Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Easy Ways to Conserve Power

With the current cold weather, holiday baking, Christmas lights, and so on, power consumption is spiking. Save yourself some money and help delay the construction of new power plants and transmission lines by doing your part in reducing electricity consumption:

  • Run appliances such as washers, dishwashers, and clothes driers later in the evening or on weekends, during times of low power demand
  • Use timers on your vehicule's block heater, and only heat the engine for a couple of hours before you need to use it: heating it overnight wastes energy and costs you money!
  • Turn off electric (space- and baseboard heaters) except when needed.
  • Convert to energy-efficient lighting: compact fluorescents or LED bulbs use MUCH less power than traditional incandescent lights. Outdoor holiday light displays are wonderful, but can use $27 of power in a month, at 6 hours/day. By comparison, inexpensive LED Christmas lights will cost you 47¢.
  • Unplug any "beer fridges" that are not in use.
  • Use the smallest burner you can get away with on your range, and use a microwave instead of the full-size oven when possible.
  • Unplug "vampire" electronics: cell phone chargers, instant-on televisions, and unused little power adaptors. They all draw power even when not on, costing you money!

None of these tips should decrease anyone's quality of life. Better scheduling and smart choices means saving money and ensuring that Alberta doesn't build more coal or nuclear power plants.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Our Apologies

We have temporarily removed the Twitter Feed window from the right side of the blog. The window is supposed to feed in tweets only from our Twitter site (follow us here). Either Twitter or the feed widget has a glitch in it and we (and others) are feeding tweets from multiple accounts; many of them extremely offensive.

So, until the feed widget is fixed we will not be syndicating our Twitter posts to the blog. Our apologies to anybody who was exposed to offensive/inappropriate content. If you are interested in following us on Twitter, simply click the link above and sign up.

The Nature Centre team.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Social Media Update

In an effort to keep you up to date with the comings and goings, programs and events and natural-history happenings, we have joined the Twitter-verse.

We will endeavour to tweet on a regular basis (there's no point in having you follow an inactive feed). We'll be feeding a blend of cool nature sightings, upcoming program reminders, eco-tips and suggestions for sustainability.

So, for those of you already hooked up with Twitter, follow us @NatureCentre. For those of you interested in trying out this new social media tool, create a Twitter account, log in and follow along.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mobile Blogging

If you're trying to get in touch with any of the core interpretive staff at the Nature Centre this week, you're likely leaving messages on voice mail. Jim, Kathryn, Diane and I are at a Leadership Development conference in Kananaskis.

Through Thursday we're involved in a multitude of activities; the end goal being an action plan to keep WEES on track through the next five years.

Our first experience in K-country was dealing with the wind. Watching people from different parts of the province deal with huge winds was interesting. Those of us from central and northern Alberta were stunned by the volume and ferocity; those from the Lethbridge region were amused by the light breeze. However, when the facility manager drops by to let you know that there is an official wind warning - and has the head wound from a flying branch to prove it - everybody takes notice.

The facility at the Kananaskis Field station is located at the foot of a couple of mountains, east of Canmore. It is a stunning location that while a mere 100 metres off the highway, feels like a backcountry lodge. The food has been great, the buildings are spotless and the scenery is world class.

We're being filled with knowledge and being given the tools to take on the strategic planning needed to keep our organization fresh, viable and sustainable.

See you Friday folks.

Don't forget... Crafty Saturday runs the afternoon of the 21st at 2:00, Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour tickets are on sale and the Christmas Light Exchange is in full swing. Give the Nature Centre a call at 403-346-2010 for more information.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Late Season Squatters

Well we're in the first week of November, there's ice on the lake, the leaves have all fallen from the trees and the ground is frozen down to about an inch deep. Apparently none of that matters to these Trumpeter Swans and Canada Geese. Six swans and about ten geese remain on the West Lake in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. The rest of the local flock appears to have flown south.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ah, autumn in Alberta

Remember a week and a half or so ago when the temperature was in the mid thirties Celsius? Yeah, I'm not entirely sure that I do either.

I hope everyone's enjoying the snowfall.

Oh, and just a reminder to be careful out on the Sanctuary trails for the next little while. Last night's winds probably took down a few trees. If you happen to notice any that are a danger, please give us a call at 403-346-2010.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Environmental Ethics and Environmental Education

Foundational to the work we do at the Nature Centre toward fostering environmental citizenship, is the work we do in encouraging an environmental ethic in the population. There are many paths to a environmentally literate population with a strong sense of environmental ethics. However, often metaphor is required to illustrate what an environmental ethic (or any other ethical framework) would look like.

While at my summer residency at Royal Roads University I had the chance to explore worldviews and environmental ethics. Here is a sampling, with some new thought and content, of some of the ideas we explored. Credit goes to Natalie Bowes who co-wrote the document from which this post was generated.


Nothing is static. The wind blows, water flows, birds fly and all manner of life is always on the move. Even the rocks degrading in the face of wind and water are changing; rock to sand, sand to dust, dust to mineral, inevitably leaching back into the oceans and lands of the earth to help drive life. We are part of this dynamic system. Everything we are and do is tied our interplay with the living Earth. And, everything we are and do affects the Earth. In the words of Thomas Berry, “We are Earth reflecting back upon itself”.

While phenomenally complex and often subtle, if we look carefully we can see these interactions at work; not just on a species-species basis but at every level of organized and seemingly random life. Between these places of organization, there are transitional zones; places where either literally or metaphorically, there is interplay that brings together disparate factors to create new possibilities.

Florence Krall (1994) refers to these special places as ecotones. In biology “ecotones are transitional regions between two different habitats” (Mortimer-Sandilands, 2004, p.45) The Aspen Parkland of Central Alberta can be seen as a giant ecotone. It is a zone of convergence for the ecology of Boreal forest, the prairie grasslands, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the tumbling Badlands. In this space biotic life and abiotic factors influence each other to create a unique system made up of - yet unlike - all the surrounding systems.

While providing rich zones of convergence and interplay that can facilitate positive change, ecotones can also stand as barriers to those unable through the mechanics of biology and/or geology or through social constructs of power, to interact with them. An ecotone, with its ability to facilitate change and create new connections is an excellent metaphor for the path one could take in fostering an environmental ethic.

At the Nature Centre we are an evolving ecotone comprised of a variety of interactions between people from around the region, plants, animals, climate and all the connections those interactions create. The ecotone we collectively create through the Nature Centre can be stimulated to affect positive behavioural change, which with inputs of education and positive reinforcement, can lead to the uptake of an environmentally positive ethic.

Now, it should be made clear that we don't sit around in meetings and have discussions about how we "create an ecotone and use it to foster change". Rather, by visiting the Centre, taking part in a program, going for a walk in the Sanctuary, reading this blog, subscribing to our Facebook group or any of the other ways to interact with us, your fellows and the environment, you are creating and evolving the ecotone. We are merely picking strategic points to interact with it and help it along toward an environmental ethic.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Thank You

CHCA (RDTV by any other name) has been pulled off the air by their parent company.

Over the past decade, the RDTV News Crew and all its variations in name, staff, format and times has been an invaluable ally for the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

We have been sought out by videographers and reporters looking for expert opinion and/or local insights to environmental stories. For years we were given free-reign for 10 minutes, once a month on the noon-hour news broadcast. The hosts proved to be very game as we brought "things" into their studio; snakes, salamanders, meal-worms, turtles, frogs, drums and drummers, art, snowshoes and in one very memorable show, an entire hive of live bees.

The news crew came to our events, promoted our programs, answered our phone calls and requests for assistance and generally helped keep the Nature Centre and Fort Normandeau in the public mind.

On one noon hour show, Caroline Jarvis and Al Redel took a minute to do my wife a favour and surprise me by broadcasting a picture of my son and I fishing; it was one of the best birthday presents I've ever received.

And now, Chanel 11 is dark, we have no local television news and a talented group of people have been forced to leave town or find other work. Many of them we at the Nature Centre consider our friends.

