Category Archives: author

Groundhogs

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Our landscape is networked by roads – ribbons of death where myriad animals from butterflies to deer meet their demise. And though morbid, an objective look at this mortality can provide insight into changing animal populations. In the 1960’s and 70’s groundhogs, aka woodchucks, were among the most frequent victims of vehicular faunacide. Their bodies littered roadsides as raccoon carcasses do today. Groundhogs are now rare road-kill victims. No, they haven’t evolved the ability to look both ways before … Continue Reading ››

Red-backed Salamander

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Red-Backed Salamander
Red-Backed Salamander
They weigh about as much as a paper clip. Dew worms dwarf them. They are, by weight, the smallest vertebrates in Ontario. But what they lack in size they more than make up in numbers. Red-backed salamanders are abundant, outnumbering all of the reptiles, rodents and birds that share their forest habitat. Densities of red-backed salamanders have been estimated as 500 to 9000 … Continue Reading ››

It is 10 p.m. Do you know where your cats are?

by Fiona Reid, President
On my way home from our last meeting, with coyotes in mind, I was on the lookout for mammals and eyeshine in my car headlights. In the ten-minute drive, I spotted six domestic cats in fields and along the roadsides. These were the only mammals I saw that night. So, what impact do our cats have on wildlife if they are allowed to roam free? A recent study … Continue Reading ››

Monarch Butterfly- RIP 2026

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
The eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies is no more. Lepidopterists (butterfly and moth scientists) confirmed earlier this year, that the once familiar orange and black butterflies are essentially extinct. Their awe-inspiring north-south migrations, linking Mexico, the United States and Canada have ceased. Most of us are old enough to remember when monarchs were a frequent sight in meadows and gardens. The monarchs’ demise was not unexpected. For decades, people in all three North American countries ratcheted up … Continue Reading ››

Disappearance of European Hare from the GTA

Ontario is home to five species of rabbits and hares. These include the Arctic Hare (Lepus arcticus), White-tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus townsendii), Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus), Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus), and the main subject of this report, the European Hare (Lepus europaeus). The first two species do not extend into our area at all. Arctic Hare barely get into the most northern parts of the province while the White-tailed Jack Rabbit is included on the basis of a few records … Continue Reading ››

Snow Spiders!

by Fiona Reid, President
Snow Spider
Snow Spider
Where there are abundant sources of food, as is the case well illustrated above, there will be predators. I was amazed when I walked in the woods at night, searching for elusive winter moths, to see spiders on the snow surface at intervals of just a few feet. This was on a mild night (relatively speaking) and their sub-nivean burrows may have … Continue Reading ››

Mimicry

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
People manage their appearance with clothing, jewelry and hair styles to present a particular image of themselves to the world. Deception is often involved. A muscled, leather-clad, tattooed man may be a powderpuff, but his fearsome exterior projects a formidable – “don’t mess with me!” – presence. Insects are masters of this bluff. There is a vast array of harmless flies and beetles for example, that have evolved to look like dangerous bees and wasps. This allows them to … Continue Reading ››

Bird sightings

photo by Ann Fraser
photo by Ann Fraser
This winter brought Tundra Swans very close to us, just south of Georgetown during April. The agricultural fields southeast of Mountainview and 10th Side Road also hosted Canada Geese, Caspian Tern, and nearby Ring necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Coot, Mallard, Redhead, and 7 Hooded Mergansers were seen on one visit by Dave Williams. Who needs Lake Ontario when … Continue Reading ››

Hairys and Downys

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Downy Woodpecker - Illustration by Fiona Reid
Downy Woodpecker - Illustration by Fiona Reid
Hairy and Downy woodpeckers frequent backyard feeders at this time of year. Though different sizes – the hairy larger, the downy smaller – their colouration and patterning is well-nigh identical. The bills tell the tale. Hairy woodpeckers brandish large dagger- like beaks; the beaks of Downys are smaller and more chisel-like. I’ve … Continue Reading ››