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

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 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 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.

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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

WRN Kids & Teens – SpruceHaven

SpruceHaven Barn

On Saturday May 4, 2019, WRN Kids and WRN Teens were invited to SpruceHaven Farm to watch the bird-banding and see the Barn Swallow project with David Gascoigne. The Kids families then went with botanist Jenn McPhee to learn about wildflowers.

Dutchman's Breeches
Red Trillium

… and the Kids found salamanders!

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

WRN Teens went with Sandy Hill, one of the owners of the farm, to plant trees and then they picked up garbage beside the highway.

For a full report on the bird-banding with lots of photos, see David Gascoigne’s blog at: Bird Banding and Annual Visit of Waterloo Region Nature Kids and Teens to SpruceHaven

WRN Teens – Ecology Lab at UofW

WRN Teens at UW

Tuesday March 12, 2019

WRN Teens’s outing to the Ecology Lab at UW was a success. The members and guests of WRN Teens received a tour of the UW Environment buildings and learned some environmentally-focused possibilities for our futures along the way.
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We looked at tooth and beak adaptations and used the information we learned to practise identifying the lab’s collections of skulls and stuffed birds, then relocated to Tim Hortons to discuss some options for future WRN activities.

Thanks to the UW Ecology Lab and to the students and workers who hosted us!
Megan

We went to the Ecology Lab to learn about the day’s activities.

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We took water samples from two places in the nearby Laurel Creek (before and after the reservoir) and snow samples from two different locations on-campus (an empty field and a salted stairway) before analysing them to find the differences in quality.
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Some criteria involved: turbidity (murkiness), conductivity (to measure ions like salt in the water) and pH. Surprising fact: the snow from the salted surface had the most salt. We discussed what our findings meant in practice, including the effects of the reservoir on the water quality of the creek.

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P.S.  THANKS to Megan Sloka, one of our awesome Teens and a grade 10 student, who was our reporter this time.  Thanks also to Bev Raimbault, coordinator of the Ecology Lab who organized our visit; to Marco, coop student who led our tour of the faculty; to Michelle Yu and Sarah Cui, lab assistants who led our experiment and data review; to Linda Dutka, WRN Teens volunteer; and to the Teens parents who provided transportation.  And finally, a shout-out to “Dean Jean” Andrey, dean of the faculty whom we met in the hall!  UW Environment Faculty looks like a fun place to be!
Marg Paré, WRN Teens coordinator

WRN Teens – Chickadee Banding

Chickadee Banding at Wrigley Corners Outdoor Ed Centre with Levi Moore
Feb 23 2019
WRN Teens were down south of Cambridge again, this time to visit Wrigley Corners Outdoor Ed Centre. We met Levi Moore, the outdoor educator who teaches there, working mostly with high school students. He is a certified bird bander and does on-going studies of Black-capped Chickadees.
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To demonstrate how it works, Levi has a mist net (for catching the birds to be banded) set up inside.  He used a stuffed Northern Cardinal to demonstrate how birds get caught and how he removes them from the net.
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It was a bit windy but seemed like a fine day to band Black-capped Chickadees. However, we saw only a couple briefly and there were none at the feeders and, more importantly, none at all got caught in the mist nets. So, no bird banding for us!

Instead, we wrapped up our visit by examining and trying to identify Levi’s impressive skull collection.

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Just checking out the amazing nature stuff in Levi’s classroom kept us occupied for a while! Then Levi did a really inspiring presentation. First he explained how he ended up in outdoor and environmental education then he showed us a super informative slide show about bird banding. We got to handle all the tools necessary for the job.

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We hope to get back to Wrigley Corners sometime and maybe the chickadees will be more cooperative!

Thanks as usual to the Teens who were able to make it out, to their fearless parents for driving, to Linda who helped out and took photos, to Paul and Cathi who put our reports on-line, and of course, to Levi for spending part of his weekend sharing his knowledge and love of nature with us!

WRN Teens – Owl Prowl

Screech Owl surprised when cleaning out Wood Duck box.

We arrived at Huron natural area just as it became dark. We then spent about half an hour learning about the different kinds of owls that can be found in Ontario and more specifically the KW area. We learned about their shapes and sizes and some of their behavioural habits as well as listened to some of their calls. We then began our hike in the forest. We would walk for a couple of minutes, then stop and play either the call of the Eastern Screech Owl, or the Great Horned Owl. We would listen for a response and then continue walking. About halfway through the evening during one of our stops something small and grey flew over our heads. We turned on a light and scanned the trees around us until we spotted an eastern screech owl perched on a branch close to the group. We admired it for a few minutes until it grew bored of us and flew away.

Linden Imeson Jorna

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Photo ops were scarce in the dark — in spite of it being a beautiful moonlit evening, so here’s a daylight photo of another screech owl.

 

Thanks to Josh Shea, WRN president, WRN Teens planning committee member, and City of Kitchener Natural Areas Coordinator who led WRN Teens — and their specially invited parents! — for this activity in Huron Natural Area.

Screech Owl

WRN Teens – Tracking at Bechtel Park

Saturday, January 26, 2019

WRN Teens has turned out to be a combination of work-projects, learning opportunities, and enjoying nature. We were really fortunate that for our January activity, Anita Smith (WRN Teens planning committee member and WRN conservation director) gave us a workshop on tracking. Anita describes herself as a tracking apprentice and we were impressed by her dedication to her apprenticeship and the depth of her knowledge.

We met at Anita’s house for an overview of tracking, what can be observed and the many ways we can get information. We had a look at her amazing skull collection.

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Big thanks to Anita for sharing her passion with us! We learned lots and will all want to work on our tracking skills in the future.

Then, we headed outside through Anita’s backyard and into Bechtel Park where she spends lots of time — along with lots of creatures! We saw branches chewed by deer, lots of small mammal tunnels, opossum tracks, fresh coyote tracks, and we did our best at identifying many others. We also found several raptor pellets. We checked out various holes and looked for evidence of recent activity. We learned that Anita sometimes catches nighttime photos of animals with a trail camera.

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WRN Kids and WRN Teens – Christmas Bird Count for Kids 2018

CBC4Kids 2018
CBC4Kids 2018

Christmas Bird Count for Kids
at rare Charitable Research Reserve on January 12, 2019

WRN Kids and WRN Teens had a special opportunity recently: rare Charitable Research Reserve hosted their third annual “Christmas Bird Count for Kids” on January 12 and we were all invited!

There was a large group this year, including a few of our WRN Kids families.  First, we all learned about birdwatching basics from Adam in the Slit Barn then everyone headed out in small groups, each led by an expert birder (including Adam and WRN members David Gascoigne, Fraser Gibson and Josh Shea as well as rare staff Emily Leslie) to count all the birds they could find.  The Kids were enthusiastic in spite of the cold, managed their binoculars like pros, understood why we walked to several different habitats, and saw an impressive number of birds!  They enjoyed warming up afterwards with a hot chocolate in the ECO Centre next door.

As well, four of our dedicated WRN Teens volunteered to help out at the event, filling feeders, assisting group leaders, moving furniture, and washing dishes.  While doing jobs that needed to be done, they were also super role models for the Kids.

Huge thanks to rare for hosting, the volunteer birders for continuing to inspire us all, the parents for getting their families outside, the Teens for volunteering early on a cold Saturday morning, and especially the Kids for wanting to learn about and protect nature!

Jenna Quinn, rare Program Scientist summarizes:
“Together, we identified 23 species and made over 900 individual observations, of (accounting for duplicate observations) approximately 275 birds.  Canada Geese were the most abundant species we observed, and every group was able to spot a juvenile Bald Eagle perched in a tree.  Two groups were lucky to see three Eastern Bluebirds, a rarity at this time of year.”

See the full results below.  We’re all pretty proud to be contributing to Citizen Science with our Bird Count!  Can’t wait to do it again next year!

WRN Kids & Teens coordinator
Marg Paré

CBC4Kids 2018 Results

WRN Teens – November 2018

WRN Teens November 2018
WRN Teens have been busy during November. For our first bonus outing, we had a fun hike at FWR Dickson Wilderness Area. This was a new place for everybody and it was great to explore all the different habitats. Highlights of our afternoon were having packing snow (therefore snowballs!), figuring out that Wild Turkeys had been active by one of the lesser-used trails, and having a chance to wear our WRN tuques again!
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The snow was not so helpful for the invasive plant removal we had planned to do in a Kitchener natural area for our monthly project on the last Saturday afternoon of the month. Josh Shea turned that project into another — we learned about bird identification basics from Josh and Teen-ornithologist Linden and had a short hike at Huron Natural Area. Although the birds weren’t plentiful, it was good practice for us as we’ve been invited to help at the Christmas Bird Count for Kids at ‘rare’ on January 12.

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The beaver dam
The beaver dam

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And some recent activity
And some recent activity

A new-found friend.
A new-found friend.

Thanks to the enthusiastic Teens for coming out, to their parents for getting them there, and to Josh and Linden for sharing their know-how. We’re not meeting in December but are looking forward to more volunteer work and learning in the new year.

WRN Teens – Non-Native and Invasive Plant Removal at rare

Waterloo Region Nature Teens — Project 2 — October 27 2018
Non-Native and Invasive Plant Removal at ‘rare’ Charitable Research Reserve

WRN Teens have been at it again!  Our second project happened on October 27 when we showed up at “rare” Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge — along with cold, wet, windy weather!

To help us brave the elements, we put on our new and very cool WRN tuques!  We met Alissa Fraser, a conservation technician at ‘rare.’  She explained what this huge nature reserve is all about and how staff, volunteers and community groups are helping ‘rare’ become more and more natural.

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Our project was to continue an on-going job that Alissa oversees, removing some non-native and invasive plant species from the forest behind the ‘rare’ offices in the old Lamb’s Inn. We had a crash course in identifying Day Lilies, Lily of the Valley and Periwinkle in their late fall condition.

Day Lillies
Day Lillies

Lily of the Valley (berries), Periwinkle (leaves)
Lily of the Valley (berries), Periwinkle (leaves)

Periwinkle
Periwinkle

Then, we started in digging, trying not to leave a trace of these intruders. The space we covered was a tiny drop in the bucket of the large area ‘rare’ hopes to free of invasives and replant with native plants. It was slow, muddy work and the highlight of the afternoon may have been the cookie break we took!

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While munching cookies, we took advantage of having expert Alissa with us to hear about her other work, retrieving threatened turtle eggs, incubating them, and re-introducing the baby turtles to the wild. A nice follow-up to our September project!

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Many thanks to Alissa for hosting and teaching us, to volunteers Linda, Zack and Josh for coming out, to the Teens parents for driving and picking up — and of course, to the awesome team of WRN Teens for their hard work and stick-to-it-iveness! I hope you managed to get the mud off everything you wore — including your new tuque!

Our November project will involve habitat restoration in a Kitchener natural area. If you’ve just heard about us, there’s still room for more interested Teens! Check us out at waterlooregionnature.ca/teens or get in touch at teens@waterlooregionnature.ca

Marg Paré
WRN Teens coordinator

 

WRN Teens – Turtle Nesting Area

WRN Teens is up and running! We have ten nature-loving Teens signed up for 2018-19. We’ll be doing monthly work projects and learning projects and, at the same time, earning volunteer hours. Our first ever project was helping the turtles at Laurel Creek Nature Centre.

Chris, an LCNC naturalist, gave us a close-up introduction to a Painted Turtle and a Red-eared Slider that live in the centre. We learned that outdoor turtles at LCNC have made some unfortunate choices of nesting areas. They like the area by the storage shed and parking lot but it’s very exposed and most of the eggs were eaten by predators. As well, turtle eggs were discovered in the nearby mulch pile where they had rotted.

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Before our project, a sandbox was installed to encourage nesting there and a turtle nest protection cover had been put over the very few remaining (weighed down with pallettes). Our jobs were to plant native grass and wildflower species around the sandbox for protection and to move the mulch pile away from the area the turtles like, 20 or so metres away to the chickadee-feeding area.

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Our team of awesome Teens got right to work and got all the planting done and moved a lot of mulch!

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A highlight was when we disturbed an enormous colony of ants that quickly spread everywhere, including on us!

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Thanks to Chris and to volunteers Josh and Linda for making our first project a great success — even with the ants!

We’re looking forward to our October project, dealing with some invasive species at “rare” Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge. There’s still space for more Teens to join us. Sign up at waterlooregionnature.ca/teens or contact us at teens@waterlooregionnature.ca