Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

The Waskasoo Environmental Education Society would like to take this opportunity to wish our friends, fans, followers, and visitors a fantastic New Year.

On a personal note, I'd like to add that I think we have enough snow now, thanks.

The Nature Centre will be open from 1 - 5 pm on New Year's Day. Regular business hours resume on the 2nd. As always, the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is open 24 hours a day for quiet nature contemplation.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Allen Bungalow Busby Legacy Gardens

Some time ago I posted about the work that was being done to renew the Allen Bungalow gardens. You can find that original post here. Since then, new beds have been created, some plants were installed in the fall, and a gazebo was started. The Busby Legacy Gardens are well underway.

The Busby Legacy Gardens -- named after the Busby family, who operated the River Glen Dairy and made the Allen Bungalow their home -- will be a fantastic addition to the Bungalow. They'll create a wonderful setting for weddings, give an outdoor break space to people holding meetings in the McCullough Room, and bring back some of the heritage of the original home. The Gardens need your help, though. If you're as excited by this project as we are, you can support it by buying plants, donating funds towards maintenance, or donating your time towards the gardens themselves.

As usual, click on either thumbnail for a closer look at the garden plans and suggested donation levels.

I apologise for the quality of these images; because of the nature of the Blogger platform I had to turn the original files into jpegs to post them. We'll have a clearer PDF version on the main website soon. In the meantime you can drop by the Nature Centre for a hard copy of the brochure, or contact Darlene Kranenborg (403-346-2010 ext 120; email darlene.kranenborg@waskasoopark.ca) for more details.

For more information on the history of the Allen Bungalow itself, check out the Bungalow page on our website here.


I'm beginning to think that I could title pretty much every post "Snow" for the next few months...

I took a  quick walk yesterday to get out of the office for a bit, and let me tell you the obvious: the snow is deep out there. If you're interested in doing the Sanctuary trails (which are ungroomed) I really would recommend renting a pair of snowshoes because the footing isn't very easy otherwise. Our staff can give you a quick tutorial on snowshoe use, and the new, modern snowshoes we have are apparently very easy to walk with. I say apparently because I haven't been on them yet. I don't exactly have great balance. Having said that, though, I've agreed to give it a go this winter as long as it stays above the minus horrible temperatures we've been having lately. We'll take pictures when it happens.

Anyway, here's a little of what I saw in between trudging through snowbanks:

 The heavy snow is really starting to weigh down the bushes. I'd imagine that some of them will be permanently bent after this.

My size 7 boot track compared to a fairly fresh moose track. I don't have terribly big feet, but that was still a good-sized moose.

The Red Squirrels have been leaving their share of tracks as well.

The viewing deck on the West Gaetz Lake is fairly heavily drifted in. It takes a little slogging to get to the deck itself. And then more slogging once you're there.

The lake itself is usually an animal highway filled with tracks this time of year, but even there the snow is too deep for most animals to bother trying. Sorry for the colour of this photo, but I had to darken it a lot just to make those few tracks visible.

The trails are still worth a look even with all the snow, and the snow helps us see what the animals are up to. Just remember that if you're not on snowshoes you'll want to plan more time than usual to get places. Either that or plan a shorter walk, of course!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nature Cards

Friends of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre invites suppliers of Alberta-based Nature Cards to supply its bookstore racks on a commission basis. For more info contact Bob at 403 346 2010; email

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quick Garden Update

 The beds have been mulched, some ornamental rocks have been put in place, and the first of the perennials added in. A good start. And below, a closer look at the gazebo. For those who would like more information on the Allen Bungalow, here's a page from our website.

Gazebo update

Here's a look at the gazebo that the Rotary Club of Red Deer East spent the weekend putting up at the Allen Bungalow. It's still waiting for its roofing, and landscaping and painting will be done in the spring. Still, a pretty nice sign of things to come.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Allen Bungalow garden

One of the more exciting but hidden projects at the Nature Centre these days is the renewal of the Allen Bungalow gardens.

