WRN Teens: Trimming Branches at SpruceHaven

Saturday December 12, 2020

WRN Teens’ last project for 2020 was well attended (while respecting COVID gathering limits) in spite of the weather being awful! Rain in December is never nice but have a look at Nicole’s photos of just how wet it was that day!

The job was to trim back any branches sticking into the many pathways at SpruceHaven farm-nature-reserve. This needed to be done to allow human visitors to get around and to make maintenance easier (specifically so Sandy doesn’t get branches in her face while mowing!). Sandy Hill, one of the lucky people who live at SpruceHaven, demonstrated a few trimming techniques and led one of the groups. Teens and adult volunteers chose the direction of the forest or the new pond or the meadow and trimmed as they walked. This job came with a bonus that the branches we cut — dogwood, lots of kinds of conifers, sumac — are lovely to look at and we were invited to take some home to create decorations.

Small mammal tunnels were observed by one group and another practised their tree identification. Everybody managed to enjoy some nature while doing the job — and getting very wet!

Thanks to the brave Teens and adult volunteers who came out. Special thanks to Sandy Hill for participating and to the Westfall-Hills for welcoming us to SpruceHaven. Thanks to Nicole for her photos during the project — she was the only one who thought to take any in the rain. Thanks also to Ella and Aidan for photos they sent afterwards of their branch decorations at home. And thanks to Eva for doing a quick oral report to help me remember the details to include here.

Looking forward to lots of good things for WRN Teens in 2021 — especially good weather on project days!
 
Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator
 

WRN Teens: Planting Trees at SpruceHaven

Saturday November 21, 2020

We are Waterloo Region Nature Teens and today we came out to SpruceHaven farm, a nature reserve outside of St. Agatha. We came here to plant trees at a — well, it’s going to become a wetland but for now it’s just a hole! But now that we’re finished, it’s a hole with over 100 more trees around it so we accomplished something!

The people who own the farm, the Westfall Hill family, are working with Ducks Unlimited to make a new wetland. This huge double hole was dug a few weeks ago with heavy equipment. They were happy to see that since this damp low spot was cleared and deepened, it has already started to collect water.

The Westfall Hills have been planting seeds and collecting small seedlings from other parts of their farm to put here. The trees we planted will help stabilize the banks of the two holes and the pathway between them, and will create more variety of habitats here.

We planted lots of cedars, several kinds of deciduous trees (with plastic guards around them to protect them from deer over the winter), some shrubs and some native wildflowers. Even though the ground is hard clay in spots, the actual planting is simple — you just dig a hole and put the little tree in!

We worked so hard that we got all the trees planted in the new wetland and still had time left. So Sandy Hill walked with us to another low damp spot that hasn’t been dug but where they want to add some new trees and plants. We planted there and then walked back to the barn, stopping for a (distanced) group photo in the meadow.

We did this planting so there can be more trees to return the environment to its natural state.  It’ll be good for all the animals that can now have a place to live like ducks that can nest here. All creatures need habitat — water, food, shelter and air in the right arrangement — to survive.  We’ve made a start at creating new habitat and we’re looking forward to observing what creatures move in!
 
— Report by all the Teens with a few direct quotes from Megan, Nicole, Quinn P. and Eva
 
P.S.  In a wonderful email from Sandy afterwards, we learned that the swale where we planted all those trees is now called Teen Hollow!  Huge thanks to Sandy Hill and Dave Westfall for welcoming us and providing us with great volunteer work opportunities.
 
Marg Paré for WRN Teens
 
 

Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs – Fall 2020

David Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman organized five walks along the Mill Race Trail, St. Jacobs during the week of October 25 to 29, 2020, with a limit of four other singles or couples per walk, so that it would be easy to maintain social distancing. Here are a few photos from the various walks.

White-breasted Nuthatch

For the full report on the walks, with dozens of photos, see David’s blog at COVID Walks along The Mill Race, St. Jacobs, ON.

Montgomery Work Day – Fall 2020

What a wonderful morning the Montgomery Team had on Friday, October 16th! The air was crisp, the sun was shining, and the autumn colours were stunning!

It had been a year since this team assembled at the property as a group because of the pandemic. Everyone wore masks as we assembled to discuss some business before heading onto the property for the work. We discussed the possibility of having the teens’ group come out on a Saturday after our spring clean up to do some garlic mustard pulls and setting tarps to deal with the invasive periwinkle.

As the newbie committee chairperson, I was thankful that this team is such a well-oiled machine! Everyone came dressed, brought tools and equipment, and set off to work.

