Nature Club News March 2021

by John Dickson

In recent days I have been able to fit in a little more skiing, through beautiful open forests, and alongside a fast flowing stream, to an idyllic waterfall. Conversely, I have also been out for a run in shorts and T-shirt, hearing and then seeing my first Red-winged Blackbird of 2021. I hope you too are enjoying the sunlight, warmer winds, and even the rain as the transition to Springtime is well underway.

The Friends of Hibou have now resumed offering guided hikes and there are still two available in March.  For their hikes, you must register in advance. Register at These two hikes will start from the Parking Lot by the Pump house at the most southerly entrance to the trails. Time: 1pm to 3pm. Reminder – social distancing will be in place, and masks should be quickly available in the case of closer contact than planned. They will keep numbers manageable at about ten in total per hike leader.  Tuesday March 16th. Bob Knapp will lead a snowshoe/hike on the Interpretive Trail. Depending on the group and the weather, he may offer an extension to another section. Tuesday March 30th Don Sankey will share photography skills on parts of the shoreline and the Interpretive Trail. You may bring your camera. Learn more about winter light, snow and more.  I had a lovely ski there just this past week, and I highly recommend their Spring Newsletter at

Tufted Titmouse, March 9, at Pinery Provincial Park (photo by Nancy White)
On March 6, in Georgian Bluffs, by Mike Tettenborn
Female Snowy Owl 

The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association has launched its Red-headed Woodpecker funding drive for a habitat enhancement stewardship program to help protect this endangered species on the Bruce Peninsula. Their Silent Auction is now open, with many attractive and valuable items to bid on, including a two hour star gazing session, 2 nights stay in Lion’s Head, a parks merchandise package, a Red-headed woodpecker painting, an EcoAdventures Forest Escape and EcoAdventures gift cards plus much more. The auction is open until March 15th. The highest bid receives the item. This organization does some amazing work for Nature and this is a chance to “Win something cool and help protect the Red-headed Woodpecker!” Visit their Facebook page at Red Headed Woodpecker Silent Auction to see all of the items, and to bid on your own favourites, for yourself, or perhaps as a gift for someone else.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) at 7PM Thursday March 11, on ZOOM host Members Night – a potpourri of several brief presentations by club members, with a variety of nature themes. These include OSFN’s popular publications, a Piping Plover video, a Name that Bloom quiz, plus one on local trails, with lots of Nature photos too. This is open to the public and you are welcome to attend. If you would like to attend this event, but did not receive the zoom link via email, please contact with Members’ Night as the subject title, or visit

OSFN’s Jody Johnson Pettit shared this update on the Young Naturalists who were once again able to get together last month:”On Sunday, February 28th, the Young Naturalists club had the opportunity to snowshoe through the forest at the Outdoor Education Centre with Deb Diebel. The group followed porcupine tracks and found evidence of the porcupine at the bottom of several trees and broken limbs off of Hemlock trees. We discovered what could possibly be a porcupine den, and wild turkey tracks in the snow. The children and adults played an owl and mouse camouflage game and were able to walk along the frozen lake shoreline. The snow was wet and heavy, making for tough snowshoeing conditions.

Snowshowing (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Porcupine Quills (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

“The first YouTube presentation by Stew Hilts is a winner! As David Morris points out, it is “An excellent presentation by Stew Hilts courtesy of the Blue Mountain Public Library, Arts and Culture Committee. Good discussion of the geology of the falls, some history and lots of pictures of many waterfalls, big and small”

The Blue Mountains Public Library invites you to: “Join Stew Hilts, who presented three Lifelong Learning courses at the library, to hear about one of his favourite topics. Learn how the geology of the valley and adjacent areas influence the waterfalls. Open your eyes to a greater appreciation of our amazing group of waterfalls here in the Grey/Bruce area… and learn about three secret waterfalls to boot!”  Visit them at and you will find this excellent video and their YouTube Channel under Books & More, then Virtual Branch. I am sure you will enjoy learning from Stew, just as I did.

Skunk – Flesherton March 10  photo by David Turner
Eastern Bluebird in Beaver Valley March 10, photo by David Turner

The Bruce Birding Club has now resumed its twice monthly club get togethers, but via zoom. Fred Jazvac explained that “The purpose is to chat, answer questions, report sightings, show your photos and have people speaking on various topics.” On March 3rd Kiah Jasper spoke about the Breeding Bird Atlas, particularly in Bruce County, and Fred explained about the difference in feet between a Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle. On March 17, among other items, Lynne Richardson will give details on the latest, new bird list for Grey and Bruce County of which she, James Turland and Dave Fidler were the people who worked on this task.   Lynne is also in charge of the Breeding Bird Atlas for Grey County.” To learn more about this club and its activities, please contact Fred at

The team of Bob and Mary Beth Gray shared with me this wee taste of Maple Syrup producers’ activities, observations, concerns and motivations: “Hi John: You seem to have a pretty good sense of all things natural.  Am just in now from the sugar shack.  It was our first boil today and it was used to “set up” the sugar content in the evaporator.  We didn’t get any syrup off today, but we will on our next boil, likely tomorrow. We have had two sap runs here so far this season.  The first was on Sunday, Feb. 28, and second was today – Monday, Mar. 8.  We used the first run to flush our sap lines out, so did not collect any sap that day at all.  And now our evaporator has been set up with the second run.  With the next run, we should be pulling off syrup.The sugar content here in the sap today was 2.8 Brix (which means 2.8% sugar content).  We like to make our syrup at 67 Brix which is a little
on the thick side.  If you take the number 88 and divide it by the sap sugar content (2.8 today), that gives you 31.4 which is the exact ratio of sap to syrup at 67 Brix.  In other words, with this high sugar content in the sap (which we find is typical for the beginning of the season), it takes 31.4 parts of sap to make 1 part of syrup.  That is important to know, because it means that you can make a lighter grade syrup (less time on the fire to get to syrup, so it does not have a chance to darken as much.  The flavour of this “first run” syrup is quite delicate. The grade is Golden. Because you are evaporating less water vapour off to make syrup, you are making syrup faster and with less fuel wood.  These are all good things if you are a sugar maker.

Sap flow is all about the weather.  One needs a good hard frost at night
(at least minus 3 C in the woods) and plus temperatures (not greater
than plus 10 C).  And it does not like to run in an east wind (too
cold).  There also needs to be adequate moisture in the ground such as
from a melting snow pack or rain to feed the tree roots with water.  So
with all these factors required for sap to flow, there often are not all
that many sap runs in a season when one can make maple syrup.
During syrup season, every morning is like Christmas morning.  I get a
kick out of heading out to the bush first thing in the morning to see
how much sap has collected during the night, or to see when sap has
started to run again for the day.  And it is a great opportunity to see
and hear spring migrants as they arrive daily.  This morning we had our
first red-winged blackbird, and our first gulls flying by this afternoon.  WHAT A GREAT TIME OF THE YEAR! Bob.” 

Then this message Tuesday – “Hi John,Bob has just returned from our bush where he says the sap run for today has already started ( 9:47 am).Enjoy the sunshine,Mary Beth” Definitely a cause for celebration!

Mink at the Bruce National Park, photo by Maureen Elliott

To close, two Nature quotes, both apropos to these final weeks of Wintertime – From Pierre Berton’s The Arctic Grail – After the death of Charles Hall, the remnants of his expedition, on March 30, 1873 were on “a flat frozen slab drifting alone among hundreds of icebergs – slow-moving mountains of crystal ploughing through the glassy sea.” From Steve Podborski’s Skier’s Source Book: “The aesthetic experience of skiing, of absorbing the splendors of the great outdoors and communing with Mother Nature in her winter wonderland, makes the spirit soar. When you take advantage of winter and turn the snow into a source of pleasure, it makes you think that the migrating birds and hibernating groundhogs have it all wrong.”