MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Report Sunday
Copeland Forest – Sept. 20, 2020
The name “Sora” is believed to have come from an Indigenous language. It is one of very few birds that retains an Indigenous term as its common name.
But apparently there are still some people about that call this bird the “ortolan”. I believe this misnomer probably occured late in the 19th and early in the 20th century when market hunters, aware of the European reputation of the real ortolan as a great delicacy, gave the Sora Rail this name to increase its marketability.
I know it’s a bit of a long read but I found this exchange of letters from the Washington Evening Star in 1883 quite amusing. Apparently some members of the public felt the name ortolan referred to what we know of as the Sora while others felt the name more properly applied to the Bobolink or Reed Bird. It’s amazing how passionately they argue about the right name for the wrong bird.
CONCERNING THE “ORTOLAN”
To the Editor of The Evening Star:
It seems odd that in a city containing a national museum and many good libraries that a little water fowl by the name of “water rail” or “sora,” should be so generally called “ortolan”? — a bird that it resembles about as much as a robin does a wren. All the market gunners and all the restaurant keepers fall into this mistake as is shown by the bills of fare.
The Star of to-day, under the caption of “Gunning in the Marshes,” after naming over a number of men who ought to be sportsmen enough to know the names of the game they kill, says: “The majority brought home less than a dozen ortolan, and a few reed birds.” Now, as the ortolan and the reed are one and the same bird, the information is rather uncertain for sportsmen and those who haven’t always lived in a City where “gudgeons” are called smelt.” The small yellow and brown bird known in different sections of the country under the names of ortolan, reed-bird or rice-bird, is a bunting the male of which changes its color in the spring to black and yellow, and then called Bob-o-link (Bob Lincoln.) It feeds as often on the uplands as on the marshes. Many country people sow an acre in millet or buckwheat, and they draw to it by hundreds. A pick up of thirty or forty at a shot is often made over this attraction. Now the “water rail” or “sora” is a solitary bird, and never found away from a river or stream. It, resembles somewhat the snipe, except it has a short bill and is web-footed. Its flight is slow and short. Whence they come and where they go after the first heavy frost is a mystery that future ornithologists will have to rise and explain. Audubon, Wilson and others having failed to do so satisfactorily. I wrote a card last year to one of our locals relative to this popular error, and I hope you will again remind the gunning fraternity that water quails or sora are not ortolans, and reed-birds rice-birds, ortolans and bob-o-links, according to all authorities, are birds of a feather.
“G. T. A.”September 8, 1883. Washington D.C. Evening Star 62(9479): 2.
CONCERNING THE CAROLINA RAIL.
To the Editor of The Evening Star:
A communication from “G.T.A.” In last Saturday’s Star, evidently from a gentleman interested in the uniformity of the nomenclature of our birds, is so full of positive error, and tainted with superstition, that a correction of some of his statements will not be out of order. The so-called “Ortolan” is the Carolina Rail (Parzana Carolina), known also by the names of Common Rail and Sora, the latter being the general term applied throughout Maryland and Virginia. It is the most abundant and familiar of our marsh birds during the migrations, and the most ruthlessly hunted by the sportsman. Habitually skulking and hiding rather than seeking safety in open flight is a characteristic of the bird that has prevented its observation even in localities where it occurs in considerable numbers. Its habitat includes the whole of temperate North America, but it is far more abundant in the Atlantic than in the Pacific states. The bird is not web-footed, but is provided with very long toes, which enable it to tread the mazes of the marshes without sinking in the soft mud or vegetation. It travels through the tall reeds with surprising swiftness at low tide and at high tide, when the marshes are submerged, clings to the reeds. Notwithstanding the absence or webbed feet it swims with ease, and never hesitates to navigate in that manner from one clump of reeds to another when occasion requires rather than take wing. The wings are short and rounded, and the flight appears so feeble that many sportsmen persist in doubting its ability to perform extensive migrations, nevertheless such is the fact, as they often board vessels at sea between the southern states and the West India Islands, where many of them pass the winter. Although not truly gregarious, it is far from “a solitary bird,” as is evidenced by their sudden and plentiful arrival and departure. In the migrations favorable winds are taken advantage of. They breed in most of the northern states and British America, laying four or five eggs of a dark drab color, with brownish spots, in a nest rudely constructed of coarse grasses. The young are covered with a blackish down, and, like the quail, are active as soon as out or the shell. “G.T.A.” says, “From whence they come or where they go after the first heavy frost is a mystery that future ornithologists will have to rise and explain.” This is a remnant of the absurd superstitions that prevailed in the minds of the colored people before the war, and even now many can be found on the banks of the Potomac or Patuxent rivers firm in the belief that the rails hibernate in the mud of the marshes or turn into frogs. Wilson records an old man who claimed to have captured a specimen in which the transformation was but half accomplished, and it lived three days — but Wilson didn’t believe the story. The real fact of the case is that the Rail performs its migrations only at night, which is the case with most migrants, and consequently its arrival and departure are seldom observed. Moreover the nature of its feeding grounds and haunts precludes the possibility of its being detected as readily as land birds. Hence many theories have been invented to account for their seemingly inexplicable advent. The same writer has also somewhat mixed up the common names of the Reed Bird, (Dolichonyx Orizyvorous) in the northern states this bird is the familiar Bobolink, in the middle states the Reed Bird, in the southern states the Rice Bird, and in the West India Islands the Butter Bird.
W. F. R.
ARE THE REED BIRD AND ORTOLAN THE SAME BIRD?
To the Editor of The Evening Star:Washington, D. C., Sept. 8, 1883.
Will your correspondent, “G.T.A,” give some of his authorities, to sustain his assertion that the “Reed bird” and “Ortolan” are the same bird? In Coues’ “Birds of the Northwest, p. 178,” is found the following heading: “Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Bobolink; Reed bird; Rice bird.” And on page 538 is found “Porzana Carolina, Carolina rail; Sora; ‘Ortolan,'”. On the last mentioned page the name of Prof. Baird is cited as the authority for the technical name, given as belonging to” the “Ortolan,” and this name, Dr. Coues adds, is adopted by “all late U S. writers.” It looks very much as if “G.T.A.” were the only authority who considers the Reed bird and Ortolan to be identical; but the nearest way to a solution of the question is to ask Prof. Ridgway or Dr. Coues to give the answer.
Hugh M. Smith.September 12, 1883. Washington D.C. Evening Start 62(9482): 2.
THE ORTOLAN QUESTION.
To the Editor of The Evening Star:
I am glad to see that “W. F. R.” and Hugh M. Smith, esq., have in The Star of Wednesday further agitated the ortolan question, because I should like the attention of the sporting fraternity drawn to the subject. If Dr. Coues contends that the rail and ortolan are the same, then the District people have some authority for misapplying the word ortolan; but where does Dr. Coues get his authority? For it is not to be supposed that he ventures to make his own classification. As Mr. “S.” doubts the source or my information, and asks for it, I shall presently accommodate him. Wishing to make these remarks as brief as possible, I confine myself closely to the point in question: Can the rail be called ortolan?
Strictly speaking we have no ortolan. Our smaller American brother bears about the same resemblance to it that the English quail does to our partridge, or the English hare to our rabbit. But if the name must be used — and it seems so — then for heaven’s sake let it be applied to a land bird that is nearly identical, and not to a waterfowl totally unlike it.
“Audubon” does not consider the ortolan an American bird; neither does “Swainson.” “Wilson,” page 48., vol. 2: Eurberza, Oryzivora, Le Ortolan de la Caroline, L Agripeum on L Ortolan. “This is the Bob O Link of eastern Pennsylvania and the northern states, and Rice bird and Reed bird of Pennsylvania.” Again, “Supposed by some to be equal to the famous Ortolan of Europe.” Thus classing him with the rice bird, but nowhere with the rail, which he describes as “wild, solitary and shy.” “Wood,” page 481: Ortolan or Garden Bunting. “Jasper,” page 47: The Bob O Link or Rice bird is also known as the American Ortolan. “Gosse,” in his Birds of Jamaica, says: “Butter bird, Ortolan, Rice bird.” Appleton’s American Enc.: “Ortolan, a Bunting.” American Universal Enc.: “Ortolan, a species of Bunting.” Chambers’ Enc.: “Ortolan, a Bunting, &c.” Zell’s Enc.: “Ortolan, a Bunting.” Webster’s Dic.: “Ortolan (Garden) a Singing bird; the Eurberza hortulana.” Worcester’s Dic., under a wood cut of the Rice bird, says it belongs to the family Fringilildae (Finches.)
Here are a few of my authorities (I could give more), not one of whom mentions the Ortolan among the Rails (Rallus). He is in every case spoken of as a Bunting or Fringilla. I come now to the only exception to this rule. Mr. Smith and “W.F.R.” in selecting Dr. Coues for their sole authority are rather unfortunate, as that ornithologist not only contradicts all of hers, but contradicts himself. In several of his works I find. Carolina Rail, Sora, “Ortolan,” (quotation marks not over Ortolan in his “Key to American Birds.”) In his general treatise, page 155, he says: “The name Ortolan applied by some to the Rice bird and by others to the Carolina Rail is a strange misnomer, the Ortolan being a fringilline bird of Europe.”
The Rice bunting is a genus of the family Fringillidae. Audubon shows the slight subdivision when he writes: “The buntings scarcely differ from the finches in any other character than the knob on the palate.” Dr. Coues should not think it strange that some people call the rice bird Ortolan, but it is passing strange for an ornithologist, who furnishes texts books for schools and taxidermists, to call a rail a finch. Mr. H.M. Smith also says: The name of Prof. Baird is cited as the authority for the technical name given as belonging to the ortolan, and this name, Dr. Coues adds, is adopted by all United States writers. Mr. S. should not quote from a scientific work unless he knows how to read it. In this instance he does injury to Prof. B. and all late United States writers. Dr. Coues in writing upon the rail, gives below the names of writers or works he has consulted as references to the reader, among them Prof. B. and C., &c. None of them may have mentioned the ortolan (and I have read many of them that do not), and yet Mr. Smith makes it appear as if Dr. Coues cites Prof. B. and all late United States writers,. &c., as authorities for this name.
September 14, 1883. “G. T. A.”September 19, 1883. Washington D.C. Evening Star 62(9488): 2.
WHERE THE SORA IS FOUND.
To the Editor of The Evening Star:
In your issue of September 8, 1883, which has just come to hand, G. T. A. says the sora or rail is “never found away from a river or stream.” I have killed them on the prairies. In Missouri, ten miles from any stream, and a mile or more from water of any kind. I know the bird, as I have shot them on the flats of the Potomac. Again, G. T. A. says, “it resembles a snipe,” about as much as a crow does an eagle. I am afraid G. T. A. is not a sportsman.
B. L. O., Emporia, Missouri.September 22, 1883. Washington D.C. Evening Star 62(9491): 2.
Well, if you got through all that I’ll reward you with a poem about the real ortolan, a European bunting that is considered a rare delicacy.
When François Mitterrand, the former president of France, realized that he would soon die of prostate cancer … he squandered a small fortune on a lavish and bizarre meal for himself and thirty friends … The piece-de-resistance was roast ortolan, a tiny songbird that in France is actually illegal to consume. Traditionally, the two-ounce warbler is eaten whole, bones and all, while the diner leans forward over the table with a large napkin draped over his head. The napkin, according to food lore, serves two functions: it traps and concentrates the aroma of the petite dish, and it conceals the shameful exorbitance of the meal … from the eyes of God.
—Mark Morton, from “Ort of the Week,” Gastronomica.com, April 3, 2006
Once inside his mouth, did it bite back, digging
with its beak into the steak-flesh of his tongue
a pin-prick on the palette, a pen-knife sticking
the spongy membranes in the belly of a whale?
Did its head roll around in his mouth before
it was crushed like a doll’s glass slipper
between the molars of a dog?
Did it beat its wings against his throat,
clamoring against the smooth esophageal
lining as it went down?
Did it burn his chest in that moment, a speck
of feather caught within the chambers, thrashing
on the walls like its sparrow cousin, accidentally
flown into the glass door of the sun-deck?
Or did it slide gently, silenced by the strange
thunder of his heart as it passed?
Was it slow-roasted or grilled? Basted with
butter, rosemary, and a little lemon? Or simply
salt and pepper, maybe some olive oil?
Did the bird recognize the oil as it was applied,
perhaps from a tree it had nested in once, sung
a song so beautiful a law had to be passed
to preserve its notes?
Did it come live to the chef’s hands, caged
with its siblings, beaks taped shut so as not
to give away the fruit kept within? Or
were they packed in an egg carton, each bird coiled
and cold in its own private, if temporary, tomb?
Were their necks snapped only hours earlier?
Or were they gassed at the base of the bird-catcher’s
car? Why not boiled fresh and writhing like lobsters
as if song still lingered about their featherless flesh?
The minutiae of the guts, were they kept in or
removed, and who so carefully pried the fuselage
from their bodies, their organs balanced
on a fingernail for sauce?
Days later, did it sing again as it made
its exit from body, now completely consumed
The surviving songbirds, can they see
the shadow left by the napkin on the diner’s
head; do they cease their singing
when he passes beneath their branch?
And does he care? He who has consumed
such delicate song, does he hear it still?
Socially Distanced Walk with Friends trip report
Sat. Sept. 5, 2020 Ste. Marie Park
Midland Painted Turtles
August 24 2020
MPFN Walk with Friends Report Sawlog Bay Aug. 24, 2020
On Monday morning Aug. 24, 2020 14 MPFN members and friends and one 4-legged associate member (Piper Codd) gathered at the Sawlog Bay home of MPFN member Mary Deepthie Rajapakse for another one of our Socially Distanced Walks With Friends. We were blessed with good weather, if a little on the warm side, and were all very impressed with Mary’s little bit of paradise. After a tour of her beautiful garden we walked down the Sunset Trail as far as the fen at Seneca Beach.
MPFN member Bob Codd gives his impressions of the walk:
I experienced a similar feeling after our Sawlog outing as I did after our first get together at the Wye Marsh. A refreshed feeling that obviously comes from time spent with friends in nature – and of course Deepthie’s beautiful gardens! Our outings don’t get old and I find myself eagerly looking forward to the next. I’m surprised that they continue to have this impact on me. They’re a bit of normalcy in an unnatural state of living. I didn’t want it to end!
Sue and I love Deepthie’s gardens. I took a lot of those pictures before anyone else had arrived. The Garden Guardians speak to us. We love these quirky garden denizens. Sue has a great many Gargoyles that watch over us constantly. Even portable ones that travel with us. I suspect that there are not many people who enjoyed them in equal measure to the flowers and trees in her yard as we did! It takes more than flowers to make a garden and Deepthie has made a memorable one.
After the garden tour my favourite place was the fen. I had hoped for more butterflies but the wildflowers were in full bloom. Even more so than on our scouting mission. These are mostly wildflowers that I haven’t seen before and here they are, carelessly lying about, pretending that they are nothing special. The cooling breeze off Georgian Bay and the view of the Giant’s Tomb – if one could take their eyes off the flowers – made me want to linger. We will return and explore again – in other seasons – to see what understated magic that fen offers to those who will look for it! And we WILL look!
Thank you Deepthie for making a wonderful experience for us!
Bob and Sue
Here’s a copy of our EBird checklist:
25 Species observed
2 hr, 7 min
August 20 2020
Report on our Aug. 20 Socially Distanced Nature Walk With Friends at the Thiffault Trail in the Matchedash Wetlands.
14 MPFN members, 1, 4 legged Associate Member (Piper Codd) and a special guest Paula Sheppard, visiting us from Bradford, went for a socially distanced walk in the late afternoon on a bit of an overcast day. We did the full circuit of the trail and saw many interesting things. After our long walk Mother Nature blessed us with a refreshing cooling shower. Here is our Ebird report on the walk compiled by Susan Codd.
Great Blue Heron
2 hours 13 minutes 2.77 km Cloudy with showers. Temperature +25° C.
After our walk at Thiffault several members decided, despite the rain, to head over to Lawson Line for a quick look. They were rewarded with the awesome sight of a kettle of over 50 Common Nighthawks migrating south as well as good looks at the many Common Gallinules in this area.
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos of the walk. If you click on the individual photos some of them have further comments.
Thiffault Trail Walk Photo Album
We hope to see all of you at Sawlog Bay on Monday August 24.
