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 212017
 

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

Eastern Towhee – Karl Egressy

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

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Dave Heuft)

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

Chipping Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

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

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

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

Lincoln’s Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

October 11 – Virginia Opossum

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

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

Oct 132017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 122017
 

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

Dark-eyed Junco by Marcel Boulay

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

Peregrine – Karl Egressy

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

Common True Katydid (Wikimedia)

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

Blue-spotted Salamander – Shawn Filteau

 

 

Oct 122017
 

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

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

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

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

Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles 2 – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping turtles 3 – October 2017 – Peter & Stephenie Armstrong

 

Oct 062017
 

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

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

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

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

 

Oct 022017
 

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

Pierre Gilbert, Baltimore, ON

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

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

Red Squirrel – Terry Carpenter

 

Sep 302017
 

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) (1)
– Reported Sep 29, 2017 07:56 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) (8)
– Reported Sep 29, 2017 07:38 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

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

Sep 262017
 

I was walking in Burnham Woods on the evening of September 1 and came across these strange creatures all over a young beech sapling.  I could see them all rocking back and forth. Strangest sight. Sue Paradisis

Note: After a bit of research, I discovered they are a kind of woolly aphid called Beech Blight Aphids. Click here for more information. D.M.

Beech Blight Aphids – Sue Paradisis

Beech blight aphids 2 – Sue Paradisis JPG

Sep 262017
 

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a marked decline in the number of Red Squirrels and a steady increase in the number of Gray Squirrels on our property. This year that imbalance may change. For the first time that we are aware, we have had two broods of Red Squirrels rather than just the one.

Back in May, an adult Red Squirrel was seen transferring her young family from a birth site in one tree to a nest cavity in our signature tall White Pine. The trunk separates into two part well above ground level, possibly providing a more commodious home. By May 21, five young were darting back and forth from the nest, exploring their immediate surroundings. It was most entertaining!

By the last week of May, only one youngster was still staying close by the nest cavity when an adult female Gray Squirrel took possession of the nest with five of her own family, chasing off the one remaining Red Squirrel. Again we were entertained by the little ones running about the tree branches and eventually out exploring the surrounding landscape.

On September 6, a Red Squirrel with five young took possession of the same nest cavity. She spent some time gathering new nest material to refurbish the bedding, then possibly tired and hungry after her exertions, took a break to consume fallen sunflower seeds below a nearby bird feeder. (In all three cases the adult female had teats visible on her underside.)

For the third time, we enjoyed the antics of little ones chasing each other about the tree until they too abandoned the nest to make their own way in the world. On September 7, I was able to capture a few photos of the youngsters in the tree and close up at the cavity entrance.

Here’s hoping the survival rate is good.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Red Squirrel in White Pine – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel at nest cavity in White Pine  – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel emerging from nest cavity – Stephenie Armstrong

Sep 262017
 

On September 7, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar, was making its way up our gravelled drive. I moved it to a safer location.

On September 9 and 10, we had another new caterpillar in our front garden. It is a fifth instar larval stage of the Hermit Sphinx moth (lintneria eremitus).  It was head down feasting on the stem of an Oregano plant.  I fear our fiddling around to get some pictures proved something of an interruption for a while, but was still happily munching along later in the morning, soon to be changing into its pupal stage I expect.

On September 13, a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was feeding on a cherry tree.

On September 18, we saw about 20 Broad-winged Hawks passing over our property in the morning.  Wonderful to see.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar – Stephenie Armstrong

 

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Peter Armstrong

 

Broad-winged Hawk – Wikimedia

 

Hermit sphinx – Peter Armstrong

 

Hermit sphinx – top view – Peter Armstrong

 

Sep 262017
 

Meredith Carter and our planting crew found this yellowish caterpillar in Lakefield this Saturday during the TD Tree Planting event. I found a similar looking caterpillar – but more light green and pink – in late August up north in Dorset. Any idea what they are?  Erin McGauley

Note: I’m not sure of the species Meredith found, but I believe your caterpillar is a Waved Sphinx. I’ll update this posting if I find out anything more.

Unidentified caterpillar – Lakefield – Sept. 22, 2017 – Meredith Carter

Waved Sphinx caterpillar – Dorset, ON – Erin McGauley

Sep 262017
 

Last February, I photographed this Barred Owl, which was perched on my phone cable – 20′ from the front of the house, in Selwyn Township, just south of Lakefield. About 30′ to each side of him/her were my 2 bird feeders – and not a small bird in sight! It was early evening, and the owl was not one bit bothered that I was standing in the front window clicking away just to get its portrait! Ever optimistic, it stayed around for about 20 minutes. I was absolutely delighted to have it visit.

