Baillie Birdathon: Report #2

By Michael McMillan Ricky Dunn, David Hussel, their son Jeremy and I were at the Townsend sewage lagoons when Jeremy located a Bobolink in a bush in a nearby pasture. We had decided that we would begin our Birdathon when we saw a good bird and this was it. The time was 12.20 pm and we now had 24 hours to identify as many bird species as possible. As usual these sewage lagoons were productive for ducks and wading birds. The duck species observed were American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail and Wood Duck. The Waders seen were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin and Wilson's Phalarope. In addition, a number of Cliff Swallows feeding on insects were swooping back and forth over the water. A short drive took us to…
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Baillie Birdathon: Report #1

Dear Friends, We almost didn't go. We had been kept awake by violent thunder storms that swept through the area during the night. The weather man was calling for the same throughout the day. However, at the moment (8 am), although the skies were dark with heavy clouds, there was no rain and no wind. The Blue Elephant restaurant in Simcoe had supplied us with water, pop, veggies and tasty wraps so we decided to meet Steve Wilcox at 10 am, as planned, for our annual "Baillie Birdathon". On the way to Long Point heavy fog rolled in from Lake Erie, not quite pea soup, but very thick. We wondered just how many birds we could identify from 30 feet. Things were looking dismal, but the forecasted storms held off. We parked the van across from the banding station and…
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Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Swallowtail Butterflies

By Jenna Siu, Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario Jenna Siu is a M.Sc. Candidate in the Environment and Sustainability Collaborative Program, Department of Biology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario Research was done under the supervision of Dr. Daria Koscinski and Dr. Nusha Keyghobadi. The following is a brief summary of Jenna's research work. Background: In southern Ontario some of the most threatened habitats occur in the Carolinian Zone, where major portions of prairies, savannahs and forests have been destroyed. These changes to the natural landscape have caused habitat loss and fragmentation; the breaking up of habitat into smaller patches creating more edges, or the boundary between two land cover types. Habitat fragmentation has been shown to have harmful impacts on native populations (e.g. the Acadian Flycatcher, the American Badger, and the Grey Ratsnake). To understand how…
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Short-Eared Owl sighting

Charles Welsh and his family, who farm north of Scotland, ON, were surprised one morning recently to find this beautiful Short-eared Owl sitting on their vehicle. The owl had a vole in its talons and seemed unperturbed by the curious humans as it proceeded to eat its supper in plain view. The Short-eared Owl spends its life in the Arctic, along the shores of Hudson Bay, but often winters in southern Ontario where it may occur in small groups.
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Freshwater mussels of Ontario

Those NFN members who braved the snowy roads on November 12, 2013, to attend our regular monthly meeting were treated to a unique presentation in the history of our club (attested to by Harry B. Barrett). Our distinguished guest speaker that evening, Dr. Todd J. Morris, is a Research Scientist with the Great Lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Division of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). He is currently stationed in Burlington, Ontario at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters. He has been studying the unionid fauna of central Canada for the last 19 years. He is currently a member of the Biodiversity Science section of DFO and is responsible for leading DFO’s research program on freshwater mussel Species at Risk. His research focuses on the distributional patterns of aquatic organisms and the relative contribution of biotic and abiotic…
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Wolf – Coyote – Coywolf – Coydog?

By Shelia Smith Trail Cam photos by Alan McKeown Al McKeown has been capturing some interesting images with a trail cam somewhere in Norfolk County. This is the second fall/winter that the sandy-coloured coyote has starred in some of his shots. I thought you would like to see them. There is now quite a bit of variation in both colour and size of these animals in this area. I had one here that looked much like a red wolf. Farmers and hunters in this area have long referred to these atypical coyotes as "brush wolves" or, sometimes, "coydogs." The National Geographic Society came out with a piece indicating that researchers have found wolf DNA in some coyotes. It is thought that as coyotes moved east, some mated with eastern wolves...best known from around Algonquin Park.* These wolves are much smaller…
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Winter birding in Haldimand County

Story and photos by Shelia Smith The moon was sailing in and out of clouds and the wind was howling when I woke on January 20th. It was not a promising looking day to go on a hike to find birds but I'd signed up to go with the Norfolk Field Naturalists to see what we could find. "Well," I thought, "we probably won't see much but it will be an adventure." So I joined the hike leaders, Audrey Heagey and David Okines along with about 20 members and friends of NFN on the Port Dover pier. We exchanged greetings and introductions. A lady, two boys and a dog were feeding the ducks and gulls at the pier. This gave some of the beginning birders in our group a chance to see some common birds up close. Among the Mallards…
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Field Trip to the Niagra Glen with Alan Ladd and Brian Calvert

Story by: Eleanor Chithalen Saturday, April 27th dawned with glorious sunshine and warm temperatures. Alan Ladd anticipated a great turnout for his Niagara gorge hike, since he had invited a crew of Norfolk Field Naturalists, Horticulture Society members and “Discover Norfolk” walkers. Imagine his chagrin when only five locals had joined him in the Walmart parking lot by 9 a.m. We later concluded that all the horticulturalists were hard at their gardens, while the hikers and field naturalists prefer more of a challenge. This observation is borne out by the fact that Alan’s previous Norfolk-to- Niagara trek last fall, in gale-force winds and torrential rain, was well- attended. Atop the gorge in Niagara, we were joined by local expert Brian Calvert. As we descended, he immediately began an erudite explanation of the formation of Niagara’s falls and gorge through the…
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Bats: Facts on the Fly

Compiled from information published by: Bat Conservation Internationals Last October we had the opportunity to hear Lesley Hale from the Ministry of Natural Resources speak on the subject of Ontario's Bats: Conservation Issues and Monitoring Programs. Leslie talked about two recent introductions of environmental threats to bats, wind turbines and white-nose syndrome (WNS) and outlined the conservation strategies for these fascinating night fliers. Eight species of bats are found in this province. Some (those affected by white-nose syndrome) hibernate in caves while others migrate as far as the Gulf of Mexico for our winter. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, some as fast as 35 km an hour. Some Ontario bats can live for 30 years, though most have much shorter lives. They usually have only one or two offspring in a year. How do bats move around…
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Birding in Cuba: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

by: Bernie Solymár My first trip to Cuba was in 2004, as part of a group of Canadian agronomists studying sustainable agriculture methods in Cuba. I was so enthralled with the wonderful habitats and biodiversity of the island that I contacted Luis and Yane, the company’s Cuban directors (now living in Toronto) to see about organizing nature-based tours. Eight years later, and several more visits as a tour leader, and I have thoroughly fallen for this tropical jewel that has been largely stalled in time for the past 50 years. Away from the white sand beaches and opulent resorts, there are numerous natural parks and nature reserves, as well as other natural areas that lend themselves to once-in-a-lifetime birding and other nature-related activities. Canadians Graham Gibson and Margaret Atwood discovered several decades ago that birding in this largest tropical island…
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