News & Informative updates about the MPFN, the Environment and Local Nature Stories

Important News!

Our Mission

To study and
appreciate nature.
To protect and preserve wildlife
and the environment.
To stimulate public interest in,
and promote protection
and preservation of nature.

Who we are

The Midland Penetanguishene Field Naturalists Club (MPFNC) is one of the oldest affiliates of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists. The objective of the Club is to promote public awareness of natural history, conservation and the environment. We feature lectures by expert naturalists on a range of fascinating topics at our monthly meetings. We also schedule  outings (field trips) and nature study.

We meet on the 3rd Thursday of the month, 7:30 PM at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre No meeting in December, July or August.  Our June meeting is held at Tiny Marsh.

For a printable schedule of meetings & events click: 2022 Bookmark_Brochure 001

The MPFNC is involved in many projects in the area including the Christmas Bird Count as well as environmental and wildlife surveys, the Tiny Marsh BioBlitz and the Sweet Water Harvest at the Wye Marsh. The club also supports the Owl Foundation at the Christmas Bird Count Potluck Wrap-up at the Wye Marsh. This year we raised $440 for the Owl Foundation of Vineland through our famous Mystery Gift Not-So-Silent Auction.

Cover for Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists
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Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists

Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists

Our objectives are: (a) To study and appreciate nature (b) To protect and preserve wildlife and the environment (c) To stimulate public interest in, and promote protection and preservation of nature. We are a non-profit organization.

Another Nature Story from David Hawke: Hear that 'maniacal' laughter? It's a barred owlColumnist urges people to keep their eyes open, especially around the bird feeders that have voles and squirrels visiting, as you may well observe a unique speciesDavid HawkePhoto caption: A barred owl is shown after capturing a rabbit following a successful foray. David Hawke I tend to think that we all like to see wild owls, whether you are a dedicated birdwatcher or just someone who has stumbled upon one. Those big, bright, forward- facing eyes certainly sets them apart from any other bird.In mid-winter you have a chance (not a good one, but a chance nonetheless) to see either a snowy owl, a great horned owl, a barred owl, or a screech owl. For three of these your chance of success at finding one is pretty slim. However, hopes of sighting a barred owl would be your better bet, whether you are in the country or in an urban setting.Barred owls, so named for the vertical brown markings on their breast feathers, are often quite accommodating in letting you have good look at them. They hunt by just hanging around. Hanging around your bird feeder, or that pile of garden debris at the back of the yard, wherever mice, voles or cottontail rabbits may also be hanging out. While other predatory birds, such as crows, blue jays, northern shrikes or sharp-shinned hawks are usually noticed by us because of their flight, finding a roosting barred owl takes a moment to notice that odd-looking lump in the tree that wasn’t there the last time you checked.One of the cool things about barred owls is that they have brown eyes; all the other owls have a yellow iris. Someone once wrote that looking at a barred owl was akin to looking at an Inuit woman wearing a big fur hood ... bright eyes quietly and intently checking you out. The 12 different calls made by barred owls are varied, although the most common one you might hear will be the classic “who, who, who cooks for you aaalll.” If you are lucky enough to be in the same forest as a pair of conversing barred owls, their ‘monkey chatter’ sounds weirdly out of place for central Ontario. Some have described this courtship call as akin to “maniacal laughter”; I’ve heard it, and that is a pretty good description.You may have heard of Harriet Tubman (OK, by now you should have heard of her) who was not only an avid nature lover, but a key player in the operation of the Underground Railroad, that unmarked path for escaping slaves to follow to get north to Canada. Apparently Harriet used her nature lore and would signal the “all clear” by imitating the call of a barred owl!These birds mate for life (so say those who study them) and will nest inside big hollow trees or in an abandoned hawk nest. The female incubates the eggs while the male hunts and brings food home to the nest.That food could be anything ... meadow vole, cottontail rabbit, grey squirrel, maybe a grouse, and sometimes, just to change up the menu I guess, a frog or crayfish. Even in winter. These owls, and screech owls too, have been observed wading in shallow melt waters, looking for semi-hibernating frogs. An ‘interesting’ behaviour is that barred owls always eat the head first, the body later. If full from the first course, they may drape the remainder of the carcass over a branch and return later for ‘seconds.’So what eats a barred owl, you may well ask. Top of the pile predators seldom have to duck and dodge on a daily basis, but there are a few enemies of these owls. A neighbouring great horned owl might invite itself to the party, or a raccoon may crawl up to the nest to eat eggs or recently hatched owlets.Another odd characteristic about barred owls is that after the young hatch, they hang out at the nest for up to six months. Perhaps they heed mother’s call of “who cooks for you all” and consider that an invite to keep on staying on?Eyes open everyone, especially around the bird feeders that have voles and squirrels visiting, as you may well observe a unique species that likes to hang out in your ‘hood. ... See MoreSee Less
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A Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens, at the suet log feeder while a Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus, waits patiently, next in the queue. The Queue by Brian BilstonNot having much else to do,I joined the queue. What are we queueing for? I asked.Nobody knew.We waited in line.We shuffled forward.The queueue grew.It stretched for miles,across streets and towns, snaking arounduntil the back of the queueueueueueuejoined up with its front. We waited in line.We shuffled forward.Mr. Bilston wrote his poem in the fall of 2022 when the British media was full of reports of the over 5 mile queue of mourners waiting to pay their respects to the late Queen. The British consider themselves queueing experts. Some other comments at that time: Ben Rathe: "Queue is such a great word. The actual important letter and then four more waiting silently behind it in line."George Nada's solution to the Queue for the Queen problem: "Hang on - Why don't they drive the Queen down the length of the five-mile queue? Job done and everyone can go home?" ... See MoreSee Less
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A Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens, at the suet log feeder while a Black-capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus, patiently waits, next in the queue. The Queue by Brian BilstonNot having much else to do,I joined the queue. What are we queueing for? I asked.Nobody knew.We waited in line.We shuffled forward.The queueue grew.It stretched for miles,across streets and towns, snaking arounduntil the back of the queueueueueueuejoined up with its front. We waited in line.We shuffled forward.Mr. Bilston wrote this poem in the fall of 2022 when the British news media was full of reports of the over 5 mile long queue of mourners waiting to pay their respects to the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth. Here's a link to an article in the Guardian. www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/15/the-most-british-thing-ever-huge-queue-of-royal-mourners-...The British consider themselves queueing experts. Commenter Ben Rathe chimes in: "Queue is such a great word. The actual important letter, and then four more silently waiting behind it in a line." I also like commenter George Nada's suggestion for resolving the Queue for the Queen problem: "Hang on - Why don't they just drive the Queen down the length of the five-mile queue? Job done and everyone can go home." ... See MoreSee Less
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MIDLAND-PENETANGUISHENE FIELD NATURALISTSFEBRUARY ZOOM MEETINGTHURS. FEB. 15, 2024 7:30 PMEMILY CONGER AND JAMIESON FINDLAYALGONQUIN TO ADIRONDACKS CORRIDOR PROJECTA Zoom invitation has been sent out to all MPFN members and those on our contact list. If anyone else would like to join us at the meeting, please send an email request to mpfieldnaturalists@gmail.com so that we can send you the link. The Algonquin to Adirondacks region (A2A) encompasses Algonquin Park in Ontario and Adirondack Park in New York State and the lands and waters connecting them. It is unique for its huge variety of soil types, giving it the greatest biodiversity of vascular plants in Canada. A2A hosts 5 major forest systems, and is unique as a major north-south migratory route for terrestrial species east of Lake Superior, and an essential part of the Great Eastern Wildway. But the A2A region is fragile, owing in part to its shallow soils and the permeability of its underlying granite, sandstone and limestone. It is particularly under threat from inappropriate development, and inadequate protections under the law. In the Frontenac Arch part of A2A, where the greatest biodiversity occurs, most land is privately owned, and only 4.1% is under protection. Other major threats are climate change and invasive species including forest and aquatic pests. The A2A Collaborative works with its 50+ partners to address these threats and to reconnect this fragmented landscape. They support and foster projects supporting healthy, connected wildlife habitat.EMILYCONGER moved to the A2A area in 1970, and became keenly interested in conserving the area’s wildlife.She has been working on environmental and sustainability issues since the 1970s, and has worked over the years with a variety of organizations. She has been a director of A2A since 2001 and served as the President of the organization from 2002 to 2016.JAMIESON FINDLAY, a 64-year-old science writer, made the trek from the Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park last summer becoming the first known person to do so in modern times. The 400-mile adventure on the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail took him about 5 weeks to complete. ... See MoreSee Less
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Another Nature Story from David Hawke. Winter? Neither wildlife nor humans can bank on it'There have been many other winters of similar situation, winters that didn’t see humans instantly, incessantly, telling the world how things look in their yard,' says columnist David HawkePhoto Caption: The groundhog has become a de facto weather prognosticator. But there are other predictors of the weather in the natural world. David HawkeAs we move into February I hope that you’ve had time to take down all your Groundhog Day decorations and are now pinning your hopes for an early spring on actual meteorological prognostications. However, admittedly, neither source seems to be that accurate these days. This winter seems destined to be called “The Winter of The Icy Slush” which is only slightly better than “The Winter Without Snow” but far behind “The Winter of Snow Up to the Telephone Wires.”Today’s youth are missing out on opportunities to create fabulous stories for their eventual grandchildren. “Let me tell you about the winter of 2024! Slush everywhere! You couldn’t get from the car to the electronics store without having the brown slop get all over your shoes!” Just doesn’t seem to have the same punch as our tales of youthful adventures.I have addressed the challenge to wildlife in dealing with this lack of snow cover in earlier columns, and this extended warmish period has certainly added to their woes. Predator species are pleased that food can now be somewhat easily seen, while prey species are ducking and dodging between clumps of exposed grasses.There is some balance to this situation, as now is the time of year for foxes to travel far and wide searching for mates, so the easy pickings along the way ensure energy is obtained and retained; and the reduced mouse and vole populations will be welcomed by farmers.Great-horned owls are also selecting both mates and nesting sites right now, and again the visual abundance of snowshoe hare and voles is no doubt welcome. Whether they can catch them or not is another story.Two of our local mammals change the colour of their fur to match the season, both being brown in summer and white in winter. The short-tailed weasel (also called ermine) uses that white camouflage as a hunting advantage, whereas the snowshoe hare tries to look like it’s just part of a snowdrift to any passing by coyote, fox or owl ... which is kind of hard these days if there are no snowdrifts to blend in with.White-tailed deer usually ‘yard up’ in the winter, moving into concentrated groups during the deep snow months, thus packing down trails to access hemlock twigs. The deer in our neighbourhood have stayed put so far, and wander widely eating apples and nibbling the twigs of maple saplings. On the human side of things, we all know that ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing, and snow fort building has been a bust so far. However, you may not be aware that those who toil in the forest industry are also a bit peeved by the weather.To remove logs from a woodlot or a plantation requires the use of big machines with big tires. Good forestry practices dictate that these machines should not be used when the ground is soft, as the tires will dig into and rip up the forest floor. So the push is on to remove marked timber during the time of hard frost and deep snow as each of these elements ensures minimal damage to the forest floor. Lots of equipment idling this winter.The other group of forest users are the maple syrup producers. Again, a ‘normal’ winter of hard frost and good snow cover allows the maple trees to rest and burst forth with gusto in early March! Not so in this winter, as the continuous warm weather teases the trees into pushing up a bit of sap at a time, but not copious enough to fire up the boilers in the sugar shacks.There will undoubtedly be a few more bitter cold nights before we do get to spring, and these frigid temperatures will seep into the sap-dampened twigs and buds causing freezing and rupturing in their cell walls. Not so much a mortality factor but a weakening effect just the same.And to add to the situation, there seems to be a relationship between nitrogen fixing in the soils of our gardens and woodlots relative to the amount of snow cover. More snow means longer ground coverage which means the slow melt will allow the little bits of nitrogen to transfer from the snow crystals into the soil particles. Who knew? It’s easy to broadly paint this as a global warming or climate change event, and it is, to an extent. But there have been many other winters of similar situation, winters that didn’t see humans instantly, incessantly, telling the world how things look in their yard.It took Aunt Becky’s monthly letter to arrive to disclose the details of life on the farm: “Road was blocked for five days and lamp oil ran out. Thankfully had slaughtered a good hog and chickens are laying well.”And who knows, 100 years from now your great-great grandchildren may gift the local museum with a pair of salt-stained running shoes, a remnant of “The Winter of Icy Slush.” ... See MoreSee Less
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