HNPNC outing to Laurie Reed’s Heronry, May 28, 2017

We had a wonderful outing to the heronry between Speyside and Campbellville. On the way, I saw a Black-billed Cuckoo flying across the road. Sadly, we could not stop quickly enough for everyone to get a good look at this bird.
We went on to Laurie and Judith Reed’s property and made ourselves at home on their barn balcony, overlooking the hundred-acre swamp. There were 17 active Great Blue Heron nests, most with fuzzy young and one adult tending the 2-4 babies. We saw a swan on an old beaver nest. Closer views with a scope revealed a pair of Trumpeter Swans on this nest, one with number J57 on its yellow wing band. A Common Gallinule was seen preening, and a second bird seen soon after. Later, another pair of these quite rare “common” birds was seen. We also saw two Pied-billed Grebes and heard their strange call. Tanya was excited to see a Black-billed Cuckoo, but only momentarily before it hid in a shrubby tree. It called on and off the whole time we were there. Several Eastern Phoebes were flying about and collecting insects, and must have had a nest nearby. Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Oriole, and a lone Willow Flycatcher, singing its “fitz-bew” call were also observed, along with Yellow Warblers and Gray Catbirds. I spotted a Snapping Turtle having a face-off with a much smaller Painted Turtle. A count of all the turtles revealed 29 painted and two snappers sunning on logs. Turkey Vultures soared over, an Eastern Kingbird posed on a stick and Red-winged Blackbirds feuded for prime territories. A few Tree Swallows seemed to be nesting in the swamp with the herons. Although only five club members came out of this event, it was a great way to spend a nice sunny afternoon. Many thanks to Laurie and Judith for their hospitality, and for maintaining this great habitat.

Author: JOHN BEAUDETTEAperture: 11Camera: PENTAX K-5Iso: 200Copyright: BEARMUGS WEB DESIGNOrientation: 1
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Algonquin Park

Covering 772,300 hectares, and established in 1893, Algonquin Park is perhaps Ontario’s most stunning wildlife refuge.
So awe inspiring and so amazing is the atmosphere that this treasure can leave you speechless. In fact, this place is even capable of silencing our own Vice-President Ian Jarvie.
Upon his return from a recent trip, virtually speechless, our Vice-President simply said “Here, pictures”. Therefore, here are a few of his photographs to speak for themselves.

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Swift Watch

Bird Studies Canada is conducting SwiftWatch, a long-term monitoring program, with the goal of raising awareness about chimney swifts, a species that has declined by 95% since 1968. You can help by volunteering with the Halton SwiftWatch Program, where you will be assigned to a known roost site, and will spend one to four evenings (about 8 to 9pm) in the spring monitoring it for bird activity; May 24, May 29, June 1, June 5.
If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, please contact Emily at
More information about the SwiftWatch Program is also available here. Ontario_Swiftwatch_Protocol.pdf

Winter Birding Report

January 26, 2017
Sedgewick Park, Oakville
Suncor Woods, Oakville
Woodlawn Cemetery, Burlington
LaSalle Marina, Burlington

Don Scallen, Archie Tannock, Fiona Reid, Tanya Pico, Yves Scholten, Alexis Buset, Gary Hall and Ian Jarvie

The weather for this year’s outing, while it was not cold for this time of year, was drizzly and damp, with mist and fog, quite thick in places. Despite that, we had a very productive day, with some particularly notable sightings.

The first stop was at Sedgwick Park where we saw the resident Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden Crowned Kinglets. The Orange-crowned Warbler failed to make an appearance, although we did see a Tufted Titmouse, which was an unexpected find, and some members saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. In addition, we heard a Carolina Wren calling its usual “peter-peter-peter”, and a number of other species were also seen. The table below lists all the species seen throughout the day.

We then proceeded to an area where owls had been previously reported and were not disappointed. At Suncor Woods, we had spectacular views of a pair of Great Horned Owls, which obligingly posed for a photo op for several minutes before flying off. One was noticeably smaller than the other, and we assumed that they were the male and female of a mated pair.
As if one owl species was not enough for one day’s outing, two Long-eared Owls were spotted nearby, tracked down by finding the regurgitated pellets at the bottom of the trees they were roosting in. They were well camouflaged, high in two pine trees, but not well enough to escape our eagle-eyed (or should I say owl-eyed) Naturalist Club spotters!
Other notable species were a Red-tailed Hawk and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Several Robins were also seen, and the trend in recent years seems to be that more and more of these birds are staying around our area, rather than migrating south.

After a quick lunch stop at the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s, we headed off to Woodlawn Cemetery where a Tufted Titmouse and a Screech Owl had been reported some days earlier. Unfortunately they kept themselves well hidden, and Juncos and Chickadees there were the only birds to be seen.

