Nature Club News


Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Nature Club News December 2020

by John Dickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rough-legged Hawk December 6, by Nigel Eves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Fox photo by David Turner, December 8

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Nature Club News November 2020

by John Dickson


I have been hearing about and also experiencing for myself, many exciting nature observations throughout the area, in recent weeks. Although in the fall we are often looking for the bright red colours of some Maples, Sumacs, and a fairly new one for me – Virginia Creeper, most of the colour theme shifts to yellow and gold by November. 

Just this morning, as I ran on the Healing Path at the front of the hospital in Owen Sound, I came within sight of the half dozen or so grand willow trees there, and can report that they too were strikingly gold in the bright sunlight. Even the leaves on our rose bushes are now golden. Quite a few folks have been lucky enough to see Evening Grosbeaks and/or Bohemian Waxwings visit their feeders, with their strikingly colourful plumages, and their often very busy eating frenzy when they do stop by.

Male Evening Grosbeak Kincardine by Bruce Edmunds November 4

Others have been seeing Kinglets – either Golden-crowned, or Ruby-crowned, one of which I noticed right within our rose bush, eating aphids from the stems, and then after working its way to the outside of the plant, it would hover like a hummingbird while it continued to find food on the stems of the rose bush. A beautiful Fox Sparrow, with its rich reddish brown plumage, was certainly a treat in our yard, and they are still being seen in many locales.

Fox sparrow October 21, photo by John Dickson

American Tree Sparrows with their bi-coloured beaks have been observed throughout Grey-Bruce, having arrived from farther north, in flocks, and on their own. Large groups of Common Redpolls have been witnessed, with more than just a few Hoary Redpolls, seen travelling with them. As I continued my morning run through the northwest corner of the hospital property, I counted up to 200 songbirds, including some Redpolls, swirling all around, sometimes over my head and then landing briefly in the shrubs and long grass there, before rising once more into the air.

Beautiful Snow Buntings have been seen in groups large and small and Red-bellied Woodpeckers have recently been first-time visitors to houses with bird feeders in Chatsworth, and northeast of Durham.

Stephane Menu, Station Scientist at Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) recently reported “This past week, we banded an unusual number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, with a high daily total of 53 birds on October 26, which is a record total for this time of year.”

Then just today Menu reported that “Suddenly, it was the last day of monitoring, October 31st! A Gray Catbird was observed, then captured and banded.  We were lucky to catch a Fox Sparrow, the only one banded this season, as well as one last American Tree Sparrow. These two species not only share a late migration, but also a bicoloured bill made of black (for the upper mandible) and yellow (for the lower mandible). A couple of Snow Buntings were also detected but the highlight certainly goes to the suite of six species of finches, quite rarely, if ever, seen all in one day. Here’s the list: Common Redpoll (lots!), Pine Siskin (a few), American Goldfinch (just one), Pine Grosbeak (also just one), Red Crossbill (happily – for me – showing off on top of cedars and on the TV antenna, in full view for a few minutes), and White-winged Crossbills. The cherry on the cake was the small flock of 11 Bohemian Waxwings. Thank you, birds, for giving us one last flourish as the season was ending!

Bald Eagles (photo by Jarmo Jalava)

It is always a bittersweet moment to take down the nets and store them away and then to pack up and close down the station for a long winter. But Spring is only five months away, when we will return to Cabot Head for another season, and not any season: 2021 will mark the 20th year of non-stop, long-term monitoring at Cabot Head by BPBO! 

Be sure to check out our new fundraising initiatives – not one but two auctions, act fast, the online auctions end soon! See you all next Spring!”

I thought I was doing well to see a couple of small and pretty butterflies a week ago. Yolanda Wenting of Mildmay found several Cloud Sulphur Butterflies, just this week.  Even more amazing, I believe, is that Rob and Donna Kearns were visited by a Monarch Butterfly on November 7, near the mouth of the Sauble River. I wonder if others have been noticed too, only now starting out on their migration to Mexico. 

