Friday, December 05, 2008

New sights.

Although the walking trail I showed you last (part of Iron Horse Trail) is closer to my home, it was nice to be surrounded by more natural settings in the biggest park in town, Parc Lagasse Park (hehehehe... park twice still makes me smile). The park sits along the shore line of Therien Lake, a huge lake bordering the southeast side of town. It's really nice, they have a long boardwalk and bridges with playgrounds, park, bathrooms, etc on the north side and edge of lake (lots of cat-tails) and of course lake on the south side. I thought this was very cool, that they are trying to protect the edge of the lake - the native vegetation there can help protect water quality, prevent flooding, and provide fish and wildlife habitat. So very cool. They even have a couple of observation decks leading out on the lake, and pictures/info on the birds you may see (remind you of any place?). And when I was on the park side, I saw something really interesting...

the trees! How weird, a big trunk in the middle and then a whole bunch of little ones growing all around it... and growing so much... well, up! I'm going to have to check up on what that's all about :)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sounds in the sanctuary

During a walk around the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, my impressions are often shaped by the season. Sometimes, I come back hot & sweaty, other times, itchy from mosquito bites. Sometimes (like in June) the overwhelming memory is smell: when the wolf willow is in bloom, its sickly-sweet odour is almost overpowering. Today, though, memories of two very sounds are what I brought back with me.

City crews are continuing their fire suppression work, removing excess "fuel" (a.k.a. fallen trees) from beside the trail at the south end of the lakes. While it is a bit alarming to hear chainsaws howling in the Sanctuary, it is for a good cause: removing excess fire fuel in the few metres on either side of the trail will help prevent a small accidental fire, for example from a cigarette butt, from having the fuel to let it "ladder" up into the canopy of the dry, old spruce forest. A crown fire would be virtually inextinguishable, and we would lose our old boreal-influenced river valley forest in a matter of hours.

The other sound that I remember is the booming of the ice. Both the Gaetz Lakes have frozen solid (except right around the beaver lodge on the west lake). As of this afternoon, we still do not have any snow, so as the ice blows and the ice shifts, the lakes boom. Very impressive! Maybe it is time to find another small lake or pond to go skating. (Not allowed, in the Sanctuary.)


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

trails away :)

I walked the part of the Iron Horse Trail through St. Paul (part of Trans Canada Trail) and I thought I would show you it. It's multi-use so there is a walking path and a motorized vehicle path (ATV's, quads, snowmobiles, etc.)next to it. On the north side of the trail (right) is open country and industrial land (at the far end, they have parks and 10 soccer fields), and on the south side of the trail (left) is the town of St. Paul (residential, commercial and parkland). In the picture, the clump of green boxes is the recycling centre where you can drop off all your recyclables. Pretty interesting, eh? It is a real mix of urban, natural and industrial places.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's snowing!

It's snowing here in St. Paul, big white heavy and wet snow, perfect for building snowmen and even I couldn't resist a litte snowball fight! I'm hoping this snow lasts even though it's slippery. Why do I want it to stick around? because it makes it so much easeir to find animal tracks! Speaking of, I will be home in Red Deer for Christmas so I am looking forward to checking out the crossing paths Diane pointed out earlier :) I'll let you know if I find anything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's a great time to visit us. The new exhibit was created from employee and volunteer submissions. We are a talented bunch.

Monday, November 03, 2008

David Thompson Brigade

The 2008 David Thompson Brigade: Digging Water

A 50 minute video exploring why over 300 paddlers from
around the world chose to
spend 66 days paddling
North Canoes from
Rocky Mountain House, Alberta,
Thunder Bay, Ontario,

will be presented

at 4:00 PM
on Sunday, November 23, 2008
in the theatre
at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
Presentation host will be Mark Lund,
Route, Safety and Advance Party Leader
for the brigade.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Crossing our paths

I've been busy with school programs lately and haven't had much chance to get out on the paths, but I managed to get out for a short stroll on the Dr George Trail today. It's certainly looking a lot closer to winter than it was the last time I was out: last week's windstorm took care of most of the leaves that were still on the trees, and there was even a thin layer of ice on the West Gaetz Lake (which a family of muskrats seemed to be having a great time playing on. Sorry that I don't have a picture. I found out the hard way that I need to recharge my camera's batteries).

There are still things to be seen and heard in the Sanctuary this time of year, though. The chickadees were out in full force chattering away, and the wind rustling through the dried grass makes some interesting sounds that you really have to stand still and close your eyes to appreciate. And of course there's the cross paths.

We sometimes forget that there are plenty of animals living just out of our sight in the Sanctuary (and in Red Deer's entire park system), but when fall comes the beaten-down trails through the grass and the trees that the animals use on a regular basis become more and more obvious. A lot of those trails intersect with our man-made walking trails, and once the snow comes they become great places to look for tracks and scat to find out just who we're sharing the space with. Moose, deer, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, snowshoe hares, and even the occasional weasel all leave behind their calling cards on the cross paths. You may even find bird footprints from magpies or grouse if you're lucky.

Lucky or no, I think it's fun to keep an eye on what's going on in the cross paths. It's nice to be reminded that we're not the only ones who enjoy Waskasoo Park.


One slightly more serious note about using the trail system this time of year: please remember that our moose and deer population shouldn't be approached at any time, but especially during the fall rut (mating season). The moose are probably finished rutting by now, but we're only just now heading into deer rut (mid to late November). It's not a bad idea to make a bit of noise when you're out on the trail just to make sure that you don't accidentally surprise a deer or moose.

Monday, October 20, 2008

time to move again :)

I must have been a caribou or something in my past life - your northern correspondant is moving again. Not to the south where it is warmer, where the mass of Canadian Geese I saw around a little pond in a farmer's field will be headed. I will remain north and head almost straight west to St. Paul for November 1st. It will be good to be back in Alberta. I look forward to sharing my northern nature experiences with you from my new home.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What a guy!

Congratulations to Todd Nivens, our Programs Coordinator, for being one of three finalists for the 2008 Red Hat Awards for Customer Service.
There were 1600 nominations for great service in central Alberta, and we're proud that Todd's efforts were recognized!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall almost already!

Wow just another week until it is fall. My backyard is getting ready as you can see in the pictures.

I have a lot of nature in my backyard - One thing about not living in the town (I live on the reserve right beside town), we don't have to cut our grass except right around the trailer, which is great. I always liked the idea of just letting things grow or maybe I'm just lazy :) but I love that I just have to take a few steps out of my house and I am surrounded by more than just grass and dandelions. I get to see the busy bee getting the last bits of pollen from the aster (and take pictures of it),and see all the damselflies and dragonflies enjoying the last warm days of the early fall. A big brown dragonfly buzzed past me while I was taking the above pictures. I'm told Meadow Lake was built on swamp land, and the Meadow River is just over a block away so we get quite a few of the wetland species over here. I see some of the ducks have already left the river. And trees surround my place on three sides so I'm looking forward to seeing the true yellow, orange, and red colours of the trees shine through. While everything else is getting ready for winter, I guess I should too, like cleaning my bird feeder as suggested in Kerry Wood Nature Centre's newsletter. I want to provide some extra energy for those busy birds. Hope you are enjoying the nature around you. I look back and see it is almost a year since my last post, wow time has flown. I am in Meadow Lake for another year so I will try to represent the nature of the north a little bit better here :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Busyness in the Sanctuary and mystery spiders

I was out checking the Dr. George Trail in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary this morning when I heard a tapping that made me stop for a moment. It was a Downy Woodpecker foraging in the trees, and I decided to watch it for a while. I suppose I was standing still enough not to be noticed much, because before I knew it I was in a whirlwind of bird activity. Chickadees, Goldfinches, Yellow-rumped Warblers (I was actually kind of proud of myself for recognising those. I'm not much of a birder) and assorted LBJs (Little Brown Jobbies. Handy technical term, that) were all very busy in amongst the poplars. I even managed to end up in the way of a sudden Red Squirrel fight. Apparently somebody was in someone else's territory, and the someone else was pretty quick to let the other one know.

