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.

Oct 032019
 

The Liberals aren’t perfect, but a Conservative government would be infinitely worse

Earlier this summer, I thought I’d made up my mind. I was going to vote Green to send a message that much more aggressive climate action is necessary. I was bitterly disappointed that the Liberals had failed to deliver on their promise of electoral reform and, to boot, had bought a pipeline. But then, equal measures of pragmatism and a better understanding of the Liberals’ climate plan made me think again.

There has never been a public policy issue where the science is clearer: We know what’s happening – the climate crisis is far worse than we initially thought; we know what’s required – reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and to zero by 2050; and we know that the window for action is almost closed.

The federal parties’ positions are also crystal clear. The Liberals, Greens, and NDP take the climate crisis seriously, while the Conservatives barely acknowledge it’s even an issue – to wit, Andrew Scheer’s absence from the hundreds of climate events last Friday. What may be less clear for voters, however, is deciding which of the progressive parties to support.

For me, it comes down to voting for the candidate who stands the best chance of winning. In some ridings, this will be a Green or a New Democrat. In Peterborough-Kawartha, however, the race is between the Liberals and the Conservatives. That’s why my vote will be for the Liberal, Maryam Monsef. We can’t risk electing a Conservative government, even if the balance of power is held by the Greens or NDPs. Let’s not forget that Steven Harper inflicted most of his damage on environmental progress before he got his majority.

Unfortunately, there is a real possibility that the Liberals will lose on October 21, both nationally and in Peterborough-Kawartha. Why? Because a significant number of voters may say no to voting strategically this time around and simply vote with their heart. I fully understand the temptation. Some of the policies promised by the Greens and NDP are indeed superior to those of the Liberals. Be warned, however, that a splitting of the progressive vote  is just what the Conservatives want.

The Liberal plan

Having lived in Quebec for many years, I closely follow the province’s environmental news. When I heard that Steven Guilbeault, a household name in Montreal, is running for the Liberals instead of the Greens, I was astounded. Guilbeault is co-founder of Quebec’s largest environmental group and the former Quebec bureau chief for Greenpeace. When asked to explain his decision, he said he’s a radical pragmatist. “I fear that the Conservatives could win the election and, if they do, everything we’ve worked for in these past four years will be gone.”

As for Trudeau’s support of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, Guilbeault  understands that the federal government can’t adopt policies that will completely alienate Alberta. Although he’s personally opposed to new pipelines, he points out that for every dollar the Liberals have put into the pipeline, they’ve put about 15 dollars into the fight against climate change. In a democracy, it takes time to change structures and existing policies. No government anywhere in the world has found a way to make a quick  transition away from fossil fuels.

Guilbeault is not alone in defending Liberal climate policy. Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, sees Canada as a world climate leader. According to Jaccard, the Liberals’ carbon tax,  tougher fuel standards, and phased closure of coal plants are seen globally as the gold standard. His counterparts in China and India already notice the influence on their own countries’ policies. According to Jaccard’s calculations, greenhouse gas emissions under the Liberal plan would still fall 79 megatons short of our Paris commitment, while the Conservative plan would miss the mark by 179 megatons.  He believes the Liberals can still reach their goal, however, by either increasing the carbon tax, turning to tougher regulations, or by some combination of both.

In this campaign, the Liberals have also promised to set legally-binding, five-year milestones to reach net-zero emissions by 2050; to halve the corporate tax rate for companies that develop or manufacture clean technology; to plant two billion trees; to provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to make our homes more energy-efficient and resilient to floods; to provide new incentives for purchasing  zero-emission vehicles; and to create a low-cost national flood insurance program.

There are other reasons to support the Liberals if you care about the environment, not the least of which is the excellent Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna. The Liberals committed an unprecedented $1.3 billion in the 2018 budget for the protection of endangered species and to reach the United Nations goal of protecting 17 percent of our lands and oceans. They also have a plan to teach every young Canadian camping skills. Experiences such as camping are key to establishing a life-long love of nature.

As for the Conservatives, they have promised to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging businesses to invest an unspecified amount in green technology or research. The rest of their “plan” is all about undoing Liberal climate policy, just like what happened in Ontario. Carbon pricing? Gone. Tougher fuel standards? Gone. Measures for protecting endangered species and expanding land and ocean protection? Probably gutted. It doesn’t matter that our local Conservative candidate, Mike Skinner, is a capable and friendly guy. His party’s climate program is an abject failure.

Maryam Monsef

Maryam Monsef is both Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality. Her work is incredibly important, since women all over the world are disproportionally affected by the impacts of climate change. We also know that countries with high representation of women in parliament are more likely to ratify international environment treaties and that women are vital to building climate resilient  communities.

We shouldn’t  underestimate the importance of having an MP who sits at the cabinet table, even it means having to spend more time away from the riding. Having a cabinet minister gives Peterborough-Kawartha more leverage for investments. Monsef has already brought millions of dollars to our riding, including over two million for discovery research at Trent University and money to support the work of the Kawartha Land Trust.

Well-known outdoor educator, Jacob Rodenburg, is impressed by how Monsef supports local environmental organizations and how she is a bridge builder.  He says, “Maryam Monsef is not someone who is steeped in partisan politics, but rather, is able help people of all walks of life and political stripes find common ground and common solutions.”

At the Fridays for Future student climate strike on September 20, I was chatting with Maryam when two grade 11 girls from St. Peter’s Secondary School nervously approached. They told her how much she inspired them. Maryam immediately put them at ease, congratulated them for being climate leaders in their school, and provided practical ideas for further action. As Jacob Rodenburg says, “Few people are better in dealing with youth than Maryam.”

Youth

The climate issue is very personal to me. And not only because of its devastating impact on the natural world. My son and daughters are terrified by how the climate catastrophe will disrupt their lives and those of their children – my grandchildren. They have every right to be scared. As Dr. Rosana Salvaterra pointed out at last Friday’s climate rally at Millennium Park, climate change is the number one threat to our physical and mental health. It will make everything we care about infinitely worse, be it jobs, homelessness, addiction, or the possibility of  war. It’s no wonder young people question if they even have a  future and why many are deciding not to have children themselves. This is why it’s so important that they see tangible progress in fighting the climate crisis.

I know that many people have misgivings about the Liberals. However, splitting the progressive vote in this election would be disastrous. Should the Liberals be re-elected, it will most likely be as a minority government. I’m hoping the Greens and NDP will have enough seats to hold the Liberals feet to the fire and maybe even force progress on electoral reform. Because climate change is front and centre in this campaign, a re-elected Liberal government will also have much greater social license for aggressive action than it did in 2015. Given the sad reality of our first-past-the-post electoral system, voting strategically is still the only logical option. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

What to watch for this week

Tiny Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets are now passing through the Kawarthas, often in loose flocks with Yellow-rumped Warblers and Black-capped Chickadees. Watch and listen for them in conifers and thick shrubs along roadsides and trails. The Golden-crowned’s call is a very high, thin “zee-zee-zee”. The best way to see them is by pishing whenever you hear chickadees.

Golden-crowned Kinglet – Karl Egressy

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a prominent eye ring. (Karl Egressy)

Sep 202019
 

Shifting dates, species declines, and surprising newcomers tell us climate change has arrived

For years we used to drive up to Algonquin Park in early summer to take our daughters to camp. One of the highlights of these trips was seeing moose along the side of Highway 60. Getting closeup looks and photographs of these huge and graceful animals was always such a thrill. Now, however, we rarely see them. Moose populations in Ontario have fallen by 20 percent – in some areas, 60 percent – in just the last decade. One of the main causes is climate change. These Canadian icons are poorly adapted to warmer temperatures. They are also dying from brainworm disease, which is arriving courtesy of the northward march of white-tailed deer. Deer are thriving as the climate warns.

Ontario moose are struggling with the warmer temperatures ushered in by climate change. Populations are down by 20 to 60 percent. (Randy Therrien)

White-tailed Deer (Stephenie Armstrong) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly but steadily, nature in Central Ontario and the Kawarthas is changing. New species are arriving, the dates of key events are shifting, and extreme weather events are becoming more common. For many years now, local naturalists and biologists have been noticing and documenting these changes. What the changes all have in common is a link to a warming climate.

A new timetable

Numerous events are now happening, on average, earlier in the spring, while others are occurring later in the fall.

·       In many parts of their range, bird species are arriving back earlier on their breeding grounds. These include common species like Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds, and tree swallows. The average egg-laying date for tree swallows is up to nine days earlier across North America.

·       According to an OMNR study from 2012, the peak calling period of early breeding frogs such as spring peepers is now 10-20 days earlier than in 1995.

·       Over the past decade or so, local wildflowers such as trilliums have often reached peak bloom in late April or early May, instead of the long-term average date of mid-May.

·       Earlier plant blooming also means pollen is being released into the air earlier. With more carbon dioxide (C02) in the air, plants are able to grow bigger and produce more pollen.  The pollen season is also lasting longer. Even in downtown Toronto, pollen levels are far above those recorded in the early 2000s. Data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows an especially big jump in the ragweed pollen season. In Winnipeg, for example, the plant’s growing season increased by 25 days between 1995 and 2015. If you are a hayfever sufferer like me, this is bad news.

Studies are showing a big increase in the length of the ragweed pollen season. It’s bad news for hayfever sufferers. (Drew Monkman)

Sugar maples (Cy Monkman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       On average, peak colour change in the fall leaves is happening later. Last year, for example, the best sugar maple colour was in mid-October instead of late September or early October.

·       The long-term average date for freeze-up of the Kawartha Lakes is mid-December, while the ice is usually out by about April 20. Since the early 2000s, however, the lakes have often been ice-free by early April, while freeze-up hasn’t happened until January. Later freeze-up means that waterfowl are lingering on local lakes until early winter. This trend can be seen in Peterborough Christmas Bird Count records, which date back to 1952.

 

Plant and animal populations

·       “Southern” birds are expanding their breeding range northwards into Central Ontario. These include red-bellied woodpeckers, which many people now see at their feeders.

·       A study based on 22 years of data from Project FeederWatch has shown that as minimum winter temperatures have increased, birds that used to spend the winter solely in the south are now wintering further north.

·       Virginia opossums and white-footed mice, both of which are southern species, have now extended their range into the Kawarthas. According to Trent University researcher, Dr. Jeff Bowman, bobcats – another southern species – are also expanding into Ontario. At the same time, the lynx’s range is contracting northwards.

According to Trent University researcher, Dr. Jeff Bowman, bobcats are expanding their range northward into Ontario and are expected to become more common. (Drew Monkman)

Flying squirrels at Sandy Lake near Buckhorn (Mike Barker)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       Research done by Bowman and his colleagues has also showed that during a series of warm winters between 1995 and 2003, the southern flying squirrel rapidly expanded its northern range limit. Their study demonstrated that these southern species are mating with their northern counterpart, the northern flying squirrel. This has resulted in a hybrid zone right here in the Kawarthas. The researchers believe that the range expansion and interbreeding is a possible effect of climate change.

·       Southern butterfly species are also moving north into the Kawarthas. The most noticeable and common of these is the giant swallowtail, Canada’s biggest butterfly. Until recently, this species’ Canadian range was restricted to southwestern Ontario.

·       Although the past few summers have seen greatly increased monarch butterfly numbers in the Kawarthas, the long-term prospects for this iconic insect are poor. Climate change-related droughts and abnormal weather patterns along the Canada to Mexico migration route are impacting numbers, as are winter storms on the Mexican wintering grounds. Warming in Mexico is also expected to disrupt the monarch’s period of reproductive diapause (suspension). If diapause ends too early, reproductive success will suffer.

·       Insects such as mosquitoes and ticks are thriving in our warmer climate, with some new species spreading northward. In the past, their range was restricted by colder winter temperatures. The greater number of frost-free days is also allowing for a longer reproduction season. The black-legged tick, which carries the Lyme disease bacteria, is now well-established in the Kawarthas. Hundreds of ticks are submitted annually to Peterborough Public Health from all over our region. In the 1990s, this species was found in only one region of the province.

·       We are seeing a marked increase in the abundance of non-native, invasive plant species. These include common reed (Phragmites), dog-strangling vine, and garlic mustard. Non-native invasives are more adaptable to a warming world than most native plants. They also have mostly negative impacts on our wildlife.

Phragmites on a roadside south of Peterborough – Photo by Drew Monkman

Poison Ivy – always a longer stem on middle leaflet; leaflets often asymmetrical; shiny; usually droop down a little – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       Poison ivy is increasing both in abundance and in size. Its growth has been turbocharged by warmer temperatures and rising levels of carbon dioxide. The plants are also producing a more potent form of urushiol, the oily sap that causes the rash.

Concern for the future

By 2030, it’s expected that Peterborough will be about 2 C warmer in each season. We can also expect a huge increase in the number of days above 30 C. By 2060, temperatures are projected to be 5 C warmer. The climate of the Kawarthas will be like southern Pennsylvania today. What will this mean for our flora and fauna?

·       A number of iconic birds may no longer be able to breed here, their ecoregion (i.e., habitat requirements) having moved further north. The call of the common loon is likely to disappear from the Kawartha Lakes.

Common Loon (Karl Egressy)

Adult Round Goby (Michael Fox)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       The health of our forests will suffer as a result of higher temperatures, drought, windstorms, invasive plants, insect pests, and fungal infections. Species such as white pine, sugar maple, and white spruce may disappear from the Kawarthas entirely as their climate zone will have moved north.

· As water temperatures increase, our lakes and wetlands will also be impacted. Although warm-water fish like large-mouthed bass should be able to cope, cool and cold-water fish like walleye and trout will struggle to survive here. The conditions may allow non-native fish like round goby to thrive and out-compete native species for food. There will likely be an increase in the types and abundance of other invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian water-milfoil.

The changes we are seeing in nature in the Kawarthas represent a “canary in the coal mine” warning that climate change is happening now. But, like the proverbial frog in water that is slowly brought to a boil, we seem unable or unwilling to react to this sinister and deadly threat to the future of all life on the planet. The climate crisis should be top-of-mind when we cast our votes in October.

What to watch for this week

Southbound white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos should be arriving in local backyards in the coming days. They are easy to attract by spreading millet or finch mix on the ground, preferably close to your feeder. The sparrows will linger for several weeks, before departing. Juncos sometimes stay all winter.

White-throated sparrow (Karl Egressy)

Juncos and white-throated sparrows feeding on ground (Drew Monkman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Crisis News

Be sure to drop by the climate-crisis booth at the Purple Onion Festival at Millennium Park on Sunday, Sept. 22. There will be information on how to reduce your personal carbon footprint as well as petitions to be signed to urge city council to declare a climate emergency as soon as possible. Other climate events scheduled for the coming weeks include the Global Climate Action Day (Sept. 27 at Millennium Park from 12:00-3:00 pm) and 100 Debates on the Environment (Oct. 3 at the Students Centre at Trent University from 7:00-9:00 pm.) The local candidates in the federal election will be taking part. This event had previously been scheduled to take place at Trinity United Church. 100 Debates for the Environment is a non-partisan, nationwide effort to highlight environmental issues in the election. More information can be found at 100debates.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 132019
 

Council expected to revisit Peterborough’s suspended tree bylaw later this fall

I have always loved trees. As a kid I delighted in climbing the sugar maples near our house and seeing how high I could go until terror set in. I also spent countless hours playing “chestnuts” with the shiny brown nuts from an old horse-chestnut tree on the Upper property on Merino Boulevard. Bruce Upper used to say, “The chestnut monkeys are back in the tree again!” We would drill a hole through the nut, attach it to a string, and take turns striking our opponent’s chestnut until it shattered.

Now, as an adult, planting trees has become a passion – no less than 30 on our property in the past 25 years. I relish everything they have to offer: the fall foliage, the winter twigs and buds, the spring leaf emergence, the summer shade, the intriguing flowers and seeds, the diversity of species, the calm they bestow on the human psyche, the beauty and grace they give to city streets and, of course, their incredible value to wildlife. Even a dead tree is an “infinite hotel” for other species.  As a contributor to the 2013 book “Beneath the Canopy: Peterborough’s Urban Forest and Heritage Trees”, my eyes were opened to the many iconic local trees. Some of my favourites are the two towering bur oaks on Homewood Avenue and Sherbrooke Street (at Albertus), the Douro Street gingko, the Camperdown elm at Little Lake Cemetery, and the enormous red oak on Aberdeen Street.

This bur oak on Homewood Avenue is one of the largest and oldest trees in the city. (Drew Monkman)

As Peter Wohlleben writes in “The Hidden Life of Trees” we should also care about trees because of the wonders they present.  We’re learning how trees communicate with one another, both over the air through scent and underground through a “wood wide web” of soil fungi. We now know that trees care and feed each other, orchestrating shared behaviours through the networks in the soil. They can even count, since trees must wait until a certain number of warm days has passed before leafing out in the spring.

As we head towards an election in which climate change is front and centre in voters’ minds, let’s also remember how important trees are in storing carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The carbon in a tree’s wood, leaves, and roots makes up nearly 50 percent of its biomass. In this way, trees are a vital part of Peterborough’s Climate Change Action Plan, which includes a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 30 percent by 2031.

As Dr. Rosana Salvaterra wrote in her article in Tuesday’s Examiner, there is abundant evidence showing the negative impact that climate change has on health, including the risk of triggering mental-health issues. There is proof that simply living near trees improves our health – both physical and mental. A 2015 study carried out in Toronto by Marc Berman found that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions. The researchers suggest that the benefits trees confer may relate to an improvement in air quality, relieving stress, and promoting walking. This is not surprising; we all feel better in the presence of trees.

Trees also increase property values by making individual properties and entire streets and neighbourhoods more beautiful. One of the reasons the Avenues neighbourhood in Peterborough (south of Charlotte Street between Park and Monaghan) is such a desirable place to live is the large number of mature trees. Trees also keep our lawns healthy, decrease the need for watering, and act as giant air filters. Their leaves and needles catch soot, toxic hydrocarbons, pollen, and dust as these particles float by.

 

Under siege

Trees, however, are under siege from every quarter, be it fungal disease, invasive species, drought, freezing rain, windstorms, or land development. The loss of city ash trees to the emerald ash borer has been especially devastating. If you look at photographs of locations in the city that once harboured healthy ash and then compare these to photographs taken after they were cut down, the difference is shocking. It’s not until trees are gone that we realize what’s been lost. Sadly, there are also many people who seem to love nothing more than to cut trees down, often because they deem them “dirty” or don’t like raking leaves.

A stunning black cherry at the bible college on Argyle Street (Peter Beales)

Unfortunately, tree removal became all the easier last March when city council decided to suspend Peterborough’s tree conservation bylaw, bowing to pressure from developers and tree maintenance companies. The process was flawed, however, since only opponents to the bylaw voiced their position to council. There was not sufficient time or notice provided for people to speak out in support of the bylaw. In council’s rush to make a decision, even the city’s standing committee on trees, “Made for Shade”, was left out of the consultation process. They were completely blindsided. This committee was originally set up to protect children’s health by assuring  that trees be planted in playgrounds, parks, and schoolyards to provide shade. Council’s decision was also made with little consideration for the bigger picture, such as doing everything possible to support the Peterborough Climate Change Action Plan.

 

 

To be fair, the old bylaw, passed in 2017, was not perfect. The approval process to get permission to remove a tree on private property was backed up, and property owners also had to replace felled trees with up to four new ones, which may have been excessive. Now that the bylaw has been suspended, however, permission to cut down a tree is no longer necessary. The only requirement is to provide 72-hour notice.

A new bylaw?

Council will soon consider making permanent changes to the bylaw – or scrapping it altogether. The city has hired Lura Consulting to engage in consultation with stakeholders. How widespread this consultation will be is not yet clear. While most trees in the city are on private property, the benefits they provide accrue to everyone. They affect our lives in positive and enduring ways.

Our city trees provide stunning fall foliage and beautify our streets and yards. (Drew Monkman)

I believe it’s important that some kind of permission-granting process remain in the by-law, especially for large trees. A fine, too, may still be necessary if this requirement is ignored. The bylaw should also stipulate that every felled tree be replaced – either on the same property or at another location approved by the city – and that the property owner commit to assuring the new tree survives. This may require some kind of monitoring. There should also be requirements as to the size and species of the replacement trees. It’s also worth investigating whether property owners with large trees could receive some kind of municipal tax credit. This would be a further incentive to protecting trees. A revamped bylaw must also afford protection to distinctive, iconic trees in the city and include an education program on the importance of urban trees.

Finally, it’s vitally important that the city continue planting and maintaining new trees to reverse the loss of the urban canopy. The city’s efforts in this regard should be applauded. The number of new trees being planted is truly impressive, as is the species diversity and the care (e.g, water bags) provided. It’s wonderful to see southern species like hackberry and American sycamore appearing on city streets. As global heating worsens, southern species should be able to withstand the heat stress more than native, central Ontario species.

Let’s hope that the city is able to craft a workable but robust bylaw that will protect our urban forest. Trees improve our quality of life and provide a visceral connection to the natural world – one that is available to all citizens and just outside the back door.

Climate Crisis News

The most disappointing climate news this week was Monday’s decision by city council to defer declaring a climate emergency this fall and, instead, ask for a staff report on the matter. The report is not expected until early 2020. Given the urgency of addressing the quickly worsening climate crisis, this decision is most troubling. When we cast our votes next month, climate change should be front and centre in our minds. Declaring a climate emergency in Peterborough ahead of the election is therefore incredibly important. It would be a powerful tool in focusing voters’ attention.

There might be a compromise solution, however. A climate emergency could still be brought forward and ratified by council on September 23, while specific actions tied to the declaration would  be announced when reports are received from city staff and from the new Environmental Advisory Committee in early 2020.

On Wednesday evening, Kingston city councillor Robert Kylie spoke at a standing-room-only meeting on climate change, organized by Peterborough Youth Empowerment. He explained how Kingston went about declaring a climate emergency last March. One of the “whys” for the declaration is the huge impact that the coming extreme heat events will have on Kingston’s large population of seniors. As in Peterborough, they are among Kingston’s most vulnerable people. To their credit, Peterborough councillors Clarke, Parnell, Vassiliadis, Baldwin, Riel, and Akapo attended the event. Let’s hope that they, too, feel the urgency of supporting an immediate climate emergency declaration the same way that Kingston councillors did. In Kingston, support for the declaration was unanimous.

 

 

Sep 062019
 

Looking ahead to events in nature in the Kawarthas

Although we enjoyed a comfortable summer in the Kawarthas – sunny, not too hot, and no extreme weather – the biggest story for the planet as a whole continues to be the climate crisis. July was Earth’s hottest month since temperature records began. The unparalleled heat of July followed the hottest June on record. Many European countries  experienced the hottest days in their nations’ history. Scientists agree that these record-breaking temperatures are almost entirely due to climate change.
Just this week, we also saw the unimaginable destruction in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian. New research is now linking the more extreme behaviour of these storms to global heating. Because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, hurricanes are dumping more rain than in the past. Warmer oceans also provide additional energy that make the storms stronger. The fact that hurricanes like Dorian are moving more slowly than in the past – and even stalling – may be linked to decreased atmospheric wind speeds as a result of a warming Arctic.
A more heartening story this summer has been the abundance of monarch butterflies. This is the third summer in a row with good numbers of this species at risk. For example, on the July 21 Petroglyphs Butterfly Count, nearly 500 monarchs were tallied  – twice last year’s number! Several factors have come together to boost the numbers of this iconic insect. First, the overwintering population in Mexico was 144 per cent higher than 2018, which meant more monarchs headed north. As they migrated, laying eggs along the way, good weather conditions boosted reproductive success. Finally, this summer’s warm weather and sufficient rainfall allowed milkweed and nectar plants to thrive, which allowed for excellent reproductive success. We can also speculate that gardeners and landowners are  helping the cause, since so many of us are now planting milkweed in our gardens or simply leaving them be.

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

This summer was also excellent summer for fireflies. Apparently, the wet spring created perfect conditions for worms, slugs and snails, all of which provide food for firefly larvae. Of special note, too, is the abundant fruit this year on apple trees, chokecherries, dogwoods, wild grape, and even the endangered butternut. The big cone crop on spruce and cedar is also noteworthy.

Looking ahead to the fall, here is a list of events in nature that are typical of autumn in the Kawarthas – an autumn that once again is projected to be warmer than usual.

 

September

·       Most of the evening insect music we hear this month comes courtesy of crickets. Listen for the soft, rhythmic “treet…treet…treet” of the snowy tree cricket. Its beautiful rhythmic pulsations provide a good estimate of air temperature. For the temperature in Celsius, count the number of “treets” in 8 seconds and add 5. Watch and listen at bit.ly/18nGrJ3

·       Watch for giant swallowtails, Canada’s largest butterfly. They regularly turn up in backyard gardens, even right in Peterborough. With a wingspan of up to 15 cm and striking yellow and black coloration, they are easy to identify. The northern expansion of this southern species is related to a warming climate.

·       Fall songbird migration is now in full swing. Migrants such as warblers are often in mixed flocks with chickadees and can be coaxed in for close-up views by using “pishing”.

·       Broad-winged hawks migrate south over the Kawarthas in mid-September. Sunny days with cumulous clouds and northwest winds are best. Watch for high-altitude “kettles”, which is a group of hawks soaring and circling in the sky. Migration usually peaks on about September 15.

·       Listen for the constant calling of blue jays and the metronome-like “chuck-chuck…” call of chipmunks, which can go on for hours. This vocalization is often given in response to danger such as the presence of a hawk.

·       Peterborough Field Naturalists (PFN) we be holding nature walks each Sunday in September. They usually last about three hours. The meeting spots are Riverview Park and Zoo (Sept. 8 at 8:00 am), the public parking lot on Crawford Drive at Harper Road (Sept. 15 at 1:00 pm), Country Style at Hwy 7 and Old Keene Road (Sept. 22 at 8:00 am), and Cavan Carpark/GO Bus Stop (Sept. 29 at 8:00 am). For more information, go to peterboroughnature.org

·       The PFN indoor meetings take place on the second Wednesday of each month (7:30 pm) at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road. On September 11, Mike Burrell will speak about his new book, “The Best Places to Bird in Ontario”.

·       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.

Salmon jumping up fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam on the Ganaraska River in Port Hope (Drew Monkman)

·       As the goldenrods begin to fade, asters take centre stage. The white flowers of heath, panicled and calico asters, along with the purple and mauve blossoms of New England, purple-stemmed and heart-leaved asters provide much of the show. Visit http://bit.ly/2fhW4sN (Ontario Wildflowers) for identification tips.

·       Don’t miss the spectacular Harvest Moon, which occurs this year on September 14, rising at 8:06 pm. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox (September 23). For several nights before and after this date, the moon rises at almost the same time.

 

October

·       Fall colours in the Kawarthas usually peak early in the month. Right now, it looks like we can expect a great  colour show this fall, given that trees flourished this summer thanks to a wet spring and warm July and August. County Roads 620 and 504 around Chandos Lake east of Apsley makes for a great colour drive.

·       On October 9, Ken Lyon will speak to the PFN on “The Geological Features of the Land Between”. The talk will include the geology of the Canadian Shield and the St. Lawrence Lowlands as well as the drumlins and other features left by the glaciers. See above for location and time.

·       Sparrow migration takes centre stage this month, making October one of the busiest times of the year for backyard feeders. Scatter millet or finch mix on the ground to attract dark-eyed juncos and both white-throated and white-crowned sparrows.

White-throated sparrow (Karl Egressy)

·       On balmy October days, ruffed grouse can sometimes be heard drumming. Early fall is also the grouse’s “crazy season.” Young birds disperse from their parent’s territory and often end up colliding with all manner of objects.

·       A tide of yellow spreads across the landscape in mid- through late October. The colour is supplied courtesy of trembling and bigtooth aspens, balsam poplar, silver maple, white birch and, at month’s end, tamarack.

·       As ducks move southward, consider a visit to the Lakefield sewage lagoon. It is located on the south side of County Road 33, just south of Lakefield. Goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup and mergansers are often present in large numbers. If you have a spotting scope, be sure to take it along. The sewage lagoon is one of the best birding locations in the Kawarthas.

·       The first northern finches usually start turning up in late October. To learn which species to expect this fall and winter, Google “winter finch forecast 2019-2020”. The forecast, compiled by Ron Pittaway, is usually available online by early October.

November

·       Oaks, tamaracks and silver maples are about the only native deciduous trees that still retain foliage in early November. The brownish orange to burgundy leaves of red oaks stand out with particular prominence.

·       We return to Standard Time on Sunday, November 3, and turn our clocks back one hour. Sunrise on the 3rd is at 6:52 am and sunset at 5:00 pm for a total of only 10 hours and 8 minutes of daylight.

·       If you go for a woodland hike, watch for clusters of small, fan-shaped fungi growing on logs or dead trees. If the fungus has concentric zones or rings of white, cream, yellow, and brown, you are probably looking at turkey tail fungus, one of our most attractive species.

·       Most of our loons and robins head south this month. However, small numbers of robins regularly overwinter in the Kawarthas. This year’s huge wild grape crop will probably mean that larger than average numbers of robins will choose to remain here like they did two years ago.

·       Coyotes are often heard in late fall. The coyotes of central Ontario are closely related to the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) and the two species sometimes hybridize. All wolf-like animals of Peterborough County contain, to varying degrees, both coyote and eastern wolf genes.

Eastern coyote photographed at Westview Village in Peterborough (René Gareau)

·       This is a great time of year to focus on several groups of plants of the forest floor that usually escape our attention. Evergreen ferns, club-mosses, and mosses stand out prominently against the brown leaf litter. Watch for wood fern, rock polypody fern, ground pine and ground cedar club-mosses, juniper moss, and fire moss.

 

 

 

 

 

CLIMATE CRISIS NEWS 

On September 11, Peterborough Youth Empowerment will hold a forum to discuss what Peterborough can do at the municipal level to address the Climate Crisis. The meeting takes place at the Peterborough Public Library from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Robert Kiley, a Kingston municipal councillor, will explain how his council found the will to declare a Climate Emergency and how Peterborough can follow suit. Local climate activist, Al Slavin, will speak on some of the actions that are possible at the municipal level. Other climate events scheduled for the coming weeks include the Global Climate Action Day (Sept. 27 at Millennium Park from 12:00-3:00 pm) and 100 Debates on the Environment (Oct. 3 at Trinity United Church from 7:00 – 9:00 pm). The quickly worsening climate crisis should be top-of-mind when we cast our votes in October.

Aug 312019
 

White-throated Sparrows arrive on schedule: Right on schedule, five White-throated Sparrows arrived in our backyard this morning, the first of the fall. Some years, several dozen are here at the same time. They enjoy the finch mix (millet, nyger, sunflower seeds) I scatter on the ground each spring and fall. I expect the sparrows to stay for about a month. In the coming days, I’ll be watching for White-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos to join them in the yard. Drew Monkman, Maple Crescent, Peterborough

Juncos and White-throated Sparrows feeding on ground – (photo by Drew Monkman)

White-throated sparrow (dark stripe colour phase) (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing a milkweed leaf: I’m sending along a photo of a scene from August 31 that intrigued me. These Monarch and Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars were feeding on the same leaf. I watched them for a few minutes and at times they even seemed to face each other in an unfriendly fashion but then just turned away continuing to eat! Gwen McMullen

Monarch and Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars eating together – Gwen McMullen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) (3)
– Reported Sep 24, 2019 15:49 by Andrew Brown
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Looks like yellowlegs but smaller with greenish legs. Seen bobbing its tail similar to a spotted sandpiper ”

Solitary Sandpiper (Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Egret (Ardea alba) (1)
– Reported Sep 14, 2019 10:46 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough Landfill Wetland Project ponds, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “sontinuing, 150 m SW of pond along marsh edge”

Great Egrets south of zoo (Michele Hemery)

Great Egret (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1)
– Reported Sep 09, 2019 16:38 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough—Maria St. to Water St., Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Roosting in tree along lakes edge, where train tracks meet Maria St.”

Black-crowned Night heron – Carl Welbourn – May 7, 2019

Black-crowned Night Heron – juvenile – August 28, 2017 – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Butternut crop at Road’s End Farm:  As you noted several years ago, we do have a Butternut tree quite near our farm, although it is quite old and the bottom branches are succumbing to old age.  Two years ago it had a massive crop of butternuts, none last year, and some have already fallen this year although it could be that it’s too early to count the falls as ready to harvest. We also have at least one Butternut two fields over from the house, which has already dropped a great number of nuts and we’ve collected them.

I mention all of this because you or someone you might have contact with would like to have these nuts.  Both of us have hand/shoulder injuries which preclude this action for us and we would be glad to let someone else have the harvest, if and when it is ready(?) and the pile which is already down and I guess should be attended to right away…or left for squirrels?

We have a good apple showing this year after none last year, both in the back yard on the Macintosh. Also, lots of fruit on the Choke Cherry trees. As for the Wild Grape abundance…it’s quite overwhelming.  Dog Strangling Vine continues to spread all around the unploughed parts of our land each year. On the good side, we’ve seen more Monarchs this year than ever before.  Yes, we have a lot of Milkweed. We …choke?  pin?  Darienne McAuley

Nuts of Butternut – Juglans_cinerea – Necrasov (Wikimedia)

Butternut leaves and bark – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) (1)
– Reported Sep 04, 2019 13:39 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough Airport area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Least Sandpiper – Wikimedia

Semipalmated Plover – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) (1)
– Reported Sep 03, 2019 12:02 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough Airport area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Sep 02, 2019 08:37 by Dave Milsom
– Chase Memorial Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59456290
– Comments: “Gave whinny call 2 times in response to playback.”

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

Cape May Warbler – Lakefield Sewage Lagoons – Sept. 2, 2019 – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) (1)
– Reported Sep 01, 2019 06:36 by Iain Rayner
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 312019
 

Nighthawk migration: On August 29, Tim Dyson & I counted migrating Common Nighthawks from Back Dam Park near Warsaw from 6-8pm. We tallied 133 birds, with one “flock”comprising at least 48. Quite a sight! Tim has already had several evenings in late August with more than 100 nighthawks. Nighthawks are designated as a Species of Special Concern in Canada (COSEWIC – 2018) Their population in southern Canada has declined by 68% since 1970, but the rate of decline has slowed appreciably over the past decade, and the species appears to be quite abundant in suitable boreal habitats.

A loose flock or “kettle” of about 48 nighthawks at Warsaw on August 29, 2019 – Drew Monkman

Nighthawk soaring over Back Dam Park – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Chestnut update: On my efforts to re-establish American Chestnut: Lots of good news. First, all of seedlings that I started in the Spring have survived and seem to be thriving. Of course, we still have Winter to get through. Second, for the first time, all three of my most mature trees produced catkins this Spring, although I only see developing Chestnuts on two of them. I’m hopeful that I will be able to harvest many more viable seeds this Autumn than last. Third, and maybe most important of all, I discovered an American Chestnut sapling that must be at least five years old only metres away from the three original trees that I planted. Given its height (about a metre and a half) I surmise that it was planted by squirrels in the first year that the trees produced nuts. I have attached a picture. This is the proof I needed that the trees could self-seed up there, much earlier than I expected to have it.

In other news, I have been trying to establish Walnut trees on our property up there too for about twenty-five years. Having walked the whole property, as well as adjacent properties many times, I’m confident in saying that there has been no Walnut growing on any of those properties at least over the last quarter century, although I have known about Walnut trees growing on Galway Road and farther down Crystal Lake Road for that whole time. This is the first year that I have found nuts on a tree that I planted. I have also been trying to re-establish Hickory up there too for five to ten years, but nothing to report yet.
We have been surprised by the lack of deer on our property. They occasionally show up on our game cameras, but we haven’t seen one during daylight since early Spring. That’s highly unusual. One that we caught six weeks ago on a game camera looked emaciated and I’m hoping that Chronic Wasting Disease isn’t affecting the local herd. We’ve only seen one Indigo Bunting and no Scarlet Tanagers, even though I have spent a good part of the Summer up there building a wood shed.  Michael Doran

American Chestnut sapling – August 2019 – Michael Doran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Egret (American) (Ardea alba egretta) (1)
– Reported Aug 29, 2019 10:30 by Randy Smith
– Peterborough–Television Road pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “tv. rd. pond Peterborough , watched for 30 min feeding in center area of pond , observed large white heron type bird with yellow bill and black legs (Great Egret)”

Great Egret 2 – Carl Welbourn – Television Road – August 28, 2016

Great Egret – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (3)
– Reported Aug 11, 2019 13:00 by Matt Mair
– Trent University Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S58917525
– Comments: “Three individuals seen at once in the silver maple swamp off the blue trail. Unmistakable fully red head, black wings with white patch.”

Red-headed Woodpecker (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 092019
 

Your enthusiasm for nature will be noticed by children

A love of nature begins in childhood; every boy and girl is a budding naturalist. This should come as no surprise. Up until the agricultural revolution and, later, the emigration into villages and cities, humans grew up and lived in intimate contact with natural environments. Survival depended on detailed knowledge of plants and animals. Although our way of life has changed drastically, these ancestral instincts and affections still live within us.

Eric Fromm, a German psychologist, coined the term “biophilic” to describe the innate need that all children have to connect with other species. There is a critical window, however, that must be respected. If children are provided with rich and repeated experiences in nature from early childhood to about 14 years of age, they are far more likely to develop a life-long love appreciation for the natural world. If children spend nearly all their time indoors, however, nature may simply become a backdrop to their lives – a green blur as trivial as billboards, strip malls and parking lots.

As Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson writes, being a naturalist is not just an activity but also a rich and honorable state of mind. It is a way of “being” in the world. An ability to recognize and classify different species is seen by many cognitive psychologists as one of the eight major categories of intelligence. We see this intelligence in the young child who can readily identify different farm animals, dinosaurs or even Pokémon characters and car models. How then can adults – be they parents, grandparents, teachers or youth leaders – cultivate a naturalist’s intelligence in every child?

Finding a salamander under a rock or log is always exciting for kids, like my grandaughter, Juni. (Drew Monkman)

 

Set an example

·       If you show enthusiasm for nature, your excitement will be noticed and copied by children. If they see you making an effort to be out in nature, they’ll want to do the same. Open doors but don’t “push them through.” Ultimately, loving nature should never be forced.

·       As adults, we often forget the power of words and body language. They transmit values. If a little girl runs up to show you the caterpillar she’s just caught and you frown and say “Put that dirty thing down”, the joy and value of the discovery are ruined. To cultivate a sense of wonder, you need to use the language of wonder. “Wow – is that ever cool. Look at all the different colours and the little hairs on its back. Where did you find it? Let’s put it in a jar and keep it for a while.”

·       Good questions inspire curiosity, which is the engine of learning. They also invite other questions. Encourage children to ask why, to marvel and to explore further. Let’s imagine you’re watching birds at a feeder. All of a sudden, a nuthatch flies in and begins feeding in their characteristic upside-down position. You might ask, “Why do you think it feeds upside down?” (Scientists think nuthatches can spot food from this vantage point that “right side up” birds like woodpeckers miss.) “Look how long and narrow its bill is. I wonder why?” (to get at food hidden deep in the cracks of bark). Encourage the child to ask why questions, too, and to hypothesize at what the answer might be. If you don’t know the answer either, admit it. Think of this as an opportunity to do some research together. And, if you can’t find the response, perhaps this is something that science cannot yet explain or has never investigated. Remind children that there are many things science does not yet know, and we need more bright young people like them to pursue a career in areas like biology.

·       Go forth with explorer’s eyes. Be amazed at what you see, but let the child “own” the discovery. For example, you might know where to find salamanders along a certain trail. Instead of saying, “Hey! Do you want to find a salamander?” you might simply ask, “I wonder what we’ll find under these logs?” In the first question, you owned the discovery; in the second, the joy of discovery belongs to the child. It’s so satisfying for a parent or teacher to hear a child bellow out, “Look what I found!”
Play

·       Play, too, is a powerful teacher, and the natural landscape lends itself to creative play. A stick becomes a magic wand or a sword; a copse of trees becomes a castle. It is through unstructured play that children cultivate their imagination. Being creative, means creating, so let children catch animals, make forts, throw rocks, climb trees, get scraped and dirty, and even disturb nature a bit, on their own and without too much coaching. These experiences are at the very heart of developing a love for the natural world. Children need to “mess around” a lot and do so as much as possible on their own. If it helps, think of the child as a little hunter-gatherer!

Children love to play in nature – and climb trees! (Jacob Rodenburg)

·       Not all parents feel comfortable letting their kids roam freely. However, you can take your children outside yourself and be a “hummingbird parent”. Just stay out of the kids’ way as much as possible, so they can explore and play in nature on their own. You can always “zoom in” like a hummingbird if safety becomes an issue. Slowly increase the distance and the kids’ autonomy as time goes by. Kids thrive on autonomy, so don’t be afraid to let them loose sometimes – with a minimum of rules.

·       Allow adolescents to undertake adventures with others such as overnight hiking and canoe trips.

·       Children have a yearning to create dens, nests and hiding places. One of my most memorable experiences of childhood was going into the woods and building small shelters or “forts” as we called them. Children can do so using found supplies from the outdoors or the garage – old branches, sticks, fallen tree boughs with leaves, conifer branches with needles, scraps of lumber, a sheet of plastic, etc. The building process is wonderful for problem solving and creativity.

·       A simple shelter can be built by propping a long pole against a tree and using branches to create a frame on both sides. Pile evergreen boughs and then leaves to cover the frame. For added comfort, pile leaves inside the hut, too.

Other ideas

·       Buy your child a good hand lens (10X), a small compound microscope and, when they are 10 or so, a good pair of binoculars. Children delight in the very small, from the cells of leaves enlarged by a microscope to the feathery antennae of a moth revealed by a hand lens. Magnified, close-up views provide an entirely different perspective on nature. Teach them how to use binoculars to view birds, butterflies, dragonflies and the night sky.

·       Set up a terrarium in your home or classroom. A terrarium is basically an aquarium that is filled with plants, soil and rocks suitable for terrestrial creatures. Allow your children to bring home “pets” for a few days – caterpillars, frogs, salamanders, insects, etc. Alternatively, buy an ant farm. Ants are fascinating to watch.

My granddaughter, Anouk, holding a garter snake that her mom helped her catch. It’s important that parents set a positive example. (Drew Monkman)

 

·       Put up several different kinds of bird feeders and keep track of the different species that visit. Give your child the responsibility of keeping the feeder stocked with seed. Make sure it’s located near a window where the family spends a lot of time. Avant-Garden Shop at 165 Sherbrooke Street in  Peterborough has a great selection of feeders, bird seed and other bird-related resources.

·       Create a collection table on which the children can display their discoveries, – feathers, flowers, seeds, cones, galls, skulls, dead insects, nests, etc. Add new items as the seasons change.

·       Encourage your child to take part in junior field naturalist activities, such as those provided by the Peterborough Field Naturalists. Go to peterboroughnature.org/junior for more information.

·       Take your child to the zoo. Pick a particular animal for focused observation instead of just wandering passively through the exhibits. Visit natural history museums, too, such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

·       Go camping. Being outside for 24 hours a day allows you to see and hear things you will otherwise miss. Positive camping memories will make it much more likely your child will want to camp as an adult.

From the freedom to explore nature and the knowledge acquired largely by personal initiative come self-confidence, lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors, and a desire to protect our natural heritage. What more could we ask for our children and for the good of humanity?

Note: This column first appeared in September 2016.

Climate Crisis News

Quickly accelerating climate change is once again the story this summer. July was the hottest of any month in our planet’s recorded history. All-time high temperature records were shattered across Europe with Paris reaching a historic 42.6 C (108.7 F). On August 1, Greenland shedded a record 12.5 billion tons of melt water into the sea, enough to fill 5 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. We also learned that if the IPCC’s target of a 45% carbon cut by 2030 is to be met, the plans need to be on the table by the end of 2020. This underscores the importance of assuring Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives do not take power in October.

If there is any good news, it’s the marked increase in public interest in climate change and a hunger for solutions that people can put in place in their own lives. As Sarah Lazarovic pointed out in the August issue of MacLean’s magazine, the first rule of the climate crisis is: TALK ABOUT THE CLIMATE CRISIS. With friends, with family, and even with strangers. Share your fears about your family’s future and your desire for aggressive climate policies.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 262019
 

20th Annual Petroglyphs Butterfly Count: The compiling of the July 21st butterfly count is finally finished  and final results have been submitted to the North America Butterfly Association. A total of 55 species were recorded, slightly above the average for the last few years. The Indian Skipper found in the Park area was a new species for this count.  The slow arrival of spring was a factor. The number of Monarchs (472) was very encouraging. Although the number of Dun Skippers (1,459) was well below the 4900+ seen last year, according to count compiler Jerry Ball, it will still be a continental high. The ten most common species were: Dun Skippers (1,459), Monarchs (472), Northern Crescent (304), European Skipper (286), Broad-winged Skipper (165), Eyed-brown (86), Mulberry Wing Skipper (61), White Admiral (51), Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (23), and Acadian Hairstreak (23).  Martin Parker 

Full count results (1)

Full count results (2)

 

White Admiral – Robin Blake

European Skipper – Drew Monkman

 

 

Tiger Swallowtail – Robin Blake

Dun Skipper – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Dobsonfly: We have never see a bug this big in our lives !! It was enormous. It was stuck to the patio screen. I gently swept it off the patio screen and it landed on the patio. The wing cover was a sliver and blended well with the patio bricks. Any clue what this “ginormous” creature is? Gord Young, Armour Road, Peterborough

Note: Your visitor was a male Eastern Dobsonfly. They average about 12 cm (5 inches) long! In the larval stage, they’re called hellgrammites and are/used to be (?) a popular bait. The larvae live in water, so I suspect this adult would have emerged from the Otonabee River. The males can’t bite, but the females, who have only tiny pincers, apparently can.

Male Dobsonfly – July 26, 2019 – Armour Road, PTBO – Gord Young

 

 

Female Eastern Dobsonfly (Rick Kemp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Jul 23, 2019 11:30 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported Jul 22, 2019 12:35 by Kathryn Sheridan
– Lakefield Water Tower, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing”

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (2)
– Reported Jul 22, 2019 15:04 by Dan Chronowic
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing. Adults. In wetland off blue trail. Seen together at top of snag.”

Red-headed Woodpecker – Greg Piatsetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20th Petroglyphs Butterfly Count: This year’s butterfly count, held on July 21st, produced 55 species. The average is 51 species. The big news, however, was the 472 Monarchs we found (vs. 249 in 2018 & just 65 in 2017). With no special searching, we also found 11 Monarch larvae. Many thanks to Martin Parker & Jerry Ball for organizing the event.  Drew Monkman

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from the Indian River, north of Warsaw: 

Today, July 25, I found a new caterpillar, a Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar (Melanchra adjuncta) all curled up on a leaf of a flowering Common Bleeding Heart.

And while I was pruning a lilac bush I came across a tiny mystery creature about a centimeter long.  Unfortunately it fell to the ground while I was trying to photograph it, but it was easier to get a picture on the rough grass.  It is somewhat similar to a pseudoscorpion in both size and the presence of a pair of pincers but it also has two “tails” that  pseudoscorpions do not have.  Despite lengthy searches on the web, I cannot identify a name.  It is a lovely shade of dark blue.
On Monday, July 22, we found three tiny Monarch caterpillars on a lone Common Milkweed that had self-seeded among a jumble of vetch, umbellifers and Bird’s-foot Trefoil near the river. And yesterday, there was another one on a Milkweed in the graveled turning circle. Here’s hoping for a ‘bumper crop’.

We also spotted a Golden-rod Crab Spider, probably a female, on the flower head of a Queen Ann’s Lace. I’ve never been a spider enthusiast, but this one was so pretty. And I’ve discovered it has one remarkable characteristic. It can change colour from yellow to white and vice versa depending on the flower it’s on, though it may take from one day to twenty to make the change. Goldenrod flowers and milkweed are common hosts.

On June 30, an Eight-spotted Forester Moth (Alypia octomaculata) alighted on one of our windows facing the river. Clean windows mean bird strikes so the image isn’t as crisp as it might be. The moth feeds on Virginia Creeper and the grape vine and is often mistaken for a butterfly because it visits flowers during the day.

About this time our neighbours were having some roof work done and an Eastern Phoebe nest was removed from a window ledge that was thought to be empty as the young had already fledged. Sadly the nest contained a second clutch of eggs. With all the handling it was decided not to put it back. The construction of the nest is a wonder to behold.

We now have three protected Painted Turtle nests. At least 2 of these nests definitely have eggs as a skunk has been trying to dig round the chicken wire. And there was a fourth nest that had been dug out with eggs shells and 4 tiny dead Painted Turtles, all rather desiccated, lying near the hole. The next day the turtles were gone, presumably eaten by the skunk. This must have been a nest from last year.

We also have one protected Snapping Turtle nest. Hopefully her nest has eggs this time but she’s fooled us before, digging an obvious second nest to distract attention from a well-covered first nest that does contain her eggs.

Lastly we spotted a mall American Toad amongst leaf litter in a wooded area. We don’t see this toad very often.   Stephenie and Peter Armstrong, Warsaw

Eight-spotted Forester Moth – Stephenie Armstrong

Dead baby Painted Turtles in nest – June 2019 – Stephenie Armstrong

Nest of Eastern Phoebe – Stephenie Armstrong

Goldenrod Crab spider on Queen Anne’s Lace – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitched Arches Moth Caterpillar – Stephenie Armstrong

Recently emerged Monarch caterpillar – July 2019 – Peter Armstrong

 

Mystery insect – July 2019 – Stephenie Armstrong

Leucistic Common Grackle: I took these photos of a leucistic Common Grackle feeding its fledgling in my backyard today, July 12. It hung around the feeder most of the day. I live on County Road 36. Sharon Watson, Lindsay.

Leucistic grackle feeding fledgling – Lindsay, ON – July 12, 2019 – Sharon Watson

Leucistic Common Grackle 2 – Lindsay, ON – July 12, 2019 – Sharon Watson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent photos from Mike Faught: I took the photos of the Great Blue Heron nest in the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary. The Merlins are using the tree just off our balcony on Reid Street in Peterborough to exchange prey that they’ve caught. We see them doing this five or six times a day! Mike Faught

Merlins exchanging food – July 2019 – Peterborough – Mike Faught

Merlin with prey – July 2019 – Peterborough – Mike Faught

Great Blue Herons on nest – Trent Wildlife Sanctuary – June 2019 – Mike Faught

Osprey carrying sucker – June 2019 – Mike Faught

Osprey feeding young – June 2019 – Mike Faught

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albino Raccoon:  Here are a couple of photos of an albino Raccoon that a Peterborough resident shared with me. It turned up in his neighbourhood near Little Lake in early July.

Albino Raccoon – July 2019 – Little Lake, Peterborough

Albino Raccoon near Little Lake – July 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) (1)
– Reported Jul 03, 2019 09:30 by Chris Ellingwood
– Highway 36, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “calling from private access lane-distinct western song, very loud and melodious whistle and warble call. Bird similar in physical appearance to eastern meadowlark in same field. Call notable.
Back off of Highway 36 on private property. May be hearable from road near Flynn’s Turn.”

Jul 192019
 

The Kawarthas is home to a fascinating variety of odonates

The buzz on our street this summer is not the usual gossip shared by neighbours. Rather, it’s the sound of mosquitoes. June’s warm, wet weather created perfect conditions for mosquito reproduction, and they took full advantage of it. Up until the last week or so, working outside was nearly impossible without some kind of bug protection. Few of us stop to think, however, that nature has its own mosquito control system – ancient flying machines that love nothing more than dining on these blood-sucking pests. Enter the odonates.

From gardeners to birders, and children to adults, dragonflies and damselflies intrigue us all. Known collectively as odonates (from the insect order Odonata), they also have evocative names like ebony jewelwing, Stygian shadowdragon and racket-tailed emerald. Odonates also keep civilized hours – most  don’t become active until mid-morning – and prefer warm, sunny weather.

When we look into their huge eyes, we are seeing life as it existed millions of years ago. They are as old as the first reptiles and far older than the first flowering plants. Their basic structure has hardly changed in all this time. Clearly, evolution mastered odonate design a long time ago.

Dragonflies and damselflies are easy to tell apart. Damselflies tend to be small – often only an inch or so in length – with a thin body. They are weak, tentative fliers and hold their wings closed or only partially spread when at rest. Dragonflies, on the other hand, are much larger with thick bodies. They are also strong fliers and keep their wings completely open when resting.

Odonates of the Kawarthas

Our knowledge of the dragonflies and damselflies of the Kawarthas dates to only 1993 when a small group of local naturalists began keeping detailed records of their sightings. Now, over 100 species have been recorded in Peterborough County alone, approximately one-third of which are damselflies.

Although dragonflies and damselflies are usually found around water – marshes, in particular – they also frequent fields, roadsides and gardens. All our local rail-trails provide great odonate-watching (also known as “oding”) opportunities, especially in sections that pass through wetlands. Jackson Park, GreenUP Ecology Park, and the Imagine the Marsh Conservation Area in Lakefield (off D’eyncourt St.) are also excellent destinations for seeing odonates. Watching from a kayak or canoe can be especially fun and productive.

Four-spotted Skimmer – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Like butterflies, different species fly at different times of the year. In July, some of the most common and easy-to-identify dragonflies are the “skimmers”, a group characterized by prominent wing patches and body markings. They include the painted, chalk-fronted, four-spotted, twelve-spotted, and widow skimmers as well as the Halloween pennant. Darners, too, are easy to find. The male common green darner is especially beautiful with its bright green thorax and blue abdomen. This species is migratory, with large numbers moving along the shore of Lake Ontario in early fall. By late summer, smaller dragonflies called meadowhawks become abundant. In most species, the males are red, while the females and immatures are yellow.

 

 

 

 

Twelve-spotted Skimmer- adult male -Drew Monkman -June-23 2014

As for damselflies, now is a good time to see ebony jewelwings, a species that often turns up in gardens. They are quite large and, at first glance, appear almost entirely black. In the proper light, however, they radiate a beautiful metallic green lustre. Other common damselflies on the wing right now include spreadwings, forktails and bluets. The latter are tiny, powder blue damselflies, which are often seen on marsh vegetation and around docks. They love to land on fishing rods.

 

 

Interesting behaviours

Odonates attract our attention in many different ways. For example, large numbers of the same species often emerge at the same time.  Black and white chalk-fronted skimmers are typical in this regard. In  early summer, hundreds often congregate along cottage roads. They fly up  each time a car passes and then immediately return to land on the road surface. Later in the summer, you’ll often see swarms of dragonflies feeding on flying ants. Dozens of ant-eating Canada darners entertained us for hours one summer as we sat on the dock at my brother’s cottage.

The rough-and-tumble world of odonate sex is especially fascinating. If you’ve ever seen a pair of mating dragonflies in the act, you probably have an idea of how much flexibility is required. First, the male bends his abdomen beneath him to transfer sperm from its production site near the tip of the abdomen to a slit in the penis, which is located near the junction of the abdomen and thorax. Next, he forms a tandem with the female by literally grabbing her behind the head with claspers, which are also located at the tip of his abdomen. The pair then alights and goes into the “wheel” position. To do so, the female  bends the tip of her abdomen around until her genitalia are brought into contact with the male’s penis. In this way, the couple forms a closed circle with their bodies.  Now, this is where things get even more interesting. The male will then use special “scoopers” to clear out any sperm that a previous male may have deposited in the female. This helps to assure that only his genes will be transferred to future generations. Having cleaned house, he injects his sperm into the female, and the wheel is broken. To keep rival suitors away, some males will actively guard their mate – or even retain her in their hold – until she has finished depositing her eggs in the water.

A pair of bluet damselflies in the wheel position – Rick Stankiewicz

 

Photography

Odonates are among the most photogenic of our insects. Many species also have the cooperative habit of returning to the same perch time and time again. You can therefore pre-focus on the perch and wait for the dragonfly or damselfly to land. All that’s required is some patience. Although a macro lens provides the best results, you can still get good pictures with a standard telephoto lens.

Try to take advantage of the softer, diffused light of cloudy days when odonates are less active and easier to approach. For species like darners that don’t often land, you can sometimes find them perched during the cool temperatures of early morning before their flight muscles warm up. You might even find a few covered in dew. Always focus on the eyes and take shots from different angles. Some of the most satisfying pictures can be achieved by shooting the dragonfly from the side with the camera’s sensor parallel to the insect’s body. Whenever possible, look for a background that contrasts with the colours of the dragonfly.

Taking a picture is also useful for identification purposes. Although most species are relatively easy to identify with a guidebook or website photo (see below), you can also upload the picture to iNaturalist.org where someone else will identify it for you.

Viewing and identifying

Almost everything that applies to butterfly-watching is also true for oding. Many species  can be readily identified with the naked eye. For the more skittish varieties, however, a pair of close-focusing binoculars is a must.

Immature meadowhawk dragonfly – Margo Hughes

Because some species rarely land, a butterfly net can also come in handy. A net is also fun to use, especially if you’re trying to catch a dragonfly in a swarm. Once you’ve caught it, transfer the insect to a  jar or Zip-lock bag for closeup viewing. Another option is to hold the dragonfly in your hand by placing your thumb and index finger on either side of the thorax and then gently move your fingers upwards. Pinch all four wings together over the body between your fingers.

I also recommend purchasing a copy of the “Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area”. It is an excellent resource and includes all the species found in the Kawarthas. The main author is Colin Jones, a local naturalist and biologist. The beautiful illustrations are by Peterborough native, Peter Burke. A great on-line resource can be found at www.odonatacentral.org. Start with the checklist feature to get a list of those species found in Ontario. You can then go on to browse the photographs. A checklist of Ontario Odonata is also available by contacting the Toronto Entomologists’ Association at www.ontarioinsects.org

Spend some time learning the key field marks and behaviours of each of the three families of damselflies and six families of damselflies. For example, are the eyes separated or connected? Are the wings clear or patterned? Does it fly high or low? Does it perch often and, if so, how and where? Remember, too, that the males and females of some species can look quite  different, as can some of the immatures.

Odonate-watching can become a fascinating hobby. You’ll soon be enamored by their jewel-like colours, their intriguing behaviours and the challenge of finding new species. As with butterflies, the odonates are yet another window onto the amazing biodiversity of the Kawarthas.

Chalk-fronted Skimmer – adult male – Drew Monkman

 

Climate Crisis News

Climate alarm bells just keep on ringing. Boosted by a historic heat wave in Europe with temperatures reaching 45.9 C in France, Earth just registered its warmest June ever. July is on track to set a new heat record as well. Unprecedented warming is also continuing unabated in the Arctic. This past Sunday, Canadian Forces Station Alert, located at the tip of Ellesmere Island, hit a record 21 C, which was warmer than Victoria, B.C.  The normal is 7 C. For a sobering overview of just how serious the climate crisis is – and what can be done about it –  pick up the August issue of MacLean’s magazine. It includes a 26-page section entitled “The Climate Crisis. And how to stop it.”
 

Jul 122019
 

July is a great time to get to know these beautiful insects.

My special affection for butterflies began as a classroom teacher. Each September, I would collect monarch caterpillars for my students to raise. They would watch and document each stage of metamorphosis with rapt attention. We were often able to see the caterpillars spin a silk mat from which to hang in a J-shape before shedding their skin for the last time, revealing the lime-green chrysalis. The kids’ excitement would only increase over the following days as the black, orange, and white wing patterns became visible through the chrysalis covering. Then, one morning at about 9 o’clock, some student would yell, “The monarch’s coming out of its chrysalis!” We would then watch with amazement as the wet, crumpled adult pumped hemolymph liquid through its small, crimped wings until they expanded to full-size. At the end of the school day, we would head outside and release the monarch to a chorus of, “Bon voyage. Have a great trip to Mexico!”

Students watching Monarch emerge from chrysalis -Drew Monkman

The Kawarthas is home to approximately 100 species of butterflies, which represents almost two-thirds of the species occurring in the entire province. Identifying and photographing them is a wonderful summer pastime. Not only are butterflies easy to observe, but they turn up almost everywhere. Unlike birding, which sometimes requires getting up at the crack of dawn and dealing with inclement weather, watching butterflies is a  more civilized affair.  These gentle insects are rarely on the wing before nine o’clock, and they are most active on warm, sunny days. Right now is a great time to get to know these insects. More species are active in July than at any other time of year.

This month, it should also be possible to see species that are usually more typical of June. According to local butterfly expert Jerry Ball,  the cold, wet spring we experienced has delayed the emergence of many species by about 10 days. He is encouraged, however, by the number of monarchs that returned this spring. These “grandchildren” of the monarchs that migrated to Mexico last fall have already laid eggs. We can therefore expect monarch sightings to increase substantially over the next couple of weeks when a new generation of adults will be flying. If the weather cooperates – warm, sunny days with an average amount of rain – we should have another good summer for this species at risk. The overwintering population in Mexico was 144% higher this past winter as compared to the winter of 2018.

Where to look

As we approach mid-July, our roadsides, fields, wetland borders, and gardens are increasingly lush with fragrant, colourful flowers. Many of these are important sources of nectar. Butterflies are especially attracted to common milkweed, swamp milkweed, spreading dogbane, viper’s-bugloss, purple vetch, wild bergamot and orange hawkweed. Later in the summer, plants like Joe-Pye-weed, goldenrods and asters are also butterfly magnets. In gardens, butterflies are particularly fond of purple coneflower, globe thistle, butterfly bush, and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).

Butterflies, however, are not just attracted to flowers. Many species such as white admirals, mourning cloaks and eastern commas also like to bask on roads. By extending their wings, they absorb the sun’s warmth in order to elevate their  body temperature for more efficient flight.  You will also find butterflies congregating around the muddy edge of puddles or perched on animal dung. Both mud and dung serve as an important source of minerals, amino acids and nitrogen. A third place to look for butterflies is on tree trunks, especially if they are oozing sap. In fact, one species, the northern pearly-eye, is a shade lover and routinely lands on the trunks of forest trees.

White admiral -June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake (Robin Blake)

Although butterflies turn up nearly everywhere, some locations are routinely better than others. I asked Martin Parker, former president of the Peterborough Field Naturalists, to share some of his favourite butterfly-watching destinations. Martin recommends walking or cycling along any of our local rail-trails. He particularly likes the section of the Rotary-Greenway Trail from Trent University to Lakefield, the Trans-Canada Trail between Cameron Line and County Road 38, and the BEL Rotary Bridgenorth Trail from Seventh Line to Fifth Line. The mix of wetland, field and woodland habitats make these trails particularly rich in butterfly diversity. If you’re willing to travel a little further afield, he also recommends Petroglyph Provincial Park and both Jack Lake and Sandy Lake Roads. The latter is located off County Road 46, about 25 minutes north of Havelock. Sandy Lake Road is considered one of the best butterfly destinations in all of Ontario, especially because of its wide variety of skippers like the mulberry wing.

What’s flying now?      

Most butterfly species have a specific flight period, which is the time of year in which they fly. Two easy-to-identify species that are common right now are the eastern tiger swallowtail and the white admiral. The swallowtail’s large size and yellow wings striped in black make it hard to miss. The white admiral, too, is very distinctive. Watch for a black butterfly with a large white band across each of the four wings. Some other common species to watch for in mid-July are the cabbage white, clouded sulphur, northern crescent, common ringlet, summer azure, great-spangled fritillary, red admiral, European skipper, and Dun’s skipper. Skippers are tiny, grey and/or orange, moth-like butterflies.

Canada tiger swallowtail. The eastern tiger swallowtail is nearly identical. (Robin Blake)

A common ringlet. Note the small, black spot on the underside of the forewing. (Ben Wolfe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the coming days and weeks, you should also watch for the giant swallowtail, Canada’s largest butterfly. Because of its size and weight, it’s usually unable to land on flowers and must hover as it feeds. These butterflies are new to the Kawarthas, having extended their range northward as a result of our warming climate.

Viewing tips

Here are some pointers to keep in mind to make the most of butterfly watching.

1.      The best way to approach a butterfly is from behind, being careful to avoid any sudden movements. As Parker says, “Be patient and don’t rush them. Let the butterfly settle in and start nectaring.” You should also try to avoid casting a shadow on the insect. Being sun-loving creatures, a shadow can cause them to fly away.

2.      Getting good looks at butterflies is easiest with a pair of close-focusing binoculars. For optimal viewing, you should be able to stand up and focus on your toes. A good pair of binoculars will allow you to identify nearly all the butterflies you’re likely to see.

3.      A butterfly net can be helpful when it comes to look-alike species like the skippers. Carefully transfer the butterfly from the net to a small jar or Zip-lock bag for close-up viewing.

A fiery skipper on autumn sedum. Skippers are challenging butterflies to identify. (Drew Monkman)

4.      A camera with a zoom lens also comes in handy. By taking a picture, you can identify the butterfly at your leisure. You can also upload the photo to iNaturalist.org where someone else will identify it for you.

5.      Pay special attention to the butterfly’s size, wing shape, colour and pattern­ing. The pattern on the underside of the wing, usually visible as the butterfly feeds, is especially important for identification purposes.

6.      Learn to identify the plants that attract butterflies, either for nectar or as “larval plants” on which to lay eggs. Monarchs, for example, only lay their eggs on milkweed.

7.      To find a given species, research the time of year it flies and its preferred habitat.

8.      You will also need a guidebook. Parker recommends “The Pocket Guide to Butterflies of Southern and Eastern Ontario”, by Rick Cavasin. You can pick up a copy of this this inexpensive, laminated fold-out at the Avant-Garden Shop at 165 Sherbrooke Street in Peterborough. For a more detailed guide, I recommend “The Butterflies of Ontario”. One of the co-authors is Colin Jones, a Peterborough naturalist and biologist.

Butterfly count

On July 20, local butterfly aficionados will be taking part in the 22nd annual Petroglyph Butterfly Count. Jerry Ball is the compiler and organizer. If you wish to participate, phone Martin Parker at 705-745-4750 or email him at mparker19@cogeco.ca. The count is a fun day in which beginners are paired with more experienced watchers. It will be interesting this year to see the effects – if any – of the cold, wet spring.  Like the Christmas Bird Count, butterfly counts provide a snapshot of butterfly numbers from one year to the next. In this way they are an important tool in documenting changes in populations. Numerous studies have shown that insect numbers are plummeting in many parts of the world. The “windshield phenomenon” provides anecdotal evidence of this alarming trend. Most anyone of a certain age can probably remember how windscreens would become covered in dead insects after just a short drive in the country. No longer is this the case. The threat of ecological disruption from declining insect numbers should be of concern to everyone.

Climate Crisis News

If you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, I highly recommend “The Overstory”, by Richard Powers. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and is being touted as the first great American ecological novel. In telling the story of people whose lives have been profoundly affected by trees, Powers incorporates the latest tree science. This includes how trees engage in social behaviours and communicate with one another. The Overstory also fits well within the growing genre of “climate fiction” by exploring the effects of humans’ impact on the Earth. As Powers writes, “Life will cook; the seas will rise. The planet’s lungs will be ripped out. And the law will let this happen, because harm was never imminent enough. Imminent, at the time of people, is too late. The law must judge imminent at the speed of trees.”

 

 

Jul 052019
 

An activist friend told me recently about an email she received doubting the urgency of addressing climate change. The person argued that if climate change was truly a crisis, our elected leaders and governments at all levels would be saying so, and, since relatively few  politicians seem truly alarmed, there really is no need to panic.

Although scientists are telling us we’re facing a Code Red climate catastrophe, most politicians have failed to communicate any true urgency for action. The complacency reminds me of the initial Soviet response to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion and meltdown – silence. In fact, citizens sat out on their balconies and watched the blue haze over the reactor throughout the first night and conducted their lives normally the next day. They later died. The Soviets were not used to sharing uncomfortable truths. However, when the truth was incontrovertible, and the emergency finally declared, Soviet citizens were heroic in risking their lives to contain what was left of the reactor. There was no mad panic but bravery and focus. They prevented the radioactive lava flow from leaching into the water table and contaminating the Black Sea. Many sacrificed their lives in doing so.

An infinitely worse catastrophe is brewing as we speak, albeit largely hidden from view in day to day life. Scientists from around the world are trying to warn us that climate change is on course to destroy civilization as we know it.

Now, at this, the 11th hour, a growing number of politicians – but tragically, almost no Conservatives – are acknowledging the dire science. They are assuming their leadership responsibility and telling their constituents the truth: we are facing a climate emergency. Nearly 40 Canadian cities, including Kingston, Hamilton, London, and Ottawa, have made climate emergency declarations. The federal government, too, has followed suit. Peterborough City Council needs to assume its leadership responsibility and do the same.

The science  

In October, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raised the threat advisory of catastrophic climate change from orange to a pulsating scarlet red. If the planet warms by much more than 1.5-degrees Celsius (we are already at 1.1 C degrees of warming), the result will be soaring death rates, huge waves of climate refugees, devastating coastal flooding, and unprecedented planet-wide species extinction. The predicted economic cost is counted in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Canada is warming at twice the global average. Communities across the country are facing debilitating heat, wildfires, and severe flooding. The climate crisis is threatening our economy, our ecosystems, our infrastructure, and our health. As Peterborough’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Rosanna Salvaterra, stated recently, “Global warming has changed weather patterns to the point where weather-related emergencies have now become the leading threat to our safety.”

The IPCC report does provide a glimmer of hope, however: Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible. To get there, however, greenhouse gas emissions will have to be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and then brought to zero by 2050. If mounting the necessary response in such a short time frame doesn’t represent an emergency, I don’t know what does.

Why a declaration?

Declaring a climate emergency is a critical first step to launching the comprehensive mobilization required to avoid the worst ravages of climate change. It would be no less than a call to action on the part of the entire community. Here’s why it’s necessary.

1. As someone who has been talking about climate change for years – and especially its impact on nature in the Kawarthas – I am still surprised by how few people, businesses or organizations in Peterborough are truly engaged with this issue or appear to understand the severity of what we’re up against. This even includes many young people who stand to be most affected. As Dr. Dianne Saxe, the former Ontario Environment Commissioner, says repeatedly, “The climate crisis is SO MUCH WORSE than people think.”

2. Because Council has a responsibility to keep the community safe and well, citizens need to know the truth if they’re to act in their own best interests. We need to be preparing our homes for the coming severe weather events like floods, severe droughts, and crippling summer heat. We are likely to be facing long-lasting blackouts and maybe even food shortages. Climate change also exacerbates inequalities, disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.

3. Addressing the climate crisis is something we must do together. We are well beyond the point where personal action can make the necessary difference. A declaration can help make collective action a reality and focus people’s attention ahead of the fall election. It would also provide “social license” for people to share their climate change concerns with others. Right now, talking about the climate crisis is almost a no-go zone for many.

4. The quickest path to meaningful action is at the local level. Cities and local governments have historically been the spark for progress, from minimum wage to civil rights. Local action will inspire other communities to follow and build a mandate for much-needed national mobilizations. As the owners and operators of most of Ontario’s infrastructure, municipalities are at the front line of climate damage and have the most to lose from climate inaction. According to Dr. Saxe, they are also much more vulnerable to liability lawsuits than senior levels of government.

5. A declaration would support the Greater Peterborough Climate Action Plan, which the City has endorsed. For example, the Community Sector of the plan recommends strategies such as  “fostering a culture of climate change awareness” and “encouraging civic engagement around climate change.” Actions include “Supporting Sustainable Peterborough in delivering ongoing education and outreach on climate change, hosting regular events focused on climate change, and developing a charter and guidelines to foster meaningful community engagement.

Arguments against

Despite these arguments, not everyone is convinced – including some councillors.

1. Some people may argue that these declarations are merely symbolic, empty gestures. However, climate emergency declarations don’t typically contain specific policy measures. They simply draw an important line in the sand. In an emergency, there is no room for backsliding. In this way, they are a symbol of a municipality’s commitment to fighting and communicating the dire threat of the climate crisis through future measures and serve as a guidepost to help cities focus on climate mitigation and adaptation when making decisions.

2. It’s true that Council needs to address other emergencies such as Peterborough’s opioid crisis and the shortage of affordable housing. Nowhere is it written, however, that emergencies don’t happen at the same time. We also need to remember that the climate crisis is a multiplier, which will make every other imaginable emergency even worse.

3. It can also be argued that Peterborough is already taking climate action through its Climate Change Action Plan, adopted in 2016. However, the city’s emissions targets and timelines are now outdated in light of the latest IPCC and other major reports.

4. Finally, there is the rationale that the City does not have the financial resources to take further climate action. However, no new spending is required, at least not initially. A declaration would serve primarily as an appeal to the community as a whole for greater awareness, engagement and action around climate change. Council may, of course, decide to allocate funds in a future budget.

Let’s not forget that the climate crisis is already emptying our collective pockets. In Ontario alone, insured losses from extreme weather events exceeded $1.3 billion in 2018. Uninsured losses may have been three times as high. And these figures only cover losses measured directly in money, omitting mental and physical health impacts and a wide range of ecological repercussions.

Going forward

Although Council itself should decide how best to exercise leadership, there are many potential avenues for action. Most importantly, a plan should be made to inform and engage the entire community. This could even include facilitating ward-based, small group conversations in which friends and neighbours come together to share their climate concerns and to consider possible steps forward.

The City could also form a Climate Change Task Force with representation from all sectors of the community. The task force would take advantage of local expertise and knowledge to formulate and deliver a plan to educate and engage the community around climate change and to find ways to reduce emissions.

As for the City of Peterborough itself, a declaration could mean that each city department and project must be looked at from a climate change perspective. For example, municipalities play a lead role in land-use planning. Land use is a major driver of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, because sprawl forces dependency on cars. Ontarians are driving more than ever. The City’s eventual goal should be no less than what the IPCC says is necessary: a 45% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

What can you do?

Please consider showing your support for a Peterborough Declaration of Climate Emergency by calling or emailing your councillor. Simply Google “Mayor and Council – City of Peterborough” for contact information. It is important that the declaration be made before October’s federal election so that climate change is first and foremost in peoples’ minds at the voting booth.

For a democracy to function, truth must be the foundation. If we understand the truth – and most of us don’t when it comes to climate change – we can make informed choices. The window for action has almost closed. This is why a climate emergency declaration is so important. It’s all about telling people the truth as revealed by science.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 212019
 

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 for the long-term weather forecast, seasonal temperatures are expected this summer with frequent swings from hot to colder. These swings will mean a higher risk of severe storms. Above-normal rainfall and muggy conditions are expected, as well. Unfortunately, this appears to be the perfect recipe for abundant mosquitoes.

In addition to the events in nature listed below, I have included a number of outings, which are open to the public. For more information on outings, go to peterboroughnature.org/events/

Late June

  • Today, June 21, marks the summer solstice. The sun rises and sets at its furthest points north. Take note of where the sun rises and sets in late June and then again in late December. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
  • Turtles can still be seen along roadsides and rail-trails laying their eggs. Remember to slow down in turtle habitat.
  • Monarch butterflies have returned – the “grandchildren” of those that flew to Mexico last fall.
  • On June 30, Dave Milson and Matthew Toby will be leading an all-day search for breeding birds of Peterborough County. Meet at Riverview Park and Zoo (north parking lot) at 7:30 a.m.
  • Late June nights are alive with fireflies. The male will typically fly low over a meadow and flash his heatless light in a specific pattern, colour and duration. The female then responds with her own luminous signal, usually from the ground, thereby allowing for a nocturnal rendezvous.
  • With bird activity winding down, now is the time to pay more attention to our many species of butterflies. Tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, white admirals, northern crescents, European skippers and clouded sulphurs are particularly noticeable.

July

  • Cedar waxwings nest any time between late June and early August as berry crops, their main source of food, begin to ripen. In late June and early July, reddish-purple serviceberries are a common source of food.
  • Family groups of common mergansers are often seen feeding and traveling along shorelines on lakes in the northern Kawarthas. Because broods of mergansers sometimes combine, it is not uncommon to see a female with a parade of 20 or more young in tow.
  • 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, purple-flowering raspberry and orange hawkweed.
  • Join butterfly expert, Jerry Ball, to explore the diverse habitats of Sandy Lake Road (off County Road 46) and its abundance of butterflies. Meet at 9 a.m., July 14, at the Country Style at the corner of Hwy 7 and Old Keene Road.
  • Identifying and photographing dragonflies is also a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon. Among the most common July species are the dot-tailed whiteface, common whitetail, four-spotted skimmer, and chalk-fronted skipper. Some of the most frequently seen damselflies are powder-blue in colour, hence the common name of “bluets.” 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. The wet conditions this summer should result in a large mushroom crop.
  • Mid-summer is a wonderful time for learning about ferns. On July 21, Sue Paradisis and Trent MSc candidate, Kathryn Tisshaw, will lead an outing to discover the ferns of the Warsaw Caves Conservation Area. Of special interest is the rare walking fern. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Riverview Park and Zoo or at 10:30 at the Warsaw Caves park gate house. Wear sturdy footwear, and bring binoculars, your phone, insect repellent and cash for park admission
  • Late July through September offers some of the best shorebird watching of the year. Semipalmated sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers and greater yellowlegs are several of the most commonly seen species. Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a great shorebird destination.
  • The ghostly-white Indian pipe blooms in the heavy shade of hardwood forests.
  • Being opposite the high-riding summer sun, the summer moon travels low in the southern sky. This translates into the longest moon shadows of the year.

August

  • Listen for the high-pitched “lisping” calls of cedar waxwings and the “po-ta-to-chip” flight call of the American goldfinch. Waxwings often perch on the branches of dead trees and sally out to catch flying insects.
  • August is a good time to check milkweeds for the yellow-, black-, and white-striped caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. They are easy to rear in captivity and provide adults and children alike with a first-hand lesson in insect metamorphosis.
  • On August 15, join Paul Elliott for a night walk in Jackson Park. Paul will be using ultrasonic detectors to pick up the high-frequency sounds made by foraging bats. Meet at the lower parking lot off Fairbairn Street at the corner of Parkhill Road at 8:45 p.m.   
  • By mid-August, ragweed is in full bloom, and its pollen has hay fever sufferers cursing with every sneeze. The higher CO2 levels and longer growing season associated with climate change are greatly increasing pollen production. It is also causing Poison Ivy to thrive like never before.
  • Small dragonflies known as meadowhawks abound. Mature males are red, while females and immature males are yellowish.
  • 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 but continues into the first week of September. Go in the evening and watch the sky for loose flocks.
  • On August 24, the Peterborough Field Naturalists will be travelling to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to view shorebirds and other fall migrants. The fall monarch migration will be starting, too, and arrangements are being made with park staff to conduct a demonstration of monarch tagging. Meet 7:00 a.m. in the Sobeys parking lot on Lansdowne Street west, adjacent to the Tim Horton’s.
  • Watch for underwing (Catocala) moths, named for the bright colours of the underwings. The forewings, however, which often hide the underwings, look very similar to bark. These moths can be attracted by applying a sugary concoction to tree trunks. A cup of white sugar, two or more mashed bananas, one ounce of molasses, a bottle of beer, and a pinch of yeast to help with fermentation will usually do the trick. Look for the moths once it gets dark.
  • 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.
  • Pegasus, the signature constellation of fall, becomes visible along the northeastern horizon in the late evening. It reminds us to enjoy summer now because it won’t last!

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 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on August 31 and September 1. Monarch expert Don Davis will be on hand to answer questions and even let you or your kids release a tagged butterfly.
  • 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.
  • 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 23.

CLIMATE CRISIS NEWS

Don’t miss the CBC News series on the climate crisis called In Our Backyard. As the series’ website states, “Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and it’s in our backyard in devastating, even deadly ways. Its fingerprints are all over this spring’s floods and wildfires.” In addition to looking at floods and fires, the series details how the climate crisis is affecting the lives of Canadians through extreme heat and Arctic thaw. To find the series online, go to cbc.ca/confrontingcarbon and scroll down to the In Our Backyard links. I would also recommend subscribing to CBC’s environmental newsletter, What on Earth? and the CBC podcast entitled Front Burner, especially the episode from June 18 on what it would take for Canada to meet its climate targets. As Diane Saxe, the former Environment Commissioner for Ontario says repeatedly, the climate crisis is far worse than you think. For an excellent overview of the situation in Ontario, search “Diane Saxe speaking on Climate Action – YouTube”

 

 

 

Jun 142019
 

Spring in the Kawarthas is synonymous with a ubiquitous yellow dust that descends upon everything from cars and patio furniture to rivers and lakes. Even the edges of puddles become marked with what looks like yellow chalk. For cottagers, the strange powder is most visible in June, when it piles up on shorelines and beaches.

