Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada Nature Canada
Calendar Species Spotlight: July Gosling!
News

Calendar Species Spotlight: July Gosling!

This blog was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit  What’s black, white and brown, and maybe more Canadian than maple syrup? If you guess the Canadian Goose, well, spot on! Now here’s 4 fun facts you probably didn’t know about our lovable geese! #1 Did you know you’ve most likely mistaken the Cackling Goose for the Canadian Goose? But it’s only because they’re virtually identical! The difference is seen is their size and vocalizations. The Cackling goose is tiny compared to our Canadian goose, and whereas the Canada goose has a familiar honking call, the Cackling goose impressively sounds like an old lady laughing at a very funny joke. Have a hear here to check out the differences: Canadian Goose: [audio mp3="http://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CANGOO_1.honkingofseveralgeese_KYle_1.mp3"][/audio] Cackling Goose: [audio mp3="http://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CACGOO_1.callsofseveral_AKkc_1.mp3"][/audio]   #2 V is not for victory! The familiar V formation in the sky we see each spring and fall actually has a cool scientific purpose for this choice of letter! In a V formation, the geese synchronize their wingbeats from one other to catch the uplift eddies from the goose in front. This will efficiently save physical energy for their long-distance migrations. (So, I guess it is like a victory?) What’s more, is that this formation has amazed engineer and behavioural scientists for decades, even inspiring the flight mechanics for man-made aircraft. #3 Contrary to popular beliefs, Canadian geese do not naturally eat bread! (Shocker, I know). Actually, all birds don’t naturally eat bread. It’s quite bad for their digestive systems just like junk food every day is bad for ours. Canadian geese are herbivores. They like grasses, leaves, sedges, seeds, grains, aquatic plants and fruits (apparently blueberries are a winning favourite). In addition, they will occasionally add in a juicy aquatic insect and/or aquatic invertebrate. #4 Canadian geese are pretty family-orientated! A male and a female will bond and mate for life, i.e monogamous. The pair will return to the same nesting area year after year. Usually this spot is where one of the parent themselves, hatched. Canadian geese represent a bird species that has both maternal and paternal care for their offspring, named goslings. Mom and dad will be very protective to the point of being quite aggressive to anyone, or thing, that seems like a threat to their goslings. A family sticks together often walking in single file with mama as lead, goslings in the middle, and papa in the rear! What a beautiful sight. And there you have it! Time to share these fun facts at your next party! (Sure to steal the limelight!).

Indigenous Action and The Red Knot
Claudio Timm
News

Indigenous Action and The Red Knot

Image of Rufus the Red KnotThe Red Knot The Rufa Red Knot is a subspecies of arctic-breeding shorebird that breed in the central arctic of Canada. It has a long, thin beak for probing sand, silt and mud. Its long legs allow it to navigate the shallow waters of the tidal flats, beaches, rocky headlands and coastal wetlands where it gathers to find safety in numbers from predators. Long wings allow it to travel thousands of kilometres per day during its migratory period. Rufa Red Knots fly over 30,000 kilometers a year, traveling from the central arctic of Canada to the southern tip of Chile. They brood up to four eggs in June for about three weeks, after which the mother starts her migration soon after the eggs hatch, while the father continues to tend its young until they can fly. These unique and vital birds are officially endangered, with only one Red Knot currently living for every ten that were alive 50 years ago. Red Knots face many challenges when migrating, which have become only more numerous over the years due to humanity’s influence on the environment. Stop-over habitats are especially at risk of being destroyed by industrial and urban development projects that range from city expansion to resorts and to even shrimp farms. Recreational human activities, as well as feral cats and dogs, can often scare away shorebirds from stop over areas, leaving them unable to rest or feed appropriately on their journey south. These difficulties are further complicated by their migration season lining up with tropical storm season. [button link="http://naturecanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Rufus.pdf" size="medium" target="_self" color="red" lightbox="true "]Make sure to check out our short comic illustrating the struggles of being Rufus the Red Knot here![/button] James Bay Cree Community Involvement with the Red Knot Communities such as the Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) on southern James Bay are very interested in conserving Red Knot populations that pass through their homelands on James Bay, with the help of their partners in government, research, and non-governmental groups. The habitat used by the knots is the same habitat that supports geese that migrate through at a different time.  Geese are a staple of the Cree diet. The MCFN are increasingly participating in surveys of shorebirds, including Red Knots. For the knots, many are outfitted with bands on their lets, including a coloured “flag” that, based on the colour, can be used to determine where the bird was captured.

