Wednesday, December 12, 2007
New to the sidebar (look to the right of the screen) is a link to the World Clock. The default setting for the world clock is "Year" and the scrolling numbers represent accumulations over the past twelve months. If you click the "Now" button at the top, most values will reset to zero. It's a pretty interesting look at the state of the population and the rate at which we produce and consume.
If you are planning your holiday party this year, keep in mind the impact of your dishes and cutlery. Most of us do not own enough plates, glasses, cutlery etc... to stage a house party. Your options for putting your hands on more stuff are kind of limited. Obviously we'd prefer that you not buy foam plates, plastic cups and plastic cutlery. These are single use items that are not recyclable nor are they biodegradable. Foam and plastic will simply sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. Your best option would probably be to rent from somewhere like Parkland Party and Equipment Rentals. Sure, there is an energy cost to washing and sterilizing the dishes after each rental. However, there are no new materials being consumed to produce new items and there is no waste heading to the landfill. It's a trade-off but it's probably the best option in the end. If you must buy disposable, head on over to the Waste Reduction Store. They have disposable biodegradable cutlery, plates and glasses. Their containers are made from potato, corn and sugar cane by-products. They breakdown quickly in a landfill, release no harmful chemicals into the air or ground water and consume very few resources in terms of new, raw materials. We use them here at the Nature Centre for large events and public gatherings.
And finally - for today at least - get inspired to take some local action to help your planet. Here is Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Join us New Year's day for some family winter fun. From noon til 5 p.m., enjoy a barbeque and winter activities. Call 346-2010 for more details.
Get your mountain culture fix with the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, in Red Deer on January 10 & 11. There are still some tickets available: call 346-2010 or pop in to Valhalla Pure Outfitters, our co-presenter for this event, to reserve yours today!
On January 12 & 13, come to the Red Deer Rock and Gem Show, co-presented with the Red Deer Rock and Gem Society (a great bunch of guys who know practically everything about rocks). This year, we're showcasing Jobs that Rock, a.k.a. jobs that have something to do with rocks or the Earth. Lots of fun activities are planned, so come have a look!
Then, on January 26, we're hosting another Eco-Session, this time on Freecycling and Community Gardening. (In case you're wondering, freecycling is a grassroots movement of people trading their unwanted goods through a web-based group, and community gardening is just that, a garden worked by the community.) This one will be admission by donation, so come on out and support the Nature Centre while you learn more ways you can help the planet.
And that's not all! Public planetariums, singles' night, kid's sessions....winter doesn't slow us down. Remember to call the Nature Centre for more information about our winter schedule, then come out and have some frosty fun!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Winter in the Sanctuary means getting out on snowshoes and listening to the Red Squirrels cuss you out for daring to be under their tree. Winter in the Sanctuary means tracking the local deer and coyotes through the grass by following their footprints. Winter in the Sanctuary means watching the pre-schoolers lying on their backs in the snow trying to catch the falling flakes; wishing that you had the time to join them.
It's a time to watch the Black-capped Chickadees lose their minds and try to breed every time the temperature rises a few degrees. Chickadees are nothing if not entertaining. It's also the time of year I catch myself staring wistfully out my office window, knowing that it will be dark when I leave work. This winter, I'll be sharing that view with the newly-arrived, previously-mentioned Daring Jumping Spider who has taken up residence on my desk. I'm betting that she is less wistful about the view than I am.
Enjoy the winter folks. It looks like we've set in for a cold one.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
After searching the internet, we think we may have identified the hitchhiker. Not too shabby, considering that there's not an arachnologist among us. It looks to be a member of the Phidippus genus; most likely Phidippus aurax, which is commonly known as the Daring (or Bold) Jumping Spider. The spider is widespread through North America and can often be identified by the three white spots on its abdomen. That stumped us for a little while since our spider very definitely has orange spots rather than white ones, but this photo on bugguide.net turned out to be a near-perfect match.
They say you learn something every day, and today I learned that the Daring Jumping Spider has a few colour variations.
I took some photos of our latest office pet (yep, we're going to try to keep her), but since they were taken through a bug box they're not terribly clear. If you look closely at the last one, though, you can see a hint of her iridescent green jaws (chelicerae).
These spiders will bite if provoked, but like most spiders in our area the bite doesn't usually cause anything worse than a bump or slight rash. A small price to pay for something that helps keep the garden pest population at bay.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Hello to all... living now in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, I found a new tree to learn about. In the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary, there are a lot of white spruce, balsam poplar and aspen poplar trees. I took a walk through the Alcott Creek Demonstration Forest here, and while they have many spruce and aspen (not so much balsam), there were also many jack pine trees. In the picture, the jack pine are all the yellowish green trees, and the tall spruce are in the back, and if you look carefully there are some naked aspen trees. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago.. if I took it now, it would look much more white. Yes, we do have snow here, hope Red Deer gets some soon, I'm really enjoying it up here. Anyways, back to the jack pine tree, I'm rather new to it, so if anyone has some stories or facts about it, feel free to post a comment or two :)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Keep your eyes open I'm sure we'll see more as the winter wears on.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
I was out on the Dr. George trail this morning taking some photos of the weekend snow (that in itself seems an odd thing to do. We'll no doubt have enough snow in the coming months that I won't even want to look at it, let alone take its picture) and I found myself doing an informal survey of our local trail-users on the way.
You've probably guessed from the above photo (click the photo for a closer view) that I don't mean the human trail-users.
Many of the animals in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary make heavy use of the trails when the human visitors aren't around. It's not too surprising. Animals are as likely as humans to want to use the easiest means to get from place to place, and when there's a choice between crashing through the forest or using a pre-made path the path will often win.
Normally we don't even notice our animal trail-users because they tend to be crepuscular (active at dawn or dusk) or nocturnal. After a snowfall, though, the night's activities can leave very clear marks for anyone willing to look down and investigate as they walk.
In case you were wondering about today's findings, I noticed quite a number of deer tracks, one moose trail, one coyote, several squirrels, some mice or voles, and the occasional magpie. Not a bad tally for fifteen minutes of walking.
If you're interested in more information about who's leaving what footprint in the snow, ask us about the tracking resources available in the Kerry Wood Reading Room or check out the bookstore's stock of tracking field guides.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
All of the flying Bruce Spanworm moths you see are males, as the females lack developed wings. In October (through to early November, depending on the weather), the males seek out the flightless females which then lay eggs in places like bark crevasses. These eggs overwinter and hatch out in the spring.
The larvae (known as spanworms or inchworms), like all caterpillars, can do some damage to tree leaves but usually don't cause permanent harm to the trees themselves.
As always, click on the photo for a larger version.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
This male Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was using the suet feeder at the bookstore door this morning, and I did my best to take a few photos of it through the window.
We usually get woodpeckers (including the Hairy, Downy, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and the occasional Pileated) coming to the suet feeder throughout the year, but when the weather starts getting colder they become more frequent visitors.
There are many different commercial suet feeders available in stores, but making your own can be as simple as drilling a few large-bore holes into a length of wood and filling the holes with a homemade suet mix. Recipes for suet mixes can be found online or in books like NatureScape Alberta (available at the Nature Centre). Bob also has some suet recipes on hand, and he'd be happy to tell you what's been working best in our feeder if you drop by the bookstore.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
DON'T BE SILLY LIKE ME AND WEAR A SWEATER (even a thin one) ON A 29 DEGREE DAY!
Actually, the point of this entry is to remind you that we are having very nice fall weather...get out and enjoy it while you can! The geese are flocking, the leaves are turning, the sky is that gorgeous blue (well, not today), and that wonderful, crisp smell is in the air. Get out and enjoy fall for what it is, before the snow comes and we get locked in our houses by 40 below.
(Did I mention you should get out and enjoy the weather?)
And watch out for garter snakes...they're going to be heading to a hibernaculum soon.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I'm Katherine Blakely and I am the newest interpreter here at the Nature Centre. However since there is already a Kathryn on staff you can call me Kat (though I will respond to my full name as well).
I'm excited to be here and look forward to the crazy Kerry Wood adventures ahead of me.
Monday, August 27, 2007
This scene played itself out in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary on July 25. I'd never really thought of dragonflies as being cannibalistic before. I've seen video of them catching smaller insects but this was a first for me.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Jewel spiders are large, harmless orb weavers. Most people ask about them simply because they didn't realise that Red Deer is home to any large spiders.
Rather than repeat already-blogged information I'll direct you to this post from 2005: Natural Selections: 'Tis the season.
If you have any further questions (or any other neat spiders to report) don't hesitate to call us at the Nature Centre (403.346.2010).
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Since the water level is still fairly high, at least one family of muskrats has decided to den in the bank under the deck. You can see the den if you stand on the open deck and look back toward the trail-end.
The second photo isn't a great shot, but it was snapped near the den. This guy was taking advantage of a fairly quiet day in the Sanctuary to have a snack right beside the deck.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I've never seen a jumping spider this big in Alberta. If anyone knows the species or even just the genus name of this lovely not-so-little girl, please give us a call at the nature centre.
