Nature Club News June 2019


by John Dickson

It has been a busy and exciting time for nature enthusiasts this Spring, although most would agree that more warmth would be very welcome.
On Wednesday May 8, Owen Sound Field Naturalists were invited to the property of John Bakker and Christina Milani, where the mix of pond, meadow, wetlands, coniferous and deciduous forests, along with the brilliant sunshine, revealed a rich array of nature sightings that included White Spruce, Yellow Birch, early Jacks in the Pulpit, Red Trillium, Trout Lily, and a first for many – a Pheasant Back Fungus, (also known as Dryad’s Saddle, or Hawks Wing ). A startled American Woodcock, returned the favour, startling those nearby when it suddenly burst into flight from its hiding place near the trail.

That evening many were in attendance for the premiere screening of Resilience. This important film will have more showings throughout the area over the coming months for those who missed the opening.

The OSFN Members Night was held on May 9th, with several presenters, including Islay Graham, whose winning entry at the local Bluewater Science Fair, went on that weekend to New Brunswick where she was awarded the top national prize. Congratulations once more to Islay!

Eileen O’Connor reports

On a cool and windy Victoria Day May 20 about 10 OSFN members spent the morning on the property of Richard and Lorraine Bentham, located next to Grey Highlands S.S. in Flesherton. Richard related the history of his family’s original farm of 1861 and showed us experimental tree plantings done by the former MNR in his lifetime. He took us to a designated historic maple left as a shade tree for horses by the first Bentham. Lorraine then accompanied us as we toured farther around many ponds created by beaver over the years but the weather was too cool to see any pond life or turtles. David Turner, an expert birder, identified several bird calls, including a cerulean warbler and also identified a tree fungus, dryad’s saddle (polyporos squamosus), new to most of us. We were fortunate to have in the group past and present staff members of GHSS who were familiar with the trails and terrain behind the school but especially John Burton, who was our main tour guide as we walked those areas too. It was all a lovely way to be away from the holiday weekend traffic.

We were also shown the remaining evidence of oil drilling operations from 1916, including coal used as fuel, and steel cabling, all abandoned, when it was determined that the oil contained too much sulphur to be marketable.

One of two Heritage Maple trees that were mature specimens during the later 1800's. Richard Bentham and John Burton look on. photo by John Dickson
One of two Heritage Maple trees that were mature specimens during the later 1800’s. Richard Bentham and John Burton look on.
photo by John Dickson
photo by John Dickson
photo by John Dickson
Left over cables from the oil drilling work undertaken abut 100 years ago (photo by John Dickson)
Left over cables from the oil drilling work undertaken abut 100 years ago (photo by John Dickson)

NeighbourWoods North was busy Saturday mornings in May, planting and nurturing trees at the Hospital in Owen Sound and at Kelso Beach Park. As Gord Edwards reports:

The plantings in May: Seedling trees came from here, there and everywhere. All were donated, including 50 white spruce as well as other species from Bill Moses; 5 cedar and 2 mountain ash from Doug Fenton; perhaps 100 sycamore as well as other species from the Arboretum; a collection of roadside salvages by Lloyd Lewis, and other contributions from our many volunteers (many of whom are members of The OS Walking Group).

Two piles of mulch (donated by Ontario Hydro/The Nurton Brothers) were lovingly placed around the newly planted seedlings and the thousands of baby trees which survived their first winter.
The Kelso trees were mulched, again by a very dedicated group of volunteers, in spite of the rather cold and wet weather that day. Bravo to NeighbourWoods North!

The 2019 Huron Fringe Birding Festival soon got under way including an afternoon there for the Young Naturalists Club of OSFN, where they were given a tutorial in birding identification and building a suet feeder from a kit. Festival Chair Norah Toth reported “The Huron Fringe Birding Festival increased in many ways this year. Almost 500 participants attended events led by leaders of international acclaim as well as local Field Naturalists. Many events are centred within MacGregor Point Provincial Park; however, some use much of Bruce County and others travel into Grey. Outdoor programs were not restricted to finding and identifying bird species; but included botany, Métis history and photography; evenings were spent learning about The Gambia and Senegal, Tobago and species at risk in Ontario.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull, sighted and photographed by Abby Collins of Kincardine, brought our cumulative sightings list to 250 species. The total count for the 2019 Festival was 186 species.

Peter Middleton won the Norah Toth Award for his contributions to the festival, his involvement in Citizen Science throughout Grey Bruce and his desire and willingness to share his knowledge and be an advocate for the unique and special resources we have in Grey Bruce.

“The high water levels have impacted some boating activities in the area. On May 30, Jim Coles and his companions “were paddling the Beaver River down to the Epping Rd. Water levels were higher than I’ve ever seen. Water flowing into the woods most everywhere. In fact, to get around fallen trees in the river, it was easy to paddle thru the woods! A very pleasant day!”

Throughout Grey and Bruce Counties, recent bird sightings have included greater numbers of less commonly seen birds. For example, Doug Lonsdale told me that he saw his first ever Golden Winged Warbler, along the Teeswater River, this Spring. Right here in Owen Sound, Blackburnian Warblers, Northern Parulas, Indigo Buntings, American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, and Brown Thrashers have been observed with much greater frequency than in most years.

On June 5, the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club held a ceremony to officially open a new Side Trail named to honour Stew Hilts, long time naturalist, writer, and photographer, whose contributions to land stewardship in Ontario are legendary. The trail also leads to a small but very pretty waterfall and, as Stew tells it “My volunteer job in past years has been to scout out new properties acquired by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, find the survey markers, and assess the property. When I saw this falls, not visible from the trail, I knew we had to find a way to get there.

For any local reader, you hike south on the Bruce Trail from Johnson’s Sideroad, 3rd road south of Hutchison’s Corners, for about 10 minutes and you’ll see the blue sign on your left. Allow about an hour total time, in and out. Small parking lot is on the north side of the road, in the corner of the hayfield.” Congratulations, Stew!

Training for Piping Plover volunteer monitors at Sauble Beach has begun with Kirsten Snoek, the 2019 Outreach and Education Coordinator with Plover Lovers. So far this year, two nests have been established with incubation taking place now. Hatching is expected in the latter half of June. To learn more, visit and on facebook.

The Sydenham Sportsmen Association with the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, and Stewardship Grey Bruce present their annual Youth Expo 8:30AM to 2:30PM, this Saturday June 8. Aimed at ages 10-17, the activities are free, but pre-registration is necessary. Nancy Griffin states “The purpose of the day is to introduce young people to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities that they can participate in and perhaps take up as hobbies of their own. Activities include birdwatching, archery, orienteering, target shooting, fishing, and critter dips. The day is now in its twelfth year, with Stewardship Grey Bruce, Saugeen Conservation and Sydenham Sportsmen’s Club spearheading the organization along with many sponsors and volunteers involved from the organizations and local area. Participation for the kids is free but we do need to have people pre-register to ensure we have enough supplies (including the free BBQ for participants); space is limited.” Please contact Jo-Anne Harbinson to pre-register at 519-367-3040 EXT. 235 (leave detailed message) Or email:

There is growing concern from naturalists about the potential loss of access to currently public land at the Leith Harbour area. A private proposal to purchase some of this land that had been gifted to the municipality for public use, for a proposed development, along with parking, has many in the neighbourhood, the region, and even the province, (who travel there for recreational activities which include fishing, birdwatching, and other beach activities, etc.), concerned that access would be severely restricted. Others are mainly concerned that this proposed treatment of the gifted land, appears to be not in accordance with the intent of the donation. Recent campaigns in the Southampton area have also resulted in a backlash there over the apparent disregard for the wishes of the donors.

Those interested may wish to attend the Leith Beach Zoning Public Meeting Monday, June 10, 2019 6:00 p.m. Council Chambers, 157859 7th Line, Meaford

On Thursday June 13, still celebrating 30 years of operations, the OSFN features the final speaker for this season. Bob Bowles will present “Damsels and Dragons”. A former Grey County farm boy, Bob Bowles shares his in-depth knowledge and passion about damselflies and dragonflies, plus the Ontario Master Naturalist Program, which he developed. This event is being held at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, at 7PM. For more details please visit

To close, a Nature quote from Joni Mitchell – “They paved paradise, And put up a parking lot”