A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Monday, June 26, 2017

At The Bird Feeder .....

Its been a while since I have posted anything, having a stroke tends to slow one down and change your priorities I find, Still I was 'lucky' and have very few lasting effects and am now able to function fairly normaly again.
What encouraged me to write a bit today was our first sighting of both our male AND female Red Bellied Woodpeckers at our window feeder. The Male has been around for around 5 years and whilst very shy at first and barely providing us with an occasional glimpse gradually became used to us and eventually became a daily visitor, we had not however seen a female until a glimpse of her last year. We think perhaps that they raised a young one but cannot be sure, perhaps this year we will have better luck in that regard as the female is now recently visiting the feeder regularly also. (We presume having just finished sitting and now feeding young?)
Being on what was the northern edge of their range we are very pleased to confirm we have a pair here and hope before I finish this post to provide photo (and possibly video) proof of their presence from our webcam that sits just a few inches away from the feeder inside our window. Meanwhile our usual collection of other woodpeckers (Hairy, Downy) continue to keep us busy refilling the feeder helped in particular by the flush of newly hatched Grosbeaks and our usual collection of red & white Nuthatches (hard to tell the young from the regulars with that lot!)
In other places we have a pair of Phoebes nesting in the peak of our roof above the back door and Robin raising the third, or is that the fourth, clutch of youngsters in our pear tree just outside our back door, the House Wren busy telling us that she has young ones over by our wildflower garden and our Oriole letting us know she is still around once in a while!

Female too shy to get pic but here is the male who practically lives in the feeder!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mothers Day Walk

After a mild frost first thing the Mrs and I took our annual 'Mothers day walk" around our woodland trails this Monday ( I know, I know, we were a day late.... that seems to sum up my life off late). Generally the Trilliums, Trout Lilly and wild Violets are all out about now and we were not disappointed in that regard, also lots of new growth of other forest flowers and even many self seeded Maples looking good. Also saw much work to be done back there, several standing dead trees and some already taking a rest on the forest floor calling for me to 'rescue' them for next winters firewood.
The ever increasing sunlight gives me a little more ambition but my knees are crying uncle even after a half hour walk, so carrying the chain saw back there and actually doing something may take a while to get to!!
Returning to our sitting area under the BBQ shelter we were pleased to see the Ruby Throated Humming bird at the feeder just put out yesterday in anticipation of him arriving. This week has seen the return of many of our summer visitors, a pair of Baltimore Orioles arrived along with a pair of Bluebirds (who generally do not stay here , preferring a more open area). The Rose Breasted Grosbeaks have taken over our window feeder giving our various woodpeckers a run for their money, however we were pleased to see a female Red Breasted Woodpecker getting her share of the sunflower seed which most of our birds seem to prefer. Also seen recently was the arrival of the Great Crested Flycatcher that we host every year and the Phoebe each with their distinctive calls.
The apple and pear trees are just now coming into blossom and with a couple of days in the upper twenty’s forecast we can only hope that summer has arrived and will stick around for a while, preferably without any of those destructive storms that seem to be an ever increasing realaity.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The seasons of the year.

Each year we await the signs of spring with great anticipation, the arrival of the birds from warmer climes throughout April and May are carefully noted and compared with the arrival time from previous years, The same is true of the first green shoots and woodland flowers to pop up along our trails, this year we have had a few surprises with things a little different from 'normal'.
A recent hike revealed even more Hepitica in flower than we had ever seen before, in some areas the forest floor always gives us a good show but this year there are hundreds of 'new' Hepitica flowering with just one bloom per plant compared with the established ones with up to a dozen blooms on one plant. Even in our 'cultivated' areas where a few have been transplanted we find new ones popping up several feet away from the original, obviously self seeded. The same seems to be true of our clumps of Bloodroot, must have been a good fall / winter for seedlings?