August 13 2020
Trip Report from Tiny Marsh Walk Thurs. Aug. 13, 2020
Details:Including 4 ducklings
BREEDING CODE: FL Recently Fledged Young (Confirmed)
Great Blue Heron
We covered 2.92 kilometres on a 2 hour walk.
We also had looks at some great caterpillars, butterflies and dragonflies and some interesting plants.
We had a new trip leader on this walk. Some of us had a hard time keeping up as he set a blistering pace!
Our next group get-together will be this coming Thursday Aug. 20, 2020 4 PM at the Thiffault Trail in the Matchedash Bay area.
Again the goal is approximately a 90 minute to 2 hour walk. No privies at Thiffault so best to go before you arrive. We may have time after the walk for a short drive over to Lawson Line if anyone is keen.
The trailhead for Thiffault is on Quarry Rd. Go east over the 400, go past Hodgins Rd. on your left then look for the small parking area on your right. If you get to St. Amant Rd. you’ve gone too far. Some cars may have to park on the road.
The trail is easy walking but some areas may be wet and muddy. Long pants and appropriate footwear recommended.
We ask participants in these outings to practice social distancing (stay 2 turkey vultures wingspans apart), wear masks if you like but not required outdoors, and do not take part if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. We realize that many of our members are in the high-risk age group so we understand if some members may decide to give these opportunities a pass. But we feel a socially distanced walk in the outdoors is a fairly low risk activity. We are not expecting large groups but if we have a surprising turn out we can always split up into smaller groups.
We ask you to look on these walks, not as official club outings, but rather low key get-togethers of friends to enjoy nature together.
Those planning to participate may wish to RSVP to this message so that we can look out for you but last minute arrivals are also welcome.
After this Matchedash walk we hope to have another get-together on Monday morning Aug. 24, 2020 at Sawlog Bay where MPFN member Mary Rajapakse will tour us through her beautiful gardens and the trails of the area. More on that walk in a future email.
MPFN Outing Report from Sat. Aug. 8, 2020 Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre
On Saturday morning Aug. 8, 2020 13 2-legged members of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists and 2 4-legged associate members (Piper Codd and Gryphon McKeown) had a socially distanced outing at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland.
MPFN member Bob Codd was a big inspiration for getting us back to doing something as a group and keeping everyone’s noses to nature. Here’s Bob’s comments on the adventure:
“I feel refreshed after our group field trip as though something that had been missing had now been restored. I didn’t expect that feeling but clearly spending time with friends in our shared love of nature is a tonic for the soul! Thank you and please pass that sentiment along to all those who joined us.”
I’m sure those who attended share Bob’s feelings. It was great to be back together sharing our love of nature with good friends, even 6 feet apart. My contact tracing app on my phone didn’t go off, so that’s a good thing.
Here’s a copy of our eBird group checklist. Thanks to Susan Codd for compiling. If anyone wants this shared to their personal Ebird account just let us know. Bob Codd is good at that.
+1 other taxa
Details:One with wing tag E84
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
BREEDING CODE: FY Feeding Young (Confirmed)
Other highlights of the outing were a Blanding Turtle by the Marsh boardwalk, a pair of Green Herons, Northern Watersnake, and a couple of cute dipnetters who shared some of their findings with us.
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos from Bob Codd and Mary Rajapakse of the outing.
Aug. 8 MPFN Wye Marsh Outing Flickr Photo Album
More comments from Bob Codd: “If anyone is curious, my pedometer recorded around 4550 steps and the eBird track was just shy of 2.6 kilometres for the walk.”
So the outing was good for both our mental and physical health.
Does this look like fun to you? Is it in your comfort zone? Why not join us for our next outing at Tiny Marsh.
Our next outing will be at Tiny Marsh on Thursday Aug. 13, 2020 6 PM. Meet at the parking lot at the base of the Trotter (the North/South) dike. Again the goal is approximately a 90 minute to 2 hour walk on the Trotter dike, easy walking. The privies at Tiny Marsh are only for the brave of heart and strong of stomach so best to go before you arrive.
We ask participants in these outings to practice social distancing (stay 2 turkey vultures wingspans apart), wear masks if you like but not required outdoors, and do not take part if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. We realize that many of our members are in the high-risk age group so we understand if some members may decide to give these opportunities a pass. But we feel a socially distanced walk in the outdoors is a fairly low risk activity. We are not expecting large groups but if we have a surprising turn out we can always split up into smaller groups.
Those wishing to participate may wish to RSVP to this message so that we can look out for you but last minute arrivals are also welcome. As usual these outings should proceed rain or shine.
After the Aug. 13th outing we’ll see where we go from there.
Let us know if you have any other ideas for possible future outings.
August 1 2020
Our MPFN President Susan Hirst is also very active in Midland’s Community Garden located in Little Lake Park near the volleyball courts. She sends along these stories from the Garden.
The Midland Community Gardens is growing not only veggies and flowers but birds, too. A pair of song sparrows decided one of the raised beds would make a good spot for a wee nest. The bed is left natural and there is lots of plant growth for cover. There were five eggs in total, tiny and brown spotted. About two weeks later there were fluffy hatchlings keeping the parents busy. Another ten days or so and the young birds were in the garden bushes, chirping for food. I’m not sure how many survived as it was hard to see them in the nest once hatched, and we didn’t want to disturb them. Their songs are a lovely addition to the gardens!
While weeding at the Midland Community Gardens, I observed a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Stopping to watch it, I was admiring it’s lovely pattern when – whoosh – it was gone! Creeping over to the spot and looking down into the thick mass of wildflowers, I saw a green leopard frog consuming the hapless butterfly. While initially feeling sorry for losing this lovely insect, I quickly realized this was just nature, long in tooth and claw (and tongue!).
We’d like to share an interesting article from Birdwatching Magazine concerning a movement afoot to rename a lot of birds. Over the last two months, we have seen the removal of racist symbols and names in sports, corporate brands, a state flag, and more. Will bird names be next? A group of birders is pushing the American Ornithological Society to change the 150 or so common names of birds in North America that are named after people.
Here’s the link to the article and there are several hyperlinks in the article that will lead you to even more information about this interesting issue.
July 30 2020
July 22 2020
Gypsy Moths Irruption at Awenda
Yesterday July 21st we went to Awenda Park near Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada, looking for Hooded Warblers and Cerulean Warblers (successful).
The Park is undergoing a major irruption of Gypsy Moths. The smaller males are all in flight with many of them dropping dead at your feet (they only live about a week). The larger lighter coloured females who are flightless are covering the bases of many of the trees, most of them sitting near their egg sacs which look like light brown bumps on the bark. I believe you can see a couple of dark brown pupae in the photo as well.
Although quite a sight to see it must be a bit of a bummer for the campers. It was probably even worse during the caterpillar stage when they were pooping their frass all over the place. (The adults don’t eat so I assume there’s no poop) The upside is the birds are loving it. The woods are ringing with the songs of Scarlet Tanagers and Red-eyed Vireos, both major predators of the Gypsy Moth.And I think that’s a male Gypsy Moth that our Hooded Warbler picked up off the forest floor. It’s also been a great year around here to see Cuckoos, both Black-billed and Yellow-billed, who often move into an area when there is an irruption of gypsy moths.
We were amazed by the effect this irruption has had on the canopy of the forest in Awenda which is normally very dense. It’s not exactly early May conditions before leaf-out, but it’s certainly easier to see many of the birds when the caterpillars have got rid of all the leaves. I don’t think we would have been able to spot the Scarlet Tanager in my photo if the cats hadn’t done their work on the frazzled oak leaves you can see barely hanging to the branches.
The scientific name of the Gypsy Moth is Lymantria dispar dispar. From Wikipedia: “The name is composed of two Latin-derived words. Lymantria means “destroyer”. The word dispar is derived from the Latin for “unequal” and it depicts the differing characteristics between the sexes.” (They look like two different species – the small constantly flying males and the stationary larger females).
The Gypsy Moth is an introduced invasive species and like many of nature’s worst horror stories it was some clever human’s idea of a good idea. Again from Wikipedia: “The gypsy moth was introduced into North America in 1869 from Europeand quickly became an invasive species. Étienne Léopold Trouvelot imported the moths, with the intent of interbreeding gypsy moths with silk worms to develop a silkworm industry. The moths were accidentally released from his residence in Medford, Massachusetts. There are conflicting reports on the resulting actions. One states that despite issuing oral and written warnings of possible consequences, no officials were willing to assist in searching out and destroying the moths. The other notes that he was aware of the risk and there is no direct evidence that he contacted government officials.