Just the other day, while waiting for an appointment time, I was checking out some lovely blooming white flowers near a parking lot on the west side of the Owen Sound harbour, but was quite surprised to find a large bee working its way around the many white blossoms. On two occasions in recent weeks, I found a garter snake sunning itself on the trails where I was running, or cycling. Another treat this time of year is to see, suddenly revealed, the many bird nests, that were perhaps very close to areas of human activity, but not noticed until the canopies of leaves were released to swirl and scatter below. I especially enjoy discovering the nests of Baltimore Orioles, with their distinctive pendant structure, and was delighted to see a couple of those while I was cycling in the Hanover area late last week.

Bohemian Waxwing by David Turner on OSFN birding day with Erik November 8

Erik Van Den Kieboom, recent recipient of the Malcolm Kirk Environmental Scholarship, from the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation, was demonstrating his nature knowledge and leadership skills on November 8. He was heading up an outing of birders from Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) for the annual Around the Bay birding field trip, looking for waterfowl and any other birds that may present themselves for observation. Congratulations to Erik!

Red-breasted Merganser from the Around the Bay outing (photo by Bill Hatten)
Five Snow Buntings joined the Around the Bay attendees for lunch at the Bayshore. (photo by Bill Hatten)

Male Mallard (photo by Bill Hatten)

NeighbourWoods North was so successful with their planting regimen at the Hospital in Owen Sound during October they finished early. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the trees as they mature. There is such variety in the groupings that I just know that the display is bound to be effective and satisfying.

Marsha Courtney has been making good use of the lovely weather to do some paddling on the local inland lakes, including Hines, Robson and Clark’s lakes, where she saw painted turtles, sunning themselves on logs. and observed “they knew it was too gorgeous of a day to stay hidden.” Sighting a Lesser Yellowlegs, was an added bonus for her.

Lesser Yellowleg Sandpiper non-breeding adult Lesser Yellowlegs  photos by Marsha Courtney
Basking Turtles Lesser Yellowlegs  (photos by Marsha Courtney)

Joe Lehmann of Sandy Bay, near Oliphant, shared with me this item of interest: he and his neighbour have White Ash Trees and a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers have been spending their energies working their way upwards and slipping their large beaks into the structure of the bark layers, which they remove and scatter on the ground, looking for and consuming Emerald Ash Borers along the bark as they forage there. However, there is no evidence that they are excavating their usual rectangular cavities. 

Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann

Other observations include reports of Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkeys, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Bald Eagles and even a juvenile Golden Eagle that seen by Ingrid Remkins, just north of Kimberley, on November 4th.

Red-tailed hawk November 10 Beaver Valley
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
In the sky today…November 10 Beaver Valley, Trumpeter Swans
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
Juvenile Golden Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk, nov 4th, North of Kimberly, Photo by Ingrid Remkins

In late October I came upon a dozen Eastern Bluebirds, while I was cycling, northeast of Arran Lake. Then on Tuesday of this week Renee Anderson of Owen Sound reported “I heard some chirping and noticed activity at the very top of our 100′ Norway Spruce. Just as I suspected, there was a flock of 20-25 male and female Red Crossbills feeding on the cones!” Then, on Wednesday – “They are still here today, also going to the White Spruce!”

Red Crossbill, Owen Sound November 10, 2020, Renee Anderson  

Another observation during this extended milder weather, of which I am aware, is the vocalizations of Tree Toads, sometimes even a chorus, which one would normally hear in Spring. I have also noticed bright yellow Dandelions blooming, as well as new blossoms of Coltsfoot.

Of course, for many, November is the month to really enjoy the shining golden needles of the many Tamarack trees throughout our region. Be sure to have a look around, and if possible go outside to see them for yourself – they are very special indeed.  Grey Roots is featuring Nature topics for some of their November Virtual Lecture series, with the return of David T. Chapman for two dates – November 17 Exploring the Birds of Ontario II, and on November 24 Gems of Grey County & Area: Wild and Scenic All-Season Imagery, on November 24th. From first-hand experience, I can certainly recommend Chapman’s talks, for his lively and informative style, and excellent images. Visit

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club outing, following Public Health guidelines, in late October, featured an engaging field trip in the Boyd’s Crevices area, with a focus on tree identification, led by Susan McGowan and Hugh Evans, both forestry specialists. 

