Field Trip Reports

East Hants Maple Syrup Farm Tour

The East Hants Chapter of the YNC visited a maple sugaring operation on Sunday, March 4 in Carroll’s Corner, NS.

The trail took us through beautiful stands of mature hardwoods and down into a gully with a trickling brook, where the main line collects sap to be piped to the sugar shack further down the hill. Around the sugar shack were buckets hung on spiles for collecting sap the old-fashioned way. The kids had fun running from bucket to bucket to see which had the most sap.

In the sugar shack, we learned how the sap is boiled down to make syrup and we all had a delicious sample.

Next stop, just down the trail, was a cabin set beside a quiet pond, where a fire was on and hot chocolate was ready to warm us up. Some of our more adventurous members checked out the trails leading around the pond to see what they could discover.

The syrup we tried was made from a mixture of saps from the red maple and rock maple. We were interested to learn that sap from the birch tree can also make a tasty syrup, though not as sweet and you need almost twice as much sap to make the same amount of syrup as you would from a maple.

We would like to say a big thank you to Pat from Rose Briar Farm for volunteering his time and inviting us to his wonderful property.

Berwick’s First Annual Xmas Bird Count for Kids

On a mild(er) day during the holidays, nine winter hearty Young Naturalist Club (YNC) members helped contribute to an important continent-wide citizen science project, counting birds for the long-standing, annual, continent-wide Christmas Bird Count. Our group was coached by George Forsythe, retired teacher, avid birder and member of the Blomidon Naturalists Society (BNS) – http://blomidonnaturalists.ca/.   We want to thank the BNS for helping make this event possible and for their own 30+ year dedication to various bird counts – they organise annual migration counts, raptor counts, nest counts and swift counts, to name just some of the counting they do.

The Christmas Bird Count, started in 1900, is North America’s longest-running Citizen Science project and arguably the most wide-spread, with counts taking place in over 2000 locations throughout the continent.  According to Bird Studies Canada (http://www.birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc/ ), “results are used daily by conservation biologists and naturalists to assess the population trends and distribution of birds.”  This year the YNC put Berwick on the map.

It was a good morning to be out – not so frigidly cold as it had been the days before and after and very little wind.  We met at the Berwick Legion on Main Street and received a backgrounder from George on the Bird Count and its importance for tracking the state of bird populations over more than a century.  We were excited to be able to play our part in this critical work.  George also gave us an essential tutorial on how to use binoculars and several of us not-so-young naturalists learned about our dominant eye and how to account for it in setting the field glasses.

We then ventured outside where we practised some pssshing and were soon rewarded with our first sighting: a few Chick-a-dees.  The first 10 minutes in the parking lot, despite a few Chick-a-dees and some chips in the bushes, seemed to be rather quiet (and boring for some) but we all learned that good things come to those who wait….  soon we had spotted a number of Song Sparrows, more Chick-a-dees, a few American Goldfinches and heard a Cardinal.  A good start for a group with limited to no birding experience.  No doubt George’s keen eyes, ears and years of experience helped us hone in on many of the birds.

We walked from the Legion east along Main Street to the sewage ponds where we had permission to walk around.  On route, we saw a number of Crows, Mourning Doves and Blue Jays and a single Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker as well as a White-breasted Nuthatch.  At the ponds, we spotted Mallard and Black Ducks, several Rock Doves (pigeons), saw more Song Sparrows and watched in anticipation as a Bald Eagle and two Crows flew past.  Watching that scene, which ended with the eagle flying off with something the Crows had had (a chicken foot perhaps), we heard a Pheasant in the bushes but were unable to spot it.

As we turned to leave we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk pestering some Pigeons.  On the way back we saw most of the same birds and ended our outing with a tally of all we had seen back at the Legion hall.   In all we saw 21 different species and counted 95 individual birds.  As first-timers, we all felt really good about the diversity we had encountered and the things we learned along the way.   And then we enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies!!  I’m already looking forward to next year and establishing an annual counting tradition amongst the young naturalists and their families in Berwick.

2017 Youth Nature Art and Writing Contest Results!

Well the results are finally in! We have our 2017 Youth Nature Writing and Art Contest winners. Thank you to all the youth who entered the contest, once again the judges had a hard time choosing just a few to acknowledge. We are always thrilled to see the knowledge and skill Nova Scotia’s young Naturalists show during this contest. Keep an eye out for shows in New Glasgow, Berwick and Halifax in the new year that will showcase these great young artists!

OUR WRITING CONTEST WINNERS….

