Nature Club News

Nature Club News February 2020

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Nature Club News January 2020

by John Dickson

Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) will feature Peter Middleton’s  “A Break From Winter” at 7PM this Thursday February 13, at the Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. This is expected to be Middleton’s final lecture, after decades of stimulating talks with wonderful photographs, commentary, and often a touch of poetry. Middleton brings to his talks a deep knowledge of the natural sciences, including botany, zoology, ornithology, geomorphology, and many more.

Peter Middleton

Clarke Birchard has shared this description about Middleton:

“Peter Middleton spent most of his professional career sharing his extensive knowledge and passion for nature with others. He was a teacher at the Toronto Island Natural Science School, a teacher and later the Director of the Outdoor Education Centre for the Bruce County Board of Education and the Bluewater District School Board. During those years he inspired thousands of students, colleagues as well as teachers and parents that accompanied the classes.

He led nature tours for adult groups on weekends and during summers. Following retirement, nature tours grew into almost a second career for Quest Nature Tours and other agencies. These tours took him to the Arctic, the Antarctic, India, South Africa, his birthplace of Scotland and numerous other locales. He played a major leadership role in the early years of the Saugeen Field Naturalists and later became active in the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, and was President 2010-12. 

He has had numerous speaking engagements and led nature walks in Owen Sound, Grey, Bruce and beyond. He has also been a director of Ontario Nature and chair of the nature reserves committee.”

This “A Break from Winter” presentation replaces the originally scheduled “Horses of Sable Island, etc.”, with Marg Gaviller,  post-poned due to family commitments, and to be held at a later date. Reminder – OSFN monthly meetings are now being held at the Lumley Bayshore, and are no longer at the Library.

Everyone is welcome, and encouraged to arrive before 7PM for a social time with coffee and refreshments. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.

As we head towards Spring, several local organizations are offering their annual programmes and festivals.

Grey Roots is including this nature-themed talk in its Spring Lecture Series with Dr. David Holah – How Green is Green Energy?

“Our hopes of moving away from fossil fuels lies with the increased use of green energy (solar and wind) and the production of batteries for electric cars. Success will largely be dependent on a few metals of which most people have never heard and which come with a significant environmental cost.”

Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Chemistry at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Dr. Holah held numerous teaching and research positions at research facilities, governmental agencies and universities in the US, UK and Canada. Dr. Holah’s presentations can be enjoyed by science and non-science attendees alike.

This presentation is part of the Spring Lecture Series taking place on Tuesday afternoons following March Break, March 24 through April 14, in the Grey Roots Theatre. Talks take place at 1:00 p.m. and are repeated at 2:30 p.m. Complimentary refreshments following each talk. Free with admission. Members free as always. To learn more please visit

The 23rd annual Huron Fringe Birding Festival will be held May 22 – 25 & May 28 – 31, 2020 celebrating birds, birding and nature. The Festival is based out of beautiful MacGregor Point Provincial Park, where events explore the rich niches of the Park, and also venture throughout the ‘Huron Fringe’ of land along Lake Huron’s shore, up the bountiful Bruce Peninsula, and to many significant natural areas of Bruce and Grey Counties.
The Festival offers an incredible 95 events over two 4-day weekends in late May! This time of year captures both the end of migration and the beginning of the nesting season, ensuring an abundance of birds. Morning, afternoon, all-day and evening events are offered daily. You can choose to attend one, some, or pick a full-Festival package! All events are led by top local, provincial and global tour leaders.

ONLINE REGISTRATION is active March 1 (6am) to May 21 (6pm) & May 26 to May 27. To learn more please visit

Upcoming 2020 forum “The Climate Is Changing – Will We?”

The annual Sources of Knowledge Forum, April 24th – 26th, 2020 at Tobermory, is intended to demonstrate how research in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park, and the surrounding community contributes to knowledge of the Bruce Peninsula’s natural and human history. This event has been held in Tobermory since 2009, and is a regular means of presenting research activities, their results and their implications for decision-making. It provides students, educators, researchers, citizens, business operators and policy-makers with access to networks, information and ideas through which local knowledge can be integrated into their respective interests 2020 Forum registration has opened as of Feb 1st. The early bird price is $80 if you register before April 1st. After April 1st it rises to $90. To learn more please visit –

Kate McLaren shares this report of the the OSFN Young Naturalists Club activities Sunday February 9:”While Elaine van den Kieboom and Jody Johnson prepared the bonfire to heat hot chocolate and apple cider, Doug van den Kieboom led a long string of 12 children and just as many adults on winding trails through the forest in Sydenham township.

Their property is a haven for birds including Chickadees, Ruffed Grouse plus Hairy, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers. Within the mixed forest are some butternut trees, although most showed evidence of the fungus that is killing them throughout their range. Doug pointed out the stripped tree bark on cedars that was evidence of the resident porcupines. Coyote tracks criss-crossed with deer and skunks, although we didn’t spot them. We were a talkative group! Some followed Doug on a second loop while others chose to remove their snowshoes and cozy up beside the fire.

Elaine had previously prepared snow benches for everyone to sit on as they toasted bannock and marshmallows over the fire and talked about what they’d seen and heard.”  

To close, a Nature quote from The Magnetic North, by Sara Wheeler – “The extent to which man, for the first time in history has become the central force in shaping both climate and ecosystems is reflected in the term anthropocene, coined in 2000 by the Dutch chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen.  His suggestions that the influence of human behaviour on the earth constitutes a new geological epoch is gaining ground.”

River Otters, Saturday February 8, at Southampton Harbour. Photo by Pam Binnendyk

Nature Club News January 2020

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Nature Club News January 2020

by John Dickson

OSFN Indoor Meetings At Bayshore

After an over 30-year relationship with the Owen Sound Public Library, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists are moving to new premises for our Indoor Meetings. It is exciting, and yet sad, to know we have outgrown their facility. We have greatly appreciated their hosting our meetings.

The OSFN Board have looked at several alternate meeting locations. This spring we will be using the Harry Lumley (Bayshore) Community Centre (1900 3rd Ave E, Owen Sound, ON N4K 2M6)

Brent Carrying W80 out of woods.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists will host their next Indoor Meeting, featuring Dr. Brent Patterson presenting Wolves and Coyotes in Ontario: Population Status and Recent Research in the Bay Room of the Bayshore Community Centre on Thursday January 9, 2020.

The evening gets underway at 7PM, but arriving early allows more networking opportunities with others in the audience. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. Students of the natural sciences are especially welcome to attend.

Dr. Brent Patterson will update and discuss the status and ecology of wolves and coyotes across the province since he was last here on October 11, 2012 and provide an overview of ongoing and recent research on wolves and coyotes in Ontario.

Topics will include life history, abundance, feeding habits, livestock depredation, and will also include advice on how to avoid conflict with coyotes.

Dr. Brent Patterson is a Research Scientist with wolves and deer, and an Adjunct Professor in Trent University’s Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program, Wildlife Research & Monitoring Section, Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry, Trent University.

Brief Bio: Brent Patterson joined the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources as a research scientist in 2001 and has been an adjunct professor at Trent University since that time as well. His research focuses on the population dynamics of wolves, coyotes and their prey in temperate and boreal regions. He has published extensively on wolves, coyotes, caribou and moose in Ontario and beyond. Prior to joining the MNRF Brent worked as a biologist for the Government of Nunavut in the central Canadian Arctic where his research focused on caribou, muskox and wolverine. Whether it be for work or for pleasure he enjoys spending as much time as possible in the back country of Algonquin Park.

Also of note, tickets ($5 each), are now on sale for the Celebrate Earth Week event to be held on the Chi Cheemaun at 2PM Saturday April 18, featuring renowned ecologist and performer Jarmo Jalava. Entitled Relationships with Nature, as told through Slides, stories and Songs, tickets are available at Thursday’s meeting, and at Ginger Press, Owen Sound Farmers’ Market plus the OSTC office in Springmount.