Boyd’s Crevice (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

OSFN is also presenting the locally produced film – Resilience – Transforming our Community. This uplifting film, with Scientist Dr. John Anderson’s climate change research, and directed by Liz Zetlin, is designed to inspire action, and offers ways to build resilience in ourselves and our community by transforming the way we live. Because of COVID-19, the meeting will feature a chance to watch the film in advance, and then at 7PM Thursday November 12, to go online with facilitator Marilyn Struthers, and Scientist John Anderson, and engage one’s thoughts and ideas in discussions and developing action plans.

A bonus presentation on the evening of November 26, by Kat Lucas of the Toronto Zoo, will be Great Lakes Aquatic Species at Risk

.At least two more field trips are planned for November, one with a geology focus, along with ferns and birds, on November 14, with Bob Gray, and an upcoming Owl Prowl, with those details soon to be finalized. Visit

Long-eared Owl – Photo by Bruce Edmunds
Kincardine/Huron Kinloss  
November 3, 2020
The Kelso beavers put on a fine show this evening, but really pushed the limits of my camera with the low light conditions! This is a young one learning how to build a fort. Unfortunately where they decided to build is blocking the drain and would eventually cause flooding in my backyard. (photo by Carol L. Edwards)

To close, Nature Quotes from neuroscientist and author Daniel J. Levitin, from his book Successful Aging, where he expresses a preference, when the time comes “to die with the sounds of nature trickling in through the window, whether it’s songbirds during the day, or crickets and owls at night.” and his report that “hospitals and end of life care facilities are coming to realize the restorative qualities of nature and are looking at ways to provide their patients with increased access to natural scenes.” An item in the book’s Appendix advises that for the purpose of “Rejuvenating Your Brain, Exercise. Get your heart rate going. Preferably in nature…”


Wednesday, November 11th, 2020


Nature Club News October 2020

by John Dickson

Two years ago, I learned of, and witnessed for the first time, the phenomenon called murmuration that has been taking place in the town of Meaford in recent Septembers. This year, on September 20, I was delighted once more to observe, first hand, this amazing display put on by black birds – both Starlings and Grackles, I believe.

On many evenings just at dusk, (and apparently in the mornings too, just before sunrise) these birds begin to gather and create larger and larger flocks, flying to and fro and then settling into treetops for a breather. Then they take off again, flying into swirling patterns and shapes, and in Peter Middleton’s words “the flocks coalesce to form the undulating and pulsating skeins that are the hallmarks of murmurations.” 

Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)
Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)
Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)

Several times I saw large flocks speeding towards each other and then suddenly veering off to avoid a great collision. Even though my visit this year did not coincide with the very best displays, I did see cohesive formations and visual evidence of their creativity, all the while hearing the wings and the excitement of a close to one thousand-voice avian choir as they provided a wonderful half hour of entertainment, for myself, and another couple I know, who had stopped by for the evening show.  For me, the extra bonus of this lovely evening was the light show of these black birds taking on a crimson hue, and some gulls that appeared golden as they flew by, bathed in the light of the setting sun. Then, almost as if a curtain had descended at the end of a play or concert, the performers disappeared into the trees for the rest of the night.  I am already anticipating a repeat performance next September.

The NeighbourWoods North team is very busy planting more trees this month along sections of the Healing Path, and in the Forest of Hope and Healing on the site of the Hospital in Owen Sound. Plans for the Healing Path are well under way, with guidance and input from professional trail developer Zane Davies. It is really exciting to see these ideas become realities. I have been exploring the Healing Path and the Forest all year when I have been out for a run or a bike ride. Just this morning I was checking some of the new trees planted this past week, and was delighted by the variety – one highlight being a Lilac.