Also, the owl was heard calling out about 2 or 3 AM one night just last week. Perhaps my bird feeders will get another visit from it soon! Looking forward to fall migration as I am sure you are.

Lynda Gadd

Barred Owl – Feb. 2017 – Selwyn Township – Lynda Gadd

Sep 262017
 

Over the last two weeks, we tagged and released all of the Monarchs we raised in the classroom.  I’m also sending along two photos I took of a Giant Swallowtail at Elmhirst Resort on Rice Lake this past weekend.   Stephanie Benn

Giant Swallowtail – Elmhirst Lodge – Sept. 24, 2017 – Stephanie Benn

Giant Swallowtail 2 – Elmhirst Lodge – Sept. 24, 2017 – Stephanie Benn

 

 

Sep 252017
 

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

 

 

 

 

Sep 242017
 

Now’s the time to take in the beauty of autumn at Ontario Parks!

The 2017 Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report is LIVE! Check for the latest colour changes in up to 60 provincial parks across Ontario by using the report’s map and peak-viewing chart. Staff will be updating their park reports every week so check back often for the latest conditions. Climatologists predict brilliant reds and golds, thanks to an abundance of rain.

Mid-September to late October is prime-time viewing when campsites are plentiful and camp cabins and yurts are easier to book.

Algonquin Provincial Park is extremely popular on peak fall colour weekends. Before you visit Algonquin, this is what you need to know.

The Parks Blog also suggests other fall colour parks worth visiting. In Northern Ontario, try these parks. More park choices are found in this fall colour post.

Lots of special events are also planned. Visit the Ontario Parks’ calendar of events for details.

Ontario Parks posts regularly on Twitter and Facebook.

High-resolution, credited photography related to the above can be downloaded from a mini photo library here.

We’ll see you there!

Sarah McMichael

Leaf colour east of Apsley – October 1, 2012

Sep 242017
 

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 08:09 by McLean Smith
– 2 Woodland Dr, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3634,-78.2926), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.363432,-78.292649&ll=44.363432,-78.292649
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39331356
– Comments: “I am not 100% certain as to the ID of this bird, but based on size, shape, and colouration, I am fairly confident in calling it a juvenile Northern Mockingbird. It was perched atop a spruce tree showing a bay to grey overall colouring, with faint mottling on the upper breast and a very faint eye line, with no other discernible features (I did not see it fly to confirm white patches). The only alternative ID I can think of is a juvenile Northern Shrike, but the head appeared too small in relation to the body. Any help or local checklists to confirm or deny would be much appreciated. ”

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 06:12 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Yard – Bear Creek Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5064687,-78.4726858&ll=44.5064687,-78.4726858
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39326314
– Comments: “Hooting to the south”

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (2)
– Reported Sep 21, 2017 17:00 by Chris Risley
– Cottage at Stumpy Bay, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.7255067,-78.2984622&ll=44.7255067,-78.2984622
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39326758
– Comments: “calling across Stumpy Bay”

Sep 242017
 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 10:30 by Scott McKinlay
– Millbrook Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1492506,-78.4480704&ll=44.1492506,-78.4480704
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39345272
– Comments: “Seen with a solitary sandpiper on a mud bar in Millbrook pond. It was slightly smaller than the solitary with browner, lighter upperparts; shorter brighter legs; white belly and breast extending up the side in front of the wing; and it bobbed it’s tail incessantly. ”

Spotted Sandpiper with dragonfly nymph in beak – Lower Buckhorn Lake – June 2016 – Robin Blake

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 10:30 by Scott McKinlay
– Millbrook Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1492506,-78.4480704&ll=44.1492506,-78.4480704
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39345272
– Comments: “Seen on a mud bar with a spotted sandpiper. It had longer legs than the spotted sandpiper, had slatey grey upperparts with fine white speckling, grayish breast, white belly, an eye ring, and straight dark bill about the same length as the head.”

Sep 222017
 

Myriad threats and declines evident in the Kawarthas, too

Living in a country as big and relatively unpopulated as Canada, it might come as a surprise that much of our wildlife is in serious decline. This was made abundantly clear last week when World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) released its annual Living Planet Report.

