Reptile Trivia

The largest (i.e. longest) snake found in Norfolk County (and Ontario) is the endangered and very rare Gray Ratsnake which can grow to a maximum length of 2.5 metres (8 feet). Also endangered, the Eastern Foxsnake can grow to 1.7 metres in length (over 5 1⁄2 feet). The smallest snake in Norfolk County (and Ontario) is the tiny Red-bellied Snake. This species reaches a maximum length of 40cm (16 inches). The more common DeKay’s Brownsnake can be slightly larger, with a maximum length of 50cm (20 inches). The non-venomous Eastern Foxsnake, Gray Ratsnake and Milksnake (special concern) will all vibrate their tails when threatened. These constrictors are excellent at rodent control. The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is found in sandy parts of Norfolk County and, despite its theatrics, is also harmless to humans. When threatened, it may puff out and flatten…
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In Memoriam: Alex Landon & Barbara Browne

This summer the Norfolk Field Naturalists lost two of our Founding Members. Alex Landon The Landon family is a long-time supporter of the NFN. Monroe Landon, one of the founders, Alex & Doris, and son Zeb, have all served in volunteer capacities within our Club. We would like to convey our deepest condolences to the Landon family, and sincerely appreciate being named the charity for donations in honour of Alex’s life. The Norfolk Field Naturalists wish to recognize with gratitude all those who made donations in the memory of Alex Landon on behalf of this organization: Barbara Browne (Mrs. B. W. Anderson) Her long-time involvement with NFN includes the original designs for the Dogwood logo and the Lotus on the newsletter, an expression of her artistic talent and love of nature. We extend our deepest sympathy to the Browne family,…
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Conserving Endangered Reptiles

By: Inga Hinnerichsen / Gregor Beck January 25, 2014, brought blizzard conditions making road travel impossible or very hazardous at best. The Reptiles At Risk Advanced Workshop had to be postponed, although a handful of hardy souls had braved the conditions to attend this event. The rescheduled event was staged instead on August 6th at the Backus Conservation Education Centre, presented by Scales Nature Park in partnership with Long Point Basin Land Trust (LPBLT), Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA) and Norfolk Field Naturalists (NFN). Roughly 50 reptile enthusiasts of all ages attended the event. The presenters from Scales Nature Park, Kelsey Crawford, Miranda Virtanen and Damien Millen gave an outline on all Ontario reptiles and their conservation status. At the end of the evening the participants had the rare opportunity to acquaint themselves hands-on with many live snakes and…
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Causeway Project update

By Rick Levick Plans to install up to nine more wildlife culverts under the Long Point Causeway are moving ahead now that the Environment Assessment has been completed without any comments or objections from the public. The project will move forward to final design, permitting and tendering over the next couple of months. Construction of up to six of the nine proposed culverts is planned for October or November this year. Stephen Burnett and Associates (SBA), the consulting engineers for the first three culverts installed in 2012, prepared the EA report for Norfolk County. The entire cost of the EA report and related studies has been paid for by the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation with funding received from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) and Ontario’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund (SARSF). As well, the annual monitoring of…
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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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