Jeff Bowman, Flying Squirrels – Feb 15, 2018

On February 15, Jeff Bowman, professor at Trent University and scientist at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, presented to a packed house (72 people) at the Cobourg Public Library (Northumberland Land Trust and Lone Pine Land Trust organized this event).

Dr. Bowman began his talk by showing the relationship of flying squirrels to squirrels common in North America – they are closely related. Two species of flying squirrels are found in North America, the northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans). Both of the species are found in Ontario, though the southern flying squirrel is limited by cold temperatures in the middle of winter. The northern flying squirrel is found in coniferous forests, while the southern flying squirrel prefers deciduous forests. Where populations overlap, Dr. Bowman’s research group has found that the two species can hybridize. This may be due to the southern flying squirrel’s winter nesting behaviour, as they prefer to nest with other individuals (presumably to keep warmer).
Dr. Bowman showed how the research team monitors a population of flying squirrels at the James McLean Oliver Ecological Centre research station (using PIT tags and small radio collars). These techniques have allowed the group to examine nesting and caching behaviours of the squirrels. He also touched on other interesting aspects of flying squirrels, such as their ultrasonic vocalizations.
Dr. Bowman answered the audience’s questions following the presentation. Comments by the audience were very positive and we all felt that we had learned a great deal about about these elusive creatures.
For more information, visit the Flying Squirrel Project.

Fall Colours Nature Walk

Our final field trip was a lovely fall colour walk at the Munn tract near Codrington on October 14. The warm autumn had kept some tree species from fully turning but the gorgeous ravine woods was still stunning with lots of yellow, orange and a bit of red. There are many species of trees in this woods – American and Blue Beech, Eastern Hemlock, Bitternut Hickory, Red Oak to name a few – which allowed for a nice identification workshop and discussion regarding forest management issues. Blue Jays, Common Raven and Golden-crowned Kinglets were seen, as well as a few Red-backed Salamanders under rotting logs and the usual collection of Eastern Chipmunks gathering the abundant acorns. In some of the conifer plantations we saw the bank of native tree seedlings waiting on the forest floor to form the next generation of forest, once a scheduled thinning takes place in several years. In the Norway Spruce plantation near the road Red Squirrels have been busy hoarding large numbers of cones in piles for the winter.

Bats and Night Things Walk

written by Doug McRae
Chris Ketola, and avid naturalist and educator with our friends at the Willow Beach Field Naturalists, led a very well attended bat walk at the Lone Pine Marsh on the evening of September 16th. After some introductory remarks about bats, their life history, and the severe conservation issues they presently face Chris produced an amazing piece of technology called an Echo Meter Touch.
This small gadget plugs into an iPhone and can then detect the ultra high frequency sounds made by bats flying overhead in the darkness! This device records the frequency, pattern, and amplitude of bats sounds then reproduces them in visual and audible representation within our hearing range allowing for species level identification. Sure enough as darkness fell the bat sounds began and based on the characteristics of the calls heard that night we found both Hoary and Big Brown Bat hunting for insects over the Bobolink fields. In a previous visit to the site Chris also found Silver-haired Bat. In fact Chris visited several of our properties this past summer and gathered some initial data on bats living on the lands we protect – something we know very little about.

Out and About at Prairie Day


written by Paulette Hebert
On September 9, Doug McRae and Paulette Hebert attended Prairie Day on behalf of the Lone Pine Land Trust. Prairie Day is an event hosted by the Alderville Black Oak Savanna and the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative to raise awareness and provide education to the public about prairie and savannah habitat that surrounds Rice Lake. Doug and Paulette greeted guests at the Lone Pine Land Trust information booth and provided information on the properties we protect, membership and opportunities to donate land or make financial contributions. The public was also encouraged to visit accessible Lone Pine properties such as the Braham Tract on Maple Grove Road. Other members of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative were also on hand with information and freebies like books and stickers. It was a great opportunity to meet and network with like-minded organizations.
A host of fun and informative activities were also offered by the Alderville Black Oak Savannah and a number of other participants. There were guided tours of the Prairie, demonstrations about the cultivation and preparation of local wild rice and acorn flour, entertainment such as the Sugar Island Singers and a puppet show for the kids. There were also reptiles, bird banding, bees, plants and plenty of great food including scones, indigenous style.
What a perfect way to get your dose of nature! Many thanks to the Alderville Black Oak Savannah for all the work they put into Prairie Day, it was a great success.

Erica Nol, Songbird Research – Feb 16, 2017

Members and friends of Northumberland and Lone Pine Land Trusts attended Dr. Erica Nol’s talk on February 16 at the Cobourg Public Library entitled, “Can humans and songbirds coexist in southern Ontario.” Dr. Nol is a professor at Trent University and along with her graduate students, she studies influences on bird population dynamics.

Dr. Nol first put her talk in context; birds compete with humans for lands that are converted into more and more houses. Woodland song birds such as Veery and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are facing mild declines while grassland birds like Bobolink and Field Sparrows are showing steep declines. Common native birds such as Robins, Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds are increasing. As examples, Dr. Nol expanded on various studies she has participated in that focus on songbirds in forests or grasslands including: Ovenbirds, the impact of trails on songbirds, Bank Swallows, Brown Creepers, and Bobolinks.

A male bobolink enjoys the meadow at the Braham tract. (credit: Doug McRae, Shrew Solutions Inc.)

The ovenbird nests on the ground and their success is related to the abundance of their invertebrate food source. The research found that larger woodlots have more ovenbirds. This is related to lower temperature, higher moisture, and less wind in larger woodlots. Large woodlots are therefore better for maintaining ovenbird populations.
Next Dr. Nol highlighted research conducted in the Northumberland Forest that related trail width to abundance of forest-interior songbirds. When trails were wider, the researcher was less likely to hear songbirds, especially compared to areas that did not have trails. Nest success of Eastern Wood Peewee was less in pine plantations compared to deciduous forests and was positively influenced by forest gaps. Early thinning of pine plantations that results in faster deciduous regeneration is advantageous for this species.
The Bank swallow, a threatened species in Ontario, can reproduce in aggregate pits with appropriate soils. Compared to the Lake Ontario lakeshore, the abundance of nests was lower in aggregate sites but clutch and hatchling number were similar. Gull predation was higher at the lakeshore sites.
Brown Creepers nest under bark. A study conducted in Algonquin park found that any tree harvesting reduced numbers of creepers but populations were more likely to be sustained when yellow birch trees were left standing.
In a study examining rotational grazing effects on Bobolink, any grazing reduced the bobolink population by half (cattle were good at trampling nests). Cattle in larger fields with lower stocking densities had a lower impact but Bobolinks had the greatest reproductive success in hay fields that were cut after July 1.

I found Dr. Nol’s explanation of impacts of humans on various aspects of songbird success to be enlightening. The research examples presented demonstrated the myriad of ways that birds are influenced by our development.
While Dr. Nol did not truly answer whether humans and songbirds can coexist, it is clear that human choices have often unlikely impacts.