Nature Club News October 2019

NATURE CLUB NEWS October 2019

by John Dickson

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists’ (OSFN) next featured speaker is Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO). He will be giving an overview of Birds on the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula: Changes across the years since 2002, as seen at Cabot Head, where the BPBO is situated. The observatory also serves as a training ground for interns working there under Menu’s supervision, monitoring and documenting the bird species migrations each Spring and Autumn. Menu is scheduled to speak shortly after 7PM, Thursday October 10, in the auditorium of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library. Another popular aspect of these monthly Indoor Meetings, as they are called, is “Sightings”, an opportunity for audience members to share recent interesting nature observations they have noted. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Stéphane Menu, Station Scientist of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, transferring a banded, Yellow-rumped warbler to the hands of Ashten Sherman for release – You may note that the bird is upside down. The bird will stay that way until Ashten slowly turns his hand over, and the bird will automatically spread its wings and take to the air, bringing a smile to all who are there to see. This was one of the popular activities at the Open House at BPBO on September 28. Photo is by Tammy Sherman

The BPBO also held an open house on September 28, showing visitors the operational steps involved in documenting the migratory bird observations, including the mist nets where birds are gently and briefly captured, and carefully removed for detailed identification of species, sex, age, and condition, before banding, all of which are noted, prior to release again to re-join their flocks. Often, those in attendance, especially children, are given the opportunity to hold a bird in their hands for that release, a memorable experience, for sure.


The Bruce Birding Club, (BBC), led by Judy Duncan on September 18, travelled to Tiny Marsh, near Elmvale, to check out the birdlife present in the diverse habitat there. An immediate observation by Kiah Jasper’s keen eyes and ears was of more than 30 American Pipits in the field across from the parking lot there. That they were nestled into the ridges in the field made them extra challenging to see, as their grey coloring blended into the earthy tones of the ground, until they would suddenly rise and swirl in the air before settling once more into the stubble to forage for insects in the low vegetation, and fuel up, for the next stage of their journey from the Arctic to the southern USA. The 54 other species seen at Tiny Marsh also included Marsh Wren, Palm Warbler, Northern Harrier, and Greater Yellowlegs.

Virginia Creeper at the Tiny Marsh (Photo by John Dickson)

The BBC’s October 2 tour of the areas from Southampton to Kincardine, led by Bob and Anne Marie Taylor, resulted in 70 species being observed, including 8 species of warblers, and 15 of waterfowl. The BBC outings are usually held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, from September to June, with some extra special tours added throughout the year.


Also flocking to this area were the Field Botanists of Ontario (FBO). According to local FBO member Barbara Palmer, they “held their AGM at Grey Roots Museum and Archives on September 21. A light supper was followed by Jennifer Doubt’s presentation on the inner workings of the herbarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.”
     
Doubt said of the weekend “It was all fantastic, and a real highlight for me – besides spending time among people with a shared passionate about plants and nature! – was exploring some of the sites that botanists have documented in the past. Owen Sound has a rich history of botanical exploration and some of those past findings are outlined in publications and vouchered in the herbarium where I work. After a while working with those accounts and specimens, you can get to feel a kinship with some of the botanists who’s specimens assist you in your current projects, even if they died long before you were born. It was fun and thought-provoking to be in the places they were, to see some of the same botanical and other features they saw, and to reflect on the changes (in landscape, society, plant communities) that have taken place between their visits and ours.” Palmer continues – “Jennifer’s specialty is bryophytes and her outing found her and fellow moss enthusiasts at the  Inglis Falls Conservation Area examining the many mosses and liverworts.”

Other outings offered on the weekend included trips  to Neyaashiinigmiing with Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon(Anthony Chegahno), Isaac Lake Macrophytes (an Aquatic Plant study) with Tyler Miller, and a Fish Hatchery Forest tour was led by Will Van Hemessen. This forest has been suggested as the site of a future OSFN botany hike, perhaps in Spring of 2020.

 Finally, in 2007 FBO initiated an award that recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of field botany in Ontario. That award is named the John Goldie Award for Field Botany. The award recognizes Goldie’s pioneering efforts in conducting surveys of vegetation in Ontario and New York State in the early 1800’s. The Goldie Award is presented each year at FBO’s AGM. The winner of the Goldie award this year at Grey Roots for 2019, was Paul Catling, recently-retired curator of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s National Collection of Vascular Plants, and prolific ongoing botany researcher.

Owen Sound’s Joan Crowe was presented with the Goldie Award by the FBO in 2015


David Morris led an OSFN field trip on September 5th, entitled Sarawak Saunter, near Indian Falls, where we were welcomed to the childhood homestead of Val Radbourne. The focus was on invasive botanical species that are found quite commonly now in our locale. In addition to the often negative effects of the invasive species, including – Japanese knotweed; goutweed; multiflora rose; knapweeds; Lamium; cleavers bedstraw; white bedstraw, English ivy; colt’s foot; and periwinkle –  the colours on display that day were positively magnificent. Especially beautiful were Goldenrod meadows, (some loaded with honey bees), against a backdrop of green trees, in yellow sunshine, under a blue sky. All around were blossoms of red, blue, purple, pink, orange, and white – and soon the footpath brought us to the multi-coloured walls of the Gorge at Indian Falls, with red clay below a green clay, beneath grey rocks, splashed by a clear waterfall.

In the remains of the old homestead (Photo by Brian Robin)
Invasive Japanese Knotweed (Photo by Brian Robin)
David Morris explaining the knapweed nuances (Photo by Brian Robin)
Milkweed Tussock Moth on an alternate hostplant – Spreading Dogbane (Photo by Brian Robin)

On September 19, OSFN members and guests – as Eileen O’Connor shared -” had a lovely afternoon walk on “Anglesea”, the property of Don Rawls  located at the north end of an area known as the Klondike Hills, south-west of Chatsworth. Don and his dog led us on trails that he has made over the years up and down drumlins, through forested areas, past ponds and erratics, all of which provided a great variety of trees and shrubs, ferns and mushrooms as well as a few remaining wildflowers and birds.  Also on the property are the remains of a lime kiln which would have been constructed most likely by the first settlers around 1870. Afterwards, Don displayed his albums of the many photos of the flora and fauna he has noted over the years and we all came away with a very comprehensive  list of species and a guide to this beautiful terrain.Visitors are welcome by donation and pre-arranged guided tours are available.  Don said that May is an excellent time to visit but you are welcome to contact him or his son Mike any time.” 519-794-0561 or email rawfam46@gmail.com

Hart’s Tongue Ferns at Anglesea (Photo by John Dickson)
Butternut Tree at Anglesea (Photo by John Dickson)
Wild coffee or orange-fruited horse gentian at Anglesea (Photo by Glen Durst)

As a speaker I found that Beth Gilhespy had an excellent way of making Geology easier to understand clearly, returning often to the “sandwich of layers”, as she had pointed out at the beginning of her presentation on the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment. She also explained that she was enthusiastic about fossils, primarily for the stories they told about what the climate, habitats and water levels were like when those creatures were alive and dwelling here.

As Eileen O’Connor, once more, relates – “As a follow-up to her very informative indoor meeting talk of September 12, Beth Gilhespy led an outdoor geology hike on September 28, an overcast day but mercifully rain-free.  We met at the western end of East Linton SR, where Beth, with all her years of experience with hikes, distributed excellent hand-outs about what we would be seeing and organized us into carpools to get to the entrance to the GSCA Glen Management Area on county road 17.  Any geological information here is shamelessly lifted  from Beth’s hand-out.  We soon descended to the floor of the Glen, which is an example of a ’re-entrant valley’ created by scouring from retreating glaciers 12-14,000 years ago.  We learned that lichens are more often found on erratics which are more acidic and of which there were quite a few than on dolostone where moss is more likely.  Incidentally, this area would be fantastic for a mushroom hike as there was an astonishing variety and abundance of species all along the trail, especially after mild, damp weather. But caution was needed as the rocks were slippery and the paths muddy.

A very special feature of the Glen floor are the water-filled sinkholes created by meltwater dissolving the Manitoulin Dolostone layer and then, it is surmised, draining at contact with the Queenston Shale below, the lowest geological layer in our area.   These sinkholes were discovered by Ron Savage, for whom this section of the trail is named, as he hikes here often. One sinkhole is at least 15 feet deep! During the hike Ron was particularly good at spotting fossils in a higher  geological layer known as Fossil Hill Dolostone, some of which he had earlier marked with tape for our benefit.
Towards the end we climbed uphill to the Amabel Formation, the  dolostone layer which we see so visibly  on the top of the escarpment. But then we climbed down into and walked along the base of narrow crevices  where the blocky dolostone chunks were very evident but where we were also treated to the sight of plentiful Hart’s Tongue fern and some Walking Fern although we had already seen many other ferns during the outing.
Unfortunately we ran out of time to cover the Frank Holley side trail located near our start point that day but also worth a visit if you don’t know it.  And, if you ever get the opportunity to go on a Beth Gilhespy hike, don’t hesitate!”

Beth Gilhespy prepares to dip a 13 foot pole into a water filled pothole (Photo by Glen Durst)

On Friday September 20, Grey Sauble Conservation hosted a celebration at Hibou, recognizing contributions of the many volunteers associated with the organization and the Foundation, including the Friends of Hibou. Bob and Marie Knapp also led tours of the Hibou Interpretive trails.

The Young Naturalists Club kicked off their 2019-20 season, September 29, meeting at Grey Sauble Conservation Headquaters, where they registered with new co-ordinator Jody Johnson Pettit. Then Krista McKee led the youngsters through some exciting games of predator and prey, where hiding and camouflage were emphasized as important survival skills. This was followed by a visit to watch the salmon who have come back to where they were hatched in the area several years ago. The afternoon wrapped up with a hike around the Arboretum, and the cleaning out of bluebird nesting boxes to prepare them for next spring’s returning residents. Next month, an afternoon nature hike is planned in the Pottawatomi area, led by Judy Robinson.

For more information about the Young Naturalists Club, NeighbourWoods North, and OSFN, visit www.osfn.ca

Praying mantis at the Young Naturalist outing (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Salmon in fish spawning beds of Sydenham river. at the Young Naturalist outing (Photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

The Tom Thomson Art Gallery is also featuring Nature in a new exhibition – Footprints in Time: Painting Around Georgian Bay. Following in the footsteps of artists featured from the Gallery’s Collection, including Norval Morrisseau, Tom Thomson, Fred Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Daphne Odjig and John Hartman, you are invited on a tour around Georgian Bay. Beginning on Manitoulin Island, you will travel down the Bruce Peninsula to Owen Sound, head east toward Honey Harbour then north to Killarney. See the many ways in which this distinctive landscape has inspired successive generations of artists producing a rich cultural mosaic. 

And, speaking of Art, many people I know, (even my daughter is there canoeing and camping with friends) are spending a little time in the area of Algonquin Park these days, and until October 20, I would encourage you to take in a visit to the Algonquin Art Centre there, for  “A Tribute to Robert Bateman”, a special exhibit that looks at his deep connections to Algonquin and its role in his development as an artist and environmentalist.

On Saturday, September 14, renowned Canadian wildlife artist and naturalist Robert Bateman received The Algonquin Park Legacy Award at a special event at the Algonquin Art Centre in Algonquin Park. Bateman was presented the award by his long-time friend, the acclaimed wildlife artist and naturalist Michael Dumas — who was the recipient of the inaugural award last year. Established by the Algonquin Art Centre, the Algonquin Park Legacy Award recognizes artistic excellence, outstanding contributions to art in Algonquin Park, and life-long dedication to nature and wildlife. Bateman, who is now 89, also started out as a Junior Naturalist, through a programme at the Royal Ontario Museum, where he got an early start, learning about the many species around us. He was also sketching, as he says, like most youngsters, but he “just didn’t stop.”
The Algonquin Art Centre, located on the shores of Found Lake in Algonquin Park, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is voluntary, but a valid Ontario Parks permit is required to visit the centre.

And to close, a Nature quote from Bobby Bateman, as OSFN Life Member George Peck once knew him – “In 1947 at the age of 17, I landed a dream job at the Wildlife Research Camp, north of Lake of Two Rivers. I was a student ‘chore boy’ but I observed nature and drew and painted my surroundings for four glorious summers. The land is in my blood.”

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