As noted in The Gypsy Moth (1896) by Forbush and Fernald, the gypsy moth was considered a nuisance just ten years after their release. The first major outbreak occurred in 1889, and Forbush and Fernald recount the extent of devastation: all the trees being defoliated and caterpillars covering houses and sidewalks and raining down upon residents. At first it was uncertain what species was responsible for the outbreak, but after the caterpillar was identified by entomologist Maria Elizabeth Fernald, an eradication program began in 1890.” One hundred and thirty years later we’re still working on that eradication program.
The alien looking caterpillar in my post isn’t a gypsy moth caterpillar. It’s the caterpillar of the Saddled Prominent Moth. It gets the “Saddled” name from the red mark in the middle of the caterpillar. The saddled prominent is also an important hardwood defoliator that may cause significant damage to the forest resource. Larvae defoliate hardwood stands through the month of July and into early August. Beech and sugar maple are the preferred hosts, but birches and oaks may also be defoliated. It never rains but it pours.
Of course the Gypsy Moth inspired Sir Francis Chichester to sail alone around the world and moved poet Paula Bohince to sing its praises in verse. Though I doubt very few of the Awenda Park campers this year will do likewise.
Gypsy Moths, or Beloved
tremor in the walnut grove,
stand of near emptiness where I once stood,
unto a sorrow as the moths
belong now to these branches, the smoke
and burn of twilight,
the dreamers aroused,
unbound from their nest, wings unfurling walnut
tree-patterns, adult colors—
bronze and gray of decay, although
they are newly born.
This is the why and the way
of how I love them: savoring the end-
of-summer’s diminishing hours, unafraid
of the coming dark, enthralled by the applause
of bodies caught like hatchets
in the bark.
July 10 2020
Sharing Time with the Midland-Penetanguish
In these times when we still cannot get together as a group some MPFN members have some things they’d like to share.
A couple of years back MPFN members Bob and Susan Codd noticed that the loon nests near their cottage in Honey Harbour were being flooded out by the high water of the bay. Bob took it on himself to help out by constructing a floating raft that the birds could use as a nesting platform.
Bob’s friend & neighbour, Robin Working on Loon Raft
Loon platform being secured for the winter in October 2014. It was launched the following spring
On June 25th Bob sent us this message:
Our loon raft bore fruit. Hatched this past Saturday the chicks in these photos are 5 or 6 days old.
Wonderfully attentive parents, loons must be specialist hunters to capture fish small enough for hatchlings to consume. Very soon size of prey will be less of an issue.
I’ve long enjoyed the native stories. This is one of my favourites … as are loons!
How the loon got the ring around its neck
Once upon a time there was an old man who was blind. He had a wife who helped him to stay alive. Whenever she sighted game, she would hand him his arrow to moisten the stone point with his saliva – for this old man was possessed of magic powers. Then pointing the arrow in the direction of the game, she would let him release it himself, which he usually did with good effect. One day, they came upon a very fat caribou.
“Moisten the arrow-head with your saliva,” said the woman to her husband, which he did. He shot dead the animal. His wife, who coveted the fat of the caribou and was tired of living with a blind old man, pushed him aside, throwing him to the ground, saying, “That old fellow, what a bad shot he is!”
“But I think I have killed it.” insisted the old man. Yet as he was blind he could not get the game, and while searching for it, he strayed a long distance from his wife who now abandoned him.
As soon as the old man was out of sight, she set to cutting up the animal. At the same time she fried large slices of meat which she ate. What she did not eat on the spot she cut into thin pieces and hung out to dry.
Meanwhile the old man was bewailing his fate. In the course of his aimless wanderings he had reached the shore of a lake. A loon hearing his cries swam towards him, as his kin’s are wont to do even now whenever they hear anybody talking in the forest. “What ails you?” he asked the man.
“Poor wretch that I am, my wife has left me and I am blind,” answered the man.
“I will cure you,” said the loon. “Come over to me and hide your eyes in the down at the back of my neck.” The old man did as he was told, and both the loon and he plunged into the water. When they reappeared on the surface, they found themselves at the opposite end of the lake. “Now can you see?” quivered the loon. “Look at yonder mountain,” he added.
The old man answered, “I can see a little, as if through a mist.”
“Repeat the operation” said the loon. Again the loon dived with him, emerging this time at the original point of departure. “Now can you see?” asked the loon.
“I now see very well,” replied the old man wading ashore. Then to show his gratitude to his benefactor he presented him with his own Dentalium shell necklace, and taking some more Dentalium shells from his quiver, he threw them towards him.
Ever since, the loon wears a white necklace and the shells which landed upon him also produced the white spots we now see on his wings.
Bob says the loons look on his raft as prime real estate and even fight over it every spring.
June 17 2020
MPFN member Josie Kvas has been enjoying some of the nesting birds on her property in Lafontaine.
She shared some of her video with fellow club member Carolynn Fishleigh who passed it along to share with the group.
Here’s Josie: June 17, 2020 – This is the 3rd day of house wren hatchlings… May 27 to June 2 –an egg was added each day to a total of 7… then first 4 hatched overnight Mon. June 15, I think 6 by yesterday but it’s hard to count each body… not sure how many wee house wrens are in the bird house today, if all eggs are hatched yet…. So tiny… both parents so busy and noisy too!
From Nana Wren Josie
More baby birds in Lafontaine. MPFN member Lyn Barnett passes this photo of baby Robins taken by her friends Anne and David Black at the Lafontaine RV Resort.
Date: June 20, 2020 at 12:37 PM
Subject: Baby Robins at Lafontaine RV Resort
Here is a sure sign that nature is ignoring COVID19 and is carrying on. Dave took this photo at our camp site in Lafontaine Park this morning. Mother Robin was gone to get some food. The nest is just above our picnic table. So cute.
Cheers Anne and Dave
Well since the theme since to be babies, perhaps I should shamelessly share a photo of the latest addition to my life list of grandchildren. This is Mae Alexandra MacDonald Charlebois, born July 5, 2020, 8 lbs 7 oz in Ottawa. We haven’t met her quite yet but we already love her to bits.
We hope you are all enjoying and exploring the updated MPFN website mpfn.xyz (Great work, webmaster Bob Codd). Here’s some other new websites to check out:
The Couchiching Conservancy has a new website. Make sure you bookmark it – lots of great info here. http://couchichingconserv.ca/
The website looks quite a bit different from the old one. To help you find the information you are looking for, we have put together a page on the website that goes over the new updates. Included in this page is also a Website Re-design Tour that shows you how to navigate the new site. http://couchichingconserv.ca/2020/06/14/welcome-to-our-updated-website/
There’s a new website that’s fighting the good fight to preserve the cleanest water in the world.
Water campaign launches
website to take fight online
Water Keeper Erin Archer calls out to all people, “The time is NOW! Honour our Mother Earth by rising up against the threat to our Water; her life blood. This issue affects so many people in Ontario, not just those in North Simcoe where the aquifer with the purest water ever tested is located. The water in our aquifer is at risk of being irrevocably damaged by new and expanded gravel pits. We created this website so that people across the Nation and beyond, can join us online to learn more about this pristine water, our campaign and how they can help.”
The new website saveourwatertiny.wordpress.com explains the science behind the initiative with a straightforward glossary of the key terms. In addition to a gallery of photos, the site lets people know how they can support the campaign. As Anne Ritchie-Nahuis, a neighbour and environmental advocate, noted, “We can’t gather together in person right now, but this new site provides a shared digital platform for all our supporters and the many groups working together to protect our water. There is strength in numbers and we need to join together to save our water.”
Judith Grant, past president of the Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations, explains that this campaign is being driven by a diverse group of organizations and individuals sharing a common goal: to protect this extraordinarily pure aquifer from possible degradation. Her organization is a party to an ongoing appeal between the Township of Tiny and the multinational company that owns one of the gravel pits in question. “The Canadian Environmental Law Association took us on as a pro bono client because this issue has far reaching implications for the protection of groundwater in Ontario. As in many rural areas, groundwater used by private wells in Tiny township is not protected by the Clean Water Act. It is appalling to think that the Teedon Pit is using this uniquely pure water to wash gravel.”
