Welcome to the (late) fall edition of Saskatoon NatureKids Buzz. Fall in Saskatchewan can be unpredictable with the weather resembling summer one day and winter the next. This year is no exception and the Young Naturalists found themselves looking for Sandhill Cranes in a driving snowstorm.
By the way, the Sandhill Cranes usually stick around until mid to late October. If you take a drive out Valley Road keep your eyes open for loose flocks of Sandhill Cranes feeding in the grain fields.
Sandhill Cranes are just one of the bird species on the move southward. Saskatoon is located smack-dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. This is a traditional migratory route over the great plains of North America. It runs roughly parallel to the Rocky Mountains and runs from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. At this time of year billions (yes, billions) of birds are winging their way south. Sadly, hundreds of millions of birds will be killed by cats or die from window strikes. You can learn and help prevent these needless deaths by learning more about what to do. Check out FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) and Keeping Cats Indoors.
For nature lovers the fall migration is spectacular. Everything from tiny hummingbirds and warblers passing through from the boreal forest to pelicans and cranes are on the move. Watch the skies each morning as the flocks of geese pass overhead from the South Saskatchewan River to local grain fields to feed. It is hard to believe that most of those geese were just tennis ball-sized gosling only a few months ago. As I watch them fly in their “V” formations I wonder if they know instinctively to fly in a ‘V’ to reduce drag or if it is something they just learn playing and trying out their wings with their brothers and sisters. If you take a drive in the country the fields surrounding Saskatoon are full of Snow Geese this time of year. Snow Geese migrate at night, so before going to bed, stick your head outside your door and listen to the sound of the geese migrating overhead.
I recently spent some time checking out the Snow Geese and swans while looking for Whooping Cranes. With the Saskatoon Nature Society we spotted a spectacular flock of 70 to 80 Whooping Cranes. Former Young Naturalists leader Guy Wapple, who has much more patience and expertise in bird watching, visited the flock later that week and counted an amazing 152 Whooping Cranes (including 7 juveniles). This is wonderful news to see this critically endangered species continuing to make advances in population numbers.
Fall is a great time to get out into nature. Of course there are more than just birds on the move right now. Look for chip- munks harvesting buffalo berries, or brave garter snakes leaving the safety of their winter hibernaculum to bask in the sun one last time before hibernating for the winter. See if you can spot some hares changing colour for the season or beavers working overtime to get food cached underwater before it freezes. Happy nature spotting!
The Farley Mowat Connection
Saskatoon Junior Naturalists (as we were known back in 1968) were not the first youth nature program in Saskatoon. As Margaret Belcher (sister of Mary Houston) recounts in her book The Isabel Priestly Legacy: Saskatchewan Natural History Society 1949-1990. There was a junior club organized by Farley Mowat which operated in the winter of 1934-35. Here is a section from her book:
In the autumn of 1934, 13-year-old Farley Mowat, who was acquir- ing a reputation at school as an eccentric with his strange collection of natural history objects, was able to organize The Beaver Club of Amateur Naturalists. Its members were students who did not belong to the hockey and baseball crowd, initially four boys and three girls. There was a rigorous initiation – candidates had to be able to list from memory 100 species of birds, 25 mammals, and 50 fish, reptiles or insects; take a 10-mile nature hike each month; and write and read a four-page essay at one the regular weekly meetings. Each also had to donate a natural history object of value to the “Saskatchewan National Animal Museum” that Farley had set up.
When the museum project fell through because it was discovered occupying the shelves in a base- ment room which the Club members had cleared of academic tomes by removing them to the Mowat garage, Farely engaged his band in a new enterprise –the publication of Nature Lore – The Official Organ of the Beaver Club or Amateur Naturalists. Mowat of course became editor-in-chief and wrote much of the copy. The other members went door to door in Saskatoon hawking copies; within a week the press run of 50 copies had been sold, at a price set as variable – 5 or 10 cents a copy. The money from sales went to projects such as buying grain to feed ducks and geese over- wintering on the open water at the City’s generating plant. Enthusiasm for the Beaver Club waned sharply with the arrival of spring baseball season, and the Club and Nature Lore quietly expired.
Save the Date!
Saskatoon Christmas Bird Count for Kids
Thursday, December 27
Beaver Creek Conservation Area 10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
The Young Naturalists bird feeder workshop (Saturday, November 3) is timed to coincide with the start of Project FeederWatch.
