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 132018
 

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

The Big Book of Nature Activities

The Big Book of Nature Activities

Introduction

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

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

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

Charles Darwin cartoon character - Kady MacDonald Denton

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

Basic Skills

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

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

Key Concepts

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

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

The book contains over 400 illustrations.

Hundreds of drawings

 Seasons’ chapters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Oct 122018
 

Latest IPCC report warns we have 12 years to limit climate catastrophe

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Monday’s dire International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report weighed heavy on my mind as our family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. While my three grandchildren giggled and squirmed on their chairs with innocent joy, it was hard not to feel deep sadness and anxiety for their future.

My grandson, Louie. What does the future hold for his generation if we continue to ignore the warnings of devastating climate change – photo by Drew Monkman

 

The international climate science community has just 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 one-degree of warming), the result will be soaring death rates, huge waves of climate refugees, devastating coastal flooding, the demise of all coral reefs, and unprecedented planet-wide species extinction. The predicted economic cost is counted in the tens of trillions of dollars.

The report does provide a glimmer of hope, however: Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible. To get there, greenhouse gas emissions would have to be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and then brought to zero by 2050.

Last week, I offered a hopeful vision of what Peterborough and the world could look like in 20 years, if decarbonization of the world economy was to become a reality. The vision incorporated everything from electric vehicles, dietary changes and more energy efficient homes to cancelling any new fossil fuel projects and accepting a carbon tax with revenues returned to the citizens. With this vision in mind, I want to focus on what we as individuals can do right now. But first, let’s get some real-world reasons for hope.

Inspiration

On a per capita basis, Canadians emit 15.6 tons of greenhouse gases, which is just slightly less than Americans. Looking at countries with a climate similar to ours, the Finns only emit 0.09 tons, Swedes 3.86 tons, and Norwegians 6.87 tons. Clearly, it’s possible for Canada to do much better. Scotland has already cut its emissions almost in half from 1990 levels. China and India are making huge leaps forward in deploying green energy, and the cost per kilowatt/hour for producing solar-generated electricity has fallen by 80 per cent since 2009. Wind power is also showing similar steep declines in cost. Affordable technology is available right now to vastly improve Canada’s performance.

Individual action

As much as recycling, driving a fuel-efficient vehicle and reducing meat consumption are important, they will not be enough. Changing social norms and taking political action are key.

1. Vote wisely: At this, the eleventh hour, a meaningful response must be led by all levels of government, including our local municipal councils. On October 22, I will be voting for a mayor and city councillors who understand the issue of climate change and are ready to act aggressively.

To understand how Peterborough can reduce its carbon emissions, I highly recommend reading the Greater Peterborough Area Community Sustainability Plan, which is posted at sustainablepeterborough.ca. The plan shows us how the interdependence of environment, economy, social life and culture must all be considered when government plans for the future. As voters, we must ask our candidates to explain how they would implement the policies in the document, and elect those whose understanding of what needs to be done is most  convincing. For a list of candidates in your ward as well as contact information, visit PeterboroughVotes.ca.

Diane Therrien would make an excellent choice for Mayor of Peterborough in the October 22, 2018 election.

I also urge everyone to consult the “City Council Report Card” (at v4sp.ca) to see how local candidates compare when it comes to supporting sustainability. Based on past voting patterns (for incumbents) and the responses to a sustainability questionnaire each candidate received, the most progressive voices include Diane Therrien, Dean Pappas, Kemi Akapo, Jane Davidson, Jim Russell, Gary Baldwin, Keith Riel, Sheila Wood, Don Vassiliadis, Charmaine Magumbe,  Kim Zippel, Stephen Wright and Zach Hatton.

2. Phone your elected representatives:  Simply picking up the phone and talking to your elected representative or their office is hugely important. I recently heard that one reason the National Rifle Association is such a powerful force in the U.S. is because they make sure politicians’ phones ring off the hook when legislation is proposed that runs counter to their (misguided!) interests. Call the office of MPP Dave Smith (705-742-3777) and voice your support for either a meaningful price on carbon in Ontario or regulations that will accomplish the same amount of greenhouse gas reduction. Insist that the Ford government do its part to honour Canada’s Paris Accord promises. Let MP Maryam Monsef (705-745-2108) know you support the Liberal’s policy of imposing a carbon tax on provinces that do not have their own. Insist that revenues from the tax be directly refunded to households and not to the provincial governments in question. (N.B. The 2018 Nobel prize for economics was awarded to William Nordhaus for his groundbreaking work on carbon taxes. It’s clearly an idea that has huge merit.) If you live outside of Peterborough County, contact your elected representatives, as well.

3. Talk about climate change: We need to spread social norms that are positive to solutions. One of the most important actions we can all take is to simply talk about climate change with friends and family. Right now, many of us don’t even want to broach the topic. However, we’re often wrong in “what we think others think.” Most people are far more concerned about climate change than they ever acknowledge publicly. The more that people hear conversations on the topic, the more socially validated these conversations become. Showing your concerns and personal observations about the climate makes it easier for others to open up, as well.

You don’t have to be an expert. You really only need to say that 97% of climate scientists agree it’s happening now,  it’s caused by humans and it’s going to get terribly worse if nothing is done. Mention the latest IPCC report. You could then add, “I believe the experts. If they were wrong on the fundamentals, we’d know it by now.” By simply stating, “I’m terribly worried about my kids’ and grandkid’s future,” you are communicating a message that others can relate to. Emphasize the solutions, nearly all of which are available now. Talk about the benefits to our health and to job creation. Most importantly, stress the importance of acting immediately.

It’s vitally important to be talking more about climate change with friends, families and even strangers. (photo by Mikhail Gorbunov via  Wikimedia)

Start the conversation where others are at on the subject – not where they should be. How do you know? Ask them. Listen to their answers with patience and interest. It might be their family’s future, new diseases, severe weather events, or something else. Connect the issue to Peterborough and the Kawarthas. People are most open to acknowledging climate change when they are able to observe its effects locally. Point out the severe wind storms, the countless trees we’ve lost, the flood of 2004, the 23 days this summer over 30 C, the longer and more intense allergy season, and the invasive species choking our lakes and woodlands. Try to connect what you say to the values you share with this person – love of the outdoors or of family, for example. Remember, too, that the moment at which someone reverses a previously held opinion rarely happens during a single conversation. The goal is to increase the amount of conversation, not to make conversions on the spot or keep score. Be polite and challenge falsehoods or inaccuracies gently. In a world where there is already so much combativeness, your commitment to simple humanity, compassion, and respect will stand out.

A handful of people still deny the very reality of climate change. Many others don’t see the urgency of taking action or don’t support a carbon tax. You might ask these people the following: How have you come to this conclusion? How confident are you in this belief? Are you sure? Do you really think the scientists have got it wrong? If I showed you studies disproving what you’re saying, would that make a difference? What would make you change your mind? If not a carbon tax, how else could we quickly wean society off fossil fuels?