Local Indigenous groups know this issue well because they have fought this battle before, back in 2009 when the County of Simcoe proposed establishing a landfill over the same aquifer. Dump Site 41, as it was known, rallied many voices and the public outcry convinced the county to shelve the proposal. Bonnie Pauzé, a neighbour of the gravel pits and a veteran of the 2009 campaign, noted that “This is not a NIMBY issue; we are trying to protect a unique water source for future generations.”
A number of scientists have substantiated the campaign’s concerns. Dr. William Shotyk, from the University of Alberta, told Simcoe County in 2018 that “the quality of the waters in these artesian springs has been documented in international, peer-reviewed scientific journals. In fact, these spring waters have become the ‘gold standard’”. He added that the long-term costs of degrading groundwater resources will outweigh by a considerable margin the short-term gain represented by aggregate extraction.
According to Dr. John Cherry, Emeritus Professor at the University of Guelph and co-author of the leading textbook on groundwater, the literature about groundwater impacts from excessive disturbances generally shows that restoring groundwater to its original quality is extremely difficult or technically/ economically impossible. Therefore, the prevention of adverse impacts is by far the most economically prudent strategy for managing these natural resources.
We are a diverse group of grass roots organizations working to protect our water: FoTTSA, The Council of Canadians, AWARE Simcoe, The Friends of the Waverley Uplands, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, neighbours of the Teedon Pit, and many individuals concerned about damage to the aquifer.
A good friend of the MPFN, astronomer Bill Sherwood has been up early photographing the comet Neowise. Here’s a link to Bill’s blog. http://rhapsodieswiseoldbird.blogspot.com/2020/07/new-wisdom-for-wise-ol-bird.html
And here’s a link that tells you how you can view this wonder of nature. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/comet-neowise-1.5639220
And finally a good friend of the MPFN Anne Delaney shares this video of the amazing Lyre Bird – the Rich Little of the bird world.
Anyone else got anything to share?
June 12 2020
June 11 2020
A very rare dark form of Least Bittern, known as “Cory’s Least Bittern,” was once considered a separate species. With a black bill, entirely black back, and rich chestnut cheeks, belly, and wing coverts, this distinctive bird was highly prized by bird “collectors” as soon as it was discovered in Florida in 1885. Cory’s Least Bitterns were seen frequently around the Great Lakes, especially around Toronto, in the late 1800s, before its favored marshes were destroyed. Only 7 or 8 records of this mysterious bird are known worldwide since 1973.
Here’s a bittern poem – Seamus Heaney’s translation of An Bonnan bui, the most famous poem of the 18th century Irish bard Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Ghunna. “Bui” means “yellow” an epithet that was attached to Cathal due to his sallow complexion – perhaps a result of his excessive drinking. In the poem he identifies himself with the Bonnan bui, the yellow bittern.
Yellow bittern, there you are now,
Skin and bone on the frozen shore.
It wasn’t hunger but thirst for a mouthful
That left you foundered and me heartsore.
What odds is it now about Troy’s destruction
With you on the flagstones upside down,
Who never injured or hurt a creature
And preferred bog water to any wine?
Bittern, bittern, your end was awful,
Your perished skull there on the road,
You that would call me every morning
With your gargler’s song as you guzzled mud.
And that’s what’s ahead of your brother Cathal
(You know what they say about me and the stuff)
But they’ve got it wrong and the truth is simple:
A drop would have saved that croaker’s life.
I am saddened, bittern, and broken hearted
To find you in scrags in the rushy tufts,
And the big rats scampering down the rat paths
To wake your carcass and have their fun.
If you could have got word to me in time, bird,
That you were in trouble and craved a sup,
I’d have struck the fetters of those lough waters
And wet your thrapple with the blow I struck.
Your common birds do not concern me,
The blackbird, say, or the thrush or crane,
But the yellow bittern, my heartsome namesake
With my looks and locks, he’s the one I mourn.
Constantly he was drinking, drinking,
And by all accounts I’ve a name for it too,
But every drop I get I’ll sink it
For fear I might get my end from drouth.
The woman I love says to give it up now
Or else I’ll go to an early grave,
But I say no and keep resisting
For taking drink’s what prolongs your days.
You saw for yourself a while ago
What happened to the bird when its throat went dry;
So my friends and neighbours, let it flow:
You’ll be stood no rounds in eternity.
There is a “Yellow Bittern” in India and Asia which is related to our Least Bittern but the Yellow Bittern of Cathal Bui’s poem was probably more like our larger American Bittern. Here’s an article from a March 16 2015 edition of the Irish Examiner written by Dick Warner:
“I’m told that a bittern has been heard booming in north Co Leitrim.
This is interesting because bitterns have been extinct in Ireland for something over a century. However, it’s not unprecedented. Bitterns still breed in a few places in Britain and, as a result of very strict conservation measures, they seem to be holding their own.
In most years one or two make it over here, but it’s normally in winter and there are no recent breeding records. And occasionally a westerly gale blows in an American bittern, a closely related and rather commoner species.
The bittern is a type of heron, smaller than the familiar grey heron, but still a large bird standing about 75cm high. They are brown flecked with yellow, which is excellent camouflage in a bed of winter reeds. They also have a habit, if they’re alarmed, of stretching their necks and pointing their beaks at the sky. This makes them all but invisible in a reed bed. As a result they’re birds that are more often heard than seen.
The male bittern has a quite extraordinary low-pitched booming call. It’s designed to carry great distances across flat wetlands and it sounds as though it’s much more likely to emanate from a bull than a bird.
There is no doubt that at one time they were common, breeding in every county in Ireland. There were two reasons for their decline and eventual extinction. The first was the 1842 Drainage Act. Bitterns need extensive wetlands with reed beds, patches of open shallow water and lots of coarse fish, particularly eels, to feed on. Up to the middle of the 19th century Ireland had more of this type of habitat than most other European countries and bitterns thrived. Then extensive land drainage started to shrink the reed beds.
The second factor was hunting pressure. Gordon D’Arcy documents this in his excellent book Ireland’s Lost Birds. Bitterns were regarded as a great delicacy, fetching a higher price than the larger and meatier grey heron, and were eagerly sought after by amateur and professional wild-fowlers.
Other birds that were driven to extinction here have managed to recolonise, even without human help. The buzzard and the great spotted woodpecker are examples. Could the bittern come back? It’s not impossible. There still is a small amount of suitable habitat left but the population base in Britain is tiny and this is where any colonisers are likely to come from, so it’s not very likely.
A friend of mine has a 19th century stuffed bittern in a glass case in his study. He is a fine singer and one of his party pieces is The Yellow Bittern, Thomas McDonagh’s wonderful English translation of Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Ghunna’s ‘An Bonnan Bui’.
It’s the closest most Irish people are likely to get to this iconic bird.”
My favourite story about Cathal Bui:
CATHAL BUÍ, THE PARISH PRIEST AND THE SEVEN CURSES
Posted on April 12, 2018 by CathalBuiFestival
The clergy did not like Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna at all. He was a bad influence in many ways. However, all the young ladies loved him.
Once when it was rumoured that Cathal Buí was visiting a particular area, the parish priest warned people to have nothing to do with him and called down seven curses on anyone who would give him a night’s lodgings.
That evening at nightfall a knock came to the priest’s door. On opening the door the priest saw an old woman who asked him for shelter ‘ar ghrá Dé’. The priest agreed and asked his servant girl to prepare a ‘shakedown’ for the old beggar woman in the kitchen corner.
The priest went to bed and when he arose in the morning the ‘old woman’ was missing. Scrawled on the kitchen wall was a message, which said:
‘Seacht mallacht a thug tú a shagairt a chroí
Ar aon dhuine a bhéarfadh foscadh do Chathal Buí
Tú féin thug tú foscadh do Chathal Buí
Agus thit na seacht mallacht anuas ar do thoigh’
‘Seven curses you called down, a shagairt a chroí
On him who’d let in the bad Cathal Buí
Yourself, you took in the bad Cathal Buí
So now the seven curses rebound back on thee’
The priest checked his house and stables and found the following items missing:
1. His horse
2. His saddle
3. His whip
4. His riding boots
5. His riding hat
6. His horse’s bridle
7. His servant girl
(STORY PROVIDED BY SEAMUS O’ HULTACHÁIN)
Early ornithologists seemed to consider themselves as avian music critics and they often gave bad reviews to the Marsh Wren. Alexander Wilson thought it “deficient and contemptible in singing,” similar to the sound “produced by air-bubbles forcing their way through mud or boggy ground when trod upon”; John James Audubon compared the “song, if song I may call it… [to]… the grating of a rusty hinge.” To Dr. A. A. Allen the song sounded like an old-fashioned sewing machine, not the most noble of musical instruments.
