Nature Club News, August, 2017


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Wednesday August 23, 2017

Although the Owen Sound Field Naturalists had only two scheduled events in July, these two were especially educational. The first was Ontario Nature’s butterfly ID event at Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve, July 16, under the guidance of James Kamstra.

James Kamstra, netting a butterfly for closer inspection.
James Kamstra, netting a butterfly for closer inspection. (Photo by Brian Robin)

At first the weather was threatening, but soon it improved as about thirty attendees were exploring the diverse habitat to see and identify what species were evident. Folks had come from far and wide, to share their love of Nature, and interest in learning more about the species around us.

In addition to butterflies, other species observed included moths, dragonflies, birds, spiders, grasshoppers, as well as the plants on which they were found.
When asked how to determine butterfly versus moth, Kamstra explained that when you watch them flying, moths drop right down quickly, while butterflies “alight'”. Eventually the sun appeared and even more butterflies emerged to be carefully netted and observed at close range for detailed identification features.

For a more comprehensive, and entertaining documentation of this workshop, with superb commentary and photos, please visit OSFN director Brian Robin’s website at

To quote Brian ” All in all a great way to spend a morning – a knowledgeable guide, a flourishing meadow – it was the first time several of the attendees had visited Kinghurst – and a big thanks to James Kamstra and Ontario Nature for putting on this event”

Just a few days later, on July 20, one of our favourite speakers from last season returned to host a workshop on Freshwater Mussels. Dr.Todd Morris’s presentation last September resulted in a curiosity to know more about these fascinating creatures in our local waters. As a research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada he conducts surveys to monitor the species at risk in the waters of much of Ontario.

A preliminary introduction to mussels by Dr. Morris as his staff and summer students look on. (Photo by Brian Robin)
A preliminary introduction to mussels by Dr. Morris as his staff and summer students look on. (Photo by Brian Robin)

This hands-on workshop was held at a site in the Saugeen River watershed, where a previous survey had been done in 2006. Optical devices made to observe the stream bed enabled the participants to see quite clearly the outlines of various mussel species in the substrate below the water. Then these were gathered and kept in mesh bags attached to the technicians, so the mussels would stay safely in the water until they were removed briefly for examination, identification, and documentation, before being returned to the safety of their underwater habitat.

Here is an excerpt from the stated results from the survey done this year, submitted to us by Dr. Morris,
” in 2006 we found 6 live species at the site. During our visit this summer we found live animals from 8 species – all of the species known from the watershed.

Species found in 2017

Elktoe Alasmidonta marginata
Slippershell Alasmidonta viridis
Spike Elliptio dilatata
Plain Pocketbook Lampsilis cardium
Fatmucket Lampsilis siliquoidea
Flutedshell Lasmigona costata
Creeper Strophitus undulatus
Rainbow Villosa iris (Special Concern)

The site was still dominated by Elliptio dilatata as it was in 2006 but despite the high waters it appears that the mussel community is still doing quite well at the site.”

Part of the day's Spike collection. All living specimens were carefully kept underwater before being returned to the river. (Photo by Brian Robin)
Part of the day’s Spike collection. All living specimens were carefully kept underwater before being returned to the river.
(Photo by Brian Robin)

Participating in this illuminating workshop were several employees, and summer students, under Dr. Morris’ supervision. Attending local naturalists were from the Owen Sound Field Naturalists with guests from Saugeen Nature, Bruce National Park, and Waterloo Region Nature.

If you’re interested in learning more about freshwater mussels, head to or look for the free “Clam Counter” app, available for Android and iOS, which lets you report your own sightings.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Club is getting ready to present its 2017-18 season of speakers and field trips.

The OSFN speaker series begins on Thursday September 14, with Kerry Jarvis of the “Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores”, and his presentation “Fantastic Pollinators & Where to Find Them”. You are invited to see and hear Kerry Jarvis as he shares the plight of the Monarchs and what one community is doing to attract them, and other pollinators. Discover how you too can lead the way to finding fantastic pollinators! This will take place in the auditorium of the Public Library in Owen Sound. The evening begins at 7PM, and it is recommended to arrive early, if possible. OSFN personnel will be on hand to process membership purchases and renewals as early as 6:30PM. Admission for the evening is free, although donations are welcome.

The club’s Field Trips or “Outings”, will fill up the rest of September with a Monarch tagging event, Sept.2, two complementary Fern Hikes (Septmeber 13, 20), led by Peter Middleton, a field trip to trace a unique watercourse in the area of Colpoy’s Bay, (September 17) led by Bob Gray, and rounding out the month on September 30, is a Trout Hollow Saunter – with Robert Burcher, “Following the Footsteps of John Muir”, near Meaford. The OSFN field trips are splendid opportunities to learn, at first hand, from knowledgeable hike leaders, and are primarily for members, with pre-registration required.

Membership information for mail-in, and/or online membership registration is available at

For more information please visit

In addition, OSFN is also involved in a supportive role with a special tree planting programme being planned by the City of Owen Sound to plant 150 trees, in Celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial. Here is the information about that for you to get involved in a volunteer capacity for a community event.

The Big Canadian Tree Plant
Planting of 150 trees at Kelso Beach Park, Owen Sound
September 23rd, 10am to 12:30pm

This event will require the help of many volunteers who can register here –
Please register on the TD website below