Volume 4, Number 4 - March 26, 1999




March came in like a LION and it hasn't improved much yet. Two winter storms blew through in the first week, sucking down arctic cold, lows of -18C. Gradually the weather warmed and temperatures were above zero again at mid-month but more snow came on the 22nd dashing hopes for an early spring.


The first spring migrants are arriving despite the persistent cold north wind. On Mar 5 HERRING GULLS were staking out nest sites on the islands near Port Carling, Lou Spence reports 8 on One Tree Is and a few flying over Ship Is. CANADA GEESE arrived at Big Chute on the 17th and 2 flew over Muskoka Falls on the 24th. Also on the 24th, a pair of HOODED MERGANSERS were in the pond around the Roger's dock in the Bluff Bay on the north-west side of Lake Rosseau. The first RED-SHOULDERED HAWK was back on the 17th, Dan Burton heard it calling on a traditional territory south of the Fire College in Gravenhurst, not a BLUE-JAY imitation says Dan, too long. Bob Burton and Dave Wright had a RED-SHOULDERED calling and flying over Cedar Lane north of Bracebridge on the 24th. On the 21st Ken Walton sighted a migrating BALD EAGLE immature flying north-east up the valley on Deer Lake Rd near Port Sydney. Dave Hawke reports 5 TURKEY VULTURES were observed Mar 23 flying over the south shore of Sparrow Lake. Sylvia Purdon reports that the COMMON RAVEN pair on Brydon's Bay Rd near Gravenhurst have been on the nest since March 1st. Gayle Carlyle saw the first migrant AMERICAN ROBIN on Roxborough Rd on the 24th, another chirping ROBIN announced its arrival in Gravenhurst on the 26th. A NORTHERN CARDINAL made a rare appearance at the Graggs near Vankoughnet on the 14th, only their second in 11 years. The Jennings near Glen Orchard had a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD at their feeder on the 21st and a lone male was guarding his territory at the south entrance to Gravenhurst on the 23rd. COMMON GRACKLES were at Big Chute on the 24th. Another sign of spring, BROWN CREEPERS singing, first heard by Al Sinclair on the 19th. Keep track of your first sighting dates, an arrivals list with the first Muskoka sighting will be started in the next Nature News.

The Big Muskoka Birding Event in March was the BIG numbers of BALD EAGLES at Big Chute. A scavenging crew of Herring Gulls, Crows and Ravens, about a hundred birds in all, were feeding on small smelt-sized fish frozen into the ice below the marine railway. As hoped another winter scavenger was also cashing in, 2 BALD EAGLES were seen on Mar 4th and 2 to 3 were seen most days for the next two weeks. However the big day was Mar 8 at 12:30 PM when Al Sinclair counted 11, that's eleven, standing on the ice at once, 3 adults, 8 immatures. The next day there was 5. They were flighty and disappeared behind the trees if approached, but with a bit of patience most people who came saw a couple, the last sighting was on Mar 15. A cottager apparently saw 3 eagles in the area as early as Jan 29 shortly after the spillway was opened, these probably wintered in the area, the big group may have been migrants attracted by the commotion. It was interesting to watch the reaction of the ravens when an eagle flew in, only one of the many ravens would fly up to harass the eagle and chase it until it left or landed on the ice. One that landed and stood over a fish was challenged by a raven that walked up to within inches, got no response but the eagle eye, walked around to the other side and took a a peck at the eagle's back that just missed, the eagle starred back but didn't move, the raven few away. If you're interested in studying bird behaviour get the book "Ravens in Winter" by Heinrich, bird actions, especially raven's, are sometimes not what they seem.

More NORTHERN GOSHAWKs than normal are being seen in Muskoka this winter. An immature was around Levays near Kilworthy again on Mar 1 at 8:00 AM. It sat briefly on a log behind their yard, getting the BLUE JAYS all upset, then flew off through the trees. A probable immature GOSHAWK, lots of heavy breast streaks, was sitting on a stump in front of Deforests at Wood Lake on Mar 14, seemed to have it's eye on a chipmunk hiding under the snow machine. On Mar 13 John Challis and Gayle Carlyle spotted a large accipiter with a pale breast flying into a flock of pigeons in downtown Bracebridge. It flew around for a few minutes without catching anything, stooped, and then flew south.

John Challis heard one of their BARRED OWLs calling Mar 8 at around 10 pm at their house on Roxborough Rd. east of Bracebridge, looks like they're nesting nearby for another year. The phantom SNOWY OWL beside Hwy 169 south of Washago appeared again on Mar 5 in a tree east of Conc 7. Next day it was nowhere to be found, looks like it shows up only late in the afternoon. Time is running out to see a SNOWY this winter.

A NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen Mar 1 west of the store in Wahta and was there again a few days later. The LOGGERHEADS don't usually return to Ontario to mid April, then you have to consider the ID more carefully. The latest OFO NEWS has a good illustrated article on Shrike identification, it's not as easy as the field guides suggest. The OFO web page is at www.interlog.com/~ofo.

Mar 2th Robin Tapley and Kendra Irving were surprised to see a GRAY JAY on Hanes Rd near Tim Hortons in Huntsville. Likely a young bird looking for a new home?

BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS have been flying over Gravenhurst to a crabapple tree behind 130 Fraser St. Bob Bowles had 60 flying in that direction over Bethune Dr on Mar 4, Al Sinclair saw 23 chowing-down on the rotten crabapples on the 11th, Dan Burton had 60 on nearby Lorne St on the 12th.

A few COMMON REDPOLLS were seen recently in Muskoka, on Mar 3rd 30 were briefly at Rogers' feeder on Lake Rosseau north of Minnett, on the 9th 2 were singing with other finches at the Sinclair's feeder near Uffington and the same day 10 stopped briefly at Big Chute before continuing south. Listen for their distinctive "rattle" call to locate them, they are hard to find this year, most stayed north.

Bob Bowles counted 10 road-killed WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS Mar 3 on Hwy 118E from Vankoughnet to Carnarvon, we need SLOW DOWN FOR CROSSBILLS signs in these areas. They flock down to refill their gizzards with fresh grit so they can digest all those tough spruce seeds, unfortunately they are slow on the take off.

In Algonquin Park Mar 22 Dan Strickland was the first to see a winter plumage male DICKCISSEL at the Visitor Centre feeders. It's been seen daily since, the centre is open only on weekends but if you go to the service entrance you can find somebody to advise the best place to see the bird.

The TUNDRA SWANS started arriving in Ontario on Mar 20, lots of sightings now Long Point to Grand Bend. The Bird Studies Canada satellite tracking project to map their migration route is on again this year, go to http://www.bsc-eoc.org/swans/swans.html to follow their progress.

As reported on ONTBIRDS, the latest news on the Great Grey Owl hit by a bus on Mississauga road near Toronto is that the bird can't use its right leg because of nerve damage. It will be going to Kay McKeever's in Vineland for rehabilitation. It is possible that the owl could be releasable if function does return to the leg, which could take anywhere from a month to a year, if at all. She is eating well and is otherwise healthy.

Now's a good time to refresh your memory of all those bird songs you forgot over the winter. Tom Cosburn will sell you a two cassette set with 130 Ontario bird songs plus 9 herps, 8 mammals and 12 insects for only $15 postage included. This is a deal you shouldn't miss, many of the good quality recordings were made on the Carden Plain and the calls of several species of Ontario grasshoppers and crickets are a real bonus, something not available elsewhere. Tom's address is 3 Paddington Place, Toronto, Ontario M9R 2S9. Telephone 416-241-1396.


Lands for Life Update
This is it, the deal is done. It is a major accomplishment and a major relief to all of us who thought this was going to be a disaster. There are many people who deserve credit and our thanks, especially the workers for the Partnership for Public Lands, but also the thousands who took to the time to get involved and express their opinion. The following report is from Ron Reid:

On Monday at 1:00, there will be a press conference in Sudbury to announce the results of the Lands for Life process. Premier Harris and Ministers Snobelen and Hodgson will announce the final slate of protected areas - an addition of 5.5% of the planning area, bringing the total to just over 12% (not including the logged parts of Algonquin). They will also present the Ontario Forest Accord, an agreement reached between the Partnership for Public Lands, senior representatives of the forest industry, and MNR through intensive negotiations in February. Representatives from both the Partnership and the forest industry will also speak at the press conference to endorse the outcome. We understand that the Round Table Chairs will also endorse it.

This is a major accomplishment for the environmental community, and all those who participated in Lands for Life on the side of protected areas. It is not perfect - it falls short of complete representation, and some limited mineral exploration and hunting will be allowed within at least some of the new protected areas. But it does establish a positive new relationship with the forest industry, and a mechanism to gradually go beyond 12% to reach our representation goals in future.

There will be opposition to the new protected areas, most notably from the mining industry and from some northern municipalities. And we will be asking for your help one more time, to send in supportive comments to the EBR registry, as soon as these results are posted. So the achievement is not yet completely secure, but with the tide in our favour and plenty of public support, I think we will be celebrating soon!

We expect that the Premier will announce 333 new protected areas across the planning area. Detailed information should be available soon from MNR, but among the major protected areas are:
* a 40,000 hectare new park in Algoma Highlands
* a major old growth pine protected area in the Spanish River corridor * virtually all of the shoreline, islands, and some shallow waters of Lake Nipigon in a world-class protected complex
* major new areas along the Superior coast, including a broad corridor linking Pukaskwa and Lake Superior parks
* significant new protected areas on Lake of the Woods
* significant expansions to Killarney, including the watershed areas to the east and north, and a coastline link to the French River mouth
* a series of large new protected areas along the Georgian Bay coast
* a series of major protected areas along the southern Shield through Muskoka and the Kawarthas
* two new large protected sites in Boreal East to set aside samples of fire-driven boreal forest
* a large number of new and expanded waterway parks
* almost all of the smaller sites recommended by the Round Tables
Your support and assistance in achieving this outcome has been absolutely vital. We hope you will share in our sense of accomplishment in this historic announcement. And to offset any criticism, we hope you will continue to communicate supportive comments to your MPP and local media (letters to the editor are good) in the coming week.

