Wood Duck Boxes at Montgomery 2023

wood duck box on pole

Wood Duck Box Cleanout at Montgomery

On Friday, October 13, 2023, the Montgomery Committee performed our usual fall maintenance on the two Wood Duck boxes we have at the F.H. Montgomery Wildlife Sanctuary. The boxes are cleaned out and new wood shavings are added. There is always a bit of suspense ahead of opening the boxes.

The boxes are mounted fairly high up on a pole with a predator guard.

wood duck box on pole
Wood Duck Box
open box on the ground

Each mounting pole is unlocked and then it swings down so that the box can be opened and cleaned.

The first box we opened had a large amount of fluffy down in with the wood chips.

The egg shells look like predation might have occurred, since normally we find membranes and shell fragments broken up by the ducklings moving around just before they leave the nest.

down pile on ground
egg shells
Egg Shells

At the second box we discovered that there had been two different residents over the summer.

There was some trepidation in removing the Yellowjacket nest, but it had already been fully vacated.

An owl pellet and feathers were obvious clues as to the second resident. There is a reason that Blue Jays are not fond of owls.

hand holding a wasp nest
Yellowjacket Nest
owl pellet and feathers
Owl Pellet

This year was missing some of the excitement of two previous years, when a surprised occupant went for an unexpected ride.

owl inside wood duck box
Screech Owl 2015
Screech Owl goes for a ride 2019

WRN Kids – Deer Beds and Shelter Building

Stick Shelter

Deer Beds and Shelter Building at Bechtel Park

Saturday September 30, 2023

Where was it?

The outing was at Bechtel park. We started in the parking lot then made our way into the forest. We stopped by the meadow to look for deer beds and deer scat or poop.

Deer scat
Looking for deer beds

What type of weather?

It was warm and sunny. A beautiful day!

What did you do?

We looked for deer beds. Deer beds are big circles of grass that have been flattened down. We found three deer beds.

We built shelters. The shelters were made out of sticks.

small shelter
Ready for a bunny to move in
building a shelter
Some tricky stick placements

What did you learn?

I learned about deer beds that they are a place that has been patted down. When making a fort, start with a good base like a living tree or else your fort will collapse.

It is important to have a good base in a fort because it will stand up to rain, snow or wind.

Stick Shelter
Looking like home
shelter with sheets
A bit more rain proof
skinny insect
European Mantis

Favourite thing?

The fort building was my favourite part because it was fun. Building is something I really like to do.

Anything else.

I think the Waterloo Region Nature activities are really fun. You would have fun too and if you can join it is a good thing to do!

 Reported by Evee

Outing to North Shore of Lake Ontario

On Saturday, September 23, 2023, David Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman led a group on an all day outing along the shore of Lake Ontario looking for birds. Here are a few photos from that day.

group photo

For the full report on the day, with many more photos, see David’s blog at WRN Outing to North Shore of Lake Ontario.

WRN Kids – Squirrels

group on woodland path


On Saturday September 23, 2023, our outing took place at Breithaupt Park in Kitchener. It was a beautiful fall day.

We learned about different kinds of squirrels. Black and grey squirrels are the same species and are called Grey Squirrels. Red squirrels and Grey squirrels store their food differently. Red squirrels store their food in caches while grey squirrels store each nut individually. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages.

kids around a table
Looking at squirrel foods
group on woodland path
Our squirrel counting hike

We went for a walk and tallied the number of squirrels we saw. We thought we would see more than we did and we wondered why. The most one person saw was 9. We saw grey squirrels but no red squirrels.

Squirrels eat different kinds of nuts and seeds. We saw some of the food they eat while we were walking – acorns, walnuts, beech nuts. Sometimes they eat people food which is not good for them.

We played a survival squirrel game that was a lot of fun.

kids ready to run
Squirrels getting ready to cache their nuts
kids running
And they are off...
fungus on tree

We also met with Lauren Seville from Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots who talked to us about what nature topics are important to us. We identified a few different things and will talk again about the ideas at our next outing.

It was great to see returning families. Welcome to our new families and our new volunteer Kruti.


Alvar Field Trip – June 1, 2023

Alvar Field Trip

On June 1st, a small group from Waterloo Region Nature embarked on a 3 hour journey to meet with Bob Bowles in Orillia for a tour of Prairie Smoke and Little Bluestem Reserve Alvars. When we arrived, the temperatures were quickly warming up. Based on the small group size and anticipated heat we changed plans and followed Bob to a different Alvar. We drove from highway to backroad to dirt path and arrived at the limestone plain of the Robert L. Bowles Alvar. Immediately we could see that see an array of plants and colours in full bloom among the grikes and clints of the plain. Bob led us from the south to the north part of the Alvar to an area he called flat rock where we were saturated with a vibrant display of alvar wildflowers, mosses, and lichens. This was by far one of the most dramatic experiences of alvar flora that I have seen.

Scarlet Painted Cup
Prairie Smoke

However temps were >30C and mosquitos were thirsty so we cut our day short and cooled down with a drink in nearby Brechin. I had a brilliant time and would highly recommend experiencing these alvars. Keep in mind that alvars are not protected by any legislation, and although the plants are resilient, they are at risk of being lost due to quarrying, as quality bedrock is present near surface.