4. Be informed: For basic information on the greenhouse effect and climate change, I recommend climate.nasa.gov and realclimate.org. To learn how to address climate change denial arguments, visit skepticalscience.com. To stay up to date on the latest climate news, subscribe to the free Daily Climate newsletter at dailyclimate.org 

5. Be active on social media: Share climate change information online and start discussions on social media platforms such as Facebook. You’ll be surprised by how many people will engage.

Is it too late?

Clearly, time is running out. Humanity essentially has ten years to cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost half. There’s no excuse this time; each and everyone of us who is concerned about our kids’ and grandkids’ future —and the natural world as we know it – must act.

My friend, Laura, recently shared an anecdote, which, I think, can give us hope. She wrote, “The survival skills of living creatures are incredible. For me, this really hit home when I rescued a dying snake plant. I had picked it out of a garbage can – sick, uprooted, dehydrated and leafless. I focused on supplying the basic needs: nutrients, water, sun and love – and then let it be. It wasn’t until two months later that the first root sprouted. I was thrilled! Since then, it has matured into a gorgeous, healthy plant. It surpassed the odds of a sure death. It not only survived but flourished.” As Laura says, every life form has evolved to maximize the same outcome: survival and, with time, flourishing. It’s in our human nature to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

Oct 052018
 

Looking ahead to Peterborough and the world of  2038 

“The universe is a communion of subjects – not a collection of objects.”  Thomas Berry

Here is the reality we face, courtesy of the laws of physics. Scientists have calculated how much more greenhouse gas (GHG) humans can emit before temperatures spill over the critical threshold of 2 C of warming. Above this, unstoppable feedback loops such as melting permafrost are likely to create “Hothouse Earth” conditions, making much of the planet uninhabitable. If emissions continue at current rates, we will reach this threshold in just 20 years. To avoid this disaster scenario, emissions need to peak by 2020 and approach zero by 2050. This will mean cutting global emissions by half every decade. We will also need mass deployment of solar and wind energy, enhancement of carbon-absorbing forests, behavioral changes, technological innovations and transformed social values. Right now, we are nowhere near on track to meet this goal.

In my last two columns (posted at drewmonkman.com), I looked at the many obstacles that thwart action on climate change. This week and next, I’ll consider some possible ways forward. To move ahead, we require an inspiring vision of how Peterborough and the world of could look in two decades.

A hopeful vision

It’s mid-October 2038, and my wife and I have just hobbled onto one of the guided light transit buses that will whisk us from our Little Lake condominium to the beautifully restored Trent Nature Areas. Looking out the bus window, I’m still astounded by how much Peterborough has been transformed.

And, yes, the climate itself has changed more or less as predicted. Spring weather now arrives about a month earlier. This means mosquitoes are already a pest by mid-April, and the pollen and allergy season starts earlier and lasts longer. Mild fall conditions last well into December, and winter as we knew it is a fading memory. Summer is much hotter, too, with about one-third of the days over 30 C. Although severe wind and rainstorms are more frequent, major investments in infrastructure have allowed Peterborough to adapt. In fact, thanks to the massive decarbonization of the planet that began in 2020, most scientists are confident that the Hothouse Earth scenario has been avoided. In fact, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is actually starting to fall, thanks to new carbon removal technologies. One such technology was developed here at Trent University and used in a plant near Millbrook. Technology has also revolutionized air travel, thanks in part to the use of fuel from biomass. People also fly less.

As the electric bus makes its way north through the downtown – now closed to private automobiles – I admire how landscaping features and the architectural style of both new and renovated buildings reflect our local cultural heritage and ecology. A sense of place permeates the city.

“Human scale” describes the new Peterborough. We have a fully integrated transport system comprised of walkways, cycle paths, and both transit and car lanes. Thanks to compact city development, car ownership is no longer the necessity it once was. In fact, most families now only own one car – electric, of course – or make use of car-sharing. City speed limits have also been lowered and pedestrian zones surround most of our schools

Although the population has doubled, all of the new housing has been provided within the existing city boundaries thanks to the 2019 intensification and redevelopment plan. Residential neighbourhoods are now mixed-use and high density, thanks in part to renovations to single-family homes to create rental units and small businesses. Solar panels and pollinator gardens are everywhere, and the huge investment in shade trees – albeit mostly heat-tolerant southern species – provides much appreciated shade. The best news, however, is that Peterborough’s development model reflects urban living across much of the planet.

How did this revolution happen? If I remember correctly, it went something like this. As climate change and its ripple effects caused more and more developing countries to teeter on the brink of collapse, the tide of refugees overwhelmed much of Europe and North America. A non-stop series of wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, rising sea levels and insect-borne diseases almost bankrupted many countries. In Canada, this led to acceptance of an aggressive nation-wide price on carbon, in which most of the revenue was returned to the citizens. People weren’t necessarily more enamored by big government, but they realized that their very survival depended on a collective response. North Americans came to realize that we can’t live in isolation and that the only way for any country to prosper was through a more egalitarian world. This led to a huge investment in developing countries, many of which had been left behind by our new, high-tech global economy. International tensions were greatly reduced and billions of dollars were saved in military spending.

The many extreme weather events made us realize we can’t be complacent. People began to make noise, realizing we live in a democracy and have the power of our votes and our wallets. The impetus for change came from nearly every quarter: anglers and cottagers were shocked by the degradation of our lakes, plummeting walleye numbers and the proliferation of invasive species; winter sports enthusiasts lamented the disappearance of backyard rinks and the scant and unreliable snow cover; while farmers bemoaned the increasingly frequent droughts and floods.

In this future scenario, climate action was spurred by multiple concerns, including degradation of local lakes. Here we see a new invasive species – Starry Stonewort. Special to Examiner

We also learned to have respectful conversations with people who denied or downplayed the seriousness of climate change. Some say it was a positive backlash to the divisiveness that boiled over during the Trump presidency. By engaging multiple perspectives – including conservative values such as personal responsibility  – people began to think differently and seriously engage with what climate science was telling us. All of this has helped to usher in a model of prosperity focussed more on quality of life and deeper respect for the natural world.

We realized that we were all in this together and that only a planet-wide solution could turn things around. Maybe the biggest change has been in how we think about “economy”. We are much more engaged with the idea of assuring the “continuation of all forms of life” on the planet. What happens in the Arctic and in developing countries, for example, affects us here. As Pope Francis said back in 2015, “Nothing is indifferent to us,” be it poverty, famine, homelessness, sexism, racism, species extinction or carbon pollution. Everything eventually comes home to roost.

