From the Archives

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 – Visit to Wallace Bay NWA

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: https://ebird.org/canada/view/checklist/S46093233.

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.

2nd Youth Nature Art and Writing Contest Winners….

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

Species at Risk Trading Cards

10th Anniversary Nature Blitz Celebration!

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/