Author Archives: Berwick Chapter

Footprints in the snow: Berwick Chapter January Outing

Dog, fox or coyote?  Mouse, vole or shrew?  Who left these tracks, when and where were they going?  These were just some of the many questions heard on Saturday morning (January 21st) when the Berwick YNC Chapter went winter tracking near the Kentville Bird Sanctuary.

Tracks with boy

With almost fifty people and one dog out on the trails, there were many questions to be heard and frequent shouts of excitement when another clear set of tracks was found in the thin layer of snow that dusted the ground.


Tracking in snow (or other clearly visible substrate like sand or mud) is magical.  It brings to life the activities of our non-human neighbours, leaving clues as to how they live their lives. The mystery that accompanies many tracks also fuels deeper observation and research and that was no exception for our group; out came the tracking guides and stories about similar tracks seen elsewhere and what people thought they were.


There is a deep satisfaction that can be gained just from the questioning and the more people the more diverse the questions, but its also satisfying to receive expert insights to confirm or refute a theory or idea about a particular track.  Fortunately, we had Soren Bondrup-Nielsen, ecologist and conservation biologist along for our tracking journey and he was able to point out certain details the amateurs amongst us can’t (yet) see and helped us look for details that would help us in future. Beyond the recognised expert, there were also some amateur experts in the mix and as with any nature outing I have ever been a part of, the co-learning was rich and satisfying as people shared the tidbits they had picked up in their tracking travels.


With such a large crowd, a few splinter groups evolved and those who wanted to warm up their feet after a slow walk and much stopping joined an epic game of Vole and Weasel, a fast and furious tag game in which we imitate the lives of this prey and predator pair in their underground burrows (except we stay above ground).


All around it was a fantastic morning with perfect conditions provided by mother nature and our enthusiastic group of participants.  My gratitude to all who came out, including our woodsy neighbours who obviously had had an active night and morning before our arrival.

You can view our photos here.


Footsteps in the snow: Photos (Berwick Chapter, Jan 21, 2017)

A selection of images from our winter tracking event on January 21st.  Can you identify some of the tracks we found?

Location, location, location: essential tips for shelter building (Dec 3, 2016)

The Berwick Young Naturalist Club was busy building natural abodes this weekend and we wanted to share our efforts.

Lean-to shelter testerLean-to shelter tester

After our opening circle of intros, gratitude and song we warmed up with a game of Elf Tag before heading into the woods at the Black Rock Community Trails on the North Mountain. The promise of shelter building, or perhaps the mild weather (or both) brought out an enthusiastic crowd on this first Saturday of December.   With 11 kids (including a tiny baby) and 7 adults, we followed the pink trail watching for possible animal shelters along the way to inspire and inform us before we attempted our own.


As we gathered under the bare deciduous trees beside the trail we reviewed some principles of wilderness survival and shelter building before exploring the area and deciding on the shelter we want to work on.  We discussed the importance of location, location, location. Location will inform:

1) materials (can you find what you need close by without expending too much energy?);

2) conditions (what’s it like where you plan to build  e.g. weather, prevailing winds, wet or dry underfoot? etc.); and

3) safety (what are the hazards and where do you need to build to stay safe?) All of these will inform where and what you should build.

We explored the area we were in which had may fallen ash trees from Hurricane Arthur a few years ago, and lots of fallen leave along with some older falling or fallen spruces.  We broke into a few groups to pursue three shelter projects. A large group embarked on completing a partially built debris hut started by me some weeks earlier that I had to abandon when it got so soggy In early November and then I got called out of province for a few weeks.  A small team of boys found a spacious tree-root cave and proceeded to make it cozy.  And the third was a father-son duo who built a small lean-to with a soft mossy carpet.


We out in a god hour of work and were pretty pleased with our results although no one was volunteering to sleep out overnight.  We imagined how we might market our new green buildings and here is what we can offer:

Three eco-homes, close to trails, Bay of Fundy and a community centre. All three built of all-natural materials meeting tried and tested architectural standards.  Energy bills are exceptionally low.  Sizes vary:   1) spacious 7-person cave with soft floors and decorative ceiling; 2) Airy, child-friendly abode (fits 1 small child) with green shag carpet; and 3) contemporary design, cozy A-frame – sleeps one large adult or a few children and their dog.   Can you match the ‘shelter’ descriptions with the pictures?


Thanks for another fun outing Team Berwick and guests from away.  Looking forward to seeing you for our next outing on Dec. 31st.  Watch the events section for details soon.



Chasing Forest Mysteries (Oct 29)

Chasing Forest Mysteries (Oct 29)

As I’ve come to expect from most forest outings, nature never fails to deliver her fair share of mysteries as I travel along.  But when I go out with a group of inspired people, I also find many of those mysteries are resolved in the best possible way:  people putting their minds together, asking key questions and piecing together information to deepen our collective understanding of the world of the woods.  And then there are always the questions that didn’t get answered that sends me home to my field guides or conversations with others so that next time I am equipped with just a little more knowledge to bring to my journey. And so it was on our drizzly outing Saturday morning when the Young Naturalist Club Berwick chapter got together for a wander in the beautiful Woodville Community Trails.


Despite heavy rains and wind through the night, 16 of us ventured out in the morning in full rain attire to be greeted to just a light drizzle (that soon stopped) and mild temperatures. Decked out in our hunting orange gear we followed the lower trail for a bit being almost immediately rewarded with some delicious apples from a rogue tree and then our first mystery  – a beautiful birds nest woven with lichen and twigs.   Of course we know its the home of one of our feathered friends, but who built it and lived there?  And where have they gone?  Will they be back?


Leading the way we had a high energy group of kids and we soon found ourselves off-trail, attracted initially by a deer blind but then by the adventure of going off the beaten track.   One of our little scouts left a sign on route having collected a yellow birch twig and we were let in on the secret of dental hygiene off-trail: chew the wintergreen tasting twig and you’ll never need to carry to a tooth brush into the bush.


Our next inspiration came from the thrill of climbing up a step embankment, for the kids (releasing energy was definitely a theme of our morning too) and some fascinating lichen growing on the side of trees and another kind growing rocks.   Maybe you can tell what kind they are from the pictures in the gallery?


After the tiring climb it was snack time and at this point we found ourselves on trail number 12 in the Woodville network and wandered along that for a while noticing interesting bits and pieces here and there.   A fun find was a giant collection of ½-¾inch long, oval shaped scat piling up on the inside of a dead, hollowed out tree.  Our field guide wasn’t giving us any plausible answers but with the experience in our group it didn’t take long to get resolution to that mystery.  But there are still unanswered questions?    When was the toilet last used and where is its user now?


For our walk back to the trailhead we practiced the ways of some of the inhabitants who had left clues for us – we practiced our discreetness skills with a game of sink and fade – a form of hide and seek where you have to sink and fade off the trail the group is walking along within 10 seconds.  With our hunters orange we really stood out like sore thumbs to begin with but as the game progressed we all became more savvy with our strategies and figured out how we can better blend in with the environment – it usually meant getting down low, quickly scurrying into divets or sidling up against a fallen log.


And the crowning adventure of our day for most of the kids, I’ll venture to say, was the lure of a swollen stream that they decided to forge to get back to the trail head rather than following the path.  Back and forth they went through the water on or over fallen logs. The screech of cold water seeping into boot tops finally ended our day together as everyone hurried home for a well-deserved meal and some dry feet.


Thanks to all who came out and helped make magic on our adventure.   Looking forward to next outing on Saturday December 3rd when we will focus on shelter building (see event listing).


In the meantime happy trails and mystery solving!


December Berwick Post – Christmas Bird Count

On December 19th we hiked around Berwick to do our annual bird count. There were eight kids and five parents attending this event. The day was cold and windy and not a lot of birds were around. Her is our results: 6 crows, 2 ravens, 2 rock pigeons, 3 gold finches, 2 bald eagles, 4 herring gulls. We believe that the wind kept the birds hiding in the trees. The data collected from all the bird counts on the continent is submitted to the Cornell database so the scientists  can keep track of bird populations and study the effects of climate change. Awareness of changing bird populations can influence policies for the protection and of birds.

October 2015 Berwick YNC Photos – Building a forest

October 2015 Berwick Report – Planting a Forest Event

On October 7th 2015 the Berwick YNC took a forest walk at the Woodville Trails to collect native tree seeds. Fifteen kids and nine parents attended the event , oh and one dog. We all glowed in the warm sun with out hunter orange vests. We found yellow birch, red spruce, ironwood,  beech and sugar maple seeds; the start of a fine Acadian forest. Nick Hill (local botanist) climb  the birch and ironwood trees to shake the seeds down on to the kids and we all went home picking little seeds out of our hair. After collected the seeds along the trail we potted them up at the trail head and watered them. Most of the seeds don’t need any care, just to be left alone under the snow until spring but the ironwoods need their warm treatment before they are taken outside for their cold winter treatment. Nick told the kids to keep their ironwood pots damp and in a bag in the house for 2 months and then set them outside for the remainder of the winter. Check out the photo link for a visual account of this event. Happy Trails!