Nature Club News, June, 2018


by John Dickson

On Thursday May 10, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) hosted its annual Members Night when several speakers gave short presentations on diverse topics. They were:

Madeline Sanagan, about the bioblitz happening at MacGregor Point Provincial Park;
Bill Moses on Phragmites;
David Morris, on some of the likely causes of the Plague and related famines;
Liz Zetlin, with advance information on a film being developed, in aid of a healthier environment;
Bob Knapp with film of a special hike in Portugal; and
John Hlynialuk featuring astronomy.

On Tuesday May 22, Owen Sound Field Naturalists were well represented at an event hosted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), with a nature hike led by coordinator Esme Batten on the Dwarf Lake Iris Nature Reserve. Batten was introduced to the club membership last November along with the head of NCC, John Lounds, when both outlined of their national and local initiatives and campaigns to the audience.

Esme Batten with guests at the NCC's Dwarf Lake Nature Reserve (Photo by John Dickson)
Esme Batten with guests at the NCC’s Dwarf Lake Nature Reserve (Photo by John Dickson)
Dwarf Iris (Photo by John Dickson)
Dwarf Iris (Photo by John Dickson)

In the evening of the same day, a field trip entitled Grassland Birding across Farmer’s Fields in former Sarawak Township with Beth Anne Currie, brought out some keen birders to see the activities of nesting tree swallows in bluebird boxes, and some bluebirds too.

The evening also featured sightings (and/or hearings) of Killdeer, Brown Thrashers, Tree Swallows, Indigo Bunting, as well as Wilson’s Snipe. Currie has been doing research on these grassland species for several seasons, monitoring their nesting habits and degrees of success. Those on hand were most complimentary about the quality of this learning experience, with the intimate birding knowledge shared by the leader.

Eastern Bluebird eggs (Photo by John Dickson)
Eastern Bluebird eggs (Photo by John Dickson)

During this same evening, a final wrap up of the hospital tree planting project by NeighbourWoods North took place, finishing some important mulching, and staking, to complete this planting of over 2700 trees, on the hospital property over four and a half weeks. A dedicated contingent showed up to finish these steps, and then get together afterwards for a celebration of the completion of this most worthwhile endeavour. Kudos to Lloyd Lewis, Gord Edwards, and the entire NeighbourWoods North team for another job well done. Since very little rain fell in the days after this, a tree watering day was also held on Saturday June 2nd, to give the thirsty trees a drink to help them get through these early stages of growth and root development.

A tree at each of these mulch locations at the hospital in Owen Sound (Photo by John Dickson)
A tree at each of these mulch locations at the hospital in Owen Sound (Photo by John Dickson)

On Saturday May 26, again the OSFN was well represented at the official unveiling of the new “accessible” boardwalk at Petrel Point, hosted by Ontario Nature. OSFN’s Peter Middleton, one of the club’s stewards of nature reserves, gave an interpretive tour of the new boardwalk section highlighting the history, the geology, and the effects of fire, on the plant life in this special habitat, which includes meadow, wetland and woodland sections.

Pond Sutdy Workshop (Photo by John Dickson)
Peter Middleton describing distinctive features of Petrel Point Nature Reserve (Photo by John Dickson)

On Sunday May 27, the Young Naturalists Club were invited to the Huron Fringe Birding Festival – which is about much more than just birds.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park provided two staff members to lead a Pond Study program for the Young Nats, which started with a little nature hike, observing birds, butterflies, turtles on Turtle Pond, and plants along the way to the boardwalk where there had been set out dip nets, bowls and identification charts for many of the creatures likely to be found in or near the water there.

With an emphasis on safety, Park staff DJ and Connor explained and demonstrated the planned activities to the participants, also ensuring that none of the species from the water were to be left out of the water. While the youngsters dipped and then emptied their nets into the bowls to see what they had to examine, and learn about. The net was then immediately put back into the water, so that anything that might still be inside or on the outside would be in the water, and could return to its preferred environs. While there, they were also treated to a good look at the elusive green Heron, perched with its distinctive pose, high on a tree limb. There were also Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts on hand, along with Dragonflies, and Damselflies.

The OSFN support people on hand were very impressed with the knowledge, and teaching ability of the Park staff, and appreciated the efforts of many to get the Young Naturalists included in the Festival.

Pond study workshop (Photo by John Dickson)
Pond study workshop (Photo by John Dickson)

On Sunday June 10, Lynne Richardson led several OSFN members along the trails of the Loree Forest, listening to and observing various species of birds that included Indigo Bunting, American Wood Peewee, Red Eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, and even a chipmunk who had several in the group fooled into thinking it was a bird they were hearing, until they actually watched the puffing of its cheeks, in time with the sounds they were hearing. Another highlight was the discovery of a baby Milk Snake along the main entrance to the forest, as the group were returning to their vehicles. Richardson shared with the group that the habitat along the edges of the forest has changed a great deal in recent years, and much of the meadowland around the forest has filled in. The result is that many species which were abundant and included Eastern Towhees and Bobolinks have shifted away from the trails near what were the eastern edges of the Loree forest.

This Thursday June 14, OSFN presents its final speaker of the season, Ted Armstrong. Formerly of the Markdale area, where even as a youth he was a keen birder, his career as a wildlife biologist with the MNR in Thunder Bay included much research and many contributions to the formulation of species at risk policies in the province. Armstrong has also served as a board member and presenter in the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Club. The evening begins with a pot luck dinner at 6PM in the hall of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, followed by a brief AGM which will include two award presentations. After the meeting is adjourned Ted Armstrong will present “Where are they now? Why Woodland Caribou no longer roam much of Ontario.”

To close, a nature quote from famed Canadian painter Emily Carr, who, I only recently discovered, was an award winning writer, with a distinctive voice and style. I especially recommend her Klee Wyck, and The Heart of a Peacock where she expresses her connection to Nature this way – “To be honoured by the trust of wild things, is to have one’s self esteem hoisted.”