Sunday, 30 January 2022

Outing to The Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs, ON

     As part of the ongoing series of outings I have been leading for Waterloo Region Nature we made a midweek visit to the Mill Race Trail, followed by a weekend jaunt, as has become our custom.

26 January 2022

     The ladies of WRN are proving once again that they are a cadre of winter warriors second to none.

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Jim Burrell, Pauline Copleston, Lisa Den Besten, Beth Hobson, Curtiss MacDonald, Wendy Shaw, Kathy Waybrant, Kath Werner.

Lisa, Wendy, Kath, Pauline, Beth, Curtiss, David - and kneeling, Kathy, Jim

     It was especially pleasing to see my good friend, Jim Burrell, come out and join us. Jim has undergone some major surgery in the past couple of years but is on his way to resuming his normal activities.
     Birding was a little sparse, but as that paragon of wisdom, Curtiss, has said before, it's the fact of getting out and enjoying each other's company that counts most.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Book Review - The Social Wasps of North America - Owlfly Publishing


     This is a remarkable book on many levels. Who would have thought that an entire volume would be devoted to social wasps? How many people even know of social wasps?
     In a large leap of faith, Chris Alice Kratzer, fuelled by her own passion for these insects, set about to write and illustrate the first field guide to social wasps, and the result is an informative, richly illustrated work that will become a must-have book for anyone with even a passing interest in wasps.
     The first seventy-two pages provide a wealth of information on everything from anatomy to ecology to taxonomy to conservation, ending with a 'How to use this guide' section. 
     What follows is a stunning portrayal of every species in North America, which for the purposes  of this guide encompasses Greenland, the Caribbean and Central America. The artwork covers the variations and castes for each species, in exquisite detail, with a concise description and range map. It boggles the mind to contemplate that all of this was done by one person - and a twenty-five year old mechanical engineer at that. It took a thousand hours to finish the work, on top of a thousand hours already invested in research.
     The work draws heavily on the internet platform iNaturalist and the illustrations are based on photographs found there, with consent granted by, and full credit given to, each contributor. In fact, we first were apprised of the work in progress when permission was sought to use a picture taken by my wife, Miriam Bauman.) 
     Here is her contribution on Page 161.

     There is an extensive glossary, a tool I always find very useful, and a comprehensive bibliography.
      It is almost poignant (yet nonetheless brave) to note that the author felt it important to draw attention to her membership in the LGBT+ community.  Perhaps in the not too distant future, we will embrace the day when such affiliations are no longer noteworthy and the only thing that will matter is the calibre of the book.
     I am happy to say that I have had the chance now to pore over it for several days, and each time I open the pages it gets better.
     Bravo Chris Alice Kratzer!

The Social Wasps of North America - Owlfly Publishing
Author: Chris Alice Kratzer
US$24.99 - 6 x 9 inches (15 x 22.5 cm) - 424 pages - 900 full colour illustrations
ISBN  9781737892700
Published: 8 January 2022

Sunday, 23 January 2022

The Linear Trail and Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     Hard on the heels of Ontario's biggest snowfall in many years, a couple of outings were scheduled for Waterloo Region Nature, and, intrepid outdoorspeople that we are, we went ahead undeterred.

19 January 2022

Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Pauline Copleston, Lisa Den Besten, Beth Hobson, Wendy Shaw, Kath Werner

Kath, Beth, David, Wendy, Pauline, Lisa

     There were a couple of last minute cancellations, due perhaps to the weather in one case, and for personal reasons in another. I would be remiss if I did not extend a warm welcome to Kath who was joining us for the first time.
     It seems to me that to share a morning with six attractive, intelligent women is reward enough, and the prospect of good birding only added to the allure.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

A Visit from Lily (and Heather too!)

      Hello everyone. 
     This is Lily and I am very happy to "see" you all again via David's blog.
     My mom and I had a great visit with Miriam and David at their house, where we started out in the kitchen for tea and cookies. Well, the adults had tea and I had water. The cookie was really good, the kind you can squish in your hand and strew crumbs all over the floor. That's the best kind!

          I guess my hair was pretty staticky. How much fun is that?
     But best of all was when we went to the family room and David let me handle some of his bird carvings and statues. 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Audubon Bird Cards

     I am quite sure that John James Audubon would be staggered to know the ways his name has been used in the furtherance of avian conservation. The mere mention of the word Audubon conjures up a universal mission to preserve species and habitat, and to engage the public through education, publicity and fund-raising campaigns.
     A couple of years ago a friend of mine was attending an auction and saw a boxed set of Audubon Bird Cards and picked them up for me.

     The set has obviously been well used, but the cards remain in remarkably good condition. Several are missing from the set (numbers 11, 12, 13, 18, 22, 24 and 47), not surprising I suppose after almost fifty years in circulation.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Waterloo Region Nature Outing to Long Point, Norfolk County, ON

      It is getting hard to remember a time when COVID didn't affect almost every decision we make. In the wake of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant new provincial restrictions on assembly have been imposed on a weary populace, and there is now a limit of ten people on an outdoor gathering.
     At the last moment one participant's family contracted COVID and another had difficulty getting a caregiver for a younger family member, so we were eight that made a visit to the the Long Point area, along the northern shore of lake Erie.
     It was a cold day, but suitably dressed, we sallied forth in high spirits and with great expectations. 

     Once again, we proved the point that you can clothe yourself properly and deal with cold, yet oppressive heat is impossible to escape, especially when accompanied by high humidity.
     And by midday the temperature soared to a heady minus 9.5 degrees! No one had to worry about the mayo on a sandwich curdling in the hot sun!
Leader: David M. Gascoigne

Members: Miriam Bauman, Lisa Den Besten, Tina Den Besten, Bob Fraser, Angie Koch, Wendy Shaw, Zach Summerhayes.

Angie, Bob, David, Tina, Lisa, Wendy, Zach

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Say Hello to Ookpik

      Ookpik is the name given to the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) by the Inuit people of the north, and it has a lovely sound to it. I have never quite understood why the indigenous birds of the Hawaiian Islands have been universally accorded their Polynesian names, yet elsewhere English names (for the English-speaking world of course) are used. Furthermore, it is easy to say Ookpik, whereas some of the names of Hawaiian birds are almost impossible to pronounce, let alone remember!

     Snowy Owls herald the beginning of spring for the Inuit as the birds return from the south to occupy the tundra where they breed. Here they are dependent on the Brown Lemming (Lemmus sibiricus) to feed themselves and their young, and the relative abundance of lemmings weighs heavily on their breeding success.
     When they appear in southern Ontario, as they do every winter, they are catholic feeders, taking any prey they can capture. Waterfowl feature prominently in their diet.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Some Local Beauties

      I thought I would share with you a few of the local beauties in my life, all seen around here recently. I beg to assure you that the list is not exhaustive!

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

     This common bird, is uncommonly beautiful.

     Rarely a day goes by without a Blue Jay, but they are never less welcome for their familiarity.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Book Review - Wild Honey Bees, An Intimate Portrait - Princeton University Press


     Before going any further, it behooves me to issue a word of caution. Be sure to leave yourself lots of time when opening this book. The photographs are so staggeringly beautiful that it is going to take you a couple of minutes to turn each page! The detail is incredible, especially the images from inside the nest, many of which have never been photographed before.

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.