Keeping an eye out for the colored flags of previously banded birds is one way that local people are able to add to the knowledge of this species. Furthermore, to help scientists further track the movements of Red Knots, MCFN has participated in CWS-led efforts to attach nano transmitters to little backpacks on some birds that can be detected by receiver antennae erected around the James Bay and throughout other locations in North, Central and South America. This system is known as Motus, and is a project of Bird Studies Canada that allows for tracking of bird movements in real time. The transmitter’s signal can be detected within about 15 kilometres of a receiving station.

The Moose Cree First Nation is pursuing nomination of the coastal area of James Bay within their homelands as a WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) site. A WHSRN is a conservation strategy created in the 1980s aimed at preserving nesting, breeding, and staging habitats. Establishing a WHSRN in James Bay would be a great achievement for the Cree, and the shorebird conservation community, who have recognized the importance of this area for shorebirds for decades. Nature Canada has been supporting MCFN efforts with the nomination, and continues to do so, through the support of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

Learn more about what the Moose Cree First Nation are doing for Shorebird populations here:

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Discover more about the nature you love.

Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!
News

Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!

This blog was written by intern Gabriel Planas Why Feed Wild Birds? Spring can be a stressful time for migratory birds, after arriving from their wintering grounds it can be difficult to find the food and resources they need to survive. Many of the berries and seeds these birds depend upon for food will have been eaten over the winter and will not have begun to grow back yet. Furthermore, these birds will also be attempting to build nests, fight for territory, find a mate, and incubate their young. This is no small task due to natural bird habitats are being destroyed by urban and industrial development projects as well as climate change. Image of a rose breasted grosbeakPreparation While well-constructed bird feeders are not necessarily required to feed birds, without one the food you leave out may attract unwanted animals such as squirrels or dominant birds such as starlings, grackles, and squirrels. If you already own a bird feeder, make sure to clean it of any feed from the last season to avoid any mold or possible parasite growth within the feeder. Be aware of what birds occupy your neighborhood to help you select the best ingredients and location for your feeder. Sometimes changing the location can attract or discourage certain animals and species of birds from stealing from your feeder. If you do not own a bird feeder but would like to purchase one, links to purchase high quality bird feeders can be found here and here. Feeding The most important part of feeding birds is the mix of ingredients you use to attract them. Many commercial bird feeder mixes can often be ineffective in enticing more desirable bird species. Products that birds find undesirable such as milo are used to fill up these mixes, resulting in birds picking through the mix, creating a mess bellow the feeder. This mess can often attract unwanted animals or form a sludgy mixture that can make birds sick, depending on the ingredients used. Ingredients for Feeder Image of an eastern bluebird Sunflower Chips: These unshelled sunflower seeds are great for attracting bug-eating birds like robins, warblers and tanagers before bugs resurface for the summer. Also good for attracting Chickadees, nuthatches, house finches and cardinals. Safflower: With its hard-thick shell it can be hard for some birds to consume this seed. It is however, a favorite of chickadees, doves, and sparrows. According to some sources, house sparrows, European starlings and squirrels do not like safflower. Results may vary according to area. Millet: Millet is a common grain that is very popular among ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, doves and cardinals. As this grain is most popular with ground feeding birds, it may be beneficial to serve this from a low-set tray feeder to attract more birds. Peanuts: Peanuts are an impressive source of nutrition for birds such as blue jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Unfortunately, they may also attract unwanted animals such as raccoons and squirrels. Mealworms: Mealworms are a great way of attracting bug-eating birds such as blue jays, robins, Wrens, Warblers and Mocking birds Suet: Suet can attract all manner of birds on cool spring days. It is a high-energy food made with the fat found around the kidneys and loin of cattle or sheep designed to keep the stomach of birds full and warm throughout the winter. While suet can spoil quickly in the warmer weather, there are a number of alternative recipes to prevent it from melting that can be found here as well as here. Nectar: Though humming birds require specialized feeders, you can attract them by providing them with homemade nectar, the recipe for which can be found here.

Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 65,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

Best Places to Bird in the Prairies
News

Best Places to Bird in the Prairies

Published: May 5 2018 Price: $ 24.95 Authors: John Acorn, Alan Smith & Nicola Koper Published By: Greystone Books


[caption id="attachment_36427" align="alignleft" width="194"] Best Places to Bird in the Prairies by John Acorn, Alan Smith & Nicola Koper[/caption] Written by Nature Canada’s writing intern, Gabriel Planas Best Places to Bird in the Prairies is a wonderful guide, aimed at getting the average Canadian out of their stuffy home and onto the bird populated trails of the prairies. Three of Canada’s most experienced and respected birders came together to give their two cents on the best places to go bird watching in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Each author outlines their favorite birding spots in the province in which they reside, providing a unique personal perspective on each location. Alongside these descriptions by the authors are guides to properly find and observe the birds in each location, which is a huge help to those who will be going birding for their first time. Thankfully, directions are provided on how to find these locations, as many of these places are situated off the beaten track or may require long distance travel to find. Well-designed maps corresponding to each location supplement the directions to give readers a better understanding of the location. While I cannot speak for experienced birders, I believe that these descriptions and birding guides will help even those with prior knowledge have a more rounded experience when visiting these locations. Amusingly, beautiful pictures of the various birds you will find on the trails feature captions that range from cute, to informative, to downright funny. For example, the caption for a picture of a Baby Coot reads “A baby coot, with orange beard and bald head, so ugly it is beautiful.” While the other written sections are less irreverent, they still give off the distinct impression that not only were these authors passionate about birds; they have an absolute blast observing them. This attitude goes a long way in convincing a non-birder, like myself, of a sense of enjoyment I would not normally associate with the activity. The pictures that supplement the content also go a long way in portraying the majesty and mystery of birds, serving as great motivation to find them out on the trails. It is important to note that the introduction provides a brief look into birding ethics. This is important when considering that most people who do not actively participate in bird watching would not know about the ethical implications of an activity like this. Overall, Best Places to Bird in the Prairies provides a fun and high-quality guide for beginner as well as long time birders. Those with little experience are given enough information and encouragement to get themselves out of the house and on the trails, while the personal accounts and birding guides may help give experienced birders a new perspective on areas they may already be familiar with.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 65,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

Injured Baby Birds: Debunking Common Myths and Dispensing Practical Advice
News

Injured Baby Birds: Debunking Common Myths and Dispensing Practical Advice

This blog was written by Helene Van Doninck, wildlife veterinarian at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia, and edited by Samantha Nurse. Spring is the busiest season of all for wildlife rehabilitators. It’s baby bird season! This is the season that rehabilitation centres start to stock up on supplies and prepare for an exponential growth in phone calls. The first priority is to help injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife; however, we often spend a considerable amount of time talking to people to help us decide if an animal is really orphaned or in distress. Many times people just aren’t familiar with the natural history of that species and many situations that look like an animal in peril, really are just an animal exhibiting normal behaviour. We uncover the truth behind some of the myths associated with baby birds, as well as tips on what to do if you find a baby bird in your yard!

Myth #1: Baby birds found outside the nest have been orphaned.

[caption id="attachment_34262" align="alignright" width="394"]Image of a Bobolink feeding young Bobolinks feeding its young[/caption] It’s not common knowledge that most baby birds (especially songbirds) spend a lot of time alone once they fledge from the nest. People often see a young bird alone and assume it is an orphan  this is usually not true. Songbirds will hatch from their egg in a nest and are called nestlings at this point. When they make that first leap out of the nest (and are now called fledglings), they often either fall or flutter to the ground and spend several days on the ground under the watchful eye of the parents. The parents likely have up to five or six fledglings that have left the nest over a period of a few days. Both parents are working at top speed to find food from dawn till dusk.  They not only have to feed these young birds (one bug at a time!), but they need to keep track of where the babies are (they are often guided by the calls of their babies) before racing off to find the next morsel of food. They also protect them from predators,  try to lead them to areas where there is cover, and eventually teach them to forage and fly on their own. These behaviours are often learned by observing the parent, though the flight is instinctual for most birds. Young birds are at a high risk of predation. Other wild birds and mammals can prey on them, and in most parts of the world, the domestic cat is also the cause of millions of songbird deaths. We regularly ask people to keep cats as indoor pets, or at the very least limit their outdoor time during baby season. There are some types of birds that will spend most of their time with the parents, again due to their natural history. Birds like ducks, geese, and pheasants keep their young with them and many people have observed these species with the hatchlings following in a tight cluster. These species don’t manually feed their young; instead the young observe the foraging and pecking behaviour of the parents and learn to feed themselves in this manner. For this reason, anytime a down-covered young of any of these species is found alone it requires intervention, especially if it is calling loudly with no response from a parent.

