On Sunday morning Feb. 28, 2021 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists held another Socially Distanced Walk With Friends on trails in the Midland Bay Woods area of Port McNicoll. 
Here’s Bob Codd’s summary of the morning:
The day started with apprehension for me. I had invited club members into our home turf and I really wanted to deliver something special. I also wanted to show respect for my neighbours. When we planned this outing Simcoe County had moved into the Covid-19 red zone and any thoughts of returning to lockdown weren’t part of the plan. We had also based our arrangements on about half the number of participants that ultimately showed up. Where were we all going to park? I didn’t like the thought of creating a negative image of thoughtless bands of rogue Naturalists taking over the neighborhood. But like many other things I worry about my concerns were all unwarranted. Of course we all were respectful of the neighbours and did our best not to inconvenience anyone. 
The plan had always been to split into two smaller parties and even though the groups were larger than anticipated we stuck with it. Ken and I led our contingents in opposite directions to start with in order to provide a head start and separate the two groups. One wrong turn in the maze of trails put the kibosh on that and the lead party found themselves bringing up the rear instead. No matter. The marching order had resolved itself and so it remained with our best efforts at physical distancing in place. 
Having usurped the lead our group headed down the trail and eventually up the hill where we were fortunate to find our target species, Pine Grosbeaks. They were waiting to greet us in the treetops long before we arrived at the sumac plantation. This was a relief for me. The birds had delivered and I could relax a bit knowing we’d achieved at least one goal. The Grosbeaks never really got close enough for good photos but they were very active and put on a great show. We walked around the enormous stand of sumac to try for a better view and were delighted by the swirling flocks moving from trees to sumac and back again right over our heads. Their calls were soft and musical as they moved above us. The flock was restless though and didn’t stay in one place for long. It wasn’t long before they moved on and that was our cue to head back downhill towards the trailhead. 
Pine Grosbeak
In winter you have to take your nature sightings where you can get them. Tree fungus and lichens became the focus and some of the group stayed back to make a bit of a study. That group identified several mushrooms and lichen including Dryad’s Saddle, Smoky Polypore, Aspen Bracket and Hooded Sunburst Lichen.
I would love to have stayed to plug a few holes in my knowledge but some of the Field Nats had already started off down the return trail. Sue and I knew that there was the possibility of making a wrong turn ahead and with that in mind she struck out to keep the party on track. I had an unusual specimen that I wanted to show the club so I hurried along with them. 
It was Witch’s Broom that I wanted to point out, a deformation or growth on a black spruce that resembles a squirrel’s drey. We had been watching this thing grow in size for the past 3 years and until recently had never been able to adequately identify it. My mind was hung up on mistletoe which is similar and with which we were familiar from seeing it in the southern United States. But it didn’t really fit the description. It was only while researching mistletoe for the tenth time that I saw a reference to Witch’s Broom. I looked it up and voila – I finally had a proper I.D.  
Witch’s Broom
Not to be confused with Mistletoes, which are not the host plant’s own tissue, but parasitic plants growing on the host.
Witch’s Broom
Witch’s broom or witches’ broom is a deformity in a woody plant, typically a tree, where the natural structure of the plant is changed. A dense mass of shoots grows from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest. It is sometimes caused by pathogens.Witch-broom disease, caused by phytoplasmas or basidiomycetes
In addition to the birds, fungus and witch’s broom we also saw something called Black Knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa. It infects trees within the Prunus genus, which includes different types of plum and cherry trees. It has also been known to infect shrubs in the Rose family. It is spread through spores by rain, wind, birds, and insects that have had contact with infected trees. The spores spread in the spring and infect other trees, then in the summer the infection creates green swellings at the tip of the branches. In the following years these swellings blacken and enlarge.
Black Knot
After impressing a few with my new found knowledge we continued the trek back to the starting point. By then our two groups had become separated again and thanks once more to the maze of trails the second party had blazed a different route and arrived at the trailhead from a completely unexpected direction. 
I  felt the day had been a bit chaotic and haphazard. But so many of you thanked us and said how much you had enjoyed the walk that I wonder if I was the only one to notice. The goal has always been to provide an interesting and informative diversion for the club. I think we’ve succeededbutperhaps too well. The popularity of these SDWWFs (socially distanced walk with friends) is a mixed blessing. The return to lockdown has forced another pause in these group outings. Even without that impetus we were due for a rethink of our procedures. I personally think it’s important to continue providing these opportunities for our membership but it absolutely must be done in the safest way possible. We will take some time to consider our options. Keep an eye on your email for details on where we go from here. 
I really want to thank everyone who showed up and I truly hope that the woods in our backyard has provided something worthwhile. The weather cooperated and we were successful in finding one of our two target species. Many of us got to see a part of the region that we hadn’t known existed before. We even managed to learn a thing or two along the way. Despite my misgivings I declare the day a success! 
I especially want to thank Ken and Susan MacDonald for organizing this event and my wife Sue for keeping track of everything we observed. 
Thanks again for overlooking our shortcomings and for all the kind words,
Until next time…
Bob Codd
Here are the birds we saw…
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
woodpecker sp. (Picidae sp.)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)
Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos of the day.  Thanks to our photographers Bob Codd, Mary Rajapakse and Ken MacDonald. Clicking on the individual photos might get you some additional interesting information. 
At this time, with Simcoe-Muskoka going into another grey lockdown and great concern about spread of the various Covid variants, we will take a pause on these outings till we see how things work out.  The limit on gatherings outdoors is currently 10 people which makes these popular outings even harder to organize safely.  But keep an eye on your emails.  We have some ideas.  And spring is coming!

On Sunday Feb. 21st the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists had their first Socially Distanced Walk With Friends of 2021 at Ste. Marie Park in Midland.  
Here’s the trip report from Bob Codd: 
I was totally blown away by the amount of interest in our Socially Distanced Walks With Friends. When we discussed resuming these club outings Ken, Susan M, Sue C and I thought we might be lucky to get ten or a dozen participants. Well how about 3 times that number?! I confess the numbers made me a bit apprehensive. It’s one thing to lead a group of friends on a walk through the woods but it becomes a much more serious concern when you have to deal with Covid-19 and its emerging variants. The last thing you want is to be responsible for exposing your friends to infection – even though we stayed within provincial guidelines. So it was very gratifying that we all took that seriously and everyone, without exception, wore a face mask and did their best to keep socially distanced. 
Seeing that certainly helped put me at ease and with that taken care of my big worry was finding some birds for my group in the middle of winter. The first section of our walk was not unexpectedly barren of birds but with the bright sunshine and easy walking I wasn’t concerned. Soon enough we’d reach “Chickadee Lane” where I was certain we’d find something to hold our interest. Peter Hough spotted it first. A mature Cooper’s Hawk, a female judging by the larger size, was partially obscured behind some tree branches. Good catch Peter! As I was trying for some pics I was surprised to see the hawk cough up a rather large pellet. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a photo but I and some others witnessed something we’d never seen before. 
We watched a while longer until our hawk flew off. When we turned the corner a few steps further down the trail a Cooper’s Hawk could be seen perched in a tall tree behind the houses. We all assumed we’d relocated “our” hawk. It wasn’t until I got home and reviewed my photos that I realized this was a totally different Cooper’s Hawk. This one was a young bird with streaking on the breast and a mottled appearing head. 
Since the question comes up so often let me play at being Teacher for a moment. Cooper’s Hawks are very similar in appearance to their smaller cousin, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and even experienced birders have trouble distinguishing the two. I hope the following photos help to sort that out…
Cooper’s Hawk
This is the Coopie that Peter found for us. Note the rusty barring on the breast and the contrasting cap and nape on its head. Cooper’s Hawks always show this contrast between cap & nape.
The rusty barring and red eye indicate this is a mature bird. Females average larger than males so this one is likely a lady.
Cooper’s Hawk
This young Cooper’s Hawk was the one we saw on the trail behind the houses. Although the angle is poor, you can still make out the dark (not rusty) streaking on the breast. That, combined with the yellow eye makes this a first year bird.  It still has contrasting cap & nape but the younger bird’s head shows a more mottled or streaked appearance. Cooper’s Hawks, to my eye, show a blocky looking head, evident in this young individual.
Sharp-shinned Hawk
This is a Sharp-shinned Hawk that I photographed about a week earlier at this same location. The rusty barring on the breast is very similar to the Cooper’s Hawk and also means it’s a mature bird. But note the cap and nape are uniformly dark. Also note the rounded smaller looking head in contrast to the blocky appearance of the Cooper’s.
So everyone can be forgiven for thinking we had the same Coopie twice when actually we had seen 2 distinct individuals! These two hawks were definitely highlights of the day but we also saw a few other regular winter residents.
Here is a listing of the birds my group saw in approximately 2 hours of walking with friends…
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) (Feral Pigeon))
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus)
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

And sightings for Ken & Susan’s Group
Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Downy Woodpecker Dryobates pubescens
Hairy Woodpecker Dryobates villosus
Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
American Goldfinch Spinus tristis
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Thank you to everyone who joined us. I hope you all enjoyed our walk and that you’ll join us once more when we host our next Socially Distanced Walks With Friends
Keep an eye on your email for more details!
Bob Codd
Interim Vice-president MPFN
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with more great photos from the morning.  Thanks to our photographers Max Giffen, Mary Rajapakse, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald. Click on the link and then you can click on the individual photos for more info. 
Trip participant Max Giffen shared some photos that are included in the album of Snowy Owls that he spotted on his way to our outing from his home in Wasaga Beach.  The outing had participants from Bradford, Wasaga Beach, Stayner, Sawlog Bay and last Thursday our MPFN Zoom meeting had a member, Allison Gilbert, join us from Jamaica!  Our MPFN sphere of influence is growing!
MPFN member Mary Rajapakse shares some info about Bittersweet that was seen on the walk.  Mary’s photos of this plant are included in the album.  Here’s Mary:
Note on American Bittersweet – Celastrus orbiculatus — Native Species .

There are two species – American  and Oriental Bittersweet — Both have aggressive growth habits – the Oriental more so than the American Species.
Both have Red Berries, that are formed on the female plant, and there must be a male plant near by for the female flowers to get pollinated and produce berries.
Berries are exposed when the capsule bursts open in the fall, and it’s a great winter food source for birds.
How to ID — The American Bittersweet has Orange Capsules with red berries, that are formed at the end of the vine, as shown on the plant in my photo.
Oriental — Yellow Capsules with red berries that are formed all along the vine.
There’s also a photo of some interesting prints that we saw on the frozen river near the bridges.  There were seven or eight of these impressions in the snow, though we didn’t see any tracks around them.  We were wondering if they might have been made by Ruffed Grouse as they flew in and tried to burrow into the snow.  Any thoughts anyone? 
Here’s a link with info about the winter habits of Ruffed Grouse. 
As Bob says keep your eye on your emails, 
or our website https://mpfn.xyz/ 
for news about our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends (SDWWF)

MPFN Help Wanted

A few people have been in contact with our club recently looking for help with various campaigns and projects.

Some residents of Tay Township will be making a delegation to Tay Council on Jan. 27, 2021.  The purpose of their delegation is to reduce roadside cuts to only what’s essential and promote naturalization throughout the township in the interest of helping pollinators survive. The meeting will be held virtually on the Zoom platform.  The organizers of the delegation would appreciate having as many members of the public as possible present to show support for their cause.  A link will be sent out by Tay Council well before this date and will be shared with our group so that we can join the Zoom meeting.  

Here is some of the correspondence on this issue that has been shared with us by Pat Michener.  

Message to the MPFN from Pat Michener

It started when a group of us near Vasey with farms or acreage were talking about the general lack of pollinators over the past couple years. 

We all noticed how often Tay was attacking the road allowance, in fact three cuts starting in spring and last one in late summer, in order to provide “clear views” to motorists. 

We also noticed that wildflowers, incl. daisies, chicory, sweet pea, butter and eggs, bouncing bet, the list goes on and on, have more or less disappeared to be replaced by virginia creeper and poison ivy on the road allowance. 

Is there a connection here?  Well, yes! and no one has any doubt that more naturalization by the township and less cutting might help preserve an important food source for pollinators now that farmers farm every square inch and roundup anything faintly resembling a weed.

Email from Pat Michener to Tay Councillor Jeff Bumstead Nov. 25, 2020

Subject: Pollinator problems in Tay
Hello Mr. Bumstead: I’m contacting you on behalf of a number of us around the Vasey area that have farms and/or large gardens. We have noticed a substantial decline in the number of bees and other pollinators in our area in the past 4 years. Last spring my few spring flowers were inundated in hungry bees looking for food. We have contacted Ontario Nature about what we consider to be a big problem. To save our pollinators, everyone has to do their bit. However, Tay along with other townships is not only not helping but actively diminishing available food sources for pollinators. The township is currently clear cutting 3x a year the wayside where wildflowers used to be common. No longer do I see common field daisies, chicory, bouncing bet, butter and eggs, wild sweet peas, the list goes on and on. Weeds to some people but flowers and a good food source to keep pollinators going until fruit trees bloom and other flowers are available. Current agricultural practices such as roundupping fields and eliminating hedgerows mean far less food sources than in earlier years; and the Township is tidying up at the expense of our vitally important pollinators. Some folks from Ontario Nature and several other residents and I would be glad to present to council if need be. And you could also ask Frank Himberg in the Roads Dept. at Tay; he and I spoke and he too has noticed that there were no pollinators visiting his apple trees in Vic Harbor last spring. What to do? We are hoping for just one cut, in the fall.
Hope to hear from you and I will also be contacting my other councilor, Mary Warnock.

Reply from Jeff Bumstead Nov. 27, 2020

Good morning Pat,
Thank you for your email.
The decrease of bees is something I have noticed, as well.
One thing we have done personally, to aid in pollination is, welcomed a local beekeeper/honey producer to set-up some of their hives on our property.
Almost instantly, the first year, I observed improvements and a resurgence of some native plants that had been diminishing on our property.
There are still other things we could do, including planting some of the native wildflowers you have mentioned.
I believe it would be a great idea for you to present to the rest of Council, to bring your observations and concerns to the awareness of all of Council.
To do so, I recommend contacting the Tay Township Clerk Cyndi Bonneville cbonneville@tay.ca or 705-534-7248 to schedule and arrange a date and time for a delegation.
In the meantime I will be reaching out to Severn Sound Environmental Association, which is Tay’s source for environmental protection and advice, and determine if they have some information and recommendations they could share with residents, business owners, including the agriculture sector, Township staff, and Council.
As for roadside grass cutting, I believe, it is an Ontario minimum maintenance standard requirement, but during your presentation, considerations for doing it less, could be included.
Again, thank you for contacting me and please let me know if you have any questions.
Respectfully Yours,

Jeff Bumstead

Councillor, Ward 2

Tay Township

The club also received this request from Mike Powell

I was one of the participants during the Kate Harries monarch talk – she did a great job!!! As an aside, I have been working with colleagues in Mexico and Canada (and Lincoln Brower, when he was alive) on developing a large and complicated project to try and determine how the monarchs reach their overwintering sites each year; NOT how they get to Mexico, but how they find the “exact” hilltops/trees on which they (and their ancestors) have overwintered for so many decades – it is a fascinating question, and one that still baffles butterfly experts.

BUT, that is not why I am writing. I am involved with Prof. Bill Shotyk and the Elmvale Foundation on issues related to the pristine groundwater of Simcoe County. We, and colleagues from U. of Guelph, U. of Ottawa, and the Ont. Geol. Survey, are formulating a project to help understand how the quality, quantity, sources, and fate of these waters are impacted relative to the recharge areas and flow paths the waters migrate along within the deep glacially-filled valleys of the area. Bill Shotyk has been studying these waters for decades (he is a local landowner) in his various academic laboratories; he has sampled many of the flows and springs in the area, the most recent occurring in OCT./2020. People like Kate Harries, and many others, have been very helpful with these endeavors. I messaged Kate after her talk, and asked if it was appropriate to contact you to ask for your help. While we have sampled many of the surface water and well sites in Simcoe, there are many we have missed. These wells represent data points that might help up plan the larger project and it is critical that we sample as many as possible. To that end, I will be coming to Elmvale this winter to to accompany Bonnie Pigeon into the field to record well/spring/flow information; next spring, we will again come to Elmvale to sample those sites and any new sites we can identify – which is where the MPFN comes in. 

We are hoping that you would be willing to send out a short notice of our plans for sampling to your constituency, asking them to contact us “if” they are willing to allow us to sample on their properties; participation in citizen science. We will be interested in taking samples and recording data (depth, age, flow/no flow, etc.); the samples will be analyzed at our partner sites and all the data will be shared with the landowners; our project development is completely transparent and we are bound to involve as many actors as possible from the local community. By the way, I did recognize many familiar faces in your group from talks Bill and I have done in Elmvale and from the many years of traveling with Bill in the Elmvale area – many of your folks will know Bill, and are aware of his efforts in the region.

Thanks. Hope we can meet in Elmvale!

From left, Bill Shotyk, Deb Shaw of Bayshore Broadcasting, and Mike Powell, Executive Director of the Elmvale Water Festival.


Michael A. Powell, PhD

Adjunct Professor

Dept of Renewable Resources

University of Alberta, CANADA

Mobile (Ontario): +1 519 8516092


Members can contact Mr. Powell directly if they have wells that he could sample or know others who can help with his project. 

Evening Grosbeak at MPFN member Peter Hough’s feeders November 2020 (photo Ken MacDonald)

Dr. Robert Allison would like to hear from anyone who might have the unfortunate experience of having an Evening Grosbeak crash into their windows.   His appeal was sent through our Xmas Bird Count Coordinator Dave Schandlen. 

Hi Dave. As you are probably aware, there is an ongoing rather massive irruption of evening grosbeaks in much of eastern North America.. As a member of the Brodie Club and a professional ornithologist, I am trying to accumulate evening grosbeak specimens for two ongoing university studies that aim to collect information on specimens that have fatally collided with windows located near bird-feeding stations. This species is prone to such fatal collisions.  Mineral trace element studies can indicate the origins of such specimens.

     If anyone in your area happens to encounter any such specimens, I wonder if it would be too much trouble to let me know so I can provide as many specimens as possible to the appropriate researchers. Any assistance would be welcome.

    You might know that I have authored a long-standing column in many southern Ontario newspapers.

  Good luck with the upcoming Christmas Bird Count


Dr. Robert Alison


Little brown bats in a bat box in the Maritimes. Photo by Jordi Segers 

And finally, a chiropterologist (that’s someone who studies bats) Karen Vanderwolf wants to hear from those of you who have bat boxes.  Here’s Karen: 

Inside a Bat Box

  If you have a bat box I want to know about it!

 Our research seeks to determine which bat species use bat boxes across Canada, what box designs are preferred by bats, and which temperatures bats prefer for roosting in our northern climate. To accomplish this, we need to know where bat boxes are located in Canada, the physical characteristics of the boxes, and whether they are being used by bats! Participants will be sent temperature loggers to install in their box and supplies to collect guano (bat poop), as bat species can be identified from guano.

If you have a bat box and would like to participate in this study, please fill out this online multiple-choice survey with questions about your bat box. Your participation is important even if your box does not have any bats! https://trentu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_86og8C3MIgO2ff7

This project is in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Canadian Wildlife Federation https://wcsbats.ca/Our-work-to-save-bats/Batbox-Project/BatBox-Project-Canada-wide

More information about which box designs bats use in Canada will help bat conservation by providing recommendations for improving bat box design and placement in our northern climate.


Karen J. Vanderwolf, MSc
PhD student, Trent University
Research Associate, New Brunswick Museum

Environmental Life Sciences

1600 West Bank Dr., Peterborough, Ontario,  K9L 0G2

twitter: @VanderwolfKaren



bat boxes_Vanderwolf (1)

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Trip Report

Simcoe County Forest, Martin’s Valley Tract

Sunday Nov. 29, 2020



On Sunday Nov. 29, 2020 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists had another Socially Distanced Walk with Friends at Simcoe County Forest’s Martin’s Valley Tract.
Here are MPFN VP Bob Codd’s comments on the day:   
What a popular location! We had never visited here before so that was something I learned without even getting out of the car. The little parking area and both sides of Wilson Rd. were filled with cars. It seems that naturalists aren’t the only ones who enjoy a day in the woods. There were cyclists and dog walkers and moms and dads with kids as well as 22 naturalists all with smiles on their faces. And why not? It was another beautiful late November day with absolutely clear skies and light winds, too precious to waste indoors. The turnout was great and the continuing popularity leaves me looking forward to the next one. 
After socializing (safely) and the obligatory group photo we headed down the broad trail. Ken headed us into the old quarry or sandpit that is undergoing reforestation. One of the first things we noticed was the scattered silica rocks lying about. This is the same material that Unimin used to process before closing their Midland plant. I searched the internet in vain to try to discover whether silica was quarried here or if it got there some other way. If there are any geologists among us I’d be curious to find out what you think. We headed across the wide expanse of evergreen saplings, hearing birds faintly calling but never seeing them. It was good to feel the sunshine and enjoy this piece of nature being restored. That’s not the way things usually go!
We traversed most of the land of little trees before we finally saw our first bird. Several of them really. A flock of Snow Buntings swirled around us flashing white in the sunlight. Yay … we’re not skunked!  A bit further along one solitary downy woodpecker was inspected as if it were the rarest of the rare. The day was not great for building a bird checklist. Although we saw lots of birds they were mostly just one species. I guess that’s to be expected as we’re almost into December. Back down the edge of the reforestation we went. Part way down we spied an interesting, tall thick stemmed plant that Clare identified as Pokeweed.  Also called Pokeberry the plant, considered toxic, has some interesting properties and is being explored as an antiviral treatment.
 Our own Kate Harries may be able to help you if you’d like to try growing one yourself.      https://www.returnofthenative.ca/
We wound our way to a section of trail where there were some intriguing fungi and slime molds. There were some large Gypsy Moth egg clusters on the trees here and MPFN member and Forest Entomologist, Paul Bell enlightened us about these forest pests, their life cycle, localized control methods and the outlook for the next couple of years. Paul’s advice is basically patience. The cycle will play itself out and in the meantime birds and other creatures that eat them may enjoy a bounty. I certainly hope Paul will continue adding his expertise to our field trips!
The walk through the woods back to the cars was uneventful save for a return visit from our Buntings. It was nice just to enjoy the forest with friends and imagine returning for the spring songbird migrations. As I’ve come to expect, I learned quite a bit on this outing thanks to my fellow nature lovers’ willingness to share their knowledge. Best of all I discovered another beautiful place right in our community that I had been oblivious to. Thanks to everyone for helping to make this another memorable socially distanced walk with friends!
In addition to a handful of bird species we got to see and learn about:
Silver Dollar Plant Also known as Honesty, of the genus Lunaria 
Asters, still in seed
Dandelion still blooming here & there providing some lingering colour
Ferns of the Wood fern family. Still as green as springtime
Ironwood or American Hop Hornbeam. slow growing, it has the densest, hardest wood of any native tree species. (Thanks to Anthony for sharing his knowledge!)
Pokeweed or Pokeberry, noted above
Red Tree Brain Fungus. Who knew trees had brains?!
Violet-toothed Polypore Fungus
Yellow Slime Mold
Lots of Gypsy Moth egg masses
As always I thank Sue Codd for being score keeper for our sightings and Ken & Susan for all the organising. And thanks again to everyone who joined us making this another great day in nature!
Bob Codd
As Bob mentions, MPFN member Paul Bell used his knowledge of forest entomology to give us an impromptu seminar on the gypsy moths as we observed the egg masses and cocoons they have left on the forest trees after their massive eruption last summer.  
Gypsy moth seminar with Paul Bell.

Paul sends along a brief rundown of some of the info he shared with us:

Thank you for the walk today.

I have been made aware of some concerns, particularly from cottagers in Tiny and various Simcoe-Muskoka properties about the current gypsy moth cycle. Some clarification is needed. As you know, I have studied and worked on the science of Forest Entomology and Control for my entire career. 
It is doubtful, that some of the largest reservoirs of the gypsy moth in Simcoe-Muskoka such as Christian Island, Beckwith and Hope Islands as well as Awenda Park and the huge area of the Georgian Bay National Park Islands or indeed any of the Severn Sound Environmental Association jurisdiction will be sprayed. 
So it’s really a moot point to spray with the bacteria Btk, any of Simcoe County Forests and private lands, let alone the prohibitive costs.
The current infestation will likely be reduced for 2021 and certainly in 2022/3 without control measures, due to the increasing presence of the entomopathic fungus and widespread occurrence of nucleopolyhedrosis virus (see pic. below)
Btk does adversely affect non-target organisms. Many insects particularly lepidopterans like monarchs, dusky wings, Karner blues and tiger swallowtails etc. and thereby the insect eating birds are at risk.
Tiny Parks and SSEA have been proactive with their highly successful gypsy moth information on their respective websites and with their egg mass reduction programs. 
Individual property owners can have quite an impact removing eggs (and they still have over 4 months to pick away at them). Also high value individual trees can be treated with a neem compound such as TreeAzan. 
We have been through at least 3 large gypsy moth cycles over the last few decades. As everyone knows the trees releaf, and in a few years are thriving again. It’s just part of the forest cycle. 
Probably in a couple of years we will have a surge of forest tent caterpillars in our maples, poplars and aspens. And therein lies the long term solution; we need to be encouraging the planting of a diverse selection of indigenous trees on public and private land, thereby enhancing the rich flora and fauna of Tiny. Healthy forests, and the wildlife that they support, mitigate climate change, improve our quality of life and the ecosystem that we are a part of.
Thank you, hope this helps.


Paul D. Bell, Ph.D.🐞
Forest Entomologist
Idler and Flâneur
Paul shares this photo showing the typical inverted V shape of a caterpillar that has died from NPV, a virus that acts as a control on the species.
During his talk, Paul told us about a spray that can be concocted from the bodies of caterpillars that have succumbed to the virus.  
Here’s Paul again: 

Nucleopolyhedrosis virus, or NPV, is a virus that occurs naturally and tends to devastate gypsy moth infestations after 2 or 3 years. It spreads like the common cold or Covid. Until the caterpillars figure out how to wash their 6 feet and 11 pairs of pseudopods with hundreds of crochets…well. 

Simply collect several dead gypsy moth caterpillars (see pic above) and their virus particles, mix and let sit a day in a liquid of non-chlorinated water, sugar and molasses. Sweeten to taste. Just kidding! Use about a heaping tablespoon of each in a liter of water. Spray on high value small trees and shrubs. Gypsy moth will continue to feed for a few days, so hand picking with gloves will help. No one said it will be easy. What else have you got to do during a pandemic?  It affects only gypsy moth caterpillars and is non- toxic to all other insects. 

Your best efforts are to scrape egg masses into a can of soapy water…hurry you only have 4 more months! Try to get every mass that is below the maximum snow depth. And don’t forget to check wood piles, BBQ’s under decks and slow moving people. 😁

Alternatively, you can sit in your yard, close your eyes, (put your hand over your open glass of wine) and listen to the pitter patter of feeding caterpillar frass, falling in the forest, as well as the sound of black billed cuckoos gorging on their crawling hairiness.

This too will pass.


Paul D. Bell, Ph.D.🐞
Here’s a link to Susan Codd’s Ebird checklist of the day (such as it is!):
And here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos of the walk: 
Thanks to our photographers Clare Holden, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
Stay tuned and watch your emails for our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends.  We hope to keep these going even in the more wintry weather that is now upon us.   

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Trip Report

Tiny Marsh

Friday Nov. 20, 2020

On Friday morning Nov. 20, 2020 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists had another Socially Distanced Walk With Friends starting at the 2nd concession entrance to Tiny Marsh.  
Here are Bob Codd’s comments on the day:  
The weather cooperated with the Field Nats once again and the mood was buoyant right from the start. We arrived earlier than most and I could sense the anticipation and excitement at each new arrival. The little parking lot quickly began to fill and we all took a few moments to safely socialize as we purchased MPFN brand bean soup mix and the latest in fashion trends, our winter headwear emblazoned with the club’s Trumpeter Swan logo. I am personally delighted by the continuing popularity of these little outings as well as the booming sales of MPFN toques & ball caps. I’m writing this the “day after” and I still feel the lingering excitement over the birds we saw and also the sheer enjoyment of sharing it all with friends!
I confess that I had misgivings about the day’s venue. I knew that the MTM Pheasant Hunt was still in full swing and I wondered if there would be any birds that hadn’t been frightened off by the activity. The booming shotgun blasts that we heard as we headed out seemed to bear out that notion. But we hadn’t even left the parking lot when one of the group, Heather I believe, spotted one of our target species, Bohemian Waxwings! They were in the trees in the completely opposite direction from where we were headed. The entire group of us made perhaps the quickest about-face in MPFN history and we struck out for a closer look at these nomadic winter visitors. That quickly changed my outlook as the excitement of photographing these handsome and cooperative little birds took hold. I still heard the gunshots but they seemed less ominous somehow. 
This by happenstance was also the location of a native species, Button Bush, which Sue & I had had our eyes on all summer and fall waiting for its seeds to ripen so we could harvest & try to grow one on the shoreline of our cottage. We almost left it too late as the birds had largely picked it over. But with the help of fellow club member Roger, Kate and ourselves managed to gather a few seeds from the highest reaches of this shrubby native tree.
Tiny Marsh is recognized by eBird as the number one birding hotspot in Simcoe County and she did not disappoint today. While we didn’t set any records for the number of species observed, almost every sighting was a birder’s delight. After getting our fill of the Waxwings we headed down the Carolina Dyke where we were greeted by a lone Trumpeter swan, license number V46, who swam over to say hello. Vying for our attention at that very moment, a Red-tailed Hawk flew over in thrilling style. By then we had made our closest approach to the “Eagle Tree” and its lone Bald Eagle inhabitant. It was also the turn around point for the dyke section of the walk and as most of us had our backs to the Eagle Tree a second adult Bald Eagle landed near its companion. Bald Eagles are no longer considered rare but they are amongst everyone’s favourites to see in the wild, myself included. Seeing two sharing a tree was double the pleasure!
The walk back to the parking lot was less eventful. We had time to see what else there was to see. A single, yellow wildflower, still blooming right on the path caught our attention. A few short weeks ago this tiny plant, identified as Hairy Rocket, would have gone unnoticed. With every passing day bringing us closer to winter’s deep freeze these lingering blooms provide us with a fond reminder of what we must soon leave behind. When we reached the parking lot, several of us decided to continue down the farm lane that we had originally set out on. Once again Tiny Marsh gifted us with yet another bird species on our target list. Pine Grosbeaks, fruit eating visitors form Northern regions were right where we’d hoped to find them, dining on Highbush Cranberry and Willow buds. Described as “unwary Finches” the Grosbeaks allowed all who cared to, approach them for a truly fine photo opportunity.  Afterwards we toddled down the berry tree lined farm lane a bit further, enjoying the sight of more Pine Grosbeaks and a repeat visit from the Waxwings. We eventually came upon several parties of hunters. We were headed into the heart of the Pheasant hunt and we all took that as a signal that we should call it a day. And what a great day it was. I’m beginning to wonder if the silly grin on my face will become permanent! Thanks to everyone who helped put it there!
Thanks once again to Sue Codd who documented all our sightings, avian and otherwise. Thanks Sue. And Thanks to Ken and Susan for making the arrangements as well as their “car boot” sales of hats and beans!
In addition to the birds we got to see:
Thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana
ButtonBush, A Native shrub
Hairy Rocket The last flower before winter?
Goldenrod – dry seed heads
Asters – also in seed. We know these to be a favourite of Redpolls!
Dandelion – an unappreciated drop of colour in this late season
Viburnum or Highbush Cranberry – A preferred food for Pine Grosbeaks
Bittersweet – native we believe, also a food source for winter finches
Apples & Crabapples lining the farm lane.
As always, please advise of any errors or omissions.
A very special thank you to everyone who joined us at Tiny Marsh. I hope to see you at the next outing!!
Bob Codd
A little postscript to Bob’s write-up.  The Trumpeter Swan V46 has been named Great Grandpa.  He and his mate, V46 (Great Nanny), were adopted by dedicated Tiny Marsh volunteer Barb McGugan-Crawford and named in honour of her parents “who instilled the love of nature in all of us”. Barb’s own grandkids did the naming and eagerly follow the fortunes of the pair.  
Here’s a link to the day’s Ebird checklist.  Thanks to our compiler Susan Codd.  
And here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos of the day.  Thanks to our photographers Bob Codd, Mary Rajapakse and Ken MacDonald
We did see just a little bit of Ring-necked Pheasant. Not enough to add it to the Ebird checklist though.


Stay tuned and watch your emails for our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends.  We hope to keep these going even in the more wintry weather that will soon be upon us.  

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Report

Penetanguishene Rotary Park Do-over

Sunday Nov. 8, 2020 Trip Report


Ken’s Group
Bob’s Group


On Sunday Nov. 8, 2020 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists had another Socially Distanced Walk With Friends at Penetanguishene’s Rotary-Champlain-Wendat Park.  This was a do-over of the previous week’s walk.  The weather was much nicer than the previous weekend – plus 20 degrees with lots of sunshine.  What a difference a week can make!  We had a record turnout for this walk with more than 30 participants.
Here are Bob Codd’s remarks on the day: 
Wow! That’s the only way to describe the weather we enjoyed on our Sunday November 8th Socially Distanced Walk with Friends. If this was a do-over I’ll have another please. What a difference a week makes!
Not only did we have record warm temperatures but a record turnout as well. I’m not 100% certain but I believe there were 34 Field Nats in attendance. So many that for the first time we had to split into two parties to satisfy the Covid regulations. It was also my first field trip as Interim Vice-president (we won’t count the rainout) and I had the distinct honour of heading up a group of fine naturalists for a walk in the park. I continue to be impressed at how popular these field trips have become. They were started as a means to keep the club intact during Covid lock downs and gathering limits. I think they’re popular in their own right now as we all get a chance to see and learn about the natural world right in our own backyards. I know I’ve learned something new on every one of our walks this year. The depth of knowledge across our membership is impressive. 
A few folks expressed an interest in continuing these field trips. I’m one of them! We’re already discussing where and when that will be.
Our two groups got to see some interesting birds. There were lots of ducks on Penetang Bay. Although fewer that the previous week we didn’t have rain to interfere with our observations! Both parties got to see and hear some fall migrating birds. Ken’s group did a little better scoring a seasonal rarity, a Blue-headed Vireo. Nice catch! The birdy highlight for me was the good sized flock of Redpolls near the pond and in the nearby backyards. But the real capper perhaps was a Hoary Redpoll that was vetted and confirmed by Ebird. The majority of the Redpolls were in a neighbour’s yard that had been allowed to naturalize and was overflowing with Asters on which they were dining. If you needed another reason to love the native Fall Asters this could be it. This good gentleman invited us in for a better view but it proved unnecessary. The Redpolls were sometimes even too close to take a photo. 
Need another reason to love asters?
When we’d finally had our fill of Redpolls, Peter Hough once again kindly invited us to visit the Evening Grosbeaks, Siskins and Nuthatches that he can’t seem to keep out of his very inviting yard. Thanks Peter!
While most of our attention was focused on the birds and despite the waning season we did manage to see several non-avian species. Thanks to the two Susans (MacDonald & Codd) for keeping track of all our sightings! And thanks to Ken for doing what he does!
In addition to our fantastic bird sightings our group saw:
Water Forget-Me-Not (Something new on me!)
Black-horned Tree Cricket (Something else new!)
Watercress (salad anyone?)
A Snail – On the watercress! (Escargot anyone?)
Ganoderma megaloma – a member of the Bracket Fungi Family
Dandelion (or Dent de Lion – Lion’s Tooth in French, so named for the shape of the leaves)
Milkweed – good news for Monarchs
Wooly Bear Caterpillars – several of them.
Viburnum or High Bush Cranberry
Phragmites (Boooooo!)
Colt’s Foot,
Dragonfly – Likely an Autumn Meadowhawk
Yellow sulphur butterflies – at least 2 seen in a chase!
Midland Painted Turtle – Sunning in the pond
Silver Dollar – More properly Lunaria annua, called honesty or annual honesty
As always please let me know about any errors or omissions…
Thanks to everyone for coming out to our Socially Distanced Walk with Friends. I hope to see you all at the next one!
Here’s some links to the Ebird checklists of the day: 
First Bob’s group
And Ken’s group
And finally a checklist from Peter’s birdy backyard
Thanks to our compilers Susan Codd and Susan MacDonald
Now here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos from the walk.  Thanks to our photographers Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
Stay tuned and watch your emails for our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends.  We hope to keep these going even in the more wintry weather that will soon be upon us.  
Two of our Walk Participants couldn’t resist making the Park a better place than when they found it ,making a clean sweep while they birded. Great work, Laura and Janet!

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk with Friends – Penetanguishene Rotary Park Do-over
Sunday Nov. 8, 2020 10 AM

The weather didn’t cooperate very well with last weekend’s Nov. 1st Socially Distanced Walk With Friends at Penetanguishene Rotary-Champlain-Wendat Park, but a few hardy (or is that foolhardy?) naturalists did go for a somewhat abbreviated walk.  It was great weather for ducks and we saw hundreds.  After our walk, we were all delighted to accept an invitation from MPFN member Peter Hough to visit his very busy feeders east of Lafontaine and enjoy the company of his now resident Evening Grosbeaks.  It pays to have friends in birdy places!
We decided that this walk deserves a do-over so we’re taking a mulligan.  We’ll return to Penetang’s beautiful waterfront park for our next walk on Sunday Nov. 8, 2020 10 AM.  That way all you sensible MPFN members who stayed in bed and enjoyed your extra hour of sleep won’t have to miss out on this great location.  
Outing details are pretty well the same as last weekend, but here they are again: 
We will meet at the Penetanguishene Curling Club parking lot at 10 AM and walk through Rotary Champlain Wendat Park through the old campground and onto the Copeland Creek trail.  Waterproof footwear and even rubber boots are highly recommended.  We will aim for an approximately 2 hour walk.  Ducks and other waterfowl are already beginning to stage on Penetang Bay in large numbers.   
 We have more of the MPFN hats available in both colours.  1 hat $20, 2 hats for $30.  Hats will be available at Sunday’s walk.  
We’ll also bring some of our Magic Wye Bean Soup along.  Special Sale Price – 1 bag $3, 2 bags for $5.  
Please try to bring exact change if you wish to make a purchase. 
There are a couple of new safety measures in effect at this outing as we try to keep our walks safe for all members.  Someone will be recording attendance, making sure that we have contact info for all participants, just in case any contact tracing needs to be done.  Be sure that you check in with this person. 
Also, though it is not absolutely required that masks be worn outdoors as long as social distancing is observed, we’d ask that all participants carry a mask with them.  That way if you find yourself in a situation where social distancing is difficult (trying to see that rare bug or wildflower!) you can put your mask on until you’re able to get the requisite 6 feet away.  You may want to carry some hand sanitizer with you as well.  
We ask participants in these outings to practice social distancing (stay approximately one Trumpeter Swan’s wingspan apart), wear masks if you like but not required outdoors as long as you practice social distancing, 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.
And now for a somewhat abbreviated trip report on last Sunday’s abbreviated outing: 
Here’s some links to Susan Codd’s meticulously prepared Ebird lists from the day.
And here’s a link to a Flickr album with photos of some of things we saw.  Thanks to our photographers Lyn Barnett, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
See you all next Sunday


Important News from

Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists

During these pandemic times the MPFN executive had their first meeting on Zoom a few days ago. 
As a result, there are some things that all members should know. 
First of all, the great news – we have a VP!!
Bob Codd, who currently serves as the webmaster for the group (mpfn.xyz) has agreed to step into this role in support of our president Susan Hirst.  
Bob asks that we consider him as Interim Vice President for the time being since we haven’t had the opportunity for an AGM with its annual election of officers to confirm him in that role.  
There are no legal requirements for us to hold a virtual AGM at this time and even charitable organizations (which we are not) have been given generous extensions.  The executive has decided not to schedule an AGM, virtually or otherwise at this time, in hopes that a somewhat normal AGM can be held in June 2021.  All current MPFN Executive Members and officers have been willing to continue in their positions till such a meeting can be arranged. 
The executive has decided not to ask members to renew their membership dues at this time.  MPFN memberships previously operated on a September to August term.  All memberships came due at the same time in September at the start of the Program Year.  The executive has decided to move to having memberships come due on a calendar year basis.  That is, all memberships will come due on Jan. 1st of the calendar year.  Hopefully by January 2021 the club will be able to get back to a more normal program, either virtually or in person.  Your dues at that time will help to support that.  Other groups in the area, such as Nature Barrie, operate in a similar fashion, with a membership year that is not necessarily in sync with their program year.  
A few members have already paid dues for the 2019/20 season.  Those members will have their membership extended so that their next due date will be Jan. 1, 2022.  For everyone else, your due date is now Jan. 1, 2021.  No change in membership fees: Family $45, Adult $25, Under 30 Free.  
The executive also decided that during the pandemic emergency, no memberships will be suspended for non-payment of dues.  If anyone would rather make a donation, small or otherwise, instead of the standard membership fees, that will be gratefully accepted. 
The MPFN Christmas Bird Count Coordinator Dave Schandlen is busy recruiting volunteers for this event again this year.  The event will be held on Sat. Dec. 19, 2020 with some modifications from our usual practices due to Covid 19.  Carpooling may not be possible unless it’s with people who are already bubbled (husbands, wives, family members, etc.).  David will appoint a section leader for each division of our count circle.  This leader will then coordinate with their volunteers how best to cover the area.  This may mean dividing the section up into even smaller sections that individuals can cover rather than working as a larger team.  It may mean doing more counting on foot, hitting a few prime birding spots and not necessarily trying to cover the whole area.  Whatever we can do to maintain the continuity of this important citizen science event will be worthwhile. 
Those wishing to volunteer for the count should contact Dave Schandlen schandlen@simcoe.net
It may not be possible to hold our usual Xmas potluck after the Count.  Right now the Wye Marsh is restricting indoor gatherings in their building to no more than 10 people.  They will let us know if that changes, but alternatively we are looking at perhaps doing a Count wrap-up on Zoom.  It may even be possible to do some sort of virtual mystery gift auction.  Stay tuned for updated info. 
Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists
First Ever
“Zoom” General Meeting”
Birding in Columbia
Thurs. Nov. 19, 2020 7 PM on the Zoom platform
Guest Speakers: Ian Cook and Chris Evans
“Birding in Colombia”

Colombia has more bird species than any other nation on Earth. In fact, its species total is close to that of all of Africa! Caribbean lowlands, Pacific coastlines, the Andes mountains and rainforest lowlands: Colombia has it all!

The country’s great diversity of birds fills these landscapes, with many birds unfamiliar to northerners, including spectacular hummingbirds and tanagers. 

Nature Barrie members Ian Cook and Chris Evans joined four others in February 2019 to do a trip of a lifetime to Colombia, and they weren’t disappointed. Hear how Colombia is experiencing a renaissance following several dark decades, including a burgeoning eco-tourism sector. 

Please note the 7PM starting time is a little different than our normal meeting starting time.  We need to get Ian to the arena in time for his hockey game.  At least there will be no travel time to get to this event. 

We will be sending more info about how to join us on Zoom along with a personal invitation to the meeting that you can click on to join.  

We plan to follow this meeting up with another general meeting on Zoom on Thurs. Dec. 3, 2020. 7:30 PM (We know we owe you a few meetings!)  Our guest speaker in Dec. will be MPFN club member Kate Harries.  Kate will be presenting on her recent trip to the Monarch butterfly reserves in Mexico.  

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Trip Report

Trestle Trail Port McNicoll Sat. Oct. 17, 2020


On Saturday morning Oct. 17, 2020 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists had a Socially Distanced Walk with Friends on the Trestle Trail between Port McNicoll and Hogg Bay.

