Bumble Beehaviour

There was an interesting experiment in the news recently, where researchers taught bumblebees how to get a treat (sugar water) by rolling a marble into the centre of a circle. Bees were able to do the task just by watching another bee do it first.

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Syrup Season


Al Woodhouse, photography innovator, composed this compelling photograph.

I’m thrilled that it is maple syrup season.  This will be the first week I am working with Al at Camp Heidelberg Environmental Education Centre.  Today was a great day for making syrup.  Warm daytime temperatures after a period of sub-freezing nights, means the sap is flowing!  Our first batch of syrup came off yesterday, March 7th.  With lots of sap coming in, we made two batches today, totalling 11 litres.


Total product for March 8th: 11 liters

Bright morning sunshine and the smell of woodsmoke kept our spirits high.  Warm sunshine keeps the sap flowing and also make the product look great!


It takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup, a ratio requiring us to keep on collecting that sap!

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High Water

I went down to the bridge at Blair Creek to check out the water level yesterday.  We have had heavy rain overnight two nights in a row.  All this rain caused a significant snowmelt, adding to the pressure on streams and rivers.  As water levels rose, the Grand River Conservation Authority issued a flood watch.


Blair Creek was in fact overflowing its banks, and even overflowing the bridge!

Those who have visited Blair this year may have heard me talk about the importance of wetlands for preventing flooding and erosion.  There is a lovely patch of cattails in our cedar swamp which serves as an easy talking point as we walk past with classes.  But as human development expands, the remaining wetlands are sometimes not enough to prevent flooding events.  I wonder if this week’s water level in Blair Creek is at all related to the recent development uphill and upstream of us on Meadowcreek Lane?


When I went back today I saw that the water level had gone down several inches leaving behind sheets of ice on the shore and icicles on the bridge.  Today’s water level is still much higher than usual, but I’m glad to see it is going down!



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Diving beetle larva

Here is a picture of a diving beetle larva taken with some kind of electron microscope scanner.


Eye of Science / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

More up-close photos from Cosmos Magazine here: https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/micro-monsters-up-close-and-personal?platform=hootsuite

Regular-looking photograph of diving beetle larvae here: https://outdooredguys.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/tigers-of-the-pond/

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On my way down the driveway…

I am fortunate to work at such a beautiful place that offers so much inspiration to students, teachers, parents, and yours truely.  The short drive down the laneway is picturesque each day, but each year there are a handful of days that I feel the need to stop at the top and take a photo – today was one of them.  The cellphone photo does not do it justice, nor does any SLR photo I have ever taken.  As I arrived this morning, Mother Nature directed me to pause for 2 minutes to admire the sunshine that was navigating through the now-faded colours of the Sugar Maples, the frost-tipped leaves on the forest floor at the edge of the driveway, and the emotion that excites me about the start of another wonderful day with classes…

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Northern Reflections

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An autumn dip in the pond

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Winter Finch Forecast

Each year there are a few species of northern finches that begin to make flights south in search of food. These movements are called irruptions. If you are a birdwatcher, these irruptions can be a time to see species that might only be observed every 3-5 years, or longer. For the casual interest in birds, it could mean a new and interesting bird visiting your feeder!

This link will indicated which species you can expect (or not) this coming winter:


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It’s a Trap!

Today was day 1 of a citizen science project from the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario based at the University of Guelph.  The School Malaise Trap Program (SMTP) gives the opportunity for schools and nature centres to gather data on the arthropod diversity in their area.  Laurel Creek and Camp Heidelberg are also using Malaise Traps to collect samples over the next two weeks.

I’d never set up a Malaise Trap before so I was excited to give it a go.


How does the trap work?  SMTP provides the following explanation:

“When insects encounter the black mesh panel, most will naturally go up towards the white coloured roof in an attempt to escape. The insects are directed to the apex of the trap (trap head) where they encounter a collection bottle and become permanently trapped. The collection bottle is filled with ethanol to preserve the organisms and their DNA.”


After two weeks we will send the sample bottles back to the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.  In the lab researchers will separate specimens and run a DNA analysis on each one.  Click here to learn more about DNA barcoding.  When data from all of the specimens is compiled, we will have a valuable catalogue of the arthropod species present in our meadow at Blair Outdoor Education Centre.  We will have a better understanding of what species are most abundant in our nearby nature, and which species are less common.  Students participating in the biodiversity field trip at Blair will benefit from this data and that of previous years.

I am looking forward to comparing notes with Lindsay (Laurel Creek) and Al (Camp Heidelberg) to see which species are common across all three sites and which ones showed up only at Blair.

Thanks to the School Malaise Trap Program for providing students in Waterloo Region District School Board with this very special opportunity.  Thank you especially to Dirk Steinke, Vanessa Breton and Admiral Ackbar.

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A Bird in the Pond is Worth Two in the Bush

Fellow Outdooredguy, Nathan, came to the centre to pick something up today. A quick introduction to the property yielded a Double-Crested Cormorant in the pond!! Usually a bird of larger water bodies, it looked right at home. We could see it as it swam beneath the surface and even watched it catch and eat a meal…cool! And to add to the interestingness of the sighting, it was the 109th species for the centre for 2016.

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