NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JANUARY 2021

Nature Club News January 2021

by John Dickson

In spite of the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, many people are paying closer attention to Nature activities as they try to cope with the restrictions and safety guidelines. In addition, with few or no in-person indoor or outdoor group events, some are creating artwork with nature themes, or sharing photos of birds and animals, or their tracks, plus winter forests and fungi. There are also many online programmes for viewing from home, with some question and answer exchanges possible in many of them.

This is part of a four foot stretch of these on a Beech Tree trunk lying on the ground in Harrison Park, when I was skiing there on January 8 – Turkey Tail Bracket Fungus – photo by John Dickson


Locally, the Grey County Master Gardeners present “The Eco-Responsible Gardener”, a series of three Zoom seminars, to help you create and maintain an environmentally sustainable and beautiful garden. The first seminar on Native Plants for Grey and Bruce Counties is Saturday, January 30 at 1pm. Well known author, Lorraine Johnson, shares her extensive knowledge of native plants, and how to incorporate them into the home garden.Lorraine Johnson is the author of numerous books on environmental issues and gardening. Former president of the North American Native Plant Society, her areas of expertise include gardening with native plants, urban agriculture and biodiversity conservation.Her most recent book, co-authored with Sheila Colla, “A Flower Patch for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators”, is available as a free download at foecanada.org/bee-garden-guide.

Registration is required by January 23. Please email greycountymg@gmail.com with “GCMG Zoom Seminar 1” in the subject line. A registration email for this seminar will be emailed to you, with further instructions.


The Friends of Hibou launched their winter hike series in December. 

With the Point Trail as her focus, Annette Patrick led a group around the loop, pointing out different features referencing the ancient history of the landscape. It was a cold sunny day and the hike was enjoyed by the group.Friends of Hibou are limiting their numbers to nine plus the leader and follow Covid19 restrictions and guidelines. They suggest participants bring a mask in case distancing is difficult in some areas.

Supplied photo from December 31st hike at Hibou Conservation Area

On New Year’s Eve Day a small group of adults enjoyed a hike around the Interpretive Trail with features identified by both  Krista McKee and Bob Knapp. Krista’s granddaughter was a pleasant addition to the hike group.

Bob Knapp’s hike on January 12 attracted a small group, which is in keeping with the Covid restrictions. He led the group around the Interpretive Trail, making their way around some of the flooding. His hike included a walk along the link trial to the Tom Thomson Trial. Bob is always a wealth of information related to how Hibou became part of Grey Sauble Conservation land.On Monday Feb 1st Barry Lewin plans to lead a hike around the Interpretive Trail. Barry walks that trail more frequently than most. He will point out birds, the beaver lodge, trees and other interpretive features. He will review some of the history of Hibou and point out some of the information from the book written by Bob Knapp. If you are interested in these hikes, register early as the numbers may be further restricted from the nine people limits so far.

To register, go to https://friendsofhibou.com You must register for these scheduled hikes in advance. Let Friends of Hibou know if you would like to see more scheduled hikes later in February and in March email friendsofhibou@gmail.com


Congratulations to Artist and Naturalist George McLean, recently announced to receive the Order of Ontario Award. McLean also received an Owen Sound Cultural Award for Lifetime Achievement a number of years ago and designed the logo of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) depicting a Hart’s Tongue Fern, a species that is rare in North America, but very common in our region. I recommend reading Rob Gowan’s interview with George McLean in the Sun Times January 11.

This Thursday, January 14, at 7PM, OSFN presents  Exploring the Polar Regions: A Guide’s Perspective with Bella Waterton and Paul Scriver. They have been working in the polar regions for the last decade, most recently along the Hudson Bay coastline guiding at, and managing a National Geographic Polar Bear Lodge. They will speak about their experiences, the wildlife of that area, plus tourism there and in the broader polar regions.

This ZOOM webinar is open to the public and will be active from 6:45pm. If you are not on the OSFN mailing list, but would still like to access it, please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca

A bonus online presentation – Being a Bird in North America – is being offered at 7PM Thursday, January 28, with Robert Alvo, a conservation biologist, bird expert with special emphasis on loons, and the author of Being a Bird in North America. For more details on any of these, please visit www.osfn.ca


Crossbills have been sighted in many spots this year, and we have especially enjoyed their presence in nearby Spruce trees. Winter has provided many close-to-home treasures in this season of lockdown/isolation!
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) were held recently throughout the area, with Public Health guidelines being observed. Here are results selected from some of those CBCs.  

Owen Sound: Following the 50th annual Owen Sound CBC, compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom reported that some species observed were lower in number than usual with only one Brown Creeper and no Golden-crowned Kinglets. However, some of this year’s highlights included the count’s first Winter Wren, the return of the Barrow’s Goldeneye for the fourth year in a row, and several out of season birds, including Tundra Swan, Peregrine Falcon, Black Scoter, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle.             


Tobermory:  Michael Butler, compiler for the 48th annual Tobermory CBC, December 16th, reported a lower than average total birds counted, but two more species than average. A highlight was a count-first Golden Eagle seen flying near Driftwood Cove. Also notable was a new record high of 56 Common Mergansers (average is 9). Wild Turkeys have been observed every year since first detected in 2008. This year’s count of 49 nearly doubled the previous high. Two each of Great Blue Heron and White-crowned Sparrow tied the highs for these species logged in 1997 and 1977, respectively.  Southern Ontario, including our area, experienced an unprecedented flight of the much-loved Evening Grosbeak this fall but none remained to be seen on the count. Other so-called “winter finches” were noted, among them 12 Pine Grosbeaks and 50 Common Redpolls. Additional species that were missed on the day of the count, but seen within the count week period, included a Long-tailed Duck in Little Tub, a Common Loon in Big Tub, a Snowy Owl in Corisande Bay, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings at the Golf Course and an American Robin on Big Tub Road.


January 11   Bohemian Waxwings 
The Covid Crankies.
Photo by Ingrid Remkins
Northern Shrike January 9
Photo by Ingrid Remkins

Meaford compiler Lynne Richardson: The 50th annual Meaford CBC was held on Monday December 28th under somewhat unfavourable conditions, but the Count results were surprisingly great!

Our 24 participants found 59 species, continuing the trend of the past 10 years of totaling over 50 species in the Meaford circle and total individuals at 4324 birds were slightly over the past count average. One new species was added to the 50-year cumulative total for this count – Hoary Redpoll – 2 of them.  This addition brings the all-time cumulative total to 123 species.No exceptional all-time highs or lows were recorded this year (remember that lousy weather…) but diversity was good due partially to the lingering winter finches from this falls’ “superflight” of those beautiful boreal birds!  Bohemian Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, the new Hoary Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbill all put in special and rare appearances. Lingering migrants included several Northern Flickers, a White-throated Sparrow, and the Count Week Pintail, Bluebirds and a Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker.


? Dashing thru the snow…..?
Red Squirrel
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021
Northern Cardinal
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021

Kincardine CBC, from compiler James Turland: Held on December 19,this is only the third time in its thirty year history that more than 60 species were found, due in part to the Finch irruption and lingering summer species. A Savannah Sparrow found at a feeder is new to the count. 


Saugeen Shores January 4th: Compiler Kiah Jasper reported that “the overall count was slightly down on total numbers of individual birds, but we  recorded a new high number of species.. 67! Highlights were Tufted Titmouse, Bohemian Waxwing and Eastern Meadowlarks. Notable misses included Snowy Owl and Golden Eagle.”


January 10 Flesherton
Evening Grosbeaks , Mrs. and Mr.
Photo by David Turner
Winter Finches come in different sizes,
Female Evening Grosbeak and Male Common Redpoll. Flesherton
Photo by David Turner

Finally, I learned just this week of the passing of Gus Yaki last August. Born in Saskatchewan, he developed a keen interest in nature through curious observation, during his daily three mile walks to and from school. Later, when he was based in Ontario he became active with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON), the Bruce Trail,  and even started up the Niagara Falls Nature Club. You can read about that beginning at http://niagarafallsnatureclub.org/about/club-history  

Gus Yaki 1932-2020
Birding in Winter – supplied photo

I met Gus Yaki in the spring of 1972, through Bob Comber, who had invited him to advise on the design of a Nature trail near Williams Lake. I remember his advice about the value of leaving some dead tree trunks standing in the woods to support the wildlife there, as a source of food and habitat, etc. 

I have thought of Gus from time to time over the years. He was active in our area here too.  Betty Adair recalls that he was occasionally at the local Conservation Authority, and Stew Hilts remembers meeting him at Dorcas Bay. One day I was looking in the archives at Grey Roots, at some nature surveys of properties near the Long Swamp (just north-west of Owen Sound), and saw Gus Yaki’s name on them too. Gus Yaki was on the board of the FON when when the seed for Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) was planted, and he was instrumental in its development. Yaki eventually moved to Calgary where he soon became a catalyst for more nature activities there.


John Lounds, former CEO of both Ontario Nature and then NCC, as well as being a native of Meaford, shared this: “Gus had worked to help set up Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) many years ago in the 1960s – My interactions with Gus at the FON were more around the trips programs that he had developed and led over the years, endearing him to many and encouraging budding naturalists to explore our world and follow their passion.  He was already a legend when I arrived at the FON in the early 1990s.  

When I moved to the NCC in 1997, I was able to meet up with Gus on several occasions through my travel to Alberta – the man never stopped in his delight and encouragement of young people, and his efforts on behalf of nature.  His knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious!.  He kept leading outings until his body wouldn’t let him anymore.  A fine man and a great mentor.”A few years ago Gus’s friend Robert Bateman introduced him at an event by calling him “The most accomplished naturalist in North America.” 

In 2017, at the age of 84, Gus organized and led a hike across southern Alberta to mark Canada 150 and support the study of birds and habitat conservation.   In 2019, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by the Governor General of Canada, and was recognized as one of Calgary’s “Top 7 over 70.” 

Here is a link where you will find a comprehensive article about Gus Yaki, along with many photos of him, plus more links to interviews and videos. 

To close, a Nature quote from Gus Yaki himself –   “Unless people learn to love and appreciate the natural world around them, they are not going to stand up to protect it.”

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