Toronto Field Naturalists  –  Enjoy and preserve nature with us!
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Our Mission: Toronto Field Naturalists connects people with nature in the Toronto area.
We help people understand, enjoy, and protect Toronto's green spaces and the species that inhabit them.
Toronto Field Naturalists

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Walk Leader Shortcuts

Walk Leaders Guide
Do a pre-walk:
  • 1-2 days prior to your walk do a pre-walk.
  • Check that the route is still open.
  • Note safety hazards and consider how to avoid them.
  • Note sightings of birds and plants you are likely to see.
  • Select a lunch site, if planned.
  • Check washroom availability.
  • Look for places for after-walk warm-up.
Plan your welcome:
  • Bring the Walk Leader Checklist.
  • Bring TFN brochures.
  • Bring information handouts or field guides if you wish.
  • Bring an area map if it is suitable.
At the welcome:
  • Arrive early.
  • If possible, greet everyone as they arrive.
  • Allow about 5 minutes grace time for late-comers.
  • Greet newcomers, make them feel welcome and offer them a TFN brochure
  • Introduce yourself; describe the route, length and purpose of the walk; advise about anticipated washroom breaks, and forewarn people of any difficult terrain or icy conditions that will be encountered.
  • Face people and speak loudly. If the meeting location is noisy, move to a quieter area.
  • Count the participants.
  • Encourage people to bring interesting sightings to the attention of the group.
  • Encourage people to post their photos from the walk to social media using the hashtag #TFNWalk so that others can easily find them.
  • Point out other experts in the group.
  • Ask participants to adhere to the participant guidelines.
  • Stress the importance of walkers staying with the group behind the leader. If the group is large, select a helper to "shepherd" any stragglers.
On the trail:
  • Set an appropriate pace so that everyone can keep up, yet allowing sufficient time to see and enjoy interesting things. (A common complaint was going too fast.)
  • Point out plants, animals, and natural features in a loud voice, allowing an opportunity for all to see.
  • Try to include interesting information about what is seen, not just identification, but don't make long speeches.
  • Optional: Broaden the interest of the outing beyond its main focus by mentioning any environmental, historical or architectural aspects of the route.
  • Welcome questions and try to be accessible to all participants. If individuals ask questions while walking, try to save the answers until the next pause, to be shared with the group.
  • Include beginners by taking time to help them understand how things are identified. Encourage experts to share their knowledge.
  • Make sure everyone has an opportunity to see what is being described, and be specific in pointing out the location of a bird.
  • Stop periodically and gather the group to point out items of interest. Pick quiet locations and be sure to speak audibly and clearly. In summer, look for a shady spot.
  • On long outings, pause by washrooms.
  • In the interests of safety, keep group together when crossing roads; be aware of hazards or obstacles; and help less agile walkers with barriers, slopes, uneven terrain or icy conditions.
  • Be flexible, adjusting to bad weather conditions.
  • Enthusiasm, humour and interesting anecdotes add to the enjoyment of an outing.
At the end of the walk:
  • Provide a clear ending to the outing.
  • Ask for feedback - anything that would have improved the group's experience.
  • Provide travel instructions if it is not obvious.