WWF studied 3,689 population trends for 903 monitored vertebrate species (mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles) in Canada, for the period 1970 to 2014. Using this database, they developed a national Living Planet Index – similar to a stock market index – to reflect how Canada’s wildlife is faring. The findings surprised even WWF: Half of the monitored species (451 of 903) are in decline, and of these declining species, the average drop is a whopping 83 per cent. Even more surprising, the numbers for at-risk species – those protected by the Species at Risk Act, or SARA – are even worse. SARA-listed populations have continued to decrease by an average of 28% and the rate of decline is actually increasing – all of this, despite protections afforded by the act.

Mammal populations have decreased by 41%, fish by 20% and reptiles and amphibians by 34%. Although overall bird populations have increased slightly, there are widely differing trends. Since 1970, grassland birds (e.g., bobolinks, meadowlarks) have plunged 69%, aerial foragers (e.g., swallows, swifts, flycatchers) have fallen 51% and shorebirds (e.g., plovers, sandpipers) have decreased by 43 %.

One of the most troublesome population declines in Canada’s central region, which includes Ontario, is that of reptiles and amphibians. These include snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs and salamanders. The study looked at 73 monitored populations of 28 species. Habitat loss, in combination with fragmentation (i.e., dividing the landscape up into smaller and more isolated parts), road mortality and pollution are some of the major threats to these animals. Freshwater fish have also taken a beating. Looking just at Lake Ontario, fish populations declined 32 per cent, on average, between 1992 and 2014. Later this fall, I hope to do a column on the status of local fish populations.

Losses in the Kawarthas

Unfortunately, the Kawarthas is not immune to these declines, either. A brief look at four iconic species is very telling.

1. Snapping turtle: Although snapping turtles can live for more than a century, they take up to 20 years to reach breeding age. Therefore, the loss of even one turtle can have a big impact on the population. Threats include habitat loss and degradation as well as road mortality. This year has seen a huge spike in turtle deaths and injuries, mostly because of collisions with cars and boats. As of August 16, the total number of turtles brought to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough was close to 800! This included 273 snapping turtles. The Centre has never seen so many injured or dead turtles. One very large snapping turtle was classified as “attacked by human”. A large metal rod was removed from the turtle’s shell, but internal injuries led to its demise. Snapping turtles are currently listed as a species of Special Concern under SARA.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

2. Little brown bat: Bats have been suffering for years from habitat destruction and persecution. Now, they are up against white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that arrived in the Kawarthas about six years ago. The disease causes the bats to awaken too early from their winter sleep. Early awakening depletes their body reserves of stored water, electrolytes and fat, and they end up dying. White-nose syndrome has already wiped out 94 per cent of little brown bats in eastern Canada. This may be the most rapid mammal decline ever documented. Large numbers of little brown bats used to overwinter in abandoned mine shafts in the Bancroft area and even some in the Warsaw Caves. The little brown bat was emergency-listed as Endangered under SARA in 2014.

Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome – Wikimedia

3. Bobolink:  These sparrow-like birds are a joy to see and hear. The males have a distinctive jet-black front and big patches of white. They were once a common sight in meadows nearly everywhere in the Kawarthas. The intensification of farming operations, however, has resulted in widespread loss and deterioration of their old field and meadow habitat. Because they nest in hay fields, they often lose their eggs or young to mowing. Bobolink populations in Canada have crashed by 88 per cent in just 40 years. In 2017, a SARA listing was proposed for this species as Threatened.

Male Bobolink – Wikimedia

4. Barn Swallow: For anyone growing up on a farm or spending time at a cottage in the Kawarthas, barn swallows used to be a constant presence in summer. They would dart gracefully over fields, barnyards and open water, swooping effortlessly to catch insects. They were taken as much for granted as robins are now. Between 1970 and 2014, barn swallows declined by 66 percent in Ontario. Although not yet fully understood, the causes for the decline include loss of nesting and feeding habitat, along with what appears to be a reduction in insect numbers. Insect decline may be linked to pesticides, which often end up in water bodies where insects breed. Barn swallows are now listed as “threatened” on the Species at Risk list in Ontario. This means that the bird is likely to become endangered if the appropriate steps are not taken.

Barn Swallow (Karl Egressy)

As we have seen from these profiles, wildlife declines are being driven primarily by habitat loss. This comes mostly from the impacts of forestry, agriculture, urbanization and industrial development. Other threats include climate change (Canada’s warming is twice the global average); pollution (e.g., pesticides, agricultural runoff, heat and noise pollution); invasive species (e.g., zebra mussels) and unsustainable harvest (e.g., overfishing). These effects are cumulative and cascading. For example, changes in the status of one species (e.g., insects) often lead to changes in others (e.g., insect-eating birds).

