Category Archives: President’s Message

Summer 2020, President’s Message

Well suffice to say my term as President has started off with a backpack of full challenges! Covid-19 has disrupted the human world immensely but, thank goodness, nature doesn’t care. We still had a great spring full of migrating birds, spectacular flowers, blooming shrubs and trees and lots of fresh air to entice us outside to enjoy and reflect on how much we can manage on our own without large groups. One thing great that has come out of Covid-19 is “Ask a Biologist”! Don’t you all agree?

Before I forget, I want to say some important “thank yous”. Kate McLaren has mentored me in many ways. After six years, her chair at Board meetings will be empty. Her advice will be missed. We will also miss the knowledge and enthusiasm of Gord Edwards and Julie Lamberts. Gordon Toth will continue on the Board as Past-president having been President for the past two years. Thank you Gordon, I’m glad you are the ace in my back pocket! I welcome Brendan Mulroy, Vice-president and Jody Pettit and Ange Flynn who are the team overseeing and mentoring the Young Naturalists program. We continue to have a vacancy on the board; we need a Secretary. John Dickson, our programming guru, could also use an assistant. Consider how you can help the OSFN.

Our Board has many new strengths and several new members but thank heavens enough experienced ones to keep us from getting too outside the box. We are excited to rise to the challenges and use our critical thinking skills to solve any new or ongoing issues.

Stay tuned as we somehow will continue our meetings as a membership together whether over the computer or as smaller indoor groups. We have several tasks to keep us occupied standing up for conserving the precious land around us such as Stoney Orchard Park in Owen Sound, the TCE project, and several MNRF downloads.

Please look into our stewardship program. What a fantastic way to practice what we preach! Exciting new properties seem to keep coming our way. These include the Oliphant Fen extension and Trout Hollow. With the board, I have a few projects to tackle such as the Master Naturalist program availability, updating the public display boards to show our works in progress and keeping up with the Young Naturalists program.

A goal for the Board and me is to try to get to know all our new members so we have an idea where our strengths are to benefit our entire group. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to me as I try to get to know my fellow “outside people” and “Nature Nuts” I have always said during my career that the more you know and understand the more you realize how much you don’t know. This certainly pertains to “Knowing Nature Better”. I do know lots about many things but am definitely not an expert in any. I’m excited about growing more with all of you. By drawing on the incredible knowledge of many of the membership, I hope to use that foundation to build on and continue the excellent work our group does. Our Website and Facebook page are awesome, our finances are sound, our programming excellent but with new discussions, opinions and assistance from each other we can evolve further and stronger and learn more together.

Looking forward to the next 2 years!
Pam Kinchen, President

Winter 2018, President’s Message

Following in the footsteps of Kate McLaren is not easy.

The OSFN has been approached by Nature Conservancy of Canada to provide financial support for the protection of a 100 acre property on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula. The Dyers Bay West property contains habitat for a number of species at risk, and is a critical connection in an area with a high concentration of conservation lands.

Their description states: “This property is relatively open and borders forests dominated by Jack Pine, Northern White Cedar and Balsam Fir. Although the property supports many other species, globally rare Dwarf Lake Iris dominates the forest floor. The globally rare and threatened Hill’s Thistle is also found on the property, along with a number of provincially rare species, including Purple-stemmed Cliff-brake, Northern Dropseed and Round-leaved Ragwort.”

The Board will be reviewing our options and keeping OSFN’s mandate in mind as we evaluate this request.

The Board has been really pleased with the active program put together by John Dickson. As usual, it is quite varied. No matter who you are, you will find something of interest. Make sure you attend some of them. A reminder, that John puts this program together by himself and it would be helpful for there to be a team who could work together. Is this something you would consider doing?

Most indoor sessions this fall have been pretty well standing room only. John, through a variety of presenters, has provided us insight into art, provincial parks, Metis history and forest health in order to address many aspects of our natural world. Again, thank you John for ensuring that we have a well-rounded program to challenge and educate us.

I welcome Julie Lamberts to the Board. Julie is new to the Owen Sound area and with her background in conservation and administration, will be a great asset to our Board.

There are many ways that members can contribute to the club and support and enhance our natural resources. It might be joining Bill Moses as he takes the initiative to reduce the impact of invasive species in the area, stewarding a property or helping Neighbourwoods North with tree planting activities; and I know that Norah Toth appreciates articles and photos being submitted for the newsletter. In the newsletter and on our website you will find a list of which Board member oversees which activity. Give them a call or send them an email.

