Winter 2016, President’s Message

I am writing this just after we have turned our clocks back, autumn is lingering with gorgeous colours, dramatic light and kind temperatures. Paddling a quiet lake yesterday meant having to strip off layers of clothes, just short of indecency, because the sun was so hot and the air so calm. Most of the fish have gone to the lower areas of the lake but one spunky pike still took the bait.

This autumn the OSFN meetings have been very well attended, with many new members joining us. Welcome to you, especially if you are also new to the area. Our club can help you learn more about the nature of this diverse landscape and show you many hidden natural treasures. Monthly indoor meetings provide opportunities to learn things you may not ever have thought to be interested in: freshwater mussels, for example. A subject that seemed at first glance to be rather ordinary was quickly and thoroughly turned into an amazing world of extraordinary wonders! The following month we were mesmerized with stories from an explorer who is mapping remote areas mostly via canoe – and alone. Then a passionate presentation about phragmites and the very serious impacts it is having on wetlands and shorelines gave us much to ponder.

OSFN partnered with the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory to host a presentation of the beautiful film The Messenger. Such tragedy. There is so much to be concerned about, that it almost overwhelms viewers. There were great questions raised and lots of lively discussion afterward.

Outdoor activities have also been well attended, especially when the weather has co-operated! Weather has been the focal point of most conversations lately, it seems.

The warm fall has tricked some of the dogwoods into thinking it’s spring: they are in full flower once again.

My old farmhouse has almost no cluster flies this fall for the first time in 35 years! Is that also caused by the drought? Or is it the warmer climate? Did the predominance of catbirds this year affect their numbers? While enjoying a home eerily free of this plague, I will not be complacent. Winter forecasts are dire due to the relatively warm waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Expect deep snow and high winds. At least that’s one view. Another one says that snow won’t stay on the ground until swamps are full – which they are definitely not. How often have you been able to walk through wetlands in your running shoes and still have dry feet? (Such an odd feeling, as I am accustomed to checking my rubber boots for leaks before heading out.)

A local maple syrup producer claims we’ll only get snow that stays on the ground after three significant snowfalls.

Then there’s “the bigger the woodpile, the fiercer the winter” adage. Does that mean I should not be concerned that dry firewood has yet to arrive in my shed? Wishful thinking….

What does the Farmers’ Almanac say about winter of 2016-2017?

Of course any naturalist knows the only reliable predictor is the Wooly Bear Caterpillar; but I can never remember what matters most – a narrow band is a short easy winter or a long tough one?

Nature must be leaving clues everywhere, if only we knew how to read them. I’m sure many of our OSFN members can provide some details about that. Please send me a note if you have the key to predicting what the coming seasons may bring.

I hope it brings all of our OSFN members good health, great hiking (or snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing…) lots of reading and time to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Kate McLaren, President