It was a nice, far-from-quiet moment, and the neat thing about Red Deer's park system is that you don't have to be in the Sanctuary to have moments like that. Our city trails are home to an amazing amount of wildlife, and you only have to be willing to slow down and listen to find it. I'm always amazed at the the things people will miss just because they're in too much of a hurry to get to where they're going. The next time you're out for a walk, why not take a minute to be still and blend in a bit more? You might be surprised at what's out there.


We've had a couple of questions in regards to funnel-weaving spiders lately, and I think it's partly due to a report out of Winnipeg of a possible Hobo Spider bite. I say possible Hobo Spider bite because the reports I've read made it sound as though the doctor on the case was taking his best guess as to what did the biting.

It's true that Hobo Spiders make funnel-shaped webs, but they're not the only spiders that do. The photo above (click on it for a larger view) shows a Grass Spider (Agelenopsis sp.) on her dew-covered funnel web. These spiders are very common along the trails in Red Deer, and they're nothing to be worried about. They're shy spiders which will retreat to the bottom of the web whenever possible and are very unlikely to bite a person.

Another funnel-weaving spider that you might notice is the common European House Spider. As the name suggests, these spiders are accidental immigrants to Canada. You can sometimes find their funnel webs in undusted corners. Again, they're very unlikely to bite a person, and unless you happen to be allergic to spider bites a bite won't give you much more than an itchy bump for a day or two.

If you have questions about your local spiders or any other wildlife, please give us a call at 403-346-2010.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

For the Lack of a Camera

Normally I wouldn't advocate peering out your side window (instead of watching the road) while driving. However, on my way to the Nature Centre after lunch today, I had a pair of White Pelicans flying along at treetop level. Considering the trees are growing up from the level of the river bank, that put the birds basically at eye level for me. They were easily keeping pace at about 40 km/h for a few hundred metres. Maybe they were racing.

Anyways, I had no camera with me and even if I did, even I wouldn't try the photography/driving combination.

The pelicans we have here are apparently younger, unattached males who live separate from the breeding colony that migrates farther north. They're basically teenage boys. They've got the size and colouration of the adults but none of the social skills.

And, they're big. Last week I sat in a kayak and was within a paddle's length of Bald Eagles, swooping down out of the trees to grab fish from the ocean. Trust me, Eagles are big. They're a significantly huge bird. However, these adult-sized Pelicans are another thing altogether. With a body that's double the size of the eagle and a wingspan that can be up to a metre longer, these are massive animals.

And yet watching them glide up and down the river, pivoting tightly within the confines of the banks and trees and then gently touching down on the water, they're incredibly graceful. If you have a chance to spend some time near the river over the next few weeks, bring your binoculars and your camera. They'll probably be gone in a month or so; migrating back to the Sea of Cortez, the Baja and the Gulf of Mexico for the winter.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Green Sound of Silence

There was an amazing thunderstorm here a few days ago. The lightning was almost continuous, the rain was torrential, and the power was off for almost an hour (at least it was at my house).

Thunderstorms like that don't scare me. In fact this one, with its lengthy late evening power disruption, gave me ample time to reflect. And in my relaxed, reflective state I came to a startling revelation: nowadays, there is rarely an opportunity to enjoy true silence.

Think about it. When was the last time you experienced true silence? I'm not talking about the silence that comes when you've stepped outside the office for a quick breath of fresh air or turned your computer and cell phone off for the day after the kids are in bed. True silence does not exist in those scenarios: the traffic still flows by and the fridge is still buzzing. I'm talking about silence like people used to know it: no power lines, no traffic, no endless EMF generation. It's the kind of silence that can only come from nature; from immersing yourself deep in a forest or, in my case, enjoying a late night power outage. And it was refreshing.

We need silence. Noise is stress and silence is the cure. So if I have learned only one thing from this experience, it is this: we need to make room for silence in our lives.

An added benefit is that, in order to create silence, we need to do one of two things. One, we have to turn off all of our gadgets (at least for a little while) or two, we need to get out into nature. We can do both, of course, and save a bit of energy while we're at it. Think of it: if all of us dedicated just one afternoon a week to creating and enjoying silence, we would be calmer, more balanced, and working to save the planet in the process. It's a win-win, really.

I would like to dedicate this post to energy-saving silence. Try it, you'll like it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary:

Ducklings on the West Gaetz Lake

Wood Frog. I'm not sure what this little frog was doing on the path in the middle of a hot day, but wood frogs in general can often be found away from water this time of year. You can tell it's a wood frog by (amongst other things) the black "Lone Ranger" mask around his eyes.

As always, click on the photos for a larger version.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Sorry for the slightly silly post title. This is just a good time of year for those of us who like spiders, that's all. Keeping your eyes open for webs in the trees, in the grass, or even, as in this photo from last year, on the viewing decks can lead to some interesting glimpses of the goings-on in a spider's life.

This is also the time of year that we start to have a lot of spiders brought into the Nature Centre for identification. Many of the female spiders are getting ready to lay eggs and are looking a bit big and scary. The good news is that we have very few spiders in Central Alberta that can give much of a bite (to humans, that is. It would be a different story if you were an insect), and even those that can aren't likely to bite without being provoked.

The spider we get the most questions about in August is a large orb weaver called a Jewel Spider or Jewelled Araneus. I posted some information about these spiders a few years ago, so rather than repeat myself I'll just direct you to that post here. The important thing to remember before you reach for the pesticide is that even though they're big, Jewel Spiders are fairly shy spiders that aren't likely to bite. As a bonus, if you have Jewel Spiders -- or any spiders, really -- around your house, you'll have much less of an insect problem than you might have otherwise.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary:

Great Blue Heron on the West Gaetz Lake. Sorry the shot isn't clearer -- my little camera doesn't have much of a zoom.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The joys of yarrow

I'd like to thank everyone who came out for my edible plant walk this afternoon, even after the sudden change of venue (Fort Normandeau was going to be a busy place so we moved the walk to the Nature Centre).

For those interested in edible plants (or those who would like to know what the post title above means), I have one more scheduled walk coming up in August. This one will be at Fort Normandeau -- really -- on Wednesday, August 6th, at 6:00 pm.

Give us a call at the Nature Centre (403-346-2010) to pre-register.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary:

White Admiral butterfly on Western Snowberry

Dragonfly. I'm thinking maybe a Four-Spotted Skimmer, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The things you see on the trail

I was going to crop these before posting them, but then I figured that we may as well go with hot-off-the-camera. If you happen to be walking on the Wishart Trail and notice a cross-path with very obvious drag marks (it's more or less midway between the south viewing deck and the bridge), make sure you listen for noises in the brush. Our resident beavers apparently aren't too shy about working during the day. Click on the photos to enlarge them:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary

Thin-legged Wolf Spider carrying egg sac

Fleabane flowering beside the Dr George Trail

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moth. Sort of.

I was taking a stroll on the Dr George Trail this morning when I noticed this moth. It was fairly nondescript as moths go, but what caught my eye was that it wasn't moving. Now, I realise that for most people a non-moving moth would be nothing to write home about, but for me it usually means one thing: look for the spider.

Sure enough, the moth wasn't moving because it was in the process of being breakfast. Here's a cropped version of the above photograph. See if you can find the small, white ball on the top right side of the moth:

The white ball is the abdomen of the spider that's eating the moth. I'm not sure what species of spider this is (it was pretty tiny) but I'm assuming that it's a member of the Crab Spider family (Thomisidae). These spiders are ambush hunters rather than web builders. They hide in amongst flowers or leaves and wait for their prey to come to them. Crab spiders are often fairly well camouflaged since they have to be more or less invisible to the prey that they're hunting.

So how do you find crab spiders, then?

You look for the moth (or bee, or wasp, or fly...) that's not moving.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Flowering things

If you head toward the back door (staff parking lot end of the building) of the Nature Centre in the next little while, you're in for a treat. Our Prickly Pear Cactus garden is beginning to flower, and it's a real show.

After you've admired the cactus be sure to check out what other things are flowering in the Wildflower Garden. When I looked today the Columbines in particular were showing off nicely.

Out on the trails there are many other things flowering, but sometimes you have to look a little more closely to find them. I noticed these Twinflowers blooming beside the Wishart Trail today. They're a personal favourite of mine, partly because it takes a bit of work to find them, and partly because (according to science folklore, anyway) Twinflower is the only plant that Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, chose to name after himself. There's something kind of neat about the man who was naming everything deciding on such a tiny but beautiful flower for his own.

Here's a look at the underside of the bell-shaped flowers, with my fingers giving a sense of scale. If you want to find Twinflowers the next time you're out for a walk, look for a creeping, oval-leaved plant that likes to grow along the edges of the path in moist coniferous or mixed-wood forest.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary:

Prickly Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) flowers

Male and female Ruddy Ducks on the West Gaetz Lake

Our "abandoned" river channel looking not-quite abandoned

Monday, June 23, 2008

Seen in the Sanctuary:

Mating Damselflies

Wood Frog hiding among fallen poplar leaves

Click on either photo to enlarge it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Update to bird sightings

Over the last few days, these following species have been seen:
  • Ruddy ducks
  • Coots
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Western Wood-Pewee
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Common Grackle - heard
  • Red-necked Grebes and American Coots on nests
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch nest with young
  • Two Red-winged Blackbird nests with young
  • Phoebe nesting under one of the viewing decks
  • Pileated woodpecker continues to visit the suet log outside of the bookstore windows

Let us know what birds, butterflies, blooms, and beasts you seen in and around the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Construction zone

It may not look like much at the moment, but this pile of mud and sticks next to the boardwalk on the Dr George Trail might be worth watching if we get more rain. It seems that our beavers are tired of the water overflowing into the forest on the other side of the boardwalk and have decided to dam things up a bit.

I wouldn't expect this to become a very elaborate dam -- beavers generally do only as much work as is necessary to maintain the pond -- but if the water should rise you might notice that they start to reinforce their mud push-ups with sticks and cattail leaves.

It's also worth keeping your eyes open for the beavers themselves and not just their handiwork. Todd was out with a school group the other day and they were lucky enough to get a good look at a large beaver munching away on a branch, seemingly unconcerned about the excited Grade Ones standing nearby.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jason Rogers, a local birder, reports the following species in/near the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary:
- Common Goldeneyes with broods.
- Alder Flycatchers and Red-eyed Vireos have returned since my last report.
- Possible Philadelphia Vireo along the paved loop trail near the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
- Tennessee Warbler at the nature centre.
- Ovenbird and Mourning Warbler at old Woodlea ski hill just south of sanctuary.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Feeder visitor

This Pileated Woodpecker has become a regular visitor to our suet feeder in the past couple of weeks. The lack of a red "moustache" shows that she's a female. I haven't noticed a male coming to feed at all, but that could just be because I don't keep a constant watch on the suet.

The Pileated Woodpecker is Alberta's largest, and it's pretty obvious when you see one come to a feeder that is usually frequented by the (much) smaller Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers.

The suet feeder is located right outside our bookstore. Be sure to have a look for our woodpeckers the next time you come shopping.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Our New Neighbour

On Thursday last week Diane and I were out taking pictures of the building for new banners, web-images and other uses. I've got the camera nicely mounted to the tripod and totally locked into a position that, while great for taking slightly upwards-facing images of the building, was totally useless for what came next.

From behind me I heard Diane exclaim "That's the oddest looking Ground Squirrel I've ever... wait a minute... that's a weasel!"

I turned around and sure enough, there, sitting up like the world's skinniest-looking Richardson's Ground Squirrel, was a Long-Tailed Weasel.

We are trying to get a picture of it but it's a quick little critter. The best either of us has so far is a black-tipped tail & rear-end zipping off through the bush.

You can find more information about Long-Tailed Weasels here.

We'll do our best to get a decent photo posted. Watch this space.


In other news.

Our thanks go out to Community Savings Credit Union and Sobey's Eastview for sponsoring Fort Fest at Fort Normandeau this past weekend.

The Red Deer Aboriginal Dance Troupe and the Waskasoo Bluegrass Society both put on great shows. The Red Deer Archery Club taught dozens of kids how to safely shoot a bow & arrows. The 65th Mount Royal Rifles and the Firestick Living History Society recreated their annual "Battle that never actually ever happened but it's fun to shoot at each other skirmish". The employees and volunteers at the Fort cranked and served gallons of ice-cream and the 78th Field Artillery Unit from Red Deer gave folks a chance to meet the new army and send messages to our troops overseas. Add to that an antiques show and sale and you've got a very full weekend.

If you happen to be at the Fort over the next few days, forgive them their exhausted looks. They all put in a huge effort.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Red-winged Blackbirds

If you look carefully at this tangle of last year's cattails you should be able to spot a small nest hiding in amongst them. It's the nest of a Red-winged Blackbird, and it's right next to the bird blind on the West Gaetz Lake.

Like many other birds, the male of this species (left) is much showier than the female (right). Males depend on their bright plumage to help attract mates, but females need to be more camouflaged so that they can safely sit on the nest.

Here's another look at the male:

As always, click on the photo for a larger version.

This time of year it's very important to be quiet while using the viewing decks, and this year it's even more important than usual. The high water levels in the lakes has led to many more nests close to the decks. Noise on the decks may discourage the birds from using these nests, and the extra energy needed to rebuild elsewhere can sometimes lead to nest failure.

Enjoy visiting our birds, but please remember to visit responsibly.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bat Homes

The bats are here. They will reduce the number of unwelcome insects around your yard such as mosquitoes. In order to survive a bat needs to eats almost its weight in insects per day. Bat houses are available at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre Bookstore. They are very well constructed and follow the directions as per the book, Naturescape , by Myrna Pearman. You may purchase a painted one for $42.95(black) or an unpainted one for $38.95. Instructions for the successful erection of the homes accompany each bat house. For more information call Bob at KWNC Bookstore 346 2010

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bird report May 24, 2008

Jason Rogers reports:
Canada Goose - 8
Gadwall - 1
American Wigeon - 2
Mallard - 10
Blue-winged Teal - 7
Northern Shoveler - 2
Canvasback - 10
Redhead - 6
Ring-necked Duck - 1
Lesser Scaup - 14
Common Goldeneye - 5
Ruddy Duck - 8
Common Loon - 1
Pied-billed Grebe - 2
Red-necked Grebe - 7
Cooper's Hawk - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Sora - 5
American Coot - 10
Spotted Sandpiper - 2
Franklin's Gull - heard
California Gull - heard
Rock Pigeon - 2
Mourning Dove - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 2
Pileated Woodpecker - 1
Least Flycatcher - 8
Eastern Phoebe - 1
Blue-headed Vireo - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Crow - 2
Common Raven - 1
Tree Swallow - 2
Bank Swallow - 3
Black-capped Chickadee - 9
Boreal Chickadee - 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 6
House Wren - 4
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1-2
Swainson's Thrush - 1
American Robin - 6
Gray Catbird - 2
Yellow Warbler - 18
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 4
Ovenbird - 1 just south of the Sanctuary
Common Yellowthroat - 1
Chipping Sparrow - 17
Clay-colored Sparrow - 13
Savannah Sparrow - 1
Le Conte's Sparrow - 4
Song Sparrow - 2
Lincoln's Sparrow - 3
White-throated Sparrow - 6
Dark-eyed Junco - 2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak - 2
Red-winged Blackbird - 19
Brown-headed Cowbird - 8
Baltimore Oriole - 1
Purple Finch - 2
House Finch - 2
Red Crossbill - 3
White-winged Crossbill - 30
Pine Siskin - 8
American Goldfinch - 3
House Sparrow - 2

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Spring on the lake

Although this photo doesn't really show it, things are starting to look like spring around here. It only takes a few steps out the back door to hear the songs of territory-setting birds (and frogs. Our Boreal Chorus Frogs are singing up a storm right now), and if you keep your eyes open you may even see signs of the start of nesting season.

The Canada Goose in the photo above has chosen an old muskrat mound as a nesting site. This particular mound is fairly close to one of the viewing decks on the West Lake, and that's already given a couple of youth groups a chance to see nest care up close.

Please remember that there may be other, more hidden nests around our viewing decks this time of year, and help us help the birds by using the decks as quietly as possible.


Project Porchlight recently posted a feature on Kathryn on their blog. For more information on Project Porchlight, check out their site here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We've got bats

Not in our belfry, no, but we do have bats on the building.

For the past few years a small colony of what are probably Little Brown Bats (I haven't managed to get close enough to do a proper identification, so that's an educated guess) has made its home in a "secret" location on the Nature Centre.

As of last week, our bats have returned from their winter hibernaculum and are again hanging out (literally) at their summer home.

I put "secret" in quotation marks because the location that our bats have chosen probably is a secret to most of our visitors. If you're interested in the bats, though, our staff knows where to find them and would be happy to show you.

You might be surprised to learn how close you can be to wildlife without even realising it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Spring butterflies

A couple of us were out on the trails this morning enjoying the unexpected sunshine -- and working, of course -- when we were lucky enough to spot our first butterflies of the season. If you happen to be out on the Wishart Trail (the section closest to 67th Street), keep your eyes open for brown butterflies with white margins. They're called Mourning Cloaks, and they're often the earliest butterflies you'll find.

Our early butterflies manage to be early butterflies because they are hibernators. According to Alberta Butterflies, butterflies like the Mourning Cloaks and Tortoise Shells overwinter as adults in brush piles or leaf litter, emerging as soon as it becomes warm enough to fly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Recent bird sightings

Jason Rogers, a Red Deer birder, walked around the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary on Sunday April 27th. Here is what Jason reported. (He didn't bring his scope, so there are no totals for most of the waterbirds.)

Greater White-fronted Goose - 20
Canada Goose
Gadwall - 1
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail - 1
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback - 2
Ring-necked Duck
[Lesser Scaup?]
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-necked Grebe - 1
Osprey - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 1
American Coot - 20
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
[Herring Gull?]
Rock Pigeon - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 4
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 1
American Crow - 1
Common Raven - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 9
Boreal Chickadee - 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 13
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
American Robin - 6
American Pipit - 3
Bohemian Waxwing - 40
Song Sparrow - 1 along river
Red-winged Blackbird - 1
[Brown-headed Cowbird?] - 1
Purple Finch - 4
House Finch - 2
White-winged Crossbill - 2
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch - 1

While you might not see all of these yourself, you get the idea: this is an interesting time to be out in the Sanctuary!

Friday, April 25, 2008

25 and 50 Years Ago

On Wednesday April 23rd, the Red Deer Advocate posted a couple of brief stories worth repeating here. (

50 years ago
• Red Deer author Kerry Wood won his second Governor-General Award for literature in three years. Wood’s book, The Great Chief, won the medal in the class of books for juveniles.
(Kerry Wood's first GG award was for ‘The Map Maker’, the story of David Thompson, written in 1955. Kerry Wood wrote ‘The Great Chief’, life of Maskepetoon, Peace Chief of the Crees, in 1957.)

25 years ago
• At an expropriation inquiry, former city councillor Ron McCullough argued the city was trying to take his Glenmere Farms primarily so it could build a bridge over the river at 67th Street as recommended by a consultant. Parks planner Craig Curtis insisted the expropriation would protect the Gaetz Lakes sanctuary and allow room for a nature centre. “The sole purpose for acquiring this property is for parkland. Any other inference is incorrect and misleading.” The Kerry Wood Nature Centre was built in 1985; the bridge was built in 1987-88.
(The land that makes up the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary was assembled in part from provincial land in the southeast, part of the Red Deer Public School District #104's land in the southwest -- each purchased for $1.00 -- and the McCullough land, including the Allen Bungalow, which was expropriated.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ode to Recycling

Last week was Spring Break for my kids so, naturally, we went to Grandma's. Grandma still lives in the same house I grew up in, so I took my kids to one of my favorite old haunts : the tire playground. It was there that I had a epiphany.