Despite the loss of jobs from closing the Alberta tarsands and cancelling new pipelines, the huge expansion of renewable energy projects has created millions of jobs planet-wide, including thousands in the Kawarthas. Retrofitting existing houses to make them more energy-efficient has generated enormous employment, too. Many people are also working in habitat restoration and creation. There’s actually a project underway to create a series of connected wetlands in Peterborough. They will not only provide wildlife habitat but also absorb much of the water from the intense rainstorms we now see.

While my wife and I chat about all these changes, she reminds me how much feminine values have permeated society. My daughters tell me, too, how much they were influenced by role models like Rachel Carson, Harriet Tubman, Jane Jacobs, Vandana Shiva, and Christine Blasey Ford. By privileging female perspectives – informed by love, compassion and nurturing – we see greater collaboration across society. The vastly increased number of women in leadership roles in business, science and politics, along with an unleashing of anger by female voters at economic, social and environmental injustices, helped make this happen. Having had a woman mayor in Peterborough for 20 years, along with a majority of councillors either female or of colour, has been a huge difference maker locally.

As the bus passes alongside the Otonabee River with its busy new biking and walking trail, I recall how people began linking climate-friendly behaviour to health, safety, and both clean air and water. This became clear as many of us contracted Lyme disease due to the northward expansion of ticks. People were also alarmed by the increase in mental illness, which health professionals linked to the devastating storms and unprecedented heat waves. We’ve also learned that even a short walk in local green space like the Parkway Green Corridor can make us feel so much better. It’s now common knowledge that regular exposure to nature plays a key role in our physical, mental and spiritual health. This has led to the huge popularity of practises like Forest Therapy.

In the Peterborough of 2038 it is well known that regular exposure to nature contributes to our physical, mental and spiritual health. Photo by Drew Monkman

As we pass the new Patio Restaurant overlooking the river, I’m still amazed that locally-produced food makes up most of our diet and helps the local economy. Both plant-based and cultured meats are now extremely popular. By drastically reducing the consumption of conventional meat, GHGs dropped by 15%. What we’ve learned about animal consciousness and suffering also helped to bring about this change. Hunting, however, remains relatively popular, with little stigma attached to harvesting and eating game. And, yes, we still love fast food but gone are single-use plastic containers, bottles and straws.

Arriving at Trent, we make our way to the fully accessible trails. As a group of students pass by, I reflect on how education has changed, too. The curriculum now embodies Indigenous values such as gratitude and reciprocity towards nature. Teachers act more as “facilitators” and use a problem solving approach. They assist each child to clearly define the issues, analyse patterns and causes, research reliable websites, employ critical thinking skills and choose the best solutions.

I realize that my foray into the future may seem optimistic, but a response of this magnitude is the reality we face.

 

Oct 032018
 

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Oct 28, 2018 07:35 by Tim Haan
– 169 Pencil Lake Road, Kinmount, Ontario, CA (44.816, -78.364), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49525404

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Oct 28, 2018 16:25 by Tim Haan
– 6152 Ontario 28, Woodview, Ontario, CA (44.59, -78.145), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49525305
– Comments: “Fly across the road”

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (1)
– Reported Oct 28, 2018 14:30 by Kim Zippel
– Peterborough–Harper Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49530655
– Comments: “Identified by call”

Barred Owl – Jeff Keller 12 01 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland Jumping Mouse?

I am emailing you some photos of a mouse I trapped in our old farmhouse basement on Parkhill Road W. I remember, a couple years ago, cutting tall grass in a field near our house seeing what I thought was a mouse or rat that was moving like a kangaroo. The mouse in the photo has short fore legs and long and more muscular hind legs.  Allen Rodgers

N.B. At first I thought this was a Woodland Jumping Mouse. However, I was mistaken. This is in fact a Deer Mouse. The angle, and the way the damp fur on the back legs is positioned, make the back legs appear abnormally long (and the fore legs short). I’d like to thank Tim Dyson and Don Sutherland for the correct identification. To see a Woodland Jumping Mouse, scroll down.

Tim wrote:  “The jumping mouse’s body (without tail) is only about 1/3 its total length  (with the tail). It has quite yellowish fur dulling a little towards brownish on the back, and a”paler” (not bright white as the mouse in the photo) belly. It also has very long toes at the tips of VERY long hind feet.”

Here is additional information on the Woodland Jumping Mouse from Don Sutherland, zoologist at the Natural Heritage Information Centre here in Peterborough.

” The Woodland Jumping Mouse is common, but hard to see. It’s strictly a forest species preferring mesic/fresh-to-moist tracts with dense herbaceous and low shrub understoreys. Individuals may venture out to forest edges with similarly dense understoreys. In open woodlands you’re more likely to encounter Meadow Jumping Mouse which occurs in a wide variety of relatively dry to wet habitats and has a far more extensive provincial range. Jumping mice don’t emerge from ‘hibernation’ until sometime in May and disappear again sometime in September, perhaps making them even less likely to be encountered. I once unearthed a Meadow Jumping Mouse from a compost pile in early November. It was in deep torpor, curled in a ball and with its long tail wrapped around it. It felt cold in my hand and not wanting to arouse it, I quickly returned it to the compost pile and buried it.

The mouse in the photo looks like a Peromyscus to me and most likely P. maniculatus (Deer Mouse). Both Woodland and Meadow jumping mice have bright ochre/orange sides and relatively shorter ears. I’ve never heard of a jumping mouse entering a human habitation, but I suppose it’s possible. Deer mice, on the other hand, regularly enter human habitations. The ‘Prairie’ Deer Mouse (P. m. bairdii) moved into southern Ontario following European land clearance and is now the common Peromyscus of open habitats in southern Ontario, occurring everywhere from corn fields to urban gardens.”

Deer Mouse – October 2018 – Parkhill Rd. West – Allen Rodgers

Woodland Jumping Mouse, Napaeozapus insignis – John Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) (1)
– Reported Oct 21, 2018 16:24 by Mike V.A. Burrell
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “Very Rare! Found earlier by Don Sutherland. I stopped at nw corner of south cell to scope east shore where it had been seen earlier but it flushed from close to me and flew into centre of north cell. I watched it for a bit there before a scalp approached it and it circled then headed west towards river. Heard several times giving high pitched chip call.”

 

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) (1)
– Reported Oct 19, 2018 13:45 by Mike V.A. Burrell
– Hwy 28-Between Apsley and Peterborough Cty bndry, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Juv bird being chased by CORA at North kawartha Con. 18. Large all dark eagle with prominent white patches at base of inner primaries and tail feathers.”

Juvenile Golden Eagle – USFWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinal on north shore of Stoney Lake

On October 19, there was a female Northern Cardinal on my deck railing on Northey’s Bay Road on the north shore of Stoney Lake. I have never ever seen one here. Very exciting! Bet Curry
N.B. Cardinals are rarely seen in Peterborough County this far north. D.M.