What you are seeing is pollen – a manifestation of the sex lives of our trees as copious amounts of the magical dust are released to the wind. When the weather is hot and dry, you will sometimes even notice what looks like a yellow cloud around conifers when the wind jostles the branches.

In May, most of the pollen comes courtesy of the flowers of deciduous trees like Sugar Maple and White Birch. In June, however, the main culprits are the male cones of conifers such as pine, spruce and fir. Cones – named after their shape – are the reproductive parts of an ancient branch of plants known as gymnosperms. In this respect, they are akin to flowers. Conifers form the largest group of living gymnosperms, but Ginkgo trees also belong to this class of plants. About 300 million years ago, the gymnosperms became the dominant trees on the planet. They continued their dominance throughout the Triassic and Jurassic periods – the age of the dinosaurs. Their cones were even a favourite food of species like duckbill dinosaurs. The gymnosperms reigned supreme until the rise of the angiosperms – the flowering plants – during the Cretaceous period.

As is the case with many flowers, cones can be either male or female. Except for junipers, both occur on the same tree. Let’s look at the female cone first. These are the typical hard, brown, woody cones. They consist of a central stalk surrounded by stiff, overlapping scales, reminiscent of wooden shingles. The ovules, which when pollinated become seeds, are located at the base on the inner surface of the scale. If you pry open the scales of a mature cone before it falls from the tree, you can often see the seeds inside. In White Pine and Balsam Fir, the female cones are located high up in the tree at the tips of the branches. In most other species, they can also be found lower down.

The male or pollen cones are much smaller – often only a centimetre or two in size – softer and less conspicuous. Usually located on the lower branches, they are usually light brown or reddish in colour and resemble little spikes or buttons. They have a central axis, which bears pollen-producing structures. You’ve probably brushed up against them, causing a smoke-like puff of yellow dust. Soon after the pollen is released, the male cones whither and drop from the tree.

All conifers are wind-pollinated. Unlike deciduous trees like cherries, basswoods and, to some extent, maples, conifers do not rely on insects to spread their pollen. Cones therefore lack bright colours, nectar rewards, or tantalizing perfumes to attract pollinators.

White Pine

The reproduction story of the White Pine is typical of many conifers. In the spring, before the female cones develop, pale yellow-brown pollen cones appear in clusters at the base of new shoots. They are usually located in the lower part of the crown, although some appear even on the bottom branches.

The green-coloured, seed-producing female cones are larger and tend to be in the upper part of the crown. Female cones become receptive to the wind-blown pollen at precisely the same time as the pollen grains are being released. At this time, they are soft, pliable, and their scales are partially separated.

As pollen grains are carried off by the wind, some inevitably encounter female cones and sift down between the open scales. With luck, a pollen grain will come to rest on one of the two ovules attached to the bottom inside of each cone scale. The egg cell within the ovule thereby becomes fertilized by the male gamete (sperm cell) contained within the pollen grain.

After their pollen is released, the male cones soon wither and fall away, often dropping from the trees in a veritable shower. Dry and shriveled male cones are a common sight anywhere pine trees occur and often cover the ground under the trees. We sweep them up, muttering “dirty tree” – often with no idea what they even are.

Following pollination, the scales on the female cones fuse together, and a pitch-like material seals the outside. Over the next two years, the cone gradually grows to full size. In White Pines, the seeds are ripe by August or September of their second summer. At this point, the cone scales open again, and the seeds are released to the wind.

White Pines may start to bear female cones when 5 to 10 years old. Large numbers of cones do not usually appear, however, until the trees are about 6 m (20 ft) tall. The abundance of cones varies greatly from one year to the next. Their relative abundance has a major impact on the populations of birds and mammals that eat the seeds.

Pollen grains

Pollen grains are fascinating structures. First, they are extremely small, which means that a scanning electron microscope is often needed to make out their details. In the case of conifer pollen, they are also uniquely designed for wind travel. Two air bladders give the grains buoyancy and enable them to take what amounts to a balloon ride.

When pollen grains land on a lake, they form a temporary film but soon sink to the bottom. That is not the end of the story, however. Because they are protected by a tough outer wall, they are highly resistant to decay. The grains therefore become microfossils that remain unchanged in the bottom sediment for thousands of years. Because the wall is often sculptured and can even bear spines, the markings can be used to identify which genus or species of plant the pollen came from. This allows paleobotanists to describe with great accuracy the history of the vegetation of an area. And, by knowing what kind of vegetation existed, scientists can also theorize what the climate was like. For example, by examining the pollen grains found in deep peat bogs, scientists have been able to piece together the story of the changes in climate and vegetation that occurred during and since the last Ice Age. As the glaciers retreated, vegetation followed. The pollen grains in these peat bogs show that the first trees to repopulate the land were firs and spruces. Later, pines and tamaracks came along, followed by birches and elms. Finally, oaks and maples appeared on the scene. You can see the northward advance of spruce forests since the last ice age by Googling “spruce pollen viewer”. There is a similar video for maples.

Allergies

Pine pollen often gets blamed for allergy symptoms. However, these symptoms are usually caused by the much lighter wind-borne pollens of birch, ragweed and various grasses that are often present at the same time. Also, the chemical composition of pine pollen makes it less likely to produce allergic symptoms. People with tree pollen allergies sometimes assume that trees with colorful flowers – like apple or cherry trees – will trigger their symptoms.  Flowering trees usually have bigger, stickier pollen that doesn’t blow in the wind or cause symptoms. The same is true for goldenrod pollen.

Because the climate crisis is extending the frost-free season, trees and other plants have more time to grow, flower, and produce pollen. Some plants, too, like ragweed and many grasses, benefit immensely from the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This allows them to grow faster and bigger and to produce even more pollen than before. Unfortunately, allergy sufferers can expect longer and more intense pollen seasons as we continue to dump more carbon into the atmosphere. This is just one more example of how greenhouse gas emissions are already damaging Canadians’ health.

Take the time to go out and closely examine the male and female cones of our conifers this month. Their colour, shape, texture and location vary widely from one species to another, but they all share a special beauty. The deep red female cones of the tamarack (larch) are particularly attractive and almost look like scrumptious little fruits decorating the branches.

Climate Crisis News

A growing number of local groups and citizens want the City of Peterborough to declare a Climate Emergency. Several hundred Canadian municipalities have already done so, including Kingston, London, Burlington, Halton Hills, and Ottawa. There are still too many Peterborough citizens who are not engaged with this issue. Some people still think, “If things were that serious, our elected officials would be saying so.” This is the essence of why a declaration is so necessary. It would be a call to action on the part of the entire community. A Climate Emergency declaration would also support the Greater Peterborough Climate Action Plan, which city council has endorsed. Strategies in the plan include the need to “foster a culture of climate change awareness” and to “encourage civic engagement around climate change.” Citizens need to be informed in they’re to act in their own best interests, such as preparing our homes for the coming severe weather events. A declaration might also inspire people to get involved in the upcoming election and provide the “social license” to share their concerns about the climate crisis with others. Right now, it’s a no-go zone for many people. In many ways, the quickest path to meaningful action on climate change is at the municipal level.

 

 

 

Jun 102019
 

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Jul 01, 2019 04:39 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Chase Memorial Park, Gannons Narrows, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

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

Red-headed Woodpecker – May 28, 2017 – Buckhorn Lake -Nima Taghaboni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (2)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 11:00 by Dave Milsom
– Peterborough–Trent University Canal Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “2 birds seen well. Nest detected in slim dead tree.”

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (2)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 14:35 by Brian Wales
– Dummer Alvar, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57753148

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (35)
– Reported Jun 27, 2019 11:00 by Brian Wales
– Peterborough–Trent University Canal Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57753081
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “approximately 80 nests under footbridge over canal”

Canada Tiger Swallowtail:  I got this shot on Sunday, June 23, on Lower Buckhorn Lake. Robin Blake

Canada Tiger Swallowtail – Robin Blake

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported Jun 23, 2019 11:00 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “red head, black back and wings, white primaries; seen 70 m N of old boardwalk SE from Blue trail; observed sallying from dead trees”

Blue-winged Warbler and Clay-coloured Sparrow
– Reported Jun 19, 2019 05:15 by Geoff Carpentier
– 1232 Peterborough County Road 10, Fraserville, Ontario, CA (44.181, -78.461), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Merganser family parade:  As I was working on my dock at the top of Lake Muskoka a couple of days ago, I heard a ruckus, ran up to the cottage for my camera, and managed to get a couple of shots of a mom and her babes out for a paddle.  When one on her back dropped off, another would climb on. All the while she merrily paddled along. Greg Piasetzki, Lake Muskoka

Note: Female Common Mergansers are famous for adopting abandoned or lost ducklings from another female merganser’s brood. They will also lay some of their own eggs in another female’s nest -sometimes even that of a different duck species. Check out this article. D.M.

Female Common Merganser with 12 ducklings – June 17, 2019 – Muskoka – Greg Piasetzki

Female Common Merganser with ducklings on her back – June 17, 2019 – Muskoka – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Blue Herons nesting: The heronry on Deer Bay Reach (Lower Buckhorn) now has about ten nests, all in use high in the pines. They’re on the secluded side of Three Islands, accessible by canoe or kayak once you get to that part of the lake. Ospreys used to nest here. Now one occupies a nest atop a lone dead pine at the west end of Three Islands facing Buckhorn. Three Bald Eagles (one adult, two juveniles) have been seen at their old nest at the northeast end of Black Duck Bay, toward the dams into Lovesick.  Janet Duval

Great Blue Heron nest at Trent Wildlife Sanctuary -June 28, 2016 – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robins nesting: I thought you might like to see our new neighbors. Clever place to put their nest, which is safe between the two downspouts. They christened our new fencing too! Clever critters they are.
We have a great influx of tent caterpillars, so that is helping things along. Gord Young, Peterborough

American Robin nest – June 18, 2019 – Gord Young

 

 

 

 

 

Polyphemus Moth: Late last summer I almost stepped on this big green caterpillar on my front walk. It carried on its way and I thought that was the end of it. On June 12 I came home to see a freshly emerged Polyphemus Moth hanging by my garage door. The caterpillar I saw was actually a Polyphemus caterpillar, probably one and the same! Kim Mitchell, Maple Dr., Ennismore 

Polyphemus caterpillar – Kim Mitchell

Polyphemus adult – Kim Mitchell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon nest: John and I canoed to the cliff on Anstruther Lake yesterday. An adult Peregrine flew off the nest to a branch of a pine tree, and we could see, very clearly, two young ones sitting on the nest looking like fluffy ookpiks. They were already a fair size and quite active. The day before, standing on the dock, we heard falcons calling. We then saw two adults coming, and just as they were above our heads they joined their talons, while flying, and tumbled down a few feet. Then, one went in the direction of the nest and the other went back were it came from. We were lucky us to be able to witness this! Marie Duchesneau

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 16, 2019 09:05 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/S57419901
– Comments: “Singing spontaneously around 100 m E of utility pole AET27J (3232/4777) by old bench S of #155 at 09:28 h, then on W edge of road singing from large red oak just S of 50 kph sign.”

Cerulean Warbler (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 12, 2019 15:00 by Luke Berg
– Peterborough–Mervin Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Known location. Regular at several locations in the county during the summer.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: I had a pair of Sandhills fly over my house at 11:35 am on June 11. They were going north. Gavin Hunter, Omemee 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported Jun 09, 2019 16:10 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57245041

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (2)
– Reported Jun 09, 2019 07:05 by Dave Milsom
– Dummer Alvar, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S57234017
– Comments: “flew across back of field, then one landed on fence post: 1.4 kms. north of railroad on County Road 38”

Jun 072019
 

Motorists need to slow down and watch out for these increasingly rare travelers.

I have always had a special fondness for turtles. As a child, I loved nothing more than catching, feeding and then releasing these ancient reptiles. They were no less than my gateway drug to a lifelong love of nature. But when June rolls around each year, I shudder at the likelihood of seeing a dead or injured turtle lying on the pavement. Sadly, the annual road carnage is already underway. As of Tuesday, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) on Chemong Road had already admitted 300 turtles to their hospital, which is higher than the same date last year. If there is a positive side to this, it shows that the centre’s outreach is working, and more people are bringing turtles in.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, five or which have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as at risk. Of these only three, the Painted, Snapping, and Blanding’s Turtles, are commonly seen. The situation for endangered Spotted Turtles is so critical that they now face imminent disappearance from the province. Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened, while the Snapping Turtle and Northern Map Turtle are designated as species of special concern. Even Painted Turtles are now listed at risk federally.

Slow down

Starting in late May, female turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. Both males and females turtles also cover many kilometers in search of mates, feeding grounds, and preferred summer hangouts. Invariably, they encounter roads in their travels. Although Southern and Central Ontario has Canada’s highest concentration and number of turtle species, it also has the country’s highest density of roads. This spells disaster. The road carnage in June is especially devastating, since egg-bearing adult females are often the victims.

So, what can drivers do? The most important thing is to slow down and carefully watch the road surface ahead, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road and traffic conditions are safe, consider stopping, putting on your emergency flashers, and moving the animal to the shoulder in the direction it’s heading – even if it’s going away from the water.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle, however, 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. Another option is to simply stand guard, and let the traveler get where he’s going on his own. 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.

If you find an injured or deceased turtle, call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) at 705-741-5000. Remember to note the location such as the road, GPS coordinates or the distance from an intersection a given landmark. In the case of an injured turtle, carefully place it in a well-ventilated container with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer them anything to eat. The OTCC has First Responders throughout the province. They are primarily veterinarians who have been trained in emergency turtle care. There is also a team of nearly 1,000 province-wide volunteers who help get the turtles to the centre.

Turtle populations are also in decline because of habitat loss and egg predation. Predators such as skunks and raccoons usually discover the nests within 48 hours of egg-laying, dig up the eggs and have a feast. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators flourish most anywhere there is human settlement, few turtle nests go undiscovered.

If you come across a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them. Another option is to bring the eggs to the OTTC to be incubated. The centre is located at 1434 Chemong Road, just north of the lights at County Road 19. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible. 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.

Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre

Opened in June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre dedicated solely to providing medical and rehabilitative care to native Ontario turtles. Admission numbers have steadily climbed, and 2018 saw 945 patients. These turtles come from every corner of the province.

Because so few of these animals ever reach sexual maturity – females can take anywhere from 8 to 25 years before breeding – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. Therefore, it is essential to rehabilitate turtles that have been injured. Fortunately, turtles are resilient, and their ability to recover from injury is quite high. Once healed – often after an overwinter stay -they are released in the closest body of water to the rescue site.

Shell fractures are one of the most common injuries, and putting the shell back together is no less than orthopedic surgery. Fractures are initially stabilized using an adhesive and tape. After administering an anesthetic, shell pieces can then be wired together, using orthopedic wire and a dental drill. Although a shell fracture can be the most obvious injury, internal damage is more life threatening. Just like any animal that has experienced extensive trauma, the turtle goes into shock, hence the need for timely veterinary care. Surgery is also required for facial injuries, fractured jaws and the ingestion of fishing hooks. Hooks can become lodged in the head, mouth, stomach or intestines, and can easily become fatal.

A Snapping Turtle hit by a car on June 1, 2017, provides a great example of the work done by OTCC. This individual was suffering from trauma to the head, which is a common injury in Snapping Turtles. Unlike other species, they are unable to protect their head in their shell. When the turtle was brought in, he was given pain medication and fluids in order to stabilize his situation before surgery. He was then anesthetized, and surgery was performed by Dr. Sue Carstairs, the centre’s Executive and Medical Director. By mid-August, the turtle had recovered fully and was released to the wild by month’s end.

The OTCC also has an impressive hatchling program. Since half the admitted turtles are females and many are carrying eggs, it’s essential to ensure that these eggs are not lost. The pregnant mothers are induced in the same way as humans. Eggs are also collected from deceased turtles, which can also be checked out for disease and used in studies on environmental contaminants. All the eggs are hatched at the centre, and the babies released back into the mother’s wetland. In 2018 alone, 4011 eggs were incubated, and 2100 turtles returned to the wild.

The OTCC is a Registered Charity and depends on donations from the public. Donations can be made online at ontarioturtle.ca or in person. You can also help turtles by volunteering for the Turtle Taxi program, turtle care (e.g., feeding, cleaning tanks), fund-raising projects, and education and outreach. Complete the contact form at the bottom of the Volunteer page on the website. Visitors are always welcome at the centre, which is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Turtle Walks

To raise money to help save Ontario’s turtles, an organization known as Turtle Guardians is holding Turtle Walks this month. Tomorrow, June 8, a two-kilometre family walk will be held in Peterborough, followed by other area walks on June 15. Meet at the Riverview Zoo parking lot at 10 am. There will be face-painting, crafts and ambassador turtles like 60-year-old Jeremiah, the Snapper. For more information, go to turtlewalks.ca.

You might also want to become a Turtle Guardian yourself. Guardians help track, monitor and protect turtles across Ontario. For example, level 3 guardians can become involved with road surveys and turtle tunnel assessments. Data is gathered at known ‘turtle hot-spots’ to assess the potential of installing turtle tunnels. These ingenious passageways, coupled with a cloth barrier on the sides of the road, allow the turtles to pass safely under the road. Information can be found at turtleguardians.com

Climate Crisis News

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the cold, wet weather we’ve experienced this spring in the Kawarthas may be due to a quickly warming Arctic. Research is now linking increased Arctic warming to a weakened jet stream – the narrow band of high-altitude wind that blows west to east across the Northern Hemisphere and controls our daily weather. Instead of usually blowing straight as it used to, the jet stream is now meandering much more to the north and south like an S lying on its side. It is also becoming stuck in place. When this happens, the same weather conditions can last for weeks on end. Right now, a bend to the south over eastern Canada is allowing cold Arctic air to drop down into our latitudes. The opposite happened last summer when a bend to the north ushered in blistering heat from the south, which lasted for weeks and killed scores of people in Quebec.

 

 

May 302019
 

Cuckoos eating Eastern Tent Caterpillars: Today, May 31, I came across a pair of Black-billed Cuckoos near Burnt River  that were eating tent caterpillars. I was not aware that birds eat these caterpillars. Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

Black-billed Cuckoo eating tent caterpillars – Burnt River – May 31, 2019 – Carl Welbourn

Black-billed Cuckoo 2 – Burnt River – May 31, 2019 – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (2)
– Reported May 30, 2019 12:25 by Sheila Collett
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Large white swans with long necks and orange/black bills.”

Mute Swans – Sept. 26, 2016 – Drew Monkman

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2019 11:02 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (3)
– Reported May 30, 2019 08:55 by Dave Milsom
– Cavan-Monaghan–Jones Quarter Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Singing. Regular at this location.”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (2)
– Reported May 30, 2019 08:55 by Brian Wales
– Cavan-Monaghan–Jones Quarter Line, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2567769,-78.5402148&ll=44.2567769,-78.5402148
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56913976
– Comments: “Pure birds. Both singing typical BWWA song.”

Gruesome discovery: I had a rather gruesome but interesting discovery this morning, May 30, at about 6:30. I went to fill one of my bird feeders and found the decapitated head of a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak in one of the feeder holes. I found the body a few feet away atop a fence row of grape vines and Virginia creeper. One wing was mangled and there looked like a puncture wound on the abdomen. The body was cold but not yet stiff, so I’m guessing she died sometime early this morning. My hypothesis is that she was feeding when a hawk or owl attacked; when there was the resistance from the head detaching, the predator dropped the body??? I don’t know, but that’s all I can think of. It’s sad, because she was probably sitting on eggs or hatchlings.  Annamarie Beckel, Lakefield

Note: I suspect an owl got the bird. Decapitation is common owl behaviour. That being said, it could also have been the work of a cat or, from what I’ve read, even a grackle. D.M.

Sparrow-like female Rose-breasted Grosbeak – Cindy Bartoli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) (2)
– Reported May 27, 2019 14:20 by Brent Turcotte
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Least Sandpiper – Wikimedia

Semipalmated Sandpipers – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) (6)
– Reported May 27, 2019 14:20 by Brent Turcotte
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2269157,-78.2073089&ll=44.2269157,-78.2073089
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56866100

Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 14:20 by Brent Turcotte
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2269157,-78.2073089&ll=44.2269157,-78.2073089
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56866100
– Comments: “continuing individual”

Short-billed Dowitchers – Blenheim Sewage Lagoon – May 12, 2016 Drew Monkman

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (2)
– Reported May 29, 2019 15:16 by Olivia Maillet
– Trent University, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3577,-78.2907), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56874182

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 28, 2019 07:30 by Roy Burton
– STEWART HALL, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56884990
– Comments: “brick red male”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported May 28, 2019 18:52 by Olivia Maillet
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56851453

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 15:33 by Warren Dunlop
– Squirrel Creek–4th Line Bridge, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “Calling and singing from treetops. Very active.
Have had at this location previously.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

Red-headed Woodpecker – July 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 08:00 by Joe Latour
– Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56833702
– Comments: “Landed on our sunflower seed feeder for a few seconds, then flew up into an ash tree. Gone by the time I got my camera. First Red-headed woodpecker I’ve seen around here in over 20 years.”

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 15:35 by John Bick
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56814701
– Comments: “onging bird”

Greater Scaup (male) photo from Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 12:41 by Thomas Unrau
– 130–182 Fire Route 10, North Kawartha CA-ON (44.5658,-78.1252), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S56798531
– Comments: “Silhouetted on a tall dead tree calling repeatedly. ”

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2019 07:57 by Dave Milsom
– Peterborough–Hubble Road, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Apparent pure BWWA seen well singing typical BWWA song.”

Red-necked Phalarope: Seen May 27 on Stony Lake near the centre of Lower Stony near some islets. It was swimming in deep water (catching surface insects) and more than 50 metres from an islet. Rob Welsh

Red-necked Phalarope – Rob Welsh – Lower Stony Lake – May 27, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Chestnut project: – May 23, 2019 – Last Fall I harvested a total of six plump, seemingly viable chestnuts from two of my American Chestnut trees up near Crystal Lake, three from each tree. I put them into moist (but not wet) sawdust in the refrigerator for the Winter and then planted them in seeding medium on the Vernal Equinox. I’m happy to report that as of today (May 10, 2019), five of the six chestnuts have sprouted and I hold out hope that the last will also. I plan to harden the seedlings off and put them in the ground after the last frost. I now have proof that my trees can produce viable nuts. What remains to be seen is whether or not they can propagate successfully in the wild. My trees are now quite large and I’m hoping that all three produce nuts this year, for the first time. I will collect as many viable nuts as possible and share them with you, if you would like. I will keep some to plant as I did last year but I would also like to do the penultimate test: Plant some directly in the ground in the Fall. The ultimate test will then be to have the squirrels, etc., plant the nuts and have American Chestnut trees come up as a result.  Michael Doran, Peterborough

American Chestnut leaves and nuts (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Thrasher: This morning, May 20, my wife and I noticed a bird we haven’t seen at our feeder before and after looking it up online we found it to be a Brown Thrasher. Dave Bosco, Fairmount Blvd, Peterborough

Brown Thrasher – May 20, 2019 – Peterborough – Dave Bosco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Parula – On May 20, this bird drew my attention with its lovely song. I couldn’t get more than one photo with it sitting still as it was very “flitty”. I think there was more than one in the trees of our yard. I believe it’s a Northern Parula. A new bird for me!  Nancy Cafik

Northern Parula – May 20, 2019 – Nancy Cafik

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings on Rotary Trail: This morning, May 18, was a busy day for birding on the Rotary Trail behind TASSS. I was able to photograph an American Redstart, Northern Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Gray Catbird, House Wren and a Least Flycatcher. Carl Welbourn

Blackburnian Warbler – Rotary Trail at TASSS – May 20 – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy morning in Bridgenorth: The migration today was amazing! These are all from this morning, May 17. Jeff Keller

Yellow-rumped Warbler – May 17, 2019 – Jeff Keller

Baltimore Oriole – May 17, 2019 – Bridgenorth – Jeff Keller

Scarlet Tanager – May 17, 2019 – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baltimore Oriole at feeder: Just reporting that we had a Baltimore Oriole at one of our hummingbird feeders at 7 p.m. on May 13. I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough. Wendy Marrs, Ridgewood Road, Peterborough

Baltimore Oriole on hummingbird feeder – Doug Gibson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy morning at the feeder: I just wanted to forward you some of pics from our backyard visitors. We have been pleasantly surprised by the number of new visitors this year.  Nima Taghaboni

Note: I don’t recall a spring in which so many people have had Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles at their feeders. I suspect that the cold weather has meant that there is little insect food available, which would make life especially hard for orioles. We had one on our feeder that was eating peanut bits! A first for me. Other people have seen them eating suet. D.M.

Baltimore Orioles – May 14, 2019 – Nima Taghaboni

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks – Nima Taghaboni – May 14, 2019

Indigo Bunting – May 14, 2019 – Nima Taghaboni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grosbeaks and oriole at feeder: I saw some amazing birds at our feeder this morning, May 10. There were 5 male and 1 female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks as well as a Baltimore Oriole. Bet Curry

Nesting Great Horned Owl and Merlin: I went looking for the Great Horned Owl that’s been popping up on e-bird near Airport Road… and found it! I’ve attached pictures of the adult and chick that I was able to see. They were quite far so these pictures are as close as I could get. There’s also a big nest on one of the trees on the Sacred Heart Church property (across from the New Canadians Centre parking lot) on Romaine Street. At first I thought it was a hawk, but a birder friend said it’s a Merlin because of its size and calls. Reem Ali

Merlin – May 10, 2019 – Reem Ali

Great Horned Owl chick – Ptbo Airport – May 10, 2019 – Reem Ali

Great Horned Owl – Ptbo Airport – May 10, 2019 – Reem Ali

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-crowned Night Heron – I managed to get a picture of this bird today, May 7, on the Rotary Trail. Carl Welbourn

Black-crowned Night heron – Carl Welbourn – May 7, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broad-winged Hawks: On May 5th, we saw a pair of Broad-winged Hawks perform their courtship display up over our heads while we were working outside. The pair hooked talons and spun around before flying off together. That was a real ‘WOW’ moment.   Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Broad-winged Hawk – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Snipe:  I found these birds on a trip along Brown’s Line on the morning of May 5. Carl Welbourn

Greater Yellowlegs – May 5, 2019 – Brown’s Line – Carl Welbourn

Wilson’s Snipe – May 5, 2019 – Brown’s Line – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Bald Eagle shots from Lower Buckhorn Lake: I kayaked this morning, May 5, on Lower Buckhorn Lake and took these photos. Robin Williams Blake

Bald Eagle – May 5, 2019 – Lower Buckhorn – Robin Williams Blake

Bald Eagle – May 5, 2019 – Lower Buckhorn – Robin Williams Blake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagle on nest – May 5, 2019 – Robin Williams Blake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigo Bunting at feeder: I had my first sighting ever of an Indigo Bunting.  I first spotted him yesterday, May 3, in my backyard around 6:15 p.m. and he hung around for over an hour.  He’s been back this morning and this afternoon too!  Are they common in our neck of the woods? I’m in the Old West End near Queen Mary. (Note: The bird was still around as late as May 26.) Monique Beneteau

Note: Yes, they are fairly common and sometimes show up at feeders in the spring. If you know the song, you can hear them all over the Kawarthas, especially in open, brushy areas. D.M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 242019
 

A visit to Point Pelee and Rondeau parks is a celebration of the wonder of spring migration

For anyone wanting to see Ontario’s most spectacular birds – Red-headed Woodpeckers, Indigo Buntings, Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, Red-breasted Grosbeaks, and more than two dozen species of warblers – a trip to Point Pelee National Park and Rondeau Provincial Park  is a must. You will also be treated to species we rarely find in the Kawarthas, including Orchard Orioles, White-eyed Vireos, Carolina Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Prothonotary Warblers.

Spring migration, which peaks during the first three weeks of May, is the time to be there. The birds are in dazzling breeding plumage and most species are singing. They are also easy to see, since the cool water of Lake Erie delays leaf emergence. On days when temperatures are extremely cool, birds that normally remain high in the canopy often forage close to the ground– sometimes nearly at your feet – and seem  oblivious to human presence. This allows for wonderful closeup views and superb photo opportunities.

Rondeau, which is near Blenheim, and Point Pelee, located 70 kilometres to the west at Leamington, are peninsulas that extend into the western basin of Lake Erie. They are situated at the crossroads of two major migration routes – the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. Most importantly, they are one of the first points of land that spring migrants reach after crossing Lake Erie at night.

On May 13, Brian Wales, Chris Risley and I, made our made our annual pilgrimage to both southern Ontario birding meccas. Here, we met our fellow birding companions Jim Cashmore, Greg Piasetzki, and Mitch Brownstein and his wife, Liliana. It was wonderful having Liliana join us for the first time. Her unbridled enthusiasm added new interest to birds the rest of us have seen countless times before.

Point Pelee

Point Pelee is arguably the best place to bird in Ontario. Approximately 385 different species have been recorded here, including 42 of the 55 regularly occurring North American warblers. Not surprisingly, the park is known as the “warbler capital of North America.” The variety and number of birds often changes from day to day, depending on temperature and wind direction. On Monday, for example, Nashville Warblers were everywhere, while later in the week species like Blackburnian Warblers and Wood Thrushes became very common. Pelee is also famous for its migrant “fallouts” which occur when weather fronts collide, and huge numbers of birds are forced down out of the sky. Such was the case on the morning of May 9 this year. A huge fallout occurred at the tip of Pelee with hundreds of warblers, tanagers, and sparrows hopping low on trees, rocks, and even the beach. Oh, to have been there!

For  anyone arriving from the Kawarthas, you immediately notice how different the habitat is. The park is dominated by Carolinian forest with abundant Hackberry Trees interspersed with Eastern Redbud, Chinquapin Oak, Sassafras, Shagbark Hickory and American Sycamore – many supporting huge vines. The forest floor is covered with wide diversity of native flowers like Sweet Cicely, Spring Beauty, and Appendaged Waterleaf.

Each day at Pelee, we usually follow the same routine. Our first stop is the park tip, where we hope for newly arrived migrants. We then make our way north along the west beach where birds often bask and feed in the morning sun. A walk through the Sparrow Field is next on the list, from where we make our way back to the Visitor Centre via the Woodland Nature Trail. We then consult the sightings board for rarities and enjoy a quick lunch, courtesy of the Friends of Pelee. In the afternoon, we usually check out Tilden’s Woods, DeLaurier Trail, and the nearby trails at Dunes and Sleepy Hollow Trail. The day concludes with a trip up to Hillman’s Marsh to look for shorebirds and ducks.

Each visit is marked by its own special moments. This year, it was watching a beautiful male Kentucky Warbler foraging for insects in a tangle of vines and shrubs. The bird’s dark mask and bright yellow throat glowed in the sunshine as it hopped about completely unperturbed by the dozen or so ecstatic birders only metres away. The Kentucky is one of several birds that routinely “overshoot” their normal breeding range south of the Great Lakes.

Other special Pelee moments this year included great views of a rare Prairie Warbler flitting about in a fallen tree in the morning sunshine; gorgeous Canada and Hooded Warblers that frequented the same section of trail for days in a row; Nashville Warblers hovering at flowers in  hummingbird fashion; a famished Rose-breasted Grosbeak eating flowers in a low shrub almost at our feet; a Black-billed Cuckoo perched a foot off the ground and only metres away; an Orange-crowned Warbler that finally showed itself after we’d waited for half an hour in the rain; and half-frozen Scarlet Tanagers posing for pictures on the shoulder of the road.

The people

There are two spring migrations at Point Pelee: the birds themselves and the people who flock to see them. Yet, despite the thousands of people in the park and the sometimes-congested trails, birders show an unwavering respect for both the birds and for fellow birdwatchers. People speak in such hushed tones that you almost feel like you have the trail to yourself. Birders also help each other with identification problems and share the location of nearby species of interest. This information is often provided without even having to ask. It’s also wonderful to be in the company of so many like-minded people and to chat with visitors from the U.S., the United Kingdom and all over Canada – Quebec, in particular. At times you hear almost as much French as English.

This year, we were also encouraged by the number of younger people, many in their 30s and 40s. Because birders ‑ and naturalists in general ‑ are usually committed conservationists, this bodes well for the future. There were also as many women as men, which is a welcome change from the past. Anyone going for the first time can’t help but notice the number of photographers, too, as large telephoto zooms are nearly as common as binoculars.

Rondeau

After two-and-a-half days at Pelee, we made the 70-minute drive east along Lake Erie to Rondeau Provincial Park. Rondeau offers a quieter counterbalance to Pelee’s frenzy. The birding can be almost as good, and there are far fewer people. Rondeau is also larger and more heavily forested with spectacular Tulip and American Beech trees. The Visitor Centre provides many of the same services as at Pelee but on a smaller scale. Unlike Pelee, Centre has bird feeders, which attract a non-stop parade of orioles and grosbeaks and sometimes even Red-headed Woodpeckers and Tufted Titmice.

A lasting memory form this year’s Rondeau experience is that of a Wood Thrush building its nest in a small tree on the edge of the Tulip Tree Trail. Standing only metres away, we watched as it fashioned the cup with dead beech leaves. In little more than an hour, the nest was nearly half completed. Watching if work, I couldn’t help thinking of a Wood Thrush that overwintered in the garden beside the house we rented in Costa Rica this winter. As absurd as it sounds, it was fun to imagine that this might even be the same bird! Not only is the Wood Thrush the most beautiful member of its genus and a gifted singer, but it has also come to represent the plight of songbird decline.

Other special Rondeau moments this year included watching an Eastern Screech-owl peering out of a hole in a giant American Beech; a pair of rare Black-necked Stilts feeding in a flooded field; hundreds of swallows and Purple Martins sitting on the road at the nearby Blenheim Sewage Lagoons; seeing all seven of Ontario’s vireos; finding 12 species of warblers along the Spicebush Trail as toads trilled in the background and wildflowers lit up the forest floor; and enjoying the evocative calls of an Eastern Whip-poor-will and an American Woodcock against a background chorus of Spring Peepers.

Experiencing Point Pelee and Rondeau reminds me each year why so many people are captivated by bird watching. When you are fully focused on finding, identifying or simply watching a given bird, it is possible to live entirely in the moment. There is so much to be enjoyed: the beauty, numbers and diversity of the bird themselves, the rich orchestra of songs, the smell of the spring air and the warmth of the May sun. Being there to experience the migration is no less than a rite of spring for thousands of people.  Each of the 150 or so species we saw provided us with its own, unique expression of the wonder of spring migration. The season of migration is now giving way to the season of nesting, which holds the promise of bountiful young birds that will commence their own journey – southward this time – in just a few short months. If you plan to go next year, or even in early September, book now.

Climate Crisis News

Across the country people are gathering to brainstorm solutions to the climate crisis. The ideas will be compiled to form a collective vision for Canada’s Green New Deal – one that provides a vision for a new economy where no one gets left behind. Your input is needed! The Peterborough meeting will take place May 30 at Trinity United Church, 360 Reid St., starting at 6 p.m. For more information, go to Facebook and search for “Green New Deal – Peterborough”  I also invite people to listen to the latest episode of Tapestry on CBC radio to get a true sense of the magnitude of the climate crisis.

 

May 102019
 

Knowing the songs of common birds opens the door to greater enjoyment of the natural world

May’s explosion of leaves will soon draw a green veil upon our neighbourhoods and woodlands. As beautiful and welcome as the burst of foliage may be, it complicates seeing and appreciating the many bird species that make spring such a wonderful season. To be fully aware of all the avian diversity that surrounds us, we therefore need to depend on our ears as much as our eyes. Knowing the songs and calls also means you don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy tracking down the mystery songsters.

With practice, nearly all birds can be identified by their vocalizations, namely their songs and calls. The distinction between songs and calls can be complicated but, in general, songs are longer and more complex and are associated with courtship and mating. They are usually heard only in the spring and early summer. Calls tend to be short – sometimes only one or two notes – and serve as alarms or keeping members of a flock together. A good example is the Black-capped Chickadee. It makes its “chick-a-dee-dee” call all year round, but usually only whistles its “Hi-cutie” song in late winter and spring.

Describing songs
Learning and describing bird song involves some special vocabulary.  For example, when talking about the quality or tone of the song, we often use words like clear, harsh, liquid, flute-like, trilled, or buzzy. A clear song is something you could whistle (e.g., American Robin, Northern Cardinal); a harsh song has scratchy notes (e.g., Common Grackle, House Finch); a flute-like song suggests a musical instrument (e.g., Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush); a trilled song contains numerous notes in a row and too fast to count (e.g., Chipping Sparrow, Pine Warbler); while a buzzy song has a bee-like quality (e.g., Savannah Sparrow, many warblers).

Songs also differ in pitch. Most birds sing in a characteristic range, with smaller birds typically having higher voices than larger birds. The pitch might rise as the bird sings (e.g., Prairie Warbler), fall (e.g., Veery, Northern Waterthrush), remain steady  (e.g., Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco), or be variable (e.g., Song Sparrow).

Some birds characteristically repeat syllables or phrases. Brown Thrashers and Indigo Buntings typically repeat twice before changing to a new syllable. Often, bird songs can also be broken down into sections. A section begins whenever there is a dramatic change in pitch or speed. The Song Sparrow has many sections in its song, as does the European Starling. Birds also sing with different rhythms. House Wrens pour out their song in a hurry, while White-throated Sparrows opt for a leisurely pace. There is no doubt that some species sound similar.  However, when you take into consideration the context of the song – habitat, time of year and the characteristics of the song itself – the choice usually comes down to only a handful of species.

Memory aids

Memorizing bird song as pure sound is difficult. For me at least, it is much easier to convert the songs to a mnemonic, which is simply any device that serves as a memory aid. Sometimes, it’s useful to find your own, personal comparison or memory aid for remembering a song.

The following is a list of mnemonics that birders have been using for years. I have grouped the birds by the habitat in which they are most typically found: MH (many habitats), U (urban), W (wetlands), FF (fields and farmland), F (forests)

American Robin (MH):  CHEERILY-CHEERY-CHEERILY-CHEER… – a series of short, clear, musical whistles, rising and falling in pitch. Robins are especially vocal just before dawn.

American Goldfinch (MH):  PO-TA-TO-CHIP! – this distinctive call is given on the up rise of the goldfinch’s roller-coaster flight.

Black-capped Chickadee (MH):  HI-CUTY or SPRING-IS-HERE – a clear, two or three note whistle. The last note drops in pitch is often double-pulsed.

Blue Jay (MH): QUEEDLE-QUEEDLE – a pleasant, musical song, given in a quick burst. Listen also for “squeaky wheelbarrow” sounds and the jay’s harsh, descending “jaaaay” scream.

Cedar Waxwing (MH):  SREEEE-SREEEE-SREEEE – an extremely high-pitched, hissy, weak, non-musical whistle. This is a common late summer sound in the Kawarthas.

Chipping Sparrow (MH):  a mechanical, rapid trill consisting of dry chips, lasting several seconds, and almost sounding like a fast-running sewing machine.

Eastern Phoebe (MH):  FEE-BEEE – a very emphatic, two-note song with a raspy or burred second note. It is repeated constantly. Phoebes are most commonly found around cottage and farm outbuildings.

House Wren (MH): a rapid, bubbling series of trills and rattles, both rising and descending. This bird can be a non-stop singer practically all day long.

Mourning Dove (MH):  HOOO-AH-HOO-HOO-HOO – very slow and “mourning.” The song could be mistaken for that of an owl.

Song Sparrow (MH):  MAIDS-MAIDS-MAIDS-PUT-ON-YOUR-TEA-KETTLE-ETTLE-ETTLE – a variable, complex series of notes that includes one long trill in the middle.

Song Sparrow – Karl Egressy

Chimney Swift (U):  CHIT-CHIT-CHIT-CHIT – an ultra-rapid burst of notes given as the birds fly overhead, usually in Peterborough’s downtown core.

European Starling (U):  WHEEEE-ERR – a long, down-slurred “wolf-whistle,” accompanied by an unmusical series of chips, squawks and squeaky notes. Starlings often sing from telephone wires.

 

 

 

House Finch (U):  think of this bird as “the mad warbler” because of its loud, bubbly, quick-paced, warbled song. Harsh “churr” notes are often included. This bird often sings from the very top of spruce trees in the city.

House Sparrow (U):  CHIDDIK-CHIDDIK… – a dry, monotonous series of identical chips.

Northern Cardinal (U):  TWEER-TWEER-WHIT-WHIT-WHIT-WHIT or BIRDY-BIRDY-BIRDY-BIRDY – a loud, rich and persistent song, usually sung from a high perch.

Red-winged Blackbird (W):  KON-KA-REEEEE – a harsh, gurgling song ending in a trill.

Common Yellowthroat (W): WITCHITY-WITCHITY-WITCHITY-WITCH – a song characterized by an up and down rolling rhythm.

Yellow Warbler (W):  SWEET-SWEET-SWEET-I’M-SO-SWEET – clear, high, whistled notes that are rushed at the end.

Yellow Warbler (Karl Egressy)

Bobolink (FF): – a rolling, bubbling (boboling!) warble of very short notes that seem to almost trip over each other. It is given as the bird flies low over a hay field.

Eastern Meadowlark (FF): SPRING-OF-THE-YEAR – a slow, clear, slurred whistle that carries surprisingly far.

Killdeer (FF):  KILL-DEEEEER or KEE-DEE – a high, strident song, often given in flight.

Ovenbird (F): t-CHER-t-CHER-t-CHER-t-CHER-t-CHER! – a loud, ringing, series of two-syllable “teacher” notes repeated quickly and accented on the second syllable.

 

 

Veery (F): VER-VEER-VEER-VEER-VEER- a smooth, calming series of fluty, ethereal notes that spiral downward.

Red-eyed Vireo (F):  LOOK-UP, OVER-HERE, SEE-MEE, UP-HERE… – a series of simple, whistled, robin-like phrases, repeated over and over and sung from tree tops both in the city and county.

Resources

Thanks to a plethora of bird apps and websites, learning bird songs and calls is easier than ever.  One of the most convenient ways is to use an app such as Merlin (free) or the Sibley eGuide to Birds. Both these apps provide a number of different songs and calls for each species. This is because there are often regional differences or “dialects” within the same species. Another wonderful resource is xeno-canto.org. This is a website at which volunteers share recordings of sounds of wild birds from  across the world. You can download the songs to your phone or computer, as well. This is something many birders do when they travel and want to have the songs handy. Instructions for doing this can be found under “Frequently Asked Questions”. If you wish to watch a given bird as it sings, try searching on YouTube.

Some people find it useful to visualize bird songs using spectrograms (sonograms). They are a visual representation of a bird’s song. If you wish to try this technique, Google “Bird Song Hero”. This is a game in which you match the song to a choice of three spectrograms. Finally, I would also recommend allaboutbirds.org which is usually the first website that comes up when you search for a given bird on line. Click on the Sounds tab. If you go to the Topics tab and select “Bird ID Skills”, there is also an excellent resource called “How to Learn Bird Songs and Calls”.

Being able to recognize bird song is one of the most satisfying ways to enjoy the natural world. To the practiced ear, a chorus of bird song is like a symphony in which you recognize each of the individual instruments. Stepping out the back door or walking down a forest trail and hearing the expected birds singing in the expected locations provides a reassurance that the bird community is healthy, and the seasonal rhythms of the natural world are occurring as they should.

Climate Crisis News

              In a U.N. report released this week, we learned that up to 1 million of the Earth’s plant and animal species are at risk of extinction — and many within decades. In the Kawarthas, this will mean saying goodbye to species such as Golden-winged Warbler, Least Bittern, Eastern Wolf and Spotted Turtle. The burgeoning growth of humanity is putting the world’s biodiversity at perilous risk with alarming implications for human survival. Climate change is a major driver of the extinction crisis and is on track to become the dominant pressure on many natural systems in coming decades. It is already exacerbating the effects of overfishing, pesticide use, pollution and both urban and agricultural expansion into the natural world. Sustained public pressure on politicians for enlightened climate action is absolutely necessary. The Ford government’s environmental policies are the antithesis of enlightened action. It’s heart-wrenching to think that the so many of the wild animals in the bedtime stories we read to our children and grandchildren will soon be gone.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 032019
 

The flowers of our common trees are an under-appreciated element of spring’s beauty

A beautiful spectacle unfolds above our heads each spring. The lengthening days and increasing warmth are stirring flower buds that have lain dormant through the long winter months. Where only weeks ago there were just bare branches, the flowers of many of our most common trees now punctuating the landscape and offering up a gentle array of colours and shapes. As the flowers open, tree crowns take on a hazy, pastel appearance, announcing the long-awaited change of season. Make a point this spring of looking up and appreciating this blossom parade that can easily go unnoticed.

Flower parts 101

Like the annuals and perennials in our gardens, all trees produce flowers. Their raison d’etre, of course, is to produce seed to assure future generations. Flowers, however, vary in their configuration and can’t be fully appreciated without knowing the various parts. This might require reacquainting yourself with some special vocabulary. Let’s start with a typical or “perfect” (hermaphroditic) flower, such as those of a cherry or apple tree. A typical flower has both male and female reproductive organs together in the same structure. The female part is the pistil, which is usually located in the center of the flower and rises above the male parts. The pistil consists of the stigma (the sticky, widened top), the style (the long tube holding up the stigma) and the ovary, which is hidden at the base of the style. The ovary contains the female egg cells called ovules.

The male parts are called stamens and usually surround the pistil on all sides. The stamen is made up of the anther (the widened, pollen-producing top) and the filament, which is the stem of the anther. When a flower is pollinated (fertilized), pollen adheres to the stigma, and a tube grows down the style and enters the ovary. Male reproductive cells travel down the tube and fertilize the ovule, which then becomes a seed. The ovary becomes a fleshy fruit. Remember this the next time you eat an apple, because you are actually eating an apple flower’s enlarged ovary. Because insect activity is so unpredictable during the often-cool days of April and early May, most early‑flowering trees depend primarily on the wind to spread their pollen.

Not all flowers are “perfect”, however. Flowers may also be unisexually male and only bear pollen-producing stamens (staminate flowers) or unisexually female and only bear seed-producing pistils (pistillate flowers). Unisexual flowers often appear in long, caterpillar‑like structures called catkins. Each catkin contains dozens of individual flowers – all male or all female. Think of a cob of corn and each tiny flower as one kernel on the cob. Some common trees with catkins include willows, poplars, aspens, alders, and oaks.

The parts of a flower (Drawing by Judy Hyland)

Male catkins of Speckled Alder – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because catkins are easily jostled by the breeze, they are a superb adaptation to wind pollination. Let’s take the example of the Speckled Alder, whose catkins light up local wetlands. In the warm April sunshine, they swell into eight-centimetre-long purple, red and yellow garlands, releasing their pollen in golden puffs when disturbed. The female flowers are nestled in small, erect catkins that become cone‑like in appearance when the seeds are ripe.

One house or two?

Like human sexuality, the sex of trees – male, female or both – is complicated. Some species have separate male and female flowers on each individual tree. That is, one branch or twig might male flowers and another have female flowers. These species, along with species possessing the more typical “male and female together” flowers (a.k.a. perfect flowers) are referred to as monoecious (from the Greek, in one house).

However, there are also plants like willows, poplars, aspens, hollies, and Manitoba Maples that have separate sexes, just as animals do. They have male flowers on male plants and female flowers on female plants. These species are called dioecious (in two houses). This means that female trees can only produce fertile seeds if there is a male nearby. Hollies are an example that gardeners are familiar with. An individual holly is either male or female and produces either functionally male flowers or functionally female flowers. The word “functional” is important here, because sterile, reduced-in-size, non-functional flower parts of the opposite sex are present in both the male and female flowers of hollies.

Even within the monoecious/dioecious framework, there are exceptions. In the case of Red Maples, for example, some individual trees are monoecious, and others are dioecious. Under certain conditions an individual Red Maple can even switch from male to female, male to hermaphroditic (perfect flowers), and hermaphroditic to female.

The flowering calendar

Trees and shrubs flower in reliable order each spring. With climate change, however, the dates have tended to become earlier on average.

Late March: Silver Maple, poplars, aspens; Early April: Red Maple, Speckled Alder, Pussy Willow;

Mid-April: American Elm; Late-April: Manitoba Maple, White Birch; Early May: Serviceberry (Juneberry); Mid-May: Sugar Maple, Norway Maple, Common Lilac, Pin Cherry, apples;  Late May: Striped Maple, White Ash, Chokecherry; Early June: Bur Oak, Red Oak, American Beech; Mid-June: Black Locust, Black Cherry, Black Walnut; Late June: Catalpa, Small-leaved Linden; Early July: American Basswood

The maples

Each spring, I like to pay special attention to the flowers on maples. The Silver Maple is the first of this genus to blossom, with flowers often appearing as early as March. The fat, bright clusters of red flower buds produce either male flowers with dainty yellow stamens or female flowers with reddish pistils. When the male flowers are ripe with pollen, the whole twig looks yellow. Twigs with female flowers appear all red when the pistils appear.

In early April, Red Maples have their turn. The profusion of tiny, red flowers against the tree’s smooth gray bark is one of spring’s loveliest sights. The flowers have small, red petals, which hang in tassels. The Red Maple wears its name proudly, because all the tree’s interesting features are indeed red: the winter twigs and buds, the spring flowers, the leafstalk and, in male trees especially, the fall foliage. In the Kawarthas, Red Maples are primarily a Shield species. Both Red and Silver Maples attract bees on warm spring days, thanks to their offering of pollen and nectar. They are also pollinated by the wind, however.

A cluster of male flowers (L) from a Sugar Maple. Three female flowers, each with two long styles, can be seen at the bottom on the cluster on the right. (Drew Monkman)

Another member of the maple clan to flower in April is the Manitoba Maple, a somewhat aberrant member of the genus. Not only does it have ash‑like, compound leaves, but the seed flowers and pollen flowers appear on separate trees. This is a very common species of urban areas, taking root in some of the most inhospitable sites imaginable

In the next couple of weeks, Sugar Maples will be flowering. To the trained eye, blooming Sugar Maples are one of the most conspicuous trees in both the urban and rural landscape. The trees glow in a garb of pale yellow-green as countless, long-stalked clusters of flowers hang from the twigs. At a glance, the floral display might be mistaken for leaf-out, but the leaves have usually only begun to emerge when Sugar Maples are in full flower.

The male and female flowers of Sugar Maples can appear on separate trees, on separate branches of the same tree, or even on the same branch in the same tree in the same cluster. There are no petals on the flowers. Clusters of male flowers are 7-10 centimetres long with hairy stalks. Each cluster has 8-14 individual flowers. At the end of each stalk is a bell-shaped, yellow-green calyx. Six to eight stamens extend just beyond the calyx. Most of the flowers low on the tree are male.

Female flowers appear in shorter clusters, measuring only 2-5 centimetres in length. The pistil has two curved styles, which protrude from the calyx. Female flowers are most common higher up in the tree. Within a week or so, the male flowers fall to the ground, leaving a yellow confetti on sidewalks and roads. Female flowers, of course, develop into paired keys, which spin to the ground in late summer.

Norway Maples, which also bloom in mid-May on average, also deserve a close look. The flower clusters resemble giant, lime-green pompoms. The leaves and flowers emerge simultaneously. Unlike the Sugar Maple, the flower clusters are erect, and each flower has five petals. Male flowers are composed of eight fertile stamens, while female flowers have eight sterile stamens and a long green pistil, which splits into a pair of curved styles.

The flower clusters of Norway Maples, sometimes resemble giant, lime-green pompoms. Drew Monkman

I encourage readers to take some time this month to look more closely at tree flowers. It’s fun to try to see all the floral parts and to determine whether the flower is male, female or a perfect flower combining both. Try to follow the progression on female flowers from blossom all the way to seed, maybe capturing the development with your camera.  Nature reveals so much more when you take time to really pay attention.

 

 

 

 

Arguments for Climate Action

              When talking about climate change with friends and family, remind them that a majority of Canadians in every province, except for Alberta and Saskatchewan, are in favour of a carbon tax.  A majority also believes that government must lead the climate effort and that individual action won’t be enough. When people say, “Well, what can I do?”, the answer is simple: support strong government action. In addition to a carbon tax, this includes phasing out coal and implementing stronger regulations like more aggressive clean fuel standards. Point out that 70 percent of Canada’s emissions are industry-related. All these initiatives, of course, involve costs to taxpayers – either transparent at the gas pump or hidden when it comes to regulations affecting industry – so paying these costs is “what you can do”. 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 192019
 

Despite Ford’s reckless and self-serving attacks on intelligent climate policy, signs of hope remain.

