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…”

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR OCTOBER 2020

November 11th, 2020

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR OCTOBER 2020

Nature Club News October 2020

by John Dickson

Two years ago, I learned of, and witnessed for the first time, the phenomenon called murmuration that has been taking place in the town of Meaford in recent Septembers. This year, on September 20, I was delighted once more to observe, first hand, this amazing display put on by black birds – both Starlings and Grackles, I believe.

On many evenings just at dusk, (and apparently in the mornings too, just before sunrise) these birds begin to gather and create larger and larger flocks, flying to and fro and then settling into treetops for a breather. Then they take off again, flying into swirling patterns and shapes, and in Peter Middleton’s words “the flocks coalesce to form the undulating and pulsating skeins that are the hallmarks of murmurations.” 

Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)
Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)
Meaford Murmurations (John Dickson)


Several times I saw large flocks speeding towards each other and then suddenly veering off to avoid a great collision. Even though my visit this year did not coincide with the very best displays, I did see cohesive formations and visual evidence of their creativity, all the while hearing the wings and the excitement of a close to one thousand-voice avian choir as they provided a wonderful half hour of entertainment, for myself, and another couple I know, who had stopped by for the evening show.  For me, the extra bonus of this lovely evening was the light show of these black birds taking on a crimson hue, and some gulls that appeared golden as they flew by, bathed in the light of the setting sun. Then, almost as if a curtain had descended at the end of a play or concert, the performers disappeared into the trees for the rest of the night.  I am already anticipating a repeat performance next September.




The NeighbourWoods North team is very busy planting more trees this month along sections of the Healing Path, and in the Forest of Hope and Healing on the site of the Hospital in Owen Sound. Plans for the Healing Path are well under way, with guidance and input from professional trail developer Zane Davies. It is really exciting to see these ideas become realities. I have been exploring the Healing Path and the Forest all year when I have been out for a run or a bike ride. Just this morning I was checking some of the new trees planted this past week, and was delighted by the variety – one highlight being a Lilac.

Healing Path (John Dickson)
Healing Path (John Dickson)

When I spoke with Lloyd Lewis and Gord Edwards on site there last Friday, I also learned of a pollinator garden to be developed, which will complement the beautiful Welcoming Garden located in front of the Hospital. This gem has had even more specimens added recently, and is still presenting new displays of floral beauty and design almost every other week as different blossoms open to add to the colourful palette. One of my favourites has been the Russian Sage, with its lovely purple hues. To learn more about these developments, please visit https://www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com

Welcoming Garden (John Dickson)
Welcoming Garden (John Dickson)

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory has been a recent stopover for Golden Crowned Kinglets and a rarely observed Lapland Longspur. On September 27, Station Scientist Stéphane Menu also observed three young Peregrine Falcons, frolicking in the strong wind and practicing their attack runs. One Belted Kingfisher dove sharply into the water to escape sharp talons and many small songbirds used last-minute sharp turns to evade the fast approaching falcons, who cannot turn as quickly. To learn more visit www.bpbo.ca

The garden is alive with newly fledged American Goldfinches being fed by their attentive parents. The sweet sound of their calls heralds yet another end of summer.
American Goldfinches nest late in the season to take advantage of the abundance of available seeds.

by Carol Edwards, September 27
With many of the birds now gone to their southern homes, it leaves more “space” to notice those birds that I haven’t seen since early summer: the female Eastern Towhee. (Not that I have seen a flock of Eastern Towhees, but did you know that in a group they are called either a “teapot” or a “tangle”?)

by Ingrid Remkins, October 3, near Kimberley

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) are continuing to offer learning opportunities through monthly Zoom meetings, and through field trips held with careful attention to public health safety guidelines. In September Jenna McGuire delivered a superb webinar on the Life of Fungi, and then led a small group on an outing entitled Ferns, Mosses and Geology, that also included some distinctive Fungi. Marsha Courtney shared this comment  “Jenna really knows her stuff….all the names in Latin as well, just roll off her tongue. So passionate that it’s infectious to enjoy it all with her.”  

Jenna in the field (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
Marginal Wood Fern (Photo by Marsha Courtney)

In addition, two field trips to Anglesea in the Klondike Hills southwest of Chatsworth featured Nature’s bounty – a Fern Gully, large Butternut trees, plus two very large puffballs, and host Don Rawls gave a vivid description of the property’s history, including the operation of a lime kiln built into the side of a hill.David Morris, who worked in the Agriculture industry, has recently led several outings featuring many flora specimens to be found locally. At 7PM on October 8, Morris will present a webinar entitled Resident Aliens, and focus on a selection of plants that have been here so long we all take them for granted as being part of the landscape, but they are, in fact “introduced species.”  For details visit www.osfn.ca

Wild Ginger at Angelesea (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
2 beech and a maple…growing together. (Photo by Marsha Courtney)
Don Rawls (Photo by John Dickson)
Giant Puffball (Photo by John Dickson)

The Owen Sound Young Naturalists Club met on September 27 at Grey Sauble Conservation and, under the guidance of Krista McKee, were on hand to check the Bluebird nesting boxes, and learn of the Salmon life cycle, at the spawning beds there.


Youth Summit 2020 OSFN facilitated the involvement of six local high school students (and sponsored four of them) in Ontario Nature’s Virtual Youth Summit, over four Saturday afternoons from mid August to mid September, presented online this year due to COVID-19. One student, Jackoby Graham, has forwarded to OSFN a comprehensive and glowing report on his experience with the Youth Summit activities. I have included here an excerpt from that report.   

“Participating in this year’s youth summit was very impactful to me this year. The youth summit was like the highlight of a COVID year. During the four-week youth summit, I have learned a great amount about nature, native people, native land, native culture, and history. 

  Every week in the youth summit we had workshops and live streams. I participated in the workshops with the topic of Environmental Policy, Turning Powerlessness into Action, Navigating eco-anxiety and activism, Biodiversity, and Nature Walk.   

  Lastly, I found the live stream with the keynote speaker, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, one of my favourite live streams in the youth summit. Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm is an activist on a national and international scale. He raises awareness towards so many topics like protecting nature, indigenous rights, history, policies, land, and water awareness and so much more.  

  The final fourth week is when everyone votes on three events and campaigns of their choice. After the week of voting, there was a final live stream where they announced the winners and our group WON! My group got the most votes, and we won one-year memberships at Ontario Nature and support from the Ontario Nature Youth Council or Youth Circle from Mother Earth to make our events happen.  

Overall, The 2020 Ontario Youth Summit was memorable, and so much fun. I learned lots about nature and indigenous community problems. I learned leadership skills from working with others on the Leadership Challenge. I am so excited to make my event happen (hopefully if COVID-19 does not get worse). Thank you so much for sponsoring and for allowing me to participate in the 2020 Ontario Youth Summit. I hope to see you at my Run 4 Water event next year. I hope you and your close ones stay safe. Again, I appreciate that you sponsored me for this summit!”

Jackoby Graham


Although most Monarch Butterflies left a few weeks ago for their flights to Mexico, even this past week I observed two stragglers who were still here, just as the Hummingbird I saw in my backyard just over a week ago.

As we are all enjoying the fall colours of red, orange, and yellow leaves on display up high in the trees, be sure to look around at ground level too, for there are also many wildflowers of white, pink, blue, yellow and especially purple, still in blossom, being visited by various bees, wasps and butterflies. You will be amazed at both the variety and vibrancy at your feet. To close, a Nature quote from Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage “Northward rose … a vast heave of purple uplands, with ribbed and fan-shaped walls, castle-crowned cliffs and gray escarpments.”

Bald Eagle on Tom Thompson Trail (Photo by John Dickson)
Buutterflies in amongst the petals (Photo by John Dickson)
Asters (Photo by John Dickson)

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR SEPTEMBER 2020

September 17th, 2020

Nature Club News September 2020

by John Dickson

NeighbourWoods North   On August 22, a successful yard sale was held, raising $1200. towards the purchase of more trees for the 1.4-kilometre Healing Pathway around the hospital Healing Pathway. Congratulations to those involved!  Lloyd Lewis has indicated that, although they will not start to dig out the path this fall, they will begin planting trees along the planned course of the path. Watch for these changes!   

In recent weeks I have cycled and run along this pathway, and have found it delightful with its meandering character and its always changing views. I have also observed the ever changing blooms on display in the Welcoming Garden near the front entrance to the hospital. Another success story.

Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson

Congratulations to popular naturalist and speaker John Reaume, who shared this announcement with me: “We published a book on the Spiders of the Guelph Arboretum and are currently working on gathering and photographing spiders for a hopeful book on the Spiders of Ontario”.

Reaume gave a terrific Spider talk in Owen Sound two years ago,  is a key player at Saugeen Nature, and has been a frequent contributor to the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. Here is a link to the seven current Guelph Arboretum Booklets. The spider one is the second one down…..https://www.uoguelph.ca/arboretum/booklets


John Reaume (Supplied Photo)

Vicki Rowsell of Grey Sauble Conservation (GSCA)  announces that next up in their hike series is the Inglis Falls Arboretum! (237897 Inglis Falls Road, Owen Sound) Join GSCA and the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance to explore the trails, take deep breaths, and enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature at a GSCA property.  September 12, 2020: Tree Talk Arboretum Walk – All ages are welcome (10:30am – 12:00pm) Join members of the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance for a walk around the peaceful Arboretum trails. You’ll learn about the history of the Arboretum itself and the amazing trees that make this area so special. The trees of the world section is a highlight where you can experience species from all over the globe! During this serene adventure we’ll also chat about some interesting tree facts – Did you know trees can talk to each other? You “wood” not believe some of this stuff! Advanced registration is required Please RSVP at explore@greysauble.on.ca and to check on future hikes (space is limited to ensure physical distancing). More information will be provided upon registration. 


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists are kicking off their 2020-21 season with Indoor and Outdoor events. At 7PM Thursday September 10, via ZOOM, Jenna McGuire presents The Life of Fungi –  “Let’s take a closer look at fungi and their mushrooms: How they live, contribute to the ecosystem, lifecycles, and the basic ways they are divided in groups. We will dive deep into the soil of the forest floor to see this mysterious world!”

Jenna McGuire (photo by Rob Gowan)

At 1:30PM Saturday, September 12, Robert Burcher will be leading an easy, two hour hike from the 7th concession of Meaford to the Trout Hollow site where John Muir lived for two years in the 1800’s. History, nature, archaeology and discussion of the recent “Muir as a Racist” controversy, all in one afternoon! A second hike may take place a week later if numbers warrant.  

Advance registration is required. Burcher will also have copies of his new book My Summer of Glorious Freedom – John Muir Saunters Around Southern Ontario in the Summer of 1864.   

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

The Young Naturalists Club for ages 7 to 12 years, will have their first monthly outing on Sunday afternoon September 27 at GSCA, checking the Bluebird Boxes, and/or witnessing  the Salmon along the spawning grounds. To learn more about the Young Naturalists Club, or other OSFN talks, field trips and membership visit www.osfn.ca


 On several recent mornings I have noticed many Monarch Butterflies “roosting” in the trees in my neighbourhood, and occasionally have seen a dozen or more fluttering in the warm breezes. Stew Hilts, of Meaford, reports  “We’ve had two Monarch butterflies fluttering around for days now, apparently newly hatched, for they are bright orange with no tattered wings.  They come to the Marigolds and Butterfly Bush to feed.  At this time of year they’re no longer interested in the Milkweed; we presume this is the generation that migrates south. “

Monarch on marigolds. Photo by Photo by Maria Hilts

Fred Jazvac confirmed that the Bruce Birding club (BBC) is on hold regarding their twice monthly hikes, but continue to   share information about the location of birds, ID tips, birds seen, bird photos, etc. 

Common Loon on Lake Eugenia  – August 22,  by David Turner
Mother Pied-Billed Grebe with babies at Collingwood Harbor trails.  August 30, by David Turner
Question Mark  Butterfly,  by David Turner

Stephane Menu of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory opened the mist nets on September 2nd and discovered, among others -“an adult male Connecticut Warbler! It is only the fourth Connecticut Warbler ever captured in the 19 years of monitoring at Cabot Head. This elusive and secretive bird is hardly ever observed, especially during migration. I have heard its explosive, loud song in the boreal forest (of Northern Alberta) but I have never seen one in the wild. And I have never heard nor seen it in Ontario, let alone at Cabot Head, other than in our nets.Swainson’s Thrushes are now on the move, with two birds captured on September 1st, and five on September 3rd. This long-distance migrant, alongside Grey-cheeked Thrush, migrate mostly during September, and like the Connecticut Warbler, have a long way to go to fly to reach the continent of South America.”


Dennis and Gwen Lewington have been working for the past 35 years to enhance Eastern Bluebird populations in the area by providing nesting boxes since 1986, when they started with four. They increased the number each year until they had one hundred, on a route that ranged from Sauble Falls to Oliphant to Wiarton to Hepworth, and stabilized at about eighty boxes by 2010. In all of that time they monitored the success of the nests, and kept records that indicate a total of 3050 Eastern Bluebirds fledged, averaging 87 per year. Also using the boxes were many Tree Swallows, along with some House Wrens, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Black Capped Chickadees.  The Lewingtons were awarded the OSFN’s Community Conservation Award several years ago, in recognition of these efforts and for the establishment of Sauble Dunes Nature Reserve.


To close, a Nature quote from – Exploring an Urban Forest – Owen Sound’s Heritage of Trees – published in 2007 by the Bruce Grey Plant Committee of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists – in Memory of Nelson Maher –

“This is a priceless inheritance which needs to be carefully nurtured… to maintain this forest in a healthy condition.”

Summer 2020, President’s Message

September 8th, 2020

Well suffice to say my term as President has started off with a backpack of full challenges! Covid-19 has disrupted the human world immensely but, thank goodness, nature doesn’t care. We still had a great spring full of migrating birds, spectacular flowers, blooming shrubs and trees and lots of fresh air to entice us outside to enjoy and reflect on how much we can manage on our own without large groups. One thing great that has come out of Covid-19 is “Ask a Biologist”! Don’t you all agree?

Before I forget, I want to say some important “thank yous”. Kate McLaren has mentored me in many ways. After six years, her chair at Board meetings will be empty. Her advice will be missed. We will also miss the knowledge and enthusiasm of Gord Edwards and Julie Lamberts. Gordon Toth will continue on the Board as Past-president having been President for the past two years. Thank you Gordon, I’m glad you are the ace in my back pocket! I welcome Brendan Mulroy, Vice-president and Jody Pettit and Ange Flynn who are the team overseeing and mentoring the Young Naturalists program. We continue to have a vacancy on the board; we need a Secretary. John Dickson, our programming guru, could also use an assistant. Consider how you can help the OSFN.

Our Board has many new strengths and several new members but thank heavens enough experienced ones to keep us from getting too outside the box. We are excited to rise to the challenges and use our critical thinking skills to solve any new or ongoing issues.

Stay tuned as we somehow will continue our meetings as a membership together whether over the computer or as smaller indoor groups. We have several tasks to keep us occupied standing up for conserving the precious land around us such as Stoney Orchard Park in Owen Sound, the TCE project, and several MNRF downloads.

Please look into our stewardship program. What a fantastic way to practice what we preach! Exciting new properties seem to keep coming our way. These include the Oliphant Fen extension and Trout Hollow. With the board, I have a few projects to tackle such as the Master Naturalist program availability, updating the public display boards to show our works in progress and keeping up with the Young Naturalists program.

A goal for the Board and me is to try to get to know all our new members so we have an idea where our strengths are to benefit our entire group. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to me as I try to get to know my fellow “outside people” and “Nature Nuts” I have always said during my career that the more you know and understand the more you realize how much you don’t know. This certainly pertains to “Knowing Nature Better”. I do know lots about many things but am definitely not an expert in any. I’m excited about growing more with all of you. By drawing on the incredible knowledge of many of the membership, I hope to use that foundation to build on and continue the excellent work our group does. Our Website and Facebook page are awesome, our finances are sound, our programming excellent but with new discussions, opinions and assistance from each other we can evolve further and stronger and learn more together.

Looking forward to the next 2 years!
Pam Kinchen, President

NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR AUGUST 2020

September 8th, 2020

Nature Club News August 2020

by John Dickson

The Friends of Hibou will conduct the first of Grey Sauble Conservation’s new guided hike series, as described on their website at www.greysauble.on.ca and at friendsofhibou.com under Events.

“If you’re feeling unsettled about the return to work/school or are just interested in learning about GSCA properties and how being in nature can help during stressful times, this hike series is for you!

First up in the hike series is Hibou Conservation Area!                                        

Join GSCA and the Friends of Hibou to explore the trails, take deep breaths, and enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of being in nature at a GSCA property.  

August 25, 2020: Learn about Nature – All ages are welcome (10:00am – 12:00pm)
Walk with Bob Knapp along the shoreline loop (The Point Trail) across from the pump house parking lot at the south end of Hibou where you will see views of the changing rough shoreline (approx. 45 mins). This will be followed by an optional walk along the Interpretive Trail where you’ll hear a description of the geography and plant life, as well as how the trail came to be (approx. 1.25 hours). – total 2 hours.

September 1, 2020: Forest Bathing – Ages 12 + (10:00am – 11:30pm)
Experience a deeper connection with the forest on a slow, almost meditative walk with Marie Knapp along the shoreline loop (The Point Trail) across from the pump house parking lot at the south end of Hibou. You will be guided through a few experiences as you relate with the forest in new ways and experience reduced stress (approx. 1.5 hours).

Advance registration is required. Please RSVP at explore@greysauble.on.ca (space is limited to ensure physical distancing). More information will be provided upon registration.

Pack a lunch and enjoy Hibou beach following the hike”



The Sources of Knowledge Forum in Tobermory has also been affected by COVID-19 and has this message on their website at www.sourcesofknowledge.ca Attention all 2020 Forum registrants: Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic the SOK Board has decided to move this year’s forum. Our administrator will be directly contacting attendees and sponsors shortly. We plan to reschedule this year’s forum topic for April/ May 2021. Please stay tuned for more details and stay safe.  


On July 30th the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) offered a Moth Night called “Introduction to how to attract and identify moths” led by Alan Macnaughton.  Held in the late evening at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, the event was very successful, and Alan has offered to hold more Moth nights for the club in the future, possibly even this September.  Butterflies are also being observed in many areas these days. Chris Rickard reported:”Today I was at our cottage on the Bruce….After the rain stopped, there were 7 White Admirals on the buddleia bush simultaneously!”

White Admiral Butterfly at Isaac Lake (June 2020)
Photos by Bruce Edmunds 

On August 19th OSFN’s Julie Lamberts offered  What bugs are living in the stream? specifically the Indian Creek in Georgian Bluffs. Julie demonstrated the “kick and sweep” method for collecting benthic invertebrate samples. Her sample was divided up among all participants, who had the opportunity to sift through and identify bugs using a magnifying glass and some charts. Benthics were identified to family level. Discussions about how benthic communities are used as bioindicators of stream health took place.  John Bittorf of GSCA, was also on hand, and provided additional information including local conditions affecting stream health.

Benthic outing. Photo by Julie Lamberts


OSFN has more field trips planned with some of them filling up very quickly. David Morris has offered to repeat both of his planned flora themed outings, for August 25th (invasives), and September 15, (goldenrods and asters) on the next day.  Plans are also underway for monthly outings with the Young Naturalists Club.For more details on any of the above, please visit www.osfn.ca


The Bruce Birding Club members and those with the Beaver Valley Birding Club have been observing many of the migrating shorebirds, some locally, and others in such areas as Mitchell, and in the Luther Marsh, where a special treat this year was a Swallow-tailed Kite, having strayed north from its usual habitat in the USA.Various blackbirds have been seen in small flocks recently, and very large flocks have been seen in Meaford in the first week of September for several years. Tiny hummingbirds have also been busy visiting flower blossoms, while I have been seeing more Red-tailed Hawks recently, circling among the clouds.

Eastern Bluebirds. Photo by Nigel Eves, Meaford, August 16
Eastern Bluebird. Photo by Nigel Eves, Meaford, August 16
Hummingbird (Photo by Carol Edwards
Red-tailed Hawk, photo by Mike Tettenborn August 19


To close, two Nature quote from Rod McKuen:

The long tall grass
Waving in August
Blessings in shades of green

_________________ 
And the marvelous clouds sail by
Marvelous clouds
Aloft in the soft summer sky
Marvelous clouds  

Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson
Photo By John Dickson

Introduction to how to attract and identify moths.

July 28th, 2020
Event
Introduction to how to attract and identify moths.
When
Thursday, July 30, 2020
9:15pm
-
11:15pm
-
All Ages
Where
MacGregor Point Provincial Park (map)
Other Info
“Introduction to how to attract and identify moths.” with Alan Macnaughton

Alan has good equipment and techniques for attracting moths, and he can show other people how to do it. He will set up several stations and use several lights (black light) and bait (rotting bananas). It will be an excellent opportunity to learn various methods of attracting moths.

Thursday July 30, 9:15 to 11:15PM

in MacGregor Point Provincial Park - the campfire circle beside the Visitor Centre - Regular admission - day pass or annual pass - applies. Please consider arriving earlier in the day to enjoy other park features.

Due to COVID-19, social distancing and wearing of masks is expected.

To register - please contact - Kathleen.Chayer@ontario.ca

Limit 10 - Priority will be given to OSFN members, but please register early to avoid disappointment -

Extra information - Equipment -

Bring cameras or phones for taking pictures and perhaps some transparent pill bottles to temporarily capture the moths for handing around to others before they are released. Phones are often best because they may have an internet connection (is this possible in the park?) to allow uploading observations to the www.iNaturalist.ca website for automated (image recognition software) species identification. Also, if they happen to have it, bring the Leckie and Beadle book, Peterson Field Guide to the Moths of Northeastern North America. One of the lights is bright and some people might want sunglasses when they get near it.

Binoculars are not needed. You will be able to touch the bugs.

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NATURE CLUB NEWS FOR JULY 2020

July 28th, 2020

Nature Club News July 2020

by John Dickson


The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) held its Annual General Meeting online, June 11. The Board of Directors underwent some changes of personnel, led by incoming President Pam Kinchen, as Gord Toth moved to Past President. Outgoing Past President Kate McLaren was especially thanked for her important contributions to the club. For the complete slate of directors and more, please visit www.osfn.ca


The Sources of Knowledge Forum for 2020, based in Tobermory, is currently on hold until the end of July, when a decision is expected to either try for later this year, or shift to 2021 with the topic – Plastics in the Great Lakes: Finding Solutions Together.  For more details please visit  https://www.sourcesofknowledge.ca/



Many naturalists in the Grey Bruce area will remember George Peck, who passed away, in Toronto June 20, at the age of 94.  After retiring from his veterinary career in the Oakville area, George lived for over thirty years in Thornbury, while continuing to be a prolific wildlife photographer and nature writer, with images and writings published in over 90 books, magazines and journals.  George was passionate about the Bruce Peninsula and its surrounding area and loved the people he met through their mutual interest – birds. An Honourary Life Member of OSFN, many will also remember George Peck’s acclaimed exhibition of bird photographs gracing the walls of a very new Leonard E. Shore Memorial Library in Thornbury. I know that I do.George was a distinguished ornithologist in Ontario for over 50 years. He was appointed a Research Associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1976, was the Coordinator of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme for 48 years, and co-authored Breeding Birds of Ontario Nidiology and Distribution.

Due to current circumstances, a Celebration of George’s life will be held at a later date when restrictions have been lifted. In the meantime, think of him often and remember him well. Donations in George’s memory may be made to the Royal Ontario Museum, Department of Natural History.  




GEORGE KELDAY PECK 1925-2020.

The North American Butterfly Association Count administered by MacGregor Point Provincial Park was held on July 4th, from 10AM to 4PM.  Due to Covid restrictions, results were tabulated remotely, rather than with a gathering at the Provincial Park. Audrey Armstrong conducted this annual butterfly count along with her daughter Bella Waterton, and Barbara at the property of Pat and Barbara Martin along the Saugeen River near Port Elgin.  Armstrong reported that “we recorded fewer than usual monarchs. The World Wildlife Fund data from the Mexican overwintering sites showed a drop by about half the monarch population compared to last year.  However, the second generation is increasing in numbers now, with all the excellent milkweed habitat in Grey Bruce. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail numbers were up, this year as were Great Spangled Fritillary.  Perhaps all the invasive wild parsnip is contributing to the Swallowtail abundance?”


In addition to extra watering and mulching sessions, by volunteers of NeighbourWoods North in the Forest of Hope and Healing, during the hot dry stretch of weather recently, a new venture got underway at the Hospital grounds in Owen Sound. On July 6th, Krista McKee of NeighbourWoods North shared this report:”The Welcoming Garden Committee is overwhelmed with the local support for our project! Funding from the TD Friends of the Environment has been the backbone of the project along with a generous donation from the Grey County Master Gardeners. The Committee shopped locally in sourcing the plants, mulch and the excavation of the island at the front of the Owen Sound hospital. A special thank you to Adam MacDonnell and the wonderful staff at Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound Hospital has been much appreciated. Our project is not completed – shrubs and bulbs will be planted in the fall and the final touch to the garden will be an art piece. So stay tuned as the garden will continue to take shape. “Since then, frequent watering ensured that the new plants had a good start, followed up by the generous rainfall received this past week. I have visited there several times and have observed that the planting layout, colours and plant varieties are exceptionally pleasing. I encourage visitors to take time to enjoy this valuable addition to the hospital site.

The Welcoming Garden at the Owen Sound Hospital (photo by John Dickson)
The Welcoming Garden at the Owen Sound Hospital (photo by John Dickson)

From Fred Jazvac of the Bruce Birding Club: “Just in case you didn’t know, the fall migration is now on, and first on deck it is shorebird time – for some of them, they start heading south in July. In the West Perth Wetlands reported yesterday (July 11) were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.” 

Dickcissel near Kincardine (Photo by David Turner)
Lesser Yellowlegs Kincardine area (Photo by David Turner)

From Birding the Beaver Valley 
Eastern Meadowlark by David Turner,  June 27 near Duncan, Beaver Valley
Bayview Forest with Mark Wiercinski (on right). Photo by John Dickson
Bayview Forest Ovenbird (Photo by Bill Hatten)

Working within the safety guidelines of COVID-19, OSFN   held several field trips:  two more in the Bayview Forest with Mark Wiercinski, on June 21; Birding the Beaver Valley with David Turner on June 27; a Railtrail Ramble led by David Morris on July 7. Of the latter, Nancy Brown shared these comments: The wildflower hike led by David was well prepared, expertly narrated and filled with ‘wow’ factor, along with butterflies, a family of kingbirds and turtles, for the assembled group of nature enthusiasts. David even prepared an Excel spreadsheet of the 30 species identified (download the sheet). Just a fine outing. Dusty, hot, sweaty and happy!

Spreading Dogbane (Photo by David Morris)
Marsh Vetchling, one of our few native legume family species.
(Photo by Nancy Brown)
Hike Leader David Morris (Photo by Nancy Brown)

On Monday July 13, eight Friends of Hibou got together, while keeping their distance, loading, wheeling and spreading a load of gravel onto a last stretch of a sometimes wet section of the popular Hibou Interpretive Trails.


Birds Canada has added its voice to the call for the U.S. government not to strip away critical protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The proposed “deregulation” will affect migratory birds in Canada and many other nations, not only the U.S. It will make permanent a 2017 Solicitor’s Opinion to end the prohibition on “incidental take”. This is the killing or “taking” of migratory birds by industrial activities; for example, birds flying into uncovered oil pits and other predictable, avoidable mortality.  To learn more about this campaign visit www.birdscanada.org


The Bruce Grey Woodlands Association has an upcoming outdoor activity for its members.From their website at   https://bgwa.ca/  Great news, BGWA member events are re-starting! Keep Saturday, July 18 open for an interesting tour of a member property near Markdale. The event will be structured to incorporate safe distancing and conform to group size limits, with 3 separate walk-thrus available at 10AM, 1PM and 4PM. 


Environmental Heroes Recognized for Their Outstanding Role in Conservation.   Ontario Nature’s 2019-2020 Conservation Award Recipients Announced

Ontario Nature, a leading environmental organization, has recognized the exceptional contributions to nature conservation made by organizations, individuals and companies whose dedication inspires us all to continue to fight to protect nature in Ontario.This year, the awards celebrated 10 inspirational winners who are building a natural legacy for future generations, and are owed a debt of gratitude for their tireless work.On July 16, Ontario Nature (ON) announced the winners of its  2019-2020 Conservation Awards, with two local winners included:

The Huron Fringe Birding Festival Organizing Committee was the recipient of the W.E. Saunders Natural History Award for its successful program that raises awareness of nature among people of all ages.

Photo is of the committee as of April 12, 2019 (supplied photo)

Back: Marilyn Ohler, Bette Jean (BJ) Martin, Norah Toth, Doug Pedwell, Arlene Richards, Judy Duncan, Becky Grieveson, Jim Duncan, Fred Jazvac

Front: Kathleen Chayer, Margaret Anderton, Bruce Edmunds, Liz Addison, Norma Nanni, Nancy White, Carole Lupton, Anne Cathrae, Lynne Richardson

Missing: Bob Taylor and Doug Martin.


Stewart Hilts, a resident of Meaford, received the Ontario Nature Achievement Award for his lifelong commitment to conservation and his dedication to helping Ontario Nature to achieve its goals.

Stew Hilts, Ontario Nature Achievement Award recipient

Congratulations to these most deserving members from our community, many of whom are OSFN members, and to the rest of the Ontario Nature Award winners, of which you can learn more here – ontarionature.org/conservation-awards


 To close, and apropos to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a Nature quote from Jennifer Lee Carrell’s The Speckled Monster, (smallpox) about the precursor to vaccine – inoculation – that was being introduced in Britain, and in Boston, after learning of its effectiveness and success in Constantinople and in Africa, in limiting the epidemic/pandemic spread of smallpox almost three hundred years ago. “On July 26, 1723 Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, (seeking personal time with Nature, while finally winning his battles against naysayers with positive results for his patients) rode south across the Boston Neck to race through wheeling clouds of birds far out into the salt marshes at low tide. It was a form of worship, he thought, … this exhilaration in the glories of wind, wings, and horses…”


Cardinal family (Photo by Nigel Eves)
When you get out of the shower and discover there are no towels.

American Robin 7-12-20
©Carol L. Edwards
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