Myth #2: Baby birds handled by humans are rejected by their parents.

A common myth we hear is that if a young bird is touched and has human scent on it, the parents will reject it. This is untrue as birds have an extremely poor sense of smell (though we don’t recommend handling wild birds unless it is absolutely necessary). We have successfully returned young birds back to their parents up to four days after they were taken. However, keep in mind that parents may abandon a nest that is repeatedly disturbed, so try to avoid this, especially when the young are very new. At this age they require high volumes of food and warmth and the parents need to be very vigilant to ward off predators. Excessive disturbance by curious humans may disturb normal activities, resulting in the loss of the nest. What can you do if you find a baby bird? [caption id="attachment_36370" align="alignleft" width="449"]Photo of Juvenile Western Wood-Pewees by Tony LePrieur. Photo of Juvenile Western Wood-Pewees by Tony LePrieur.[/caption] First, you need to determine if it is a baby bird. If it has no feathers or very few feathers, that makes it more obvious. Fledglings, however, are usually mostly feathered but have some obvious differences in comparison to adults:
  1. Fledglings have wispy or fluffy down feathers poking through the regular feathers, which are most commonly seen on the head.
  2. They have shorter tail feathers and often have gape flanges which look like large yellow/beige/orange “lips” protruding from the sides of the beak.
  3. They may also have only feather shafts, which look like a drinking straw with a feather growing from it, where one would expect to see flight or tail feathers.
Naked nestlings found on the ground from a destroyed nest always need help. The best option is to re-nest the birds if possible. If that can’t happen, an artificial nest can be constructed from a hanging plant basket or other basket, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. The best placement for this basket is as near as possible to the original nest and hopefully shielded somewhat from direct sunlight and rain. You can then back away and watch from a distance with binoculars. Once the nestlings are hungry and call, the parents will usually feed them in an artificial nest. They may be suspicious at first, but instinct often overrides that and the parents should accept this situation. If not, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator or your wildlife officials for more advice as these birds may need to be taken into care. We ALWAYS try to reunite the parents and young as the parents are much better at raising the offspring than any human. Fledglings by definition have left the nest. Sometimes well-meaning people who have been monitoring a nest will put them back, only to have them jump out again. This is normal! If you are unsure if a fledgling has parents tending to it, the best option is to watch from a distance with binoculars. The parents will stay away if you stand too close. If all is well, you will likely see a parent bird land next to the fledgling, poke a piece of food into its mouth and take off again to find more food. If you are unsure about this, another thing you can do is check for feces. Young birds will poop frequently when they are being fed regularly. If the parent is tending to them they usually produce poop after every feeding, often every 20 minutes to one hour. You can even place a shallow lid under the bird to look for this. If the parent bird is not showing up and the fledgling is calling repeatedly for hours with no response, this may be an orphan and you should call a rehabilitator. There are several other situations that warrant rescue of a bird, including obvious blood or injury, being  handled by a dog or cat and knowing for certain that the bird is an orphan. Keep in mind however, that most young birds on the ground are normal fledglings with parents. If you find one in a perilous situation, you can try to coax it to an area with cover or put it on a low branch, realizing that it may jump down again immediately. People often ask us what they can do to help baby birds. Reasons for songbird population declines are complex, but from our perspective, we have three key pieces of advice: 1- Preserve habitat: Leave brush piles for cover and preserve large trees and snags for cavity nesters. 2- Do not use pesticides birds need insects to feed their young. 3- Keep your cats indoors. These steps will lead to more young surviving the fledgling stage, which will lead to more breeding adults for the future. Watch more videos of baby birds under the care of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. 
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 65,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