You don’t have to look far to see these threats playing out in the Kawarthas. Regardless of the merits of a given project or practice, wildlife are almost always on the losing end. In terms of habitat loss, housing developments (e.g., Lily Lake, Television Road, Millbrook)  destroy habitat for grassland birds; hedgerow removal (e.g., Keene area) is eliminating nesting sites for birds as well as pollinators; widening Rye Street will undoubtedly impact Harper Creek brook trout; new or expanded cottages and homes on the Kawartha Lakes is degrading nesting habitat for loons and spawning sites for walleye; a proposed housing development adjacent to Loggerhead Marsh will almost certainly effect amphibians; population growth, along with new roads (e.g., 407 extension, widening of Pioneer Road ) is resulting in more road mortality for turtles; Peterborough’s new casino will degrade the habitat value of Harper Park because of light and  noise pollution, along with increased traffic; and the replacement of old barns with new, less nesting-friendly structures, is impacting barn swallows. Non-native invasive species such as Phragmites and dog-strangling vine are thriving in the Kawarthas and choking out native vegetation in the process. Another invasive, the emerald ash borer, is decimating ash trees. Climate change, which actually accelerates the growth of many invasive plants, is already making the Kawarthas too warm for formerly common birds like gray jays. Climate change-related weather extremes, such as the drought we experienced last summer, are further weakening many tree species, which are already under siege by fungal diseases. These include butternut, beech and elms.

The relentless march of housing developments into rural land. Parkhill Road at Ravenwood Drive in Peterborough, Ontario  (Drew Monkman photo)

Taking Action

The findings of WWF-Canada’s national Living Planet Report make it clear we need to do more to protect species at risk. We also need to halt the decline of other wildlife before they land on the at-risk list in the first place. We need action from communities, industry, government and individuals. As a nation, we need to do a better job collecting and sharing data on ecosystem health and species habitat. We must also enhance research on the impacts of, and response to, climate change; strengthen implementation of the Species at Risk Act and shift toward ecosystem-based action plans instead of a species-based approach. Expanding Canada’s network of protected areas is also crucial.

None of this will happen – or happen fast enough – unless more Canadians make a personal commitment to nature. Individual action is powerful, especially when your neighbours, friends and family see you stepping up. So, what can you do?

1. Most importantly, be careful who you vote for. Support parties and candidates who put environmental values such as wildlife conservation and climate change measures front and centre. Be sure your vote goes to politicians who value green space and will fight for adequate funding of government agencies like MNR and Parks Canada. Maybe run for office yourself!

2. Give money. In the U.S. last year, environmental giving represented only 3% of all charitable donations. I doubt the numbers are much different in Canada. If you want to give locally, consider the Kawartha Land Trust or the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

3. Take direct action. You can do this by planting pollinator gardens, stopping for turtles, removing invasive species or participating in a Citizen Science project in which you monitor species. The possibilities are endless.

4. Encourage your child’s teacher and principal to provide nature and outdoor education opportunities for students.

5. Be a role model. Show interest, enthusiasm and concern for nature. It’s contagious.

6. Going forward, we all need to consider whether it’s really possible to maintain healthy and diverse wildlife populations in a society based on continual economic growth – no matter how green future energy sources might be. We might be kidding ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 222017
 

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 12:00 by Matthew Garvin
– PTBO – Edgewater road and Railway, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.299988,-78.31236&ll=44.299988,-78.31236
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39300375
– Media: 6 Photos
– Comments: “Diminutive white goose similar in size to adjacent RBGU with flock of CANG North of the Railway bridge. Immature markings similar to sibley guide with dark ‘halo’. Flat base of the beak and little to no ‘grin’ patch. Head and beak aren’t as ‘dove-like’ as I’d like but I think I’m comfortable calling this a ROGO for now. Let the debate begin!”

Juvenile Ross’s Goose – Wikimedia

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 13:48 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3028834,-78.31688&ll=44.3028834,-78.31688
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39300738
– Comments: “small white goose in with Canada Goose; juvenile; photo shows no “grin” patch; dark line through eye”

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 13:05 by Scott Gibson
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3028834,-78.31688&ll=44.3028834,-78.31688
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39301019
– Comments: “small white goose, smaller than adjacent CANG, small rounded head, no ‘grin’ patch, dusky crown suggesting juvenile. Great lunch hour bird!”

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 15:05 by Ben Taylor
– engleburn ave, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.30142,-78.3139104&ll=44.30142,-78.3139104
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39302520
– Comments: “Alerted by Chris Risley that colleagues had spotted a white goose on the River north of the Holiday Inn pedestrian bridge. I was able to locate it from our back yard ,hanging out with the Canada Geese just south of the Hunter Street bridge. I biked around to get a closer look and it seemed to be a match for the white juvenile Ross’s Goose pictured in Sibley’s but will amend as required once there is confirmation.”

Ross’s Goose – Otonabee R. – Dec. 4, 2014 – Drew Monkman

Sep 172017
 

A beautiful September morning greeted the ten early risers who took part in the Peterborough Field Naturalist’s Sunday A.M. nature walk today. We spent most of our time in the Promise Rock area of the Rotary-Greenway Trail, just north of Trent University at Lock 22. Songbird diversity and numbers were very good. We were able to use pishing to coax in three species of vireos and ten species of warblers. A female American Redstart was particularly cooperative as it flitted about in the open, only three metres away. Our second stop was the Lakefield Sewage Lagoons where we got good looks through the scopes at four species of ducks and more than a dozen cormorants. Many of the ducks were juvenile Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers.

Below is a list of all of the birds seen (38 species) as well as some of the goldenrods and asters that caught our attention. Several of the goldenrods had galls – the ball-shaped galls from Goldenrod Gall Flies and the tightly-packed leafy galls from a midge.

Birds (38 species): Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mallard, Wood Duck, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Marsh Wren, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle

Flowers: Canada Goldenrod, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, New England Aster, Heath Aster, Calico Aster, Panicled Aster, Heart-leaved Aster

Other highlights: Huge seed crop on cedars, spruces, Sugar Maples; leopard frogs in grass at sewage lagoon; lots of fall colour, courtesy of White Ash, Staghorn Sumac, Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper

PFN Sunday AM Nature Walk – Promise Rock area – (Drew Monkman)

 

Female American Redstart (Wikimedia)

 

Black-throated Green Warbler (Dan Pancamo)

 

Red-eyed Vireo – Karl Egressy

 

Canada goldenrod (left) and New England aster (Drew Monkman)

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 142017
 

For anyone paying attention, the biggest story of the past summer has been the fury unleashed by planet Earth as a result of climate change. As Clive Hunter, an Australian public intellectual, said on CBC Radio’s Ideas recently, “What we’re now confronted with is a wakened, angry, raging beast.” The evidence is everywhere: the worst fire season ever in B.C.; the worst wildfire ever in Los Angeles; hundreds of billions of dollars of hurricane devastation in Houston, the Caribbean and Florida; catastrophic flooding affecting millions in India, Nepal and Bangladesh; temperatures too hot for jets to take off in Phoenix – and the list goes on.

It’s hard not to despair. Equally despairing, however, is that denial – or simply ignoring or downplaying the threat of climate change – is still rampant. And not just on the part of Donald Trump. How often does the topic come up in your own circle of family and friends? If you listened to hurricane coverage on American TV networks, you wouldn’t have even heard the words climate change. However, what climate science research has learned and is predicting for the future are facts – not ideologies, opinions or preferences. They come from three hundred years of perfecting the scientific method and are as robust and well-defended as any body of knowledge out there. Sitting back and simply being “hopeful” that things won’t be as bad as science is telling us is a recipe for even greater disaster. We cannot let skeptics dismiss these disasters as natural weather events we cannot influence. That being said, the scope of the necessary response in terms of mitigation and adaptation is far beyond anything politicians are currently proposing. Many experts believe it will require nothing less than a complete re-thinking of our economic system and of humankind’s relationship with the natural world.

On a more positive note, a heartening story this summer has been the stellar rebound in monarch butterfly numbers. Whereas last year I may have seen a few dozen, this year I’ve observed hundreds. Don Davis, an Ontario monarch expert who tags these insects, told me this week that he found over 100 caterpillars near Cobourg in just a few hours of searching. He also said that 2000 monarchs were at the tip of Point Pelee National Park on September 8 and that there were recently 100 or more on the west beaches of Presqu’ile Provincial Park. According to Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, there is a good prospect that the overwintering population in Mexico will increase from the 2.91 hectares of last year to 4 hectares or better this coming winter.

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

The most likely explanation for the boom in numbers is simply the weather. This summer did not see the hot, dry conditions of recent years, which killed wildflowers and reduced the availability of nectar. Weather conditions were also good this spring for the monarch’s migration from Mexico to Canada. Monarchs are extremely vulnerable to weather extremes, many of which are linked to climate change. This is true during the breeding season, along the migration route and on their Mexican wintering grounds.

