MPFN January 2022 Meeting

Trumpeter Swans with Liz Benneian

Trumpeter Swans at Port Severn Photo Bob Codd
On Thursday Jan. 20, 2022 the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists held their September meeting on Zoom.  Our guest speaker was Liz Benneian, spokesperson for the Trumpeter Swan Coalition.  Liz gave us a wonderful presentation featuring many interesting and heartwarming stories about these beautiful birds and the amazing success story of their reintroduction to our area.  Several other attendees at the meeting had their own personal stories to share about their experiences with Trumpeters.  We concluded the meeting with a sharing of photos of member’s recent nature sightings. 
Here is the link to watch the recording of the meeting on Youtube. 
Our next club meeting will be Thursday Feb. 17, 2022 on Zoom.  Information on the guest speaker and a Zoom invitation will be sent out soon. 

MPFN Mexico’s Butterfly Reserves with Kate Harries Recorded Video
On Thursday Dec. 3, 2020 Kate Harries gave a presentation on Mexico’s Butterfly Reserves to the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists on Zoom. Kate is well known among local naturalists. She is a Past President of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists, current President of the Matchedash-Tiny-Marl Conservation Association, founder of the popular Tiny Marsh BioBlitz, and a very active board member and webmaster for AWARE Simcoe, a citizens’ group that works to protect water, the environment and health through transparency and accountability in government. Kate also has a native plant nursery and blogs about plants and gardens at In 2019, at Ontario Nature’s annual Conservation Awards, Kate received the Carl Nunn Media and Conservation award, which is presented to an individual, team or media outlet who has engaged in effective communication on one or more conservation issues.
For those of you who weren’t able to join us for the live Zoom presentation, here’s a link to a Youtube Video of the talk.
A note from Kate on some corrections: “Don Davis helpfully pointed out a couple of corrections – Danaus plexippus is mis-spelled on the first slide. And the west to east range of mountains that the monarchs winter in goes by a number of names, including Transvolcanic Plateau or Belt, and Neo Volcanic Plateau, not Sierra Madre (those two ranges run north and south). Thanks Don!”
Kate also sends along this link to an article showing that we in the north might be just as guilty as the illegal loggers in the Monarch reserves when it comes to preserving our precious fragile old growth forests.
And here’s a link to the project Butterflies And Their People who were Kate’s hosts for part of her trip.
Our next Zoom get-together will be on Saturday evening Dec. 19, 2020 when we hope to wrap up a successful Christmas Bird Count.  Counters will be dropping their results off at the Wye Marsh at the end of the afternoon (4:30 would be a good deadline to keep in mind so that coordinator David Schandlen can pick them up before the Marsh closes at 5) but perhaps you can all keep a copy of your results so that you can share them on our Zoom chat.  
After that we’ve booked a January Zoom General Meeting for Thurs. Jan. 21, 2021 7:30 PM.  Kat Lucas from the Toronto Zoo Great Lakes Program will give a presentation about some of the species at risk in the Great Lakes and how we can protect them.  
Canyon Towhee
Kate had a “mystery bird” in her presentation.  One of our presenters from last month, Chris Evans, ably identified it as a Canyon Towhee. “A pleasing and friendly bird” says Kate.



Watch the Video of our First Ever MPFN Zoom Meeting

Birds of Colombia

On Thursday Nov. 19, 2020 The Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists held their first Zoom meeting, featuring a wonderful presentation by Chris Evans and Ian Cook on their birding trip to Colombia.  
We had about 45 people at the meeting but those who missed it can view the presentation here. 
Should your computer ask you for a passcode, use this one.  Passcode: 5R8E.6@&
Or watch the video on Youtube using this link.  
I was a little slow pressing the record button (so many buttons to push!) but you won’t have missed too much – just President Susan Hirst’s welcome and introduction of the speakers and a little bit of info on Ian’s first slide. 
I highly recommend that everyone watch the show.  You’ll see birds that you won’t believe could possibly exist? 
One favour we’d like to ask.  Chris and Ian both found it a little strange to be delivering their talk just to their computer screens and not to a roomful of friendly faces with dropping jaws.  It must have been a little like setting off a fireworks show and not hearing any oohs and aahs.  
If anyone would like to share their reactions to the presentation, send them in a reply to this email and we’ll pass them on to Ian and Chris with our thanks.  
MPFN member Kate Harries would like to share another presentation that’s well worth watching about the migration of Semipalmated Sandpipers.  
Kate will be our next presenter at our general meeting on Zoom on Thursday Dec. 4, 7 PM.  She’ll be telling us about her trip to the butterfly wintering sites in Mexico. 
Semipalmated Sandpipers are extremely reliant on the eggs of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay during their long arduous migration.  Strangely their ability to access this energy source may be endangered by our desperate search for a Covid 19 vaccine.  Here’s an interesting article from the National Audubon Society. 


Recap of MPFN January 2020 meeting  

On Thurs. Jan. 16, 2020 at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists learned about the “Best Places to Bird in Ontario”.  This is also the title of a new and very useful book co-authored by the guest speaker of the evening, Mike Burrell, along with his brother Ken Burrell.

Mike Burrell has worked for Long Point Bird Observatory, he was the Ontario Important Bird Areas Program Coordinator with Bird Studies Canada and is now with the Ontario Government’s Natural Heritage Information Centre in Peterborough.

Mike grew up in the Waterloo area in southwestern Ontario and inherited his passion for natural history from his parents.  From their earliest years, he and brother Ken were a birding team, sharing a bedroom crammed with bedside bird books.  Mike recalled bedtime conversations centred around the question “What do you think we will see tomorrow?”

