The 6th annual WRN Great Backyard Bird Count outing was held on Saturday February 17, 2018. It was well attended with about 20 people at each of the stops and a core group that made it to all 3 locations. Each host made sure that we were well supplied with coffee and snacks while viewing the birds.
At the Cappleman property we watched a variety of birds coming to the feeders with plenty of window space and lots of activity.
American Tree Sparrow
At the rare Eco Centre we went behind the building to watch activity at the feeders and in the nearby trees. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers showed up, with observers commenting on how rare that would have been a few years ago.
rare Eco Centre Feeders
This Red-bellied Woodpecker was a bit shy.
At Lakeside Park, Mary Ann Vanden Elzen led a short walk while describing the park's history and some of the recent projects that the city and local residents have undertaken there. Unfortunately the birds were smarter than we were, and didn't bother to show up.
Turtle Beach at Lakeside Park (somewhere under all that snow)
After the walk in Lakeside Park, we descended on the Holvey house for pizza and cookies, where the main birding question was how many constantly moving House Sparrows were hiding out in their backyard hedges.
A group of about 30 WRN members and a few guests including 3 children, met at Jane Schneider’s property on the Waterloo Moraine on Sunday 20th August.
After making our way though Jane’s fabulous field display of prairie flowers, largely giant Prairie Dock, Prairie cone flowers, Cup plants, Ironweed, and Monarda, the group made their way behind the house to the garden area.
The group was gathered to join Dan Schneider for a quick expose on the topic of spiders and their place in the environment. Dan started by talking about spiders, their structure and abundance and how they fitted into the ecosystem. He showed the group his “pet” spider, Charlotte, an amazingly hairy, medium-sized Mexican Redknee tarantula. This rather beautiful, and docile, spider is native to parts of Mexico. Although severely threatened in the wild by people pouring pesticides and gasoline into burrows, it is easily bred into captivity where it is a popular spider sold in the pet trade.
During the talk we were briefly distracted by dozens of Ring-billed gulls circling above.
Dan showed several species that he had brought along to demonstrate the variety of shapes, colours and sizes of commonly seen spiders. The children handled some of these.
Dan had a colourful Black and Yellow garden spider with distinctive yellow and black markings on the abdomen and a mostly white cephalothorax. This fairly common spider spins a large web that is consumed and re-built daily. The children released it in a patch of Rudbeckia in the garden, in an area with the Goldenrod soldier beetle.
The next discovery at the front of the house was made by the children who found a web with a “Bowl and Doily” spider whilst the adults were looking at wasp nests and American house spider webs. The Bowl and Doily spins a double web with the lower “doily” preventing predators from attacking from below, and the upper “bowl”-shaped web is the principal catch area.
From here the group walked to the lower meadow, passing an area of goldenrod, buzzing with insects, including bees, butterflies, wasps and hornets. The three children did a fantastic job of sweeping to collect spiders and insects that we could all then see more closely.
We were very fortunate in coming across an unfortunate grasshopper that had jumped unwittingly off the pathway into a spider web. It was quickly trussed up by a rather large Shamrock spider, a member of the orb-weaving spider family, Araneidae. In the first image you can see the web being sprayed out of the abdominal spinneret encompassing the doomed grasshopper. Two other views show the continued trussing of the grasshopper and the colours of the large abdomen.
The excursion finished with a visit to the pond area, the capture (and release) of a small leopard frog, and a brief discussion on water spiders.
Our thanks to Dan for an exciting glimpse of spiders in the wild, to Jane for allowing the group onto her property and to the weather gods for a beautiful day.
Thanks to Fraser Gibson for a fascinating outing at the Laurel Creek Nature Centre apiary. 20 people came out to learn all about honey bees and beekeeping and got suited up for a close look. We were very lucky to be able to see a nearby swarm! Also interesting to see a "flow hive."
The Ecoposts project was officially launched as part of the KNAP Earth Day event at Huron Natural Area on Saturday April 29, 2017.
EcoPosts showcases Waterloo Region’s natural heritage, and encourages people to explore the outdoors. Signs placed in various natural areas provide links (through QR codes) to descriptions on the Ecoposts website ecoposts.ca.
In between two of the live bird shows, there were short speeches given by:
Stephanie Sobek-Swant, president of Waterloo Region Nature. WRN sponsored the Ecoposts project and a number of WRN members contributed their expertise to provide content for the Ecoposts website.
Roger Suffling. Roger was the main architect for the Ecoposts project, and wrote much of the content for the website.