Female cardinal above male (Kelly Dodge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hermit Thrush at 51 Maple Crescent

Today, October 16, I had a Hermit Thrush in the yard. I was able to see that the tail was distinctly more reddish than the back. At first I thought it was a Fox Sparrow, which I often have at my feeder in mid- to late October.  Drew Monkman

Hermit Thrush – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moose seen at Stoney Lake

Last Friday morning (Oct. 12) at around 7:00 a.m, a couple of my neighbours, who were alerted by their dogs’ barking, spotted a Moose wandering around our cottage properties (including mine) on McNaughton’s Bay, which is a small bay off of South Bay at the east end of Stoney Lake.  The barking apparently didn’t faze the moose at all, and it carried on westward along the shoreline of our properties.  Antje and I were still asleep at the time, but one of my neighbours forwarded these pictures to me.  I’ve never seen a Moose anywhere near this area in the 35 years I’ve been here, nor have my neighbours who have had their cottage here for 40-plus years.  René Gareau

Moose – McNaughton’s Bay – Stoney Lake – October 12, 2018 via René Gareau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine Siskins at Stoney Lake feeder

Today, October 11, I have 4 Pine Siskins at a feeder. Last winter I saw zero.
All of the usuals are here as well, including 2 White-crowned Sparrows.
In the last several weeks I have also seen, a half dozen times, an immature Bald Eagle patrolling the Gilchrist Bay/ Duck Pond area. Rob Welsh, Dodsworth Island, Stoney Lake

Pine Siskin (by Karl Egressy)

White-crowned Sparrow – Mike Barker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) (6) via eBird
– Reported Oct 07, 2018 14:30 by Steve Paul
– Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos
– Comments: “Middle of flock in field amongst CG. Five together (1 adult white, 1 juvenile white, 1 adult blue morph, 2 juvenile blue morph), plus another adult about 10 ft away.”

Snow Geese (Marcel Boulay)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) (2)  via eBird
– Reported Oct 06, 2018 12:47 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Omemee Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Lark (by Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagles at Stoney Lake

I saw a second-year Bald Eagle (immature) flying over the east end of Stoney Lake (South Bay) last Saturday, Sept. 29. Today, October 4, I had another eagle sighting at 12:42 pm. This one was a beautiful adult eagle gliding gracefully over South Bay, with clear blue skies as a backdrop… wonderful sighting! South Bay is located at the east end of Stoney Lake. Rene Gareau, Peterborough

Adult Bald Eagle (Karl Egressy)

Immature Bald Eagle – Otonabee R. – Feb. 3, 2017 – Gwen Forsyth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Geese on Otonabee River

Today, October 4, there are 5 Snow Geese mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese on the Otonabee River at the north end of Trent University. Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

Snow Geese – Otonabee R. – Oct. 4, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

Snow Geese with single Canada Goose – Otonabee R. – Oct. 4, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackburnian Warbler (1) via eBird
– Reported Oct 02, 2018 13:25 by Brendan Boyd
– Peterborough–Jackson Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Late”

Blackburnian Warbler in spring  – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler (1) via eBird
– Reported Oct 02, 2018 13:25 by Alexandra Israel
– Peterborough–Jackson Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3118937,-78.3405192&ll=44.3118937,-78.3405192
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48892063

Male Chestnut-sided warbler in spring – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilson’s Warbler  (1) via eBird
– Reported Oct 02, 2018 12:10 by Iain Rayner
– PTBO – Edgewater road and Railway, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Along tracks, seen well from point blank range, pure yellow underneath, green on back, distinct black cap and long dark tail…possibly continuing.”

Wilson’s Warbler – Wikipedia (Mike’s Birds)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Goose (5) via eBird
– Reported Oct 01, 2018 14:20 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “white morph adults with 26 Canada Geese, circled lagoons and flew off to WNW toward Lake Katchewanooka”

Snow Goose – Rice Lake – Oct. 18, 2014

Sep 222018
 

Peterborough Field Naturalists Sunday AM Nature Walk (Sept. 30)

Today, a group of us walked along the hydro corridor west of Hetherington Dr. (just south of Woodland) and into the north end of University Heights Park. We enjoyed the abundant asters (e.g., New England, Heath, Panicled, Heart-leaved), Zig-Zag Goldenrod, White Baneberry with its doll’s-eye fruit and a single Jack-in-the-Pulpit with its ball of red fruit. Birds of interest included White-throated Sparrow (20), White-crowned Sparrow (1), Song Sparrow (12), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Eastern Towhee (1), Nashville Warbler (1), Palm Warbler (1), Belted Kingfisher (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Northern Flicker (1) and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1). Earlier, we found a single Swainson’s Thrush on the Parkway Trail, just south of Cumberland Drive. Drew Monkman

White-crowned Sparrow (immature) – University Heights Hydro Corridor – Sept. 30, 2018, Reem Ali

 

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

Golden-crowned Kinglet – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln’s Sparrow (2) via eBird
– Reported Sep 30, 2018 07:36 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (1) via eBird
– Reported Sep 27, 2018 13:01 by Daniel Williams
– Ingleton-Wells Property (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Barred Owl on Northey’s Bay Road – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peregrine Falcon  (1) via eBird
– Reported Sep 27, 2018 08:12 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Large adult eating bird atop 300 Water St.”

Peregrine – by Stephanie Pineau – Jan. 13, 2015 – PRHC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (2) via eBirds
– Reported Sep 23, 2018 10:36 by Rene Gareau
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrels hoarding rocks:  I just found your site and wanted to add my comments regarding gray & black squirrels stealing rocks. Here in Chilliwack, BC  we have been observing squirrels stealing hundreds of rocks every fall and winter. They steal all sizes, types, and work all day to take away their treasure. This usually starts when seasons change with wet and cooler days arriving. I think they hoard the rocks to stabilize their dreys and also putting the flat ones inside the nest to warm the bed over the winter for the young when they are born and vulnerable. I’m basing this on many hours of watching squirrel behavior from our living room which faces a heavily forested back garden. My husband and I are constantly renewing our landscaping rocks with humour at the hard work of these amazing little critters. Jenne Breedon, Chilliwack, BC

(Note: For other reports on this behaviour, see November 30, 2014 )

Gray Squirrel with stone – Nov. 2014 – Ginny Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln’s Sparrow (2) via eBird
– Reported Sep 23, 2018 13:53 by Luke Berg
– LHT Redmond Rd to Drummond Line , Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Starry Stonewort from Lake Scugog – Scugog Lake Stewards photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Song Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 212018
 

Additional obstacles to taking action on climate change

When Al Gore described climate change as an inconvenient truth, it was a mamoth understatement. In fact, it is more like a perfect storm. As I argued last week, a huge number of obstacles make it near impossible for humans to engage with the issue. Many of these relate to the very nature of our brains. We are brilliant when dealing with an immediate crisis like hurricanes, but largely paralyzed when facing a slow motion threat like climate change. I also introduced a framework in which to think about these barriers, namely the Five D’s: Distance, Doom, Dissonance, Denial and iDentity. This week, I will briefly touch on a number of other hurdles, which together point to the enormity of the challenge. The bottom line, however, is that we have at most 20 years – at current worldwide emission rates – before runaway, catastrophic climate chaos will be unavoidable.