There were numerous trees which had fallen over sections of our trail that needed to be removed. The whole team also bushwhacked their way through other sections that were overgrown with vegetation over our heads!

The duck boxes are always a highlight of the morning. The west box had two unhatched screech owl eggs and many woodpecker feathers in it. The east box had a collection of feathers and several owl pellets, as well. It is surprising, and a bit disappointing, that there was no evidence of Wood Ducks using the boxes.

Not a single piece of garbage was collected, perhaps a sign that people really are heeding the message to stay home! How lovely to find the property in a “natural” state!

Several birds were heard and seen throughout the morning, including a Downy Woodpecker, several Turkey Vultures, and many Blue Jays. Fraser also pointed out a Greater Yellowlegs on an island outcropping in the river near the bridge. (Apparently it is “Greater” because its call has 3 hoots whereas the Lesser Yellowlegs usually calls with only two!) Thanks for the memory trick, Fraser!

Wayne noticed a large plant and suggested it might be Velvetleaf. iNaturalist agreed with his assessment. A group of us had a conversation about Giant Ragweed. A little further down the path we discovered a small cluster of Giant Ragweed, some with simple leaves and some lobed. There is something to wonder about every day!

Velvetleaf seed pods
Turkey Tail

As we exited the property, we met 2 people wearing hip waders. I assumed they were there to fish but soon discovered they were working on an environmental assessment of the area as mandated before the reconstruction of the bridge can begin. Dean Fitzgerald is in charge of the assessment and he shared an explanation of the process, some of the findings (like discovering two species of threatened fish under the bridge: silver shiner and black redhorse) and invited questions and comments.

Following our conversation with Jessica and Dean we refreshed with some muffins and cider and headed off after a long but productive morning. Well done, team!

Anita Smith

Fern Walk Photos

Fraser Gibson led two small group fern walks on Saturday Oct 3 and Tuesday Oct 6, 2020. Here are a few photos from the Tuesday walk.

Cambridge Linear Trail Walks

David Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman organized five walks on the Linear Trail in Cambridge during the week of September 28 to October 3, 2020, with a limit of four other singles or couples per walk, so that it would be easy to maintain social distancing. Here are a few photos from the various walks.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

For the full report on the walks, with dozens of photos, see David’s blog at WRN Teens and COVID Walks.

WRN Teens report – Sprucing up SpruceHaven

WRN Teens is back in action! On Sat Sept 26 2020, we met in person for the first time since Feb! We wore masks and kept as much distance as possible while doing our first work project of the 2020-21 year. We have a bunch of brand new Teens and a bunch returning and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can continue to get to know each other outside in person this year!

Dave and David

For this first project, we worked in one of our favourite places, in partnership with some of our favourite people! Dave Westfall and Sandy Hill kindly welcomed us to their farm-nature-reserve, SpruceHaven in St. Agatha. This time, David Gascoigne, WRN president and coordinator of many projects at SpruceHaven, was our leader. Under his instruction, we worked to improve the meadow habitat by removing unwelcome species (thistles and sumac) which tend to overrun the wildflowers.

With the very dry weather, the ground was really hard so we got a workout digging down to the roots. We filled lots of buckets and created brush piles so we felt good about helping this important habitat — even though it is clearly an on-going job!

During a break, we learned more from Dave and David about the meadow, the wildlife corridor, and many other habitat restorations at the farm.

Stay tuned to hear about our salamander monitoring work, also at SpruceHaven, and hopefully, lots more environmental work projects around the community.

Marg Paré

Columbia Lake Walks

We have been attempting to figure out how to safely resume some WRN activities.  David Gascoigne came up with the idea of leading multiple walks with small groups rather than a single walk with twenty participants. So, he and Miriam Bauman organized five outings to Columbia Lake during the week of September 7 – 12, 2020, alternating between morning and evening, with a limit of four other participants per walk, so that it would be easy to maintain social distancing while also permitting everyone to see the birds found. Here are a few photos from the various walks.

For the full report on the walks, with lots of photos, see David’s blog at Large Milkweed Bugs, Laurel Creek, Hillside Park and COVID Walks.

Giant Hogweed Monitoring at Montgomery

Originally posted May 5, 2020. Reposted June 30, 2020 with more reports and photos from the rest of the monitoring season.