Next Monday is Earth Day, an occasion that for me evokes bittersweet emotions.  As a teacher, I was involved in organizing numerous Earth Day events to inspire students to learn and care more about the environment. In the 1980s and 90s, Earth Day reflected a true sense of excitement that a much greener future was within reach. At Edmison Heights Public School, we had set up a school-wide recycling and a litterless lunch program; we carried out classroom waste audits; we raised money for everything from the Lakefield Marsh to the Costa Rican rainforest; and we even naturalized a corner of the schoolyard. Earth Day assemblies were a celebration of all these initiatives. Every year we would sing “Signs of Hope”, an environmental anthem composed and song by Ontario elementary students. And, yes, many of us believed the song’s lyrics that “signs of hope are coming, they’re beginning to appear, signs of hope are everywhere, the time to act is here.” Over the years, however, Earth Day has become little more than an occasion to pick up litter or at best plant a tree. Optimism has given way to the reality that real change is not at hand, even though environmental threats and degradation have become infinitely worse – the biggest case in point being climate breakdown, which threatens the very future of civilization as we know it.

You don’t have to look any further than the Ford government for the most current example of why so many of us feel despondent. It’s hard to think of anything more laughable, albeit deeply depressing, than Progressive Conservative politicians being photographed filling up their tanks at gas stations as part of a well orchestrated campaign to fight Trudeau’s 4.4-cent-litre levy on fuel. The hubris of these reality-denying politicians is beyond the pale. On the same day there was a chilling report from Environment and Climate Change Canada showing that our country is warming at double the global average and that the Arctic is warming even faster. This warming goes a long way to explaining why severe weather cost Canada $1.9 billion in insured damages last year. I guess the Ontario government feels that none of this matters when “The People” can save a few bucks when filling up.

If all of this was not distressing enough, we must now stomach Ontario’s legal challenge to the fuel levy and brace ourselves for the outrageous sight of the coming anti-carbon tax stickers on gas pumps. Being a strictly political ploy, the stickers make no mention of the fact that the money paid for the fuel tax will be returned to Ontario households in their tax refunds. I agree with stickers, but they should be reminding us of how our use of fossil fuels contributes to the climate crisis we are facing! As Dr. Diane Saxe, Ontario’s recently fired environmental commissioner, said in a news conference, Ontario’s climate response is “very inadequate, very frightening.” If ever there was an example of a government being on the wrong side of history and science, this is it.

What remains of hope?  

It’s little wonder that so many Canadians feel paralyzed in the face of climate breakdown. I don’t blame people for thinking “there’s nothing I can do” and carrying on as if everything is fine. For many, it’s the only way to maintain sanity and enjoy life in the present.

Where do you find signs of hope today? Are there any, or are we just grasping at straws and deluding ourselves? A growing number of environmentalists believe the latter. Call it delusional, but I’m not ready quite yet to join their ranks. How can I with six grandchildren?

I believe there is more hope out there than meets the eye. Jeremy Lent, author of “The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning” argues for a non-linear way of looking at things. Small changes at one level can have indirect, amplified, and unpredictable effects on a larger scale. There’s an inherent mystery in how change comes about, and it rarely happens in a linear way. He argues that it’s helpful to think about change through the metaphor of the Butterfly Effect, which links a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the planet. It may take a very long time, but had the butterfly not flapped its wings at just the right point in space and time, the hurricane would not have happened. This effect is especially true in 2019, thanks to the hyper-connected society in which we live.

This means that the actions we take as citizens – be it on climate change or anything else – can have unforeseen, unknowable impacts. We can’t know, for example, to what extent they are noticed and copied by other people. We’re all embedded in a network, and the way we behave and relate to each other is part of the future we’re creating. Recognizing this fact provides a reason for hope. Not hope based on statistics or scientific reports, but on the recognition that there’s nothing inevitable about the way that this complex system of interconnected human beings and their actions will unfold. We are rarely able to predict tipping points, but history is replete with miraculously rapid changes. And the more we envision them, and work toward them, the more likely they become.

Knowing this, we should feel more positive about those climate actions we can take, be it minimizing our red meat consumption, buying carbon offsets when we fly, making climate change a regular topic of conversation with friends and family, or supporting aggressive climate policies on the part of government, including Trudeau’s carbon tax. Trudeau’s missteps in recent months are regrettable, but they pale in comparison to the damage on climate progress that would occur if ever Andrew Scheer was to become prime minister. If you believe the science, climate change policies are what matter most to the future of civilization.

It’s vitally important to express your concerns about climate change with friends and family.

Reducing our consumption of red meat is one step we all can take in the fight against climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s leadership

Trudeau is often portrayed as a climate sellout by activists, especially given his support of the TransMountain pipeline. However, according to Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, there is actually a consensus among foreign climate experts that Canada has become a global climate policy leader. As Jaccard wrote in the Globe and Mail earlier this week, global experts are not only impressed by Trudeau’s national carbon tax but also by several other of his climate policies. These include his government’s phased closure of Canada’s coal plants by 2030. Their closure will remove the equivalent in emissions of 1.3 million cars from roads. With Britain, the Canadian government has co-founded the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a growing force of jurisdictions committed to phasing out coal. Jaccard says that his counterparts in India and China are already noticing the influence on their own countries’ policies.

In addition, the Trudeau government’s clean fuel standard, which comes fully into force in two years (should he be re-elected) will greatly accelerate the switch in transportation from gasoline and diesel to electricity and sustainably-produced biofuels. Several U.S. states are already considering a version of this policy. Jaccard also writes that the Trudeau government’s pending regulation on methane emissions is another policy of global significance.

“In just for years, these and other policies have transformed Canada from a global pariah to a model of climate action under Trudeau,” says Jaccard. He sees these globally influential policies as extremely important, even if a new TransMountain oil pipeline goes ahead. Jaccard even speculates that the pipeline could shift in the future to transporting hydrogen produced from the oil sands or biofuels from the prairies.

Role of radical action

Humanity’s efforts to minimize the extent of climate breakdown must be fought on multiple fronts. In addition to personal action and supporting the Trudeau government’s initiatives, there is also a role for more radical interventions. Most notable is the Extinction Rebellion (XR). This worldwide movement believes that government can be forced to address climate change by using long term, non-violent civil disobedience. XR demands that our governments tell the truth about the climate breakdown, commit to a timeline for net zero carbon emissions, and create a citizen-led panel to evaluate progress. Variations of this tactic can be seen in Swedish teen, Greta Thunberg’s Global Climate Strike, which brought out 40,000 students in Montreal and 1.5 million protesters around the world in March, including here in Peterborough. Under the leadership of Peter Morgan, the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action has organized various events to challenge the slow pace of change in Ottawa and Toronto. More disruptive action should be expected if our leaders fail to act.

In addition to the arguments I’ve laid out above, I am greatly encouraged by how much more attention mainstream media are giving to the climate crisis. This is evident to anyone reading the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, the Peterborough Examiner, or watching or listening to CBC. So, yes, I believe that “signs of hope” are real, just like the Earth Day anthem suggests. Knowing so should strengthen our commitment to making changes in our personal lives, to talking more about climate change, to letting MPP Dave Smith know how damaging his party’s policies are, and to supporting Trudeau’s initiatives – or equally strong or stronger policies from another party. Who knows? Maybe more of us will even surprise our friends and families by taking part in upcoming climate change protests. The future has yet to be written, and we can find inspiration in the knowledge that we can influence how it might unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 152019
 

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 13:15 by Sarah Bonnett
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Previously seen here, Very pink! White forehead, no green in head! Goodbye nemesis bird, thank you Peterborough for needing me to come visit this way.”

Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) (1)
– Reported Apr 22, 2019 20:31 by Drew Monkman
– 51 Maple Crescent (home), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55288603
– Comments: “Calling repeatedly from neighbor’s property across road (Rob Moos)”

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 18:34 by Scott Gibson
– 1_Gibson Home – Bissonnette Dr., Peterborough, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55316044
– Comments: “was in yard as it flew directly above head”

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 18:50 by Tony Barrett
– CA-ON-Otonabee-South Monaghan-13-59 Whitfield Rd – 44.2053x-78.3822, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55317518
– Comments: “At feeders ”

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported Apr 15, 2019 17:17 by Brendan Boyd
– Rice Lake–Hall Landing, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Found earlier by C Douglas. East side of boat launch in large raft. Grey sided dabbler with pink breast, cinnamon head and white forehead.”

Eurasian Wigeon – male – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (3)
– Reported Apr 15, 2019 12:09 by Matthew Garvin
– Peterborough–300 Water St to Edgewater Blvd Loop, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing”

Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (4)
– Reported Apr 13, 2019 08:46 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small-billed, short-necked, grey-backed”

Cackling Goose (small bird) with two Canada Geese – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Apr 13, 2019 09:00 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Airport Rd Railroad, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Adult, occupying same nest as last year.”

Great Horned Owls in nest – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2019 15:40 by Scott McKinlay (Note: still present on April 13)
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported Apr 08, 2019 18:55 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

Apr 122019
 

Against a backdrop of more dire climate change reports, we can still enjoy the arrival of spring

Following on the heals of last fall’s International Panel on Climate Change report, which stated that global warming must be limited to 1.5-degrees Celsius to avoid a non-stoppable, runaway climate crisis, two other dire climate reports were released in the past month. Both reports highlighted the speed and intensity at which climate change is progressing.

In March 21,  a report commissioned by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center was released explaining that the Great Lakes region – the region in which Peterborough and the Kawarthas  is located – is warming faster than the rest of the US. Since 1910, the annual mean air temperature in the region increased 0.89 C compared to 0.67 C for the rest of the country. The report explained that as air warms, it holds more moisture, causing more extreme storms and flooding, while also degrading water quality, worsening erosion and posing tougher challenges for farming. Drinking water quality may also be degraded by more releases of untreated sewage during heavy storms and nutrient runoff that feed harmful algae blooms, some toxic. Warmer temperatures will produce less ice cover, boosting evaporation and pushing lake levels down. As for temperature, summers are expected to become hotter and drier. Heat waves with days exceeding 32 C are likely to become more common, posing risks for elderly people and children with asthma.

As if this wakeup call was not enough, on April 1, federal scientists and academics warned that Canada’s climate is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that Northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. Three of the past five years have been the warmest on record, the authors said. According to Chris Derksen, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the changing climate has meant extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, rapidly thinning glaciers, warming and thawing of permafrost, and rising sea levels in Canada’s coastal regions.

Against this frightening backdrop, it is no wonder that the timing of events in nature are being affected. I would still like to remind readers, however, of the mileposts of spring’s progression. Regardless of what the weather throws at us, the order of the events, which are listed chronologically, should remain the same.

April

·       It’s time to start indoor sowing of annuals for your pollinator garden. Some great species include Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia), Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), catnips (Nepeta), salvia and zinnias.

Monarch on Tithonia – (Drew Monkman)

·       The Peterborough Field Naturalists hold Sunday Morning Bird Walks throughout April, May, and June. Meet Sundays at 8:00 a.m. in the north parking lot of the Riverview Park and Zoo. From there participants carpool to various birding hot spots as determined by the leader. Outings generally last about 3 to 4 hours. Bring binoculars and some change to help out with gas.

·       Don’t be too surprised if a half‑crazed robin or cardinal starts pecking at or flying up against one of your windows or even the side-view mirror of your car. Being very territorial birds, they instinctively attack other individuals of the same species – in this case, their reflection!

·       With a bit of work, you should be able to find a dozen or more species of migrating waterfowl this month. Some hotspots include Little Lake, the Otonabee River and the Lakefield Sewage Lagoon on County Road 33.

·       April is a busy time for feeders. In addition to Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, Common Grackles and resident species like chickadees and cardinals, small numbers of Common Redpolls are now showing up in Peterborough backyards, adding a splash of much needed colour. Later in the month, White-throated Sparrows will be moving through. May will bring White-crowned Sparrows and sometimes rarer species like Lincoln’s Sparrows.

Common redpolls may show up at feeders in the Kawarthas this winter – Missy Mandel

·       On April 21 from 1 to 5 p.m., discover Harper Park, a provincially significant wetland within our City boundaries. Learn about the history of the site, its interesting groundwater-based ecosystems, heritage trees, and vernal pools. Wear waterproof footwear and bring binoculars.

·       When water temperatures reach 7 C, Walleye begin to spawn. Along with suckers, they can sometimes be seen spawning at night at Lock 19 in Peterborough or below the pedestrian bridge in Young’s Point. Take along a strong‑beamed flashlight.

 

 

·       The Peterborough Garden Show runs from April 26 to 28 at the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre at Fleming College, 599 Brealey Drive.  On the Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm, butterfly expert and author Carol Pasternak will present “Drama in the Butterfly”. Carol’s book, How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids, will be available ($10) after the presentation. Carol will explore the secret lives of insects in your yard or nearby natural area. From 12 pm to 12:30 pm, she will also present a butterfly workshop suitable for ages six and up.

·       The muffled drumming of the Ruffed Grouse is one of the most characteristic sounds of April. The birds drum to advertise territorial claims and to attract a female.

Ruffed Grouse – Jeff Keller

American Woodcock – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       If the weather is mild, local wetlands come alive in early April with the clamorous calls of countless frogs. The first voice usually heard is that of the Chorus Frog. To learn amphibian calls, go to naturewatch.ca. In the menu at the top of the page, click on FrogWatch.

·       The courtship flight of the American Woodcock provides nightly entertainment in damp, open field habitats such as fields at the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary. Listen for their nasal “peent” call which begins when it’s almost dark

 

May

·       A variety of interesting butterflies is already on the wing as May begins. These include the Compton Tortoiseshell, the Eastern Comma and the Mourning Cloak. Petroglyphs Provincial Park is a great destination for butterfly watching.

·       On May 8 at 7:30 pm, Ellen Jamieson, a master’s student at Trent University and a Peterborough native, will present a talk to the Peterborough Field Naturalists entitled “A Day in the Life of a Shorebird in South Carolina”. Shorebirds undergo one of nature’s most fascinating migrations, but they are in trouble with many populations experiencing drastic declines. The talk takes place at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road.

·       The yellow-gold flowers of Marsh Marigolds brighten wet habitats in early May. By mid-month, White Trilliums blanket woodlots throughout the Kawarthas. A closer look will reveal numerous other wildflowers, too, like Yellow Trout Lily.

Yellow Trout Lily – Drew Monkman

 

·       With many species nesting, try to keep your cat indoors. It’s no wonder so few baby robins ever make it to adulthood in Peterborough any more.

·       The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually return on about May 5, so be sure to have your nectar feeders up and ready to greet them.

 

 

·       The long, fluid trills of the American Toad can be heard day and night. They are one of the most characteristic sounds of early May. Later in the month, Gray Treefrogs serenade us with their slow, bird-like musical trills.

·       The damp morning air is rich with the fragrance of Balsam Poplar resin, a  characteristic smell of spring in the Kawarthas.

·       If you are looking for pollinator plants for your garden, don’t miss the Peterborough Horticultural Society Plant Sale on Saturday May 11, 2019, from 9 – 11 am at Westdale United Church, 1509 Sherbrooke St.

·       Mid-May sees the peak of songbird migration with the greatest numbers of warblers, vireos, thrushes, orioles, flycatchers and other neo-tropical migrants passing through.

Baltimore Oriole – Karl Egressy

·       That large, streaked sparrow-like bird at your feeder is probably a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Males are black and white, with a red breast. Just in from Costa Rica, grosbeaks are attracted to sunflower seeds. Watch, too, for Baltimore Orioles and maybe even an Indigo Bunting.

·       The showy, yellow and black Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterfly appears by month’s end and adds an exotic touch to our gardens.

 

 

June

·       In downtown Peterborough and Lakefield, Chimney Swifts will be putting on quite a show. Pairs can be observed in courtship flight as they raise their wings and glide in a V position.

·       Watch for turtles laying their eggs in the sandy margins of roadsides and rail-trails.  Remember to slow down when driving through turtle-crossing zones and, if safe, help the reptile across the road.

·       The first Monarch butterflies usually appear in the Kawarthas in June. Make sure you have some milkweed in your garden on which they can lay their eggs. In January, World Wildlife Fund Mexico announced that the total forest area occupied by overwintering Monarch colonies this winter covered 6.05 hectares, a 144% increase from the previous season!

·       Five-lined Skinks, Ontario’s only lizard, mate in early June and are therefore more active and visible.  Look for them on sunny, bare, bedrock outcroppings with deep cracks such as near the Visitors Centre at Petroglyphs Provincial Park.

Five-lined Skink, Ontario’s only lizard and a Species at Risk – Joe Crowley

·       The Summer Solstice occurs on Friday, June 21 at 11:54 am. The sun will rise and set farther north than on any other day of the year. Celebrate this profound celestial event with your family.

 

 

 

 

 

ARGUMENTS FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

              Some people argue that Canada is such a small greenhouse gas emitter that it is irrelevant whether we cut our emissions or not. You can counter this by pointing out that: 1. Canada is actually the world’s 10th biggest emitter, ahead of even France and Brazil. 2. On a per capital basis, Canadians are the fourth largest emitters in the world – about the same as Americans and quadruple that of Swedes who live in a similar climate. 3. No one argued during WW II that given our small population, any contribution by Canada to the war effort would be meaningless. Sixteen times more Americans fought than Canadians, but Canada still played a very significant role in the war. The same logic applies to climate change. We have a moral imperative to do our part in this fight, which requires no less than a war-level response. What moral weight would we have to tell less fortunate countries to cut emissions if we are doing very little ourselves?

 

 

 

Feb 092019
 

Eastern Coyote: We saw a coyote on Sunday morning, Feb. 10 beside the Westview Village (Lansdowne Street west) pond, on the north side of Harper Park. It had been lying down in the snow nearby, then wandered around the pond area and ran back into the forest. I managed to get several pictures of it from inside our house. It was really favoring its right rear leg, but it still seemed to be very mobile and able to trot along quite well without a problem. Rene Gareau, Lansdowne Street

Eastern Coyote – Westview Village – Feb. 2019 – Rene Gareau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Crows: I live on Walkerfield Avenue in Peterborough. About once a week there is an enormous murder of crows (anywhere from 40 to 60) that lands on the road and lawns at my corner. They peck away at the road but I cannot imagine what they are finding to eat! There have also been the same number of crows gathered in a single tree many times a week this winter in many parts of the west end.  Catherine Dibben

A crow harassing a Red-tailed Hawk – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Scaup (1)
– Reported Feb 08, 2019 13:28 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Little Lake Cemetery, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “continuing; male; rounded head; in with flock of Common Goldeneye opposite Beavermead Park”

Greater Scaup (male) photo from Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi) (1)
– Reported Feb 04, 2019 13:10 by Erica Nol
– Otonabee River opposite north end of zoo, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Swimming up river, looked like immature male. Clear white wedge of wing stripe on folded wing. Otherwise all black bird.”

White-winged Scoter on Otonabee River – Tom Northey – Feb. 2, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Buntings: I’m sending along a picture of the Snow Buntings that showed up on February 1st on our farm in Indian River. They were here last year too. I think they remembered that I put bird food out for the Rock Pigeons, Wild Turkeys, Blue Jays and anyone else who might show up. My husband set up our trail camera to catch this photo. I love watching the flock fly around and listen to their pretty chirping!   Sandra Yeoman, Indian River 

Snow Buntings – February 2, 2019 – Indian River – Sandra Yeomans

Snow Buntings – January 2019 – Campbellford – Donald Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine Martens in Algonquin Park:  I took these pictures on Feb. 2 of Pine Martins at Mew Lake in Algonquin Park. They come out of the pines to eat at campsite garbage cans. One came 4 feet away. Donald Munro

Pine Martens 1 Feb. 2019 Mew Lake – Donald Munro

Pine Marten teeth – Mew Lake – Feb. 2019 – Donald Munro

 

Feb 082019
 

From finches to cacti, the fingerprints of evolution are everywhere in the Galapagos

Over the year leading up to my Galapagos trip, I read just about every available book on the islands. My favourite by far was “The Beak of the Finch”, by Jonathan Weiner. Now a nature classic, the book describes how two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, spent more than 20 years on a small Galapagos island proving that Darwin didn’t know the strength of his own theory. They were the first scientists to see evolution by natural selection happening before their very eyes, in real time, and in the wild. They saw that species are not immutable but always in flux. Natural selection is neither rare nor slow, and it is going on everywhere, even in our own backyards.

As the book’s title implies, it is the finches’ beaks that tell the evolutionary story. Adaptive changes in the size and shape of the beak has allowed each of the 17 species to fit into its own ecological niche, be it as small, medium or large seed eaters, nectar eaters, or fruit and insect eaters. DNA testing has confirmed that these birds are all close cousins, having evolved from an original pair of tanager-like birds that arrived on the Galapagos in the distant past from South America. They are also the most famous example of “adaptive radiation”, the process by which organisms diversify from an ancestral species into a variety of new forms.

Thanks to our highly skilled guides, Juan Tapia and Josh Vandermeulen, we saw 12 of the 17 finch species. We stood only metres away as Gray Warbler-finches poured out their warbler-like song from Miconia shrubs; pollen-covered Cactus finches drank nectar from Opuntia flowers; and Medium Ground Finches gleaned seeds from sprawling matplants. Watching them, I tried to remind myself that no other birds have had such a profound impact on human understanding of our own deep history.

Cactus Finch feeding in an Opuntia cactus. Both species tell an amazing story of evolution. (Josh Vandermeulen)

As I think back on these wonderful seven days, a flood of other bird memories come to mind, too. First among these were the Waved Albatross we saw at a nesting colony on Espanola Island. With a wingspan of over seven feet, they are the islands’ largest breeding bird. We were lucky to be there in courtship season and to see the elaborate ritual between male and female. This included bill circling, bill clacking, and a formalised dance with the bill raised vertically. The colony is located beside a low cliff where a strong updraft allows the birds to take off with relative ease. It was mesmerizing to watch not only albatross but a host of other seabirds as they soared along the cliff.

 

There were many other special moments, too: a male Nazca Booby courting a female by dutifully gifting her with pebbles; flocks of Red-billed Tropicbirds streaming overhead; tiny Red-necked Phalaropes riding the giant sea waves; Espanola Mockingbirds licking condensation off our water bottles; Short-eared Owls camouflaged among the rocks and waiting to pounce on storm-petrels; Lava Herons and Lava Gulls blending in perfectly against their namesake; and Swallow-tailed Gulls flashing their spectacular wing pattern. I was able to photograph a pair of these gulls sitting side by side in the late afternoon sun. With its heart-shaped, scarlet eye ring, one of the birds seems to be saying, “I love you!”

A pair of Swallow-tailed Gulls-the worlds only nocturnal gull. Note the heart-shaped eye-ring on the upper bird. (Drew Monkman)

Giant tortoises

“Galápagos” is an old Spanish word for giant tortoise.  When Darwin visited the islands in 1835, the Vice Governor told him that he could tell which island a given tortoise came from by the shape of its shell. Scientists now believe they know why. Those with a saddle-shaped carapace evolved on islands where they had to reach up high to feed on vegetation like cacti, while those with a domed carapace became adapted to feeding at ground level with no reaching up. In the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, thousands of Galapagos Giant Tortoises live in harmony with farmers. We walked among these colossuses – some five feet long, 400 pounds and over 100 years old – close enough to hear them ripping and chewing grass from the pasture. Others were wallowing in the mud of shallow ponds, seemingly oblivious to our presence and to that of the beautiful White-cheeked Pintails that swam among them.

Earlier that same day, we had visited the amazing Charles Darwin Research Station, which is a key player in the conservation of the Galapagos. Three-quarters of the staff at the station are Ecuadorian residents of the islands. This is part of a huge effort to help the islanders themselves engage with protecting the biodiversity and to become not only guides but also future scientists.

The station carries out a very successful tortoise captive breeding program, and we were able to see baby tortoises of several species. Thousands of tortoises have been re-introduced to islands where the original population has been decimated by everything from invasive rats and goats to whalers killing the tortoises for food.

There are also wonderful displays on evolution, such as the story of how Marine Iguanas and three species of land iguanas all evolved from an ancestral pair of South American Green Iguanas. The latter probably arrived millions of years ago on floating vegetation from the mainland. Seeing the black Marine Iguanas with their barnacled foreheads, erect spines, and habit of expelling salt from their nostrils, it’s easy to understand why Darwin famously called them “imps of darkness.”

Marine Iguanas on Espanola. The bottom iguana is snorting out salt. (Drew Monkman)

Amazing plants

The story of evolution is also written in the plants of the Galapagos. It is especially evident in the 15 species of Scalesia, the Darwin’s finches of the plant world. A member of the daisy family, Scalesia have adapted to different vegetation zones and evolved into trees and shrubs. In the highlands of Santa Cruz, we saw 15 metre Tree Scalesia, which are akin to giant sunflower trees with their ultra-fast growth, ray flowers, and soft pithy wood. On other islands, we saw shrub-like Radiate-headed Scalesia, which is a pioneer on barren lava.

 

The six species of Opuntia cacti are yet another example of the power of evolution.  The tallest is the Giant Prickly Pear, which grows to 12 metres tall and develops beautiful, rich brown bark. I was particularly fascinated, however, by the Opuntia species we found on Genovesa. Because there are no cacti-eating herbivores on this island, this Opuntia has soft spines. Why? Because there was never any adaptive pressure to put resources into making the spines hard and piercing. Amazing.

Climate Change

As isolated as the Galapagos are, they are not immune to the effects of climate change. Most of the iconic species stand to suffer as do the coral reefs. Warming seas, which are made worse by El Nino events, may already explain why sardines have become rare, and why sardine-eating Blue-footed Boobies no longer nest there. The climate crisis is also predicted to increase the rate and intensity of El Nino events, which are devasting for marine life as the seas warm. The effect ripples through the entire ecosystem and has a negative impact on everything from Galapagos Sea Lions to Marine Iguanas. Unfortunately, increased rainfall will be a boon to many invasive species.

As someone who writes constantly about climate change, there is maybe an element of hypocrisy in my even making this trip. We all know that flying has a huge carbon footprint. But how many of us are going to give up air travel or completely reinvent the way we live as individuals? A winter get-away, for example, is a part of so many people’s lives, as are retirement travel and visiting far-flung family members. That is why addressing climate change lies not so much in personal action (although there is much we can do personally) but rather in transitioning our entire economy away from fossil fuels to renewable, carbon-free energy. This may also lead to new technologies for less carbon-intensive air travel. Both a price on carbon and strict new emission regulations are essential to achieving this transition.

In the meantime, one thing we can also do is purchase carbon offsets whenever we fly. This is a system by which you compensate for your share of a flight’s carbon footprint by donating to offset carbon emissions elsewhere. Carbonfootprint.com allows you to easily calculate your personal footprint for a given flight. By clicking the “Offset Now” button, you can then choose a project to help fund. Our Galapagos trip footprint was 1.68 metric tons of carbon. We chose “Reforestation in Kenya” and paid $25 as an offset. Carbon offsets typically cost 5% or less of the ticket price. They are a great tool for all of us who are fortunate enough to fly regularly.

I came home from the Galapagos feeling incredibly privileged to have been able to visit the very cradle of evolutionary theory and observe first-hand the iconic species that taught the world about natural selection. Seeing so much wildlife with no fear of humans – the mother sea lions with their wide-eyed pups, for example – also made me think about how tragic it is that we humans – the very creatures of which they are so trusting – are responsible for a climate crisis that is likely to wreak havoc on their fragile lives.

Local Climate Change News

Well-known Canadian author and journalist, Gwynne Dyer, will present “The Climate Horizon: A Lecture” on Feb. 11 at 7:30 pm at Gzowski College, Trent University. “Climate change will have exponential influences on our military, politics, environment, social systems and economy, but with an unprecedented level of global co-operation, there might be a way through it,” according to Dyer. Please register at Eventbrite.ca for this free event.

 

 

 

Feb 012019
 

An unforgettable trip to the “laboratory of evolution” and the inspiration of Darwin’s earth-shaking theory

The shadowy form appeared out of nowhere in the turquoise water. It made a bee-line towards me, swimming just above the bottom. What is this? Within seconds, however, its dark back, white underparts, and stout beak were unmistakable as was my sense of incredible luck. A bird I’d dreamed of seeing for a lifetime was right below me, and I even managed to get pictures before it sped off into the distance. I had seen my first penguin ever and the smallest and most northerly of its kind.

It was a thrill to see this Galapagos Penguin speeding by in the clear turquoise water. (Drew Monkman)

Could the Galapagos Islands really be as extraordinary as I’d always heard? Since the age of 12, I had dreamed of going there. A great uncle of mine had made the journey in the 1960s and regaled me of the remarkable wildlife. For years, I had heard how the animals are show no fear of humans, and how you could get a front row seat to their intriguing courtship displays, feeding behaviours, and nurturing of the young.  My desire to go only grew as the years passed, and I became increasingly interested in Charles Darwin and evolution. Like few other places in the world, it is the subtle differences between species in the Galapagos – be they tortoises, mockingbirds, cacti or finches – that reveal the secrets of evolution and inspired Darwin in formulating “the greatest single idea anyone has every had.” In recent years, a disturbing sense of urgency had also set in as I read how climate change will irrevocably change the islands.

The Galapagos are a province of Ecuador, located on the equator 1000 km west of the South American mainland. They form an archipelago of 13 major islands and many smaller ones at the confluence of three major ocean currents. These include the Humboldt Current which brings cool, nutrient-rich water up from Antarctica. The islands emerged from the sea bottom as volcanic upheavals, which means that much of the time you are walking on lava. All the reptiles, half the birds, one-third of the plants, and one-quarter of the fish are unique (endemic) to the Galapagos – in other words, they are found nowhere else. Why would this be so? Why is the archipelago such a hotspot for evolution? It comes down to the islands’ isolation and to the subtly different climatic and ecological conditions from one island to the next.

We had booked our October 31 to November 10 trip a year in advance with Quest Nature Tours. Our group of 12 Canadians was accompanied by 28-year-old Josh Vandermeulen, who in 2012 set a new Ontario record for the number of birds seen in one year. A biologist and avid herpetologist (the study of reptiles and amphibians), Josh was an affable, attentive guide, expert photographer, and uncanny in his ability to find and identify wildlife of all kinds. We were also joined by a superb Galapagos guide, Juan Tapia. A native Ecuadorean, Juan has been guiding on the islands for over 30 years.

We flew from Toronto to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where we spent two nights and enjoyed a guided tour of this historic city. We then took a flight to the islands via Guayaquil, before landing on Baltra Island. For the next seven nights our home was the 33-metre Beluga, a Canadian-owned yacht with a crew of eight. The food, accommodation and attentiveness of the crew were superb. Our itinerary took us to eight islands in the central and eastern part of the Galapagos. These included Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, South Plaza, San Cristobal, Espanola, Santiago and Genovesa. Most of the travelling between islands was at night.

Unlike anywhere else

My initial impression upon landing was that of a monochromatic, rocky outback, covered with cacti and small leafless trees. The uniqueness of the Galapagos quickly made itself known, however, even at the airport, which is one of the greenest in the world. The islands’ focus on sustainability – a necessity given the 220,000 tourists who visit each year – became immediately apparent, as well. Multiple signs spelled out the do’s and don’ts that tourists must follow. We even watched a dog sniffing the luggage for contraband fruit and vegetables that could introduce more invasive species to the fragile ecosystem.

A Galapagos Sea Lion posing on the beach at San Cristobal Island. The Beluga is anchored in the distance. (Drew Monkman)

Sensory overload began the moment we stepped off the bus at the harbour, courtesy of a Galapagos Sea Lion and Land Iguana within touching distance. Quintessential Galapagos birds like Darwin’s finches hopped about on the ground, while Lava Gulls and Blue-footed Boobies flew over the water. Josh and I went apoplectic trying to get photographs and not miss anything. Once on the boat, however, the mood turned more serious as Juan impressed upon us our special responsibility as visitors to respect the islands and their wildlife. “Take nothing but photos. No shells, no lava, no seeds. Nothing. And leave nothing but footprints. Stay two metres away from the animals. Don’t wander off the paths.” The values of respect and sustainability permeate every aspect of the islands’ administration, which is the shared mission of the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation. This includes everything from a near-total ban on single-use plastics to where and when tourists can go ashore.

The daily routine

Each morning after breakfast, Juan would provide an overview of the day’s schedule and which species we were likely to see. We would then board the pangas – inflatable, motorized dinghies – which took us to shore for a dry or wet landing – the latter meaning you got your feet wet! Sometimes, before disembarking, we’d take time to travel along the shore looking for animals at the water’s edge or swimming underneath. This is how we saw our first Whitetip Sharks. Once ashore, Juan would allow us time to simply soak in the novelty of this special place: sea lions lounging on the beach, mockingbirds flitting about at our feet, brilliant orange Sally Lightfoot Crabs crawling over the rocks, Galapagos Hawks peering down from atop the cacti, and legions of black Marine Iguanas warming themselves on the lava as they snort out salt.

Sally Lightfoot Crabs were everywhere on coastal rocks. (Drew Monkman)

Once the proverbial “herding of cats” finally brought all of us together, we would set out on a trail walk, stopping regularly as Juan explained the amazing adaptations of the plants and animals. His knowledge of Galapagos botany was encyclopedic. There was always ample time to take pictures, ask questions and explore – within limits – on one’s own. After a couple of hours, we’d head back to the boat for a full-course lunch and time to relax. Later in the afternoon, we’d set out for a second hike. With the sun low in the sky, the light conditions for photography were wonderful. Some days, we’d also take the pangas to a snorkelling site for the unforgettable experience of seeing the islands’ underwater realm.

A pair of Nazca Boobies engrossed in courtship display. (Drew Monkman)

The day would wrap up with before-dinner beverages, trading stories of the day’s adventures, a gourmet supper, and the completion of our species checklist – not only the birds but everything from reptiles and fish to insects and plants. Josh would remind us of what we’d seen – species by species down the list – and we would dutifully check them off. “Blue-footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Red-footed Booby… Did anyone see a Lava Heron today?” When it came to the plants and fish, Juan took over. He then presented a short “slideshow” of the day’s highlights, and finally a preview of the next day’s itinerary. “Geez, this is like a dream university course!” one woman commented. By 9 pm we were all in bed.

Every morning I would get up shortly after dawn and join Josh on the deck. Together, we would scan the sea and shoreline for birds, cameras at the ready. There were always boobies, shearwaters, and frigatebirds putting on a show. On one occasion we watched a frigatebird attack a terrified booby, trying to make it cough up the fish it had caught during the night. Having to go back into the ship for breakfast almost seemed like a waste of time!

Experiencing the Galapagos from under the waves was particularly memorable. The number and variety of marine invertebrates and fish was astounding as was the sense of being in your own private world. In all, we recorded 35 fish species, including large schools of colourful surgeonfish and mesmerizing wrasse, parrotfish and angelfish. On several occasions, Galapagos Sea Lions joined us underwater, diving, twisting and turning within touching distance. One even came up and “kissed” me on the mask. I felt especially privileged to be able to follow a huge Pacific Green Turtle as it searched for food.

A school of Yellowtail Surgeonfish – a ubiquitous species in the Galapagos (Drew Monkman)

Next week, I’ll describe other highlights like the courtship displays of Waved Albatross and the other-worldly experience of hanging out with dozens of Giant Tortoises. I’ll also examine how the story of evolution is told by everything from Scalesia trees to the iconic Darwin’s finches. As I hope you can tell, these “Enchanted Islands” were truly the experience of a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Local Climate Change News

Many of us with investments, either personal or through pension plans, are concerned about how to manage the risk in the stock market with looming climate chaos. Do we divest from fossil fuels? When and how?  Financial planner Tim Nash, aka “The Sustainable Economist” and recently featured on CBC’s The National, will explain how to invest safely, profitably, sustainably, and ethically in these precarious times. This free event will be of interest to individual investors, investment dealers as well as representatives of institutions with investments. The talk takes place at Trinity United Church (Simcoe St. entrance) on February 7 at 7 pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 042019
 

Large congregation of eagles in Campbellford – This morning, January 29, at Percy Reach on the Trent River south of Campbellford, there were 13 Bald Eagles waiting their turn, while 3 Eastern Coyotes ate deer on the ice. The coyotes have killed three deer in the last two weeks here. Nice watching all of this happening just 700 metres behind my house.  Donald Munro

Bald Eagle on deer carcass on Woodland Drive – Peterborough – February 15, 2014 – Val Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Redpolls in Campbellford – Here are some pictures of Common Redpolls taken January 26 and 29 in Campbellford. The flock of 250 or so birds was found on Dart Road. Donald Munro

Common Redpolls feeding – January 26, 2019 – Donald Munro

 

Common Redpolls in flight – January 26, 2019 – Donald Munro

Part of flock of 250 Common Redpolls – Campbellford – Jan. 29, 2019 – Donald Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagles and otter at Young’s Point – Today, January 24, I saw three immature (first-year?) Bald Eagles on the ice at Young’s Point. They were on the Katchewanooka side of the bridge where there is a long stretch of open water.There was also a River Otter, a large number of Common Goldeneye ducks, several Common Mergansers, and three Trumpeter Swans. Barb Craig, Young’s Point

Two immature Bald Eagles (3rd winter bird on left and 2nd winter bird on right) – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange fish and tadpole sighting – We have a large swamp near our house on the north shore of Stony Lake. There is a small area that never freezes – probably spring fed. Today, January 19, there was a swarming mass of dozens of 2-inch tadpoles and many 1-inch fish covering the whole area (about 2 sq. ft.) They seemed dead or barely alive. I’m not sure what the explanation might be. Maybe you or some of your readers may have some insights?  Ed Duncan, Northey’s Bay Road

Tadpoles (probably Green Frog) – Ed Duncan – January 19, 2019 – Northey’s Bay

Swarming mass of tadpoles and fish – Ed Duncan – January 19, 2019 – Northey’s Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagle near Norwood: Today, January 21, we saw a Bald Eagle just outside of Norwood. We were driving down our road and there was a large flock of crows on the road, in the air and perched in the trees. We were looking at them and talking about them when we realized that there was an eagle sitting in the tree at the edge of the field. Amazing! I have never seen one before.
Two or three weeks ago, we saw a hawk sitting in a tree. It was different from the red-tailed Hawks that we usually see. I was telling my neighbour about it and she said that it was an eagle. I don’t know the difference between a hawk and an eagle. Last week, she called me one afternoon and said to look out the window because there was 3 eagles flying over our yards. They just glided back and forth, heading slowly south towards Hastings, until I could no longer see them. Again, I don’t know if they were hawks or eagles, just taking her word for it. But today, this was definitely a bald eagle, and I am still excited about it.  Susan Hie, Norwood

Bald Eagle – Jan. 14 2014 Woodland Drive in Peterborough – by Bill Astell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening Grosbeaks: I’m getting grosbeaks at my feeder daily for safflower seed. I bought a great metal hanging tray feeder at Village Pet Foods in Lakefield that they love. I’ll get upwards of six ringing the edge. I’d say I get a flock of 20 or so two or three times a day. Northern Cardinals are spotted once in a rare while. A few times a month is all. Too many Blue Jays to count. I also buy 50 pound bags of in shell peanuts once again at Village Pet Foods for my grey and red squirrels. I also got some close up shots of two flying squirrels at one of my hanging tube feeders filled with black oil on Christmas eve. It made my night. They were very curious and not afraid in the least.  Mark Leslie, Centre Dummer

Flying squirrels – Mike Barker – Sandy Lake – Jan. 12, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Flicker at feeders – A flicker has been a regular at our feeder for the last few weeks. It has been eating the black oil sunflower seed. We back onto Harper Park. Phil McKeating, Creekwood Drive 

We had a flicker at our feeder on Conger Street in Peterborough in early January. Marie Duchesneau 

Northern Flicker – January 1, 2016 – Mark St. Peterborough – Helen & Larry Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpeter Swans on Otonabee River – On Friday afternoon, Jan. 18, around 4:45 PM, I drove south from work in Lakefield along River Road and came across these three Trumpeter Swans. One looks like a juvenile. I felt very fortunate, they certainly are not a common sight. They were just north of Lock 25 on the Otonabee River.  Don Koppin

Trumpeter Swans – Jan. 19, 19 – Otonabee River – Don Koppin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hermit Thrush at Curve Lake FN – I took this photo of a Hermit Thrush on January 19. It was feeding on Staghorn Sumac behind my house at Curve Lake First Nation. It is sometimes on the ground, in the branches of the spruce tree beside our house and in the sumac around the back woodshed. Feel free to let interested birders know. We are at the end of a long driveway. The thrush was still here as of January 20. Dave Johnson, 1010 Mississauga St, Curve Lake First Nation 

Hermit Thrush – January 19, 2019 – Curve Lake FN – Dave Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagles on Belmont Lake – I have a cottage on Belmont lake. We have been delighted to see soaring high above the lake a pair of Bald Eagles. For two years they have stayed close to the middle and northern sections of the lake, mostly fishing and being quite successful. I am sending you my two best shots taken from our boat, as we tried to follow yet keep a distance to not scare them away. I am also in contact with Tim Dyson, who tells me he spent several years near our lake, and spotted Bald Eagles in the winter months as well.  I have also sent the information to the MNR/NHIC to update their maps.  Julia Matys, Belmont Lake

Bald Eagle – Belmont Lake – summer 2018 – Julia Matys

Bald Eagle – Belmont Lake – summer 2017 – Julia Matys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening Grosbeaks – As of January 4, we have had a nice flock of about 24 Evening Grosbeaks hanging around our back field and feeder. One appears to be without pigment (leucistic). They really love the sumac grove on the edge of the field. We have not had Evening Grosbeaks in our area before.           Gene de St. Croix, Sixth Line, Hastings 

Evening Grosbeaks. Note leucistic bird third from left – Gene de St. Croix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagles and Trumpeter Swans – We live on Katchewanooka Lake and in the past two days (January 9-10) I’ve seen both mature and immature Bald Eagles – three times! Each time, the bird was perched off of the ice at our shoreline. I thought perhaps the immature Bald Eagle was actually a Golden Eagle, due to its colour and size, but since we have a family of Bald Eagles nesting on one of the islands nearby, I trust that these were all Bald Eagles. We’re very lucky and tend to see them fairly often this time of year! Eagles are one of my favourite birds, such big, beautiful creatures. I’ll try to be quicker with my camera next time and will hopefully snap a photo! I also saw 5 Trumpeter Swans two days ago – 2 adults and 3 immatures. I had never seen immatures here before! They meandered by our shoreline and then headed towards the group of birds off of a nearby island. Melissa Nagy, Katchewanooka Lake

Trumpeter Swans on Katchewanooka Lake in January 2019 – Melissa Nagy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine Grosbeaks – On January 10-11, I had a dozen Pine Grosbeaks eating crabapples on the ground beneath the tree. Sue Paradisis, Peterborough

Pine Grosbeaks – January 10, 2019 – Sue Paradisis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooper’s Hawk – On Nov 18, 2018, a flock of local Rock Pigeons was raiding our backyard feeder when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in at lightening speed. The frightened pigeons took off suddenly to escape, but one of them turned into a cloud of feathers and fell to the ground. The hawk came in so fast that I failed to see it until, in an instant, it was on the ground with the dying pigeon. It sat there for a few minutes, which allowed me to take pictures and watch it before it eventually flew off with the pigeon to a nearby tree to enjoy its warm meal.  Ed Lukaszewicz, Peterborough

Cooper’s Hawk on freshly-killed Rock Pigeon – Nov. 18, 2018 – Peterborough – Ed Lukaszewicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (1)
– Reported Jan 08, 2019 12:54 by C Douglas
– Rice Lake–Birdsalls Wharf, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Swan seen swimming in open water east of landing. Had black face pattern and orange coloured bill. Photo taken”

Mute Swan (photo: Drew Monkman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Jan 08, 2019 11:57 by C Douglas
– Rice Lake–Hiawatha (Herkimer Point), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Large white bird on ice. Seen through scope ”

Snowy Owl in flight – Wendy Leszkowicz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Jan 05, 2019 07:25 by Colin Jones
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Club trails, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “On the trail to the Bennett Cabin. Photos taken.”

Black-backed Woodpecker – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) (2) CONFIRMED
– Reported Jan 05, 2019 07:25 by Colin Jones
– Kawartha Nordic Ski Club trails, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “At W end of PL Road at a location where I’ve seen Canada Jay in the past”

Canada (Gray) Jay -Tom Northey Algonquin Park – March 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes & Cooper’s Hawk – We had lots of Coyote activity last night (January 2). The pack went right through our back yard again – lots of communication going on. From the tracks in the snow it would appear to be about 5 or 6 animals. This morning we have a Cooper’s Hawk on the ground about 20 feet back into the bush on the PGCC golf course property having his breakfast. The Gray Squirrel is very interested in what is going on and has been within 5 ft of the hawk!  Jim Watt, Franmor Drive

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (1)
– Reported Jan 03, 2019 16:25 by Scott Gibson
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “female/imm type bird SW shore (cemetery side) across from Beavermead beach. Viewed from cemetary. Merganser with thin bill, gradual transition b/w breast and throat.”

Female Red-breasted Merganser (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooper’s Hawk: Yesterday, I found the kill site of a Rock Pigeon at the side of my house. Although I hadn’t seen a Coopers Hawk for weeks, I figured it was still around, judging by how few birds had been coming to my feeders. Today, the hawk showed up and was around for hours. The squirrels were not impressed and a couple of them spent a lot of time harassing it to leave. Even a little Red Squirrel did a lot of scolding just 10 feet away. At some point in the morning when I wasn’t watching, it caught a pigeon and perched up in a spruce to eat. The squirrel chased it off so I now have a half eaten carcass decorating my tree.  Sue Paradisis, Tudor Cr., Peterborough

Cooper’s Hawk eating Mourning Dove – January 2018 – Sue Paradisis

 

Dec 172018
 

On November 19th 2018, ERO # 013-4124 was posted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNRF) on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, titled “Proposal to establish a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario”.

Double-crested Cormorants – April 2018 – Don Munro

Chances are you have not seen this already, as it is not getting a lot of media coverage, and the small way in which it has been presented for public scrutiny by its authors is questionable, as is the timing and the limited time frame (45 days) to reply to the government about it. We encourage all who see this for the incredibly ridiculous idea that it is, to respond vigorously against it through the method provided you by MNRF, and to do so immediately since on January 3rd 2019 the door on the issue will be closed to you.

To give an idea of some of the things this proposal is offering, and many of the points that sensible, intelligent, and compassionate  humans are arguing against it, please continue reading below.

 

 

 

Proposed legislation would:

• designate double-crested cormorants as a “game” bird species,
• create a province wide annual hunting season from March 15 until December 31,
• allow anyone holding a valid Ontario Outdoors Card and small game hunting license to kill up to 50 cormorants per day (1,500 per month or more than 14,000 per season) and,

Key arguments against include:

• hunt would cause unimaginable cruelty by allowing the wholesale, uncontrolled, impossible to monitor, slaughter of cormorants across the province,
• devastate and possibly eradicate a recovered native wildlife species,
• result in disturbance, destruction and death of numerous federally protected non-target bird species such as Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and White Pelicans,
• potentially damage natural ecosystems
• encourage the worst form of “slob hunting”
• endanger and disturb the public by allowing hunters to discharge firearms throughout the spring, summer and fall season when lakes and natural areas are populated by cottagers and tourist
• this needlessly demonizes wildlife at a time when the planet is experiencing the loss of species unprecedented in human history
• There is no substantive body of evidence proving that cormorants are depleting fish stocks or causing any ecological problems whatsoever
• it is broadly acknowledged that the presence of cormorants indicates a healthy fishery
• Cormorants being fish-eating birds are not ecologically able to deplete their own food supply,
• Small congregations could be wiped out in just a few minutes or an hour, while larger colonies could be destroyed in just a few days or a week. Years of effort and thousands of dollars to recover the species will have been for nothing.
• these birds nest in colonies, so it would be quite easy for a hunter to go up to a colony where they’re nesting and easily take out an entire colony in a single day
• Common terns and great blue herons can also nest in the same areas, so they can also have their breeding affected by this disruption. If entire colonies are eradicated,  it’s unclear how this would affect an area’s ecosystem.
• Although it’s true that cormorants can cause damage to properties, the law already allows property owners to deal with this problem. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, property owners may harass, capture or kill wildlife that is causing or is about to cause damage to their property.
• DDT use dramatically decreased cormorant populations in the 1960s. When DDT was banned, they made a comeback. The recent rise in cormorant numbers is the result of a recovery from a previously precarious position. In fact, it appears that cormorant populations have plateaued in  recent years. Yet, many people still think they are over-abundant
• humans deciding they are going to manipulate nature almost always ends up making things worse
• Non-human lives matter outside of measurable value to humans.
• The current law already addresses extenuating circumstances with cormorant populations. Culls have taken place to protect sensitive areas and heritage sites. This case-by-case approach is much safer than lifting protection entirely. It allows us to be sure that intervention is justified before we take action.

You can comment to the EBR either registered or anonymously or write directly to the MNRF with “EBR 013-4124 Cormorant” in the subject line at: wildlifepolicy@ontario.ca

Tim Dyson and Drew Monkman

Dec 152018
 

Cooper’s Hawk: I had a Cooper’s Hawk visiting the neighborhood for a couple of days in the last week of December. Also had a pile of grey feathers (likely a Mourning Dove) in the garden near our feeder at this time. I managed to get a reasonable photo when it was here (Dec. 29th). Thought you might be interested.   Evan Thomas, Sandalwood Drive, Peterborough

Cooper’s Hawk – January 2019 – Evan Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Eastern Coyote Reports: Someone in our area (Peterborough Golf and Country Club) is reporting sightings of coyotes just about every day. On December 22, one was walking down the middle of Franmor Drive at about 2:00 pm. Our neighbour had her Golden Retriever out at about 10:00 and she noticed two coyotes coming towards the dog. Quick action got the dog inside as she is deaf and old.
More coyotes have been seen searching for rabbits in the middle of our units over the last several weeks – usually in the early mornings. Last night (December 24) one tripped our motion detector at our back porch at about 11:00 pm. Jim Watt

Snowy Owl: Here are some pictures of a Snowy Owl at the Peterborough Airport on December 26 at  about 4:00 PM. Apart from the one “artistic” shot, these images present a hunting sequence. After the kill, we have the gulp (vole’s tail visible if you look closely) and then a satisfied stare-down.  Dennis Vanderspek

Snowy Owl with vole – Dec. 26, 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Dennis Vanderspek

Snowy Owl swallowing vole (tail visible) -Dec. 26, 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Dennis Vanderspek

Snowy Owl – a satisfied stare-down – Dec. 26, 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Dennis Vanderspek

Snowy Owl flying – Dec. 26, 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Dennis Vanderspek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (1)
– Reported Dec 24, 2018 by Drew Monkman
– Cabot Street, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50988398
– Comments: “Don Frederick of 1224 Cabot St. saw adult male pheasant walk across his yard”

Ring-necked Pheasant – Lindsay – Nov. 2, 2016 – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes in Peterborough:

  1. There is a nightly serenade, pretty much every night after midnight, coming from the St. Peter’s High School/Medical Drive/Jackson Creek area. I really don’t know how many are in the chorus, but it sounds like a lot. I have a client who drives a cab during the wee hours of the morning, and he reports seeing Coyotes all over town. Folks who still let their cats wander at night should take note. The Coyotes will accomplish what the by-law could not. I will now revise my observation of a “gray, squirrel-eating fox” earlier this year and admit it was likely a Coyote. Larry Love (December 23)

Eastern Coyote on Otonabee River – Tom Northey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. We live near Barnardo Park in Peterborough. Over the past few weeks (early to mid-December), we’ve been hearing coyotes howl at night, and it’s getting louder. We’ll sit on our front porch and listen – the kids think it’s amazing. I suspect they’re in the green corridor between Chemong and Hilliard. People have started parking at the tennis courts there after dark and sitting listening to them. It’s almost like being back in the North. Kennedy Gordon

Coyotes in field on Stewart Line (Randy Therrien)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. On Monday night, December 3, at about 10:30 pm we had a family of six Coyotes make a visit -( Mom, Pop and the 4 full grown kids). They were right up under our bird feeders by our back deck. We are on Franmor drive. We have the TSW Canal on our east side and the 5th hole of the PTBO Golf and Country Club on the north.

This is the first sighting in our area as the TSW waterway usually keeps them on the east side of the Canal where there is lots of bush right up to the University for them to roam. In the past I have seen one or two on the ice along hole #7. With the work being done on the TSW they have created a coffer dam where it narrows down going south towards the Parkhill Swing Bridge, and I am assuming that they have crossed there. We have notified all of our neighbours with pets (no leaving them out on a leash ) an have used Babcock and Robinson who are the property managers for the units along Armour Road that border on the golf course.  Jim Watt, Peterborough

Coyote – Maggie Sharpe – Oct. 2014 – Cave Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker (December 17):   For the second day in a row, we’ve had a Red bellied woodpecker at our peanut feeder. Mike Barker, Algonquin Boulevard 

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Lynde Creek, Whitby- Photo by Brian Crangle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) (1)
– Reported Dec 22, 2018 15:10 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “continuing male”

Male Wood Duck – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Dec 22, 2018 10:40 by Steve Paul
– Peterborough Airport, Fraserville, Ontario, CA (44.236, -78.359), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50873671
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Located inside the airport compounds. Very observant of surroundings – had 360 view all around it but did not move the entire time I was watching it. Kept distance and took pictures with zoom.”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Dec 21, 2018 12:45 by Ben Taylor
– Engleburn ave, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50844374
– Comments: “Sitting in a tree at the south end of the island overlooking the mudflat.”

White-tailed Deer: On December 14, from about 8 – 8:45 am, four deer (one small one from this spring and three females/juveniles) were milling around in the field about 80 m south of our house south of Lakefield. At 8:50, all four of them swam the Otonabee (midway between Locks 24 & 25), west to east and came up on County Road 32 before heading into the woods.

