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President’s Message

Greetings! I hope you are all keeping well in spite of the challenges this year has presented.

Most of you know me a little, but perhaps I should introduce myself. As the son of a dyed-in-the-wool naturalist, I took to studying nature at an early age. I recall with fondness my father teaching me how to key out a plant with a field guide, how to collect insects, observe birds or even locate a secretive mole in the back woods. In my personal life, I try to pay this forward, sharing my experiences with family and friends at every opportunity. In my academic and professional life, I have been most privileged to be able to pursue this passion as an ecologist, working for the University of Toronto, various consulting firms and, for the last several years, Conservation Halton. I am grateful for the opportunities I have enjoyed, to broaden my understanding of nature and to continue learning more all the time!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Don heartily for the wonderful work he has done. I don’t mind admitting it will be a serious challenge trying to follow in such footsteps as he and our other past-Presidents have left. My thanks, Don, for the amazing example and inspiration you have given me!

Your executive continue to do a phenomenal job of organizing the club and all its activities. I have rapidly come to appreciate how well each of them tends to the many tasks that keep everything moving forward smoothly. I shall be relying on them, as well as past-executive members, for their support and wisdom in conducting the club’s affairs. My thanks and appreciation goes out to each of you in advance!

The club’s modus operandi has been highly successful, so even as we are faced with the challenge of working out new ways to conduct our activities in the age of Covid, we are striving to maintain the tried-and-true model. Nature talks and meetings can still be held, even though we must explore new ways to hold them. Outdoor walks and other activities are, of course, one of our favorite things. We are continuing to explore how we can offer these in a safe and careful manner. So, with a few tweaks, you may look forward to this continuing to be an active and vibrant club for anyone who loves to appreciate the wonders of the natural world.

Watch your email and check out the newsletter!

Thank you all again, and I look forward to an exciting time with this amazing group!

Yves Scholten
President, Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club

HNPNC Spring Birding Challenge 2020


Dear members,

Bird sightings from currently restricted areas will not be posted. This includes all conservation areas and any properties associated with the Bruce Trail.
We will adjust the Spring Birding Challenge as required in this rapidly changing crisis. For now, sightings from your own properties are most welcome.

Don Scallen
Acting President
Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club

Spring is almost sprung, and even in the midst of a global pandemic, overwintering birds are still around, some spring migrants are already here, with many more to come on their northerly migration.
So, whether you are self-isolating, or being good citizens and practicing social distancing, the birds are still out there, and there’s no need to distance yourself from them – they will almost always be the ones to decide when you come too close!
And since we are now not getting together in social groups as we have in the past, here’s an opportunity to still be involved with the Club, and hopefully have fun at the same time.
We are proposing to set a goal of collectively identifying 200 species of birds in the Halton and Peel Regions between now and Saturday 21 June, the end of Spring.
It’s easy to do, and there are 2 ways to do it. First, just create a checklist of what species you can identify, including the numbers of each species, along with your location and any pertinent comments like nest building, courtship, feeding young, etc and simply email that to me.
Secondly, and even better, is using eBird, which is a wonderful tool I have talked about before. I know some of you are already eBird users, but if you are not, it’s easy (and free) to create and set up an account at Once you’ve done that, you can enter your sightings on their website. Or better still, download the mobile app to your phone from either Google Play or the App Store. With the mobile app, you can enter your sightings on the fly, and you can even choose to track the location where you are birding. I have been using the website for a few years now, but recently I have been using the
mobile app, and if I can use it, anybody can!
In addition, eBird keeps a log of all your checklists, species seen, locations and much more. You can also search for sightings in any region you choose, you can search for a particular species of interest, the list goes on…..
And, very importantly, all the data entered contributes to science and conservation – and what naturalist club member doesn’t want to do that? Then, just share your checklist with me!
A total list of species seen will be posted on the Club website every few days, and the idea is to accumulate as many species as possible.
So, let’s look out there and see if we can get 200 species. Good luck and happy birding! For the time being, we will stay in and around our homes. As the conditions improve and we are able to venture farther away from our residence, our hot birding spots will become our objective.
TARGET: 200 species by the end of spring. If you have a photograph of a bird you can’t identify, send it along.
E-Mail your list and any questions to Ian Jarvie (


Irene McIlveen – A Memoir

When I attended my first meeting at our club in November 1991, I would never have guessed that I would be so involved in such a short time. By the end of December I had gone with Bill McIlveen on a day trip to the Niagara River and been involved with the club’s first Christmas Bird Count which Bill had organized.

