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A Message From the President
© Jean Hampson
t the time of writing this message, the Peninsula Field Naturalists
have held two club meetings. In-person meetings! It was overdue and
I'm pleased the Executive did a great job in finding a new location
that meets our requirements. Space for the meeting, a monitor for the
presentation, a cantina to prepare the refreshments and a lounge to
enjoy them. A person could get used to this.
On a sad note, two people in my life passed away in September. My
father-in-law Frank Hampson and former President of the Peninsula
Field Naturalists, John Potter.
I will miss telling Frank of the adventures Jean and I have been on.
He loved nature and always asked Jean and me what we found, whether
it was on a local hike or a birding vacation further afield.
I consider John Potter a mentor because of his vast knowledge and
leadership. He played a part in my decision to stand for President
when John was looking to move on to the Past President's position.
Both of these fine gentlemen will be sadly missed and walking to
Swayze Falls in Short Hills Provincial Park will bring a smile to
my face and peace of mind. I know that both Frank and John would
not have it any other way.
Bob Highcock, President
In Memory of Dr. John Potter 1940 - 2023
n September 22, 2023, PFN member John Potter passed away at the age
of 83. John was a research scientist at Agriculture Canada for 35
years in the Department of Nematology. He was widely regarded as an
expert in the field and authored numerous peer-reviewed journal
John and Mary at the 2019 PFN picnic.
© Bob Highcock
John was a long- time member of the Peninsula Field Naturalists and
as a member of the Executive, he served as Director , President and
Past President from 2000 -2018. For twelve years, approximately
thirty -six issues, John was Editor of The Peninsula Naturalist and
with the assistance of Mary, he would put the articles together,
arrange for printing and take care of distribution by postal mail
and e -mail.
n addition to arranging for speakers during his tenure as President,
John also gave memorable presentations to the club including his
talk about Owls of Southern Ontario and his trip with Mary to the
Yukon. John led the Maple Syrup Walk in Short Hills Provincial Park
annually. During the hike, John would point out several species of
trees along the trail. The hike was followed by a delicious pancake
breakfast and was a favourite outing for many PFN members.
At the NPCA Volunteer Awards September 2022
© Della Eckert-Trojan
For the annual St. Catharines Christmas Bird Count, Mary and John
would arrange for the rental of the North Pelham Youth Hall to hold
the Round-Up potluck after the counting was done. Setting up chairs
and tables, preparing the kitchen and having warm coffee and cider
at the ready were a few of the things they did every year. John and
Mary's contributions to the PFN, too many to count, were truly
appreciated and in 2021, they were awarded a Peninsula Field
Naturalists Life Membership.
May 2023 Tree dedication in their honour.
© Friends of Malcolmson Eco- Park
John also served as president of the Niagara Woodlot Association. He
was on the Board of the Ontario Woodlot Association and the Owl
Foundation. He volunteered with Friends of Malcolmson Eco-Park,
Niagara Restoration Council and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation
Authority. He also did an inventory of trees for Niagara Parks. In
May of this year, John and Mary were honoured with a tree dedication
ceremony for their contribution and commitment to the well-being of
John will be greatly missed by the Executive and club members. A
memorial donation to the Owl Foundation has been made to honour
John's contribution to our club.
DHistory of Birds and Birdwatchers in Niagara
by Jean Hampson
ue to a cancellation, it thrilled us to have Marcie Jacklin speak
about "The History of Birds and Birdwatchers in Niagara" at our
April meeting. Fresh from viewing her 400th Ontario bird (the White
Wagtail), she presented an informative chronology of bird-watching
records for Niagara.
Bird books and binoculars. Tools of the trade
© Jean Hampson
Indigenous people, explorers and early
settlers all recorded seeing enormous flocks of Passenger Pigeons
migrating across the area in astounding numbers. Once the dominant
species of bird in our skies, with numbers in the billions, Passenger
Pigeons were an important food source for early Niagara residents. In
1679, Roman Catholic Priest Father Louis Hennepin recorded sightings
of Passenger Pigeons as well as Wild Turkey. Some flock of these
pigeons were noted to be a mile wide, and 300 miles long and would
take up to fourteen hours for the entire flock to pass overhead. An
1804 painting of Old Fort Erie shows such a migration scene,
including showing hunters shooting at the flock. Incredibly, in
Niagara, the last recorded pair to be shot occurred September 5,
1890, and the final young male was shot in Fort Erie in 1891,
contributing to the extinction of a species that once was considered
Well-known Ornithologists travelled to Niagara in search of
discovering new species. Alexander Wilson (1766 - 1813) hiked from
Grays Ferry, Pennsylvania, to Niagara Falls in 59 days and covered
1200 miles. He described the White-Headed Eagles (Bald Eagles)
soaring in the mists of the falls. John James Audubon noted Great-
Footed Hawks (Peregrine Falcons) in Niagara.
As populations were more established on the American side of the
Niagara River, nature groups formed there earlier. Mayor of Buffalo,
George Clinton (1861) was the first president of the Buffalo Society
of Nature and Science. Birding became a more accessible pastime with
the development of bird guides and optics in 1918. A group of bird
enthusiasts established the Buffalo Ornithological Society in 1929.
In 1933 and 1935, Roger Tory Petersen of Bird Guide book fame visited Niagara Falls. The Peninsula Field Naturalists was established in 1954. Many of our club members are not only avid bird watchers but also advocate for nature as a whole, and are also members of the
Niagara Falls Nature Club (1966) and The Bert Miller Nature Club
(1995). Beardslee and Mitchell wrote 'Birds of the Niagara Frontier'
in 1965. John Black and Kayo Roy later published 'Niagara Birds' which
covers bird species in Niagara from 1965 to 2010. New technologies have
advanced our bird-watching abilities with apps such as eBird, Merlin and
iNaturalist. Alerting other birders to an interesting species you have
discovered is as simple as pressing a button on your smartphone.
Marcie has contributed much to the history of birding in Niagara and
we are indebted to her for her commitment to nature and promoting
birding in Niagara.