Nature Club News for June 2024

by John Dickson

This Thursday, June 13 at 7pm,  Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) present Scott Parent, and his daughter Acadia who, in 2019 voyaged together on their tandem stand up paddle board over a distance of 480km, from Drummond Island, Michigan to Penetanguishene, Ontario.  

While retracing the migration route their ancestors travelled in 1828, together they collected water samples along the route to be later analyzed for microplastics research. They also gathered plastic trash and hauled it out on their board to the next garbage bin. Out of this expedition, Scott Parent produced the documentary film   Three Waters.

 Learn more about their journey and the Three Waters Foundation, focused on caring for the remote islands of Lake Huron, and helping wildlife who reside in those areas impacted by plastic pollution.

Scott Parent is a water guardian and visual storyteller from Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and resides with his family on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula.  Parent has dedicated his career toward fostering relationships between people and the water. His photography, and writing has been published by Mountain Life Media, Canadian Geographic, and Paddling Mag. 

Parent is currently serving the role of creative storyteller for the Biinaagami Project, and is the successful recipient of the Trebek Initiative 2024, selected by the National Geographical Society and Royal Canadian Geographical Society, in support of his current film project on the waterbirds of the Great Lakes and the impacts of anthropogenic debris on wildlife.

 Parent is also the Founder of the Three Waters Foundation.

This final speaker event of OSFN’s 2023-2024 season will take place this Thursday, June 13, at the Bayshore Community Centre, beginning with a social time at 5:45, followed by the club’s AGM and award presentations at 6:30pm expected to conclude shortly after 7pm, to then welcome guest presenters Scott Parent and Acadia with their documentary film, Three Waters. 

 This event will be ‘in person only’ with no zoom feature available. Everyone is Welcome. Admission is free or by donation. For more information on this event and others, please visit

Sora – near Woodford, June 8, Photo by Rob Wray

Peter Middleton has shared this timely and comprehensive report about: 

Chimney Swifts in Owen Sound

A number of years ago, the sultry summer evenings in Owen Sound were graced by the sight and sound of chittering Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica), as they coursed  the skies in search of flying insects.  An individual swift could sweep up to 1,000 insects from the air daily, as it fed.

Sadly, those days are largely gone; but if one knows where to look,
one can still see some of the beauty and skills of these aerial
specialists in Owen Sound, as they gather to roost each night.

Communal roosts (large chimneys and hollow trees) are used by
swifts during spring migration and the post-breeding build-up in fall.
These communal roosts are crucial habitat during these periods. Only
a single pair occupies a chimney or hollow tree for breeding.

The chimney in the Old Courthouse in Owen Sound is the last of the
communal roosts in our town. Most other chimneys have been
dismantled, or capped, removing a vital resource. This is a classic
example of habitat loss affecting a species.

Since 2008, the chimney roost at the Old Courthouse has been
monitored, more recently as part of the Ontario Swift Watch program
that coordinates and gathers information from  identified sites across
the province. These roosts provide a statistically important census of
the total breeding population of the species, before it disperses to
individual breeding sites. From May to early June, the roosts are
monitored, starting before sunset and continuing until the last
bird is seen to enter the roost.

Numbers over the years have been dropping. In Owen Sound, nightly
counts in the period from 2009 to 2015, were in the upper three
hundreds; the average count is now in the mid to upper one hundred
range. This year, the average is 158 birds entering the chimney on
any evening. 

Chimney Swifts entering the Old Courthouse Chimney in Owen Sound

Since 2009, Peter Middleton has monitored Chimney Swifts at the Old Courthouse and submitted the data to Ontario Swift Watch at Birds Canada.

Congratulations to the NeighbourWoods North team whose many volunteers assisted with tree planting and care during May at the Hospital in Owen Sound.  Also, the lawn at the Grey County Building is being transformed into a Food Forest. NeighbourWoods North is working hard at greening Owen Sound in practical ways. Thank you all!

In addition to the changing colours of feathers in Springtime, I have been enjoying the parade of yellow wildflowers – first coltsfoot, trout lilies, large-flowered bellwort, violets and dandelions, followed by buttercups, bird’s foot trefoil and now yellow lady’s slipper orchids too. What a treat it has been this past week to enjoy the wild roses now with their pink petals and delicate fragrances! I hope to be seeing the amazing pink of showy lady’s slipper orchids soon. After the wondrous lilacs and trilliums of May, I almost missed the amazing horse chestnut blossoms, and am now seeing many waving branches of Locust trees, laden with their fragrant white blossoms, being visited by many bees and other pollinators. 

Today it was a Swamp Sparrow with an offering. No sign of the fledgling, but the parent kept looking around for a response (Photo by William Gray)

To close, two Nature quotes – first from My Lucky Life, in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke, at Laurel Canyon: “L.A. was gorgeous back then…In the morning the canyon filled in with fog that gradually gave way, as the sun rose, to breathtaking views… Depending on the time of year, the air was ripe with the fragrance of orange blossoms, honeysuckle and other flowers and the mostly undeveloped hills were still home to deer and other wildlife that made it seem as if you were far from the city.” 

And, a Nature quote by another famous American, John Muir, from My Summer of Glorious Freedom, by Robert Burcher. Burcher also recently presented ‘John Muir Lived Here in Grey County’ as a Lecture at Grey Roots and writes: “From his “botanizing” in the Holland Marsh, Muir discovered a very rare orchid, the Calypso borealis… In his memoirs Muir talks about finding this plant as one of the three most pivotal moments in his life.  ‘But when the sun was getting low and everything seemed most bewildering and discouraging, I found beautiful Calypso on the mossy bank of a stream, growing not on the ground but on a bed of yellow mosses… like a snowflower… It seemed the most spiritual of all the flower people I had ever met.’ “