Nature Club News November 2020

by John Dickson


I have been hearing about and also experiencing for myself, many exciting nature observations throughout the area, in recent weeks. Although in the fall we are often looking for the bright red colours of some Maples, Sumacs, and a fairly new one for me – Virginia Creeper, most of the colour theme shifts to yellow and gold by November. 

Just this morning, as I ran on the Healing Path at the front of the hospital in Owen Sound, I came within sight of the half dozen or so grand willow trees there, and can report that they too were strikingly gold in the bright sunlight. Even the leaves on our rose bushes are now golden. Quite a few folks have been lucky enough to see Evening Grosbeaks and/or Bohemian Waxwings visit their feeders, with their strikingly colourful plumages, and their often very busy eating frenzy when they do stop by.

Male Evening Grosbeak Kincardine by Bruce Edmunds November 4

Others have been seeing Kinglets – either Golden-crowned, or Ruby-crowned, one of which I noticed right within our rose bush, eating aphids from the stems, and then after working its way to the outside of the plant, it would hover like a hummingbird while it continued to find food on the stems of the rose bush. A beautiful Fox Sparrow, with its rich reddish brown plumage, was certainly a treat in our yard, and they are still being seen in many locales.

Fox sparrow October 21, photo by John Dickson

American Tree Sparrows with their bi-coloured beaks have been observed throughout Grey-Bruce, having arrived from farther north, in flocks, and on their own. Large groups of Common Redpolls have been witnessed, with more than just a few Hoary Redpolls, seen travelling with them. As I continued my morning run through the northwest corner of the hospital property, I counted up to 200 songbirds, including some Redpolls, swirling all around, sometimes over my head and then landing briefly in the shrubs and long grass there, before rising once more into the air.

Beautiful Snow Buntings have been seen in groups large and small and Red-bellied Woodpeckers have recently been first-time visitors to houses with bird feeders in Chatsworth, and northeast of Durham.

Stephane Menu, Station Scientist at Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) recently reported “This past week, we banded an unusual number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, with a high daily total of 53 birds on October 26, which is a record total for this time of year.”

Then just today Menu reported that “Suddenly, it was the last day of monitoring, October 31st! A Gray Catbird was observed, then captured and banded.  We were lucky to catch a Fox Sparrow, the only one banded this season, as well as one last American Tree Sparrow. These two species not only share a late migration, but also a bicoloured bill made of black (for the upper mandible) and yellow (for the lower mandible). A couple of Snow Buntings were also detected but the highlight certainly goes to the suite of six species of finches, quite rarely, if ever, seen all in one day. Here’s the list: Common Redpoll (lots!), Pine Siskin (a few), American Goldfinch (just one), Pine Grosbeak (also just one), Red Crossbill (happily – for me – showing off on top of cedars and on the TV antenna, in full view for a few minutes), and White-winged Crossbills. The cherry on the cake was the small flock of 11 Bohemian Waxwings. Thank you, birds, for giving us one last flourish as the season was ending!

Bald Eagles (photo by Jarmo Jalava)

It is always a bittersweet moment to take down the nets and store them away and then to pack up and close down the station for a long winter. But Spring is only five months away, when we will return to Cabot Head for another season, and not any season: 2021 will mark the 20th year of non-stop, long-term monitoring at Cabot Head by BPBO! 

Be sure to check out our new fundraising initiatives – not one but two auctions, act fast, the online auctions end soon! See you all next Spring!”

I thought I was doing well to see a couple of small and pretty butterflies a week ago. Yolanda Wenting of Mildmay found several Cloud Sulphur Butterflies, just this week.  Even more amazing, I believe, is that Rob and Donna Kearns were visited by a Monarch Butterfly on November 7, near the mouth of the Sauble River. I wonder if others have been noticed too, only now starting out on their migration to Mexico. 

Just the other day, while waiting for an appointment time, I was checking out some lovely blooming white flowers near a parking lot on the west side of the Owen Sound harbour, but was quite surprised to find a large bee working its way around the many white blossoms. On two occasions in recent weeks, I found a garter snake sunning itself on the trails where I was running, or cycling. Another treat this time of year is to see, suddenly revealed, the many bird nests, that were perhaps very close to areas of human activity, but not noticed until the canopies of leaves were released to swirl and scatter below. I especially enjoy discovering the nests of Baltimore Orioles, with their distinctive pendant structure, and was delighted to see a couple of those while I was cycling in the Hanover area late last week.

Bohemian Waxwing by David Turner on OSFN birding day with Erik November 8

Erik Van Den Kieboom, recent recipient of the Malcolm Kirk Environmental Scholarship, from the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation, was demonstrating his nature knowledge and leadership skills on November 8. He was heading up an outing of birders from Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) for the annual Around the Bay birding field trip, looking for waterfowl and any other birds that may present themselves for observation. Congratulations to Erik!