The birds arrivals have been a little different also with much greater numbers of some species than we normally see. Usually we see one or two Purple Finches that drop by on their way to someplace else but this year we had dozens here for days and still have a pair sticking around, the same is true of the White Throated Sparrows. We had a half dozen hopping around under our apple tree finding bugs and fallen seed from feeder hanging above and still have a pair around who were just seen collecting nesting materials, usually they too move on and dont stick around.
And then as a bonus the Mrs just spotted a FEMALE Red Breasted Woodpecker quickly stealing a seed from the window feeder. We have had a male visiting regularly for several years and thought that perhaps we saw a fledgling last fall but were unable to be sure, we now know we have a PAIR here to add to our large contingent of Downy and Hairy woodpeckers. Go get those Ash Borer, Pine Sawyer, Forest Tent Caterpillars and Pine Bud Worms guys!!
Naturally one of our Robins has decided to build in a spot where we cannot help but disturb her, last year it was just 3' from the front door, this year its in the corner of our BBQ shelter where we sit almost every day to relax and enjoy watching the various birds come and go. Guess we have a close up view unless he gets spooked or Mrs R decides its not to her liking in that spot, he will probably build several for her to look over as usual!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

First Hike of the Season

Just returned from our first hike around our forest trails, not bad out in the sun at +7 but a little chilly in shady places which are not too many yet as Maples, Ash and other hardwoods have yet to leaf out. Having run out of firewood this year I see I have a good start on where to go to get more as winter storm damage has taken the tops off several Maples, with the tops down it makes it much easier to drop the remaining 20' or so without wearing it eh. No flowers showing in the bush yet as still some snow in shady areas but should see the Hepitica and wild Leeks popping up very soon. After a winter of basically sitting on my arse the 1/2 hour or so hike certainly made me aware of how out of shape I am but the arthritic knees held up so did not have to crawl back home.
Those first few trips back with chainsaw to hand are going to be tough but I am sure both the mind and the body will be better for a little sun and exercise ........ just is not going to be a job for today!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Great Backyard Bird Count.

This week the annual bird count is taking place and although I am not someone who goes out specifically to “bird watch” I have been keeping a closer eye on our bird feeders this week. I also took the time to report one days visitors to Ebird where you can find list of all the birds seen in the area.

We have a steady stream of birds coming to our feeders situated within a couple of feet from our kitchen and living room windows and have come to recognize individual birds in some cases, this makes it a little easier to get an accurate count of the number of each individual species seen in some cases. Most of the birds seen this week listed below are regular visitors, most several time an hour or in the case of the Chickadees every couple of minutes.

First those little pigs the Chickadees, we have at least 8 having seen that many at or near the one feeder at any given moment but given the coming and goings at both feeders I suspect the total number is double that or more. Its imposable to tell.
We have a male & female Downy Woodpecker and last years youngster just recently identified as a male (either that or there is also a female youngster) and the same of a Hairy Woodpecker family whose youngster we watched being 'taught' to come to the feeder last summer by his parents.
We have at least two Red Breasted Nuthatches and dito White Breasted Nuthatches, its hard to identify individuals so there could be more coming and going and cant say if male or female. Our regular Red Breasted Woodpecker is clearly Male and after several years of visiting is now much more comfortable with our presence the other side of the window.

Thats all the daily visitors but this week we also had a Goldfinch or two drop in, a couple of Crows announcing an early spring from nearby tree tops. Our pair of Cardinals drop in once in a while but we have not seen them this week or the pair of Rock Doves that we often see, but the darn Red Squirrel who raids the feeder when our dog Nikki is not looking still tries to sneak in once in a while. The only surprise there is that we still have a window left given Nikki's objection to his presence when seen from in our living room!

There are no unexpected visitors on our list but you may be sure we will be looking for those early spring visitors those usually being the Sparrows and Finches. Just cant wait......... for spring AND the birds!


Visit http://ebird.org/ebird/subnational2/CA-ON-GR?yr=all for recent sightings in Grey Bruce.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Planning for an Uncertain Future

Recently the 2016 population figures have been released and although the overall population in Grey Bruce has increased by 1% to 3% some communities, including the City of Owen Sound have declined. Given that the details of age, work, income and such will not be available for some months I am not sure that we can read much into these initial figures in so far as our rural economic and social stability is concerned.


A number of municipalities are currently reviewing their “Official Plans” as is Grey County, this is perhaps a necessary exercise every so often but given that upper levels of government policy, in particular provincial government, have an enormous impact upon what lower levels can do to control their own destiny I wonder if its an exercise in futility. What particularly comes to mind at this time is the ongoing pressure to close and 'centralize' community schools thus gutting several small communities of one more local 'resource'. Both the residents and the municipalities themselves seem helpless to stop this process in spite of offering some very generous and innovative ways to improve the financial stability of said schools.


My own take upon efforts to stabilize the general decline in rural populations and financial viability of rural areas across Ontario and Canada, that I have previously labelled “The Forgotten Minority” in these pages, is to somehow provide stable employment. To be clear I have no clue as to how to accomplish that! It is clear that with larger and improved farm equipment that few jobs will be created 'down on the farm', perhaps part of the answer is value added farm products via local co-op enterprises. In 10 years or so perhaps the SWIFT internet initiative will enable tech and internet dependent company to locate in our area, but will they leave the big city for rural Ontario?


All of the above being said there are a couple of ways you can have your say regarding the 'plans' for our area. Firstly Grey County is reviewing the County Official Plan through a project called Recolour Grey. A group of University of Guelph Rural Planning and Development Master’s students are investigating age related issues in Grey County as part of the Official Plan review. They will hold small-scale community engagement sessions with both youth and older adults and outreach to community groups and key stakeholders to determine the needs of Grey County residents.
Further information and a short questionnaire of your views can bee found at https://www.grey.ca/news/age-friendly-communities-survey


In Chatsworth Township a meeting for a round table discussion with the Community to discuss their Strategic Plan has been scheduled for February 22, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the hall at the Garafraxa Hill Funeral Home located at the Corner of McNab St and Garafraxa St in Chatsworth.  At the time of writing few details about this meeting are available but we must assume that citizens will be given an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas about the future of out township with municipal staff and councillors. Check the Township website over the next week for further information.


I do hope a few citizens take the time to give input to what goes into these 'Plans' and that some positive and innovative ideas are identified and adopted to help maintain our rural communities as a viable place to live and work.
Readers who attend are invited to submit a synopsis of the issues discussed to the Rural Canadian in the comment section or for publication via email




Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gravel Pits, OMB & MPAC and Rural Communities.

The following was received from the Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment and is reproduced here as a community service.


Cornerstones Standards Council (CSC) is the Aggregate industry's professional agency trying to raise the standards of aggregate producer practices to be more considerate of Communities hosting pits/quarries.
Because we (The Chatsworth Taxpayers For a Safe and Healthy Environment ) are actively opposing a current pit application (Bumstead Pit), CSC want to meet with us as well as with other municipal and public groups/agencies to hear concerns as more and more pits/quarries apply for licenses:
Saturday, February 4th in Owen Sound at the Bayshore Community Centre.   1 PM - 3PM.  Shoreroom #1  Registration is required. For further Information contact chatsworthtaxpayers@gmail.com


Background:
 It's important to go to this meeting with a strong contingent of our group and make emphatic statements of our concerns and what we will not tolerate (haul routes & costs to taxpayers, cumulative impacts on quality of life, environment,  health & safety, property values, risks to Source Waters, wildlife, agricultural lands and so much else.   Here's a few thoughts to start with:

Ontario Stone, Sand & And Gravel Association (OSSGA)

comments on Ontario Municipal Board appeals by aggregate companies (one day it'll be the Bumstead appeal):

"Limits on Appeals of Official Plan Decisions Would not Adequately Protect the Province’s Interest in Aggregates
"In our experience, municipal decision

-makers can be susceptible to focusing on local interests at the expense of broader provincial interests when it comes to aggregates. Despite the importance of aggregates to the Province as a whole, individual communities or local stakeholders may prefer
that the extraction of such resources take place elsewhere. In these circumstances, appeals to the OMB are essential, as the politically expedient decisions of a municipal council or approval authority, may not represent good planning in regard to the provincial interest in aggregates."


6. Essential materials for building a strong Ontario
The Role of the Citizens’ Liaison Office Should be Expanded
"While OSSGA believes that funding citizen groups would not be an appropriate use of resources..."


Clearly, OSSGA is not amiable towards the concerns of host Communities.  Our questions and comments to the CSC Feb. 4 can include questioning its relationship to OSSGA and how it can possibly mediate Community concerns when OSSGA, this powerful industry association, is such a negative force.

https://ossga.com/multimedia/2017-01-04-091516-35933/dec.16.16-omb_review_submission.pdf

In the above link you'll read another comment by OSSGA which is of concern to us.  Please note that the bolding of the 2 items is OSSGA's emphasis is theirs, not ours.  This indicates the strength of their opposition to any considerations to the Communities hosting gravel pits. That's why we have to pay attention and go to this meeting.....
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I note that MPAC has retroactively reassessed gravel pits to a lower value and this is substantially effecting residential tax rates in rural municipalities. I expect to be writing more about this in the near future however here is is a short article about the impact upon one rural community. https://www.puslinchtoday.ca/2017/01/12/county-councillors-digging-in-to-oppose-gravel-pit-assessment-change/