WRN Teens – Buckthorn

After 10 months and 12 activities the Waterloo Region Nature Teens finished their first year with a flourish.
Seven intrepid teens made a return trip to the University of Waterloo Environmental Science Lab on Saturday June 8. We were met by Payton, a third year student specializing in plant ecology. With great enthusiasm she shared her knowledge and outdoor experience with us.
We started our 3 hour activity in the Environmental Science Lab. There we were introduced to the threat of ticks, unlikely but possible hitch hikers on the University grounds. Thank goodness we had worn long sleeved shirts and jeans, despite the heat.

Using a dichotomous tree key, we determined the physical characteristics of Buckthorn in order to better identify it in the field. This unwanted shrub from Europe has successfully invaded most temperate North American forests, displacing traditional species such as Blue Cohosh and Maple.

After the Lab session, we hiked to a deciduous forest invaded by both mature and immature Buckthorn plants. Payton set up a grid, within which we were free to remove small Buckthorn plants. Their deep fibrous roots provided a real challenge when hand pulling one by one. The numerous thorns on the Buckthorn’s branches made it even more difficult to grasp and pull, even when wearing heavy gloves.

We soon discovered that even a Buckthorn with a diameter of less than 2 cm was nearly impossible to pull out by hand, even with 2 or 3 Teens pulling.  A jack-like instrument called a “Puller Bear” was used to lever and extract larger plants. It was a real team effort.

Having worked up an appetite, we returned to the lab for a pizza lunch. During our meal we discussed the pros and cons of all the activities we attempted during the past year. We finished off our last session of the year by proposing and planning longer activities and salamander monitoring for the 2019-2020 season.

Big thanks to Bev Raimbault from UW Ecology Lab for inviting us and to Payton Landsborough for all the hands-on work. 
Looking forward to seeing new and returning Teens next September. Have a safe and adventurous summer.
Linda Dutka

WRN Kids – Fire and Fireflies

On Saturday, June 8, WRN kids got to learn all about fireflies! It was a gorgeous night. When we got to Laurel Creek, we saw two deer!

While we waited for the sun to set, we had a camp fire. We tried to roast the perfect marshmallow, but many got burnt. They still tasted good!

We caught really cool bugs and put them in a bug apartment. We saw a raccoon scurry through the field. We played catch while we waited for dark.

After our fire, we hiked to the storm management pond. We heard green frogs and tree frogs. We saw a bat. We waited for it to get dark. We noticed orange flashes, they were fireflies! The male fireflies flash to impress the females. We actually caught some. They only live for a couple of weeks. We have never seen a firefly before, it was awesome.

Even though it was way past our bedtime, it was worth it. We hope to have more fun with fireflies again!
By Ada and Alice


​​​Thanks to Ada and Alice, sisters who are WRN Kids members, for a great report!

This special evening program was the wrap-up for our 2018-19 year. Thank you to David O’Reilly, our naturalist this time who built a great fire and helped us discover lots of cool things. Thanks to Mary-Anne Cain for coordinating our programs at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped out over the year: Linden Imeson Jorna, Linda Dutka, Pat Bigelow, Zack Stevens, Kristi Neufeld, Cathy McKerron, and Giselle Carter who will be WRN Kids coordinator for 2019-2020. Also, much appreciation to Cathi Stewart for putting Kids on Facebook and to Paul Bigelow for putting us on the WRN website, managing registrations, and doing many other jobs.

And, as usual, thanks to the families who were part of WRN Kids this year! We love your enthusiasm about nature! Don’t forget to sign up for the fall!

Marg Paré
WRN coordinator 2018-19

WRN Teens – Salamander Monitoring

WRN Teens
May 25 and June 1, 2019
Salamander Monitoring

WRN Teens are very excited to be trained up and ready to do some cool citizen science in the fall! We’re going to take on the salamander monitoring project that has been going on for a few years at SpruceHaven Farm.

Green Heron
Trout Lily

We’ve had many weather challenges this spring but most frustrating was to have our training session last week cut short by lightning! We went back this week though and learned the monitoring protocol. We really appreciate the instruction from Jenna Quinn and David Gascoigne and the support from WRN Teens volunteers Linda Dutka, Anita Smith and Zack Stevens.

Thanks too to Mike Smith who custom built us a storage box for our equipment!

Here’s what monitoring salamanders is all about… We have to find the numerous locations where boards have been placed for salamanders to hide under, correctly place a soil thermometer and soil moisture meter, flip the board, count and identify any salamanders, replace the board very gently, read the meters, record all the data, and at certain locations, also record weather information.

We got pretty good at it and, under the 27 boards we checked on our first try, we saw 6 Eastern Red-backed Salamanders.

Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Eastern Red-backed Salamander

We hope to be monitoring weekly in September and October. Many thanks to our experts, our volunteers, and especially to Dave Westfall, Sandy Hill and Jamie Hill of SpruceHaven for sharing their property so generously!

David Westfall

We also got a chance to see the barn swallows in the barn and view their eggs with a mirror.

If you are a teen who would like to be part of WRN Teens, please look us up! If you know a teen who might like to join, please pass on the info! We’re really happy to have several new members already signed up for the fall and we’d love to welcome lots more!

Questions: teens@waterlooregionnature.ca
Registration: waterlooregionnature.ca/teens

Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator

WRN Kids – Turtles

Today’s topic was turtles. We played a game where some of us were turtles and the other ones were cars. I was a painted turtle. I learned that turtles have trouble crossing roads.

We did a turtle circle. The turtles were Shelldon, a painted turtle, and Franklin, a red-eared slider. Shelldon is covered with red and smaller than Franklin. Shelldon was really fast and Franklin was kind of fast.

We went outside and saw frogs at the pond. We saw one green frog and lots of leopard frogs. We saw a turtle nesting area by the pond, which looked like a giant sand pile. Turtles lay their eggs in sand. I felt wet by the pond because it was raining. It started light and then got hard and then there was no rain. It was crazy!

We went back inside and the kids made turtle crossing signs. They are to keep people from killing turtles by running them over. The grown ups made turtle nesting boxes.

I felt happy about today because I learned a lot about turtles. I liked being a turtle in the game and that was my favourite part of the day.

Coralie – WRN Kids member

WRN Kids – Tree Planting

On Sunday April 28, 2019, WRN Kids families planted trees at Laurel Creek Nature Centre. The trees (donated by WRN) were planted in a section of the forest which borders “the hole in the donut”. Loss of ash trees to borers had thinned out this part of the forest, and if the ill-advised proposed development goes ahead, this forest will see increased stress.

For lots more photos and a report on the event, visit the WRN Kids blog at: April 28, 2019 – Tree Planting

WRN Kids & Teens – SpruceHaven

SpruceHaven Barn

On Saturday May 4, 2019, WRN Kids and WRN Teens were invited to SpruceHaven Farm to watch the bird-banding and see the Barn Swallow project with David Gascoigne. The Kids families then went with botanist Jenn McPhee to learn about wildflowers.

Dutchman's Breeches
Red Trillium

… and the Kids found salamanders!

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

WRN Teens went with Sandy Hill, one of the owners of the farm, to plant trees and then they picked up garbage beside the highway.

For a full report on the bird-banding with lots of photos, see David Gascoigne’s blog at: Bird Banding and Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature Kids and Teens to SpruceHaven

Great Canadian Birdathon Sponsorship 2019

GCB Logo

Support Team WhimBurrell in the
2019 Great Canadian Birdathon

WhimBurrell Team
Our team from 2017 is pictured above.

This will be our 22nd birdathon for Bird Studies Canada and Waterloo Region Nature. Over the course we have raised in excess of $35,000 to support bird conservation and bird related studies across Canada. We appreciate your past support and look forward to your continued support this year.

If you pledge support to this endeavor, all of the money raised will go to bird conservation in Canada; a portion goes to Bird Studies Canada and the rest to Waterloo Region Nature. Donate online at our Birdathon donation page or contact Jim Burrell directly at burrellsc@golden.net .


WRN Teens – Ecology Lab at UofW

WRN Teens at UW

Tuesday March 12, 2019

WRN Teens’s outing to the Ecology Lab at UW was a success. The members and guests of WRN Teens received a tour of the UW Environment buildings and learned some environmentally-focused possibilities for our futures along the way.

We looked at tooth and beak adaptations and used the information we learned to practise identifying the lab’s collections of skulls and stuffed birds, then relocated to Tim Hortons to discuss some options for future WRN activities.

Thanks to the UW Ecology Lab and to the students and workers who hosted us!

We went to the Ecology Lab to learn about the day’s activities.

We took water samples from two places in the nearby Laurel Creek (before and after the reservoir) and snow samples from two different locations on-campus (an empty field and a salted stairway) before analysing them to find the differences in quality.

Some criteria involved: turbidity (murkiness), conductivity (to measure ions like salt in the water) and pH. Surprising fact: the snow from the salted surface had the most salt. We discussed what our findings meant in practice, including the effects of the reservoir on the water quality of the creek.

