Outing Reports Submitted by Angus Inksetter

Owl Prowl By Snowshoe

On January 23, 2016, in the dark of a winter’s evening, a dozen hardy individuals gathered at the farm of Angus and Kathleen Inksetter and set out on snowshoes (or winter boots, as the track was firm) to seek sight or sound of owls. The moon was full but obscured by cloud, which meant there was ample light but less than we might have enjoyed with a clear sky. The group made six stops to play screech owl calls and to listen for a response. As on last year’s outing at the Murray tract, we were unsuccessful at finding owls but had a fine one and one-half hour hike and another hour of hot cider, cookies, and conversation at the home of our hosts. Next year we hope to have more luck with locating real owls as opposed to mere recordings of their voices and to enjoy an- other fun evening with Saugeen Nature.

Winter Raptor Outing on February 20, 2016

On a Saturday morning, after a night of roaring wind and pouring rain, nine Saugeen Nature members set out to find what winter birds were still in evidence. Led by Angus Inksetter, filling in for Jerry Asling (who somehow found Florida appealing in February), the group started with a visit to the Grimston flats along the Grey-Bruce line north of Chesley. As is often the case, the flats were productive; we saw red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, a possible Cooper’s hawk, crows pursuing a raven, a bald eagle, and horned larks. From the flats we headed west to Port Elgin, south to the Baie du Dore, and back inland via Bruce concession 12 to Paisley. We had numer- ous good sightings of rough-legged hawks and red-tailed hawks, three beautiful kestrels posing at close range, three more eagles and water fowl at the Baie du Dore (great black-backed gulls, buf- fleheads, goldeneye, and black ducks). We found our lone snowy owl along concession 12 on our homeward leg. It was close to the road and allowed us a good look before we went on our way. The number of species we saw was modest but the quality of sightings of winter-only specimens, and the good company, made a very successful outing.

Spring Waterfowl Migration

On Saturday, March 26, 2016, five members of Saugeen Nature headed for the Lake Huron shore to observe what they could find in the way of spring waterfowl migration. In Southampton they met with Bob Taylor and Anne-Marie Benedict, experienced birders and members of the Bruce Birding Club who were their guides for the day. Bob and Anne-Marie started the group’s day at the Southampton harbour and moved south from there to Port Elgin, Baie du Dore, and various inland ponds and flooded fields. Quite a mix of birds was seen in the course of the day. Resident species, which can be found all year round in our area, included crow, mourning dove, starling, cardinal, ring-billed gull, white-breasted nuthatch, wild turkey, rock dove (barn pigeon), bald eagle, and mute swan. Many of these, even though they are present year-round, change their behaviour as spring arrives – hence the cardinal was singing to announce his claim on breeding territory and the ring-billed gulls were present in large numbers on Chantry Island, their nesting territory. The mute swan and several duck species stay here if there is lots of open water, as there was this past winter, but migrate south if conditions are more severe. Sometimes many thousands die if they stay too long and are caught by extensive freezing of the water they were living on. This happened two winters ago when the great lakes froze after several more open winters.

Some bird species visit Grey and Bruce counties only in the winter as this is their sunny southern habitat. Two such species were seen on one of the inland legs of the outing. It took the sharp eyes of Jean Schaus to spot the first snowy owl standing beside a fence and looking like just another one of the snow patches scattered along that fence. While the group was standing on the road side to admire the owl a large flock of snow buntings flew overhead. Both of these species will soon be gone, returning to the Arctic tundra for the summer.

Birds which have been absent in the south for the winter but are now returning were also seen. These ranged from frequently seen back yard birds such as common grackle, American robin, and red-winged blackbird to those which may require a little more searching to find, such as song sparrow, killdeer, great blue heron, turkey vulture, meadowlark, horned lark, and kestrel. Also within this group were some of the water fowl we were hoping to see: mallard, Canada goose, green-winged teal, wood duck, and ring-necked duck.

A final group of species are those merely passing through our area on their way to the far north or northwest, or just a little farther into the boreal forest. Included with this group were lesser scaup, common goldeneye, bufflehead, red-breasted merganser, common merganser, redhead, northern shoveler, and snow goose.

The Saugeen Nature group expressed gratitude to their guides for a most interesting time and for being shown prime spots to find spring migration in action. More bird species will follow in April and May but the water fowl are always among the earliest to head for their summer territory.

Landforms and Geology of Grey and Bruce

Have you ever wondered how the hills and valleys of Bruce and Grey Counties came to be where they are? Ever wondered why the rivers and streams flow where they do? We all have a vague idea that the glaciers were here and shaped the landforms, but exactly what did they do, and how did they do it?

On a bright cool day in April, seventeen members of Saugeen Nature gathered to learn the answers to these questions from Clarke Birchard, longtime educator in Bruce and Grey Counties. The group met at the old schoolyard in Scone where the day started with an overview of what landforms or physiography can be found in Bruce and Grey Counties. Birchard pointed out some recessional moraines on the map and then pointed north on the Grey-Bruce Line and told us that the most significant hills along the next stretch of road were some of the larger recessional moraines stretching across the two Counties. The first and largest one to the north of Scone is called the Singhampton Moraine, closely followed by the Banks and Gibralter moraines as you go up and down the ‘hills’ to the north.

These moraines were formed as the glaciers retreated, and are signs of where the retreat was stalled for a while. At these points, a line of rotten (slowly melting) ice would block the forward movement of the still advancing glacier behind it, and material carried by that glacier would slowly move up, over the line of rotten ice, dropping the material in piles along the southward side of the line. The awesome size of the glaciers is a little easier to picture if you stand on top of the Singhampton Moraine where you are already hundreds of feet above the valley floor and try to picture a glacier thousands of feet higher than where you are standing.

After passing through the clay plain where Snake Creek drains the moraines, we stopped at Bruce Road #10 and Bruce Rd #40, at the Dobbinton esker, the entire extent of which is an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest or ANSI. ANSIs are areas that were identified in the 1980s by provincial biologists and geologists as being the best regional examples of geology and/or ecology. Eskers are long, sinewy stretches of high ground, or ridges that usually run north to south. They are the remains of meltwater ‘rivers’ that ran underneath the retreating glaciers. They are composed of different sizes of stones and gravel that had been scraped from the surface of the land to the north, carried south by the glacier, and dropped in the form of these ridges.

The group then drove north on Bruce #10, turned east on the Arran Elderslie Line and then north on the County line to drive through the Grimstone Flats where the surrounding high ground is drained by Grimston Creek, Keady Creek and the Sauble River. Turning west on Concession 6 brought us to the Tara Karst area, where the Sauble River disappears underground, flows through hollows that have been worn in the limestone and then reappears in various spots. The most spectacular of these places is where the water disappears in holes in the ground on one side of the road, and flows out from the bottom of a hillock in a wide stream on the other.

Heading back to the County Line, Birchard led us north over hills that are formed by the Tara strand moraines, and another drumlin field, and onto the Algonquin Sand Plain where Lake Algonquin used to extend. We stopped in Hepworth for lunch, then visited a last, very special place where the Skipness Drumlins surround wetlands teeming with life: frogs, nesting waterfowl and songbirds abound.

Another wonderful outing with Saugeen Nature came to an end. Heartfelt thanks were extended to Clarke Birchard for explaining to us the mysteries of the landscape, after which people dispersed to go their separate ways. On the way home we tried to interpret the landscape from the point of view of our new knowledge. For anyone interested in the outdoors, Saugeen Nature holds similar events on a monthly basis from September to June. The next outing will be a Wild- flower Walk at the Murray Tract on May 15th . Meet at the parking lot for the Kinghurst Management Unit of the Conservation Authority lands on Concession 6 north of Grey Road 25 at 10am. For more information go to www.saugeenfieldnaturalists.com or to register, email at saugeenfieldnaturalists@yahoo.ca

Submitted by

Nikki May
Publicity, Saugeen Nature

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I the undersigned, wish to have my child
participate in the following activity
sponsored by the Saugeen Naturalists. As part of registering my child, I hereby agree as follows:
1. That I acknowledge that there are inherent risks associated with this activity and that my child could sustain personal injury through participation in this activity and I am hereby accepting to take that risk on behalf of myself or my child.

2. To save harmless and keep indemnified the Saugeen Naturalists and the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority and their respective agents, official servants and representatives against all claims and actions, costs and expenses and demands, in respect of injury, loss or damage or death to myself or my child’s person.

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