Ken Seiling, Chair, Region of Waterloo. The Region of Waterloo provided a grant for the Ecoposts project from the Community Environmental Fund. An additional grant was provided by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.
Rob Feick, University of Waterloo. Rob set up the initial development environment for the project as the website was being designed and content created.
For more details on what Ecoposts is all about, see this article which appeared in the Kitchener Post and the Waterloo Chronicle: Nature entices on mobile devices.
At the April meeting, Pat and Paul Bigelow were presented with the very prestigious Honorary Life Membership Award. This award acknowledges the valuable and exceptional service made to Waterloo Region Nature and is given to only the most deserving of members. And Pat and Paul certainly are! They joined the club in Nov. of 1985 and, since that time, the value of their contributions to the club has been immeasurable.
Perhaps Paul’s greatest contribution has been his service as Treasurer for a total of nine years: from 2002/07 and from 2012 to present. Less well known is that Pat was actually club treasurer before Paul was: from 1993 to 1996. Both are members of the Montgomery Committee helping to manage and protect WRN’s Montgomery Wildlife Sanctuary. And both have spent time staffing WRN tables at various public events.
Each, however, has a long string of individual contributions to the club.
Pat was a founding member, back in 1999, of the Young Naturalists Club and has been a constant presence ever since, expertly performing a variety of jobs behind the scenes. Nowadays, Pat is most likely to be seen at club events with a camera and telescopic lens strapped around her neck. In her role as unofficial club photographer, she has provided many photographs for the Heron newsletter, the club’s archives, and most recently, the club’s new website.
Paul has been invaluable as the Board’s techie go-to person. He helped launch WRN’s much enhanced website and is now its manager; he spearheaded the club’s use of MailChimp and PayPal; he was pivotal in launching Ecoposts and compiling the club’s Facebook page.
When not behind the computer, Paul gets outdoors. Over the years, his steadily growing knowledge of birds makes him a reliable recorder for the club’s annual Great Backyard Bird Count. His interest in wildflowers blossomed as well. Paul has led club botany outings both locally and to the Bruce Peninsula.
Few know all that Pat and Paul have done for the club. And yet, everyone would notice if they didn’t do what they do. It’s all done humbly and quietly. In contrast, at the April club meeting, the audience’s standing ovation for them was long and loud.
On Saturday March 18, 2017, thirteen people went on an all-day outing to the north shore of Lake Ontario. They made a number of stops along the shoreline, braving the cold and slush. In spite of the weather, they were able to see a variety of birds (and one mink). For a full description of the trip and lots of photos, see Waterloo Region Nature Outing to the North Shore of Lake Ontario.
A group of WRN members went on a one-week birding tour to Cuba last November, had a great time and saw a number of interesting birds and animals. (The web manager forgot to post this link to a report on their trip back then).
Who would ever have imagined that members of a nature club, so keen to be outdoors, would willingly show up for an indoor outing? Not just indoors, though. Down to the basement, deep inside the belly of an archival vault. A place intentionally designed to keep the outdoors out. Yet, surprisingly, two dozen people did indeed show up.
The idea for a tour of the Region of Waterloo Archives originated with archivist Charlotte Woodley. These records, including our own Waterloo Region Nature collection, were moved in 2015 to the historic Old County Courthouse building at 20 Weber St. E. in Kitchener. Charlotte, along with archivists Lesley Webb and Matt Roth, aimed to set out exhibits and conduct tours in such a way that “people could see themselves” or easily be able to relate to the materials. In this, they certainly succeeded.
Betty Cooper was “startled” to see a 1960s photo of herself – binoculars strung around her neck – all set to go birdwatching with husband, Fred. When the gigantic original 1861 Tremaine map of Waterloo County was unrolled, Carol Gregory shrieked with delight and excitedly pointed out the section of land her Mennonite ancestors settled when they first arrived from Pennsylvania. Harold Russell smiled with pleasure to see the two boxes of the Dorothy Russell collection, which he himself had donated, placed just opposite the WRN boxes.
Of more general appeal to club members were the Craig Campbell collection; a thesis volume written by club founder, Fred Montgomery; and photographs, notes and bird check lists from long time member, Dorothy Russell.
After perusing the main floor exhibits, listening to Charlotte’s presentation, and then the lively follow-up Q & A, we divided into three separate groups, packed into the elevator and hit “B” for basement. Down to the vaults we descended. Normally, only staff has access to these rooms.
