Nature Club News

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…”

Nature Club News April 2019

Friday, April 12th, 2019


by John Dickson

On March 13, Nikki May’s presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) – Prairie Ecosystems – featured intriguing details of the resilience of the root structures of various prairie grasses, and their ability to stay alive underground in spite of drought, floods, foraging by bison, and fire. Some of these grasses have both shallow roots and deep roots to ensure their access to nutrients.

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

On March 20th, the Bruce Birding club witnessed two to three thousand Tundra Swans, in a staging area near Grand Bend. Here they rest and fuel up to fly across Lake Huron, and across Lake Superior, to Manitoba, eventually arriving at their destination – the tundra. The BBC members also visited Pinery Provincial Park, where the resident Tufted Titmouse population and a few wild turkeys were observed at very close range through the large windows of the Visitor Centre there. Another highlight of the day was the discovery in Kincardine, of a pair of Snow Geese, with a Ross’s Goose (a smaller relative of the Snow Goose) keeping them company, and likely migrating with them. Within a day or two of this outing, David Turner of Flesherton, reported that there were about 25 migrating Tundra Swans along with a selection of other waterfowl, at Lake Eugenia.

American Woodcock, April 1st, Kincardine. Photo by Bruce Edmunds.

American Woodcock, April 1st, Kincardine. Photo by Bruce Edmunds.

On March 24, a full busload of the Owen Sound Young Naturalist Club visited the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, to see and learn about, first hand, the many exotic butterflies on hand there.

An exotic "Ricepaper" butterfly from the conservatory. (File photo/Brian Robin)

An exotic “Ricepaper” butterfly from the conservatory. (File photo/Brian Robin)

One of the Young Naturalists, Kate Burridge-MacDonald also created artwork for a toque, which was voted the winner in a nation-wide contest as the basis for a design that will grace the hats of over 10,000 Junior skiers nation-wide next year! It featured a smiling polar bear, on skis, looking up at a puffin flying by, along with some clouds and snowflakes in the air. Congratulations Kate!

At the Bluewater Science and Technology Fair, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists award was won by Islay Graham, for her Piping Plover Project, demonstrating conclusively their preference for beach habitat with debris and vegetation, which not only provides some much needed shelter from predators, but also encourages the presence of more food for the Piping Plovers to find when they forage in the sand.

NeighbourWoods North is gearing up for its 2019 campaigns of developing and nurturing our urban trees. In a recent communication, with the heading Branch and Root news, they announced “It’s springtime and we’re getting ready for the spring planting and gardening season at the Owen Sound Hospital. Right now it looks like we will be busy tending the Forest of Hope and Healing every Saturday morning in May. Keep updated on these events through our website, or on Facebook, or Twitter.” For more information on how you can help here is the website link

On Tuesday April 2nd, Bob Knapp presented Rocks and Rock Formations in the Owen Sound Area, to a capacity audience in the theatre at Grey Roots. If you missed that one, Bob is also giving the same presentation to the Owen Sound Field Naturalists at 7PM Thursday April 11, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library.


On Tuesday April 9, Naturalist Audrey Armstrong will twice present Monarchs in the Queen’s Bush at Grey Roots, at 1PM and again at 2:30PM. For more details please visit

On Thursday April 18, at 7PM, Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation hosts its Earth Film Festival, at the Roxy theatre, featuring Project Wild Thing, and The Messenger. This fund raising event will support projects of the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation. For ticket information please call the Roxy at 519 371 2833.

On Wednesday May 8, at 7PM, the film Resilience: Transforming Our Community created locally, will have its first screening also at the Roxy theatre. Admission is by donation. More information is available at

The Celebrate Earth Day event, presented by OSFN, on Saturday April 20, featuring renowned Ecologist and Scientist Doug Larson, aboard the Chi Cheemaun, is almost completely sold out, with only a handful of tickets ($5. each) still available at the Ginger Press. For information about this event or other activities of OSFN please visit

To close, a Nature quote from Doug Larson and Peter Kelly, referring to the forces responsible for the rocks, trees and ecology of the Niagara Escarpment: “The relentless pressures of human development …may be the most imposing force in the Escarpment’s long history.”

Nature Club News March 2019

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019


by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists and Young Naturalists Club met on February 10, to learn about the Flesherton Hills and the rest of the property behind Grey Highlands Secondary School, all of which was, at one time, part of the Bentham Heritage Farm. In addition to learning about the diverse natural features and species of the property, it was explained that at one time there was oil exploration and drilling taking place there, along with such other locales as Hepworth. The quality of the oil, however was not high enough to justify continued pursuit of an oil industry here.