The Iconic Gray Wolf
Photo by: Lynn Clement
News

The Iconic Gray Wolf

Written by Nature Canada's writing intern, Gabriel Planas Nature Canada’s featured species for May is the Gray Wolf. Latin Name: Canis Lupus Life Span: 6-8 years Description: Also known as, timber or western wolves, Gray Wolves, are one of the most iconic and mythologized animals on planet earth. Known for their beautiful gray and sometimes golden brown coats, these wolves can be found in a variety of environments and continents, from Asia to Europe and North America. This notoriety almost lead to their extinction in the southern United States due to the popularity of their pelts and their tendency to hunt animals that humans have domesticated. Sometimes weighing up to 120 pounds and measuring almost six feet in length, these apex predators would be a frightening sight to stumble across in the wild. Despite their intimidating size and the 1500 pounds per square inch of pressure provided by their jaws, Gray Wolves hunt in packs to take down their prey. Hunting: Their preferred prey, ungulates (Deer, elk, moose, caribou, bison), are experts in evading wolves. 84-87 out of 100 of prey escape while being hunted, meaning that a pack of wolves may not eat for days. For this reason, Wolves will often eat 20% of their own body weight. When wolves do kill their prey, they will often be the young, the old or the sick of the herd they are hunting. Wolves live in packs of 2 to 20, depending on the amount of prey available within their territory. This territory is marked by all manner of bodily functions (urine mostly) and is protected against other packs. Packs follow a strict hierarchical structure with an alpha male at the top, while their mate acts as their second. This pair is often the only wolves to mate in a pack with the other wolves helping to take care of the offspring. Puppies! Wolf pups are born completely blind and deaf; however, they possess a well-developed sense of smell. Litters are typically about 4-6 pups which take up to 63 days to grow inside the womb with an additional 12 to 15 days to open their eyes. These pups are not like any puppies you would see in the dog park as they begin hunting with the rest of the pack after only 7-8 months. Before this however, pups are fed milk until 4-5 weeks after which meat is provided by all members of the pack. When pups are hungry at this age, they will lick around the mouth of another wolf, which prompts the wolf to regurgitate food stored in their stomach. This provides a sort of “baby food” for wolves.

email signup

Join the Movement!

Sign up to learn how you can protect the nature you love.

Your Voices for Nature Matter!
News

Your Voices for Nature Matter!

[caption id="attachment_36239" align="alignleft" width="150"] Jodi Joy, the Director of Development and Conservation at Nature Canada.[/caption] Thank you to the thousands of Canadians like you who called for the government to invest in more wilderness protection for wildlife! Time and time again we are inspired by how deeply you care about nature and your commitment to protecting it. Using our collective voices is what makes a difference, and, as we saw with the 2018 Federal Budget, as a united front, we will influence change. Never doubt that your voice matters for wildlife and landscapes across Canada, and for all of us at Nature Canada! I always love receiving notes from our members because it reminds me how many Canadians are truly nurtured by nature, and the importance of nature for millions of lives across the country! Long-time members such as Dorothy from British-Columbia, make it clear to us why protecting nature is important. She exclaimed that “Caring for our natural environment is at the heart of the health and well-being of all Canadians. We need strong laws in place that put nature first.” And for the past few months we have been striving to do exactly that as we are making our voices heard and telling politicians to strengthen environmental laws across Canada. As Peter, a member since 1997, puts it plainly, “Inaction is the thief of time, start with small steps, they’ll lead to much larger, more ambitious commitments to protect nature.” Together, we have taken thousands of small steps forward for nature. There are many more steps to take, and your devoted support is something that will make the journey more enjoyable.


Here are a few other quotes from devoted Nature Canada members:

“Caring for our natural environment is at the heart of the health and well-being of all Canadians. We need strong laws in place that put nature first.” Dorothy from BC, who has been a member since 1999.

A plea from Patrick, a SK member since 2014 that we are happy to work for, “Please protect our valuable nature capital - it is our future.”

A final, parting thought from member of twenty-two years, Ruth in Ontario, “Many of us despair about what’s happening to our planet & its wildlife & our environment. Nature Canada gives us a spark of hope.”


Thank you to everyone that called for the government to invest in more wilderness protection for wildlife! Never doubt that your voices matter for nature, from coast, to coast, to coast!


Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Discover more about the nature you love.

