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

Montgomery Work Day Fall 2019

Friday October 25th

At 9am on a lovely cloudy fall day we gathered to do our annual Property Inspection. As we went down into the property we were held up by a downed tree that had to be cleared. It was a sign of things to come as we had more trees down (3 big trees across the trail) as we went. It was hard work with bow saws, so we left the clearing of the biggest windfall to our spring clean-up. Throughout the property more trees were down on the forest floor – mainly ash.


Property markers were all in place and giant hogweed was not to be found. Another super job done by our Hogweed volunteers.

Signs were in good condition, trail features all still present, the ferns fast fading. There was one beer bottle -the only piece of garbage found on the property.

Running Strawberry Bush
New beaver lodge on the Nith River

Graham had made 70 aluminum markers to apply to trees which will replace the paint markings we have used in the past. Graham & Wayne placed 63 of them on trees marking the trail in one direction. He will make more for the spring when we will mark the trail going in reverse.


Wood duck boxes: we all gathered to watch the west wood duck box be opened and examined for evidence of wood duck breeding. As the box was lowered everyone jumped! – a screech owl flew out.

Eastern Screech Owl
unhappy with being turned upside down and quickly leaving the scene
West wood duck box contents


The East wood duck box did show evidence of wood duck nesting with remnants of egg shells and membrane but not as much as usual. There were Flicker feathers inside as well. Both boxes were cleaned and the old wood chips replaced with fresh.

East wood duck box contents

We gathered at the roadside to have our juice and cookies before heading out for the rest of the day.

A big thank you to everyone! Always such fun to be together and enjoying a fall morning in a beautiful setting!

Reported by Marg Macdonald

WRN Kids – Nature Photography

Saturday October 19, 2019
On Saturday morning we photographed Huron Natural Area for nature club. The fall colours were beautiful! First, we learned how to take a photograph. We learned about the art elements: line, texture, colour, form, tone and shape. We saw some cool photographs. Next, the photographers from Focus on Nature showed the group how to use a camera. Then we went outside to take photos. We got to see plants, animals, a pond and the forest. We took our photos paying attention to the art elements that we learned. The best part of the day was being outdoors exploring and taking pictures. 
By Alice
Age 9
Photos by Ada and Alice

WRN Teens – Stream Restoration

WRN Teens - Stream Restoration at rare - September 28, 2019

WRN Teens is up and really running for a second year!  On top of our usual monthly work projects, we’ve taken on a weekly (!) project for September and October.  So we’ve been busy!  The weekly project is monitoring the salamander population at SpruceHaven Farm.  We’re really excited about it and we’ll be reporting on it soon.
This past Saturday, we had our first monthly work project for 2019-20.  We were thrilled to be invited back to rare Charitable Research Reserve, this time to do stream restoration.  Bauman Creek is a cold water stream that was diverted long ago and the work to rehabilitate it has been going on since 2016.  Our bit was part of the last phase. 

At the rare offices at Lamb’s Inn in Blair, we met Sarah and Tom who do lots of amazing field work at rare. Tom showed us on the map where Bauman Creek flows and some of the problems that the restoration aims to fix. We carpooled a short way to where the creek crosses Blair Road.

Then we started the hard work of moving rocks in big wheelbarrows through thick prairie plants!  The goal was the strategic placement of large and small rocks to improve the water flow, cause more meanders and pools, all creating better habitat for fish. 

We worked hard, getting quite wet and muddy.

We muscled the wheelbarrows along a “path” Tom had just created with a scythe, and managed to get most of the loads of rocks delivered without incident.

We saw cool creatures (including a Pearly Wood-nymph caterpillar), inspected the part of Bauman Creek that had a more major restoration done by engineers, learned about what kind of creek trout prefer… and generally learned lots and had a memorable experience.

Many thanks to Sarah Marshall, Tom Woodcock, and Alissa Fraser (for the planning) from rare, Josh Shea from the Teens planning committee, very hands-on Teens volunteer Linda Dutka, WRN communicators Paul Bigelow and Cathi Stewart, Teens parent drivers, and the awesome Teens who came out and spent their Saturday afternoon getting wet and muddy. You’re the best!