Hi Members and Friends of Waterloo Region Nature

The members of the Montgomery Committee thought you might be interested in the one activity that our committee can continue while in Corona Lockdown, and that is the monitoring of The Montgomery Wildlife Sanctuary for Giant Hogweed (GH). We did not carry out our normal spring clean-up this year as that requires the cooperation of the entire committee carrying out tasks in groups, so no tarps’ placements to restrain the periwinkle, no trail clearing (except Wendy Shaw & her husband who did go down and work one lovely day in April). However we did, and can, safely do the Giant Hogweed monitoring. Our monitors report, after each weekly outing, on their observations & activity related to GH, and often that includes general observations of plants, birds and animals seen or heard. This way you will hear about nature’s response to this unusual spring in 2020.

Marg Lewis-Macdonald

Digging up a not so giant Giant Hogweed
Young Giant Hogweed
Friday, April 17, 2020 – Today we had the first of this year’s Giant Hogweed inspections and what a day we had. First, the weather was superb. No insects! Second, Graham and Margaret Macdonald accompanied us on our inspection. Lynda and Margaret walked the trail, checking the signposts and picking up what little trash there was.  Graham and I walked the riverbank.
 
We found 6 GH plants, of the size shown in the photo. They have just started growing so are easy to dig with most of the tap root attached. It was not deemed necessary to remove the plants so they were chopped up and left to desiccate in place.
 
There were a large number of trees lying down in the sanctuary; probably due in part to the torrent of water that swept through the area earlier this year. There were many trees to climb over along the river while looking for GH. The path appeared to be well trodden, causing us to wonder if more people are using the area as a place to walk during the covid-19 lockdown.
 
We saw a number of species of plants including:
(* denotes blooming )
 
Bloodroot*
Red and white trillium*
Yellow and White Trout Lily*
Spring Beauty*
Twinleaf
Great Angelica
Blue Cohosh
Mayapple
 
Birds:
Great Blue Heron
Belted Kingfisher
Red-Tailed Hawk (very far away)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Robin
 
Wayne Buck
 
White Trout Lily

On Monday, 4 May 2020, Graham and Marg Macdonald accompanied by Wayne and Lynda Buck, entered the property for the season’s second inspection for Giant Hogweed. The ladies were tasked with walking the trail clockwise to install aluminum trail markers. The normal direction is counterclockwise which follows the progression of numbered posts. Weather – Mix of sun and cloud, 5C, very windy from NW.

Since the previous week, despite warm weather, there was very little additional growth, The extraordinary lack of any leaf litter on the ground was again noted, as were the great number of downed trees and associated huge piles of vegetative debris, up to 4 feet above the ground. This was all due to the very severe flood waters March 10 and 11, 2020, that scoured the property.

Graham and Wayne walked the river bank and the adjacent forest interior (up to 25 paces in from the “Fisherman’s path”. Three small GH plants were found and dug up. One was in the interior, one was next to the path, and the third close to the river. All were on the segment of the property still owned by the farm across the river to the west.

There is evidence of much foot traffic on the paths, and several new paths have appeared to circumvent the debris piles. Two dog walkers and one family with young child were seen. The increased traffic is probably due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Spring Ephemerals were becoming more abundant in bloom:
Narrow-leaved Toothwort – widespread, Spring Beauty, Bloodroot, Dutchman’s Breeches, Yellow Trout Lily. White Trout Lily – Very widespread, White Trillium -just starting, Red Trillium – one found, Twin-leaf, Yellow Violet, Purple Violet, Coltsfoot – Alien, Garlic Mustard – just starting to bloom – ALIEN!, (Periwinkle in bloom) – ALIEN!

Plants noted emerging:
Iris sp., Michigan Lily, Wild Leeks, Wild Geranium

Only birds seen were Robins, Chickadees, and a Thrush – perhaps a Gray-cheeked, but view was very brief with binocs. Red Bellied WP heard (Lynda & Marg)

Compiled by Graham Macdonald.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – Just finished at Montgomery. Ten plants dug up, root and all. The ground quite soft after all the rain so digging was easy.

Lots of birds, but as I spent most of my time looking down I did not identify that many. Did ID Blackburnian and Black-throated Green warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Northern Orioles. Numerous woodpeckers also heard and seen.

A few bugs but no mosquitoes yet.

Wendy Shaw

small Giant Hogweed plants

May 29, 2020 – After a week full of heat warnings, I finally made it out to Montgomery on a pleasant Friday morning. Mosquitoes have definitely arrived, but they were only slightly bothersome.