Gordon Toth

Summer 2018, President’s Message

Did I say what a great privilege it has been for me to be the OSFN president these last two years? Did I say how much I appreciate the support of the board of directors? Did I thank the volunteers, speakers and leaders who provide so much enrichment to our club? Have I described to you the wonderful times I’ve enjoyed in meetings and on hikes? Did I mention how much I have learned? (Refuting the “old dogs, new tricks” myth….)

If you attended our AGM and wonderful pot-luck supper in June, you’ll recall the struggle the Board had, trying to convince someone to be our president. It’s an issue with other organizations I am a member of and apparently it’s a problem with organizations all over the province. Even in the largest groups of effective volunteers, it’s a challenge to recruit leaders. Although that provides some form of reassurance that we’re not alone in this, it really does pose a serious question: how do we sustain the club if nobody is willing to assume some of the responsibilities? I hope all of our OSFN members will consider their own ability and willingness to step up when the need arises.

Using a tactic I believe is called “railroading” we did fill the vacancies on the board of directors.

I have promised our incoming president, Gordon Toth, that I will do my best to help him if needed. Gord had agreed earlier in the year to serve as president if, and only if, we couldn’t get anyone else to do it. So be nice to him!!! Gord’s a long-time member with a quiet strength I’m certain you will all appreciate. He’s been serving on the OSFN board for several years bringing his own experience to the table and he knows what terrific support the club and its directors will give him.

Pam Kinchen, a relatively new member but an experienced naturalist has accepted the role of vice-president, giving her time to become acquainted with the functioning of the board and our organization as a whole.

With Melanie Worth and Chuck Mitchell joining the team, we’re going to have an excellent year ahead!

My experience with this robust organization has strengthened my faith that Nature will endure, despite our human meddling.

Now, go outside!Kate McLaren

Spring 2018, President’s Message

Lately (if your membership is paid up!) you may have noticed that you’re getting frequent “e Herald” messages with notices about events with two of our sister organizations, Saugeen Nature and Bruce Trail. We’re sharing information and events to deepen potential experiences for all of us. This is a welcome addition to our own programs. Expand your horizons and participate with these groups!

Too often the many people who work behind the scenes in organizations such as ours are doing some great work but get little, if any, recognition for their contributions. Every year about this time we turn our gaze on some of these individuals with a sharper focus: award season is here! There are several types of awards, some through OSFN and some through OnNature. Look for the list later in this newsletter and on our website. Please consider nominating someone who you think deserves special acknowledgement. Send me an email or text 519 538 1897.

As you read this edition of the Hart’s Tongue Herald, realize that it is Norah Toth, our editor, who puts it all together for you to read. If you like the newsletter please tell her so!

You are likely aware that recruitment for new directors to the OSFN Board is underway. Election will occur at our AGM and potluck supper in June. Already there are several members expressing interest in standing for nomination, to which I say YAY! It’s so rewarding to have a strong team. Their diverse talents and various areas of interest and levels of experience make it a lot of fun while working to accomplish the goals of the OSFN.

At our indoor meetings we have a Suggestion Box on the sharing table; don’t hesitate to drop something in. We’re already following up on some great ideas!

Go Outside and Listen!
Kate McLaren, President

Winter 2017, President’s Message

Snow is on its way, birds and butterflies have flown south, only tattered remnants of leaves remain clinging to skeletal trees. We are nearing the end of this celebratory year of Canada’s sesquicentennial and I am wondering what is ahead for our region and our country? Unmet climate targets, pernicious anemia of regulations for endangered species, poisoned watersheds still wreaking havoc on generations of indigenous peoples, assaults against wetlands and waterfront ecosystems. On and on it goes. Our umbrella organization, OnNature, is at the front lines doing battle against incursions by industry and governments, enlisting grassroots groups like us to help advocate for nature and a healthy environment. The autumn regional meeting in Formosa brought together field naturalist groups to share ideas and concerns amongst ourselves and to hear about the work of OnNature. A source of much inspiration, it was a very full day! (Also a very full stomach. Our hosts Saugeen Field Naturalists did not stint on the lunch menu!)

In this issue of the Hart’s Tongue Herald you will find reports about many different aspects of the OSFN from our members who chair committees and/or steer activities. The work these volunteers do is the very foundation of our club and they all deserve our praise!

Two young men were sponsored by OSFN to attend the OnNature Youth Summit two years in a row. One of them has stepped forward to assume a very important role: Erik Van Den Kieboom is the new coordinator of the Christmas Bird Count for Owen Sound. At 16 years old he may be the youngest to do so. Thanks so much to Erik for his dedication and enthusiasm!

