Snow Goose Chase 2013


Last year was my first time to attend the Tofield Snow Goose Chase, organized by the Edmonton Nature Club, and I had a wonderful time! Not too long after the Chase I had an email from Mr. Parsons, the ENC’s  Special Events Co-ordinator, who had invited me to the Chase in the first place, and who does so much of its organization. He had an idea for this year, to include a Young Naturalists’ Corner, and asked if I could help with the organization beforehand, and then working at the table. I thought it was a wonderful idea and started planning for the table last May.

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At this year’s Snow Goose Chase — this past Saturday, April 27th — there were some terrific displays at the Tofield Community Centre, including four live raptors from the Edmonton Valley Zoo; Alberta’s own John Acorn, the celebrated naturalist and entomologist whose enthusiasm on Saturday was infectious; a Bugs & Beetles wetland display; an incredible variety of touchable animal pelts from trapper Bill Abercrombie of Alberta Trapline Adventures; Royal Alberta Museum ornithology curator Jocelyn Hudon with the always fascinating mounted bird specimens (including a beautiful Scarlet Ibis); a table from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory; a display of various live and preserved reptiles and amphibians (including some of the preserved ones in water for the kids to touch), and a display of bird and animal carvings from the Boag Lake Carving Studio.

Considering it was our first year, the Young Naturalists’ Corner seemed to be very popular with all the kids and their families. In fact, there were nine buses of kids and their families, so it was almost overwhelming at times with so many people. Bob arranged for Andrea, a student, to help out, and our mothers were there as well, and also Petra Rowell, the executive director of Nature Alberta, with whom we shared the space.

We had some great door prizes to give away including two new children’s birding and nature books:  Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, March 2013) and The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, and illustrated by Rachel Riordan. Annette donated three autographed copies of Look Up!, which was an amazing gift for the Corner, and Ken sent along some promotional bookmarks for The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book — thank you Annette and Ken. Both titles were among the stars of the Young Naturalists’ Corner, with kids reading through the books and hoping to win them, and parents and grandparents writing down the titles and authors. Petra and Nature Alberta donated a number of things too, including several toy/plush Ord’s Kangaroo Rats!

We all answered questions from kids and their parents, about how to start your own local nature club for the summer, where to find nature in the city, joining Nature Alberta’s “Young Naturalist Club” program, for kids ages 5-13. They loved guessing what animal had shed the antlers (White-tail Deer) and holding them up on top of their heads. Lots of the kids asked, “What are these books for?” or “Where can we get them?” So we told them that the books, which you can find at the library or a bookstore, are great for learning more about the animals they would see, and experiences they would have, at the Chase.

Bob did a wonderful job organizing everything and also taking time to help me with the Young Naturalists’ Corner. Thank you again, Bob, for everything — especially for asking to me to be part of such a wonderful day. It’s an honor to be asked to join everyone who works so hard to put on such an amazing experience.

I saw two first-of-season species while my parents and I were driving around Tofield: a large flock of Sandhill Cranes and five Canvasbacks. I also saw one male Mountain Bluebird as we were approaching Tofield in the morning, also 10 Red-tailed Hawks, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls.

Below are some pictures my mother and I took last Saturday:

The Young Naturalists’ Corner’s banner, especially made for this year’s Chase,

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Here I am with John Acorn and Andrea who was helping me at the YNC,

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Mounted waterbirds from the ornithology collection at Royal Alberta Museum,

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Here is part of our table with all the prizes and pamphlets from Bird Studies Canada and Nature Alberta, and some of the books I’ve written about in the past few weeks,

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A deer skull and a pair of antlers (both from White-tail Deer) we brought from home for the table (sorry for the blurry photo, my mom didn’t have her reading glasses on at the time!),

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A beautiful carved Green-winged Teal from the Boag Lake Carving Studio,

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Kids admiring the carvings at the Boag Lake Carving display,

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The Cows, Fish, Cattledogs, and Kids display,

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An Alberta crawfish (Orconectes virilis) in the pond life display,

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A young Peregrine Falcon,

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Even though we see thousands of Snow Geese in the slough across the road from our house, what would be a Snow Goose Chase without going to see some Snow Geese around Tofield?! Because of our late Spring the geese were a little harder to find, but we saw some very large flocks and I got some very good views, thanks to my scope!

Some digiscoped photos of the geese,

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Snow Goose Chase 2012

The other week I joined the AlbertaBird listserv to find out about bird sightings through the province and also connect with other Alberta birders.

After joining I got an email from one member, Bob Parsons, who is the Special Events Co-ordinator for the Edmonton Nature Club, inviting my family and me to the annual Snow Goose Chase on April 28 in Tofield. Luckily, that day was free (the only free April Saturday on our calendar in fact) so I was able to say “Yes”!

We did our morning chores as quickly as possible despite a heavy spring snowstorm all day Friday and early Saturday, and left at 8 am to be at Tofield by 10. On our drive I saw about 50,000 Snow, Canada, and Greater White-fronted Geese, 11 American Kestrels, 16 Red-tailed Hawks, many species of ducks, three Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and many Purple Martins in Tofield.

There were some terrific displays at the Community Centre, including three live raptors from the Edmonton Valley Zoo; celebrated Canadian naturalist John Acorn, whose show, “Acorn the Nature Nut” my brothers and I loved when we were younger; a live garter snake (a female, approximately one meter long), scorpion, and Malaysian katydid, from the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM), shown by Pete Heule, the Museum’s Bug Room Co-ordinator (we like his features on CBC radio); a live Burrowing Owl from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, which I’ve just joined as a member; a Bugs & Beetles wetland display, including fairy shrimp which I had never seen before; and animal pelts from Bill Abercrombie of Alberta Trapline Adventures.

One of my favorite exhibits was the mounted owls of Alberta, displayed by Jocelyn Hudon, curator of ornithology at the Royal Alberta Museum. I also found out that the RAM has a new exhibit, “Fashioning Feathers” about the dangerous connection between fashion and natural history, running from March 24, 2012 to January 6, 2013, which I am very eager to see, especially because I read a little bit about the subject while researching the Carolina Parakeet for my 4H speech.

Mr. Parsons did a wonderful job organizing everything and also taking time out to welcome my family and me on what was such a busy day for him. It was also great to meet some of the other members of AlbertaBird — including John Acorn and Jocelyn Hudon — and put faces to the names. I had a terrific day and hope to go again next year! Below are some pictures I took Saturday.

A Spectacled Owl from South America, from the Edmonton Valley Zoo,

A Great-horned Owl, also from the Edmonton Valley Zoo,

A badger pelt,

The Burrowing Owl from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, which I was able to hold (photo by Alexander Wasylik),

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Mounted owls of Alberta from the Royal Alberta Museum,

The Malaysian katydid,

Two Nature Nuts — here I am with John Acorn (photo by Caroline LeCourtois),