Red-breasted Merganser from the Around the Bay outing (photo by Bill Hatten)
Five Snow Buntings joined the Around the Bay attendees for lunch at the Bayshore. (photo by Bill Hatten)

Male Mallard (photo by Bill Hatten)

NeighbourWoods North was so successful with their planting regimen at the Hospital in Owen Sound during October they finished early. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the trees as they mature. There is such variety in the groupings that I just know that the display is bound to be effective and satisfying.

Marsha Courtney has been making good use of the lovely weather to do some paddling on the local inland lakes, including Hines, Robson and Clark’s lakes, where she saw painted turtles, sunning themselves on logs. and observed “they knew it was too gorgeous of a day to stay hidden.” Sighting a Lesser Yellowlegs, was an added bonus for her.

Lesser Yellowleg Sandpiper non-breeding adult Lesser Yellowlegs  photos by Marsha Courtney
Basking Turtles Lesser Yellowlegs  (photos by Marsha Courtney)

Joe Lehmann of Sandy Bay, near Oliphant, shared with me this item of interest: he and his neighbour have White Ash Trees and a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers have been spending their energies working their way upwards and slipping their large beaks into the structure of the bark layers, which they remove and scatter on the ground, looking for and consuming Emerald Ash Borers along the bark as they forage there. However, there is no evidence that they are excavating their usual rectangular cavities. 

Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann

Other observations include reports of Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkeys, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Bald Eagles and even a juvenile Golden Eagle that seen by Ingrid Remkins, just north of Kimberley, on November 4th.

Red-tailed hawk November 10 Beaver Valley
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
In the sky today…November 10 Beaver Valley, Trumpeter Swans
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
Juvenile Golden Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk, nov 4th, North of Kimberly, Photo by Ingrid Remkins

In late October I came upon a dozen Eastern Bluebirds, while I was cycling, northeast of Arran Lake. Then on Tuesday of this week Renee Anderson of Owen Sound reported “I heard some chirping and noticed activity at the very top of our 100′ Norway Spruce. Just as I suspected, there was a flock of 20-25 male and female Red Crossbills feeding on the cones!” Then, on Wednesday – “They are still here today, also going to the White Spruce!”

Red Crossbill, Owen Sound November 10, 2020, Renee Anderson  

Another observation during this extended milder weather, of which I am aware, is the vocalizations of Tree Toads, sometimes even a chorus, which one would normally hear in Spring. I have also noticed bright yellow Dandelions blooming, as well as new blossoms of Coltsfoot.

Of course, for many, November is the month to really enjoy the shining golden needles of the many Tamarack trees throughout our region. Be sure to have a look around, and if possible go outside to see them for yourself – they are very special indeed.  Grey Roots is featuring Nature topics for some of their November Virtual Lecture series, with the return of David T. Chapman for two dates – November 17 Exploring the Birds of Ontario II, and on November 24 Gems of Grey County & Area: Wild and Scenic All-Season Imagery, on November 24th. From first-hand experience, I can certainly recommend Chapman’s talks, for his lively and informative style, and excellent images. Visit

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club outing, following Public Health guidelines, in late October, featured an engaging field trip in the Boyd’s Crevices area, with a focus on tree identification, led by Susan McGowan and Hugh Evans, both forestry specialists. 

Boyd’s Crevice (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

OSFN is also presenting the locally produced film – Resilience – Transforming our Community. This uplifting film, with Scientist Dr. John Anderson’s climate change research, and directed by Liz Zetlin, is designed to inspire action, and offers ways to build resilience in ourselves and our community by transforming the way we live. Because of COVID-19, the meeting will feature a chance to watch the film in advance, and then at 7PM Thursday November 12, to go online with facilitator Marilyn Struthers, and Scientist John Anderson, and engage one’s thoughts and ideas in discussions and developing action plans.

A bonus presentation on the evening of November 26, by Kat Lucas of the Toronto Zoo, will be Great Lakes Aquatic Species at Risk

.At least two more field trips are planned for November, one with a geology focus, along with ferns and birds, on November 14, with Bob Gray, and an upcoming Owl Prowl, with those details soon to be finalized. Visit

Long-eared Owl – Photo by Bruce Edmunds
Kincardine/Huron Kinloss  
November 3, 2020
The Kelso beavers put on a fine show this evening, but really pushed the limits of my camera with the low light conditions! This is a young one learning how to build a fort. Unfortunately where they decided to build is blocking the drain and would eventually cause flooding in my backyard. (photo by Carol L. Edwards)

To close, Nature Quotes from neuroscientist and author Daniel J. Levitin, from his book Successful Aging, where he expresses a preference, when the time comes “to die with the sounds of nature trickling in through the window, whether it’s songbirds during the day, or crickets and owls at night.” and his report that “hospitals and end of life care facilities are coming to realize the restorative qualities of nature and are looking at ways to provide their patients with increased access to natural scenes.” An item in the book’s Appendix advises that for the purpose of “Rejuvenating Your Brain, Exercise. Get your heart rate going. Preferably in nature…”