Owen Sound Field Naturalists: January, 2022

by John Dickson
Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) hosted a special free virtual presentation entitled Regeneration through fire: The role of burns in Alvar habitat on January 13.
Emma Horrigan, Conservation Projects and Education Manager at Ontario Nature, explained the prescribed burn process recently undertaken at Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve, on Pelee Island, including the rationales, the risks, and the rewards along the way. Of note, Ontario Nature originally acquired the Stone Road Alvar property through a campaign spearheaded by Dr. Stewart Hilts (a resident of Meaford) and Donald Kirk.                                                                                       
When John Dickson was birding there in Spring a few years ago, he said that he could see the exposed limestone bedrock, thin soil, and flooded sections that are all home to species that have adapted to the environment, but that were also under threat, from time to time, from encroaching forests and invasive species.
The presentation also featured Jason Sickel who is the Prescribed Burn Consultant and Burn Boss for Lands and Forests Consulting.  Sickel coordinated the last burn that was held on Pelee Island.
To learn more about the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, please visit www.osfn.ca

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Ontario Nature (ON) is also offering a webinar about the Youth Circle for Mother Earth project featuring ON staff and young environmental leaders, along with Plenty Canada, the Indigenous Environmental Institute at Trent University, and Walpole Island Land Trust. This project supports a cross-cultural network of young Indigenous and non-Indigenous environmental leaders to become lifelong ambassadors for nature.
Each of the project partners will share information about their organizations and conservation projects. These presentations will be followed by a short panel discussion with Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth. Hear from some of Ontario’s youngest environmentalists and learn how they are working with conservation organizations across the province to protect the environment. The webinar is on January 18th and will run from 6– 7:30pm Register today and/or email info@ontarionature.org
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Grey County Master Gardeners will continue their free virtual Seminar Series for 2022 with “Drip-Dry – Water-Friendly Plants and Gardens” on January 29th at 11am via Zoom.
This seminar will be presented by Sean James, who was named Landscape Ontario’s Garden Communicator of the Year in 2020-2021.  Sean will talk about Fusion Gardening for the home gardener, which blends rainwater management and horticulture, using native Ontario plants.  Fusion Gardens are beautiful but water efficient landscapes that optimize storm water management and enhance the environment.  To register , please visit – www.greycountymastergardeners.com   

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In 2016, I had the great fortune to meet Daphne Solecki, and share with her about the OSFN Young Naturalists Club activities, and our new Celebrate Earth Day event. I also learned about her –  “I ‘discovered’ nature only in my 50’s. I have been running full tilt ever since to catch up on what I have missed and to help others to discover their passion for loving, understanding, and conserving nature.” – and her work with Nature and Youth in British Columbia.  Her deep sense of connection to the natural world provided her with some of the most magical experiences of her life.

Through her involvement with Nature Vancouver, and the Federation of BC Naturalists, she worked on many projects, including the creation of the Nature House at Stanley Park and, most dear to her heart, NatureKids BC, an organization that she founded and nurtured for decades. Through their motto, “To know nature and keep it worth knowing” NatureKids has supported thousands of children and their families in BC to learn about and protect nature.

She was also the recipient of the Government of BC Arbor Vitae Environmental Award, the BC Achievement Award, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.  From my email to her shortly after our visit – “Your shining example, and your enthusiasm are my inspiration, and I thank you for showing what can be done.”

Daphne Solecki passed away in August of 2021.
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Northern Shrike Northern Shrike January 6, by William Gray in Georgian Bluffs
Many thanks to the compilers and teams of the recent Christmas Bird Counts. Here are excerpts from some of their reports:
The 11th annual Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) Christmas Bird Count was held Saturday, December 18th, along the spectacular southeastern coast of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula.
Sixteen participants tallied a total of 39 species, very close to the average of 39.7. The 1,034 individual birds counted was very close to the average of 1,027.
While there were no big surprises, a Northern Saw-whet Owl, only the second-ever counted, and nine Pine Grosbeaks were nice finds.
High counts were tallied for five species: Ring-billed Gull (30 reported at the Nawash dump, previous high 9), Red-tailed Hawk (4, previous high 1), Rough-legged Hawk (4, ties previous high), Great HornedOwl (4, previous high 3) and Common Redpoll (87, previous high 68).Low counts were recorded for Long-tailed Duck (1, average 12), Herring Gull (46, average 139) andGolden-crowned Kinglet (3, average 9, or is this a measure of ageing ears?).
Notable misses were Horned Grebe, Pileated Woodpecker and Brown Creeper (each missed on only one previous count).Winter finches were limited to the Common Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks, although a flyover flock of 45 “finch sp.” imparted a boreal vibe.Count week birds included a Snowy Owl and Ring-necked Pheasant.
Chi Miigwetch to Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation community for hosting this always special birding event.Compilers Jarmo Jalava and Miptoon (Anthony Chegahno)
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Hanover -Walkerton Christmas Bird Count  Saturday Dec. 18/21.  
Several groups found some excellent birds during their travels, including a new record high count for the Common Raven with 15 birds. One new species was added to the growing count day total when a Hermit Thrush was observed outside of Walkerton by a party of birders who also located three Eastern Bluebirds.
Other highlights included 1 Short-Eared Owl, last seen in 1999, and 1 Winter Wren, last seen in 1988. 
A total of 48 species were recorded on count day with three additional species being observed during count week – Snowy Owl, Belted Kingfisher, and a Ring-Necked Pheasant. A total of 6,050 individuals were tallied during the count day. A special thanks to the counters in the field who made the day as successful as it was. (Compiler Gerard McNaughton)
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The 2021-2022 Christmas Bird Count marked the 51st year of the Owen Sound count. On December 18th, 38 participants tallied 10,236 individuals of 61 species. While the total number of individuals was up this year compared to last year, the species count was lower. 
Some highlights from this year’s count include a Green-winged Teal, Red-throated Loon, over 700 Sandhill Cranes, 6 Eastern Bluebirds and a White-winged Crossbill. This count also marks the first ever in which Sandhill Cranes were found!
Once again, the now familiar Barrow’s Goldeneye of Owen Sound Harbour made an appearance and is the fifth count in a row it’s been seen. Apart from the cranes, two other species were also counted in higher numbers than ever before: Canada Goose ( 2,533) and Mallard (1,560). This was likely due to the lack of snow-covered fields in the area during the count. The only notable low count for a species this year was the Bufflehead, with only nine individuals found.
An additional four species were seen during the count week but not on count day: Northern Pintail, Short-eared Owl, White-throated Sparrow and Pine Grosbeak. (Compiler Erik Van Den Kieboom)
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The 47th Wiarton Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 19th, the 50th anniversary of the count.  The count was not held however, for three years. 
Eighteen participants and three feeder watchers tallied 60 species, well above the long-term and 10-year averages of 50 and 53 species, respectively, but just shy of the record of 62 set in 2018.  The total of 4,858 individual birds was also much higher than the overall (3,431) and 10-year (4,185) averages.
One new species, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, was recorded, although this species had been reported once before during count week. This raises the overall count day total to 130 species plus six additional count week species.
Other good sightings this year included a Merlin (2nd ever count), two Golden Eagles (5th count, high total), a Northern Goshawk (15th count) and Red-winged Blackbird (5 th count).
Record high numbers were recorded for: Canada Goose (1,329, previous high 1,157 — a species that was absent most years prior to 1997!; Mute Swan (23, previous high 16, another recent exploder); Black Scoter (3, ties previous high); Eastern Screech-Owl (7, ties previous, but more owling effort would undoubtedly yield much higher numbers); Pileated Woodpecker (13, previous high 12); and Dark-eyed Junco (102, crushing the previous high of 70).
Winter finches were limited to just five Pine Grosbeaks, one Pine Siskin, one Purple Finch and 58 Common Redpolls, but American Goldfinches were at feeders in reasonable numbers.
Thanks to all the volunteers for their efforts! Compiler  Jarmo Jalava

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Meaford CBC, Tuesday, December 28, 2021
Well congratulations everyone!  This year you broke the record for the total number of species ever recorded on a Meaford CBC over its 51 years!.  Collectively, you tallied 61 species, 1 more than the record set back in 1975, when 60 species were found.  
New record highs were set as well, with Bald Eagles being perhaps the most notable. A total of 11 were sighted, topping the previous high by six birds. The Eastern Bluebird 8-bird total was six more than the previous high. 
One new species was added to the all-time list – a major find – Pacific Loon. This brings the cumulative total for the Count to 124 species.
Somewhat notable finds included Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Field Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Pine Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.
Winter gulls were scarce. Only 1 Glaucous was found, and for the one of the few times over the past 30 years, no Great Black-backed Gull was counted. Also missing were Pileated Woodpecker and American Kestrel – birds that are usually recorded each count.
Thanks again everyone for your record-breaking work, and a Happy Birdy New Year to all.