Project FeederWatch is a survey of birds that visit from November 10 through early April. FeederWatch data help scientists understand winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.
Anyone interested in birds can participate. FeederWatch is conducted by people of all skill levels and backgrounds, including children, families, individuals, classrooms, retired persons, youth groups, nature centers, and bird clubs. You can count birds as often as every week, or as infre- quently as you like: the schedule is completely flexible. All you need is a bird feeder, bird bath, or plantings that attract birds. There is an annual fee of $35.00 to join Bird Studies Canada to participate in
For more information visit https://feederwatch.org/
The Reflections of Nature Art Show & Sale showcases over 500 pieces of art from around 200 North American artists, carvers, sculptors and photographers who enjoy expressing their love of nature through their art. The show encompass- es all ages and skill levels. This all happens at Prairieland Park, (Hall C) on the weekend of October 26 – 28. Reflec- tions is open to the public on Saturday, October 27 from 9:00 and 5:00 and on Sunday, October 28 from 9:00 and 4:00. Admission is $5.00. It is a great show which includes presentations, workshops, demonstrations and the Saskatoon Nature Society display booth as well! For more information visit http://reflections-art.blogspot.com/
Proceeds go to feeding injured and orphaned wildlife at:
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation
100 Rayner Ave.
Donations of used books may be dropped off at:
903 Temperance Street Saskatoon, SK
Celebrate International Bat Week with Meewasin at Beaver Creek Conservation Area on Saturday, October 27, 2018. Visit the centre during either our day or evening events to learn about our night sky, nocturnal wild- life, and how light pollution affects the natural world around us! This event is sponsored by the Saskatoon Nature Society and the Saskatoon Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society.
To arrive on site, take highway #219 13 km south of Saskatoon and turn right at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area sign.
FREE TICKETS are for the evening event only. Due to a site capacity, please arrive on site by 7:00 p.m. in
order to guarantee your spot for the event.
To register for the Bat Box Building click here.
Upcoming Young Naturalists Programs:
Enrolment is limited on Young Naturalists programs.
Early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.
Registration is taken on a first-come basis. To register e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the program for which you would like to register. You must register for each activity separately.
(You can register for more than one activity at a time). Most programs are free unless otherwise indicated. At least one parent/guardian must accompany your child/children on all Young Naturalists activities
Saturday, November 3, 2018
St. Martin’s United Church
Cost: $10.00 ($5.00 for members of the Saskatoon Nature Society or the Saskatoon Zoo Society) Space is limited. Advanced Registration is required.
Learn about winter bird watching with a bird feeder. Bring a hammer and build your own bird feeder to take home. Enrolment is limited. Pre-registration is required.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park Zoo (Affinity Learning Centre)
Paper Making is back for another fun and messy year! Learn how paper is made and create your very own paper from
recycled materials. It’s a great project for gift tags and cards. Wear old clothes as this program can get messy!
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park Zoo (Affinity Learning Centre)
We’ll look at the basic animal track patterns for some of the common animals found around Saskatoon. If weather permits we’ll do a little exploring for animal tracks in the snow. And we’ll also make a plaster track craft you can take home. Enrol- ment is limited.
Saturday, February 2, 2019
Pike Lake Provincial Park
Pishing is the time-honoured technique of attracting birds for a closer look. The chickadees at Pike Lake are well accus- tomed to pishers, so it is a great place to practice the technique. Dress warmly and give it a try. Cost is free. Bird snacks are provided (feel tree to bring one for yourself). Bring your binoculars if you have some.
Young Naturalists’ Owl Pellet Dissection Saturday, March 16, 2019
Young Naturalists Birdhouse Workshop Saturday, April 13, 2109
Young Naturalists’ Crocus Hike Sunday, April 21, 2019 at the Northeast Swale Young Naturalists’ Pike Lake Field Trip Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Pike Lake Provincial Park Young Naturalists’ Great Horned Owl Field Trip May (Date to be announced)
Want more nature?
Attention Nature Kids Teachers
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Outreach Program: Engaging Students with a live animal
Wildlife Educators from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation will visit your classroom with live animals including bats, birds and their Thirteen-line Ground Squirrel for a wild 45 minute presentation. Because Living Sky is a wildlife rehab centre, they have a unique perspective on the connections between humans and animals. Topics are curriculum based for each grade level and focus on habitat, community, animal characteristics, animal growth, and what to do if you encounter an injured or orphaned animal. Basic fee is $50.00 per class ($75.00 for bat presentation) and funds raised from the presentations support animal rehabilitation.
