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.

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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Connections of life

2022 09 03 hawke skunks and apples smaller

          It’s always interesting to see how certain events are linked to other events, especially within the natural order of nature. What are the ripples of effect and their impacts when set in motion by a random act, such as a blue jay pecking at a ripe apple?

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Awash with mystery

2022 08 27 hawke beetle

          I’m deep into a relaxing bath, a lovely refresher after a hard hike through the local forests, when I cast my gaze across the room and suddenly feel not so relaxed anymore. My pants are hanging on a hook, and hanging on the pant leg is a large copper-coloured… something… with legs.

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The challenge of uninvited guests

2022 08 24 hawke family

          Event planning and preparation these days can be challenging, what with supply chain issues, travel challenges and severe weather events all conspiring to thwart your best laid plans. As I write this, we are the throes of pulling together a “Celebration of Lives Well Lived” for my late in-laws, Matt and Jane Valk.

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Lazy, hazy days of summer insects

2022 08 14 hawke insects

As we are now into the hot and hazy days of summer, the birds have quieted down, the wildflowers are just sitting there, and it seems that Nature has engaged the summer vacation mode. But don’t be fooled into thinking “there’s nothing going on out there” —  the insect world is hopping busy.

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More than milkweed needed to save monarchs

2022 08 06 monarch butterf y hawke 5

Can bad news also be good news? How much spin does one need to apply to make a bad news story a good news story? This interpretation of an event is somewhat commonplace in our interactions with nature.

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Who was eating crow?

2022 07 30 hawke crow

A countryside walk will often reveal loose bird feathers. As molting takes place the old feathers are shed as new ones grow in. And not wanting to be flightless, most birds molt one feather at a time thus always remaining protected from the rain and also retaining the ability to fly.

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Doing the 'orchid happy dance'

2022 07 26 Hawke Orchids on the Plain

Orchids are a fussy bunch of plants. They grow only if the soil pH is just right, if the moisture is just right and if the amount of sunlight is just right, and they reproduce only if the right kind of pollinators are in the neighbourhood. There is no wonder why botanists get a little excited when they encounter a real live orchid in the wild.

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The miracle of life for monarchs

2022 07 18 monarch chrysalis

It’s a great big (and sometimes nasty) world out there. Big stories hit us relentlessly as the reporting media tap into every nuance of information that may prove newsworthy. Much of it isn’t, of course, but that doesn’t stop some outlets from making it news anyway. Our instantaneous global connections can sometimes overwhelm us and send you running into the woods. Hmm, maybe that’s a good thing.

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Keep a sharp lookout for porcupines

2022 07 09 hawke porcupines

When it comes to finding porcupines, or at least signs that they are nearby, it’s usually in one of five ways: it’s sitting in a tree, dead on the road, there is a set of tracks dredged through the snow, a den inside a hollow tree is found with mounds of peanut sized pellet poops at the entrance, or a dog shows up with a face full of quills.

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Who knows what grows around the bend?

2022 07 03 hawke flower

Over the meandering course of my working life, I’ve had great opportunity to visit and work on thousands of acres of Ontario landscape. Woodlands, wetlands, rock barrens, old farms, stream systems… pick a habitat type and I’ve likely been on it or in it.    

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Black Terns threatened by loss of wetlands

2022 06 27 hawke Black terns

This column usually highlights a species that can be found ‘in your backyard’, a way of providing some information about the myriad critters that share living space in your neighbourhood. But this week I am narrowing that scope down a bit, discussing a bird species that few of you have been lucky enough to have seen.

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Watch out! It's turtle season!

2022 06 18 hawke turtles

Mid-June is turtle season! All across southern Ontario the soil has warmed up enough to encourage female turtles to leave the safety of the swamp and venture forth to lay their eggs.

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Dumping on trash monsters

2022 06 11 hawke dumping small

          The trouble with a shared ownership, is that sometimes the other person with whom I'm sharing... is a slob. In this case the item being shared is Crown land, that glorious piece of real estate within Ontario, the lands, waters, trees and wildlife that are jointly owned by all Ontarians.

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The new buzz on mosquitoes

2022 06 06 mosquitoes

          Recently, I’ve had two very odd comments made to me. Actually, the subject was the same but came from two different people: where are the mosquitoes? While this should be a glad tidings comment, they were actually concerned if this meant less food for the birds.

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Alone time is worth the struggle

2022 05 28 Alone Time

          You may be retired, semi-retired or just hoping to retire; you may be hard at work or hardly working; you may be living at home with your parents or back living at home with your parents. No matter your situation, this time of year always brings forth that winsome spirit that declares it’s time to hit the road, go exploring and just get me the heck outta here!

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Trillium flowers are eight years in the making

2022 05 21 hawke trilliums

      At this time of the year, just about every walk in the woods or drive through the countryside will place you smack dab in the middle of a trillium patch. They are everywhere, and unmistakable to recognize. As our provincial emblem, nothing screams “Ontari-ari-ari-o” like a maple forest carpeted in white trilliums!

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