Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.

Sep 222018
 

Starry Stonewort, an aquatic invasive species:  I want to let you know about a (new to me) threat to our Kawartha Lakes. A macro  algae has infested Lake Scugog and is now thriving in parts of Stony, notably the Lost Channel. Starry Stonewort has no roots and forms masses up to six feet deep floating below the surface.  Carol Cole, a cottager on Stony Lake writes: “It was first noticed there a couple of summers ago.  The channel is not open water really; it is more of a wetland environment.  The alga is now covering large sections of the wetland and has spread incredibly quickly into the bays on either end.  One of the bays is now almost totally covered.  It used to be a very weedy area but now it looks clear of weeds – unless you look down.  The bay at the other end isn’t quite as bad but it will be by next summer.  Both of these bays lead directly to the main boating channel of the Trent-Severn Waterway.  Both have cottages and boat traffic. Not far from the bay already covered is a wetland that has been declared provincially significant. Starry Stonewort spreads by fragmentation and the only way to stop it from spreading to other lakes is to clean, dry and drain out boats, canoes or kayaks before leaving the lake. Since this is already in Stoney Lake there isn’t anything we can do about it. All we can do now is prevent it from reaching other lakes. ”

Please spread the word! Sandra Burri, Kawartha Park, Clear Lake

Starry Stonewort from Lake Scugog – Scugog Lake Stewards photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Starry Stonewort:  CLIMATE CHANGE REALITY IN SCUGOG SHOULD CHANGE OUR PEOPLE-CENTRIC VIEW OF OUR LAKE. Ours is a shallow lake held at its current height by a dam at Lindsay. As a result of increased temperatures, increased storm water runoff, difficult invasive species due to our location in Southern Ontario and increased development, ours is an ecosystem that is vulnerable and susceptible to change. This year, the lake has generally been excellent for recreation and surface aesthetics because of a vast understory of the invasive alga, Starry Stonewort (SS) and abundant zebra mussels that enjoy co-habiting with SS. But is this good habitat for everything else that lives in, on or above the lake? The Stewards and our colleagues at U.O.I.T. and Kawartha Conservation are studying this new invader which seems to be spreading rapidly up throughout the hard-water Kawartha Lakes and Lake Simcoe. We have one more year in our Trillium grant funding for research, but we hope to extend our research for two more years, trying to ascertain the Ontario-wide spread and effects of this nasty invader. Use a rake to pull up a sample from the lake bottom. If you find a crunchy, green fishing line type bottom cover that is the algae — Starry Stonewort. CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY your boat before coming into, or going out of, Lake Scugog.  Scugog Lake Stewards, City of Kawartha Lakes

Cooper’s Hawk: We have a bird feeder outside our condo living room at the corner of Parkhill and Ravenwood Dr. On September 21, we were able to get this picture of a Cooper’s Hawk. We had never seen this bird before.  John & Stephanie MacDonald

Cooper’s Hawk – John MacDonald – Sept. 22 2018 – Peterborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake: My nephew and sister came across this Eastern Hog-nosed Snake recently at Wolf Lake near Apsley. Bill Astell, Peterborough

(Note: The Eastern Hog-nosed is a species at risk in Ontario and only rarely seen. DM)

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake – via Bill Astell – Sept. 2018 – Wolf Lake near Apsley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “dew” bath: I witnessed something absolutely new for me on the morning of September 18. At about 7:30 am, I saw two Song Sparrows giving themselves a bath in the heavy dewed grass. They burrowed down and splashed the dew on by rapidly flicking their wings onto their backs. Michael Gillespie, Keene

Song Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: It is that time again when the Sandhill Cranes begin to gather before migrating south. In the area west of Lindsay (Black School Rd area) the gathering has already started. These pictures were taken on September 18.   Tim Corner

Sandhill Cranes – Lindsay area – Sept. 18 2018 – Tim Corner

Sandhill Cranes – Sept. 18 2018 – Lindsay area – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poecila Sphinx:  On Friday, September 14, we came across the caterpillar of the Poecila Sphinx Moth (also called Northern Apple Sphinx). It measured about two inches long. We had  never seen one before.  The caterpillar was on a Sweet Gale bush, a species that dominates the banks of the Indian River near our home. This plant can be used as an insecticide, can treat scabies, used with discretion to flavour soups and stews, flavours Gale beer, repels fleas, and the roots and bark produce a yellow dye for wool.  Quite a list!  The scent on the leaves was rather faint when I checked but given the time of year that’s not surprising.    Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Poecila Sphinx Moth caterpillar on Sweet Gale – Indian River – September 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Poecila Sphinx Moth caterpillar on Sweet Gale shrub – Indian River – September 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Screech-Owl (via eBird):  – Reported Sep 13, 2018 20:10 by Patrick Scanlon- Indian River Road., Peterborough, Ontario- Map: – Checklist: – Comments: “Singing from the west side of the river.”

Eastern Screech-owl – Beaches area of Toronto – via Jamie Brockley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merlin: My husband, Michael, noticed this Merlin while we were having lunch on September 13. We watched it for about 10 to 15 minutes. It was looking at our bird feeder (and doing a bit of head bobbing) from the top of the umbrella of our outdoor picnic table. A few minutes  later it landed right on top of the bird feeder. Our feeder has been quite active with American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, chickadees, cardinals,  a few jays and some sparrows. The bird sort of half-heartedly swooped downward toward a scurrying squirrel before it left our yard. There were no smaller birds during the time of the visit of the Merlin. Not surprising. It was very cool!!  Helen Bested, Lynhaven Road, Peterborough

Merlin – Lynhaven Road – September 13, 2018 – Michael Bested

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imperial Moth caterpillar: On September 7, this Imperial Moth caterpillar, a member of the Giant Silkworm Moth family, was making its way along our side path, heading for river rocks abutting a flower bed.  I gather it feeds on a variety of plants including pines and oaks which we have in abundance.  And later that day, I saw another one floating vertically, head out of water, in our small creek that empties into the Indian River. I managed to retrieve it but there was no sign of life.  I hope one day to actually see this beautifully colored moth, though it is said to be in decline.  As you have explained in your book ‘Nature’s Year’, it is extremely attracted to light making it highly visible to predators.  Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Imperial Moth caterpillar – September 2018 – Indian River – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 102018
 

Increased sightings of Monarchs and frogs 

Every summer we feel lucky if we see one Monarch Butterfly, but on August 26 I was treated to the sight of two butterflies feeding up on Joe-Pye Weed for several hours alongside the river bank.  They seemed to be working as a team, getting ready for their long journey south.  Maybe next year we’ll see more. This year our frog count has gone up, having been on the low side for a few of years.  On August 24 we counted eight Green Frogs in the shallow creek that drains into the river and there are three Grey Treefrogs residing in and around our house deck.  This one almost looks like its smiling. Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Monarchs on Joe-Pye Weed – August 2018 – Peter Armstrong

Gray Treefrog with green coloration – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Frog – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from Roadsend Farm

On the weekend of August 19, my husband and I saw a very light coloured Ruby-throated hummingbird (leucistic) at one of our feeders. Although we have no flowers, except for day lilies at the front, we are inundated by hummers every year.  Ed puts up and maintains nine feeders spread around our large backyard and so each year I guess the word goes out…Go to McAuleys! The battles at the living room window feeders are amazing.

I’ve been following the Smilax plants each year, since I first told you about them. Last year we had butternuts like crazy, but none this year. Nor any apples, no elderberries, no fruit on the Ironwood trees and very few hawthorn or buckthorn berries. Last year we had several dozen morels but none this year. No puffballs this year or last, either.  We did, however, have the first bittersweet I’ve seen in two decades. I know that is what nature does, but it’s still amazing and somewhat distressing.  Darienne McAuley, Roadsend Farm

Smilax – These berries will soon start to darken, until they are all navy blue – August 2018 – Darienne McAuley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch migration underway

On August 30, I drove down to the shore of Lake Ontario, just west of Port Hope at Port Britain. Monarch migration was in full-swing. Standing on the shoreline, Talulah Mullally and I watched a steady stream of Monarchs flying from east to west. In the space of 15 minutes, at least 80 individuals flew by. Winds were light and the temperature was probably about 20 C. Drew Monkman

Monarch on Buddleia (butterfly bush) at Millennium Park – photo by Ben Wolfe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpeter Swans

There are two beautiful mature Trumpeter Swans and 1 juvenile half their size… been hanging around here for over a week. Buckhorn Lake down Kawartha Hideaway Road to 2nd causeway. Look to the left out in the bay.  Jane Philpott

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shorebird migration continues

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) (1)
– Reported Aug 30, 2018 11:35 by Dave Milsom
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Least Sandpiper – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) (1)
– Reported Aug 29, 2018 07:40 by Iain Rayner
– Bridgenorth–Yankee Line pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “About KILL size with yellow legs, short decurved beak and heavy dark head and breast with abrupt change to white on mid breast.”

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) (2)
– Reported Aug 29, 2018 07:40 by Iain Rayner
– Bridgenorth–Yankee Line pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Greyish peeps with a lot of white on head and contrasting supercillium, short thick bill, wing tips same length as tail. Quite comfortably feeding in water up to their belly. Leg colour not obvious at that distance.”

Pectoral Sandpiper – Wikimedia

Semipalmated Sandpipers – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This great summer for Monarchs continues!

No doubt people have seen many Monarch butterfly larvae this season; however I was excited to see seven large ones on our Butterfly Milkweed plant (August 26). Just wanted to share! Gwen McMullen, Warsaw

Caterpillars on Butterfly Milkweed – Gwen McMullen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard hummingbird action in Peterborough

I just had to send you these photos I managed to get last evening (August 24) from a feeder hung in our birch tree by the deck. I’m thrilled because we don’t get many hummingbird visitors but clearly patience pays off! I now know how wildlife photographers feel when they get a shot after hours of waiting! Wendy Marrs, Ridgewood Road

Note: This is the first summer we’ve had hummingbirds coming to our feeders on Maple Crescent in Peterborough all summer long. We are now seeing at least one juvenile bird, so it appears that the hummers nested. D.M.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Wendy Marrs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nighthawk migration is under way
Now’s the time to be looking for migrating Common Nighthawks. The best time to see flocks is late afternoon and evening. They feed as they fly and are often seen over water. In my experience, they often turn up after a rain event. A great location to view from is the Indian River near/at Back Dam Park on Rock Road, just outside of Warsaw. On the evening of August 20, I saw 77 nighthawks between 6:30 and 7:45 pm. They were appearing in the NW and flying SE. Most were fairly high, maybe 150 – 300 feet, and in loose flocks of about 5 to 15. Binoculars are a must.
On August 24, Tim Dyson observed an amazing 162 nighthawks between 5:10pm and 8:40pm. 73 of the birds passed over in the space of just 90 seconds! All were seen from his home on 1st Line of Douro-Dummer. The migration will continue until early September.   Drew Monkman

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another successful nesting of Trumpeter Swans

For the second year in a row, a pair of Trumpeter Swans has nested in the Woodland Campsite wetlands in Lakehurst, ON. This year they successfully reared one cygnet. The one adult is tagged J07. The second adult has no visible tag. Shortly they should be bringing the cygnet nearer populated shorelines. Barb Evett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Egret (Ardea alba) (1)
– Reported Aug 21, 2018 10:35 by Kyle O’Grady
– Peterborough–Television Road pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47987089
– Comments: “Continuing bird”

Great Egrets south of Riverview Zoo several years ago (Michele Hemery)

 

Pandora Sphinx moth caterpillar
I found this Pandora Sphinx moth caterpillar on the woody part of a grape vine on August 20 in Bridgenorth.  Jennie Gulliver

Pandora Sphinx moth caterpillar on grape vine – August 2018 – Jennie Gulliver

Pandora Sphinx moth – Peterborough – July 2012 – Susan Sackrider

Common Nighthawk migration under way
Last evening (Aug. 18) at 6:15 pm, 5 or 6 of us observed about 15 Common Nighthawks swirling around over our farm near Keene. I have seen the odd one here over the years but this sighting was unprecedented . The skies were clear and there was very little wind , thus making it ideal for hawking. Michael Gillespie, David Fife Line, Keene

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

Great Egret – Carl Welbourn – Television Road – August 28, 2016

Great Egret (Ardea alba) (1)
– Reported Aug 17, 2018 16:25 by Ben Taylor
– Laurie Avenue, Ptbo, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47906925
– Comments: “Large white egret. Previously reported.”

Great Egret (Ardea alba) (1)
– Reported Aug 17, 2018 18:05 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Television Road pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47908850
– Comments: “continuing large white heron in pond”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Aug 17, 2018 08:15 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47898454
– Comments: “Large bird on top of Charlotte Towers antenna”

A rarely seen Walking Stick

We are camping (August 17) at Woodland Campsite in Buckhorn. This handsome fellow was on our trailer door this morning. I haven’t seen one of these in years…. Probably because they blend in so well. Cathy Mitchell

Walking Stick – Woodland Campsite Buckhorn – August 2018 – Cathy Mitchell

Great summer for Monarchs
In my opinion, this is the best year for Monarchs in the last half dozen.
Michael Gillespie, David Fife Line, Keene

Monarch on Buddleia (butterfly bush) at Millennium Park – photo by Ben Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from the Indian River near Warsaw
Sightings have been fairly quiet this summer but August is proving much more interesting.  And an update on the House Wren’s nest in the hanging basket.  The couple raised two offspring and the nest was empty by July 23.  One egg was punctured and did not hatch.  The eggs are so tiny.
August 5/6:
An Osprey has found a handy perch on a dead branch across the river and when we first saw it back on June 30 it was being harassed by a couple of Red-Winged Blackbirds, though the Osprey held its ground and is still using the perch occasionally.

August 8:  We discovered a large amount of fresh Otter scat and flattened grass abutting the open underside of our river deck.  Fresh stuff, and the odour was very strong!  We put out the Trail Camera, but so far nothing captured on film.  The scat is now dried out and is full of shell.

We also saw a female Scarlet Tanager spotted eating a Common Whitetail Dragonfly in a spruce close to the house. A Caspian Tern, gull-size with a bright orange/red beak, flew back and forth three times along our stretch of the Indian River, plunging four times into the water with no success, then continued flying down river.  Fascinating to watch!

August 9:  A female Belted Kingfisher dived into the river and emerged with what looked like a small bright orange disc-shaped something which it banged hard several times against a fallen dead tree branch, then returned to its higher perch to continue surveying the river.  I have no idea what the “disc” was.

August 13/14:  Our first migrating Yellow-rumped Warbler looking for insects in a large White Pine.
Stephenie Armstrong

Osprey – Indian River – August 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Otter scat – Indian River – August 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak at north end feeder in Peterborough

I had a juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak on my feeder today. First time I’ve seen a young grosbeak, so I didn’t recognize it as this species. Quite different from the adult male or adult female.  Margo Hughes, Peterborough 

Immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak – August 14, 2018 – Ptbo – Margo Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes and possible Red Fox kits on Kawartha Golf and Country Club property

Had a great sighting today, as well as an audio. Both of these events happened on the Kawartha Golf and Country Club property. I’m not a golfer but often walk their driveway as part of my morning walk.
     The first was a sighting last Tuesday, August 7. As I started up the driveway from Clonsilla, I glanced up the fairway to my left and noticed two kittens playing about 150 yards away. As I stood there another joined them, then another and another and so on. This continued as more came. Some returned then disappeared again making it difficult to count, but I would guess 12 to 15 were there at a time. I mentioned this to a groundskeeper and was told because of the Coyotes there were no cats on the grounds, so he thought they were probably young Coyotes. The problem, however, is that all were light tan or beige in colour so I think they were Red Fox kits.
    The audio happened today, August 15, and sent chills up my spine. While walking up the driveway, I heard a sound of probably a police car using its siren in a short beeping sort of way. No sooner had it stopped when a large pack of Coyotes began to howl. It was quite unnerving. These Coyotes were behind me near the entrance. When it ceased another pack in front of me began howling. It also seemed to be large and now I was in the between the two with a hiking pole as my protection.
    While on the driveway I have seen many singular Coyotes watching me watching them but never a pack and today, there two packs. A good way to begin the day don’t you think!  Don Finigan

Coyotes in field on Stewart Line (Randy Therrien)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) (1)
– Reported Aug 09, 2018 09:32 by Peterborough County Birds Database
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo

Semipalmated Plover – Wikimedia

Olive-sided Flycatcher – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) (1)
– Reported Aug 09, 2018 13:23 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) (1)
– Reported Aug 03, 2018 17:30 by Martin Parker
– Stony Lake–Mount Julian-Viamede Resort, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “small tern. much smaller than Caspian Terns”

Common Tern – Wikimedia

Bay-breasted Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bay-breasted Warbler (Setophaga castanea) (1)
– Reported Aug 09, 2018 08:13 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Looked to be a non breeding adult male. Seen well through binos from 20 ft. Greenish yellowish face with faint eyestripe and arcs around eye, heavily streaked green back, smooth buff/greenish underparts with visible chestnut flanks. Two bold white wing bars and white edged tertials. Based on migrant warblers I have seen locally in the last week…I would say all warblers are fair game now.”