1. It’s complicated: Climate change is complex. Unlike “the hole in the ozone layer”, it can’t be reduced to a single striking image. Greenhouse gases are invisible, and it’s hard to wrap our heads around concepts such as “a ton of carbon dioxide.” In addition, notions like “3 C of warming would be catastrophic” are not intuitively easy to understand. You therefore can’t blame people for thinking, “Yesterday was 3 C warmer, so what’s the big deal?”

2. Scant media attention: People who limit their information on climate change to traditional media like television, radio and newspapers have little sense of the urgency of the situation. The media works with our politicians to take the edge off the climate crisis. For example, pundits talk non-stop about the Trans Mountain pipeline fiasco, but make no mention of climate change. It’s only about the jobs at stake and how building the pipeline is in the national interest. There is implicit denial that a life-threatening situation is at hand. Hurricane Florence is another good example. Watching CNN, I heard no mention of climate change as a proven contributor to the intensity, size and slow motion advance of this storm. To be fair, the CBC, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Peterborough Examiner have greatly increased their coverage of the issue.

Weather reporting is even more problematic. Take The Weather Network, for example. Why isn’t there a dedicated, daily segment for climate change-related stories and basic climate education? The only time it’s ever mentioned is on their News segment. Is the reason because the depressing message would drive away listeners and alienate advertisers – car manufacturers, for example?

Daily weather forecasts don’t mention climate change, either. For example, there is never a comment comparing recent temperatures to the long-term normal and framing this in the context of climate change predictions proving accurate. We should be hearing statements like “Peterborough had four times as many 30+ C days this summer as usual. This is predicted to be the new normal by the 2030s.” All we hear is how wonderful all the heat and sunshine are.

Doug Ford has promised to cancel Ontario’s Cap and Trade program and to fight the federal government’s plan to impose a carbon tax on provinces who do not have their own. Photo from Wikimedia

 

3. Politics: The policies and actions of politicians such as Donald Trump and Doug Ford make it clear they don’t take climate change seriously. This attitude makes people feel we’ll be fine doing only a bare minimum – or nothing at all. When faced with a choice between economic growth and environmental responsibility, politicians invariably choose economic growth – the worldview of most voters and donors demands it.

Trudeau’s policies send mixed messages, as well. He seems to be saying that we can reduce carbon emissions while increasing the extraction and exporting of tar sands oil. He concluded that the only way to get Alberta on board with a pan-Canada price on carbon is to push forward for a pipeline. In terms of political realities, he may be right. However, climate change will not abide a “politics as usual” approach. We are facing a situation akin to wartime.

The policies of Premier Ford are even more  damaging. He has no known plan to address climate change and is quickly dismantling the many excellent programs brought in by the Liberals. Like Trump, he has framed climate change as politics of the left. Therefore, in an increasingly tribal mentality, more and more Conservatives are against any action as a basic principle.

4. A successful denial campaign: The blatant lying from the fossil fuel industry, which continues to willingly and knowingly suppress the truth about climate change, has been tragically effective. The tobacco industry used the same strategy to great success. By stoking fear, uncertainty and doubt, they have succeeded in delaying aggressive action. The difference is that most smokers only killed themselves.

5. Economics: Right wing politicians have been increasingly successful in framing initiatives such as a price on carbon as a tax grab. Consumers want low prices and a wide variety of choices with minimal government interference on our consumption behaviours. To make matters worse, the portfolios of many investors, both individuals and organizations, are heavily concentrated in fossil fuels. People expect profitable returns, so these companies have a mandate to deliver growth and profits. We therefore accept greenhouse gas pollution and ecosystem destruction as the necessary requirements of economic growth. In a modern world so disconnected from nature, environmental protection is almost seen as an expensive luxury.

On September 19, Kate Grierson, a climate change communicator, spoke at the Lion’s Centre. She discussed how to tackle climate change issues at the local level to a crowd of 50 people at an event organized by Ashburnham Ward councilors Gary Baldwin and Keith Riel. Photo from Wikimedia

6. Distrust of experts: Public understanding of science and the scientific method is poor. There is also a widespread perception that no single opinion is better than any other is – even when it comes from the scientists themselves.

7. Faith in a technological fix:  There are also people who assume some technological fix will solve the problem. However, there are no technological solutions under development, which can be perfected and implemented rapidly enough to avoid runaway climate change. Getting off fossil fuels is the only solution.

 

8. Our schools have failed: Our education system does an abysmal job addressing environmental education. Part of the problem, however, is an absence of pressure from parents to make it a priority. Most schools won’t even let the kids play outside anymore when there’s the least issue with the weather. Add to this the inordinate amount of time children spend in front of screens along with their over-scheduled lives, and it’s little wonder that the natural world has become a foreign entity. Students therefore grow up with the illusion that modern society is only tangentially dependent on nature and a stable climate.

9. The internet: Social media has made it possible – almost to the point of an addiction – to connect daily with like-minded people who reinforce our perceptions and worldviews. You can simply “unfriend” or no longer follow people you don’t agree with. This happens to me all the time on Twitter when I tweet about climate change. The internet is also chocked full of pseudo-science and right wing websites that deny climate change in the first place. Our lack of critical thinking skills and science literacy makes many of these sites appear legitimate.

10. Limited options: The number of ways an individual can act, either personally or publicly, seems – on the surface at least – to be limited. This results in a perceived lack of control. “What can I as one person do? Even if I do everything I can, it won’t make a difference.” There is lack of opportunities for civic engagement – rallies, for example, are not everyone’s cup of tea. There is also the attitude that once politicians are elected, they aren’t going to change their mind no matter what public pressure is brought to bear. Tragically, Doug Ford is proving that perception right now. Individual action can also seem meaningless, since we have reached a point where only a collective, political response will make a difference.

11. Culture and religion: Many Canadians grew up in a country that didn’t have the luxury of worrying about environmental issues because of poverty and the huge challenge of simply surviving from day-to-day. For these people, worrying about climate change might still seem like a luxury. Less understandable, however, is the attitude among some Evangelical Christians. According to a 2014 survey from Forum research, climate change denial is higher in this group than any other sector of the Canadian population.

