Nature Club News

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JULY 2020

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Nature Club News July 2020

by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) held its Annual General Meeting online, June 11. The Board of Directors underwent some changes of personnel, led by incoming President Pam Kinchen, as Gord Toth moved to Past President. Outgoing Past President Kate McLaren was especially thanked for her important contributions to the club. For the complete slate of directors and more, please visit www.osfn.ca


The Sources of Knowledge Forum for 2020, based in Tobermory, is currently on hold until the end of July, when a decision is expected to either try for later this year, or shift to 2021 with the topic – Plastics in the Great Lakes: Finding Solutions Together.  For more details please visit  https://www.sourcesofknowledge.ca/



Many naturalists in the Grey Bruce area will remember George Peck, who passed away, in Toronto June 20, at the age of 94.  After retiring from his veterinary career in the Oakville area, George lived for over thirty years in Thornbury, while continuing to be a prolific wildlife photographer and nature writer, with images and writings published in over 90 books, magazines and journals.  George was passionate about the Bruce Peninsula and its surrounding area and loved the people he met through their mutual interest – birds. An Honourary Life Member of OSFN, many will also remember George Peck’s acclaimed exhibition of bird photographs gracing the walls of a very new Leonard E. Shore Memorial Library in Thornbury. I know that I do.George was a distinguished ornithologist in Ontario for over 50 years. He was appointed a Research Associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1976, was the Coordinator of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme for 48 years, and co-authored Breeding Birds of Ontario Nidiology and Distribution.

Due to current circumstances, a Celebration of George’s life will be held at a later date when restrictions have been lifted. In the meantime, think of him often and remember him well. Donations in George’s memory may be made to the Royal Ontario Museum, Department of Natural History.  




GEORGE KELDAY PECK 1925-2020.

The North American Butterfly Association Count administered by MacGregor Point Provincial Park was held on July 4th, from 10AM to 4PM.  Due to Covid restrictions, results were tabulated remotely, rather than with a gathering at the Provincial Park. Audrey Armstrong conducted this annual butterfly count along with her daughter Bella Waterton, and Barbara at the property of Pat and Barbara Martin along the Saugeen River near Port Elgin.  Armstrong reported that “we recorded fewer than usual monarchs. The World Wildlife Fund data from the Mexican overwintering sites showed a drop by about half the monarch population compared to last year.  However, the second generation is increasing in numbers now, with all the excellent milkweed habitat in Grey Bruce. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail numbers were up, this year as were Great Spangled Fritillary.  Perhaps all the invasive wild parsnip is contributing to the Swallowtail abundance?”


In addition to extra watering and mulching sessions, by volunteers of NeighbourWoods North in the Forest of Hope and Healing, during the hot dry stretch of weather recently, a new venture got underway at the Hospital grounds in Owen Sound. On July 6th, Krista McKee of NeighbourWoods North shared this report:”The Welcoming Garden Committee is overwhelmed with the local support for our project! Funding from the TD Friends of the Environment has been the backbone of the project along with a generous donation from the Grey County Master Gardeners. The Committee shopped locally in sourcing the plants, mulch and the excavation of the island at the front of the Owen Sound hospital. A special thank you to Adam MacDonnell and the wonderful staff at Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound Hospital has been much appreciated. Our project is not completed – shrubs and bulbs will be planted in the fall and the final touch to the garden will be an art piece. So stay tuned as the garden will continue to take shape. “Since then, frequent watering ensured that the new plants had a good start, followed up by the generous rainfall received this past week. I have visited there several times and have observed that the planting layout, colours and plant varieties are exceptionally pleasing. I encourage visitors to take time to enjoy this valuable addition to the hospital site.

The Welcoming Garden at the Owen Sound Hospital (photo by John Dickson)
The Welcoming Garden at the Owen Sound Hospital (photo by John Dickson)

From Fred Jazvac of the Bruce Birding Club: “Just in case you didn’t know, the fall migration is now on, and first on deck it is shorebird time – for some of them, they start heading south in July. In the West Perth Wetlands reported yesterday (July 11) were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.” 

Dickcissel near Kincardine (Photo by David Turner)
Lesser Yellowlegs Kincardine area (Photo by David Turner)

From Birding the Beaver Valley 
Eastern Meadowlark by David Turner,  June 27 near Duncan, Beaver Valley
Bayview Forest with Mark Wiercinski (on right). Photo by John Dickson
Bayview Forest Ovenbird (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Working within the safety guidelines of COVID-19, OSFN   held several field trips:  two more in the Bayview Forest with Mark Wiercinski, on June 21; Birding the Beaver Valley with David Turner on June 27; a Railtrail Ramble led by David Morris on July 7. Of the latter, Nancy Brown shared these comments: The wildflower hike led by David was well prepared, expertly narrated and filled with ‘wow’ factor, along with butterflies, a family of kingbirds and turtles, for the assembled group of nature enthusiasts. David even prepared an Excel spreadsheet of the 30 species identified (download the sheet). Just a fine outing. Dusty, hot, sweaty and happy!

Spreading Dogbane (Photo by David Morris)
Marsh Vetchling, one of our few native legume family species.
(Photo by Nancy Brown)
Hike Leader David Morris (Photo by Nancy Brown)

On Monday July 13, eight Friends of Hibou got together, while keeping their distance, loading, wheeling and spreading a load of gravel onto a last stretch of a sometimes wet section of the popular Hibou Interpretive Trails.


Birds Canada has added its voice to the call for the U.S. government not to strip away critical protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The proposed “deregulation” will affect migratory birds in Canada and many other nations, not only the U.S. It will make permanent a 2017 Solicitor’s Opinion to end the prohibition on “incidental take”. This is the killing or “taking” of migratory birds by industrial activities; for example, birds flying into uncovered oil pits and other predictable, avoidable mortality.  To learn more about this campaign visit www.birdscanada.org


The Bruce Grey Woodlands Association has an upcoming outdoor activity for its members.From their website at   https://bgwa.ca/  Great news, BGWA member events are re-starting! Keep Saturday, July 18 open for an interesting tour of a member property near Markdale. The event will be structured to incorporate safe distancing and conform to group size limits, with 3 separate walk-thrus available at 10AM, 1PM and 4PM. 


Environmental Heroes Recognized for Their Outstanding Role in Conservation.   Ontario Nature’s 2019-2020 Conservation Award Recipients Announced

Ontario Nature, a leading environmental organization, has recognized the exceptional contributions to nature conservation made by organizations, individuals and companies whose dedication inspires us all to continue to fight to protect nature in Ontario.This year, the awards celebrated 10 inspirational winners who are building a natural legacy for future generations, and are owed a debt of gratitude for their tireless work.On July 16, Ontario Nature (ON) announced the winners of its  2019-2020 Conservation Awards, with two local winners included:

The Huron Fringe Birding Festival Organizing Committee was the recipient of the W.E. Saunders Natural History Award for its successful program that raises awareness of nature among people of all ages.

Photo is of the committee as of April 12, 2019 (supplied photo)

Back: Marilyn Ohler, Bette Jean (BJ) Martin, Norah Toth, Doug Pedwell, Arlene Richards, Judy Duncan, Becky Grieveson, Jim Duncan, Fred Jazvac

Front: Kathleen Chayer, Margaret Anderton, Bruce Edmunds, Liz Addison, Norma Nanni, Nancy White, Carole Lupton, Anne Cathrae, Lynne Richardson

Missing: Bob Taylor and Doug Martin.


Stewart Hilts, a resident of Meaford, received the Ontario Nature Achievement Award for his lifelong commitment to conservation and his dedication to helping Ontario Nature to achieve its goals.

Stew Hilts, Ontario Nature Achievement Award recipient

Congratulations to these most deserving members from our community, many of whom are OSFN members, and to the rest of the Ontario Nature Award winners, of which you can learn more here – ontarionature.org/conservation-awards


 To close, and apropos to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a Nature quote from Jennifer Lee Carrell’s The Speckled Monster, (smallpox) about the precursor to vaccine – inoculation – that was being introduced in Britain, and in Boston, after learning of its effectiveness and success in Constantinople and in Africa, in limiting the epidemic/pandemic spread of smallpox almost three hundred years ago. “On July 26, 1723 Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, (seeking personal time with Nature, while finally winning his battles against naysayers with positive results for his patients) rode south across the Boston Neck to race through wheeling clouds of birds far out into the salt marshes at low tide. It was a form of worship, he thought, … this exhilaration in the glories of wind, wings, and horses…”


Cardinal family (Photo by Nigel Eves)
When you get out of the shower and discover there are no towels.

American Robin 7-12-20
©Carol L. Edwards

NATURE CLUB NEWS JUNE 2020

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Nature Club News June 2020

by John Dickson

As the Spring season draws to a close, and regional isolation restrictions are gradually being relaxed, Naturalist clubs are once again able to offer field trips with knowledgeable leaders and guides, with smaller numbers of attendees, (first 5 and now 10) all doing their best to enjoy and learn, while maintaining a safe distance from each other, to still limit the spread of COVID-19. However, large meetings with speakers, and socializing are still a long way off. 

First Monarch of the season. The worn appearance testifies to the long flight she had to return here. Hopefully she finds the milkweed that is already growing so she can lay her eggs and continue the cycle. (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)

In the meantime, many species are producing and raising young families. Eggshells are found scattered here and there, usually a little away from the bird nests. In May, Pam Binnendyk witnessed a family of Red Squirrels with four babies, who had taken over a hole previously prepared by a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. “This was a surprise. We are overrun with squirrels of all colours here, but we don’t often see their young still in the nest. It’s obvious that the Momma squirrel moved them there as they are too big to have just been born 2 weeks ago when the Pileateds were in residence. They must be about 6 or 7 wks. Cute….til they start coming to my feeders.” 

Momma is 2nd from the left.. (Photo by Pam Binnendyk)

 While I was exploring a nearby wooded area, I watched as a wee rodent climbed straight up the side of a tree trunk. When it had climbed about 10 feet (3 metres) it suddenly lost its grip or confidence, (or both) and fell down to the forest floor of leaves, etc. I thought perhaps it was a baby red squirrel, but suddenly there was an adult chipmunk on the side of the trunk, ready to protect its youngster.

Others in the area have been finding nests, with eggs, of such birds as Killdeer, and Gray Catbird. There seem to be many sightings this Spring of Baltimore Orioles, and a friend of mine even has an Orchard Oriole staying around. I have also observed a few Eastern Bluebirds this Spring, although Tree Swallows often take over Bluebird nesting boxes. 

The Beaver Valley Birding club members are very helpful with ID for birders who aren’t quite sure what birds they have photographed and then posted on the club’s facebook page. As can be expected, there are many wonderful photos there too. 

Eastern Bluebird (Photo by John Dickson)
Clay-coloured Sparrow
 (Photo by David Turner)

Ann Schneider of The Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team reports that “On May 27th members participated in a zoom discussion after viewing “Resilience – A Climate Change Documentary of Hope”. The film can be viewed on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i0mbMcQmrg. The evening involved brief presentations by Liz Zetlin, the producer/director of the film, and Dr. John Anderson, the scientist featured in the film. The discussion was facilitated by Marilyn Struthers. Interest in John’s work was strong so he was invited to speak at the group’s monthly zoom meeting on June 8th where he spoke about the theory of denialism and the importance of both personal and systemic change to address climate change. Discussion was lively as the members talked about the balance of personal, systemic and natural solutions to climate disruption. To continue the learning and discussion Dr. Thorsten Arnold will be speaking about Nature Based Solutions at the next zoom meeting on July 6th at 7:00 p.m.”


On June 6, Transition Meaford hosted a virtual Eco Fair entitled Just Cool It. Among other activities, it featured workshops and online discussions with the presenters. Now that the event is over, I highly recommend visiting their website at https://www.transitionmeaford.org/eco-fair/ where those very engaging exchanges have been recorded and can still be viewed.  


Kathleen Chayer of MacGregor Point Provincial Park has confirmed for me that some nature activities are now available in the Park, and that now some limited washroom facilities/privies are too.


Bob Bowles is offering the acclaimed and popular Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme, initiated by him,  beginning July 17. The Summer 2020 certificate program will be delivered via a blended learning environment that will enable you to learn about the breadth of topics explored in this certificate. Through a series of eight modules, participants will work through material at their own pace, including interactive PowerPoint slides, photographs and video produced specifically for this program.  I asked Bob about the possibility of any “live instruction in the field this year”, to which he replied – “Hi John;My students tell me that there is no experience like being out in the field with me and finding something serendipitous which I tell them about on the spot. This has been the highlight of my program but now with COVID-19, we can’t do that format. The idea right from the start of the first program was to have a day in the field together in the fall after the course if conditions warrant it at that time. Hard to predict what the fall will look like and we may have another spike in cases with all the opening up and not following social distancing rules. We do know it has a high percentage possibility of returning in the fall even if it declines by late summer. We hope to have a field day together in the fall for each of these spring and summer on-line courses but who knows what the fall holds for us.” Bob 

For more information please visit – https://www.lakeheadu.ca/about/orillia-campus/community-programs/omnp/orillia-certificate-program


Fringed polygala (photo by Barbara Palmer)
Yellow Lady’s Slippers (photo by Barbara Palmer)
Starflower (photo by Barbara Palmer)

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists members were able to visit, in small numbers, for three outings at an area Nature gem known as Anglesea, guided by owner Don Rawls. OSFN’s Pam Kinchen tells us: “A beautiful, mostly old growth forest over steep ridges and valleys. Many birds both woodland and wood warblers wereseen and heard. Lots of pioneer history too. Don is a generous host and loves to tell you history. Very beautiful property and giving you a sense of forest tranquillity.”

As Neil Baldwin shared “Anglesea was a nice amble through varied terrain and woodlands, including a stunning hillside of trilliums and a grand old sugar maple…”Neil also led a Forest Bathing session, a first for OSFN, and for some, an effective coping tool.

As Heather Drummond reported –  “It was such a magical experience on your trail. The layout of it is very conducive to connecting with Mother Earth. I found it very relaxing and when I was at my crazy paced job today I could feel how relaxed I had been while enjoying the Soul Trail.

      It is a treat to be able to envision the spaces along the trail, i.e. the Gathering place, Labyrinth  and the Sweet blossoms of the Apple tree I was able to recline under and observe the many varieties of bees coming and going, the thunderstorm rolling in. It brought a smile to my face and a sense of relaxation to me during my crazy day today.”


Biologist Mark Wiercinski has, so far, led one Birding, Botany and Ecology hike at Bayview Forest this month, and is now offering at least two more. Jeannette Parry says “I was lucky enough to go on the hike yesterday morning, it was of course utterly amazing!  Mark should be classed as a National Treasure!  Please keep encouraging him to do hikes, presentations…whatever.  He has so much to offer and is such a great presenter in any setting. Thanks for the opportunity.”

OSFN is also holding its Annual General Meeting, through the zoom format, starting at 7PM Thursday June 13, to be able to meet its club guidelines, and to begin preparing for the 2020-2021 season. Details of this and other activities are available at https://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/


The NeighbourWoods North team also celebrated the flowering of the Makamik Crabapple trees, planted two years ago, and which were recently in their first blooming stage, lining the west entranceway to the Hospital, in Owen Sound. In spite of Covid-19, the work goes on this year, caring for the Forest of Hope & Healing, replacing and adding trees, mulching, weeding, trimming, and pruning. are happening right now in small groups or dyads at the hospital. In early summer, preparations will be made to plant a Welcoming Garden on the traffic island across from the main hospital entrance. When the ground is dry enough to handle large equipment this summer the first portion of the Healing Path will be built. More information, including how to volunteer at this time, can be found at www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com


To close, a Nature quote from George Bernard Shaw’s Nobel Prize winning play, Saint Joan, written almost 100 years ago.  In a scene near Orléans, France, along the banks of the “silver Loire” river, it is evening in Spring, 1429, with an unrelenting wind from the East.  Dunois, a General, and his page, are both affected by the loveliness of the Loire in Springtime and are so excited to see  “a flash of blue” of the female Kingfisher, and then the male Kingfisher, flying past the reeds, as with their eyes “they follow the flight till the bird takes cover.”

Nature Club News May 2020

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Nature Club News May 2020

by John Dickson

Although many Nature groups and their individual members in our area have curtailed their usual get-togethers, and group activities due to COVID-19, some of these have found ways to pursue their interests in a limited capacity, whether it be in their own backyards, or immediate neighbourhoods.  Some, while practically shut-ins, do get out while doing their bi-weekly shopping excursion, take their vehicle for a short drive, and observe the many changes of the season, usually within a five mile radius, or so from their own locale. 

Reports are shared about the parades of backyard birds “just passing through” or of their nesting preparations, perhaps results – eggs, or fledgling Robins who have escaped their own version of isolation, and found themselves on the ground, and even more isolated, but are finding their own singing voices – “Help!”, while a parent stands guard nearby, to keep their offspring safe from predators. 

Baltimore Oriole in Owen Sound May 14 by Carol L. Edwards
A few lovely breeding plumage male Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler about. This one finally held still.  (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)
And another Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler that thought he was hiding…ha.  (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)



Many urban residents in Grey and Bruce Counties are reporting greater numbers this year of squirrels with mostly black fur, but with reddish (Irish?) tails, always on a mission through  their territories, or stopping to dig up spruce and pine cones for a snack, and then burying them again for a future nourishment interval. Several times now, I have seen a Chipmunk nibbling on the seed safely packaged within the swollen section of a Maple key. 

Thorsten Arnold presented an engaging and informative four part Webinar Series: How Can Food Systems Regenerate Our Earth? that was originally to be held at the Harmony Centre.  Although the webinar attracted only a small audience, it was an eloquent presentation, supplemented with effective and inspirational support materials. I am looking forward to learning more from Thorsten’s endeavours.

The Celebrate Earth Week event featuring Jarmo and Noah Jalava also worked very well, and was actually viewed by a larger audience than would have been on hand if the event had been held on the Chi Cheemaun. If you missed it, this informative and entertaining presentation can still shared and viewed at this link.  https://youtu.be/q67x2NCEDTE

The Bruce Birding Club (BBC) has held two online sessions where members can join in to share bird sightings and even have a brief workshop on warbler identification, to help novice ornithologists familiarize themselves with the various field marks to look for, and for veteran birders refresh their skill set. These “zoom” meetings also provide social interactions, to offset the feelings of isolation, and a reminder that they are all valued members “of the flock.” 

Kincardine, May 13, 2020, Cedar Waxwing  (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)
Solitary Sandpiper (Photo by David Turner)
Female Hooded Merganser.  May 13 (Photo by David Turner)



However, such traditional large group gatherings as the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) monthly Indoor Meetings, are a victim to the new reality. Bob Bowles, who was to present a Turtle Talk on May 14, sent me this new version of his itinerary: “Yes, I assumed that it (Turtle Talk) would be cancelled given how COVID-19 has changed the whole world. I have cancelled all my speaking engagements for the rest of the year. I don’t think we will be back to normal (or the new normal) until 2021.Therefore, I have cancelled my Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Program which was full this spring and not planning any fall workshops on mushrooms and other subjects. With the aid of Lakehead University I am setting up the whole program on-line with virtual field trips which should work very well. With the new set up, I will have an expert technical computer facilitator and an professional videographer to work with me. I  hope to have an introductory test program by May and then the full course by late May. COVID-19 has changed the whole world and we will never do some things the same again”

With the recently revised guidelines some naturalists are going out in small groups, (up to five), while maintaining some personal space at the same time. A long-time hike leader at Point Pelee, shared that he went, the other day, to a local Provincial Park, early in the morning, “but still with a ten foot pole” – his tripod with spotting scope, and legs extended – but met no other humans on the trails there. 

There is a newly formed Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team who are offering a special event – for which participants are invited to view the locally produced, and globally relevant  Resilience – A Climate Change Film of Action and Hope, within about 24 hours prior to a zoom discussion meeting at 7PM May 27.  Visit this link to watch the film and register for the zoom discussiona fterwards. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/580859319200602/

The NeighbourWoods North team has just announced that although it is a late Spring, the good news  is that the Hospital Naturalization Project is on!   The team has been very busy developing a comprehensive programme for the Spring and will hit the ground – digging – this Friday, May 15 at 1 pm, when they will be planting about a dozen 8 to 12 foot bare-root trees – maples, hackberry, and locusts.  Because they’re bare-root trees they need to get them in the ground quickly. You’re welcome to join them while practicing social distancing and planting. Complementary projects include a Welcoming Garden, Forest of Hope & Healing and a Healing Path. Each of these can benefit from volunteer participation. To learn more, and perhaps offer your help, please visit https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com/


To close, a Nature quote from Markdale’s most famous Naturalist, Gardener, Writer, and reluctant Lawyer, I.B. (Dick) Lucas from The Footloose Gardener, published about sixty years ago: “There are few spots lovelier than Southern Ontario, and it is in one of its most seductive moods in the first week of May. The wild plums, and they are thick on the roadside and in the fence corners, are a mass of snowy blooms. There is a faint fresh perfume of them in the air…There is a soft undulating rhythm in the contours of the hills and valleys… and little wooden bridges that span the flooded streams.”

Nature Club News April 2020

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Nature Club News April 2020

by John Dickson

Although many planned Nature events and activities for humans have been suspended, re-scheduled or completely cancelled this Spring, the normal  routines of Nature seem to be right on track, and going ahead as usual, whether or not there are people on hand to observe, document, or just enjoy them. Many birds are establishing and protecting nesting sites. Robins are now finding worms to eat, a menu item that was likely hard to find a few weeks ago. The males of the American Goldfinch, although here all year long, are now well into a wardrobe change, donning their bright yellow costumes, accented by black tails, wings and caps. Meanwhile, snowshoe hares are  gradually transforming their white fur to brownish hues. Some of the earliest wildflowers are blooming, and many trees are starting to leaf out.  


Several Nature events have also been adapted to online formats using some of the newer technologies introduced in recent years.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) planned April 9 screening of the film Resilience, is being delayed while film presenter Liz Zetlin and her team plan to do a trial run with another group, along with a zoom post-screening facilitated discussion. Then hopefully the OSFN event can be re-scheduled too. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to watch the locally produced, but globally significant film on their own time at https://resiliencedoc.info/


The four part lecture series by Dr. Thorsten Arnold – How Can Food Systems Regenerate Our Earth? – has been converted to an online Webinar Series, which began with a successful first lecture recently and will resume at 1:30PM on April 19, 26, and May 3. To take in these engaging presentations, please visit eventbrite.

It is priced at $5, $10, and $15  according to your budget. To complement the lecture series Dr. Arnold also recommends these two supplementary sources: Movie: Symbiotic Earth – How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution (link to background, or watch here) and Essay: Charles Eisenstein, “The Coronation


As I was reminded by Stew Hilts, the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day will be on April 22. Efforts are now underway to convert OSFN’s Celebrate Earth Week event (originally to be held on the Chi Cheemaun) to be presented in an online format by renowned Naturalist and performer, Jarmo Jalava, and accompanied by his son Noah. They are aiming for April 25th, still part of Earth Week, and hope to confirm that soon. Updates will also be posted at www.osfn.ca


In addition, many offers of learning opportunities for the young (and not so young too) are posted on the websites and/or facebook pages of  the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre, and Grey Sauble Conservation.


Brown Creeper (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)
Eastern Bluebird (by Bruce Edmunds)

Sightings of migrating birds are increasing too. Although the Bruce Birding Club has suspended its group activities, BBC members are still able to report sightings of interest from their isolation and mental health walks, and often from their own yards. As Fred Jazvac of Southampton shared recently -“Spring is here and if we look around, we can see the changes in local bird life.”  Marshall Byle of Kincardine reports an impressive number of first of the year birds seen today (April 7) on his property.  

“A wave of migrants showed up here today bringing a number of firsts for the year along with big numbers of Dark-eyed Junco 57, Song sparrow 17.  Firsts were Winter wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, and Brown Creeper.  The zip-line cable that I stretched across the pond seems to be a hit for a pair of Belted Kingfishers.”

Fred, along with Marilyn Ohler, reported “Around our house, on a mental health walk, in our neighbourhood, we saw a few interesting things as well.  We found where our local Merlins are building a nest near the top of a spruce tree, and then found a 3rd Merlin flying by.  The next mystery to solve is, are there two nesting pairs in adjacent territories.  We also saw a plethora (I like that word) of Dark-eyed Juncos today, mirroring the numbers that Marshall saw.  Their migration is probably at a peak. Singing birds heard today were Eastern Phoebe and Fox Sparrow. The Song Sparrows are dominating the neighbourhood.  A single Great Blue Heron did a fly over of our house, our first of the year along with a first sighting of a Cowbird.” 

Sharp-shinned Hawk, April 4th – a little north of Wiarton (Photo by Kiah Jasper)


Personally, I have been fortunate enough to see a Northern Shrike near the forest’s edge; to first hear and then see an American Woodcock performing its acrobatic and acoustic flying routine; to hear the wetlands come alive and louder with sounds of frogs and toads, as well as geese and ducks; to watch a Red-tailed Hawk and a Turkey Vulture share an ascending circular flight path together; and to see a Crow fly right in among the branches of a big pine tree, likely looking for the nesting sites of the grackles who did their best to drive it out of there. Many others in Grey and Bruce have reported: Sandhill Cranes with some courting manoeuvres; Wild Turkeys in mating displays; White-tailed Deer with a fawn; Baltimore Orioles have been seen in the Goderich area, and a few Mourning Cloak butterflies have been seen warming in the sunshine

A Raven and a Bald Eagle at Lake Eugenia. (Photo by David Turner)

New for the area, the fledgling Beaver Valley Birding Club, hatched by David Turner of Flesherton, has now really taken flight with frequent posting and sharing of images and information, again, on Facebook. This is a wonderful new avenue for observation and participation.

Common Grackle. (Photo by David Turner)

However, here are just some of the many Nature events that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 virus:
Grey Sauble Conservation has cancelled its PD day camp (April 24) and the Annual Arbour Day Tree Sale (April 25);
The Earth Film Festival, a major fundraiser for the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation, has been postponed to October 9;
 The Sources of Knowledge Forum at Tobermory, hopefully to be rescheduled for this fall;
The Huron Fringe Birding Festival has been cancelled for this year.


To close, a welcome Nature quote from the painter David Milne (1882 -1953) whose formative years were spent near Burgoyne and Paisley – “On a bright day you go out and stand for a moment: a burden falls from you, you are refreshed, stimulated, uplifted.”

Nature Club News March 2020

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Nature Club News March 2020

by John Dickson

Please note – This NCN Originally Submitted March 10th. Due to COVID-19, most of the March events were postponed or cancelled. Please see individual listings for their current status.

There are many Nature related activities – for humans, that is – lined
up over the next while. Here are some which may be of interest to you
and/or your entire family:

This Thursday March 12, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) host
their Members’ Night, featuring as many as seven brief presentations
as diverse as Bill Moses using Phragmites to enhance habitat choices
for bees; David Morris pointing out “armed and dangerous” plants that
should be avoided; Bruce Peninsula wildflowers and photography
guidelines with Lyn Reket; Forest Bathing and Nature Therapy with Neil
Baldwin; Dorcas Bay Road wildflowers with Barbara Palmer; a Piping
Plover update with Norah Toth; and shades of green and gold with John
Dickson. Starting at 7PM, in the Bayroom of the Harry Lumley Bayshore
Community Centre, everyone is welcome, and encouraged to arrive early.
Admission is free, although donations are very welcome. For more
details please visit www.osfn.ca

Then on Sunday March 15, begins a four part lecture series featuring
Dr. Thorsten Arnold, a local farmer scientist, plus climate and food
systems advocate.

The entire series is entitled How Can Food Systems Regenerate Our
Earth? The lecture begins at 1:30PM at the Harmony Centre, located at
the corner of 9th Street and 4th Avenue east, and the topic is
Biosphere Self Regulation of its Climate. Admission is on a Pay What
You Can basis.

The dates and topics of the other three lectures, all at 1:30PM are
Sunday April 5, Regenerative Agriculture and the Biosphere; Sunday
April 26, Food Systems for the Biosphere; Sunday May 3, Making
Holistic Land Use Decisions. Arnold is known for the eloquence and
substance of his talks and his articulate presentations.

Support for this lecture series has been provided by Eat Local Grey
Bruce, Climate Action Team of Bruce, Grey and Owen Sound, Grey Bruce

Sustainability Network, OSFN, and St.George’s Anglican Church


On Friday March 20 at 2PM Grey Roots Museum and Archives, as part of
their March Break feature Back to Your Roots, is offering a chance to
“Learn about moths and what they do in the winter” with a fun
presentation by Brian Robin, in the Grey Roots theatre, co-presented
by the Young Naturalists club.

On March 24 Grey Roots begins its Spring Lecture Series with Dr. David
Holah asking  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. This presentation is part of Grey Roots’ Spring
Lecture Series taking place on Tuesday afternoons following March
Break, March 24 through April 14, in our Theatre and are Free with admission. Talks take place at 1:00 p.m. and are repeated at 2:30 p.m. Complimentary refreshments following this talk, are provided, courtesy of Owen Sound Field Naturalists. 


On Saturday March 28, Grey Roots is also presenting a chance to learn
more about hibernation, with popular speaker and naturalist Jenna
McGuire, also co-sponsored by OSFN.


The Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation is hosting its 5th Annual
Earth Film Festival. The Festival will be held at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound on Thursday, April 30, 2020.This year the festival follows one week after the Earth Week Celebration. The theme for the Earth Film Festival is the beauty of the monarch butterfly. 

During the day, there will be two school matinee performances at the
Roxy. Students from grades 6 to grade 8 will be invited to attend. The evening starts with a social from 6pm to 7pm, during which guests can view displays, view draw prizes, and participate in a silent auction. At 7:00 pm the night will begin with an interactive butterfly presentation by Audrey Armstrong and photographer Willy Waterton. Following which the featured movie “Flight of the Butterflies” will be shown.

All funds raised benefit local conservation projects and student education grants supported by the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation. Tickets are $25 and are available from the Roxy Theatre, contact 519-371-2833.

For further information, please contact Don Sankey, Chair, Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation at 519 376-1348


Also celebrating Earth Week, OSFN presents renowned ecologist and
singer/songwriter Jarmo Jalava, on board the Chi Cheemaun, starting at
2PM, Saturday April 18. Entitled Relationships with Nature, as told through slides, stories and song, tickets for this event, which has limited seating,
are only $5 each and are still available at these ticket outlets –
Ginger Press, OS Farmers’ Market and the OSTC office at Springmount.
Ticket sales are starting to pick up again, now that Spring is in the
air. Sponsored by Caframo, proceeds will be directed to OSFN Youth
Projects.


There have been many special sightings in the area recently. Jim
Hastie from the Leith area, reported his first Redwing Blackbird on
March 4th.

First year male King Eider Duck.  March 9, by David Turner

The Juvenile King Eider is still seen regularly at Southampton Harbour. Many Red-Tailed Hawks have been observed busily engaged in breeding activities; 

Red-tailed Hawk, Photo By Bruce Edmunds

Tundra Swans are showing up in LambtonCounty, and in South East Grey. David Turner sighted nine Tundra Swans at Lake Eugenia, March 10, following a parallel path towards crossing Lake Huron.  Peter Middleton was successful in photographing a pair of Golden Eagles in Bruce County. Along with many Bald Eagles, HornedLarks and Robins have been seen throughout the area, and at least a couple of chipmunks have been observed, out of hibernation.

Tundra Swans, Mar 9th, Thedford Bog, Photo by Peter Middleton

Stew Hilts had a very nice sighting with a Red-tailed Hawk, to see the full story, head to his Seasons in the Valley blog.

Red-tailed Hawk, Photo by Stew Hilts

A tracking hike led by Jeff Kinchen last Saturday drew this assessment
from Julie Lamberts –

“I really appreciated Jeff’s insight around interpreting animal tracks
to understand not only the type of animal but how an animal is
behaving.  This insight gives you the opportunity to more deeply
understand that animal’s story, forming a deeper connection with them.
This was a very informative and enjoyable experience!” And, from Marilyn Betteridge – “Jeff was so enthused to share his experiences and accumulated knowledge it made learning and retaining so rewarding. Personally, I went out the next day looking for tracks and an otter slide he told us about. Finding two wildlife treasures was a highlight!!” 



Jody Johnson reported that on February 23, the Young Naturalists Club
spent a beautiful afternoon exploring the area around Jones Falls, led by Judy Robinson. The kids experienced life as either a porcupine, fox, skunk, coyote or rabbit – looking for food, shelter and avoiding prey. They also created nature art of their selected animal.

Young Naturalists’ Artwork, Photo By Jody Johnson

Also, looking back to February 13, Peter Middleton, in immense gratitude and warm recognition of his outstanding legacy,  received a lengthy standing ovation from the assembly of 200, who were on hand for his final lecture/presentation at the Lumley Bayshore.  They had been enthralled by the story of his recent trip to Brazilwith his wife, Jan. The trip had been well researched in advance and they were successful in observing most of the target species they were aiming for. Along with Peter’s superb photographs he made their adventures come alive for the audience as he imitated the sounds of Howler Monkeys and various anteaters and shared stories of behaviours they observed. Thank you, Peter, for generously sharing your nature experiences and gifts with us!


To close, a Nature quote from Sam Llewellyn’s The Sea Garden – “From
the foot of the donjon walls the gardens sweep away. They are
twenty-one acres of Paradise, of flowers and scents gathered from the
Cape of Good Hope, and the Canaries, Australia and the Azores….”

Nature Club News February 2020

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Nature Club News February 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 https://greyroots.com/


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 https://friendsofmacgregor.org/page/huron-fringe-birding-festival


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 – https://www.sourcesofknowledge.ca/


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.”  

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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 https://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/announcements/beyond-the-trees-w-adam-shoalts/


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 https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com/


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 https://owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca/young-naturalists/young-naturalist-program-2018-2019/



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

NATURE CLUB NEWS October 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 rawfam46@gmail.com

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 www.osfn.ca

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.”