Jul 292018
 

Another fox in city dining on Gray Squirrels

There was a large number of squirrels in our neighbourhood. Then came a large, gray-coloured fox, easily the size of my fifty pound Springer Spaniel. I’d often see it at first light, and thrice seen carrying a black-phase Gray Squirrel. The squirrel population has dropped dramatically. As of July 23, I have not seen the fox for about three weeks. I presume he has moved on to another neighbourhood where the roof rabbit harvest is more promising. When I first saw the fox, I was not sure what I was looking at.  I thought perhaps it was a coyote/fox hybrid, but that probably does not happen.  Larry Love, Norwood Terrace, Peterborough

P.S. By the way, there is lots of Black Bear activity in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  Last Thursday while stopping for dinner on Campsite 301 (Wolf Lake) I  saw a handwritten “Bear Warning” note, concerning a juvenile nuisance bear.  The sign was tacked to a tree at the site.   During our two hour stay, there were a number of gawkers who came into the bay to see if there was a bear around.  One kayaker told me about an MNR culvert trap set on a cottager’s property, not far from Site 301.   Two years ago, I put a small bear off of an adjacent island.  He had been gorging on blueberries.  The bears are everywhere in KHPP, but this boldness is new.

Red-headed Woodpecker at Gannons Narrow (July 21)  This is the first year we have ever seen one in the area. He has been around since early June and just in the last week or so has found our black oil sunflower seed feeders. He is a feisty fellow who will scare away the other birds and not give way to blackbirds or jays who try to get him to move. Kingsley Hubbs, Gannons Narrows, Selwyn Township

Red-headed Woodpecker – July 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-billed Cuckoo near Warsaw:  At around 8 pm this evening (July 20), I heard (twice) the call of a Black-billed Cuckoo in our bush near the Indian River. I didn’t see it, but its call was unmistakable. It moved to 2 different locations within the bush. We’ve been here 19 years and haven’t heard a cuckoo every year.   Jane Bremner

Black-billed Cuckoo – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1) from eBird
– Reported Jul 19, 2018 15:13 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Flew out from willow tree on island, landing on dead tree near sand bar. Presumably same individual reported here a few weeks back. ”

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (4)  from eBird
– Reported Jul 17, 2018 20:50 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “1 adult, 2 young, and presumably a 3rd young calling. Adult giving steady hoot calls similar to NSOW, but mixed with clicking and whinnies. In ecology park hopping around. Seen previous night as well but only as silhouettes. ”

Eastern Screech owl – red phase – 9th Line of Selwyn Twsp – March 11, 2017 – Kathy McCue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our neighbor has a family of Mallards visiting regularly. What is remarkable, however, is that all  of the ducklings have, so far at least, survived. They have survived the Great Blue Heron that has totally cleaned out the Eastern Chipmunk population. Sad. Yeah, I know, nature. But, the maddening part, of course, is that the Great Blue is really, really lazy. He has decided to stop fishing, and go chipmunking!  Gord Young, Armour Road  

Mother Mallard and eight ducklings – Dianne Tyler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have had 3 Pileated Woodpeckers in our yard at the same time this month. However, I couldn’t get all three in the picture below. We know there are a male and a female juvenile, but we’re not sure about how many adults/parents. The Osprey nests around here all seem to only have one baby this year but its really hard to tell. We  watch the nest behind us in the ball diamond, the nest on the Bridgenorth-Selwyn Road, and the one at the corner of Yankee Line and Robinson Road across from the trailer park.  Jennie and Peter Gulliver, Communication Road, Bridgenorth

Two or the three Pileated Woodpeckers in our yard – July 16, 2018 – Jennie Gulliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On July 12, we were camping on Secret Lake in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and 2 half-grown chicks foraging along a marshy shore. Secret Lake is located north of Long Lake and Loucks Lake. It is reached by a short portage from Loucks Lake. Gary Moloney

Sandhill Crane with chick – Barb Evett – Buckhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that my leaving wide swaths of my orchard uncut to establish zones of biodiversity, which  include apple trees, nesting boxes as well as many milkweeds, has paid off. This morning, July 9, I noticed quite a few Monarchs fluttering about and visiting multiple milkweed plants that are happily blooming – having escaped the blades of my bush hog! Michael Gillespie, Keene

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed  – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have lived outside of Millbrook for 20 years & have noticed a large decline in birds and bees. I’ve also seen very few fireflies, whereas they were abundant a few years back.  Ludvik Kouril (July 9)

Photinus pyralis – a common firefly – Art Farmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a very large patch of Himalayan Balsam in my backyard. I’ve been fighting this invasive species for years, and I was just about to start pulling these plants out when, on July 7, I saw a Monarch laying eggs on them. Wendy Hicks, Peterborough

 N.B. Don Davis, a Monarch expert, told me that this is very unusual. D.M.

Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species in Ontario – Wikimedia

 

 

Jul 162018
 

The average North American child can identify over 300 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals – a telling indictment of our modern disconnection from the natural world. Even though children are born with an innate interest in nature, our society does little to nurture this predisposition. It is largely for this reason that Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, and I decided four years ago to sit down and write a book to help address this problem.
Released just last week by New Society Publishers, “The Big Book of Nature Activities: A year-round guide to outdoor learning” sets out to answer the question “What can you do outside in nature?” In response, the book provides nearly 150 activities, including games, crafts, drama, and stories. It will also help young and old alike to become more aware of how the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of the natural world change from one season to the next. The book is aimed at parents, grandparents, classroom teachers, outdoor educators and youth leaders of all kinds. Much of the information – and many of the activities – will also be of interest to adults, especially if you need to brush up on your own nature skills. Adults should also be interested in the extensive background information on evolution, citizen science projects, nature journaling, nature photography and how to make the most of digital technology,

The Big Book of Nature Activities

The Big Book of Nature Activities

Introduction

We begin the book by discussing the disconnection from nature that characterizes so much of modern society. In an increasingly urbanized world, our children are much more likely to experience the flickering a computer screen or the sounds of traffic than the rhythmic chorus of bird or insect song. And sadly, they can more easily identify corporate logos or cartoon characters than even a few tree or bird species. We therefore ask the questions: Where will tomorrow’s environmentalists and conservationists come from? Who will advocate for threatened habitats and endangered species? What are the impacts on one’s physical and emotional well-being from a childhood or adulthood spent mostly indoors? We then go on to discuss some of the consequences of what the environmental educator Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

The activities, species and events in nature, which are described in the book, cover an area extending from British Columbia and northern California in the west to the Atlantic Provinces and North Carolina in the east. This includes six ecological regions such as the Marine West Coast and the Eastern Temperate Forests. In other words, the book applies to most anywhere in North America where there are four seasons.

The introduction also provides ideas on how to raise a naturalist (hint: take your kids camping!), how to get kids outside, how children of different ages respond to nature, how nature can enhance our lives as adults and the importance of being able to identify and name the most common species. We provide lists of 100 continent-wide key species to learn – everything from birds and invertebrates to trees, shrubs and wildflowers – as well as about 50 key regional species. We also introduce the reader to three cartoon characters, namely Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson who will tell stories of the wonder of evolution and the universe throughout the book.

Charles Darwin cartoon character - Kady MacDonald Denton

Our Charles Darwin cartoon character gives examples of the wonder of evolution throughout the book – Kady MacDonald Denton

Basic Skills

Connecting to nature is easier when you have learned some basic skills. In this section, we provide hints for paying attention (be patient and slow down), how to engage all the senses (learn to maximize your sense of smell), how to lead a nature hike (have some “back-pocket” activities ready to go), nature-viewing and traveling games from a car or school bus (do a scavenger hunt), how to increase your chances of seeing wildlife (try sitting in one place), how to bring nature inside (set up a nature table), how to get involved in “citizen science” (start at scistarter.com) and how to connect with nature in the digital age (make the most of your smartphone and social media). The latter section is especially detailed. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are actually many ways in which digital technology can inspire people of all ages to explore nature and share their experiences with others.

We also provide information on the basics of birding; insect-watching (butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and moths), plant identification, mushroom-hunting, getting to know the night sky, nature journaling, nature photography, and nature-based geo-caching. Additional basic skills are covered in the activities in the seasons chapters themselves. These include fish-watching, mammal-watching, amphibian- and reptile-watching and tree identification.

Key Concepts

The third chapter in “The Big Book of Nature Activities” deals with four important concepts, which help us to more fully understand and appreciate nature. We start by explaining why we have seasons, and how the tilt of Earth’s axis makes all the difference. This is followed by a discussion of phenology, which is the science of observing and recording “first events”- such as spring’s first lilac bloom or frog song. Next, we talk about how climate change is affecting different habitats and species, and why a connection with nature is so important in light of this threat. Finally, we discuss the importance of understanding evolution and how it is manifested in even the most common backyard species. Armed with a little knowledge of evolution, we can learn to appreciate the wonder that resides in all species, not just the charismatic ones. We also want children to know that science is just beginning to unravel many of the mysteries of evolution and the incredible stories it has revealed. Our Darwin cartoon character tells many of these stories. The good news for young scientists-to-be is that there’s so much we don’t yet understand

The book explains the basics of evolution and natural selection, without getting into the details of genetics. We then provide a story for young children on how evolution might work within a population of imaginary sand bugs. For older children and adults, we go on a “field trip of the imagination” in which we visit our ancestors, starting with our self, our grandfather, our great-grandfather, etc. and ending up at our 185-million-greats-grandfather who, by the way, would have been a fish! This section concludes with a shortened version of Big History, the evidence-based story that takes us from the Big Bang to the present, in which we humans are “star stuff pondering stars”.

The book contains over 400 illustrations.

Hundreds of drawings

 Seasons’ chapters

The four seasons’ chapters make up the heart of the book. Each begins with a summary of some of the key events in flora, fauna, weather and the sky. This includes events that occur across North America as well as happenings that are specific to each region. Most of the activities in the chapter relate to these events. This is followed by a seasonal poem to enjoy and maybe memorize; suggestions for what to display or collect for the nature table;

ideas about what to photograph or record in your nature journal; a short seasonal story called “What’s Wrong with the Scenario” in which you try to spot the mistakes; the story of Black Cap, the Chickadee, which takes you through a year in an individual chickadee’s life and includes activities; and ideas for what to do at your Magic Spot, a special nature-rich area close to home.

The final and largest section of the seasons’ chapters is called “Exploring the season: Things to do.” It comprises 50 or more activities to activate your five senses, keep track of seasonal change, explore evolution, and have fun discovering fascinating aspects of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi, weather and the night sky. We also offer up suggestions on how to make nature part of seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving. Some of the activities include making a scent cocktail and touch bag, using a roll of toilet paper to create a history-of-life timeline, meeting the “beast” within you, a non-identification bird walk, a woodpecker drumming game, mammal-watching with a trail camera, observing spawning salmon, a frog song orchestra, exploring seaside beaches and tide pools, a “bee dance” drama game, conducting a pond study, “adopting” a tree to observe over an entire year, dissecting flowers, a fungi scavenger hunt, a classroom “hand-generated” thunderstorm, going on a night hike, making tin can constellations, creating your own moon phases, celebrating the winter and summer solstices, ideas for Earth Day, and more. Scattered throughout the activities are suggestions for getting involved in citizen science projects. The book concludes with an appendix with blackline masters for photocopying and a detailed index.

There are 16 pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

Sixteen pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

The book also contains several hundred drawings, most of which were done by talented Lakefield artist, Judy Hyland. Others were contributed by Kim Caldwell, Kady MacDonald Denton, Jean-Paul Efford and Heather Sadler (drawings by her late father, Doug Sadler). In the middle of the book, you will find a 16-page block of colour photos by the authors and others.

“The Big Book of Nature Activities” is available at Happenstance Books and Yarns at 44 Queen Street in Lakefield (705-652-7535), at Camp Kawartha (1010 Birchview Road, Douro-Dummer), at Chapters (Landsowne Street west in Peterborough) and online at Chapters.Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca. It would make a great end of school year gift. The cost is $39.95. A book launch hosted by Happenstance will be held on July 24, from 2-4 p.m. at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road. For more details and regular updates about the book, please go to drewmonkman.com. The authors can be reached by email at dmonkman1@cogeco.ca and jrodenburg@campkawartha.ca

 

 

 

 

Jul 132018
 

Get up close and personal to nature while reducing your carbon footprint

 “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best.” Ernest Hemingway

Riding a bicycle can be a wonderful way to engage with nature and the changing seasons. The feeling of setting off on two wheels is like an adventure, as each outing offers something different. You can enjoy areas that are inaccessible to a car and move along much more quietly. The result is that you see and hear so much more. Even a slow bike ride – the kind I’m referring to – also allows you to wind down, get some exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.

There are even some advantages over walking. You can cover much greater distances and pass quickly through areas of little interest. At the same time, travelling by bicycle is slow and gentle enough to take in all the same sights, sounds and smells as you would on foot. When something of interest grabs your attention, you can simply stop.

Nature-viewing from a bicycle has many advantages – Drew Monkman

Birding    

Birding and biking are made for each other. Just this week a friend told me he heard and/or saw 24 species during a 90-minute ride on the Trans Canada Trail from Jackson Park to Ackison Road and back. Highlights included an osprey near Ackison and two northern harriers at Lily Lake. He also saw numerous birds carrying food to feed young. Birding from a bike is far less confined than from a car. There’s no window frames or roof to block your view and no annoying engine, fan or beeping sounds. Unlike getting out of a car, there’s also no need to quietly close the door. When a bird darts across the road or trail, you can quickly and safely stop, put your feet down and lift your binoculars to your eyes. Just remember to pedal slowly enough to observe the habitat you’re passing through, avoid potholes or other obstacles and pay attention to other trail users. Pedalling slowly also eliminates wind noise.

For people who are new to birding – children, for example – travelling by bike is also more fun, since much of birding involves walking, standing and waiting – over and over again.

Equipment

A hybrid is probably the best bicycle choice, although any bike that is suitable for riding on gravel will do. Remember to dress warmly, especially in the spring and fall. Always wear a helmet and consider bringing a pump and maybe even a spare inner tube. Be sure you have a kickstand and lock, too, since you’ll often want to stop, get off the bike and maybe wander down a pathway. Don’t forget water and maybe a snack.

A pair of binoculars is a must – the lighter the better. Remember to keep them around your neck. A binocular harness can be useful, too, because it will stop your binos from swinging about. Don’t forget your smartphone. It can be used as a camera, sound recorder, notebook and for consulting field guide apps like the Sibley eGuide to Birds.

Engaging the senses

Enjoying nature from a bike is a great way to engage all of your senses. A good rule of thumb is to stop briefly each time you enter a new habitat type such as a wetland, woodlot or stream crossing. What new species can you see and hear? Here are some other pointers to keep in mind.

  1. Vision: Look skyward, to the sides and far ahead. Don’t forget to check the road or trail surface for caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, snakes or maybe even a baby turtle. Check out spots where birds tend to perch such as wires, telephone poles, fence poles and branches of dead trees. In the early morning or evening, scan meadows for deer and maybe even a fox or coyote. Watch the sky, too, for soaring birds like vultures and raptors. Learn to identify the different cloud types and signs of a change in the weather.

Midland Painted Turtle hatchling -WikiMedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Smell: Notice how the smells change as you pass through different habitat types. Each month, too, has its signature smells. May smells of lilac and balsam poplar; in late June and early July the fragrance of common milkweed and freshly-cut hay often fills the air; late summer can smell of rank vegetation, while the spicy perfume of fallen leaves is a time-honoured scent of fall.
  2. Touch: Pay attention to how the air temperature changes as you pass from a warm, sunny area to a shaded section of the road or trail. Feel the warmth or coolness of the wind in your face.
  3. Hearing: Listen for frogs and birds in spring and early summer. The insect chorus begins to take over in mid-July and lasts through early fall. Listen to how each habitat type offers up different voices. Cupping your ears will greatly increase your ability to hear distant sounds.

Seasonal highlights

For each season with the exception of winter, I have provided a very brief list of some common species, nature happenings and sounds to watch and listen for from your bike. How many can you see or hear?

Summer: Red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, cedar waxwings, grackles, great blue herons, American goldfinches, eastern kingbirds, gray squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, painted turtles basking on logs, egg fragments from raided turtle nests, garter snakes, leopard frogs, bumble bees, dragonflies, damselflies, monarchs, sulphur butterflies, Carolina locusts flying up from the ground, fireflies at nightfall, ox-eye daisy, black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, tall white clover, common milkweed, Canada goldenrod and poison ivy. Common sounds:  Red-eyed vireo, cedar waxwing, American goldfinch, song sparrow, house wren, green frog, dog-day Cicada, crickets

The song of the Red-eyed Vireo is one of the most common sounds of summer on bike trails. (Drew Monkman)

House Wrens are inveterate singers – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall:  Blue jay, large flocks of blackbirds, migrating turkey vultures, Canada geese, ring-billed gulls, deer in fields, beavers active in wetlands, squirrel nests in trees, baby snapping turtles, woolly bear caterpillars crossing roads, red and yellow meadowhawk dragonflies,  colour change in leaves from  early September (e.g., Virginia Creeper, sumac) to early Nov. (tamaracks, oaks), abundant purple New England aster and various white asters, puffball and shaggy mane mushrooms. Common sounds: Blue jay, American crow, Canada geese, crickets

Spring: American robins, red-winged blackbirds, mallards, tree swallows, song sparrows, yellow warblers, groundhogs, muskrats, baby painted turtles, turtles laying eggs, spawning fish, mourning cloak butterflies, midges, green darner dragonflies, tent caterpillars, bumble bees, pussy willows, coltsfoot, trilliums, trout lily, fiddleheads, blooming trees and shrubs, emergence of leaves. Common sounds: Spring peeper, chorus frog, ruffed grouse, American robin, red-winged blackbird, song sparrow, northern flicker, woodpeckers drumming

A few itineraries

The following roads and trails offer different habitat types and a wide variety of species. The roads are relatively free of traffic. To learn about other quiet routes in the Peterborough area, go to biketoptbo.ca/longer-rides/city-cycling-routes/ Created by Cary Weitzman, this site is a treasure-trove of information. Printed maps are available as well at City Hall and local bike shops.

  1. Hubble Road (east of Stony Lake off Cty Rd 44) Rare birds.
  2. Sandy Lake Road (30 minutes north of Havelock on Cty Rd 46) Rare birds and butterflies.
  3. County Road 24: Start at Cty Rd 18 and follow north to Cty Rd 20, north to 10th Line and east to Cty Rd 25. Return the same way. Great wetland and field habitat.
  4. Fifth Line west from Bridgenorth Trail parking lot to Pinehill Road. Follow Pinehill to Steinkrauss Drive and continue north through residential streets of Bridgenorth to East Communication Road. Follow to Miller Creek Conservation Area on 7th Line. Return to 5th Line by way of Bridgenorth Trail. Great views and varied habitat.
  5. Roads in provincial parks such as Petroglyphs, Presqu’ile and Carden Alvar.
  6. Trans-Canada Trail (gravel) from Jackson Park, through Lily Lake Wetland and on to the trestle bridge past Orange Corners Road. Wetland species, diverse shrubs and flowers
  7. Trans-Canada Trail (gravel) from Lang to Hastings. High butterfly diversity, deer
  8. Rotary Greenway Trail (paved and gravel) from Peterborough at Parkhill East, past Meadowvale Park, past Trent University, north to County Road 33 and east to Lakefield Sewage Lagoons. Back track and continue up to Lakefield and west to D’eyncourt Street to Lakefield Marsh. Warblers, sparrows along trail; ducks at lagoons, along river and at Lakefield Marsh
  9. Little Lake Loop (roads and trail) Little Lake Cemetery north to Millennium Park and across pedestrian bridge to Beavermead Park and Ecology Park. Ducks in spring on Little Lake; songbirds and feeders at Ecology Park
  10. Parkway Corridor (paved) from Jackson Park to Cumberland Street. Retention pond with ducks. Birds in dense vines at Cumberland end.


Rotary Greenway Trail where it traverses the Promise Rock Nature Area -Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun activities

  1. Do a family scavenger hunt by using the species and sounds above to make a checklist.
  2. Go on a sounds ride – how many different natural sounds can you hear?
  3. Count an individual species – how many monarch butterflies, turkey vultures or other species can you spot?
  4. Choose your own “Magic Spot”. Find a quiet, nature-rich location along the road or trail where you can get off the bike, sit quietly for five or 10 minutes and relax. Note seasonal changes.
  5. If you love birding, do a “Big Day” to see how many bird species you find over the course of a day. Former Peterborough resident, Jody Allair, a staff member at Bird Studies Canada, did his Great Canadian Birdathon by bike this spring and found 132 species. He and his team biked 32 kilometres in the Long Point area on Lake Erie.

I’d like to thank Chris Risley and Marilyn Freeman in the preparation of this article.

Jul 072018
 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1)
– Reported Jul 05, 2018 11:50 by Sheila Collett
– engleburn ave, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Sitting on the edge of one of the islands off our back yard for about 10 minutes and then flew up into a willow tree on the mainland.”

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) (1)
– Reported Jul 06, 2018 11:02 by Chris Risley
– Catchacoma-Missisauga Narrows, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Seen on a small island and adjacent mainland on Catchacoma Lake – Mississauga Lake Narrows (north of Buckhorn) at 2:00 pm (near Fire Road 196A); medium sized mostly grey songbird first noticed in flight by large white wing patches and white outer tail feathers. Did not vocalize. Landed in top of white pine tree and then in a maple. Had a grey face, long tail, white wing bars seen when perched. Flew along shoreline then out of sight to south. Flew near several cottages but did not stop. A completely unexpected sighting!”

Northern Mockingbird – Gord Mallory

Jul 062018
 

Flocking provides many benefits but questions remain

“How early in the year it begins to be late” Henry David Thoreau

Nature plays a cruel joke on us in early July. Just as summer is getting started, intimations of autumn can already be seen. One such sign is the formation of flocks in some birds. In the city, large congregations of European starlings will soon be roosting in shade trees and advertising their presence by their clamorous calls and frequent flights from one tree to the next. In local wetlands, red‑winged blackbirds are flocking up and, by mid‑July, swallows will start to congregate on wires, especially around farms.

Swallows on wire in post-breeding flock – Wikimedia

A flock of ring-billed and Bonaparte’s gulls at Hillman Marsh near Point Pelee National Park – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advantages of flocking

Flocking confers a number of advantages to birds. First, there is safety in numbers. By flocking together, the chance of any one individual being killed by a predator is lower than if the bird was by itself. With so many eyes watching, it is likely that at least some of the flock members will spot an approaching predator while other birds are busy feeding, sleeping or simply looking in the wrong direction. When predators attack a flock, they try to single out a bird on the edge of the group to pursue. However, once in flight, most flocks change shape constantly and both expand and contract in size. This makes it very difficult for the predator to remain focused on one bird. There is also evidence that it may be physically dangerous for a predator ‑ which may not be that much larger than the prey species it’s pursuing ‑ to dive into the middle of a fast flying mass of birds.

Flocking can also provide better access to food. After spending the night together in a communal roost, it is thought that birds gain information about good feeding resources by following older, more experienced individuals when they fly off to feed. This becomes especially important in the fall when food is erratically distributed and cooler weather, along with the demands of the approaching southward migration, mean energy requirements are higher.

Scientists have often wondered why older birds would want to share food information and potentially end up eating less themselves. It appears there is a worthwhile trade-off. In several species, it has been shown that older birds, being more dominant, actually appropriate the safest, most central locations in the roost while the younger, weaker birds are relegated to the edges. This exposes the less dominant birds to a greater danger of predation. The arrangement is advantageous for both groups ‑ older and stronger birds allow their weaker brethren to bear the brunt of predation while younger and weaker birds get to follow the others to good foraging sites.

Flocking also enables birds to expend less energy in flight. When the lead bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the birds behind. Each bird (except the leader) is flying in the up wash from the wing of the bird in front. This enables the flock to use less energy and reduces fatigue.

Mobbing and pishing

Although not technically flocks, birds will also congregate together to attack, chase or simply pester a predator. This is usually done to protect offspring. Known as ‘mobbing’, the behaviour includes flying around the intruder, dive bombing and calling or squawking loudly. The loud alarm calls also serve to summon nearby individuals to join the attack and drive the predator away. Mobbing is especially noticeable in crows, which can often be seen and heard pestering a cat, fox, owl or other predator.

A crow harrassing a Red-tailed Hawk in Peterborough – Helen and Larry Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although mobbing may involve some risks, there are obviously benefits. All of the birds in the mob increase their chances of survival and reproduction. An individual on its own, however, would stand little chance against a predator. There is also research showing that crows may even place sentinels in trees to watch for possible predators. This is done so that other nearby crows can safely feed on the ground. When the sentinels start calling loudly, the feeding crows will either fly off or begin to mob the intruder. Don Finigan of Peterborough told me recently about a fox that makes regular visits to his yard to hunt squirrels. Each time, the fox’s arrival is announced by the raucous displeasure of the crows.

The mobbing reflex on the part of some birds explains the effectiveness of a birding technique known as ‘pishing’. It is used to bring birds in closer for better views. The raspy, rough quality of the pish sound birders make is similar to the alarm or scolding calls of small songbirds such as chickadees. Scientists believe that birds interpret the sound as that of another bird that has discovered a predator and is recruiting help. An alternative explanation is that some species of birds are simply curious and have evolved to investigate unknown noises.

To pish, choose a place where there is already some bird activity such as the calls of chickadees. Place yourself close to some trees or shrubs where the birds you attract can land. Pucker your lips and make a loud, forceful “shhhh” sound, while tacking a “p” on at the beginning: “Pshhhh, Pshhhh, Pshhhh”. Make sure the sound is shrill and strident. Do it in a sequence of three, repeating the se­quence two or three times. At first, you’ll probably need to pish fairly loudly, but you can lower the volume once the birds get closer. Continue pishing for at least a couple of minutes after the first birds appear. This will give other species that may be present a chance to make their way towards you. Chickadees and nuthatches are especially receptive to the pishing sound, but other species like warblers, wrens, finches and sparrows will usually approach as well.

Quite often, the birds that are attracted by pishing are actually feeding together in loose flocks. For example, chickadees that glean insects from leaves, bark and punky wood are often found in the company of nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets and warblers that are searching for similar – but usually not identical – food items. Having more individuals searching for food increases the likelihood that a rich feeding patch will be located and food-poor areas can be avoided. Individuals probably also learn about new food sources from other species. In one study, titmice were observed visiting a site where a woodpecker was pecking at bark. It quickly began foraging in the same place. Mixed-flocks are most common outside of the breeding season.

Blackbirds

By mid‑July, most Red-winged blackbirds have finished breeding. Males lose their intolerance of one another and form feeding flocks, which roost together at night. Initially, these flocks are small and include only the adults and young of local breeding populations. However, as summer advances, these smaller roosts will begin to break up and much larger flocks form. A mixing of different species occurs, too, with common grackles and European starlings often joining in with the red-wings. The roosts are often cattail marshes, thick stands of alders or even upland woodlots.

A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds over a Kansas field – Bob Webster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starlings and crows

For city dwellers, starlings and crows are usually the most noticeable roosting species during the summer months. Large deciduous shade trees are the preferred roosting sites. Thousands of starlings may occupy a given stand of trees and will sometimes return each night until the leaves drop. As sunset approaches, the birds start arriving in the vicinity of the roost and perch in nearby trees, often making frequent, noisy flights from one tree to another. This activity, known as staging, goes on for about half an hour before they actually settle into the roost trees. For nearby residents, the noise and commotion can be irritating to say the least.

Watching a flock of starlings take flight and then change directions simultaneously is fascinating. How does the group manage to turn and maneuver, almost as a single unit? As it turns out, the behaviour does not depend on the actions of any one “leader” but is rather a property of the group itself. The maneuvering of the flock, known as a murmuration, is determined by the second‑to‑second decisions of individual birds as they respond to what seven – yes, exactly seven – of their flock neighbours are doing. When one bird changes speed or direction, its seven closest neighbours do the same. In this way, the information spreads almost instantaneously across the flock. Google “flight of the starlings” to see a beautiful video of a murmuration filmed in the Netherlands.

A murmuration of European starlings over Minsmere in the United Kingdom – photo by Airwolfhound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crows, too, often congregate in the hundreds or even thousands to sleep in communal roosts. An hour or two before darkness, they start flying to peripheral congregation sites, located close to the overnight roosting spot. There is usually a lot of noise-making, chasing, and general squabbling that goes on at these sites. Then, right at dark, the crows move on to their nearby final destination.

What to watch for this week

Young frogs are transforming into adults and leaving their natal ponds. Watch for tiny (less than one centimetre in length) wood frogs, spring peepers and American toads on moist areas of the forest floor from July through September. In backyards and parks, listen for the buzzy, electric song of the first dog-day cicadas of the summer.

 

 

Jun 302018
 

We have a peanut feeder in front of the kitchen sink. We have had Hairy, Downy and occasionally a female Pileated visiting the feeder. This past week or so both Downy and Hairy have been bringing their young. Both seem to have male and female babies, and the parents are sharing the feeding. I noticed that the male baby Hairy has its red head marking on the front instead of near the rear of the head as in the adult male.  Is the Hairy chick an oddball or does location differ?

Peter Gulliver, Peterborough

Note:   I think I’ve seen this before on young Hairy Woodpeckers, so to be sure, I went to Google Images and searched for “Juvenile Hairy Woodpecker”. A photo came up showing that the red does appear at the front in young birds. If this is always the case, I don’t know. Maybe others have noticed the same thing.

Juvenile Hairy Woodpecker (below) showing red on front of head – Peter Gulliver – June 2018

Hairy Woodpecker-Juvenile-Jennifer Schultz – from Birds and Blooms.com

 

Jun 302018
 

This year we’ve had at least four Painted Turtles which all came up late afternoon on June 9th. We covered over three possible nest sites, though one is never sure if eggs have been deposited. One unknown nest excavated in a grassy slope has been raided.

And for the first time we’ve had two Snapping Turtles up from the Indian River. Late afternoon on June 13th, a large Snapper appeared to be depositing eggs in a well crafted nest in our gravelled turning circle right next to a protected Painted Turtle nest, but when she departed a couple of hours later via our front garden she had failed to cover over the excavated nest which for us is unusual. We protected the nest in hopes of a future hatching.

Snapper no.1 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Snapper no 2 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

House Wren nest – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A second Snapper, smaller than the first, was seen wandering about the turning circle about 8 am. on June 18 but there was no obvious sign of any nest. However, on June 19th, a nest unknown to us was raided, As there were still some eggs untouched, we covered it over with the usual chicken wire weighed down by rocks. On the 23rd, the nest was dug up again. A heavy rock had been moved and the chicken wire had been torn apart. We think the culprit was a fox as our trail camera picked up an image heading for the same nest which we had covered yet again, though there is probably nothing left inside. The image is somewhat blurred but taking into account the size of nearby rocks it looks to be a fox. All this time, the protected nest had not attracted any attention so possibly it is sterile.

And another first for us, we have a pair of House Wrens, and a nest has been constructed in one of my hanging baskets on the front porch. There’s been a lot of singing and to and froing from the nest, but I have no idea if a female is sitting on eggs. We’ve avoided using the front door and I’ve been carefully watering the basket once a day using a small plastic jug, tipping the water straight onto the soil at the edge of the pot and away from the entrance. This hasn’t deterred the birds though they are never overly happy when I’m on the porch. It’s interesting that of the three hanging baskets on the porch, the one chosen is the most protected from wind and rain and receives somewhat less sun than the other two. Good choice.

Stephenie Armstrong, Sawmill Road, Warsaw

 

Jun 292018
 

A preview of summer nature events with a nod to climate change

Now that summer has officially arrived, I want to look ahead to some of the events in nature that we can expect over the next three months. As a result of climate change, however, the actual timing of events is becoming less predictable. This was especially true last fall when unprecedented warmth and drought delayed and weakened the intensity of the fall colours.

It was exactly 30 years ago that NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen appeared before Congress, where he predicted how human-made emissions would impact the climate. As it turned out, the predictions he made in 1988 were almost entirely on target. As emissions have soared, the planet has warmed relentlessly; every year of this century has been hotter than 1988. This past May was the warmest on record in the U.S. As he predicted, the ocean is rising at an accelerating pace, the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting, coastal flooding is rapidly increasing, and the Arctic Ocean ice cap has shrunk drastically. Despite all of this, conservative politicians across Canada want to get rid of carbon taxes and undo the meagre progress the country has made in addressing climate change. Let’s not forget that on a per capita basis, Canada is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

This past spring, we had several reminders of the impact climate change is having on nature in the Kawarthas. On May 4, Peterborough was hit by a major windstorm with gusts up to 120 km/hr. This was the worst storm to hit the city since the ice storm of April 2013. Numerous trees were blown down, including a tall spruce on Maple Crescent that literally snapped in half. Dozens of other spruce were uprooted across the city. At the corner of Monaghan and Lansdowne, nearly half of a huge iconic oak tree came down, as well. The number of trees that have been destroyed by ice and wind in Peterborough and the Kawarthas in the past couple of decades is a tragedy.

The demise of many ornamental, non-native  cedars in the Kawarthas also has a probable link to climate change. Wild temperature fluctuations this winter -especially in February with four days above 11 C – caused freeze-thaw cycles that put stress on the trees, causing them to  turn brown and, in some cases, die.

The following events in nature are typical of summer in the Kawarthas.

Late June

  • Turtles can still be seen along roadsides and rail-trails laying their eggs. Remember to slow down in turtle-crossing zones.
  • Monarch butterflies have returned – the “grandchildren” of those that flew to Mexico last fall. Local Monarch numbers appear encouraging so far this year. Make sure your garden has a selection of different plants blooming from spring through fall to provide pollen and nectar to bees and butterflies. It’s also important to have some milkweed on which Monarchs can lay their eggs. Both Swamp (A. incarnata) and Butterfly (A. tuberosa) Milkweed are the best choices for small gardens.

Monarch Butterfly – Terry Carpenter

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July

  • Common Milkweed is in flower and its rich, honey-sweet perfume fills the early summer air. The scent serves to attract insects whose feet will inadvertently pick up the flowers’ sticky pollinia – small packets containing pollen – and transfer them to another plant.
  • A huge number of other plants are blooming, as well. In wetland habitats, watch for Common Elderberry, Swamp Milkweed, Joe-Pye Weed, Yellow Pond Lily and Fragrant White Water Lily. Along roadsides and in meadows, common species include Bird’s-foot Trefoil (often on lawns), Ox-eye Daisy, Yarrow, Viper’s Bugloss, Black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Bergamot, Purple-flowering Raspberry and Orange Hawkweed.

Common Milkweed

Joe-Pye Weed – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • July is a good time to learn the common, non-native invasive plants. Some of the most noticeable roadside denizens are Wild Parsnip, Dog-strangling Vine and Phragmites (Common Reed). For more information, contact the Ontario Invasive Plant Council at ontarioinvasiveplants.ca.
  • July is infamous for deer, horse and stable flies, which belong to the Tabanidae family. Deer flies have black-patterned wings, iridescent eyes and tend to fly around your head. Horse flies are larger, grey in colour, and have huge eyes. They prefer to bite lower on the body. Stable flies are house fly-size and have four dark stripes on the thorax. They often attack the ankles and are very difficult to swat. Stable flies lay their eggs on rotting vegetation along shorelines and often show up at cottage docks.
  • It is hard to go anywhere near water in July and not notice dragonflies and damselflies. Many turn up in suburban gardens. To tell them apart, remember that dragonflies have thick bodies, are strong fliers, and their wings are open at rest. Damselflies are usually much smaller, have thin bodies, are weak fliers, and their wings are closed or only partially spread at rest. Some of the most frequently seen damselflies are powder-blue in colour, hence the common name of “bluets.” As for dragonflies, some common species include the Dot-tailed Whiteface, Common Whitetail, Four-spotted Skimmer and Chalk-fronted Skimmer. Go to odonatacentral.org/ for pictures of all Ontario dragonflies and damselflies. Click on “checklists” and then type “Ontario” in the search box.
  • By mid-July, the buzzy, electric song of the Dog-day Cicada fills the void created by the decrease in bird song.
  • Watch for mushrooms such as White Pine Boletes and Fly Agarics. Summer – not fall – usually produces the greatest variety of fungi.
  • Quiet country roads with lots of thick cover can be good for summer birding. If you hear contact calls, stop and pish. Warblers such as American Redstarts often fly in quite close.

August

  • Listen for the high-pitched “lisping” calls of Cedar Waxwings and the “po-ta-to-chip” flight call of the American Goldfinch. Watch for waxwings on the branches of dead trees along the River Road between Trent University and Lakefield.

Cedar Waxwings – Wikimedia

Immature meadowhawk dragonfly – Margo Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Late July through September offers some of the best shorebird watching of the year. The Nonquon Sewage Lagoon, located just north of Port Perry, is the destination of choice. A ten-dollar permit is necessary, however. It can be purchased at Durham Region Transfer Site at 1623 Reach Road, Port Perry. Call 905-985-7346 ext. 112 for more information.
  • A large percentage of the insect music we here this month comes courtesy of crickets and katydids. For example, the soft, rhythmic “treet…treet…treet” of the Snowy Tree Cricket sounds like a gentle-voiced spring peeper. Its beautiful rhythmic pulsations actually provide a good estimate of air temperature. Watch and listen at bit.ly/18nGrJ3
  • By mid-August, Ragweed is in full bloom and its pollen has hay fever sufferers cursing with every sneeze. Goldenrod, which relies on insects to spread its sticky, heavy pollen, is not the culprit. The small, green flowers of the Ragweed, however, rely strictly on the wind to spread the ultra light, spike-covered pollen grains. The higher CO2 levels associated with climate change are greatly increasing pollen production. It is also causing Poison Ivy to thrive.
  • Small dragonflies known as meadowhawks abound. Mature males are red, while females and immature males are yellowish.
  • Cottagers sometimes find large, mysterious, jelly-like “blobs” attached to the dock or aquatic plants. They are formed by colonies of Bryozoa, a freshwater invertebrate. Looking somewhat like an egg mass, the clumps are clear, dense, and have distinct, repetitive patterns and markings on the outside. Bryozoa are like a freshwater coral in that the mass they form is actually a colony of thousands of zooids – roughly analogous to polyps in corals. Each tiny zooid has whorls of ciliated feeding tentacles that sway back in forth to catch plankton in the water.
  • Bird migration is in full swing by mid- to late August, with numerous warblers, vireos, flycatchers and Common Nighthawks moving through. One of the best places to see nighthawks is Back Dam Park near Warsaw. Migration peaks around August 20. Go in the evening and watch the sky for loose flocks.
  • Goldenrods reach peak bloom at month’s end and become the dominate flowers of roadsides and fields. These plants are veritable insect magnets, drawing in an amazing variety of species with their offerings of pollen and nectar.

  September

  • Monarch butterfly numbers are at their highest. Monarchs congregate at peninsulas on the Great Lakes such as Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a jumping off point for their migration across Lake Ontario. Don’t miss the Monarch tagging demonstration at Presqu’ile on the afternoon of September 1 and 2. Monarch expert Don Davis will be on hand to answer questions and even let your kids release a tagged butterfly. Go to friendsofpresquile.on.ca for more information.

Tagged Monarch – Drew Monkman

A Monarch butterfly drinks nectar from a New England Aster – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Chinook and Coho Salmon leave Lake Ontario to spawn in tributaries of the Ganaraska River. Huge salmon can be seen jumping up the fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam on Cavan Street in Port Hope.
  • By late September, asters reign supreme. Their purples, mauves, and whites light up fields and roadsides and bring the year’s wildflower parade to a close. The most common species include New England, Heath, Panicled and Heart-leaved Asters. They make a great addition to any pollinator garden.
  • Be sure to put your bird feeders up this month. If you scatter millet or finch mix on the ground, you should be able to attract White-throated Sparrows which migrate south in late September.
  • Most years, Virginia Creeper vine, Poison Ivy, Chokecherry and Staghorn Sumac reach their colour peak at about the fall equinox, which occurs this year on September 22.

 

 

Jun 262018
 

by Amy Harder, in AXIOS – June 25, 2018

 

Climate change is intangible and complicated, which makes it an easy target for our era of fake news.

Why it matters: Addressing climate change, whether through government or private action, requires acknowledging a problem exists. Misinformation about the science, including inaccurate statements and articles, makes that harder. Concern about climate change has dropped over the past year among Republicans and independents, according to Gallup polling released in March.

Fake news and inaccurate climate information have been around for a long time, long before Donald Trump became president. But Trump’s election has enabled misinformation to spread by elevating leaders in politics and elsewhere who don’t acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change.

We’ve seen this play out across different forums: media articles, congressional hearings and public speeches.

Republican lawmakers said at a hearing in May that rocks tumbling into the ocean were causing sea levels to rise, not warmer temperatures fueled by human activity.
The Wall Street Journal has run opinion pieces that question mainstream climate science consensus. Some raise important points, but others are deeply inaccurate, such as this one in May that said sea level is rising but not because of climate change.
Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others in the administration have repeatedly raised doubts that humans have an impact on climate change.
When Trump said his inauguration crowd size was the largest ever, it was easy to show a photo disproving his false claim. When Trump blamed Democrats for last week’s immigration crisis, it was relatively easy to show how his own policies led directly to family separations.

With climate change, there’s nothing simple about the subject — so it’s harder to cut through the barrage of misinformation.

I’ve been covering this issue for nearly a decade, and I still haven’t learned the science enough to know quickly and confidently the science behind why a certain piece of information — such as that sea level rise op-ed in the Journal — is wrong, even when I know it doesn’t sound right. I seek out scientists and other reputable experts to help distill it.

“There isn’t necessarily a good intuitive comparison like ‘the crowd in this photo looks a lot bigger than the crowd in this one.’ Even if you are looking at lines on a chart, you are comparing abstractions of real phenomena like temperature change.”
— Joseph Majkut, climate science expert at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank
Climate change isn’t simple because it’s inherently uncertain, just like all science — and it’s best to acknowledge that uncertainty. Some media articles, environmental activists and progressive politicians often over-simplify, downplay or dismiss altogether any uncertainty. That fuels the polarization on this topic.

The most important thing to know is that the overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity is driving Earth’s temperature up, according to Ed Maibach, an expert on climate-change communication at George Mason University.

Yet, just 15% of the public understands that more than 90% of scientists have reached that conclusion, according to a survey this spring by George Mason and Yale University. Nearly half underestimates the scientific consensus.

“It takes a lot of effort to dive in and learn the details about something, and we will do that when we are highly motivated to learn something,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale University professor who studies public perceptions of climate. “Most people aren’t willing to devote an enormous amount of brain energy to thinking about climate change.”

Changing this trend takes time and new leadership — which isn’t happening in big enough numbers to shift public debate.

Climate Feedback is a voluntary initiative of well-known and respected scientists reviewing climate change articles for accuracy, whose first work came in 2015.

Among the articles reviewed: The Wall Street Journal op-ed on rising sea levels, which was described as “grossly” misleading to readers; and, on the other side, a highly cited New York Magazine article that the reviewing scientists said exaggerated how bad climate change could get.
The number of people who read the reviews of those articles are undoubtedly a fraction compared to those who read the original pieces.
People take cues from leaders, such as The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Trump administration officials.

Until or unless people in those positions either leave or change opinions, it could be difficult to change the masses.
Earlier this month, we saw one leadership change: New NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who doubted the scientific consensus on climate change when he was in Congress, said reviewing the science convinced him to change positions.
Bridenstine’s views are important from a substantive perspective — NASA is one of the top agencies that monitors the planet’s climate. But he’s not well known enough to change a lot of people’s minds.
One non-science thing that could change the debate, in the view of a new bipartisan group, is convincing people to acknowledge the problem without getting stuck debating how serious it is.

Last week, a political group funded by energy companies and supported by a bipartisan pair of former congressional leaders launched a campaign to push for a carbon tax.

One of those leaders lobbying in support, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, said he remains skeptical of what he says are some scientists’ political motives — but that won’t be his focus.

“I’m not going to debate liberals and Democrats about the icebergs melting. I’m not going to argue how imminent a threat this is. I’m just going to say: ‘It is a problem. This is one way to address it. Let’s talk about it.’ ”
— Former Sen. Trent Lott (R.-Miss.)

Jun 232018
 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported Jun 22, 2018 07:10 by Chris Risley
– Hwy 38 at RR crossing, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “heard calling and giving whistle”

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Redstart & House Wren (June 20)

Lots of American Redstart activity along the bike trail behind Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School on Armour Road. Unable to catch a photo of females. I also saw adult & juvenile House Wrens. Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

American Redstart June 20, 2018 – TASSS – Carl Welbourn

House Wren – June 20, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

House Wren fledgling – June 2018 – Carl Welbourn

 

Jun 222018
 

Last of a three-part series exploring local nature destinations

This week, I will conclude my exploration of some of the best nature-viewing areas in the Kawarthas – and beyond – by looking at destinations located mostly south of Peterborough. Almost all of these areas offer excellent opportunities to see a wide range of species and not just those mentioned in the highlights.

For a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular locations (e.g., Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary, Rice Lake – Pengelly Landing, Presqu’ile Provincial Park) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough (or another county such as Northumberland), click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance.

Nature destinations in the Kawarthas (note: Not all of the destinations in this article appear on the map) – Dylan Radcliffe

Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary: Located on north-west corner of Co. Rd. 21 and 28. Highlights:  Waterfowl and shorebirds, especially during spring and fall migration. A spotting scope is necessary.

Millbrook Valley Trails: Take Distillery St. south from King St. in Millbrook and park at trailhead near the millpond. Highlights: Check the millpond for ducks, geese and shorebirds. The Baxter Creek Trail (3 km) traverses a diversity of habitat types including cedar-hemlock forest, extensive wetland (boardwalks) and meadows, each with its representative birds and plants. This is a great trail for wetland flowers, shrubs and birds. Finish up with coffee at the Pastry Peddler Café in downtown Millbrook!

Sign at entrance to Millbrook Valley Trails – Drew Monkman

 

Pleasant Point Rd:  From Co. Rd. 21, take 4th Line east. Highlights:  Screech owls possible all year round in wooded areas along road. Large variety of warblers such as Northern Waterthrush and Black-throated Blue in the low, swampy forests.

Gravel Pit Conservation Area: Located at south end of Crowley Line, which is one line east of Bensfort Rd. Park where Crowley turns west and becomes Rosa Landing Road. Walk in along unmaintained road allowance, which continues south. Climb over gate on left. Continue until you arrive at a large open area with ponds. Highlights: Good general birding, shorebirds possible at ponds during migration

Scriven Road: Located one line east of Bailieboro, between 4th Line and the north shore of Rice Lake. Highlights:  A good place to look for Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Snowy Owls and Red-tailed Hawks in winter. Field birds like Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks in spring and summer.

 

Rice Lake (Pengelly Point to Hiawatha):  Take Co. Rd. 2 east from Bailieboro. Turn south at Scriven Rd. and follow to Pengelly Point on Rice Lake. Check lake in all directions. Further east, good views of the lake can also be had from Bb Beach Rd., Perrin Point Rd., Southview Dr.,  Wood Duck Dr. and from Harrick Point in Hiawatha First Nation. Highlights:  Rafts of migrating ducks in early spring (late March through early April) and in late fall. Excellent area for Osprey, too.

Herkimer Point Road:  Turn east off Co. Rd. 31 at Hiawatha First Nation. Highlights:  Excellent birding from spring to fall in a variety of habitats, including deciduous forest, swamp and marsh. Good views of Rice Lake from the end of the road, where there is a nice woodlot with wildflowers such as Wild Geranium. Bird species to expect in marshes include Virginia Rail and American Bittern.

Mather’s Corners:  Located east of Drummond Line, just south of Co. Rd. 2 at Mather’s Corners. Highlights:  Ducks, geese and sometimes swans in early spring in flooded cornfield. They include Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and sometimes even Snow Geese and Tundra Swans. The birds are best viewed with a spotting scope from Drummond Line. Continue to south end of road where there is a heronry with large numbers of nesting Great Blue Herons. The fields here are often good for Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks.

Tundra Swans at Mather’s Corners – Luke Berg

Indian River at Keene: Large wetland located just east of village. Explore north and south of the bridge by canoe. Highlights:  Typical wetland plants, amphibians, reptiles and birds such as Virginia Rail and Marsh Wren.

Indian River at Warsaw: At village of Warsaw, take Rock Rd. east about 1 km to Back Dam Park. You can look for birds from the parking lot or explore the river by canoe or kayak. Highlights: Good general birding in spring and early summer. Common Nighthawks migrate south over the river in late afternoon and evening, from mid-August through early September. 50 or more possible on a good evening.

River Road – Take 2nd Line of Asphodel south from Co. Rd. 2. River Rd. is first road on left. Follow across to 6th of Asphodel. Highlights:  Beautiful old forest with impressive mature trees, diverse ferns, abundant spring wildflowers and sometimes birds like Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpecker.

 

Trans-Canada Trail East (Peterborough to Hastings and beyond):  Section between Drummond and David Fife Lines can be very good, especially where it borders the wetland east of Nelson Road. Highlights:  Excellent birding and butterfly –watching from May through early fall. Watch for Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies east of Nelson Road where Turtlehead wildflowers grow.

A little further afield…

Ballyduff Trails (McKim-Garsonnin Property): Take Hwy 7A to Hwy 35. Head south to Ballyduff Rd. Turn right and continue to Wild Turkey Rd. Park at 851 Ballyduff Rd. Parking is also available at 1020 Gray Rd. (South Pond Farms), located north of Wild Turkey Rd. Highlights:  Explore five trails winding through meadow, forest, wetland and a tall grass prairie restoration project. Go to Kawarthalandtrust.org to print off a trail map.

Fleetwood Creek Natural Area: Continue on Ballyduff Rd. past Wild Turkey Rd. and watch for signs. Highlights:  380-hectare property located within the Oak Ridges Moraine. Trails take you through mature lowland forests, meadows and steep valleys. You will find a diverse flora, interesting geology and impressive fall foliage.

Nonquon Sewage Lagoons: Located on Scugog Line 8, east of Highway 12, north of Port Perry. Highlights: Diverse and sometimes abundant migrating shorebirds in spring, summer and fall. Close-up views. N.B. a ten-dollar permit is necessary. Obtain at Durham Region Transfer Site at 1623 Reach Road, Port Perry. Call 905-985-7346 ext. 112 for more information.

Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve –  From Co. Rd. 28 at Bewdley, travel east on Co. Rd. 9 and Co. Rd. 29 to McDonald Rd. Turn right (south) on McDonald Rd. to the reserve. Highlights:  Magnificent old-growth forest with huge maples, beech, ash, pine, etc. Diverse ferns, orchids, spring wildflowers and birds.

Second Marsh – McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve – Take Highway 401 east towards Oshawa. Take exit 419. Turn left onto Bloor St. E, then left onto Regional Road 56 and left onto Colonel Sam Dr. Follow to Reserve entrance on right. Highlights: 137-hectare provincially significant coastal wetland; important breeding and migratory stopover area for birds; numerous trails, interpretive signs, viewing platforms with excellent opportunities to see shorebirds, waterfowl, field birds, raptors, etc. Scope will come in handy.

Cranberry Marsh – Take Highway 401 east towards Whitby. Exit at Brock St. (exit 410). Go south 0.5 km to Victoria St. (eastern extension of Bayly). Turn right, go 3.2 km to Hall’s Rd. Turn left, and follow to roadside parking area at pathway. Leads to platform over the marsh. Highlights: Waterfowl (both in marsh and along the lakeshore), owls, migrant songbirds. Excellent hawk-watching in fall. Especially mid-September for Broad-winged Hawks.

Fall hawk-watch at Cranberry Marsh – Drew Monkman

Thickson’s Woods – From Highway 401 in Whitby, Ontario, take Thickson Road south past Wentworth Street to the Waterfront Trail. Turn east (left) 100 metres to a small turnaround. Highlights: Last remnant of old-growth white pines on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Superb late April – early May destination for migrating songbirds like warblers, orioles, tanagers and thrushes.

Cobourg Harbour – From Exit 474 on Highway 401, go south on Division St. (Highway 45) to east pier. Highlights: A great place to see wintering and migrant gulls, ducks and sometimes Snowy Owls. October to April is best. Migrant shorebirds often show up along the west side. Further lake views can be had from the foot of D’Arcy St. where more gulls, grebes  waterfowl often loiter. Flat rocks here contain fossils. Port Hope Harbour on Mill St. is also excellent.

Ganaraska River – Corbett’s Dam: Follow Co. Rd. 28 to first set of traffic lights south of Highway 401. Go west on Molson St. and turn right at Cavan St. Follow to Corbett’s Dam where the fish ladder is located. Highlights: In April, watch Rainbow Trout making the run upstream to spawn. In September, Chinook Salmon can be seen jumping up the ladder and waiting in the hundreds in the water below the dam.

Don Davis tagging Monarchs at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presqu’ile Provincial Park – Located south of Brighton on Lake Ontario. Follow signs. Highlights:  The 10-km-long peninsula jutting into Lake Ontario is a migrant trap for many species of birds. Waterbirds and shorebirds migrate through in large numbers. Unique late-summer wildflowers including False Dragonhead, Grass-of-Parnassus and Kalm’s Lobelia. Staging area for migrant Monarch butterflies in late summer. Special event weekends include Waterfowl Viewing Weekend in March and the Monarchs and Migrants Weekend at Labour Day. If you go to Presqu’ile, be sure to check out the Brighton Constructed Wetland for ducks and other wetland species. It is located at 211 Prince Edward St. (at junction of Harbour St.) about 2 km east of the park entrance.

 

Jun 202018
 

Purple Finches (since early May)

This year, for the first time, we have Purple Finches coming to our feeder. They arrived in early May. I first noted a male, who showed a cinnamon, chestnut-reddish coloured head and body which morphed into a rose/raspberry by the end of May. The females gradually turned from sparrow-like to a very light rose. I think that there are two males and maybe four in total usually show in pairs or singles. One pair comes from the rail-trail behind 500 McDonnel St. Actually, the whole of the rail trail between Park and Bonnacord is interesting with Black Locust trees, a fairly large isolated wooded creek side area and a large communal garden site.  Art Harron, McDonnel Street

Note: Purple Finches are quite rare in Peterborough in the summer. D.M.

male Purple Finch – Wikimedia

House Finch (for comparison) – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predation of robin nest (June 15)

We live on Firwood in Peterborough and had an American Robin nest in a low evergreen in front of our living room window. We were watching as the eggs were laid, hatched and the babies were fed. We watched with pride and pleasure as the parents fed their chicks and feathers had developed, and from a distance I took photos of the progress of the family. This morning, we were shocked, disappointed and devastated to see the nest empty and one baby (body about 3 inches long – perhaps dropped) on the cement walkway of our neighbour (about 15 feet from the nest). It did not seem to have any bite marks or signs of a cat or other animal attacking it but looked as if the fall had killed it. Would this be another bird stealing it from the nest?? What may have happened to the siblings? What may have happened to the parents? Is there somewhere I can find more information? Audrey Moore

Note: Nests of all kinds can be vulnerable to attacks from predators, such as Blue Jays, American Crows, Common Grackles, and many other species of birds and mammals, including cats. In Peterborough, crows seem to be the number one culprit. I have never had a robin nest on my property that has not been predated. Always sad. D.M. 

American Robin fledglings on nest – Murray Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrel control (June 11 and 27)

We have a Red Fox that visits our yard, even climbing up onto the deck railing. We have witnessed the fox chasing squirrels all around our deck, over chairs, a table and a bench. The fox has jumped from the ground (approx. 6 feet) to the deck railing. It has often walked off with breakfast in its mouth. We have also seen it chase squirrels along the fence, which is about 8 feet high. I have some of it on video as it chased the squirrel under the deck. All this to the tune of a murder of crows voicing their displeasure – in fact, the fox’s arrival is arrival in our yard is announced by the crows.

Don Finigan, Peterborough

Note: On June 27, Don watched the fox catch a squirrel. Don writes: “I have witnessed 5 pursuits so far, in 2 of these the fox was the winner and took home breakfast. The other 3 involved 2 squirrels and 1 ground squirrel. In these 3, it was a straight race. Speed told the story. The other 2 took place on our deck with 2 levels, 6 planters, 2 tables, 1 bench, 4 chairs, 1 BBQ and 2 interior safety railings. All these obstructions for the squirrels to dodge slowed them down and gave the fox its chance to catch them. So when I come back I don’t want to be a squirrel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange colour morphs in Gray Squirrels (June)

I thought these pictures of multicolored brown Eastern Gray Squirrels would be of interest to naturalists. They were taken weeks apart. Peter Ouimet, Bianco Crescent, Peterborough

Brown colour morph E. Gray Squirrel – June 2018 – PTBO – Peter Ouimet

A different brown colour morph E. Gray Squirrel – June 2018 – PTBO – Peter Ouimet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecropia moth emerges and mates! (May 31) 

I thought you’d like to see this beautiful silk moth that emerged this evening, May 29, after months of being cocooned in our purple sand cherry. We watched it as a caterpillar until one day it just simply disappeared! Then, later in August or September we noticed a clump of leaves stuck together and concluded it might be that it had wrapped itself up for the winter. Sure enough! It was moving its very large wings so perhaps it will be gone by morning. Wendy Marrs

Cecropia- Wendy Marrs

Follow-up: My husband woke me the next day (May 30) with “there are twins!” We soon realized that somehow a male had found our female. They stayed attached all day and last evening were both gone without a trace. After a whole fall, winter and spring, we had grown quite attached to our little guest but that just how it goes in nature:)

Mating Cecropia moths – Wendy Marrs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note from Tim Dyson: 

“Don’t fret Wendy, assuming your Cecropia story is over. After separation of the male and female moths, the female will very often lay a few to several eggs right on the same shrub or tree that she had dined upon the year before as a larva. Look for evidence of the next generation on your sand cherry in the autumn. You might just find another cocoon or two!”

 

Goldfinches playing in the wind? (May 6)

On Friday evening, at the height of a wind storm, but after the rain had lessened somewhat, about a dozen American Goldfinches, mostly male, converged on our birdfeeder stand and faced into the wind, rather than keep to  shelter.  Then, one by one, they jumped face first into the gale-force west wind, and were swept immediately back to the other end of the yard.  They did this repeatedly, as though it was a game.  I have never seen such strong and noisy wind, but the birds seemed to enjoy the challenge – wind-surfing!  Callie Stacey, Lakefield

White American Robin (April 11)

I live in Campbellford and over the past few weeks I have observed a white robin in my backyard, just north of the Canadian Tire parking lot.  It is white with a couple of grey to black patches or strips on its back, and it has a slight orange on the bottom of its breast.  The eyes are black (not pink).  Otherwise it looks like the white robins shown on the internet.  (Google white robin)  It appears to be a mature robin and has always been seen by me alone.  An exception was last night when it was snowing out and it appeared on the lawn, then a rabbit came out and the two picked and ate together as the snow began to cover the lawn.  By eight o’clock they had both disappeared. I have never seen one before. Paul Smith 

Note: This is clearly a leucistic bird, meaning it is lacking in normal pigmentation. D.M.

Leucistic American Robin – Campbellford – via James Burrett – May 2018

 

Purple

 

 

 

Jun 192018
 

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 15, 2018 07:04 by Luke Berg
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Audio
– Comments: “Singing, east side of the road at 155 Deer Bay Reach Rd. Got a fairly good look at it a couple times.”

Cerulean Warbler (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (2)
– Reported Jun 16, 2018 08:15 by Daniel Williams
– Ingleton-Wells Property (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

Jun 152018
 

Part 2 of a 3 part series

This week, I would like to continue my exploration of some of the best nature-viewing areas in the Kawarthas by looking at destinations located mostly north of Peterborough. I have started in the northeast with the Carden Alvar near Kirkfield and worked eastward towards the Havelock area.

To see a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular destinations (e.g., Lakefield Sewage Lagoons, Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Carden Alvar) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough or Kawartha Lakes, click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance.

Nature destinations in the Kawarthas (note: Not all destinations in this article appear on the map) Dylan Radcliffe

Carden Alvar:  Located northwest of Lindsay, about 75 minutes from Peterborough via Hwy 7 and Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 6. From Kirkfield, take Co. Rd. 6 north and turn right onto McNamee Rd. Explore concessions such as Wylie Rd., Shrike Rd. and Alvar Rd. Highlights:  Best early summer birding destination in southern Ontario, especially for uncommon and rare grassland birds (e.g., Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper, Eastern Bluebird) and marsh birds (e.g., Sedge Wren); unique alvar plant communities (e.g., Prairie Smoke, Indian Paintbrush)  Google “Carden Alvar Birding Guide” Right now (mid-June) is the best time to go!

Prairie Smoke (pink) on the Carden Alvar – Drew Monkman

Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve:  About 70 minutes from Peterborough via Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 49 and 121. From Kinmount, Co. Rd. 45 west for 7 about km. The property is at address marker 4164. Highlights: 470 hectares of high-quality forest straddling the contact between the granite rocks of the Canadian Shield and the limestone of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands; great diversity of habitat types, breeding birds and flora. For more information, Google: “Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary”

Ken Reid Conservation Area:  From the junction of highways 7 and 35, go 5 km north on Hwy 35. Turn right on Kenrei Park Rd. and go 3 km. Highlights:  Forest, fields and huge marsh with boardwalks; high density of active Osprey nests

Emily Tract: Located on Peace Rd. (Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 14) just west of Cowan’s Bay and Emily Provincial Park: Highlights: wide variety of mature trees including old pines; excellent display of wildflowers in spring

Gannon’s Narrows: On Co. Rd. 16 north of Ennismore at junction of Pigeon and Buckhorn lakes. Highlights:  Waterfowl in winter, spring and fall; eagles possible; otters on ice.

John Earle Chase Memorial Park Trails: Just north of Gannon’s Narrows. Park 0.6 km down Anchor Bay Road. Highlights: Three new trails totaling 7.5 km. Partnership between Kawartha Land Trust, Trent Severn Waterway and Municipality of Trent Lakes. Mature maple forests, rich wetlands and great views of Pigeon Lake. Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map.

Big (Boyd) Island: Situated at north end of Pigeon Lake, this 1100-acre Kawartha Land Trust is only accessible by boat. You can park and launch a canoe from Bear Creek Road on the east side of the lake. Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map. Highlights: extensive wetlands; large marsh and island complex; limestone cliffs on west shore and granite cliffs in the northeast (a microcosm of The Land Between); diverse bird life (e.g., Eastern Towhee, Golden-winged Warbler); alvar habitat; old growth Eastern Hemlock (west side); impressive diversity of ferns

Aerial View of Boyd Island – Kawartha Land Trust

Galway-Cavendish Forest Access Road: From Buckhorn, take Co. Rd. 36 north to Co. Rd. 507 and follow north to just past the Mississauga Dam Rd. Turn west onto Galway-Cavendish Forest Access Rd.. Highlights: excellent butterfly diversity, including rarities such as West Virginia White; watch for some species perched on road (e.g., Eastern Comma, Compton’s Tortoiseshell)

Bridgenorth Trail: Located between Hilliard Street North (at 5th Line) and Brumwell St. (off East Communication Rd. on east edge of Bridgenorth) Highlights: birds, butterflies (especially gravel pit at Bridgenorth end), amphibians, late-summer flowers

Selwyn Beach Conservation Area: Located on east shore of Chemong Lake, at 2251 Birch Island Rd. Access from 12th Line of Selwyn. Highlights: A nature trail passes through wetland, woodland and open field; impressive stands of beech, maple and oak; excellent wildflower display in May

Lakefield Sewage Lagoons: On southeastern edge of Lakefield. Turn east off Co. Rd. 32 (River Rd) onto Co. Rd. 33. Parking on right. Open to public, but avoid blocking the gate. Footpath around gate on east side of parking area. Both lagoons are worth checking. Highlights: Wide variety of migrating ducks in spring and fall; rare Black Terns in summer; diverse songbirds. Number one eBird Hotspot in Peterborough County. Spotting scope useful.

Lakefield Marsh:   Located at south end of Lake Katchewanooka. Turn north off Co. Rd. 29 (Bridge St.) onto Clement St. Turn right on D’Eyncourt St. Follow signs. Highlights: Wetland birds including Black Terns, American Bittern and migrant ducks; large assortment of dragonflies and damselflies in summer, especially when explored by canoe; observation tower and interpretive signage.