Nowadays those who study birds are quite impressed with the Marsh Wrens vocal abilities. From Birdsoftheworld.org:
“Although the Marsh Wren’s harsh, broad-band songs contain few pure musical tones that resonate with our ears, careful analysis of this wren’s vocal behavior has now shown a rich array of behaviors that rank it among the most impressive of all North American songsters. During their early sensitive phase, for example, males learn 50–200 song types. As adults, neighboring males engage in complex countersinging duels and seemingly sing almost continuously, day and night, in their bid for success.”
Again, again, again
by Jerry L. Ferrara
From the marsh,
wend notes of harsh;
prattle seem it’s been.
It’s just the way,
their voices play:
signature Marsh Wren.
…their favourite haunt’s the fen
…they sing from ev’ry stem
…again, again, again.
We planted a bluebird box,
And we hoped before the summer was o’er
A transient pair to coax.
And lighted on our tree,
But at first the wand’rers were not so tame
But they were afraid of me.
Just over the Walden wood,
And they skimmed it along with open mouth
Close by where the bellows stood.
And they warbled it over the lea,
And over the blacksmith’s shop in a jiff
Did they come warbling to me.
Without looking into the hole,
And only from this side to that did they hop,
As ’twere a common well-pole.
Nor indeed had they seen me,
Till I chanced to stand by our back door,
And they came to the poplar tree.
And reared a happy brood,
And every morn they piped their best
As they flew away to the wood.
To the bluebirds and to me,
And every hour was a summer’s day,
So pleasantly lived we.
And I a world in me,
Up in the tree—the little elves—
With their callow family.
And the leaves when whirling away;
The birds prepared for their journey long
That raw and gusty day.
And ruffled their azure smocks,
So they launched them forth, though somewhat loth,
By way of the old Cliff rocks.
In her mantle of purest white,
And anon another spring was born
When winter was vanished quite.
And gazed at the mellow sky,
But never before from the hour of my birth
Had I wandered so thoughtfully.
And never so mild was the sky,
The river, the fields, the woods, and the hill,
Seemed to heave an audible sigh.
And the earth was all below,
As when in the ears there rushes a sound
Which thrills you from top to toe.
A something I hardly knew—
Not a solid piece, nor an empty nought,
But a drop of morning dew.
As a man would dodge his shadow,
An idea becalmed in eternity’s deep—
‘Tween Lima and Segraddo.
From out the azure deep,
Into my ears did gently float
As is the approach of sleep.
Across my mind strange mem’ries gleamed,
As often distant scenes unroll
When we have lately dreamed
To his box in the poplar tree,
And he opened wide his slender mouth,
On purpose to sing to me.
June 8 2020
MPFN members Robert and Susan Codd share an exciting bird sighting
I thought you may enjoy hearing about our chance encounter with a Sora and her chick yesterday. We decided to walk close to home after a surprise visit from my sister & niece whom I haven’t seen in months. That alone made it a great day for me and we thought we’d just go for a quick dog-walk at Hogg Bay. We were greeted by the unexpected sight of a Black Tern hunting in the wetland. We had not seen them here before. When we got to the bridge We were intrigued by a very photogenic Phoebe and we spent some time just looking out over the marsh. I kept hearing sounds like a Sora but not exactly. Thin and weak and just a single note repeated irregularly, Sue thought it was one of the many blackbirds. I continued to look around and there, almost at our feet was an adult Sora with a single black chick on the trunk of one of the trees the workers repairing the bridge had cut down. The 2 birds were not at all disturbed by our presence.
The chick is truly an “ugly duckling” with its gaping bill and orange stained Colonel Sanders goatee but I fell in love with it instantly.
The two cuddled and preened as we watched and eventually the young one fell off its perch into the water below. We wondered what would happen but Mom was not alarmed at all. She called to the chick who couldn’t make it back onto the tree trunk so together they decided to go elsewhere. They made their way across the little creek. Mom flew and junior skittered across the water to the other side where they soon became lost to us in the tangles. What a privilege to see this!
We were surprised to see only one chick as these birds generally lay a large clutch of eggs. Returning home, we did a bit of research.
Birds of the World states that the chick wore its “Natal Down – Present primarily May-Jul, on or near natal territory. Covered with thick, glossy black down, with tuft of orange bristles beneath chin”. We assumed that there must be other young Sora’s still at the nest or possibly not yet hatched.
Eight to 11 eggs/clutch is most common. Means range from 9.4 to 11.7 eggs/clutch, range = 5 to 16. Incubation shared by both sexes. In 2 captive pairs, males and females shared diurnal incubation about equally; in a third pair, female incubated during daytime about 60% of the time. Bouts of diurnal incubation averaged longer for females. Both sexes shared night-time incubation.
Condition At Hatching: Covered with glossy black down, with tuft of orange “bristles” at base of lower mandible, and fleshy red protuberance (operculum) about 1 mm in diameter at base of upper mandible. Orange bristles and egg tooth lost in second week. Operculum evident until fifth week. Bill is dirty white or bluish gray tipped with tinge of yellow; prominent white egg tooth near tip of bill. Legs and feet are light pink during first week. (This one’s legs were dark)
Newly hatched young may be brooded by 1 parent near nest, even in shallow (15 cm) water, while other parent incubates remaining eggs. Chicks frequently brooded by 1 parent for first 4–7 d. Diurnal brooding decreases over next 2 wk but nocturnal brooding continues longer. Brooding continues until chicks are about 1 mo old, diurnal brooding decreases over next 2 wk. Adults often build brood nest on which young chicks are brooded. Chicks are frequently preened and, probably, oiled by adults.
Young chicks are fed at first entirely by parents. At 2–3 d after hatching, chicks begin leaving nest to feed nearby. However, chicks continue to receive food items from parents for 2–3 wk. Food items brought by adults are presumably important in influencing chicks’ ability to recognize food. Hand-reared Sora chicks readily eat canned dog food from hatching, but wild juveniles >1 mo old taken into captivity eat dog food only if live crayfish (Decapoda) and dragonfly nymphs are mixed in.
So this was a great day for me. I not only got to visit with my sister we got to see something we had never seen before without really trying.
The capper was on our way back to the car where the resident Barred Owl came out to see what our crazy dog was doing in its territory! (Chasing squirrels that I guess the owl wanted for itself!!)
Anyone else got any great sightings to share?
In North America, breeding in the wild was first reported in 1967 in California (Renwick 1968), and by the mid-1980s in Florida (Pranty and Ponzo 2014). There are currently significant populations in states of Florida, Texas, and California (Pranty and Garrett 2011, Pranty and Ponzo 2014, Callaghan and Brooks 2016), with smaller populations occurring in several other states (Smith and James 2012, Chesbro 2015). Little is known about the life history of the Egyptian Goose in North America. Citizen science data were used to study Egyptian Goose behavior, habitat selection, and reproduction (Callaghan and Brooks 2016), while other studies have collected reports of reproduction from local birders in Florida (Pranty and Ponzo 2014). The majority of information in this account relies on studies of life history from Africa, with the assumption that many aspects remain the same in North America. In light of this, formal studies that investigate the ecology of the Egyptian Goose and its impacts on the environment are badly needed in North America.
May 21 2020
It’s baby Killdeer time in Midland, ON, Canada
From what I could see this pair of Killdeer adults successfully hatched and fledged 2 chicks.
Some notes about baby Killdeer from birdwatching.com:
“Baby killdeer always come out running. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they start scurrying about, following their parents and searching the ground for something to eat.
Newly-hatched killdeer can’t fly, and they need their killdeer parents for protection and guidance, but they are a lot closer to independence than most baby birds.
Seeing fluffy killdeer chicks is one of the pleasures of summer. Although they are lively right away, just-hatched killdeer are like new fawns, a bit tottery and clumsy on their overly-long legs.
Baby birds that hatch with their running shoes on are called precocial. Precocial means “ripened beforehand.” (The word comes from the same Latin source as “precocious.”)
