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.

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

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

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.

Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario 2019

On Saturday March 9, 2018, David Gascoigne led a group of 16 people on the WRN annual field trip to the north shore of Lake Ontario. As usual, David has provided a full report on his blog with lots of photos taken by Miriam Bauman, so here are just a few of those photos and a link to that report:

Waterloo Region Nature Annual Field Trip to North Shore of Lake Ontario 2019

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser

Trumpeter Swan display
Trumpeter Swan display

Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

Common Goldeneyes
Common Goldeneyes

Bronte Harbour
Bronte Harbour

Great Backyard Bird Count 2019

On Saturday February 16, 2019, 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 Irene Simpson and Jim Cappleman for starting us out on the Baden sandhills, Dave Westfall and Jaimie and Sandy Hill for hosting us at SpruceHaven Farm in St. Agatha, and Brenda and Alan Holvey for a pizza lunch at their home on Lakeside Park.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Mourning Doves (and a Dark-eyed Junco)
Mourning Doves (and a Dark-eyed Junco)
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

For a full description of the outing with lots more photos see David Gascoigne’s Travels With Birds blog at: Great Backyard Bird Count 2019 and for yet more photos see the WRN Facebook page.

Mill Race St. Jacobs Outing

Black-capped Chickadee

The Mill Race St. Jacobs outing on Thursday morning, January 17, 2019 was well attended. The bird life was pretty active and there was much to see. At the other end of the trail there was a cafe for warm-up and refreshments.

For photos and a report of the outing see David Gascoigne’s Travels With Birds blog at: Waterloo Region Nature Outing to The Mill Race, St. Jacobs.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

Montgomery Fall Work Day 2018

Montgomery Fall Workday Report 2018

Friday, October 19, 2018

Present: Wayne & Lynda Buck, Fraser Gibson, Jim Cappleman, Chris Wright, Sandy Ponic, Wendy Shaw, Pat & Paul Bigelow, Donna & Marco Debruin, Anita Smith, Marg & Graham Macdonald,       Regrets: Genie Berger

A beautiful morning around 8-10 degrees and sunny!

We worked in 3 groups. Jim, Paul & Wayne cleared trail and there were some problem areas one (downed tree) completely blocked the trail just past Post 5. Also more trail blazes are needed from Post 4 to Post 6. At Post 6 renewed blazing is needed to indicate the turn! Blazing not done as temperature too low for paint to adhere.

A second group (Lynda, Donna, Pat) inspected the trail for features, hazards, debris and signs of undesired invasion.

All property signs were in place and in good condition. The natural features at each trail post were present. There was no evidence of intrusion nor any safety hazards observed.. Several safety hazards were corrected in the spring work day eg. post in animal hole at top of the incline from the lower section of the property to the upper level. West of Post 1 fungi covered the trunk of a dead beech! Between Post 2 &3 a large area of debris from spring flooding was observed along with a small wooden chair.

Working through the inspection list.
Working through the inspection list.

Fungus on dead beech tree.
Fungus on dead beech tree.

The third group (Fraser, Chris, Wendy, Sandy, Marco, Anita , Graham) examined the property overall and checked the wood duck boxes. Chris Brought green garbage bags and focused on garbage collection! Not too much as usual and no large debris. Two boundary markers #6 and #8 which have been missing for several years were replaced – thank you Fraser. Some wildlife of note observed giant ragweed, a pileated woodpecker, the scrape of a deer, a red backed salamander (under a log turned over by Fraser) and a woolly bear caterpillar.

There was no contact with hikers or neighbours although adjacent to our property after post 8 a neighbour had cleared a path to the Nith , had a mowed area and set up with a rustic bench (2 split logs) set up to view the Nith. They also had a bird nest box on a close by maple. It was decided this area was not our property.

Deer scrape.
Deer scrape.

Checking a Wood Duck box.
Checking a Wood Duck box.

Giant Hogweed: There was no sign of Giant Hogweed flowers , no plants seen but vegetation is still quite high so small plants could be present.

Wood Duck Boxes: The West Box (Nith) was severely leaning. That was corrected as much as possible but next spring will need to be redug and straightened. In that box we found evidence of wood duck hatching – broken eggshells and no whole eggs as we have found in the past. The West box (inland) showed signs of owl nesting with owl pellets and a rodent foot inside it. The debris found in the shavings was removed and the old shavings returned to the boxes.

Owl Pellets.
Owl Pellets.




Reported by Marg Macdonald (chair)

October 21st, 2018

WRN Board 2018-2019

At the WRN Annual General Meeting on Monday May 28, the new board for 2018-2019 was presented:




Membership Director – Anne Godlewski

Outings Director – Graham Macdonald

Program Director – Rachael Edwards

Anne Godlewski, Graham Macdonald, Rachael Edwards
Anne Godlewski, Graham Macdonald, Rachael Edwards

Jon Walgate, Paul Bigelow
Jon Walgate, Paul Bigelow




Past-President – Jon Walgate

Treasurer – Paul Bigelow



President – Josh Shea

Secretary – Erin Bannon

Director at Large – Jason Earle

Josh Shea, Erin Bannon, Jason Earle
Josh Shea, Erin Bannon, Jason Earle

Not Present –

Conservation Director – Anita Smith

Conservation Award 2018

Conservation Award Plaque
Conservation Award Presentation
nominator Stephanie Sobek-Swant, recipient David Gascoigne, nominators Graham Macdonald and Marg Lewis-Macdonald, President Jon Walgate

David Gascoigne was presented with a Conservation Award at the WRN meeting on Monday, April 23, 2018.


Introductory remarks by Conservation Director Anita Smith:

The Award Criteria for Waterloo Region Nature’s Conservation Award reads as follows: The nominee shall have participated in or instigated or increased public awareness of endeavours that have contributed to the conservation and/or preservation of the natural environment of the Region of Waterloo.

This year’s recipient of the Conservation Award meets those criteria hands down. Not only has he initiated programs that increase public awareness and conservation efforts locally, his work is recognized well beyond Canada’s borders. His efforts have been broadcast on the front page of The Record, as well as CTV news and the CBC.

Our award winner has served as president of Waterloo Region Nature. He is a volunteer at RARE, gives talks, leads walks and is an avid birder. He has initiated a barn swallow monitoring program that compares colonies in two local barns, carefully recording every detail; eggs are counted, birds are banded and some even have trackers so their migration to the south can be monitored. Bird Studies Canada was asked to rate this barn swallow monitoring program and on a scale from 1 to 10 they gave him a 12! Our winner has engaged a community of volunteers and students to join him in the work and now salamanders and butterflies are being monitored in the area as well.

As an avid birder he is known around the world. Recently the world’s gull expert, Klaus Malling Olsen, contacted our award winner asking for photos to include in his latest book; A book which, by the way, Princeton University Press has asked our winner to review!

This year’s Conservation Award recipient is genuine, engaging and inspiring. Graduate students request to work with him over the paid TAs assigned to courses. Even the youngest children he works with, such as in a class in St. Jacobs, find his enthusiasm contagious. A six-year-old girl in that classroom recently asked for his phone number, so she could give him a call the next time she spotted an interesting bird.

Please join me in congratulating this year’s Conservation Award recipient, David Gascoigne.


David Gascoigne with Award
David Gascoigne and nominator Graham Macdonald