12. Young people: Numerous surveys have shown that young people care deeply about climate change and are better informed than most of the population. However, they also suffer from higher levels of anxiety than any previous generation – and, for good reason. They deal with job insecurity and fear for the future on multiple levels, environmental devastation being one of them. It’s therefore understandable that some believe that the generation who created this mess – Baby Boomers like myself – ought to be held accountable and take the lion’s share of responsibility. Many teenagers and millennials also see climate issues as intimately bound up with issues like poverty, civil rights and the exploitation of people and land.

13. The emotional impact: An increasing number of people suffer from an overwhelming sense of grief, mourning, anger and confusion caused by an acute awareness of environmental destruction. This anxiety and despair helps explain why some choose to avoid engaging with climate change at all. It’s simply too much. If such feelings go unacknowledged, however, they too can thwart action.

Despite this litany of impediments to action, exciting new approaches to breaking the logjam are on the horizon. These range from incorporating indigenous knowledge and values into education, to new strategies to bridge the political divide. Only through collective, political action can this problem be solved. To be continued.

 

 

Sep 142018
 

Low turnout at climate rallies highlights the huge disconnect between the evidence for catastrophic climate impacts and a sense of urgency for action

Last Saturday, with its sunny skies and cool temperatures, was a beautiful day for a rally. More than 150 people showed up for Peterborough’s “Rise for Climate” event to listen to speakers, enjoy poetry and join a New Orleans-style funeral march with a banner featuring Tahlequah, the orca, holding her dead calf above the water. The message was the extreme gravity of the climate crisis. This was one of more than 900 rallies held worldwide demanding more serious climate action from politicians.

Forcing political action is a numbers game. If there had been a couple of thousand people at the rally, politicians might react, but 150 can be written off as a special interest group. It was also clear that probably half of the participants were the same faces as at previous climate change rallies. Most, too, were 40 years of age or older. I couldn’t help but wonder why more and different people didn’t come, and why younger people were largely absent. Weren’t this summer’s record wildfires and heat waves enough to inspire people?

About 150 people turned out for the “Rise for Climate” rally last Saturday at Confederation Square. Organizers, however, were hoping for many more, especially if politicians are to pay attention. Photo by Clifford Skarstedt

Despite the science on human-made climate change being absolutely conclusive, there is still a huge disconnect between the evidence for catastrophic climate impacts and a sense of urgency for action. As Barak Obama said in 2015 ” No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Why don’t severe climate-related events and disturbances resonate more with people, given their huge financial, social and ecological impacts? Why doesn’t the evidence motivate governments, corporations and individuals to take immediate serious action? How could Ontarians elect a government that campaigned on getting rid of cap and trade and other mitigation measures without promising anything to replace them?

I do believe that most people care about climate change, but being concerned is not the same thing as taking action. The climate crisis is still near the bottom of people’s concerns when compared to other societal problems. This week and next, I will present some thoughts on this disconnect from reality.

The Five D’s

Per Espen Stoknes, a Norwegian psychologist, examined several hundred peer-reviewed social science studies and was able to isolate five main barriers that keep climate messages from engaging people. They are what he calls “the Five Ds”: Distance, Doom, Dissonance, Denial, and iDentity. I would highly recommend his Ted Talk, entitled “How to transform apocalypse fatigue into action on global warming”.

1. Distance – For many people, climate change is seen as something far away in space and time. When climate models talk of 2050 or 2100, it seems like eons from now. When we hear about the loss of Arctic sea ice or see polar bears on melting ice floes, it might be disturbing but we struggle to see any bearing on our day-to-day lives.

2. Doom: Climate change is usually framed as an impending disaster, so our brains want to avoid the topic altogether. As one observer said, “After 30 years, we’ve become numbed to collapse porn.” That being said, the jury is still out on how much fear serves as a motivator or demotivator for action. It appears to resonate with some people but not all. It all causes a great deal of grief, too. As my daughter, Julia, told me, “It makes me so sad to know that the polar bears in the books I read to my girls will probably be gone from the wild when they are adults.”

3. Dissonance: When we think about taking action on addressing climate change, there is an inherent conflict between what most of us do on a regular basis – drive, eat red meat, fly, lead a high consumption lifestyle – and what we know we should do – greatly reduce all of these behaviours. Consequently, dissonance sets in, which is felt as an inner discomfort. It makes many of us feel like hypocrites, myself included. To lessen the dissonance, our brains start coming up with justifications. “My neighbour has a much bigger car than me. What difference does it make if I’m the only one to change my diet? How can I visit friends and family or go on a winter vacation if I don’t fly?” This last excuse always creates feelings of guilt and hypocrisy whenever I fly.

4. Denial: For some, the uncomfortable feeling of dissonance makes them turn to denial and to say things like “the climate is always changing”. For others – maybe most of us – we simply avoid thinking or talking about the issue, largely because we feel powerless to make a difference. As my daughter said, “Bringing up climate change with friends and family is a conservation stopper. The room goes silent.” We therefore take refuge in leading a kind of “double-life”, both knowing the science but shutting it out.

5. iDentity:  For some, cultural and political identity override the facts. A conservative-minded voter might say, “I believe in lower taxes, minimal government involvement in my life, and the right to drive as big a car as I want.” Someone on the left might say, “Government should be more involved in solving society’s problems. I’m fine with paying higher taxes, and we should all be driving smaller cars.”

There is still a huge disconnect between the scientific evidence for catastrophic climate impacts and the public’s sense of urgency for action. Photo by Clifford Skarstedt

Other factors

Other factors, too, help explain our lack of engagement with climate change and point to the overwhelming size the problem. Many of these are strongly linked to the five D’s above and all are inter-related.

1.  Our brains – Maybe the biggest reason why humans struggle to come to grips with climate change lies in the very nature of our brains. Like the frog in the proverbial pot of boiling water, we have trouble reacting to slow motion phenomena like a gradually changing climate. This is sometimes called “shifting baseline syndrome”. For example, we quickly forget how much colder winters used to be and how countless species were so much more abundant.

We also deal poorly with future threats and to threats that are characterized by a degree of uncertainty. Although scientists are 100% certain that human-generated greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change, they usually cannot say with certainty when the worst impacts will occur. Ironically, these impacts seem to be happening earlier and with more intensity than originally predicted. To make matters worse, gratification for action now is in the future. We therefore struggle to address issues that don’t necessarily impact us today. It’s not even clear if our brains allow us to care deeply about the generations to follow.

2.  All seems fine – For the most part, life in 2018 seems normal. We enjoyed a warm, sunny summer, albeit with four times as many 30+ C days as usual; our economy – on the surface at least – appears healthy; stores are overflowing with food and consumer goods; we don’t see much blatant poverty; and human thriving across the planet is probably at an all time high. In many ways, we live in the best of times, so why go to rallies or spend time worrying about climate change action?