Here’s MPFN member Bob Codd’s thoughts on the day:  
For me this walk was tinged with a bit of melancholy. Or maybe that’s not the best word. More like apprehension. To see the historic steamship Keewatin caged behind a wire fence, alone, its future uncertain, was a little disquieting. Even the ground we walked on, the once prosperous and thriving rail yards and grain elevators of “the Chicago of the North” are destined for the land developer’s attention. This former industrial property has been unintentionally allowed to naturalize creating habitat for birds and wildlife. Whenever we visit here I can’t avoid being a little saddened at the thought that it all may soon become the homes of wealthy people, excluding these creatures from their rightful homes and the naturalists who love them. 
Fortunately that feeling of unease didn’t last. The weatherman cooperated more than we could hope and we started the outing in bright but chilly sunshine. In an auspicious start to our walk, a young Bald Eagle flew right overhead as our party of smiling Naturalists headed down the trail. 
I believe that this is our best attended Socially Distanced Walk with Friends so far and we squeaked by at just below the regulatory number of participants that the province permits for outdoor gatherings. Gathering is a rather loose description of our outing. As I’ve observed on past field trips our party soon becomes spread out along the trails as members pursue their particular interests. Birders will linger at every sighting. Is that a Song Sparrow? Or maybe a White-throated?  Those more interested in the autumn flora seek out the blooms of fall Asters and marvel at the colourfully dressed trees in the glorious sunshine. And others still take advantage of the day to safely socialize in the great outdoors. 
Without exception our party follows the Covid-19 guidelines making  no complaint. Everyone has a face mask handy to wear when necessary and as noted above, we’re very good at maintaining physical distancing! And that’s a really good thing. I still find that these shared experiences with friends to be a tonic for the soul. If wearing a mask and being cognizant of physical distancing is the price for being amongst friends, it’s one well worth paying. 
Our group managed to identify 29 species of birds, a respectable total for this time of year and a great contribution to the October Big Day. 
Once again a big thank you to Sue Codd for keeping track of, not only our bird sightings but everything else as well! 
In addition to birds the Field Nats observed: 
Wooly Bear caterpillar. Several of them
Autumn Meadowhawk (a dragonfly) 
Clouded Sulphur Butterfly 
Cabbage White Butterfly 
Field Crickets 
Red-Legged Grasshopper 
Several varieties of Asters 
Shaggy Mane Mushroom 
Switch Grass
Black Locust, a native tree with sharp thorns.             https://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2018/01/black-locust/
Wild Sage or Silver Wormwood
Wild Asparagus 
Viper’s Bugloss 
Spotted Knapweed
Common Mullein 
Hemp Dogbane
Bittersweet. (I’m not sure if it was American or Oriental Bittersweet). 
    “To tell them apart, look at their stems. The invasive oriental bittersweet has smooth stems, while the American bittersweet has blunt thorns. You can also look at the location of their berries. The American bittersweet has berries only at the tip of its vines, while the invasive variety has berries that grow all along the vine.” 
And while not a naturally occurring species we all saw a seriously threatened historic steamship, the SS Keewatin. 
Please advise of any errors or omissions. 
Anticipating our next outing in the field! 
Bob & Sue Codd 
Here’s a link to the outing’s EBird list compiled by Susan Codd.  
Our EBird efforts will be added to the results of Ebird’s Global October Big Day.  So far this event has had 31,522 participants who logged 76,159 checklists recording 7,028 species of birds. That’s a pretty good percentage of the world’s bird species.  Here’s a link to a website with the Big Day results which are still being updated as checklists come in. 
Most checklists that bird watchers use estimate that there are between 9,000 and 10,000 species of birds in the world, though the number is constantly changing as species are lumped, split and reevaluated.  But new studies suggest that the number should be almost doubled.  Here’s a link to an interesting article from the American Museum of Natural History. 
After the group walk at Hogg Bay a few stalwart MPFN members decided to continue their Big Day in the afternoon and searched for birds in the Matchedash Bay area.  Some of the photos from their Matchedash efforts are included in the Flickr Photo Album that you can visit by clicking on the following link.  Consider these photos a Big Day Bonus!  Thanks to our photographers Mary Rajapakse, Bob Codd, Ellen Dennig, Anne McArthur and Ken MacDonald 
MPFN President Susan Hirst did spot a Common Loon in the parking lot.
Our next Socially Distanced Walk with Friends will be Sunday Nov. 1, 2020 10 AM.  We will meet at the Penetanguishene Curling Club parking lot and walk through Rotary Champlain Wendat Park through the old campground and onto the Copeland Creek trail.  Waterproof footwear and even rubber boots are highly recommended.  We will aim for an approximately 2 hour walk.  Ducks and other waterfowl are already beginning to stage on Penetang Bay in large numbers.

Sharing Time with the MPFN/Trumpeters and Gobys

MPFN member Bob Codd has a couple of stories to share with the group.  The first story is about a family of Trumpeters, the beautiful birds featured in our new club logo.
Greetings All
Sue & I stopped at Hogg Bay for a quick bit of birding on our way home from the coddage on Friday Sept. 18. We were excited & pleased to see two adult Trumpeters still with their 6 original young. They were on the opposite side of the bay so we didn’t really see much detail. When we  got home & looked at the photos we were even more surprised to find that every swan, two adults and 6 young, was now sporting a wing tag. Photos I took on July 20 showed only a single adult wearing a very faded tag, K82. 
Our swan banding friends have certainly been busy! I can’t help but think that there is a story here. I copied Jim Charlebois & Laurel Ironside in the hope that they can and will tell us a bit more.
This is a wonderful example of Trumpeter Swan breeding success during a time when there are so many other stories about our own species’ negative impacts on wildlife and the environment. The fact that the parent swans kept all six cygnets safe and well is remarkable. That every one of them save for a single adult was captured, banded & released unharmed is no less astounding. I take my hat off to our Swan Restoration friends for their actions. It is those people who take direct action to protect & preserve wildlife that I admire most. There is no doubt in my mind that this success is largely thanks to people like Jim & Laurel and the entire Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration team. 
My deep gratitude to everyone who makes an effort or takes a stand to protect wildlife!
Bob & Sue Codd

Laurel Ironside, also an MPFN member, responded with more information about this prolific family. 

Well, Thank you Bob you are too kind.

Their well being is always our first priority. 

This family hatched 7 cygnets on June 1, 2020.  I banded 6 of them on Thursday (Sept 17)  We had 4 girls and 2 boys. Mom( H17) and Dad( K82) already had tags, although Mom is down to only 1 tag, I will try to catch up with her in the winter. We do not band and tag the cygnets until they are at least 90 days old. They have to be almost ready to fledge and then we must be very careful not to injure the primary feathers.  As part of our Banding Permit and in compliance with our Animal Care Committee Permit, we are able to use an enclosure to capture families just like this. With a little baiting we were successful at getting all 6 cygnets into the enclosure at once. We then process each cygnet for banding. It takes approximately 10 minutes per bird to sex, band and apply the wing markers. Females are banded on the left leg, Males on the right. The wing markers are applied to both wings and do not hurt them, it is similar to getting an ear pierced.

The parents H17(F) K82(M) were anxious yet patient as I banded each cygnet and released it. Soon they were all free to be on their way.  I did mention 7 cygnets hatched, the parents abandoned one when it was just a couple of days old. Unsteady on its feet and unable to keep up it was left behind. A concerned citizen contacted us and we stepped in and sent the wee one down to Shades of Hope in Pefferlaw for assessment. There was no confirmed diagnosis as to what was wrong other than maybe just a late or rough hatch. After a few days the wee one was transferred down to Kyna Intini in Burlington, our master bander and Trumpeter Swan Rehab Specialist. Kyna has a swan rehab center and has had 4 cygnets in care this summer that were either abandoned, lost or injured.  

Unfortunately, Trumpeters are excellent parents but are not good at taking the young back once they have been away from them for 24-48 hours. Rather than risk the parents not accepting them back into the family we take them into care. Once they are ready to fledge they are released into the wild on a private pond with other swans where they can be monitored for a period of time until they choose to leave on their own. We do our very best to do what we can for our loved Trumpeters. Banding them does help us provide us with an abundance of information on these guys and we will now hopefully be able to track this family throughout their lives. 

H17 and K82 are excellent parents. They bring much joy to many who observe them. We are very fortunate to have so many onlookers and caretakers of these guys in the area.  The cygnets are X90-F, X91-M, X92-F, X93-F, X94-M, X95-F.  In 2019 they hatched 6 cygnets of which 5 survived. Those cygnets are marked V90-F, V91-M, V92-M, X31-F and X33-F.  Looking forward to this fall to see which of these 5 show up for fall staging at the bottom end of Sturgeon Bay/Caswells/Tanners Beach area. We are already seeing a small group of the swans arrive from their summer locations but the bulk of them usually arrive around the end of October or after the first freeze up of the wetland areas. We start to watch this location more intently usually just after Thanksgiving. Once they start to arrive we will work to capture and band as many as we can. Most of the adults are baited and hand caught. They seem to be a little more wise and quite leery to the enclosure. I am looking forward to the fall season when my wingman Jim and I will hopefully have the opportunity to swing in action again and get a few of these beauties banded. 

Thank you everyone for your continued support and sightings! 

Wishing you all good health, 


Laurel Ironside

Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration

Scientific Permit Holder to Band and Capture Migratory Birds



cell: 905-467-4778

We are hoping that one of our MPFN Socially Distanced Walks with Friends in the near future will be to Port Severn where these birds congregate in winter so that we can see Laurel and Jim Charlebois in action doing their banding work.  

The next story:  After our walk in Coldwater last weekend Bob and Susan Codd stopped in Waubaushene hoping to find birds but found fish instead.

After our walk on the Uhthoff Trail and our visit to Big Rock Landing 
And after lingering there too long already, yearning for an elusive Nelson’s Sparrow
And lingering longer still marveling at all the sparrows nearer to Kinnear Rd…
You would think I’d had enough. 
But no.
We stopped to look for ducks and gulls at the Waubaushene Government Dock.
Marvelous name that. Conjures images of bygone times when a government dock really meant something to a community.
While there, we met a pair of jovial fishers with a young boy who were pulling this invasive species out of the channel one after another.
It seems cruel to simply toss them onto the pier to die. But they’re not supposed to release them back into Great Lakes waters
And there was such a waiting line of hungry gulls to gobble them down. 
I had never really seen one in the flesh and willing hands (literally) presented an opportunity.
Of course I got curious for more information…
So nice to read about yet another man-made horror we’ve perpetrated on our birthright …
This is from Ontario’s Invading Species Awareness Program… 
 The round goby is a small, bottom-dwelling invasive fish. Native to the Black and Caspian seas in eastern Europe, it was first found in North America in 1990 in the St. Clair River north of Windsor, Ontario. Researchers believe the fish was brought to North America in the ballast water of ships from Europe. In less than a decade the round goby has successfully spread through all five Great Lakes and has begun to invade inland waters. In some areas the fish has reached densities of more than 100 fish per square metre. Round goby prefer waters with rocky and sandy bottoms. They feed aggressively on insects and other small organisms found on lake and river bottoms. Adult round goby eat large quantities of zebra and quagga mussels, and occasionally small fish and fish eggs. Their aggressive eating habits and ability to spawn several times each season have helped them multiply and spread quickly.
Impacts of Round Goby

The round goby’s aggressive habits and rapid spread have had serious impacts on native species. The fish compete with and prey on native bottom-dwelling fish such as mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii) and logperch (Percina caprodes). Round goby also threaten several species at risk in the Great Lakes Basin, including the northern madtom (Noturus stigmosus), the eastern sand darter (Ammocrypta pellucida), and several species of freshwater mussels. Round goby have reduced populations of sport fish by eating their eggs and young and competing for food sources. Researchers believe the round goby is linked to outbreaks of botulism type E in Great Lakes fish and fish-eating birds. The disease is caused by a toxin that may be passed from zebra mussels, to goby, to birds, resulting in large die-offs of fish and birds. To prevent the spread of this invasive species, the Ontario government has banned the possession of live round goby and the use of round goby as a baitfish.

Anyone else have anything to share? 



MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Trip Report

Uhthoff Trail Coldwater Oct. 3, 2020


On Saturday Oct. 3, 2020 several 2 legged Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalist members and 1 4 legged associate member (Piper Codd) had another Socially Distanced Walk With Friends on the Uhthoff Trail starting at Coldwater and walking west towards Fesserton.  After finishing our walk on the Uhthoff Trail, several members went on to Big Rock Landing where the North River crosses Lawson Line. 
Here’s MPFN member Bob Codd’s thoughts on the day: 
It was a drab and chilly, grey morning for our socially distanced walk with friends but the sight of so many smiling, happy faces was sunshine for the soul. By my count this was our 7th informal MPFN walk with friends since Covid-19 came to town. I’m no longer surprised that I continue to eagerly anticipate these “field days” as much as I did our first post-virus walk at the Wye Marsh. It seems like I’m not alone in seizing these opportunities to reconnect with our friends and nature loving people in general. Judging by the continuing strong turnout these walks with friends are filling a need to be with people and share our experiences in perhaps the lowest risk way we can right now. 
With each outing I can see that we’re getting better and better at managing the risk. People are respectful of social distancing and everyone had a face mask handy. For people like me who wear eyeglasses, face masks present their own challenges. On cool days especially, glasses tend to fog up when sporting a mask. What I found worked well for me was lowering the mask when I could keep my distance and quickly covering my mouth and nose when I got closer to people as  when sharing photos or reviewing field guide entries. 
I find the following table, published daily in Midland Today, helps me keep things in perspective. As of Sunday there are zero active cases in Penetanguishene, Midland, Tay and Tiny and only one active case in Severn Township where we conducted our hike. The risk is not zero but as long as we continue as we have been I’m quite comfortable socializing at a distance. 

Case breakdown by municipality for Simcoe County as of Oct. 2

Municipality Total cases** Recoveries Deaths In Hospital Last case reported Incidence rate*
Barrie 319 274 14   Oct. 2 214
Bradford W-G 169 139 12   Oct. 2 393
New Tecumseth 107 93 2   Oct. 2 258
Innisfil 64 57     Oct. 1 157
Orillia 25 20 2   Sept. 28 75
Collingwood 17 17     Aug. 20 71
Wasaga Beach 23 21 1   Sept. 22 100
Clearview 13 8 1   Oct. 2 88
Springwater 17 15 1   Oct. 1 81
Midland 12 12     July 24 67
Oro-Medonte 12 8 2   Sept. 30 51
Adjala-Tosorontio 10 9     Sept. 30 86
Essa 23 19 1   Oct. 2 96
Ramara 13 13     Sept. 8 125
Tiny 7 7     Aug. 28 not released
Tay 9 9     July 23 81
Penetanguishene 10 9 1   Sept. 22 92.9
Severn 8 7     Sept. 29 not released
But enough of that. Everyone wants the scoop on what we collectively observed … I hope! So thanks again to Sue Codd who continues to do yeoman’s work documenting not only our bird sightings but  … everything else as well! (Maybe Ken will explain why we refer to yeomen? Do they work especially hard?) Nevertheless here is the list for everyone’s consideration. Please advise of any errors or omissions. 
In addition to 30 bird species, a respectable total given the season, MPFN members also observed: 
Vipers Bugloss
Soapwort, commonly called Bouncing Bet
Poison Ivy 
Virginia Creeper
Joe Pye Weed
Toadflax, known by most as Butter and Eggs 
Groundnut, Apios Americana aka Indian potato, potato bean 
Evening Primrose 
Wild Cucumber 
White Sweet Clover
Common Mullein
Bladder Campion
Wild Clematis or Virgin’s Bower, Old Man’s Beard
Black Locust, or false acacia, a tree species. 
Phragmites, both the native species and the invasive variety.
Common Ink Cap Mushrooms 
Fall Webworm (often confused with tent caterpillar which are a spring and summer species)
Asters, Identified by Kate Harries: 
   The larger aster was Purple-stemmed Aster puniceus (blue flowers)
 The one we saw growing next to it when we first examined it was Panicled Aster Aster lanceolatus (white flowers, narrow leaves, branchy). 
Then there was Flat-topped Aster Aster umbellatus (larger flowers with yellow disks and white rays that overall looks cream-coloured)
And Calico Aster Aster lateriflorus (white flowers, branchier than Panicled and leaves shorter, not as lanceolate). 
And we saw the splendid purple New England Aster Aster Novae-angliae. 
And many of us saw roughly 20 wild Turkeys along Hwy 12 near Fesserton en route to the trailhead. 
Many of the wildflowers we saw are not native species but this does not truly detract from their beauty which is presumably why they were introduced in the first place. The Asters I believe are all native species. 
Already anticipating our next field trip! 
Bob & Sue 
Here’s some links to the outing’s EBird lists compiled by Susan Codd.  There are 3 lists – one for the outward bound trip on the Uhthoff Trail, one for the return trip (since some of the same birds might have been encountered and shouldn’t be counted twice on the same list) and one for the extra trip some members took to Lawson Line.
Outward bound trip
Return trip
Lawson Line Big Rock Landing
And here’s a link to a Flickr album with the day’s photos. Thanks to our photographers Mary Rajapakse, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
Stay tuned for the date, time and place of our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends.  Keep an eye on your emails. 

MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends Report Sunday

Copeland Forest   –   Sept. 20, 2020

It was a bit hard to get our socially distanced group all together for the group shot. I know we’re missing a few participants here.


On Sun. morning Sept. 20, 2020 several 2-legged members of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists and one 4-legged associate member (Piper Codd) had another one of their Socially Distanced Walks with Friends at the Copeland Forest near Horseshoe Valley.
It was a beautiful day in a beautiful part of the country with a beautiful group.  The insects, fungi, flora, lepidoptera and lycopodiopsida (club mosses) all put on a great show.  Only the birds laid an egg. 
MPFN member Bob Codd writes of the outing: 
It was a great, fine, day for our socially distanced walk in Copeland Forest. We were complying so well with physical distancing requirements that our members were often in entirely separate parts of the forest!
I found the forest to be a magical place. I particularly enjoyed the view of the Duck’s Unlimited Pond. A classic wetland view that seemed to go on forever without a trace of human activity, that is if you ignored all the naturalists clambering about and the freight train that rumbled through behind us! Oddly, for a birder, I thought the stars of the show were the Clubmosses that Clare identified for us. Like little evergreen trees on the shaded forest floor. That’s one of several things I learned that day from fellow naturalists willing to share their knowledge. There were few birds to distract us from the interesting plants and fungi living at our feet. Fortunately there were plenty of interesting things all around us. 
Thanks to Sue for not only recording our bird sightings but … everything else as well!!
In addition to a handful of birds MPFN Members also saw:
Yellow garden spider
Red Admiral Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly
Compton Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Midland Painted Turtle 
Wild Parsnip 
Wild Indian Cucumber 
Goldenrod (at least 3 kinds)
New England Aster
Herb Robert 
Purple Loosestrife (invasive)
Tansy (invasive) 
Hellebore Broadleaf Orchid (aka Helluva Boring Orchid!)
Wild Basil
Canada Mayflower berries 
Club Mosses – at least 3 kinds
   Prickly TreeClubmoss
  Flat-branched TreeClubmoss  
  Stag’s Horn Clubmoss
   Short-stemmed Russula
   Witch‘s Hat?
   Humidicus Marginata
   Witch‘s Butter 
   ????? And several that remain unidentified
Maple Dust Lichen 
Whitewash Lichen 
Bob & Sue
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with lots of photos of the day.  Just click on the link. 
Thanks to our photographers Clare Holden, Ellen Dennig, Mary Rajapakse, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
Here’s a link to our Ebird checklist from the walk:
Stay tuned for the date, time and place of our next Socially Distanced Walk With Friends.  Keep an eye on your emails. 



Sora? Ortolan?


Sora_Coldwater ON
Sora_Coldwater ON

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Nicole Bestard
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
and resurrected?
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


On Sat. morning Sept. 5, 2020 14 2-legged members of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists and one 4-legged associate member (Piper Codd) had another one of their Socially Distanced Walks with Friends at Ste. Marie Park along the Wye River in Midland Ontario.
MPFN member Bob Codd writes of the outing: 
Apart from the simple pleasures of socializing with friends in the great outdoors the highlight was seeing some interesting birds. Although I didn’t manage a decent photo I thought it was a treat to see the Scarlet Tanager. Migratory warblers in non-breeding plumage are a mind bending challenge to identify sometimes but seeing them is always exciting. 
In addition to the birds, our group also saw:
Midland Painted Turtles
Gem Studded Puffballs
Bristly Sarsaparilla 
A dozen or so Monarchs
A patch of fragrant Creeping Thyme (good catch whomever spotted this!)
Lots of smiling faces enjoying the bright fine day!
Here’s a link to a Flickr album with lots of photos of the day.  Just click on the link. 
Thanks to our photographers Ellen Dennig, Mary Rajapakse, Bob Codd and Ken MacDonald
Here’s a link to our Ebird checklist from the walk:
Our next socially distanced nature walk with friends will likely be next weekend – date, time and place TBA.  Keep an eye on your emails in the next couple of days. 
We did see some very rare birds on the walk but we didn’t add them to the checklist as there is a strong suspicion that they were captive birds.  

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.

One of our own Garden Guardians

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

And here’s a link to a Flickr album with lots of photos of the walk.  Thanks to our photogs Bob Codd, Mary Rajapakse, Clare Holden and Ken MacDonald.  If you click on the individual photos some of them have further comments with interesting information.  
Our next MPFN Socially Distanced Walk With Friends will be Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020 10 AM at Ste. Marie Park in Midland.  We’ll meet at the parking lot near the intersection of Wye Valley Rd and Hwy 12 (across the river from Martyr’s Shrine).  The plan will be to go for a 90 minute to 2 hour walk through Ste. Marie Park, circling around and returning on the Trans Canada Trail.  Easy walking but no washrooms on site so go before you come.  
 We ask participants in these outings to practice social distancing (stay approximately one Trumpeter Swan’s wingspan 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. 


Here’s a copy of our EBird checklist:

25  Species observed
65 individuals


Number observed:3

Mourning Dove
Number observed:1

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Number observed:2

Ring-billed Gull
Number observed:3

Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Number observed:1

Double-crested Cormorant
Number observed:1

Downy Woodpecker
Number observed:1

Hairy Woodpecker
Number observed:1

Pileated Woodpecker
Number observed:2

Northern Flicker
Number observed:2

Red-eyed Vireo
Number observed:4

Blue Jay
Number observed:4

American Crow
Number observed:4

Black-capped Chickadee
Number observed:8

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Number observed:2

White-breasted Nuthatch
Number observed:2

House Wren
Number observed:3

American Robin
Number observed:4

Cedar Waxwing
Number observed:1

American Goldfinch
Number observed:5

Song Sparrow
Number observed:2

Baltimore Oriole
Number observed:1

Common Grackle
Number observed:4

American Redstart
Number observed:3

2 hr, 7 min
2.73 km

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.

Species observed
60 individuals

Trumpeter Swan
Number observed:2

Wood Duck
Number observed:8

Blue-winged Teal
Number observed:3

Number observed:7

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Number observed:1

Virginia Rail
Number observed:2

Number observed:2

Ring-billed Gull
Number observed:1

Great Blue Heron
Number observed:3

Green Heron
Number observed:1

Turkey Vulture
Number observed:4

Number observed:1

Eastern Phoebe
Number observed:1

Yellow-throated Vireo
Number observed:1

Red-eyed Vireo
Number observed:4

Blue Jay
Number observed:2

Black-capped Chickadee
Number observed:4

Gray Catbird
Number observed:3

Cedar Waxwing
Number observed:2

American Goldfinch
Number observed:2

Song Sparrow
Number observed:3

Swamp Sparrow
Number observed:1

American Redstart
Number observed:2

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

Here is the trip report from last Thursday’s Tiny Marsh outing: 
On Thursday Aug. 13, 2020 16 2-legged MPFN members and friends as well as 1 4-legged associate member had another one of their “Nature Walks with Friends” at Tiny Marsh.  We started at the base of the north/south Trotter dike and got almost to the Carolina dike before turning around and heading back.  Here’s a link to some photos of the walk.  Now some of our photographers (thanks Bob Codd, Mary Rajapakse, Clare Holden, Ken MacDonald) did focus on the same subjects, but as far as I know there’s still some room left on the internet so let’s just throw them all out there to enjoy.  
Here’s our eBird list from the walk: 
Species observed
1,128 individuals

Canada Goose
Number observed:40
Trumpeter Swan
Number observed:1
Wood Duck
Number observed:15

Details:Including 4 ducklings

BREEDING CODE: FL Recently Fledged Young (Confirmed)
Number observed:48
Hooded Merganser
Number observed:2
Pied-billed Grebe
Number observed:16
Sandhill Crane
Number observed:8
Number observed:8
Great Blue Heron
Number observed:9
Green Heron
Number observed:2
Northern Flicker
Number observed:4
Eastern Kingbird
Number observed:6
American Crow
Number observed:3
Black-capped Chickadee
Number observed:1
American Robin
Number observed:1
Cedar Waxwing
Number observed:1
American Goldfinch
Number observed:3
Song Sparrow
Number observed:2
Swamp Sparrow
Number observed:2
Red-winged Blackbird
Number observed:950
Common Grackle
Number observed:4
Yellow Warbler
Number observed:2

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.

