Field Trip Reports

Berwick Field Report from the 2nd Annual Xmas Bird Count for Kids (& Families)

Submitted by: Judy Lipp

It was a mild and foggy January morning when 10 kids and 11 moms, dads and grandmas gathered for the 2nd annual Berwick Christmas Bird Count for Kids, organized by Young Naturalist Club, Berwick Chapter and led by George Forsyth.  We met on the last weekend of the count window – Saturday January 5, 2019.

We started the session indoors at the Berwick Legion (a big thanks to Maurice for opening the space for us) to get acquainted and prepared for the count.   We got to know each other through name games and bird theatrics – our group was pretty knowledgeable with some great bird calls and impressions.

The indoor time was fun and informative, but it meant we didn’t get out and start counting until 10:45 am.  Most of the birds didn’t wait for us, except…. quack.   We started in the Legion parking lot and saw a few Chickadees, Sparrows and signs of Blue Jays and a Pheasant.  We walked along Main Street heading east to the Berwick Sewage Lagoons.  On route we saw two Crows, a Rock Dove and a few Blue Jays.  It wasn’t until the sewage lagoons that we saw birds in any numbers and there they all were: quack.  Hundreds of ducks! We counted 420 Mallard Ducks and 36 Black Ducks.  We also spotted a Red-tailed Hawk and a few more Blue Jays.  The walk back was uneventful but the promise of hot cider and popcorn kept everyone going.

Our species list is below and here’s the link to our e-Bird submission made by George.

The Xmas Bird Count is a great way to introduce young people to the important contributions made by citizen science as well as introducing them to birds in our region. I’m very grateful to George Forsyth for sharing his knowledge, passion and skill at working with young people to make this a super fun event.   And thanks to the families for coming out.   See you next year if not sooner!

Species list: 10 total

420 Mallard 5 Blue Jay
36 American Black Duck 2 American Crow
1 Ring-necked Pheasant 2 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Rock Dove 2 American Tree Sparrow
1 Red-tailed Hawk 1 Song Sparrow


New Immigrant Hike at York Redoubt

It was a beautiful fall day that felt more like summer when we gathered 6 families (30 people) from Syria and the Congo to do a fall nature walk at York Redoubt.  In partnership with ISANS and with support from Nature Canada’s Naturehood Program and MEC we were able to invite local naturalists Jamie Simpson and Sally-Jo Gallant to lead a two hour walk through the trails of York Redoubt.  On the heels of Jamie’s new book release “Eating Wild in Eastern Canada”, we focused on all the interesting things we could forage on the walk. We were treated to wild Grapes and Apples, Rosehips, Dandelion and Plantain and some left over berries including Wild Raisin and Blackberries. A visit to the shore turned up Mussels, Snails and some Bayberrry that people took home for cooking with! Kids did a nature scavenger hunt along the way and Families were sent home with lots of educational materials.

Nature Guardians Spring Session

The Nature Guardians just finished their first session with their new partner, The Adventure Earth Centre, in their new permanent home at Shubie Park, Dartmouth.  We held 5 sessions from April to June,  had several guest presenters, and did some exciting projects.

Our first guest was Bernie Hart who gave us a presentation on the history of the park and short guided walk along the canal. We also looked for locations to build our Monarch Butterfly garden and learned about the Endangered Monarch – especially their life cycle, their migration and their need for milkweed plants to survive!  At the end of this session we planted our milkweed seeds and took them home to nurture until the last session in June when we would plant them.

The next two sessions we took the time to explore our new home and especially the forest. We asked ourselves some important, timely questions: Is this a healthy forest? What do healthy forests look like? Is this forest a good example of the endangered bioregion in which we live, the Acadian Forest? Our next guest was Jamie Simpson, an expert on the Acadian Forest. He led us on a guided walk to evaluate our own forest for signs of health and think about things we could do in the forest to increase its biodiversity.

One project we started this spring that we hope to carry on as long as we have our home base at Shubie Park is we set up a water quality monitoring program.  We will monitor the water in the canal, the ponds and in Lake Micmac to see how it is fairing over time.

On our last day we brought back the milkweed plants we were nursing as well as some bigger ones obtained from Larry Bogan in the Annapolis Valley, who has an entire farm field of milkweed to support Monarchs!  We planted our milkweeds in a spot near the Fairbanks Centre so that people may be able to see the butterflys, but far away from the dog park since they are poisonous to dogs.  After this it was time to count the bacteria in the water samples we had taken the prior week.  Boy oh boy!  We found out we should not swim in the canal or duck pond!

A great group of enthusiastic learners and outdoor loving kids finished up the session with a snack exchange that included awesome home made cookies and cookies.  We are grateful to our student helpers, Nazanin and Oliver for all the time they put into helping us, and to our supporters Nature Canada Naturehood Program and the HRM Adventure Earth Centre.

Robin and Emily


Nova Scotia Celebration of Nature Weekend – Youth Program

Another great youth program at the Nova Scotia Celebration of Nature weekend in Debert. The youth had an amazing day on Saturday with LIza Barney from Bird Studies Canada and Becky Parker from Ducks Unlimited at the Wallace Bay National Wildlife Area.

We arrived at the site around 10am and played some games but the kids were super eager to get on the trail looking for birds. Liza had a great handout she made of common birds in that area and Becky went over using binoculars. We set out on the dyke trail and walked for about 2 hours. The don’t call it a National Wildlife Area for nothing –  we were treated to a huge array of birds that many of us hadn’t seen before.  After a quick lunch we played a couple more games including then we went for a walk down the forest trail in search of a Raven’s nest.  We did another hour walk on a pretty wet and boggy trail and found three Ravens – we were close but couldn’t find the nest in the end. This walk was very good for seeing other things such as some ferns, lichens and a great display of woodpecker holes in trees.

LIza Barney from Bird Studies Canada kept track of our sightings and told us we gathered a grand total of 30 bird species! Highlights included 9 species of Warblers, observing 50ish foraging Tree Swallows and a glimpse at an elusive Pileated Woodpecker! The eBird checklist is here:

Other weekend happenings included a campfire talk by Dave Chapman and Cathy LeBlanc on Saturday night about Mi’kmaw moons and on Sunday we heard a talk about a man raising monarchs and growing a field of milkweed in the Annapolis Valley. We also played more games including species at risk bingo where we used our SAR cards. You can see more photos of the weekend at:

Everyone was nice and tired and satisfied :)  Rumour is next year the weekend will be held in Cape Breton. Keep an eye on our website for details.

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) –   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 ( ), “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!


Writing Winners 2018

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

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



Art Winners

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

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.

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