Although we live in the worst of times when it comes to the environment, the immediate, visible impacts of problems like climate change are subtle (e.g., new species, earlier springs, later falls) and often only apparent to people who are really paying attention such as naturalists or anyone tracking weather data. There’s an absence of perceived change. There are also long gaps between extreme events such as Peterborough’s flood of 2004. This allows us to downplay the urgency of tackling climate action. Not enough people have seen it impacting their lives or the activities they enjoy doing.

3. Day-to-day life: Many, if not most of us, struggle to meet the demands of everyday life. People have enough trouble simply making ends meet. Understandably, there is not much energy left to devote to the abstract future. Parents with small kids have little brain space and energy left for things outside of parenting. Many individuals are also dealing with mental health issues, poverty, social injustice and both job and personal insecurity. We therefore shouldn’t be surprised that climate change seems too overwhelming and too abstract.

4. Optimism bias: People often overestimate the likelihood of positive events happening to them and underestimate the likelihood of negative events. In some ways, this is advantageous, because it reduces stress and anxiety about the future. The bias derives partly from a failure to learn from new undesirable information like climate change stories. It also makes it awkward to talk about climate change with family and friends for fear of accusations of being a worrywort or overly negative. It seems that climate change, like politics, religion and death has entered the domain of topics that are not discussed in polite conversation. If the topic does come up, it’s often dismissed by statements like “It won’t affect us personally, we’ll find a technological solution and really it will only be a problem for future generations.” Large numbers of people – in fact, many people I know – have developed unconscious cognitive strategies that allow them to remain optimistic despite evidence to the contrary. The problem, however, is that threats like climate change really must be considered with great urgency, and optimism bias can have significant negative consequences when it comes to discounting serious risk.

Next week, I’ll share more ideas on this theme, including distrust of experts, the impact of social media and the scant attention paid by traditional media to climate change. I would like to thank the many people who contributed their ideas for this article via Facebook. The response was extraordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 072018
 

Looking ahead to events in nature after another summer marked by climate change 

As it was in the summers of both 2016 and 2017, the biggest story of the past three months has been the weather chaos unleashed on planet Earth by climate change. Just in Canada, we saw the worst fire season ever in B.C. as well as 89 heat wave-related deaths in Quebec. In Peterborough, the last four months have all been well above the long-term monthly normals. July and August were a scorching 2.4 C and 3.3 C above the 1971-2000 averages. In fact, 75 of the past 104 months in Peterborough have been warmer than normal.

Since late June, Peterborough has registered 23 days above 30 C. When you compare this to the long-term average of only 6.3 days per summer, you get a sense of how exceptional this summer has been. However, according to the latest projections prepared for the City of Peterborough by ICLEI Canada, 23 days above 30 C will be the norm by the 2030s. In other words, summers just like this one where it’s often uncomfortable to do much of anything outside.

On July 3, Dr. Blair Feltmate of the University of Waterloo wrote in the Globe and Mail that suggesting that Canada’s recent heat wave and climate change are not linked “would be like arguing that no particular home run can be attributed to steroids when a baseball player on a hitting streak is caught doping”- an apt metaphor to use when explaining to friends and family how climate change and extreme weather events are linked.

On a more positive note, a heartening story this summer has been the abundance of monarch butterflies. For example, on August 30, I counted more than 80 monarchs migrating west along the shore of Lake Ontario – just in the space of 15 minutes. I have also had monarchs in my garden every day now for weeks. According to Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, there is a good prospect that the overwintering population in Mexico will increase from 2.48 hectares last year to 5 hectares this coming winter.

Many people have also commented on the rich, backyard cricket chorus this summer. Most of the voices are courtesy of fall field crickets, ground crickets and both snowy and four-spotted tree crickets. If you haven’t yet taken in the performance, the music should continue for several more weeks.

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

  • On September 8 at 1 pm, the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action will be hosting a “Rise for Climate” rally at Confederation Park, across from City Hall. There will be a short parade, speakers and information booths. If you care about climate change – and your children’s and grandchildren’s future – please try to attend.
  • 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”. To see a video I made on September 2 using this technique, go to http://bit.ly/2wKE2IH. The response I got was no less than spectacular.
  • Spectacular swarms of flying ants are a common September phenomenon. Some are females – the potential future queens – but the majority are males. A given ant species will swarm and mate on the same day over huge areas, sometimes covering hundreds of kilometres. The males soon die, and the mated females disperse to establish a new colony.
  • On the evening of September 12, the young waxing crescent moon will appear about “one fist” above Venus in the southwestern sky. A great photo opportunity!
  • Although their reproductive purpose is for another season, gray treefrogs and spring peepers sometimes call from woodland trees in late summer and fall. They are most vocal on warm, humid days like this past Labour Day Weekend.
  • If we continue to get rain, this should be a good fall for mushrooms. In fields, watch for giant puffballs, which look like an errant soccer ball or a loaf of white bread. This species is edible when young. If you step on an old one, dust-like brown spores will “puff” out.
  • Kawartha Land Trust’s Stony Lake Trails are a one of my favourite destinations for mushroom-viewing. Details at http://bit.ly/2h3nYJg
  • Peterborough Field Naturalists hold their Sunday Morning Wildlife Walks each Sunday in September and October. Meet at the Riverview Park and Zoo parking lot at 8 am and bring binoculars. 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 12, Scott Blair will speak on “Brook Trout in Harper and Byersville Creek… A Story of Survival”. For more information, go to peterboroughnature.org
  • 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 tips on identifying these beautiful but under appreciated plants.
  • Don’t miss the spectacular Harvest Moon, which occurs this year on September 24, rising at 7:21 pm. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox (September 22). For several nights before and after this date, the moon rises at almost the same time. This allowed farmers to work into the evening under bright moonlight. Moonrise times for Peterborough can be found at http://bit.ly/2M1QOHr
  • Cuddly brown and black woolly bear caterpillars are a common fall sight as they look for a sheltered location to overwinter. Watch also for yellow bear and American dagger moth caterpillars, which are similar in size and also have a hairy appearance.

October

  • Fall colours in the Kawarthas usually peak early in the month. As long as September is not too hot and dry, the sugar maples will provide most of the colour. County Roads 620 and 504 around Chandos Lake east of Apsley makes for a great colour drive.
  • 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.
  • Fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Ecology Park on Ashburnham Drive has a wide selection of native species.
  • Salamander hunting is a fun fall activity for the entire family. The red-backed, which is almost worm-like in appearance, is usually the most common. Look carefully under flat rocks, old boards, and logs in damp wooded areas and around cottages.
  • Flocks of “giant” Canada geese (the subspecies that nests in the Kawarthas), rIng-billed gulls, red-winged blackbirds, American crows, and American robins are widespread.
  • 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. Be careful to avoid blocking the gate when you park. 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 2018-2019”. The forecast, compiled by Ron Pittaway, is usually available online by early October.
  • On October 24, the Peterborough Horticultural Society will present a talk on bees featuring Joe & Hazel Cook of Blossom Hill Nursery. The meeting, which is open to all, takes place at the Peterborough Lions Centre at 347 Burnham Street starting at 7 pm.