Pheasant Reintroduction
The Environmental Bill of Rights web site http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/ebr/ had a new posting from the MNR last month, number PBPE3001. This one from the Aylmer MNR district covers a pilot project to reintroduce RING-NECKED PHEASANT to south-western Ontario. Here are some quotes from the plan: "The pilot project would consist of the trap and transfer of wild ring-necked pheasants from other areas of North America which have abundant populations, and the transfer and release of those birds into the district. Ideally, about 200 birds would be transferred and released at about four locations.......If necessary, mammalian predators will be managed through normal trapping procedures. If raptors pose a serious problem, they will be live-trapped and re-located." OK what's wrong with that? For one thing they're allocating scarce funding to introduce a non-native species and native mammals and raptors will be removed if necessary to make it a success. Trap and relocate hawks, doesn't sound feasible or ethical especially if it's done during the breeding season. Who will benefit, hunters? This plan sounds like something from the 1950's.

How Far South do Timber Wolves Go?
Are the wolf sightings from Muskoka and Haliburton very large Coyotes or Timber Wolves or hybrids? On Mar 3 King Wright had a good look at one beside Hwy 118E at Anson Creek between Vankoughnet and Canarvon. The following is King's report. "What a magnificent creature! The wolf was on the road ahead of me and headed south into the bush as I approached in the car. I got a really good look as moved slowly away from me through an alder patch. The wolf was very large and therefore distinguishable to me as a wolf and not a coyote. I could not distinguish sex but it was brown/tawny in colour". King was on his way to a forestry course in the Haliburton Forestry Reserve and later spent an hour at their Wolf Centre watching the pack of western timber wolves feed, quite close about 10 or 15 feet away through one-way glass. The wolf he saw beside the Hwy was as big as the alpha male of that pack, perhaps even taller.


The frogs will soon being singing, we hope. The amphibians are considered to be the canaries of the environment, more sensitive to pollution, UV radiation, and climate change than other species. Ontario Frogwatch is looking for volunteers to monitor the frog species in your local pond or lake. Listen once a week and record what species are calling. Don't know the calls? Not a problem, tapes are available or download sound files from their web site. Get details at http://www.cciw.ca/frogwatching/


A new field guide to butterflies is just out, "Butterflies Through Binoculars - the East" by Jeffrey Glassberg. This is an expanded and improved version of his previous through binoculars guide and it looks good. Color photos that show identifying characters, range maps and lots of info on each species, a "must-have" for sure.

Ever get confused by ELFINS? Check out http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/8425/ElfinsNB.jpg. Stuart Tingley saw all six New Brunswick species in one day and produced a commemorative poster with nice pictures of each. He a has a few for sale or you can print out the web page. While you're online check out the other stuff on his home page http://personal.nbnet.nb.ca/tingley/index.html, it's impressive.

Duncan Robertson is currently preparing his moth summary for 1998 which will be published in the Toronto Entomologist's Association (TEA) newsletter Ontario Insects. He would be glad to receive reports of any species with date and location. Send to robertdr@post.queensu.ca


"The Common Dragonflies of Wisconsin" has been revised recently. This 7" X 8 1/2" paperback guide focuses on the most common species although many of the uncommon or rare dragonflies are also included for a total of 76 species (99% of what you will encounter). It is the only color guide for northern U.S. to cover a large number of species. The 64 page guide has 24 color pages with 167 color photographs and illustrations. The text also contains 64 line drawings. Each species photo is accompanied by text and graphics detailing English and scientific names, breeding habitat, Wisconsin range map, flight period, identification, abundance, actual length, and brief life-history notes. The guide contains an introduction, separate indexes to English and scientific names, bibliography, and a checklist of all Wisconsin species. All photos are of live dragonflies in a natural setting. It is designed for nature enthusiasts with no entomological background. Sounds like it worth the price $18.95 US plus shipping. Ordering info is at http://userpages.itis.com/karlndot/.

A new book to be published in 1999 was announced on Bill Mauffray's website, "Dragonflies Through Binoculars" by Sid Dunkle, not sure if he's pulling our leg or not. Sid has previously done two excellent books on dragonflies and damselflies of Florida, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. The address is http://www.afn.org/~iori/

There is now an ODONATA email discussion list. Email Dennis Paulson dpaulson@ups.edu to receive an invitation to join through Listbot.

The Maine Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey kicked off their 5 year project with a poster illustrating all 26 rare and endangered species in the state. Better than that it has illustrations to separate them from the common species, male appendages of most species of the genus Enallagma, Gomphus, and Somatochlora and the thorax patterns of Aeshnas. You can get one from: The MDSS, Endangered Species Group, Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 650 State Street, Bangor Maine 04401 USA. Price $13.00 US payable to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund.




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