Things to Do at University of Waterloo Environmental Reserve

Canada Geese

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Canada Geese

The Canada goose is a familiar resident on the University of Waterloo Campus – Discover more about the love-hate relationship of people with these birds!

The Canada goose is native to North America but has been introduced in Europe and elsewhere. The southern Ontario population is partly migratory, but some birds stay for winter. They will live almost anywhere near water bodies, and they thrive on the UW campus because of the extensive mown areas that they graze.

There are eleven or more subspecies – smaller in the northern areas, and darker toward the west coast. The “giant” Canada goose population was once threatened with extinction, and they were successfully reintroduced to many areas. Now urban geese have become something of a nuisance – They own the place! In recent decades southern Ontario Canada Geese have become less migratory. This has been attributed to changing farm practices (more grain left in the fields), climate change, and reduced hunting pressure.

Learn more about Canada Geese here

Technical details are here

Kids’ Corner

Dealing with nuisance geese

Photo: © 2016 Roger Suffling

Old Apple Trees

Don’t forget the mundane on UW’s North Campus! Wonder at the size of the old apple trees around the Brubacher farmhouse (If you are lucky there may be a screech owl hiding there).

Along the lake-shore and North along the trail you will also find wildflowers – common ones, but so colourful. There’s always plenty to see at the Environmental Reserve and North Campus!

An Apple tree near Brubacher House.

Photo: © 2016 Roger Suffling

Milkweeds and Monarchs

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Milkweeds and Monarchs

Common Milkweed is an important plant for the declining Monarch butterfly. Take a close look at the waxy flowers, or break open a seed pod and marvel at the silky tassels that will carry the seeds far and wide. And do you see the wonderful pattern of the packed, rusty coloured seeds?

Milkweeds are the only food plants for Monarch Butterfly larvae. However, the adults feed on Milkweed nectar as well as on other flowers. Milkweeds commonly grow along roadsides and in abandoned fields.(Monarchs arrive to lay eggs from about 10th July)

Milkweeds have deep roots and are strong competitors for crop plants like soybeans, thus reducing crop yields. Soy is often grown in the field by this trail. Thus farmers plant “Roundup–ready” genetically-modified (GM) crops that are herbicide resistant, and use Roundup (Glyphosate) herbicide on their weeds.

Unfortunately, as weed control becomes more efficient, there are fewer and fewer places for milkweeds to grow, so the dependent Monarch Butterfly declines as well. Once common, this gorgeous insect is now in steep decline. Monarchs migrate all the way to Mexico and back (over several generations), so other factors are also involved in the population decline. They include destruction of the Monarch’s Mexican winter habitat in a limited area of mountain forest.

A summary of the Monarch life cycle and conservation issues

Learn details about Monarch conservation and milkweeds here

Learn what you can do for Monarchs

Kids’ Zone

Monarch on Common Milkweed.

Photo: Barbara Hysell via Seney Natural History Association [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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