Marg Paré, WRN Teens coordinator

WRN Kids – Pond Study

On the last Saturday in September, the Nature Kids group met for the first time. We started out by playing a few games to get to know other families.

Our topic for the day was pond life and the diversity of animals that live in the pond. Jean Luc, our naturalist, told us that only 5 % of all animals have spines like us! We don’t know as much about invertebrates so that is what we looked for in the pond. Jean Luc showed us how to use nets properly and we worked in groups to collect pond creatures.

It was really fun to catch different kinds of animals – we found some pretty interesting ones.

We brought them back to learn to identify what we found. We found nymphs, beetles, minnows and crayfish to name a few. At the end of our time together, we took turns sharing with the group what our favourite finds were.

Immature Large Milkweed Bugs

We look forward to seeing everyone next month to learn about nature photography!

Peregrine Falcon 2019 Report

Peregrine Nest Box

KW Peregrine Falcons 2019

Peregrine Nest Box
Peregrine Falcon chicks from a previous year

Our Kitchener-Waterloo falcon chicks hatched on May 6 and 7 and were banded at three weeks of age on May 28. Our three eyases had been well fed by parents Mystery and Mystery Man, so named because they are unbanded birds. The chicks were assessed, weighed, and christened Kawhi (this was during the NBA playoffs when Toronto Raptor fever was running high), Jupiter and Hemera.

On June 15 Kawhi was the first to leave the nestbox at the CTV tower on King St. Jupiter followed him the next day and then Hemera shortly after with a precarious flight to the window ledge just below the lower roof of Grand River Hospital after being enticed by the adult falcons. She did manage to return to the CTV tower before dusk, but was unable to gain enough loft to reach home. Hence she spent the night on a strut below the nestbox. She finally managed to return to the box the next day and over the course of the next two weeks joined her siblings on numerous flights to the King’s Towers roof and over the sports field to the east.

The rest of the fledge watch was fairly uneventful as we watched the adults taking the fledglings on flights farther afield and higher and higher. For the first time in the eight years we have been involved in the fledge watch, we did not have to rescue a downed fledgling even once, a pleasant surprise indeed.

Over the summer the young were schooled in the art of hunting their prey in the air and bringing it to various roof tops in the area. By mid September they were heading south to Central and South America for the winter. We may receive news in the next year or two if our KW falcons return to Ontario to raise families of their own. Meanwhile Mystery and Mystery Man will stay in Kitchener Waterloo for the winter and do it all over again next year.

Many thanks to WRN members Randy Fowler, Christine Alexander, Fraser Gibson, Don Thomas and Sandra Moores who participated in this year’s fledge watch.

Dale Ingrey

SpruceHaven Visit 2019

The annual WRN visit to SpruceHaven was well attended this year. Along with a look at screech owl boxes and beehives, the other activities were:

A talk about the Barn Swallow colony and the ongoing monitoring and research project there.

A visit to the salamander monitoring area, with its numbered boards. (Our WRN Teens group has recently taken on this ongoing monitoring project.)

A visit to the beginnings of a prairie grassland.

Ending up with refreshments provided by the owners – Dave Westfall and Sandy and Jamie Hill.

For a full report and lots more photos see David Gascoigne’s blog at Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature to SpruceHaven.

WRN Teens – Buckthorn

After 10 months and 12 activities the Waterloo Region Nature Teens finished their first year with a flourish.
Seven intrepid teens made a return trip to the University of Waterloo Environmental Science Lab on Saturday June 8. We were met by Payton, a third year student specializing in plant ecology. With great enthusiasm she shared her knowledge and outdoor experience with us.
We started our 3 hour activity in the Environmental Science Lab. There we were introduced to the threat of ticks, unlikely but possible hitch hikers on the University grounds. Thank goodness we had worn long sleeved shirts and jeans, despite the heat.

Using a dichotomous tree key, we determined the physical characteristics of Buckthorn in order to better identify it in the field. This unwanted shrub from Europe has successfully invaded most temperate North American forests, displacing traditional species such as Blue Cohosh and Maple.

After the Lab session, we hiked to a deciduous forest invaded by both mature and immature Buckthorn plants. Payton set up a grid, within which we were free to remove small Buckthorn plants. Their deep fibrous roots provided a real challenge when hand pulling one by one. The numerous thorns on the Buckthorn’s branches made it even more difficult to grasp and pull, even when wearing heavy gloves.

