Oct 232017


 October 28 – For the second time this week, a Cooper’s Hawk was in my yard today. I knew it was around because a couple of dozen Mourning Doves flew out of the spruce tree they roost in.  Sue Paradisis

Cooper’s Hawk on Rock Pigeon – Helen Nicolaides Keller


 Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (2)
– Reported Oct 28, 2017 11:59 by Iain Rayner
– Pigeon Lake–Sandy Point, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Dirtyish cheeks and neck, long bill”

Red-necked Grebe. The grebe in the lower right is in winter plumage. – Wikimedia

October 27 – I had four Red-shouldered Hawks here at home today, plus nine Red-tailed Hawks, and one  Sharp-shinned Hawk for my hours sitting out in between chopping wood. The Red-shouldered Hawks were three adults and one immature, and the Red-tailed Hawks were about half and half. The Sharp-shinned Hawk? Couldn’t tell – a bit too high. For a little while at least, it was hopping around the sky here!! No more Monarchs since #532 on October 26 at Nephton. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a November sighting, but if I am going to, I’ll bet it will be this year. This last week of October is certainly the best week of the year, not only to count Red-tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles, but also Red-shouldered Hawks, as well. I am glad to be getting out and looking up.  Tim Dyson, Warsaw

Red-shouldered Hawk – Karl Egressy


Monarch – Saw a Monarch today, October 26, on Nephton Ridge, near Petroglyph Provincial Park. Was gliding southward about 50′ above ground despite temperature around 8C!  Drew Monkman

Monarch Butterfly – Terry Carpenter

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Oct 27, 2017 07:50 by Scott Gibson
– Downtown – MNR Building, Peterborough, Ontario

Peregrine – often seen on MNR Bldg & sometimes clock tower in downtown Peterborough (Rick Stankiewicz)

Mallard: Here’s a photo of a leucistic (lacking normal pigment) Mallard photographed this summer near Whitaker Street, west of Armour Street North in Peterborough. The bird departed in early October. We nick-named the bird “Miss Vicky”!  Gord Young

Leucistic mallard – Whitaker Mills, Ptbo – summer 2017 – Gord Young

American Robin:  Watched a small flock today, October 23, feeding on abundant berry-like cones of Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginia) at Roper Park –  Drew Monkman

Robin feeding on E. Red Cedar berries at Roper Park 2017-10-23 – Drew Monkman

Berry-like cones of Eastern Red Cedar – Sept. 19, 2017 – PRHC – Drew Monkman










Carolina Wren:  Turned up at my feeder today, October 23.  Phil McKeating, Creekwood Drive, near Harper Park in Peterborough


Carolina Wren (Wikimedia)

Black Scoter (Melanitta americana) (2)
– Reported Oct 23, 2017 07:44 by Iain Rayner
– Pigeon Lake–Sandy Point, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Female type. Black ducks with pale cheek”

Black Scoter – Crossley ID Guide of Eastern Birds – Wikimedia


Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) (1)
– Reported Oct 22, 2017 10:45 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “calling (‘crick’) from high in Red Pine then in flight W over beaver pond; W side entrance loop road around 250 m N of locked gate at CR 56.”

Black-backed Woodpecker – Wikimedia

Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) (1)
– Reported Oct 22, 2017 08:25 by Brian Wales
– Peterborough Landfill Wetland Project ponds, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “white goose with clear grinning patch along beak”

SNGO – Rice L. – Oct. 18, 2014 -Ron Mackay


Oct. 22 – Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) (1)
– Reported Oct 22, 2017 07:06 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Yard – Bear Creek Rd, Peterborough, Ontario

Red Crossbill – male – Wikimedia

Oct 222017

Just had to share this with someone who would appreciate it! I live in Peterborough at 29 Weller Crescent. Today, October 22, at around 11:00 am, a Pileated Woodpecker landed on the chain link fence and ate the berries from the Virginia Creeper. I was able to watch him for a couple of minutes, and got to within about 20 feet. I was so struck by the perfect colour swatch on his head and the lines on his face. I don’t remember ever seeing one in the 22 years we have lived here. What a gift on a beautiful day! Now, back to cutting down the buckthorns in the woodsy back part of the yard!  Cathy Gogo

We always have Pileated Woodpeckers around our place on Buckhorn Lake. Usually they are on the cedar trees and all those trees are still standing with many holes in them. Tonight, October 6, they were on the maple trees. Curious as to why, but obviously they are finding insects. Wondering how healthy those trees are? Derry Fairweather, Buckhorn Lake
Note: I suspect there are carpenter ants in the maples. This doesn’t mean the trees are dying, however. D.M.

