Beth Gray’s maple syrup farm. Bob was a wealth of knowledge. We learned how to tell trees apart when there are no leaves, and about the invasive species affecting butternut, beech and ash trees. Bob explained how the changing weather patterns are altering the species composition in his forest, through the differing moisture levels there. We got to see his very impressive maple syrup production – and sample fresh syrup, along with some very fun and yummy maple taffy. 

The plan for April is for a visit to the Chatsworth Fish Hatchery.    To learn about joining the Young Naturalists please visit https://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/category/young-naturalists/  or email Amanda at eriksen.amanda@gmail.com


Sandhill Cranes checking out their new digs… April 7
(North of Kimberley)
photo by Ingrid Remkins 


In my local own rambles this month, I have been rewarded with a view of an American Goldfinch in its bright yellow plumage, a Northern Shrike, and just today I saw my first of year beautiful and elegant Mourning Cloak Butterfly while I was cycling on the rail line on Owen Sound’s east side, where just last week I watched a solitary Sandhill Crane wading slowly as it hunted in a wetland there which was resounding with a chorus of wood frogs.


Snow Geese on the move.. April 7. photos by Pat Gillies in Southampton

Paul Aird (1930 – 2024) 

I recently learned of the passing of renowned naturalist Paul Leet Aird in February of this year at the age of 94. 

Paul Aird was an Emeritus Professor of Forestry Conservation Policy at the University of Toronto.  I first met Paul Aird, and his wife Linda Pim, 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 Aird’s first book  – Loon Laughter, Ecological Fables and Nature Tales. I met him again in 2017 when I invited him to present many of those stories himself to an OSFN audience in the auditorium of the Public Library here. In  2021 at the age of 91, he published his book of poetry and more entitled Butterfly Beautifly Beautiful: Nature Poems. Paul loved to walk, hike, skate, ski, snowshoe, paddle a canoe and camp in Canada’s wild places, in particular on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.

Esteemed local wildlife artist Frank de Matteis  remembers Paul Aird as a devout naturalist who appreciated Frank’s quality workmanship and supported his  efforts to do fine research for his paintings through the facilities of the ROM.

Meanwhile, OSFN’s Lynne Richardson shared these notes:”I remember Paul Aird as a strong, yet gentle presence on the Niagara Escarpment Commission, dedicated to the proper preservation of the Escarpment landscapes.
I also remember Paul for his putting his forestry training together with his research on the highly endangered Kirtland’s Warbler – identifying stands of Jack Pine in Ontario and surveying them based on his hypothesis that the species would seek suitable habitat outside its known breeding grounds – and proving it true with the discovery of nesting birds near Ottawa.  Years ago, I was delighted one early summer day to be wandering a remote Jack Pine alvar on the Bruce Peninsula and seeing Paul appear out of the trees – secretly searching for Kirtland’s!”

Paul Aird also played  a leading role in competing the book  “Growing Trees From Seed” for its health-challenged originator Henry Kock, of the University of Guelph and the Arboretum there.   

To close, a quote from Paul Aird’s Loon Laughter: Two forces shape the world –  nature and human nature.

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR MARCH 2024

Nature Club News for March 2024

by John Dickson

It’s a March Nature Bonanza! Each year, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) set aside one meeting to invite club members to offer their own ten minute presentations, and this usually results in 5 or 6 of these, with a variety of topics – birds, plants, geology, insects, etc. This year, however, the response has been so outstanding that Members’ Night at 7pm Thursday March 14 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre,  will feature 8 presenters, all with different topics to showcase!

These are: Audrey Armstrong with an update on the Monarch Butterflies population status; Robert Burcher with the ‘Royal Oaks’ of Meaford; Marsha Courtney offers ‘Shooting the Beautiful Shrooms’; Climate Change at Kemble Mountain with Bob Gray; Aurora Alert with John  Hlynialuk; David Morris presents ‘Roses by Many Other Names: A Look at Diversity within the Rose Family’; Barbara Palmer will introduce ‘Rock Stars’; and Willy Waterton will report from the Public Advisory Committee on both the Bruce and the Fathom Five National Parks. 

These monthly meetings are also great opportunities to check the OSFN Publications available about Orchids, other wildflowers and plants, Geology, etc. You can even share or learn about special Nature sightings observed recently in the area. The doors are open by 6:30pm, Everyone is Welcome and  Admission is free or by donation. The event is also expected to be shared virtually through zoom, so if you are interested in receiving a zoom link, please send an email, in advance, to web@osfn.ca  with ‘members’ on the subject line.For more information on the many activities and history of the club, as well as membership benefits, and support options, please visit www.osfn.ca


Bright and early the next morning, at 6am March 15, registration opens for the 26th Huron Fringe Birding Festival, (HFBF) to be held May 24 to 30 and May 30 – June 2, 2024. Here is the main link to access everything about the festival.https://huronfringebirdingfestival.ca/page/huron-fringe-birding-festival  The HFBF offers an astounding array of topics from birds and botany to geology, plus photography and wildlife art, with superb presenters and hike leaders from near and far. You will find the timing and descriptions of their events at this helpful link: https://huronfringebirdingfestival.ca/content/2024_Program.pdf 


Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Side rd 21 Beaver Valley. March 3 photos by David Turner

On Saturday I visited briefly with  Wildlife Artist and Master Marine Biologist Sarah McComb Turbitt along with her special exhibition, hosted until March 30 by Grey Gallery at 883 2nd Avenue East, Owen Sound. Envisioned to bring awareness to Canada’s species at risk by painting Canadian endangered species, she committed to a 31 day challenge in January to paint as many of these species as possible. This show includes all fifteen of the paintings she completed during the challenge and they will be exhibited throughout March at Grey Gallery, with 15% of sales to  be donated to Wildlife Preservation Canada (WPC).  You may also get to meet her as one of several amazing artists featured this year at the  Huron Fringe Birding Festival.  


A reminder too, that tickets ($10. each) are still available for Robert Bowles’ Keynote Address for OSFN’s Celebrate Earth Day event aboard the Chi Cheemaun, 2pm Sunday April 21, including refreshments – seating is limited. Tickets can be purchased at Thursday evening’s OSFN meeting at the Bayshore Community Centre, plus from Sheila Gunby’s Paper Cut Designs at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market, the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library and at Suntrail Source for Adventure in Hepworth.


Northern Shrike: I typically see this one throughout the winter, but today was the first day I have seen since last year sometime….and it was clearly having turf wars with a Red-winged Blackbird.

