Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. If you're looking for something to do with the family during vacation, why not drop down for a walk? Our holiday hours are:

December 24: 10 am - 1 pm
December 25: closed
December 26 - 28: 1 - 5 pm

We're also open 1 - 5 pm on January 1 & 3. All other days will be regular business hours.

Did you know that you can access the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary even when the Nature Centre is closed? Just use the gate to the north side of the building.

Have a great holiday. We look forward to seeing you in the new year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clarification on Tonight's Total Lunar Eclipse

I've had a phone call or two asking if the Kerry Wood Nature Centre is doing anything in honour of tonight's total lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, the only thing we are doing is encouraging people to get out and try to see it- it's not often that we have a clear shot at a total lunar eclipse, and especially not when it coincides with the shortest day of the year. Let me explain further...

Total lunar eclipses happen more frequently than you may think. I did a bit of research and found that there was a total lunar eclipse in 1967, 1978 and 1989; a spacing of 11 years between them. Since lunar eclipses are only visible on the night side of the Earth, we didn't see these particular eclipses when they happened. There were three total lunar eclipses within one year at the turn of the millenium: on January 21, 2000, July 16, 2000, and January 9, 2001. Only the first of these was partially visible from North America and, unfortunately for us here in Red Deer, only from the eastern parts. Australia, Africa and Asia, respectively, had the best seats for the other two, though many Canadians did travel to those countries to see them. (Coincidentally, my research also showed that Australia has the most common occurrence of total lunar eclipses altogether. North American sightings were very infrequent- one more reason to watch tonight!)

So what about tonight's eclipse?

As in Diane's previous post, the "show" doesn't start until 11:33 p.m. That would be 11:33 p.m. tonight, Monday, Dec. 20, which is a work/school night for most people (myself included). The total eclipse begins around 12:41 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, with totality finishing at approximately 1:53 a.m. tomorrow morning. But it doesn't end there! For all you diehard astronomers out there, the partial eclipse will go on for another hour and 8 minutes, with the partial eclipse ending around 3:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 21, which also happens to be winter solstice. It is the combination of a total lunar eclipse falling on winter solstice that is the once-in-400-years event the media is talking about. This, and the fact that total lunar eclipses are cool to watch, makes me think it's worth a little lost sleep.

Happy viewing!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Look waaay up...

For those interested in the night skies, remember that there is a total lunar eclipse coming up on December 21st. The forecast right now says that we're to expect a clear, if chilly, night, so hopefully we'll have some good viewing.

The eclipse lasts for about 72 minutes, with the partial eclipse starting at 11:33 pm and mid-eclipse hitting at 1:17 am. There's no special equipment needed to view a lunar eclipse; just dress warmly, find a dark spot to watch the sky from, and look for the moon.

For more information, check out NASA's eclipse page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's That Time of the Year Again

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is coming back to Red Deer. January 13 & 14, 2011.

Tickets are $20 +GST per night or $36 + GST for both nights. This is the Nature Centre's biggest fundraiser of the year. Get you tickets early for the best mountain-nature, mountain-culture and mountain-sport films from around the world.

Many thanks to our local sponsors - who are selling tickets at their shops: Valhalla Pure Outfitters and Purearth Organics.

Here's a taste of this year's show. Turn your speakers up to eleven!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas at the Nature Centre

Just a reminder to anyone looking for something a little different for Christmas gifts this year that tickets for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour (January 13th & 14th at the Memorial Centre) are now available at the Nature Centre, Valhalla Pure Outfitters, or Purearth Organics. Tickets are $20+GST for each night, or $36+GST for both nights.

As well, the Nature Centre Bookstore is a great source of local nature books, bird feeders and seed, and a wide array of unusual stocking stuffers. Looking for planispheres? Pocket Naturalist Guides? Chocolate-covered Insects? We've got them here!


If you're looking for Christmas/winter activities, consider participating in the Christmas Bird Count on December 19th. Potluck supper to follow at the Nature Centre. Please call the Red Deer River Naturalists at 403-347-8200 for more information.

For some old-fashioned Christmas fun, come out to Fort Normandeau and join us for Christmas at the Fort (Sunday, December 19th from 1 - 4 pm). There'll be snowshoeing, crafts, activities and a bonfire. It's a great afternoon of fun with the family. $3/person or $10/family at the gate.

For more information on any of our winter programming, please call us at 403-346-2010.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Consider Not Driving

There has been a lot of coverage and complaining in the Red Deer media lately about the poor state of the roads and about winter driving conditions in general. While this is not the forum to air or give credence to those complaints, it is the place to perhaps offer some ideas that can take the stress out of winter driving.

The biggest step you can take is to simply not drive. Hear me out.

Most neighbourhoods in Red Deer have a strip-mall/shopping centre attached to them. Therefore most of us live within walking distance of a corner-store. While this won't cover the major grocery shopping needs, it does put you in close proximity of the essentials like milk and bread.

Many kids in Red Deer are fortunate enough to live reasonably close to their schools; close enough that they can walk most days. Those who don't live close enough, qualify for busing. Bundle them up in their snow pants, jackets, boots, toques, mitts and scarves (and do the same for you) and walk them to their school. And, for those of you who drop-off your kids on the way to work; is there a friend in the neighbourhood they can walk with? While we do get cold winter days, there aren't many that are too cold to walk to school in the morning. Use the -20 guideline that the schools use. If the temperature (real or windchill) is above -20 degrees Celsius, your kids will be playing outside at recess and lunch. If it's warm enough to play outside, it's warm enough to walk to school.

For commuters, rather than complain about the "traffic problem" or state of the roads on your morning drive to work, consider getting out of your car. On my way to work, as I cycle up 40th Ave, I notice that most vehicles have one person in them. Surely many of you are going to and from similar locations, leave your cars in parking stalls all day and could carpool with a friend or neighbour. This would solve two issues. One, you personally wouldn't be fighting with "traffic" everyday and two, we'd clear up some of the so-called "congestion" on the major arteries.

The other extremely viable option for commuters, is Red Deer Transit. The buses in Red Deer head into downtown and exchange at the depot. For most downtown-workers living in Red Deer, transit can be a cost-effective, efficient and non-driving means of getting to and from work. Let someone else do the driving (and stressing out) for you.

Now, the big challenge. Consider being a winter cyclist. A couple of studded tires, some warm clothes, a helmet and helmet liner and you're all set. Keep to the sidewalks to avoid the sliding cars and get a light so pedestrians can see you coming. There is a group of people in Red Deer who bicycle commute year-round (me included). While the temperature is an issue, the freedom of being away from traffic (especially if you use the Waskasoo Park Trail system) is well worth the temporary discomfort of a cold day. Winter cycling not only reduces the traffic load on our roads and the pollution in the air, it goes a long way to keeping you in shape for all the fun stuff you like to do in the spring/summer.

So, rather than complain about the state of our roads, try taking action toward a more sustainable and healthy commute, and leave the driving to others.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Shed Some Light -- November 12th

Just a reminder that our Shed Some Light fundraiser for new lighting for the Marjorie Wood Gallery is November 12th, 7 - 10 pm. There will be food, wine, a silent auction, and a variety of local art for sale. Each art piece goes for $25. This is a fantastic way to pick up some original art just in time for the holidays.

Tickets are $20 + GST and are available at the Nature Centre. Call 403-346-2010 for more information, or visit the Gallery's web page.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Morning Moose

One of the great things about Red Deer being in such close proximity to natural spaces is that often, nature takes the time to visit.

This morning we had three young moose essentially surround the Nature Centre. They ate the plants out of Kathryn's garden, nibbled at the trees in front of the building and, as you can see in the video, one got up on our loading dock.

This is a great reminder that even though we live in an urban centre, we are part of nature. Visits like these, show us that with some respect on our part, we can co-exist with wild animals.

In the Nature Nursery nook, outside my office window

Looking into the programs workshop while standing on the veggie garden (tomato cage to the left of the moose)

Just about to step up on the loading dock, from the veggie garden.

I guess we didn't need those seeds for next year

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kids' bird feeding program

Kids’ Bird Feeding Program
Place: Kerry Wood Nature Centre
6300 45 ave
Red Deer
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Children’s Winter Bird feeding program
Bring your children aged 6 to 13 to the nature centre for this hands on program. We’ll look at and identify winter birds and learn what & how to feed them. Kids will construct a bird feeder and be given bird feed to take home. The seed and the feeder have a retail value of $14.95. The program cost is $7.00 per child for KWNC members and $8.00 for non-members. Children must be accompanied by an adult. To register call the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, 6300 45 Ave, Red Deer, telephone 403-346-2010. Please register by 4:00 pm November 25, 2010
For information call Bob at 403-346-2010 ext 103

Wash-out & trail closure

On October 29th, a City crew was flushing hydrants on the Michener Centre grounds. They ran their hoses under the fence and, unfortunately, washed away the hillside. The humus, topsoil, and even the silty mineral soil was swept away, undercutting and bringing down 5–10 trees, and blocking the trail with a deep blanket of muck.

The City is taking this very seriously, and has closed the trail around the lakes for this week while the hazardous tree crews remove the trees that might endanger perdestrians or workers. The mud on the trail will be removed, and the Wishart trail should reopen by next week.

Silt barriers will be left in place to prevent silation of the lake, and slope stabilization (including replantings of native species) will happen later.

It sounds like there is a substantial effort being made to prevent a similar thing from arising again in the future, too.

In the meantime, as tempting as it is, please respect the Closed signs and don't go through the washout area: work crews shouldn't have to worry about running over someone with a Bobcat or wonder if anyone will be in the way when they bring down a hazardous tree!

Burrowing owls or potato chips?

The threat to sell important wildlife habitat in southern Alberta, to convert it into irrigated potato fields, has been ended for now. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Build a bird feeder

The Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre is offering a Children's Winter Bird Feeding Program on Sunday, November 28th at 2:00 pm. Bring your children aged 6 - 13 down for this hands-on program. They'll get a chance to identify winter birds and learn what and how to feed them. Participants will construct a bird feeder and be given seed to take home. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Program cost is $7/child for Friends members and $8/child for non-members. For more information or to register, please call Bob at 403-346-2010 ext 103.

Monday, October 25, 2010

City Environmental Master Plan -- Comment and Win

We have this reminder from Lauren Maris, Environmental Program Specialist for the City of Red Deer:

The deadline to comment on some of the suggested actions and targets contained in the Environmental Master Plan is October 31. Everyone who participates will be entered in a draw for an eco-home starter kit, valued at $150.

Join the discussion online at or email your input directly to

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shed Some Light

In order to raise money for a new, energy-efficient lighting system for the Kerry Wood Nature Centre's Marjorie Wood Gallery, we are hosting the Shed Some Light fundraiser on November 12th, 2010 from 7 - 10 pm.

The fundraiser will feature wine, cheese, hors d'oeuvres, and entertainment. In addition, there will be a silent auction and an art sale, with all sale pieces going for $25. It's a perfect chance to bring home some local art for the holidays.

Local artists will be joining us for the evening to discuss their creative process.

Tickets for the event are $20 + GST, and are available at the Nature Centre. For more information visit our website or call us at 403-346-2010.


If you are a local artist and would be interested in donating art for the fundraiser or if you would like to donate something for the silent auction, please give Andrea a call at 403-346-2010 ext 119.

Chrismas Light Exchange

Today marks the start of this year's Christmas light exchange, and we're already seeing big demand. Offered in partnership with the City of Red Deer Electric Light and Power Department and Environmental Initiatives Division, the exchange gives you the opportunity to recycle your old incandescent lights by trading them for more energy-efficient LEDs.

Bring your old lights to the Nature Centre, and for every two strings of old-style lights you'll receive a string of LED lights.

Our thanks to London Drugs, this year's light supplier.

For more information, call the Kerry Wood Nature Centre at 403-346-2010.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Eco-Forum Information

The Nature Centre/Red Deer River Naturalists Eco-forum for the Mayoral and Council candidates has been confirmed for October 13, 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. at Ecole Secondaire Notre Dame Highschool.

In order to have people prepped (both the candidates and the citizens) for what will be a unique evening, we are making a package available to anyone who wants it. The package contains an itinerary, plan for the forum and topic themes that will be on the table for discussion. Click here to to go to the "What's New" page on our website, where you will find the package download.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Tools, to Serve You Better

We just took delivery of four new Discovery Carts. These carts were custom-made by the Central Alberta Woodworkers Guild. Each cart will have a theme and will hold props, games and activities relating to theme.

Each weekend interpreters will set up one or more carts in the Discovery Room. You'll be able to self-guide you and your kids through the activities, take activity packs outside or, have an interpreter lead you through some natural history. At the end of the weekend, the carts will roll under the counter in the Discovery Room; leaving the room clear for Nature Nursery.

Our thanks to Chuck, Denis and Guy for their hard work in building the carts, and to Kaley for her great design.

Watch for the carts to begin duty, this fall in the Discovery Room at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Add your voice to the Municipal Election

The Red Deer Municipal Election is October 18, 2010. In order to give the Mayoral and Council candidates a chance to address the environmental concerns of the citizens of Red Deer, the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and the Red Deer River Naturalists are co-presenting an all-candidates forum on the environment.

The forum will be held Wednesday, October 13 from 7:00 pm – 9:30pm, in the gathering area at Ecole Secondaire Notre Dame Highschool.

In advance of the forum, we want to hear from you. If you have an environment-themed question you'd like to ask the candidates, please email it to

The questions will be grouped by theme and then from the submissions, five will be chosen and sent to the candidates ahead of the forum. On the evening of the forum, the candidates will select (in a blind draw) one of the five questions to answer.

There will be questions from the floor as the last part of the forum.

All questions must be submitted by Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 5:00 pm.

If you have any questions about the forum, please phone the Nature Centre at 403-346-2010 x106.


Never underestimate the power of a potted plant...

With today's emphasis on reducing packaging waste, 100-mile diets, supporting local food producers and such, it's easy to think that bringing your own bags to the Farmer's Market or looking for local labels at the grocery store is the only way to go. Not true, my friends. Local food can be closer than you think: it's in your own backyard, literally.

If you have a green thumb, or even if you don't, container gardening is a convenient, easy way to bring local food home. With just a few pots, some seeds or starter plants and a little TLC you can have fresh, organic veggies at your doorstep and on your table with a minimum of work. In our effort to lead by example, and with the blessing of the powers that be, we here at the Nature Centre decided to see what could be grown in a too-overgrown-and-awkward-for-a-proper-garden space.

In our 6 x 9 feet of "useable" space, we put in a 2 1/2 x 4 1/2 foot raised bed and three tire planters. Two of the tires wound up not being planted due to time constraints, the third had both a zucchini and pole beans in it. In our raised bed, we had a salad garden. We planted 2 tomato plants, radishes, multiplier onions, basil, carrots and lettuce. The garden was largely neglected, due to summer being one of our busiest seasons, but it held it's own. The basil was large and smelled fantastic, the tomatoes put out lots of blooms (but unfortunately, not many tomatoes as was the case for a lot of gardens this year), the radishes worked to protect the carrots and lettuce and the onions were crisp and spicy. The zucchini and pole beans grew very large, very fast, then put out flowers and left it at that. (I had the same thing happen in my garden this year- lots of zucchini flowers but no zucchini squash. Strange.)

We had a bountiful harvest out of this little garden despite this year's awkward growing season. Take a look at the pictures- they speak for themselves. Everything but the carrots has been harvested now that the frost has come and it's time for the garden to rest. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bookstore at the market

Bookstore Bob will have books, some bird seed and other items from the bookstore at the Farmers' Markets in Lacombe this Friday, Sep 3 and in Red Deer this Saturday, Sep 4. Friday and Saturday are the last times the bookstore will be at the outdoor markets this year.
Drop by and say "hello " to Bob

New Books and Bird Seed Info

New Books-bird feeders

The bookstore has a great inventory of bird feeders in stock. It also has a good supply of bird seed at really good prices. Our sources tell us bird seed prices will go up about 20% by November. For sure, we'll stick to our current prices until November 1.
New Books for Children;
1. I Found a Dead Bird by Jan Thornhill ; it answers the question for children, " why do things have to die."-$12.95 readability ages 9-13
2. - WHY? The best ever answer book about nature? price 12.95 ages 5-11
3. This is my Planet The Kids’ Guide to Global Warming $12.95

In this intelligent, comprehensive look at global
warming, Jan Thornhill gives a young audience the
tools to understand the crisis and empowers readers
to take action in their own lives. This Is My Planet
answers basic questions about how our planet works
and takes an in-depth look at how climate change is
affecting different environments and people around
the world.
Without shying away from facts, This Is My Planet
offers hope, showing where action can make a
difference, and evidence of the amazing resilience of the earth.
Readability ages 9-13.

4. Not Your Typical Book About the Environment by Elin Kelsery, $12.95
Readability ages 9-12. Talks about a world where hope is possible and so much is sustainable-food, energy, cities ,even happiness.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Seen in the Nature Centre

I know I usually post Sanctuary photos, but this particular bit of wildlife somehow made it inside and has made a beautiful web just below a fluorescent light fixture. I suspect that she'll find another place to go soon, because while the web is beautiful it's in a pretty ineffective place. Give it another day or two and I'd imagine that she'll have eaten the web (the ultimate in recycling) and moved on.

This orb-weaver is known as a Jewel Spider or Jewelled Araneus (Araneus gemmoides), and it's one of the largest spiders to be found in Alberta. The one in the photo was a pretty modest size, but female Jewel Spiders can get large enough to arouse a lot of curiosity -- or sometimes fear -- in people who don't realise that we even have spiders that size here.

A few years ago I wrote a more detailed post (with a clearer picture) on Jewel Spiders. If you'd like more information, it can be found here. And if you're worried about finding such large spiders near your home, just remember that they are shy, very rarely bite, and the bite's not serious for humans. And considering the important role they play in the environment as insect predators, finding a few of their webs up in slightly weird places isn't a bad thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Edible Mushrooms

Edible Mushroom Presentation, Sunday, August 22, 2010 -200pm at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Join Mike McNaughton as he describes some of the savoury mushrooms found in Central Alberta. Free admission; you may bring your samples to show and to be identified.
For more information call Bob at 403 346 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Seen in the Sanctuary

Ducks on West Gaetz Lake

Asters along the Dr George Trail

Mating Damselflies

... and lots of mosquitoes. Please remember to bring insect repellent if you're planning to go for a walk!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In the Wildflower Garden

Visitors to the Nature Centre may have noticed a small green space next to the staff parking lot driveway. This is our wildflower garden, and the members of the Red Deer & District Garden Club put a lot of effort into planning and maintaining it.

The garden is home to many native and wild species of flowering plants, and the colours and scents you find there are constantly changing throughout the growing season. We encourage our visitors to follow the short gravel path through the garden to have a closer look at the flowers and the activity they create. As I noticed today, the garden is a very popular place with many important insect pollinators, a few of which you'll see in the photos below.

These are just a sampling of what's currently flowering in the garden. Why not come down to the Centre and check out the garden for yourself?

As always, click on the photos to see larger versions:


 Fleabane and Harebell


Goldenrod and Police Car Moth

Monarda (Bergamot) and bee

Prickly Pear Cactus (not technically in the wildflower garden -- closer to the building -- but definitely worth a look when they're in flower)



Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sun has Set on Westerner Days

For this year at least.

We would like to thank all the volunteers who came out at 6:00 & 8:00 Friday morning to mix pancake batter, flip pancakes, grill sausage, setup, clean and take down tables, make coffee, take money, sell raffle tickets and the other innumerable jobs require to pull off a pancake breakfast. By the end of the morning our staff and volunteer team had served breakfast to 529 people.

Once again London Drugs went above and beyond with their support for Red Deer's non-profit community. Their Westerner pancake breakfasts (five days in a row) not only supports the Nature Centre but also the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Central Alberta Women's Emergency Shelter, Red Deer Search and Rescue and the Red Deer Food Bank.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Westerner Parade and Pancake Breakfast

It's Westerner Week this week.

We had a great time at the parade today. Our float was extremely well-received by the attendees and Kathryn's decoration design looked great. Thanks to Kathryn, April and Carrie for their hard work in getting everything stuck to the boat and truck.

This Friday - July 23 - is our pancake breakfast fundraiser. The amazing team at London Drugs hosts five days of pancake breakfasts during Westerner Week with all the proceeds going to five local charities. You can get your breakfast of pancakes, sausage, coffee and juice for $3/person, until 11:00 am.

Watch for photos from the breakfast, next week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New look

Regular readers will notice that our blog is looking a bit different these days. We're hoping that this new template will be easier to read, and should also blend better with the look of our website.

There may be a few more changes or additions in the next few days, but I think that I've got the basic look down now. Feel free to share your opinion of the new style in the comments section.

The view from the deck

As Todd mentioned yesterday, the recent rains have raised the water level in the Gaetz Lakes considerably. Here are a few photos that I took today from the bird blind on the West Lake:

The boardwalk to the deck

Looking back towards the Nature Centre

West Gaetz Lake

And... our deck-munching porcupine has returned. It must be a tasty piece of wood, because the silly animal has quite a walk to make to get to it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Work, work, work...

Brief introduction!
Todd invited me to join in on all the blogging super fantasticness that goes on around here... careful what you wish for, my friend!

My name is Andrea, and I have had the pleasure of working for Waskasoo Environmental Education Society since November of 2008. Prior to that, I was at home with the kidlets (now 7 and 4... and a half!) and working part time for the City of Red Deer (which I continue to do in my, ahem, down time). My work keeps me busy here, and with a job title such as Executive Assistant/ Occupational Health and Safety/ Human Resources / Special Projects one could only guess as to why. From doing safety audits to interviewing potential staff to writing grants, updating the website and curating the Marjorie Wood Gallery, it's unlike any other job I've ever had... and I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Windy and Wet - Exercise Caution

If you've been in Central Alberta over the past three days or so, you've been experiencing massive rainfall and very high winds. This kind of sustained activity has created some potentially unstable situations both in the Sanctuary and in other natural spaces throughout the region.

We know of five trees that have fallen down, and a couple more that are potentially a hazard, within the Sancutary. There has also been some slumping of the bank on the east side of the Sanctuary; reported to us by some regular visitors. We have notified the City about these hazards. Their crews will come in and rectify the problems.

In the meantime, please exercise caution when walking through the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, and any other heavily-wooded areas of Waskasoo Park.

The positive of all this rain we've been having, is that the water levels in both of the Sanctuary lakes are up to levels we've not seen in five years. The new viewing blind is well and truly out over the lake, giving you up close and personal views of the waterfowl, muskrats, insects and other critters that make the lake their home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Identify Edible Mushrooms

The Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre will be sponsoring a program on Edible Mushrooms found in the area. It will be hosted by mycologist, Mike McNaughton.
Date: Sunday, August 22
Place : Kerry Wood Nature Centre
Time: 1:30pm-3:00pm
Admission; Free, everyone welcome
Mike will make a power point presentation on mushrooms, have samples and have a question/answer session.

Attendees are welcome to bring their mushroom samples for Mike to identify.
For further information or books about mushrooms, contact Bob at the Nature Centre
Telephone 403 346 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

Raft Tour Info

Hello everyone. We've been getting a lot of calls about raft tours and when they're going to start, so to get some more information out there and all of us on the same page, here is a post about it.

The river has been very high this year. With all of the rain, we've spent the last couple of weeks watching the water level go up and up and up. This has, in effect, put a delay on the start of our rafting season as we felt that there were some safety issues directly connected to the higher water levels.

Thankfully, the river seems to be falling (slowly, but maybe that's just my perception because I'm anxious to get going). We'll be watching the levels closely, and when we feel that the river is at a level where we could take a group out safely and enjoyably, the raft tours will begin. Watch for information in the papers, posters about town, or call the Nature Centre at 403-346-2010 to get the latest updates on raft tours.

Thank you for your patience as we wait out the last of the high water. Unfortunately with this kind of activity, Mother Nature gets the final say.

When we do start the tours, they will be running Thursday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m. The cost is $35+gst/members and $40+gst/non-members with 40 lbs being the minimum safe weight for kids. We can take a maximum of 12 people per tour. We will have a shuttle service available (meet beforehand and shuttle out to starting point) and a wiener roast follows every tour. Private tours on alternate days are also available. All raft tours are weather and river condition dependant: someone will call you before your tour if bad weather or poor river conditions are possibly threatening. Call the Nature Centre for more info or to book your spot.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


This video was just re-tweeted by While we don't normally take an activist or political stance on issues, this video is thought-provoking enough that we thought you should see it.

Click Here to watch "Dead Wrong: Killing Rivers in the Name of Restoration".

Career Openings

The Waskasoo Environmental Education Society (our employer) is currently hiring for two positions.

1. Nature Nursery Assistant for the 2010/2011 preschool season.
2. Volunteer Coordinator

Not to send you on the endless loop of links, but you can find the postings at our website.

Click here for the Nature Nursery posting.
Click here for the Volunteer Coordinator posting.

Good luck and thanks for the interest.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not all art shows are in a gallery...

So I promised a couple of kids last weekend that I would post their creations on our blog. Sunday was our Guerilla Nature Art Day, and though the weather was strikingly hot and sunny (a far cry from today's cloudy dreariness), the kids were still able to find inspiration from their surroundings. Here are the nature art "installations" from that event: I hope you enjoy them.

And thank you to Emily Neufeld, our Artist About Town that day, for patiently drawing the lovely pictures of the owl and fish while people watched. The lilac outline of one of our volunteers is also Emily's creation.
Incidentally, I took inspiration for this day from an English artist named Andy Goldsworthy who is world renown as an environmental sculptor, taking bits of nature and making them into fantastic, very beautiful creations. His website is well worth a look.

Until next time, happy creating!

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

When your co-worker comes bursting through the back door and says "I just saw a fox run across the field.", and you just happen to have your good camera with you... well you run out the door (quietly) and go stalking a fox.

I had not been able to find this one. He ran when I accidentally flushed him from the grass.

If you look closely, you can see what appears to be a Richardson's Ground Squirrel in its mouth.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rain Barrel Sale - Saturday, June 12

The rain we've been experiencing over the past few weeks has been great for the plants, the lake levels and the creeks. Take advantage of the rainwater and collect it with a rain-barrel. Use less tap water, give your plants untreated (chemical-free) rainwater.

Barrels go on sale Saturday morning, June 12, 2010 at 9:00 a.

$70 each, GST included. Cash and carry. Call the Nature Centre at 403-346-2010 x106 for more information.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fort Fest cancelled due to weather.

Hello everyone. I regret to inform you that Fort Fest, which was to run tomorrow, May 30, at Fort Normandeau, has been cancelled due to the snow.

Sorry for any inconvenience this last minute cancellation may have caused.

Hope to see you out for our next event: the Vancouver Aquarium's AquaVan on Saturday, June 5 at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Until then, stay warm.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here comes the fun!

Hi everyone. We have lots of family-friendly things coming up shortly at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and Historic Fort Normandeau: here's a bit of a teaser...

This Saturday, May 29, the Red Deer Garden Club will be hosting their annual (as in every year) Perennial Plant Share. It will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of the Nature Centre and is a great opportunity to fill your flower gardens. They do have a list of invasive, and therefore unacceptable, plants so if you want to bring something in, please call ahead for that.

Sunday, May 30 is Fort Fest 2010 out at Historic Fort Normandeau. It runs from noon to 5 p.m. and admission is $3/person or $10/family at the gate. There will be all sorts of things to see and do: from musicians to First Nations dancers, archery, crafts, games, homemade ice cream and burgers, tug-of-war...the list goes on. Come on out for some old-fashioned fun!

(I should also note that, now that the new parking lot is completed, your family shouldn't have any trouble finding a parking spot.)

On Saturday, June 5, we have a special treat: the AquaVan is coming from the Vancouver Aquarium! Come and see creatures from the ocean; this is a great afternoon out with little kids. The AquaVan displays will be out from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is by suggested donation of $3/person or $10/family.

On Thursday, June 10, we will be partnering with ReThink Red Deer, RDC Green Campus and RePower Alberta to bring you three guest speakers talking on green energy and its many applications. The presentations will be from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. This event is free to attend, though donations are welcome. Hope to see you there!

And last, but not least, is Guerilla Nature Art Day. On Sunday, June 13, from 1 to 5 p.m., we will be hosting artist Emily Neufeld as she help inspire us to make nature- based art in Festival Field. Come out and see what kind of art your family makes from found materials. This event is part of the Artists About Town week leading up to the Red Deer Artwalk Festival.

So, that's about it for the next few weeks. Look for our June to August event calendar, coming out soon, for all that's going on in the summer months.

'Til next time...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Invasion... of the good kind

Excuse the fuzzy cameraphone picture, but it was the best I could do at the time.

I was at McKenzie Trail watching a pond study today, and couldn't help but notice that the picnic shelter was being invaded.  Many, many (it will probably be hundreds, by the end of it) dragonfly nymphs were crawling out of the pond and up the shelter.  The students doing the pond study were lucky enough to see several of them split their skins and begin to emerge as adult dragonflies.  Pretty cool demonstration of metamorphosis there, don't you think?

If you happen to be down at McKenzie pond in the next week or so, be sure to keep your eye open for the emerging dragonfly nymphs.  They may be hard to spot at first since they blend in so well with the wooden deck, but once you first see them you'll start finding them all over the place.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Battery Exchange Results

The table shows the results from the 2010 Red Deer Schools Battery Drive. Our thanks to all the schools who participated and to The City of Red Deer, Waste Management Division for funding the project.

Students in Red Deer collected 600kg more batteries this year than in 2009. Well done everybody.

Also, in support of the 20th anniversary of Earth Day (yesterday, April 22), the International League of Conservation Photographers posted the Top 40 nature photographs from the past 100 years. You can see them at Flikr by clicking here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tomorrow Would be a Good Day to Visit

Why would tomorrow be a good day to visit us here at the Nature Centre? Tomorrow morning, the hoarding and barriers around the bird blind entrance will be removed and you can go for your first walk on the new structure. The benches are in place, the second story deck is secured and telescope is sitting atop its new perch. For, now though you'll have to make do with this teaser shot, taken from the deck, looking south down West lake.

Friday, April 16, 2010

April, 2010

Some news from the Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Bookstore

1.Bird Homes
Now is the time to put out the homes for birds. Our bookstore has a good selection of bird houses for wrens/chickadees and for bluebirds /tree swallows. Our staff will also give advice on how to successfully place your nest box.

2. Bug Boxes

Spring and summer are here and children are
learning and caring about bugs.
See our bookstore for a good selection of bug boxes.

3.New Books of Interest

a.For Children
1. Alphabet of Insects
Weevils,katydids, ladybugs & fireflies are just a few of the
insects featured in this book that has an accompanying sound CD.
Price 11.95, Grades 2-6
2. Alphabet of Earth
This book is illustrated and has an accompanying read along CD. It promotes the earth as a cleaner greener place to live and discusses deserts, jungles and forests. Price $11.95, Grades 2-6
3. For the young ones :Baby Polar Bear Learns to Swim.
A great board book about a young polar who is taught how to swim by his mother .Price $8.50

For Adults
1.The Owl and the Woodpecker

Based on thousands of hours in the field , this book showcases all 41 North American Species . A CD is included that has pictures and the sounds of the birds Price $32.95

Members of the Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre receive a 10% discount on purchases.
For information call KWNC 403 346 2010 and ask for Bob

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday update

Here are the pictures from this morning (Thursday, April 15). The crew has made amazing progress over the day. Tomorrow morning, we should be walking on the finished product!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday's Bird Blind Update

It's Wednesday, April 14. The uprights on the blind are in place and the deck appears to be largely laid down. The crews have a busy day and a 1/2 ahead of them.

Stay tuned to this space and the local media outlets for info on completion dates and the official opening of the new blind and deck.

Until then, here are the newest pictures.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brown Bears of Alaska talk this weekend!

Hello everyone! We've had a last minute, but welcome, addition to our schedule of events. On this coming Sunday, April 18, special guest Bryan Nelson will be here to present stories and pictures from his recent trip to Brooks Falls, Alaska. While in Alaska, Bryan spent many days observing Brown Bears (a.k.a. Grizzlies) and their antics during the annual Sockeye Salmon run.

The talk begins at 2:00 p.m. and admission is free, so come to the Nature Centre for what I'm sure will be an informative and entertaining afternoon!

(On a side note: Discovery Sunday for that day will be about bears, so if you've never touched a bear but would like to, check it out!)

See you Sunday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bird Blind Update

Here is the 9:00 am, Monday morning picture. As you can see the build crew made good progress over the weekend. The long curved catwalk that leads to the blind is largely decked and the framers were out creating the structure that ties all the screw piles together. The latter will form the base and subfloor for the blind.

Keep watching this space. We'll be madly updating as the next three days progress.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bird blind work moves ahead

After (finally!) getting all their back-ordered materials delivered, the contractors are moving ahead on our new bird blind and viewing deck. The screw piles are in the ground, and the first woodwork is in place. Work is supposed to be complete by the 15th of April, so the contractors are going to have to work quickly.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Activity in The Sanctuary

Jim and Diane wrote a month or so ago, about the upcoming improvements to the bird blind in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. The old structure is gone, having been removed in four very large sections and then dissambled in the staff parking lot - temporarily converted to a worksite.

Yesterday there were a number of screw piles placed in the ground at the site of the new blind. They were placed so that the construction company could conduct a test on whether or not they would be acceptable.

A note on the screw piles. Because the bird blind is heavy and sitting out over a wetland (surrounded by water and resting on soft mud) the decision was made to have the structure raised up. This ensures minimal disturbance to the substrate and minimal interference with the plants and animals that call the Sanctuary home. Traditionally piles are pounded into place by a pile driver; a big, heavy piece of equipment that we certainly do not want crawling around in and destroying the wetland. They also create tremendous vibration in the ground and lots of noise pollution from all the pounding.

By contrast, screw piles are screwed into the ground by what essentially is a power auger mounted to the front of a small skid-steer or similar rubber-tracked vehicle, like a micro-excavator. So, the structure gets the supporting piles it needs to keep it from sinking and the Sanctuary - and all the critters that live there - experience significantly less disturbance to both themselves and their habitat.

So, now we wait a little bit longer. There are some brackets to come in from galvanizing that will be welded to the top of the screw piles and then things can get going in earnest. Just as the old structure came out in four big pieces, we expect that the new one will be built in large sections that will then be moved into place and bolted together. Our contractors should be commended for their willingness to work within the restrictions that such a fragile habitat places on them.

Keep visiting the Sanctuary over the next few weeks. The progress from now until the middle of April should be, shall we say, rapid.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Red Deer river canyon

Hey-O to everyone out there in Blog land! It's time I introduce myself and finally blog. I am Avery, one of the interpreters for W.E.E.S. I have had the pleasure of working with them for almost a year now and that's how long it takes me to Blog I guess!

The Red Deer river canyon is an often overlooked asset to our landscape! Formed millions of years ago, this amazing canyon gives us a direct look into the past. The different rock and silt layers are clearly visible in parts and show us what is really under our feet! (all the way down to the Paleocene era Paskapoo sandstone, our bedrock)

The canyon is also home to diverse wildlife like Eagles, Osprey, White Tail and Mule deer as well as coyotes and other scavengers! Both winter and summer the canyon offers amazing vistas (and learning opportunities).

Accessing the canyon can be difficult as trails are hard to come-by and the walls can get quite steep, but there is a better way to see it than by foot:

By Raft!

W.E.E.S will once again be offering raft trips down the Red Deer river during the summer months and would love to accommodate you and/or your group! Float down the river and enjoy the sights and sounds with an Interpreter guiding the way. Please call for more information and prices!

In other wonderful nature news, spring once again provided a surprise to the Rocky Mountains in the last few days, over 60cms dropped all over Rockies and Columbia's with more in the forecast! With this exciting news it is certain that many will head out to enjoy this new snow by ski's, snowshoes and snow-machine but please update yourself with the Avalanche conditions! It is very dangerous with all this new storm snow so please check the Canadian Avalanche Association page for condition updates before you head out into the uncontrolled areas.

Adventure Safely!


Monday, March 08, 2010

Take a Survey - Help us Out

The Nature Centre staff is looking to overhaul the programs offered both onsite at the Nature Centre and offsite in th community and surrounding area.

Please take a moment to hit the link and fill out our on-line survey. It will take less than 10 minutes.


Monday, March 01, 2010

First Critters of Spring

As I was leaving work on Friday I saw a sight that would warm the heart of all those who yearn for the end of winter: A Richardson's Ground Squirrel (commonly and mistakenly known around here as gophers) ran across the parking lot.

Ground squirrels spend most of their year underground hibernating. They pop up in early spring to mate, fight with each other (males), rear their young and store food. This is a reasonably short, yet exceptionally busy period of time. By the end of July the adults will be heading back underground. The juveniles will remain active until around the end of September.

While we spent the first part of February dicussing the pros and cons of the various groundhogs seeing, or not seeing, their shadows the humble Richardson's Ground Squirrel may give us a better indication of when our spring may arrive and what it may look like.

Also, and I think I tweeted this on our Twitter Feed, while enjoying a brisk, late-winter snowshoe with my family on Sunday morning, my daughter said "Listen Daddy, geese." Sure enough, I looked up to see the first V of returning geese this year. Spring must be on its way.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The psychology of climate change denial

I thought the Conservation Magazine article linked below was an interesting take on why some people find it easy or perhaps even necessary to deny the possibility of man-made climate change.

Why is Climate Change Denial So Seductive?

What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The missing bird blind

Visitors to the Dr. George Trail will notice that the side trail to the bird blind has been temporarily blocked off. That's because we no longer have a bird blind.

The old bird blind has been taken down and a new and improved version will be completed before spring thaw to minimise habitat disruption.

Watch for information on this, building improvements, ways to keep unwanted squirrels from your house, and much more in our spring newsletter. It'll be coming out soon!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hot off the camera

No, it's not really a two-headed moose. This pair is currently browsing the poplars not too far from the Nature Centre's back door.

Just as a reminder: The animals in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary aren't tame, and should always be given respect and space. Please don't approach them... at least not any closer than I did with the zoom lens.

As always, click on the photos for larger versions.