Nature Club News For December 2021

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) Audrey Armstrong, whose great passion is monarch butterflies, will present Monarchs: Concerns & Conservation, in hybrid form (live, in person plus via Zoom) at the Bayshore Community Centre.This illustrated talk, at 7PM Thursday, December 9, with photography by Willy Waterton, will include: an update on the status of the population; conservation strategies and recent scientific research concerning monarch butterflies; plus, descriptions of the monarch’s lifecycle here in Bruce Grey, in California and at overwintering sites in Mexico. Learn how you can help with conservation efforts and habitat creation in your own back yard! This event is open to the public, and those attending at the Bayshore are reminded to be fully vaxxed with proof, plus screening and wear masks.  Audrey says “I am bringing seeds of Swamp Milkweed, (asclepias incarnata) to give away at the in person meeting.” In addition, Audrey will have OSFN’s popular books available  as suitable gifts, even for yourself, and for the naturalists you know. 

The club also plans, once more, to provide the programme virtually on Zoom. Those who have not received a zoom link via email, (non-members), but are interested in participating in the Zoom version may request a zoom link in advance via email to, with Monarch in the subject line.  For more details about OSFN’s events, publications, Young Naturalist Club, plus club membership and support opportunities, please visit

Bob Gray tells me that the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team (GBCAT) is inviting people to consider joining Four Books to Heal the World, a virtual book club session whose main purpose is, through discussion, to gently guide the readers towards hope, as opposed to despair, regarding climate change. For this opening session they have selected 4 books for the messages they carry, and solutions for issues we are facing today. “Come and spend some of your winter, reading and thinking together. Register individually to join a group of 6 to 8 others (or register with friends). Time is from 7 to 8:30 PM on Zoom.”   

The books and their dates are: Dec.14th – Braiding Sweetgrass: Robin Wall Kimmerer;  Jan.11th – Sand Talk: Tyson Yunkaporta;  Feb. 8th – To Speak for the Trees: Diana Beresford-Kroeger;  Mar. 8th – Finding the Mother Tree: Suzanne Simard. For those who have limited time to read, links to summaries/study guides and videos will be provided so that everyone can join in the conversations. Registration is free. Click here to register in advance to join the Book Club. For registration information and to learn more about the work and events of the team contact: and/or visit their Facebook page.

Coincidentally, I have just started reading Braiding Sweetgrass, having enjoyed the author’s earlier work, Gathering Moss.

The NeighbourWoods North Team has had a tremendously busy and successful year in spite of the pandemic. Many trees were planted and mulched by volunteers throughout 2021. The Welcoming Gardens projects were advanced even more, with lansdcaping, and fall planting too. Lloyd Lewis has shared these 2021 accomplishments on various aspectsof their work:
The Forest of Hope and Healing: Maintenance of the 4000 tree forest through wrapping, mulching and watering; planting of an additional 200 tree saplings and 10 large trees; Creation of a 200 metre mulched trail through the forest. 
The Healing Pathway: Creation of meadow garden south of the helipad with a variety of native pollinators; Planting a further 15 trees along the pathway.
The Welcoming Garden (WG): The completion of the WG with final plantings and the donation of two giant boulders courtesy of Hutton Landscaping. Also, the addition of permanent signage acknowledging the sponsors and the purpose of the garden. A celebration of the garden took place in July. 
Saving a Woodlot: Hearing the news of the hospital plans to destroy a mature woodlot in the South East corner and build a new staff parking lot, we lobbied to redirect the decision. Fortunately, they re-evaluated and the woodlot was saved. 
Replanting Trees: The new staff parking lot location meant we had to move, by hand, 30 small trees and we hired a company to dig and replant 25 trees of about 8-10 ft in height. 
Tree City of the World: 8 Ontario Cities are given the status of “Tree City of the World.”  We presented the idea  to the City Council and they approved the idea to apply for this status in 2022. 
Landscaping the Grey County Administration Building: Work has begun to engage the County in the idea of landscaping the County office building into a more natural, sustainable and welcoming environment. The Future: Complete the work on the hospital meadow garden; Install artwork in the welcoming garden; Excavate the Healing Pathway around the helipad in a gravel wheelchair accessible route; Design the pathway south of the new hospital staff parking lot; Continue our work with the County property. To learn about and/or support these important endeavours please visit

In the October newsletter of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO), an article about distinguishing Trumpeter Swans from Tundra Swans was especially interesting to me, as I had seen Tundra Swans in greater detail this year than usual, at Lake Eugenia. However, even more intriguing to me was that this clear and comprehensive essay was authored by our own Kiah Jasper, Just five years ago a message in my inbox went like this “Greetings, My name is Kiah Jasper. I am a 14 year old wildlife photographer from the Bruce. I have enjoyed birding since I was young and am particularly interested in raptors. So far I have seen and photographed eagles and a number of hawks. For over a year now I have been looking for owls… I have looked through a lot of wooded trails for whitewash and pellets but have found nothing. Is there any advice you would have for finding owls? Any suggestions are appreciated!  Thanks, Kiah” 

Luckily, we were able to connect Kiah to knowledgeable and helpful mentors who took him under their wings. With his innate talents and work ethic, since that time Kiah’s name has become very well known in birding circles. He soon started a blog, where his writing skills, his superb photos plus highlights from his many sightings were on display. He has played leading roles for the Bruce Birding Club, OSFN, the Breeding Bird Atlas, Christmas Bird Counts, and as I discovered, he is now on the Board of Directors of OFO.  Congratulations to Kiah, on this new position and also for, on November 14, recording the first ever sighting in Grey County, of a Black-legged Kittiwake during the OSFN’s Birding Around the Bay, also led this year by Kiah.

Nigel Eves, Kiah Jasper and David Turner enjoying the birding day, November 14th (Photo by John Dickson)
At the Bayshore, November 14th (Photo by John Dickson)

The Friends of Hibou have produced their latest newsletter, which can be found at  Here is an excerpt:  What New Things Are in the Works? The Friends of Hibou feel we have done well through the Pandemic. When we could be dragged down by Covid and Climate Change, we have the Hibou Conservation Area to help fill our souls and replenish our spirit. Getting outdoors and walking in nature has been nourishing. Many comment on how fortunate we are to live in this region and have such great areas to visit. We have been challenged by weather and restrictions when offering scheduled hikes, so we are going to try something different. Many of you venture out on foot, snowshoes or skis on your own, and that is great. Others prefer to have a leader. If you have a group of 4 or5 people and want a led hike, let us know and one of us will find a mutually agreeable date and time to lead the hike for you. Contact us at

Dark-eyed Junco (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)
Black-capped Chickadee (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)
House Finch (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)

Congratulations to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) with local highlights in recent months including the Grand Openings of  Trout Hollow Nature Reserve near Meaford (John Muir’s Canadian outpost) and the Orlowski Nature Reserve on the Rankin River. Led by Bob Barnett “In December, EBC begins to celebrate its 25th anniversary! 2021 has been the most invigorating time in my 34 year conservation experience. By the end of this year we hope to complete 17 projects, protecting 3,573 acres (14.5 of land). By comparison, it took EBC from 1997 to 2004 to conserve our first 3,500 acres!” To learn more visit

Marsha Courtney shared this report about the Young Naturalists who were learning about Nature and History too, November 28th, “on an exciting hike through the Silent Valley Nature Reserve. We saw the Wilsons’ well that is still intact after 150 years, we explored for the fossils that Ron Savage lists in his Silent Valley book and we saw the Cessna remains from its crash there in 1970. There has also been a vigilant beaver wreaking havoc, damming the pond and it has overflowed the boardwalk that is used to get in.” Registration is open for the Young Naturalists Club! Do you know a child who loves the outdoors and exploring nature? The Young Naturalists Club is looking for members and is geared towards children aged 7 to 12 years old, however, younger and older children are welcome! The club typically meets once a month from September to June. Registration is $20/person or $40/family. Upcoming schedule: January 23 – Woodford snowshoe and animal tracking; February 27 – Snowshoe hike at Greystone Trails; March 27 – Hike at Trout Hollow; April 24 – Spring birding and hike at Keppel Croft Gardens in Big Bay; May 29 – Huron Fringe Birding Festival at MacGregor Point Provincial Park; June 26 – Flora and fauna at Petrel Point Nature Reserve and Oliphant Fen. For more information about the Young Naturalists or to register, contact Jody Johnson at 519-370-2000, or visit

Young Naturalists outing at Silent Valley Nature Reserve November 28, photo by
Jody Johnson Pettit
Honeycomb Fossil at Silent Valley Nature Reserve November 28 photo by Marsha Courtney
Young Naturalists at Silent Valley November 28 – photo by Marsha Courtney

The Annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) will be happening throughout our region from Dec 14, 2021 to Jan 5, 2022

Keen birders are invited to participate in CBC’s across Grey-Bruce. Counts are held on different dates throughout the CBC period in Owen Sound, Meaford, Saugeen Shores, Kincardine, Hanover, Wiarton, Pike Bay, Cape Chin & Bruce National Park. Visit this link and zoom in to find a CBC near you.

November 19 near Kimberley (Photo by Ingrid Remkins)
November 29 Near Kimberley (Photo by Ingrid Remkins)

Librarian, author and historian Andrew Armitage, who passed away November 18, was also a keen naturalist. In the fall of 1988, Armitage hosted and chaired at the Library, a meeting from which emerged the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, with his wife Lorraine Brown as the first President. The club held its inaugural Indoor Meeting in January of 1989, featuring guest presenter Doug Larson, a U of Guelph professor whose research had revealed the great age of many of the Cedar trees on the sides of the Niagara Escarpment. He returned as a guest speaker in the 20th season, and again in the 30th, to Celebrate Earth Week. Here Larson tells us of his remembrances of Andrew Armitage and Lorraine Brown (1949 -2012).  

“Hey John, 

Nice to hear from you but sad to hear of Andrew’s passing.  As I get older ,,, I realize that most things that I like are rooted in the past.  The deep dark past.  Friends, colleagues, pieces of scientific literature, music – all the stuff that is important to me – is in the past.  When I was invited by Andrew and Lorraine to give that first talk, all of our work on the escarpment was just starting.  And it was thrilling to have such weird work so immediately embraced by people.   I can still hear their voices arguing that what we were doing was going to change the way people looked at the escarpment and that we should be proud of that.  I took it as a gross exaggeration offered by very sweet people.  But they were smart, they were kind, and they were right! I was 39 when all that happened and now I’m almost 73.  Yikes!  But at least once a month I have people contact me about the ancient forest and its significance.  So Andrew and Lorraine both knew something deep within themselves that a younger version of me could not see.  Which brings me to Tom Thomson and the conversations that Andrew, Lorraine and I had about him while I was staying at their house in 1989.

They argued that all good art, and they supposed all good science, is not at all looking back – but is looking forward and imagining a world that could exist. 

So I guess their message to me from 1989 to now is – do not look to the past for excitement and hope.  Look forward and build on the past.”