The Peninsula Naturalist

Newsletter of The Peninsula Field Naturalists’ Club

Volume 256
FALL 2023

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A Message From the President

A hike
© Jean Hampson

A 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

O 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 articles.

John and Mary
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.

NPCA Volunteer
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.

Tree dedication
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 Malcolmson Eco-Park.

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

D 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
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 eternal.

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.