Hope to see some of you at our next walk on the Thiffault Trail.

 August 8 2020

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.

Species observed
+1 other taxa
113 individuals

Trumpeter Swan
Number observed:3
Details:One with wing tag E84

Wood Duck
Number observed:4

Hooded Merganser
Number observed:2

Green Heron
Number observed:2

Turkey Vulture
Number observed:4

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Number observed:1

Downy Woodpecker
Number observed:1

Hairy Woodpecker
Number observed:3

Northern Flicker
Number observed:1

Eastern Wood-Pewee
Number observed:1

Alder Flycatcher
Number observed:1

Willow Flycatcher
Number observed:2

Eastern Phoebe
Number observed:3

Eastern Kingbird
Number observed:1

Red-eyed Vireo
Number observed:1

Blue Jay
Number observed:3

American Crow
Number observed:3

Black-capped Chickadee
Number observed:7

Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Number observed:4

Tree Swallow
Number observed:2

Barn Swallow
Number observed:3

swallow sp.
Number observed:10

House Wren
Number observed:2

Gray Catbird
Number observed:3

American Robin
Number observed:10

Cedar Waxwing
Number observed:12
BREEDING CODE: FY Feeding Young (Confirmed)

American Goldfinch
Number observed:9

Song Sparrow
Number observed:3

Swamp Sparrow
Number observed:1

Red-winged Blackbird
Number observed:5

Common Grackle
Number observed:3

Common Yellowthroat
Number observed:2

Yellow Warbler
Number observed:1

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!).

Susan Hirst

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

Great Golden Digger Wasp, Sphex ichneumoneus, Midland Community Garden, Midland, Ontario, Canada, July 29, 2020

Great Golden Digger Wasp: The Hardest Working Bug in the Garden
Like a road crew on Interstate 80, the Great Golden Digger Wasps turn my flagstone garden path into a construction zone each summer.
But these bugs don’t need a bulldozer to move a lot of dirt.
Great Golden Digger Wasps show up in my garden every June, and remain for the next couple of months. While unsuspecting visitors to my garden may be wary of the large, buzzing insects, I have learned to coexist peacefully with them.
Other than piles of sand and dime-sized holes along the pathway, the Great Golden Digger Wasp does far more good than harm in the garden. And to humans and pets, the predatory wasp is virtually harmless.
Indeed, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is one of the hardest working bugs in the garden.
The Great Golden Digger Wasp is a member of the thread-waisted wasp family (Sphecidae), so named for the wasps’ cinched waists. There are more than 130 species of digger wasps (Sphex genus) in the Sphecidae family, and the Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) is one of the largest of all.
They are related to Mud Daubers, Sand Wasps, and Giant Cicada Killer Wasps.
The Great Golden Digger Wasp measures more than an inch in length. The wasp has a black head, orange and black body, orange legs, and iridescent amber wings. Short, golden hairs covers its head and thorax.
Unlike social wasps, which live commune-style with a queen that lays eggs and non-reproducing minions that handle the hard labor, digger wasps are solitary creatures. Each adult female Great Golden Digger Wasp works by herself to build and provision underground nests.
Although they work independently, multiple females may nest in the same general vicinity if conditions are right. They prefer sandy soil, an open, sunny area, and nearby vegetation where they can find their prey – grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets.
The flagstone path in my garden meets all of these requirements and serves as a nesting ground for dozens of Great Golden Digger Wasps each summer.
Unfortunately, social wasps – like yellow jackets and hornets – give all wasps a bad name. Solitary wasps like the Great Golden Digger Wasp are virtually harmless. They do not guard their nests and are not aggressive towards humans. Females are equipped with stingers but use them only on their prey, although a rare sting to a human may occur if the wasp is grabbed or stepped on. Male wasps may act aggressive, but they have no stingers and can do no harm.
When an adult Great Golden Digger Wasp emerges from the underground nest where it hatched the previous summer, it has but one job to do: To reproduce.
First, she excavates a tunnel by digging straight down, using her mandibles to cut the earth. She clears dirt as she works by pulling it out backwards in piles between her head and forelegs. She scatters the dirt behind her and to the side using her hindlegs, creating a U-shaped pile around a dime-sized hole.
For a male wasp, that simply means finding a mate. The female, on the other hand, will spend her short life engaged in the methodical building and provisioning of a half dozen or so nests. She will never deviate from a process that is hardwired in her genes.
Off the main tunnel, which is four to six inches deep, the wasp builds secondary tunnels leading to individual nesting chambers. When the nest is complete, she piles dirt on top of the tunnel entrance to create a barricade while she goes off to hunt.
The female Great Golden Digger Wasp’s next job is to provision the nest. She flies out from the nesting area to hunt for grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets. She is a parasitoidal wasp, meaning her prey will serve as a food source for her offspring.
When the wasp hunts, she stings her prey and releases paralyzing venom. She transports the paralyzed insect back to her nest by air – if it is light enough to fly with – or by dragging it across the ground by its antennas. On the way, she may have to fend off robins, sparrows, and other birds intent on stealing the insect from her.
Upon returning to the nest, the wasp drops her prey outside entrance while she reopens and inspects the tunnel. She then drags her still-paralyzed victim to a nesting chamber, and lays one egg on top of it.
When she leaves, she closes up the nesting chamber behind her. She will not return.
The wasp’s egg will hatch in two or three days, and the wasp larva will devour its still-paralyzed host alive. (I don’t like to think about this part too much – poor grasshopper.)
Over the fall and winter, the wasp larva will undergo a complete metamorphosis. It will emerge in June as an adult and begin the process all over again.
The first reaction of a gardener who confronts a large, intimidating-looking Great Golden Digger Wasp may be to grab a can of bug spray. Don’t do it! Not only are these bugs harmless to humans, they provide many benefits to the garden.
Adult wasps – both male and female – pollinate plants by feeding on flower nectar. Female wasps prey on grasshoppers and similar pests that otherwise cause a lot of damage to vegetable and ornamental plants in the garden. And by digging holes in the ground, the wasps help to aerate the soil and improve drainage.
So if you are lucky enough to encounter a Great Golden Digger Wasp in your garden, leave her alone. She’s working hard.
It was never meant to be sensible,
fully understandable. The digger wasp,
for example, goes up to the tarantula
like a friend and the tarantula freezes,
allows itself to be inspected.
Then it digs the tarantula’s grave
while the tarantula watches. You, I bet,
would have guessed with a name
like tarantula, the tarantula would’ve been
the villain. But it is we who named
the tarantula and made the digger wasp
sound honest, hard-working.
And, of course, there is no villain,
only the scheme of things, only horror,
and occasionally the strange birth
of a butterfly and its short, gorgeous,
utterly careless season.
I should have mentioned the digger wasp
doesn’t kill its victim, but stuns it,
drags it to the grave, lays one egg
on its stomach, and closes up.
You see, the instinct is maternal.
The newborn wasp feeds
off the tarantula for weeks,
digs itself out at the right time
and enters the odd, wonderful world.
I’ve no advice for you, my friend.
You, who would take it—
as all of us would—and offer it
up to the heart, like a sacrifice.

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,
demolished, hooked
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.
~Paula Bohince

July 10 2020

Sharing Time with the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists

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.

The Amazing Lyre Bird sings like a chainsaw

Anyone else got anything to share?

June 12 2020

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee, Midland, Ontario, Canada, June 12, 2020
These days, like Oregon poet laureate Kim Stafford, I have a hard time paying attention to what’s going on in the world. There’s just too much going on in the world!
Oregon Dawn In Spite Of The News
Kim Stafford
Before I can get to our statistics – so many
stricken, so many dead – I’m summoned
by the bird raising a ruckus outside, crows
and jays in festive outrage, trill, chirrr, and aria
from the little brown birds, the mournful
dove, the querulous towhee, rusty starlings
in their see-saw mutter, and a woodpecker
flicker hammering the gutter staccato.
On the porch, I’m assaulted by the merciless
scent of trees opening their million flowers,
as I inhale the deep elixir of hazel, hawthorn,
maple, and oh those shameless cherry trees.
And just when I’ve almost recovered
my serious moment, I gasp, helpless to see
the full queen moon sidling down
through a haze of blossoms.

June 11 2020

Least Bittern

Least Bittern, Hogg Bay, Port McNicoll, Ontario, Canada, June 11, 2020

From Allaboutbirds.org: Perhaps surprisingly, tiny Least Bitterns use areas with deeper water than the much larger, longer-legged American Bittern. Least Bitterns can do this because their long, agile toes and curved claws allow them to grasp reeds and hunt small prey while suspended from these precarious over-water perches.

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:

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


June 10 2020
Marsh Wren, Matchedash Bay, Coldwater, Ontario, Canada, June 10, 2020

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.

June 8 2020
Nestbox? We don’t need no steenkin’ nest box!
This male Eastern Bluebird is taking advantage of a woodpecker hole in a telephone pole. Coldwater, Ontario, Canada, June 8, 2020.
It was Henry David Thoreau who noted that the “bluebird carries the sky on his back.” Thoreau wrote often of the eastern bluebirds that shared his space in Concord, Massachusetts, in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Bluebirds
by Henry David Thoreau
In the midst of the poplar that stands by our door,
We planted a bluebird box,
And we hoped before the summer was o’er
A transient pair to coax.
One warm summer’s day the bluebirds came
And lighted on our tree,
But at first the wand’rers were not so tame
But they were afraid of me.
They seemed to come from the distant south,
Just over the Walden wood,
And they skimmed it along with open mouth
Close by where the bellows stood.
Warbling they swept round the distant cliff,
And they warbled it over the lea,
And over the blacksmith’s shop in a jiff
Did they come warbling to me.
They came and sat on the box’s top
Without looking into the hole,
And only from this side to that did they hop,
As ’twere a common well-pole.
Methinks I had never seen them before,
Nor indeed had they seen me,
Till I chanced to stand by our back door,
And they came to the poplar tree.
In course of time they built their nest
And reared a happy brood,
And every morn they piped their best
As they flew away to the wood.
Thus wore the summer hours away
To the bluebirds and to me,
And every hour was a summer’s day,
So pleasantly lived we.
They were a world within themselves,
And I a world in me,
Up in the tree—the little elves—
With their callow family.
One morn the wind blowed cold and strong,
And the leaves when whirling away;
The birds prepared for their journey long
That raw and gusty day.
Boreas came blust’ring down from the north,
And ruffled their azure smocks,
So they launched them forth, though somewhat loth,
By way of the old Cliff rocks.
Meanwhile the earth jogged steadily on
In her mantle of purest white,
And anon another spring was born
When winter was vanished quite.
And I wandered forth o’er the steamy earth,
And gazed at the mellow sky,
But never before from the hour of my birth
Had I wandered so thoughtfully.
For never before was the earth so still,
And never so mild was the sky,
The river, the fields, the woods, and the hill,
Seemed to heave an audible sigh.
I felt that the heavens were all around,
And the earth was all below,
As when in the ears there rushes a sound
Which thrills you from top to toe.
I dreamed that I was a waking thought—
A something I hardly knew—
Not a solid piece, nor an empty nought,
But a drop of morning dew.
‘Twas the world and I at a game of bo-peep,
As a man would dodge his shadow,
An idea becalmed in eternity’s deep—
‘Tween Lima and Segraddo.
Anon a faintly warbled note
From out the azure deep,
Into my ears did gently float
As is the approach of sleep.
It thrilled but startled not my soul;
Across my mind strange mem’ries gleamed,
As often distant scenes unroll
When we have lately dreamed
The bluebird had come from the distant South
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.

Clutch Size:

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)

Parental Care:
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?