If it looks like she was staring at the camera, that's because she was. Jumping spiders have the keenest eyesight of any of the spider groups, and she was definitely keeping an eye on what I was doing.
The green fabric in the background is chair upholstery, if that helps give a sense of scale.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
As always, click on the photo to see a larger version.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The high water levels this year led to a very high mosquito population. Dragonflies depend on mosquitoes as one of their major food sources, and the extra food supports more of the predators. The fact that dragonflies use mosquitoes for food both in their aquatic (nymphal) phase and in their adult phase has meant that they've been well-nourished throughout their life cycle this year.
The nice thing is that we're all benefitting from the high dragonfly population. More dragonflies eat more mosquitoes. It's natural pest control.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
We apologise for any inconvenience. This technical issue will be solved ASAP. If you desperately need to get in touch with us, either phone the Nature Centre at 403 346-2010 or leave us a comment at the bottom of this post.
Back to our regularly scheduled program...
We have an exhibit opening and Meet the Artists Coffee Reception this Saturday, July 21 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. Lyndal Osborne and John Freeman's exhibit Tidal Trace will open Saturday in the Marjorie Wood Gallery here at the Nature Centre. Click the link to get an idea of Lyndal and John's vision. The exhibit will be open for viewing during our normal operating hours. Tidal Trace closes September 9, 2007.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Plan on taking the grassland route if you're planning to walk the Wishart Trail.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I was pleasantly surprised to find this Western Wood Lily just off the trail the other day. I don't get a chance to see these beautiful flowers in the Sanctuary very often.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The beavers have recently started taking down a few trees in a normally dry part of the forest. I was sort of surprised that they waited this long to start feeding there, but I'm assuming that the high water has made lots of different trees more accessible to them and we just haven't noticed the busier areas yet.
You can find these chewed trees close to the Nature Centre as you first enter the forest on the Dr. George Trail.
One of the nicer things about the flooding has been that it's much easier to watch our muskrats at work on the West Lake from the viewing deck. Usually you'd need binoculars to see whether the brown thing swimming in the water is a muskrat or a beaver, but this year it's not uncommon to see muskrats feeding on cattails right beside the deck.
I thought I'd end with a quick note about the edible plant walk I mentioned below. The program is definitely a go, so if you're interested in learning the basics of safe grazing give us a call at (403) 346-2010 before July 14th to pre-register. We'll be meeting at Fort Normandeau at 6:30 pm on Saturday the 14th. Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Prickly Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) is Alberta's provincial flower and was chosen by the schoolchildren of the province back in 1930.
Our other provincial symbols include:
- Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia)
- Rough Fescue (Festuca scabrella)
- Petrified Wood
- Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)
- Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
- and the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
What's the big deal, you ask? Isn't it supposed to work? Ahh yes, but it hasn't in a couple of years. It was running on an old laser disk player. (Laser disks are about the size of a vinyl LP record -- and just as obsolete.) The disk player died; we found a used player, and it died too. No others were to be had anywhere, it seemed, so we spent a lot of time searching for and finally installing some modern technology. The six minute movie is now on a chip, and is plugged into a chip reader. No more moving parts, so nothing to wear out!
The only down side of this is that the video is so very dated ... the 67th Street bridge wasn't built, Three Mile Bend and Heritage Ranch were still under construction and were still bare earth from the bulldozers, and all the trees around the Nature Centre were only a metre high. Waskasoo Park has changed since 1987 when the movie was filmed. Now, if we had a spare $40,000 we could make an updated version of Come Fly With Me!
Monday, June 18, 2007
Sphinx moths like this one camouflage as dried-up leaves to keep from being eaten by birds and other predators.
The Blinded Sphinx Moth gets its nickname because the eyespots on its underwings (not visible in these photos) lack a "pupil".
Friday, June 15, 2007
Remember, it's important not to pick this or any other wildflower you see in the Sanctuary. If nothing else, by leaving them alone you're giving other visitors a chance to enjoy them.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
They're called Zebra Jumping Spiders (Salticus scenicus), and to an arachnophile they're very entertaining.
The Salticids (jumping spiders) don't make webs but instead actively leap at their prey. Because of this they need very good eyesight. Yes, there really are spiders with good eyesight.
Jumping spiders are quite aware of their environment and will turn with characteristic jerky motions to follow every movement made near them. It makes it a bit hard to take photos of them with an autofocus camera, since the spiders are constantly coming closer to check out what you're doing.
Zebra Jumpers are found in both North America and Europe. They get their common name from the black and white stripes found on their abdomens.