We soon discovered that even a Buckthorn with a diameter of less than 2 cm was nearly impossible to pull out by hand, even with 2 or 3 Teens pulling.  A jack-like instrument called a “Puller Bear” was used to lever and extract larger plants. It was a real team effort.

Having worked up an appetite, we returned to the lab for a pizza lunch. During our meal we discussed the pros and cons of all the activities we attempted during the past year. We finished off our last session of the year by proposing and planning longer activities and salamander monitoring for the 2019-2020 season.

Big thanks to Bev Raimbault from UW Ecology Lab for inviting us and to Payton Landsborough for all the hands-on work. 
Looking forward to seeing new and returning Teens next September. Have a safe and adventurous summer.
Linda Dutka

WRN Kids – Fire and Fireflies

On Saturday, June 8, WRN kids got to learn all about fireflies! It was a gorgeous night. When we got to Laurel Creek, we saw two deer!

While we waited for the sun to set, we had a camp fire. We tried to roast the perfect marshmallow, but many got burnt. They still tasted good!

We caught really cool bugs and put them in a bug apartment. We saw a raccoon scurry through the field. We played catch while we waited for dark.

After our fire, we hiked to the storm management pond. We heard green frogs and tree frogs. We saw a bat. We waited for it to get dark. We noticed orange flashes, they were fireflies! The male fireflies flash to impress the females. We actually caught some. They only live for a couple of weeks. We have never seen a firefly before, it was awesome.

Even though it was way past our bedtime, it was worth it. We hope to have more fun with fireflies again!
By Ada and Alice


​​​Thanks to Ada and Alice, sisters who are WRN Kids members, for a great report!

This special evening program was the wrap-up for our 2018-19 year. Thank you to David O’Reilly, our naturalist this time who built a great fire and helped us discover lots of cool things. Thanks to Mary-Anne Cain for coordinating our programs at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped out over the year: Linden Imeson Jorna, Linda Dutka, Pat Bigelow, Zack Stevens, Kristi Neufeld, Cathy McKerron, and Giselle Carter who will be WRN Kids coordinator for 2019-2020. Also, much appreciation to Cathi Stewart for putting Kids on Facebook and to Paul Bigelow for putting us on the WRN website, managing registrations, and doing many other jobs.

And, as usual, thanks to the families who were part of WRN Kids this year! We love your enthusiasm about nature! Don’t forget to sign up for the fall!

Marg Paré
WRN coordinator 2018-19

WRN Teens – Salamander Monitoring

WRN Teens
May 25 and June 1, 2019
Salamander Monitoring

WRN Teens are very excited to be trained up and ready to do some cool citizen science in the fall! We’re going to take on the salamander monitoring project that has been going on for a few years at SpruceHaven Farm.

Green Heron
Trout Lily

We’ve had many weather challenges this spring but most frustrating was to have our training session last week cut short by lightning! We went back this week though and learned the monitoring protocol. We really appreciate the instruction from Jenna Quinn and David Gascoigne and the support from WRN Teens volunteers Linda Dutka, Anita Smith and Zack Stevens.

Thanks too to Mike Smith who custom built us a storage box for our equipment!

Here’s what monitoring salamanders is all about… We have to find the numerous locations where boards have been placed for salamanders to hide under, correctly place a soil thermometer and soil moisture meter, flip the board, count and identify any salamanders, replace the board very gently, read the meters, record all the data, and at certain locations, also record weather information.

We got pretty good at it and, under the 27 boards we checked on our first try, we saw 6 Eastern Red-backed Salamanders.

Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Eastern Red-backed Salamander

We hope to be monitoring weekly in September and October. Many thanks to our experts, our volunteers, and especially to Dave Westfall, Sandy Hill and Jamie Hill of SpruceHaven for sharing their property so generously!

David Westfall

We also got a chance to see the barn swallows in the barn and view their eggs with a mirror.

If you are a teen who would like to be part of WRN Teens, please look us up! If you know a teen who might like to join, please pass on the info! We’re really happy to have several new members already signed up for the fall and we’d love to welcome lots more!

Questions: teens@waterlooregionnature.ca
Registration: waterlooregionnature.ca/teens

Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator