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
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.

The latest Nature Column from Naturalist Bob Bowles: Why protecting native species matters and the risks of welcoming invasive speciesColumnist Bob Bowles explores the crucial role native species play in ecosystems and highlights the dangers posed by invasive species.Robert (Bob) BowlesPhoto caption: The Horne farm lane and meadows behind where columnist Bob Bowles found many butterflies and other insects is now University Avenue to the right of the photo. The meadows are gone, filled with sports and university facilities, businesses, and residential housing, with no habitat left for birds and insects. Bob Bowles photoThe lyrical poem “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth comes to mind as I lay on my couch in pensive mood thinking of what to write for this week’s column. I often recite this poem, one of the many I know by heart on nature and nature experiences. I feel lonely, like a small cloud drifting aimlessly in a large blue sky thinking of what to write to help others understand and become concerned about what we are doing to nature.We all know that we are losing species of songbirds, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and insects as we destroy habitats for wider highways, parking lots and housing developments. Humans are critical of some species in nature like birds that foul their own nest but that is exactly what we are doing as we destroy more habitat, create areas for invasive species and remove features and barriers that protect us against fires, flooding, storms, droughts and species extinction.We have just completed the 27th annual Carden Alvar dragonfly count in June and the butterfly count this week and we are working on a new booklet on dragonflies for a workshop at the nature centre. I am also spending a lot of time walking remote areas in Copeland Forest which should be habitat for many species of birds and insects but not hearing many birds or observing many butterflies or dragonflies. I am planning the 27th Pelee Island butterfly and dragonfly counts the end of this month and am hoping to see more species since we are recording fewer species each year at Carden.I am reading a book called “Woman, Watching” by Merilyn Simonds published in 2022 about Louise de Kiriline Lawrence, a Swedish women born into privilege who spent her childhood in a large estate with servants but decided to become a nurse. She moved to Canada in 1927 then north to near North Bay where she worked as a Red Cross nurse in a small office at Bonfield with no car at first then an open Ford coupe she called Henrietta for making rounds in summer and by dogsled in winter. She could speak five languages, was a goddaughter of a queen, fluent in French and successfully nursed the Dionne quintuplets through their first year of life, the first quints to survive infancy.She purchased five acres on Pimisi Bay on the Mattawa River between North Bay and Matawa in 1933 then built a log home in 1934. She had no neighbours, modern convinces or supplies except for a little community called Rutherglen, a day’s walk away. That year, she nursed the Dionne quintuplets and wrote a book about the experience. She married her second husband in 1939 and while he was away during the war she became a bird watcher of fame with detailed observations of birds and their habitats. She was warning about the decline of birds in her writings since 1957, linking the decline to Hurricane Hazel in 1954, the great cold deep freeze that devastated the spring migration of songbirds killing many species, never to recover, and the use of chemicals. It was Rachel Carson that finally rocked the world and opened our eyes to what we were doing with chemicals in 1962 with her book “Silent Spring.” She called for humans to act responsibly, carefully, and as stewards of the living earth. We now need another Rachel Carson.It was a letter to the editor in another media outlet that resonated with me this week. It was written by a friend and excellent journalist who I worked with at the old Orillia Packet and Times more than 20 years ago who lived in Orillia for many years. He was quick to clarify in his letter that he was not a naturalist or trained in the field of ornithology or bird population studies but felt he was encountering fewer birds than he saw in the past and asked the question was he correct and if so, what was causing the declines.I was the Eastern Canada co-ordinator for the North American Butterfly Counts for 10 years starting in 1975 and co-ordinated butterfly counts in Orillia for many years and led ecotours to Central and South American as a bird and nature guide. I saw clouds of interesting insects in the tropical forests of Peru, large flocks of beautiful birds in Zapata Swamp in Cuba, flocks of parrots and clouds of insects along the shores of the Amazon River in Ecuador and Peru and Rio Napo in Brazil and reptiles and insects on the many islands in the Galápagos Islands.We have lost many bird species since those days and I have almost 30 years of research showing the bird decline is tied to the insect decline. We need to bring the insects back for the sake not only for birds but for humans and our food production.Like Wordsworth’s daffodils, I close my eyes and picture the birds and insects I have seen in my life when things were better for the environment, and then my heart fills with gladness and dances with the thoughts of many birds and insects.Bob Bowles is an award-winning writer, artist, photographer and naturalist, founder, and co-ordinator of the Ontario master naturalist certificate program at Lakehead University. ... See MoreSee Less
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Another Nature Story from David Hawke: Contending with deer flies a challenge while berry picking'Never had I experienced such an attack,' columnist says of recent outing to find wild berriesDavid HawkePhoto caption: The photographer recently survived an onslaught from blood-hungry deer flies like this one. David HawkeHe who hesitates is lost. That may be so, but I’d like to update that saying to ‘he who hesitates is eaten alive,’ as that was the result of a recent blueberry-picking jaunt.Since early July, I’ve been telling myself to make the time to go berry picking, yet every day seemed to bring either bad weather (too wet, too hot or too humid). However, there finally appeared a white space on the page of my day book and I figured it’s now or never for berry picking this year.If you are a picker of wild berries, you know the importance of keeping the location of good sites a secret. However, since readers of this column are some of my favourite folks, I will tell you the best spot is on the Canadian Shield, on a rocky ridge between two beaver ponds, near a pine tree, just past a fallen birch. That’s as far as I will go with directions. Surely, you can figure the rest out.Equipment for berry picking includes a long-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, bug net for your head, empty containers that are not too deep (to avoid crushing the bottom berries), and they should also be easy to carry when full to overflowing. (No problem stacking empty containers together, but think ahead, people.)I set out at a good pace, the late afternoon sun in my face, the fresh air feeling deliciously wonderful as it blew gently by. It takes about 20 minutes to walk into the berry site, so a mild sweat was building as rocky hills were climbed and underbrush was crashed through. And I began to notice the deer flies were picking up my scent.When it comes to biting flies, there is an order in which they find and then attack you. The first thing they notice is movement, so just walking by is enough to stir them to action; arm waving and hand slapping is an additional invitation to come on over.As they fly closer, the second clue that dinner is about to be served is the perfume of carbon dioxide in the air. Every laboured breath that is exhaled, and every bead of sweat coming from heated skin, contained enough carbon dioxide to send these girls into a state of frenzy. (I mention the gender as it is only the females that bite; they need the blood as part of their egg production.)The third stage of the attack is stimulated by heat. And a good place to locate heat is the back of a neck, around the ears, under the chin, behind the knees (if you are wearing shorts), and the undersides of your arms.By the time the last gully was forged and the final climb was completed to the big expanse of open rock, the flies were incredible. Never had I experienced such an attack. A cloud of swarming, biting, frantic deer flies were doing all they could to dive-bomb me, as if trying to fly in my left ear and exit my right nostril, to nip and bite and drive me to distraction. Arms flailed, nasty words were muttered, sweat poured and more squadrons flew in to join the melee.For whatever the reasons, the flies had chosen me as their sacrificial meal. A head net was pulled from the deep recess of my pack, but the exposed areas of my arms and neck continued to be in need of protection. Perhaps it was the colour of my T-shirt (red) or maybe it just needed a wash (?) but whatever the reason, the trip was turning into an ordeal. (Hmm, did I not say a long-sleeved shirt was required? I must have skipped that line in my haste to get out the door.)A quick stop was taken to sit on some rocks, where the wind could blow the flies back into the woods. Sitting without movement, and with a body cooling due to the breeze, the flies did abate for a while.As I had stopped moving, I could better see things around me. In the west beaver pond, a family of four young otters scampered by, mallards and black ducks were noted as they paddled the nearby pond, a great blue heron flew by, and a red fox appeared on the next ridge.And the blueberries? Not a one. The season was over last week. Between the heat, the wildlife and other berry pickers, every bush was devoid of the cherished fruit. (Later, a friend told me the flies weren’t so bad a week ago. Maybe I should have gone then. Yeah, no kidding, eh?)On the trek out, the deer flies again showed their strength. At one point, I swung the empty berry container through the throng and captured over a dozen flies in a single swipe. But despite the pesky insects, the empty bushes, and the energy-draining hike, it was a glorious outing. Time spent just sitting on a rock watching the natural world go by is time well spent. Flies be damned. ... See MoreSee Less
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I photographed these two tiny moths on July 19, 2024 in Victoria Harbour, Ontario, Canada. The top moth, a Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth, Parapoynx badiusalis, has a wing span of about 3/4 of an inch. The moth on the bottom, an Orange Mint Moth, Pyrausta orphisalis, is even smaller with a wing span of about half and inch. I'm always amazed how when some of these little critters fly by they seem hardly worth noticing. But when you lean down and take a close look, "couching yourself childwise in the grass", they are truly amazing. A lesson not to take the Joy of Little Things for granted. The Joy of Little Things by Robert W. Service It's good the great green earth to roam,Where sights of awe the soul inspire;But oh, it's best, the coming home,The crackle of one's own hearth-fire!You've hob-nobbed with the solemn Past;You've seen the pageantry of kings;Yet oh, how sweet to gain at lastThe peace and rest of Little Things!Perhaps you're counted with the Great;You strain and strive with mighty men;Your hand is on the helm of State;Colossus-like you stride . . . and thenThere comes a pause, a shining hour,A dog that leaps, a hand that clings:O Titan, turn from pomp and power;Give all your heart to Little Things.Go couch you childwise in the grass,Believing it's some jungle strange,Where mighty monsters peer and pass,Where beetles roam and spiders range.'Mid gloom and gleam of leaf and blade,What dragons rasp their painted wings!O magic world of shine and shade!O beauty land of Little Things!I sometimes wonder, after all,Amid this tangled web of fate,If what is great may not be small,And what is small may not be great.So wondering I go my way,Yet in my heart contentment sings . . .O may I ever see, I pray,God's grace and love in Little Things.So give to me, I only beg,A little roof to call my own,A little cider in the keg,A little meat upon the bone;A little garden by the sea,A little boat that dips and swings . . .Take wealth, take fame, but leave to me,O Lord of Life, just Little Things. ... See MoreSee Less
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Grey Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis, Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, Midland, Ontario, Canada, July 15, 2024Catbird v. Mockingbird by John SurowieckiThe mockingbird is a tape recorder.The catbird is a jazz musician.The mockingbird sings to attract a mate.The catbird sings for no reason at all.The mockingbird pinwheels across the sky:white, gray, black, white, gray, black.The catbird slinks across the sky,the shadow of a shadow.The mockingbird’s song isn’t mocking.The catbird (in a dogwood) lives for irony.The mockingbird seeks out the highest branches.The catbird skims the earth like a frisbee.The mockingbird is skittish and demure.The catbird is fearless and opportunistic.The mockingbird is quiet for most of the day.The catbird never shuts up. ... See MoreSee Less
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Another Nature Story from David Hawke: It's important not to go wild picking berriesThese days, one of the few options to find wild berries are along trails in parks, but there's a lot of competition, so we need to not be greedy, warns columnist David HawkeA trail walk these days will probably bring you to at least one appealing display of summertime berries, whether it be blueberries, red raspberry, black caps, or thimbleberries.The profusion of spring-time blossoms, plus the work of millions of pollinators, has now resulted in a crop of delicious fruits.While members of the raspberry clan are fairly easily to recognize, do take care that the “blue berry” you are eying is actually a blueberry; a couple of our wildflowers — blue bead lily and blue cohosh — also have blue-coloured fruits but are best not included within your diet. The true blueberry is a shrub and is usually found growing on the sunny rock lands of Muskoka.Now that I’m on the topic of edible wild, I have to insert my grumpy anti-foraging message. Admittedly, I love a sweet trailside nibble as much as the next hiker — a couple red raspberries or a cupped handful of blueberries adds a lot to the memory of a wonderful outdoors experience. But nowadays there has to be an awareness of the potential negative impacts of “browse as you go.”For several decades I have lived by the golden rule of berry picking: take only a third, leaving the remaining berries for wildlife use, and for reproduction of the plant. I recently had my eyes opened to the reality of foraging in these modern times.For starters, you are not alone on the trail ... there may be dozens, even hundreds, of other trail walkers toddling by here in a week. I take a third of what I find, Mary takes a third of what’s left, Robert takes a third (hmm, he thinks, must be a poor year for berries), Rebecca takes a third (well, actually it’s hard to take a third of a single berry).I recently attended a terrific lecture about foraging where the speaker explained the falsehood of ‘pick only a third.’ Apparently nature has this interesting balance between available fruit and fruit needed to reproduce itself. If 100 berries are produced, at least 80 will not be viable or will not land somewhere to germinate. Some of these will be eaten naturally by bears, birds and other critters.Wildlife can’t count so will devour all that they can find or get at; leaving a few fruits that, hopefully, one or two will be able to successfully send forth good seeds. And then we come along looking for something to add to our GORP or energy bar.We all meant well, but with the increased use of all trail systems, our collective sweet tooth desires have severely limited the reproduction of some plant species. But wait ... there’s more! These berries are the main course for many, many wildlife species, from birds to mammals to insects. As rampant development of the landscape has turned forests into estate lots, the wildlife which once lived there have been displaced and have moved to the few remaining protected areas in the neighbourhood: parks.Parks are where the walking trails are. Walking trails are where the people go. The few patches of raspberries that grew there are now supposed to support the original population of wildlife, the newly arriving displaced critters, and sate the palette of hungry hikers. Who has the option of obtaining such fruits from other sources? We do. Yes, a basket of blueberries costs as much as I made working in a whole day in my youth. No, the enriched experience of foraging in the wild is lost while you wait in the checkout lane. But we humans have that option whereas the bears, raccoons, song sparrows, deer, robins, wood thrushes, chipping sparrows, and their like, do not.Adding to the pressure of ‘wild harvesting’ is the popular resurrected notion of living off the land. While there is nothing wrong with learning to be a whole lot more resourceful at looking after yourself, the land space available to do so is very limited.All parks have a legal restriction about harvesting within their property lines. Most nature reserves and conservation areas also have a “do not pick” guideline.Crown land is available for foraging, but that designation is quite rare to find south of Georgian Bay. Private lands require the permission to trespass from the land owner. Which comes full circle back to the only really available lands are where the trails are, in parks.If I should happen to see you sneaking a trailside nibble, I won’t think badly of you (because I may well be doing the same thing). However, please don’t create a situation where you are found loading up buckets of wild berries.In southern Ontario, we have to switch our expectations of a good berry harvest consisting of a basket of horticulturally grown fruits, on sale. ... See MoreSee Less
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