Nature Club News For July 2022

by John Dickson

In early June, several people asked me “What is going on with the Scotch Pines?” I started to look too, and found them very much bare of needles, and not very green looking either.  Victoria Fewster, a Forest Health Biologist, at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, in Sault Ste. Marie, Natural Resources Canada, checked into it for me and reported: “I have heard back from the provincial forest health coordinator about this problem. It sounds like they have been hit quite hard this year with a disease called brown spot needle blight.” Some details about it are here:

 In summary, Scots (Pinus sylvestris) and Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) are most commonly affected, but all pine species are susceptible to the infection, which kills foliage and slows growth. It is most damaging on low branches and small trees.The disease seldom kills trees but can cause significant defoliation on 2- and 3-year-old needles with current year needles also being infected in severe disease years. In appearance, branches look bare from accelerated 2nd and 3rd year needle losses, with only tufts of current year needles remaining, and damage is first noticeable in the lower branches.

Victoria added “I also thought I’d let you know that we do a Forest Health Review One Day Conference in October, and a half day with Forests Ontario during their AGM  in February. Keep an eye out for those events as the province will do an overview of what they found in forest health surveys this year.”

On June 9, Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) held its AGM, preceded by a potluck dinner – a tradition renewed this year after two years of the pandemic. Club President Pam Kinchen presided over the meeting, with all reports being accepted and adopted into the minutes. After thanking the board of directors and supporting volunteers, the transition took place to the new OSFN President, Brendan Mulroy, who has also worked closely with the NeighbourWoods North component of the club. 

The club then presented its Community Conservation Award to Beth Anne Currie, citing her tremendous legacy as a presenter, field trip leader and Director for Owen Sound Field Naturalists; a Land Steward for Bruce Trail Conservancy; Rankin Resource Group Director; and her dedication to field work and documentation for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and Grassland Birds Studies, a Director for the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy; Past Chair, The Sustainability Project; and Chair, Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory – a true champion for Nature!

Beth Anne Currie with Andrea Gress. Beth Anne is also holding an award memento of the OSFN logo Hart’s Tongue Fern (made by potter/artist Kate McLaren)
Photo by Marsha Courtney

A second Community Conservation Award was then presented to Willy Waterton and Audrey Armstrong, in recognition of their numerous and significant contributions, including Willy’s career (and in retirement) in photojournalism with the aim to inspire commitment to protect our natural world, and Audrey’s work with the Monarch Tagging Network, connecting hundreds of children to the wonders of nature, as well as their current project to update the Orchids of Bruce and Grey with new photographs and documentation, providing a magnificent example of conservation and caring and the enjoyment of continuing to learn. 

President Pam Kinchen with Willy and Audrey
Photo by Marsha Courtney

Andrea Gress of Bird Studies Canada then rounded out the evening with a lively presentation entitled   “Our Piping Plovers: Where are they at, and how are they doing?” which included a comprehensive update on their status around the Great Lakes. 

The Osprey and one baby, but 2 were seen.
Photo by Marsha Courtney

In late June, the Young Naturalist Club wrapped up their season with “A fun day of adventure for the last hike of the year. It has been a great year organizing all of the hikes for the fantastic Young Nats families. See you in September!” and by Marsha Courtney “A big shout out to Jody Johnson Pettit for a fun packed Young Naturalist program. Today the group visited the Petrel Point Nature Reserve, the Grandy-Salter Tract trail, as well as the Oliphant Fen with a trek out to view the Osprey and her babies. Amanda Eriksen provided insight into Fens and bug eating plants and also showed us the Jewelweed amongst the Poison Ivy which, it turns out, is for relief from Poison Ivy. Thanks to both for a great hike and to Jody for the great season.”  

Scaly Ink Cap Coprinopsis variegata – Not to be eaten. Again our little eagle eyes found these in the bush.
Photo by Marsha Courtney

The Friends of Hibou have been busy trimming trails, and repairing boardwalks, in preparation for summertime visitors and for a Free Family Fun Day on August 7. In their Summer 2022 newsletter Krista McKee writes –  With summer here, we are searching for things to do, places to see and adventures to experience. Hibou Conservation Area is one of these interesting and fun filled areas to explore that is just a few minutes away from Owen Sound.

A  group of hardworking volunteers and two GSC staff met on June 28th to remove 80 old pieces of boardwalk and replace them with new, sturdy boards.
Photo by Don Sankey

Did you know that on Sunday August 7th the parking fee will be waived at Hibou for the “Free Family Fun Day”. This activity-filled day will allow us to stop, look, listen and learn what Hibou has to offer. Upon your arrival, you will be given an Explore Passport that you bring to each activity in the park. ? There are so many things to visit starting with trees, see the instruments they use to measure a tree’s width and height. ? How many marsh monsters live in our water – water spiders, mosquito larva, dragonflies and more – see how big they are under a microscope? These monsters are how we determine the health of our lakes, rivers and streams. ? Fossils that tell us what was here before us. See the interesting creatures that were caught in sand and slowly turned into rock,” and so much more. Be sure to put this on your calendar for August 7, and then visit  too.

Indigo Bunting July 8, by William Gray at Skinner’s Marsh

The U of Guelph Arboretum June newsletter outlines the many free and interesting nature learning workshops scheduled for July, that include animal rehabilitation of baby songbirds, opossums, squirrels and chipmunks, as well as tree identification and more. Some of these are offered Live, and also virtually on zoom and recorded for visiting later. A terrific opportunity to enlighten the nature enthusiasts you know! Visit

July 2 near Meaford
Red-headed Woodpecker 
Photo by Nigel Eves
July 9 near Meaford Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
Photo by Nigel Eves

To close,  Nature quotes from U of Guelph’s Portico Alumni magazine, by Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut, acclaimed nature photographer and environmental activist, whose view from orbit allowed her to get “a more holistic and compassionate view of Earth as a planet and what we need to maintain our existence as a life form.”  and ” I see the natural world in peril because of what we do….We need to take some responsibility in trying to lessen the impact that we have as a life form on these wonderful natural systems.”