Nature Club News for January 2024

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) will kick off their  35th year of operation with two January speaker events, beginning with a TREE TALK by Susan McGowan, presenting  “An update on the use of parasitic wasps in control of Emerald Ash Borer in Ontario.”

The Emerald Ash Borer, which was discovered in Canada in 2002, is a devastating invasive beetle which has killed tens of millions of ash trees across Canada and the United States. Susan McGowan will give an overview of the introduced biological control programme carried out in an effort to control Emerald Ash Borer in Ontario, including our own local site at the West Rocks Management Area, in Owen Sound on Grey Sauble Conservation Authority property. She will also describe the challenge of handling fragile live insects in the summer season as a field technician.  

Susan McGowan has worked in forestry and forest health since 2000, and retired in 2020 from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Provincial Forest Health Specialist. She volunteered to continue with the release programme in 2021 in Owen Sound.

Susan McGowan –  Provincial Forest Health Specialist (Retired)

 This presentation will take place at OSFN’s Indoor Meeting, 7pm Thursday January 11, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. Attendees are encouraged to arrive closer to 6:30pm for a relaxed social time with fellow naturalists, and an opportunity to peruse the OSFN publications on hand.

Everyone is welcome and admission is free or by donation.
It is planned to also offer the event on Zoom, so anyone interested in receiving a Zoom link is asked to email, in advance, to   with  Ash Trees in the subject line.

Pileated Woodpecker foraging for Emerald Ash Borer at Hibou January 5
Photo by Rob Wray

The second OSFN speaker event will be a TICK TALK, Lyme Disease 101, presented on Zoom only,  at 7pm January 25, by Dr. Anne Uings. 
This important topic will address these statements: 1) Absolute numbers of ticks are increasing, 2) The percentage of ticks carrying Lyme is increasing.3) Ticks are being dispersed to new areas by mammals and migratory birds. 4) The percentage of ticks carrying serious Co-infections is increasing.  

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted by ticks.  If it is not detected and treated early, Lyme Disease can cause long term illness and profound debilitation. 

Anne Uings is a retired medical doctor who has been living with Lyme Disease and other tick-borne infections for 30 years. She has spent the last 20 years learning about Lyme, was a volunteer with the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation for several years, is one of the founders of the Bay of Quinte Lyme Disease Support Group, and is  a member of ILADS, which is an organization for Medical professionals involved in researching, treating and teaching about Lyme and related diseases. This presentation will be available only via Zoom, for which a link will be emailed to OSFN members, and to anyone else interested in receiving a Zoom link, who emails, in advance, to with Ticks in the subject line.

 Here are selected excerpts and results from recent local Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) with notable highlights for me being the Lapland Longspurs at Pike Bay, plus Winter Wrens in that area, both of which I was lucky to spot on my own at Hibou back in November.

Tobermory CBC December 14, Compiler Tyler Miller:
Total number of birds 1777, including  41 species with highest counts of Black-capped Chickadees 360,  Snow Buntings 292, American Goldfinches 264, and of note, one Peregrine Falcon which is a first for the counts here.

  Bruce Peninsula National Park Christmas Bird Count volunteers spotted a couple of uncommon winter species for this area, including: one Black Scoter, one Peregrine Falcon (North American), and one American Robin.

Low counts of some species were also observed for Bufflehead (2) and Mourning Dove (0). Although Mourning Doves were spotted during the week of the Christmas Bird Count, none were spotted on the actual day of the count which is an indication that numbers in the count area is low. 

Tracking trends and outliers is one of the primary goals of Christmas Bird Counts.

 The highest number of Bufflehead ever counted was 121 in 2003, and it has been observed in 40 counts. This year was the 4th time a Black Scoter has been seen in this count, with the highest count of 24 also being in 2003.

Thirty-seven people participated in the count this year. It was an unusually warm day and it was very nice to be out in the park. While the north and east side of the park was sheltered and calm, it was windy on the west. 

Kincardine CBC – James Turland, Compiler: 

This year Kincardine conducted its 39th count on December 14.  Twenty some participants equipped with binoculars and smiles scoured the count circle for our feathered kin. 

A highlight for me were the many Red-throated Loons seen in feeding frenzies mixed with several other diving species such as mergansers. Red-throated Loons are smaller than the Common Loon and hold their beaks on a slight upward angle. They nest in the high Arctic and migrate through the Great Lakes on their way to and from the eastern seaboard. We seldom get to see them in their namesake breeding plumage, most birds are in a drabber winter plumage.

Five species of gulls were seen count day including the Bonaparte’s. This small gull is unique in that it nests in trees on the taiga; most gulls nest on the ground. It has a buoyant and graceful flight and eats smaller organisms than its bigger cousins. It has a black head in breeding plumage but seen here in December it only has a dark dot behind the eye. One red morph Eastern Screech Owl was found. 

The 62 species found on this year’s count is the second highest ever. The 22 Cackling Geese reported was a new high. Cackling Goose is identical to the Canada Goose in plumage but is only about half the size. Also new to the count this year was a duck called the American Wigeon. 

The American Wigeon is also called “baldpate” because the white stripe on its head resembles a bald man. Wigeons are common here in season but have almost all left the county by December. I am always amazed at what birds the participants can find even in December. Congratulations and thanks to all who helped out with this year’s count.  If you are interested in seeing any of these birds or joining the Bruce Birding Club, contact James Turland.

Lone Female Red Breasted Merganser at the Bayshore. Fely Clarke, Jan. 5th.

The thirteenth annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 16, 2023. Fourteen participants tallied a total of 39 species (average 39.5).

The 1,245 individual birds counted was slightly above the overall average of 1,027.

One of very few Snowy Owls reported in southern Ontario so far this fall was a new species for count day (there have been a few count-week records), raising the overall count total to 81 species.

Otherwise there were no big surprises, but a Common Grackle (4 rd count) was a nice find. High counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (54, previously 42), Red-breasted Merganser (7, previously 5), Rock Pigeon (18, previously 4), Barred Owl (4, tied previous), and Red-bellied Woodpecker (4, previously 3). Aside from a near absence of winter finches (just 2 Pine Siskins and average numbers of American Goldfinches), no expected species were missed, and there were no particularly low counts. Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing (Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation) community, including the many folks who welcomed birders to watch their feeders, for hosting this always special birding event. And big thanks to the 14 enthusiastic volunteers!
Jarmo and Miptoon, Compilers

Who doesn’t love an Owl, Barred Owl. (Remember not to post locations for owls.)
David Turner· December 27, 2023 ·

The 50 th Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 17, 2023 (it was actually the 53 th anniversary of the count, but three years were missed).

Temperatures hovered between -5.7°C and 7.7°C under overcast skies all day, with light rain and drizzle in the morning and steadier light rain in the afternoon, and with moderate (20-35 kph) southerly to southeasterly winds, which were most noticeable along Lake Huron. Waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron were open, as were inland water bodies and watercourses.

There was no snow on the ground.

Despite the near absence of birds – and feed – at many traditionally productive feeders, twenty-five participants and one feeder watcher tallied 63 (+ 2 count week) species, tying the all-time record set in 1997. The species total was also well above the long-term and 10-year averages of 49.4 and 54.1 species, respectively.

One new species, Greater White-fronted Goose (7 individuals) was added, raising the overall species count for the Wiarton CBC to 132 (plus 6 count-week species).

The total of 8,572 individual birds smashed the previous high of 6,283, also set in 1997. This year’s total more than doubled long-term (3,431) and 10-year (4,185) averages.

Leading the pack to set this new record were record high counts of everyone’s favourites:

Canada Goose (1,988), European Starling (1,061) and American Crow (561). Tundra Swan (25), Snow Goose (3rd -ever count, 6 individuals), Mallard (365), White-winged Scoter (27), Wild Turkey (327), Northern Harrier (2), Cedar Waxwing (67) and Snow Bunting (1,343) also set new highs.

Other good finds included Green-winged Teal (3nd count, 3 individuals), a Great Blue Heron (5th count), a Cooper’s Hawk (15th count), an American Goshawk (15th count), a Belted Kingfisher (15th count), a Northern Flicker (2nd count), a Merlin (4th count), Lapland Longspur (3 rd count, 2 individuals) and a count-week Red-winged Blackbird (6th count).

No particularly low counts were noted aside from Mourning Dove (30, the lowest total since 1976).

Winter finches were limited to Pine Siskin (135, second highest total), American Goldfinch (565), and a single count week Common Redpoll.

What a wonderful, wet, dreary day of birding. Thanks to all the volunteers for your efforts!

Jarmo Jalava, Compiler

Meaford CBC December 28th: 

The 53rd annual Meaford Count on Thursday December 28th with the 5th highest total – 57 species – 

Three new species were added to the 53-year cumulative total for this count – Snow Goose, Trumpeter Swan and Gray Catbird.   These additions bring the all-time cumulative total to 129 species.

Three new Highs were recorded – 4 Cackling Goose, an amazing 57 Horned Grebe out from Meaford, and 389 American Crows. 

Eastern Bluebirds made an appearance again this year, continuing their trend of the last few years of overwintering in this area (6 of the past 7 years).

Total individuals at 6455 birds breaks the 1975 record of 6347 birds. Over 1000 each of Canda Geese and Snow Buntings contributed to this high.

It was a good count.  Thanks again to everyone, and happy, birdy, New Year to all!

Lynne Richardson,


Welcome to 2024.

The New Year at least brought a bit of colder weather to the Bruce after quite an interesting couple days of CBC weather. The two central Bruce Peninsula CBCs were enjoyed by all who attended and have once again provided a valuable snapshot of birdlife on the peninsula at a time of year when the Bruce received little coverage. I had a lot of great feedback and I trust you enjoyed your time outdoors as much as I did. I hope to see you out birding in 2024.

Given the mild December we’ve had, it probably didn’t come as a shock to many participants that waterbirds were around in both greater diversity and numbers. Grebes continued to show well and while Georgian Bay was mostly absent of diving ducks, on the Huron side the largest number were recorded on the Pike Bay count to date. Raptors were clearly scarce, and the Snowy Owls we’ve come to expect were absent for the second CBC in a row. Finches were likewise notably absent in diversity, with only American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins showing some numbers.

The Pike Bay count was held on Friday, December 29th. 

New species: Cackling Goose (cw), Tundra Swan (21), Redhead (1), Lesser Scaup (1), Merlin (1)

Unusual species: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher

High counts: Mute Swan (5), Greater Scaup (27), Bufflehead (37), Common Goldeneye (228), Hooded Merganser (53), Common Merganser (68), Red-breasted Merganser (31), Wild Turkey (249), Red-necked Grebe (11, Red-bellied Woodpecker (4), Black-capped Chickadee (547), Bohemian Waxwing (310), Dark-eyed Junco (12), Northern Cardinal (30), Pine Siskin (113)

Low counts: Nothing notable

Notable misses: Lapland Longspur, House Finch, Purple Finch, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, accipiters, Common Loon

Count Week species: Cackling Goose, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Finch, Lapland Longspur… adult Golden Eagle missed by 1 day!

The Cape Chin count was held on Saturday, December 30th. Conditions were similar to the Pike Bay CBC but with no rain and some brief periods of extremely light snow fall. The sun even showed itself a few times. Barred Owl has still never been recorded on this count, which is rather astounding because it is certainly resident, as owl surveys during the current Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas have shown. 

New species: Canada Goose (2), Mallard (2)

Unusual species: Cooper’s Hawk and Winter Wren (both removed from ‘cw’ only), Great Horned Owl (3rd time), White-winged Scoter (1), Hooded Merganser (9), Common Merganser (8)

High counts: Horned Grebe (35), Bald Eagle (14), Eastern Screech-Owl (4), Hairy Woodpecker (31), Snow Bunting (376), American Tree Sparrow (2), Pine Siskin (18)

Low counts: Ruffed Grouse (3), Herring Gull (7)

Notable misses: Brown Creeper, Bohemian Waxwing, Purple Finch and Evening Grosbeak—the last two species scarce to absent on the peninsula this winter

Thank you again for your continued participation in this very worthy endeavour. The counts could not be possible without your individual efforts on count day and every last one of you contribute more than you know.

Happy New Year,

Andrew Keaveney

Pike Bay and Cape Chin CBC Compiler

American Robin, Owen Sound
 photo by William Gray January 4

The 20th Saugeen Shores CBC was held on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024. The  ~24-kilometre count circle is centered several kilometres southeast of Port Elgin and includes Southampton, Port Elgin and Pasiley townsites, as well as adjacent waterfront and MacGregor Point Provincial Park. 34 participants split up into 6 sections surveyed the count circle, which is higher than the last several years. Several feeder watchers also contributed, adding a few species missed by the rest of the count. 

Overall we observed a total of 13,377 individuals of 66 species. This is the 2nd highest count of individual birds in the counts history (highest was 18,313 in 2021) and the highest ever species tally with 66 species observed (previous high was 64 in 2016). This is considerably higher than the long term average of 7,750 individuals and 53 species.  

Highlights included 3 new species for the all time CBC list; Greater White-fronted Goose (2 birds), Red-throated Loon (5 birds) and Winter Wren (1 bird). Several other notable species and high counts were recorded, including; Tundra Swan (2nd count record), White-winged Scoter (3rd count record), Peregrine Falcon (2nd count record), Canada Goose (new highvount of 6,298, previous 5,058), Cackling Goose (new highcount of 7, previous 4), Long-tailed Duck (new highcount of 32, previous 11), Northern Harrier (Tied the past highcount of 2), Bald Eagle (new highcount of 57, previous 36), Iceland Gull (Tied the past highcount of 2), Golden-crowned Kinglet (new highcount of 29, previous 26), American Tree Sparrow (new highcount of 84, previous 76).  

This years count was an interesting one … waterfowl and gull numbers were both very high, with several species setting record high counts. Overall numbers of raptors and passerines were average to low though, and Birdfeeders in every section were very quiet, resulting in low numbers of woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches. This has also been a poor winter for several northern birds like Snowy Owl and winter finches, which was reflected in our totals (missed all winter finches besides Common Redpoll and Pine Grosbeak, and missed Snowy Owl for only the 6th time in the counts history). Another interesting trend to note is the decline of the European Starling and House Sparrow, both of which seem to be showing a steady downward trend over the last 15 years. 

 We tried to fully eBird this Christmas Bird Count, with trip reports made for every section as well as the overall count. While this was new to many participants, it went over quiet well and should make things run smoother in subsequent years. This is a great way to view and share data and compare years, and I encourage other CBCs to follow suit (also more data for eBird!). To view the trip report, see the link below.  

eBird trip report for 2024 Saugeen Shores CBC –  

A big thanks to everyone who participated! 

Good birding,  

Kiah Jasper, Compiler

To close, an apropos Nature quote from my own copy of Where the Falcon Flies, by Adam Shoalts, OSFN’s speaker to a full house audience just last month. While camping along the shore of the St. Lawrence River – “I was heartened to see that the woods had many ash trees that were still healthy. The invasive beetles…have so devastated the ash forests elsewhere. In the woods where I grew up had been many fine ash trees and I had mourned their loss to the beetles ever since. Seeing them again put me in a cheerful mood  – it was like meeting old friends you haven’t seen in years.”