I ended up spotting and digging up 4 Giant Hogweed plants around 2 feet tall. After all the time I spent scrambling around in the underbrush by the river, 3 of the 4 were mockingly sitting right beside the path. The fourth was on the riverbank straight out from the first wood duck box. While trying to find this plant again after fetching my shovel, I accidentally flushed a fawn. Mommy was nowhere in sight.

There were many Wild geraniums in bloom, along with Mayapple, Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal, and aliens like buttercup and Tatarian Honeysuckle.

The ponds had lots of frogs and there were all sizes of toads throughout the forest.

Birds spotted:

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Northern Flicker (heard)
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Gray Catbird
  • American Robin
  • American Goldfinch
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Northern Cardinal

Paul Bigelow

Thursday, June 4, 2020

I visited Montgomery with all my Giant Hogweed required equipment – a pail containing a squirt bottle of soapy water, face shield, rubber gloves, long-sleeved rain coat and towel along with a long handled shovel. After applying insect repellent and forcing myself to leave the binoculars in the car I headed into Montgomery in search of GH. It was a beautiful calm morning and birds were singing everywhere.

Everything has grown rapidly so while walking off trail in search of Giant Hogweed it is very difficult seeing what is in front of your next step. The shovel acts as a great walking stick.

Some Jack-in-the-Pulpits were at least a metre high and Purple-stemmed Angelica is now as tall as my shovel is long.

I found 3 Giant Hogweed plants during my search. One was in the neighbouring property just north of our property line. Two others were further downstream, the furthest being very near our number 8 marker at the Black Maple tree. Near that point I discovered an obvious trail through a large patch of Ostrich Ferns so I followed it to the rivers edge where I found a pile of old tree branches against a fallen tree overhanging the river bank. An animal splashed at the base of this pile and disappeared. I later heard some faint noises coming from the pile of sticks. I believe we have a beaver attempting to make our shoreline its home. There, right at the river’s edge I found the third GH plant. This was the smallest of the 3 plants I found and possibly very close to where Paul found a plant last week.

All of my plants were less than 30” tall so you nearly have to step on top of them to find them. This is a good sign our searches are working because by now a well established plant would be at least as tall as the angelica plants and stand above most other nearby vegetation.

I visited both Wood Duck boxes and beneath the most easterly I discovered several Eastern Screech Owl pellets. Other birds of note that I heard or saw during my time at Montgomery were: Bald Eagle, Green Heron, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I also saw a few toads. On my arrival a White-tailed Deer was seen in the field just east of Montgomery.

Fraser Gibson

Thursday, 11 June, 2020 –

Well it is true, it was a good to be at Montgomery. We followed the trail to post #4, applied insect repellent and I then ventured toward the river past our property marker. In total we found and removed 2 small plants. The first one about 24″ tall and not very bulky. The second was about 12″ tall and had only a single stalk. We would have missed this one except that we were admiring the ferns when it caught my eye.

Other species: Numerous American Toads of varying sizes, One large green frog, ? yellow swallowtail butterfly(you decide), numerous ebony jewel wings, chipmunk, grey squirrel,. Twin leaf with their seed pods, some trilliums with their last remnants of petals, Michigan lily some of which have flower buds, much evidence on various plant species of deer browse. Also !9 species of birds incl., RWBL, COGR, BLJA, RBWO, HOWR, BCCH, AMRO, GRHE, EAWP, BAOR, SOSP, RTHA, NOCA, REVI, GRCA, TRSW, YWAR, EAKI & OSPR.

After last night’s rain, the trails were slippery and had standing water in some places. Trail markers worked well. Some parts of trail well used, other parts not so much. No other persons encountered while there.

In terms of how little GH was found, and none of it on our property, I see no need to go out weekly. Perhaps another monitoring in two or three weeks.

Marco and Donna DeBruin

Tuesday, 16 June, 2020 – Wendy Shaw found no Giant Hogweed plants, so it was decided to skip the following week of monitoring.

Tuesday, 30 June, 2020 – I visited on a sunny day with few mosquitoes, but during the morning it slowly turned into a sauna. I didn’t expect to find Giant Hogweed, and didn’t find any (but that wasn’t a sure thing since I found some last year at about this time).

There were a number of Ebony Jewelwings flitting about, but none of them was kind enough to pose for me. There were quite a few Michigan Lilies blooming. Other flowers in bloom were Canada Anemone, Fringed Loosestrife,  and Tall Meadowrue. Great Angelica was living up to its name, many of them now taller than me.