Call Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation for more information and available dates at 306-281-0554 or e-mail LSWR@sasktel.net to book your presentation.
NEW: Thanks to a grant from Nutrien and the Saskatoon Foundation the Living Sky Wildlife Outreach program can now be offered to
10 community school classrooms at no charge. This is a first-come-first-served offer.
Saskatoon Zoo Society On-site and Outreach Education Programs
Learn about biodiversity, species at risk, climate change, and Saskatchewan’s wildlife with the Saskatoon Zoo Society and their curriculum-based education programs. Programs take place at Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm Park Zoo or through their outreach program in your classroom. Visit the Saskatoon Zoo Society website for more information on educational critters, programs, and fees.
Check out EcoFriendly Sask.
The Saskatoon NatureKids Buzz is only a small sampling of nature and environment happenings. A great source of information is the EcoFriendly Sask. You can also subscribe to their weekly newsletter, EcoFriendly Sask News, and have a weekly round-up of every- thing environmental in Saskatchewan delivered right to your electronic mailbox. Plus check out their website for information on small grants for environmental projects.
The Prairie Naturalist is back for a new season! Jared Clarke hosts this live weekly radio show every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. on 91.3 FM, CJTR, Regina Community Radio. But you can also listen on channel 806 on SaskTel Max, or download the CJTR Smartphone App. Host Jared Clarke covers a variety of nature related topics from the prairies. Podcasts can also be found at https://soundcloud. com/theprairienaturalist or http://cjtr.ca/podcasts/
Lots of field trips (open to all ages) and other information
You can even download the latest newsletter from the Saskatoon Nature Society.
“Kids in Nature” Grant Program
In November and December the Saskatoon Nature Society will take applications for the Kids in Nature Grant. This grant was es- tablished to strengthen existing programs and encourage new initiatives that connect youth in the Saskatoon area with nature. The Saskatoon Nature Society has set aside approximately $2000.00 for this year’s Kids in Nature grant. Application deadline is December 31, 2018. Information and application available in November on the Saskatoon Nature Society website at http://www.saskatoonnature- society.sk.ca/kids-in-nature.html
Pete Thayer is an enthusiastic birder whose hobby got WAY out of hand! To celebrate his 70th
birthday, Thayer Birding is giving away the Thayer Birding Software to kids all over North America!
Young Birder Program
For Kids 18 and Under
Thayer would like one million kids to download our birding software, use it and get excited about nature and conservation.
Any young birder in pre-K, grade school, middle school or high school is now able to download the new version 7.7 of Thayer’s Birds of North America at NO COST.
Just have them visit www.ThayerBirding.com and select either the Windows or the Mac download. Then enter a special code, and within a few seconds the links will appear that will let them download the software for free.
The special code is available now at hundreds of Nature Centers, Audubon Society web sites, conservation organiza- tions, Wild Birds Unlimited stores and more. To get a unique code for your organization, e-mail Pete@ThayerBirding.com.
Teachers across the country have been especially interested in our Young Birder Program. So we created “generic” codes for every state and province. Tell teachers in your area to use a code such as CaliforniaSchoolsYoungBirder or NewYorkSchoolsYoungBirder. (No spaces in these codes.)
We also created the codes HomeschoolYoungBirder and CatholicSchoolsYoungBirder. Please pass these along to any- one who may be interested!
This free software, for Windows or Mac computers, features the 1007 birds that have been seen in the continental U.S. and Canada. The software includes 6,586 color photos, 1,506 songs and calls, 552 video clips of the birds in action, 700 quizzes, an Identification Wizard, The Birder’s Handbook and much, much more, as shown here:
Why are we doing this? Because the company founder, Peter W. Thayer, decided that this would be the perfect way to
celebrate his 70th birthday.
“Over the past 24 years I have heard from thousands of folks who told me how much this birding program meant to them. I have been overwhelmed by the kind words and feedback we have received from people who are now profes- sional bird guides, ornithologists, college professors and wildlife managers. They told me they used our program when they were growing up to learn more about the birds around them…and they still use it today!”
Now it is time to give back something to the birding community and to the millions of young birders (and potential young birders) who just need a spark to get them started on a life-long quest for knowledge about our natural world and the importance of preserving the habitat we still have. What better way than this to celebrate the year of the bird?