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. At a glance, you can see just how common oaks are in many areas of the Kawarthas.
  • We return to Standard Time on Sunday, November 4, and turn our clocks back one hour. Sunrise on the 4th is at 6:54 am and sunset at 4:58 pm for a total of only 10 hours and 4 minutes of daylight. Compare this to the 15 1/2 hours we enjoyed back in June!
  • The red berries of wetland species like winterberry holly and high-bush cranberry provide some much needed November colour.
  • Most of our loons and robins head south this month. However, small numbers of robins regularly overwinter in the Kawarthas.
  • Ball-like swellings known as galls are easy to see on the stems of goldenrods. If you open the gall with a knife, you will find the small, white larva of the goldenrod gall fly inside. In the spring, it will emerge as an adult fly.
  • Damp, decomposing leaves on the forest floor scent the November air.

I would like to thank Tim Dyson, Annamarie Beckel, Jo Hayward-Haines and Gordon Harrison for having done such an admirable job filling in for me this summer. We are fortunate in the Kawarthas to have so many people with extensive knowledge of nature and the importance of the natural world in our lives.

 

Aug 102018
 

Black Bear at Chemong Lake

Just a report of a Black Bear on August 1. It was large. I couldn’t get a photo as I wasn’t going to open the door. It came right up to our roadside door as I was standing there and yelling for my husband to wake up and come see it. Our dogs didn’t bark until after it left. It was at 2:30am. We are on Pinehurst Ave. in Selwyn. Maris Lubbock

Black Bear footprint – Maris Lubbock – August 1 2018 – Chemong Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increased sightings of Monarchs and frogs 

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

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

Gray Treefrog with green coloration – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Frog – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from Roadsend Farm

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch migration underway

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trumpeter Swans

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shorebird migration continues

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

Least Sandpiper – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Pectoral Sandpiper – Wikimedia

Semipalmated Sandpipers – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This great summer for Monarchs continues!

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

Caterpillars on Butterfly Milkweed – Gwen McMullen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard hummingbird action in Peterborough

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

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

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Wendy Marrs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another successful nesting of Trumpeter Swans

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Pandora Sphinx moth – Peterborough – July 2012 – Susan Sackrider

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

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

A rarely seen Walking Stick

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Osprey – Indian River – August 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Otter scat – Indian River – August 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak at north end feeder in Peterborough

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Coyotes in field on Stewart Line (Randy Therrien)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Semipalmated Plover – Wikimedia

Olive-sided Flycatcher – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Common Tern – Wikimedia

Bay-breasted Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jul 292018
 

Another fox in city dining on Gray Squirrels

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

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

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

Red-headed Woodpecker – July 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Black-billed Cuckoo – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Mother Mallard and eight ducklings – Dianne Tyler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Sandhill Crane with chick – Barb Evett – Buckhorn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed  – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Photinus pyralis – a common firefly – Art Farmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Himalayan Balsam, an invasive species in Ontario – Wikimedia

 

 

Jul 132018
 

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

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

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

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

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

Birding    

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

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

Equipment

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

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

Engaging the senses

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

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

Midland Painted Turtle hatchling -WikiMedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Seasonal highlights

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

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

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

House Wrens are inveterate singers – Carl Welbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

A few itineraries

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

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


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun activities

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

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

Jul 072018
 

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

Black-crowned Night-Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Northern Mockingbird – Gord Mallory

Jul 062018
 

Flocking provides many benefits but questions remain

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

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

Swallows on wire in post-breeding flock – Wikimedia

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advantages of flocking

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

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

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

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

Mobbing and pishing

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Blackbirds

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starlings and crows

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

What to watch for this week

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

 

 

Jun 302018
 

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

Peter Gulliver, Peterborough

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

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

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

 

Jun 302018
 

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

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

Snapper no.1 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Snapper no 2 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

House Wren nest – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Stephenie Armstrong, Sawmill Road, Warsaw

 

Jun 292018
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late June

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

Monarch Butterfly – Terry Carpenter

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July

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

Common Milkweed

Joe-Pye Weed – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

August

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

Cedar Waxwings – Wikimedia

Immature meadowhawk dragonfly – Margo Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

  September

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

Tagged Monarch – Drew Monkman

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Jun 262018
 

by Amy Harder, in AXIOS – June 25, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 232018
 

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

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Redstart & House Wren (June 20)

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

American Redstart June 20, 2018 – TASSS – Carl Welbourn

House Wren – June 20, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

House Wren fledgling – June 2018 – Carl Welbourn

 

Jun 222018
 

Last of a three-part series exploring local nature destinations

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

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

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

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

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

Sign at entrance to Millbrook Valley Trails – Drew Monkman

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Tundra Swans at Mather’s Corners – Luke Berg

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

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

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

 

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

A little further afield…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall hawk-watch at Cranberry Marsh – Drew Monkman

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

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

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

Don Davis tagging Monarchs at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Jun 202018
 

Purple Finches (since early May)

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

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

male Purple Finch – Wikimedia

House Finch (for comparison) – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predation of robin nest (June 15)

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

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

American Robin fledglings on nest – Murray Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrel control (June 11 and 27)

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

Don Finigan, Peterborough

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange colour morphs in Gray Squirrels (June)

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecropia moth emerges and mates! (May 31) 

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

Cecropia- Wendy Marrs

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

Mating Cecropia moths – Wendy Marrs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note from Tim Dyson: 

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

 

Goldfinches playing in the wind? (May 6)

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

White American Robin (April 11)

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

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

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

 

Purple

 

 

 

Jun 192018
 

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

Cerulean Warbler (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

Jun 152018
 

Part 2 of a 3 part series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aerial View of Boyd Island – Kawartha Land Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four-toed Salamander at Camp Kawartha (Jake Fell)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stony Lake Trails – Kawartha Land Trust

 

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

Minnow Lake on the Nanabush Trail – Drew Monkman

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Jun 082018
 

Part 1 of a 3 part series on local nature destinations 

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of Peterborough and Vicinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jun 042018
 

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

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Jun 032018
 

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

Polyphemus – Barb Evett – June 1 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Eastern Musk Turtle – USFWS (via Wikimedia)

Jun 032018
 

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

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

May 312018
 

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

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

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

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

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

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

 

May 282018
 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia