Three groups and 25 volunteers worked together for the first time. Thirteen members of Waterloo Region Nature Teens (including new members Eric, Owen and Jonah) and their Volunteer Coordinator Marg Paré gathered together for our first work project of 2020. The Grand River Conservation Authority provided experienced leadership (Sarah Fleischhauer: Development and Community Outreach Coordinator) and experience (Lindsay Campbell: Restoration Specialist), as well as equipment and a work space. The Waterloo Public Library coordinated and advertised the activity under the direction of Becky Roi (Programmer and Library Assistant).
Lindsay has 10 years experience in the field so she showed ambition and farsightedness last fall by going out and collecting seeds and pods of 10 native, local, wildflower species (Wild Bergamot, Foxglove, Black-eyed Susan, Bluestem Grass, Lanced-leaved Coreopsis, Gray-head Coneflower, Indian Grass, Dense Blazing Star, Blue Vervain and my personal favourite, Butterfly Weed). She then led us through the seeding process.
Native (indigenous species) were selected since they require less water (due in part to their deeper roots), appeal and nutritional value to wildlife.
Step one was to clean and separate the seeds from their pods or compound heads. This was a lengthy and finicky process involving great patience, manual dexterity and much sneezing. The group divided into teams, removed stems, fluff, casings or daisy-like centres, and ended up with 10 bowls of dust-like seeds (like Foxglove) and larger traditionally sized seeds (such as Gray-head Coneflower). The seeds were then placed into envelopes and labelled with both their English and scientific Latin name.
Step two was a down and dirty affair. It involved filling two wheel barrows with peat moss, filling gallon pots within 10 cm of the top, and hand compressing the dry moss.
Step three incorporated a lighter touch. Five to eight seeds of one species were sprinkled on top of the moss, then covered with a dusting of soil (only to a depth two to three times their seed length). A plastic label with both the English and Latin name on it was placed in each pot. Great care was taken to keep the pots dry since we did not want the seeds to absorb water and germinate until April or May.
Unbelievably, a total of 185 seeded pots were created, along with a number of envelopes full of native seeds. At some future date in the spring another volunteer event will be held to plant this precious cargo throughout natural areas in the region.
Our final activities of the day were to clean up the basement of the Laurel Creek Nature Centre (25 people can make one heck of a mess with seeds and clouds of peat moss) and to visit a native plant meadow previously created outside the nature centre, lead by Sarah and Lindsay.
After well earned congratulations, the Teens and other volunteers parted, expressing hope to continue the planting phase of the project in the spring.
Linda Dutka for Waterloo Region Nature Teens
Photos and results chart courtesy of rare.
After using all our math skills (including re-thinking a process!), we were happy to leave the cold garage’s upper level to head down to Mike’s workshop — and the woodstove! — where Mike did all the cutting and drilled the holes. Every part of this job was much trickier than we had imagined! Even getting the long boards down the stairs was a geometrical challenge!
We just had time to see how the pieces would go together but had to leave the assembly for another project day. Eventually, we plan to install the nesting boxes and hope to see them inhabitated!
Another skill we learned was how to estimate the age of large trees. Anita showed us a huge Bur Oak tree and got us busy measuring the circumference. After some heavy-duty math and consulting a chart of age according to diameter and tree species, we discovered that our huge tree is off the scale and could be as much as about 200 years old! Too bad it can’t talk!
We all look forward to future projects at Montgomery.
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!
– 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!
WRN Teens coordinator
WRN Teens - Stream Restoration at rare - September 28, 2019
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.
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!
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.
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.
May 25 and June 1, 2019
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.
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.
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!
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!
WRN Teens coordinator
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.
… and the Kids found salamanders!
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.
WRN Teens at UW
Tuesday March 12, 2019
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!
We went to the Ecology Lab to learn about the day’s activities.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.