NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JUNE 2021

June 9th, 2021

Nature Club News June 2021

by John Dickson

Kudos to the organizing committee of the 2021 Huron Fringe Birding “Festival Lite” Webinars, featuring these seven terrific presentations, and reaching good audiences each evening: Birding in Algonquin Park with Michael Runtz; Black Bears of the Bruce Peninsula with Dr. Martyn Obbard;  Fifteen Years of Ontario Piping Plovers with Andrea Gress; A Holistic Approach to Learning Bird Songs and Calls with Ian Shanahan; Birders Gone Wild: 24 hour Bruce Peninsula Birdathon with Ethan Meleg; Bird Banding at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory with Stéphane Menu; The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas: Focus on the Females, with Mark Peck. 

If you missed any or all of these, I highly  recommend visiting their website at www.huronfringebirdingfestival.ca for links to each webinar, all of which were recorded for later viewing.


Great Egret near Isaac Lake May 31, by Les Anderson

A new birding club, with a familiar name, is being hatched by the Blue Mountains Public Library   (BMPL) via Zoom on-line. Here is an excerpt from their recent announcement:

 The Dorothy Crysler Bird Club begins Saturday June 19, 2021

 9:30am – 10:30am.  Join Curator Andrea Wilson as each month we learn about our wild avian friends, their habits and habitats. This will not only help you identify birds, but you will learn about migration, nesting, environmental needs, species at risk and more. This is a collaborative study group, where participants will share as we grow knowledge together.  

The club is named for Dorothy Crysler, a remarkable local artist, journalist, author and birder! This club takes her cue, as she was “the messenger not the expert”. This group is for anyone, new or established as a birder. Once you have registered a zoom invitation will be sent.  To learn more contact Andrea at  5195993681 or by Email: depot@thebluemountains.ca Website: https://thebluemountainslibrary.ca


Upland Sandpiper June 5, by Bill Hatten

The Plover Lovers of Sauble Beach have announced that there is now, finally, a nesting pair of Piping Plovers on the beach, with one egg in the nest as of June 7.  An exclosure was installed to keep out larger predators, plus a wider area perimeter fence around that.  Careful monitoring is being provided by volunteers and staff, in order to enhance the likelihood of success, as these Piping Plovers face many challenges in sustaining their population.


Ospreys on nest in Georgian Bluffs June 6 – Photo by Mike Tettenborn

Tree Helpers Wanted Here is a message from Lloyd Lewis of NeighbourWoods North: We are seeking volunteers who want to assist us in maintaining the 3000+ trees we have planted at the Owen Sound Hospital. 

Every Tuesday evening, starting June 15 th , we will be meeting at the Hospital Forest, opposite the emergency entrance, at 7pm and working till 8:30. Throughout the summer we will be mulching, cutting the encroaching grass and watering the plants in order to maintain the thriving health of the trees and shrubs.

 Any assistance is more than welcome. Just show up with gloves and gardening tools if you have them or for more information, call Lloyd at 226 256 8804.  Appropriate Covid precautions will be taken. 


Blue-winged Warbler June 6, South-East of Owen Sound  by William Gray

Although the birding activities are getting lots of attention, other aspects of Nature are just as eye-catching these days. Butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, moths and bees are everywhere and new Spring wildflowers are emerging almost every week. 

Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchid  June 7 by David Turner

Lately the orchids, and paintbrushes have been really putting on a show throughout the region.  Additionally, on recent outings I have been encountering lovely pink and scented wild roses along roadsides and pathways. 

In most years the Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival would take place in early June at Tobermory. 

This year, however, in collaboration with Bruce Peninsula National Park, The Friends of Bruce District Parks Association will bring you Wild Discoveries: Orchids and Pollinators. The event will feature a wide range of topics, presented virtually, to unlimited numbers of participants, over Zoom, and, the real bonus, it will be FREE! The talks will start on July 15th and will continue over the following evenings. Many knowledgeable and interesting speakers are booked for this virtual festival. There will be two presentations each evening at 7 and 8 PM. 

July 15th: Brian Popelier (Orchids) Tyler Miller (Alvars)

July 16th: Audrey Armstrong (Creating Habitat for Birds, Bees and Butterflies)  Megan Bonenfant (NCC- Vidal Bay)

July 17th: Peter Raspberry (Orchids/Photography)   Parks Canada (Virtual Hike/iNaturalist)

Monarch egg on a common milkweed leaf, Grey County, June 9, 2021 (Photo by Brian Robin)

There have been many recent sightings of turtles, locally, as many are seeking suitable locations for laying their eggs. It has been encouraging to hear stories, and see for myself, motorists stopping carefully on secondary roads to wait or assist with their road crossings. In addition lots of snakes, frogs and toads have  been observed in recent weeks.

Snapping Turtle hoping to cross a Grey County Road (she made it), June 2017, Photo by Brian Robin

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists monthly meeting will take place at 7PM this Thursday, June 10, online, via Zoom. It will include the Annual General Meeting  followed by featured guest speaker David Turner and “Birding different habitats in the Beaver Valley.”  Explore and discover where in the Valley, and why, so many birds call it home, or at least a nice place to visit. Enjoy David’s exquisite photographic images, and his contagious passion for Nature. 

David Turner (Supplied photo)

If you do not receive a link to this event but would like to attend please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca with “Beaver Valley” in the subject line.


On a sadder note OSFN extends condolences to the Willmott family on the recent passing of 96 year old Don Willmott. He was a beloved long-time naturalist and former club President (2003-4) who, along with his wife Elizabeth, had been an OSFN club member since 1992.

Don Willmott (supplied photo)

To close, a June Nature quote from Archibald Lampman (1861-1899), considered to have been Canada’s best writer of Nature verse- 

All day in garden alleys moist and dim,
The humid air is burdened with the rose;
In moss-deep woods the creamy orchid blows;
And now the vesper-sparrow’s pealing hymn
From every orchard close
At eve comes flooding rich and silvery;
The daisies in great meadows swing and shine;
And with the wind a sound as of the sea
Roars in the maples and the topmost pine.

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR MAY 2021

June 9th, 2021

Nature Club News May 2021

by John Dickson

Early in the last week of April, Kiah Jasper of the Bruce Birding Club looked at the weather projections and made his own bird migration forecast – Here is an excerpt –

26 Apr 2021 -Tomorrow looks like it will be awesome for migration in Bruce (and most of Ontario).  There are some very strong southwest winds coming all the way from the gulf coast and Texas. The wind will start to pick up later today and will continue until Tuesday night, when it starts dying down and shifting west. 

As far as rain goes, it’s looking pretty good! Looking at it now I see a massive, rain-free channel for birds all the way from the Texas coast. This means a huge number of migrating songbirds will take advantage of these tailwinds to move north. 

I feel like the Tobermory area could be good…”
Photo by Les Anderson – May 9 Rose-breasted Grosbeak – South Bruce Peninsula

Late April, Greater Yellowlegs, Photo by Peter Middleton at Isaac Lake

Sure enough, as Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, (BPBO) near Tobermory, titled his second  report of the season – “Riding the tailwinds in droves!  On April 27, we focused our eyes and binoculars on the immense stream of birds flowing through Cabot Head like a feathered river in spring flood. A total of 53 species, the highest of the season so far, were detected including five species of warblers (the forest gems), with many species in incredible numbers. American Robins for example, were seen milling in flocks of up to 150 birds, with a morning estimate of over 700 birds. The most abundant bird though was the Yellow-rumped Warbler: we estimated over 900 birds moved through Cabot Head. Purple Finches put on a show too, adorning the bare branches of trees with their rich red, singing as if spring was here, and all in all being in record high numbers! Just like Pine Warblers, they broke the previous one-day record of 83 birds on April 24, 2016: 91 Purple Finches were counted on April 27 this spring, a remarkable number.Even after 16 seasons at Cabot Head, I am still in awe and delighted by these mornings of intense migration, when the Earth herself seems to pulse with birds.”

Menu’s third report of the season featured even more superlatives, with the setting of a new record for the most species of warblers (8) on one April day.