In December when our scheduled speaker was not available, Dan Ostler once again brought an exceptional and timely presentation to the club. Entitled Connecting the dots in Geology, it also included the volcanic activities that were then happening in New Zealand. Thank you, Dan for filling in so admirably!

Dan speaking with Bob Knapp (right) before the event.

Nature Club News December 2019

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS December 2019

by John Dickson

I regret to inform you that Peter Middleton has come down with a nasty case of the flu and will need to take some time to recover. He also regrets being unable to present to you this evening, but has offered a bonus session for the club, to be scheduled when he has recovered.

In the meantime OSFN Club Member Dan Ostler has kindly agreed to be our speaker this evening. You may remember that Dan filled in so admirably with a climate change talk two years ago. He has also received recognition as a favourite lecturer on International Cruise Ships. The topic tonight will spring from this tagline –

“Prompted by the recent volcanic eruption on White Island in New Zealand”

So, please join us at our Indoor Meeting at the Lumley Bayshore Community Centre tonight. As usual the meeting will get underway at 7PM, and we look forward to seeing you there.

Please note the last minute change of venue to the Lumley Bayshore (not at the Library) The evening gets underway at 7PM, in the Bay Room at the Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. 

Nature activities in November brought many birders out into the cooler weather, to welcome the latest migrating visitors who have arrived here for the winter from farther north, and others who are still passing through with more southerly destinations  entirely.

On Sunday November 10, two teenagers teamed up to plan and lead OSFN’s fall feature entitled  Birding Around the Bay – Waterfowl and More. Many thanks to Erik van den Kieboom and Kiah Jasper  for a very successful day of birding – with 41 species documented and highlights on the sometimes rainy day including Barrow’s Goldeneye, and Rough-legged Hawk.  Flesherton resident David Turner observed that it was  “A good day for ducks.”  

Barrow’s Goldeneye in Owen Sound Harbour (photo by David Turner)

Beth Anne Currie shares this report:

On Saturday November 16th the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO), one of 26 self-funded migration monitoring centres across Canada,  hosted their 16th annual dinner auction fundraiser at the Stone Tree Restaurant in Owen Sound.  Over 120 guests enjoyed a raucous evening of feasting, reacquainting with old friends, and listening intently to our guest speaker Andres Jimenez, who dazzled guests with an engaging presentation that focused on the flora, fauna, and artisanal fisher-people in his homeland of Costa Rica.  Andres reminded guests that we (Canada and Costa Rica) have a shared ‘care and concern’ about more than just breeding birds, as whales and other sea life begin their lives in the fresh waters in Costa Rica, before making their way to coastal estuaries in Canada. 

BPBO guests also enjoyed some friendly competition as tensions blossomed on the bidding sheets as the wide-ranging silent and LIVE auction items found their way toward new owners.  Special thanks to the BPBO Board of Directors, the staff of the Stone Tree Restaurant, our generous auction donors and our faithful supporters who, together helped us achieve a new fundraising target!  The Board and staff anticipate an intense year of problem-solving ahead, as high water levels and thrashing waves have been no match for crumbling infrastructure and roadways at Cabot Head this season. 

Here’s to unencumbered migratory pathways and productive nesting rates for the breeding birds of North America in 2020!  

The Bruce Birding Club’s November 20 outing was led by Doug Pedwell.  As Fred Jazvac reports:

“Exciting views of the day included seeing more than 20 Bald Eagles at Baie Du D’or, at one point we saw 3 Snowy Owls in one view.  A pure white male sat on the ground with two Snowy’s sitting in a nearby fence on a double post, one above the other, each looking the opposite way, with a cow standing in the background.  If ever there was an invitation to take a special picture, that was it.  At another site we had a snowy owl sitting on the ground with hundreds of Snowbuntings flying in the air behind them.”  

The club also made its annual trip to the Gull Weekend in Niagara, where the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) features events and guided hikes, and can boast that “Niagara holds the world’s record of 14 gull species seen on 25 November 1995. OFO field trips often get 10 gull species when thousands of gulls feed along the river in November and December.” 

On Sunday November 24, the Young Naturalist Club met at the Woodford Hall, where they created and decorated beautiful and fun seasonal nature crafts with Norway Spruce cones, thistle seed heads from the Teasel plant, with paint, and glitter, natural wood products, and even musical components, all facilitated by Krista McKee. Then they embarked on a nature hike at the Crevice Springs section of the Bruce Trail, led by Dennis Knight, where they learned about some of the trees, ferns, and rock formations associated with the Niagara Escarpment. 

Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) will be taking place throughout Grey and Bruce Counties and beyond from December 14 in Owen Sound until January 5. To find the date, location and contact information for a CBC near you, or elsewhere, visit the Audubon website, then zoom in and click on a circle of interest to you at – 

A map view of the circles expected to be included in the 120th CBC is available here

Many in our area have been able to enjoy and capture some special features of this past month, including some strikingly beautiful clouds, often reflected in water, and of course the Tamarack trees, with their needles turned to a golden glitter in the November light, which I have heard is extra special for photography. 

To close, a Nature quote from OSFN’s speaker November 14 – “Few things encourage reflection quite like fresh mountain air and utter solitude.”  Adam Shoalts 

Nature Club News November 2019

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS November 2019

by John Dickson

The next featured presenter for the Owen Sound Field Naturalists is Adam Shoalts – naturalist, explorer, best-selling author and popular speaker. An active member of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Shoalts will be sharing stories about his solo canoe trip from the Yukon-Alaska border to Baker Lake near Hudson Bay, in 2017. He is also expected to be sharing images of the Blue Racer, an elusive snake on Pelee Island, which he was engaged to find and photograph in 2018.

Often referred to as Canada’s Indiana Jones, Shoalts’ newest book, Beyond the Trees, which documents that monumental journey, quickly acquired a prominent place on the bestseller lists in Canada, and will be available for purchase, at the presentation.

VENUE CHANGE Please note that this event has been moved (from the Library) to the Bay Room at the Bayshore Community Centre, and will start at 7PM Thursday November 14. Admission is free, although donations are welcome. For more information, please visit

An Old Growth Forest expedition in the Marshall Woods, on October 12, introduced the small group of intrepid hikers to a forest where large old trees have been allowed to keep growing, resulting in impressively tall and thick specimens of Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar, Sugar Maple, Basswood, and Yellow Birch. The topography there is also of interest, with a watercourse that is naturally terraced, as it descends the hillsides to join the often enchanting Rocklyn Creek, just below the Niagara Escarpment there. Of this third annual hike in this richly diverse location, leader Bob Knapp declares – “I always see something new, even though I have visited there lots of times.”

At this time of year I especially enjoy seeing the Tamarack trees turn golden, especially against a green backdrop of other conifers who are keeping their foliage for the winter. Another bonus in this season is discovering nests, suddenly revealed to us when the leaves are scattered below.  Both in urban settings and deep in forests, I have recently seen at least three Baltimore Oriole nests craftily suspended in trees along with the same number of impressive hornet nests, also engineered and constructed to withstand the elements in the canopy. 

NeighbourWoods North held its final Big Dig event at the hospital grounds, on October 26, the focus being to plant newly donated trees before the ground freezes. Young trees need to be protected from voles, rabbits, and other small critters by wrapping. Fall mulching helps to protect the young trees from weather extremes. The turnout was impressive considering the weather forecast, and the work that day helped to ensure a healthier Forest of Hope and Healing. To learn more please visit

On October 27, Judy Robinson led the Young Naturalists club (YNC) on a hike to Jones Falls, and back, teaching them to observe closely the special places along the trails, and to discover those wildlife forms that have their homes right there among the rocks and trees and even on a Goldenrod stalk. They also explored the impressive rock formations and crevices, and were rewarded by arriving at the waterfall along the trail there.