Photos by Ingrid Remkins March 11, north of Kimberley

From Young Naturalist Coordinator Amanda Eriksen: 
On February 25th the Owen Sound Young Naturalists   met at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority building where Krista McKee brought a wonderful bounty of pine cones, acorns, wood disks and all the other necessary supplies to get crafty. Krista had some sample ideas made up for us, but the kids let their imaginations and creativity shine. There was some great art created. The adults had just as much fun. Our March meeting is to be held a bit earlier so that we can check on the maple syrup production at Robert Gray’s property. 

Photo by Amanda Eriksen

We may be joined by members of the Kemble Maple Tour Committee. This could be a good opportunity to introduce the young nats and welcome a few more members. Bob mentioned that he is trying to perfect his maple taffy, I don’t think the kids will mind sampling that! To learn about joining the Young Naturalists please visit https://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/category/young-naturalists/


The transition towards Springtime has been highlighted with recent sightings and sounds of the returning Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds,  Common Grackles, Killdeer, and even Eastern Meadowlarks. A few Sandhill Cranes are already back, and Tundra Swans have been seen in good numbers at Lake Eugenia too.

A bike ride on one of the milder days recently brought me to a nearby creek where the Rainbow Trout were really making a  splash with their spawning activities. When I walked along a woodland trail last week,  I checked for signs of emerging plants on the forest floor, but the only ones I saw were many green shoots of the pervasive invasive Wild Chervil. 


 A fox in the forest behind our home. March 3 (photo by Steve Irvine)

To close, Nature quotes from Ancient Mariner – The Amazing Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Walked to the Arctic Ocean, by Ken McGoogan, who writes:  Hearne was not infallible. But he did determine that the pouch of the pelican’s beak could hold three quarts of liquid, and that Canada geese would often nest in abandoned muskrat houses. He provided one of the earliest accounts of the passenger pigeon, and was the first to recognize that there are two different species of curlew, the Hudonian and the Eskimo.

Also he understood bird migration at a time when leading English scientists were wondering whether swallows spent the winter underwater; And, from our late friend Victor Searles,  another esteemed Ancient Mariner, who two centuries after Samuel Hearne authored a ‘Cruising Manual’ for the Ontario Sailing Association, this excerpt: …as you graduate from day sailing,…the elements are disturbingly unsympathetic towards the condition of your craft or the duration of your voyage. Whoever is responsible for controlling the weather has a nasty habit of pouncing on the skipper who is only prepared for a short, tranquil trip and giving him a long, vigorous voyage.

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR FEBRUARY 2024

Nature Club News for February 2024

by John Dickson

 The topic of the February presentation of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) is: 

Changing Dynamics of the Fish Community in Lake Huron, with Arunas Liskauskas, of the Ontario 

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  The Lake Huron aquatic ecosystem has experienced profound changes over the last few decades, primarily driven by the effects of invasive species. Fish communities have been altered and food webs have been disrupted and changed. Predicting the future state of fish communities has become much more difficult as a result. 



Management biologist, Arunas Liskauskas, will provide an overview of management and research efforts aimed at trying to understand these changes.

Arunas Liskauskas has been working as a management biologist with the Upper Great Lakes Management Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry since 1992. He received his Hon. BSc and MSc from the University of Guelph in Fisheries Science and Fish Genetics. After working in Algonquin Park and eastern Ontario he has been involved with monitoring and assessing nearshore fish community health in Lake Huron, liaising with the public on fisheries management issues and was the lead author of the Lake Huron Environmental Objectives.
 This event is scheduled for 7pm this Thursday, February 8, (doors open by 6:30pm) at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre and on Zoom – with a ZOOM LINK available upon request, by emailing, in advance, to  web@osfn.ca with Fish in the subject line.   

 Everyone is welcome, with admission Free or by Donation. For more information please visit www.osfn.ca and on Facebook.


Congratulations to Beth Gilhespy, popular OSFN speaker, hike leader and author, on her recent appointment as CEO of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC), who announced ‘We are so excited to announce the hiring of our new CEO – the incomparable Beth Gilhespy! Beth is a proven conservation leader, with a record that demonstrates not only her passion for the escarpment and protecting species at risk – but also the broad range of skills needed to get the job done!’ Beth Gilhespy replied ‘Soon I’ll be saying goodbye to my dear animal friends and colleagues at Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy. It’s been an amazing time of learning and growing. Now back to the land, always in my heart. My last day with my amazing Zoo colleagues is March 1 (lots to do between now and then!) and I start at the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) March 4, 2024.Gilhespy was also on hand nearby for EBC’s afternoon of snowshoeing and hot chocolate at Mooi Nature Preserve, by the Spey River on February 3rd.


Coming soon to a backyard near you is the  Great Backyard Bird Count, February 16–19, an annual four-day event that engages bird enthusiasts of all ages around the world in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Anyone can participate, from beginners to experts. You can count for as little as 15 minutes on a single day, or for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy – and it helps the birds! The Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon with Canadian partner Birds Canada. Visit  Great Backyard Bird Count to learn more and get started! For more information contact: Coordinator Kerrie Wilcox here:  kwilcox AT birdscanada.org


January 31 – Cedar Waxwing  Photos by Ingrid Remkins, north of Kimberley

During this past month I have enjoyed several memorable encounters with wildlife, including about 80 Cedar Waxwings observed by me on two separate occasions, when I was out for a run near Timber McArthur Park. Then when I went skiing yesterday on the Owen Sound Cross Country Ski Club’s trails at Massie Hills I heard a Pileated Woodpecker calling loudly from the parallel trail – that I didn’t take this time (!), and a little farther along I spotted a healthy porcupine nibbling on Hemlock boughs and dropping lots of ‘niblets’ to the forest floor for the others who live there too. 

With all the talk of an early Spring going around, today I was noticing  that the willow trees are really starting to glow in the February sunshine we are enjoying now. 


Bald Eagle Feb 4 by Kiah Jasper north of Wiarton

Although the Owen Sound Young Naturalists’ did not meet in December, coordinator Amanda Eriksen offered them a birding challenge of their own and found that “they reported finding 24 species of birds in their backyards. It was really great to see those who were not all that interested in birds notice and even get a little excited about a rare sighting! I hope that this exercise has helped the kids to notice the world and the creatures around them.”   

They did meet as a group again “on January 29, at the property of OSFN members Elaine and Doug Van Den Kieboom, who were wonderful hosts. Due to some perfectly timed snow, the Young Nats were able to get out snowshoeing through their forest, which starts out as hardwood then becomes cedar woods as it connects with the Bognor Marsh complex.  We learned a bit about the decline of the butternut tree (of which they have only one still producing nuts and a few in different stages of illness), how the resident porcupines help keep the maples out of the cedar forest (by eating them), and how different animals like to take different trails.  We also saw some tracks in the snow that we decided as a group were coyote, porcupine, and red squirrel.  

