September 2019

Welcome to the September 2019 edition of Saskatoon NatureKids Buzz, the electronic newsletter of the Saskatoon Young Naturalists. The Saskatoon Young Naturalists is a joint program of the Saskatoon Nature Society and the Saskatoon Zoo Society.

Saskatoon NatureKids Buzz is local nature news that may be of interest to kids interested in nature. You are receiving this because you enrolled in a Saskatoon Young Naturalists nature activity program. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter, please send me a reply e-mail ( with the word “unsubscribe”.

Please do not print this newsletter. It is designed to be read on an electronic screen. Links are highlighted and are active.

Crane Spotting

If you missed the Sandhill Crane field trip or the weather doesn’t co-operate on field trip day you can still look for Sandhill Cranes on your own! Here is a a backgrounder for Sandhill Cranes around Saskatoon.

Not all birds migrate.  But the  ones that do migrate follow the ancient bird super-highways.  Scientists call these migration super-highways ‘Flyways’. There are several important flyways in North America. ( One of the neat things about Saskatoon is that we are smack-dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. We are perfectly positioned to see large numbers of birds moving from Canada’s north to their southern overwintering grounds. But birds don’t usually fly thousands of kilometers in a single go. They need safe places along the route to stop and rest. They also need to eat so that they will have the energy to compete their flight. These safe habitats are call “staging areas”. Without safe staging areas the birds cannot complete their migration. This is the reason why it is so important to protect habitat along the entire migration route and not just the areas where the birds breed in the north or overwinter in south.

Sandhill Cranes (Antigone Canadensis) and their larger cousin the Whooping Crane (Grus Americana) follow the Central Flyway and have staging areas around Saskatoon. There are not that many Whooping Cranes, so they are much more difficult to spot compared to Sandhill Cranes. The number of Whooping Cranes has increased in recent years; however they are still considered a species at risk. Sandhill! Cranes, on the other hand, number in the hundreds of thousands (thanks to habitat conservation throughout the Central Flyway).  That may sound impressive, but  it is nothing compared to the number of Snow Geese and ducks which pass by each fall (and spring!)

Sandhill Cranes are big birds. They stand an average 1.2 meters in height (Whooping Cranes are even larger). Adult Sandhills are a drab grey colour with a splash of red above the eye. Young cranes are more rusty coloured than the adults. One of their distinguishing features is their call. ( Sandhill Cranes have a loud, rolling, “gronk” sound. Sandhill Cranes have long tracheas (windpipes) that coil into the sternum (chest area) and help the sound develop a deep, rich, and very loud sound. Their call is so loud it can be heard from several kilometers away. Sandhill Cranes fly very high, usually a kilometer or more above the ground, so even if you can’t spot them, you can still hear them.

In the fall Sandhill Cranes start to arrive in the Saskatoon area around the beginning of September. By mid-October most will have departed for their overwintering areas in the southern United States and Mexico. They stop over for food and rest. The sandbars in the South Saskatchewan River provide a resting area that is relatively safe from predators.

Although Sandhill Cranes eat just about anything edible (seeds, grasses, berries, lichens, pondweed, fish, frogs, snails, salamanders, and even mice and small birds!), it is the spilled grain in our harvested fields that attracts them in large flocks.

Great places to look for Sandhill Cranes near Saskatoon are on the harvested grain (not canola) fields south of Saskatoon. The fields along Valley Road on the west side of the South Saskatchewan River are good places to look. So are the fields along Highway 219 as far as the Beaver Creek Conservation Area. Along highway 219 there are some good a few   roads that parallel the highway to check out as well. Look for groups of large birds feeding on the grain. There will be geese as well, but Sandhill Cranes are unmistakeable  because of their large size.  Be sure to  pull well off the highway when you stop to watch the birds.  And always respect the  private property where the cranes are feeding. If you enjoy a fall walk in the country you can check out the sandbars in the river from public access points like Cranberry Flats, Chief Whitecap, Poplar Bluffs, and Beaver Creek Conservation Areas.

Sandhill Cranes are nervous and restless birds and are easily spooked. It is difficult to get close to a group of cranes. You will need binoculars (or a spotting scope) to observe them. You can tell when you are getting to close as the cranes will start to do a nervous walk away from you. If they get too spooked, they will take to flight. Be patient and move slowly. You can use your car as a “bird blind”. The cranes get nervous when they identify something (with legs) that might be a predator. They don’t recognize a car as a threat unless it gets close. If you have a good view from your car, then stay in your car for a while. Have Fun!

Events of Interest for Nature Kids

Sheep grazing at Beaver Creek Conservation Area Conservation Grazing Demonstrations

October 1-4

Don’t be sheepish! Join the interpreters at Beaver Creek at their demonstrations of conservation grazing! Each day there will be a sheep stock dog demonstration at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM; the shepherd, Jared, will be using his border collies to move the sheep around on site for grazing. The demonstration sessions will be to show the use of dogs as a tool in managing livestock including sheep for grazing operations and will explain the benefits of grazing on prairie ecosystems.

Visit for more information.

Want more nature?

Check out Ecofriendly Sask.

It is a weekly round-up of everything enviromental in Saskatchewan (including kid-friendly activities), and small action grants as well.

Upcoming Young Naturalists Programs

Young Naturalists’ Northern Saw-whet Owl Field Trip

Space is limited. Advanced registration is required.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Evening (7:30 – 10:00 p.m.)

Free (Donations are appreciated).

(Some travel is involved. 80 km round trip)

Naturalists at Night! We will join naturalist Martin Stoffel as he collects scientific information from migrating Saw-whet Owls. Saw-whets are an extremely cute owl so this program fills up quickly.

Enrolment is limited.  Advanced registration is required.

Please note this is a “past the usual bedtime” late evening/night program and may not be suitable for all children

E-mail to register or for more information.

At least one parent/guardian must accompany your child/children on all Young Naturalists activities.

Young Naturalists’ Bird Feeder Workshop

Saturday, November 16, 2019

1:00 p.m. (to 2:30 p.m.)

Location: St. Martin’s United Church

Cost: $10.00 / children members: $5.00 / child. Space is limited. Pre-registration required.

To register: e-mail

Learn about how a bird feeder can be used for winter bird watching and how you can become a Citizen Scientist to track bird populations!   Bring a hammer  and build your own bird feeder to  take home.   Enrolment  is limited.  Pre-registration is required. E-mail to register or for more information.

Nut Allergy Alert: the materials used in this program may have been in contact with peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and other seeds and tree nuts. This program is not suitable for persons with severe contact (not ingestion) nut allergies.

At least one parent/guardian must accompany your child/children on all Young Naturalists activities.

Watch the Zoo Society and/or the Nature Society web sites for program updates.Check out our Facebook Page