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 )
Red and white trillium*
Yellow and White Trout Lily*
Spring Beauty*
Great Angelica
Blue Cohosh
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 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

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.