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.
This year’s Birdathon was explicitly decided by the weather forecast; we would run our 19th Birdathon from May 9 to May 10 to make the best of the weather conditions. At 3:00 pm we entered Rondeau Provincial Park to begin. The weather was partly cloudy with light SE winds and a balmy 16 degrees. We had a quick start spotting Scarlet Tanager, Prothonatory Warbler, Carolina Wren and Eastern Bluebird. After an hour and a half, we headed for Erieau. En route, we picked up Cliff Swallow, Short-billed Dowitcher and a late Canvasback.
The Erieau marina was very quiet so we did not stay long but headed for the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. These were productive as there was something new in each of the 4 large cells. We managed to spot quite a number of ducks ( Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, American Wigeon and Gadwall ) and shorebirds including an early White-rumped Sandpiper and a hard to come by Pectoral Sandpiper. The area was quite active with several Bobolinks calling and displaying in the tall grasses. After checking the lagoons we headed to Blenheim to get our supper; pizza and soft drinks.
On the road again we headed for Mitchell’s Bay. Eating and travelling kept most of our attention but the birds were what really made us sit up. We had Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and Northern Harrier all en route. At Mitchell’s Bay we found Common Gallinule, Black-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron and several Yellow-headed Blackbirds. We still had a little light left so we raced off to the Lake St. Clair NWR. On the way we ran into one of the larger surprises; a Snowy Owl. Reaching the NWR we continued add more species: Sandhill Cranes. While Mike and Ken walked a trail in the refuge, Carol and Jim birded the entrance. We found American Bittern and Sora calling, a silent Trail’s Flycatcher. As dark was descending fast we headed for the cottage making 2 listening stops along the way and heard Vesper Sparrow and American Woodcock.
On the 10th We were up at 5:00 and off to Pt. Pelee National Park. It was raining lightly, 9 degrees and windy. On the way we spotted Great Horned Owl and Wild Turkey. The Park was not as busy as the 9th, but we still managed to add several species to our list. Starting at the Tip, we managed to pick up some later species including Horned Grebe and Surf Scoter. Heading north into the Park, we found Yellow-throated Vireo, good numbers of Catharsus thrushes (including Gray-cheeked) as well as 15 species of warblers, including Cape May and Northern Parula. We decided to walk some of the seasonal trails in the north section, which paid off with a single calling Fish Crow at Sleepy Hollow. By this time it was closing in on noon and we hadn’t checked the Onion Fields or Hillman Marsh. Heading out of the Park we checked the Onion Fields which was quite productive; we found good numbers of shorebirds including several Long-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Dunlin and Black-bellied Plovers.
Our final spot was Hillman Marsh. By 2:00 it was very cold and windy but the rain had stopped. We spent our last hour in a shelter adding a few new species to our list. These included Caspian Tern, Forster’s Tern and Bonaparte’s Gull. Our final birds were 5 Willets that flew in and landed at our feet; a nice way to finish our 19th family Birdathon.
We had another productive and fun filled 24 hours of birding finishing with 151 species.
Thank you for supporting us in our Great Canadian Birdathon. Monies raised go directly to bird conservation and research. If you have already paid us, thank you. If you pledged support, you can forward a check to Jim Burrell made payable to BSC/ Great CanadianBirdathon or paying online at http://birdscanada.kintera.org/birdathon/jimburrell.