Great Backyard Bird Count 2019

On Saturday February 16, 2019, WRN birders went on a 3 stop outing where we watched birds comfortably from inside while our generous hosts plied us with food and drink. Thanks go to Irene Simpson and Jim Cappleman for starting us out on the Baden sandhills, Dave Westfall and Jaimie and Sandy Hill for hosting us at SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha, and Brenda and Alan Holvey for a pizza lunch at their home on Lakeside Park.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Mourning Doves (and a Dark-eyed Junco)
Mourning Doves (and a Dark-eyed Junco)
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

For a full description of the outing with lots more photos see David Gascoigne's Travels With Birds blog at: Great Backyard Bird Count 2019 and for yet more photos see the WRN Facebook page.

WRN Teens – Tracking at Bechtel Park

Saturday, January 26, 2019

WRN Teens has turned out to be a combination of work-projects, learning opportunities, and enjoying nature. We were really fortunate that for our January activity, Anita Smith (WRN Teens planning committee member and WRN conservation director) gave us a workshop on tracking. Anita describes herself as a tracking apprentice and we were impressed by her dedication to her apprenticeship and the depth of her knowledge.

We met at Anita's house for an overview of tracking, what can be observed and the many ways we can get information. We had a look at her amazing skull collection.


Big thanks to Anita for sharing her passion with us! We learned lots and will all want to work on our tracking skills in the future.

Then, we headed outside through Anita's backyard and into Bechtel Park where she spends lots of time -- along with lots of creatures! We saw branches chewed by deer, lots of small mammal tunnels, opossum tracks, fresh coyote tracks, and we did our best at identifying many others. We also found several raptor pellets. We checked out various holes and looked for evidence of recent activity. We learned that Anita sometimes catches nighttime photos of animals with a trail camera.


WRN Kids – Winter Tracking

On Saturday January 26, 2019 WRN Kids headed outside and found lots of evidence of creatures sharing space with us.

They saw tracks of all kinds - a tuft of deer fur beside deer tracks, several different small mammal tunnels, and bird tracks. Other evidence of animals and insects included rabbit scat, a Goldenrod gall and a cocoon.


For more photos see the WRN Kids blog at: January 26, 2019 – Winter Tracking.

WRN Kids and WRN Teens – Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2018

CBC4Kids 2018
CBC4Kids 2018

Christmas Bird Count for Kids
at rare Charitable Research Reserve on January 12, 2019

WRN Kids and WRN Teens had a special opportunity recently: rare Charitable Research Reserve hosted their third annual "Christmas Bird Count for Kids" on January 12 and we were all invited!

There was a large group this year, including a few of our WRN Kids families.  First, we all learned about birdwatching basics from Adam in the Slit Barn then everyone headed out in small groups, each led by an expert birder (including Adam and WRN members David Gascoigne, Fraser Gibson and Josh Shea as well as rare staff Emily Leslie) to count all the birds they could find.  The Kids were enthusiastic in spite of the cold, managed their binoculars like pros, understood why we walked to several different habitats, and saw an impressive number of birds!  They enjoyed warming up afterwards with a hot chocolate in the ECO Centre next door.

As well, four of our dedicated WRN Teens volunteered to help out at the event, filling feeders, assisting group leaders, moving furniture, and washing dishes.  While doing jobs that needed to be done, they were also super role models for the Kids.

Huge thanks to rare for hosting, the volunteer birders for continuing to inspire us all, the parents for getting their families outside, the Teens for volunteering early on a cold Saturday morning, and especially the Kids for wanting to learn about and protect nature!

Jenna Quinn, rare Program Scientist summarizes:
"Together, we identified 23 species and made over 900 individual observations, of (accounting for duplicate observations) approximately 275 birds.  Canada Geese were the most abundant species we observed, and every group was able to spot a juvenile Bald Eagle perched in a tree.  Two groups were lucky to see three Eastern Bluebirds, a rarity at this time of year."

See the full results below.  We're all pretty proud to be contributing to Citizen Science with our Bird Count!  Can't wait to do it again next year!

WRN Kids & Teens coordinator
Marg Paré

CBC4Kids 2018 Results

Mill Race St. Jacobs Outing

Black-capped Chickadee

The Mill Race St. Jacobs outing on Thursday morning, January 17, 2019 was well attended. The bird life was pretty active and there was much to see. At the other end of the trail there was a cafe for warm-up and refreshments.

For photos and a report of the outing see David Gascoigne's Travels With Birds blog at: Waterloo Region Nature Outing to The Mill Race, St. Jacobs.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

WRN Kids – The Night Sky

WRN Kids was a bit different this month; they met in the evening to learn about the night sky! Sadly, the sky was overcast so the program was all indoors. The Kids were still excited to learn about astronomy and had really great questions.

