Nature Club News for April 2023

by John Dickson

Naturalists throughout Bruce and Grey counties will be saddened to learn of the recent passing of Jean Maher, in her 90th year. She and her late husband Nels Maher were very active participants and award winners in the Saugeen Field Naturalists (now Saugeen Nature), the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) and on its Plant Committee which produced several highly acclaimed Nature Books.  Only a month ago Jean joined the other remaining Plant Committee members for recognition and photos, at the launch of the Vascular Plant List Bruce & Grey 5th Edition.

It has been such a rewarding experience for me to have known Jean Maher even a little, through our mutual involvement in the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. I will certainly miss her fun and engaging questions and stories at OSFN club meetings, and her enthusiasm for Nature too.

Jean was such a friendly and generous lady, often inviting the club members for field trips at her Family Farm/Nature Reserve, where the enjoyment of Nature, plus her hospitality and good food, always went hand in hand. My sincere condolences to all her family and friends.

Others have shared their memories of Jean Maher too:

Nels Maher may have been the more recognized local nature expert but Jean was just as knowledgeable as indicated by their business card that they handed out.  “Outdoor Nature Guides – “Individual or group Adventures in Grey & BruceNels and Jean Maher.” After Nels’ death in 2005, Jean hand wrote on the business card above her name “Consultant” and “I can still tell people where to go ” typical Jean – tongue in cheek.  

Jean and Nels were arguably the most knowledgeable outdoor guides in Bruce and Grey, both having grown up in the area, and shared their combined love and knowledge of Bruce and Grey’s special nature spots. Jean was especially proud of her family’s farm on the Saugeen River near Durham. The whole family worked together to foster this as a nature reserve. They loved to share it with OSFN members and the public. 

Other than the huge respect for their knowledge of nature in Bruce & Grey, which the couple so willingly shared with us, we will always fondly remember their offerings of homemade elderberry wine.  After any outing you were offered a sample from the trunk of their car or after a tour of the Maher’s lush and shady Owen Sound backyard fern garden you were handed a glass of rich and robust elderberry wine. We’re happy to think that Jean and Nels are  now reunited, the two are out exploring a favorite haunt in Bruce and Grey.  

 Audrey Armstrong & Willy Waterton

Please visit  for obituary, visitation and funeral details for Jean Maher.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are offering two speaker events this month. First, a regular Indoor Meeting with guest Don Scallen about one of his favourite topics – Salamanders. For decades, Don Scallen has visited springtime ponds to witness the wondrous spectacle of Spotted Salamander and Jefferson Salamander breeding. He will share pictures and videos of this special time of year. Also a prolific writer of Nature articles for In the Hills, and other publications, he will have with him, for sale, copies of his popular book Nature Where We Live. 

This presentation will begin at 7pm (open by 6:20pm) Thursday April 13, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre, and will also be available on Zoom. The event is open to the public and everyone is welcome. Admission is free or by donation, and if you wish to receive a zoom link, please email in advance to with Don in the subject line.

Don Scallen (supplied photo)
Spotted Salamander (Photo by Don Scallen)

Secondly, a special 8th Annual Celebrate Earth Day event with keynote speaker Lenore Keeshig, will be held, once again aboard the Chi Cheemaun at its berth in the Owen Sound harbour, at 2pm Sunday April 23. 

 An award winning storyteller, poet, author, and naturalist, Lenore Keeshig will present “Good of the Earth.” and shared this description – “In celebration of Earth Day, I want to share through stories, my understanding of Anishinaabe relationship to the land beginning with the name we call ourselves and where we come from. These stories will highlight various facets of Anishinaabe connection to the land and water, from a barren landscape to the food we eat and where we stand today in this era of Truth and Reconciliation.”  

Due to limited seating aboard the Chi Cheemaun (an Ojibway name meaning Big Canoe, and suggested by Donald Keeshig, Lenore’s father), advance purchase of tickets, only $5. each, are recommended from the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library, Suntrail Source for Adventure in Hepworth, and at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market from Sheila Gunby, as well as at the OSFN’s Salamander talk, April 13.  Thank you to event sponsor Caframo, and host Owen Sound Transportation Company. Please visit    for more details and information. 

The Bruce Birding Club had a special adventure in the Algonquin Park area this past week, led by Kiah Jasper and Alessandra Kite. After the warming temperatures melted the ice build-up, a successful owl outing that evening garnered quick responses from a Northern Saw-whet Owl, and two separate  Barred Owls. Other highlights the next day were Boreal Chickadees, (a Lifer for some) one Canada Jay and three Pine Martens, followed by some successful birding along the way back home again.

Thank you to Jody Johnson Pettit for this outline: 

The Young Naturalists Club got creative and hands-on at The Georgian Bay School of the Arts for their March meeting. Under the guide of Beth and Alan, the kids created trash owls and weaved scenes of water and wheat fields. The two nature-inspired projects were crafted using yarn, recycled materials, fabric and wood. The children enjoyed the experience, and learning how to weave yarn, and safely use hammers and screwdrivers.

April 4 – Den Mother
Yesterday, while on a trip out of town, I spotted this fox resting on a mound of what looks like fresh dug soil. I’m sure it is a den, and hopefully there will be babies. (Photo by Pat Gillies)

The second annual Earth Day Grey Bruce has an exciting afternoon lined up:  Bring your Kids out to the Earth Day Celebration on April 22 from 2 to 5pm at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market. There will be live music and theatre, face painting, henna, and sidewalk chalk. And don’t forget the parade at 4pm! Feel free to dress up as your favourite animal or Earth loving character.

The event itinerary includes activities at both the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library, and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Outdoors at 12:45 to 1:30pm will feature a Water Ceremony in Queen’s Park, 1st Ave. W (across the river from the Farmers’ Market) with Shirley John, Strong White Buffalo Woman from Saugeen First Nation and the M’Wikwedong Hand Drumming Group.

2:00-5:00 – Climate Fair and Children’s Area opens at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market, 88 8th Street East.
and featuring: Music with Saugeen Sound Conspiracy, then Poet Laureate Richard-Yves Sitoski, followed by Wildflower Dance Arts, O’Sing, G.R.I.N.D., Sheatre ‘Act for Climate’ group and Durham Sauntering Band, all leading to a 4:00 ‘Procession of the Species’ Parade that everyone can join, featuring puppets, masks, and costumes reflecting the theme of endangered wildlife and a Sheatre Act for Climate theatrical  performance on the parade route. 

April 5 Waxwing (Photo by Pat Gillies)

To close, nature quotes from two well-known and popular entertainment personalities, who both were talented and skilled as musicians, painters, and writers, and both were raised on large islands – Newfoundland and Vancouver Island.

From Gordon Pinsent’s Next, high in the volcanic mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental range, while portraying Ontario’s Fred Urquhart in Flight of the Butterflies: “As we approached I could see a group of tall trees, whose trunks and branches were dripping with …big yellow cascades … and as we got closer we could suddenly hear the strange, unique sound of millions of fluttering wings and could see thousands of monarch butterflies…We came back down, returning to reality. Looking up at the Sierra Madre made us wonder if we had really been up there, or if we’d dreamed the whole thing. I had had the strange sense, while being with the monarchs, that we were only as much a part of their world as they had allowed us to be; the monarchs had been given to Mexico as a gift, and now, would be seen by the world.”

From Ian Tyson’s The Long Trail – My Life in the West: “The ravens have returned..[for]..their sixth or seventh spring here at the ranch, and the male, jet black, is almost the size of an eagle. When I went to move bales in the hayshed yesterday, I heard the faint mutterings of their babies in the nest, high in the rafters… I like having ’em around, even though they can be noisy as hell.” and “The Rockies … are so aesthetically over the top – changing every morning, orchestrated by the light – I never get tired of ’em.” and finally “Only the wind is forever.”

March 31 – Although this is not the first time I have seen one here this year, (first sighting: March 25), the Grackles are definitely back! And when the light hits them just so, they are a striking bird..(North of Kimberley, Photo by Ingrid Remkins)