Nature Club News For June 2022

by John Dickson

This Thursday, June 9, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) present their final speaker event for the 2021-22 Season,  “Our Piping Plovers: Where are they at, and how are they doing?” with Andrea Gress. This will be an in-person only event, at the Bayshore Community Centre. Starting at 5:30pm, on display will be more exceptional books from the estates of Lorraine Brown and Andrew Armitage, for sale by donation, with proceeds going to OSFN’s publications fund.Audrey Armstrong says “We still have a lot of great books to get into nature lovers’ hands.  Our first sale raised almost 1000 dollars for the club – people were thrilled with their finds – and generous too!”
OSFN also announces the return at 6pm, of its traditional pot luck dinner, (for those who are comfortable with that), followed at 7pm by a brief AGM and awards ceremony, plus the featured speaker for the evening. Andrea Gress first fell in love with White-fronted Plovers during an internship in South Africa, where she helped to study the birds’ behaviors in areas with human disturbance. Returning to Canada, she worked with Piping Plovers in her home province of Saskatchewan. This is now her 5th year coordinating the Ontario Piping Plover Program for Birds Canada.

As Andrea says “At my heart, I’m a plover myself, gravitating to beaches and sunshine even in my time off.”  You can also find Andrea as the host of The Warblers, a Birds Canada podcast that shares information on birds and bird conservation with a Canada specific focus.Everyone is welcome. To learn more about this, and OSFN’s many other programmes, please visit 

Piping Plover spotted and photographed by Kiah Jasper at Sauble Beach April 27, 2022

NeighbourWoods North is wrapping up a busy Spring of planting and nurturing established trees, plus some trail work at the hospital property, and will be holding its Annual Yard Sale Fundraiser, this Saturday June 11, from 7am to 1pm, at 1625 7th Avenue East. A terrific location with wonderful bargains for a worthwhile cause!

Jody Johnson Pettit tells us the MacGregor Point Provincial Park staff members, on May 28, led the Young Naturalists Club on a hike there, which included a game of bird bingo, critter dipping, a bird feeder making craft, and a little bit of litter clean-up. We got to see plenty of green frogs, several bird species and a painted turtle. 

Painted Turtle. (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit) 

Even here in Owen Sound, Nature provides some pleasant surprise visitors. Recently, I have been hearing Kingfishers nearby and even saw one fly over the house. Early one morning, I witnessed two large Deer traversing our backyard, seeking a wildlife corridor to channel them safely to their preferred destination. Twice in recent days I have seen a Mallard family with many ducklings making their way to a new stormwater overflow pond in the neighbourhood. That pond, and another I learned of recently, have attracted sandpipers and other waterfowl, and are likely the reason I have heard today and yesterday the loud iconic calls of Loons right here in the City.  

At this time of year you may also be encountering turtles navigating roads in search of nesting sites. Good friend of Nature, Ingrid Remkins says “Come out of your shell!” and sent me news of a timely theatrical production at 2pm Saturday June 11 and Sunday June 12 at the Kimberley Hall.  Puppets by the River present “Caution: Turtle Crossing,” a tale about a Snapping Turtle, named Tutu, who is trying to cross the road in order to lay her eggs, and the creatures (both human and other) that she meets along the way.  Admission by Free Will Donation, with proceeds to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. Come out of your shell and come see the play!Featuring both children and adults, this fun matinee promises to entertain and stimulate too. As Ingrid says – “Will Tutu make it? It’s what we want to know. The only way to tell, is to come and see the show, To cheer Tutu on. Let her know that you care. Make it a date! It’s a family affair!”

Turtle on the move… June 6, Beaver Valley (photos by Ingrid Remkins)

It is impressive how the the Huron Fringe Birding Festival (HFBF) keeps improving each year. I especially enjoyed “Botany in the Park with Tyler Miller” last Thursday. This strong organization with dedicated volunteers, combined with superb Nature leaders, really offers a diverse and comprehensive learning experience. As Norah Toth shares – “After a hiatus of two years, the in person 2022 Huron Fringe Birding Festival, with its headquarters at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, was a success!  People congregated outside the Visitor Centre to join such well known hike leaders as Willy Waterton, Mark Wiercinski, John Reaume and Michael Runtz. Close to 400 registrants, some from as far away as Tobago and Indiana, USA, were in attendance.  But the highlights were the birds. The final tally isn’t confirmed, but around 184 species were sighted over the 8 days of the Festival, with the highlight being a Western Swainson’s Hawk. Other notable species were migrants – Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Tennessee Warbler – and such residents as the Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Bobolink plus the HFBF mascot, the American Redstart.”

Scarlet Tanager at Shallow Lake, June 1 (Photo by WIlliam Gray)

Here in Owen Sound, Peter Middleton took part in several country-wide scheduled Swiftwatch count dates for Chimney Swifts, Chaetura pelagica. He also added two evenings for OSFN members to observe and learn about this species, now identified as threatened under the Canadian Endangered Species at Risk Act. In Owen Sound, there are very few chimneys left that host Swifts. The most important of these is at the Old Courthouse building on 3rd Avenue East. In addition to the effects of lost habitat in recent decades, due to the reduced number of available roosting chimneys, climate change may also be influencing the migration schedule of these little known birds, to chimneys and hollow tree cavities in northern forests. Compared to documented migration schedules of the past, it appears that the Swifts had completed their journeys a week or two earlier than was expected. On May 31st, the final count night, the handful of observers witnessed only two Swifts arrive and descend into the Courthouse Chimney to roost for the night. To learn more about Swiftwatch, please visit

 Here is some exciting news from Mexico, with a local connection.  Over two sunny, warm August afternoons last summer at Isaac Lake, on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula, 39 OSFN members gathered with Audrey Armstrong, Patti Byers and Brian Robin. Of the 75 monarchs that were netted and tagged as a Citizen Science project on Flight of the Monarch Day, two were later recovered in Mexico’s overwintering sanctuary, Cerro Pelon in Michoacan, Mexico.  Here, Monarchs overwinter by the millions in Oyamel firs on the Sierra Madre mountain range at altitudes of 3,650 metres. The two recovered male monarchs were netted by Evie Gray, and Maeve O’Meara. Both these butterflies flew 4,235.6 kilometres on their fall migration to a mountain sanctuary they’ve never been to before.

Evelyn Gray of Owen Sound shows off her monarch after tagging and before releasing it to migrate to Mexico. Proud grandfather Bob Gray documents the moment. (Photo by Willy Waterton)

Scientists who study monarchs use this Citizen Science tagging data, which associates the location of original capture with the point of recovery for each butterfly, to determine pathways taken by migrating monarchs, the influence of weather on the migration and the survival rate of the monarchs. This past winter there was a 35% increase in Eastern North America’s monarchs overwintering in Mexico, although overall numbers have seen an 80% decline in the last two decades.  Just a reminder to readers that the best way to help increase monarch populations is to create habitat and plant milkweed.  Indoor rearing of monarchs is no longer acceptable due to increased spread of parasites and pathogens. The two young Citizen Scientists will each receive a Certificate of Appreciation from Monarch Watch for their involvement in monarch butterfly research. This year’s Monarch tagging workshop is scheduled to take place September 3, again at Isaac Lake.

Two female hummingbirds in the garden today. The Blue Flag Iris was a favourite. This photo was my favourite of the day. (Photo by Carol Edwards)

Here is an excerpt from Station Scientist Stéphane Menu’s recent blog from the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO)

The characteristic song of an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a late migrant, was heard on June 1st and 4th. Two Green herons were seen flying across the basin, perching shortly in trees along the shore, and squawking loudly on June 5th. On June 3rd, a few flocks of Eastern Bluebirds were detected, thanks to their fluty flight call, with the largest one of 25 birds. There were also quite a few Eastern Bluebirds in the alvar where their dashing colours found an incredible background of Scarlet Paintbrush, Goldenrod, and Blue-eyed Grass. It was a feast of primary colours.

On June 5, we counted 112 Blue Jays in one single flock! Early June is also a time for a strong passage of this species at Cabot Head. We are seeing the migratory birds of this mostly sedentary species going back to the boreal forest at the northern fringe of their range. It is always quite a sight to see a large flock of Blue Jays taking flight and climbing up in the sky, flapping wings like giant butterflies. The best part though is when the Blue Jays all decide to dive down at once, making an incredible whooshing sound.                                              

To close, a Nature quote from (Rainer) Rilke’s Late Poetry, by Graham Good:  “and Summer, like a giant stretching, feels the vigour of its youth…”