I can remember when town council first decided there was going to be a new playground, and that it was going to be made of old tires. My friends and I were so excited: we'd go and watch the workers getting the space ready, then hauling in the tires. We couldn't believe the size of some of them: up until then, tractor tires were the biggest ones we'd ever seen! We would spend countless hours imagining what the tire playground would look like. Would it have a fort? Would there be swings? How were they going to hold all those tires together? Our little minds were buzzing.

Finally it was finished and it was great! There was a fort, with two draw bridges and a triangle of two-storey compartments to crawl in. The workers had made us a little boat/car shaped sculpture, a giant four-sectioned sandbox, and a bumpy three tire thing that resembled a sea serpent, but was made of tires big enough for us to actually crawl inside. And to top it off, three tire swings on poles so long that you could practically reach orbit before coming anywhere close to your neighbour. It was a child's dream and only now, sitting in my favorite spot reflecting on the fun I'd had there, did I realize what else it was. The tire playground was an ode to recycling, a fantastic use of resources at hand and a desire to make something useful out of what might have been considered junk. Tire playground, I salute you! You are a beacon of the right way to recycle, to reduce, to reuse.

The tire playground looks almost the same as it did 20-odd years ago, another testament to what a great idea it was. The only things missing are the tire swings and the climbing wall. I have found a link, check it out: Click on "Community Centres" in the virtual tour menu to get the right picture.

First you will see the ball diamonds, then as the camera turns you can make out the three bumps of the sea serpent-like structure off in the distance. Still standing, still well-loved, still a great idea.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Earth Day Ecology Lesson

It's Earth Month, and I hope that everyone's as excited about the impending Earth Day as I am! We have a special treat here at the Nature Centre on Earth Day: Abrah Arneson, a local Certified Herbal Therapist and owner of The Green Clinic, will be presenting on the Ecology of Herbal Medicine. It will be an enjoyable evening of ecologically-friendly refreshments and conversation, with all proceeds going to support the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and its many environmental initiatives.

Sounds like something you'd like to go to? Here are the details:

The Ecology of Herbal Medicine: Plants for the Health and Well Being of All, Tuesday, April 22, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Admission is $20/person + GST, in advance or at the door. Call 346-2010 for more details or to register.

No matter what you do this Earth Day, remember to keep in mind why you're doing it. Our planet is important, not just for our own offsprings' survival, but for that of every species' offspring, and their offspring, and their offspring ad infinitum.

Make every day Earth Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Watch this...

We've been sent a couple of interesting video links lately that show some of the creative ways that people around the world are increasing environmental awareness.

This first one is from The Netherlands and reminds us that children who grow up playing outside and in natural areas tend to be happier and healthier: Last Children in the Woods.

The next one is an award-winning ad from Germany that's a lot of fun: Wind Power.

And now that you've watched them, it must be time to get up from the computer desk and go outside, right? Our March - May event calendar and newsletter will be out soon. Keep an eye on this space (when you're not actually outside, of course) for information on our upcoming nature and history programs in Waskasoo Park.

Fluorescent bulb recycling

Jim passed on this link to me from the City of Red Deer's website: Mercury in Fluorescent Light Bulbs.

With the coming switch to fluorescent bulbs from the old incandescent ones in 2012, it's pretty important that we all know how to dispose of them properly.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Job Re-post

I'm re-posting the Nature Nursery Assistant job. Let's go people, we need this one filled quickly.
It's a 30 hour/week job, working with kids in an indoor/outdoor, nautre-based setting. All you need is a love of children, an appreciation for nature and an ECD Level I certification issued by the Alberta Government Children and Family Services division.

If you have any questions, please email me at you can send your resumes to