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.
That 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!
The 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!
The Berwick Young Naturalists went mushrooming in the Kentville Ravine on a beautiful Saturday morning with Ken Harrison Jr. and Bill Shaw. We had 30 people at this event – our largest group yet! This was a joint event with the Annapolis Valley Chapter. Even though it had been a very dry summer, we did find many mushroom species that kept Ken and Bill hopping. The Young Naturalists were excited to look for mushrooms and the older kids ran up ahead to search with Bill and Nick Hill (local botanist and ecologist) while Ken and I staying back with the younger and more thorough investigators. Here are a few photos from our fun morning: http://nature1st.net/ync/mushroom-id-october-11th/
On the 20th of September we explored the multi-use railway-bed trail to the west of Berwick. It was a beautiful brisk late summer day and we had close to 18 kids and their families from the local area show up for the event. We used Environment Canada Biokits to explore nature with all of our senses. For more information about Biokits check out this link: https://www.ec.gc.ca/biotrousses-biokits/default.asp?lang=En&n=B8362F13-1.
We had a lot of fun learning about plants and ecology with Nick Hill (local botanist). There was a lot of Poison Ivy along the trail and now we know how to avoid it. We used our senses to explore the adjacent forest paths and had a silent sit in the woods that was relaxing for most but challenging for some. It was surprising to see the amount of colours we found in the woods that matched the coloured gems on the cloth.
Here are some photos from our trip: http://nature1st.net/ync/nature-around-berwick-september-20th-2014/
The Berwick and the Annapolis YNC Chapters joined Sarah Walton, a biologist from the Clean Annapolis River Project Wood Turtle Monitoring Project. Although we spent 2 hours searching for the little wood turtles (which have dark shells and orange underparts) and did not find any along a tributary of the Annapolis River by the Oaklawn Farm Zoo, we still had a great time exploring the area. The turtles were migrating to the muddy river bottoms this time of year to find a good squishy place to burry themselves for the winter. The Annapolis river and it’s tributary brooks and strams are ideal habitat for wood turtles according to Sarah. She also told us that when they are hibernating in the mud, they allow their bottoms to stick out into the water to absorb oxygen…. so… they breath with their bums! After our survey, Sarah was able to track down a large male Wood Turtle named Hanley. He was fitted with a radio transmitter that allowed Sarah to use an antenna to track him down. It took her a while fishing around under alder branches where he was hiding under water in the river. He was beautiful! Check out our photos page to see a picture of him! http://nature1st.net/ync/wood-turtle-monitoring-with-carp-october-4th-2014/
The Berwick and Annapolis Valley Chapters teamed up with the Blomidon Naturalist Society to build and launch nest boxes for Tree Swallows. Above are some pictures from the event. Around 15 young people and their parents attended this event on the warm sunny day of September 13th 2014. Visit the photos page to see some pictures of the event: http://nature1st.net/ync/tree-swallow-nest-box-launch-with-bns-sept-13th-2014/
Here is a message from the BNS Organizer after the event:
This is now an official project :)
Thanks for everyone’s insight and help this weekend. We are off to a really great start, and couldn’t have done it without you.
The hope, as we discussed previously, is that this will be a long-term joint project among our groups. In the next little while we should brainstorm some ideas around the kinds of projects we would like to see happen and how much time and effort would be a reasonable commitment each year.
The minimum we need to do each year, to ensure that boxes are safe and usable is repair, if need be, and clean them out after each winter. We could make this a yearly event (in early April maybe) with BNS/YNC…though it might not be that exciting for kids (birds won’t be around at that time)…maybe there are things we could do to make it more interesting…
Anything we do above and beyond, I think, is an added bonus – and the opportunities are great. Much of what we can do will depend on how many boxes are occupied, and it is possible that it will take a couple of seasons for boxes to fill up. We had a flock of at least 50 Tree Swallows hang out at the Marsh during spring migration this year and 2 that stuck around and tried to make a nest in the huge Wood Duck box that blew down in a storm. I’m betting that we’ll get at least a few pairs next year!
Interpretive sign about the project.
George made a great suggestion that this might work best near the entrance of the Marsh, and possibly accompanied by an additional nest box there. This would indicate what the boxes are for, that it is a joint effort between BNS and YNC and who they can contact for information.
Annual Nest Check Field Trip
In late May or early June each year, regardless of whether we are carrying out frequent monitoring, we could hold a dedicated BNS/YNC field trip to check box occupancy, do some nest checks etc..
Other possible projects for interested kids/adults…
– adult arrival dates (tracking these each year helps monitor effects of climate change on migration)
– feeding rates (watching parents feed chicks with binoculars or spotting scopes; measuring feeding rates and characterizing delivered food)
– food availability (sampling of insects)
– nest thermal properties (nest temperatures can be easily monitored with cheap data loggers, “ibuttons”, that sit inside the nest)
– nest box cameras (the island boxes will be harder to check so a fun DIY project could be to build/install a solar-powered infra-red nest camera that records nest activity or takes a snapshot of the nest every day to monitor nest success)
– vocalisation projects (characterizing vocal repertoires of adults and chicks, measuring chick begging rates)
– project website (building a website that gives information about the project, shows data collected and projects carried out with the boxes)
– photography projects…
These are just a few ideas and looking forward to hearing more thoughts from you folks.
On April 26th 2014the Berwick and Annapolis Valley Young Naturalists went to the Woodville Trail system in the Annapolis Valley to learn about reading maps and compasses with Peter Romkey. Peter worked for the NS Department of Natural Resources for 22 years and is now the director of the KC Irving Environmental Science Centre at Acadia. In his own words Peter describes himself as an explorer of the Acadian Forest ( http://kcirvingcentre.acadiau.ca/peter.html ). Thank you Peter!
The day was sunny and the Woodville Trails were well marked. We are very fortunate that the Trail Society and Land owners take such good care of these trails and here is a link to the trails http://www.woodville-kingscounty.ca/recreation/facilities/trail.html .
The event began with Peter teaching us about how to use a compass and finding the 4 directions; North, South, East and West on the compass. Then we found the 4 directions on the trail map and oriented ourselves to find the first trail we would be taking by lining the compass up with the map. Off we went to the North! At each intersection along the trail we made a decision about which way to go on the map and used our compasses to find the right path. Along our journey, Peter taught us about the natural ways to find our way in the forest; like the sun. The sun comes up in the East and sets in the West and around noon time, shadows point north. We learned form Peter that moss grows more on the North side of trees only if the tree is out in the open and since most of the forests in the Maritimes are dense then moss on trees is not a reliable indicator of North in our region.
Also along the trail we were excited to see old Ironwood and Sugar Maple trees and a Trillium peeking out on the South Facing slope of the North Mountain!
On Saturday May 31st The Berwick YNC group headed out to Blue Beach in Avonport to look for fossils and WOW! We found a lot of fossils! Dr. Sandra Barr joined us to help us look for fossils and identify them along with 3 of her Geology students from Acadia. Sandra explained that the area we were searching in was from the early carboniferous period before the coal producing time of extensive vegetation. This was the time of the amphibian, before reptiles and a long time before dinosaurs! It was 350 million years ago! The great super-continent of Pangaea was just about to form at this time and Africa was close to touching Nova Scotia. The area was very geologically active with lots of earthquakes and the land would have been riddled with shallow seaways as the continents collided. Life would have been a mixture of fresh water and sea plants and animals.
The Blue Beach area would have been a muddy bottom shallow sea or lake area and this is why there are so many great amphibian tracks and other amazing fossil impressions. Some of the best fossils from this time period can be found at Blue Beach.
Thanks to Sandra and her Geology students for helping us to find and identify fossils!
On the 21st of June, the Berwick YNC explored textures in the forest through molding and casting natural objects. Mixed media artist Jessica Winton facilitated the creation of a plaster cast from natural objects that the children chose. Some wanted to cast spruce cones and pine needles while others used pieces of wood or leaves. We used non-toxic alginate (the stuff used to in people’s mouths to cast teeth for dentures) to make a mold and then after 4 minutes the mold was ready to pour the plaster in. The children then had an amazing plaster representation of a natural object to take home with them. Here are a few photos. Many thanks to Jessica and her family – we had fun and hope to do this again!