Jeff Leader

Rock Sandwort

Here’s a list of many of the plants, mosses, lichens, shrubs & many other species we encountered on our field trip:

Scarlet Painted Cup – Castilleja coccinea
Purple Prairie Smoke – Geum triflorum
Hairy Beardtongue – Penstemon hirsutus
Rock Sandwort – Sabulina michauxii
Long-leaved Bluets – Houstonia longifolia
Canadian Summer Bluet – Houstonia canadensis
Tall Cinquefoil – Potentilla arguta
Crawe’s Sedge – Carex crawei
Field Chickweed – Cerastium arvense
Early Saxifrage – Saxifraga virginiensis
Early Buttercup – Reanunculus fascicularis
Balsam Ragwort – Packera paupercula
Red Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis
Orange Hawkweed – Hieracium aurantiacum
Wild Strawberry – Fragaria virginiana
Biting Stonecrop – Sedum acre
Upland White Goldenrod – Solidago ptarmicoides
Grey Reindeer Lichen – Cladonia rangiferina
Green Lichen – Flavoparmelia caperata
Dog Pelt Lichen – Peltigera canina
Tornado Moss – Torella tortuosa
Delicate Fern Moss – Thuidium delicatulum
Fir Tamarisk-moss – Albietinella abietina
Wild Bergamot – Monardo fistulosa
Tufted Hairgrass – Deschampsia caespitosa
Pussytoes – Antennaria plantaginifolia
Meadow Buttercup – Ranunculus acris
Early Buttercup – Ranunculus fascicularis
Tower Mustard – Turritis glabra
Fragrant Sumac – Rhus aromatica
Staghorn Sumac – Rhus typhina L.
Common Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana
Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago
Common Juniper – Juniperus communis

Other notable species:
Beaverpond baskettail
Two-spotted Bumblebee
House Wrens
Common Yellowthroat
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrows
Field Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Snowshoe hare
Lots of Moose scat & Mosquitos!

Robert L. Bowles Alvar

WRN Kids – Pond Study

Pond Study

On Saturday May 27, 2023, WRN Kids went to Huron Natural Area in Kitchener to do a pond study led by Laura. It was great day to be outside. The pond looked very small from the outside but we soon learned there were many creatures living in it together.

Small Pond with Kids
Boys with Nets

We each had nets to scoop out the creatures and put them into containers of water to examine them. We had a picture guide to help us identify them.

Sometimes it looked like I had found nothing, but if I looked closely a little dot be swimming and it was alive! Someone found a tadpole with legs and it was pretty big. I found a dragon fly larva. It was a big size. Laura explained and showed us how it has a cup like mouth that can scoop and catch its prey. It is a good hunter. We did find a leech, but nobody had one on them.

Examining a Dragon Fly larva
Leopard Frog

 We saw lots and lots of frogs. Most of them were Leopard frog. We found some Green frogs as well and they sound like one banjo string being plucked. We learned how-to pick-up frogs properly and to hold them close to the ground in case they wanted to get away.

We found some Backswimmers and nymphs of Damselflies. We also saw a Garter snake in the water! There were lots of snails of many different sizes.

Garter Snake
Painted Turtles

We found some adorable little baby Painted turtles. I also caught a little minnow.

At the end we said thank you to the pond. We all learned a lot that day. It’s important to learn about what lives in ponds so we know how important they are.

Reported by Hunter

WRN Kids – Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up

Creek Clean Up

On Saturday April 29, 2023, we went to Bechtel Park in Waterloo to pick up trash along the Laurel Creek. It was raining off and on! It was a small group of us. We followed the trail. We found some bones from an animal on the trail. I think it was some kind of bird that something tried to eat it. There were lots of tall trees around us. We found an empty nest for a flying squirrel. There wasn’t much garbage on the trail but when got to the one part of the creek, there was a lot of trash!

The before picture
Mostly done

We had garbage pickers, gloves and pails. There were lots of small pieces of styrofoam and plastic. There were lots of Nerf darts. My favourite find was a big dice made of foam. Someone found a Barbie wearing a swim suit.

We picked up four bags of trash. It is a good thing to do because we are helping the environment.

Reported by Hunter

A15.5 kg haul of trash

WRN Kids – Predator Prey Game

Predator Prey Game

On Saturday April 15, 2023, we met at Auburn Park in Waterloo to play Predator vs Prey.

First, we played a game of “cross the creek”. There was a grid made in the sand and we had to pick squares in order to cross the creek. There was a pattern that we had to figure out. If you picked the wrong square, you had to start over again. You got to cross the creek if you pick the right squares or if you could jump far enough.

Creek crossing game
Picking up our clothes pin lives

Next, we played Predator vs Prey in the forest. All the kids had clothes pins as their lives. Some kids were worms (prey) and could only eat plants. Some kids were mice and could eat worms and plants. Two of us were foxes. We could eat worms and mice. If you got caught by a predator you had to give up one of your clothes pins. There were stations for plants, if you went there, you got a piece of green tape. There were stations for water, if you went there, you got a blue clothes pin. You could get more clothes pins by collecting three of either pieces of tape and/or blue clothes pins. If you ran out of clothes pins you died and were out of the game.

 It was a lot of running to catch the worms and mice!! We also added a cat, a fisherman and someone was rabies in order to make it harder. This game showed us how hard it is to survive as an animal. Either you are running to get food or running away from becoming food.

Snack Time

I had a lot of fun!

Reported by Hunter

The chase is on
Gray Treefrog

WRN Teens – 1st Place in Regional Envirothon!

Envirothon Plaque

Congratulations WRN Teens – 1st Place in Regional Envirothon!

On April 26, our first-ever WRN Teens Envirothon Team participated in the Grand River Regional Envirothon Competition at the University of Waterloo, coached by adult volunteer Graeme Smith. They competed against teams from high school who have done this for several years.

We were proud that they participated; we were super proud that they collaborated so well; then, the big news…WRN Teens Envirothon Team won FIRST PLACE!

Teams had to complete four outdoor practical and written tests on key environmental concepts related to aquatic ecosystems, wildlife, soil, and forestry. They also received a scenario about designing a town to be built near habitats with endangered species. They had one hour to plan before presenting their town plan to a panel of judges. The WRN Teens plan was so well thought out and portrayed a good balance between nature and development needs. The organizers and judges were impressed!

CONGRATULATIONS to Teens Brynn, Jenny, Matt, Bea, and Eva, coach Graeme Smith, and WRN Teens Organizer Marg Paré!

By the way, two of the WRN team members — who helped the team win first place! — aren’t in high school yet!

Envirothon participant:
“I had a great experience participating on the WRN Teens Envirothon Team alongside Bea, Eva, Jenny, and Matt. I enjoyed learning and trying new things in aquatics, soil, wildlife, and forestry. It was my first time using a secchi disk and a soil auger. We used the secchi disk to measure turbidity levels in Laurel Creek and the soil auger to take soil samples to measure the depth of the A Horizon. It was also fun being at the University of Waterloo’s Ecology Lab for both the training and competition days. The competition day was really exciting and the group presentation was my favourite part. Thank you so much Graeme for coaching us and to Marg and Linda for cheering us on! It was a big surprise hearing that we’d won and our team has a spot in the provincials. I definitely want to participate next year!”

Envirothon Plaque

Forests Ontario sponsors regional events and the provincial competition in Ontario which are part of the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon. WRN Teens registration was sponsored by the WRN Youth Fund.

Congratulations WRN Teens, and good luck in the upcoming provincial virtual competition at the end of May!

WRN Kids – Winter Fun

Winter Fun

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, WRN Kids met at Laurel Creek Conservation Area.

What was the topic today?
Building a Shelter & Learning about the Pine Beetle.

What activities did we do?
We went hiking, fed the Chickadees, looked for Pine Shoot Beetles and saw their galleries, and we built a shelter from sheets and rope tied to trees and sticks.

Dinner is served
Do you recommend this restaurant?

Why is it important to learn about?
It’s important to learn how to make a shelter in case you lose your map or get lost, so you can keep warm.

What was the weather like?
It was snowy, cold, and a bit windy.

Under Construction
Home Sweet Home

How did you feel when you did the activities?
I felt very happy about the Chickadees landing on my hand for the first time. I enjoyed looking under the bark for the beetles. I had fun building the shelter but felt a bit nervous that it might fall.

Pine Shoot Beetle galleries

What did you like best about today?
My favourite parts were the Chickadees and building the shelter.

Reported by Jack

Taking a closer look at the Pine Shoot Beetle galleries
What lives here?

WRN Kids – Owl Prowl

Owl Prowl at Huron Natural Area

Thursday February 16, 2023

The WR Nature Kids met at Huron Natural Area at night for an owl prowl led by Fraser Gibson.

Fraser told us many interesting things about owls. Owls eat small animals like squirrels, mice and voles. Great Horned owls will also eat smaller birds (including other owls!) as well as skunks. Owls eat small animals whole and later cough up the fur and bones that have been squeezed together in the bird’s gizzard. It comes out in a pellet shape that can sometimes be found on the ground. Owls can turn their heads almost all the way around to see and hear their prey. Fraser showed us an owl skull, an owl pellet and feather.


We carefully walked along an icy trail to three different areas where Fraser played the call of the Screech Owl on his phone. The Screech Owl makes a trilling sound. We stood quietly listening for a reply but we didn’t hear one. After calling the Screech Owl a many times, Fraser tried calling the Great Horned owl by making hooting sounds. We didn’t hear an owl call back. We all tried the Great Horned owl call and sounded like a choir of owls! The weather was a bit windy and it was starting to rain and these are not good conditions to hear owls.

Owls are getting ready to nest at this time of year. They call out to defend their territory, to find a mate and to keep track of each other. Even though we didn’t hear any owls, it was fun to be outside in the dark in the woods. Being quiet and standing still makes you aware of other noises like the wind blowing through the trees and your snowpants and boots if you move even a tiny bit!

Thank you Fraser for leading us!

submitted by Rachelle Swayze