Great Canadian Birdathon Sponsorship 2020

WhimBurrell Team
Our team from 2017

Once again Team Whimburrell ( Jim, Ken, Mike Burrell and Carol Gregory ) will be conducting a Birdathon in the Point Pelee Area ( hopefully ). We will be out during the week of May 11 in an effort to see as many bird species as we can in a 24 hour time span. In the past, many members of WRN have supported us in this fund raising effort for Birds Canada and WRN. We are hoping you will be willing to help out again. If you choose to participate and sponsor us, this is how it can be done;

1. Via slow mail – send a check made out to Birds Canada/GCB to me at 70 Arthur Rd., Heidelberg, N0B 2M1

2. Directly online – go to

Hopefully, this will allow you to make a direct pledge to us and Birds Canada.

Yours in conservation,
              Jim Burrell

WRN Kids – Snowshoeing

On Saturday February 29th we went snowshoeing at Laurel Creek Nature Centre in Waterloo. We learned that snowshoes were first used by Indigenous people. The first snowshoes were made out of wood and parts sourced from animals. Snowshoes are useful to help you walk on snow, without them on you would sink into the snow.

There was lots of snow on the ground that day. The weather was good, it was cold but the sun was out. We went snowshoeing in the forest. The forest was beautiful to walk through. I was really happy to go snowshoeing. We played a tag game with our snowshoes on. It was fun

We also got to feed the chickadees and have them land on us.  

Reported by:     Hunter     Age 7

WRN Teens – Building Bird Nesting Boxes Part 2

On Saturday, February 29, 2020, WRN Teens went back to the home of Mike and Anita Smith to finish the construction of nest boxes that they had started making the last time they were there.
Afterwards they got in some tracking practice with Anita in Bechtel Park.
David Gascoigne has a full report of the event with photos on his blog at: WRN Teens – Nest Box Project

Great Backyard Bird Count 2020

On Saturday February 15, 2020, 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 Brenda Holvey for starting us out at her home beside Lakeside Park, Fraser and Nancy Gibson for hosting us a short distance away at their home beside Cloverdale Park, and finally Dave Westfall and Jaimie and Sandy Hill for providing lunch at SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha.











For a full description of the outing with lots more photos see David Gascoigne’s Travels With Birds blog at: Great Backyard Bird Count 2020.

WRN Teens – Native seed cleaning and planting

WRN Teens – Native seed cleaning and planting at Laurel Creek Nature Centre – February 1 2020
What better way to start a cold February day than by feeding a ravenous flock of Black-capped Chickadees? Up to 17 chickadees landed on each hand in the cool half hour before our afternoon session. This fun feeding activity provided incentive for the Waterloo Region Nature Teens to arrive early at the Laurel Creek Nature Centre for a joint community action session for teens, open to the public.

Three groups and 25 volunteers worked together for the first time. Thirteen members of Waterloo Region Nature Teens (including new members Eric, Owen and Jonah) and their Volunteer Coordinator Marg Paré gathered together for our first work project of 2020. The Grand River Conservation Authority provided experienced leadership (Sarah Fleischhauer: Development and Community Outreach Coordinator) and experience (Lindsay Campbell: Restoration Specialist), as well as equipment and a work space. The Waterloo Public Library coordinated and advertised the activity under the direction of Becky Roi (Programmer and Library Assistant).

Lindsay has 10 years experience in the field so she showed ambition and farsightedness last fall by going out and collecting seeds and pods of 10 native, local, wildflower species (Wild Bergamot, Foxglove, Black-eyed Susan, Bluestem Grass, Lanced-leaved Coreopsis, Gray-head Coneflower, Indian Grass, Dense Blazing Star, Blue Vervain and my personal favourite, Butterfly Weed). She then led us through the seeding process.

Native (indigenous species) were selected since they require less water (due in part to their deeper roots), appeal and nutritional value to wildlife.

Step one was to clean and separate the seeds from their pods or compound heads. This was a lengthy and finicky process involving great patience, manual dexterity and much sneezing. The group divided into teams, removed stems, fluff, casings or daisy-like centres, and ended up with 10 bowls of dust-like seeds (like Foxglove) and larger traditionally sized seeds (such as Gray-head Coneflower). The seeds were then placed into envelopes and labelled with both their English and scientific Latin name.

Step two was a down and dirty affair. It involved filling two wheel barrows with peat moss, filling gallon pots within 10 cm of the top, and hand compressing the dry moss.

Step three incorporated a lighter touch. Five to eight seeds of one species were sprinkled on top of the moss, then covered with a dusting of soil (only to a depth two to three times their seed length). A plastic label with both the English and Latin name on it was placed in each pot. Great care was taken to keep the pots dry since we did not want the seeds to absorb water and germinate until April or May.

Unbelievably, a total of 185 seeded pots were created, along with a number of envelopes full of native seeds. At some future date in the spring another volunteer event will be held to plant this precious cargo throughout natural areas in the region.

Our final activities of the day were to clean up the basement of the Laurel Creek Nature Centre (25 people can make one heck of a mess with seeds and clouds of peat moss) and to visit a native plant meadow previously created outside the nature centre, lead by Sarah and Lindsay.

After well earned congratulations, the Teens and other volunteers parted, expressing hope to continue the planting phase of the project in the spring.

Linda Dutka for Waterloo Region Nature Teens

WRN Teens – Christmas Bird Count for Kids

WRN Teens – Christmas Bird Count for Kids at rare Charitable Research Reserve – January 25 2020
The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is an annual event for families at rare Charitable Research Reserve.  There were volunteer jobs for 3 Teens and Jack, Linden and Ella happily represented us!  Thanks to them all for being great ambassadors and for showing younger folks good role models of involved, caring Teen environmentalists!  Well done!  Also thanks to Trish for being our Teen adult volunteer for the event.  And thanks to all you flexible people who kindly re-arranged your plans when CBC4K was postponed from a terrible January 11 to a just rainy January 25! 
Have a look at the chart of bird species recorded by the groups of families (including lots of WRN Kids families) and volunteer expert birders, along with our Teen helpers.  (There were Bald Eagles!!)
Thanks to rare for hosting this awesome event!  Already looking forward to next year!
Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator

Photos and results chart courtesy of rare.

WRN Teens – Building Bird Nesting Boxes

On December 14, WRN Teens got a chance to try their hand at woodworking! Mike and Anita Smith welcomed us (again!) into their home — actually into their garage! — for this project, building bird nesting boxes. Mike does lots of woodworking and has donated his talent previously to WRN. This time, he was woodworker and teacher in the garage-classroom, helping 6 Teens figure out how to follow a written plan, measure lengths and right angles precisely, and make exact markings on wood
Teens worked in pairs to mark the pieces of three nesting boxes, one designed for wrens, one for flickers, and one for bluebirds.

After using all our math skills (including re-thinking a process!), we were happy to leave the cold garage’s upper level to head down to Mike’s workshop — and the woodstove! — where Mike did all the cutting and drilled the holes. Every part of this job was much trickier than we had imagined! Even getting the long boards down the stairs was a geometrical challenge!

We just had time to see how the pieces would go together but had to leave the assembly for another project day. Eventually, we plan to install the nesting boxes and hope to see them inhabitated!

Huge thanks to Mike Smith for being an awesome and patient woodworking teacher and sharing his cool space!  Thanks to both Mike and Anita for letting us hold another project at your house.  We love your location!  And a great job on a steep learning curve by the Teens!
Marg Paré
WRN coordinator

WRN Kids – Christmas Bird Count for Kids

On January 25th 2020, Waterloo Region Nature Kids participated in the annual bird count at RARE on Blair road in Cambridge. We met in the old barn and got divided into groups of a couple of families and a bird leader.

We had lots of fun walking around in the slushy snow with our binoculars and counted lots of birds. Our group was called the “peregrine falcons” and we spotted lots of birds which our bird leader, David Gascoigne, helped us identify including black capped chickadees, cardinals, American crows, downy woodpeckers, mallards, canada geese, common goldeneyes and TWO BALD EAGLES (one juvenile and one adult).

White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee

We kept count of the type and number of birds on our clipboard. The data collected by us and all of the other people doing bird counts across North America will be used to understand the bird population from year to year.

We finished off with hot chocolate, marshmallows and Timbits in the house next to the old barn. It felt good to warm up before going home.

Reported by Eric

Photos and results chart courtesy of rare.

Signs of Animal Life in Winter

A small group of WRN members spent Saturday morning, January 18, 2020, on an informative and enjoyable walk through Laurel Creek Nature Centre led by Fraser Gibson. Constantly falling snow flurries erased any animal tracks in the snow that we were hoping to see (except for recently walked dogs). However there were lots of other signs of nature, if you were observant and knew what to look for.

Emptied Reservoir

A number of trees had the remains of Fall Webworm Moth tents still fluttering from their branches.

The bird feeders at the nature centre were mobbed by chickadees, who were also happy to eat out of human hands.

There was a small birds nest in a little tree at chest height, but we never quite decided which bird built it.

Beavers from previous years had left behind gnawed stumps as evidence of their activity.

We saw the semi-circular exit holes of the Emerald Ash Borer (which sadly has done in all the ash trees there), as well as the holes where woodpeckers went after the grubs under the bark.

Ball Gall "2010-03-06 Ryerson Conservation Area 3" by JanetandPhil is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fraser pointed out two different types of goldenrod galls in the field. We opened one ball gall to observe the larva inside. Fraser had samples of ball galls that had been pecked open by a Chickadee and a Woodpecker (a much neater hole), as well as a gall where the Goldenrod Gall Fly had emerged successfully without becoming lunch for a bird.

Bunch or Rosette Gall © Quinten Wiegersma, some rights reserved (CC-BY) from iNaturalist

We encountered a couple of these deer rubs where bucks had rubbed their antlers during rutting season to mark their territory.

There were also a number of narrow paths in the undergrowth, likely made by deer.




It was well worth the time spent on this walk, but with the wind whipping snow in our faces as we headed back, we started looking forward to our warm houses and lunch. Thanks to Fraser for helping us see what we normally would just have walked past.

Deer Rub

WRN Teens – Montgomery Nature Reserve

WRN Teens – Montgomery Nature Reserve – Saturday, November 30, 2019
For this project, WRN Teens met at Montgomery Nature Reserve on the Nith River, 9 km west of New Dundee.  We gathered in this out-of-the-way spot to explore the property and to learn new skills so we can help take care of it in the future.
We started with each Teen pairing up with an adult and getting to know each other a bit better.  Turns out we have lots in common!
We were lucky to have two awesome instructors, Anita Smith and Fraser Gibson.  Anita told us some background on this property that K-W Field Naturalists (now WRN) purchased in 1973 in order to protect it.  We learned about the work involved in maintaining it, attempts to control invasive species, the impact of annual flooding, and the on-going inventory of species observed there.
Our main job was to become familiar with the iNaturalist application.  We had downloaded it to phones ahead of time and took lots of pictures of everything we saw.  We saw how the app helps with identification and then allows users like us to become citizen scientists and upload our sightings.  Things were quiet while we were there with mostly plants and fungi being observed — and one large beetle!  We saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker but didn’t manage to get photos of either.
While walking the trail, Fraser shared with us some of his many experiences and his vast knowledge about Montgomery.  Not sure if he “wrote the book” about Montgomery but apparently, he did write sections of the pamphlet!  We learned lots about specific spots by following the pamphlet text as we walked.  The Teens have excellent observation skills and managed to impress Fraser with things that caught their eye.
Turkey Tail Fungus
Red-backed Salamander eggs (we think)
Blue Cohosh berries

Another skill we learned was how to estimate the age of large trees. Anita showed us a huge Bur Oak tree and got us busy measuring the circumference. After some heavy-duty math and consulting a chart of age according to diameter and tree species, we discovered that our huge tree is off the scale and could be as much as about 200 years old! Too bad it can’t talk!

We were all anxious to find out if Anita’s trailcam that she had installed the week before had had any visitors.  We found it knocked over so thought maybe it wouldn’t have much to show us.  After we made our way back to the road, Anita hooked up her laptop so we could see the video and…  we saw that a White-tailed Deer and a Raccoon starred in the movie of the days before the camera fell over!  So, it’s not always quiet at Montgomery!
Thanks to:
Paul Bigelow for posting our reports on the WRN website;
Anita Smith and Fraser Gibson for sharing their expertise;
Zack Stevens and Linda Dutka, Teens adult volunteers for supervising and sharing in the experience;
the fearless Teens parents for sticking to it until they found the spot;
and, to the six amazing Teens who spent a cold afternoon exploring a cool new location!
We all look forward to future projects at Montgomery.
Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator

WRN Kids – Sustainable Living and Indigenous Land Use

On Saturday, November 30th , 2019, the WRN kids went to Rare Conservation Area in Cambridge to learn about Sustainable Living and Indigenous Land Use.
Checking the slit barn walls for fossils
Some of the slit barn wall fossils
The morning was cloudy and cold but we were by the trees so it blocked out most of the wind.
Our group walked to the gardens first.  We went inside a greenhouse where kale can grow year-round.  It was so warm inside. 
We saw a goat pen that is used in the summertime to stop invasive Phragmites plants from growing. It looked like the Phragmites was cut but it was really the goats eating it all up!  
Then we saw the Indigenous Food Garden where a lot of fruits and vegetables are grown for the Food Bank. After that my group saw the markers for a Longhouse where several First Nation families would live together.  We learned that there are very few artefacts left because they used natural materials that biodegrade over time.  
Longhouse markers
North House
On our walk back we saw a strange opening in the hill.  We learned it was a root cellar that the early settlers used to keep their foods cool.  How “cool” is that?
Our last stop was a look around inside “North House”, which is a small house that uses the sun to power it.  Everything inside looked like it was from the future including a bed which is dangling from 4 wires in the ceiling and has a remote control to move it up and down.

For the second half of our morning there we walked close to the river. A local archeologist showed us some samples of arrowheads and clay pottery that were found in this area. He told us that the Grand River used to flow over all of this area 12000 years ago. Mastodons roamed nearby too.

Pottery fragments
We learned that the people who have lived in our area over thousands of years knew what to do to survive.  Everything they needed came from the land around them and there was enough for everyone.

WRN Teens – Buckthorn Removal at Laurel Creek Nature Centre

WRN Teens – October 26 2019, Buckthorn Removal at LCNC

WRN Teens are having a very busy fall! October 26 was our last day for weekly salamander monitoring at SpruceHaven Farm in the morning. And, we also did our monthly work project on the same day in the afternoon. Some of us have experience removing invasive Common Buckthorn (also known as European Buckthorn) so we were ready to tackle the woodlot at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

We met in the picnic area by the nature centre and, since some of us were meeting for the first time, did a few get-to-know-you activities — on the observation tower stairs!

Sarah, our GRCA naturalist for the day, explained the project, buckthorn identification, tools, safety equipment and gave us all our instructions. We learned how to use the “extragator” for pulling out small trees. We all grabbed some equipment and headed out to the designated area of the woodlot.

There was lots of buckthorn to keep us busy! Smaller plants could be pulled out by hand but mostly, pairs of Teens worked together with an extragator and lots of muscle and determination to machine-pull those trees out, roots and all!

Others got a work-out trucking wheelbarrow-loads of brush away. We piled it in a spot where it’s being useful blocking a path that is being closed. It seems this was a popular project because Sarah had to tell us a couple of times when it was time to stop! Teens 1, buckthorn 0!

Thanks to…
– the 8 awesome, hard-working Teens who were able to come out (and guest Matt!),
– Zack and Linda, WRN Teens volunteers
– Sarah from GRCA,
– and Teens parents for transportion.

Looking forward to our end-of-November project!
Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator

Volunteer Recognition

10+ Year Volunteer Pin

At the WRN meeting on Monday, October 28, 2019, volunteer recognition pins were given out by president Jenna Quinn, assisted by past-president Josh Shea and volunteer recognition co-ordinator Fraser Gibson.


Ten year pin recipients were Roger Suffling, Elaine La Ronde, and Dale Ingrey.

Volunteer pin recipients –
Front: Nina Ingrey, Heather Bagg
Middle: Cathy Hale, Genie Berger, Steph Shaw, Sandy Ponic, Jon Walgate
Back: George Greer, Jason Earle, Robert McNair, John Pries, Fred Shantz, Walter Zimmerman, Zack Stevens