Owen Sound Field Naturalists: May, 2022

On May 12th, the Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) presented their May speaker, Dr. Gary Umphrey (U of Guelph) at the Bayshore Community Centre who talked about the tales of ants.

Tales of Ants: Near and Far, Now and Then

This talk will take an ant-centric view of how the study of a taxon at a local level allows us to connect with and appreciate the greater diversity of the same taxon at larger geographic scales. Ever-emerging (and often spectacular) scientific discoveries and superior tools for aggregating and disseminating myrmecological information make this a golden age to be an ant enthusiast. Is it going too far to say that knowing more about ants will enrich your life?

Gary Umphrey is employed as a statistician in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Guelph, but he has long maintained twin passions for both ants and data. Myrmecology is the study of ants, so he has declared himself to be a myrmecostatistician. His interests in ants are wide-ranging, but started several decades ago with field work on Ontario ants. His statistical interests also go back in time, but were formulated well after the invention of numbers

The event also included, from the estate of Lorraine Brown and Andrew Armitage, their extensive library collection as an OSFN fundraiser to support future OSFN publications and the Lorraine Brown Conservation Fund.


Many keen birders from near and far have been visiting Point Pelee again this year to see the migrants arriving to rest and refuel in the diverse habitat there before continuing northward. However, the local birding this Spring has been quite rewarding with a Lifer for me too, first hearing, then seeing a Sora in a nearby wetland area. 

Each day I have seen reports of new arrivals, including many sparrows and warblers, hummingbirds, and even Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Eastern Kingbirds, Bobolinks, Indigo Buntings, even Scarlet Tanagers, along with the many Hawks and shore birds too. On Monday while I biked along a wooded path by the river through Harrison Park, the clear musical tones and phrasing of a bright orange and black male Baltimore Oriole reached me from overhead, and soon there was another one, quite nearby adding his own song in response to the other. 

Although I have been seeing many Spring wildflowers – pink, blue, yellow and white here and there, including numerous Red Trilliums a few weeks ago, the hillside along the Mile Drive that was blanketed in White Trilliums yesterday was  a pleasant and welcome surprise. On a ride this morning, I saw several wild fruit trees with pretty blossoms on display.

Many of us have observed bees, butterflies, and moths, as well as salamanders, snakes, turtles, frogs, and toads, either sunning themselves, or motoring along on their own personal adventures.

Green Heron at dawn by Pat Gillies – for larger view click on image

Starting this  Saturday, volunteers are welcome to help with the important and rewarding projects of NeighbourWoods North. (NWN) “We probably don’t say it enough but we appreciate every single person who comes out to plant and care for the trees. This spring most of our work will be caring for the trees, mulching, trimming, weeding, etc. Wear weather appropriate clothing and gardening gloves.  Bring rakes, buckets, wheelbarrows if you can but don’t let a lack of them stop you from coming.”

For more about NeighbourWoods North (NWN), visit their Facebook page and their website – www.neighbourwoodsnorth.com 

NWN is thrilled to have the support from local doctors.  Dr. Mulroy said that he was “profoundly moved by a patient who was admitted to the hospital. My healing comes not from being in the hospital, but by being able to walk the hospital grounds.”

Dr. Edwards stated that, “The Healing Path at the hospital will be uplifting for our patients, their visitors, our staff and any interested members of our Owen Sound community.”

NWN is paying for the path from donations, and their goal is to create a three-season accessible path in stages, as funds permit. NWN is a sub-committee of the Owen Sound Field Naturalists, also a charitable organization.

Donations for the path can be made at: CanadaHelps.org (Owen Sound Field Naturalists – select NeighbourWoods North in the drop down menu)

The group hopes that future sections of the trail, to be built closer to the hospital’s Rehabilitation Unit, may eventually be used by patients as part of their rehab therapy

The Grey Sauble Conservation Foundation’s (GSCF) exciting 5th annual Earth Film Festival fundraiser offers two events in one evening – Thursday May 19th, at the Roxy Theatre. Don Sankey, Foundation Chair, says that a Social time and Silent Auction will start at 6:00 pm, before Audrey Armstrong presents Bruce Grey Monarchs and followed by the award winning film Fight of the Butterflies, narrated by Gordon Pinsent. Tickets are only $25 and are available at the Roxy box office. “I can personally vouch for the excellence of both presentations, for their quality photography, research and up to date science,” says John Dickson. 


Young Naturalists with Miriam Oudejans

On Sunday May 1st, the Owen Sound Young Naturalists met on a cold and cloudy afternoon at Isaac Lake for a first time bird outing there, climbed the marsh observation tower and walked down to the boat launch at the Lake to see what birds were migrating through from points South. Due to the weather, the birds were scarce but the highlight was seeing and hearing several Wilson’s Snipes circling around above the marsh, drawing attention to themselves with the distinctive whirring sound of their wings, also known as “winnowing.”

Over a period of two hours, 24 different kinds of birds were seen including a Common Loon, six Great Egrets, an American Bittern, four migrating Sandhill Cranes, a light morph Rough-legged hawk and several American Widgeon (ducks) in the marsh.

Male Osprey at Isaac Lake battle with an Eagle over territory – Osprey won by Les Anderson

The group also learned about Merlin, an easy to use free phone App that gives users the ability to identify birds in the field by sight and  sound. Created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Merlin is a great tool for both new and experienced birders. Other resources for budding birders can be found online at the Birds Canada website, including family activities on the webpage The Roost.   https://www.birdscanada.org/the-roost/  One link takes you to “Find The Birds,” a fun and new educational video game created by Canadian high-school student, Adam Dhalla.

The young naturalists and their parents found a new appreciation for birds and everyone agreed that Isaac Lake was a neat spot to visit and worth coming back to explore further, perhaps on a sunny summer morning!


Congratulations to the Bruce Peninsula BIrd Observatory, (BPBO) now celebrating 20 years, and holding their AGM via zoom, on Saturday, May 14th.  

Here is an excerpt from their weekly blog, posted at www.bpbo.ca

 “At Cabot Head, we often watch hungry birds literally in a feeding frenzy, indifferent to our presence, being so intent on getting fat again. Midges are a great source of food and their emergence in huge numbers in spring greatly helps birds. And with a little help from (unknowing) friends, birds enjoy an even easier meal: there are many, many inactive, old spider webs around, which act as a perfect trap for midges, uncollected by still dormant spiders. Warblers, nuthatches, sparrows, have all been seen pecking and eating midges from these spiderwebs using a little caution and much bill cleaning (rubbing the bill on a small branch to get rid of the sticky threads). Spiderwebs may look messy but in an interesting twist they are providing much needed calories to hungry migrants. So, let’s keep spiderwebs in our gardens and parks!” 


To close, a quote from Wanderings of an Artist by Paul Kane, who in late Spring of 1845 journeyed to this area, producing exquisite paintings of First Nations people at Saugeen (the mouth of that river) and here in Owen Sound, before departing once more via Georgian Bay and the Thirty Thousand Islands where …

“we continually lost ourselves in its picturesque mazes, enchanted with the beauty of the ever-changing scenery, as we glided along in our light canoe.”