Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Nature Story – A Peril of Owling

By: Pip Winters

It was a clear, crisp night, about 4C .There were a few wispy clouds when we set off owling. We headed for an area west of Hopetown contained in our Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas square. It seemed prime owl territory- wetland surrounded by spruce and cedar.

Using the atlas tape recording that features screech owl and barred owl calls, we made our first stop as dusk set in. Frogs were croaking but nothing else. No response to the calls.

Our second stop was about 1 km away. We heard owls as soon as we stopped the car. Two barred owls were calling but they were going further away from us. We hastily set up the “boom box” on top of the car…silence…screech owl(tape)….silence….barred owl(tape)………silence. Suddenly, the barred owls were calling back and coming closer. Barred owl (tape) again.

I was positioned by the car and my partner about 20 feet up the road. I looked NW through a corridor of trees and saw a dark shadow of wings coming towards me. Instinctively I put my hands over my head and ducked.

I heard a whoosh of wings and saw the owl circle and land in a tree across the road from me. Seconds later another owl landed near the first. We held our breath. The owls “chatted” to each other for a minute. Paul moved closer and one owl changed its position. I shone my flashlight under the first owl to get a better look. Another minute and they both flew noiselessly away. What a breathtaking experience!

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Nature Notebook – Tin Can Tree

By: Jeff Mills

As I migrate westward along Highway 7,
vulture sails in the first heat,
rocks and marsh shield the airways
over this land and its yard sale economy,
a red Studebaker glides by
called by a yellowthroat at the blueberry stand
Whitchety, witchety, whitchety…

tin can tree and a rubber boot bush

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Nature Notebook – The Gatherer

By: Chris Hume

Written while on a nature hike in Pakenham backwoods trail

Into the woods I go

It’s a place that is good for my soul

Along the path I roam

I really feel at home…

Alone, but not lonely

I feel at peace and enjoy the sounds

Of birds and wildlife all around

What’s this I see beside a tree?

A gnarly piece of bark, some lovely moss,

Some small pine cones, nature’s loss…

Is my gain!

As I gather and wander

I feel at peace and whole again.

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Nature Notebook – Birding Notes

By: Chris Hume

Here is poem that I wrote this summer after coming back from a wonderful nature volunteer trip.

Pat Matheson and I really enjoyed helping with the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas work – we learned a LOT!

It was a great group consisting of 5 volunteers, 2 co-leaders and 2 birding experts (Larry and Diane) from the Lambton Wildlife group in Sarnia. We camped (for 5 nights) at Lake St. Peter Provincial park (in between Bancroft and Whitney) and had two beautiful lakeside campsites. The first day we all went out together – to be introduced to doing point counts and to learn about the work that we would be helping with. After that we had a wake up call each morning at 4:30 am – we then grabbed breakfast “to go” and were generally out and starting to work between 5:30 and 6 am. We would meet back at the camp between 12 noon and 1 pm. Then we could prepare a fabulous brunch/lunch. We could canoe/swim/hike and/or do more birding in the afternoon. Then the evening would be taken up in with meal preparations and fantastic conversations!!!

Sadly Diane Haselmayer – a Lambton Wildlife member and one of the leaders of our trip in June died suddenly in Peru August 30th. This poem was greatly inspired by Diane and my experiences doing thet Breeding Bird Atlas work.

Birding Notes

I used to think you had to see
The Cardinal, Bluebird or Chickadee

But recently I learned something profound
That you can walk in the woods and know birds by their sound

Next time you hear “Quick… Three Beers”
You’ll know that the Olive-Sided Flycatcher is near

Or “Here I am.. Where are you?” again and again
And it will be the Red-eyed Vereo nine times out of ten

A quick “Whippity whippity whipit”
And you’re sure to find the Common Yellow Throat in a nearby thicket

A little chipping all around
And it could be the White-Throated Sparrow making this sound

But with a little pishing you could be surprised
By a Black Throated Blue appearing before your eyes

A melodious sparkling song in a glen?
It can only be the lovely Winter Wren

A quick short “Mew” in a tree
And the Catbird has let you know that it is he

Oh and a “pee a wee” you hear from afar
Is the Eastern Wood Peewee Flycatcher singing a few bars

It’s time to bring this birding notes poem to an end
So I can go out on the trail to make some more bird friends!

By Chris Hume

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Rare Black-headed Grosbeak sighting in Pakenham

Rare bird alert!

Black Headed GrossBeak (photographed by Andrew Keaveney of Toronto)Nov. 28/03 A first winter male BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK has been seen coming to a feeder in the Pakenham area for approximately one week — a first for Eastern Ontario! It was seen November 28, at around 3:30 pm. This bird is coming to a feeder at the property of Bob and Iris Jurmain and it is requested that anyone interested in seeing this bird please call ahead to arrange a visit. The phone number is 613-256-0160.

Updates from Bob and Iris Jurmain

Dec. 11/03 Our friend has not arrived at the feeder for 2 full days. Prior to that he often came when Evening Grosbeaks were at the feeder so perhaps he is hanging out with his new friends. The modifications to the feeder were quite successful. The heating pad between the boards and the SM made for a warm base and the heat lamp heated up the felt covered perch and seeds. The last time we saw him he was actually standing with both feet even though it was quite cold outside. The weather is supposed to turn cold again soon (what else is new?) and perhaps he will return. Until then, I am not encouraging anyone to visit our house. I’ll report as soon as he returns, if he does. The consensus among birders is that he is staying here for the winter but perhaps he is continuing on his mistaken direction.

Dec. 6/03 We’ve received about 70 birders so far, most from southern Ontario. I’m continually canvasing for ideas as to what we can do to help him survive and many good suggestions have been made. We have a heat lamp on the seeds, SM insulation under the feeder and tomorrow I will put felt on the perch and a heating pad between the SM and the boards. The main concern at this time is his feet which Mike Runtz told me was not adapted to this kind of cold. He is continually standing on one or another of his feet while feeding. While perched we can see he crouches down and covers his feet with feathers so it may not be a problem when he is away from the feeder.

We also discovered an Indian Meal Worm (moth) in our sunflower seeds after being warned to freeze our seeds before bringing them inside. This is a very invasive critter that we didn’t know about before. We are experiencing a steep learning curve with all these visitor-experts.

We had a little excitement today with a visiting Sharp-shinned Hawk (juvenile). With the extra feeding and goodies, we have had a slight increase of bird activity and hence someone else looking for a meal of another sort. I didn’t think bringing my .22 rifle out would go over too well with 10 birders watching and photographing but that’s what I felt like doing. Our grosbeak did not come to the feeder until later than usual and did not stay as long each time. Perhaps the hawk had been around all day and he was being a little cautious. The extra seeds are also been enjoyed by at least one deer at night. So far, everyone has seen the bird save one who came on the one day he didn’t show up.

About the Black-Headed Grosbeak

The Black-headed Grosbeak is a resident of the American southwest and is a summer breeder in the lower interior and coastline of British Columbia. A bit larger than our summer rose-breasted grosbeak, the male’s head, back, neck and wings are black and the breast and around the neck is cinnamon brown. It has two white wing bars. The adult female looks like our female rose-breasted except the breast is buffy brown.The bird at the Jurmain’s feeder is a juvenile male, like the female but with a more cinnamon brown breast with fine streaking towards the belly. A key indicator is the beak, which is dark on the upper mandible and light on the lower.

The Jurmain bird is a record for this part of the continent.

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