As we drove to our next stop, LaSalle Marina, the fog thickened and by the time we reached the lake, the visibility was extremely poor. The waterbirds close to the shore were easily visible, with the usual contingent of Trumpeter Swans living up to their name, and hundreds of Mallards and several Black Ducks along the water’s edge. A Pied-billed Grebe was seen among many Scaups, and a Snow Goose was only just visible through the fog further out, swimming with a group of Canada Geese. Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneye and two Coots were also spotted. There were many more unidentifiable waterfowl barely visible through the fog, and likely even more beyond that. A bold beaver also swam past us, hugging the shoreline, and later we noted quite extensive damage to several trees, with at least one having been brought down and used as the beaver equivalent of Tim Horton’s. Along the boardwalk trail many woodland songbirds were to be seen, including a Carolina Wren, but the highlight was an Orange-crowned Warbler, pointed out to us by another birder present.

From there, we had intended to go to the Burlington Lift Bridge to view the waterfowl and the resident Peregrine Falcons, but the poor visibility, the lateness of the day and the cold damp weather persuaded us that it was time to call it a day.

A total of 39 species were seen in all, so, despite the cold and damp weather, I think everybody would agree that we had a great day of winter birding!
Note: Here are some images of the owls and other wildlife.

IAN 7477
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Toronto and Region Conservation Winter Events

1. Winter Bird Count
Date: Saturday, January 14
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Claireville Conservation Area – 8180 Hwy 50, Brampton, ON L6T 0A7, Canada
Description: The Christmas Bird Count is a fun, family-friendly bird watching event that promotes nature appreciation and environmental stewardship. Build bird identification skills and contribute to important Citizen Science work for bird conservation! All ages are welcome. This event is in partnership with Bird Studies Canada. The event will be hosted outside so please dress warmly.
This is a FREE event. Please register online to secure your spot:

2.Snowshoes and Snow-clues at Newhouse Park
Date: Saturday, February 11        
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Location: Newhouse Park – 16 Cliffview Court, Caledon Ontario        
Description: Discover the wonders of winter wildlife while identifying tracks and signs of local animals. Try out snowshoeing. In the event of a snow-free day, join us for a winter walk through the woods. This is a FREE event. Please register to secure your spot:

3. Hoot and Howl at Albion Hills
Date: Saturday, February 25        
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Albion Hills Conservation Area Field Centre
16500 Peel Regional Rd 50 Caledon,
Description: Join Toronto and Region Conservation for a night of fun and adventure! Enjoy a short presentation on owls and coyotes followed by a trip into the woods. Together we will call out to these wild creatures in hopes they will hoot or howl back! This is a FREE event. Please register to secure your spot:

Birding in the 21st Century – EBird

ebird_logoA year or so ago I moved into the modern age and started to use an online resource called eBird to log my bird sightings. eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is essentially a database where individuals worldwide record their sightings of birds. To date, thousands of birders worldwide have logged millions of sightings since its inception in 2002.
Individually, it provides an easy way to record your sightings, manage your checklists, and investigate what birds are being seen in any geographical area of interest. Cumulatively, this provides an invaluable resource for scientific study and conservation efforts.
To use eBird, simply create an account with a username and password, and off you go. And it’s free!BEA11046
Submitting your observations is easy, just go to Submit Observations (not surprisingly!) and follow the prompts, starting with location, followed by date, start time, outing duration, and then, on the next page, list the species you have seen. The birds are listed in taxonomic order, and there is a search function which makes finding your bird easy. Enter the number of that particular species you have seen, and you can even drag and drop your photographs too.
Since the information you submit is entered into a scientific database, data quality is extremely important, and the people at eBird are nothing if not rigorous. For example, eBird detects when you record a “rare bird”. It automatically flags the species as being rare based on location, time of year, or numbers seen. It then asks for further substantiation – photographs are great for this. The photograph doesn’t have to be Nat Geo front page quality either, even poor ones showing details of the bird are enough. The rare bird submission is then vetted by local expert birder volunteers, and if considered valid, it is then entered into the main database. But even if the reviewer does not consider it substantiated, it still shows on your personal checklists.
After you have entered your sightings, you can go to the My eBird tab and view your life list and manage your checklists, which are sortable by species, date seen, location and a number of other parameters. You can even download your checklists or share them with others via email.BEA11945
Because lots of other birders are doing the same as you, there is a huge database of information which is extremely useful to us birders. To investigate what has been seen and where, navigate to the Explore Data tab and click on one of several links and explore sightings by region, hotspots, species or bar charts. There are even interactive maps!
An additional feature is the ability to sign up for rare bird alerts, and you will receive emails telling you where and when rare species have been seen in the particular region you are interested in.
If you want an easy way to log and manage your sightings, and a great way to investigate what birds are around you, eBird is a wonderful tool. But perhaps more importantly, by contributing your birding efforts you can individually play a small but important role in “citizen science”. Collectively, birders worldwide are building a hugely important scientific database being used by, for example, educators, biologists, and conservationists.
So, next time you grab your binoculars and bird book and head out, why not think about using eBird when you get home?

