THINGS TO DO:
Zoos, Sanctuaries & Wildlife Parks
I encourage my son’s innate love of nature by getting out into it as much as possible. Now that he’s a little older, we’ve graduated from the backyard bird feeder and local duck pond. Our recent wild bird adventures have grown his respect for nature, shown him the meaning of conservation and have been a whole lot of feathery fun.
Nestle in at the Nest
Veering east of the huge lake, over 100 species of migratory birds scoot the tall ridge of Marten Mountain and pass right over the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory and Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation. You can camp nearby the sanctuary, but we decided to nestle in at The Nest – the cozy onsite hostel. We played around in the centre, hiked in the forest and kicked back with some visiting researchers on the Nest’s big forest-side deck for a colourful sunset and a chorus of a thousand wild bird songs. Visit during the observatory’s Songbird Festival in June for banding lab tours, guided hikes, kid’s activities and a yummy pancake breakfast.
Start a Lifer-List Here
As we wandered the riverside walking trails at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in southeast Calgary, we heard the tap-tap-tappa of a woodpecker, got a great photo of a yellow-beaked pelican and stopped to marvel at the deep blue and white pattern of the harlequin ducks by the river. It was a great place for us new birders to start our lists, but with more than 270 species around, even veteran birders are likely to spot a lifer.
Meet a Burrowing Owl Up Really Close
At the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, just east of Lethbridge, we fed the ducks, got our picture taken with a specially trained owl (super cool souvenir) and watched a lightning fast falcon swoop right over our heads. Meeting these majestic birds up close and learning their stories of rescue and rehabilitation showed us hands-on environmental stewardship in action and inspired us to look after our own wild neighbours in new ways.
Celebrate the Return of the Trumpeter Swans
This spring, we visited the Grande Prairie Swan Festival to celebrate the return of the trumpeter swans to the Peace Country. We learned how the swans recovered from near extinction in only 100 years, played in the wetland tent and took an hour and a half guided tour from Saskatoon Island Provincial Park to look for swans and other wildlife.