Nature Club News June 2020

by John Dickson

As the Spring season draws to a close, and regional isolation restrictions are gradually being relaxed, Naturalist clubs are once again able to offer field trips with knowledgeable leaders and guides, with smaller numbers of attendees, (first 5 and now 10) all doing their best to enjoy and learn, while maintaining a safe distance from each other, to still limit the spread of COVID-19. However, large meetings with speakers, and socializing are still a long way off. 

First Monarch of the season. The worn appearance testifies to the long flight she had to return here. Hopefully she finds the milkweed that is already growing so she can lay her eggs and continue the cycle. (Photo by Carol L. Edwards)

In the meantime, many species are producing and raising young families. Eggshells are found scattered here and there, usually a little away from the bird nests. In May, Pam Binnendyk witnessed a family of Red Squirrels with four babies, who had taken over a hole previously prepared by a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers. “This was a surprise. We are overrun with squirrels of all colours here, but we don’t often see their young still in the nest. It’s obvious that the Momma squirrel moved them there as they are too big to have just been born 2 weeks ago when the Pileateds were in residence. They must be about 6 or 7 wks. Cute….til they start coming to my feeders.” 

Momma is 2nd from the left.. (Photo by Pam Binnendyk)

 While I was exploring a nearby wooded area, I watched as a wee rodent climbed straight up the side of a tree trunk. When it had climbed about 10 feet (3 metres) it suddenly lost its grip or confidence, (or both) and fell down to the forest floor of leaves, etc. I thought perhaps it was a baby red squirrel, but suddenly there was an adult chipmunk on the side of the trunk, ready to protect its youngster.

Others in the area have been finding nests, with eggs, of such birds as Killdeer, and Gray Catbird. There seem to be many sightings this Spring of Baltimore Orioles, and a friend of mine even has an Orchard Oriole staying around. I have also observed a few Eastern Bluebirds this Spring, although Tree Swallows often take over Bluebird nesting boxes. 

The Beaver Valley Birding club members are very helpful with ID for birders who aren’t quite sure what birds they have photographed and then posted on the club’s facebook page. As can be expected, there are many wonderful photos there too. 

Eastern Bluebird (Photo by John Dickson)
Clay-coloured Sparrow
 (Photo by David Turner)

Ann Schneider of The Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team reports that “On May 27th members participated in a zoom discussion after viewing “Resilience – A Climate Change Documentary of Hope”. The film can be viewed on Youtube The evening involved brief presentations by Liz Zetlin, the producer/director of the film, and Dr. John Anderson, the scientist featured in the film. The discussion was facilitated by Marilyn Struthers. Interest in John’s work was strong so he was invited to speak at the group’s monthly zoom meeting on June 8th where he spoke about the theory of denialism and the importance of both personal and systemic change to address climate change. Discussion was lively as the members talked about the balance of personal, systemic and natural solutions to climate disruption. To continue the learning and discussion Dr. Thorsten Arnold will be speaking about Nature Based Solutions at the next zoom meeting on July 6th at 7:00 p.m.”

On June 6, Transition Meaford hosted a virtual Eco Fair entitled Just Cool It. Among other activities, it featured workshops and online discussions with the presenters. Now that the event is over, I highly recommend visiting their website at where those very engaging exchanges have been recorded and can still be viewed.  

Kathleen Chayer of MacGregor Point Provincial Park has confirmed for me that some nature activities are now available in the Park, and that now some limited washroom facilities/privies are too.

Bob Bowles is offering the acclaimed and popular Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme, initiated by him,  beginning July 17. The Summer 2020 certificate program will be delivered via a blended learning environment that will enable you to learn about the breadth of topics explored in this certificate. Through a series of eight modules, participants will work through material at their own pace, including interactive PowerPoint slides, photographs and video produced specifically for this program.  I asked Bob about the possibility of any “live instruction in the field this year”, to which he replied – “Hi John;My students tell me that there is no experience like being out in the field with me and finding something serendipitous which I tell them about on the spot. This has been the highlight of my program but now with COVID-19, we can’t do that format. The idea right from the start of the first program was to have a day in the field together in the fall after the course if conditions warrant it at that time. Hard to predict what the fall will look like and we may have another spike in cases with all the opening up and not following social distancing rules. We do know it has a high percentage possibility of returning in the fall even if it declines by late summer. We hope to have a field day together in the fall for each of these spring and summer on-line courses but who knows what the fall holds for us.” Bob 

For more information please visit –

Fringed polygala (photo by Barbara Palmer)
Yellow Lady’s Slippers (photo by Barbara Palmer)
Starflower (photo by Barbara Palmer)

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists members were able to visit, in small numbers, for three outings at an area Nature gem known as Anglesea, guided by owner Don Rawls. OSFN’s Pam Kinchen tells us: “A beautiful, mostly old growth forest over steep ridges and valleys. Many birds both woodland and wood warblers wereseen and heard. Lots of pioneer history too. Don is a generous host and loves to tell you history. Very beautiful property and giving you a sense of forest tranquillity.”

As Neil Baldwin shared “Anglesea was a nice amble through varied terrain and woodlands, including a stunning hillside of trilliums and a grand old sugar maple…”Neil also led a Forest Bathing session, a first for OSFN, and for some, an effective coping tool.

As Heather Drummond reported –  “It was such a magical experience on your trail. The layout of it is very conducive to connecting with Mother Earth. I found it very relaxing and when I was at my crazy paced job today I could feel how relaxed I had been while enjoying the Soul Trail.

      It is a treat to be able to envision the spaces along the trail, i.e. the Gathering place, Labyrinth  and the Sweet blossoms of the Apple tree I was able to recline under and observe the many varieties of bees coming and going, the thunderstorm rolling in. It brought a smile to my face and a sense of relaxation to me during my crazy day today.”

Biologist Mark Wiercinski has, so far, led one Birding, Botany and Ecology hike at Bayview Forest this month, and is now offering at least two more. Jeannette Parry says “I was lucky enough to go on the hike yesterday morning, it was of course utterly amazing!  Mark should be classed as a National Treasure!  Please keep encouraging him to do hikes, presentations…whatever.  He has so much to offer and is such a great presenter in any setting. Thanks for the opportunity.”

OSFN is also holding its Annual General Meeting, through the zoom format, starting at 7PM Thursday June 13, to be able to meet its club guidelines, and to begin preparing for the 2020-2021 season. Details of this and other activities are available at

The NeighbourWoods North team also celebrated the flowering of the Makamik Crabapple trees, planted two years ago, and which were recently in their first blooming stage, lining the west entranceway to the Hospital, in Owen Sound. In spite of Covid-19, the work goes on this year, caring for the Forest of Hope & Healing, replacing and adding trees, mulching, weeding, trimming, and pruning. are happening right now in small groups or dyads at the hospital. In early summer, preparations will be made to plant a Welcoming Garden on the traffic island across from the main hospital entrance. When the ground is dry enough to handle large equipment this summer the first portion of the Healing Path will be built. More information, including how to volunteer at this time, can be found at

To close, a Nature quote from George Bernard Shaw’s Nobel Prize winning play, Saint Joan, written almost 100 years ago.  In a scene near Orléans, France, along the banks of the “silver Loire” river, it is evening in Spring, 1429, with an unrelenting wind from the East.  Dunois, a General, and his page, are both affected by the loveliness of the Loire in Springtime and are so excited to see  “a flash of blue” of the female Kingfisher, and then the male Kingfisher, flying past the reeds, as with their eyes “they follow the flight till the bird takes cover.”