So, from all of us at the Nature Centre and Fort Normandeau, thank you to all the friends we made at RDTV/CHCA. Your support over the years was amazing. You will all, always have our gratitude.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Seen in the Sanctuary

These High Bush-Cranberry (Viburnum opulus) fruits beside the Wishart Trail show that summer really is winding down. If you're out on the Sanctuary trails in the next while and notice a distinct old-sweatsock smell, those are the ripening fruits of the related Low Bush-Cranberry (Viburnum edule).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just Hangin' Out

This little dragonfly was hanging around on the Dr. George trail on Monday afternoon. Make sure you click the picture to see it up close to see how stunning these insects really are.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rafting on a Thursday Night

The Nature Centre's Caryn Ouwehand snapped these pictures of Avery and his Thursday night rafting trip. A calm night, a calm river, no-one else around and a really keen group of participants make for a great two hours.

Scheduled rafting programs end with the conclusion of our summer programming season, however for people who want to go and can gather a group of six, we'll continue rafting as long as river/weather conditions allow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Seen in the Sanctuary

Tussock Moth caterpillar on Silverberry. I haven't had a chance to look up an ID yet, but I'm thinking that it might be Orgyia sp. Feel free to leave a comment if you can help me narrow this one down.

Friday, August 07, 2009

mushroom program

Mushroom Program
Learn about picking and identifying local Mushrooms via a powerpoint
Presentation by mycologist,- Mike McNaughton at the
Kerry Wood Nature Centre
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Everyone welcome-free

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Those little blue butterflies

This time of year we often have people asking us about the little blue butterflies they see nectaring at the milk vetch in the Sanctuary. The good news for a non-specialist like me is that I can honestly tell you that they are Blues.

Blues are members of the subfamily Polyommatinae, which consists of... well, little blue butterflies.

The bad news for a non-specialist like me is that are several different species of little blue butterflies found in our area.

However, based on the time of year, the pattern of spots I see on the ventral (under) side of the wings, and a cruise through my Alberta Butterflies book I'm going to tentatively hazard a guess that these particular little blue butterflies are Silvery Blues (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). This particular Blue was a male. Female Blues are generally much less blue.

If any of you true butterfly people out there can correct my identification, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below.

On the non-butterfly side of things, I noticed that our Bladderworts are in full flower. Excuse the poor photo -- they were sort of hard to get to.

Bladderworts are interesting aquatic plants that float just below the surface most of the time, but hold their flowers up out of the water. They float with the help of little bladders (that's the origin of the unusual name of the plant) which also function as traps for small aquatic invertebrates. Yes, these lovely yellow flowers belong to a carnivore.

Monday, June 01, 2009

We are a Leader in Renewable Energy

The Kerry Wood Nature Centre has just been recognized by ENMAX Corporation as a consumer of renewable power. In 2008, the Nature Centre consumed 58,270 kW/h of electricity generated through the ENMAX Green Max program - largely from wind-generated power. 

One the power generation side, we are creating electricity through a photo-voltaic system. There are currently 40 solar panels on the roof of the Nature Centre, tied to two of our four installed inverters. The Centre’s solar-power consultant is currently sourcing another 20 panels. They should be installed by the end of 2009. The system has capacity for 80 panels. We are currently fundraising for an estimated $15,000 for the remaining 20 panels.

The PV system supplements the electricity coming in from the grid, ensuring we get some of our power from a renewable, non-carbon-based source. Click here for an up-to-date snap shot of how much power we are generating for ourselves.

When the phase one of the grid-tied PV system was installed in 2004 it was the first of its kind in the area. Gordon Howell of Howell Mayhew Engineering and The City of Red Deer’s Electric Light and Power department worked together to build a framework that would allow others to install similar systems, giving rise to the Net Zero homes in Red Deer’s newer subdivisions

Monday Morning Visitor

This Red Tailed Hawk paid us a visit this morning. The tree he's sitting in provides an excellent perch to look out over the wildflower gardens and the surrounding grasslands. There are lots of Richardson's Ground Squirrels for hungry hawks to feed on, in the area surrounding the Nature Centre.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Find Us On Facebook

I'll be posting this link in the nav bars over to the right side of the screen. However, the Nature Centre now has a Facebook group.

Find it by clicking this link. It's an open group. Anyone can join. It's another great way to keep on top of what we've got going on, and how to connect with environmental education activities in our community.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Martin Reynolds saw this garter snake east of Red Deer on Sunday, April 5th.

After a several-year absence, Kerry Wood is hanging around the front of the Nature Centre again! (Sorry, bad joke: we have re-installed the photo of Mr. Wood by our entrance once again. The previous photo/sign was stolen, and hopefully, by now, the kids who did it are either in jail, grown up or moved away!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Follow us

If you look at the sidebar to your right, you'll notice a new gadget that I've labelled Follow Our Blog. Following is a way that you can keep up with what we post on this blog by using a service like Blogger, Google Reader, Google Friend Connect, or many sites which use Open ID. If you'd like to be informed of our new posts as they're added to the blog, just click the Follow button and add our blog to your reader.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bookstore News

Bookstore Newsletter
For March, April & May 2009

Wren/ Chickadee Home ickadee home
Nest boxes – Now is the time to think about nest boxes for the birds. We have a good supply of bluebird/tree swallow boxes and wren/chickadee boxes. Most of the bluebird homes are assembled while the wren/chickadee ones are u build. Bluebirds should arrive in Alberta about the 3rd week of March and will commence nest building about the 3rd week of April.

Feeder Purple Martin Home
Bluebird /Tree swallow home
Farmer’s Market 2009 at Red Deer

Share stall #83 with the Kerry Wood Nature Centre
for the 2009 market on an alternating Saturday basis.
If interested call Bob at 403 346 2010.

New Books/Products
For adults:
1. Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains Jack W. Brink June 2008, For thousands of years the Aboriginal hunters on the North American Plains used their knowledge of the land and of buffalo behaviour to drive their quarry over cliffs.Read about the mass buffalo hunts and the culture they supported before and after European contact by archaeologist Jack Brink.
2. Climate Wars 2008 . A thought provoking and disturbing read by Gwynne Dyer
It gives a terrifying glimpse of the none-too-distant future, when climate change will force the world’s powers into a desperate struggle for advantage and even survival. Price for hc-
For Kids
A great Canada Series –price: $pb-$14.95
1 .Canada at war
2. The Kids Book of Canada
3. Canadian Exploration
4. Great Canadian Women
5. Aboriginal People
6. Canadian History
7. Prime Ministers
8 .Great Canadians
9 .The Far north
10. Canadian Geography.

For Kids/Adults
1.Windsong Action Strap-For secure and comfortable carry of binoculars and Cameras- Keeps the weight off your neck and is adjustable for size.$18.95
2.Bird Call- use this bird calling device to call the birds and have them respond-great price; $6.95
Time for Coffee/Tea

The KWNC Bookstore is proud to make available fair trade /shade grown coffee and teas from JUSTUS COFFEE ROASTERS COOP.
It is one of Canada’s most successful worker-owned businesses based on a firm belief in “people and the planet before profits”.
Fair Trade is an innovative model for international trade, which offers not only a fair price, but respect and empowerment for Third World producers.
All Just Us! products – coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar – are grown naturally, without chemicals, to enhance the well-being of farmers, their communities, the environment and wild-life. The bookstore carries a great selection of Just us coffee and teas.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Backyard wildlife

Ok, so it might be stretching things a little to call this strictly backyard wildlife...

Mary MacKenzie recently sent me these wonderful photos which were taken in June and October at the back of their quarter section.

If you have photos taken in or around Red Deer that you would like to share on our blog, e-mail them to me at interpreter at waskasoopark.ca. Remember to include your name and the approximate date and location the pictures were taken so that I can properly credit you.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Night sky over Red Deer

Admittedly this isn't the most spectacular night photography ever seen, but it's not bad for an autofocus camera snapshot from an apartment balcony. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you should see a bright "star" and the crescent moon. The star is actually the planet Venus, and it can be easily seen in the early evening sky if you look towards the south.

The photo was taken on December 30th at about 5:45 pm. Right now the moon is waxing (heading towards full moon on the 11th) and is more to the left of Venus, but if you look to the south not long after it gets dark in the evening, they should still both be pretty easy to identify.