ebirdlogo-en-canadaIan Jarvie
Halton North Peel
Naturalist Club


     Leonard Sielecki of the University of Victoria is conducting a web-based survey on the opinions of drivers on a wildlife hazard warning system that was developed at the university.
The system was developed to give drivers more information about wildlife hazards on roads and highways. The system is designed to let drivers know how wildlife hazards change from place to place, during different times of the year on roads and highways.
The survey is an anonymous survey so no personal information, like your name, your address, or any other identifying information is requested or will be recorded. The survey takes about 5 to 7 minutes to complete. All participants will need to read an online consent form before they start the survey.
The survey is completely voluntary so please do not feel any obligation to do the survey. If during the survey you don’t want to complete the survey, you are under no obligation to do so. If you don’t want to complete the survey, just close your browser window.
If you have a driver’s licence and are 19 years of age or older, and are interested in participating in the survey, the link for the survey is below:


Your participation in this survey is greatly appreciated. If you think your friends, colleagues and acquaintances might be interested in participating in this survey, please feel free to forward this information to them. The more participants that I have in this survey, the more valid the results of the survey will be.
I would like to get as many participants for my survey as possible.

Thank you.

Leonard Sielecki
Department of Geography
University of Victoria


Hello SwiftWatch Volunteers

The chimney swifts have arrived back in Halton, and with that marks the start of the 2016 SwiftWatch season. This year, the National Roost Monitoring Blitz is on May 21, May 25, May 29, June 2 and 6. If you’re available on one or or more of these days, your observations are important to the protection of this species at risk. Additionally, if you see swifts or identify chimneys being used please let me know for future monitoring efforts.

If you are interested in volunteering and have a roost that you would like to monitor, please email me with your location. If you’d like to be assigned a roost, let me know where you’re able to monitor (Acton, Georgetown, Milton, Campbellville, Oakville, Burlington) and I’ll find one convenient for you.

swifts_chimneyThe 2016 protocols and data collection forms are available here.

Presence absence worksheet

SwiftWatch Data Form

Ontario SwiftWatch Protocal

Generally, try to be outside at least 30 minutes before sunset (up to an hour if it’s a cool or rainy night) to start recording swifts entering the chimney. Once it’s dark out and visibility is reduced, chances are all of the swifts are in for the night.

We will be hosting two Swift Night Out events this summer. Invite friends, families and community members, and bring your lawn chair, camera and binoculars:

Acton, May 15: Meet at User’s Self Storage, 59 Willow St N at 8PM

Oakville, August 8: Meet at the old 291 Reynolds Street at the old Oakville Trafalgar High School, located in the parking lot to the southeast of the hospital at 8PM

We hope to see you out this summer! 2016 SwiftWatch Flyer

Emily Dobson
Halton SwiftWatch Coordinator

A Letter to Forks of the Credit Provincial Park Seeking Preservation of Meadows 2016

Attention: Jill Van Niekerk, Superintendent of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park

Forks of the Credit Provincial Park contains many hectares of old field habitat, resulting from the abandonment of agricultural land. These expansive meadows provide habitat to a diversity of flora and fauna including a number of species at risk.

Meadowlarks (threatened) nest here. Bobolinks (threatened) use the extensive old field habitat for foraging before fall migration. Bank Swallows (threatened), nest in adjacent quarry operations and forage over the meadows. Monarch butterflies (special concern) lay eggs on the abundant milkweed and nectar on the profusion of asters, goldenrods and other old field wildflowers.

Beyond these species at risk are a number of plants and birds at FCPP that are locally uncommon. Among the plants are Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) and Amethyst Aster (Symphyotrichum x amethystinus). Locally uncommon birds, supported by the old field habitat, include clay-colored sparrow and orchard oriole.

According to Biodiversity in Ontario’s Greenbelt, a document released by The David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature in November 2011, “only 441 hectares of the Greenbelt is covered by grasslands – far less than one per cent of the entire plan area.” The Nature Conservancy of Canada states that “Grassland bird species have shown steeper, more geographically widespread and more consistent decline than any other category of North American species.”