Several local agencies and individuals are seeking help, mostly with controlling invasive species – especially phragmites. They are in need of expertise but also need a partner to apply for grants. The OSFN board is reviewing these requests carefully.

Late in the summer Grey Sauble Conservation (GSC) let me know that there would be no further support for the Young Naturalists’ program. It has been hosted at their headquarters for 20 years by one of their staff in conjunction with an OSFN liaison. Scrambling to breech the gap, a meeting was convened and a revised program emerged: Young Nat’s is revitalised with new places, new faces, new programs and new coordinator. Thanks so much to GSC and especially to Krista McKee for so many wonderful memories! Our own board member Elaine Van Den Kieboom has taken the reins; I am so grateful for her willingness and capability. Welcome a
new era of Young Nat’s!

If you are like me winter usually allows more time for reading. Remember we have six of our own publications, in case you’ve never read them. They’re available at monthly meetings as well as the Ginger Press Bookstore in Owen Sound. Snuggle into a cozy spot for an hour or two with any of them and gain insight into some of our region’s unique natural heritage.

Then go outside!
Kate McLaren, President

Summer 2017, President’s Message

This year the summer solstice brought deep sadness to our club and to my neighbourhood. Freeman Boyd was one of our original OSFN founders. He was integral to the club’s ongoing vitality with his keen mind and broad interests. Many knew him as a mushroom expert, or as a birder, a farmer or philosopher. I knew him as a dear friend and neighbour for 35 years. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.

It is another reminder that life is fleeting. We know we are only here for a very short while. All living things will eventually die – must die – to foster new cycles of life. Freeman had recently recommended The Hidden Life of Trees as a good book to read. He was so right! The patterns and relationships of life and death in forest communities are incredibly complex. It is easy to see the parallels with our human communities.

In our OSFN community there is a deep abundance of knowledge about various aspects of the natural world. The monthly (Thursday evenings) indoor series offers education, entertainment and wonder from a wide array of speakers. And there are snacks! An excursion on an OSFN outing with members always astonishes me with the depth and breadth to be found in our midst. It gives me hope when so much else seems bent on destroying our natural world: political ignorance, invasive species, urban sprawl, pollution, climate change. Etcetera.

Perhaps that’s the key to sustaining hope for the future: focus on what’s here, now. Learn what one can promote or protect; take what action is possible. Celebrate nature’s amazing diversity, share this passion with others, cultivate positive change.

The OSFN, with generous support from Caframo, is cultivating a new crop of naturalists in a number of ways. The funds from Caframo are targeted mainly toward youth activities. Two youths were sponsored for Camp Kawartha for one week this summer. Then in September two high-school students are sponsored for the OnNature Youth Summit at Lake Couchiching. And of course our own Young Naturalists program offers local outings monthly on Sundays for kids 7 – 12. Please get in touch with one of us on the OSFN Board of Directors if you know someone who would enjoy any of these opportunities.

This week I learned a new word : biophilia. “Love of all living things.” I also learned about a new pathology: Nature Deficit Disorder. Look it up. Then go outside!

Kate McLaren, President

Spring 2017, President’s Message

Hart’s Tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium by its Latin name. (How I regret that Latin was removed from my high school curriculum just as I got there.) The Hart’s Tongue Fern is found on limestone formations such as our own Niagara Escarpment but is rare in most of the world. In the early days of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) we adopted this rare fern to be our logo and renowned local artist George McLean created the design. I’m mentioning this in case you’re new to the OSFN. Thirty-one new members joined us for the first time this year and I want to extend a warm welcome to you all! If you have questions or ideas, if you want to be involved in projects or if you have a passion to share with us please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any other OSFN director. We’re a grass roots organization. Pun intended!

Elaine Van Den Kieboom recently agreed to be on the OSFN Board of Directors. She has been very active with the Young Naturalists for several years as well as with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority (GSCA). She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm: welcome aboard! Elaine collaborates with Krista McKee from GSCA to provide the Young Naturalists program. A big thank you to Krista for her participation and leadership. Parents and siblings of Young Nats often help out with the outdoor activities and they too are appreciated.

On that note, do you have an activity that would be fun for kids? Do you have a young family or know of children between 7 and 12 who’d enjoy being part of these activities? Please get in touch with anyone on the OSFN Board or call Krista at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority office in Owen Sound, 519-376-3076.

A packed house at the January meeting was the perfect opportunity to celebrate someone whose contributions to the OSFN are literally too numerous to count. Peter Middleton was presented with an Honourary Life Membership in the OSFN. Such a well-deserved award for such a vital member of our organization from its inception. Among his many gifts is his passion for nature and how it fuels his capacity for teaching others of any age in any setting. Congratulations Peter!

OSFN director Dennis Knight has been working to collect and itemize the list of projects that OSFN has been an integral part of from our beginning. He has determined which have become obsolete, which remain “status quo” and which require active stewardship. He is seeking volunteers so if he asks you, please say yes!

It was a long slog with government paperwork but our dauntless past-president John Dickson has obtained charitable status for the OSFN! Donations of $20 and over are eligible for a tax receipt. John also made the first donation to the OSFN as an official charity. Thank you John.

After last year’s dry summer, the lovely prolonged autumn, the roller-coaster winter, I wonder what spring will bring? Besides fiddleheads and peepers, blackflies and blossoms…..

Go outside!
Kate McLaren, President

Winter 2016, President’s Message

I am writing this just after we have turned our clocks back, autumn is lingering with gorgeous colours, dramatic light and kind temperatures. Paddling a quiet lake yesterday meant having to strip off layers of clothes, just short of indecency, because the sun was so hot and the air so calm. Most of the fish have gone to the lower areas of the lake but one spunky pike still took the bait.

This autumn the OSFN meetings have been very well attended, with many new members joining us. Welcome to you, especially if you are also new to the area. Our club can help you learn more about the nature of this diverse landscape and show you many hidden natural treasures. Monthly indoor meetings provide opportunities to learn things you may not ever have thought to be interested in: freshwater mussels, for example. A subject that seemed at first glance to be rather ordinary was quickly and thoroughly turned into an amazing world of extraordinary wonders! The following month we were mesmerized with stories from an explorer who is mapping remote areas mostly via canoe – and alone. Then a passionate presentation about phragmites and the very serious impacts it is having on wetlands and shorelines gave us much to ponder.

OSFN partnered with the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory to host a presentation of the beautiful film The Messenger. Such tragedy. There is so much to be concerned about, that it almost overwhelms viewers. There were great questions raised and lots of lively discussion afterward.

Outdoor activities have also been well attended, especially when the weather has co-operated! Weather has been the focal point of most conversations lately, it seems.

The warm fall has tricked some of the dogwoods into thinking it’s spring: they are in full flower once again.

My old farmhouse has almost no cluster flies this fall for the first time in 35 years! Is that also caused by the drought? Or is it the warmer climate? Did the predominance of catbirds this year affect their numbers? While enjoying a home eerily free of this plague, I will not be complacent. Winter forecasts are dire due to the relatively warm waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Expect deep snow and high winds. At least that’s one view. Another one says that snow won’t stay on the ground until swamps are full – which they are definitely not. How often have you been able to walk through wetlands in your running shoes and still have dry feet? (Such an odd feeling, as I am accustomed to checking my rubber boots for leaks before heading out.)

A local maple syrup producer claims we’ll only get snow that stays on the ground after three significant snowfalls.

Then there’s “the bigger the woodpile, the fiercer the winter” adage. Does that mean I should not be concerned that dry firewood has yet to arrive in my shed? Wishful thinking….

What does the Farmers’ Almanac say about winter of 2016-2017?

Of course any naturalist knows the only reliable predictor is the Wooly Bear Caterpillar; but I can never remember what matters most – a narrow band is a short easy winter or a long tough one?

Nature must be leaving clues everywhere, if only we knew how to read them. I’m sure many of our OSFN members can provide some details about that. Please send me a note if you have the key to predicting what the coming seasons may bring.

I hope it brings all of our OSFN members good health, great hiking (or snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing…) lots of reading and time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Kate McLaren, President

Summer 2016, President’s Message

Last autumn John Dickson asked me to join the OSFN Board of Directors. Although I refused for several weeks, he persisted and I was parachuted into the role of Vice-President; and now I am your newly-minted President.

I am not sorry!

I was involved with the OSFN at its inception and for many years derived great pleasure from the wide array of activities and opportunities it presented. Spending time with friends like Lorraine Brown, Nels Maher and Malcolm Kirk enriched my life immeasurably and I miss them sorely.

The OSFN represents a deep well of knowledge with such diversity and wisdom in our membership and the broad scope of programs presented, both indoors and out. There is huge virtue in this shared communion with nature that brings us together as a club. Now, maybe more than ever, knowledge, support and care for nature is needed on the ecological front but also the psychological front. Knowing nature better within our own club is enormously valuable, but it may be a bit like preaching to the choir. In our increasing community of urban citizens the need to touch, hear, smell and see the natural world is enormous. We are learning that there can be grave consequences for living in isolation from nature. Sharing our passion and knowledge is a vital service we are uniquely capable of providing.

My attention was diverted away from the club for several years, much to my own dismay. There are still only 24 hours in a day and I was swamped with other demands. Thankfully some of the pressure has eased.

Some years ago I was working with a group of highly educated and strongly motivated people on environmental concerns. Lacking their education and talents I asked myself out loud at one of these intense meetings “What do I bring to this effort?” One of them answered: “Enthusiasm!” So that’s what I bring to the OSFN. Enthusiasm!

I am proud to be part of this group, glad to have a strong Board of Directors to guide me and excited to see what the next two years will bring!

Kate McLaren, President

September, 2016

Spring 2016, President’s Message

Writing for the Spring newsletter happens when it is Winter, and Spring is yet a month away. As is often the case, our weather fluctuates a great deal – last Saturday and Sunday it was -24 Celsius, and I was blessed with visits by 29 Cedar Waxwings (my favourite-looking bird) who joined a solitary, but robust, American Robin, in the Mountain Ash Tree on my neighbour’s front lawn.

Today, a week later, it is now +44 Fahrenheit, (quite a spread in either scale), some rain has eliminated a substantial amount of our snow cover, especially in the open areas, and our solitary Robin is on the newly-exposed lawn, looking for worms. In between these two weekends, I was able to fit in two wonderful Ski outings on the magnificent Bruce Peninsula. In addition to the wide assortment of healthy trees – Beech, Black Cherry, Paper Birch and Yellow Birch, Maples, Red Pines and many more – I was reminded of winter bird-life, when three startled Ruffed Grouse did their best to startle me, a Downy Woodpecker announced his presence with a pleasant knock-on-wood, and a Pileated Woodpecker called a fond farewell as I glided along the gentle roller-coaster features of the Rankin Trails.

Along the way, the brilliant February sun gilded the lovely Yellow Birch Trees, and applied a warm glow to the majestic Red Pines near Beatty Lake. The pristine blanket of fresh snow displayed the recent traffic patterns of various mice, rabbits, squirrels and White Tailed Deer, while the gentle breezes played sweet music, rustling and caressing the still-clinging, burnt-gold leaves of Beech Trees. These are just some of the local ubiquitous “Sights and Sounds of Beautiful Nature in all its Glory!”

I am very much looking forward to our Earth Day/Week activities this Spring, centred around the Keynote Address by pre-eminent Naturalist and Author John Riley – 7PM Friday , April 22 – a stimulating address, generously sponsored by Caframo, specifically crafted for us, to be presented aboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun. Tickets are only $5 at OSTC in Springmount and at the Ginger Press. Do not be disappointed – this “Signature Event” compares to past generations hearing Charles Darwin, or Grey Owl. Be sure to get your tickets and your own copy of The Once and Future Great Lakes Country – An Ecological History – well in advance, and “Let’s make this a full house!” John Riley’s fascinating book (see Freeman Boyd’s sage and scholarly review elsewhere in this Hart’s Tongue Herald) is available at the Ginger Press. This award-winning book is one you will want to have in your personal library, to return to, time and time again. In addition, we have been able to arrange for Mr. Riley to speak to High School students the day before, and we are planning one or more Nature Rambles, on and/or near Earth Day. Book-ending these activities, are Ray Robertson’s illuminating report card presentation on Earth-Friendly projects from the 1990’s, and Lenore Keeshig’s Interpretive Hike at Neyaashiinigmiing.

On behalf of the OSFN board and members, I extend to Bill Moses, a heart-felt expression of gratitude for his many years of service in maintaining and enhancing our website, as well as internal communications. A tireless volunteer and valued contributor, Bill also plays an integral role with the Arboretum Alliance, and will be leading an OSFN Spring Field Trip there May 30.

I am pleased to announce that Director Brian Robin will be providing OSFN’s primary website support and coordinating our Facebook platform, which will be another tool to facilitate communication within the club, with the wider community of Grey and Bruce Counties, and beyond. We hope you and your Friends will “Like OSFN on Facebook” too.

In the meantime, this final month of Winter promises to bring us a little more snow, so that our Young Naturalists can have enough snow for their planned activities and our tracking seminar with the enigmatic Jeff Kinchen can, once again, motivate all of us to strive toward Knowing Nature Better!


With a Song in My Heart,


John Dickson, President

March 2016