Nature Club News, September, 2017


by John Dickson

A version of this column appeared in the OS Sun Times on Wednesday September 13, 2017

Since last month, there have been many Nature Club activities happening in Grey and Bruce Counties.

The Sauble Beach contingent of Piping Plovers had departed by early August, after the most successful year since their return. The Plover Lovers committee and team of monitors had a very successful season, of monitoring and outreach education, including their stimulating Beach Talk speaker series.

On August 19, the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy featured a “Species at Risk Walkabout” with Naturalists Miptoon and Jarmo Jalava.

For several weeks in August the Bruce Birding Club made forays to the Mitchell area to see and study the diverse bird populations in the wetland areas of West Perth.

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists held its first field trips for this new season of 2017-18, by joining in with two of the Monarch tagging days hosted by Butterfly Gardens of Saugeen Shores, an organization dedicated to enhancing the habitat for Monarch and other butterfly species. Formed in the fall of 2014, this organization has engaged in developing habitat sites called pods, along the shores of Lake Huron with an enthusiastic team of volunteers to look after them and many individual butterfly gardens in the residential areas of Southampton and environs. As James Kamstra told us at Kinghurst Butterfly ID event back in July, even then, it was looking like the best year for Monarchs in the last five. In the Southampton area, some properties have been very successful as “roosts”, where butterflies gather to feed and rest while on their journey south. There have been reports of up to five hundred Monarchs in one location there. I too have been noticing many Monarch butterflies working their way south, throughout the area, whether while I was swimming at Sauble Beach with grandchildren, cycling in the Arran Lake area, or running on trails near Tobermory and Dorcas Bay.

At the Monarch tagging event we attended on August 29, Kerry Jarvis and Melitta Smole explained identifying features of Monarchs, male and female, and demonstrated the tagging process, whereby a numbered and recorded lightweight sticker, (an initiative first developed by Canadian Dr. Fred Urquhart in an effort to learn more about the destinations of this iconic species), is carefully attached to a wing. Thereafter, anywhere that butterfly is discovered the origin of its tagging and its eventual final destination can be tabulated, to build on the collected data, from which patterns of travel and interruption can emerge.

Sticky Tofieldia at Petrel point. (Photo by Carol Harris)
Sticky Tofieldia at Petrel point. (Photo by Carol Harris)

OSFN members were also invited to join Botanist Barbara Palmer and members of the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club on Thursday morning, September 7, for a leisurely walk at Petrel Point Nature Reserve to enjoy wildflowers, including lots of asters and goldenrods!

The Owen Sound Field Naturalist Club has already launched its 2017-18 season, sending its Hart’s Tongue Herald newsletter to its membership, and getting started with a flurry of activities in September.

Two separate and complementary September Fern Hikes entitled “Rock Stars of the West Rocks: Ferns in abundance” were filled to capacity with waiting lists, so quickly, that it suggests that OSFN’s popular hike leader and speaker Peter Middleton, is not unlike a Rock Star himself. These opportunities to learn in an outdoor classroom are a special component of OSFN’s programming.

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

Kerry Tagging Monarchs, Sept. 2015 (Photo submitted by Kerry Jarvis)
Kerry Tagging Monarchs, Sept. 2015 (Photo by Melitta Smole)

The OSFN Speaker Series begins this 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.

Peter Middleton leading an earlier fern hike.  (Photo by Carol Harris)
Peter Middleton leading an earlier fern hike. (Photo by Carol Harris)

The club’s Field Trips or “Outings”, will fill up the rest of September with Peter Middleton’s second Fern Hike, and Bob Gray’s field trip to trace a unique watercourse in the area of Colpoy’s Bay, (September 17) 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

In addition, OSFN is involved as a partner in a supportive role for two special events – 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 on the TD website

The second partnering OSFN is doing is in support of the newly created bursary fund for the Outdoor Education Centre’s association to fund bursaries for attending Outdoor Wilderness Leadership Symposiums (OWLS), diversity initiatives and more.

Last year’s October speaker for OSFN, Adam Shoalts, also well known as Canada’s Indiana Jones, in tribute to his northern explorations, mapping, anthropolgy, writing and academics, is returning to Owen Sound. Just last week he completed his mammoth solo summer voyage, crossing norhern Canada by canoe, and portage from the Yukon-Alaska Border, to the mighty Mackenzie River. and all the way east to Baker Lake, a voyage of discovery, research and celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

6:30PM Saturday November 4th is the date and time for his new presentation in the Community Hall in Harrison Park. This special fundraising evening will include special hors d’oeuvres, a trading blanket feature and more.

Tickets are $60. each and can be reserved for you by contacting Deb Diebel at the Outdoor Education Centre, by email at or by telephone at 519-534-2767 or 519-379-0864 (cell) Only 70 tickets will be sold, on a first come first serve basis.

Again, this fundraising event is an initiative of the Outdoor Education Centre and its association of Outdoor Educators, with the supporting partnership of Owen Sound Field Naturalists, and Adam Shoalts’ appearance is generously sponsored by Caframo.

The rest of this season’s Speaker Series provides an eclectic array of topics and themes, ranging from the witty and wise ecological fables of Paul Aird, complemented by the exquisite line drawings of Thoreau MacDonald, to local and national representatives of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Then in December a fascinating look at Tom Thomson the Naturalist (and Artist). In January Peter Middleton returns with a talk to follow up on his fern hikes. Always popular Willy Waterton and Audrey Armstrong will share with us their voyage to the North West passage. Dr. Sonja Ostertag will share her research findings related to the Beluga whale. Popular columnist and bird artist Barry Kent McKay joins us in April. Members night in May features a variety of presenters from the club, and the season finale features a friendly social occasion and potluck dinner followed by Markdale native Ted Armstrong’s up to date presentation on the iconic Woodland Caribou.

In addition there is a plethora of outdoor activities, providing opportunities for learning, and for Knowing Nature Better, our club’s motto.