Nature Club News, October, 2017


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Friday October 6, 2017 and in the Owen Sound Hub on Sunday October 8, 2017.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists have been able to enjoy several terrific field trips already this season. There were several opportunities to observe, and tag Monarch butterflies as they begin to migrate southward. It certainly looks like we have a bumper crop of them for a change this year. I have heard several individuals referring to more milkweed plants than usual, and it was suggested that the seemingly “extra” rain in the Spring and early summer may have contributed to that “extra” supply of milkweed plants for the butterflies to utilize for their “extra” population growth this year.

Peter Middleton explaining characteristics of a Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis. (Photo by Brian Robin)
Peter Middleton explaining characteristics of a Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis. (Photo by Brian Robin)

Peter Middleton’s two fern Hikes,September 13 and 20, filled to capacity almost right away and Peter reported –

Over the past two weeks “we have shared some remarkable places and habitats so close at hand, yet so far from the city streets a few blocks away. Fortunately the ferns were still in quite good shape and provided a feast of diversity and form. By my count over the two weeks, we observed 26 species and one unique variety. The number is not the important thing, however, but rather the exposure to the diversity of habitats and species that inhabit them. To that end, we started last week in the upland forests above the escarpment. Today, we visited the face of the escarpment, crevices carving through it and the scree slopes below the cliff face, before concluding the outing in rich bottomland forests found close to streams draining the escarpment.

On September 14, the club hosted its first Indoor Meeting of the season, featuring Kerry Jarvis, speaking about Fascinating Pollinators, and the experience of initiating a community project of successfully establishing butterfly gardens in Saugeen Shores. The presentation, which also welcomed many new members, demonstrated how a combination of initiative, research, and volunteerism provides an opportunity to help enhance the habitats and populations of these fascinating pollinators, while at the same time bringing a team spirit and sense of accomplishment. In addition, a short film by Liz Zetlin combined visual images, with music and a narrative story line.

At this meeting the latest version of the OSFN Constitution was ratified, allowing the executive to go ahead and set up more convenient donation options for those who wish to support, financially, the ongoing charitable work of the Club. The website now includes a “Donate” tab, with secure access through Canada Helps, which also generates a receipt for income tax purposes. Donations can also be made in person, at the monthly meetings and via the mail.

On September 17 Bob Gray’s tour of the Colpoys Creek traced the stream which originates in the Purple Valley area, and is gradually captured by karst features, disappearing completely underground and re-appearing as it flows downstream towards Georgian Bay. Features noted included resurgant springs marked by heavy clumps of watercress, later a section of dry streambed, and eventually a small waterfall before it emptied into Colpoys Bay. Bob’s familiarity with the geological features of our area is well known, and he was a key member of the OSFN committee which produced several excellent books, including one on geology. These popular editions are available at Ginger Press.

On September 23, the OSFN partnered with the City, TD, and members of the public to participate in planting of 150 trees in the Kelso Beach Park area to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial. This was a very successful venture, which resulted in a team effort to enhance the diversity of trees in that area. Kudos to Adam Parsons and his team from the City, Annette Penning and her team from TD, and Lloyd Lewis whose background with NeighbourWoods in Elora, led him to approach the Owen Sound Field Naturalists a year ago, as a possible umbrella of support for establishing something similar here. We look forward to further developments in this regard, and will share those with you in the future. A very special thank you to all of those from the general public who answered the call, and helped to create this legacy of new “Trees in the City”.

Robert Burcher explaining the economics of John Muir's time. (Photo by Brian Robin)
Robert Burcher explaining the economics of John Muir’s time. (Photo by Brian Robin)

On September 30, Robert Burcher led a tour to the Trout Hollow area of the Bighead River just outside Meaford. OSFN Club member Joe Buchanan reported “We enjoyed a delightful and informative talk and ribbon cutting ceremony held at the Riverside Community Hall followed by a walk-and-talk into Trout Hollow led by local historian (and archeological sleuth) Robert Burcher, all to celebrate the new info-signs locating and describing the mill workings and footsteps of John Muir during his time here. Robert’s enthusiasm is infectious. Although I had walked the area several times, to hear the details while standing in the actual locations was especially refreshing for me. I would also recommend a visit to the Meaford Museum any day as a further source of information re John Muir’s stay in the area.” The OSFN offers our gratitude to the Meaford Museum, and to Ron Knight whose generosity and welcoming hospitality has been key to the success of this historical recognition. Of special note was the opportunity to meet George Trout of Austin, Texas, a direct descendant of the Trout family.

With the floorplan of the original cabin marked out, volunteers demonstrated the tight sleeping arrangements of John Muir and his party. (Photo by Brian Robin)
With the floorplan of the original cabin marked out, volunteers demonstrated the tight sleeping arrangements of John Muir and his party. (Photo by Brian Robin)

This Thanksgiving weekend OSFN also offered two outings – one with Bob Knapp at the Marshall Woods on Saturday morning, and one with Bill Moses at the Inglis falls Arboretum on Monday – visit for more details.

The Young Naturalist programme is ramping up again this fall – with the first activity scheduled for October 29, with Frank and Bonita Johnston – de Matteis with some nature art activities for the youngsters. Details are on the OSFN website. Young Naturalists and their families also have full access to the other regular activities of the club, many of which are very “kid friendly”.

Thursday October 12, OSFN is pleased to present Paul Aird, a life long conservationist, and emeritus professor of history at U of T, and a former member of the NEC board. Paul Aird will be reading some of his ecological fables and nature tales, witty and wise gems that will charm, and stimulate.
Accompanying these stories will be some of the exquisite and distinctive line drawings of Thoreau MacDonald, a prolific artist and naturalist (and son of JEH MacDonald of the Group of Seven) The meeting begins at 7PM in the auditorium of the public library in Owen Sound. Admission is free although donations are welcome.