These little spiders are harmless to humans and are actually kind of fun to watch as they leap around their habitats. And sometimes their habitat can be the desk of an easily distracted naturalist, apparently. Thanks, boys. I enjoyed the visit.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
You can see the usual level of the West Lake from the remnants of last year's cattails.
This flooded forest path is where we usually take groups of school children for things like insect hunts. We're making alternate plans this time around.
The water level's come down a bit since I took this photo, but it's still a little deep to walk through. Plan to take the grassland route to get to the Wishart Trail for at least a while longer. The sign in the middle of the water, by the way, reads Life in An Abandoned Channel.
This normally dry dip in the grassland (the continuation of the old river channel) has hosted a pair of ducks this year. When I took the picture there were Boreal Chorus Frogs singing in there as well.
The water is slowly falling with our last few days' worth of warm weather, but since the water table is fairly high it wouldn't take much of a rainstorm to bring things back up again. Please be careful out on the trails, and let our staff know if you notice any flood damage during your walks.
I'll start with a big thank-you to everyone who came out to help us celebrate Kerry Wood's 100th birthday on Saturday, June 2nd. The party was a big success, with a highlight being the re-dedication of the old/new Sanctuary gate.
For anyone who's wondering how a gate can be both old and new, here's how it happened. Recently, the pillars marking the old Sanctuary entrance (which hadn't been used since the Nature Centre was opened, creating a new entrance) were moved into position at our current entrance. As part of both the celebration of Kerry Wood's centenary and Historic Red Deer Week, the old Sanctuary sign was recreated. New plaques have been placed on the pillars, commemorating both the Gaetz family for their donation of the Sanctuary land and Kerry Wood for his commitment to the preservation of nature.
You can see our old/new gate right outside the back doors of the Nature Centre.
When I went out to take a picture of the sign this morning, I happened to catch a (slightly scruffy-looking) red squirrel making use of one of our bird feeders:
Here at the Nature Centre bird feeders definitely aren't just for the birds. Tree squirrels often steal a few seeds (and occasionally nest in the feeders), and ground squirrels scavenge the spilled food. If you happen to be out for a walk around dusk, you may even be treated to the sight of our resident deers heading to the feeders to clean up any leftovers.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
It's a sad fact that I took this photo just outside the nature centre's back doors a few minutes ago. Spring's looking disturbingly un-springlike so far, don't you think?
There's probably a bad joke in there somewhere about the Easter Bunny having seen its shadow, but I'm not sure I should attempt it.
Oh well. Winter will be over some day or other. Until it is, I suppose we'll all have to make do with thinking warm thoughts instead.
Friday, March 16, 2007
You can find the site here: Know Your Watershed.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Areas of the trail exposed to the sun are probably quite muddy so bring your boots. However, areas in the shade are fast becoming vertical skating rinks so make sure those boots have some treads or cleats on them.
With the great looking weekend ahead of us, a walk around the Sanctuary would be a fun Saturday activity for the family.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Trust us, we are well aware of what's happening and to be perfectly honest, we're not all that concerned at the moment.
The City of Red Deer is installing some much needed water supply and sanitary lines. Four of them to be exact and they're pretty large. What the digger/bulldozer brigade is up to is site preparation so the pipe crews can safely excavate & shore their route.
The plan did go through the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary Management committee and while the work is happening on the Sanctuary buffer zone, it's outside the Sanctuary proper. The land being prepped & excavated is not pristine, untouched land. It has been disturbed in the past and will be replanted & returned to a natural state at the end of the project.
This is a two-phase project. There are two lines going in this year and then two more proposed for 2008.
The City's news release is located on the City website here.
We are not anticipating any changes to the Nature Centre's hours, operations or programming.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I took a picture of my snowshoe track,as you can see. The hole beside it was a step I had taken without the snowshoe. The hole is at least one hand deeper than my snowshoe track. It was proof that my snowshoes really were helping me stay on top of the snow. I quite happily snowshoed all over the back yard and along the school yard after that, it was great. Now I just have to get bigger shoes (some boots maybe) and I can head into the forest :) and find the smaller version of my tracks (the snowshoe hare's tracks)!
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Every once in a while though, we have a visitor that for whatever reason, be it curiousity on our part, curiosity on their part, great timing or some other tilt of circumstance, catches our eye and distracts us like little children.
This "little" guy is currently getting all our attention.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Please give us a call at (403) 346-2010 for information on rates and space requirements.
We are planning to offer public shows in the upcoming months as well, so if you'd like to see the planetarium in action keep an eye on your local papers and this blog for dates and times.