It was probably years before I had as many interactions with Irene McIlveen as I had had with Bill in the first two months. The two of them were involved in almost everything that was happening with the club. Of course Irene was a very friendly and approachable person as well as being an amazing naturalist. On the club nature walks I often ended up with Irene’s group of followers, proceeding at a more leisurely pace than Bill’s; Irene often searching for, capturing or photographing the small, hidden treasures of nature.

As the years went by Irene and I got to know each other much better. I always thought of her as a lovely person and admired the way that she dealt with the world. It was probably in the late 90’s that Irene and I were carpooling for a club day trip. It was a great opportunity for conversation on many topics and the experience strengthened our friendship.

In the past few years I got a ride several times with the McIlveens to the southern week-night walks. On occasions, when the mood was right, Irene and I would try to have some fun at Bill’s expense. If an opportunity arose one of us would suggest how Bill might improve himself and the other would agree and maybe add their two cents worth too. Fortunately, Bill always escaped unscathed and we all had a good chuckle.

Irene was a pretty serene person but she was not free of frustration. While I was visiting once, Bill was showing me some watercolour landscapes that he had done. Irene was there and she was telling me how Bill, in a matter of minutes, would produce these lovely paintings and how is that fair, etc. I sympathized with Irene and she and I agreed that it would be more considerate if Bill took more time to finish each painting.
Irene was a beautiful person. I will remember her often and with great affection.

Ray Blower

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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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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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

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

President’s Message

Hello and a very Happy New Year to all club members!

This winter has been so different from the last (so far at least), although the fallen branches from last winter’s ice storm are still very conspicuous in leafless forest and roadsides. On the Christmas Bird count (reported in detail in this newsletter) we found the numbers of common birds to be very low, but the overall diversity was very high. In part this resulted from a very mild day for the count, but also we had a larger contingent of counters than usual. Many new members took part and their knowledge and enthusiasm no doubt helped us find more species than in previous years. Thanks to all who participated!

I will not be present at the next three meetings (I’m leading nature tours to much warmer destinations!), but I hope to see everyone in April and perhaps before at a winter outing. We do have a great line-up of speakers that I am sorry to miss.

Best wishes,

2014 Halton Hills Christmas Bird Count

by W. D. McIlveen –

In contrast to the weather experienced for the 2013 Christmas Bird Count in the aftermath of the ice storm that year, the weather for the 24th annual Christmas Bird Count on December 27, 2014 was quite delightful. Although there was a very brief light shower around noon, the lack of snow made for excellent survey conditions. The temperatures that got to approximately 10C in the afternoon were probably the second highest in the 24 years that the survey has been undertaken. The survey had a new high total of 33 participants.

The results of the tally for Count Day and Count Week are summarized in the attached table. The number of species reported was 60 plus one hybrid, which exceeds the previous high of 57 species seen in 2003. Despite the large increase in numbers of Canada Geese (over half of the total), the total birds was 8413. The total of counted birds was lower than the long term average by more than 1300. Six species (Ruffed Grouse, Snowy Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, White-throated Sparrow, and Pine Siskin) made the final list but were not tallied on Count Day.

Eight species were present in new high numbers. These included Trumpeter Swan (2), Northern Shoveler (7), Bufflehead (2), Common Goldeneye (22), Cooper’s Hawk (7), Eastern Screech Owl (6), Red-bellied Woodpecker (18), and Common Raven (4). Twenty-six species were present in numbers below average. The single Common Redpoll was the lowest count recorded to date when the species is actually present; however, this is a highly-eruptive species with numbers as high as 1670 in 1997 and present only about every other year.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.08.16 AMThe unusually warm conditions and lack of snow in combination with extra observers likely affected the overall results. The lack of snow would cause fewer birds to require food from feeders though most feeders observed were not filled. Despite the annual variability in numbers observed over the duration of the Halton Hills Count, we can conclude that numbers of Canada Geese, Common Raven and Red-bellied Woodpecker are increasing while the numbers of American Kestrel have declined.

Thanks to the following participants: Ray Blower, Alexis Buset, Mark Cranford, Melissa Creassey, Emily Dobson, Kim Dob-son, Ramona Dobson, Pam Forsythe, Ann Fraser, Sandy Gillians, Ian Jarvie, Aaron Keating, Dan MacNeal, Lou Marsh, Merle Marsh, Katie McDonnell, Bill McIlveen, Irene McIlveen, Matt Mills, Dan Pearson, Johanna Perz, Fiona Reid, Dawn Renfrew, Don Scallen, Adhara Collins Scholten, Yves Scholten, Dan Schuurman, Rick Stroud, Janice Sukhiana, Patrick Tuck, George Wilkes, Marge Wilkes, Dave Willams.

Many thanks once more to Larry May for arranging access to the Maple Lodge Farms property and to Fiona Reid for hosting the wrap-up session.