Exploring rock formations (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Porcupine Quills (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

The youngsters were also advised to have a good look at sites there, to see if they might be able to pick them out in February when Judy Robinson leads them here again, on snowshoes. The YNC monthly outing is generally from 2-4PM on the last Sunday of the month. For more information please visit

The Bruce Birding Club tour on November 6, led by Lynne Richardson and Shirley Harrison sampled some birding hotspots in the area from Thornbury to Collingwood. As Fred Jazvac reports “The hike centred on waterfowl habitat and any land birds we could find while looking for ducks.  In the best birds of the day department, the BBC’s first Northern Shrike of the fall stood out.  Finding 3 species of Scoter on any hike has the ability to put smiles on a birder’s face.  The 3 Greater Yellowlegs who are late migrating were a surprise, and so was a late fly by of a Double-crested Cormorant.”

The BBC’s two October outings ranged from Southampton to the Kincardine area on October 2, a hike which featured many warbler species not really expected this late in the season, while the October 16 tour from the Chesley lake area to south of Port Elgin had a wide variety of waterfowl, and many other birds either migrating through, or settling here for the winter.  There have been a few reports of flocks of Sandhill Cranes west of Copperkettle, and near Elsinore. 

Orange-crowned Warbler  (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)
Sandhill Cranes (Photo by David Turner)
Sandhill Cranes (Photo by David Turner)

Stew Hilts saw when he travelled “east to Stayner, past the little Edenvale airport, and off on a sideroad to Strongville, hundreds of Sandhill Cranes – the further we looked across the field, the more we saw. We drove around the entire large concession block and saw several more flocks.  We estimated about 1000 or more in total.  I can’t tell you how exciting this was.”

I too have seen several flocks of fifteen or so Sandhill Cranes flying over Owen Sound in the last month or so. However, I was very surprised to see two of them displaying acrobatic flight skills just a week ago, over Owen Sound Bay, swooping and diving, and then climbing again as they seemed to revel in the gusty southwest winds that morning.Others have been sharing their enjoyment of seeing the Paper (white) Birch trees, holding onto their yellow leaves, against a backdrop of sunshine, blue skies and – yes – newly fallen snow, creating a beautiful and delightful picture.  I have been told by more people this year than ever before, that Autumn is their favourite season. I happen to agree with that sentiment myself.

To close, a nature quote by Bob Bowles, who grew up in the Markdale area, and now lives in Orillia:

Those of you that have taken any of my Ontario Master Naturalist Courses or Workshops will have heard me say many times that in nature, everything is connected to everything else. Nature is an intermingled web of many species and when you pull at one you find it connected to everything else. This is really illustrated well in our fungi, mosses and lichens workshops since we find mushrooms, mosses, liverworts, and lichens all mixed together. It is not surprising when you read a very interesting report of one species of fungus that uses lichens and mosses to survive between major fires which helps the species survive and thrive.

Bob Bowles

Nature Club News October 2019

Monday, October 7th, 2019


by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) next featured speaker is Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO). He will be giving an overview of Birds on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula: Changes across the years since 2002, as seen at Cabot Head, where the BPBO is situated. The observatory also serves as a training ground for interns working there under Menu’s supervision, monitoring and documenting the bird species migrations each Spring and Autumn. Menu is scheduled to speak shortly after 7PM, Thursday October 10, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Another popular aspect of these monthly Indoor Meetings, as they are called, is “Sightings”, an opportunity for audience members to share recent interesting nature observations they have noted. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, transferring a banded, Yellow-rumped warbler to the hands of Ashten Sherman for release – You may note that the bird is upside down. The bird will stay that way until Ashten slowly turns his hand over, and the bird will automatically spread its wings and take to the air, bringing a smile to all who are there to see. This was one of the popular activities at the Open House at BPBO on September 28. Photo is by Tammy Sherman

The BPBO also held an open house on September 28, showing visitors the operational steps involved in documenting the migratory bird observations, including the mist nets where birds are gently and briefly captured, and carefully removed for detailed identification of species, sex, age, and condition, before banding, all of which are noted, prior to release again to re-join their flocks. Often, those in attendance, especially children, are given the opportunity to hold a bird in their hands for that release, a memorable experience, for sure.

The Bruce Birding Club, (BBC), led by Judy Duncan on September 18, travelled to Tiny Marsh, near Elmvale, to check out the birdlife present in the diverse habitat there. An immediate observation by Kiah Jasper’s keen eyes and ears was of more than 30 American Pipits in the field across from the parking lot there. That they were nestled into the ridges in the field made them extra challenging to see, as their grey coloring blended into the earthy tones of the ground, until they would suddenly rise and swirl in the air before settling once more into the stubble to forage for insects in the low vegetation, and fuel up, for the next stage of their journey from the Arctic to the southern USA. The 54 other species seen at Tiny Marsh also included Marsh Wren, Palm Warbler, Northern Harrier, and Greater Yellowlegs.

Virginia Creeper at the Tiny Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

The BBC’s October 2 tour of the areas from Southampton to Kincardine, led by Bob and Anne Marie Taylor, resulted in 70 species being observed, including 8 species of warblers, and 15 of waterfowl. The BBC outings are usually held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, from September to June, with some extra special tours added throughout the year.

Also flocking to this area were the Field Botanists of Ontario (FBO). According to local FBO member Barbara Palmer, they “held their AGM at Grey Roots Museum and Archives on September 21. A light supper was followed by Jennifer Doubt’s presentation on the inner workings of the herbarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.”
Doubt said of the weekend “It was all fantastic, and a real highlight for me – besides spending time among people with a shared passionate about plants and nature! – was exploring some of the sites that botanists have documented in the past. Owen Sound has a rich history of botanical exploration and some of those past findings are outlined in publications and vouchered in the herbarium where I work. After a while working with those accounts and specimens, you can get to feel a kinship with some of the botanists who’s specimens assist you in your current projects, even if they died long before you were born. It was fun and thought-provoking to be in the places they were, to see some of the same botanical and other features they saw, and to reflect on the changes (in landscape, society, plant communities) that have taken place between their visits and ours.” Palmer continues – “Jennifer’s specialty is bryophytes and her outing found her and fellow moss enthusiasts at the  Inglis Falls Conservation Area examining the many mosses and liverworts.”

Other outings offered on the weekend included trips  to Neyaashiinigmiing with Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon(Anthony Chegahno), Isaac Lake Macrophytes (an Aquatic Plant study) with Tyler Miller, and a Fish Hatchery Forest tour was led by Will Van Hemessen. This forest has been suggested as the site of a future OSFN botany hike, perhaps in Spring of 2020.

 Finally, in 2007 FBO initiated an award that recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of field botany in Ontario. That award is named the John Goldie Award for Field Botany. The award recognizes Goldie’s pioneering efforts in conducting surveys of vegetation in Ontario and New York State in the early 1800’s. The Goldie Award is presented each year at FBO’s AGM. The winner of the Goldie award this year at Grey Roots for 2019, was Paul Catling, recently-retired curator of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s National Collection of Vascular Plants, and prolific ongoing botany researcher.

Owen Sound’s Joan Crowe was presented with the Goldie Award by the FBO in 2015

David Morris led an OSFN field trip on September 5th, entitled Sarawak Saunter, near Indian Falls, where we were welcomed to the childhood homestead of Val Radbourne. The focus was on invasive botanical species that are found quite commonly now in our locale. In addition to the often negative effects of the invasive species, including – Japanese knotweed; goutweed; multiflora rose; knapweeds; Lamium; cleavers bedstraw; white bedstraw, English ivy; colt’s foot; and periwinkle –  the colours on display that day were positively magnificent. Especially beautiful were Goldenrod meadows, (some loaded with honey bees), against a backdrop of green trees, in yellow sunshine, under a blue sky. All around were blossoms of red, blue, purple, pink, orange, and white – and soon the footpath brought us to the multi-coloured walls of the Gorge at Indian Falls, with red clay below a green clay, beneath grey rocks, splashed by a clear waterfall.