The public is becoming much more aware of the need to protect monarchs and pollinators in general. An indication of this is the growing popularity of pollinator gardens. These are gardens planted predominantly with flowers that provide nectar and pollen for a wide range of pollinator species from spring through fall. Host plants (e.g., milkweed) on which butterflies can lay their eggs should also be included. Here in the Kawarthas, nearly 180 pollinator gardens have been registered with Peterborough Pollinators, a group dedicated to creating a pollinator-friendly community. If you wish to register your garden, please go to PeterboroughPollinators.com/Register. Once registered, you can pick up a garden sign by emailing ptbopollinators@gmail.com  A map of existing gardens will be on display at the Peterborough Pollinators’ booth at the Purple Onion Festival on September 24 at Millennium Park. There will also be pollinator exhibits and garden signs will be available.

Peterborough Pollinators garden on Medical Drive
(photo by Drew Monkman)

Looking ahead to the fall, here is a list of events in nature that are typical of autumn in the Kawarthas.

Mid- to late September

·         Fall songbird migration is 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 and hear this birding technique in action, go to http://bit.ly/2cpznE8

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

·         Thanks to ample rain, this should be a great fall for mushrooms. Kawartha Land Trust’s Stony Lake Trails are a great destination for mushroom-viewing. Park at 105 Reid’s Road. Details at http://bit.ly/2h3nYJg

·         Peterborough Field Naturalists hold their Sunday Morning Nature Walks this month and next. Meet at the Riverview Park and Zoo parking lot at 8 am and bring binoculars. Indoor meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month. 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.

Canada goldenrod (left) and New England aster on Trans-Canada Trail (photo by Drew Monkman)

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

October

·         Fall colours in the Kawarthas usually peak early in the month. The sunshine and cool weather in September should mean excellent colour this year. County Roads 620 and 504 around Chandos Lake east of Apsley makes for a great colour drive.

·         Don’t miss the Harvest Moon. This year it occurs on October 5. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox (September 22).

·         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.

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

·         Indian Summer days are magical. Watch for floating threads of “ballooning” spiders.

·         Ecology Park holds its “Little Tree Sale” on October 15. Fall is a great time to plant trees.

·         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.

Trembling Aspen (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         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.

·         Watch for Venus and Mars at dawn and Saturn in the evening.

·         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 2017-2018”. The forecast, compiled by Ron Pittaway, is usually available online by early October.

·         On October 25, Jacob Rodenburg will speak to the Peterborough Horticultural Society on “Pathway to Stewardship: How we teach kids about the environment” The meeting , which is open to all, takes place at the Peterborough Lions Centre, 347 Burnham Street.

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 5, and turn our clocks back one hour. Sunrise on the 5th is at 6:56 am and sunset at 4:57 pm for a total of only 10 hours 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.


Winterberry holly – (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         Most of our loons and robins head south this month. However, small numbers of robins regularly overwinter in the Kawarthas. Their numbers will likely be much lower than last year, given the small wild grape crop. Grapes are a staple food for winter robins.

·         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.

·         With the onset of cold temperatures, wood frogs, gray treefrogs, chorus frogs, and spring peepers take shelter in the leaf litter of the forest floor and literally become small blocks of amphibian ice. Glycerol, acting as an antifreeze, inhibits freezing within the frogs’ cells.

I would like to thank Martin and Kathy Parker, Tim Dyson, Cathy Dueck and Gordon Johnson 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 environmental education.

Sep 042017
 

At around 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 3, residents in the Tobin Court and Evans Dr area in the north end of the city, reported the sudden death of 12 Mallard ducks. Earlier a group of 14 ducks was observed walking up Tobin from a local pond just south of that location, munching on grass. They did not display any distress at the time. Moments later 12 of these ducks lay dead on residents’ lawns and driveways.The police were called as well as the MNR, Humane Society and the City of Peterborough. Public works attended the scene to remove the bodies. In the meantime 2 ducks which had been immobilized and stunned by the unknown contaminant were transferred to Shades of Hope Wildlife Rescue in Pefferlaw. Residents in the area are concerned about what could possibly have caused a quick death to so many ducks. According to one of the residents, the Peterborough Police will notify the MNR to investigate the sudden deaths.