Other precocial birds besides killdeer are chickens, ducks, and quail. None of these precocial babies lies in the nest and gets waited on.
Birds that hatch blind, naked, and helpless are called altricial, which comes from a Greek word meaning “wet nurse.” Robins are altricial, as are blue jays, cardinals and most other birds. The hatchlings lie helplessly in their nests, relying utterly on their parents to bring them food and push it down their throats. It’s two weeks or more before they mature enough to leave the nest, and even after they leave it, their parents are still feeding them.
Precocial birds stay in the egg twice as long as altricial birds, so they have more time to develop. A one-day-old killdeer chick is actually two weeks older than a one-day-old robin nestling. Although adult robins and killdeer are the same size, a killdeer’s egg is twice as big as a robin’s. There’s more nourishment built into the killdeer egg, to sustain the embryo for its longer time in the shell.”
While I watched this Killdeer family the parents ably shooed away several blackbirds and starlings who had the temerity to try to forage in their field. But the real ruckus started when a third adult Killdeer came into the field and was vociferously chased away by Mommy and Daddy Killdeer. I’m not sure if this was a former child who was being told in no uncertain terms that it was time to get out on his own or whether it was a male perhaps looking for a little extra-marital action. It was interesting to me that even though they had just hatched children to look after the Killdeer couple went into their rather gymnastic mating posture as shown in one of my photos. I believe Killdeer in more southern climes will breed throughout the year and have 2 or even 3 clutches. I’m not sure whether there would be time to do that in Ontario before they have to fly south again.
No predators showed up that the Killdeer didn’t feel they could take on and drive away, so there was no need to go into their famous “broken wing” display.
Killdeer by Nick Flynn
You know how it pretends
to have a broken wing to
lure predators away from its
nest, how it staggers just out
of reach . . . if, at this moment,
you’re feeling metaphorical,
nest can be the whatever
inside us that we think needs
protection, the whatever that is
small & hasn’t yet found its
way. Like us it has lived so long
on scraps, on what others have
left behind, it thinks it could live
on air, on words, forever almost,
it thinks it would be better to let
the predator kill it than to turn
its back on that child again,
forgetting that one lives inside
May 15 2020
Hello fellow Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists
We hope you are all keeping safe and well in these unusual times.
This is to inform you that the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists are cancelling their general meeting scheduled to be held at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland on Thursday May 21st 2020. The state of emergency in Ontario has been extended, organized gatherings of more than 5 people are still banned in the province and our venue the Wye Marsh, as a Federal Nature Reserve, is now closed by order of Environment Canada until further notice.
The latest news is that there has been some success in flattening the curve of Covid 19 in Ontario and some things are reopening with appropriate control measures. However at this time it looks unlikely that we will be holding our season ending potluck and AGM at Tiny Marsh on June 18, 2020. Hopefully we can get back to some sort of normal programming in September but we will keep you advised.
Please visit our website https://mpfn.xyz for more news about the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists.
There have been many positive changes in the MTM organization, including a new website
and several new board members. But unfortunately the Tiny Marsh Bioblitz scheduled for Sat. June 20, 2020 has been cancelled.
You can purchase an MTM membership using Paypal on the MTM website.
The latest news is that the province will be opening provincial parks and conservation areas next week, some on Monday and some on Friday. Day use only, no facilities, washrooms, etc. open. Free until the end of the month. I’m not sure how this will affect Ste. Marie Park which is administered by Huronia Historical Parks, a provincial organization. The Georgian Bay Islands office is federal but I’m pretty sure the park itself is provincial. The land is owned by the Martyr’s Shrine but the Jesuits gave over the maintenance of the property to HHP several years ago.
It was just about this time last year that you found the Mockingbird in Ste. Marie Park.
Ontario Opening Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves
May 9, 2020
Access for Limited Recreational Activities at Ontario Parks Permitted While Maintaining Physical Distancing
TORONTO — The Ontario government is opening provincial parks and conservation reserves for limited day-use access. The first areas will open on Monday May 11, 2020, with the remaining areas opening on Friday May 15, 2020. At this time, recreational activities will be limited to walking, hiking, biking and birdwatching. Day visitors will also be able to access all parks and conservation reserves for free until the end of the month.
The announcement was made today by Premier Doug Ford, Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“As we continue to make progress in our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, we are carefully and cautiously reopening the province, starting with certain businesses and retailers, and now our provincial parks and conservation reserves,” said Premier Ford. “I encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but please do so in a responsible way. Practise physical distancing and follow the rules set out by health care officials to stop the spread of this virus.”
On Monday, 520 provincial parks and conservation reserves across the province will open, and the remaining 115 will open on the following Friday for limited day-use activities. At this time, camping and other activities are not permitted at any provincial park or conservation reserve. All buildings and facilities including washrooms, water taps, campgrounds, backcountry campsites, roofed accommodations, playgrounds, and beaches continue to be closed.
“People are eager to enjoy the warmer weather, stretch their legs and reconnect with nature,” said Minister Yurek. “In consultation with our health experts, we’re working to slowly phase-in the opening of Ontario Parks in a measured way to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff. People should take note that not all amenities will be open and plan accordingly.”
Over the next several weeks, Ontario Parks’ staff will be conducting critical maintenance and other parks start-up procedures, so that more recreational activities and facilities will be available when it is safe to do so.
Before planning your trip, please visit www.ontarioparks.com/park-locator to check the status of your local provincial park.
The latest info we have is that all parks and recreation areas are now closed until the end of May. We’re pretty sure that will include the Wye Marsh so we do not have a venue for our May meeting. It also seems pretty clear that we are not at the point where it is once again safe to gather in groups. So consider the May meeting cancelled. The Tiny Marsh Bioblitz that was scheduled for June 20th is also cancelled. The organizers are trying to come up with some sort of virtual blitz to take its place. Stay tuned!
We have made this decision based on the recommendations of the local health authorities out of concern for the health of our members, their families and indeed the entire population. Please take care of yourselves and stay tuned for further information about when we can continue our regular program. We still hope that if we start hearing some good news over the next five weeks we may still be able to get together at the Marsh on the 3rd Thursday in April. Fingers crossed. Our participation in the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest that was scheduled for the last weekend of March has also been cancelled. The Wye Marsh is not going forward with this event. If anyone out there needs to stockpile our magic bean soup you can get in touch by replying in the comments.
New Blogger, Mary Rajapakse (Deepthie) is our Sawlog Bay & Arizona Corespondent.
Read her blog HERE
April 27 2020
Hello MPFN members.
How do you like our new club logo above? Our old logo (the friendly fly-eating frog) was looking a little outdated (and no one could find the original artwork!) so we thought it was time to have something new. The logo features Trumpeter Swans. These birds have become the signature species for our area thanks to the successful reintroduction program that started at our own Wye Marsh. The new logo was made for us by Clare Holden and we also had great help from Paul Forde. Both Clare and Paul are amazing artists who are members of our sister club Nature Barrie. Bob Codd, the MPFN member who has been working on our new website, thought we should have a new logo to go with the new website. And now thanks to Bob’s initiative and with the help of Clare and Paul we have one!
We’d like to pass along to MPFN members a Good News message from fellow MPFN member Ray Nason regarding the state of preparedness at GBGH. Keep up the great work Ray and keep being your delightful positive self.
From Ray Nason:
“As some of you know I am a volunteer Co-Chair of the GBGH Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) which is a blend of community volunteers and GBGH staff at the most senior level and over the past 2 1/2 years we have been deeply involved in hospital operations. On Wednesday we met remotely by business skype and Lucille Perreault, Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive gave us a very illuminating picture of the state of readiness of our hospital. I am giving each of you an update, with Lucille’s agreement, and feel free to pass this word along to any full-time resident of the area.
– They have enough masks, gowns, gloves, testing kits to last 14 days – they spent March acquiring all what they felt was needed
– they have 5 ventilators on site and if there is a surge are guaranteed several more if needed
– they have 5 negative pressure rooms and more if needed
– they have a dedicated 16 bed unit fully equipped for Covid 19 people
– to date they have had 1 tested positive case who was hospitalized for 3 days then was released and has done very well
– many staff were initially worried and fearful but mentally now are ready and fully trained to deal with what comes, and how to help each other
– morale is high – the community has been superb in supporting
– every shift, every day, they run worse case simulations and how to work as teams in an emergency
– GBGH staff have been into some retirement residences training staff as to what to look for, how to deal with various medical situations…when to get GBGH involved
– NO nursing homes or retirement homes have had a case of Covid 19 in our region
– because activity has been minor some have advocated for re-introducing some elective surgeries but there will be no relaxation of current vigilance until at least May 10.
– there is daily coordination with Simcoe County, Provincial and Federal authorities
– GBGH has introduced an email firstname.lastname@example.org so that friends and relatives can send an email to a special ID and they will be delivered to patients.
– currently there are are no visitors allowed and only 2 doors are open – ER and Main door. Both are staffed with screeners to enforce the rules
No wonder they earned the exemplary designation last Fall with Accreditation Canada. We are proud of our hospital, and everyone involved in our care.
Volunteer Co-Chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council
Georgian Bay General Hospital
OFO is excited to announce OFO’s Birding at Home Challenge!
April 26th – May 31st
This initiative will give you the opportunity to bird while doing your part by staying home during these extraordinary times. This challenge is open to all – non-OFO members included, so please pass it on.
To participate, just register on the OFO website, register your yard on eBird Canada, then record the birds in your backyard (or out your balcony or window!). Participants have a chance to win great weekly prizes and grand prizes including binoculars from Vortex Canada and an annual pass to Point Pelee National Park!
For details on prizes and to register go to ofo.ca/birdingathome.
Conservation Awareness – Update Regarding the Proposed Cormorant Hunt
Reuven Martin, OFO’s Director of Conservation Awareness
No decision on the cormorant hunt yet: the 2020 Ontario hunting regulations have been published, and the proposed Double-crested Cormorant season is listed only as “pending”. Hunting of this species is still not permitted for the time being, but any updates will be published at ontario.ca/page/hunting-
Reminder: Princeton University Press Discount
Princeton University Press is offering members of Ontario Field Ornithologists a 30% discount on birding field guides, photographic guides, reference works, and products (such as illustrated birding checklists, calendars, and flash cards). To do some armchair shopping (and birding), visit PUP’s website at https://press.princeton.
OFO Publications Available to all on ofo.ca!
Normally, only OFO members can access the most recent two years of our publications on our website. The Board has decided to remove access restrictions on OFO News and Ontario Birds for the duration of this crisis so all birders can enjoy our publications and learn more about Ontario’s birds. These publications are now available to everyone on our website at ofo.ca. Please spread the word and enjoy.
I want to thank the people who made this possible, especially Ivor Williams who spend many hours building the technology and Judie Shore who helped greatly with the effort.
To access our publications, go to ofo.ca, select the Publications option from the menu, then the publication you want to read. You will see the cover page of all back issues. Select the issue you are interested in reading in your browser. Please note that the most recent two years are in a Flipbook format, while older issues are in PDF format.
This is new technology and there may be glitches. Please let us know what you think at email@example.com.
April 2 2020
This is to inform you that the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists are cancelling their general meeting scheduled to be held at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland on Thursday Apr. 16, 2020. The state of emergency in Ontario has been extended to Apr 14th, organized gatherings of more than 5 people are still banned in the province and our venue the Wye Marsh, as a Federal Nature Reserve, is now closed by order of Environment Canada until further notice.
As for our May 21st meeting, we would like to keep our options open a little while longer. But we realize prospects for this event do not look good as even if the curve is successfully flattened before then it is likely that restrictions will only be lifted gradually in order to prevent a recurrence of the virus. We will keep you informed.
Meanwhile some of our members have things they’d like to share.
Jean Dove took this picture of a Canada Goose with unusual plumage in Penetang’s Rotary Park recently. She shared it with her friend and fellow MPFN member Mary Rajapakse who is still in self-isolation after her return from Arizona.
Here are Mary’s comments:
“Jean Dove called me a little while ago, and wanted me to send you this very unusual image of a White Canada Goose, she saw at the Penetanguishene Rotary Park area, yesterday. We both thought this is most unusual. Could this be a mutation or a combination of a Swan – Goose mating? Only DNA can tell, the origin of this ‘Ugly Duckling’ left alone, to trot along behind every one else.
Have you seen anything like this? I have not, among the thousands of Canada Geese flocks over years. It will be interesting to know, if others in the MPFN club has seen anything like this.
I am on day 11 of the 14 day Quarantine. Perhaps I will take a few more days ‘off‘ – putting off going to the grocery store, as I have already started to ‘ration‘ my own food intake, to delay a trip to town! Enjoyed the rain the past few days, and enjoying the sun today—to do some yard work. Somehow, there are NO birds on the lake – despite the sunshine. During the cloudy, foggy days, there were many flocks of Waterfowl – Common Mergs, Golden eyes, a few mallards, many gulls and even a small flock of Red breasted Mergs.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the MPFN Face book page.
I replied to Mary:
We have seen that same leucistic Canada Goose at Rotary Park in the springtime for the last 4 or 5 years. I believe I also saw it one time at the Wye Marsh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leucism We should probably come up with a name for it. Hopefully something more original than “Whitey”. How about “Lecy”? Although this spring I’ve seen Lucy mostly by herself other springs I have seen her leading a string of other Canadas leading to my suspicion that Leucy is a female. I’ve never seen the bird with goslings though so perhaps she is infertile. The other birds may have clued into this and lost interest in her. Ken.
Peter Cox sends us this photo of birds social distancing in Waubaushene as they queue up for the feeder. (I’m not sure that they’re following the rule of keeping a Turkey Vulture’s wingspan apart, but perhaps it’s all relative to the size of the individual organism).
Don Downer and Adrienne Perry send us this:
Hi fellow naturalists. With having to observe personal distancing, the world of nature is a wonderful outlet. Our bird feeders have been very popular with hordes of common grackles and red-wing blackbirds. But we have been having unusual visitors as well. The photo below was taken under our feeders and includes a Canada goose, a cottontail rabbit, and a grey squirrel along with a red-winged blackbird and a grackle. They were all getting along fine – setting a good example for us humans!
Hope you are all doing well and keeping safe. Looking forward to when we can get together again.
Meanwhile there is a wonderful world out there for us to explore!
Don Downer and Adrienne Perry
Stay well everyone till we meet again!
March 29 2020
“I am back in my little nest on the bay at Saw Log Bay !
Arrived in Toronto on 21st March – supposed to be a “rescue flight” as got a seat via a friend who is a travel agent in Toronto, within 2 hrs, while CIBC Rewards Centre was dithering over things for 3 days. I was not going to wait around for CIBC to contact me, which they did after
72 hrs, by then I had my seat confirmed on the same flight as I was supposed to leave on the 31st march. So, I lost 10 days – which is ok.
I spent the night in an airport hotel in Toronto , as there were some health concerns at my son’s home in Mississauga. He did the grocery shopping for me to have his mother cared for, for 3-4 wks.
NO Toilet Paper Hoarding Please – I Save The Trees ….
Airports- Phoenix and Pearson — got their acts together really well, minimising the time the traveller would spend inside the airport. Fast tracking at its best. We arrived at Pearson, 40 min early and had to ‘wait in line’ to disembark, as Pearson was allowing only One plane load of passengers at a time inside the airport – to “keep the distance”. Once the plane load of travellers had cleared Customs/Baggage then the next plane load was allowed out, and things moved real fast to get the travellers out of the airport. Never had it sooo good ever at Customs Immigration etc, during any of my travels out of USA and into Canada, post 9/11.
Corona Respects NO Color – We are ALL the Same …
NO one was helping each other at the Airports — people were strange, 100% to themselves. No one helped me, an elder, 77 yrs old, to pull out one of my bags off
the baggage carousel at Pearson. This business of ‘Caring for the Elders’ — don’t ever believe it …. May be, I perhaps looked like Sweet Seventeen and not Seventy Seven !!!!!
To say the least, the last two days was very stressful before I left AZ and Bird Watching was my source of sanity and comfort, and I took in as much as I could of the Arizona Sun on my head, for which I paid big bucks!
Here’s a link to the MPFN Club Facebook page
Even without a Facebook account you should be able to scroll down the page to find Mary’s many gorgeous bird photos and postings from Arizona. Here’s a picture of the best bird Mary says she saw on her final day – Air Canada’s big bird rolling into place at the E8 departure gate!