Writing Winners 2018

JUNIOR CATEGORY
First Place – Robson Rievaj, Lewis Lake
First Place – AinsIle Gale, Head of St. Margarets Bay
Second Place – Laura Worth
Third Place – Harper Brett, Bedford

SENIOR CATEGORY
First Place – Michael Delong, Kentville
First Place – Ashalen McCulloch, Weymouth
Second Place – Kaitlyn Kemp Cheevers
Third Place – Siena Hammermeister, Tatamagouche

Honorable Mentions:
Caitlin Bowman, Dartmouth

 

OUR ART CONTEST WINNERS…..

Art Winners

JUNIOR CATEGORY
First Place – Natalie Pegg, Middleton
Second Place – Lauren Hill, Dartmouth
Third Place – Hannah Michels, Dartmouth

Honourable Mentions:
Mia Best
Erinn Bowman, Dartmouth
Freja Cambell, Sydney
Yewon Chung, Pictou
Maetia Aleses Contant, Woodville
Alexander Hazelwood, Aylesford
Johnathan Michels, Dartmouth

SENIOR CATEGORY
First Place – Mary Elliott, Middleton
Second Place – Isabella Young, Truro
Third Place – Iris Gamble, Shad Bay

Honorable Mentions:
Gabby Carter, Wedgeport
Lauren Doucette, Bell Neck
Skyla Gidge, Margretsville
Varya Kuznetsova, Halifax
Larissa Lemoine, Iona
Andrew Michels, Dartmouth
Keanna Pierre, Wagmatcook
Macy Shand, Charlesville

Thanks to Nature Nova Scotia, Wildland Writers and the Nova Scotia Government for their support on this project

Musquodoboit Chapter Fall activity update!

A little update on all the great activities our Chapter has been up to this fall!  In September and October the kids took down their conical wigwam clubhouse and moved it to a new location. This also involved trail clearing, bridge building, and lots of teamwork.

In November we had Chartered Herbalist, Evelyn Allen, guiding our group as they identified and gathered plant materials to make natural fabric dyes. The following week the kids got the plants and begin learning how to make the dye, and in December they’ll actually dye materials and yarns. In particular, they will create decorative flags for the MVYNC wigwam. The flags will be strung together using an old fashioned thumb braided technique, that Evelyn will show the kids. This is an amazing opportunity for the kids to mentor with such a skilled herbalist.

We also had retired forest technician and beloved naturalist, Dave Taylor, guide our group as they quest for the ‘lost Saunder’s trail.’ The Hurricane of 2003 toppled over 60% of woodlot, and the Saunder’s trail on the North side was never recovered. Can they find the missing boardwalk into a swamp? Dave will guided the kids to read the landscape in order to find the old trail.

While we are making our flags for our wigman, those not making flags will gather materials and create Yule Logs, while learning a bit about where this tradition came from and the symbolism behind it.

Species at Risk Trading Cards

Luminary Reforestation – YNC at Nocturne

Our Young Naturalists Club leaf lantern bags were a big hit last night at Nocturne. We ran out of supplies super early and we are sorry we had to turn so many people away. We were thrilled to see the city lit up with a forest of native tree leaves though!

Prior to Eurpoean settlement, the landscape of Halifax was covered in mature Acadian forest. Most of that ecosystem has now vanished….the Young Naturalists Club helped participants make their own Leaf PrintBag Lanterns. They chose from a variety of Acadian forest leaves to “silkscreen” onto a paper bag to create their own lantern. Then they took their lanterns out into the city to help “bring the forest back” from being vanished this one night

Thanks to McInnes Cooper and Nature Nova Scotia for purchasing the supplies needed for us to run this event.

New Canadian Nature Hike at Belcher’s Marsh

The YNC in partnership with ISANS, led a nature walk at Belcher’s Marsh (Clayton Park) last weekend. We had 6 families from Syria, (approx 40 people) join us on a sunny afternoon to learn about some local wildlife and flora. The idea behind the event was to help new comers learn about the natural environment of their new home so they will become comfortable in it and also have an understanding of some of the new species they may not have ever seen before. We hope this in turn will help them feel more settled and connected to their new place.

We had some great volunteer naturalists and translators who guided our groups through the trail where we saw dragonflies, squirrels, wildflowers, and some birds including ducks and a Great Blue Heron. After our walk we stopped and did some pond dipping where we found some Snails, Whirligig beetles, Backswimmers and Water Boatman bugs! Thanks to support from Nature Canada.

Nova Scotia Celebration of Nature 2017, Milford House

We had a great weekend during our annual youth programming at Nature Nova Scotia’s Celebration of Nature this spring.  With 17 youth from ages 6 to 13 we had an interesting mix of activities to satisfy all interests.  On Saturday we started the morning talking about migrating birds and had a warm up playing the Migration Game. We then tackled a bird geocaching course where we used our GPS units to find 8 hidden stations that had bird related activities at them.  It was a big hit.  Later that morning Jill Francis from Parks Canada came and talked about Mi’kmaw hunting and everyone got to try their hands using an Atatl, a spear throwing tool that helped native hunters achieve greater distances.

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 3.41.28 PMThat afternoon everyone joined a field trip in the local area and rejoined us at the lodge for a musical performance by Little Miss Moffat!  Nobody forgets the lyrics to “Raven or Crow?”.  Even some of the adults joined in with their owl hoots.  After dinner we had a very moving bonfire chat with Frank Meuse and shalan joudry from Bear River First Nation.  Everyone slept well that night, even it was a little chilly!

IMG_1079.JPGThe next day brought us a visit from Katie McLean from Clean Annapolis River Partnership who taught us about some of the different turtles they monitor and let us try our hands at trying to find the GPS units they attach to the turtles. Then we had Jeffie McNeil and some interns from the Mersey Tobeatic River Institute come and help the kids build some turtle nesting cages that they will use to protect newly laid turtle eggs from predators.  Charlie from Milford House took some time to have some of the older kids help him make a new wood duck nesting box as well!

We are so fortunate to have been at such a beautiful location this year. Great kids and families and we are looking forward to doing it all again next May!

Nature Guardians explore the woods at Long Lake Provincial Park

IMG_1527Our second Nature Guardians trip was shaped by the youths’ interest in exploring and becoming better at navigating in the woods and using navigational tools. They also wanted to go to Long Lake Provincial Park, which is a perfect place to practice navigating, as there are few official trails. With this in mind, we brought compasses and copies of topographic maps of the area. We took some time to orient our selves to the map, discussed a bit about how compasses work, how to find north, how the compass direction relates to the map, and how to use landmarks like the road and the lake shore to avoid getting lost.
Then one of our members had brought a map of geocaches, which also showed where the well-worn trails were, so we decided to set out and find some geocaches the old-fashioned map and compass way! Amazingly, we were successful with one geocache! then we hiked, explored and chatted our way to very close to some other geocaches for sure, but we didn’t find them. A GPS would certainly be helpful for that final fine-tuning! We also learned that 2 hours is simply too short to do all that we want to do each time: some learning and work, getting to know each other, play, explore, hike, have snack time and check in on ideas for the next field trip. Fortunately, we have some excellent future group leaders and flexible kids in the group who kept us on time track, and cheerfully cut out some fun things when it was time to get back to the pick-up spot! We all want the parents to trust us to get back on time so we can keep doing this. :) But next time, we’ll do a 3 hour coastal hike! Stay tuned for details there.
Also, we had a great turn out, with 11 young people coming out on a chilly and cloudy Sunday afternoon before a snowstorm! And, welcome to our new volunteer, Heather! She is just completing her masters in Child and Youth Studies at MSVU, and brings a lovely, warm and enthusiastic presence to our group. We are excited to have her with us on coming trips! Thanks so much Heather!

Nature Guardians Winter Tracking Hike

On our first outing as a monthly chapter, the crew of eight Nature Guardians ventured out into the deep snow at Hemlock Ravine in Bedford to have some fun and to see who has been out and about in all this snow. First, we saw many ducks hanging out at the heart shaped pond and learned from one Nature Guardian about how ducks’ feet don’t freeze in the winter- the answer has to do with minimizing blood flow and heat exchange in the feet. To read more about it, visit this page http://askanaturalist.com/why-don%E2%80%99t-ducks%E2%80%99-feet-freeze/ From there, we talked about animals’ strategies to withstand the extreme winter weather- like the piles of snow we’ve had this week! Some animals, like the ducks, stick around in winter, are active all winter, and have special behavioural and physiological adaptations that help them survive. Other animals stick around but hibernate, such as woodchucks, and some just sleep a lot, like black bears. And of course, many other species just opt out of winter by migrating!
So in looking for tracks, we were looking for animals whose winter strategy is to stick around and stay active. We also talked about how if you are really good at tracking, you can read stories in the snow! Most of the stories we saw in the snow were of rambunctious puppies running circles in the snow, small children climbing up logs, making snow angels and eating snow, and of course lots of adults with their snowshoes. But we did see some neat wildlife signs and tracks! The snowshoe hare was the most distinct track we saw and we were able to identify it thanks to modern technology, and follow it across the stream and under the cover of some small hemlock trees. We also saw a big gooey drop of blood with no other signs or tracks around it (an owl or raptor having a snack above is the only possibility we thought of) and perhaps related, an owl wing and claw print.
animal tracks
Along with some hiking and tracking, we enjoyed a good natured snowball fight and climbing up and sliding down steep hills! We also discussed our hopes and plans for future outings! Stay tuned for the next date and location! All kids ages 10-15 welcome!
To read more about animals in winter, check out this great article written by biologist and friend of the Young Naturalists Club Soren Bondrup-Nielsen : http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/animals-in-winter/

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