Ontario Nature’s Volunteer for Nature (VfN) program was especially successful this summer. Among other activities, VfN participants assisted in two herptile surveys, the first at the Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve near Norland, where Joe Cebek, a biologist with Trent University, taught the group how to identify various species and about the life cycles and habitat requirements of each.

A similar inventory was conducted at the Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve in Grey County where participants and Ontario Nature staff identified 13 herptile species, including the uncommon ribbon snake, listed as a species of special concern in Canada. Ross McCulloch, assistant curator of herpetology at the Royal Ontario Museum, led the survey.

Amphibians are especially sensitive to changes in their environment and are among the first species to suffer the consequences of environmental threats such as pollution, destruction of wetlands and increased ultraviolet radiation. Many amphibian species around the world are declining in population. By monitoring populations on our reserves, Ontario Nature is gathering information that ultimately may help stop the decline of these important species.

Ontario Nature greatly appreciates the assistance the Kawartha Field Naturalists, the Saugeen Field Naturalists and the expert herpetologists provided. To learn more about the VfN program and Ontario Nature’s current campaigns, visit our website at www.ontarionature.org.

Ontario Nature’s AGM

In June, the Peterborough Field Naturalists hosted Ontario Nature’s 76th annual general meeting and conference at Trent University.

Nearly 200 members and supporters attended the conference, the theme of which was Landscapes of Transition, a title that symbolizes both Kawartha’s physical location between the Canadian Shield and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowlands area and the changes occurring in our natural environment.

Minister of Natural Resources David Ramsay was a keynote speaker on the first day of the conference, which included numerous workshops and discussions. Ontario Nature also presented its annual conservation awards to this year’s green heroes: Robert L. Bowles; Dr. Nicholas G. Escott; Terry Carr; and the Windsor Regional Hospital.

The late Harold Lancaster

Harold Leslie Lancaster, former director of Ontario Nature when it was called the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and founding member of the West Elgin Nature Club, passed away on April 1, 2007 at the age of 85. An avid birder, Harold compiled an extensive birding record that spanned 75 years, a copy of which will be forwarded to the Royal Ontario Museum for their official records. His work in the field was the driving force behind the publication of The Birds of Elgin County in the 1950s. Harold is survived by his wife, Evelyn, two daughters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Environmentalist of the Year

On April 24, the City of Kawartha Lakes recognized Ontario Nature member Vic Orr as “Environmental Hero of the Year.” Mayor Ric McGee presented the award on behalf of the city council, in recognition of Orr’s role in the preservation of natural habitats, in particular, the leadership role that Orr has played in the preservation of the Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve. Orr was instrumental in the stewardship and expansion of the reserve, which, at 471 hectares, is Ontario Nature’s largest reserve. Orr is past president of the Kawartha Field Naturalists and current chair of the Altberg Reserve Subcommittee. He is a knowledgeable naturalist and keen bird watcher who participated in the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas study.

Nature Network News: News from Ontario Nature’s member organizations

10th Annual Huron Fringe Birding Festival

This spring, nearly 300 enthusiastic birders and other naturalists attended the 10th annual Huron Fringe Birding Festival. During the 10-day festival, held mostly at McGregor Point Provincial Park along Lake Huron, an impressive 166 bird species were observed.

Events did not focus exclusively on birds, however. Participants also enjoyed learning how to identify wildflowers, butterflies, trees and insects, and attended workshops on photography, bird identification and naturalized gardens.

Information about the 2008 Huron Fringe Birding Festival will be available early next year at the Friends of MacGregor Point Park website, www.friendsofmacgregor.org.

Owen Sound Field Naturalists Update

The Owen Sound Field Naturalists (OSFN) has undertaken many conservation projects over the years – from making trails to constructing an avian viewing tower to building nesting platforms for ospreys and nesting apartments for purple martins. OSFN is now developing a program to ensure that these projects are regularly maintained. From among its members, the club has identified a steward for each project, usually someone who lives near it. Each steward is asked to visit the site at least once a year and report back to the club on the state of the project and whether it needs maintenance.

At the OSFN/Saugeen Field Naturalists boardwalk through the Oliphant Fen, for example, the steward reported that ATVs were gaining access to the fen, leaving big ruts and damaging vegetation. The same steward then wrote to the municipality of South Bruce Peninsula, asking whether, during planned road improvements in the area, the municipality would consider placing some boulders along the edge of the fen to keep ATVs out. OSFN members hope that their ongoing efforts to maintain the work they have done will allow projects and habitats to provide the maximum benefit to both people and wildlife.