Ian, a GRCA naturalist, used a software program to show constellations and planets, and travel through space and time.


Afterwards, several volunteers from the KW branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada showed off their toys! The Kids got to touch the telescopes and learn a bit about how they work. After chatting with the amateur astronomers, the Kids took home sky charts to try out on a clearer night.




WRN Teens – November 2018

WRN Teens November 2018
WRN Teens have been busy during November. For our first bonus outing, we had a fun hike at FWR Dickson Wilderness Area. This was a new place for everybody and it was great to explore all the different habitats. Highlights of our afternoon were having packing snow (therefore snowballs!), figuring out that Wild Turkeys had been active by one of the lesser-used trails, and having a chance to wear our WRN tuques again!


The snow was not so helpful for the invasive plant removal we had planned to do in a Kitchener natural area for our monthly project on the last Saturday afternoon of the month. Josh Shea turned that project into another -- we learned about bird identification basics from Josh and Teen-ornithologist Linden and had a short hike at Huron Natural Area. Although the birds weren't plentiful, it was good practice for us as we've been invited to help at the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at 'rare' on January 12.


The beaver dam
The beaver dam


And some recent activity
And some recent activity

A new-found friend.
A new-found friend.

Thanks to the enthusiastic Teens for coming out, to their parents for getting them there, and to Josh and Linden for sharing their know-how. We're not meeting in December but are looking forward to more volunteer work and learning in the new year.

Montgomery Fall Work Day 2018

Montgomery Fall Workday Report 2018

Friday, October 19, 2018

Present: Wayne & Lynda Buck, Fraser Gibson, Jim Cappleman, Chris Wright, Sandy Ponic, Wendy Shaw, Pat & Paul Bigelow, Donna & Marco Debruin, Anita Smith, Marg & Graham Macdonald,       Regrets: Genie Berger

A beautiful morning around 8-10 degrees and sunny!

We worked in 3 groups. Jim, Paul & Wayne cleared trail and there were some problem areas one (downed tree) completely blocked the trail just past Post 5. Also more trail blazes are needed from Post 4 to Post 6. At Post 6 renewed blazing is needed to indicate the turn! Blazing not done as temperature too low for paint to adhere.

A second group (Lynda, Donna, Pat) inspected the trail for features, hazards, debris and signs of undesired invasion.

All property signs were in place and in good condition. The natural features at each trail post were present. There was no evidence of intrusion nor any safety hazards observed.. Several safety hazards were corrected in the spring work day eg. post in animal hole at top of the incline from the lower section of the property to the upper level. West of Post 1 fungi covered the trunk of a dead beech! Between Post 2 &3 a large area of debris from spring flooding was observed along with a small wooden chair.

Working through the inspection list.
Working through the inspection list.

Fungus on dead beech tree.
Fungus on dead beech tree.

The third group (Fraser, Chris, Wendy, Sandy, Marco, Anita , Graham) examined the property overall and checked the wood duck boxes. Chris Brought green garbage bags and focused on garbage collection! Not too much as usual and no large debris. Two boundary markers #6 and #8 which have been missing for several years were replaced - thank you Fraser. Some wildlife of note observed giant ragweed, a pileated woodpecker, the scrape of a deer, a red backed salamander (under a log turned over by Fraser) and a woolly bear caterpillar.

There was no contact with hikers or neighbours although adjacent to our property after post 8 a neighbour had cleared a path to the Nith , had a mowed area and set up with a rustic bench (2 split logs) set up to view the Nith. They also had a bird nest box on a close by maple. It was decided this area was not our property.

Deer scrape.
Deer scrape.

Checking a Wood Duck box.
Checking a Wood Duck box.

Giant Hogweed: There was no sign of Giant Hogweed flowers , no plants seen but vegetation is still quite high so small plants could be present.

Wood Duck Boxes: The West Box (Nith) was severely leaning. That was corrected as much as possible but next spring will need to be redug and straightened. In that box we found evidence of wood duck hatching - broken eggshells and no whole eggs as we have found in the past. The West box (inland) showed signs of owl nesting with owl pellets and a rodent foot inside it. The debris found in the shavings was removed and the old shavings returned to the boxes.

Owl Pellets.
Owl Pellets.




Reported by Marg Macdonald (chair)

October 21st, 2018

WRN Teens – Non-Native and Invasive Plant Removal at rare

Waterloo Region Nature Teens — Project 2 — October 27 2018
Non-Native and Invasive Plant Removal at ‘rare’ Charitable Research Reserve

WRN Teens have been at it again!  Our second project happened on October 27 when we showed up at “rare” Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge — along with cold, wet, windy weather!

To help us brave the elements, we put on our new and very cool WRN tuques!  We met Alissa Fraser, a conservation technician at ‘rare.’  She explained what this huge nature reserve is all about and how staff, volunteers and community groups are helping ‘rare’ become more and more natural.



Our project was to continue an on-going job that Alissa oversees, removing some non-native and invasive plant species from the forest behind the ‘rare’ offices in the old Lamb’s Inn. We had a crash course in identifying Day Lilies, Lily of the Valley and Periwinkle in their late fall condition.

Day Lillies
Day Lillies

Lily of the Valley (berries), Periwinkle (leaves)
Lily of the Valley (berries), Periwinkle (leaves)


Then, we started in digging, trying not to leave a trace of these intruders. The space we covered was a tiny drop in the bucket of the large area ‘rare’ hopes to free of invasives and replant with native plants. It was slow, muddy work and the highlight of the afternoon may have been the cookie break we took!











While munching cookies, we took advantage of having expert Alissa with us to hear about her other work, retrieving threatened turtle eggs, incubating them, and re-introducing the baby turtles to the wild. A nice follow-up to our September project!



Many thanks to Alissa for hosting and teaching us, to volunteers Linda, Zack and Josh for coming out, to the Teens parents for driving and picking up — and of course, to the awesome team of WRN Teens for their hard work and stick-to-it-iveness! I hope you managed to get the mud off everything you wore — including your new tuque!

Our November project will involve habitat restoration in a Kitchener natural area. If you’ve just heard about us, there’s still room for more interested Teens! Check us out at or get in touch at

Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator


WRN Kids – Water

On Saturday October 27, 2018 the WRN Kids met the turtles who live inside at the nature centre and learned about turtle shells, how turtles survive, and why they are endangered.


It was cold, windy and a bit rainy but they got their rubber boots on, brought the nets and buckets, and got right into the creek to see who lives there — and could still be found this late in the fall.



They were excited to catch fish, some very cool bugs, some strange creatures in early stages of development, tiny red Blood Worms — and a Northern Leopard Frog!


For more photos visit the WRN Kids blog at October 27, 2018 – Water at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.



Viceroy Butterfly
Viceroy Butterfly

WRN Teens – Turtle Nesting Area

WRN Teens is up and running! We have ten nature-loving Teens signed up for 2018-19. We'll be doing monthly work projects and learning projects and, at the same time, earning volunteer hours. Our first ever project was helping the turtles at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

Chris, an LCNC naturalist, gave us a close-up introduction to a Painted Turtle and a Red-eared Slider that live in the centre. We learned that outdoor turtles at LCNC have made some unfortunate choices of nesting areas. They like the area by the storage shed and parking lot but it's very exposed and most of the eggs were eaten by predators. As well, turtle eggs were discovered in the nearby mulch pile where they had rotted.





Before our project, a sandbox was installed to encourage nesting there and a turtle nest protection cover had been put over the very few remaining (weighed down with pallettes). Our jobs were to plant native grass and wildflower species around the sandbox for protection and to move the mulch pile away from the area the turtles like, 20 or so metres away to the chickadee-feeding area.








Our team of awesome Teens got right to work and got all the planting done and moved a lot of mulch!





A highlight was when we disturbed an enormous colony of ants that quickly spread everywhere, including on us!


Thanks to Chris and to volunteers Josh and Linda for making our first project a great success -- even with the ants!

We're looking forward to our October project, dealing with some invasive species at "rare" Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge. There's still space for more Teens to join us. Sign up at or contact us at

WRN Kids – Monarch Migration and Bug Hunt

Viceroy Butterfly

On Saturday September 29, 2018 the WRN Kids learned about the Monarch butterfly life cycle and migration from Jeff Grant, a grade 10 student who is a butterfly and moth expert.

Jeff Grant
Jeff Grant

Monarch Migration Game

GRCA naturalist Chris sent the families out on a hike/game that emulated what food and hazards Monarchs would find during their migration.

Next, they went hunting live bugs with nets in the meadow.

Bug Hunt

Examining captured bug

Bug Hunt

Butterfly in cage

For more photos visit the WRN Kids blog at September 29, 2018 – Monarch Migration and Bug Hunt.

Viceroy Butterfly
Viceroy Butterfly

WRN Kids – SpruceHaven Outing


On Saturday June 9, 2018 WRN Kids went on a bonus outing to SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha led by David Gascoigne. They viewed the mud nests in the barn and learned how the nests are monitored by volunteers during the breeding season.



They got to see a one day old Barn Swallow up close.



Out in the fields they saw Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, and got to hold a Tree Swallow nestling.



For more on this outing and some more photos visit the WRN Kids blog at: June 9, 2018 — SpruceHaven.