I also saw a big eight-point buck in the same field about 1:30 pm on Nov. 19. It swam about a third of the way across the river, then turned around and came back to shore quite close to the house, before  going off into the fields to the west of us. He was very cryptic against the background of a winter foliage of dried goldenrod – the colour of the deer and goldenrod matched almost perfectly! Annamarie Beckel, Lakefield

White-tailed Deer – Stephenie Armstrong – June 1, 2017

White-tailed Deer – Randy Therrien

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) (1)
– Reported Dec 19, 2018 09:40 by Erica Nol
– Division at 5th line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing bird, in Eastern White Cedar at se corner of intersection. Sat on cedar rail fence in woods.”

Carolina Wren – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Dec 19, 2018 13:45 by Jeff Stewart
– 621 Carveth Drive, Millbrook, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Cont. bird, on lower ledge of east side of white Ont. government building”

Common Raven – I see a pair of ravens at least daily west of Omemee, adjacent to the Pigeon River wetlands. Surely they’ve resided here for awhile. The book “The Ravenmaster” by Christopher Skaife
caused me to observe them more closely. I’m intrigued. Kate Arthur
N.B. Yes, ravens have really been increasing in number and distribution south of the Canadian Shield in Ontario over the past decade. I now see them regularly in Peterborough and often hear of reports from the GTA, too. They are breeding south of the Shield as well, including a pair near Omemee. Interesting phenomenon. DM 

Common Raven – Wikimedia

Golden Eagle (left) & Common Raven at Petroglyph Provincial Park. Feeding on deer carcass. (Tim Dyson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) (1)
– Reported Dec 16, 2018 08:00 by Bill Crins
– Peterborough CBC, Area 4, East City to E. edge, W. of Douro, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “seen between 9:35 – 9:40; relatively large wren; reddish brown cap, back, wings, tail; strong white supercilium extending almost to nape; relatively long, slightly downcurved beak; buffy coloration on breast, belly and flanks; tail occasionally cocked upwards; bird was silent during observation period; bird was noted by observing movement in vines adjacent to old rail fence; did not respond very readily to spishing, but kept moving along old fence and in viny tangles; extremely skulky; found in NW. corner of junction of Division Rd. and Douro 5th Line, in low area beside driveway (did not see bird go to feeders, but there were feeders in the backyard up the driveway)”

Carolina Wren – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Dec 17, 2018 15:35 by Erica Nol
– Airport Rd dead end, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “continuing bird; perched on utility pole at dead end of Airport Rd, east of large Flying Colours building”

Snowy Owl – Lindsay – Dec. 20, 2014 – Tim Corner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Dec 16, 2018 14:40 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Airport Rd Railroad, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50736266
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Subadult bird hunting in swamp along railroad tracks just northeast of Brown Ln, less than 50m from nest where 2 GHOW owlets fledged this spring.”

Great Horned Owl – Dec. 23, 2015 – Glen Grills

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (1)
– Reported Dec 16, 2018 08:10 by Rene Gareau
– Peterborough CBC Area 7, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50747151
– Media: 1 Audio
– Comments: “Responded to playback at Harper Park. Flew in so close to investigate the tape that the bird was visible in midair right in front of us despite the dim predawn light. Audio recorded.”

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Dave Heuft)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) (1)
– Reported Dec 16, 2018 08:10 by Dylan Radcliffe
– Peterborough CBC Area 7, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist:
– Comments: “Mervin Ln. Responded to playback.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl on Parkhill Road – This morning, Liliana Perez found a Barred Owl on Parkhill Road, about 200 metres east of Brealey Drive. It sat out in the open on a telephone cable and then in a nearby tree for at least 20 minutes. I was able to get several pictures.  Drew Monkman

 

Barred Owl – Parkhill Road – Dec. 14 2018 – Drew Monkman

Barred Owl – Parkhill Road -Dec. 14 2018 – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Dec 13, 2018 14:00 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Noticed having a meal on top of the SE corner of the MNR North Block.”

Peregrine perched on steel girder – Wikimedia

Peregrine eating Rock Pigeon – Loree Stephens 2 – Jan. 13, 2015 – PRHC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) (1)
– Reported Dec 13, 2018 07:50 by Iain Rayner
– Otonabee River–between Lock 25 and Lakefield, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Male, swimming with MALL adjacent to road…continuing I believe.”

Wood Duck – Jeff Keller

Wood Duck in flight – April 2018 – Mike Faught

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl at Peterborough Airport – We have a visitor at the Peterborough Airport. I photographed it today, December 10.  Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

SNOW – Dec. 10 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Carl Welbourn

SNOW 2 – Dec. 10 2018 – Ptbo Airport – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl – I photographed this owl near Peterborough (east part of 4th Line) on December 9 at 4 pm. It was a life bird for me! Trudy Gibson

Snowy Owl – Trudy Gibson – Dec. 9, 2018

 

Snowy Owl near Lindsay –  I have been taking photos of Snowy Owls in the Cunningham’s Corners area, just southeast of Lindsay. Here is one of my pictures from December 8.  Tim Corner

 

Snowy Owl – December 2018 – Lindsay area – Tim Corner

 

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) (1)
– Reported Dec 08, 2018 08:26 by Iain Rayner
– Otonabee River–between Lock 25 and Lakefield, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4132687,-78.2625462&ll=44.4132687,-78.2625462
Checklist:
– Comments: “Male swimming passively with geese and showing signs of molt. Dark rounded head peaking above eye as opposed to rear of head. Large dark nail. Grey flanks and back although still showing some dark feathers. Took pics that may help”

Greater Scaup (male) photo from Wikimedia

Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) (1)
– Reported Dec 08, 2018 09:00 by Peterborough County Birds Database
– 621 Carveth Drive, Millbrook, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50511540
– Comments: “Adult, very large accipiter with long tail, whitish-grey under parts and dark cap / white eyebrow visible, probably female by size, heard jay alarm calls first then goshawk landed near top of large maple by house then headed behind house towards bird feeders.”

Northern Goshawk – Wikimedia

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Nov 30, 2018 07:15 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50314082

Great Horned Owl – Dec. 23, 2015 – Glen Grills

American Coot (Fulica americana) (1)
– Reported Dec 02, 2018 13:13 by Steve Paul
– Peterborough–Auburn Reach Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Continuing bird. Out in water close to shore at south end of park.”

American Coot (Karl Egressy)

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Dec 03, 2018 16:11 by Ryan Campbell
– 115 @ Tapley 1/4 Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos

Snowy Owl – Nov. 29, 2018 – Lindsay area – Carl Welbourn

Dec 142018
 

Should we decimate a native bird at a time of unprecedented planet-wide species loss?  

Doug Ford’s buzz saw assault on Ontario’s environment never stops. It’s now clear that “open for business” really means “open season on the environment”. Since taking office, he has cancelled Ontario’s cap and trade program, sacked the Environmental Commissioner, and introduced Bill 66, which would allow municipalities to circumvent Greenbelt protections and even exempt developers from rules designed to protect wildlife. Then, on November 19, things turned even nastier. On that day, ERO # 013-4124 was posted by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. It is entitled: Proposal to establish a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario.

This bonded pair of beautiful Double-crested Cormorants photographed in Campbellford could easily be slaughtered in Queen’s Park’s proposed cormorant hunt goes ahead. (Photograph by Donald Munro)

With so much other madness coming out of Queen’s Park, I was not immediately aware of this proposal. Tim Dyson, a friend and frequent contributor to this column, brought it to my attention. We have therefore decided to join forces this week and present our thoughts on this cruel, unscientific and vulgar plan. If passed in its present form, the legislation would designate double-crested cormorants as a game species, create a province-wide annual hunting season from March 15 until December 31 and allow anyone holding a valid Ontario Outdoors Card and small game hunting license to kill up to 50 cormorants per day (1,500 per month or more than 14,000 per season). The only constraint on hunters is having to dispose of the carcasses. Unlike other game, the cormorant would not be killed for food.

What we have here is clearly NOT a “hunt” of any kind. Hunting involves some level of skill on the part of the hunter and requires patience, stealth and the ability to make a clean kill. We have no issue with ethical hunting. However, what we have before us is simply a slaughter of a species that has twice before been on the Endangered Species List and yet has rebounded from extremely low numbers to now breed in relative abundance across much of the province. DDT use dramatically decreased cormorant populations in the 1960s. When DDT was banned and chemical pollution of the Great Lakes was reduced, the birds made a spectacular comeback. In fact, for many years cormorants were the poster species for the Great Lakes cleanup. The recent rise in cormorant numbers is therefore the result of a recovery from a previously precarious position. Although cormorant populations appear to have now plateaued, some sectors of the public have been led to believe that there are still too many.

The best way to think about this proposal is “slob hunting”, namely an activity in which people are content to kill for the sake of killing. In the case of cormorants, it will be child’s play for hunters to shoot the birds as they sit on their nests or fly in and out of the colony. Zero skill will be required to kill them from boats positioned only metres from nesting colonies. The young of the dead or gravely injured adults will slowly die of dehydration, hypothermia, and starvation. All of this will happen in the absence of scientific data to justify such rash action and likely without sufficient monitoring by the resource-strapped MNRF. Small congregations of cormorants could be wiped out in just a few minutes, while larger colonies could be destroyed in a matter of days. Years of effort and thousands of dollars to help this species recover from near-extirpation will have been for nothing. Supporters of the proposed slaughter argue that the cormorant population will remain at a healthy level. We are not convinced. Given the wide-open nature of the government’s proposal, how many years will it be before the double-crested cormorant becomes a species at risk once again?

It is almost certain that this slaughter will also result in the disturbance and death of federally protected, non-target bird species such as terns, gulls, herons, and egrets. Many of these birds are ground-nesters and often breed alongside cormorants in nesting colonies. When hunters go to retrieve the carcasses, nests are likely to be trampled. The “approach and open fire” in multi-species nesting colonies alone would violate federal laws. It will also disturb the public by allowing hunters to discharge firearms throughout the spring, summer and fall season when lakes and natural areas are populated by cottagers and tourists. Imagine trying to explain what’s going on to your kids. Non-hunters who enjoy the outdoors already stay clear of many natural areas during currently designated hunting seasons. This will only add to people’s stress.

It is widely known that commercial fishermen and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) and are the driving forces behind this proposal. And, to be fair, there is more than one perspective within OFAH on what is being proposed. However, let’s look at some of the so-called facts presented on their website. First, we are told that cormorants reduce game fish populations. Through careful analysis of cormorant feces, regurgitates, prey remains and stomach contents, the Canadian Wildlife Service has repeatedly found that only two percent of a cormorant’s diet is made up of game fish. Has any concerned angler or commercial fishing company done the same study? In fact, it is widely acknowledged that the presence of cormorants indicates a healthy fishery. If such were not the case, the birds could not survive in their present numbers. We should also ask ourselves, “How much commercial fishing is done on the Kawartha Lakes?”

We are also led to believe that cormorants destroy ecosystems. Clearly, the very idea that a naturally occurring species can destroy an ecosystem is preposterous. Ecosystems are not something that humans can successfully manipulate and keep the same forever. That is called a controlled area. Ecosystems and all their component species, including cormorants, are in a constant state of change. With the possible exception of invasive species, the best way to help an ecosystem is to simply allow nature to unfold as it constantly does. And, speaking of invasive species, is it at all logical to demonize a native bird in order to defend non-native species coho and chinook salmon, both of which were introduced into Lake Ontario? Does this demonstrate sound ecological logic? We are simply falling back on the old thinking of our European ancestors: scapegoat certain native but “undesirable” species – once it was wolves and now it’s cormorants – and remove them through unnatural means. All in an effort to make to fashion the natural world to our liking. Human manipulation of nature rarely turns out well.

We also hear that cormorant colonies are smelly and noisy. Indeed they are. But, they are also part of an ever-changing system with a right to exist and change naturally. We should also consider that once the birds move on through natural processes, the nutrient-rich guano they leave behind will lay the foundation for an even richer array of plant and animal life. This includes more and healthier trees than were present before the birds established colonies in the first place.

Yes, cormorants can cause damage to properties. However, Ontario law already allows property owners to deal with this problem. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, property owners can scare away, capture or kill most wild animals if the animal is causing property damage. Current legislation also addresses extenuating circumstances with cormorant populations. Culls carried out by the MNRF take place to protect heritage sites and sensitive areas (e.g., islands at Presqu’ile Provincial Park where other nesting species are also present). This case-by-case approach is much safer than lifting protection entirely. It allows us to be sure that intervention is justified before we take action.

Most importantly, let’s try to feel in our hearts what is being proposed and turn away from the usual trap of a “we say, they say” debate. Maybe we can take this as an opportunity for something different. Maybe we can make our choices from a place of decency and compassion. Do we really want to demonize and slaughter a native species at a time when the planet is experiencing unprecedented species loss? What lesson are we teaching our children? Don’t the lives of other sentient beings matter outside of measurable value to humans? How is it ethical to heap scorn on beautiful, exquisitely adapted birds like cormorants while at the same time loving and caring for our cats and dogs like in no other moment in history?

Please take time to go to the MNRF website at ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4124 and voice your opposition to this slaughter. The deadline is January 3, 2019. Do so with the knowledge that in a few months time, there could be thousands of baby cormorants starving, baking in the sun, and shivering at night until death brings them relief. You can also go to change.org, search for “cormorants” and sign the online petition against the slaughter.

Yes, consider your heart, but don’t demonize hunters and anglers. Most are ethical practionners of these pastimes, and many have grave misgivings about what’s being proposed. And let’s not forget government biologists, either. More than anyone, they know this is a terrible idea but can’t speak out if they want to keep their jobs. This insanity must be especially difficult for them.

Local Climate Change News  

Camp Kawartha has undertaken a $3.5 million capital campaign to support its vision of becoming a national leader in environmental programming. The Camp plans to build a new dining hall, kitchen and sleeping quarters, all demonstrating the latest in green architecture. This certified “living building” would be the second of its kind in all of Canada. From living walls and a living roof, to geothermal heating and the use of all-natural materials, the building would show how people and nature can live together and be healthy for both. The building will be “net zero”, which means zero toxins, zero waste and zero carbon and therefore be a showpiece for sustainability. Please consider donating to the campaign at campkawartha.ca.

At the Camp Kawartha’s Annual General Meeting this week, Chris Magwood delivered a wonderful talk on “How Buildings Can (help) Save the World”. Chris is Executive Director of The Endeavour Centre, a not-for-profit sustainable building school based in Peterborough. He pointed out that buildings are responsible for 25% or more of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Surprisingly, from a GHG perspective, a building’s energy efficiency is not the main issue. Rather, we need to look at “embodied emissions”, which are the GHGs associated with producing the building materials. They represent 60% of a building’s carbon footprint, which is much more than the operational emissions from heating and cooling the building. Magwood emphasized that reducing embodied emissions should be the building industry’s main focus in fighting climate change. Buildings made from materials such as straw, hemp, bamboo and fibreboard are actually net storers of carbon, emit zero toxins and can be affordably built right now. Go to endeavourcentre.org for more information.

 

 

Nov 282018
 
  • Snowy Owl – The Snowy Owls are back in the Lindsay / Little Britain area. The first sighting was two weeks ago. I shot this one yesterday (Nov. 22) on the road between Oakwood & Little Britain.
    Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

    Snowy Owl – Nov. 22, 2019 – Little Britain – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sightings from Campbellford – This morning, November 22, on the river (frozen), there were 6 River Otters and 4 Bald Eagles. In front of my house, I counted 3 female Pine Grosbeaks. Donald Munro, Campbellford

    River Otter eating a fish at Gannon’s Narrows, Buckhorn Lake (by Kinsley Hubbs)

    Sharing female Pine Grosbeaks – Nov. 22, 2018 – Campbellford – Donald Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sandhill Cranes – At 4 pm this afternoon (November 23), I went out to get my paper. I live in Cavan on Larmer Line. A flock of 50-60 Sandhill Cranes were flying a few hundred feet up coming from the southeast down from Millbrook. They flew over my house and headed in a northwest direction in a V formation. Very distinct call. I took a pic of a few of the birds near our sanitation station in May 2015,  but was surprised to hear them first then spotted them coming right overhead. I would have thought they may have headed south by now, not heading north west. Wayne Stovell, Larmer Line, Fraserville

    Flock of Sandhill Cranes in flight (photo by Jerry Friedman)

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sightings from Centre Dummer – I’ve been an avid birder for 40 or more years, originally in Mississauga then for 11 years while living in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. We’ve now lived in Centre Dummer for just over five years and I was surprised to see that you mentioned that Evening Grosbeaks were scarce in The Kawarthas. We’ve had them every late fall and winter at our black oil feeders. As a matter of fact I’ve seen two flocks of at least 10 to 12 in the last four or five days. Also I log my nature sightings and on Nov 14th while driving my wife to work in Peterborough we saw a small flock of what I believed to be Pine Grosbeaks on County Rd 40 near a stand of tall evergreens. Way to big to be Purple Finches but I couldn’t stop and be totally sure. On a few other occasions I’ve seen flocks of finches but once again I’m driving on County Rd 40, Webster and County Rd 8. All terrific bird sighting areas with the open land and mixed forest areas. I’m actually very surprised to have a pair of Northern Cardinals that come and go since last winter. I know they aren’t typically birds of the forest but somehow they’ve found our feeders though not nearly enough. I’ve only seen them twice in the last week since last winter. We have some real nice surprises yearly here with Scarlet Tanagers, Eastern Bluebirds and the best was Indigo Buntings once. My Calgarian raised wife was floored at their beauty! Mark Leslie, Centre Dummer

    Scarlet tanagers arrive back in the Kawarthas in mid-May (photo by Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Again this year, there are many Snowy Owls in the Lindsay area, especially between Oakwood and Little Britain. On several occasions, as many as three have been seen in the same field. Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

Snowy Owl – Nov. 29, 2018 – Lindsay area – Carl Welbourn

Snowy Owl 2 – Nov. 29, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

  • Today, November 29, I had an American Kestrel turn up at my house in Campbellford and was able to get a picture of it eating a vole.  Donald Munro

  • On Friday, November 23 about 8:30 am a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks, maybe 6-8, were flitting about one of the our feeders. It’s been at least 8 years since I’ve seen these magnificent birds. After a few minutes, the group flew next door so I wasn’t able to get a really good view, but two returned and remained a while so I was rewarded, glued to my binoculars. I do hope they stay around. Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

    Male Evening Grosbeak – Wikimedia

    Female Evening Grosbeak – photo by Jeff Keller

 

  • I had a female Red-bellied Woodpecker and two female Pine Grosbeaks in my yard today. She was eating crab apples. Donald Munro, Campbellford

Female Red-belllied Woodpecker eating crabapple – November 2018 – Donald Munro

 

  • Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) (3)
    – Reported Nov 22, 2018 08:00 by Iain Rayner
    – Trent Rowing club, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50125087
    – Comments: “3 frosty coloured 1st winter birds seen at same time on dump pile. Frosty, pale primaries, same size as HERG, round heads and all dark bills.”

 

  • Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 22, 2018 11:45 by Dave Milsom
    – Peterborough–Trent University Canal Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50128298
    – Media: 1 Photo
    – Comments: “continuing 1st-year bird”

 

  • Jake Lake (Apsley, Peterborough County) Common Loon Survey 2018       (click on image to read)

Jack Lake 2018 Common Loon Survey (from Steven Kerr, Jack Lake Association)

  • Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 19, 2018 12:20 by Robert Walker Ormston
    – Peterborough–Rotary Park & Walkway, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3128468,-78.313466&ll=44.3128468,-78.313466
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50054347
    – Comments: “Most of the birds seen on list seen harassing this owl. Sitting close to the top of a white pine in a stand of white pine. A number of birds were around a fairly small area of the stand making agitated calls. Went to investigate and found owl after about 5 minutes.small pale and light brown owl lacking “ears” about 8to 10 meters up tree”

    Saw-whet Owl banding – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 18, 2018 14:33 by Donald A. Sutherland
    – Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3001,-78.3470), Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50047143
    – Comments: “perched atop tower on roof of PRHC”

 

  • Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) (1)
    – Reported Nov 18, 2018 10:25 by Iain Rayner
    – Trent Rowing club, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50023765
    – Comments: “Continuing 1st year”

    Iceland Gull (Crossley Guide) First winter bird is lower left. Some are browner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 18, 2018 15:35 by Luke Berg
    – Otonabee River–Nassau Mills Dam to Lock 22, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50031280
    – Comments: “Continuing bird flying up river at the rowing club. Seen earlier around 11:30 as well. ”

    Glaucous Gull (adult) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • We’ve seen a male Red-bellied Woodpecker eating suet from our feeder twice in the last two weeks. We live 2 km south of Trent University. Gorgeous bird! Doug Sadler’s book “Our Heritage of Birds – Peterborough County in the Kawarthas” – copyright 1983, lists this bird as a rare occasional visitor, this being the northern edge of its range. I’m wondering how frequently they are being seen here now. Is their range moving north because of climate change? Liz Sine                           N.B. Red-bellied Woodpeckers have actually become rather common in recent years. They are being seen all over the County, even on the Shield and right in Peterborough. I believe we saw six on last year’s Christmas Bird Count. Climate change most likely plays a role in the expansion northward of this southern species.

    Red-bellied Woodpecker – Lynde Creek, Whitby- Photo by Brian Crangle

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Update on Pat Edward’s Baltimore Oriole (see Nov. 7 below) The last we saw of the oriole was Tues., Nov. 13th. We headed up north very early in the morning on the bitter cold day – Wed. the 14th so we didn’t put out his feeder as it would have froze. We hung the feeder out again the following day (Nov. 15th) when we were back but we never saw him. It was very cold then as well. We did take a couple of pictures as he would show up early in the morning and if my husband didn’t have his feeder out, he would go to the sunflower one about 4′ away which we found very unusual. As soon as Kevin put out the oriole feeder, he would be there right away!! He must have gone to the feeder the last week I would say at least 50X a day.  It was such a treat to see him – he gave us lots of enjoyment and we just hope he survived that bitter weather. Pat Edwards, Ennismore

    Baltimore Oriole – Nov. 12, 2018 – Ennismore – Pat Edwards

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) (1)
    – Reported Nov 17, 2018 11:05 by Erica Nol
    – Douro 5th Line, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49995989
    – Comments: “continuing bird; in trees 50 m north of dead end on Douro 5th Line; white wing patches in flight”

    Northern Mockingbird – Gord Mallory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Today, November 17, I had 24+ Evening Grosbeaks at feeder 733 Ford Crescent in Cavan. Long time since I saw them last. Great sight. Ken Rumble

male Evening Grosbeak (Gord Belyea)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I thought you might be interested (I’m watching the birds more closely today, November 16, as they are looking for food as the snow falls heavily) that I just saw a White-crowned Sparrow trying to eat at the sunflower feeder, but he couldn’t get a perch. Must be a migrant trying to get to better weather! Jane Bremner, Douro-Dummer

White-crowned Sparrow – Mike Barker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 16, 2018 08:30 by Mike V.A. Burrell
    – Peterborough–Robinson Place, Peterborough, Ontario
    – Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3032345,-78.31786&ll=44.3032345,-78.31786
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49968782
    – Comments: “adult sitting on very top of south tower.”

    Peregrine Falcon (Wikimedia photo)

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) (1)
    – Reported Nov 14, 2018 09:50 by Ben Taylor
    – Trent Rowing Club, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49933377
    – Comments: “Continuing bird with tan streaking and small. all-dark bill. Slightly smaller than the GLGU.
  • Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
    – Reported Nov 14, 2018 09:50 by Ben Taylor
    – Trent Rowing Club, Peterborough, Ontario
    Map:
    – Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49933377
    – Comments: “Continuing bird. Juvenile with long bi-coloured bill.”
  • On November 15, I had both a male and female Pine Grosbeak in my crab apple tree. A Pileated Woodpecker has also been coming to the tree. Donald Munroe, Campbellford

    Male Pine Grosbeak eating crab apples – Don Munroe – November 15, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I can’t believe how busy my yard has been the last couple of weeks. Today, November 14, I had 15 species, including a female Pine Grosbeak eating crab apples, a Northern Flicker, my first American Tree Sparrow of the year, a Purple Finch and a late White-throated Sparrow. This is better than summer! In the last two weeks I have had 20 species, including 12+ Common Redpolls on November 9. That same day, I also had 3 Pine Grosbeaks feeding in my crab apple.  I could clearly see the dirty yellow, orange/brown head and rump and the wing bars. The one bird’s rump had a bit of red. I think it was an immature male and the others were females. Sue Paradisis, Peterborough

American Tree Sparrow (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On November 8, I had 3 Evening Grosbeaks eating seeds with the chickadees. I bought very inexpensive feeders from the dollar store. They are green plastic trays hung by chains. The birds can fly in or perch on sides – even the woodpeckers.

 

  • This past spring and summer I had 3 pairs of Baltimore Orioles. I put grape jelly in an oriole feeder and my hummingbird feeders, the glass style with yellow ant block. I removed the yellow plastic and using sugar and water the orioles came to feed over and over again. When you remove yellow plastic ant block, all the birds join in with hummingbirds, woodpeckers and chickadees. As well my robin arrived this spring for the third year now. He comes to the deck rail and looks in the patio door for raisins. He just loves them! Esther Ross, Islandview Drive Bailieboro

 

  • I had removed all my oriole/hummingbird feeders in September after which I had not seen either of those birds around. The last week in October, we saw a male Baltimore oriole flying by.  I spotted it one day on our lilac tree so I made up some feed for him and put up the feeder where it always has been.  Within an hour, it had been discovered!  We bring the feeder in at dusk so the raccoons don’t get it as they have in the past. As of November 7, it has been here 10 days at the feeder, probably well over 30x a day.  We love seeing it and I’ve enclosed a couple of pictures. It has crossed my mind however, whether I should be feeding it, as it should have left to go south for warmer temperatures and I would hate the thought of it dying.  Pat Edwards, Ennismore  N.B. I think it’s fine to feed the bird, especially given the cold conditions. It may leave on its own or possibly try to stay all winter. This has happened in the past! Pat Edwards, Ennismore 

Baltimore Oriole – Ennismore – November 7, 2018 – Pat-Edwards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On November 7, three Trumpeter Swans flew over my house at 10:30 am west of causeway on #7 highway, Omemee. Gavin Hunter

    A pair of Trumpeter Swans on the Pigeon River – February 25, 2017 – Karen Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On November 4, I had 8 Evening Grosbeaks show up in my yard. They didn’t stay long as the platform feeders had been cleaned out by the earlier birds.
    Sue Paradisis, Peterborough

 

  • Jack Lake 2018 Turtle Observations (Steve Kerr)

Thirty-three individuals reported turtle sightings from the Jack Lake area in 2018.  Ninety-one turtles, comprised of four different species.

Blanding’s Turtle – 7
Midland Painted Turtle – 43
Northern Map Turtle – 6
Snapping Turtle – 34

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz