In May, Ontario Nature hosted its 78th annual general meeting (AGM) in conjunction with the Huron Fringe Birding Festival at the Bruce County Museum in Southampton.

Ontario Nature’s Herpetofaunal Atlas coordinator and resident reptile expert, Joe Crowley, gave a presentation about reptiles at risk in Grey and Bruce Counties that no doubt spiked interest in Ontario Nature’s new Herpetofaunal Atlas Program. This atlas will compile the most up-to-date data on the distribution and abundance of Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians, collectively referred to as herpetofauna.

A highlight of the weekend was the presentation of the Ontario Nature conservation awards. Ontario Nature acknowledged the contributions of individuals and organizations to the protection of natural habitats through program development, education and leadership. This year conservation awards went to Stewart Nutt, Drew Monkman, Diane Lawrence, Ron Reid, the Thames Talbot Land Trust, and the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation. The Ontario Nature Corporate Award was given to RONA for leadership in developing a strong procurement policy for the wood products sold in its hardware and renovation stores. RONA demonstrates a clear preference for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products and gives purchasing preference to suppliers that share the company’s commitment to sustainable forestry practices.

The Margaret and Carl Nunn Memorial Camp Scholarship was awarded to Robin Emms who has been an active participant in Kids for Turtles environmental education activities, and has a passion for monarch butterflies, 30 of which she has raised and released into the wild. Emms attended Camp Kawartha’s Nature Camp for four days this summer.

Ontario Nature thanks all its members and supporters who participated in the 2009 AGM. We hope to see everyone again next year in Sarnia for number 79.

Our Clubs: Friends of Mashkinonje

While its pronunciation may elude first-time visitors, it is impossible to mistake the stunning beauty and ecological wonder of 2,000-hectare Mashkinonje (MASkin-onj) Provincial Park, which stretches from the West Bay across the West Arm of Lake Nipissing. The park, which contains an 8,000-year-old provincially significant peatland, found protectors in 2000 with the formation of the Friends of Mashkinonje as a registered charity. In 2005, the Friends joined Ontario Nature as a member group. Now 60 or so in number, the Friends have completed a number of projects that will help visitors enjoy Mashkinonje for many years to come.

The group’s proudest achievement to date is a seven-and-a-half-metre lookout tower frequented by keen birders and casual passersby alike. The product of months of hard work by group members, the tower allows visitors an astonishing view across the Loudon Peatlands, marsh, fen and bog at avian nests and the occasional sandhill crane. The park also features two boardwalks that lead to rock lookouts in the park, which the group hopes to soon make wheelchair-accessible.

In addition, the Friends initiated a project to harden trails in order to prevent damage to the sensitive vegetation alongside the pathways. The crew worked even during the chilliest winter days and materials were hauled in by snowmobile over frozen wetlands to protect the ecosystems from damage. The group also recently erected seven new trailhead signs, highlighting the park’s different wetland habitats and their at-risk inhabitants.

The Friends lead regular excursions into the park throughout the year. Botanists, professors and wildlife experts often tag along and teach visitors about the park’s extensive peatland ecosystem. Winter wanderers have spotted moose and fox tracks while spring visitors have marveled at great blue herons, kestrels and even southern bog lemmings.

The Friends are inviting interested naturalists to join them for a celebration of the group’s accomplishments. Visitors are welcome to meet on September 17 in the Loudon Peatland parking lot where they can learn about projects past and present, and the development of Mashkinonje to date.

To learn more about the Friends of Mashkinonje, visit