Nature Club News July 2019


by John Dickson

On June 9, popular Naturalist and former OSFN President Mark Wiercinski led a Birding hike at the Bayview Escarpment Provincial Nature Reserve where many warblers, and thrushes were observed. He  also encouraged everyone to practice listening several layers deep into the forest. In addition to the birds, many plants, some with flowers, and various trees were identified and highlighted, including what Mark called Doug Larson trees. These were very old Eastern White Cedars, growing on the north side of the Escarpment, and typical of the ones studied  by Professor Larson, a former teacher of Mark when he was a student at the University of Guelph.

Just a layer or two deep into the forest (Photo by Bill Hatten)
A Doug Larson Eastern White Cedar (Photo by Bill Hatten)
Mark Wiercinski explaining to group (Photo by Bill Hatten)

The hike was a casual one but the learning experience was very much an integral component of the outing. Plans are already underway for next year’s field trip which may be entitled Birds and Much More, with Mark, as he delves into the rich and complex diversity of the forest.

Male Scarlet Tanager  (Photo by Bill Hatten)
Jack in the Pulpit  (Photo by Bill Hatten)

On June 13, the Owen Sound Field Naturalist AGM wrapped up with two award presentations. The first was to Lloyd Lewis, who received the OSFN Community Conservation Award in recognition of his initiative and accomplishments in creating NeighbourWoods North, a strong team effort which has been responsible for the very successful urban tree planting projects in Owen Sound since 2017. Accepting the award, Lewis remarked that he was first attracted to the area by the natural beauty and features here, but found that, in fact, it has been the wonderful people he has met which has been the most satisfying reward.

Lloyd Lewis receiving the OSFN Community Conservation Award from John Dickson (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Norah Toth received from OSFN an Honourary Life Membership, in recognition of her many important contributions to the club, in particular club communications via the newsletter, entitled the Harts Tongue Herald, and to the community, including the establishment of the Huron Fringe Birding Festival, along with Stewardship Grey Bruce, involvement with the Piping Plover monitoring, and work with the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, and the Bruce Birding Club. 

Norah Toth receiving the OSFN Honourary Life membership Award from Beth Anne Currie (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Then, the  featured speaker, Bob Bowles, presented an overview of Damselflies, and Dragonflies, plus an outline of the Ontario Master Naturalist Programme he has developed. In the meantime Bowles has now created the Saugeen Bruce Ontario Master Naturalist 2019 Summer Camp Program, taking place on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula from July 13 to 20.  I was in touch with him earlier this week, and learned there are still 5 spaces available for this course at Red Bay which starts this Saturday July 13 – Here is the link, where there is more information and a method to register for the course.

Bob Bowles – speaking in June the Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Ornithologist Lynne Richardson shared this report about the early stages of Piping Plover hatchings – June 20  -Thursday morning – classes from Hepworth Central Public School came to Sauble Beach for a Piping Plover field trip. They observed two three-day-old newly hatched golf-ball-sized chicks scurrying around, hunting and foraging for bugs, snuggling under the adults to thermoregulate, as their hatchling downy feathers are not substantial enough to keep them warm.  The students learned about the biology and life history of these entertaining endangered birds and in a series of creative beach games learned about the many challenges they face in their struggle to raise young and retain a small population throughout Great Lakes.   

Thursday afternoon members of the OSFN came out to the beach where they also were entertained by the interesting behaviours of the plover family. Lynne Richardson, OSFN member and part of the “Plover Lovers” Outreach and Education group led the outing.  Lynne highlighted the life histories of the adult plovers present on the beach this year, which is learned from their bands and many hours of volunteer observations. Mr Blue Bands and Ms Green Dots are a three-time nesting pair at Sauble Beach who hooked up in 2017 after she lost 2 previous mates to predation.  Blue Bands did not like incubating at first and would sneak off the nest, pick up pebbles, shells and grasses, and toss them around for a bit before he could settle down. He turned into a fine young Dad who watches very attentively over the chicks while Green Dots takes off for Florida before the chicks fledge!

On June 23rd, the Young Naturalist club had a year-end special event, attending the Outdoor Education Centre, with activities led by site manager, Deb Diebel. The many club members split up into smaller groups to observe some of the life forms in the waters of Boat Lake. These even included a snapping turtle, and a crayfish. After and early lunch together, the Young Naturalists went on a nature hike, where they observed displays of Showy Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. Then, again forming groups, they went about fashioning a shelter structure in the woods, using materials readily available. Afterwards they all got to see each others’ shelters, with admiration and critical analysis. One of the adults in attendance remarked to me how impressed he was with the team building spirit shown by the youngsters, applying themselves to the tasks with creative enthusiasm, and how they were rewarded by the accomplishments of their group efforts.

On June 27, Chris Rickard led a Butterfly outing at Bognor Marsh on a hot sunny day, which attracted quite a few naturalists, but very few butterflies were observed at this location. However Wendy Howell documented our sightings as follows, including Northern Crescent (6), Red Spotted Purple, Common Ringlet (3), Tiger Swallowtail (2), White Admiral. The group did see many Damselfies and Dragonflies, as Audrey Armstrong has listed here – ebony jewelwing, eastern pond hawk, chalk fronted corporal, and sedge sprites.

A few of the participants (Photo by Wendy Howell)
Red Spotted Purple (Photo by Wendy Howell)
Northern Crescent on a boot (photo by Brian Robin)

On July 6, the annual Butterfly count was held at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. More Monarch Butterfly sightings have been documented lately, including adults still arriving here from the south, and others emerging right here with brand new wings. The Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores volunteers are actively nurturing their “pods” along the shore in Southampton, enhancing habitat for butterflies, where there has been great success in this community involvement and with having some of their locally tagged Monarchs actually making it all the way to the mountains of Mexico.Just this week, when I arrived to do a volunteer shift of monitoring and outreach with the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach I too saw a Monarch Butterfly. Then I was also amazed at the many brightly coloured dune flowers – orange, yellow, white and purple, nicely set off by the greens of the other vegetation in the Sand Dunes there, easily seen from the Beach Access pathways to and from the beach. However, I was only able to see two chicks, and one adult still actively feeding along the shore, doing their best to avoid being underfoot. It was a hot day and there were many people also enjoying the beach that day. Piping Plover Volunteer Coordinator Kirsten Snoek has confirmed my own observations, that these are all that are left still here from this year’s nesting efforts.

Grey Roots Museum and Archives have once again partnered with OSFN to bring two nature presentations this summer to the Grey Roots Theatre. These will complement the current exhibits there –

Under the Canopy: Animals of the Rainforest, and a terrific retrospective of the Passenger Pigeon which once filled the skies, even locally. This particular exhibit closes at the end of July. 

On Sunday July 28, the film Resilience: Transforming Our Community, directed by Liz Zetlin, will be presented at 2PM, and then Danuta Valleau will moderate a community discussion after the screening. More details are here –

On Sunday August 25, at 2PM, naturalist Peter Thoem, on behalf of the Owl Foundation, will present Owls Around Us, also at Grey Roots. Thoem’s  presentation “includes dozens of spectacular images of owls taken here in Ontario. It shows you how owls are everywhere in our culture; they have even made it into our government.”

Coming up August 10 NeighbourWoods North will present Feast in the Field, a one-of-a-kind culinary event supporting the NeighbourWoods North Healing Path Initiative where you can enjoy a sumptuous four-course meal expertly prepared by renowned Chef Zach Keeshig, featuring local wine expertly paired with your meal in a beautiful sheltered setting with live music that will enhance the evening’s flavours and stunning venue.. Hosted by Gleason Brook Winery in Georgian Bluffs, it is an opportunity to support a unique grass-roots initiative that’s creating usable, accessible greenspace. 

NeighbourWoods North volunteers have already planted more than 3,000 trees around the Owen Sound Hospital. Now the group intends to build, through the growing forest, a 2 km crushed-stone Healing Path, complete with benches and interpretive signs. All proceeds from this event will go towards The Healing Path. Tickets for this fundraiser, available at the Ginger Press, (cash only)are $100. each, with a tax receipt for $50. They can also be purchased online by following this link  

The proposed development at Leith Beach is still of concern to many naturalists, with many unanswered questions about access, and process. Allowing for more public input and taking more time to carefully consider the proposals has been recommended. 

Jim Hastie has remarked that while paddling many streams in the area, he has noticed that the vegetation growth along the banks this year appears to be more lush and verdant than usual, perhaps a result of the unusual weather patterns many feel we have been seeing this year.  

While cycling and running trails in the area, I too have been hearing and occasionally seeing many American Redstarts, plus Brown Thrashers, and Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, especially along the rail line east of Owen Sound, and also along back roads in the Grey Highlands area.

The remaining two Piping Plover chicks at Sauble Beach are growing, and coached by their father, are doing a little flying now as they develop their bodies and skills for their upcoming flight south, where they can hopefully make it through the winter, to return to Sauble Beach next year.

To close, a quote from a good friend of Nature, Bob Day, who passed away in June of this year – “Some people never lose the ability to dream….Lucky people remain dreamers to the end.”