Bannock! Photo by Amanda Eriksen

After our hike we came back to the house where we had a campfire with hot chocolate and cider.  Elaine showed us how to cook Bannock by wrapping a piece around the end of a stick and cooking
it in the coals. We now have 19 children registered and more are welcome. Our February meeting will be Crafting with Nature led by Krista McKee.” If you would like to learn more about the club and how to register someone, please email     eriksenamanda@gmail.com


Fox, Feb 4th near Wiarton. Photo by Tom Ashman at RuralRootz.

And to close, here is a cute Nature quote featuring extra young naturalists, from Leon Rooke’s Swinging Through Dixie, as teacher Miss Izzard ‘the wizard, this aging mentor’ explains that her plan for the parade of pre-schoolers will include  “a nature prowl, if you please, though I am aware little is to be seen save nettles, briars, animal droppings, long-leaf pine – a tickle of honeysuckle mayhaps. I shall compel them to sit on their heels, boys and girls alike, in a study of bug life. They will execute artistic creations in these drawing pads… They have given me, in the past, excellent bug renderings.”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JANUARY 2024

Nature Club News for January 2024

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) will kick off their  35th year of operation with two January speaker events, beginning with a TREE TALK by Susan McGowan, presenting  “An update on the use of parasitic wasps in control of Emerald Ash Borer in Ontario.”

The Emerald Ash Borer, which was discovered in Canada in 2002, is a devastating invasive beetle which has killed tens of millions of ash trees across Canada and the United States. Susan McGowan will give an overview of the introduced biological control programme carried out in an effort to control Emerald Ash Borer in Ontario, including our own local site at the West Rocks Management Area, in Owen Sound on Grey Sauble Conservation Authority property. She will also describe the challenge of handling fragile live insects in the summer season as a field technician.  

Susan McGowan has worked in forestry and forest health since 2000, and retired in 2020 from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Provincial Forest Health Specialist. She volunteered to continue with the release programme in 2021 in Owen Sound.

Susan McGowan –  Provincial Forest Health Specialist (Retired)

 This presentation will take place at OSFN’s Indoor Meeting, 7pm Thursday January 11, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Attendees are encouraged to arrive closer to 6:30pm for a relaxed social time with fellow naturalists, and an opportunity to peruse the OSFN publications on hand.


Everyone is welcome and admission is free or by donation.
It is planned to also offer the event on Zoom, so anyone interested in receiving a Zoom link is asked to email, in advance, to web@osfn.ca   with  Ash Trees in the subject line.


Pileated Woodpecker foraging for Emerald Ash Borer at Hibou January 5
Photo by Rob Wray

The second OSFN speaker event will be a TICK TALK, Lyme Disease 101, presented on Zoom only,  at 7pm January 25, by Dr. Anne Uings. 
This important topic will address these statements: 1) Absolute numbers of ticks are increasing, 2) The percentage of ticks carrying Lyme is increasing.3) Ticks are being dispersed to new areas by mammals and migratory birds. 4) The percentage of ticks carrying serious Co-infections is increasing.  

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted by ticks.  If it is not detected and treated early, Lyme Disease can cause long term illness and profound debilitation. 

Anne Uings is a retired medical doctor who has been living with Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections for 30 years. She has spent the last 20 years learning about Lyme, was a volunteer with the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation for several years, is one of the founders of the Bay of Quinte Lyme Disease Support Group, and is  a member of ILADS, which is an organization for Medical professionals involved in researching, treating and teaching about Lyme and related diseases. This presentation will be available only via Zoom, for which a link will be emailed to OSFN members, and to anyone else interested in receiving a Zoom link, who emails, in advance, to web@osfn.ca with Ticks in the subject line.


 Here are selected excerpts and results from recent local Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) with notable highlights for me being the Lapland Longspurs at Pike Bay, plus Winter Wrens in that area, both of which I was lucky to spot on my own at Hibou back in November.

Tobermory CBC December 14, Compiler Tyler Miller:
Total number of birds 1777, including  41 species with highest counts of Black-capped Chickadees 360,  Snow Buntings 292, American Goldfinches 264, and of note, one Peregrine Falcon which is a first for the counts here.

  Bruce Peninsula National Park Christmas Bird Count volunteers spotted a couple of uncommon winter species for this area, including: one Black Scoter, one Peregrine Falcon (North American), and one American Robin.

Low counts of some species were also observed for Bufflehead (2) and Mourning Dove (0). Although Mourning Doves were spotted during the week of the Christmas Bird Count, none were spotted on the actual day of the count which is an indication that numbers in the count area is low. 

Tracking trends and outliers is one of the primary goals of Christmas Bird Counts.

 The highest number of Bufflehead ever counted was 121 in 2003, and it has been observed in 40 counts. This year was the 4th time a Black Scoter has been seen in this count, with the highest count of 24 also being in 2003.

Thirty-seven people participated in the count this year. It was an unusually warm day and it was very nice to be out in the park. While the north and east side of the park was sheltered and calm, it was windy on the west. 



Kincardine CBC – James Turland, Compiler: 

This year Kincardine conducted its 39th count on December 14.  Twenty some participants equipped with binoculars and smiles scoured the count circle for our feathered kin. 

A highlight for me were the many Red-throated Loons seen in feeding frenzies mixed with several other diving species such as mergansers. Red-throated Loons are smaller than the Common Loon and hold their beaks on a slight upward angle. They nest in the high Arctic and migrate through the Great Lakes on their way to and from the eastern seaboard. We seldom get to see them in their namesake breeding plumage, most birds are in a drabber winter plumage.

Five species of gulls were seen count day including the Bonaparte’s. This small gull is unique in that it nests in trees on the taiga; most gulls nest on the ground. It has a buoyant and graceful flight and eats smaller organisms than its bigger cousins. It has a black head in breeding plumage but seen here in December it only has a dark dot behind the eye. One red morph Eastern Screech Owl was found. 

The 62 species found on this year’s count is the second highest ever. The 22 Cackling Geese reported was a new high. Cackling Goose is identical to the Canada Goose in plumage but is only about half the size. Also new to the count this year was a duck called the American Wigeon. 

The American Wigeon is also called “baldpate” because the white stripe on its head resembles a bald man. Wigeons are common here in season but have almost all left the county by December. I am always amazed at what birds the participants can find even in December. Congratulations and thanks to all who helped out with this year’s count.  If you are interested in seeing any of these birds or joining the Bruce Birding Club, contact James Turland. jaturland@gmail.com


Lone Female Red Breasted Merganser at the Bayshore. Fely Clarke, Jan. 5th.