Pileated Woodpecker on maple – Oct. 2017 – Derry Fairweather

Oct 212017

Oct. 21 – Narrow-winged Tree Cricket – Rob Tonus found this very late tree cricket on the grass beside the Rotary-Greenway Trail, just south of Nichol’s Oval Park. Note the reddish cap. This species sings at only at night, producing a mellow trill of variable length (usually 2-10 seconds). It is reminiscent of an American Toad. Drew Monkman

Narrow-winged Tree Cricket (Oecanthus niveus) 2 – Nichol’s Oval – Oct. 21, 2017 – D. Monkman


Oct 21 – Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) (1)
– Reported Oct 21, 2017 15:44 by Warren Dunlop
– Peterborough Landfill Wetland Project ponds, Peterborough, Ontario
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “adult, white morph”

Snow Geese (Marcel Boulay)


October 20 – Monarch butterfly – I saw a very late Monarch today on County Road 16 at Edenderry Line. This is my latest date ever. There were also 10 Wild Turkeys in the same field.  Drew Monkman

Monarch on Boneset flowers – Drew Monkman

Opossum:  Recently, I found the remains of an Opossum – skin still intact – in our backyard. There were a couple of tufts of skin and hair nearby, so I am thinking our neighbours cat dispatched of it but didn’t like the taste! Our neighbour, directly behind us, found one on his property (also dead) one week before. Our neighbour at the end of our sub-division (Simons)..off Simons Ave. (off Chemong Rd.) saw a live one a short time ago and another neighbour saw one as well. On another topic, we have a variety of different birds in our sub-division from time to time, including 12 American Robins or so that stay all winter for a few years now…We did have frogs and toads but the frogs have gradually disappeared from view in the last few years. The strip of woods behind our sub-division and behind McDonald’s, adjacent to our sub-division and below the hill/tower behind Sobey’s, had or have coyotes and an occasional deer or fox are spotted from these areas. Sadly, not commonly known, we will be subject to more houses taking up the 25 acres in those areas mentioned by the year 2022. We are on wells yet with no benefits…but we too will feel the loss of land and habitat, its animal inhabitants and maybe our health as well.  Gloria Lamond

An opossum photographed in Ennismore several years ago











October 20 – Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) (1)
– Reported Oct 20, 2017 08:02 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Calling and then finaly seen moveing through hedgerow. Well seen from close distance. Black back head and tail, rusty sides. White patch on wing and white either side of tail”

Eastern Towhee – Karl Egressy

October 17 – Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (1)
– Reported Oct 17, 2017 20:00 by Michael Mechan
– James McLean Oliver Ecological Centre, Peterborough, Ontario

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Dave Heuft)

October 15 – Just looked out the window and there were Chipping Sparrows everywhere. I was counting and at 18 when the White-throats came back again and I gave up. They are loving the spruce and birch seeds.    Sue Paradisis

Chipping Sparrow – Karl Egressy



October 14  – American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) (1)
– Reported Oct 14, 2017 17:23 by Amie MacDonald
– Peterborough–Loggerhead Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario

American Pipit (from The Crossley ID Guide of Eastern Birds)

October 14 – Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) (3)
– Reported Oct 14, 2017 09:23 by Chris Risley
– Trent University: N. end of DNA building, Peterborough, Ontario

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia


October 11 – Virginia Opossum

On or about this date, Hugh Kidd trapped and released a Virginia Opossum at the east end of the 7th Line of Selwyn, near the Otonabee River. Report via Leo Conlin

Opossum on Johnston Drive, south of Peterborough – Mary Beth Aspinall – Feb. 2014

Oct 192017

Bird numbers and diversity at feeders at feeders depends on wild seed abundance

If you’ve been paying attention to coniferous trees this fall, you’ve probably noticed the abundance of cones on many species. Cedars and spruce, for example, have produced an especially heavy crop. The quantity of seed on sugar maples, too, is of epic proportions, most likely in response to last summer’s drought. In fact, the maples put so much energy into manufacturing seeds that the leaves on many trees never grew to their normal size.

The relative abundance of seed has a ripple effect on other species, as well. For instance, it goes a long way to telling us what birds are most likely to keep us company in the coming months. Anyone who feeds or watches birds knows that the relative abundance and diversity of species varies widely from one winter to the next. Last year, for example, thousands of robins overwintered in the Kawarthas. This was largely due to an abundance of wild grape. American goldfinches and purple finches were also very common. Other species, such as pine siskins, were almost completely absent.

The fluctuation in winter bird abundance is most noticeable in a group known as winter or northern finches. The term is used to describe highly nomadic species like redpolls, siskins, purple finches and pine grosbeaks, all of which belong to the Fringillidae family. Some winters, they don’t show up at all, while other years there are so many that they empty your feeder in only a day or two.

Northern finches move south – or sometimes east or west – in late fall when there is a shortage of seeds in their breeding range, which extends across Canada’s boreal forest. Seeds come in many forms. These include berries (e.g., mountain-ash), catkins (e.g., birch) and cones (e.g., spruce). In the case of cones, the seeds are located under the scales. The key seeds affecting finch movements are those of white and yellow birches, alders, American mountain-ashes, pines and spruces. If seed crops are good in the boreal forest, the birds usually stay put. If food is lacking, they will sometimes fly thousands of kilometres to find it. Whether they actually choose to spend the winter in central Ontario and the Kawarthas depends mainly on the abundance of seed crops here.

