Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Halloween Party Time

The Tuesday morning Nature Nursery kids had their Halloween party this week. Spooky games and snacks, costumed kids and a candy-filled, pumpkin-shaped pinata that just wouldn't break.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

An evening stroll

Being out with a group of Junior Forest Wardens last night reminded me that this is actually a very nice time of year for an evening walk in the Sanctuary. It's still warm enough to be comfortable, and it doesn't get dark all that early (yet. The end of daylight savings time later this month will change that, unfortunately).

Some of you may not realise it, but the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is easily accessible for walks even when the Nature Centre itself is closed. There's a turnstile gate to the north of the building that visitors are more than welcome to use.

Please remember, though, that Sanctuary rules (no running, in-line skating, bikes, or pets) apply to evening strolls as much as they do to daytime ones. As we say in our programs calendar, this is one place where the needs of the wildlife must come first.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Changes: Seasonal and Staff

When I left for my vacation on September 23, the leaves were golden and red and those that had fallen were crunchy under your feet. As I traveled west, returning to the coast and my childhood home, I was reminded that not all places go through such dramatic colour change. Passing across the continental divide and driving through places like Salmon Arm, Hope and finally Vancouver, I found that fall hadn't quite arrived. Deciduous trees in my parents' neighbourhood were still green; just about to change. Lawns were still lush. There was no crunch, crunch, crunch, as the kids walked down the street to school.

When we left on the 9th of October to head home, things were just starting to change. Leaves were changing (to brown instead of orange, yellow and red) and some were starting to fall; often to form damp clumps in the ditches and gutters. Back home in Alberta I found I was happy to see a nice thick coating of brittle leaves from the paper birch in our front yard. All the trees are well on their way to becoming bare and in fact most are now looking nicely ready for winter: Naked branches contrast on bright blue skies. This is the autumn I never had as a kid. I like living in a place that has four definite seasons - even if one of them is blindingly cold.

The onset of a change in seasons has brought about a change in staff as well. Jo-Anne has obtained full-time work with a local properties management company and will be leaving her daytime interpretive work behind her. She will remain with us for weekend and evening programs and visitor services shifts. We wish Jo-Anne the best of luck in her new field. Joining us is Caroline. This transplanted American comes to us fresh from completing her degree in Environmental Policy and an internship at the Thomas Irving Dodge Nature Centre in Minnesota. Welcome aboard Carrie.

For those of you living in Central Alberta, there are still spaces available for Jo-Anne's Winter Camping program on October 22. Call the Nature Centre at 346-2010 or email us for more information.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I have to admit that one of my favourite parts of the Sanctuary is the dark forest in the shadow of Michener Hill. Its almost mountain-like feel is a reminder that Red Deer exists in the middle of a real traffic jam of plant communities. In a fairly small area you can find everything from marsh and grassland to full spruce forest.

Our Sanctuary forest contains a fair amount of deadwood, and visitors may occasionally wonder why we don't clear up the mess of fallen trees or at least remove the standing snags.

The fact is that there is a lot of natural recycle value in those dead trees. While standing, they provide homes and feeding spots for all kinds of animal populations; insect, mammal, and avian. Imagine a forest without chickadee nests or woodpecker foraging holes. I don't think it would be nearly as interesting.

Once a tree falls (or often even before), the insects, fungi, and mosses really get to work. As they help break the tree down, its component nutrients are gradually returned to the soil and help provide fertilizer for new plants coming up. If the dead trees were continually removed instead of being allowed to rot naturally, we would eventually end up with sterile, nutrient-poor soil that wouldn't be good for much of anything.

Just a little something to think about the next time you're looking at a mossy log. That's not waste -- it's recycling at its finest.