Barb Evett (705-741-5396)

Mallard deaths – Ptbo – Sept. 3, 2017 – Barb Evett

Aug 292017
 

On August 23, I saw about 25 Barn Swallows on hydro wires on the 4th Line of Douro-Dummer near Cottesloe. So few these days. On August 25, I was riding my bike in the same location and saw 5 or so Barn Swallows in the same location. As I rode further and turned on County Road 38 to Warsaw, I saw a further flock of about 20 to 25 birds. Great to see them on the hydro lines eating bugs. As my cycling progressed towards Warsaw, I was coming down the hill and saw a further grouping of about 10 swallows swooping beside me and in front of me on the bike. This was totally amazing and the first real contact I have had with Barn Swallows for a while. A real treat to see. Great to see they still exist!

Randy Romano

N.B.  The Barn Swallow is now listed as a species at risk in Ontario and has legal protection from human activities such as destroying nests. D.M.

Barn Swallow – Karl Egressy

Aug 292017
 

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) (1)
– Reported Aug 25, 2017 15:05 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Meadowvale Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Squat heron with black back and a light coloured plume feather standing on a log in plain sight.”

On August 28, I came across this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron in Meadowvale Park, just north of Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School on Armour Road.  Carl Welbourn 

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

Aug 292017
 

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.

Here are some recent sightings from Tim Dyson who lives in the Warsaw area. As of August 16, he has seen a total of 549 of these birds. Most were seen over the Indian River near/at Back Dam Park on Rock Road.

1.On the evening of August 16, I saw 41 Common Nighthawks over the Indian River just north of Warsaw. I watched for 30 minutes, just after the sun had set. They were moving along southward in groups averaging about five per group.

2. August 18th between 6:24pm and 6:27 pm, no less than 98 Common Nighthawks passed overhead where I am just n/w of Warsaw. Through a curtain of moderate rainfall, they were heading roughly s/w at average nighthawk height (100+ meters from the ground). Not really darting here and there much as is typical of them, but seemingly more intent on the direction they headed and the altitude they were keeping. Appearing as three loosely-connected bunches, it was difficult to count them at times, therefore I am glad they weren’t in whirling masses as is sometimes the case. They stretched to the eastern and western horizon, and despite my frantic searching, I could not bring the total to an even hundred birds or more. Although I have lived in a fair number of locations in the county over the past 25 years from Belmont Lake, Rice Lake, Buckhorn, and Nephton and places in between, interestingly, the Warsaw area has always yielded the highest numbers for migrating nighthawks in my experience, both now, and in the early-to-mid 1990s).

3. August 19th I got home to Warsaw just before dark in time to notice only 2 nighthawks flying past from east to west. I waited around another ten minutes or so, but saw no more.

4. On the morning of August 20th, (the date I’ve always considered to be average for observing large numbers of the species), 14 nighthawks just appeared to the north, gathered, (and very much like migrating Broad-winged Hawks will about four weeks from now), they “kettled” in a thermal and rode it straight up and out of my sight. This happened at 10:30am, it is sunny, humid, and 24 degrees outside. I find this far more bizarre than seeing more than one hundred nighthawks during an evening observation. That’s pretty normal. But a small kettle of them before noon… that’s just plain odd for me!

5. On the evening of August 20, despite hoping for a bumper crop of nighthawks to pass overhead on what is often “the peak date”, I only saw six of them from my favorite viewing spot and they were all observed at 6:45pm.

6. On August 21, I set up to watch for nighthawks just after 6:00pm, and none appeared in the sky until 6:50pm when 17 came into view just above the treetops heading roughly southward. Just as suddenly as they had appeared, I found myself staring at an empty sky once again. Yes, there were lulls in the passage of them, but before I went inside at 8:35pm. I had seen 65 for the night. Interesting this evening was the number of swallows, (however, I did not count them). Although most were quite high up,
some that were close enough to me to see well, seemed to be Bank Swallows. After a brief period of no visible nighthawks, they began to fly past again in small numbers and I found myself having to differentiate between them and the swallows as their flight style is somewhat similar, and their altitudes were variable. At about 7:25pm, one of the larger birds appeared to drop on a near 90 degree angle and slam right into one of the swallows! (Raptor experienced or not, my first thought was “That nighthawk is some kind of idiot!”) But as the two connected, there was a little puff of feathers and they never parted. “Of course! Duh!” I thought, as the Merlin that had just snatched a swallow veered to come almost directly overhead carrying it’s late-evening dinner. (see photo) As the landscape darkened by 8:30pm, two large bats began doing their rounds
over the former horse paddock, as a deer walked out for some evening grazing. He had a full crown of fuzzy antlers, and was unconcerned as he fed with his back to me only 20 meters away. A Gallium Sphinx visited some of the various flowers in the gardens around the house. I think I’ll sit out tomorrow night, too.

