Monday, August 29, 2011

Jewel Spider season again

I've noticed that we've been getting some hits in the past few days from people looking for information about Jewel Spiders, also known as the Jewelled Araneus. These are large orb weavers for Alberta, and since they often tend to make their webs close to lights people may notice them around their homes and be a little worried that they're a problem.

The good news is, they're harmless. Well, unless you're an insect, of course.

This is a photo I took of one that was hanging around the soffit in my father's car port a few years ago. For a clearer photo and a bit more information about these entertaining spiders, I'll direct you to my earlier post about them here.

If you have more questions about Jewel Spiders, give us a call at 403-346-2010.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Comings and Goings - Ungulate Style

The Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is surrounded on three sides by a chain-link fence. This leads to lots of questions regarding how the deer, moose and other animals get in and out of the Sanctuary. We know they go over the fence. There have been many many observations of deer jumping clear over fences as high as eight feet; from a standing start.

What we didn't know, was exactly where they were leaping over the fence. Well, now we know the location of at least one entry point.

I took this picture on the east side of the staff parking lot. As you can see the ground level is almost the same elevation as the top of the fence; meaning the deer don't need to jump as high in the air. They just need to "go long". On the near side of the fence there is a worn area that suggests it's the launch point. The far side of the fence has the landing pad and game trail leading away from it. The entire leap is 3 1/2 feet high and 7 feet long.

The upshot of this is that while the Sanctuary is fenced, animals have little trouble coming and going as they please. Given that the Sanctuary's deer and moose population fluctuates throughout the year we aren't terribly surprised. What we didn't know was that one of the entry points was right beside our parking spots and that if we arrived a little earlier in the day or left a little later in the evening, we'd probably see the leaping deer in action.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More fun in the summer sun!

Summer's almost over, but there's still lots of family-friendly programming going on in Waskasoo Park. Here's a quick look at what's coming up:

Wednesday, August 17 is the ART&facts Biking Tour, a tour of public art via the Waskasoo Park trail system with guest speaker Pat Matheson. We meet at the Lions' campground amphitheatre for departure at 7 p.m., weather permitting.

On Friday, August 19, your family can Meet the Critter between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. The Medicine River Wildlife Centre will be bringing one of their critters for a visit.

Raft Tours are still running! Tuesday and Thursday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. are Raft & Roasts: a wiener roast and guided float down the river. Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. are our Scenic Tours: float only. Call the Nature Centre to book your spot; paid pre-registration is required as there are limited seats.

On Sunday, August 28, there will be an Edible Plant Walk starting at 2 p.m. Meet a naturalist at the Nature Centre to learn what's good, and what's not!

If you've ever wanted to learn how to preserve your own food, here's your chance! There will be a Canning Workshop at Fort Normandeau on Monday, August 29, from 1 to 4 p.m. There are limited spots available, so paid pre-registration is required. Call the Nature Centre for more details.

Hope to see everyone out and enjoying these last precious weeks of summer. 'Til next time!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seen in the Park

The trails, nodes and gathering places that make up Waskasoo Park take walkers, cyclists, skateboarders, dog-owners and myriad other users through the City, in natural settings. It's quite amazing really, to look down over the City and realize that we live and work in a forest; that we've carved out an urban centre somewhat harmoniously with the local natural environment. Because we've kept so much of the river valley and the urban forest intact, we are fortunate to have many wild creatures in our midst.

One of those interesting critters, is the Grey Catbird. Catbirds nest in dense brush - which makes Three mile a great place to find them. They have a diet of about 50% fruit (berries etc.) and 50% insects and spiders. The really cool thing about Catbirds though, is that they are mimics; they'll appropriate the sounds that other birds make. This makes identifying Catbirds by ear a little difficult

The Grey Catbird in the picture was seen by friend of the Nature Centre Lorraine Oakes. She took the picture at Three Mile Bend and sent it in to us for identification. Thanks Lorraine!

We say this a lot, but the next time you're out on the trails, keep your eyes and ears open. You never know what wild animal is sharing the park with you. As always, if you see something interesting and want to share it, send us a photo via email to or, head join the Kerry Wood Nature Centre's Facebook group and post it up there.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Today's Surprise Visitor

It's spider season! Albeit it's a little early for our first eight-legged visitors - spiders in cartons usually start arriving in September.

This one came from a worker at Dow Chemical.

While intimidating-looking, this female Marbled Orb Weaver is harmless. She (the round abdomen tells us it's a female) creates the large, circular webs that are often found in the early morning. Orb weavers are tremendously beneficial as they eat the mosquitoes and other insects that cause us grief. A yard with orb weavers, bats, and dragonflies is likely to be a pest-free zone.

If you've got a spider or any other critter you can't identify, feel free to send us a photo or, if it's not huge, bring it down. We'll be happy to take a look, give it a name and tell you all about it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

An unexpected visitor

In early August, the Kerry Wood Nature Centre had an unusual visitor: a Bushy-tailed Woodrat (also known as a Packrat). It probably travelled with a family from its home in the foothills to their garage in Red Deer by hitching a ride with their RV. The family caught it, brought it to us for identification, and plan to return it to Kootenay Plains as soon as possible. It was a happy, friendly little guy but the family -- and the woodrat -- will be even happier when it’s back where it belongs.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Early August Happenings in Waskasoo Park

Hello there! I hope everyone is enjoying the nice weather that summer has finally bestowed upon us. These lovely evenings are perfect for getting out and enjoying time with family and friends; we're happy to provide some opportunities for you to do just that!

Tomorrow night, Thursday, August 4, is the ART&facts Walking Tour, a tour of public art and history downtown with guest speakers Michael Dawe and Pat Matheson. Meet at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery for a 7:00 p.m. departure if you're interested in coming on this very relaxing and informative stroll.

Friday night, August 5, is First Friday throughout art galleries in Red Deer. The Marjorie Wood Gallery will be open with refreshments for your enjoyment from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. as part of this event.

Next Friday, August 12, marks our third annual installment of the Perseid Meteor Shower Star Party at Fort Normandeau. Join us for some late night star gazing on the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year! There will be activities, refreshments, and overnight tenting is an option. Call 403-346-2010 or 403-347-7550 for details.

The full moon that we block with trees on Friday will be our greatest asset on Saturday, August 13, for the second Full Moon Float of Summer 2011! We had a great time at the July float and are looking forward to another fantastic evening rafting the Red Deer river late at night. It's an experience not to be missed! Seating is limited and filling fast, so call 403-346-2010 for details or to book your spot.

I hope you've enjoyed this taste of some of our family-friendly programming. Keep your eye out for more to come and looking forward to seeing you out and about with us!