“What took us by surprise though, were the waves upon waves of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, which were everywhere in the cedars and the birches, chittering away and hungrily devouring midges. They also hit our nets like a gentle green tsunami of little fluffballs. Between April 29 and May 5, we banded an amazing total of 419 Ruby-crowned Kinglets! (With a season total, so far, of a cool round 500 birds).”


Closer to Owen Sound and area, by May 3rd both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, plus Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were arriving, as well as Pine Siskins and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Some nesting Bald Eagles now have eaglets in their nests, Ospreys are active and in one case a Great Horned Owl pair took over a platform nest that is usually occupied by Ospreys. Shorebirds being observed include Greater Yellowlegs, American Bitterns and Spotted Sandpipers. In addition, more wildflowers are blooming and being noticed too, along with sightings of Turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, not to mention butterflies and bees, and just this morning – morels.

Baltimore Oriole photo by Renee Anderson May 4, Owen Sound

Bob Gray of the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team (GBCAT) shared this with me: “On May 17 we are sponsoring a Zoom presentation on Lyme disease.  I have seen this doctor speak on this topic and she is excellent.  Anyone who enjoys the out of doors in the local area should be encouraged to attend. Come and learn about ticks: the different species, how to identify them, their life history and ways to prevent bites. Inform yourself about the contraction, symptoms, treatment etc. of this disease. Discover the impact of climate change on these disease carrying ticks which has increased their population density and broadened their habitat. Dr. Anne Uings is scheduled to give this presentation from 7 to 8:30pm, Monday May 17. Please register here: bit.ly/3dM7hzx      For more information, contact: a2gbcat@bmts.com

Morel by Bill Elder May 4

Nature news from the newsletter of the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library – Order Seeds from the Seed Lending Library! There is still a good selection of seeds, all donated by our generous community. This year the Seed Lending Library is not available for browsing. Please contact Carolin at cbrooks@owensound.library.on.ca or 519-376-6623 ext. 214 for a current inventory. *Please include your name and library card number with your request. Consider saving and donating seeds this fall to keep the Seed Lending Library going next year. Information will be included with your seeds. 


More and more Nature talks are being produced and premiered locally, and are available for viewing on an ongoing basis on various YouTube channels. Recommended examples include Spring Wildflowers of the Beaver Valley Area, by Stew Hilts, who I still remember leading a couple of Wildflower Walks on Old Baldy for OSFN a few years ago. Hilts produced his first Nature video earlier this year featuring Waterfalls of the Beaver Valley Area, and it has been very popular, with close to one thousand viewings already. Searching either of those titles will bear fruit too. 

Still in the Beaver Valley, Rogers TV has produced and released a Wandering Grey Bruce video interview of Birding with David Turner by another Naturalist, Krista McKee. Searching online for those key words and names works very well too. The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) also have a growing catalogue of recorded Webinars, on such various themes as Geology, Botany, Being a Bird in North America, etc., and they can be found at www.osfn.ca

David Turner Palm Warbler at Collingwood Harbour trails, May 3

Although group field trips are currently suspended, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) continues to provide monthly presentations online using the ZOOM platform. On May 13,  at 7pm Marg Gaviller shares her photos and research about The Horses of Sable Island, and the journey from there back to Newfoundland.

Photo by Marg Gaviller

The Sable Island horses, originally domestic animals, are now the main occupants of the island. They roam freely in the natural environment, comfortably in the temperate summers, but battered by high winds and ferocious storms in the winter, and without human interference. These feral horses are, indeed, a joy to behold.

This is a ZOOM webinar, and is presented free to the public. If you are interested and would like to participate, please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca with “Sable Island Webinar” as the subject title to receive a link to the webinar which will be open at 6:45pm. To learn more please visit www.osfn.ca 

To close, a May Nature quote from Winston Groom’s A Storm in Flanders  – “On May 2nd, [2015] at the height of the Second Battle of Ypres, a friend of Major John McRae’s, Lieutenant Alex Helmer, was killed…and after conducting the burial service himself, McRae went to sit on the step of a field ambulance, …took out a pad and pencil and within twenty minutes had penned one of the immortal poems of the war, In Flanders Fields. Those who were present recorded that the sky was full of larks: that the poppies for which Flanders is renowned were beginning to bloom in the fields and sprout between the crosses in the growing military cemeteries.” 

NATURE CLUB NEWS, APRIL 2021

June 3rd, 2021

By John Dickson

Twenty years ago this Spring, I registered for my first Huron Fringe Birding Festival (HFBF). Having just turned 50, I had decided to take up birding as an active pastime, and this wonderful festival helped me to rediscover the learning and pleasure I had somehow left behind at the age of ten.

Spring is truly here now, Osprey on nest on the Lake Eugenia causeway. Please don’t get too close if you go out to see it.
Photo by David Turner, April 8

This year, due to COVID-19, and generous sponsorship, the 23rd HFBF has announced these seven exciting and free webinars scheduled for 7:00 pm on each evening of the Festival Virtual-Lite, which will run during their normal Festival dates of May 28 – 31 and June 3 – 6, 2021.  

They are: May 28 – Birding in Algonquin Park with Michael Runtz

May 29 – Black Bears of the Bruce Peninsula with Dr. Martyn Obbard 

May 30 – Fifteen Years of Ontario Piping Plovers with Andrea Gress 

May 31 – A Holistic Approach to Learning Bird Songs and Calls with Ian Shanahan

June 4 – Birders Gone Wild: 24 hour Bruce Peninsula Birdathon with Ethan Meleg 

June 5 – Bird Banding at the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory with Stephane Menu 

June 6 – The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas -3: Focus on the Females with Mark Peck 

To learn more and to register, please visit – http://hfbf.ca/


With the arrival of Spring there has been a flurry of shared observations: trees beginning to leaf out; Scarlet Cup and other colourful fungi popping up, sometimes overnight; wildflowers already blooming; choruses of toads, frogs, and insects; migrating birds stopping here for a brief visit, or perhaps like many of us, they consider this area an ideal one in which to stay and raise their families.

Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca)
Photo by Peter Harris

Sightings of note here include Eastern Meadowlarks, American Kestrels, Sandhill Cranes, a few Trumpeter Swans and several hundred Tundra Swans that staged this year at Lake Eugenia, plus Eastern Bluebirds. I had my first sighting this year of an Eastern Phoebe, just this week, as well as the newly brightening yellow feathers of a male American Goldfinch.

Trumpeters Swans: a rare but welcome visit. April 8
(North of Kimberley)
Photo by Ingrid Remkins

Congratulations to Bob Bowles, formerly of the Markdale area, on the recent naming of the Robert L. Bowles Nature Centre near Orillia. Bowles has created a wonderful legacy of nature learning through Naturalist Clubs, his Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Programme through Lakehead University of Thunder Bay and its satellite campus at Orillia, plus his popular television shows. Here is an excerpt from their recent announcement “at the new Robert L. Bowles Nature Centre (formerly Green Events and Programs) on Saturday, March 20, 2021, the first day of Spring for our ‘Signs of Spring’ workshop. Spring arrives in the northern hemisphere this year at 5:37 A.M. EDT, marked by the vernal equinox. Award-winning writer, artist, photographer and naturalist Bob Bowles will lead us in our discovery of spring signs.”

 Female Red-winged Blackbird: They are back! 
April 8, north of Kimberley
Photo by Ingrid Remkins

Barbara Palmer shared this report about OSFN’s March 21 Birding the Waters of the Beaver Valley, during Spring Migration.

“On a lovely, early spring Sunday, David Turner led an outing to some of the Beaver Valley’s birding hotspots.

First, we checked out the birds on Lake Eugenia from the Causeway. We were not disappointed, as there were good numbers of tundra swans swimming and vocalizing. These beautiful white swans with black beaks and straight necks are always a welcome sight as they stop to fuel-up for their high Arctic destination. Several species of ducks were identified, including the ubiquitous mallard, black, common goldeneyes, pintails,redhead, and ring-necked ducks. We were thrilled to see a couple of sandhill cranes flying in the distance and a couple of bald eagles were spotted. There were lots of Canada geese too. Cackling geese were spotted earlier in the week, but weren’t seen on this trip.

Our next stop was the Kimberley Sewage Lagoons, where a pair of trumpeter swans greeted us as we parked. They were exhibiting courting behaviour, bobbing their heads in a graceful dip. The lagoon had a number of Canada Geese which took off as we approached. All was not lost though, as a northern shrike was spotted on a wire. It appeared to be hunting. Various other birds were noticed, including robins, red-winged blackbirds, crows, a raven and a turkey vulture.

All in all, a wonderful morning of birding.”


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists, (OSFN) have three presentations lined up for this month, all offered free to the public via a ZOOM link sent to members or available on request at www.osfn.ca:

Foraging for Edible and Medicinal Plants, with Alexis Burnett at 7PM Thursday April 8, via ZOOM. This focus of this presentation is on learning how to ethically harvest plants for food and medicine from the wild. Burnett will talk about both native and non-native plants and explore what it means to work with these groups of plants in a way that helps to sustain and regenerate local populations.


2PM Saturday April 17, via ZOOM: OSFN’s 6th Annual Celebrate EARTH WEEK event – An Afternoon with Beth Gilhespy: Reflections on Wildlife and Wild Space Conservation Keynote Speaker Beth Gilhespyshares her experiences and insights.


 Gilhespy is a former CEO at Bruce Trail Conservancy, who, in 2019 gave a Geology presentation to a full house OSFN audience and led a complementary field trip. She also shared this comment about her new work: “There is so much excellent work being done at the Toronto Zoo to increase the numbers of endangered Canadian species in wild – Blandings turtles, wood turtles, loggerhead shrikes, and many others.  Plus the many other programs that are helping improve the lives of endangered animals worldwide through education and conservation research. Lots to tell people about!” Our sincere gratitude to the ongoing generous sponsorship of this event by Caframo.


This is a ZOOM webinar. Details of how to join will be sent out in an eHerald closer to the event. The webinar will be open at 6:45pm to sort any technical difficulties.

Didn’t receive an e-herald but would still like to participate? Please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca


7PM Thursday April 29, via ZOOM as a special bonus presentation: Peter Middleton with: Peacocks, Tigers and Temples – Birds in the Heart of India.

This is a ZOOM webinar. Details of how to join will be sent out in an eHerald closer to the event. The webinar will be open at 6:45pm to sort any technical difficulties.

Didn’t receive an e-herald but would still like to participate? Please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca 

Thanks for your patience as we change with the times! 

   Red-winged Blackbird  
Photo by Mike Tettenborn, April 8

To close, Nature quotes from Sailing Alone Around the World, by Captain Joshua Slocum, who sailed from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on July 2, 1895 aboard the sloop Spray. On July 5, having cautiously skirted the deadly shifting sands of Sable Island, Slocum “ …was in a world of fog, shut off from the universe.” and later that day Spray “dropped into a smooth lane, heading southeast, and making about eight knots, her very best work…

“The fog lifting before night, I was afforded a look at the sun just as it was touching the sea. I watched it go down and out of sight. Then I turned my face eastward, and there, apparently at the very end of the bowsprit, was the smiling full moon rising out of the sea.”

In the first week of April 1896 “With the vessel in good trim, though deeply laden, I was well prepared for another bout with the Southern, misnamed Pacific Ocean…

“On April 14, the Spray making good headway on a northwest course, Hurrah for the Spray! I shouted to seals, sea-gulls, and penguins; for there were no other living creatures about, and she had weathered all the dangers of Cape Horn.”

Ontario Nature Update

March 18th, 2021

OSFN wants to keep you informed.  Ontario Nature has asked its member organizations to advocate for nature.  Become aware of the issue below: 

While Ontarians grapple with the social and economic impacts of a global pandemic, the Government of Ontario is quietly setting the stage for development projects to proceed without public consultation or the right to appeal. Without alerting the public through notices on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO), the government has been issuing and revoking Minister’s Zoning Orders – effectively eliminating public participation in each planning decision.

A Minister’s Zoning Order allows the Minister to directly zone land for particular purposes. The Minister does not have to give notice or consult with the public prior to issuing or revoking a zoning order.

Please join Ontario Nature in urging the Government of Ontario to curtail its use of Minister’s Zoning Orders for land-use planning. As Ontario deals with COVID-19 and prepares for our recovery, the focus should be on enhancing community resilience to climate change and potential future pandemics. Enabling and supporting public participation in determining the future of our farmlands, forests, wetlands and other natural areas will be vital to advancing this outcome. Expediting development while keeping Ontarians in the dark does not serve the public interest. 

Ontario Nature has created an opportunity for you to become better informed and to sign a letter to voice your concerns related to curtailing  the misuse of Minister’s Zoning Orders. 

Check it out at:  https://ontarionature.good.do/mzo/email/

Invitation to OSFN Members and Any Nature Enthusiasts from Don Rawls of Anglesea, Forest and Trails

March 18th, 2021

Don will not be personally organizing hikes through his Managed Forest at Anglesea this spring. However, OSFN members, and indeed any nature enthusiasts, are welcome to stroll his trails, either self-guided or with a pre-arranged accompaniment by Don. 

The property at Anglesea in Springtime is rich in ferns and flowers, trees and fungi, birdlife, geology and history. As it is located in the Klondike Hills, southwest of Chatsworth, the marked trails do include some slopes, both up and down.

Small pre-arranged walks at Anglesea are more than welcome and folks merely have to check with Don a couple of days prior to the proposed walkabout. 

Please contact Don Rawls at  Anglesea, located in the Klondike Hills southwest of Chatsworth, 782358 Sideroad 3, West of Highway 6, Chatsworth, Ontario

To reach the Rawls family: phone: 519-794-0561 or email Don at rawfam46@gmail.com

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR MARCH 2021

March 11th, 2021

Nature Club News March 2021

by John Dickson

In recent days I have been able to fit in a little more skiing, through beautiful open forests, and alongside a fast flowing stream, to an idyllic waterfall. Conversely, I have also been out for a run in shorts and T-shirt, hearing and then seeing my first Red-winged Blackbird of 2021. I hope you too are enjoying the sunlight, warmer winds, and even the rain as the transition to Springtime is well underway.

The Friends of Hibou have now resumed offering guided hikes and there are still two available in March.  For their hikes, you must register in advance. Register at www.greysauble.on.ca/waiver/covid-19-guidelines-and-waiver-forguidedhikes-friend-of-hibou/ These two hikes will start from the Parking Lot by the Pump house at the most southerly entrance to the trails. Time: 1pm to 3pm. Reminder – social distancing will be in place, and masks should be quickly available in the case of closer contact than planned. They will keep numbers manageable at about ten in total per hike leader.  Tuesday March 16th. Bob Knapp will lead a snowshoe/hike on the Interpretive Trail. Depending on the group and the weather, he may offer an extension to another section. Tuesday March 30th Don Sankey will share photography skills on parts of the shoreline and the Interpretive Trail. You may bring your camera. Learn more about winter light, snow and more.  I had a lovely ski there just this past week, and I highly recommend their Spring Newsletter at www.friendsofhibou.com


Tufted Titmouse, March 9, at Pinery Provincial Park (photo by Nancy White)
On March 6, in Georgian Bluffs, by Mike Tettenborn
Female Snowy Owl 

The Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association has launched its Red-headed Woodpecker funding drive for a habitat enhancement stewardship program to help protect this endangered species on the Bruce Peninsula. Their Silent Auction is now open, with many attractive and valuable items to bid on, including a two hour star gazing session, 2 nights stay in Lion’s Head, a parks merchandise package, a Red-headed woodpecker painting, an EcoAdventures Forest Escape and EcoAdventures gift cards plus much more. The auction is open until March 15th. The highest bid receives the item. This organization does some amazing work for Nature and this is a chance to “Win something cool and help protect the Red-headed Woodpecker!” Visit their Facebook page at Red Headed Woodpecker Silent Auction to see all of the items, and to bid on your own favourites, for yourself, or perhaps as a gift for someone else.


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) at 7PM Thursday March 11, on ZOOM host Members Night – a potpourri of several brief presentations by club members, with a variety of nature themes. These include OSFN’s popular publications, a Piping Plover video, a Name that Bloom quiz, plus one on local trails, with lots of Nature photos too. This is open to the public and you are welcome to attend. If you would like to attend this event, but did not receive the zoom link via email, please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca with Members’ Night as the subject title, or visit www.osfn.ca

OSFN’s Jody Johnson Pettit shared this update on the Young Naturalists who were once again able to get together last month:”On Sunday, February 28th, the Young Naturalists club had the opportunity to snowshoe through the forest at the Outdoor Education Centre with Deb Diebel. The group followed porcupine tracks and found evidence of the porcupine at the bottom of several trees and broken limbs off of Hemlock trees. We discovered what could possibly be a porcupine den, and wild turkey tracks in the snow. The children and adults played an owl and mouse camouflage game and were able to walk along the frozen lake shoreline. The snow was wet and heavy, making for tough snowshoeing conditions.

Snowshowing (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)
Porcupine Quills (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

“The first YouTube presentation by Stew Hilts is a winner! As David Morris points out, it is “An excellent presentation by Stew Hilts courtesy of the Blue Mountain Public Library, Arts and Culture Committee. Good discussion of the geology of the falls, some history and lots of pictures of many waterfalls, big and small”

The Blue Mountains Public Library invites you to: “Join Stew Hilts, who presented three Lifelong Learning courses at the library, to hear about one of his favourite topics. Learn how the geology of the valley and adjacent areas influence the waterfalls. Open your eyes to a greater appreciation of our amazing group of waterfalls here in the Grey/Bruce area… and learn about three secret waterfalls to boot!”  Visit them at www.thebluemountainslibrary.ca and you will find this excellent video and their YouTube Channel under Books & More, then Virtual Branch. I am sure you will enjoy learning from Stew, just as I did.


Skunk – Flesherton March 10  photo by David Turner
Eastern Bluebird in Beaver Valley March 10, photo by David Turner

The Bruce Birding Club has now resumed its twice monthly club get togethers, but via zoom. Fred Jazvac explained that “The purpose is to chat, answer questions, report sightings, show your photos and have people speaking on various topics.” On March 3rd Kiah Jasper spoke about the Breeding Bird Atlas, particularly in Bruce County, and Fred explained about the difference in feet between a Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle. On March 17, among other items, Lynne Richardson will give details on the latest, new bird list for Grey and Bruce County of which she, James Turland and Dave Fidler were the people who worked on this task.   Lynne is also in charge of the Breeding Bird Atlas for Grey County.” To learn more about this club and its activities, please contact Fred at fredjazvac@gmail.com


The team of Bob and Mary Beth Gray shared with me this wee taste of Maple Syrup producers’ activities, observations, concerns and motivations: “Hi John: You seem to have a pretty good sense of all things natural.  Am just in now from the sugar shack.  It was our first boil today and it was used to “set up” the sugar content in the evaporator.  We didn’t get any syrup off today, but we will on our next boil, likely tomorrow. We have had two sap runs here so far this season.  The first was on Sunday, Feb. 28, and second was today – Monday, Mar. 8.  We used the first run to flush our sap lines out, so did not collect any sap that day at all.  And now our evaporator has been set up with the second run.  With the next run, we should be pulling off syrup.The sugar content here in the sap today was 2.8 Brix (which means 2.8% sugar content).  We like to make our syrup at 67 Brix which is a little
on the thick side.  If you take the number 88 and divide it by the sap sugar content (2.8 today), that gives you 31.4 which is the exact ratio of sap to syrup at 67 Brix.  In other words, with this high sugar content in the sap (which we find is typical for the beginning of the season), it takes 31.4 parts of sap to make 1 part of syrup.  That is important to know, because it means that you can make a lighter grade syrup (less time on the fire to get to syrup, so it does not have a chance to darken as much.  The flavour of this “first run” syrup is quite delicate. The grade is Golden. Because you are evaporating less water vapour off to make syrup, you are making syrup faster and with less fuel wood.  These are all good things if you are a sugar maker.

Sap flow is all about the weather.  One needs a good hard frost at night
(at least minus 3 C in the woods) and plus temperatures (not greater
than plus 10 C).  And it does not like to run in an east wind (too
cold).  There also needs to be adequate moisture in the ground such as
from a melting snow pack or rain to feed the tree roots with water.  So
with all these factors required for sap to flow, there often are not all
that many sap runs in a season when one can make maple syrup.
During syrup season, every morning is like Christmas morning.  I get a
kick out of heading out to the bush first thing in the morning to see
how much sap has collected during the night, or to see when sap has
started to run again for the day.  And it is a great opportunity to see
and hear spring migrants as they arrive daily.  This morning we had our
first red-winged blackbird, and our first gulls flying by this afternoon.  WHAT A GREAT TIME OF THE YEAR! Bob.” 

Then this message Tuesday – “Hi John,Bob has just returned from our bush where he says the sap run for today has already started ( 9:47 am).Enjoy the sunshine,Mary Beth” Definitely a cause for celebration!


Mink at the Bruce National Park, photo by Maureen Elliott

To close, two Nature quotes, both apropos to these final weeks of Wintertime – From Pierre Berton’s The Arctic Grail – After the death of Charles Hall, the remnants of his expedition, on March 30, 1873 were on “a flat frozen slab drifting alone among hundreds of icebergs – slow-moving mountains of crystal ploughing through the glassy sea.” From Steve Podborski’s Skier’s Source Book: “The aesthetic experience of skiing, of absorbing the splendors of the great outdoors and communing with Mother Nature in her winter wonderland, makes the spirit soar. When you take advantage of winter and turn the snow into a source of pleasure, it makes you think that the migrating birds and hibernating groundhogs have it all wrong.”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR FEBRUARY 2021

February 19th, 2021

Nature Club News February 2021

by John Dickson

In recent years this upcoming weekend has become an opportunity for celebrating many things – Family, Heritage, and Nature too.  The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is scheduled for February 12-15, inviting people to report their observations of bird sightings, as well as share their photos, and watch on a map of the world as count data are applied to a visual representation of a world wide activity.

My own best memory of this event was from a few years ago, on the coldest morning of the winter, when I counted 29 Cedar Waxwings and one fluffed-up Robin, enjoying the remaining fruit on a Mountain Ash tree visible from our window. Alas, most winters since then, that tree has been fruitless, as has been my checking for the return of the waxwings! To learn how you can participate please visit  www.birdcount.org


February 9, Owen Sound, Male Cardinal, by Renee Anderson
February 9, Owen Sound, Male Cardinal, by Renee Anderson

The Grey County Master Gardeners are offering the second of three zoom seminars on Saturday February 27 at 1PM  to help you create and maintain an environmentally sustainable and beautiful garden. Entitled Gardening with Nature – Building Gardens from the Ground Up it will feature Julie Anne Lamberts, local gardener and operator of By the Bluffs Nursery near Wiarton. 

By the Bluffs Nursery is an ecological plant nursery and permaculture orchard, and Julie is a nature lover and conservationist. Her nursery, orchard and gardens are grown in harmony with the environment using techniques that restore the health of land, water and air. To register for this event please visit www.greycountymastergardeners.com


The hikes planned for February by the Friends of Hibou, (FoH) were suspended during the current COVID-19 lockdown. In the meantime FoH reminds you that the trails are still open for your use.  To check and to verify whether any guided hikes have been rescheduled after the planned easing of some restrictions February 16, please visit www.friendsofhibou.com


 Beaver Valley February 2, by Ingrid Remkins
January 24 Brown Creeper, by Ingrid Remkins

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are offering their monthly presentation entitled Tanzania: Cultures of Maasai and Lions; and Zanzibar: A World of Spices, at 7PM Thursday February 11 online, via Zoom. The guest speaker is OSFN President Pamela Kinchen, who documented her journey to Africa with photographs, research and special memories. Kinchen describes it as A Dream Trip realized to see it All – Before it’s Gone! Three weeks of “Pinch me – I’m really Here!” These events are open to the public as well as OSFN members.

If you would like to attend this event, but did not receive the zoom link via email, please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca with “Tanzania Webinar” as the subject title, or visit www.osfn.ca


Female Snowy Owl in Georgian Bluffs February 2 by Mike Tettenborn
Rough-legged Hawk February 4, in Georgian Bluffs by Mike Tettenborn

Another local organization I can recommend is the Bruce Grey Woodlands Association, which has recently posted several learning opportunities related to trees, tree pests, invasive species, new initiatives for wood products, etc. To check them out please visit www.bgwa.ca


The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is now offering online learning opportunities too. For example, Mark Peck shared his article Animal Crossing describing and explaining about how the nomadic winter finches are irruptive migrants who plan their travels based on food supply. Other offerings can be found at “ROM at Home”, or under “collections and research” at www.rom.on.ca Mark Peck is Manager of the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity at the ROM, and has given presentations to OSFN with his father, the late George Peck.


Evening Grosbeak, Flesherton. January 29 David Turner

Almost a year ago, Beaver Valley Birding was launched on a  Facebook platform, by David Turner of Flesherton. Observing that the club has been very active with its sightings and photographs, I asked David about what he had in mind when he created the group, to which he replied

“So I started the Beaver Valley Birding page on March 29th, 2020, as a way to connect local birders together for the purpose of sharing information and their love of local birds. I thought it would be a great way to share locations of interesting birds to some folks who don’t know where to look for birds and to meet other birders from the area. Birding is a great way to share outdoors activities and two sets of eyes are always better than one. One of my main hopes was to have people meet and go birding in groups. This still happens now with small numbers, but I’d hoped to be able to have people meet me, then I could show them some of the best spots to go. The site has become more popular than I ever thought it would, with 285 members. Hopefully we can all have a big birding event when the Covid crisis is over. Seeing the amount of seasoned birders willing to help new birders out with ID’s and other information is the best bonus so far with the page. Also the quality of photography is impressive. Lot’s of help for beginners there too.”

I have certainly found the site to be fascinating, due to the terrific postings of excellent photos, and helpful advice and tips for identification. Kudos to David Turner for this very successful initiative.If you are interested in seeing for yourself, visit Beaver Valley Birding on Facebook.

Bald eagle, close to the Valley’s centre – February 8 Beaver Valley by David Turner
Northern Shrike, FEB 1, by David Turner

In response to my tribute last month to Gus Yaki, I have learned from an acquaintance of mine, here in Owen Sound, that she and her future husband met on their first field trip led by Yaki, and went on several more of his well organized trips. His leadership skills, his understanding of the group dynamic, and sharing his nature knowledge made for very educational and memorable experiences.


To close, a Nature quote from Farley Mowat’s Grey Seas Under, set in Canada’s Atlantic provinces “…February of 1938 was more violent than any of its predecessors for thirty years. It began with a full-blown hurricane and went on from there to try to make its opening days seem like an idyllic June.”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JANUARY 2021

January 14th, 2021

Nature Club News January 2021

by John Dickson

In spite of the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, many people are paying closer attention to Nature activities as they try to cope with the restrictions and safety guidelines. In addition, with few or no in-person indoor or outdoor group events, some are creating artwork with nature themes, or sharing photos of birds and animals, or their tracks, plus winter forests and fungi. There are also many online programmes for viewing from home, with some question and answer exchanges possible in many of them.

This is part of a four foot stretch of these on a Beech Tree trunk lying on the ground in Harrison Park, when I was skiing there on January 8 – Turkey Tail Bracket Fungus – photo by John Dickson


Locally, the Grey County Master Gardeners present “The Eco-Responsible Gardener”, a series of three Zoom seminars, to help you create and maintain an environmentally sustainable and beautiful garden. The first seminar on Native Plants for Grey and Bruce Counties is Saturday, January 30 at 1pm. Well known author, Lorraine Johnson, shares her extensive knowledge of native plants, and how to incorporate them into the home garden.Lorraine Johnson is the author of numerous books on environmental issues and gardening. Former president of the North American Native Plant Society, her areas of expertise include gardening with native plants, urban agriculture and biodiversity conservation.Her most recent book, co-authored with Sheila Colla, “A Flower Patch for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators”, is available as a free download at foecanada.org/bee-garden-guide.

Registration is required by January 23. Please email greycountymg@gmail.com with “GCMG Zoom Seminar 1” in the subject line. A registration email for this seminar will be emailed to you, with further instructions.


The Friends of Hibou launched their winter hike series in December. 

With the Point Trail as her focus, Annette Patrick led a group around the loop, pointing out different features referencing the ancient history of the landscape. It was a cold sunny day and the hike was enjoyed by the group.Friends of Hibou are limiting their numbers to nine plus the leader and follow Covid19 restrictions and guidelines. They suggest participants bring a mask in case distancing is difficult in some areas.

Supplied photo from December 31st hike at Hibou Conservation Area

On New Year’s Eve Day a small group of adults enjoyed a hike around the Interpretive Trail with features identified by both  Krista McKee and Bob Knapp. Krista’s granddaughter was a pleasant addition to the hike group.

Bob Knapp’s hike on January 12 attracted a small group, which is in keeping with the Covid restrictions. He led the group around the Interpretive Trail, making their way around some of the flooding. His hike included a walk along the link trial to the Tom Thomson Trial. Bob is always a wealth of information related to how Hibou became part of Grey Sauble Conservation land.On Monday Feb 1st Barry Lewin plans to lead a hike around the Interpretive Trail. Barry walks that trail more frequently than most. He will point out birds, the beaver lodge, trees and other interpretive features. He will review some of the history of Hibou and point out some of the information from the book written by Bob Knapp. If you are interested in these hikes, register early as the numbers may be further restricted from the nine people limits so far.

To register, go to https://friendsofhibou.com You must register for these scheduled hikes in advance. Let Friends of Hibou know if you would like to see more scheduled hikes later in February and in March email friendsofhibou@gmail.com


Congratulations to Artist and Naturalist George McLean, recently announced to receive the Order of Ontario Award. McLean also received an Owen Sound Cultural Award for Lifetime Achievement a number of years ago and designed the logo of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) depicting a Hart’s Tongue Fern, a species that is rare in North America, but very common in our region. I recommend reading Rob Gowan’s interview with George McLean in the Sun Times January 11.

This Thursday, January 14, at 7PM, OSFN presents  Exploring the Polar Regions: A Guide’s Perspective with Bella Waterton and Paul Scriver. They have been working in the polar regions for the last decade, most recently along the Hudson Bay coastline guiding at, and managing a National Geographic Polar Bear Lodge. They will speak about their experiences, the wildlife of that area, plus tourism there and in the broader polar regions.

This ZOOM webinar is open to the public and will be active from 6:45pm. If you are not on the OSFN mailing list, but would still like to access it, please contact web@owensoundfieldnaturalists.ca

A bonus online presentation – Being a Bird in North America – is being offered at 7PM Thursday, January 28, with Robert Alvo, a conservation biologist, bird expert with special emphasis on loons, and the author of Being a Bird in North America. For more details on any of these, please visit www.osfn.ca


Crossbills have been sighted in many spots this year, and we have especially enjoyed their presence in nearby Spruce trees. Winter has provided many close-to-home treasures in this season of lockdown/isolation!
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)
Photo by Merri-Lee (Elmira)

Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) were held recently throughout the area, with Public Health guidelines being observed. Here are results selected from some of those CBCs.  

Owen Sound: Following the 50th annual Owen Sound CBC, compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom reported that some species observed were lower in number than usual with only one Brown Creeper and no Golden-crowned Kinglets. However, some of this year’s highlights included the count’s first Winter Wren, the return of the Barrow’s Goldeneye for the fourth year in a row, and several out of season birds, including Tundra Swan, Peregrine Falcon, Black Scoter, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Common Grackle.             


Tobermory:  Michael Butler, compiler for the 48th annual Tobermory CBC, December 16th, reported a lower than average total birds counted, but two more species than average. A highlight was a count-first Golden Eagle seen flying near Driftwood Cove. Also notable was a new record high of 56 Common Mergansers (average is 9). Wild Turkeys have been observed every year since first detected in 2008. This year’s count of 49 nearly doubled the previous high. Two each of Great Blue Heron and White-crowned Sparrow tied the highs for these species logged in 1997 and 1977, respectively.  Southern Ontario, including our area, experienced an unprecedented flight of the much-loved Evening Grosbeak this fall but none remained to be seen on the count. Other so-called “winter finches” were noted, among them 12 Pine Grosbeaks and 50 Common Redpolls. Additional species that were missed on the day of the count, but seen within the count week period, included a Long-tailed Duck in Little Tub, a Common Loon in Big Tub, a Snowy Owl in Corisande Bay, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings at the Golf Course and an American Robin on Big Tub Road.


January 11   Bohemian Waxwings 
The Covid Crankies.
Photo by Ingrid Remkins
Northern Shrike January 9
Photo by Ingrid Remkins

Meaford compiler Lynne Richardson: The 50th annual Meaford CBC was held on Monday December 28th under somewhat unfavourable conditions, but the Count results were surprisingly great!

Our 24 participants found 59 species, continuing the trend of the past 10 years of totaling over 50 species in the Meaford circle and total individuals at 4324 birds were slightly over the past count average. One new species was added to the 50-year cumulative total for this count – Hoary Redpoll – 2 of them.  This addition brings the all-time cumulative total to 123 species.No exceptional all-time highs or lows were recorded this year (remember that lousy weather…) but diversity was good due partially to the lingering winter finches from this falls’ “superflight” of those beautiful boreal birds!  Bohemian Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, the new Hoary Redpolls, and White-winged Crossbill all put in special and rare appearances. Lingering migrants included several Northern Flickers, a White-throated Sparrow, and the Count Week Pintail, Bluebirds and a Juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker.


? Dashing thru the snow…..?
Red Squirrel
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021
Northern Cardinal
by Carol Edwards January 1, 2021

Kincardine CBC, from compiler James Turland: Held on December 19,this is only the third time in its thirty year history that more than 60 species were found, due in part to the Finch irruption and lingering summer species. A Savannah Sparrow found at a feeder is new to the count. 


Saugeen Shores January 4th: Compiler Kiah Jasper reported that “the overall count was slightly down on total numbers of individual birds, but we  recorded a new high number of species.. 67! Highlights were Tufted Titmouse, Bohemian Waxwing and Eastern Meadowlarks. Notable misses included Snowy Owl and Golden Eagle.”


January 10 Flesherton
Evening Grosbeaks , Mrs. and Mr.
Photo by David Turner
Winter Finches come in different sizes,
Female Evening Grosbeak and Male Common Redpoll. Flesherton
Photo by David Turner

Finally, I learned just this week of the passing of Gus Yaki last August. Born in Saskatchewan, he developed a keen interest in nature through curious observation, during his daily three mile walks to and from school. Later, when he was based in Ontario he became active with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON), the Bruce Trail,  and even started up the Niagara Falls Nature Club. You can read about that beginning at http://niagarafallsnatureclub.org/about/club-history  

Gus Yaki 1932-2020
Birding in Winter – supplied photo

I met Gus Yaki in the spring of 1972, through Bob Comber, who had invited him to advise on the design of a Nature trail near Williams Lake. I remember his advice about the value of leaving some dead tree trunks standing in the woods to support the wildlife there, as a source of food and habitat, etc. 

I have thought of Gus from time to time over the years. He was active in our area here too.  Betty Adair recalls that he was occasionally at the local Conservation Authority, and Stew Hilts remembers meeting him at Dorcas Bay. One day I was looking in the archives at Grey Roots, at some nature surveys of properties near the Long Swamp (just north-west of Owen Sound), and saw Gus Yaki’s name on them too. Gus Yaki was on the board of the FON when when the seed for Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) was planted, and he was instrumental in its development. Yaki eventually moved to Calgary where he soon became a catalyst for more nature activities there.


John Lounds, former CEO of both Ontario Nature and then NCC, as well as being a native of Meaford, shared this: “Gus had worked to help set up Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) many years ago in the 1960s – My interactions with Gus at the FON were more around the trips programs that he had developed and led over the years, endearing him to many and encouraging budding naturalists to explore our world and follow their passion.  He was already a legend when I arrived at the FON in the early 1990s.  

When I moved to the NCC in 1997, I was able to meet up with Gus on several occasions through my travel to Alberta – the man never stopped in his delight and encouragement of young people, and his efforts on behalf of nature.  His knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious!.  He kept leading outings until his body wouldn’t let him anymore.  A fine man and a great mentor.”A few years ago Gus’s friend Robert Bateman introduced him at an event by calling him “The most accomplished naturalist in North America.” 

In 2017, at the age of 84, Gus organized and led a hike across southern Alberta to mark Canada 150 and support the study of birds and habitat conservation.   In 2019, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by the Governor General of Canada, and was recognized as one of Calgary’s “Top 7 over 70.” 

Here is a link where you will find a comprehensive article about Gus Yaki, along with many photos of him, plus more links to interviews and videos. 

To close, a Nature quote from Gus Yaki himself –   “Unless people learn to love and appreciate the natural world around them, they are not going to stand up to protect it.”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR DECEMBER 2020

December 15th, 2020

Nature Club News December 2020

by John Dickson

The energetic team of volunteers at Friends of Hibou are producing a terrific newsletter, and offering a series of five guided/themed winter hikes (wearing snowshoes may be advised) on the Interpretive Trails at Hibou Conservation Area. In fact, there are three scheduled within the next month – led by Annette Patrick 1-3PM on December 15; Krista McKee at 2PM December 31 for a New Year’s Eve special featuring a cooking fire for bannock and hot chocolate; followed by Bob Knapp on January 12, 1-3PM. You must register in advance for these events and adhere to Public Health guidelines. To learn more about this club, and to receive their engaging newsletter please visit www.friendsofhibou.com


Area birders are still being treated with highlight sightings of wintertime visitors that include Bohemian Waxwings, Evening Grosbeaks, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, a Tufted Titmouse, Tree Sparrows, Snow Buntings, Northern Shrikes, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Snowy Owls, Barred Owls and even more. Just in the past two weeks Short-eared Owls have been observed both on the Saugeen Peninsula, and in Georgian Bluffs.

Female Pine Grosebeak, Renee Anderson, Owen Sound, December 7, 2020

On November 26, after seeing his third Gyrfalcon of 2020, Kiah Jasper reported “The next highlight of the day came in the form of two Short-eared Owls that flew in front of me on a quiet concession road. These birds were found the previous morning by Robert Taylor and Anne-Marie Benedict and they seemed to be sticking around. I checked that evening at sunset and had 7 Short-eareds, which I believe is a high count for Bruce County. ” Later, while scanning many waterfowl, Kiah added -“a small bird that was bobbing around in the water caught my attention ~ a Red Phalarope! Reds are rare in southern Ontario, with a few birds seen each fall along shorelines and in lagoons.”

Short-eared Owl in very misty conditions. Photo by Kiah Jasper

Jarmo Jalava and Tony Chegahno led an Owl Prowl event for Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) on November 29, which featured several of those same beautiful Short-eared Owls, swooping low as they hunted over a meadow. There were also good views of Rough-legged Hawks, a Bald Eagle and a bounty of Snow Buntings. Jarmo’s joyful exuberance at seeing these magnificent owls was contagious, and I think I have now caught that bug myself. I am rather envious of Tracy Fidler, who recently saw one in Georgian Bluffs. Jarmo also provided this eloquent commentary -“It’s always a thrill to see these rather mysterious crepuscular creatures fluttering moth-like over the fields in the waning light in search of prey.  I have no doubt there are several Short-eared Owls lingering on the Peninsula this autumn because of an exceptional abundance of mice and voles.  Rough-legged Hawk numbers also seem higher than normal.”  

Rough-legged Hawk December 6, by Nigel Eves

In Owen Sound harbour, one particular male Barrow’s Goldeneye has been seen in recent years, and again this past week by Erik Van Den Kieboom, and David Turner, as well as by Nigel Eves, members of the Beaver Valley Birding Club. This uncommon specimen was seen swimming amongst the Common Goldeneyes that are observed regularly.

Barrow’s Goldeneye December 6, photo by David Turner
Never take the beauty of a Mallard for granted. David Turner – December 8

This Thursday, at 7PM, OSFN also presents Geology in the age of LiDAR: What new technology is telling us about Canada’s last great ice sheets, with the return of guest speaker Dr. Nick Eyles, award-winning geologist, author and popular guest host on a series of Geology themed shows in David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things. I happened across two of his many books, Ontario Rocks and Canada Rocks (co-written) last winter, and found them to be filled with so much stimulating information that I invited him to join us this season, to give us an update in his exciting field of study.Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology is the key to autonomous driving and is also changing how the science of geology is done, by allowing mapping of the earth’s surface in unprecedented detail. This event will be shared on ZOOM, followed by a Q&A with Eyles. To learn more about this talk and Eyles himself, please visit www.osfn.ca


I just learned of the recent passing of Gwen Lewington, who along with her husband Dennis, made a tremendous contribution to the Eastern Bluebird recovery programmes, by installing and monitoring many nesting boxes, from which over 3000 birds were successfully fledged. They also donated property to Ontario Nature, creating the Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve, and were the recipients of the OSFN Community Conservation Award. We extend our sincere condolences to Dennis, family, and friends. Notes of sympathy and condolence may be made at www.donaldvbrown.ca


Pam Binnendyk shared with the Bruce Birding Club “I had an exciting afternoon Nov. 26. Crows just off my deck were making such a racket. Upon watching for a few moments 3 crows had assembled and were very agitated. I checked the area for predators expecting to see a Cooper Hawk as Kiah had spotted one near my feeders a day before. Not seeing anything in the trees, I stepped out onto the deck to check the ground area and a large bird flew out from the bottom branches of a hemlock adjacent to the deck. It flew maybe 50 ft. with crows hot on his trail and landed again. Got my binoculars out and was astonished to see a Barred Owl. I was so thrilled…  It was in heavy underbrush trees but I managed to get one pretty good shot. It was not in any hurry to leave.  After 24 years living in the bush only the 2nd time I’ve been fortunate enough to see one. Heard them more often but the visual is amazing. I have some very well fed squirrels that it may have been eying up. The Tufted Titmouse is also still here regularly at the feeders.” 

Barred Owl, Nov 26th (Photo by Pam Binnendyk)

Bob Bowles, formerly from the Markdale area, announced on November 30 “My focus for October and November has been on lichens and making a species list for a new property on Carden Alvar which is now up to 50 confirmed species after six visits. This weekend a visit was made to Bowles Alvar North to observe lichen species and compare lichens at this location to the specimens from the Carden site. I found an intact mammal skull at the location so took time out from lichen studies to key out the mammal species. This species has now been added to my growing collection of mammal skulls…..along with fisher, raccoon and squirrel skulls, and I will use it for the mammal module of the on-line winter class which is now full and starts in January of the Ontario Master Naturalist Certificate Program. We are starting a waiting list for the spring program.”


Coming up from December 14, 2020 to January 5, 2021 are the annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) and here is a link to help you find CBC  information throughout Canada https://www.birdscanada.org/apps/cbc/mapviewer.jsp


Due to COVID-19, volunteers need to be mindful of Public Health safety guidelines and to avoid travelling here from other locales, as they may have done in the past, to minimize the risks of spreading the virus. 


 Thursday, December 17, 2020 – Kincardine Christmas Bird Count – James Turland – jaturland@gmail.com

Saturday, December 19, 2020 – Owen Sound Christmas Bird Count – Erik Van Den Kieboom – erikkieboom@outlook.com
Saturday, December 19, 2020 – Hanover/Walkerton Christmas Bird Count – Gerard McNaughton—gmcnaughton@wightman.ca
Sunday, December 20, 2020 – Wiarton Christmas Bird Count – Jarmo Jalava – jvjalava@gmail.com
Monday, December 28, 2020 – Meaford Christmas Bird Count – Lynne Richardson – lynnerichardson@rogers.com
Tuesday, December 29, 2020 – Pike Bay Christmas Bird Count & 
Wednesday, December 30, 2020 – Cape Chin Christmas Bird Count – Andrew Keaveney – uofgtwitcher@msn.com
Monday, January 4, 2021 – Saugeen Shores Christmas Bird Count – Kiah Jasper – kiahjasper@gmail.com

Northern Cardinal at Kelso Beach December 6 – Photo by Erik Van Den Kieboom

Red Fox photo by David Turner, December 8

In addition to the birds that have been observed lately, the snow has facilitated the discovery of evidence to note the activities of other wildlife. I have been seeing tracks from mice, deer, and even those of a healthy red fox, which I had seen hunting in the moonlight a couple of nights previous. 

Fox Crossing. I spotted this one in the ditch and backed up to get a picture and let the kids see him….and he walked in front of the car and then jumped about 4 feet in the air into the trees (by Marsha Courtney November 29, Georgian Bluffs)

Many area naturalists have been engaging in various campaigns to combat climate change, protect water quality along with various habitats and features, including sand dunes with their ecosystems, trees that are threatened by invasive insects,  wetlands from destruction through development or by European Phragmites, woodlands and meadows that are filling in with Dog-strangling Vine, Garlic Mustard, Wild Chervil, or Buckthorn, and campaigns to protect organizations that are threatened by underfunding and downgrading of their functions. An aspect that concerns me greatly is how these changes in both policy and practice may impact students who are pursuing studies and research, hoping to have careers in the natural sciences for their love of Nature, and how disheartened and depressed these students, and indeed current employees, could easily be, facing the seemingly steady onslaught of challenges our society places before them. Kudos to these students, and staff, plus all those who are taking a stand on these issues for the benefit of the planet and its inhabitants, human and non-human.


To close, a Nature quote from Raymond Massey’s When I was Young -“It was the first part of 1901, a grey winter morning, it is snowing with big dry flakes…The sound of the sleigh bells was lovely, especially when it burst through the strange silence that falling snow brings.”

Another visitor to the feeders on this snowy day…Tree Sparrow. I only see them here in the winter months. Photo By Carol L. Edwards.

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR NOVEMBER 2020

November 17th, 2020

Nature Club News November 2020

by John Dickson

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR NOVEMBER 2020

I have been hearing about and also experiencing for myself, many exciting nature observations throughout the area, in recent weeks. Although in the fall we are often looking for the bright red colours of some Maples, Sumacs, and a fairly new one for me – Virginia Creeper, most of the colour theme shifts to yellow and gold by November. 

Just this morning, as I ran on the Healing Path at the front of the hospital in Owen Sound, I came within sight of the half dozen or so grand willow trees there, and can report that they too were strikingly gold in the bright sunlight. Even the leaves on our rose bushes are now golden. Quite a few folks have been lucky enough to see Evening Grosbeaks and/or Bohemian Waxwings visit their feeders, with their strikingly colourful plumages, and their often very busy eating frenzy when they do stop by.

Male Evening Grosbeak Kincardine by Bruce Edmunds November 4

Others have been seeing Kinglets – either Golden-crowned, or Ruby-crowned, one of which I noticed right within our rose bush, eating aphids from the stems, and then after working its way to the outside of the plant, it would hover like a hummingbird while it continued to find food on the stems of the rose bush. A beautiful Fox Sparrow, with its rich reddish brown plumage, was certainly a treat in our yard, and they are still being seen in many locales.

Fox sparrow October 21, photo by John Dickson

American Tree Sparrows with their bi-coloured beaks have been observed throughout Grey-Bruce, having arrived from farther north, in flocks, and on their own. Large groups of Common Redpolls have been witnessed, with more than just a few Hoary Redpolls, seen travelling with them. As I continued my morning run through the northwest corner of the hospital property, I counted up to 200 songbirds, including some Redpolls, swirling all around, sometimes over my head and then landing briefly in the shrubs and long grass there, before rising once more into the air.

Beautiful Snow Buntings have been seen in groups large and small and Red-bellied Woodpeckers have recently been first-time visitors to houses with bird feeders in Chatsworth, and northeast of Durham.


Stephane Menu, Station Scientist at Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO) recently reported “This past week, we banded an unusual number of Golden-crowned Kinglets, with a high daily total of 53 birds on October 26, which is a record total for this time of year.”

Then just today Menu reported that “Suddenly, it was the last day of monitoring, October 31st! A Gray Catbird was observed, then captured and banded.  We were lucky to catch a Fox Sparrow, the only one banded this season, as well as one last American Tree Sparrow. These two species not only share a late migration, but also a bicoloured bill made of black (for the upper mandible) and yellow (for the lower mandible). A couple of Snow Buntings were also detected but the highlight certainly goes to the suite of six species of finches, quite rarely, if ever, seen all in one day. Here’s the list: Common Redpoll (lots!), Pine Siskin (a few), American Goldfinch (just one), Pine Grosbeak (also just one), Red Crossbill (happily – for me – showing off on top of cedars and on the TV antenna, in full view for a few minutes), and White-winged Crossbills. The cherry on the cake was the small flock of 11 Bohemian Waxwings. Thank you, birds, for giving us one last flourish as the season was ending!

Bald Eagles (photo by Jarmo Jalava)

It is always a bittersweet moment to take down the nets and store them away and then to pack up and close down the station for a long winter. But Spring is only five months away, when we will return to Cabot Head for another season, and not any season: 2021 will mark the 20th year of non-stop, long-term monitoring at Cabot Head by BPBO! 

Be sure to check out our new fundraising initiatives – not one but two auctions, act fast, the online auctions end soon! See you all next Spring!”  

https://rockfordauctioncentre.hibid.com/catalog/246276/bruce-peninsula-bird-observatory-fundraiser-18-nov-20/

https://www.32auctions.com/show-yourlove


I thought I was doing well to see a couple of small and pretty butterflies a week ago. Yolanda Wenting of Mildmay found several Cloud Sulphur Butterflies, just this week.  Even more amazing, I believe, is that Rob and Donna Kearns were visited by a Monarch Butterfly on November 7, near the mouth of the Sauble River. I wonder if others have been noticed too, only now starting out on their migration to Mexico. 


Just the other day, while waiting for an appointment time, I was checking out some lovely blooming white flowers near a parking lot on the west side of the Owen Sound harbour, but was quite surprised to find a large bee working its way around the many white blossoms. On two occasions in recent weeks, I found a garter snake sunning itself on the trails where I was running, or cycling. Another treat this time of year is to see, suddenly revealed, the many bird nests, that were perhaps very close to areas of human activity, but not noticed until the canopies of leaves were released to swirl and scatter below. I especially enjoy discovering the nests of Baltimore Orioles, with their distinctive pendant structure, and was delighted to see a couple of those while I was cycling in the Hanover area late last week.

Bohemian Waxwing by David Turner on OSFN birding day with Erik November 8

Erik Van Den Kieboom, recent recipient of the Malcolm Kirk Environmental Scholarship, from the Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation, was demonstrating his nature knowledge and leadership skills on November 8. He was heading up an outing of birders from Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) for the annual Around the Bay birding field trip, looking for waterfowl and any other birds that may present themselves for observation. Congratulations to Erik!

Red-breasted Merganser from the Around the Bay outing (photo by Bill Hatten)
Five Snow Buntings joined the Around the Bay attendees for lunch at the Bayshore. (photo by Bill Hatten)

Male Mallard (photo by Bill Hatten)

NeighbourWoods North was so successful with their planting regimen at the Hospital in Owen Sound during October they finished early. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the trees as they mature. There is such variety in the groupings that I just know that the display is bound to be effective and satisfying.

Marsha Courtney has been making good use of the lovely weather to do some paddling on the local inland lakes, including Hines, Robson and Clark’s lakes, where she saw painted turtles, sunning themselves on logs. and observed “they knew it was too gorgeous of a day to stay hidden.” Sighting a Lesser Yellowlegs, was an added bonus for her.

Lesser Yellowleg Sandpiper non-breeding adult Lesser Yellowlegs  photos by Marsha Courtney
Basking Turtles Lesser Yellowlegs  (photos by Marsha Courtney)

Joe Lehmann of Sandy Bay, near Oliphant, shared with me this item of interest: he and his neighbour have White Ash Trees and a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers have been spending their energies working their way upwards and slipping their large beaks into the structure of the bark layers, which they remove and scatter on the ground, looking for and consuming Emerald Ash Borers along the bark as they forage there. However, there is no evidence that they are excavating their usual rectangular cavities. 

Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann
Photo by Joseph Lehmann

Other observations include reports of Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkeys, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Bald Eagles and even a juvenile Golden Eagle that seen by Ingrid Remkins, just north of Kimberley, on November 4th.

Red-tailed hawk November 10 Beaver Valley
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
In the sky today…November 10 Beaver Valley, Trumpeter Swans
Photos by Ingrid Remkins
Juvenile Golden Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk, nov 4th, North of Kimberly, Photo by Ingrid Remkins

In late October I came upon a dozen Eastern Bluebirds, while I was cycling, northeast of Arran Lake. Then on Tuesday of this week Renee Anderson of Owen Sound reported “I heard some chirping and noticed activity at the very top of our 100′ Norway Spruce. Just as I suspected, there was a flock of 20-25 male and female Red Crossbills feeding on the cones!” Then, on Wednesday – “They are still here today, also going to the White Spruce!”

Red Crossbill, Owen Sound November 10, 2020, Renee Anderson  

Another observation during this extended milder weather, of which I am aware, is the vocalizations of Tree Toads, sometimes even a chorus, which one would normally hear in Spring. I have also noticed bright yellow Dandelions blooming, as well as new blossoms of Coltsfoot.

Of course, for many, November is the month to really enjoy the shining golden needles of the many Tamarack trees throughout our region. Be sure to have a look around, and if possible go outside to see them for yourself – they are very special indeed.  Grey Roots is featuring Nature topics for some of their November Virtual Lecture series, with the return of David T. Chapman for two dates – November 17 Exploring the Birds of Ontario II, and on November 24 Gems of Grey County & Area: Wild and Scenic All-Season Imagery, on November 24th. From first-hand experience, I can certainly recommend Chapman’s talks, for his lively and informative style, and excellent images. Visit www.greyroots.com


The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club outing, following Public Health guidelines, in late October, featured an engaging field trip in the Boyd’s Crevices area, with a focus on tree identification, led by Susan McGowan and Hugh Evans, both forestry specialists. 

Boyd’s Crevice (photo by Jody Johnson Pettit)

OSFN is also presenting the locally produced film – Resilience – Transforming our Community. This uplifting film, with Scientist Dr. John Anderson’s climate change research, and directed by Liz Zetlin, is designed to inspire action, and offers ways to build resilience in ourselves and our community by transforming the way we live. Because of COVID-19, the meeting will feature a chance to watch the film in advance, and then at 7PM Thursday November 12, to go online with facilitator Marilyn Struthers, and Scientist John Anderson, and engage one’s thoughts and ideas in discussions and developing action plans.

A bonus presentation on the evening of November 26, by Kat Lucas of the Toronto Zoo, will be Great Lakes Aquatic Species at Risk

.At least two more field trips are planned for November, one with a geology focus, along with ferns and birds, on November 14, with Bob Gray, and an upcoming Owl Prowl, with those details soon to be finalized. Visit www.osfn.ca

Long-eared Owl – Photo by Bruce Edmunds
Kincardine/Huron Kinloss  
November 3, 2020
The Kelso beavers put on a fine show this evening, but really pushed the limits of my camera with the low light conditions! This is a young one learning how to build a fort. Unfortunately where they decided to build is blocking the drain and would eventually cause flooding in my backyard. (photo by Carol L. Edwards)

To close, Nature Quotes from neuroscientist and author Daniel J. Levitin, from his book Successful Aging, where he expresses a preference, when the time comes “to die with the sounds of nature trickling in through the window, whether it’s songbirds during the day, or crickets and owls at night.” and his report that “hospitals and end of life care facilities are coming to realize the restorative qualities of nature and are looking at ways to provide their patients with increased access to natural scenes.” An item in the book’s Appendix advises that for the purpose of “Rejuvenating Your Brain, Exercise. Get your heart rate going. Preferably in nature…”

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