7. On August 22, between 7:30 and 8:30pm, Drew, my friend Angela, and I counted 33 nighthawks over Back Dam Park on Rock Road. They were flying south in groups of 2-7, with a few single birds. A few foraged as they flew, but most were making a beeline south. The wind was from the west and there had been heavy showers over much of the afternoon and into the early evening. The sky had cleared by the time we started watching for nighthawks. We also saw a Great Egret.

8. On August 23, Angela and I put the kayaks in at Back Dam Park at about 7:20pm. Paddled north almost to the power line, and turned around at 7:50pm and headed back. Five minutes later, the first nighthawk of the evening flew along the western
shore of the river and was actively feeding. About ten minutes later, there was the first good pulse totaling seven birds. Over the next twenty minutes others in small groups and singles appeared from the north and north-east. After a short lull, three more came along to wrap up the night’s total at 22 birds. Other things of interest were three River Otters (very curious, coming back out of vegetation to squeak and squeal at us), and a lovely waxing crescent moon.

9. Despite sitting out at home for nearly two hours on the 26th of August, no more than 9 nighthawks were seen – three as singles and three groups of two each.

10.

On the evening of the 24th I was visiting someone at PRHC, and despite spending twenty minutes outside the hospital and another twenty minute
drive back to Warsaw during the magic hour, not a single nighthawk was seen.
The 25th, however, was a little better. Putting in the kayaks at the Back Dam near Warsaw with friends Angela and Lori, we began a northward paddle up the Indian River at about 6:30pm. Looking behind for some reason, I spotted the first group of nighthawks at 6:55pm. There were initially four that caught my eye, and then over the next seven or eight minutes, a total of 55 of them passed overhead.
Strange thing, was that they were all heading north!
Also interesting, was that they were very high as they came into view, and were gliding on set wings that rarely flapped. They were making a gradual decent.
I have seen this behavior in migrating raptors (Broad-winged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and Turkey Vultures) that often travel in groupings. In the case of the raptors, it is often a large low pressure area that they have come upon, and almost always, rain ensues shortly afterwards. The hours prior were usually filled with sunny skies and rising warm air, but when they come to that change in the sky with rain to follow, they will often stream for several minutes as they descend to either hunt, sleep, and/or wait out the weather.
I am wondering if these nighthawks had already put some good miles behind them this evening and were just descending into a traditionally good feeding area, or just to feed at all. The weather did not (and was not forecast to) change for the night, but perhaps they only needed to feed for a while. Direction of flight while descending out of a migration stint doesn’t seem to matter to the hawks and vultures coming down to avoid poor weather, so should it matter to hungry nighthawks? I would guess it does not.
Nighthawks returned to view coming in lower from the east and continuing westward out of sight. Groups numbering 9, 7, 4, and 18. As we headed back around the last bend, we could see another 12 actively hunting quite low over the little dam and playground area where we were parked. They hunted there for nearly fifteen minutes before they all gradually
seemed to head out higher and over the trees towards the south west. Once I had the boats loaded, I turned to take a last evening look at the water, and one more nighthawk appeared, (as it seemed to nearly hit me in the face
as it whipped in fast and low!)  So, that would make 106 for the night. I’m no longer too disappointed having not seen any the night before.

10. On August 27, traveling from home (3kms north and west of Warsaw) for an evening paddle on the Indian River, Angela and I counted 22 nighthawks from the moving vehicle as they zipped their way southward at 6:35pm. Paddling up the river from the Back Dam on Rock Road we saw nighthawks in waves streaming from north to south and of course there were the usual lulls. After one hour, our total for the night had risen to 54 nighthawks, when at 7:35 the sky to the north was suddenly full of them!! Our total rapidly grew to 96 nighthawks as 42 more made up the count for this bunch. Before the evening count was over when we returned to our launch place at 8:25pm, we had seen 147 nighthawks for this 27th of August 2017.
That brings my season total (since August 16th) to 549.

 

Common Nighthawk – Wikimedia

Nighhawks over Buckhorn Lake – Aug. 15, 2016 – David Beaucage Johnson

Nighthawk on left, and Merlin carrying swallow on right – Warsaw – Aug. 21, 2017 – Tim Dyson

Aug 292017
 

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (1)
– Reported Aug 27, 2017 14:28 by E. Straka
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) (1)
– Reported Aug 27, 2017 14:28 by E. Straka
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Peregrine – Karl Egressy

Olive-sided Flycatcher – Wikimedia