NATURE CLUB NEWS
by John Dickson
A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Friday July 14, 2017
The month of June had the Owen Sound Field Naturalists on field trips all over Grey and Bruce Counties. Many OSFN members were taking part in and/or volunteering to help stage the 2017 Huron Fringe Birding Festival. Some were also helping to monitor the Piping Plovers that had returned to spend their summer here, to raise their families.
On Thursday June 8, President Kate McLaren welcomed everyone to the Club’s annual potluck supper at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Even the guest speaker Dr. Larry Peterson, of the University of Guelph, brought a favourite dish to share. President Kate McLaren, then chaired the AGM, which concluded with the presentation of the OSFN Community Conservation Award. The President called on Krista McKee to present this award to Bill Moses in recognition of: “. . . your ongoing support of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, the Bruce Trail Club, the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority Inglis Falls Arboretum and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, through your long-time volunteering, stewarding and writing; your related promotion of the planting and preservation of native plants, and your dedication to guiding the completion and publication of The Vascular Plants of the Bruce Peninsula.”
Dr. Peterson’s talk about ” The fascinating Biology of Orchids”, really did bring a new awareness for the audience of the diversity of not only the floral forms of the orchids themselves, but also pollination mechanisms, associations with beneficial fungi, and some of the successful adaptations to a wide range of terrestrial habitats. Several club members have followed up with Dr. Peterson with further questions since his presentation.
Sunday June 11, Lynne Richardson led a troupe of birders through the Loree trails to discover Field & Forest Birds of the Blue Mountains. Lynne explained how the area is changing, and the field area at the trail entrance is filling in with trees, and fewer grassland birds are to be found there, than in the past. In the woods though many typical forest birds were evident, including the ubiquitous red-eyed vireo. Close observation revealed one of their distinctive nests, woven and hanging along a branch, only about 15 feet off the ground. Soon after, a woodpecker was seen flying past, with its unique flying style. Once it landed it was identified as a yellow bellied sapsucker. The surprise though, was that a ruby throated hummingbird was following everywhere the sapsucker went, as if it was taking advantage of fresh holes in tree trunks left by the larger bird, to check for some nutritious sap for itself. Other highlights included a fleeting glimpse of a red headed woodpecker, and and indigo bunting which posed in the sun for leisurely viewing and for photos.
Wednesday June 14, Chris Rickard led a hike entitled Butterflies of Bognor Marsh. At first few species were evident, but soon afterwards, more and more species were observed and carefully netted for closer observation. Of special note was a small tree stalk, leaking sap, to which several varieties of butterflies were attracted. These included the Mourning Cloak, and the Red Admiral. Other butterflies observed included the Summer Azure, Hobomok Skipper, the Silvery Blue, plus both the Canadian and the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.
On Friday June 23rd, the OSFN members were invited to Saugeen Valley Lookout – A Tour of Nels Maher and John Weir’s Fern Garden and 40 Acre Naturalized Property, also the home farm property of Jean Maher (Weir) northeast of Durham. However, the day commenced with a moment of silence and contemplation, to honour the memory of esteemed and popular OSFN director and former President, Freeman Boyd had passed away suddenly, early the day before.
This diverse habitat of woodlands, fields and wetlands, is a showcase for naturalists, and a welcome home for many species of flora and fauna. Of special note were the fern garden with its screen canopy, to offer enhanced lighting conditions. The Maher family, with much appreciated help from the wider community, were able to salvage and clean up many areas of the farm, which were severely damaged by the deadly tornado that swept through the Durham area. Those in attendance were led on two separate educational tours of the property by Brian and Clare Maher, both sons of Jean and the late Nels Maher. The weather cooperated for a sunny picnic, which was enhanced by the special luncheon treats of fiddleheads, prepared and served, to perfection. The hospitality of the hosts was very much appreciated.
Upcoming activities include Ontario Nature’s butterfly ID workshop on Sunday July 16, at Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve. Then on Thursday July 20, OSFN members can get some hands on experience with last September’s popular speaker Todd Morris, who is returning to our area for a Freshwater Mussel Field Trip.
Even though the Owen Sound Field Naturalists have fewer formal activities and events in the summer months, many members are busy exploring and observing the various changes in nature that take place in the wetlands, trees, grasses and in the skies. It is also a good time to sign up or renew memberships, and to consider youngsters who may be able to join up with our Young Naturalist programme, which starts up again in September. There is also a good opportunity to learn from the Club’s many superb publications available at the Ginger Press.