Lake Katchewanooka:  The lake is best viewed from the bottom of Stenner Rd. off east side of Hwy 28, just north of Lakefield. Highlights:  Waterfowl in fall, winter and especially spring; eagles possible all year. Often perch in pine trees on the islands to the south

Miller Creek Wildlife Area:  On 7th Line of Selwyn, about 2 km west from Co. Rd. 24. Highlights:  Wetland birds (e.g., American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Swamp Sparrow) in swamp at southern end of main trail. Marsh at observation tower now mostly grass-covered. Watch and listen for Sandhill Cranes.

Camp Kawartha: Located at 1010 Birchview Road, north of Lakefield. Park beside Camp office. Highlights:  Explore the large network of trails on west side of Birchview Road, opposite the Camp. Wetland, woodland and alvar-like habitat. Detailed trail interpretive guides for orange and yellow trails can be found online at campkawartha.ca/orange-trail-guide and campkawartha.ca/yellow-trail-guide/ If possible, check in first at camp office.

Four-toed Salamander at Camp Kawartha (Jake Fell)

Lynch’s Rock Road and Sawer Creek Wetland: Follow Hwy 28 north almost to Lakefield. Turn east on Strickland Rd. and then north on Douro 5th Line. Turn east on Lynch’s Rock Rd. and follow through Sawer Creek Wetland Wildlife Area. Continue south along Douro 3rd Line. Highlights:  Large wetland with nesting Least Bittern. Sandhill Cranes and Upland Sandpipers possible in fields adjacent to Douro 3rd Line.

Warsaw Caves Conservation Area: Take Co. Rd. 4 north from village of Warsaw. Turn east at Cave Rd. Follow signs. Highlights:  Fascinating limestone geologic formations including kettles and caves; large variety of ferns including Walking Fern; variety of habitat types

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park:  Located north of Buckhorn Lake between Co. Rd. 507 and Hwy 28. Access points include Coon Lake Rd., Long Lake Rd. and Anstruther Lake Rd. Best explored by canoe. Highlights:  A huge Canadian Shield park with vast rock barrens and strong wilderness qualities; high-quality bogs, fen communities, alvar and Atlantic coastal plain plant communities; mature forest stands; high concentrations of Whip-poor-will and Common Nighthawk; dark skies for astronomy.

Silent Lake Provincial Park: Located on Hwy 28 between Apsley and Bancroft, about 70 minutes from Peterborough. Highlights:  Diverse habitats, including mixed medium-aged forests, sphagnum bogs (abundant Pitcher Plants and Rose Pogonia at southeast end of lake), beaver meadows; valleys support 25 fern species

Pitcher Plants growing in a bog in Silent Lake Provincial Park (Drew Monkman)

Jack Lake Road: Turn south off Co. Rd. 504 on east side of Apsley. Follow to Jack Lake and then west and south to sand and gravel pits at end of road. Highlights:  birds (e.g., crossbills in tamarack bog just south of Hwy 504); large variety of butterflies, especially in bog and in sand/gravel pits further south; abundant deer

Stony Lake Trails: Follow Hwy 28 north from Burleigh Falls to Mt. Julian Viamede Rd. Turn right and continue to Reid’s Rd. Park at address marker 105. Highlights: 10 km of well-marked, interconnected trails with benches. Open to the public thanks to a special agreement with landowners, including Kawartha Land Trust. Deciduous forest on limestone bedrock with moss and fern-rich gully called “The Chute” (Blue Trail); mixed forest on Canadian Shield granite with large groves of hemlocks, extensive wetland, vernal ponds (Yellow and Red Trails). Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map.

Stony Lake Trails – Kawartha Land Trust

 

Petroglyphs Provincial Park:  Follow Hwy 28 north from Burleigh Falls to just past Woodview. Turn right on Northey’s Bay Rd. and follow for about 11 km. Highlights: Situated on southern edge of Canadian Shield; excellent birding and botanizing (e.g. Pink Lady’s-slipper)on Nanabush Trail; large stands of Red and White Pine; abundant White-tailed Deer; birds of interest include Bald Eagle, crossbills, Evening Grosbeak, warblers and sometimes Black-backed Woodpecker; Five-lined Skinks fairly common; diverse butterflies along edges of roads and wetlands.

Minnow Lake on the Nanabush Trail – Drew Monkman

Hubble Road: Follow Co. Rd. 6 along south shore of Stony Lake and turn right at Co. Rd. 44. Continue southeast for about 4 km to Hubble Rd. on right. Highlights:  Woodland and alvar-like habitat with uncommon birds such as Golden-winged Warbler, Whip-poor-will and Eastern Towhee.

The Gut Conservation Area on Crowe River:  From Apsley, drive east on Co. Rd. 504 to Lasswade. Continue east for about 7 km. Watch for signs. Highlights:  Impressive gorge in basaltic rock; Canadian Shield birds; impressive showing of spring wildflowers in May; abundant ferns and mosses

Sandy Lake Road:  From Co. Rd. 46, turn right about 6 km north of Oak Lake onto Sandy Lake Rd. Highlights:  Diverse butterflies including uncommon skippers (e.g., Mulberry Wing, Broad-winged in summer) along the edge of the sedge marshes; uncommon spring butterflies in May (e.g. Chryxus Arctic, Olympia Marble); Pine Warblers in pines; eagles and crossbills in winter.

Next week, I’ll look at some destinations south of Peterborough.

 

 

 

Jun 082018
 

Part 1 of a 3 part series on local nature destinations 

People often ask me where they should go to see birds and other wildlife. My initial answer is usually “just about anywhere.” Although this is true, I realize that a little more detail might be helpful. This week I’d like to begin a series of three articles on nature destinations in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. I haven’t written on this topic for over six years, and I’ve either discovered or been told about many new locales. But first, a little background information is helpful.

Peterborough County and the Kawarthas is largely defined by the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Kawartha Lakes. It also embraces two of Canada’s main physiographic regions. Driving north from Peterborough along Highway 28, we enter the southern edge of the Canadian Shield at Burleigh Falls. Suddenly, beautiful pink granite and other Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks are easily visible along the roadside and conifers like White Pine become much more common. Satellite images clearly show a largely unbroken expanse of dark green tree cover on the Shield, interspersed with lakes, wetlands and rock barrens.

The land south of the Shield is lower in elevation and has more fertile, calcareous soils. It belongs to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowland, a region of younger sedimentary rock. Limestone, laid down 490 million years ago during the Ordovician period, overlies the basal Shield rock deep below. This limestone is most visible in road cuts all along the edge of the Shield such as the southern entrance to the village of Buckhorn.

This mix of Shield country, lowlands and waterways makes for one of the richest assortments of habitats in the province. These also include rarer habitat types like the bare rock ridges and acidic bogs of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and the flat, open limestone pavement habitat of the Carden Alvar.

With such a wide variety of habitat types, the Kawarthas enjoys one of the greatest diversities of plants and animals in the province. Nature-watching destinations abound. The list of locations that I am proposing is by no means exhaustive, nor is the list of Highlights that accompanies each locale. To see a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular destinations (e.g., Jackson Park, Little Lake, Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary, Lakefield Sewage Lagoons, Harper Park) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough, click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance. You can choose different date ranges, as well. I suggest Jan-Dec, 1900-2017 (or present year).

Readers may wish to email me their own favourite locations (preferably within an hour of Peterborough), which I may be able to include in the next two articles.

City of Peterborough and Vicinity

The best birding and general nature-viewing destinations in Peterborough are often along the Otonabee River-Little Lake corridor and adjacent green spaces. Linear green spaces such as rail-trails can also be excellent. Birds, butterflies and mammals often travel along these corridors.

Little Lake: Located east of George St. south. Good observation points include Little Lake Cemetery, Mark St. boat launch, Edgewater Blvd. and Lock 20. Highlights: Waterbirds in early spring, late fall and winter (ice conditions permitting) including diving ducks, grebes, loons and uncommon gulls; Bald Eagles possible in winter; land birds in the cemetery (e.g., Merlin) and a wide variety of mature native and non-native trees

River Road: Also called Co. Rd. 32. Located on east bank of Otonabee River between Trent University and Lakefield. Highlights: Diving ducks such as goldeneyes and mergansers during migration and in winter; migrating swallows in spring; Bald Eagles and otters sometimes seen

Otonabee River South: Located just north of the Peterborough By-Pass (Hwy. 7), this section of the river is best viewed either from Sherin Ave. on the east or Cameron St. on the west. Highlights: Diving ducks and sometimes grebes during migration and in winter; Bald Eagle possible.

Lock 19 on Otonabee River: Take Sherburne St. south from Lansdowne St. Turn left at Morrow St. and follow to Lock 19 parking lot. Highlights:  Spawning Walleye and suckers in early April; diving ducks in late fall, winter and spring

Crawford Rail Trail: From Monaghan Rd., just south of Lansdowne St., to Crawford Dr. Highlights:  Good general birding, especially at Crawford Dr. end

Harper Park: Located west of Harper Rd. /Rye St. Access from entrance to Harper Rd. Composting Facility where Harper Creek passes under Harper Rd. Highlights: 150-acre natural environment park, provincially-significant wetland, coldwater creeks, meadows, forest, wild brook trout, deer, diverse native birds and plants not normally found within city limits (e.g., Great Horned Owl, Great Lobelia, Cinnamon Fern), numerous migrants in spring. Go to harperpark.ca for more information including a trail map

Kawartha Heights Park: Located between Kawartha Heights Blvd. and Redwood Dr. Access from south end of Crestwood Ave. – Highlights:  birds, plants, butterflies, amphibians, mature trees

Loggerhead Marsh: Located on north side of Ireland Dr., east of Brealey Dr. Highlights: Provincially Significant wetland, two large ponds, diverse shorebirds and songbirds during migration; wetland species like rails, warblers, snipe, herons, and ducks, raptors such as Osprey and Cooper’s Hawk, amphibian chorus in spring. Go to loggerheadmarsh.org for more information.

Jackson Park: Located at junction of Parkhill Rd. and Monaghan Rd. in Peterborough. Highlights: Migrant land birds in spring and fall, stream invertebrates, numerous old-growth trees such as White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar and American Beech, diverse ferns and wildflowers (e.g., Turtlehead, Zig-zag Goldenrod) along rail-trail and especially in the wooded section of the path that borders the east side of the lagoon.

Fairbairn Street Wetland:  Located on west side of Fairbairn St., just north of Co. Rd. 19 (Line Rd. 3). Highlights:  Wetland species like bitterns, gallinules, rails and ducks. Occasional rarities like Nelson’s Sparrow (Oct. 2017)

Trans-Canada Trail: From Jackson Park, east to Omemee Highlights: Wide variety of trees, shrubs (e.g., Silky Dogwood), ferns and wildflowers border the trail; wetland species at Lily Lake and east to Ackison Rd. (e.g., Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrow, Beaver, River Otter, Snapping Turtle, Nannyberry, High-bush Cranberry); Fringed Gentian and Ladies’-tresses Orchids just east of Hwy. 7 overpass

Parkway Trail: A paved trail extending from corner of Fairbairn St. and Highland Rd. to Cumberland Ave. Highlights:  Hilliard to Cumberland section has large concentrations of migrant sparrows in fall and robins in winter, occasional Barred Owls, abundant Virginia Creeper and Wild Grape. Chemong to Hilliard section has a section of wetland (e.g., Common Yellowthroat) and a large retention pond with ducks and herons.

Trent University Nature Areas: Numerous trails traverse a variety of habitats on both sides of the Otonabee River. These include the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary trails east of University Rd., the Canal Nature Area west of University Rd. and the Promise Rock Trail, which can be accessed opposite the small parking lot on the west side of Nassau Mills Rd. near Lock 22. Highlights: wetland, forest and meadow habitats, diverse birds (e.g., warblers, Winter Wren, American Woodcock, Great Horned Owl, Great Blue Heron nesting colony, active Tree Swallow nesting boxes), butterflies, amphibians, etc.

University Road wetland: Located just north of the Warsaw Rd. (Co. Rd. 4) on University Rd. Highlights: Impressive frog and toad chorus in spring

Rotary-Greenway Trail: A 20 km, mostly paved trail from the Ecology Park on Ashburnham Dr., through East City in Peterborough and north to Lakefield. Highlights: Birds (especially in the marsh just north of the Trent Science Complex), butterflies, amphibian chorus in spring.

Meadowvale Park: Located at west end of Frances Stewart Rd. at Ashdale Crescent W. Extends west of Rotary Greenway Trail. Highlights: woodland, field and stream habitat, good general birding, ducks on river

GreenUP Ecology Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Highlights: wide variety of display gardens, native plant nursery and sales, diverse butterflies and nesting songbirds (e.g., American Redstart, Gray Catbird), winter bird feeder trail maintained by PFN, migrants in spring in fall, nature education program, gardening workshops

Beavermead Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Best locations include Tollington Bridge area and Beavermead Campground. Highlights: ducks and herons along Meade Cr., spring and fall migrants in campground

Jun 042018
 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported Jun 03, 2018 05:57 by Chris Risley
– Jones Quarter Line and Bland Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “previously reported, heard giving dry buzz song, then seen”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported Jun 05, 2018 12:20 by Dan Luckman
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo

Red-headed Woodpecker on River Road, near Hastings – Don Pettypiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (2)
– Reported Jun 08, 2018 09:59 by Chris Risley
– Carmel Line, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1023792,-78.4773588&ll=44.1023792,-78.4773588
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46413777

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (2)
– Reported Jun 08, 2018 10:15 by Warren Dunlop
– Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5395496,-78.4977925&ll=44.5395496,-78.4977925
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46406444

 

Jun 032018
 

After almost 8 months of wintering over, moisturizing, hovering and nail biting, the moth has finally emerged from the cocoon I found in the leaf litter last October. I even took the cocoon camping with me – I did not want to miss the big event! Introducing my Polyphemus moth.

Polyphemus – Barb Evett – June 1 2018

I will be releasing him/her this evening.  I am so excited! Barb Evett, Peterborough

Local moth expert Tim Dyson responds to Barb Evett’s sighting:   

Your moth is in fact a “she”.  If you want to continue your adventure, I would recommend you keep her in a lit room until after dark tonight and then take her out into the yard and let her walk onto a tree in a place that won’t be obvious to birds and/or cats in the morning. If she does not fly off outright, she will begin to scent for a male. She will do this by dropping her
“spray can” out of her back end and release her pheromone to attract a mate. If successful, in the
morning tomorrow, you will find the two moths attached at their back ends. They will remain paired like this until dusk the following evening. Then, he will fly off seeking the scent of another. (if he is not spent from the first breeding with your moth), and she will head out on her first egg-laying trip. She will likely lay many right in your yard if she finds the right host trees (and Polphemus moths use many different species like oaks, maples, elms, willows, and poplars among others). You will have a good chance then, to perhaps find more cocoons in your yard this fall, too. I currently have 45 Polyphemus cocoons from larva that I raised on elm and willow last summer. Have not had any emerge as yet this spring, but expect the first any day now.

Barb’s follow-up:  Thank you for the wonderful information, Tim.  Last Friday morning I discovered she had emerged and her wings were extended fully.  I feared she had emerged the previous day and I had failed to discover it.  I knew from an article I read that she had three days to mate, so time was of the essence. So, that night, I took her outside on my hand after dark.  She had climbed up my arm, had her wings straight out and she was vibrating.  I wanted to set her on the trunk of my maple tree, but as soon as the night breeze touched her, she was off and into the night air.  I know she flew across the street disappearing into the night.  I am hopeful she successfully found a mate. I am totally fascinated by your email.  They stay attached till dusk??  The spray can out of her bottom?  I never knew moths were so complex and interesting.  I am keeping your email and address for future reference.  You must have all the right equipment for your 45 cocoons.  If you ever do an open house, let me know.