According to the Bobolink and Meadowlark Recovery Strategy prepared by the Government of Ontario in 2013 “Over the most recent ten year period, it is estimated that the Bobolink population has declined by an annual average rate of 4% which corresponds to a cumulative loss of 33%. Over the same period Eastern Meadowlark populations have declined at an average annual rate of 2.9% (cumulative loss of 25%).”

Although various factors are responsible for these declines, the loss of old field and grassland habitat in Ontario is widely acknowledged to be one of the major drivers.

FCPP is gradually reverting to woodland. Over three decades of observation by HNPN club members, this transition has been very evident. Without human intervention, the ecologically valuable old field habitat and the diverse flora and fauna that it supports, will eventually be lost.

Our club recognizes that species diversity depends in large part on habitat diversity. We are supportive of the maintenance of a mosaic of habitats at FCPP. Extensive forest in the valley of the Credit River should clearly be protected. The current meadowlands merit protection as well, which will necessarily entail some measure of active landscape management. Areas of shrubby growth – also very important habitat – should be maintained as well.

The Forks of the Credit Provincial Park Management Plan published in 1990 by the then Ministry of Natural Resources (Now Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) appears aligned with the concerns of the Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club. Article 3.0 reads: The goal of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park is to protect the park’s outstanding natural, cultural and recreational environments and to provide a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The existing old field habitat has both natural and cultural value.

A specific protection objective of the FCPP management plan (Article 4.1) is to protect the park’s six species of vascular plants which are regionally rare. Only one of these plants – Aster pilosus – is listed in the management plan, but the other five may include other plants that depend on open meadow habitat to grow.

The Forks of the Credit Management Plan also includes a commitment for managing a portion of the upland meadow complex as open landscape. An entry under Vegetation Management (Article 7.2) reads: The vegetation of the field in the Natural Environment Zone in the eastern plateau will be managed (i.e., periodic mowing and/or burning) to maintain the open character of this rolling landscape. Care must be taken to protect a representative portion of the old field succession, for interpretive purposes as well as to maintain the regionally rare plant, Aster pilosus.

As cited earlier there are several other significant species of plants, birds and insects, also dependent on the old field habitat of FCPP, that merit protection. The Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club calls on Ontario Parks to act on the provisions of article 7.2. to maintain this old field habitat.

With Forks of the Credit Provincial Park there is an opportunity to help conserve a significant expanse of old field habitat that is critical to the future of at-risk species. There is an opportunity as well to educate users through interpretive initiatives (signs, display boards, publications) about the critical importance of grasslands and old field habitat for biodiversity.

With respect,

Don Scallen,

President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club

RELATED: Grand River Conservation Authority “Grassland for bobolinks in the central Grand”

A Message From our new President

Though Thanksgiving has passed, this is an apt time for me to offer thanks to the people who help make our club strong. As your new president my first order of business must be a heartfelt thankyou to Fiona Reid, our outgoing president. Under Fiona’s leadership our club has thrived as a vibrant community of naturalists. Fiona effectively communicates her passion for nature through art and writing. We are fortunate that she served and can be thankful that she will continue to contribute to our club as “past-president”. Many other members have also made valued contributions to our club in recent years. I shudder to think where we’d be without the various Dobsons. Club secretary Emily Dobson produces excellent minutes of our executive meetings, contributes thoughtful ideas and manages SwiftWatch with great effectiveness. Ramona Dobson, Emily’s mom, has the newsletter well in hand. Another Dobson unrelated to Emily and Ramona, except in commitment, is Valerie. Valerie is a fine membership coordinator. Her welcoming messages to new members and gentle haranguing to pay membership dues are much appreciated.
Yet another Dobson, Kim – Ramona’s partner and Emily’s dad – is the club’s construction engineer, building homes for swallows and bluebirds in need of accommodation.
Our treasurer, Janice Sukhiani, has almost as much history with the club as I do. I am grateful that she has decided to continue in her position for at least another year. And in this era, it is crucial to have a website and I’m grateful that John Beaudette has brought his expertise to this important task.
I’d also like to formally welcome Ian Jarvie to the executive. Ian is a passionate birder and an all-round great guy. His fine sense of humour will add welcome levity to future executive meetings.
Your executive will continue to offer the membership engaging talks on a diverse range of topics of interest to naturalists. We will try to offer at least one outdoor activity each month as well. We will also look for opportunities to make a difference in our community and beyond.
Please speak to any member of the executive if you have any suggestions for walks or meetings. Your input is valued.
Finally, my thanks to all of you for making the atmosphere of our club so welcoming. I look forward to seeing you soon!

Don Scallen
President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club

serving Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Acton & surrounding areas

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