NATURE CLUB NEWS, APRIL 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.”

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