In the remains of the old homestead (Photo by Brian Robin)
Invasive Japanese Knotweed (Photo by Brian Robin)
David Morris explaining the knapweed nuances (Photo by Brian Robin)
Milkweed Tussock Moth on an alternate hostplant – Spreading Dogbane (Photo by Brian Robin)

On September 19, OSFN members and guests – as Eileen O’Connor shared -” had a lovely afternoon walk on “Anglesea”, the property of Don Rawls  located at the north end of an area known as the Klondike Hills, south-west of Chatsworth. Don and his dog led us on trails that he has made over the years up and down drumlins, through forested areas, past ponds and erratics, all of which provided a great variety of trees and shrubs, ferns and mushrooms as well as a few remaining wildflowers and birds.  Also on the property are the remains of a lime kiln which would have been constructed most likely by the first settlers around 1870. Afterwards, Don displayed his albums of the many photos of the flora and fauna he has noted over the years and we all came away with a very comprehensive  list of species and a guide to this beautiful terrain.Visitors are welcome by donation and pre-arranged guided tours are available.  Don said that May is an excellent time to visit but you are welcome to contact him or his son Mike any time.” 519-794-0561 or email

Hart’s Tongue Ferns at Anglesea (Photo by John Dickson)
Butternut Tree at Anglesea (Photo by John Dickson)
Wild coffee or orange-fruited horse gentian at Anglesea (Photo by Glen Durst)

As a speaker I found that Beth Gilhespy had an excellent way of making Geology easier to understand clearly, returning often to the “sandwich of layers”, as she had pointed out at the beginning of her presentation on the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment. She also explained that she was enthusiastic about fossils, primarily for the stories they told about what the climate, habitats and water levels were like when those creatures were alive and dwelling here.

As Eileen O’Connor, once more, relates – “As a follow-up to her very informative indoor meeting talk of September 12, Beth Gilhespy led an outdoor geology hike on September 28, an overcast day but mercifully rain-free.  We met at the western end of East Linton SR, where Beth, with all her years of experience with hikes, distributed excellent hand-outs about what we would be seeing and organized us into carpools to get to the entrance to the GSCA Glen Management Area on county road 17.  Any geological information here is shamelessly lifted  from Beth’s hand-out.  We soon descended to the floor of the Glen, which is an example of a ’re-entrant valley’ created by scouring from retreating glaciers 12-14,000 years ago.  We learned that lichens are more often found on erratics which are more acidic and of which there were quite a few than on dolostone where moss is more likely.  Incidentally, this area would be fantastic for a mushroom hike as there was an astonishing variety and abundance of species all along the trail, especially after mild, damp weather. But caution was needed as the rocks were slippery and the paths muddy.

A very special feature of the Glen floor are the water-filled sinkholes created by meltwater dissolving the Manitoulin Dolostone layer and then, it is surmised, draining at contact with the Queenston Shale below, the lowest geological layer in our area.   These sinkholes were discovered by Ron Savage, for whom this section of the trail is named, as he hikes here often. One sinkhole is at least 15 feet deep! During the hike Ron was particularly good at spotting fossils in a higher  geological layer known as Fossil Hill Dolostone, some of which he had earlier marked with tape for our benefit.
Towards the end we climbed uphill to the Amabel Formation, the  dolostone layer which we see so visibly  on the top of the escarpment. But then we climbed down into and walked along the base of narrow crevices  where the blocky dolostone chunks were very evident but where we were also treated to the sight of plentiful Hart’s Tongue fern and some Walking Fern although we had already seen many other ferns during the outing.
Unfortunately we ran out of time to cover the Frank Holley side trail located near our start point that day but also worth a visit if you don’t know it.  And, if you ever get the opportunity to go on a Beth Gilhespy hike, don’t hesitate!”

Beth Gilhespy prepares to dip a 13 foot pole into a water filled pothole (Photo by Glen Durst)

On Friday September 20, Grey Sauble Conservation hosted a celebration at Hibou, recognizing contributions of the many volunteers associated with the organization and the Foundation, including the Friends of Hibou. Bob and Marie Knapp also led tours of the Hibou Interpretive trails.

The Young Naturalists Club kicked off their 2019-20 season, September 29, meeting at Grey Sauble Conservation Headquaters, where they registered with new co-ordinator Jody Johnson Pettit. Then Krista McKee led the youngsters through some exciting games of predator and prey, where hiding and camouflage were emphasized as important survival skills. This was followed by a visit to watch the salmon who have come back to where they were hatched in the area several years ago. The afternoon wrapped up with a hike around the Arboretum, and the cleaning out of bluebird nesting boxes to prepare them for next spring’s returning residents. Next month, an afternoon nature hike is planned in the Pottawatomi area, led by Judy Robinson.

For more information about the Young Naturalists Club, NeighbourWoods North, and OSFN, visit

Praying mantis at the Young Naturalist outing (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Salmon in fish spawning beds of Sydenham river. at the Young Naturalist outing (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery is also featuring Nature in a new exhibition – Footprints in Time: Painting Around Georgian Bay. Following in the footsteps of artists featured from the Gallery’s Collection, including Norval Morrisseau, Tom Thomson, Fred Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Daphne Odjig and John Hartman, you are invited on a tour around Georgian Bay. Beginning on Manitoulin Island, you will travel down the Bruce Peninsula to Owen Sound, head east toward Honey Harbour then north to Killarney. See the many ways in which this distinctive landscape has inspired successive generations of artists producing a rich cultural mosaic. 

And, speaking of Art, many people I know, (even my daughter is there canoeing and camping with friends) are spending a little time in the area of Algonquin Park these days, and until October 20, I would encourage you to take in a visit to the Algonquin Art Centre there, for  “A Tribute to Robert Bateman”, a special exhibit that looks at his deep connections to Algonquin and its role in his development as an artist and environmentalist.

On Saturday, September 14, renowned Canadian wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman received The Algonquin Park Legacy Award at a special event at the Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park. Bateman was presented the award by his long-time friend, the acclaimed wildlife artist and naturalist Michael Dumas — who was the recipient of the inaugural award last year. Established by the Algonquin Art Centre, the Algonquin Park Legacy Award recognizes artistic excellence, outstanding contributions to art in Algonquin Park, and life-long dedication to nature and wildlife. Bateman, who is now 89, also started out as a Junior Naturalist, through a programme at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he got an early start, learning about the many species around us. He was also sketching, as he says, like most youngsters, but he “just didn’t stop.”
The Algonquin Art Centre, located on the shores of Found Lake in Algonquin Park, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is voluntary, but a valid Ontario Parks permit is required to visit the centre.

And to close, a Nature quote from Bobby Bateman, as OSFN Life Member George Peck once knew him – “In 1947 at the age of 17, I landed a dream job at the Wildlife Research Camp, north of Lake of Two Rivers. I was a student ‘chore boy’ but I observed nature and drew and painted my surroundings for four glorious summers. The land is in my blood.”

Nature Club News September 2019

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS September 2019

by John Dickson

Peter Thoem’s Owls Around Us presentation on August 25th drew a capacity crowd to the Grey Roots theatre for his entertaining and enlightening talk. Thoem has been a volunteer ambassador for the Owl Foundation since 2016.

Barred Owl (Supplied Photo)

The Bruce Birding Club has been out twice recently with both tours being led by Kiah Jasper.

On August 28th twenty one club members visited the Exeter and the West Perth Lagoons. Fred Jazvac reported that “Today was a great shorebirding day seeing 13 species, with the Baird’s Sandpiper seen at Chalmers Pond getting plenty of excitement as it was in Bruce County, making the eBird listers very happy.  The Red-necked Phalarope was the first phalarope of the year for the BBC, and that bird was well photographed.   Considering we were only in shorebird habitat, the total of 56 birds was excellent.” 

Gull complaining about the cold wind??? (Photo by Marilyn Ohler)

On September 4th – Kiah was once more the leader taking the group from Southampton to north of Elsinore, to Wiarton and Isaac Lake,

The best bird of the day was a flyover, early arrival Black Scoter.  A Lesser Yellowlegs gave lessons on patience, showing close-by observers,  how to swallow a large tadpole.  Two American Kestrels proudly showed off their new families to us.  65 species were recorded for the day.

Stephane Menu, Station Scientist at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory reported that migration still seems slow, but a few highlights including Common Nighthawks, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, and a Gray-cheeked Thrush have been documented. Another observation was “On August 26, we were surprised by a large group of a species not usually seen in such numbers at Cabot Head: six young Bald Eagles were soaring together! These birds were all hatched this summer, and must have come from several nests on the Bruce Peninsula.” You can meet Stephane and other staff and volunteers, at the Observatory when they will be hosting their annual Open House on Saturday September 28, from 9AM to 2PM. Witness bird banding observations and see where the migrating birds stream in for a rest. For more details visit

Photo by Brian Robin

On August 30th, the Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores held another Community Tagging Day, with 50 Monarchs tagged and released. Out of town visitor Joan Gamey-Langrell posted this:

Yesterday was an amazing morning. I got to learn about the Pod Squad and see them in action. What an amazing group of people. They are doing great work for the monarch butterflies. They catch them, tag them and release them. I got to send my first tagged butterfly south. It was very emotional for me. It is a great experience. Bring your children and grandchildren out to take part. It will be a forever memory. I know it will be for me. Thank you

Beth Gilhespy with Tortoise (supplied photo)

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club kicks off its monthly speaker series at 7PM Thursday September 12 at the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Guest speaker Beth Gilhespy is the past CEO of the Bruce Trail Conservancy and is a geology enthusiast. Her presentation will highlight the geology of the Niagara Escarpment. She will also lead a leisurely Owen Sound Bruce Trail hike on September 28.

Beth Gilhespy (supplied photo)
Geology Hike with Beth Gilhespy (supplied photo)

In addition, there is a plethora of outdoor activities planned for September, including an floral excursion in Sarawak, an Autumn Ramble at Anglesea Nature Trails & Managed Forest, and an introduction to Forest Bathing. For membership details and more please visit

In addition the The Young Naturalists’ Club is scheduled to begin on September 29, and is for children aged 7 to 12 years old. Younger and older children are welcome, however ages under 7 must be accompanied by an adult during each meeting. We typically meet once a month from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm (please note offsite trips are planned), but for some events the times may vary. The program operates from September to June but with no meeting in December. Parents or guardians are encouraged to stay and participate or volunteer if they wish.  For more information please visit or contact  the Young Naturalists Coordinator Jody Johnson Pettit at

Recently I have heard from three different sources mention of some negative effects on the wildlife along the rail line west of Benallen, from ATV traffic. In particular that many frogs are being killed as well as the deterioration of the trail conditions for cycling, etc., from the unevenness that results from this usage. There have also been some suggestions about efforts to make this a more harmonious and less deadly sharing of the trail, since the wildlife use it too. 

Female Walking Stick (Photo by David Turner, Flesherton)

To close, a Nature quote from an upcoming OSFN speaker Alexis Burnett,

The Earth is the ultimate provider and for countless generations our ancestors knew how to survive and live in harmony with nature. By learning and practicing these skills we begin to experience nature in an ancient and meaningful way.

Nature Club News August 2019

Friday, September 6th, 2019


by John Dickson

For those who have always wondered about the Owls Around Us, Peter Thoem of the Owl Foundation can help with answers. Thoem is the final speaker this summer in the partnering of Grey Roots and Owen Sound Field Naturalists. His presentation, geared to the general public and the entire family, will take place this Sunday August 25th, at 2PM in the Grey Roots theatre.  

 “It is said that if you’ve got squirrels in your neighbourhood, then you also have owls! Really? How come I never see them?” Naturalist Peter Thoem’s presentation, on behalf of the Owl Foundation, includes dozens of spectacular shots of owls taken here in Ontario. It shows you how owls are everywhere in our culture; they have even made it into our government. The show also deals with the mishaps (mostly man-made) that befall owls. And how the Vineland-based Owl Foundation is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned owls. After the presentation, stay and meet Rucker, the resident barn owl from Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest!

  Peter Thoem of the Owl Foundation
 Barred Owl

Regular admission rates apply. FREE for Grey Roots Members and for Owen Sound Field Naturalist Members. Visit

Following up on a very successful Spring yard sale in support of NeighbourWoods North, a sold out fund-raising dinner entitled Feast in the Field, was “a financial and enjoyable success.” Hosted by Gleason Brook Winery, catered by Zack Keeshig with Jonathan Brew, along with a silent auction of donated items, and entertainment by Al Crawford, NeighbourWoods North raised raised $8000 and will be able to start “The Healing Path” (an integral component of the tree planting program at the hospital in Owen Sound) much earlier than anticipated.

To see more about this please visit

Those trees at the hospital have been receiving extra attention from NeighbourWoods volunteers with watering, trimming and mulching for the past several weeks too.

This summer many people have been remarking on the bountiful sightings of Monarch Butterflies. The Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores hosted a very successful Community Tagging Day a week ago on August 16, successfully tagging 31 Monarch butterflies and documenting the procedure. If you were unable to attend, it has been announced that a similar event will be held on Friday morning August 30, from 10AM to noon, at Perkins Park in Southampton. It is a wonderful activity for the entire family, to learn and participate in some citizen science. For more details please visit

Tagged Monarch Butterfly  Photo by Brian Robin

At the  Piping Plover wrap-up event held August 21, Coordinator Kirsten Snoek reported on the year’s activities with its successes and its failures, and pointed out that only two piping plover chicks from the Sauble Beach nesting sites fledged and were able to fly well enough to leave with the father bird a few weeks ago, starting their long migration south. Andrea Gress also reported on the success, and otherwise, at other sites in Ontario.

The Great Lakes had 71 pairs, up from 67 pairs last year- which is great to see. Ontario had 7 fledglings from 8 pairs. Though the numbers are low this year, we did not have any adult predations which is a very big win.

The Wasaga Beach location had five chicks fledge (develop enough feathers to be able to fly).  High water levels in the Great Lakes also had an impact on some of the birds’ nesting efforts, since there was a narrower beach, which, in some cases, still was being shared with human activity. There is also access now to  incubation locations in Ontario and a captive rearing centre in Michigan where viable but abandoned eggs, and young hatchlings can be given some extra support in order to contribute to at least some increase in the  hoped-for eventual return to a stable breeding population of Piping Plovers, in the Great Lakes basin.

Continuing efforts to inhibit the spread of Dog-Strangling Vine at a site in Owen Sound, are getting increased awareness and volunteers to learn about and help to eradicate this invasive species, where it is found. This campaign, led by Bill Moses and Nancy Brown, recently staged an education opportunity, where identification   and techniques being used were highlighted.

Dog Strangling Vine with seed pods. Photo by Bill Moses. Follow his efforts against DSV on Facebook

Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory reports that banding operations have resumed, with most observations being of local birds and their young – especially American Redstarts, Brown Thrashers, Cedar Waxwings, plus two young Eaglets from the Bald Eagles nesting nearby. However migration has already begun for some species as Menu reports:

But, already, there is a pull, there is an urge, there is the inevitable tilt of the Earth’s axis: fall is on its way and migration is starting. The Greater Yellowleg, like so many other shorebirds, has already been answering the call, already have started the long journey South from its boreal and subarctic wetlands all the way to South America. Two Greater Yellowlegs were at Cabot Head on August 16, easily detected at first by their loud calls, then seen gracefully flying over Wingfield Basin.”

Visit to learn more.

Finally, Chronicles of a Bruce County Birder is a wonderful nature blog by Kiah Jasper, that I highly recommend. Introduced to me as a wildlife photographer several years ago when he was fourteen years of age, Kiah has blossomed into one of the best known young birders in the province. His enthusiasm, writing  and photography are all exceptional, and on display at

Western Kingbird, in northern Bruce County, Photo by Kiah Jasper
Cattle Egret, near Kincardine  Photo by Kiah Jasper

Nature Club News July 2019

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019


by John Dickson

On June 9, popular Naturalist and former OSFN President Mark Wiercinski led a Birding hike at the Bayview Escarpment Provincial Nature Reserve where many warblers, and thrushes were observed. He  also encouraged everyone to practice listening several layers deep into the forest. In addition to the birds, many plants, some with flowers, and various trees were identified and highlighted, including what Mark called Doug Larson trees. These were very old Eastern White Cedars, growing on the north side of the Escarpment, and typical of the ones studied  by Professor Larson, a former teacher of Mark when he was a student at the University of Guelph.

Just a layer or two deep into the forest (Photo by Bill Hatten)
A Doug Larson Eastern White Cedar (Photo by Bill Hatten)
Mark Wiercinski explaining to group (Photo by Bill Hatten)

The hike was a casual one but the learning experience was very much an integral component of the outing. Plans are already underway for next year’s field trip which may be entitled Birds and Much More, with Mark, as he delves into the rich and complex diversity of the forest.

Male Scarlet Tanager  (Photo by Bill Hatten)
Jack in the Pulpit  (Photo by Bill Hatten)

On June 13, the Owen Sound Field Naturalist AGM wrapped up with two award presentations. The first was to Lloyd Lewis, who received the OSFN Community Conservation Award in recognition of his initiative and accomplishments in creating NeighbourWoods North, a strong team effort which has been responsible for the very successful urban tree planting projects in Owen Sound since 2017. Accepting the award, Lewis remarked that he was first attracted to the area by the natural beauty and features here, but found that, in fact, it has been the wonderful people he has met which has been the most satisfying reward.

Lloyd Lewis receiving the OSFN Community Conservation Award from John Dickson (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Norah Toth received from OSFN an Honourary Life Membership, in recognition of her many important contributions to the club, in particular club communications via the newsletter, entitled the Harts Tongue Herald, and to the community, including the establishment of the Huron Fringe Birding Festival, along with Stewardship Grey Bruce, involvement with the Piping Plover monitoring, and work with the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, and the Bruce Birding Club. 

Norah Toth receiving the OSFN Honourary Life membership Award from Beth Anne Currie (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Then, the  featured speaker, Bob Bowles, presented an overview of Damselflies, and Dragonflies, plus an outline of the Ontario Master Naturalist Programme he has developed. In the meantime Bowles has now created the Saugeen Bruce Ontario Master Naturalist 2019 Summer Camp Program, taking place on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula from July 13 to 20.  I was in touch with him earlier this week, and learned there are still 5 spaces available for this course at Red Bay which starts this Saturday July 13 – Here is the link, where there is more information and a method to register for the course.

Bob Bowles – speaking in June the Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Ornithologist Lynne Richardson shared this report about the early stages of Piping Plover hatchings – June 20  -Thursday morning – classes from Hepworth Central Public School came to Sauble Beach for a Piping Plover field trip. They observed two three-day-old newly hatched golf-ball-sized chicks scurrying around, hunting and foraging for bugs, snuggling under the adults to thermoregulate, as their hatchling downy feathers are not substantial enough to keep them warm.  The students learned about the biology and life history of these entertaining endangered birds and in a series of creative beach games learned about the many challenges they face in their struggle to raise young and retain a small population throughout Great Lakes.   

Thursday afternoon members of the OSFN came out to the beach where they also were entertained by the interesting behaviours of the plover family. Lynne Richardson, OSFN member and part of the “Plover Lovers” Outreach and Education group led the outing.  Lynne highlighted the life histories of the adult plovers present on the beach this year, which is learned from their bands and many hours of volunteer observations. Mr Blue Bands and Ms Green Dots are a three-time nesting pair at Sauble Beach who hooked up in 2017 after she lost 2 previous mates to predation.  Blue Bands did not like incubating at first and would sneak off the nest, pick up pebbles, shells and grasses, and toss them around for a bit before he could settle down. He turned into a fine young Dad who watches very attentively over the chicks while Green Dots takes off for Florida before the chicks fledge!

On June 23rd, the Young Naturalist club had a year-end special event, attending the Outdoor Education Centre, with activities led by site manager, Deb Diebel. The many club members split up into smaller groups to observe some of the life forms in the waters of Boat Lake. These even included a snapping turtle, and a crayfish. After and early lunch together, the Young Naturalists went on a nature hike, where they observed displays of Showy Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. Then, again forming groups, they went about fashioning a shelter structure in the woods, using materials readily available. Afterwards they all got to see each others’ shelters, with admiration and critical analysis. One of the adults in attendance remarked to me how impressed he was with the team building spirit shown by the youngsters, applying themselves to the tasks with creative enthusiasm, and how they were rewarded by the accomplishments of their group efforts.

On June 27, Chris Rickard led a Butterfly outing at Bognor Marsh on a hot sunny day, which attracted quite a few naturalists, but very few butterflies were observed at this location. However Wendy Howell documented our sightings as follows, including Northern Crescent (6), Red Spotted Purple, Common Ringlet (3), Tiger Swallowtail (2), White Admiral. The group did see many Damselfies and Dragonflies, as Audrey Armstrong has listed here – ebony jewelwing, eastern pond hawk, chalk fronted corporal, and sedge sprites.

A few of the participants (Photo by Wendy Howell)
Red Spotted Purple (Photo by Wendy Howell)
Northern Crescent on a boot (photo by Brian Robin)

On July 6, the annual Butterfly count was held at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. More Monarch Butterfly sightings have been documented lately, including adults still arriving here from the south, and others emerging right here with brand new wings. The Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores volunteers are actively nurturing their “pods” along the shore in Southampton, enhancing habitat for butterflies, where there has been great success in this community involvement and with having some of their locally tagged Monarchs actually making it all the way to the mountains of Mexico.Just this week, when I arrived to do a volunteer shift of monitoring and outreach with the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach I too saw a Monarch Butterfly. Then I was also amazed at the many brightly coloured dune flowers – orange, yellow, white and purple, nicely set off by the greens of the other vegetation in the Sand Dunes there, easily seen from the Beach Access pathways to and from the beach. However, I was only able to see two chicks, and one adult still actively feeding along the shore, doing their best to avoid being underfoot. It was a hot day and there were many people also enjoying the beach that day. Piping Plover Volunteer Coordinator Kirsten Snoek has confirmed my own observations, that these are all that are left still here from this year’s nesting efforts.

Grey Roots Museum and Archives have once again partnered with OSFN to bring two nature presentations this summer to the Grey Roots Theatre. These will complement the current exhibits there –

Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest, and a terrific retrospective of the Passenger Pigeon which once filled the skies, even locally. This particular exhibit closes at the end of July. 

On Sunday July 28, the film Resilience: Transforming Our Community, directed by Liz Zetlin, will be presented at 2PM, and then Danuta Valleau will moderate a community discussion after the screening. More details are here –

On Sunday August 25, at 2PM, naturalist Peter Thoem, on behalf of the Owl Foundation, will present Owls Around Us, also at Grey Roots. Thoem’s  presentation “includes dozens of spectacular images of owls taken here in Ontario. It shows you how owls are everywhere in our culture; they have even made it into our government.”

Coming up August 10 NeighbourWoods North will present Feast in the Field, a one-of-a-kind culinary event supporting the NeighbourWoods North Healing Path Initiative where you can enjoy a sumptuous four-course meal expertly prepared by renowned Chef Zach Keeshig, featuring local wine expertly paired with your meal in a beautiful sheltered setting with live music that will enhance the evening’s flavours and stunning venue.. Hosted by Gleason Brook Winery in Georgian Bluffs, it is an opportunity to support a unique grass-roots initiative that’s creating usable, accessible greenspace. 