June 2 2020
You never know what you’ll see at Tiny Marsh.
 MPFN members Bob and Susan Codd were there on Sunday May 31st, trying to see the flock of White Pelicans that had been reported there earlier in the day (no luck for Bob on those birds) when he had an unusual sighting of a weird goose.
Here’s Bob on his sighting of an Egyptian Goose!:
This really got me excited when we saw it. Almost dropped my binoculars! In reality it should be considered to be an escape. This is what Birds of North America, (now Birds of the World) has to say… 
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Egyptian Goose is an exotic species in North America. Their introduction and establishment is not well understood, but the species likely originated from escapees from captive waterfowl collections. The authors of the earliest reports of Egyptian Geese in the wild in North America (Arkhust 1877, Kirkwood 1900) suggested that records were of natural occurrence because birds were exhausted and found on the East Coast. However, these individuals were likely escapees (Baird et al. 1884, American Ornithologists’ Union 1901), as Egyptian Geese were commonly held in captive collections, and many were imported during this time (Phillips 1928).
As an exotic species, there is much concern over the potential economic, ecological, and social impacts that the Egyptian Goose may have in North America. The species is invasive in Europe, where it is considered a high-risk species, and management action is recommended (Gyimesi and Lensink 2010). Even in their native range of Africa, they are considered pests due to their willingness to eat farmer’s crops (Mangnall and Crowe 2001, Mangnall and Crowe 2002) and their prevalence on golf courses (Mackay et al. 2014).

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.
The Codd’s struggled a bit to ID this not commonly seen bird for our area.  They thought at first it might be the juvenile King Eider that had been reported off of nearby Woodland Beach.  Probably an escaped domestic bird which means most birders won’t necessarily add it to their life list but there’s always a chance it could be a bird that’s wandered here from one of the resident populations in the southern states.  
As if that weren’t enough, Bob and Susan had another unusual sighting at Tiny Marsh.
You might not find a bird in your field guide that looks exactly like that.  But after some study the Codds accurately pegged it as a first year male American Redstart. 
From Allaboutbirds.com:  “Immature male American Redstarts have yellow patches on the sides, wings and tail, with a variable amount of black on face and chest.”  This bird certainly pushes the boundaries with that variable amount of black on the chest.  
Mak Soden, Wye Marsh Naturalist, had this advice when it comes to ID’ing some of these immature warblers: 
Something else I find helpful with ID’ing warblers is a quick check of the tail. In setophaga warblers if the end of the tail looks like it’s been dunked in ink there are only two possible species you are looking at. American Redstart & Magnolia Warbler. Albeit this is certainly a goofy looking redstart and this trick doesn’t quite help us out here. Cool looking bird!”
MPFN member Bob Codd shared this photo of leucistic goldfinch that he had at his feeders in Port McNicoll.  Somebody ran out of paint!
What else is everybody seeing out there?
You can join our MPFN Club Facebook page and post your photos there or send them to:
Search for Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists group on Facebook or here’s a link:

May 29 2020
An Owl Adventure and our Annual Owl Foundation Open House Ticket Auction
MPFN members Bob and Susan Codd had an exciting owl adventure recently.  The Codds were the successful bidders on the clubs tickets for the Owl Foundation of Vineland’s Annual Open House last year.  While they were there they signed on to be volunteer drivers for the organization.  Their first assignment was this week – pick up a pair of Great Horned Owlets from a driver coming from Sudbury and relay them to another driver at Hwy 89.  Here’s Bob’s story about the experience:
My reward for being a relay driver was a glimpse into a cardboard box bearing the most precious cargo imaginable. 
I understand that the owls had built their nest close to a raven’s nest. The ravens destroyed the owl nest and the owlets ended up on the ground.  I  don’t know who organized it but they got an arborist to scale the tree and patch up the nest before replacing the chicks. But the ravens returned and the owlets ended up on the ground again. They tried again with the same results. This time the chicks were found in a nearby backyard on Tuesday I believe. 
If there’s a story here it’s not a mundane drive to Cookstown or the entire relay. Or even the heroic effort to restore the fallen chicks to their nest. The real story is that there is someplace to take these rescues when all others efforts have fallen short. The story is The Owl Foundation itself. I’m proud that our club supports the Foundation. I  see our efforts in supporting and fundraising for the Foundation as the greatest possible good we can do with our meager resources. Truly an endeavor worthy of a club for naturalists! 
I’m honoured to have had the opportunity to be part of their mission. To actually see the creature you’re trying to help and to understand that we can undo a bit of the harm we as a species have done with nothing more than a short drive on the highway. 
Great work Bob and Susan.
Our club has been a supporter of the Owl Foundation for many years.  Every year as a thank you the Foundation gives us passes for 4 people to attend their annual open house which this year will be held on Sun Sept. 13, 2020.  Our tour time is 12:30 PM.  The Foundation asks us not to bring guests under 8 years of age. 
It’s time to get the bidding started in our auction for this valuable experience.  Who wants to start it off with an opening bid of $50?
You can make your bids by contacting Ken MacDonald or at info@mpfn.xyz.  We will also take bids on our Facebook page.  
If the pandemic forces a cancellation or a postponement of the Open House we’ll deal with that as the need arises.


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
the other.

May 15 2020

MPFN members all know that one of the most exciting places to bird in the Midland area is the mouth of the Wye River and the river itself between Tiffin Bay and the Wye Marsh.  There is a development proposal in the works for Wye Heritage Marina that will place a trailer park on the lands immediately adjacent to Tiffin Bay and Georgian Bay. 










Red-necked Grebe



Horned Grebe


Red-breasted Merganser
We are sending MPFN members a notice of the Zoom Council meeting scheduled for May 27th when this proposal will be presented to Tay Council. 
Midland residents who live on the other side of Tiffin Bay will perhaps not receive any notification of this proposal but may wish to look into it.  
I will also attach the full 360 page application to this message for those who would like to wade through it.  
It would seem the idea is that people who have their boats at the marina would like to keep a trailer nearby for overnight accommodation while they are in the area.  The land the developers would like to have rezoned is currently used for boat storage.  Since it will only be used for temporary trailer accommodation there would seem to be no issues with developing on a flood plain.  
The writers of the proposal do seem to have taken into account the environmentally sensitive nature of the area and the development should not encroach on the woodlands to the south of the marina.  I’m not sure what is more of an eyesore in this beautiful area – those obscenely expensive boats or the only slightly less expensive? trailers.  The developers are saying they will restrict the park to Class B and C trailers (here’s a website that explains what these are https://crva.ca/what-are-the-differences-between-a-class-a-b-c-motorhome/) – basically, no camper vans. 
MPFN members who live in Tay or Midland may want to question their representatives about this development.  The Wye River estuary is an important natural area that must be preserved at all costs. 

Conceptual Master Plan


Wye Heritage Marina Plan Higlights


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.
Ken MacDonald

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.

More Cancellations

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


Ken’s Blog 

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!

I think you’ll agree when you look at the site that Bob has done an amazing job.  If you have any comments or suggestions you can reach Bob at info@mpfn.xyz
One part of the website I’m sure you will all enjoy is the member’s photo gallery 
Bob would like to add more members photos to this page and I know we have some very talented photographers in the club.  Why don’t you select 10 or 20 of your best nature photos and send them along to Bob. 

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.


Highlights were:

– 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 thinkingofyou@gbgh.on.ca 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.


Ray Nason

Volunteer Co-Chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council

Georgian Bay General Hospital


Birdwatching at Home
With the OFO 
(Ontario Field Ornithologists)
The OFO have come up with a great idea to help us cope with our addiction during this time of self-isolation.  Here are the details: 

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.

#birdingathome, #ofobirdingathome

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-notices-and-updates.

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.edu/books?subjects[]=22671 and enter code BIRD30 

 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 ofo@ofo.ca.

And after all that great news now for the not so great.
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!
As for our June Potluck/AGM, at this point it looks highly unlikely that this can take place in the same way that has become our tradition over the years.  Constitutionally it is not a problem to postpone the AGM until the crisis is past.  It may be possible to schedule some sort of virtual get-together to replace some of these events, taking in to consideration that we are not the most tech-savvy group.
We look forward to the time when we can all get together, share our sightings (even if they’re just from our backyards), learn about nature and enjoy each other’s company again.  But for right now, the health of our members and our society must be of paramount importance.  
Stay safe, stay healthy and happy, stay in touch and enjoy staying home!

April 2 2020

Hello everyone

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


Hello fellow Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists
We hope you are all keeping safe and well in these unusual times.
As you know, following the recommendations of local health authorities, we had to cancel our March general.
We have not as yet cancelled any future meetings, but things are not looking good for the Apr. 16th meeting and possibly even our May 21st meeting. 
At least 2 things would have to happen in order for us to go forward with these meetings – the Ontario Provincial Government would have to lift its ban on group meetings (the current limit is no more than 5 people) and our venue, the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, would have to reopen to the public.  Even if we are successful in “flattening the curve” the best information out there seems to be that when things do return to normal they should do so gradually.
We will try to give you at least 2 weeks notice as to whether these meetings are a go or not. 
Here are some other updates for you:
The club outing “Sugar Bush and Spring Ephemerals at Lalonde’s Sugar Bush” scheduled for Sat. Apr. 25, 2020 is cancelled. (The Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival of which this event was a part is also cancelled)
The Tiny Marsh Waterfowl Viewing Day scheduled for Sat. Apr. 18, 2020 is cancelled
The Ontario Nature Huronia Regional Meeting scheduled for Sat. Apr. 18, 2020 in Carden is cancelled.  Our Regional Coordinator Barbara MacKenzie-Wynia is exploring the possibility of replacing the face-to-face meeting with a video conference call.  We’ll up date you when we have more information.
Our MPFN Tiny Marsh representative Kate Harries would like to remind our members that Apr. 1st is still the deadline to purchase or renew memberships in the Matchedash-Tiny-Marl organization that runs Tiny Marsh.  Kate is also now the President of MTM.  She would love to have more Naturalists become voting members of the group so that our interests can be balanced against those of hunters and other interest groups.  MTM has gone to a system where Apr. 1st will be the renewal date for all memberships.  Only members who have paid their dues before that date will have a vote at the AGM.  The MTM AGM was originally scheduled for May 25th but has been postponed with a new date to be announced. 
There have been many positive changes in the MTM organization, including a new website https://www.mtmconservation.org/ and several new board members.  We still hope that we will be able to celebrate our victory over Covid 19 by all getting together at the 6th Annual Tiny Marsh Bioblitz on Sat. June 20, 2020.  
Attached to this message you will find a copy of the recent MTM newsletter and membership forms.  You can purchase an MTM membership using Paypal on the MTM website. 
Kate Harries also tells us that the recent closing of borders and restrictions on travel there is one group that has already started their long trip from Mexico to Canada – our beloved Monarchs.  We hope that Kate will be presenting to the Joint Meeting of are Naturalist Clubs in September on her recent adventures in Monarchland.  Meanwhile here’s a link to her recent blog about the current Monarch migration. 
MPFN member Mary Rajapakse last week was able to return to Canada from her winter sojourn in Arizona and is now self-isolating at home in Sawlog Bay.  During her stay in Arizona Mary sent back many of her excellent photos to post on the MPFN Club Facebook page.  This was her final report about her journey home:

“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!

Anyone looking for entertainment while they self-isolate would do well to check out the Youtube channel of MPFN members Reid and Margaret Wilson.  These talented musicians have been sharing a song a day as they complete their self-quarantine after their return from wintering down south.  
That’s it for now, but let’s not become strangers.  Does anyone else have anything they’d like to share? 
Make sure it’s a Turkey Vulture and not a Black Vulture.  Big difference!





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