WRN Kids – Animal Protection

Animal Protection

On Saturday April 27, 2024, our WRN Kids outing was held indoors where we hosted World Animal Protection, an animal welfare non-profit organization active in over 50 countries around the world. They presented to us on the topic of exotic animals kept as pets and how this is harmful to animals, habitats and is sometimes illegal.

Before the presentation began, we played a fun game of Owl and Mice that involved dice and a lid and mice on string. It was challenging to watch for double dice and trap the mice under the lid.

Then Michele, Beth and David presented about wild animals being kept as pets.

We thought about and learned what makes an animal a good pet and why wild animals do not make good pets. Animals that are domesticated have lived with people for a very long time. These kinds of pets are dogs, cats and other common pets. Exotic animals are wild animals who do not normally live with or near humans. People cannot create the habitat these wild animals need to be happy and healthy.

We learned that each province in Canada has its own laws about what animals can be kept as pets and here in Ontario the province has passed that responsibility to municipalities. That means that which animals you can keep as pets depends on where you live in the province.

The best way we can help wild animals stay wild is by thinking carefully before buying a pet and by informing others about how wild animals cannot be happy when they are taken from their native habitat. When people know better, they do better.

We then made posters and talked about the message our posters tell. We are making a video about this information so we can share it with others who might not know about the problems of keeping exotic animals as pets.

Reported by Rachelle

WRN Kids – Mill Race Trail St Jacobs

Sign at entrance of trail

Mill Race Trail

On Saturday March 30, 2024, WRN Kids went on a birding hike along the Mill Race Trail.

David Gascoigne led us down the trail and we saw many interesting things.

Sign at entrance of trail
Mallards

We saw woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals, and mallards.

We also saw some mammals. There was a mink and then a muskrat swimming along side us in the water of the mill race.

American Mink
Corn stalks collected by beavers

Some of the group went all the way to St Jacobs and enjoyed a snack at the Eco Café.

A big thank you to David for leading us on this wonderful outing.

Reported by Rachelle

Birds seen on our hike:
Canada Goose
Mallard
Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
Pine Siskin
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Northern Cardinal

WRN Kids – GeoTime Trail Waterloo

GeoTime Trail

On Saturday Feb 24, 2024, WRN Kids went to the GeoTime Trail in Waterloo.

We started the outing with a game of Cross the River, a guessing and memory game

River crossing game
Crossing a real creek

Once we all crossed the “river”, we headed out to learn how to use a compass.

We practiced finding north, south, east and west and found a hidden egg which gave us directions to another next hidden egg. That egg had directions to another egg and so on.

Each egg also had a letter that spelled out a secret message – SNACK TIME. We found the hidden snack and enjoyed a snack of apples and cookies in the woods. Food always tastes better when eaten outside.

Deciphering a clue
Snack Time
Gathering garbage

This trail features storm water collection ponds which are human made ponds that help keep water from eroding the land, slow down water when it rains so it can get back into the ground water, and collect pollution before it gets into the Grand River which is a source of drinking water for the Region of Waterloo.

We collected trash near the parking lot and left the space better than we found it – always a good way to thank nature for a wonderful time outside.

Reported by Rachelle

WRN Kids – Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2024

Bird Checklist

Christmas Bird Count for Kids at rare Charitable Research Reserve

Saturday February 2, 2024

WRN Kids participated in the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at rare Charitable Research Reserve. It was a beautiful morning to spend outside looking for birds – sunny and mild!

Coyote scat

Some interesting things we found while looking for birds include a praying mantis egg case that was empty of eggs, scat from a coyote, and deer fur and foot prints.

When we explored under an osprey’s nest we found fish bones!

We also counted over 30 piles of deer scat in a field on the way to the river.

Praying Mantis egg case
Deer footprint
Fish bones under an Osprey nest
Deer scat

At the river, we saw Buffleheads, Mergansers and over 100 Goldeneyes!

In addition to seeing birds and evidence of animals, we had lots of fun exploring the thin coating of ice on the wet trails and climbing on a smooth shelf of icy snow.

When we got back to the barn we tallied our count and in total, we identified 16 species of birds by sight and sound!