Healing Path (John Dickson)
Healing Path (John Dickson)

When I spoke with Lloyd Lewis and Gord Edwards on site there last Friday, I also learned of a pollinator garden to be developed, which will complement the beautiful Welcoming Garden located in front of the Hospital. This gem has had even more specimens added recently, and is still presenting new displays of floral beauty and design almost every other week as different blossoms open to add to the colourful palette. One of my favourites has been the Russian Sage, with its lovely purple hues. To learn more about these developments, please visit

Welcoming Garden (John Dickson)
Welcoming Garden (John Dickson)

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory has been a recent stopover for Golden Crowned Kinglets and a rarely observed Lapland Longspur. On September 27, Station Scientist Stéphane Menu also observed three young Peregrine Falcons, frolicking in the strong wind and practicing their attack runs. One Belted Kingfisher dove sharply into the water to escape sharp talons and many small songbirds used last-minute sharp turns to evade the fast approaching falcons, who cannot turn as quickly. To learn more visit

The garden is alive with newly fledged American Goldfinches being fed by their attentive parents. The sweet sound of their calls heralds yet another end of summer.
American Goldfinches nest late in the season to take advantage of the abundance of available seeds.

by Carol Edwards, September 27
With many of the birds now gone to their southern homes, it leaves more “space” to notice those birds that I haven’t seen since early summer: the female Eastern Towhee. (Not that I have seen a flock of Eastern Towhees, but did you know that in a group they are called either a “teapot” or a “tangle”?)

by Ingrid Remkins, October 3, near Kimberley

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are continuing to offer learning opportunities through monthly Zoom meetings, and through field trips held with careful attention to public health safety guidelines. In September Jenna McGuire delivered a superb webinar on the Life of Fungi, and then led a small group on an outing entitled Ferns, Mosses and Geology, that also included some distinctive Fungi. Marsha Courtney shared this comment  “Jenna really knows her stuff….all the names in Latin as well, just roll off her tongue. So passionate that it’s infectious to enjoy it all with her.”  

Jenna in the field (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
Marginal Wood Fern (Photo by Marsha Courtney)

In addition, two field trips to Anglesea in the Klondike Hills southwest of Chatsworth featured Nature’s bounty – a Fern Gully, large Butternut trees, plus two very large puffballs, and host Don Rawls gave a vivid description of the property’s history, including the operation of a lime kiln built into the side of a hill.David Morris, who worked in the Agriculture industry, has recently led several outings featuring many flora specimens to be found locally. At 7PM on October 8, Morris will present a webinar entitled Resident Aliens, and focus on a selection of plants that have been here so long we all take them for granted as being part of the landscape, but they are, in fact “introduced species.”  For details visit

Wild Ginger at Angelesea (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
2 beech and a maple…growing together. (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
Don Rawls (Photo by John Dickson)
Giant Puffball (Photo by John Dickson)

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club met on September 27 at Grey Sauble Conservation and, under the guidance of Krista McKee, were on hand to check the Bluebird nesting boxes, and learn of the Salmon life cycle, at the spawning beds there.

Youth Summit 2020 OSFN facilitated the involvement of six local high school students (and sponsored four of them) in Ontario Nature’s Virtual Youth Summit, over four Saturday afternoons from mid August to mid September, presented online this year due to COVID-19. One student, Jackoby Graham, has forwarded to OSFN a comprehensive and glowing report on his experience with the Youth Summit activities. I have included here an excerpt from that report.   

“Participating in this year’s youth summit was very impactful to me this year. The youth summit was like the highlight of a COVID year. During the four-week youth summit, I have learned a great amount about nature, native people, native land, native culture, and history. 

  Every week in the youth summit we had workshops and live streams. I participated in the workshops with the topic of Environmental Policy, Turning Powerlessness into Action, Navigating eco-anxiety and activism, Biodiversity, and Nature Walk.   

  Lastly, I found the live stream with the keynote speaker, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, one of my favourite live streams in the youth summit. Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm is an activist on a national and international scale. He raises awareness towards so many topics like protecting nature, indigenous rights, history, policies, land, and water awareness and so much more.  