For those unfamiliar with the Allen Bungalow, it's the Edwardian house across the parking lot from the Nature Centre. While it's currently used as a private residence and a meeting space, back in its farmhouse days it was locally famous for its gardens.

 Those gardens are long gone now and can't be fully recreated, but we're hoping to bring back as much of the feeling of the gardens as we can. The first steps are underway, and over the next year or two the garden should start bringing a lot more colour back to the bungalow.

Today work was started on a new addition to the Allen Bungalow garden: a gazebo. This should provide a wonderful backdrop for the weddings that are staged there, as well as a nice break space for meeting groups using the McCullough Room.

We'll keep you posted as things progress. For more information on the Allen Bungalow, the garden, or the McCullough Room meeting space, please call us at 403-346-2010.

Christmas light exchange

It's that time of year again, everyone. In a bid to keep electricity usage down over the holidays, the City of Red Deer and the Kerry Wood Nature Centre are running the annual Christmas light exchange.

For every two strings of old-fashioned incandescent Christmas lights you bring in, you can take home one box of energy-efficient LEDs for free. The old light strings are sent to a recycler who removes the copper wire. A great way to keep a useful item out of the landfill!

Anyone needing more new strings can find them at London Drugs, which supplies the lights for the exchange.

The old lights are already starting to pile up on our loading dock, so you may not want to wait too long to bring down your strings.

Along with the exchange, we currently have a 50/50 fundraising draw at the Nature Centre. The tickets are one for $2 or three for $5, and the draw date is December 6th, 2013. All proceeds from the 50/50 go to the Nature Centre and Fort Normandeau.


Don't forget -- if you're coming down to exchange lights (or even if you aren't), this weekend we have our swap meet in conjunction with Kick it to the Curb. Bring down your unwanted but usable household items, and take home something that might be useful to you. The swap meet runs through to Sunday. No large items, please.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wishart Trail stairs fixed

An update to this post:

The City crews have fixed the stairs on the Wishart Trail. It's now completely passable for the full loop.

Enjoy your walk!

A preview of Maskepetoon

Yesterday morning I took a couple of hours and explored Maskepetoon for a while. This natural area has been part of the Waskasoo Park system since it was created in the mid-1980s, but has only recently been developed with walking paths, bridges, and boardwalks. It's a fantastic place to look at spruce forest and wetlands, and I really enjoyed my time.

The Maskepetoon grand opening is coming up on September 22nd. Keep an eye on the City of Red Deer website or their official twitter account for details. We'll be there, and we hope to see you there too. Here are a few highlights of my walk:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wishart Trail Stairs

Just a note to our walkers:

The Wishart Trail stairs are closed until they can be repaired. People walking this trail (the 4 km) will only be able to get halfway around and then have to turn back. We'll let you know as soon as they are fixed.

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Another baby picture

I have no idea how many there are yet. They're good at hiding, and at the moment we don't really want to disturb mom to go searching for them. We'll check later.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Delivery

I honestly never thought that I'd be posting baby pictures on this blog, but here's the new arrival. We'd been suspecting that our Plains Garter Snake was pregnant when she was brought in to to us, but then recently she'd started looking more like she'd just had a big meal. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when an end-of-the-workday check showed not one but two snakes in the habitat. So far we've only noticed the one baby (there may easily be more hiding), but as garter snakes can sometimes have upwards of forty young we're keeping an eye on her.

Above you can see a close-up of the little garter snake, and below you can see the baby on the ornamental rock and mom down on the real rock. As always, click on the pictures for larger versions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

About this time every year...

We're into the part of August where the grasshoppers leap out at you as you walk the Dr George Trail, the Purple Asters and Goldenrods are showing off their colours... and people phone us concerned that there's something wrong with the trees because they're turning yellow.

Sorry, everyone, but it's that time of year again.

Here in Alberta we have a number of trees and shrubs that start turning colour fairly early, but probably the most noticeable is the Balsam Poplar. It can start turning in mid-July, and since it's one of the main tree species in the park it's hard not to see the yellow leaves peeking out everywhere.

Hard to believe, but it happens this early every year. It's not a signal of illness or pesticide use; it's just the tree's natural cycle. It's hard for a lot of us (including me) to process the fact that a tree could be getting ready for fall when there's usually still a fair amount of summer, and I think that's why people become concerned when they see the yellow leaves. It is normal, though, even if it's a tiny bit depressing.

On a happier note, here are a few of the things I saw on my walk around the 1 km today:

Grasshopper on the path
Goldenrod peeking through the shrubs. And my shadow...
The Red Squirrels have been leaving lots of piles of peeled cones.
A Mosaic Darner
Mystery feathers all over the bird blind. I wonder if something got eaten.

Bottom's up!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

mosquitoes away-no chemicals

Now available at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre Bookstore--,Aug 5,2013

Hemp-AWAYHemp-AWAY 250ml bottle With the Skin-Soothing properties of 100% pure Hemp Seed Oil, the natural repellent properties of Citronella, Witch Hazel, Cedarwood, and others, our Hemp-AWAY will make sure the bugs just stay AWAY. You can feel safe using this formulation as often as necessary as all ingredients are from nature. The essential oils will penetrate your skin with the help of the Hemp Seed Oil, and will be used for good and then completely eliminated naturally if not needed.


 special during August --$13.95
      regular   $15.00

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quick quiz

 I went out with the camera for a little while at noon, and I thought that it might be a good opportunity to see what our visitors know about the park. So, here's the first question: Where in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary would you find this, and what caused it?

For anyone who's not sure, here's a pretty big clue:

I'll leave it to you to guess what did the chewing, though. Next question: Which of the following plants will we be discussing during my next Edible Plant Walk?

 (Ok, honestly? I took this photo more for the leaf gall than the plant. But bonus points if you can tell me what made the gall.)

And what are the answers? Well, if you think you know feel free to comment below, or you can answer on Twitter @NatureCentre.

Oh, and if you're interested in the plant walk, we'll be going out at 1 pm on July 28, 2013. Admission is by suggested donation of $3/person or $10/family. I look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

An update on the Grebes

I'm not entirely sure if this is the same family since we've had several pairs of Red-necked Grebes nesting on the West Lake this year, but since they're hanging around the same area as the nest at the Bird Blind I suspect that it might be. If it is, it looks like they've lost one chick. Unfortunately, that sort of thing happens in nature.

I think it might be the male doing the feeding in the pictures below, but if there's someone out there who knows their grebes better than I do please feel free to correct me in the comments.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Seen in the Sanctuary:

There are lots of families to be seen on the lake at the moment, so be sure to visit our bird blind if you're coming for a walk.

Couldn't resist adding this male Ruddy Duck, even though he's not hanging around with a bunch of youngsters. Today in a short period of time I spotted Ruddies, Blue-winged Teals, Goldeneyes, Mallards, Canada Geese, and Red-winged Blackbirds, and I'm not even particularly good at water or shore birds. Bring binoculars or a telephoto lens, and you're sure to get some good bird views. Oh, and as always, bug spray is a pretty good idea...

Friday, June 28, 2013

An extremely lucky salamander

This very small (you can see the curve of the ice cream bucket it's in, to give a sense of scale) Tiger Salamander was found by City workers in a dirt pile that was shortly to be moved by a Bobcat. Amazing that it was seen at all, since it was pretty well camouflaged in the mud.

We'll be releasing this little one in the Sanctuary, but if you'd like to know more about Tiger Salamanders come down to the Nature Centre and visit Boris, Natasha, and Lucky.

Yep. We've had two lucky-to-be-alive salamanders brought to the Nature Centre in the past couple of years. They sometimes don't pick the best places to hang out.

If you're thinking of a Canada Day long weekend visit, our hours will be 10 - 8 on Saturday, 10 - 5 on Sunday, and 1 - 8 on Monday. And if you'd like to join me on Monday, I'll be leading an edible plant walk at 1 pm. Phone us at 403-346-2010 for details.

And, um, bring bug spray. The mosquitoes are pretty persistent at the moment.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Spring is the time for babies, big and small.

So here we are, four days into summer already, and definitely starting to see the results of last mating season. I apologize for sounding a little naughty but there's really no other way to put it: babies are everywhere! The goslings are out in full force on Bower Ponds; last week, a young moose wowed a school group doing a plant study; families of waterfowl are starting to populate the Gaetz Lakes, and just this morning I met a baby magpie. Even the damselflies are out in full force, perpetuating the species.

Our much-anticipated arrivals here at the Nature Centre are the baby red-necked grebes. These three little ones are local celebrities in the Sanctuary, so it's fitting that they look like tiny rock stars. With their striped bodies and flashes of colour on their heads and beaks, they not only camoflage well into their nest, they look cool doing it!

The little grebes have quite the backstory leading up to their hatching. It started when Mama and Papa grebe decided to build a nest way too close to the stairs of the bird blind. The water level in the West Gaetz Lake rose significantly due to all the rain and the nest was basically submerged. Mama and Papa grebe built it up diligently, bringing in bits and pieces constantly to make it bigger. Then they started the long incubation period, sharing sitting duties from 21 to 33 days, on what looked to us like drowned eggs in a soggy nest. We restricted access to the bird blind so that large groups wouldn't disturb them; to see the nest you would literally look over the side of the stairs. They were determined to hatch those eggs. If you went out to have a quick and quiet look you would get the evil eye, but the bird sitting on the nest would not move from its post. A lot of time was spent chasing away errant coots that got too close.

Then it happened: two of the four eggs hatched, soon followed by a third. (As of this writing, we're still waiting on the fourth.) These adorable babies will ride on their parent's back for protection and warmth for their first 10 to 17 days, at which time they will essentially be booted off to learn how to fend for themselves. Don't get me wrong: grebes are great parents, sometimes feeding their brood until they're nearly full grown, but they are also practical parents, helping the chick learn how to take care of itself as soon as possible. Juveniles can fly at between 50 and 70 days, just in time for the long migration to coastal inlets to overwinter and find a mate.

If you happen upon a some animal parents and their young while you're out in the park this summer, there are two things I'd like you to keep in mind. 1) Give them their space; animal parents can be very protective, and 2) Take a minute to observe them. The bond between parent and offspring is a beautiful thing, no matter what the species.

Thank you to Darren Petersen for capturing these beautiful photographs and allowing us to to post them for your enjoyment.

Happy Summer everyone!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Just hanging out at the lake

I went out to the bird blind on the West Gaetz Lake this morning to check on a couple of things, and as I generally do I took the camera along with me just in case. Here's a bit of the wildlife that was hanging out:

 Red-necked Grebe

 A pair of Gadwalls

 Mallards and Blue-winged Teals preening on an old muskrat mound

A very uncooperative Blue-winged Teal who insisted on feeding rather than posing

A rainy or overcast day can often be a good time to find the birds a little closer to the deck than they might be on a hot, sunny day. Don't be afraid to put on the gear and go out for a wet walk.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Kisiskatchewan, The Great River Road by B Huck, book presentation Friday May31, 7:00pm at KWNC, WmTomison story of a laborer became Governor of HBC


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring and Summer Job Postings v2.0

We've had postings up for a few months now. We've sent them to our various professional organizations, to the College, and to all the social media outlets. Yet we have seen very, very few applications come in this year.

If you have experience teaching children, education in the natural history of the region or post-secondary education in science, education, environment, outdoor recreation; we need to hear from you. Please see the text below for the full posting.


Open Competition

School Programs, Public Programs  
Visitor Services Staff

The Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, a non-profit charitable society that operates the Waskasoo Park Interpretive Program on contract for The City of Red Deer, has a number of part-time positions available for the coming spring and summer for School Programs Interpreters and Visitor Services Attendants.

Based at Red Deer's Kerry Wood Nature Centre, the successful applicant(s) will assist with the design and delivery of our spring school-programs and provide natural history and tourist information to the general public. The position also entails operating the building when other staff are away, retail sales work, light clerical duties (word processing, poster-making etc.), assisting the Park Interpreters with their programming, and related duties such as program preparation/cleanup.

Essential Qualifications:
·         some post-secondary schooling in science, western Canadian natural history, education, or interpretation;
·         excellent public communication skills and experience / love for working with the public (including children);
·         good working knowledge of the natural history of central Alberta.
·         a neat appearance and the willingness to wear the Park uniform, and to abide by the WEES smoking and other policies;
·         the ability to work cooperatively with other staff and volunteers;
·         willingness and ability to stay the entire term of this position;
·         good health: some lifting is required;
·         good organizational skills and the ability to plan your schedule and workload;
·         current first aid / C.P.R. certificates;
·         reliable and trustworthy, punctual and conscientious;

Desirable Qualities:
·         Good working knowledge (conversational and written) of French is essential
·         experience in art or graphic design;
·         life guard certification
·         experience with computers (Windows environment) and basic word-processing, spreadsheets, database and desktop publishing; experience working on a computer network;
·         basic knowledge of the human history of central Alberta.

Wages, Term and Conditions of Employment:
 Part time for the spring and summer of 2013

To Apply:
Apply in writing ASAP to:

Waskasoo Environmental Education Society
6300 - 45th Avenue
Red Deer, AB
T4N 3M4
Fax: 347-2550
e-mail: todd.nivens@waskasoopark.ca

Include a résumé outlining related experience and references, and
a brief letter explaining why the position is of interest to you. No phone calls, please.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Peek Into Our Solar System

Ok, it's not planets and moons we're talking about here; it's our solar, photo-voltaic (PV) power system.

In 2005 we installed the first bank of our solar array and the first power inverter. This was a momentous occasion for Red Deer as we were the first facility in the City to install and operate a grid-tied, solar PV system.

Over the years as we obtained funding, we've expanded from a small 20-panel and one inverter system to our current set up of 80 panels and four inverters. The impact of the system has been dramatic. We've cut our monthly power bills significantly, and demonstrated the system to hundred of people. We've given building tours to groups, consulted with individuals, and assisted other organizations with their own solar projects.

Now, you can have a look inside the system and see how much power we're producing, compare trends over time, and see how much CO2 we've offset and the value of that offset in carbon credits - if we were claiming any.

Here is the direct link to our Sunny Portal - the site where all the data is uploaded and displayed. The data is displayed in almost-real-time - it refreshes every hour - so you'll have a current (little electrical pun there) snapshot of what the system is doing.

You can also get to the site by going to our website's Sustainability page and clicking the button for "Sustainability in Action".

Happy graphing!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Nice day for a walk

It's ironic, given that title, that I haven't had time to get out of the office today. Yesterday, though, I went out for a while to see if I could find spring. These photos won't look especially springy considering all the snow that's still out there, but the melted-out tracks show that it's coming.

I caught a glimpse of one of last year's Red-wing Blackbird nests amongst the cattails on the West Gaetz Lake. It seems hard to believe, but it won't be too long before the blackbirds are back at our feeders.

The Nature Nursery kids were having some fun playing on the snow pile beside our staff parking lot.

If you look closely at the centre of this shot, you'll see the hole in the lake ice amidst the tracks.

When there are lots of Waxwings around the trees almost look decorated. How many can you find in this picture? I see four, but there may be more than that.

This isn't a Sanctuary photo (obviously), but it is a reminder that it's worth looking up at night even in the city. Last night from my balcony I was able to find the constellations Orion (to the left, with the line of three stars for his belt) and Taurus (the v-shaped Hyades cluster as the bull's head, the two "horn" stars above, and to the far right the Pleiades cluster that makes the bull's shoulder). The bright "star" above the Hyades -- the brightest thing in the shot -- is actually the planet Jupiter. This was taken after 9:30 pm looking WSW. Why not try having a look for yourself on our next clear night?

Our next Family Planetarium show isn't until April 14th, but if you're looking for some fun before then don't forget about our Easter Spring Fling on (oddly enough) Easter Sunday. There are crafts, activities, prizes and a nature egg hunt. It goes from 1 - 4 pm on March 31. Give us a call at 403-346-2010 for more information.