Since the fall of 1999, Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists has prepared an annual forecast of what winter finch species are most likely to make an appearance in southern and central Ontario during the coming fall and winter. The forecast is based on information he collects on the relative abundance of seed crops in the boreal forest. According to Pittaway, cone crops across northeastern North America are of bumper proportions this year – maybe the best in a decade or more. Given the amount of food available, this should be a banner winter to see cone-loving species such as pine siskins and both white-winged and red crossbills. The big question, however, is whether these birds will concentrate in only some areas or be spread out across the entire northeast.

Finch forecasts

1. Pine Siskins – Siskins should be common in the Kawarthas this winter, drawn here primarily by the abundant cone crops on spruce. They will almost certainly turn up at nyger seed feeders, as well.

2. Common Redpoll – Redpolls, too, are likely to put in an appearance. The birch and alder seed crops on which they depend are below average in northern Ontario, so they won’t be hanging around. However, this southbound movement may be slowed or stopped as soon as they discover adequate food supplies. If redpolls do make it to the Kawarthas, good local birch seed crops and an abundance of weedy fields should keep them here. You can also expect them at your nyger seed feeder. If a flock of redpolls graces your backyard, watch for small numbers of hoary redpolls. They tend to be larger, paler and smaller-billed than common redpolls.

3. Crossbills – Thanks to the crossed tips of the upper and lower mandibles of their bill,   crossbills are able to specialize in removing seeds from beneath the scales of conifer cones. Red crossbills prefer pine cones, while white-winged crossbills are attracted mostly to spruce, tamarack and hemlock. There should be a good showing of red crossbills in central Ontario in the coming weeks and months. In fact, many will probably take time to breed, despite the snow and cold. Both species of crossbills are able to nest at any time of the year if food is abundant. Watch for streaked juvenile birds.

Red crossbills are of particular interest to scientists who study evolution. Research suggests that there are nine or ten discrete populations, each of which specializes in a different conifer species. They do not interbreed and may represent different species. Careful examination shows differences in body size and in the length of the bill tip (degree of “crossing”). Most types are impossible to identify, however, without analyzing recordings of their flight calls. Matt Young, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, is studying red crossbills and needs your help. He is asking people to use their smartphone to record the birds’ flight calls and to send him the recordings at may6@cornell.edu He will then identify which of the populations the birds belong to and let you know.

White-winged crossbills move east and west like a pendulum across North America, searching for bumper cone crops. Large numbers have already arrived in parts of the northeast, where they’ve been gorging on spruce seeds. There’s a good possibility that they will also turn up in the Kawarthas, too, and probably right here in Peterborough. Watch and listen for their loud trilling songs given from tree tops and during circular, slow-flapping display flights. Algonquin Park, however, is usually the best place to see these birds. Both red and white-winged are often observed right on Highway 60, where they glean grit and salt from winter road maintenance operations. Unfortunately, crossbills rarely come to feeders.

4. Pine Grosbeak – Most pine grosbeaks will probably stay put this winter, since the mountain-ash berry crop is abundant across the north. A few might get south to Algonquin Park, but they are unlikely to turn up in the Kawarthas. When they do make an incursion into central Ontario, they usually found feeding on European mountain-ash and ornamental crabapples. Considered the most beautiful of the boreal finches, pine grosbeaks can be surprisingly tame.

5. Evening Grosbeak – Most evening grosbeaks are expected to remain in the north this winter. However, you can usually see grosbeaks by checking out the feeders at the Visitor Centre in Algonquin Park. In 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) declared the evening grosbeak as a species of Special Concern due to worrisome population declines.

6. Purple finch – Most purple finches will stay north this winter, thanks to the heavy seed crops on conifers and mountain-ashes. They usually appear at my feeder in early fall, but this year I’ve haven’t seen any. An easy way to tell purple finches from look-alike house finches is by checking the tip of the tail; the former has a distinctly notched or slightly forked tail, whereas the house finch’s tail is squared off. Both species prefer black oil sunflower seeds at feeders.

Non-finch species

1. Blue Jay – Thanks to a good crop of acorns, beechnuts and hazelnuts, large numbers of blue jays will probably remain in the Kawarthas this fall and winter. I am already noticing above-average numbers.

2. Red-breasted nuthatch: Like many of the finches, this species depends primarily on conifer seeds. Pittaway is therefore predicting large numbers in central Ontario this winter. This was certainly the case on Thanksgiving weekend at Big Gull Lake, south of Bon Echo Provincial Park. Red-breasted nuthatches were by far the most common bird.

3. Bohemian waxwing: Most bohemians should stay in the north, because of the large berry crop on American mountain-ash. That being said, we almost always see at least a few flocks of this species in the Kawarthas every winter. This may be partly due to the local abundance of European buckthorn, a non-native shrub that produces a large berry crop every year. Bohemian waxwings are also attracted to European mountain-ash and ornamental crabapples.

4. American robins:  Although not part of Pittaway’s forecast, I suspect that robin numbers will be low this winter, given the poor crop of wild grape. Last year, thousands of robins overwintered here and gorged themselves primarily on abundant wild grapes.

The best way to stay on top of bird movements across Ontario is to subscribe to Ontbirds. You will receive a daily digest of sightings. Sign up at ontbirds.ca/mailman/listinfo/birdalert_ontbirds.ca To follow what’s happening locally, I recommend using eBird. When you go to the website, click on “Explore Data” and then “Explore a Region”. Type in “Peterborough, Ontario”. Choose “Current Year” and then click on “Set”. You will see an up-to-date list of all species seen in the area. By clicking on “Species Name”, the birds will appear in the same order as in your field guide. By clicking on the date, you will see where the bird was seen, along with other species observed at the same location.

Project FeederWatch

If you feed birds, you can support research and conservation by taking part in Project FeederWatch. Simply count the kinds and numbers of birds at your feeder, and then submit your observations. This information helps scientists study winter bird populations. To register, go to birdscanada.org/volunteer/pfw/ or call Bird Studies Canada at 1-888-448-2473.





Oct 132017

11 October 2017 – Project FeederWatch celebrated its 30th anniversary last winter, thanks to dedicated participants who observe birds at their feeders. The information collected through this project over three decades allows scientists to measure important changes in North America’s winter bird populations over time. All are invited to join in this fun and easy activity, and help Project FeederWatch achieve even more!

Since Project FeederWatch began, more than 69,000 participants have counted more than 142 million birds and submitted over 2.5 million checklists. This wealth of information has allowed researchers at Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to track impacts of climate change on bird communities, incidence of disease in wild birds, bird population declines and expansions, and other significant topics. Nearly 30 scientific papers have been published using data from Project FeederWatch.

Project FeederWatch also provides learning opportunities and enjoyment to its community of volunteers. Catherine Swan of Brantford, ON, wrote: “I have been doing FeederWatch since it began and have enjoyed every year. My whole family is now hooked on identifying birds and counting them. Thanks for the fun!” If you have a bird feeder or yard that attracts birds, why not pursue an interest in these fascinating animals while contributing to a valuable North America-wide project?

Through an annual registration of $35, participants fund Project FeederWatch – it’s free for Bird Studies Canada members. Canadian participants receive a subscription to BSC’s magazine BirdWatch Canada, a poster of common feeder birds, a calendar, last season’s results, and access to online data tools. Bird Studies Canada and Cornell Lab of Ornithology also share expert advice to help participants identify, understand, and look after feeder birds.

To join, visit www.birdscanada.org/feederwatch or contact the Canadian coordinator at 1-888-448-2473 or pfw@birdscanada.org. In the United States, call 1-866-989-2473.

Armstrong Bird Food and Wild Birds Unlimited are national sponsors of Project FeederWatch in Canada. The partnerships aim to inspire more Canadians to discover the fun of FeederWatch and the importance of Citizen Science.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of Bird Studies Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Oct 122017

Everything from climate change to invasive species are threatening our lakes, rivers and fish populations

Slowly but steadily, the lakes and rivers of the Kawarthas are changing. The abundance and variety of fish populations are undergoing a transformation that could make them unrecognizable in a few short decades. This week, I’d like to provide an overview of some of these trends.

Climate change

Climate change may be the single largest factor influencing the future of fish populations – not just in the Kawarthas, but across the planet. According to Climate Change Research Report CCRR-16, prepared by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2010, most of the Kawarthas is expected to warm from an annual mean temperature of about 6.4 C (1971-2000) to approximately 7.7 C (2011- 2040), 9.2 C (2041-2070) and 11.4 C (2071-2100). Although annual precipitation is not expected to change significantly, extreme precipitation events will be more common as Windsor, Kingston and Hamilton learned this year. To put the change into context, in just 25 years the Kawarthas could have the same climate that Windsor does today. By the 2080s, it could feel like we’re living in present-day southern Pennsylvania.

Warmer temperatures and increased evaporation will lead to warmer lakes and rivers, lower water levels, altered stream flow patterns and decreased water quality. The structure of existing fish communities will also change, as the productive capacity for warmwater fish species (e.g. bass, muskellunge) is likely to increase, while coolwater fish species (e.g. walleye) will struggle to survive here. Changes to water temperature will likely alter the timing of fish migrations, as well as spawning and hatching times. These conditions will probably allow non-native fish like round gobies to thrive and out-compete native species for resources. There will likely be an increase in the types and abundance of other invasive species, too, such as zebra mussel, Eurasian water-milfoil, frog-bit and fanwort. Climate change will also compound the impacts of other stressors, including pollution, industrial development, dams and habitat loss. There’s a sobering article in the Globe and Mail this week (October 10) about how climate change is already having a multiplier affect by exacerbating human impacts – industrial activity, for example – on the Mackenzie River watershed.

Invasive species

Invasive species influence both the productive capacity of our lakes and the makeup of the fish community. Specific impacts are different for each invading species. Round gobies, for example, reduce fish diversity through competition with, and predation on, other fish species.

The spread of zebra mussels has increased water clarity as their feeding behaviour filters plankton from the water column. This, in turn, decreases the nutrients available to lower levels of the food chain, which reduces the overall productive capacity of a water body. The result is more favourable conditions for species like bass and less favourable conditions for walleye. These large-eyed fish evolved to live and hunt in more turbid water conditions. Therefore, when the water becomes clearer, walleye lose their competitive feeding advantage over other fish species.


Many fish diseases can also be considered within the context of invasive species. These include parasites, viruses and bacteria. For example, during the summers of 2007 and 2008, bacterial infections and Koi Herpesvirus (KHV) caused the deaths of tens of thousands of carp in the Trent-Severn Waterway. These were the first confirmed cases of KHV in Ontario. KHV disease is caused by a virus that affects only carp, goldfish and koi. Another disease, viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), had big impact on muskellunge several years ago.

Fishing pressure

Overfishing, too, is a serious threat to certain fish stocks. Although it’s hard to quantify, anecdotal reports of people flaunting fish regulations are widespread. Population growth in southern Ontario and the completion of Highway 407 to Highway 115 will also increase the pressure on fish stocks as anglers from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond will be able to travel to the Kawarthas more easily.

We may already be seeing a number of these threats combining to  reduce lake trout populations in the Haliburton area. There are now far fewer lake trout in most of the Haliburton lakes, and those trout that are caught are usually small. A number of factors appear to be in play: competition from thriving populations of warmwater species like rock bass and yellow perch; the arrival of northern pike into some of the lakes; increasingly warm water temperatures which, in summer, reduce the amount of deep water oxygen available to trout and, in the other seasons, disrupt reproduction; and greater summer and winter fishing pressure on many of the lakes.

Species at risk

The Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List is the official list of endangered, threatened, special concern and extirpated animals and plants in Ontario. The following fish are currently listed as species at risk in the Kawarthas and south to Lake Ontario.

1. Channel Darter (Threatened): A member of the perch family,  the channel darter only measures  three to seven centimetres in length. An isolated population still exists in the Trent River. They are threatened by soil washing into the river from nearby urban and agricultural areas and by invasive fish species.

2. American eel (Endangered):  These long, snake-like fish once supported a multi-million-dollar fishery in Ontario. They have historically been documented in the Trent River and as far inland as Rice Lake. Despite its name, there is no actual proof yet that eels existed in Eel’s Creek. American eels are threatened by dams and other in-water barriers, which prevent access to feeding and spawning areas.

3. River redhorse (Special Concern) The river redhorse is a thick-bodied sucker with a prominent snout and a reddish tail fin. They have been documented in the Trent River. Like eels, they are threatened by dams, which inhibit spawning migrations. Increased siltation and water turbidity from farming and urban development are also a threat.

4. Lake sturgeon (Threatened):  This long-lived species is the largest strictly freshwater fish in Canada. When European settlers arrived here, sturgeon occurred  throughout the Trent River system. They may also have been present in the Kawartha Lakes, although this has not yet been verified. In recent years, this species has only been found in the Lower Trent River, where a spawning population exists at Dam 1 in Trenton. A large dead sturgeon was found south of Glen Ross in 2010. Historically, over-fishing was the main cause of population decline. Now, habitat degradation and the presence of dams pose the greatest threats. Please report any sturgeon sightings to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Fewer anglers  

The number of active anglers in Canada is decreasing. According to federal government recreational angling surveys, more than one in five Canadians fished for sport in 1975; by 2010 the number was about one in ten. This may be because over 80 percent of Canadians now live in cities and have fewer opportunities to get out fishing. The decrease in the number of kids who fish is especially acute, dropping from about 1.75 million in 1990 to less than 50,000 in 2010. As fewer people fish, there is less awareness of the depletion of fish stocks and less concern for the health of our lakes. As Alanna Mitchell writes in the current issue of “Cottage Life” magazine, “a whole fishing generation has gone missing.”


Although many of the threats affecting fish populations demand collective action by governments at a global level – climate change and invasive species for example – there are things that individuals can do.

1. If you are an angler, throw back any large fish you catch. It’s simple: large fish are a lake or river’s brood stock and critical to self-sustaining fish populations.

2. If you own property, leave shoreline vegetation and woody debris like large logs in place. If necessary, restore native plants. Trees and shrubs that shade the water are a boon to fish stressed by warmer lakes. Refrain from mowing the lawn to the water’s edge.

3. Speak out. Right now, for example, brook trout in Peterborough’s Harper Creek are threatened by the casino development and the Harper Road realignment. Let your councillor know that everything possible must be done to protect this population.

4. Take your kids fishing. A new generation of anglers will assure a strong voice for conversation.

5. Learn more about the fascinating lives of the fish themselves. One way to do this is by taking your family fish-watching. Lock 19 in Peterborough is a great location to see large schools of spawning walleye in April, along with abundant white suckers. Go to the downstream base of the lock in the evening and shine a flashlight into the water. Watch for the bright eye-shine from the walleye’s large eyes.

I also recommend visiting Corbett’s dam in Port Hope to see rainbow trout in the spring and salmon in late summer. Another great way to see fish is to slowly paddle along shallow shorelines in June to look for bass or sunfish nests. The fish sweep out circular patches and then guard the nests once eggs have been laid. Often, these nests are visible from docks. You might even want to invest in an Aqua-Vu underwater camera to watch live underwater footage of fish from a boat or the water’s edge. You can also take photos and videos. The camera provides a fascinating up-close glimpse into the private lives of fish. Go to http://bit.ly/2xwNFIt for a video of the camera in action.

As much as anything, protection of fish populations requires a critical mass of people who spend time outside on our lakes and rivers – whether it’s through fishing, fish-watching, canoeing or other nature-based activities – and who value these amazing ecosystems.







Oct 122017

October 10: I had my first two Dark-eyed Juncos today. Sue Paradisis, Peterborough

Dark-eyed Junco by Marcel Boulay

October 9: Today there was a Peregrine at the Buckhorn Lock. I was travelling south when it flew over the bridge at handrail height and landed in a tree about ten feet away from the east (lower Buckhorn) side of the bridge. Have other people seen that one or do you think it was passing through?  David Beaucage Johnson, Curve Lake

Peregrine – Karl Egressy

October 6: I have been hearing this annoying screeching coming from my maple tree out front in the evening for the past few weeks. It started during a hot weather spell in mid-September, and hasn’t stopped since. It starts soon after the sun sets and lasts all night, until the break of dawn. I thought at first it was some kind of bird, but after doing some research, I found that it is, in fact, an insect: a Common True Katydid. Hard to believe a bug can make such a loud, annoying noise, but apparently katydids do. The odd thing is that we live much farther north than what I thought was the katydid’s usual range…we live on the outskirts of Ottawa, about 40km to the East. In any event, I have attached a sound clip I took this evening (be sure to turn up the volume, I didn’t have the record volume at maximum when I recorded the clip). Although it’s annoying, I feel a little sad for the poor thing. I do believe he may be calling for a mate, but I doubt he’ll find one this far from home. Lynne Laviolette-Snyder, Embrun, ON (near Ottawa)

Common True Katydid (Wikimedia)

October 8: I spotted a Blue-spotted Salamander on a piece of armour stone at the waters edge on the upper portion of Buckhorn Lake last night. The worm on the hook was not me trying to catch the salamander; it was for reference.  We were catching crayfish.  I saw the salamander at 10 pm last night. It was approximately 9″ in length with blue spots all over its body but mainly on the tail, feet and lower portion of body.  Shawn Filteau

Blue-spotted Salamander – Shawn Filteau



Oct 122017

Happy to report that between October 5th to 7th we were able to deliver twenty-three Snapping Turtle hatchlings to shallow muddy areas on our stretch of the Indian River. But the event was puzzling in a couple of ways.

Back on July 1st we witnessed an adult Snapping Turtle in our gravelled turning circle spend at least an hour, probably more, excavating a hole and laying her eggs. Although we couldn’t see the eggs from our vantage point in the house, we observed her finally swinging side to side, bracing herself using front feet and tail as she covered in the hole with her hind feet. We protected the site with chicken wire weighed down with stone on all sides, and so far this covered site shows no indication of disturbance or any natural breakout. However, on October 5th after spotting a number of hatchlings wandering around on the gravelled turning circle and driveway, we identified the source and it was one totally unknown to us: – a small hole about four inches wide, which was about 18 feet away from the protected area. It was from here that we could see hatchlings emerging.

All the hatchlings that we found had absorbed their sacs. Only one looked very poorly but after a while perked up while it was sitting in a shallow tray with some water. Apart from the twenty-three, there were another three we found that had been crushed by traffic on the road. We actually saw only six emerge from the nest over the three days, some with a bit of help, while most of the others were found wandering around and may have first emerged on October 4th when we were away for the day. Almost all of the latter were heading west up the gravelled surface towards the road, a distance about 320 feet, whereas the river is about 270 feet away on a downward slope in the opposite direction. If we hadn’t regularly monitored the drive with some help from interested neighbours, most of the hatchlings would probably have either been run over on the road or perished for lack of appropriate habitat.

This is not the first time that we have had hatchlings choosing to go westwards, away from the river, rather than heading east towards water. This is in stark contrast to our first encounter with hatchlings back in 2007, when we encountered seven young snappers on our property; all were heading east towards the river following a stone path alongside our house. Something appears wrong, but we don’t know what.

Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles 2 – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles 3 – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong


Oct 062017

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) (1)
– Reported Oct 05, 2017 16:55 by Scott Gibson
– Fairbairn marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “continuing; hoping to get some pics today but much skulkier than on Monday; only catching few quick glimpses.”

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) (1)
– Reported Oct 05, 2017 09:45 by Dan Luckman
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
– Comments: “Continuing bird”

NOTE: For details about identifying the Nelson’s Sparrow and hear its song, click HERE

Nelson’s Sparrow (photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)


Oct 052017

 Threats loom but fish populations in the Kawarthas are still doing well

One of my most formative nature experiences as a boy was fishing with my grandfather at the family cottage on Clear Lake. The excitement of hooking into a large bass or walleye was unforgettable. Even at that time, however, he always insisted that I throw the fish back – something I did with great reluctance at the time. His conservation ethic has stuck with me ever since.

The Kawarthas is home to world-class fisheries. In fact, our lakes are the most heavily fished inland lakes in Ontario. Today, the sport fish community is composed of muskellunge, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye (pickerel), yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie. While walleye populations have declined, most other populations are doing well.

For management purposes by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Kawartha Lakes, along with Lake Ontario creeks and rivers to the south, are located in Fishery Management Zone 17 (FMZ 17). Roughly speaking, FMZ 17 extends from Lake Ontario, north to Dalrymple Lake in the west and across to Belmont Lake in the east. The zone includes 64 lakes greater than five hectares. Rice Lake is the largest. All of the Kawartha Lakes have similar fish communities because of their similar habitat and their connectivity via the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Lakes in the northern Kawarthas (e.g., Anstruther, Jack, Chandos) are not considered part of the Kawartha Lakes and belong to a different management zone (FMZ 15). The fish community is similar, however, with the exception that some of the lakes are also home to coldwater species like lake trout.

All of the lakes in FMZ 17 are classified as “warmwater”. A number of major warmwater rivers also flow through the area. These include the Otonabee, Trent and Crowe Rivers. Coldwater streams are generally limited to the Oak Ridges Moraine, which runs parallel to Lake Ontario. These streams support fisheries for migratory rainbow trout and salmon from Lake Ontario, as well as resident populations of brook and brown trout. Surprisingly enough, Harper Creek in Peterborough is also a coldwater stream and provides habitat for an endangered population of brook trout. The lakes within FMZ 17 offer very little in terms of coldwater fish habitat.

Historically, the sport fish population of the Kawartha Lakes and the Crowe River watershed consisted primarily of muskellunge, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed (sunfish) and yellow perch populations. However, starting in the 1920s, walleye were intentionally introduced into all of the lakes. Largemouth bass and rock bass then spread into the Kawartha Lakes and Crowe River watershed, followed by bluegill (another sunfish) and black crappie. The latter two are native to the Trent River system. Northern pike have become established, via range extensions and/or unintentional introductions to the periphery of the zone, including Canal Lake near Kirkfield and Belmont Lake north of Havelock.

Walleye: Following their initial introduction, the Kawartha Lakes supported abundant walleye populations, which soon became the dominant predatory fish. By the 1980s, however, the lakes had undergone a series of significant environmental changes that altered the composition and structure of the fish community. These included a rise in both water temperature and clarity and a decrease in phosphorus concentration. Phosphorus is a necessary nutrient for both plants and animals.

Increased water clarity from the spread of zebra mussels has reduced the competitive advantage that walleye possess over other species in more turbid (murky) water conditions. Zebra mussels filter plankton from the water column, hence the greater clarity. Their presence has also decreased nutrients like phosphorus available to lower levels of the food chain. This has likely decreased the overall productive capacity of the lakes and created more favourable conditions for species like bass and muskellunge and less favourable conditions for walleye. As water clears, the amount of habitat for the light sensitive walleye is reduced and predation on young walleye is likely to increase. In lakes where bass are thriving, walleye tend to do more poorly. This is mainly because bass prey on young walleye.

Walleye decline continued through the 1990s, which was a decade that saw increases in new species such as black crappie and bluegill. Fewer large walleye in the lakes and rivers also means reduced predation of other species such as yellow perch, which feed on juvenile walleye.

Bass:  Overall, populations of smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Kawartha Lakes are considered healthy. The trends in their abundance are best explained by the ecology of each species and the habitat present in each lake. Some lakes, such as Rice and Pigeon Lakes, provide diverse habitat and are able to support abundant populations of both species. Other lakes, such as Balsam Lake, offer limited habitat for largemouth bass but do support abundant smallmouth bass populations. At the other end of the spectrum, lakes such as Chemong and Scugog provide a greater amount of shallow, vegetated largemouth bass habitat while smallmouth bass habitat is less abundant. Changes in water clarity, temperature and shifts in the predator community have also increased bass production. Climate change modeling predicts a dramatic increase in warmwater fish species, including bass.

Yellow perch:  Yellow perch populations are healthy and show successful and consistent reproduction. This species provides a critical prey base for a number of species, including walleye.

Sunfish and crappie: The abundance and distribution of bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie populations are best explained collectively, since these species are closely related and interact a great deal. Bluegills and crappie both compete with native pumpkinseed. The latter has undergone a gradual decline in abundance since bluegill and black crappie arrived and exploded in number. Now, bluegill abundance appears to have stabilized, but black crappie may still be increasing. Bluegill and crappie are now thriving in the northern Kawarthas, as well.

Pike and muskie:  FMZ 17 supports a healthy, high quality muskellunge fishery. This is likely attributable to the combination of suitable habitat and the absence of northern pike. Pike and muskellunge compete for both habitat and food resources, and muskellunge density is typically lower when pike are present. Northern pike are currently not present in the majority of waters in FMZ 17. However, as already noted, they are present around the periphery of the zone and moving downstream from the west. Pike have typically been managed as an invasive species due to concerns for muskellunge populations and disruption of lake ecosystems. While muskie populations are currently healthy, the potential invasion of northern pike to the Kawartha Lakes remains a serious threat.

Brook trout: Brook trout (speckled trout) are the only self-sustaining, naturally reproducing native salmonid (salmon, char and trout) species in FMZ 17. They are synonymous with high quality environments. However, they are now mostly limited to isolated, often low density, populations in streams on the Oak Ridges Moraine. These include Baxter Creek near Millbrook and Fleetwood Creek near Bethany. Their low abundance is explained mostly by habitat degradation and competition with brown and rainbow trout, both of which prey on juvenile brook trout. Brookies have experienced considerable losses across their native range in eastern North America.

Sustained by cold groundwater, Harper Creek in the south-west end of Peterborough is home to one of the few remaining wild brook trout populations in Southern Ontario. A research team recently tagged 20 of these trout and will be able to follow their daily and seasonal movements. This will provide a window into the life history of wild brook trout in an urbanized and severely threatened watershed.

Lake trout: Northern Peterborough County still boasts healthy lake trout populations. In Jack Lake, for example, a naturally reproducing population is present in Sharpe’s Bay. Water quality here is excellent, with oxygen present right to the bottom.  Deepwater sculpin provide much of the food base for these fish. Historically, Stony Lake also had a population of lake trout, but they are believed to have disappeared the late 1980s.

Brown trout:   Brown trout were stocked between 1920 and 1975 in many streams in order to diversify fishing opportunities. They are a resident fish, which means they complete their entire life cycle in the same stream. Like brook trout, they spawn in the fall. Brown trout out-compete their native cousins, particularly when rainbow trout are also present. Their competitive advantage is due to greater temperature range tolerance, more spawning flexibility and larger body size.

Rainbow trout:  The stocking of rainbow trout also began in the 1920s. Not only are the populations healthy and self-sustaining, but they are now the most dominant salmonid in most Lake Ontario tributaries. Since 1974, the spring rainbow trout run has been monitored at the Ganaraska fishway at Corbett’s Dam in Port Hope. The construction of the fishway in the 1970s provided access to upstream spawning and nursery habitat.

Atlantic salmon: Starting in the 1980s and 90s, Atlantic salmon were experimentally stocked in eight Lake Ontario streams, including Wilmot Creek and the Ganaraska River. The Ganaraska offers excellent juvenile habitat for Atlantic salmon. Once a dominant Lake Ontario species, they were extirpated by the late 1800s.

Chinook and coho:  Native to the Pacific coast, Chinook and coho salmon were stocked in Lake Ontario in the late 1960s to provide recreational angling opportunities and to establish a top predator salmonid species following the dramatic decline in lake trout abundance in the lake. The populations are now reproducing naturally. Every year in September, they can be observed jumping up the fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam in Port Hope as they move upstream to spawn. It’s quite a spectacle!

Next week, I’ll turn my attention to non-game and endangered species. I’ll also look at the many challenges that fish populations are facing in the Kawarthas.

Oct 022017

I live in Northumberland County – Baltimore to be exact, 10 km north of Cobourg near the Balls Mills conservation area. We are surrounded by forest. Our own property is 3 acres of forest that backs on to Baltimore creek. Beyond that is a mix of forest, marsh and farm land. Anyway, Since July I have noticed that there are no more Red Squirrels around! There used to always be 3 or 4 hanging around, getting into my feeders and making a racket! It’s so quiet without them that it’s bothering me now. I’ve had one Gray Squirrel (black colour morph) come by a few times, and they are actually rare to see in this forest environment normally. What could account for their sudden disappearance? We’ve lived here 5 years now, and they’ve always been around. I’m assuming a predator of some kind might be present, but I expected the space to be re-populated rather quickly. I have a game camera set up on, and I’ve caught everything you can name – coyote, fox, raccoon, deer, etc. I even caught a blurry image of what I believe to be a Fisher.  In past years they would be busy gathering all the cones from the conifers, but this year the cones are all still there and it’s a bumper crop! Anyway, I was wondering if you might provide some insight or opinion?

Pierre Gilbert, Baltimore, ON

Note: Since Pierre wrote this (August 29), one Red Squirrel is now present. It may be that a predator such as a Barred Owl is responsible for the drop in squirrel numbers. That being said, small mammals like Red Squirrels and Eastern Cottontails go through population cycles in which abundance can vary dramatically. These are poorly understood as to cause.

Pierre also reports (October 1) that the usual forest birds that visit his feeders have completely disappeared. “Where I used to fill up the feeders daily and weekly, they now sit almost full for weeks on end. Usually in abundance, I almost never see chickadees (although I hear them around) or nuthatches. Could it be that there is such a good crop of natural food that they are simply not bothering with the feeders? The only frequent visitors I have are several woodpeckers (both small and large) that visit my suet feeder. Other then that, I’ve had almost no traffic.”

Red Squirrel – Terry Carpenter