One of the spark birds that really turned the two young brothers into serious birders was a Prothonotary Warbler that Ken spotted near Kitchener.  This is an extremely rare bird, with only about 20 pairs of mature birds in Ontario, mostly along the north shore of Lake Erie.  On a visit to Long Point with their parents the two boys met noted ornithologist John McCracken, who took them “under his wing” and became a mentor to the budding ornithologists.  He taught them that the Prothonotary Warbler is a cavity nester and so their nesting success can be aided by the building of bird boxes.  The boys got the plans and spent the rest of the year constructing boxes that they could contribute to the Prothonotary Warbler Recovery Team at Long Point.

The next spring when they returned to Long Point they were able to watch Prothonotaries nesting in boxes that they had built!  That was it.  They were hooked.  Internships at the Long Point Observatory followed, then more schooling in the natural sciences.  The boys are all grown up now and they are two of the provinces best birders, doing their best to mentor other newcomers to the world of birds.

A couple of years ago the two brothers were approached by the publishers Greystone Books to put together an Ontario entry in their Best Places to Bird series.  A “Best Places to Bird in British Columbia” had already been published and “A Best Places to Bird in the Prairies” was in the works.  But tackling “Best Places to Bird in Ontario” the Burrells knew would be a tall order.  Because Ontario is really big!  Over a million square kilometres with many diverse habitats – Great Lakes, deciduous forest, Canadian Shield, Boreal Forest, James Bay Lowlands, and even tundra! Ontario is also the crossroads for many migration routes.  How do you squeeze it all into one book.

Mike told the group that when he and Ken were young birders one of their most valuable companions was a book written by Clive Goodwin, “A Bird-Finding Guide to Ontario”.  He recommended that we all add this 25 year old book to our libraries, along with Mike and Ken’s new book as well of course.  Goodwin’s book is encyclopaedic, with entries for almost every village, hamlet, town or city in the province.  Mike said he and Ken would take it along when they travelled to hockey tournaments.  When they weren’t on the ice, they were out in the field, guided by Goodwin’s book to where the local birds were.

Mike was somewhat relieved when he found out that the Greystone Books series was to follow a different format.  Instead of covering every birding location in Ontario, their book would give more intensive to just 30 prime locations.  This would allow the authors to give more in depth reports on each area, along with strategies of how to efficiently bird these hot spots.

But how to select them? The brothers tried polling other top birders but found that didn’t work.  There would be general agreement on 5 or 6 locations and then things would get out of control.  So they decided to make their own list.  Getting down to it, they wound up with a list of over 100 Best Birding Places!  How were they going to whittle that down?

Mike admitted that they perhaps “cheated” a little by combining a few birding locations into one chapter.  They also decided that, since they anticipated that most of the book sales would be in the GTA, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to focus on areas that were in easy reach of that area where most of the birders are.  Mike was also partial to spots in Eastern Ontario where he currently resides and does a lot of his birding.  Though they were a bit worried that they might make people angry when they found that their own personal birding locations had been left out, in the end the Burrells decided to make the book their own personal “Best Places to Bird in Ontario”.  As Mike said, “If anyone disagrees, they could always do their own book.”

So with the 30 places selected, now it was time for the best part of the project – the Field Research!  Binoculars and cameras in hand, the boys were off for a massive birding trip across the whole province.

In his presentation to the Field Naturalists, Mike concentrated on just 3 of the areas in order to give us a taste of the book.

The first area was where it all started for Mike and Ken – Long Point on Lake Erie.  At 30 km long, Long Point is the longest freshwater sandspit in the world.  The area features many diverse habitats, including the Causeway, the Inner Bay, and Big Creek Marsh.  Mike highly recommended that birders include a stop at the Old Cut Field Station to talk to the banders there, who are always ready with hot tips about what birds can be seen nearby.  Spring migration in May is a great time to visit, but birders also come to the area in March to see thousands of Tundra Swans passing through the area.  In the early spring there might be as many 50 to 100,000 ducks of different species that can be viewed from the Inner Bay viewing stand and in November/early December Sandhill Cranes gather in big numbers.

The second area Mike covered was the Rainy River/Lake of the Woods district.  This area doesn’t perhaps see as many birders as the Lake Erie hotspots but it certainly sees just as many birds, with perhaps even more variety, since it is a crossroads for western, eastern and southern species.  American White Pelicans, Brewers Blackbirds (“as common as our Red-winged Blackbird in this area” said Mike, “they’re on every other fence post”) Black-billed Magpie, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Western Kingbird, Wilson’s Phalarope, Great Grey Owl, Yellow-throated Vireo and Red-Headed Woodpecker are some of the birds that can readily be seen in the area.

The final area that Mike took us to was even more out of the way – Moosonee and South James Bay.  Although it’s a 10 hour drive and then a 5 hour train trip, perhaps even followed by a short helicopter ride to get out to the mudflats on James Bay, Mike assured us that anyone who makes the trip will be well rewarded.  Picture 100,000 shorebirds in a day.  One of Mike’s tips was “Don’t go to the bathroom during the train trip.  That’s sure to be when someone else will see a Hawk Owl!”

Mike brought along several copies of his book to sell and sign and several members took the opportunity to add this great birding book to their collection.  For anyone who would like to purchase it the book is available at Georgian Bay Books on King St. in Midland.

The next meeting of the group will be Thurs. Feb. 20, 2020, 7:30 PM at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre in Midland.  Don Komorechka, a nature, macro and landscape photographer based in Barrie, ON, will be speaking on “Snowflakes and Exploring the Universe at our Feet”.  Komorechka uses advance camera techniques and the latest technology to explore the science and beauty of snowflakes and other everyday treasures in ways never before possible.  His work has been featured on an episode of David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things, at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, and at the Simcoe County Museum.  One of his snowflake images was made into a $20 coin by the Royal Canadian Mint.