P.S.  THANKS to Megan Sloka, one of our awesome Teens and a grade 10 student, who was our reporter this time.  Thanks also to Bev Raimbault, coordinator of the Ecology Lab who organized our visit; to Marco, coop student who led our tour of the faculty; to Michelle Yu and Sarah Cui, lab assistants who led our experiment and data review; to Linda Dutka, WRN Teens volunteer; and to the Teens parents who provided transportation.  And finally, a shout-out to “Dean Jean” Andrey, dean of the faculty whom we met in the hall!  UW Environment Faculty looks like a fun place to be!
Marg Paré, WRN Teens coordinator

Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario 2019

On Saturday March 9, 2018, David Gascoigne led a group of 16 people on the WRN annual field trip to the north shore of Lake Ontario. As usual, David has provided a full report on his blog with lots of photos taken by Miriam Bauman, so here are just a few of those photos and a link to that report:

Waterloo Region Nature Annual Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario 2019

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser
Trumpeter Swan display
Trumpeter Swan display
Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck
Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Goldeneyes
Common Goldeneyes
Bronte Harbour
Bronte Harbour

Larry Lamb honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

Larry Lamb Award
Larry Lamb Award
Larry Lamb with Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Ontario Heritage Trust Chair, Harvey McCue. Photo Credit: The Ontario Heritage Trust

Waterloo Region Nature honorary life member Larry Lamb was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Trust Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Toronto’s Queen’s Park on February 22, 2019.

From the Region of Waterloo media release:

Renowned botanist Larry Lamb honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award

Waterloo Region – Local botany and ecosystem restoration expert Lawrence (Larry) Lamb was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Trust Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at Toronto’s Queen’s Park on February 22, 2019.

Larry Lamb, a well-known advocate for naturalizing gardens and landscapes, has been an active life-long supporter of natural heritage conservation within Waterloo Region, the province and beyond.

“Larry Lamb is one of those volunteers whose passion for his field of expertise is contagious. He is able to affect the people around him, especially the next generation of conservationists. Without people like Larry, the work to recognize and protect our local ecosystems would have been a lot more difficult to undertake,” said Regional Chair Karen Redman. “Regional Council and staff recognized the important role Larry has played by nominating him for this award, and we are pleased the Ontario Heritage Trust has recognized his contributions.”

Throughout his over forty-year career at the University of Waterloo, and into his retirement, Lamb has generously shared his expertise and connections, influencing the way natural heritage features have been identified, valued and protected.

Locally, Lamb drew on his extensive knowledge of the region’s flora and fauna, and natural areas to help identify what would be designated Environmentally Sensitive Policy Areas (ESPAs) by the Region of Waterloo. These were the first municipally-designated natural areas in the country, and continue to be conserved through the Region’s Official Plan.

Lamb has undertaken many significant naturalization and restoration projects. He has advised on many conservation plans and publications. He is meticulous in documenting and collecting; and has donated his records and collections to public institutions so that they are available for future generations.

New Book – Best Places to Bird in Ontario

Best Places to Bird Ontario

Ken and Mike Burrell (who are well known to many WRN members) will have a new book out this spring (anticipated for late April), titled, Best Places to Bird in Ontario. The book covers the top 30 birding destinations in the province, with each covered in a chapter, having an in-depth overview to the region from a birding perspective, and a site guide with directions, colour maps, and photographs.

Until March 31st they are offering a pre-order rate of $20/copy ($5 off regular pricing). Book orders can be picked up from Ken at WRN meetings.

For more information about the book:

For ordering information:


Best Places to Bird Ontario

WRN Teens – Chickadee Banding

Chickadee Banding at Wrigley Corners Outdoor Ed Centre with Levi Moore
Feb 23 2019
WRN Teens were down south of Cambridge again, this time to visit Wrigley Corners Outdoor Ed Centre. We met Levi Moore, the outdoor educator who teaches there, working mostly with high school students. He is a certified bird bander and does on-going studies of Black-capped Chickadees.
To demonstrate how it works, Levi has a mist net (for catching the birds to be banded) set up inside.  He used a stuffed Northern Cardinal to demonstrate how birds get caught and how he removes them from the net.

It was a bit windy but seemed like a fine day to band Black-capped Chickadees. However, we saw only a couple briefly and there were none at the feeders and, more importantly, none at all got caught in the mist nets. So, no bird banding for us!

Instead, we wrapped up our visit by examining and trying to identify Levi’s impressive skull collection.


Just checking out the amazing nature stuff in Levi’s classroom kept us occupied for a while! Then Levi did a really inspiring presentation. First he explained how he ended up in outdoor and environmental education then he showed us a super informative slide show about bird banding. We got to handle all the tools necessary for the job.


We hope to get back to Wrigley Corners sometime and maybe the chickadees will be more cooperative!

Thanks as usual to the Teens who were able to make it out, to their fearless parents for driving, to Linda who helped out and took photos, to Paul and Cathi who put our reports on-line, and of course, to Levi for spending part of his weekend sharing his knowledge and love of nature with us!