Reported by Rachelle

Bird Checklist

WRN Kids – Trail Trimming at SpruceHaven

Trail Trimming at SpruceHaven

Bonus Outing – Saturday December 16, 2023

Nature Kids met with the Nature Teens to trim trees along the trails at SpruceHaven. The weather was mild and grey but it was heartwarming to be together in such a beautiful place. We trimmed spruce and pine bows, red dogwood, sumac, and other trees. We also cut some grasses, asters and golden rod. All the trimmings looked so beautiful together as bouquets.

We took our cuttings to the house to show Sandy, Jamie and Dave, the owners of SpruceHaven. They wished us a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and were happy to see us enjoying our time there and for the trails being trimmed.

Thank you SpruceHaven and WRN Teens for sharing this outing with us!

submitted by Rachelle

WRN Kids – Sciensational Sssnakes!!

Sciensational Sssnakes!!

On November 25, 2023, WRN Kids and some WRN Teens attended a presentation from Sciensational Sssnakes!!

Where was the outing?
At the Breithaupt Centre in Kitchener.

What was the weather like?
It was chilly and very sunny, but we were inside for this outing because it was too cold outside for our reptile visitors.

What did we do?
We had a presentation by “Sciensational Sssnakes”! Jenny and Alex taught us about the native species of snakes – and even some turtles – found here in Ontario. They let us meet lots of reptile friends and shared lots of reptile facts with all of us, and then we got to hold the snakes they brought with them!

Jenny

What did we learn? Why is this important?

  • We shouldn’t call snakes (or any reptiles!) cold blooded. Their blood is not cold, it can even be warmer than ours at times. Their body temperature depends on the environment around them. The scientific name to this is ECTOTHERM. So we should say that snakes are ectothermic, not cold blooded.
  • Snakes aren’t slimy! A snake should be shiny looking, because it’s a sign that the snake is healthy – but shiny doesn’t mean slimy. People are more slimy than snakes, because we secrete oils. It’s also impossible to be allergic to a snake the way people can be allergic to cats and dogs.
  • Ontario has many different snake species, but some are endangered such as the Gray Ratsnake, the Eastern Foxsnake, and the Eastern Massasauga. The only venomous snake we have in Ontario is the Massasauga, as the Timber Rattlesnake has been eradicated (gone) from Ontario since the 1940s. If an animal is endangered, they could become extinct – which means they’re gone from our world forever.
  • Please leave wild animals alone! Animals have many different defence mechanisms to protect themselves from big scary predators, and humans are big and scary to these little snakes. For example, a Northern Watersnake will bite you; they have four rows of small, pointy teeth on the top of their mouth and two rows on the bottom, but the teeth are small and won’t hurt a human much. So they then pull away from the predator (human) and vomit (which is stinky, because they eat fish and frogs) and poop and pee all over the predator with great aim. This is yucky for the human, but also really stresses the snake out! Please leave wild animals in the wild.
  • There are many risks to reptiles in Ontario. This includes roads (which are a perfect place to warm up after a big meal, which they need to digest the meal because they’re ectothermic), people killing snakes because they think they’re scary, habitat loss (such as the Gray Ratsnake losing its forests, where it needs the trees to live in), and pollution.
Alex
Snapping Turtle
  • There are ways to help turtles cross the roads, as they’re too slow crossing roads and often get hit by cars – especially during breeding season (late spring and early summer) and when the turtles are returning to their homes for brumation (hibernation: fall). If it’s a Snapping Turtle, for example, you can find a stick for it to snap on to then drag it off the road. If you can’t find a stick, you can even use a mat from your car. And if it’s any other type of turtle, just pick it up and move it off the road. BUT, make sure you place the turtle on the side of the road it was heading toward! Not the lake you saw back somewhere else or on the side of the road it had already come from, otherwise it will just try to cross again. They are crossing for a reason, such as to find a mate, or nesting spot, or returning home (as turtles return to the same home and nesting grounds each year).
  • If you can save one mommy turtle, you are also saving the eggs she is carrying – so you are saving lots of lives, not just hers. Then those babies will have babies, and so on! All of Ontario’s turtles are at risk or endangered, and could be gone forever within 50 years. This will destroy many ecosystems.
  • Snapping Turtles do not snap in the water! In the water, they’re the main predator so there’s no need to snap. On land, there are many predators that would like to eat them and they’re too big to hide in their shell like other turtle species. Their plastron (bottom shell) is too small, which also puts them at risk for being eaten by a predator. So they’ve had to create their own special defence mechanism, which is a hard strong beak that SNAPS at those trying to harm them. Ouch!
    Snapping Turtles are a sign of a healthy ecosystem! You don’t want to swim in a pond or lake without Snapping Turtles present. Snapping Turtles won’t hurt you in the water, and they’re our natural garbage trucks! They eat carrion (dead animals), keeping the water clean from decaying animals.
  • In Ontario, we have no invasive species of snakes! But we do have an invasive turtle species – the Red-Eared Slider. These turtles have become invasive all over the world, and live on every continent except Antarctica.