NeighbourWoods North volunteers have already planted more than 3,000 trees around the Owen Sound Hospital. Now the group intends to build, through the growing forest, a 2 km crushed-stone Healing Path, complete with benches and interpretive signs. All proceeds from this event will go towards The Healing Path. Tickets for this fundraiser, available at the Ginger Press, (cash only)are $100. each, with a tax receipt for $50. They can also be purchased online by following this link  

The proposed development at Leith Beach is still of concern to many naturalists, with many unanswered questions about access, and process. Allowing for more public input and taking more time to carefully consider the proposals has been recommended. 

Jim Hastie has remarked that while paddling many streams in the area, he has noticed that the vegetation growth along the banks this year appears to be more lush and verdant than usual, perhaps a result of the unusual weather patterns many feel we have been seeing this year.  

While cycling and running trails in the area, I too have been hearing and occasionally seeing many American Redstarts, plus Brown Thrashers, and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, especially along the rail line east of Owen Sound, and also along back roads in the Grey Highlands area.

The remaining two Piping Plover chicks at Sauble Beach are growing, and coached by their father, are doing a little flying now as they develop their bodies and skills for their upcoming flight south, where they can hopefully make it through the winter, to return to Sauble Beach next year.

To close, a quote from a good friend of Nature, Bob Day, who passed away in June of this year – “Some people never lose the ability to dream….Lucky people remain dreamers to the end.”

Nature Club News June 2019

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019


by John Dickson

It has been a busy and exciting time for nature enthusiasts this Spring, although most would agree that more warmth would be very welcome.
On Wednesday May 8, Owen Sound Field Naturalists were invited to the property of John Bakker and Christina Milani, where the mix of pond, meadow, wetlands, coniferous and deciduous forests, along with the brilliant sunshine, revealed a rich array of nature sightings that included White Spruce, Yellow Birch, early Jacks in the Pulpit, Red Trillium, Trout Lily, and a first for many – a Pheasant Back Fungus, (also known as Dryad’s Saddle, or Hawks Wing ). A startled American Woodcock, returned the favour, startling those nearby when it suddenly burst into flight from its hiding place near the trail.

That evening many were in attendance for the premiere screening of Resilience. This important film will have more showings throughout the area over the coming months for those who missed the opening.

The OSFN Members Night was held on May 9th, with several presenters, including Islay Graham, whose winning entry at the local Bluewater Science Fair, went on that weekend to New Brunswick where she was awarded the top national prize. Congratulations once more to Islay!

Eileen O’Connor reports

On a cool and windy Victoria Day May 20 about 10 OSFN members spent the morning on the property of Richard and Lorraine Bentham, located next to Grey Highlands S.S. in Flesherton. Richard related the history of his family’s original farm of 1861 and showed us experimental tree plantings done by the former MNR in his lifetime. He took us to a designated historic maple left as a shade tree for horses by the first Bentham. Lorraine then accompanied us as we toured farther around many ponds created by beaver over the years but the weather was too cool to see any pond life or turtles. David Turner, an expert birder, identified several bird calls, including a cerulean warbler and also identified a tree fungus, dryad’s saddle (polyporos squamosus), new to most of us. We were fortunate to have in the group past and present staff members of GHSS who were familiar with the trails and terrain behind the school but especially John Burton, who was our main tour guide as we walked those areas too. It was all a lovely way to be away from the holiday weekend traffic.

We were also shown the remaining evidence of oil drilling operations from 1916, including coal used as fuel, and steel cabling, all abandoned, when it was determined that the oil contained too much sulphur to be marketable.

One of two Heritage Maple trees that were mature specimens during the later 1800's. Richard Bentham and John Burton look on. photo by John Dickson

One of two Heritage Maple trees that were mature specimens during the later 1800’s. Richard Bentham and John Burton look on.
photo by John Dickson

photo by John Dickson

photo by John Dickson

Left over cables from the oil drilling work undertaken abut 100 years ago (photo by John Dickson)

Left over cables from the oil drilling work undertaken abut 100 years ago (photo by John Dickson)

NeighbourWoods North was busy Saturday mornings in May, planting and nurturing trees at the Hospital in Owen Sound and at Kelso Beach Park. As Gord Edwards reports:

The plantings in May: Seedling trees came from here, there and everywhere. All were donated, including 50 white spruce as well as other species from Bill Moses; 5 cedar and 2 mountain ash from Doug Fenton; perhaps 100 sycamore as well as other species from the Arboretum; a collection of roadside salvages by Lloyd Lewis, and other contributions from our many volunteers (many of whom are members of The OS Walking Group).

Two piles of mulch (donated by Ontario Hydro/The Nurton Brothers) were lovingly placed around the newly planted seedlings and the thousands of baby trees which survived their first winter.
The Kelso trees were mulched, again by a very dedicated group of volunteers, in spite of the rather cold and wet weather that day. Bravo to NeighbourWoods North!

The 2019 Huron Fringe Birding Festival soon got under way including an afternoon there for the Young Naturalists Club of OSFN, where they were given a tutorial in birding identification and building a suet feeder from a kit. Festival Chair Norah Toth reported “The Huron Fringe Birding Festival increased in many ways this year. Almost 500 participants attended events led by leaders of international acclaim as well as local Field Naturalists. Many events are centred within MacGregor Point Provincial Park; however, some use much of Bruce County and others travel into Grey. Outdoor programs were not restricted to finding and identifying bird species; but included botany, Métis history and photography; evenings were spent learning about The Gambia and Senegal, Tobago and species at risk in Ontario.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull, sighted and photographed by Abby Collins of Kincardine, brought our cumulative sightings list to 250 species. The total count for the 2019 Festival was 186 species.

Peter Middleton won the Norah Toth Award for his contributions to the festival, his involvement in Citizen Science throughout Grey Bruce and his desire and willingness to share his knowledge and be an advocate for the unique and special resources we have in Grey Bruce.

“The high water levels have impacted some boating activities in the area. On May 30, Jim Coles and his companions “were paddling the Beaver River down to the Epping Rd. Water levels were higher than I’ve ever seen. Water flowing into the woods most everywhere. In fact, to get around fallen trees in the river, it was easy to paddle thru the woods! A very pleasant day!”

Throughout Grey and Bruce Counties, recent bird sightings have included greater numbers of less commonly seen birds. For example, Doug Lonsdale told me that he saw his first ever Golden Winged Warbler, along the Teeswater River, this Spring. Right here in Owen Sound, Blackburnian Warblers, Northern Parulas, Indigo Buntings, American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, and Brown Thrashers have been observed with much greater frequency than in most years.

On June 5, the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club held a ceremony to officially open a new Side Trail named to honour Stew Hilts, long time naturalist, writer, and photographer, whose contributions to land stewardship in Ontario are legendary. The trail also leads to a small but very pretty waterfall and, as Stew tells it “My volunteer job in past years has been to scout out new properties acquired by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, find the survey markers, and assess the property. When I saw this falls, not visible from the trail, I knew we had to find a way to get there.

For any local reader, you hike south on the Bruce Trail from Johnson’s Sideroad, 3rd road south of Hutchison’s Corners, for about 10 minutes and you’ll see the blue sign on your left. Allow about an hour total time, in and out. Small parking lot is on the north side of the road, in the corner of the hayfield.” Congratulations, Stew!

Training for Piping Plover volunteer monitors at Sauble Beach has begun with Kirsten Snoek, the 2019 Outreach and Education Coordinator with Plover Lovers. So far this year, two nests have been established with incubation taking place now. Hatching is expected in the latter half of June. To learn more, visit and on facebook.

The Sydenham Sportsmen Association with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, and Stewardship Grey Bruce present their annual Youth Expo 8:30AM to 2:30PM, this Saturday June 8. Aimed at ages 10-17, the activities are free, but pre-registration is necessary. Nancy Griffin states “The purpose of the day is to introduce young people to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities that they can participate in and perhaps take up as hobbies of their own. Activities include birdwatching, archery, orienteering, target shooting, fishing, and critter dips. The day is now in its twelfth year, with Stewardship Grey Bruce, Saugeen Conservation and Sydenham Sportsmen’s Club spearheading the organization along with many sponsors and volunteers involved from the organizations and local area. Participation for the kids is free but we do need to have people pre-register to ensure we have enough supplies (including the free BBQ for participants); space is limited.” Please contact Jo-Anne Harbinson to pre-register at 519-367-3040 EXT. 235 (leave detailed message) Or email:

There is growing concern from naturalists about the potential loss of access to currently public land at the Leith Harbour area. A private proposal to purchase some of this land that had been gifted to the municipality for public use, for a proposed development, along with parking, has many in the neighbourhood, the region, and even the province, (who travel there for recreational activities which include fishing, birdwatching, and other beach activities, etc.), concerned that access would be severely restricted. Others are mainly concerned that this proposed treatment of the gifted land, appears to be not in accordance with the intent of the donation. Recent campaigns in the Southampton area have also resulted in a backlash there over the apparent disregard for the wishes of the donors.

Those interested may wish to attend the Leith Beach Zoning Public Meeting Monday, June 10, 2019 6:00 p.m. Council Chambers, 157859 7th Line, Meaford

On Thursday June 13, still celebrating 30 years of operations, the OSFN features the final speaker for this season. Bob Bowles will present “Damsels and Dragons”. A former Grey County farm boy, Bob Bowles shares his in-depth knowledge and passion about damselflies and dragonflies, plus the Ontario Master Naturalist Program, which he developed. This event is being held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, at 7PM. For more details please visit

To close, a Nature quote from Joni Mitchell – “They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot”

Nature Club News May 2019

Friday, May 3rd, 2019


by John Dickson

On Tuesday April 9, at Grey Roots, Audrey Armstrong delivered two presentations of Monarchs in the Queen’s Bush. Her detailed research and up to date information on these majestic migrants really helped to clarify the timetables and challenges they face, in order to produce butterflies here where we live, who are able to fly successfully to the home of their ancestors from several generations before them. Armstrong also provided support materials for the two audiences, including pamphlets and seed packages of swamp milkweed, the primary food source on which the Monarchs rely to raise their young.

On April 11, Bob Knapp presented Rocks and Rock Formations to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists club, highlighting distinctive rocks with interesting shapes, sizes, patterns and stories, which many in the capacity audience recognized from popular locations along the Niagara Escarpment. I received a message just the other day from someone who is now searching out these special landmarks, while she is hiking, and consequently, Knowing Nature Better, as the OSFN motto encourages.

Bob Knapp’s follow-up, guided hike to visit some of these locations is now scheduled for this Saturday May 4th.

Bob Knapp

Bob Knapp

You can also learn about a new field trip planned for May 8th – Springtime Woodland Stroll – on a naturally diverse property part of which is also adjacent to the Long Swamp, sure to be teeming with Springtime activities.

On Saturday April 20, the Sydenham Sportsmen Association held their annual clean up event in honour of Earth Day, with crews of volunteers heading out from behind City Hall. Some of their members are also working on a project to build Loon nesting platforms for the Rankin Resource Group, with expected installation at Boat Lake and Isaac Lake in time for their use next year.

On the same day, the sold out, fourth annual Celebrate Earth Day presentation aboard the Chi Cheemaun, featured U of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson whose lively story telling and passionate musical renditions really struck a chord with the audience.

Doug Larson. (Supplied Photo)

Doug Larson. (Supplied Photo)

As a bonus, Islay Graham presented the impressive display from her OSFN first prize winning entry in the Bluewater Science and Technology Fair.


On Saturday morning April 27, the NeighbourWoods North team were busy in the fresh snow, planting replacement trees at the Hospital, in Owen Sound.

You too can join them this Saturday, May 4th, for Nurture the Forest of Hope & Healing, 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. As announced on their web page, throughout May “We will be caring for the trees at the Hospital Forest of Hope and Healing for the next three Saturday mornings. On the last Saturday in May we will be working at Kelso Beach.” Check their events page at

Bill Moses was extra busy this past weekend hosting a Hike to the Creek for the OSFN Saturday, April 27, where many trees, and flowering shrubs were identified, including the colourful Daphne, and many different Willows, Dogwoods, Hazelnut, Rock Elm, the very thorny Honey Locust, both European Larch and native Tamarack, plus several roses, including Dog Rose, or Rosa canina.

Then, on Sunday, Jody Johnson Pettit reports “The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club had a beautiful hike, April 28th with Bill Moses at the B&C Moses Sunset Bed and Breakfast just outside of Owen Sound. The children compared the needles and cones of the different pine and spruce tree species and looked closely at the various tree buds in the Moses Arboretum. Bill showed the kids how to make paper planting pots and showed off his hut, which is made of wooden pallet walls and covered with dried phragmites stalks for protection. He says it keeps about 90 percent of the rain and snow off the plants inside.

Bill Moses and his bee habitat, made from phragmites (photo by John Dickson)

Bill Moses and his bee habitat, made from phragmites (photo by John Dickson)

The highlight for many was the snapping turtle that was spotted sunning itself during the hike to the creek at the back of the property.”

Snapping Turtle (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

Snapping Turtle (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

As for birding activities, meanwhile, on the other side of town, Jim Hastie was paddling with three companions on Shallow Lake, and observed that Great Blue Herons were occupying at least ten nests in the Rookery or Heronry there. Throughout April David Turner has been rewarded with terrific sightings in the Flesherton Hills, and in the Beaver Valley, of American Bittern, Fox Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, many waterfowl, including on April 28, “seeing the great egret in breeding plumage is VERY encouraging. It’s the first time I’ve seen it since living here.” Many of Turner’s photos of flowers and mammals are also exquisite.

American Goldfinch (photo by David Turner)

American Goldfinch (photo by David Turner)

Kiah Jasper reported seeing his first Piping Plover of the year at Sauble Beach on Tuesday April 30, which is, I think, pretty much right on schedule.

Piping Plover (photo by Kiah Jasper)

Piping Plover (photo by Kiah Jasper)

Then on May 1st, Bruce Edmunds reported “Birding in the rain today with the Bruce Birding Club. Came across this Northern Waterthrush (warbler). Checked the radar. Ran back to the car and got the camera. Was not disappointed.” May 1, 2019, Kincardine, ON

This weekend May 3 to 5, The Sources of Knowledge Forum taking place in Tobermory is intended to demonstrate how research in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park, and the surrounding community contributes to knowledge of the Bruce Peninsula’s natural and human history. To learn more please visit

At 7PM Wednesday May 8, the premiere screening of – Resilience: Transforming our Community – A different kind of climate change film – will be held at the Roxy. This uplifting film offers ways to build resilience in ourselves and our community by transforming the way we live. The film’s message, “let’s talk about it,” offers solutions at the individual, community and municipal levels – Doors open at 6PM, and admission is by donation.

The next night, May 9, in the auditorium of the Public Library, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists Members’ Night will feature several varied presentations by club members. Topics will include Fleabanes, wildlife images captured by a trail camera on a Nature Reserve, NeighbourWoods North, A Taste of Belize, Spring Wildflowers, and Islay Graham’s Piping Plover food and habitat display, entitled “Rake, Wrack and Risk”. The evening gets started with refreshments and social time just after 6:30, with the meeting itself getting underway at 7PM. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

To close, a Nature quote from Birgit Stutz and Larry Scanlon, extolling the majesty and beauty of Mount Renshaw and of Mount Robson – “the stunning highpoint of the Canadian Rockies… where climbers who reach its almost four thousand metre summit glory in views that extend one hundred kilometres in every direction, and rave about its vast meadows and many lakes, as well as the glaciers…. that spill into the aquamarine waters of Berg Lake…”