Along with the usual chatter from Robins, Chickadees, Redwings and Jays, there were some birds just getting on with life. A Brown Thrasher sat there quietly, and a pair of Baltimore Orioles perched in their orange and yellow finery. A male Downy Woodpecker was racking up air miles fetching food for his youngster. A juvenile House Wren was showing off, while still keeping an eye on me.

I trimmed some branches that were blocking the entrance to the trail, but there is still some trail clearing work left to be done.

Well that’s a wrap for the Giant Hogweed monitoring season for this year. Thanks go to the volunteers who helped us keep this noxious intruder under control.

Paul Bigelow

Peregrine Falcon Fledge Watch 2020

Peregrine Nest Box

Kitchener-Waterloo Peregrine Falcon Fledge Watch 2020

The peregrine falcon fledge watch begins Saturday, June 6 and runs until the end of June. We will observe from the vicinity of the CTV Tower on King St. across from Grand River Hospital.

If you are interested in participating this year please contact Dale Ingrey by email ingreyda@hotmail.com or phone 519-884-3667 for details.

Any amount of time from an hour or two to as much as you can spare would be appreciated. Don’t worry if you have had no experience in rescue. What is most important is keeping an eye on the fledglings as they take their first flights and reporting their location if they come down to the ground.

Peregrine Nest Box
Peregrine Falcon chicks from a previous year.

WRN Teens Update

When March Break suddenly became 3 weeks long, we at WRN Teens thought we’d organize a couple of hikes since our members were unexpectedly free and going outside was encouraged. Things changed quickly and WRN had to stop activities, so those hikes were cancelled…. and so was the salamander monitoring that Linda Dutka runs, and our new nesting box monitoring that David Gascoigne initiated, and our visit to the UW Ecology Lab, and invasives removal and trail clean-up for Earth Day, and another invasives removal initiated by Teens member Megan, and our season wrap-up at SpruceHaven! Thanks anyway to all our partners, planners and members — it was going to be a big season!

Like everybody, we got over the initial shock of the changes and switched to meeting virtually on Zoom!  Since the lockdown, we’ve had Zoom meetings first just to chat, then with guest speakers: 

  • – Jenna Quinn (WRN president and Program Scientist at rare) on environmental education and career options
  • – Josh Shea (WRN past president and Natural Areas Coordinator for Kitchener) on the Bee City program and pollinators
  • – Graeme Smith (master’s student in Environmental and Life Sciences at Trent University) on salamander habitat and movement
  • – Michelle MacMillan (outdoor educator at Royal Botanical Gardens) for 2 talks, owl adaptations and owl research and banding

Thanks to these awesome speakers for connecting with and encouraging our Teens!

Our latest Zoom meeting was a photo challenge.  Teens had 30 hours to send in photos showing where they were seeing spring.  Thanks to Rowan, Nicole, Linden and Ella for sharing their photos here.  Check them out and guess which one required a selfie stick!
 
While all that was happening, WRN Teens was invited by Dale Ingrey to suggest possible names for one of the CTV Peregrine Falcon chicks.  We can’t wait to find out which of our name ideas will be chosen!
 
So, WRN Teens hasn’t been together since February but we’ve been busy!  Stay tuned to find out what we’ll be up to in the fall.
 

White-flowered Red Trillium

Wayne Buck sent along these pictures of a white-flowered Red Trillium (Trillium erectum) photographed in Schmidt’s Woods behind the Wilmot Recreation Complex near Baden.

The White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) can change colour – going pink with age, or else sporting green stripes when attacked by a virus.  However this Red Trillium is a true white morph. The one giveaway to its real identity is the dark red ovary at the centre of the flower.

Impromptu Outing

Friday, April 24, 2020     Dale and Nina Ingrey

I know we cannot hold our regular WRN outings during this time, however we can still get out by ourselves to see signs of spring and life returning to the land. Here’s a sampling of spring wildflowers popping up through the leaf litter in the Townline Regional Forest northwest of Waterloo – Spring Beauty, Trout Lily, Bloodroot, Blue Cohosh, Dutchman’s Breeches and the Scarlet Cup Mushroom. Townline, on Cedar Grove Road just west of the Wilmot Line, is a small eight hectare mixed conifer and deciduous forest with a stream bisecting it. There is a narrow, somewhat hilly but easily navigable trail covering a good portion of the property that takes you around the forest and back to Cedar Grove Road. Fortunately, although GRCA properties are closed for now, our regional forests are still open as long as we practise physical distancing.

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 https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/bird-studies-canada/p2p/birdathon20/team/whimburrells/member/team-whimburrell/

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

Yours in conservation,
              Jim Burrell