2018: The Year to See Alberta’s Wild Horses
News

2018: The Year to See Alberta’s Wild Horses

The following is a guest blog from one of Women for Nature members, Sandy Sharkey who is a photographer and nature explorer by heart. Growing up, she spent countless hours catching frogs, saving baby birds, and pouring over every page of the complete Funk and Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia series… dreaming about seeing each and every one of the animals in those books. You can see more of her amazing photography and thoughts about how amazing nature is at: www.sandysharkey.com. The wild stallion appeared at the edge of a forest, his thick bay coat glistening in the sunshine.  Ears perked, eyes alert, he watched me as intently as I watched him.  A spindly twig was tangled in his forelock.  This either added to his wild appearance, or gave him a comical look.  Before I could decide, I realized that I too had a twig stuck in my hair.  This is what happens when you spend a lot of time in the bushes. I felt a kindred connection with this horse. [caption id="attachment_35949" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Photo by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption] Ninety minutes north of Calgary, the small town of Sundre (population 2729) is considered the gateway to Alberta’s Rocky Mountain foothills, home to the wild horses that have survived here for over two and a half centuries.  A large mural stretched across the Sundre Museum proudly displays a pictorial history of the area’s wild horses, tough sturdy animals that roam the forests, bogs and grasslands in close-knit family bands. Just after sunrise on a crisp January morning, I joined my expert guides Darrell Glover and Duane Starr (founders of the organization ‘Help Alberta Wildies’).   Both retired, Darrell and Duane work tirelessly to increase the awareness and protection of these wild horses.  On any given day, they fill the role of ‘guardian angels’.  Darrell regularly flies his Cessna airplane over the rangeland to ensure that the family bands are healthy, safe, and documented.  Duane is by his side, using his instincts and expertise as a wildlife photographer to capture wild horse images that are as much a form of art as they are a source of documentation. On this day, we were a trio in a 4 by 4 truck, headed for the ‘back roads’ of the Alberta foothills.  Within minutes, a cow moose appeared, stopping for a quick glance before lumbering on.   As we continued our climb through majestic forests with sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, a red fox popped out of the snow.  A tasty rodent had eluded him this time, but he went right back to work, burying his nose into a snowdrift. ‘Horses’!  Darrell spotted them first.  A small family band of Alberta wild horses stood knee-deep in snow on the edge of a forest.  Three mares and a stallion with a twig stuck in his forelock.   We quietly got out of the truck, stepping through thick brush to get a better view, but keeping a respectful distance.   The wild horses had thick winter coats that glistened in the sun, and manes the colour of midnight.  I was struck by their beauty.  The mares ignored our presence, digging to uncover the forage beneath the snow.   But the stallion remained curious and watchful.  Then with a toss of his mane, he gave his mares the signal, and the horses galloped through the deep snow and disappeared into the forest. [caption id="attachment_35947" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Alberta wild horses standing by the edge of the forest, captured by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption] We continued on, and found more bands of wild horses at the forest edge, or in clearings or bogs, each sighting different from the rest but equally exhilarating.   Last spring’s foals were now almost as tall as their mothers, prancing about and kick their heels into the fresh mountain air. Our drive through the foothills was an easy loop.  My mind kept repeating the same thought:

Most people have never seen a wild horse.

There is a belief among the First Nations people that a spiritual connection exists between mankind and wild horses.  If wild horses come to you in your dreams, you are blessed with certain powers. You don’t have to search far and wide to find the wild horses of Alberta.   Stallions tend to keep their family bands in familiar territories.  With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, a wild horse sighting is pure gold for a nature lover. At the end of our loop, the sun began to set on the foothills.  Duane, Darrell and I headed for home (or in my case, my motel room) but not before the day delivered one final gift:  a large band of wild horses on the edge of a bog, with two dueling stallions in a sparring match.  Kicking up heels, kicking up snow, boys doing what boys do. [caption id="attachment_35945" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Two dueling Stallions, photo by Sandy Sharkey.[/caption]
For your next wildlife experience, the wild horses of Alberta will leave you breathless. In fact, if you contact ‘Help Alberta Wildies’, Duane or Darrell will be glad to tell you where they are.   And maybe even escort you to them, since they were likely going out to see them that day anyway. The Rocky Mountain foothills are home to red fox, lynx, cougar, wolves, bears, moose and elk. The wild horses of Alberta have earned their place as one of the star attractions in this pristine wilderness. For more Alberta wild horse images, please see www.sandysharkey.com.
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Discover more about the nature you love.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?
News

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?

[caption id="attachment_24637" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Guest Blogger Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. One might not think of Canada when thinking of fantastic creatures; however, this country is home to many wonderful animals worthy of the spotlight! Canada’s vast, diverse territory is filled with many different ecosystems and animals adapting to their niches. Adapting to the surrounding environment is hard work, and therefore evolution sometimes presents some pretty — umm — unique traits and characteristics. Some animals have developed morphological oddities, other behave quite specifically, but all have something we can learn from! Today’s honourary species is the Star-Nosed Mole. Basically a furball meets a sea anemone, the Star-Nosed Mole has a unique evolutionary development. Can you guess what it is? [caption id="attachment_35714" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Image of Star-Nose Mole Photo of a Star-Nose Mole by gordonramsaysubmissions (CC BY 2.0)[/caption] If you guessed 22 tentacle-like appendages, you’re right. Like all species of moles, the Star-Nosed Mole is a digger. They can dig extensive underground tunnels in moist soils. Found in eastern North America, their Canadian range extends from Manitoba to Labrador. They prefer soils with poor drainage such as wet meadows, marshes, and peatlands. In the underground world, it’s pretty dark so one might think a super sensitive smelling organ would be useful, right? Sure … however, those finger-like appendages are way more useful than that. These appendages comprise tiny sensory receptors called Eimer organs, named after Thomas Eimer who discovered them in 1871. Each appendage contains over 25,000 of these Eimer organs. The localization of these sensory receptors means that it can do all — smell, see, and touch. In fact, the Star-Nosed Mole basically has a compass, antennae, thermometer, extra graspers, and communicator all literally in front of its nose! For that, Eimer organs have been noted as one of evolution’s finest developments. So, how do Eimer organs work? The moment the receptors touch things, electrical signals are sent via nerve fibres straight to the brain for processing. The brain analyses the frequency, force, and response to stimulation and then formulates the picture of the surrounding area. The process is similar to echolocation but more sophisticated. Therefore, going through a pitch-black tunnel is easy since these moles have the environment mapped out in their minds. The study of the Star-Nosed Mole and Eimer organs has opened up many exciting questions on the evolution of animal appendages and its corresponding genetic expressions. How did the Star-Nosed Mole originate? How did Eimer organs originate? Are there other animals with similar mechanisms? Should changes to the evolutionary tree be made? In the past, bones were the only available remnants to study since squishy soft-tissue organs don’t fossilize well and thus their secrets are lost. Luckily for science, new technologies such as embryonic development are now a great tool to uncover the mysteries of evolutionary adaptations. The results from studying the Star-Nosed Mole’s early development are already quite exciting. Studies show that the genetic “program” to make the star nose during embryonic development is unlike any other animal appendage, suggesting an independent evolutionary history! Once the background history is sorted out then and the how is answered, the next question is why. Why did the Star-Nose Moled evolve? What environmental conditions influenced its evolution? And what else can we learn from this little mole?

Just think of it — it took humans a long time to invent GPS and yet the Star-Nosed mole had something similar this entire time! Now, isn’t that fantastic?! Tune in next time when we talk about another one of Canada’s unique creatures!

Acknowledgments: BioKids, IUCN Red List, Journal of Experimental Biology, Natural History Magazine, Wikipedia
Email Signup

Want more nature news?

Join our 65,000 nature lovers raising their voices for nature!

‘Tis the Season … To Hibernate
News

‘Tis the Season … To Hibernate

With winter finally here in full force, I see the appeal of stuffing myself with food and sleeping until all this snow melts away. While snow-covered trees and trails are beautiful, there seems to be less wildlife to look at in the winter. As animal sightings are less frequent, it had me wondering where they all go.image of a Grizzly Bear and her cubs When you think of hibernation, most people probably think of bears first. And while this is true, they’re aren’t actually the “truest” kind of hibernator, which includes a lowered heart-rate, breathing, and metabolism. This is because bears are in a much lighter sleep and can still be awakened. They get up more frequently than true hibernators, but can still sleep for days, weeks, or months — they go into what is called torpor. Skunks and raccoons are other mammals that can sleep for long periods of time to avoid the winter elements, but aren’t true hibernators. Bats, however, have some of the longest hibernation capabilities and can survive on taking just one breath every two hours. And did you know that bees hibernate in holes in the soil? Well, the queen bee that is. Worker bees die off every winter, but the queen bee hibernates in the ground for six to eight months until it is warm enough to rebuild. Garter Snakes are relatively harmless, but the idea of stumbling into a den of hundreds or thousands of them is not a pleasant one. While most snakes just become less active in the winter, garter snakes actually hibernate in dens in large quantities to stay warm. One den in Canada was found to have 8,000 garter snakes! And did you know? Climate change is already affecting the hibernation patterns of some animals, like chipmunks. Bears also give birth and raise their young during the hibernation period, which could lead to very negative effects on their populations if hibernation times are reduced. Acknowledgments: Live Science, Science News, Earth Rangers

Want to Help?

Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.

Donate