What was my favourite part?
My favourite part was getting to hold all the snakes!

Jenny and Alex brought a two-year old Burmese Python named Sunny, and she was so long! She was white and yellow with pink eyes, so she was an albino python. Albino pythons won’t survive in the wild because they can’t camouflage to catch their prey. Sunny was the first snake I got to hold that day, and she was so nice.

They also brought many Corn Snakes of so many beautiful colours! I loved getting to meet so many different Corn Snakes. I think all of us in the nature club got to hold a Corn Snake. They also brought a couple of Garter Snakes, which were super fast and were constantly on the move while being held. It was tricky holding one! I got to hold the Eastern Gartersnake, but they also brought a Red-sided Gartersnake (both species native to Ontario!).

I loved getting to hold some endangered snakes, such as a Ratsnake and a Foxsnake. Foxsnakes are one of my favourite snakes because they’re so gentle and docile. I think they’re just so cute and always so nice to hold. They really need our help in the wild, and I hope one day when I’m grown I can help them.

Another cool snake we got to meet and hold was a fully grown Sand Boa named Goliath! It’s funny, because he’s actually a small snake with a big name. His eyes are on top of his head, and his nose is a shovel shape to dig into the sand in Kenya so he can hide from predators. He felt really cool, and different than the other snakes brought.

I also liked holding the Hognose. These snakes are one of my favourites because they’re so silly! When feeling threatened, they trick predators by pretending they’re dead. They flip over onto their backs, stick out their tongues, and release a stinky musk. The Hognose Jenny and Alex brought was the biggest Hognose I’d met so far!

I can’t pick a favourite snake – I loved holding them all!

 

Gray Ratsnake
Burmese Python

Anything else you’d like to add?

I love that we got to learn about and meet native species here in Ontario. I feel that it’s important to know about the nature in our own backyard, not just animals that live super far away. We have lots of cool animals that live here in Canada, and lots of them need our help. I’m happy we got to spend time with some of these animals that need our help, especially reptiles (my favourite animals). And the more we learn about our local wildlife, the less afraid people will be of these creatures – such as snakes. Just like Steve Irwin said, “If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. […] Because humans want to save things that they love.”

Reported by Sawyer

WRN Kids – Predator Prey Game – Oct 2023

Predator Prey Game

On October 28, 2023, we went to Huron Natural Area in Kitchener to play predator vs prey game! It was a nice day to be outside.

There were two carnivores, one was a wolf and the other was an owl. One person was a fox, an omnivore. The rest of us were prey and were herbivores. Some prey animals were squirrels, rabbit, and some were birds. The adults played too, some were prey, or wildfire.

Each prey animal started with 5 tags, they are your lives. If you were a predator you had to chase the prey animals and try to tag them. If you caught a prey animal then they had to give you one of their lives (tag).

In the game there were buckets spread around the area that you had to find, they represented water or food. When you found one you had to take a marker out of the bucket and write down what was written on the bucket. But watch out! A predator might get you before you get to one of the buckets.

The aim for the predator was to get as many life tags from the prey before the game was over.  If you were a prey, the object was to find all the food and water stations before a predator takes all your life tags.  Also, there was a person that was wildfire.  They were trying to tag all the prey and predator at least once before time ran out.

This game was important because it taught us how hard it can be for predators to capture their prey and how hard it is to be a prey. Also, that wildfire doesn’t care if you are a prey or predator.