Many thanks, Tim!  Next time I rake my lawn, I will be more vigilant.  And maybe I will start checking the tree for larvae.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 032018
 
I came from the Coe Hill area and we had 2 kinds of large turtles (still do). Both types are very dark, grow to about 16″ – 18″ in diameter, very aggressive. The main difference is one has a smooth shell and one has a spiked shell, 1 row on either side and horns at the tail area.The smooth shelled ones we called Mud Turtles and the spiked shelled we called Snapping Turtles.
We used to go fishing every year for about 50 years to Cranberry Lake, now called Upper Rathbun, and there was very large, very old snapper that used to come to our campsite on the northeast portion of the lake. It would normally arrive by the time that we had our tents and campsite set up and wait near the shore for our catch which we cleaned on the shore. It would often hiss at us as we sat in the boat cleaning the bass/splake  that we had caught as if telling us to hurry up with its supper. I was last there about 10 years ago and she/he still came to greet us after 50 years.
Blair Greenly
Note: I’m quite certain that they were both Eastern Snapping Turtles. Smooth shells are actually fairly common in this species – even in large individuals. We don’t have Mud Turtles in Ontario, although some people refer to Eastern Musk Turtles as “mud turtles”. They are quite a bit smaller and only reach about 6 inches in diameter as an adult. It’s interesting that the turtles continued to show up year after year. It makes you wonder how old these turtles get. I’ve heard estimates of over 100-years-old! D.M.

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Eastern Musk Turtle – USFWS (via Wikimedia)

Jun 032018
 

 Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:33 by Thomas Unrau
– Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Good visual id- full white wing bars. Good song”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (2)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:05 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Lakefield–Centre Road at Douro Line 3, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 11:32 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sawer Creek Wetland & Wildlife Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 10:20 by Chris Risley
– Otonabee River–Whitfield Landing, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2117853,-78.3550294&ll=44.2117853,-78.3550294
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46169464

Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 04:57 by Iain Rayner
– Miller Creek Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3866915,-78.3501577&ll=44.3866915,-78.3501577
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46172173
– Comments: “Much louder and closer today. Heard well from patch of sedge just beyond second “lookout”…which isn’t a lookout at all.”

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported May 31, 2018 11:13 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5740226,-78.2863426&ll=44.5740226,-78.2863426
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46182776
– Comments: “singing around 50-100 m E road at hydro pole 3232 (picnic bench)”

May 312018
 

All eight species of Ontario turtles are now designated as at risk

With the arrival of June, turtles are once again on the move. Unfortunately, this migration often  involves a hazardous trek across busy roads and highways. Clearly, a turtle’s shell is no match for the crushing weight of a motor vehicle. The result is that thousands of turtles are killed or injured by cars and trucks in the Kawarthas each spring and summer. The carnage is devastating for turtle populations, since egg-bearing adult females are usually the victims. On the bright side, an increasing number of people are now aware of the potential presence of turtles on the road and are adjusting their driving accordingly. It is not hard to avoid striking a turtle if you are driving at a reasonable speed and scan the road ahead.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

Starting in late May, turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. This helps to explain the popularity of road shoulders as nesting sites. The female scrapes out a hollow with her hind legs before proceeding to deposit the eggs. Painted Turtles lay five to ten white eggs, elliptical in shape and about two centimetres long. Snapping Turtles may lay as many as 70 eggs! They look remarkably like ping-pong balls but are much smaller. When the turtle has finished laying, she uses her hind legs to fill in the hole and press down the earth around the eggs. She then drags her shell over the nest and sweeps the area with her hind feet as if to cover up any sign of her presence.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, although only three, the Painted, Snapping and Blanding’s are commonly seen. Seven of Ontario’s turtle species have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as species at risk. The situation for Spotted Turtles is so critical that they are now listed as endangered, meaning they face imminent extinction or extirpation. Both the Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened. The Snapping Turtle, along with the Northern Map Turtle, are designated as species of special concern. Just last month, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) also designated the Midland Painted Turtle as a species of special concern. This means that all of Ontario’s turtles are now at risk of disappearing from the province.

Turtle populations are in decline for a number of reasons. First of all, turtle eggs stand a very poor chance of surviving the long incubation period. Predators such as Raccoons and Striped Skunks usually discover the nests within the first 48 hours after egg-laying, dig up the eggs and enjoy a hearty meal. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators tend to flourish anywhere there is human settlement   – Raccoons are probably twenty times more abundant than 50 years ago – very few turtle nests go undiscovered. You can help our beleaguered turtle populations by not feeding Raccoons and by assuring  they do not get into your garbage.

As already mentioned, roadkill is also a very significant cause of turtle mortality, especially during the June nesting season. Killing pregnant females not only removes reproductive adults from the population, but it also means all their potential future offspring are lost as well. According to Dr. Ron Brooks, professor at the University of Guelph, even a loss of 1 to 2% of adults annually from the “extra” mortality of roadkill will eventually lead to the disappearance of local populations.

So, what can drivers do to protect turtles? It’s mostly a matter of slowing down and watching the road carefully at this time of year, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road, consider stopping and moving it to the shoulder in the direction it was heading. Don’t return the animal to the side of the road it came from, because it will simply turn around and march right back into the traffic. You must, of course, be sure that there is no danger from oncoming cars before you perform this kind of intervention.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle (which can bite) the safest technique is to push and prod the animal along with a stout stick or shovel. You can also lift or pull the turtle, holding onto the rear of the shell. A Snapper can reach its midpoint so do not pick it up near the middle of the shell. Nor should you ever pick up a turtle by the tail, since this may damage its spine. It is also important not to straddle a Snapping Turtle with your car. Snappers jump up when they feel threatened, thereby hitting the undercarriage of the vehicle as it passes over them. This results in serious head trauma and shearing injuries to the carapace.

As for nesting turtles, you should never dig up a turtle nest in order to protect the eggs. You may damage them and it is also illegal. However, if you find a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them, or bring the eggs to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (see below) to be incubated. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible and be careful to keep the eggs right side up during transport. You can also help to protect new nests by lightly sweeping the surface of the nests (to disperse the scent) or temporarily covering the nest with a board for the first few days. If you have a turtle that is nesting on your property, keep an eye out for hatchlings from late August until snow and then again in spring the next year.

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

Since June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) has been saving injured native turtles and releasing them back to where they were initially found. Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity – females don’t reproduce until they are 18 years of age – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. This is why it is essential to rehabilitate turtles – especially females – that have been injured as a result of run-ins with vehicles. As long as they can avoid human-related threats, turtles can live and breed for decades and thereby perpetuate the species.

If you have found an injured turtle, call the OTCC at 705-741-5000. Do not email because an injured animal needs medical attention as soon as possible. Remember to note the location (road, major intersections and/or distance from a given landmark) where the turtle was found. This is necessary in order to ensure that the turtle can be released back into the wild according to provincial regulations. Carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated container – plastic, if possible – with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer the turtle anything to eat. Be sure to visit the OTTC website at ontarioturtle.ca or drop in at the Centre itself. It is located at 4-1434 Chemong Road, just north of Peterborough.

Nearly all of Ontario’s amphibians and reptiles – snakes included – are in a steep decline. In order to monitor changes in the ranges of these animals and fluctuations in their population numbers, volunteers are needed to submit their observations. Take note of the date and location and report your sighting to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Observations can be submitted via an online form at ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/  Most importantly, be sure to vote next Thursday for a political party that take species conservation and climate change seriously. This means providing greater habitat protection and assuring adequate funding for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The future of the natural world is in a race against the clock.

 

May 282018
 

Whimbrels, Dunlin and Cattle Egret:  Seen in Brighton, Ontario, on May 27.  Don Munro

Whimbrels & Dunlin – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cattle Egret – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported May 26, 2018 11:03 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 11:00 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield water tower, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “watched it singing from branch of an apple tree.Continuing bird.”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 13:20 by Bill Crins – Rice Lake–Island View Drive, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “mature male; small, slim oriole with black head and breast, wings, tail; dark auburn lower breast, belly, undertail coverts, shoulder patch, white wing bars; occasionally sang warbling song with more burry notes interspersed; active, seen at close range in small shrubs, and at wet pool on road, heard singing from large silver maple at lodge; found where Islandview Rd. veers sharply to the east, at the lodge driveway”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

May 252018
 

I’ve just returned from my annual birding trip to Point Pelee and Rondeau parks in southwestern Ontario. And, yes, the birds of spring were present in all their diversity and beauty. Every year, however, I notice something deeply unsettling: the reduction in abundance. Take the Wood Thrush, for example. Instead of seeing and hearing dozens or even hundreds of individuals, we maybe counted ten.

Wood Thrush – Greg Piasetzki

The park experience is changing in other ways, too. Each year, more and more trees are being blown over by severe windstorms. This spring, near-record rainfall also caused so much flooding at Rondeau that the campground was closed and rubber boots were a necessity to access several of the park trails.

The upcoming provincial election only adds to my anxiety level when it comes to issues such as these. The front-runner, Doug Ford, is clearly unconvinced – or simply doesn’t care – that a conservation or climate change problem even exists. He is promising to get rid of Ontario’s cap and trade climate tax. He was also prepared to open up part of Ontario’s Greenbelt to housing development, until he reversed his position for largely unknown reasons. Despite the reversal, this speaks volumes of where his heart lies – and it’s not with land conservation or enlightened urban planning.

Ford is also promising to reduce government spending to find billions of dollars in savings. This will probably mean drastic budget reductions to government departments as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. We can also expect rollbacks to the Liberal’s urban planning legislation – the most progressive in North America and a key tool against urban sprawl. I’m sure that progressive urban planners across the province are shaking in their boots about what may be coming. As for Peterborough, a bridge over Jackson Park will probably be much more likely.

Doug Ford in Thunder Bay in May 2018 – Wikimedia

The Great Thinning

British environmental writer Michael McCarthy describes the reduction in wildlife numbers such as those I’ve alluded to as “The Great Thinning”. Thinning doesn’t grab headlines or spur campaigns the way that extinction does. It inhabits a space below the radar, especially to those who aren’t really paying attention. Something similar could be said about climate change. Unless people are flooded out of their homes or forced to evacuate because of forest fires or sea level rise, a changing climate remains an abstraction. The mountains of science-based data about how dire things are becoming don’t resonate with those not directly affected. Polls still show that climate change remains far down the list of concerns for most Canadians.

As a naturalist living in the 21st century, everything that means the most to me – beyond the well-being of family and friends – is under siege. I live in a world of loss – a thinning in abundance of everything from bees and butterflies to reptiles, mammals and birds. Where diverse, abundant nature was once at our doorstep, most Ontarians now have to make a concerted effort to see many species and experience healthy, rich habitats.

When I lived on Westbrook Drive in the 1980s, Barn Swallows nested each spring in our carport; the calls of Common Nighthawks resonated over downtown Peterborough on summer nights; large swarms of bats fed over the pagoda pond in Jackson Park; and Monarchs were so common that we hardly noticed them. Even a car drive on a summer night spoke volumes of species abundance. I clearly remember how the windshield and headlights would become so splattered with moths and other flying insects that I sometimes had to stop to wipe them clean before carrying on.

The predictability of climate, too, was taken for granted. Snow usually arrived in early December and stayed until mid-March. The odd January thaw would occur, but it was still possible to have a backyard rink for most of the winter. Extreme heat, rain and wind events occurred on occasion but were far less common.

Peterborough is already feeling the effects of climate change such as the flood of 2004 – Janine Jones photo

Fast-forward three decades. With luck, you might find a barn where swallows still nest; you sometimes see nighthawks during their fall migration; if you know exactly where to go, there are still a few small colonies of martins on Rice Lake; I still hear of the occasional single bat turning up in older homes; and seeing one or two Monarchs in the garden has become an event of great excitement, rather than the norm. As for night-flying summer insects, our windshields are eerily clean.

When it comes to climate and weather, we no longer know what to expect, other than it will be an extreme of some sort. Over the past 15 years, Peterborough has experienced an epic flood, numerous severe wind and freezing rain events with a huge loss of trees and record-cold winter months interspersed with record-warm winter months. More and more, our weather is delivered in extremes. All of this is playing out against a background of three months out of four being warmer than the 1971-2000 average.

Sad and frustrated

In light of all these changes, the feelings I experience most are sadness and frustration. Sadness that my granddaughters who love nature will probably never experience its richness and diversity the way I have, and frustration that I can’t even convince many close friends that aggressive action on climate change has to be a bare minimum for anyone seeking public office. I find it appalling that politicians like Doug Ford can get away with putting short-term political gain ahead of the kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Just as Ontario is making progress on fighting climate change, Ford is promising to undo it all by getting rid of the cap and trade agreement with Quebec and California. That a political party could get itself elected in 2018 on a program that includes ditching a price on carbon is horrifying. It’s almost like someone saying, “Vote for us and we’ll roll back the laws on same sex marriage, restrictions on smoking in public places and equal pay for work of equal value”.

Everywhere we look, climate change predictions are being confirmed. If you believe in science – humankind’s best way of discovering what’s true – you have to believe that forecasts for the coming years will prove true, as well. Yes, it’s difficult to think beyond the present moment and the many worries and stresses of everyday life. However, we can’t put our heads in the sand. Parents who are outraged when their child is exposed to second-hand smoke or unsafe playground equipment remain somehow paralyzed when it comes to the infinitesimally  greater threat represented by climate change.

Our very civilization depends on a stable, predictable climate, but we fail to grasp the enormity of the climate calamity at our doorstep. In most areas of our lives, the majority of human beings are kind, moral people. However, where is the morality of ignoring what science is telling us? Do we really think we’re better informed than the scientists are? Where is the morality in letting a politician like Doug Ford get away with cancelling a carbon tax and muse about opening protected land to housing development? Ford is making us look like a bunch of fools.

We have no true sense that the Earth is our larger body that we breathe, drink, eat and turn to for inspiration and spiritual well-being. We still haven’t learned to look at nature – be it wildlife or climatic systems – as part of ourselves, as something in which we are deeply embedded. It remains something “out there” and apart. If we truly understood the importance of nature – for our spirits, our souls and our physical and emotional well-being – the on-going destruction of species, habitats and climate systems would never be tolerated. At the very least, we wouldn’t let politicians get away with campaigning on policies that will only lead to greater destruction.

Hope

I still hope that there might be “a great turning” — a transition from a society shaped primarily by unbridled economic growth and the savaging of the natural world to a more life-sustaining ethic. And, to be fair, progress is being made. We see it in ways of generating energy, producing food, learning from the wisdom of indigenous people and even new metrics for measuring prosperity, happiness and wealth. I think our love and awareness of nature is growing, too. In Peterborough, this is apparent in things as simple as the number of “I brake for turtles” bumper stickers on cars and the many people who now garden with pollinators in mind. Respect for smaller-scale, more conservation-minded agriculture can also be seen in the huge public support for locally-produced food.

Now is not the time to turn our back on this progress. Climate change and conservation are not problems like the others. We are in a race against the clock. If greenhouse gas emissions are not brought down to almost zero in the next couple of decades, the very worst impacts of climate change are a near certainty. As for conservation, once species and habitats have disappeared, they are gone forever.

On June 7, vote for a party that is honest about the climate threats we face, supports a tax on carbon and believes in conservation and progressive urban planning.

 

May 222018
 

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) (1)
– Reported May 23, 2018 07:23 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “singing”

Orange-crowned Warbler by Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 09:11 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Centre Line Rd Smith, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Heard calling. Known location”

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (2)
– Reported May 22, 2018 10:15 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Vesper Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3472688,-78.025353&ll=44.3472688,-78.025353
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45902970
– Comments: “adult male singing from roadside Bur Oak at gravel pit”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Wigeon (Mareca americana) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “males”

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) (6)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “head with slight bump at rear, small bill.Coarser markings on mantle.”

Whimbrels:  I was out kayaking this morning, May 21, and got a very good look at four Whimbrels standing on a log on the edge of Lakefield Marsh. Annamarie Beckel, Lakefield

Whimbrel – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More shorebirds:  At 11 am, Monday morning (May  21) there were 2 female Wilson’s Phalaropes in remnants of pond on south side of 2nd Line about 500 metres east of  Highway #28. This is the pond which held several rare geese in April and early May. Also there were 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 2 Dunlin, Killdeer, and many Least Sandpipers. No sign of male Wilson’s Phalarope on Choate Road, Port Hope, but 4 Black-bellied Plovers flew in. Sanderling and Dunlin on breakwall rocks close to harbour in Port Hope.   Dave Milsom

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:  This morning, May 21, I had a visit at my feeder from a male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  Derry Fairweather, Buckhorn Lake

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – May 21, 2018, Derry Fairweather

 

May 212018
 

 

Great Horned Owl:  I took this owlet picture yesterday, May 17, at a nest 1 km west of Springbrook, Ontario. Don Munro

Great Horned Owlet – May 17, 2018 – Springbrook, ON – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 11:45 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Mervin Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small bluish gray bird with white eye ring singing softly in a tree quite near Mervin line. As seen by previously.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 09:39 by Mike V.A. Burrell
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Singing normal song, visually confirmed. At the small clearing immediately east of the lower gate.”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (3)
– Reported May 13, 2018 08:27 by Matthew Garvin
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Responded immediately to So-RAh playback with rattle calls”

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leucistic American Robin:  This robin was in the backyard at 71 Pellissier St. S. in Campbellford.
Paul Smith

leucistic American Robin – Campbellford – via James Burrett – May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Bittern: This bittern was caught on a trail cam video at Gannon’s Narrows Conservation
area May 12, 2018 @ 2:30pm.  Kingsley Hubbs

AMBI – May 12, 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs – Gannons Narrrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker:  We have had these Red-bellied Woodpeckers coming back to nest for about five years. They are here all through the winter at the feeder. I think that they nest in the maple in front of the house. We are located at 1520 Blezard Line. Nancy Salonius

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Nancy Salonius

 











Orchard Oriole: This Orchard Oriole has been eating oranges at my feeder on Ford 
Crescent in Cavan since May 9.  Ken Rumble

1st summer male Orchard Oriole – May 11, 2018 – Ken Rumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Thrasher:  We spotted this Brown Thrasher in our Peterborough yard this lovely May 5 morning. Helen and Larry Keller

Brown Thrasher – Peterborough – May 5, 2018 – Larry Keller


		
May 182018
 

From botanical gardens and wildlife centres to museums and coffee farms, the San José area has much to offer

As we boarded the bus to San Isidro de Heredia, we were sorry to leave Puerto Viejo, but felt satisfied that we’d experienced much of what Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has to offer. Our friends, Mike and Sonja Barker had especially enjoyed the music scene and yoga; my wife, Michelle, was enamored by the restaurants and cafés; while all of us were enchanted by the prodigious wildlife  However, we were also looking forward to our final 10 days of the trip in the much cooler San Isidro area, located in the Central Valley northeast of San José.

San Isidro, and nearby Santo Domingo, have wonderful farmers markets – Drew Monkman

Although the region of San Isidro is much more developed and not as biologically rich as Puerto Viejo, it offers much of interest, including farmers markets, picturesque villages and great dining. Michelle was able to find us a very comfortable, modern house through VRBO. The American owner, Steve Huffstutlar, was everything you could expect in a host:  tour guide, problem solver and authority on all things Costa Rican. I especially enjoyed chatting with him about Costa Rican Spanish, which has some unique features. For example, the familiar personal pronoun “tu” is not used at all, while the use of “usted” is ubiquitous, even between parents and their children. The signature Spanish expression of the country is “pura vida” which means “pure life”, but is commonly used as a salutation or exclamation.

Mike Barker and my wife Michelle watching some of Costa Rica’s amazing birdlife (Photo by Drew Monkman)

I also enjoyed chatting with Steve’s bilingual on-site manager, Eduardo Chumpitasi, who is a very knowledgeable amateur lepidopterist. He showed me his huge collection of moths and butterflies, many of which he had collected in his own yard. His wife, Agnes, showed me the Monarch caterpillars she was raising with her grandchildren. Monarchs are a non-migratory, resident species here and surprisingly common.

Steve’s property had a good selection of flowering shrubs and trees – including many conifers – which attracted a wide diversity of birds. Blue-and-white Swallows coursed overhead, while Grayish Saltators sang from trees and Rufous-collared Sparrows fed on the lawn. Every night, a Common Pauraque – a bird closely related to the Whip-poor-will – serenaded us with its loud, whistled “kweeeuu” call. The laneway, which crossed a nearby creek, turned out to be a great place to see North American migrants like Baltimore Orioles, Summer Tanagers, Wilson’s Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. In all, I was able to find 37 species within five minutes of the house.

Steve provided us with a long, detailed list of places to visit within an hour or two of San Isidro. This included a number of museums in San José. We especially enjoyed the National Museum of Costa Rica with its butterfly conservatory and amazing exhibit of pre-Colombian artifacts. The only downside of going into the capital was the horrendous traffic.

Bougainvillea Hotel

The number one destination on Steve’s list was the Bougainvillea Hotel. The grounds are essentially a two-acre botanical garden. The plants are all identified, so a visit here provides a great introduction to Costa Rican flora. There are even ponds created specifically for endangered frogs. The grounds also attract a wide variety of bird life, including motmots, tanagers and many migrants like Tennessee Warblers. My favourite viewing spot was an observation tower, which afforded great photography opportunities. At only a half-hour from the airport, I would recommend the hotel to anyone travelling to Costa Rica and wanting to spend a restful night or two upon arriving or departing. The hotel is very environmentally conscious and the dining is superb.

The observation tower in the botanical garden at Hotel Bougainvillea – (Photo by Drew Monkman)

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

One of our most memorable days was a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, situated northwest of San Isidro on the way to the Poas Volcano. We loved the scenic drive as we passed by coffee farms and grazing dairy cattle. The views of the valley below were spectacular. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is the most popular privately-owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica and offers a marvelous introduction to Costa Rica’s iconic wildlife. It has the most esthetically-pleasing wildlife enclosures and beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. La Paz has been developed in such a way as to combine environmentally conscious design with maximum educational impact.

Among the highlights are a huge, jungle-like aviary with numerous species of native birds, a butterfly observatory and exhibits of live frogs and snakes. You can also see some of the country’s iconic mammals like Howler and Spider Monkeys, Three-toed Sloths, Ocelots and even a Jaguar. Seeing these animals up close gives a real sense of how precious – and fragile – Costa Rica’s wildlife actually is. If you’re interested in plants, the orchid and Heliconia gardens are a must-see, as well. The high point of the day for Michelle and me, however, was the hummingbird garden, where feeders attract wild birds living in the area. No fewer than 26 different species have been documented here. The birds are so close that you can feel the air displaced by their wings as they zip by your head and feed only metres away. Just make sure your camera has a memory card with lots of space!

Hanging out with the Black-mandibled Toucan at La Paz Waterfall Gardens – Michelle Monkman

Finca Cristina and Ark Herb Farm

On another occasion, we drove southeast of San Jose to Finca Cristina, an organic shade-grown coffee farm. It is located near Cartago, which has the country’s grandest colonial-era church, the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. Finca Cristina is dedicated to producing Arabica coffee while at the same time protecting and preserving native flora and fauna. The farm is located in the middle of a major flyway for neo-tropical migratory birds and provides important habitat for threatened North American species like Cerulean and Canada Warblers. While we were tasting some of the outstanding coffee the farm produces, we watched the fruit and nectar feeders and the constant coming and going of both resident and migratory species.

We toured the farm with one of the owners and learned about the labour-intensive process of producing shade-grown organic coffee. I have a new appreciation for why it’s more expensive! Managing the shade trees, most of which are banana plants, is nearly as involved as tending to the coffee trees themselves. Pest management, too, is also a huge part of the operation.

Another memorable tour was at the Ark Herb Farm, which has one of the largest collections of herbs and other medicinal plants in Central America. It is a focal point for herbalists, botanists and plant lovers. The plants are all identified and marked with symbols signifying how they can be used. Our guide was a wonderfully informative   ethnobotanist who regaled us with all kinds of anecdotes and stories. He was especially passionate about the dream-inducing qualities of Brugmansia and how the leaves can be used to treat skin problems. We also tasted incredibly sweet Stevia leaves and learned about the relationship between passionflower vines and Heliconius butterflies. The study of these butterflies has helped scientists to understand how new species are formed and why nature is so diverse.

 Barva Volcano

My birding highlight of this second leg of our Costa Rican trip was a visit to Barva Volcano, north of San José. At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, it is home to beautiful cloud forest habitat with trees draped in lichens and moss.

When I arrived at 6 am with my guide, Michael Jimenez Quesada, we were greeted by    the ethereal song of the Black-faced Solitaire and the far-carrying calls of Prong-billed Barbets. It wasn’t until the sun climbed higher in the sky, however, that bird activity really increased. Much of it came courtesy of hummingbirds. Tiny Volcano and Scintillant Hummingbirds dashed around like over-sized bumble bees, while male Green Violet-ears chipped their incessant two-note song. A beautiful female Purple-throated Mountain-gem posed obligingly for us for several minutes, its orange breast and throat standing out clearly against the green leaves.

As we walked along the road towards the park entrance, we quickly added other high-altitude species like Mountain Elaenia, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Golden-browed Chlorophonias. The latter were carrying lichens to line their nest in a bromeliad, nestled on a tree branch. A rare but obliging Black-billed Nightingale Thrush hopped out onto the road and allowed close-up views.

My guide, Michael Quesada, watching a quetzal at Barva Volcano – Drew Monkman

Upon entering the park, we took a trail that eventually led to the Barva Lagoon, the largest caldera on the volcano. The climb was quite a workout in the thin air, and I swore to myself that if I ever return, I’ll do so 20 pounds lighter! When I stopped to catch my breath, I tried out some pishing. Almost immediately, a beautiful male Golden-winged Warbler popped out of the vegetation and lingered on a branch only metres away. It was soon joined by a pair of Collared Redstarts that posed for us for nearly five minutes. It was then that Michael heard the plaintive call notes of a pair of Resplendent Quetzals. Only seconds later, the male flew in and perched briefly above the trail, its emerald green chest and crimson-red belly glowing in the sunlight. When it flew off, the tail coverts streaming behind the bird were as long as its body. Michael was as excited as I was and remarked, “I often have birders that cry when they see their first quetzal!”

Arriving at the observation platform over the lagoon, we had amazing views in all directions. On a clear day, it’s possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The birding had not been easy, but adding nearly 10 life birds to my list made it all worthwhile.

Our six weeks in Costa Rica was everything we hoped it would be. We are destined to return!

 

May 042018
 

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 14:37 by Warren Dunlop
– Bailieboro–442-470 Second Line Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “In field south of road with CANGs.”

Greater White-fronted Goose – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 19:00 by John Bick
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “As reported by others. Reddish brown head, face & neck, pale yellowish/buff crown – foraging off shore near campgrounds.”

Eurasian Wigeon – male – Wikimedia

May 032018
 

The Beekeeper’s Lament

“O bring me palanquin, All my companions have scattered”  Renée Sarojini Saklikar in “Listening to the Bees”

Several years ago, a Letter to the Editor appeared in this paper that struck me as particularly poignant. It was from a former Trent University student, Rick Fisher. In the 1980s, he was engaged in an intensive study of bumble bee ecology in the Peterborough area. After moving to New Zealand, he returned to Peterborough in 2013 for a summer visit. Rick wrote, “Despite intensive searches of all the areas where the bees used to be abundant, and despite favourable weather, I’ve found no evidence to support the existence of any of the bumble bees that were so common 30 years ago. To me, the woods and glades of beautiful places like Jackson Park now fill me with an aching sense of loss, and despair. Little did I know that my thesis studies would be more epitaph than ecology. What have we done?”

Tri-coloured bumblebee on sweet clover. Like honey bees, native wild bees face an uncertain future. (Drew Monkman)

Pollination Summit

Anyone paying attention to the degradation of our natural world is aware by now of the plight of native pollinators like bumble bees and of colony collapse in honey bees. It is a vexing problem with no single cause. It is happening by a thousand tiny cuts as a result of habitat loss, disease, parasites, climate change and pesticide use. It is estimated that one-third of our food items depend on pollinators. They also play a key role in biodiversity, as over 85% of the world’s flowering plants require bees, wasps, flies, bats and even hummingbirds for their reproduction. Any organism that consumes seeds, fruits or vegetables, is dependent on the services provided by pollinators. This includes not only human beings but countless other species as well.

World bee expert Mark Winston will speak at Market Hall on Saturday, May 5 

No one is more familiar with bee decline – and the lessons it contains for the future of human society – than Dr. Mark Winston, a world bee expert and Professor of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Mark is also a senior fellow at Simon Fraser’s Centre for Dialogue, which creates a space for “respectful conversations between diverse stakeholders, where mutual curiosity and collaborative inquiry act as alternatives to adversarial approaches.” As a former director of the Centre, he achieved international recognition by creating leadership development opportunities for students that contribute to social change in communities. Much of his work still involves advancing communication skills and engaging public audiences with controversial issues through dialogue. Effective public interaction and honest dialogue are especially important right now. Pending decisions on oil pipelines, fossil fuel resource development and carbon taxes threaten the delicate balance between economy and environment.

This weekend, Mark Winston will be the keynote speaker at a Pollinator Summit hosted by Peterborough Pollinators. In collaboration with local non-profits, businesses and community members, the summit will be a two-day celebration of bees, pollinator gardens,  community-stewarded urban beehives and, maybe most importantly, of dialogue. Dr. Winston will be speaking Saturday evening at 8 pm at Market Hall. It promises to be a presentation rich in storytelling, connecting to nature and learning what lessons bees have for humanity. A book signing and a Honey Fair showcasing the products of local honey producers will start at 7 pm. Tickets are $28 ($18 for students) and can be purchased at the door.

On Sunday, May 6, there will be an opportunity for people to visit some of Peterborough’s outstanding pollinator gardens and urban beehives. The public is also invited to participate in a community dialogue with Dr. Winston and local community dialogue practitioner Ben Wolfe. It will take place at Lett Architects on Simcoe Street. This “cross-pollination” dialogue, which is almost full, will bring together community members, beekeepers, gardeners and conservationists. It will explore the question: How do we empower citizens to protect pollinators and, in doing so, create, restore and celebrate natural environments?

For the past three years, Peterborough Pollinators has focused on this very question. The group has been working to encourage the creation of pollinator habitat including gardens of all sizes throughout the Kawarthas and on educating the public about the importance of pollinators. Not only do these gardens help pollinators, but they also bring greater food security, sense of place and community development to our neighbourhoods.

Books  

Drawing on a three-decade career researching killer bees, pollination and honey bee communication, Mark Winston is an eloquent and impactful communicator of science to the general public. He is that rare scientist who can take complex science and repackage it something a general audience can understand and appreciate. In addition to being a frequent guest on radio and television, Dr. Winston has had a distinguished career writing and commenting on environmental issues. His award-winning book “Nature Wars: People vs. Pests” has been recognized as the most probing and thoughtful discussion of pesticide use since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Winston is also the author of “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, which won a 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award.

Most recently, Winston is the co-author of a new book, “Listening to the Bees”, with Canadian poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar. The book is something quite rare – an interaction between the poet and the scientist. It is a compendium of Winston’s research, accompanied by Saklikar’s poems inspired by this research. Saklikar, who is best known as the author of “Children of Air India”, has had a life-long interest in bees. She takes the poems in directions that connect to what the research was about and to her own Indian culture.

Listening to the Bees

Lessons for humanity

Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle in nature of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. In “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, Winston explains how bees process information, structure work and communicate. He also examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration, how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities. Bees inhabit a world of chemical communication, which involves more than 40 different compounds. It is a world we neither see nor hear. Winston’s focus on bee communication has made him realize how poorly we humans communicate with each other – do we really see and listen? – and how little we understand the various channels we use.

Bees have other important lessons to teach us. For example, a typical honey bee colony contains residue from more than 100 pesticides. Taken singly, each is relatively benign, but together their interplay can have serious impacts. These include reducing the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, which leaves them more susceptible to disease. What’s happening to bees as a result of pesticides is a useful lens to consider human health. Winston believes that the interactions of pesticides on bees can be compared in some respects to the interaction of prescription drugs on humans. Each, on its own, provides benefits, but when numerous drugs are used together, the interaction can cause harmful side-effects, particularly in patients who are already diseased-compromised.

As human beings, we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous relationship with nature. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to the many challenges they face. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own. It is his hope that by communicating about the glory and the plight of all our pollinators, maybe we can make a positive difference in their future – and ours.

Winston also has much to say about wild native bees. In a 2014 New York Times article, he wrote that beyond honey bees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer many of the same pollination services needed for agriculture. Yet wild bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — are also threatened by heavy pesticide use, by the destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and by the destruction of diverse nectar and pollen sources from highly effective weed killers. Winston’s laboratory at Simon Fraser discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators. “The current challenges faced by managed honey bees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.”

In a recent interview on the PolliNation Podcast from Oregon State University, Winston describes his research and science communication as teasing around the edges of great mysteries we’ll never fully understand. “To me bees are unknowable, and I say that as someone who has done a lot of research… I love that mystery. I’ve felt that mystery ever since I opened my first bee hive. As I get older I find myself revelling even more in the unknowable.”

For more information on the Pollination Summit, please go to peterboroughpollinators.com.