The thirteenth annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 16, 2023. Fourteen participants tallied a total of 39 species (average 39.5).

The 1,245 individual birds counted was slightly above the overall average of 1,027.

One of very few Snowy Owls reported in southern Ontario so far this fall was a new species for count day (there have been a few count-week records), raising the overall count total to 81 species.

Otherwise there were no big surprises, but a Common Grackle (4 rd count) was a nice find. High counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (54, previously 42), Red-breasted Merganser (7, previously 5), Rock Pigeon (18, previously 4), Barred Owl (4, tied previous), and Red-bellied Woodpecker (4, previously 3). Aside from a near absence of winter finches (just 2 Pine Siskins and average numbers of American Goldfinches), no expected species were missed, and there were no particularly low counts. Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing (Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation) community, including the many folks who welcomed birders to watch their feeders, for hosting this always special birding event. And big thanks to the 14 enthusiastic volunteers!
Jarmo and Miptoon, Compilers


Who doesn’t love an Owl, Barred Owl. (Remember not to post locations for owls.)
David Turner· December 27, 2023 ·

The 50 th Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 17, 2023 (it was actually the 53 th anniversary of the count, but three years were missed).

Temperatures hovered between -5.7°C and 7.7°C under overcast skies all day, with light rain and drizzle in the morning and steadier light rain in the afternoon, and with moderate (20-35 kph) southerly to southeasterly winds, which were most noticeable along Lake Huron. Waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron were open, as were inland water bodies and watercourses.

There was no snow on the ground.

Despite the near absence of birds – and feed – at many traditionally productive feeders, twenty-five participants and one feeder watcher tallied 63 (+ 2 count week) species, tying the all-time record set in 1997. The species total was also well above the long-term and 10-year averages of 49.4 and 54.1 species, respectively.

One new species, Greater White-fronted Goose (7 individuals) was added, raising the overall species count for the Wiarton CBC to 132 (plus 6 count-week species).

The total of 8,572 individual birds smashed the previous high of 6,283, also set in 1997. This year’s total more than doubled long-term (3,431) and 10-year (4,185) averages.

Leading the pack to set this new record were record high counts of everyone’s favourites:

Canada Goose (1,988), European Starling (1,061) and American Crow (561). Tundra Swan (25), Snow Goose (3rd -ever count, 6 individuals), Mallard (365), White-winged Scoter (27), Wild Turkey (327), Northern Harrier (2), Cedar Waxwing (67) and Snow Bunting (1,343) also set new highs.

Other good finds included Green-winged Teal (3nd count, 3 individuals), a Great Blue Heron (5th count), a Cooper’s Hawk (15th count), an American Goshawk (15th count), a Belted Kingfisher (15th count), a Northern Flicker (2nd count), a Merlin (4th count), Lapland Longspur (3 rd count, 2 individuals) and a count-week Red-winged Blackbird (6th count).

No particularly low counts were noted aside from Mourning Dove (30, the lowest total since 1976).

Winter finches were limited to Pine Siskin (135, second highest total), American Goldfinch (565), and a single count week Common Redpoll.

What a wonderful, wet, dreary day of birding. Thanks to all the volunteers for your efforts!

Jarmo Jalava, Compiler



Meaford CBC December 28th: 

The 53rd annual Meaford Count on Thursday December 28th with the 5th highest total – 57 species – 

Three new species were added to the 53-year cumulative total for this count – Snow Goose, Trumpeter Swan and Gray Catbird.   These additions bring the all-time cumulative total to 129 species.

Three new Highs were recorded – 4 Cackling Goose, an amazing 57 Horned Grebe out from Meaford, and 389 American Crows. 

Eastern Bluebirds made an appearance again this year, continuing their trend of the last few years of overwintering in this area (6 of the past 7 years).

Total individuals at 6455 birds breaks the 1975 record of 6347 birds. Over 1000 each of Canda Geese and Snow Buntings contributed to this high.

It was a good count.  Thanks again to everyone, and happy, birdy, New Year to all!

Lynne Richardson,

Compiler


Welcome to 2024.

The New Year at least brought a bit of colder weather to the Bruce after quite an interesting couple days of CBC weather. The two central Bruce Peninsula CBCs were enjoyed by all who attended and have once again provided a valuable snapshot of birdlife on the peninsula at a time of year when the Bruce received little coverage. I had a lot of great feedback and I trust you enjoyed your time outdoors as much as I did. I hope to see you out birding in 2024.

Given the mild December we’ve had, it probably didn’t come as a shock to many participants that waterbirds were around in both greater diversity and numbers. Grebes continued to show well and while Georgian Bay was mostly absent of diving ducks, on the Huron side the largest number were recorded on the Pike Bay count to date. Raptors were clearly scarce, and the Snowy Owls we’ve come to expect were absent for the second CBC in a row. Finches were likewise notably absent in diversity, with only American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins showing some numbers.

The Pike Bay count was held on Friday, December 29th. 

New species: Cackling Goose (cw), Tundra Swan (21), Redhead (1), Lesser Scaup (1), Merlin (1)

Unusual species: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher

High counts: Mute Swan (5), Greater Scaup (27), Bufflehead (37), Common Goldeneye (228), Hooded Merganser (53), Common Merganser (68), Red-breasted Merganser (31), Wild Turkey (249), Red-necked Grebe (11, Red-bellied Woodpecker (4), Black-capped Chickadee (547), Bohemian Waxwing (310), Dark-eyed Junco (12), Northern Cardinal (30), Pine Siskin (113)

Low counts: Nothing notable

Notable misses: Lapland Longspur, House Finch, Purple Finch, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, accipiters, Common Loon

Count Week species: Cackling Goose, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Finch, Lapland Longspur… adult Golden Eagle missed by 1 day!

The Cape Chin count was held on Saturday, December 30th. Conditions were similar to the Pike Bay CBC but with no rain and some brief periods of extremely light snow fall. The sun even showed itself a few times. Barred Owl has still never been recorded on this count, which is rather astounding because it is certainly resident, as owl surveys during the current Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas have shown. 

New species: Canada Goose (2), Mallard (2)

Unusual species: Cooper’s Hawk and Winter Wren (both removed from ‘cw’ only), Great Horned Owl (3rd time), White-winged Scoter (1), Hooded Merganser (9), Common Merganser (8)

High counts: Horned Grebe (35), Bald Eagle (14), Eastern Screech-Owl (4), Hairy Woodpecker (31), Snow Bunting (376), American Tree Sparrow (2), Pine Siskin (18)

Low counts: Ruffed Grouse (3), Herring Gull (7)

Notable misses: Brown Creeper, Bohemian Waxwing, Purple Finch and Evening Grosbeak—the last two species scarce to absent on the peninsula this winter

Thank you again for your continued participation in this very worthy endeavour. The counts could not be possible without your individual efforts on count day and every last one of you contribute more than you know.

Happy New Year,

Andrew Keaveney

Pike Bay and Cape Chin CBC Compiler


American Robin, Owen Sound
 photo by William Gray January 4


The 20th Saugeen Shores CBC was held on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024. The  ~24-kilometre count circle is centered several kilometres southeast of Port Elgin and includes Southampton, Port Elgin and Pasiley townsites, as well as adjacent waterfront and MacGregor Point Provincial Park. 34 participants split up into 6 sections surveyed the count circle, which is higher than the last several years. Several feeder watchers also contributed, adding a few species missed by the rest of the count. 

Overall we observed a total of 13,377 individuals of 66 species. This is the 2nd highest count of individual birds in the counts history (highest was 18,313 in 2021) and the highest ever species tally with 66 species observed (previous high was 64 in 2016). This is considerably higher than the long term average of 7,750 individuals and 53 species.  

Highlights included 3 new species for the all time CBC list; Greater White-fronted Goose (2 birds), Red-throated Loon (5 birds) and Winter Wren (1 bird). Several other notable species and high counts were recorded, including; Tundra Swan (2nd count record), White-winged Scoter (3rd count record), Peregrine Falcon (2nd count record), Canada Goose (new highvount of 6,298, previous 5,058), Cackling Goose (new highcount of 7, previous 4), Long-tailed Duck (new highcount of 32, previous 11), Northern Harrier (Tied the past highcount of 2), Bald Eagle (new highcount of 57, previous 36), Iceland Gull (Tied the past highcount of 2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (new highcount of 29, previous 26), American Tree Sparrow (new highcount of 84, previous 76).  

This years count was an interesting one … waterfowl and gull numbers were both very high, with several species setting record high counts. Overall numbers of raptors and passerines were average to low though, and Birdfeeders in every section were very quiet, resulting in low numbers of woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. This has also been a poor winter for several northern birds like Snowy Owl and winter finches, which was reflected in our totals (missed all winter finches besides Common Redpoll and Pine Grosbeak, and missed Snowy Owl for only the 6th time in the counts history). Another interesting trend to note is the decline of the European Starling and House Sparrow, both of which seem to be showing a steady downward trend over the last 15 years. 

 We tried to fully eBird this Christmas Bird Count, with trip reports made for every section as well as the overall count. While this was new to many participants, it went over quiet well and should make things run smoother in subsequent years. This is a great way to view and share data and compare years, and I encourage other CBCs to follow suit (also more data for eBird!). To view the trip report, see the link below.  

eBird trip report for 2024 Saugeen Shores CBC – https://ebird.org/tripreport/190947  

A big thanks to everyone who participated! 

Good birding,  

Kiah Jasper, Compiler


To close, an apropos Nature quote from my own copy of Where the Falcon Flies, by Adam Shoalts, OSFN’s speaker to a full house audience just last month. While camping along the shore of the St. Lawrence River – “I was heartened to see that the woods had many ash trees that were still healthy. The invasive beetles…have so devastated the ash forests elsewhere. In the woods where I grew up had been many fine ash trees and I had mourned their loss to the beetles ever since. Seeing them again put me in a cheerful mood  – it was like meeting old friends you haven’t seen in years.”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR DECEMBER 2023

Nature Club News for December 2023

by John Dickson

Where the Falcon Flies: Renowned professional explorer, adventurer and best-selling author Adam Shoalts returns to Owen Sound as the featured guest speaker of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) at 7pm Thursday December 14. This event includes a book launch and will be held “In Person Only”, (i.e. no zoom, and no recording) at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. A popular and entertaining speaker, Shoalts will tell us about his latest adventure and his new book Where the Falcon Flies, based on a 3,400 km solo canoe journey from Lake Erie to the Arctic. The expedition took over three months and saw Shoalts depart from Long Point and travel all the way to the Torngat Mountains and Ungava Bay. As a naturalist and historian, Adam will share the story and photos of his remarkable journey. Where the Falcon Flies, and many of Shoalts’ earlier bookwill be available too.

Held in the Bay Room of the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, and starting at 7pm, you are also encouraged to arrive as early as 6:30pm and perhaps browse the latest offerings (Orchids, Vascular Plant Checklist, etc.) of the OSFN Publications Committee for gifts and stocking stuffers.    Everyone is welcome, and admission is free, or by donation.  For more information please visit www.osfn.ca


So you like birds? Consider joining a Christmas Bird Count and participate in Citizen Science.

Once again ’tis the season for 

Christmas Bird Counts (CBC), from Dec 14, 2023 to Jan 5, 2024. 

Thank you to Norah Toth for sharing this local outline of CBC dates and the compilers to contact, to learn more and perhaps take part in this annual inventory.  The CBCs across Grey-Bruce are listed below.
Thursday, December 14, 2023 – Kincardine – James Turland –jaturland@gmail.com
Thursday, December 14, 2023 – Tobermory CBC – Tyler Miller – tyler.miller@pc.gc.ca
Saturday, December 16, 2023 – Owen Sound CBC – Erik Van Den Kieboom – erikkieboom@outlook.com
Saturday, December 16, 2022 – Hanover/Walkerton CBC – Gerard McNaughton –  gmcnaughton@wightman.ca
Sunday, December 17, 2023 – Wiarton CBC – Jarmo Jalava  – jvjalava@gmail.com
Thursday, December 28, 2023 – Meaford CBC – Lynne Richardson – lynnerichardson@rogers.com
Friday, December 29, 2023 – Pike Bay CBC – Andrew Keaveney – uofgtwitcher@gmail.com
Saturday, December 30, 2023 – Cape Chin CBC – Andrew Keaveney – uofgtwitcher@gmail.com
Wednesday, January 3, 2024 – Saugeen Shores CBC – Kiah Jasper – kiahjasper@gmail.com
Or visit this link to find a CBC near you. https://naturecounts.ca/apps/cbc/mapviewer.jsp


On November 26, the Young Naturalists visited the Kinghurst Nature Reserve, where Amanda Eriksen “led a ‘Winter is Coming’ scavenger hunt where we looked for signs of animals getting ready for winter, some of the things the creatures may be gathering to prepare, as well as places creatures may be living. The kids were terrific searchers and had great ideas about how creatures survive winter. We were lucky enough to be able to go to the old cottage which is full of information about the property and the plants and animals you can see. The kids all signed the logbook. The highlight was pumping the old well and actually getting water! We had 8 kids out with one new family joining the club. For the month of December, there is no ‘in person’ meeting, but I am working on a backyard birding challenge.”   The Young Naturalists, mainly aged 7 to 12, usually meet one Sunday afternoon each month with a variety of Nature learning activities and hopefully January’s outing will include snowshoeing with snowshoes available if needed. There are currently more spaces available, and to find out more, please email Coordinator Amanda Eriksen at   eriksen.amanda@gmail.com

Photo by Marsha Courtney

Continuing with the Nature gift theme, popular local birder and photographer David Turner, is once again offering calendars of exquisite bird photography for 2024. They can be purchased at Local Colour in Flesherton, and he can be contacted at fleshertonartgallery@gmail.com or phone 519 924 3560.  

Photo by David Turner  Rough-Legged Hawk, Beaver Valley December 10

I have continued to enjoy nature by getting outside most days, either for a walk, a run, or a bike ride and now I have added skiing on four occasions so far this season. A highlight has certainly been a bike ride in the woods just the other day when I heard the soft whistling of about 60 Bohemian Waxwings as I watched them foraging on berries in a wooded wetland. When I eventually continued my ride, I soon heard that soft whistling again, and discovered a large flock of them in tall trees beside the Rankin River. I guess I will never know if they were, in fact, a different flock or the same one who were just ‘going my way’, but two encounters with them was certainly an amazing treat to enjoy along with a December bike ride in a sunny and mild 15 degrees Celsius!   The next morning I found a colourful apple adorning a small White Ash tree, placed there by a squirrel for a future snack, while Crows, Canada Geese and a male Cardinal were all foraging nearby too, coping with the challenges and rewards of the season.

Photo by John Dickson

To close, a Nature quote from Rick Mercer’s Final Report -“I’m one of those Canadians who like winter…  So when we had the first snowfall here in Toronto, I went for a walk.  And with the snowflakes gently falling against the streetlights I wandered around the city for about half an hour and enjoyed the sights and sounds of thirteen fender-benders in nine languages.  Yes, it was a winter wonderland…”   

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR OCTOBER 2023

Nature Club News for October 2023

by John Dickson

Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) featured guest on October 12 will be Dr. Thorsten Arnold, who worked as an academic advisor and researcher on an important new movie which Arnold will be presenting to the Owen Sound audience: the Canadian Premiere of award-winning filmmaker John Feldman’s Regenerating Life – How to cool the planet, feed the world, and live happily ever after


As Arnold explains: “In short, the film talks about climate landscapes from a water and ecosystem perspective, about how biology is actively modifying and self-regulating the physio-chemical aspects of climate – the difference between an urban heat dome and a cool living-landscape anti-dome, so to say, and the science is solid. ‘Regenerating Life’ takes an ecological look at the environmental crises and by challenging the prevailing climate change story, offers new, attainable solutions.

Overall, the film identifies new pathways for climate action that can be done at a community level –  how to stop killing the biosphere and changing our food system toward farming in partnership with nature.

 Regional greening leads to regional cooling and more water availability… even with increasing greenhouse gases.” 

This presentation will especially appeal to those actively working with gardening and farming. October 12 will feature parts 1 & 2, followed by a discussion facilitated by Dr. Arnold. This OSFN special event begins at 7pm Thursday October 12, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. However, OSFN President Brendan Mulroy, has announced that audience members are encouraged to arrive as early as 6:30pm in order to enjoy a social time, as there is little opportunity for that later in the evening.

Admission is free or by donation for the general public and there will also be an opportunity to donate to Regenerate Grey Bruce, which along with Eat Local Grey Bruce, the National Farmers’ Union Grey, the Greenbelt Foundation and the Sustainability Project, are sponsoring the work of Dr. Thorsten Arnold that he has been doing in the community recently.

For those unable or not wishing to travel, or if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, this event will also be webcast: this is the ZOOM link:    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84314977160    Meeting ID: 843 1497 7160Please note that a bonus, extra OSFN event at 7pm, Thursday October 26, will focus on part 3 of the film Regenerating Life, with a discussion about its special focus on farming. 

For more information please visit www.osfn.ca  or https://www.thesustainabilityproject.ca/events 


Painted Turtle sunning on a log in the Sauble River October 6. Photo by Robert Knapp

In addition, OSFN’s Young Naturalists Club (YN) is up and running, with the next event at 2 to 4pm, Sunday October 29, planned as an engaging Aquatic Invertebrate ID Workshop in Harrison Park, under the direction of Rosie Martin. There is plenty of room for more participants in the YN club, with an exciting lineup of activities planned.

 The Young Naturalist Club Programme Coordinator is Amanda Eriksen who can be reached via email at   eriksen.amanda@gmail.com and those aged 7 to 12 can be registered with her for monthly activities, usually on the last Sunday afternoon of the month from September to June.

Off to look for the salmon swimming upstream  (photo by Marsha Courtney)

The Bruce Birding Club’s (BBC) Marilyn Ohler shared this report on their October 4 sightings:

Nineteen participants enjoyed summer-like weather for the trip led by Margaret, Carol and Norma. Highlights were many Sandhill Cranes gathering for migration, a busy flock of Bluebirds along Elsinore Road and singing Eastern Meadowlarks. We saw a Monarch butterfly still here and noted that many blackbirds are still migrating, including a group or two of Rusty Blackbirds. 

You can also see Marilyn’s report by following the link to ebird.

https://ebird.org/canada/tripreport/161767Anyone interested in learning more and/or joining the BBC is invited to contact James Turland  at  jaturland@gmail.com


Photo by William Gray

October 3  one of the Wood Ducks at Skinner’s Marsh
Bald Eagle – photo by Ingrid Remkins  October 2, north of Kimberley 


The NeighbourWoods North Team has been very busy, and t

hey have two more Autumn Tree Care  sessions planned from 10 to 11:30 on Saturdays October 14, and 21, at the Hospital site in Owen Sound. I have enjoyed many wildflowers and wild flyers in the meadows and pollinator gardens there when I jog along the Healing Path which now has more people using the trail system regularly too. New volunteers are welcome, but should have gloves to wear. Up to date info is available at their Facebook page under NWN.


Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) included these details in his recent blog:  ‘As forecast, the weather this past week was unseasonably warm, very warm. Days alternated between being very quiet or relatively busy at the nets. Golden-crowned Kinglets have started to move in good numbers through Cabot Head and are now the most abundant bird being banded on any given day: 30 Golden-crowned Kinglets banded on September 30 and 48 on October 3, for example. On that last day, we banded a total of 78 birds of 17 species, which is the highest number of birds banded in a day for the season so far. The distant second and third species were Dark-eyed Junco (six birds banded) and Common Yellowthroat (five birds). We also captured the first Fox Sparrow of the season, as well as the first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The young male Pileated Woodpecker may claim the title of best bird captured for that day though, despite its ear-piercing calls.’ 

For more information on their work, please visit    www.bpbo.ca


A Boxelder beetle, taken in August while crawling around my front garden, much to the bemusement (or perhaps bewilderment) of my neighbours. Photo by Rob Wray

I believe that 2023 has become what I learned from botanist and author John Riley, is called a ‘mast year.’ Not only are the wild grapes and apple trees loaded with fruit, but I have seen and heard Beech nuts and Black Walnuts when they fell near me, either in the woods, or in a City Park, when a chattering squirrel dropped some walnuts with a loud crash quite near me as I was pedalling nearby. A good friend has reported a bumper crop of butternuts this year too. I am hopeful that the mountain ash tree next door will keep its fruit this winter for a change, for the Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings who may visit it this winter. 


To close, a Nature quote from A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende:  They rode through the magnificent scenery of cold forests, age-old trees, mountains and water: water everywhere, flowing down in hidden streams among ancient trunks…It  was all the dazzling and secretive work of nature…

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR SEPTEMBER 2023

Nature Club News for September 2023

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) welcome back popular speaker, hike leader and now an author Beth Gihespy, who will feature the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment in the Beaver Valley and Sydenham Club sections, as she explains both areas in connection to her Walking Through Time books. Her Beaver Valley book was published recently and will be available at the talk, entitled Building Sydenham: The Making of Walking Through Time. The Sydenham book is in the works and is expected to be published in a few months.

Gilhespy’s presentation is set to take place as part of the OSFN Indoor Meeting at 7pm Thursday September 14, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Everyone is welcome and admission is free, or by donation. In addition, OSFN plans to offer the talk virtually via Zoom. Anyone interested in this version may request a zoom link in advance, by emailing web@osfn.ca with Rocks in the subject line.

Gilhespy will also be leading a hike for the club, on September 24 in the Kemble area. 


OSFN is pleased to announce that the club was able to sponsor two members of last season’s Young Naturalist Club to attend this summer’s Nature Camp featured by Camp Kawartha.  

The Young Naturalists are getting ready for another year! too. The Young Naturalist Club Programme Coordinator is Amanda Eriksen who can be reached via email  eriksen.amanda@gmail.com and  those aged 7 to 12 can be registered with her for monthly activities, usually on the last Sunday afternoon of the month from September to June.
In addition, OSFN will be sponsoring four local high school students to the Ontario Nature Youth Summit at Lake Couchiching September 22-24. OSFN has sponsored many students in the past decade, and has received excellent feedback from those who have attended the Youth Summits.To learn more about 

the Young Naturalist Club, about joining and/or supporting OSFN, with its many indoor and outdoor presentations, and its motto, Knowing Nature Better, please visit www.osfn.ca


I believe this is a Ruby meadowhawk but will defer to those more knowledgeable about dragonflies.
Taken on the badlands while birding. (Shallow Lake) (Photo by Rob Wray)

The Sustainability Project has announced that there is a Miyawaki “Tiny” Forest Media Unveiling at Peninsula Shores District School in Wiarton on Monday,  September 18, 9:30- 10:30am at

 115 George St, Wiarton, with light snacks available.

Beth Anne Currie shares the following information:

Hello hard-working friends and living-landscape supporters;  see the unveiling of a fast-growing Miyawaki (Tiny) Forest with a connected BIOSWALE which have been installed on Peninsula Shores District School grounds in Wiarton. a project that the Sustainability Project via Regenerate Grey Bruce, has been supporting over the past several months. These two inter-connected living systems will act as demonstration projects to showcase how living landscapes provide countless ecosystem services compared to treeless, lawn spaces. 

It’s time for the official ceremony, where funders, growers, planters, water-er’s, students, teachers, parents and countless volunteers can be recognized and celebrated….. We have made a short documentary about the project – where you can see and hear a bit more background on the project.

Mini-documentary

www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT-OOSbIg0A

Bring your friends, neighbours and families. Hope to see you there!

Beth Anne


Song Sparrow is a good provider for the then nesting chicks a month ago. The young ones have since fledged and I can hear them chirping to their parents from the cedar hedge. Sept. 11. (photo by Carol L. Edwards-Harrison)

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) will host a Fall Open House, with everyone invited Saturday, September 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Tobermory, at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre. 


Come and join us at the Bruce Peninsula National Park visitor center, in Tobermory. We will be there all day with all kinds of activities and information.  You can learn all about the BPBO, and there will be Fall bird walks, display and information, plus audio/visual presentations.

For more information please visit www.bpbo.ca where you can also get an update on the recent bird migration activity with Station Scientist  Stéphane Menu’s weekly blogs.  Here is an excerpt from his latest –

There’s a saying that ‘a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush’. a young Red-eyed Vireo was captured for the first time on August 31… Four days later, on September 4, the same bird was recaptured.  In this short span of time, it increased its weight by 23.5%, a remarkable physiological feast and a sure proof that this bird is getting ready for the long and sustained effort of migration. Fat is the preferred fuel for migrating birds, providing more energy per unit than proteins or carbohydrates. It’s energy they need in order to fly 10 or 12 hours non-stop at night, over a series of multiple flights to reach their final winter destination.

With its bountiful energy stores (and a good measure of luck!), our young Red-eyed Vireo will fly all the way to the Amazon in Brazil, with no assistance from its parents, guided by an internal compass and clock. Unfortunately, this bird – along with all long-distance migrants – will encounter many dangers on its way: bad weather, lack of food at stopover sites, predators like Sharp-shinned Hawks or feral/outdoor cats, collisions with windows, disorientation from artificial lights of ever-expanding cities, etc. It’s hard not to wish them luck as they embark on this, at times treacherous, journey.


Female Common Merganser, Lake Eugenia. Sept. 10. (Photo by David Turner)

In the past year I have been aware of the Centre for Bee Ecology, Evolution and Conservation at York University. (BEEC) and some of their many programme offerings. Here is a link to their website https://www.yorku.ca/bees/ and the opening of their most recent message to me, with a link to their very interesting newsletter and their upcoming conference with a keynote speaker, all of which you can register for. I am looking forward to looking in on more of their activities too.  Our September 2023 BEEc Newsletter – Global Edition.  A reminder that BeeCon registration is only open until Sept 29 so don’t delay in signing up to attend this hybrid event Oct 12-13 – it’s free! (click here for more information, including a schedule).

I have been pleased to finally see some Orange Jewelweed on Saturday’s OSFN hike throught the Amabel Tract with Kevin Predon, and just yesterday I noticed a patch of the yellow variety, while running nearby trails. Another favourite visual at this time of year is the Jerusalem Artichoke with it sunshiny flowers waving in the breezes. 


September 9, Amabel Tract, Sauble Beach –  Red-spotted newt in its eft form or stage (photo by photo by John Dickson)

To close, a Nature Quote from A Bend in the Road, by Nicholas Sparks: “The moon cast its glow over the slow-moving water like a walkway of reflected light. With low-slung oak trees and the whitewashed trunks of cypress trees lining the banks, the view was soothing, ageless in beauty. The draping veils of Spanish moss only added to the feeling that this part of the world hadn’t changed in the last thousand years.”


July, 7:00 am or so, southwest of Bognor, on the edge of a wetland area and out they popped. (PHOTO BY ROB WRAY) 

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR AUGUST 2023

Nature Club News for August 2023

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are preparing for their 35th season with a diverse array of speaker presentations and many field trips throughout the area. Much of the new season, including events in September, will be posted at www.osfn.ca over the next week or so. To ensure you receive up to date information from the club, it is recommended that you purchase or renew your membership online. 

Of note, on September 9, Bruce County Forester Kevin Predon will be leading a Bruce County Hike at the Amabel Tract in Sauble Beach, on trails from Rankin Bridge Road through both County and Crown forests, adjacent to the “Hell Hole” Provincially Significant Wetland complex, the Sauble River, and into some spectacular hardwood and conifer forests. 

Then, at 7pm  September 14 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, popular speaker, hike leader and author Beth Gilhespy will present Building Sydenham: the Making of “Walking through Time.” Beth will discuss how she approached her Beaver Valley and Sydenham geology books. These sections of the Bruce Trail have lots of great geology to discuss. Her Beaver Valley book will be available for purchase and signing.

In addition, OSFN hopes to once again sponsor two local high school students to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit at Lake Couchiching September 22-24. OSFN has sponsored many students in recent years, and has received excellent feedback from those who have attended the Youth Summits.

The weekend is designed and situated to  provide learning opportunities in an exciting and motivational setting with 90 fellow high school students, all with an interest in Nature studies. Potential candidates should email John Dickson at  jwdickso@gmail.com no later than August 30, indicating their interest and availability to attend, as the registration deadline is September 5.  For more information  please visit   https://ontarionature.org/events/youth-summit/


One of a group of Cape May warblers that have been feeding in my birch trees for the last few days.
They are heading south from their northern Ontario breeding grounds.
Allenford 8/21/23, Photo by Les Anderson

The Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) is hosting a  Monarch Butterfly Festival at Alvar Bay and at Bruce Peninsula National Park’s Visitors Centre on August 25th and 26th.

Experience two days filled with nature hikes, monarch tagging and release activities, captivating butterfly documentaries, and thrilling evening bat walks. Explore the beauty of Alvar Bay, learn about the vital work of EBC, and get your hands on free milkweed seeds to support Monarch conservation. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn about and celebrate the wonders of nature and the extraordinary journeys of Monarch butterflies!

Monarch tagging and release activities that play a crucial role in monitoring their population and understanding their migratory patterns. By participating in tagging and release, you contribute to important research efforts and help protect these magnificent butterflies for future generations to enjoy.

In addition to the Monarch festivities, EBC will  also be celebrating International Bat Day on the 26th with evening evening bat walks (Friday and Saturday at 8pm). Discover the fascinating world of bats and their vital role in maintaining our ecosystem’s balance.

 For more detailed information please visit https://escarpment.ca

All activities for this Monarch Butterfly Festival are free.


Steve Irvine  August 21
 
After the rain; a mushroom growing in a hollow maple trunk.

James Turland of the Bruce Birding Club (BBC) has much of its fall season lineup organized, with  several different leaders helping out. 

The BBC is a group of avid bird watchers based in Southampton, Bruce County, Ontario Canada. The club also includes many members from Grey County, and meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month except during the summer. The outings are most often in Bruce County but several excursions each year take the group farther afield. 

If you would like more information or are interested in joining the club please visit the Bruce Birding Club Website at: https://sites.google.com/site/brucebirdingclub/home  and/or email James at   jaturland@gmail.com


Carol L. Edwards-Harrison
August 16 

Another native wildflower in my garden, the Cardinal Flower and another hummingbird using those tiny toes to hang on.

Still with ornithology, Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, along with his crew, have  now returned to Cabot Head for a new season of migration monitoring, from August 15 to October 31; 78 consecutive days. During this first week, most birds that were caught, banded and documented were Red-eyed vireos and 11 species of warblers. In addition, there were observations of a Bald Eagle pair with an eaglet on the nest, a young Peregrine Falcon, a young Cooper’s Hawk, a Great Horned Owl after a successful hunt and a Common Nighthawk.  For more information please visit www.bpbo.ca


Great Horned Owl, in Georgian Bluffs – Photo by Rob Wray ~ August 14
A Green Heron perching atop a snag near Woodford. Mid -August

Photo by Rob Wray


At this time of year I especially enjoy seeing the blooming Goldenrod and other wildflowers all aglow, waving in the summer breezes, and the Staghorn Sumac fronds, comprised of tiny individual flowers that glisten in the morning sunshine. 

Another late summer treat I discovered back in 1992, while I was cycling along a road allowance  in Sydenham Township, is to be accompanied by a flock of American Goldfinches, as they fly along with me, escorting me through their territory.  A year ago,  a dozen or more Monarch Butterflies performed a similar dance, fluttering along close by me in the morning sunshine, northeast of Kemble. 

Then, just this past week, I was delighted to be led by a family of Eastern Kingbirds, guiding me as they flew along from fence post to wire to roadside bushes, during a couple of  sunrise bike rides, while I was still cycling within the City of Owen Sound. 


Really enjoying the Baird’s Sandpipers this year. I think there was only one last year and it didn’t stay very long. Shallow Lake this morning.

by William Gray August 22
Red-headed Woodpecker, near Annan August 22 by William Gray

To close, a Nature quote from Verlyn Klinkenborg’s More Scenes from the Rural Life: “The grace of wildness changes somehow when it becomes familiar. When I say the grace of wildness, what I mean is its autonomy, its self-possession, the fact that it has nothing to do with us. The grace is in the separation, the distance, the sense of a self-sustaining way of life.”