Reported by Hunter

WRN Kids – Deer Beds and Shelter Building

Stick Shelter

Deer Beds and Shelter Building at Bechtel Park

Saturday September 30, 2023

Where was it?

The outing was at Bechtel park. We started in the parking lot then made our way into the forest. We stopped by the meadow to look for deer beds and deer scat or poop.

Deer scat
Looking for deer beds

What type of weather?

It was warm and sunny. A beautiful day!

What did you do?

We looked for deer beds. Deer beds are big circles of grass that have been flattened down. We found three deer beds.

We built shelters. The shelters were made out of sticks.

small shelter
Ready for a bunny to move in
building a shelter
Some tricky stick placements

What did you learn?

I learned about deer beds that they are a place that has been patted down. When making a fort, start with a good base like a living tree or else your fort will collapse.

It is important to have a good base in a fort because it will stand up to rain, snow or wind.

Stick Shelter
Looking like home
shelter with sheets
A bit more rain proof
skinny insect
European Mantis

Favourite thing?

The fort building was my favourite part because it was fun. Building is something I really like to do.

Anything else.

I think the Waterloo Region Nature activities are really fun. You would have fun too and if you can join it is a good thing to do!

 Reported by Evee

WRN Kids – Squirrels

group on woodland path

Squirrels

On Saturday September 23, 2023, our outing took place at Breithaupt Park in Kitchener. It was a beautiful fall day.

We learned about different kinds of squirrels. Black and grey squirrels are the same species and are called Grey Squirrels. Red squirrels and Grey squirrels store their food differently. Red squirrels store their food in caches while grey squirrels store each nut individually. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages.

kids around a table
Looking at squirrel foods
group on woodland path
Our squirrel counting hike

We went for a walk and tallied the number of squirrels we saw. We thought we would see more than we did and we wondered why. The most one person saw was 9. We saw grey squirrels but no red squirrels.

Squirrels eat different kinds of nuts and seeds. We saw some of the food they eat while we were walking – acorns, walnuts, beech nuts. Sometimes they eat people food which is not good for them.

We played a survival squirrel game that was a lot of fun.

kids ready to run
Squirrels getting ready to cache their nuts
kids running
And they are off...
fungus on tree

We also met with Lauren Seville from Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots who talked to us about what nature topics are important to us. We identified a few different things and will talk again about the ideas at our next outing.

It was great to see returning families. Welcome to our new families and our new volunteer Kruti.

Rachelle

WRN Kids – Pond Study

Pond Study

On Saturday May 27, 2023, WRN Kids went to Huron Natural Area in Kitchener to do a pond study led by Laura. It was great day to be outside. The pond looked very small from the outside but we soon learned there were many creatures living in it together.

Small Pond with Kids
Boys with Nets

We each had nets to scoop out the creatures and put them into containers of water to examine them. We had a picture guide to help us identify them.

Sometimes it looked like I had found nothing, but if I looked closely a little dot be swimming and it was alive! Someone found a tadpole with legs and it was pretty big. I found a dragon fly larva. It was a big size. Laura explained and showed us how it has a cup like mouth that can scoop and catch its prey. It is a good hunter. We did find a leech, but nobody had one on them.

Examining a Dragon Fly larva
Leopard Frog

 We saw lots and lots of frogs. Most of them were Leopard frog. We found some Green frogs as well and they sound like one banjo string being plucked. We learned how-to pick-up frogs properly and to hold them close to the ground in case they wanted to get away.

We found some Backswimmers and nymphs of Damselflies. We also saw a Garter snake in the water! There were lots of snails of many different sizes.

Garter Snake
Painted Turtles

We found some adorable little baby Painted turtles. I also caught a little minnow.

At the end we said thank you to the pond. We all learned a lot that day. It’s important to learn about what lives in ponds so we know how important they are.

Reported by Hunter

WRN Kids – Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up

Creek Clean Up

On Saturday April 29, 2023, we went to Bechtel Park in Waterloo to pick up trash along the Laurel Creek. It was raining off and on! It was a small group of us. We followed the trail. We found some bones from an animal on the trail. I think it was some kind of bird that something tried to eat it. There were lots of tall trees around us. We found an empty nest for a flying squirrel. There wasn’t much garbage on the trail but when got to the one part of the creek, there was a lot of trash!

The before picture
Mostly done

We had garbage pickers, gloves and pails. There were lots of small pieces of styrofoam and plastic. There were lots of Nerf darts. My favourite find was a big dice made of foam. Someone found a Barbie wearing a swim suit.

We picked up four bags of trash. It is a good thing to do because we are helping the environment.

Reported by Hunter

A15.5 kg haul of trash

WRN Kids – Predator Prey Game

Predator Prey Game

On Saturday April 15, 2023, we met at Auburn Park in Waterloo to play Predator vs Prey.

First, we played a game of “cross the creek”. There was a grid made in the sand and we had to pick squares in order to cross the creek. There was a pattern that we had to figure out. If you picked the wrong square, you had to start over again. You got to cross the creek if you pick the right squares or if you could jump far enough.

Creek crossing game
Picking up our clothes pin lives

Next, we played Predator vs Prey in the forest. All the kids had clothes pins as their lives. Some kids were worms (prey) and could only eat plants. Some kids were mice and could eat worms and plants. Two of us were foxes. We could eat worms and mice. If you got caught by a predator you had to give up one of your clothes pins. There were stations for plants, if you went there, you got a piece of green tape. There were stations for water, if you went there, you got a blue clothes pin. You could get more clothes pins by collecting three of either pieces of tape and/or blue clothes pins. If you ran out of clothes pins you died and were out of the game.

 It was a lot of running to catch the worms and mice!! We also added a cat, a fisherman and someone was rabies in order to make it harder. This game showed us how hard it is to survive as an animal. Either you are running to get food or running away from becoming food.

Snack Time

I had a lot of fun!

Reported by Hunter

The chase is on
Gray Treefrog

WRN Kids – Winter Fun

Winter Fun

On Saturday, February 25, 2023, WRN Kids met at Laurel Creek Conservation Area.

What was the topic today?
Building a Shelter & Learning about the Pine Beetle.

What activities did we do?
We went hiking, fed the Chickadees, looked for Pine Shoot Beetles and saw their galleries, and we built a shelter from sheets and rope tied to trees and sticks.

Dinner is served
Do you recommend this restaurant?

Why is it important to learn about?
It’s important to learn how to make a shelter in case you lose your map or get lost, so you can keep warm.

What was the weather like?
It was snowy, cold, and a bit windy.

Under Construction
Home Sweet Home

How did you feel when you did the activities?
I felt very happy about the Chickadees landing on my hand for the first time. I enjoyed looking under the bark for the beetles. I had fun building the shelter but felt a bit nervous that it might fall.

Pine Shoot Beetle galleries

What did you like best about today?
My favourite parts were the Chickadees and building the shelter.

Reported by Jack

Taking a closer look at the Pine Shoot Beetle galleries
What lives here?

WRN Kids – Owl Prowl

Owl Prowl at Huron Natural Area

Thursday February 16, 2023

The WR Nature Kids met at Huron Natural Area at night for an owl prowl led by Fraser Gibson.

Fraser told us many interesting things about owls. Owls eat small animals like squirrels, mice and voles. Great Horned owls will also eat smaller birds (including other owls!) as well as skunks. Owls eat small animals whole and later cough up the fur and bones that have been squeezed together in the bird’s gizzard. It comes out in a pellet shape that can sometimes be found on the ground. Owls can turn their heads almost all the way around to see and hear their prey. Fraser showed us an owl skull, an owl pellet and feather.

 

We carefully walked along an icy trail to three different areas where Fraser played the call of the Screech Owl on his phone. The Screech Owl makes a trilling sound. We stood quietly listening for a reply but we didn’t hear one. After calling the Screech Owl a many times, Fraser tried calling the Great Horned owl by making hooting sounds. We didn’t hear an owl call back. We all tried the Great Horned owl call and sounded like a choir of owls! The weather was a bit windy and it was starting to rain and these are not good conditions to hear owls.

Owls are getting ready to nest at this time of year. They call out to defend their territory, to find a mate and to keep track of each other. Even though we didn’t hear any owls, it was fun to be outside in the dark in the woods. Being quiet and standing still makes you aware of other noises like the wind blowing through the trees and your snowpants and boots if you move even a tiny bit!

Thank you Fraser for leading us!

submitted by Rachelle Swayze