Connecting Lake Simcoe's Community

David Hawke is a naturalist who is well known for his outdoor writing and photography. David has worked for several agencies and organizations around Lake Simcoe. In his weekly blog, he shares his observations and insights related to our local natural environment.

Close encounter with a lone coyote

2023 01 29 hawke coyote

Coyotes are usually fairly quiet creatures, keeping to the shadows and hunting the thickets far from our buildings. So, when I heard a constant yapping and yowling coming from our neighbour’s corn field, my curiosity was aroused.

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Fisher sighting is rare treat

2023 01 22 hawke fisher

          To get an accurate daily tally of the birds that use our backyard feeders requires multiple views out the kitchen window. First glace may reveal three chickadees, six juncos, a blue jay and a red squirrel. Second glance a few minutes later reveals a cardinal, five chickadees and a goldfinch. Third glance I note that only a white-breasted nuthatch and a fisher are in the yard.

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That bird is my favourite!

2023 01 15 hawke pileated

Birdwatchers, whether raw amateur or seasoned professional, will all have their favourite bird species. The challenge is, as there are thousands of bird species to choose from, how does one pick an all-time favourite? Spoiler alert: you can’t!

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A new year, new goals for the planet

2023 01 08 hawke winter

Here it is, a whole new year dawning before us. This concept was driven home as we took down our dog-eared and messy 2022 calendars (of which there are many in our house) and replaced them with crisp new images and page after page of blank squares.

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Cardinals provide sheer delight

2022 12 31 hawke cardinals

What’s up with all the cardinals this year? They are everywhere! These bright red birds can be found on postage stamps, coffee mugs, calendars and just about every Christmas card in production. When did this species unofficially become our ‘official’ commercial bird of winter?

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Momma deer coping with winter

2022 12 25 hawke deer

       As we slide closer and closer toward the winter season, it is always a natural wonder to see how wildlife are adapting to the changes: some species are already well into hibernation; others have migrated to areas of greater food source; and those species that remain have had to adapt as best they can to the cold and snow.

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Why the Oro Moraine must be saved

2022 12 17 hawke Oro Moraine small

I could easily fire off another tirade about the sad state of our environmental affairs in Ontario, lambasting the thick-headed Doug Ford Unprogressive Conservatives and his bevy of bobble-head MPPs, but have decided not to. Instead, I am going to try an educational approach, using this column to enlighten “our representatives” as to what a moraine is and the valuable functions of this geological wonder.

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Jet-black grey squirrels

2022 12 11 black squirrels

          There’s snow on the ground and a bite to the gusty breeze… time to set out the bird feeders. I usually wait until the birds are getting a bit desperate to find natural food, as our farm has oodles of grapes, apples, acorns (some years, not this year), weed seeds and goldenrod galls (with a juicy little fly larvae inside).

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Hope for the future in outdoor nature ed

2022 01 03 hawke outdoor ed

I have had great opportunity to be involved with outdoor education programs for the past 43 years, working with students from Kindergarten to 4th year university. No matter the age, the ‘kids’ are a blast to work with as they are in their natural habitat… the great outdoors!

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Leave wetlands alone!

2022 11 26 hawke wetlands2

Despite my personal preference of returning this column to one of discussing natural wonders, I am once again propelled to wax political about the proposed Bill 23: The More Houses Built Faster Act. Sorry, but there is a need to further explore this bizarre proposal.

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Push back against urban sprawl!        

2022 11 19 hawke bill 23

Long time readers of this column will know that I rarely rant political in this space, yet current matters cause me to write out loud. The provincially proposed Bill 23: The More Houses Built Faster Act is complete lunacy, yet seems to be headed for some level of acceptance within our Queen’s Park legislature.

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Plagues of hungry grackles

2022 11 05 grackles

          Autumn is such a dynamic time of year with much hustle and bustle to be observed in nature, from the last ‘good-bye’ party of warm-weather summer, to the spectacular cascade of tree colour and then the first icy kiss of winter. Lots going on out there.

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Earthworms threaten healthy hardwoods

2022 10 31 hawke earthworms

Now that the leaves are down and the fall colour spectacle is behind us, we have to content ourselves with a quiet time woodland walk. Leaves rustling underfoot remind us of nutrient recycling, as the soggy leaves decompose and release essential minerals to be absorbed yet again by other growing plants. Ah, the cycles of Nature keep rolling on, all is well. But actually, it's not.

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Blaze of colour sweeps the land

2022 10 22 hawke autumn colours

 The fall colours that blanket our region are, of course, the very nourishment that our soul requires every year. After a long, hot, muggy and sticky summer, the refreshing weather of autumn is so very welcome, and the blaze of colour that sweeps the land is reward for those of us who simply endure the other three seasons.

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Salmon run to the finish

2022 10 15 hawke salmon run

The splashing sounds from the nearby stream let us know we were getting close.

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What's in a name?

2022 10 08 Indian Names

         As you read this column, please know that it has been written from the author's deep respect of a culture that really should have had a much, much higher standing in our nation's history.

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Tales from above the mast

2022 10 01 hawke mast production

          When the caller asked if I could speak to her group about mast production, I assumed she had me mixed up with someone else. What did I know about building sailing ships? As the conversation went on, however, it became obvious that she was indeed on the right tack, as 'mast' is a word to describe the fruiting bodies of trees — acorns, beechnuts and such.

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Autumn's iconic migration

2022 09 25 hawke Canada geese

Is there anything more iconic for the season than to see and hear a flock of Canada geese flying overhead? Sometimes you first hear them and will stop whatever it is you are doing and look skywards… wondering if they will be low enough and close enough to be seen through the branches of the colourful maple tree.

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A mushrooming debate

2022 09 17 hawke foraging

By dictionary definition, a ‘foray’ is a raid for plunder, to lay waste and pillage. This is why I cringe whenever I hear about the annual proliferation of edible mushrooms forays, which are usually well-hidden within the context of being an educational experience.

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Find solace in Nature

2022 09 10 hawke least bittern

          My paddle was literally mid-swing when our eyes locked. “Least Bittern! Least Bittern! Least Bittern!” I screamed silently to myself. This was a very special interaction indeed.

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