Springs and ponds in the Flesherton Hills are also the beginning of the Boyne River, which meanders to Hogg’s Falls and to the Beaver River. Nesting ducks, beavers, otters, and mink have been regular inhabitants of the wetland there for decades. Guidance for the day was provided by Richard Bentham, and John Burton.

This sign is a reminder of the good work and partnerships forged in the past to preserve this special habitat. (Photo by John Dickson)

This sign is a reminder of the good work and partnerships forged in the past to preserve this special habitat. (Photo by John Dickson)

This tree displays the many holes created by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in the forest of the Flesherton Hills (Photo by John Dickson)

This tree displays the many holes created by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, in the forest of the Flesherton Hills (Photo by John Dickson)

On February 14th, Brian Robin brought his innovative and detailed nature photography to share with the audience at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hall. There were ooh’s and ah’s galore, and a lot of laughs, while folks were still learning about the many “bug” species who were captured by Robin’s camera lens.

Brian Robin keeping his audience enrapt, with the shared learning experience of his observations and his presentation. (photo by John Dickson)

Brian Robin keeping his audience enrapt, with the shared learning experience of his observations and his presentation. (photo by John Dickson)

On February 28th, Leanne Robinson demonstrated how she and her husband and small children travel by canoe in the far north, surviving on what they are able to harvest along the way, supplemented by the little they bring with them. Their son Emile learned to walk on uneven ground and while he was in the canoe, soon was able to recognize rose hips along the shore, and demand that they stop so that he could enjoy this wild food he enjoyed so much.


On March 2nd, there was a good turn out for Jeff Kinchen’s annual tracking outing, and even with the fresh new snow from that very morning, Kinchen was able to demonstrate how the evidence in the snow, on nibbled saplings and bushes, plus on the tree trunks, told the stories of who made those tracks, and why. Tracks observed included Jack Rabbit, Coyote, Fisher, Skunk, and White-tailed Deer.

This image shows where deer had rested for a while in the snow.

This image shows where deer had rested for a while in the snow.

Members of the Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association (SSA) have recently been inspecting, cleaning out and readying duck nesting boxes for this Spring’s arrival of Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. They have also installed some newly constructed boxes which they have built in preparation for this upcoming season. Sites for this work include Hibou, Bognor Marsh, and the Sydenham River. Jim Hastie reported that all of the boxes at the Bognor Marsh had been occupied since the last inspection. While on site at the Bognor Marsh, we observed several chickadees feeding on the fronds of last year’s cattails there. Cheryl Jobbins also found a pussy willow there which had already opened.

Already opened Pussy Willow, found by Cheryl Jobbins on March 6th at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

Already opened Pussy Willow, found by Cheryl Jobbins on March 6th at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

Newly constructed and installed nesting box for waterfowl (Photo by John Dickson)

Newly constructed and installed nesting box for waterfowl (Photo by John Dickson)

SSA's Jim Hastie, Cheryl Jobbins and Wally Cunningham after having completed a work detail with nesting boxes, at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

SSA’s Jim Hastie, Cheryl Jobbins and Wally Cunningham after having completed a work detail with nesting boxes, at Bognor Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

On Thursday March 7th, their monthly speaker was Stephanie Nickels of the Grey Bruce Health Unit, with her presentation on Lyme Disease, breaking it down into signs and symptoms, prevalence in our area. She then discussed the tick program at the health unit (personal protection, surveillance program, types of ticks in our area, submission process, etc.).

To learn more about the Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association please visit

There have already been some reported sightings of Red-Winged Blackbirds, and of an Eastern Towhee, back to find and claim territories for sharing with mates when they arrive. The Bruce Birding Club is usually out for a day of birding, twice per month, to observe and document the birds that are in our area on those days. More information can be found at

There have also been some owls observed in the area, including the Great Horned Owl, plus both grey and red morph Eastern Screech Owls.

This red morph Eastern Screech Owl was photographed by Cheryl Jobbins

This red morph Eastern Screech Owl was photographed by Cheryl Jobbins

I have been hearing more vocal Cardinals, with Spring on their minds, and many of the willow trees in the area definitely have that extra bright glow that tells me they are getting ready too.

On March 7th the Friends of Hibou invited Bruce Trail and OSFN members to join them in a snowshoe hike along the ice-bound shore and on the woodland trails at Hibou. Conditions were excellent and hike leader Marie Knapp shared some of the history of the property, now owned by Grey Sauble Conservation. We were able to hear several woodpeckers and there was also evidence of recent Beaver activity in the wetlands there.

Frozen shoreline at Hibou - photo by Carol Harris

Frozen shoreline at Hibou – photo by Carol Harris

John Dickson, Marie Knapp and Frank Bouma - photo by Carol Harris

John Dickson, Marie Knapp and Frank Bouma – photo by Carol Harris

Registration is now open for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival in late May and early June at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. This Festival continues to grow and to attract the best guides, on an even wider range of topics. To learn more visit

This Thursday March 14, in the Library auditorium, Nikki May, former President of the Saugeen Field Naturalists, will discuss Prairie Ecosystems, speaking about the different kinds of prairie in North America and Ontario in particular, their extent, history and ecology. The talk will feature iconic fauna and flora and their role in the prairie ecology. Learn about species you can grow in your own back yard to attract butterflies and bees.

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Butterfly Weed in Canatara Park (photo supplied by Nikki May)

Grazing Bison. (photo by Rick May)

Grazing Bison. (photo by Rick May)

To close, a nature quote from Richard Outram, referring to the nature losses occurring around us, “Unless the prevailing misrule is corrected, a heritage loved and inhabited as such, will be gone.”

Nature Club News, February, 2019

Friday, February 8th, 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS February 2019

by John Dickson

OSFN Celebrates 30 Years
On Thursday January 10, 2019, Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy presented this Certificate of Recognition to Club President Gordon Toth, at the regular Indoor Meeting of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists in the Library Auditorium.

OSFN President Gord Toth and Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy (phot by B. Robin)

OSFN President Gord Toth and Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy (phot by B. Robin)

President Toth got a strong showing of hands from the capacity crowd, when he asked the audience how many were there 30 years before, on Thursday January 5th, 1989, when President Lorraine Brown presided over the Inaugural Indoor Meeting of the Club. During the fall months of 1988, an initial gathering, chaired by Andrew Armitage at the Library, took place to gauge the level of interest in forming a Naturalist Club. With the endorsement of those present, the creation of the club took place – planning, programming and organizing, with help and guidance from members of the already established Saugeen Field Naturalists.

On this occasion 30 years later, (2019) Audrey Armstrong and Willy Waterton gave an informative and entertaining presentation entitled Bruce Trail: 856 kms of Discovery, based on their end to end hike, with references to science, geology and history all along the Niagara Escarpment with a healthy emphasis on our area. (i.e. black bears, rattlesnakes, ferns and a plane crash!).

Young Naturalists Club report by Elaine VanDenKieboom

Our outing on February 2, 2019 had the Young Nat’s snowshoeing in mixed hardwood forest and some conifer plantation, searching for signs of wildlife. The animal tracks that were observed included Snowshoe Hare, Red Fox, Fisher, and American Mink. We were also fortunate to see the resident porcupine resting up in a tree. The conditions were excellent for snowshoeing and we were lucky to have a mild day in the midst of some recent poor weather. Afterwards, gathering around an open fire, the Young Nat’s enjoyed some hot chocolate, and roasted bannock on sticks over the open fire. The conditions of the day made for a great hike, and the kids really seemed to enjoy being out in the woods.

On Monday February 4, NeighbourWoods North chairman Lloyd, and Rhiannon Lewis hosted a dinner and presentation, featuring Toni Ellis, who started and continues to lead the volunteer program called NeighbourWoods, out of Centre Wellington (Elora and area) in 2006 and since its inception, have planted and maintained over 1500 trees in their local communities. The organization runs annual workshops on learning tree skills and educating the public of the critical role trees play in our towns and how we need to foster their continued good health. It was at one of these workshops that Lloyd was introduced to the idea of school yard greening, which he applied to a school where he taught in Guelph. In addition, the organization does a great job collecting tree data, which is used to map the town species and monitor their health.

I was delighted to finally meet Toni, as I had heard about her from Lloyd, when he first approached the Owen Sound Field Naturalists to see if NeighbourWoods North might be a good fit for working together. Guests at the dinner found Toni’s infectious enthusiasm, and love of Nature, to be key factors for Lloyd’s inspiration, upon moving here to form Owen Sound’s NeighbourWoods North organization. Watch for more news about NeighbourWoods North’s upcoming projects in this column.

This entire 2018-19 OSFN season, we are celebrating 30 years of what our motto says – Knowing Nature Better.

One highlight is the Celebrate Earth Day event with Doug Larson’s Songs and Stories of Nature and Ecology. University of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson was the club’s first guest speaker, in January of 1989. This year he returns on Saturday April 20, 2019, at 2PM, aboard the MS Chi Cheemaun, berthed in Owen Sound harbour, with songs and stories of nature and ecology. In recent years he has also been crafting his own guitars, and these instruments also have tales to tell, some of which are outlined in his book The Storyteller Guitar.

Tickets (only $5 each) are now on sale for this 4th Annual Celebrate Earth Day event and are available at Ginger Press, Owen Sound Farmers Market (Saturdays, from Sheila Gunby), OSTC Springmount office, and at OSFN meetings – (Jan 10, Feb 14, Feb 26, March 14). Once again this event is sponsored by Caframo, and is hosted by Owen Sound Transportation. All proceeds are directed to OSFN youth projects. Don’t miss out – tickets continue to sell quickly.

This Sunday February 10, from 1PM to 3:30PM, the OSFN Club and Young Naturalists will be on a field trip snowshoeing to the Flesherton Hills and the Bentham Heritage Farm, starting from Grey Highlands Secondary School. This outing will be led by Richard Bentham, whose property received high praise from legendary naturalist Mark Kressman, and by John Burton, former teacher at the school, known for leading many outdoor activities and expeditions, with his students there.

Coming up soon, on February 14, OSFN Board Director, and member of the Owen Sound Camera Club, Brian Robin, will present Nature Photography – Armed with a camera, a desire to learn, and the ability to enjoy the underappreciated, Brian will take you on a lighthearted photographic tour of his favourite nature observations. This is not one to miss, as Brian’s enthusiasm and sense of fun, along with the quality of his images and intriguing approach to both Nature and photography are indicative of his engaging personality, and his artistic flair.

Because the Library is undergoing some renovations, this meeting will be held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 856 1st Avenue West, and we are encouraging folks to arrive by 6:45 if possible. Admission is by donation.

Of special note is a bonus presentation on Tuesday February 26, also at St. Andrew’s, with admission by donation and proceeds going to OSFN Youth Projects. There will be an even earlier start time of 6:30PM, as some parents may wish to attend with their “little ones” to see and hear –
Travelling by canoe with little ones by Leanne Robinson and
Harvesting food from the land by Dwayne Wohlgemuth

Owen Sound native, Leanne, and her spouse Dwayne and their family live in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. They seek to harvest food from the land, pack less food, and take the routes less traveled. They live a life that allows them to get out for long summer canoeing adventures, enabling their two children to have nature nurture them. At the age of 1, Emile learned to walk over uneven ground, identify and pick berries and feel at home in the wilderness on a 2 month canoe journey in the Northwest Territories.

Leanne Robinson hopped in a canoe early with her family in Owen Sound ON but didn’t really get into canoe travelling until she moved to Yellowknife, NT, where her love of canoeing was fostered by the uncountable lakes and rivers of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Her spouse, Dwayne Wohlgemuth chooses not to buy food for their family but relies on what nature provides and what society discards. They now have two little ones, both of whom were taken on multi-day canoe trips before the age of two months, they are dreaming of how and where they will teach their second child, Aleksi, to walk.Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto, the previous weekend, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto on the previous weekend, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

Leanne canoeing (photo by Brian Kinzie)

Leanne canoeing (photo by Brian Kinzie)

Leanne Robinson hopped in a canoe early with her family in Owen Sound ON but didn’t really get into canoe travelling until she moved to Yellowknife, NT, where her love of canoeing was fostered by the uncountable lakes and rivers of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Her spouse, Dwayne Wohlgemuth chooses not to buy food for their family but relies on what nature provides and what society discards. They now have two little ones, both of whom were taken on multi-day canoe trips before the age of two months, they are dreaming of how and where they will teach their second child, Aleksi, to walk.

Robinson will be speaking at the Wilderness Camping Symposium in Toronto on the previous Saturday, while her husband has been a presenter there in the past.

This may be especially interesting for parents who have their children in cubs, scouts, guides, as well as the Forest School, etc.


To close, a Nature quote from Winchell Price, (1907-2003) once known as the Painter of the Bruce – “Winter created a breathless beauty, as all hummocks, dells, knolls and recessions are covered in deep snow, which on a clear cold day had lots of long blue shadows cast on the ground. Many a time I spent painting out in the snow, in the bushland,”

Nature Club News, January, 2019

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019


by John Dickson


The December 13 Indoor Meeting of Owen Sound Field Naturalists was very well attended, for John Reaume’s  Spiders of Eastern North America. He featured many of his own superb photographic images along with detailed and entertaining commentary.

Coincidentally, the Royal Ontario Museum has a current exhibition entitled Spiders – Fear and Fascination, still on display but closing January 6.   For more information please visit –

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club have a planned outing to the Bognor Marsh on January 20, for snowshoeing, nature sightings, and even some hot chocolate with bannock.

Mmmmmmm Bannock. (Photo by Brian)

Mmmmmmm Bannock. (Photo by Brian)

This entire 2018-19 OSFN season, we are celebrating 30 years of what our motto says – Knowing Nature Better.

One highlight is the Celebrate Earth Day event with Doug Larson’s Songs and Stories of Nature and Ecology. University of Guelph Professor Emeritus Doug Larson was the club’s first guest speaker, in January of 1989. This year he returns on Saturday April 20, 2019, at 2PM, aboard the MS Chi Cheemaun, berthed in Owen Sound harbour, with songs and stories of nature and ecology. In recent years he has also been crafting his own guitars, and these instruments also have tales to tell, some of which are outlined in his book The Storyteller Guitar.

Tickets  (only $5 each)  are now on sale for this 4th Annual Celebrate Earth Day event and are available at Ginger Press, Owen Sound Farmers Market (Saturdays, from Sheila Gunby), OSTC Springmount office, and at OSFN meetings – (Jan 10, Feb 14, March 14). Once again this event is sponsored by Caframo, and is hosted by Owen Sound Transportation. All proceeds are directed to OSFN youth projects. Don’t miss out – tickets are already selling fast.

On Thursday January 10, the OSFN kicks off 2019, with – Bruce Trail: 856 kms of Discovery – featuring Audrey Armstrong and Willy Waterton whose presentation is “based on our end to end hike, with references to science, geology and history all along the Niagara Escarpment with a healthy emphasis on our area. (i.e. black bears, rattlesnakes, ferns and a plane crash!).” The meeting begins at 7PM, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

(In addition, Waterton’s evocative photography can also be seen at the Roxy Theatre until January 13, and at a new show at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, opening January 11th – SALT OF THE EARTH: PEOPLE OF GREY & BRUCE COUNTIES.”)


Details about all OSFN programmes, Young Naturalists, online membership and donations can be found at

Apropos to the season here are a couple of Nature quotes from Knud Rasmussen – “the moon shimmered in the ice crystals, and the trembling arc of northern lights played over the edge of the wood…” and, since we have just received a fresh blanket of new snow here in Grey Bruce overnight, Rasmussen, in Northern Canada, in 1923 also writes ” a glittering carpet of innumerable tiny crystals;  and across it moved the caribou in their hundreds.” 

In recent weeks, Christmas Bird Counts took place in our area and many OSFN members were helping out with these surveys. Here are  excerpts from some of the compilers’ reports:

Owen Sound – December 15 – Compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom reported that although some numbers were down, good sightings included a red morph Eastern Screech Owl, and a Northern Goshawk, along with 14 brown-headed cowbirds, 30 Bohemian waxwings, a Northern shrike, a snowy owl, a Northern flicker, house and purple finches, pine grosbeaks and redpolls.

I was with a team in Harrison Park just after 7AM where we counted an amazing 600 or so mallard ducks arriving steadily in small groups for about 40 minutes, from wherever they had spent the night. I was also fortunate to see a single Bald Eagle, circling high above the Jubilee bridge around midday.


Hanover – Walkerton   Compiler Gerard McNaughton 

The Hanover-Walkerton CBC took place under excellent conditions on Saturday Dec 15, 2018.  There was very little wind which meant birds were easy to detect by call, and once the early fog lifted birds were easy to spot but not concentrated at feeders as in the past few years.
Overall 53 species were detected on the count day itself with 1 additional species found during count week bringing the total to 54 which ties the highest total recorded (2004, 2007, 2012, 2016).

1 species set new high count record       Red–breasted Nuthatch 45 birds (43 in 1999)

3 species tied high counts records          Belted Kingfisher (4 in 1998, 1999), Red-bellied Woodpecker (11 in 2016) and White-throated Sparrow (3 in 1983)

Winter Finches seen included                  Pine Grosbeak (1), Common Redpoll (181), Evening Grosbeak (8)

3 Owl species were recorded                  Eastern Screech Owl (12), Great Horned Owl (1) and Snowy Owl (2)

1 meadowlark species was recorded just outside Walkerton, feeding in a wet grassy area with Starlings (not recorded since 1978)

Notable misses included Wild Turkey not seen on count day but were seen during count week.

Total number of birds seen 6509.
Next Count will take place on Saturday Dec 14, 2019


Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon (Anthony Chegahno), co-compilers report that the eighth annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 15, on the beautiful Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula.

Count weather was spectacular, with sunny skies, light winds, and pleasant temperatures ranging from -3.5C during pre-dawn owling to +3.5C in the afternoon. The waters of Georgian Bay and streams were open, but non-flowing inland waters were generally ice-covered. Fifteen cheerful participants of varying ages and skill-levels tallied a total of 39 species, which is about average for the count. The 1,025 individual birds tallied was considerably higher than the average of 824. Highlights included only the count’s second Redhead and third Common Grackle. No new taxa definable to species were documented, but a very interesting find was a Brewer’s/Rusty Blackbird, which was well-described, but with not quite enough detail to conclusively settle on one species or the other. All-time high counts were tallied for seven species: Bufflehead (68, previous 39, average 21), Ruffed Grouse (25, previous high 9, average 4.2), Horned Grebe (10, previous 8, average 2.1), Barred Owl (2, previous 1, only the second count record), Great Horned Owl (3, equaling previous high, average 1), Hairy Woodpecker (9, previous 8, average 3.1), Pileated Woodpecker (5, previous 3, average 1.2) and Brown Creeper (4, previous 2, average 0.8). The only regularly occurring species for which a low count was recorded was Blue Jay (8, previous 15, average 32.2). This was the first Neyaashiinigmiing CBC with no American Tree Sparrows. House Sparrows have now been absent for five years, down steadily from the 45 individuals reported in 2011. Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation for hosting this very special birding event, and the always delicious breakfast and dinner feast.


Wiarton CBC Jarmo Jalava compiler The 45th (not quite annual) Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 16. Count weather was spectacular, sunny and mild, with little to no wind. Temperatures rose from -1 in the early morning to +5C in the afternoon. The waters of Georgian Bay were open, as were creeks and rivers, but most inland waterbodies were frozen, and the shallows of more sheltered bays of Lake Huron had a thin layer of ice. Twenty-seven enthusiastic participants and three feeder watchers tallied 63 species, tying the all-time high set in 1997, and well above the 45-year average of 48.7 species, and the 10-year average of 52.8. The 4,793 individuals counted was also well above the 45-year (3,436) and 10-year (4,417) averages. One new species for the count was found, Barred Owl. It was heard within the circle shortly after the round-up dinner. Barred Owls are uncommon but widespread residents on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, so it’s a bit surprising it’s taken almost half a century for one to be found on the Wiarton CBC. The bird-of-the-count prize (again) this year has to go to a hardy Winter Wren. Wiarton Winnie? Prior to 2016 there had been but two Winter Wren observations since 1971. Presumably the same individual has now been found at the exact same location for the third year in a row! Other notables included Gadwall (3rd count), Glaucous Gull (5th count), Golden Eagle (2nd count) and White-throated Sparrow (8th count). A presumed “Great Lakes Gull” (Herring X Great Black-backed hybrid), which would be a first for the count, was also found and photographed. Winter finches, most of which have been absent for several years, were represented in low numbers but good diversity, with 27 Pine Siskins, 19 Evening Grosbeaks, 6 Purple Finches, 4 Common Redpolls and 3 Pine Grosbeaks. All-time highs were tallied for Mute Swan (16, previous 13), Bald Eagle (21, previous 17), Red-bellied Woodpecker (9, previous 7) and Common Raven (86, previous 81). Second highest-ever counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (65, all-time 71), Red-breasted Nuthatch (52, all-time 54), Brown Creeper (7, all-time 11). No regularly occurring species had record low counts, and there were no notable misses. Thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable day! Jarmo Jalava


Michael Butler & Tricia Stinnissen (co-compilers) for the 46th Tobermory Christmas Bird Count.

Date: December 19th, 2018.

A record high number of participants (56) enjoyed exceptionally mild weather and the usual fine camaraderie. Recent thaws had left very little snow cover allowing for excellent access to the backcountry. Indeed, 13 parties logged a remarkable 103 km (61.5 hours) on foot . Despite the increased coverage of the circle area, most parties reported that birds were scarce and feeders were poorly attended.

Total species: 44 (average=40).

Total individuals: 1243 (average=1637).


  • Trumpeter Swan: 1. Karen Connoy photographed a young swan in Eagle Harbour which, after much consultation, was identified to this species. In the frame of one of her swan photos was a Mallard which proved to be the only one encountered on count day  – all waterfowl were scarce.


  • Bohemian Waxwing: 144. This count is just shy of 1999’s record high of 148.
  • Chipping Sparrow: 1. Only the second record for the count (the first was in 2015).
  • Evening Grosbeak: 104. Only the second occurrence since 2001.


  • Red-breasted Nuthatch: 14 (average=41), down from last year’s record high of 155.
  • Blue Jay: 4 (average=41). This is the lowest number tallied since 1975.
  • Snow Bunting: 1 (average=33).


  • European Starling:  This is only the second time the species went undetected on count day (average=27).


  • European Starling.
  • Swamp Sparrow (2nd record for count period).

Lost and Found: Someone left a black, zippered Mountain Equipment Co-op jacked at the Visitor’s Centre. Email me if it’s yours.

Much gratitude: Many thanks to all who participated in the count or helped out with preparation and clean-up of the delicious breakfast and dinner. Thanks as well to Bill and Judy Caulfeild-Browne for hosting a cozy and tasty pre-count gathering on Tuesday.

47th Tobermory Christmas Bird Count: WednesdayDecember 18, 2019.



Meaford CBC – Lynne Richardson, Compiler 

The 48th annual Meaford CBC was held December 28th in balmy, snowless conditions thanks to a spring-in-December day with temperatures rising to +12; no wind, a bit of sun in the afternoon. Georgian Bay was completely open with no ice-edge and most other water bodies were partially open with barely a skim of ice on still areas.

21 count participants found 55 species, continuing the trend of the past 10 years of totaling over 50 species in the Meaford circle, up from the average of 46 over the previous 30+ years of the count. 55 species ranks 4th highest in the all time totals.

Total individuals was about on average at 3534 birds.

No new species were recorded leaving the cumulative total at 120 species.

Interesting sightings included 14 Brown Creepers foraging together which contributed to a new high for this species, and the only new high for the count.  A tie for high was made by Horned Grebe at 9. Two American Tree Sparrows were a somewhat unusual low. Missing were the Golden Eagle(s) of the past 6 counts.

A Carolina Wren was a count 2nd; 1 Northern Pintail was the count’s 4th ever, and Evening and Pine Grosbeaks put in an appearance for only the 3rd times in the past 14 years.

Thanks to the dedicated participants who so diligently covered the count areas!

Bohemian Waxwings on a wire (Photo by Lynne Richardson)

Bohemian Waxwings on a wire (Photo by Lynne Richardson)


The results from this year’s Pike Bay, (December 29) and Cape Chin (December 30),  Counts are as follows…

Andrew Keaveney, Compiler 

Pike Bay: 17 participants, 39 species + 6 ‘Count Week’ species; most numerous species were Snow Bunting (700), Black-capped Chickadee (261) and Common Redpoll (217); New to the count were Mute Swan (2 at Pike Bay), White-winged Crossbill (1) and Horned Lark (count week). Birds of interest were Hoary Redpoll (1), Pine Grosbeak (6) and White-throated Sparrow (1) at a feeder in Howdenvale. Absent on Count Day were Pileated Woodpecker and Brown Creeper, always difficult to find in the winter months. Count Week produced a flock of over 2000 Snow Buntings and several Lapland Longspurs.

Andrew Keaveney, Compiler 

Cape Chin: 20 participants, 36 species + 3 ‘Count Week’ species; most numerous species were European Starling (327), Black-capped Chickadee (277) and Common Redpoll (171). Appearing for the first time in many winters, 111 Evening Grosbeaks were recorded at a few feeders and they always travel in crowds. One group was even photographed feeding naturally on sumac. The only new species recorded was an immature Northern Goshawk in the Dyer’s Bay area during Count Week. Perhaps the most talked about bird was a Belted Kingfisher found along an open creek by three separate groups, much to their surprise. Another Hoary Redpoll was carefully picked out of a group of more than 100 Common Redpolls and Dyer’s Bay once again produced an excellent number of winter grebes with Horned (25) and Red-necked (12), despite waterfowl being extremely scarce across most counts in the region this winter.

At least 3 Snowy Owls have been present in the count circle areas but only 1 was recorded on the weekend, during Count Day.


Saugeen Shores CBC  Norah Toth, Compiler, 

reports that fifty-five species were recorded by 24 citizen scientists during the Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count which was held on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.  This is an average number of species for the count.  The number of individual birds was slightly above the average at 6441.  The fact that Lake Huron remains open and that there is not a lot of snow cover will have contributed to an all time high for the number of Canada Geese seen throughout the day.  The volunteers found the temperatures cold and crisp with clear skies in the morning and snow flurries in the afternoon.

Common Raven vs Snowy Owl (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Common Raven vs Snowy Owl (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Hermit Thrush (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Hermit Thrush (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Northern Shrike (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Northern Shrike (Photo by Bruce Edmunds)

Nature Club News, December, 2018

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

NATURE CLUB NEWS December 2018

by John Dickson

Fred Jazvac (Photo courtesy of Jim Punnet).

Fred Jazvac (Photo courtesy of Jim Punnet).

On Sunday November 4th, on a cool but mostly sunny day, and Fred Jazvac felt that it was perhaps the largest turnout (almost 40 birders, including some from the Bruce Birding Club) in his more than ten years of leading Around the Bay with Fred – Waterfowl ID: Tips and Techniques. And, coincidentally, almost 40 different species were observed and noted during the four to five hours of this annual outing of the Owen sound Field Naturalists. Highlights included 48 Greater White-Fronted Geese, at Leith, and a rare sighting of a Red Phalarope at the East Side Boat Launch plus about 20 various species that are found near water, along with a Bald Eagle and a few songbirds. Having announced that this would be the final time he would lead this event, Fred was given a rousing cheer, and a round of applause, in appreciation.

Scanning for birds. (Photo by John Dickson)

Scanning for birds. (Photo by John Dickson)

On November 8th, in the auditorium of the Public Library, Susan McGowan, Forest Health Technical Specialist for the Midhurst – Aurora Districts, enlightened the audience on her role, in monitoring forests, and reporting her findings on the relative health of trees, including ones threatened by disease, or insect infestations. She shared details of wooded areas right here in Grey Bruce, and farther afield, with details about Beech, Elm, Ash, Spruce, Oak, as well as the cyclical activities of the Forest Tent Caterpillars. There were many questions afterwards, and McGowan invited folks to report cases where healthy specimens are thriving, and could have greater disease resistance, possibly through genetics, and potentially providing a good source of future seedlings. Visit the OSFN website for her contact information as well as a list of online resources related to her talk.

Gypsy Moth Pupa, an invasive defoliator. (Photo by Brian robin)

Gypsy Moth Pupa, an invasive defoliator. (Photo by Brian robin)

On November 25, Brian Robin led the Young Naturalists Club on a field trip at Kinghurst Nature Reserve. His main focus was to show and share information about winter survival for many of the local fauna. Bird nests, Beaver lodges, cavities in trees – all of these were there to be discovered. Robin also brought with him and showed samples of butterfly cocoons, and even a wintering home of a Praying Mantis. Later he pointed out a vernal pool in the middle of forest, where amphibians may be able to find some mud, and where many critters even have a type of anti-freeze component in their bodies. The members of the Young Naturalists Club had many engaging questions questions answered and as one parent, Yulia Belov, reported –
“Thank you so much for the great hike today at Kinghurst! My family and I really enjoyed it! We found it very informative and interesting.”

Cecropia moths spend their winters as pupa tucked inside papery cocoons attached to tree branches. (Photo by Brian Robin)

Cecropia moths spend their winters as pupa tucked inside papery cocoons attached to tree branches. (Photo by Brian Robin)

In the month ahead many members of the OSFN, will be engaged in the annual Christmas Bird Counts. Held every year between December 14th and January 5th, the Christmas Bird Count is one of the the largest citizen science projects.

If you would like to join one of the counts in Grey or Bruce counties, the contact information and dates of the 2018 counts are listed on the OSFN website. If you are outside the area, or would like more general information about the project, head to the Bird Studies Canada Website.

On Thursday December 13, John Reaume, an accomplished wildlife photographer, naturalist, and physician, will present Spiders of Eastern North America. A popular speaker, Reaume states -“Spiders have a bad reputation but in reality these fascinating creatures are very valuable to us and have an amazing life history. Understanding more about spiders will make you appreciate them more – its true!”

John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

The meeting begins at 7PM, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

To close, a couple of nature quotes from our good friend Jake Doherty, recently deceased -“Was it a quick flurry of blowing snow, like a looming northern mirage, or was it perhaps something more primordial, left behind from an earlier time in the ancient forests?” ; “The wind picked up, and a single yellowed, withered leaf twisted, then tumbled to the ground … in the fading autumn -“