First was the Triage Vault. Shelves upon shelves are filled with ordinary lidded cardboard boxes. The records inside are temporarily stored here waiting to be sorted and processed. Only 5% make the cut. Time here also serves to isolate any bugs or mould from old donated records.
Next was the Map Vault. It consists of rows of broad, deep, metal shelving holding large maps, posters and architectural designs and drawings including that of the historic West Montrose covered bridge.
The main Archival Vault was the third room we visited. With space at a premium, documents are stored on retractable shelving. All it takes is a turn of a crank to move even the most heavily loaded shelf.
It’s ironic for nature loving outdoor enthusiasts that the entire goal of an archivist is to keep the outdoors out! That’s what’s required to protect the records. Documents are stored in file folders inside acid free boxes. The fire suppression system sucks oxygen out of the room. No sprinkler system here! An alarm and flashing strobe light allows only 30 seconds for anyone inside the vault at the time to get out. There’s also a water alarm in case of a flood situation. Underneath every overhead pipe is a drip tray. No wind reaches these climate-controlled vaults. No natural light, either.
There were many questions along the way, all expertly answered by the enthusiastic ROWA staff; they were happy to explain their work and share the archives with us. They emphasized that these records are public and completely accessible. People are encouraged to utilize them. “These are treasures,” declared Charlotte. Research can be done either on-line or by visiting the archives in person. The staff is always pleased to be of assistance.
As one person afterwards remarked, “…so glad WRN put their archives under the Region’s care.” I’m sure many on the tour today would have echoed that sentiment.
Thanks to archivists Charlotte Woodley, Lesley Webb and Matt Roth for organizing an outstanding outing. Thanks, as well, to Graham Macdonald for his photos.
Present: Wayne and Lynda Buck, Fraser Gibson, Jim Cappleman, Paul Bigelow, Donna and Marco DeBruin, Graham & Margaret Macdonald
Absent with regret: Pat Bigelow, Ross Dickson and April Morrisey
Nine committee members met at 9 am in a steady but light rain and entered the property. The sign posted on our main road sign closing Montgomery due to the presence of hogweed (late June) was removed as were all other “closed” signage. Jim Cappleman had in September installed the new permanent sign warning of the presence of Giant Hogweed on the property.
Old signs on trail posts that said features were missing were very belatedly removed; the new trail guide, now 3 years old, describes new features at those trail posts. Jim and Paul cleared the trail. Overall it was fairly clear but there were a couple of large trees that had fallen across the trail that required their attention. The trail posts were in place and the features present at each post.
Wood duck box east (near the vernal pools) contained only a few nondescript feathers – no sign of egg debris or any nesting.
The west box by the Nith contained a new squirrel nest of fresh leaves, 1 infertile egg, 2 unbroken eggs that looked as if they had been pierced by a stick as if close to hatch, and also egg shell debris so definite successful nesting indicated. The boxes were cleaned and fresh wood chips put in.
Property markers were checked. Number 8 could not be found and that was the same at our last check. There was no sign of any disruption on the property camping, fires, garbage disposal etc. Marco saw a downy woodpecker. There is increased evidence of downed ash trees while Wayne noticed regeneration of Bur Oak, which is encouraging. Marco and Fraser observed extensive new areas of periwinkle. As tarps were not moved in spring 2016, spring 2017 many tarps should be moved to new areas. The only two tarps that should not be moved are two newly donated tarps that were put down last year.
Next spring’s priorities will be to move tarps, locate and mark hogweed plants, plus doing our regular trail checks and trail marking. Equipment required for hogweed removal and a storage container will be purchased before next spring. A process will be set up for hogweed removal personnel to access it as necessary. We will prepare a hogweed monitoring plan and a process to arrange for hogweed removal when necessary. We will continue our garlic mustard removal day. For our garlic mustard activity we always ask for volunteers and it may be a good idea to ask for volunteers for our spring workday. The tarp moves require strength so we could appeal on that basis and see if we can attract some strong arms.
Thank you to our committee members who continue to come out whatever the weather and make the morning a pleasure. Thank you all so very much!
On Friday morning, June 10th, a work crew consisting of Montgomery Committee members, other WRN members and a large contingent from rare, descended on the F.H. Montgomery Wildlife Sanctuary. The weather was perfect for a concerted attack on the Garlic Mustard plants at the far end of the property.
After a few hours of pulling, this section had been cleared of the alien invaders, and a truckload of bagged plants was carted away. A good morning’s work was celebrated with snacks and then a group photo. Thanks to all who came out and worked so hard.