  The final fourth week is when everyone votes on three events and campaigns of their choice. After the week of voting, there was a final live stream where they announced the winners and our group WON! My group got the most votes, and we won one-year memberships at Ontario Nature and support from the Ontario Nature Youth Council or Youth Circle from Mother Earth to make our events happen.  

Overall, The 2020 Ontario Youth Summit was memorable, and so much fun. I learned lots about nature and indigenous community problems. I learned leadership skills from working with others on the Leadership Challenge. I am so excited to make my event happen (hopefully if COVID-19 does not get worse). Thank you so much for sponsoring and for allowing me to participate in the 2020 Ontario Youth Summit. I hope to see you at my Run 4 Water event next year. I hope you and your close ones stay safe. Again, I appreciate that you sponsored me for this summit!”

Jackoby Graham

Although most Monarch Butterflies left a few weeks ago for their flights to Mexico, even this past week I observed two stragglers who were still here, just as the Hummingbird I saw in my backyard just over a week ago.

As we are all enjoying the fall colours of red, orange, and yellow leaves on display up high in the trees, be sure to look around at ground level too, for there are also many wildflowers of white, pink, blue, yellow and especially purple, still in blossom, being visited by various bees, wasps and butterflies. You will be amazed at both the variety and vibrancy at your feet. To close, a Nature quote from Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage “Northward rose … a vast heave of purple uplands, with ribbed and fan-shaped walls, castle-crowned cliffs and gray escarpments.”

Bald Eagle on Tom Thompson Trail (Photo by John Dickson)
Buutterflies in amongst the petals (Photo by John Dickson)
Asters (Photo by John Dickson)


Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Nature Club News September 2020

by John Dickson

NeighbourWoods North   On August 22, a successful yard sale was held, raising $1200. towards the purchase of more trees for the 1.4-kilometre Healing Pathway around the hospital Healing Pathway. Congratulations to those involved!  Lloyd Lewis has indicated that, although they will not start to dig out the path this fall, they will begin planting trees along the planned course of the path. Watch for these changes!   

In recent weeks I have cycled and run along this pathway, and have found it delightful with its meandering character and its always changing views. I have also observed the ever changing blooms on display in the Welcoming Garden near the front entrance to the hospital. Another success story.

Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson

Congratulations to popular naturalist and speaker John Reaume, who shared this announcement with me: “We published a book on the Spiders of the Guelph Arboretum and are currently working on gathering and photographing spiders for a hopeful book on the Spiders of Ontario”.

Reaume gave a terrific Spider talk in Owen Sound two years ago,  is a key player at Saugeen Nature, and has been a frequent contributor to the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. Here is a link to the seven current Guelph Arboretum Booklets. The spider one is the second one down…..

John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

Vicki Rowsell of Grey Sauble Conservation (GSCA)  announces that next up in their hike series is the Inglis Falls Arboretum! (237897 Inglis Falls Road, Owen Sound) Join GSCA and the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance to explore the trails, take deep breaths, and enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature at a GSCA property.  September 12, 2020: Tree Talk Arboretum Walk – All ages are welcome (10:30am – 12:00pm) Join members of the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance for a walk around the peaceful Arboretum trails. You’ll learn about the history of the Arboretum itself and the amazing trees that make this area so special. The trees of the world section is a highlight where you can experience species from all over the globe! During this serene adventure we’ll also chat about some interesting tree facts – Did you know trees can talk to each other? You “wood” not believe some of this stuff! Advanced registration is required Please RSVP at and to check on future hikes (space is limited to ensure physical distancing). More information will be provided upon registration. 

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists are kicking off their 2020-21 season with Indoor and Outdoor events. At 7PM Thursday September 10, via ZOOM, Jenna McGuire presents The Life of Fungi –  “Let’s take a closer look at fungi and their mushrooms: How they live, contribute to the ecosystem, lifecycles, and the basic ways they are divided in groups. We will dive deep into the soil of the forest floor to see this mysterious world!”

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)

At 1:30PM Saturday, September 12, Robert Burcher will be leading an easy, two hour hike from the 7th concession of Meaford to the Trout Hollow site where John Muir lived for two years in the 1800’s. History, nature, archaeology and discussion of the recent “Muir as a Racist” controversy, all in one afternoon! A second hike may take place a week later if numbers warrant.  

Advance registration is required. Burcher will also have copies of his new book My Summer of Glorious Freedom – John Muir Saunters Around Southern Ontario in the Summer of 1864.   

Robert Burcher explaining the economics of John Muir’s time. (Photo by Brian Robin)

The Young Naturalists Club for ages 7 to 12 years, will have their first monthly outing on Sunday afternoon September 27 at GSCA, checking the Bluebird Boxes, and/or witnessing  the Salmon along the spawning grounds. To learn more about the Young Naturalists Club, or other OSFN talks, field trips and membership visit

 On several recent mornings I have noticed many Monarch Butterflies “roosting” in the trees in my neighbourhood, and occasionally have seen a dozen or more fluttering in the warm breezes. Stew Hilts, of Meaford, reports  “We’ve had two Monarch butterflies fluttering around for days now, apparently newly hatched, for they are bright orange with no tattered wings.  They come to the Marigolds and Butterfly Bush to feed.  At this time of year they’re no longer interested in the Milkweed; we presume this is the generation that migrates south. “

Monarch on marigolds. Photo by Photo by Maria Hilts

Fred Jazvac confirmed that the Bruce Birding club (BBC) is on hold regarding their twice monthly hikes, but continue to   share information about the location of birds, ID tips, birds seen, bird photos, etc. 

Common Loon on Lake Eugenia  – August 22,  by David Turner
Mother Pied-Billed Grebe with babies at Collingwood Harbor trails.  August 30, by David Turner
Question Mark  Butterfly,  by David Turner

Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory opened the mist nets on September 2nd and discovered, among others -“an adult male Connecticut Warbler! It is only the fourth Connecticut Warbler ever captured in the 19 years of monitoring at Cabot Head. This elusive and secretive bird is hardly ever observed, especially during migration. I have heard its explosive, loud song in the boreal forest (of Northern Alberta) but I have never seen one in the wild. And I have never heard nor seen it in Ontario, let alone at Cabot Head, other than in our nets.Swainson’s Thrushes are now on the move, with two birds captured on September 1st, and five on September 3rd. This long-distance migrant, alongside Grey-cheeked Thrush, migrate mostly during September, and like the Connecticut Warbler, have a long way to go to fly to reach the continent of South America.”

Dennis and Gwen Lewington have been working for the past 35 years to enhance Eastern Bluebird populations in the area by providing nesting boxes since 1986, when they started with four. They increased the number each year until they had one hundred, on a route that ranged from Sauble Falls to Oliphant to Wiarton to Hepworth, and stabilized at about eighty boxes by 2010. In all of that time they monitored the success of the nests, and kept records that indicate a total of 3050 Eastern Bluebirds fledged, averaging 87 per year. Also using the boxes were many Tree Swallows, along with some House Wrens, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Black Capped Chickadees.  The Lewingtons were awarded the OSFN’s Community Conservation Award several years ago, in recognition of these efforts and for the establishment of Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve.

To close, a Nature quote from – Exploring an Urban Forest – Owen Sound’s Heritage of Trees – published in 2007 by the Bruce Grey Plant Committee of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists – in Memory of Nelson Maher –

“This is a priceless inheritance which needs to be carefully nurtured… to maintain this forest in a healthy condition.”


Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Nature Club News August 2020

by John Dickson

The Friends of Hibou will conduct the first of Grey Sauble Conservation’s new guided hike series, as described on their website at and at under Events.

“If you’re feeling unsettled about the return to work/school or are just interested in learning about GSCA properties and how being in nature can help during stressful times, this hike series is for you!

First up in the hike series is Hibou Conservation Area!                                        

Join GSCA and the Friends of Hibou to explore the trails, take deep breaths, and enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature at a GSCA property.  

August 25, 2020: Learn about Nature – All ages are welcome (10:00am – 12:00pm)
Walk with Bob Knapp along the shoreline loop (The Point Trail) across from the pump house parking lot at the south end of Hibou where you will see views of the changing rough shoreline (approx. 45 mins). This will be followed by an optional walk along the Interpretive Trail where you’ll hear a description of the geography and plant life, as well as how the trail came to be (approx. 1.25 hours). – total 2 hours.

September 1, 2020: Forest Bathing – Ages 12 + (10:00am – 11:30pm)
Experience a deeper connection with the forest on a slow, almost meditative walk with Marie Knapp along the shoreline loop (The Point Trail) across from the pump house parking lot at the south end of Hibou. You will be guided through a few experiences as you relate with the forest in new ways and experience reduced stress (approx. 1.5 hours).

Advance registration is required. Please RSVP at (space is limited to ensure physical distancing). More information will be provided upon registration.

Pack a lunch and enjoy Hibou beach following the hike”

The Sources of Knowledge Forum in Tobermory has also been affected by COVID-19 and has this message on their website at Attention all 2020 Forum registrants: Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic the SOK Board has decided to move this year’s forum. Our administrator will be directly contacting attendees and sponsors shortly. We plan to reschedule this year’s forum topic for April/ May 2021. Please stay tuned for more details and stay safe.  

On July 30th the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) offered a Moth Night called “Introduction to how to attract and identify moths” led by Alan Macnaughton.  Held in the late evening at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, the event was very successful, and Alan has offered to hold more Moth nights for the club in the future, possibly even this September.  Butterflies are also being observed in many areas these days. Chris Rickard reported:”Today I was at our cottage on the Bruce….After the rain stopped, there were 7 White Admirals on the buddleia bush simultaneously!”

White Admiral Butterfly at Isaac Lake (June 2020)
Photos by Bruce Edmunds 

On August 19th OSFN’s Julie Lamberts offered  What bugs are living in the stream? specifically the Indian Creek in Georgian Bluffs. Julie demonstrated the “kick and sweep” method for collecting benthic invertebrate samples. Her sample was divided up among all participants, who had the opportunity to sift through and identify bugs using a magnifying glass and some charts. Benthics were identified to family level. Discussions about how benthic communities are used as bioindicators of stream health took place.  John Bittorf of GSCA, was also on hand, and provided additional information including local conditions affecting stream health.

Benthic outing. Photo by Julie Lamberts

OSFN has more field trips planned with some of them filling up very quickly. David Morris has offered to repeat both of his planned flora themed outings, for August 25th (invasives), and September 15, (goldenrods and asters) on the next day.  Plans are also underway for monthly outings with the Young Naturalists Club.For more details on any of the above, please visit

The Bruce Birding Club members and those with the Beaver Valley Birding Club have been observing many of the migrating shorebirds, some locally, and others in such areas as Mitchell, and in the Luther Marsh, where a special treat this year was a Swallow-tailed Kite, having strayed north from its usual habitat in the USA.Various blackbirds have been seen in small flocks recently, and very large flocks have been seen in Meaford in the first week of September for several years. Tiny hummingbirds have also been busy visiting flower blossoms, while I have been seeing more Red-tailed Hawks recently, circling among the clouds.

Eastern Bluebirds. Photo by Nigel Eves, Meaford, August 16
Eastern Bluebird. Photo by Nigel Eves, Meaford, August 16
Hummingbird (Photo by Carol Edwards
Red-tailed Hawk, photo by Mike Tettenborn August 19

To close, two Nature quote from Rod McKuen:

The long tall grass
Waving in August
Blessings in shades of green

And the marvelous clouds sail by
Marvelous clouds
Aloft in the soft summer sky
Marvelous clouds  

Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson


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

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

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.  


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

The Bruce Grey Woodlands Association has an upcoming outdoor activity for its members.From their website at  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 –

 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


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 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 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 –

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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….”

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