Scavenger hunt on the Kumdis Conservation Area, Haida Gwaii (Photo by NCC)

Scavenger hunt on the Kumdis Conservation Area, Haida Gwaii (Photo by NCC)

A day of discovery on Haida Gwaii

Nature walk on the Kumdis Conservation Area, Haida Gwaii (Photo by NCC)

Nature walk on the Kumdis Conservation Area, Haida Gwaii (Photo by NCC)

On August 23, the Nature Conservancy of Canada hosted its first ever Conservation Volunteers event on Haida Gwaii. This stunning archipelago off of BC's northern coast is as remote as it is beautiful, and so we weren't sure how many people we could rally together for a day of exploring on NCC's Kumdis River Conservation Area.

The day dawned bright and sunny — perfect for an event that was calling on nature lovers of all ages to come out to a forest scavenger hunt. At the Port Clements school we met up with a keen group of local youngsters and adults, as well as a few summer tourists. After the short drive out to the conservation area, we stretched our legs with a walk along the estuary. This rich intertidal area is one of the key features of this conservation area, providing important habitat for salmon, migratory birds and a host of other species. As if to underscore the richness of the estuary, three sandhill cranes flew in, landed next to us and came along for the walk along the estuary.

Nature's scavenger hunt

Nature scavenger hunt (Photo by NCC)

Nature scavenger hunt (Photo by NCC)

After our walk we got into the promised scavenger hunt. Instead of searching for hidden bobbles and bric-a-brac, the group was shown pictures of the animals and plants that can be found in the area. Armed with nets and magnifying insect containers, we divided into groups and began to hunt around the forest and river bank for species that matched the scavenger hunt clues. The kids were enthusiastic searchers and teams came back with everything from toads to snails, some even brought back fish!

Over apples and cheese, we identified what we had found and shared our knowledge about the flora and fauna of the area. Everyone was happy have spent their morning steeped in the pristine forest, discovering the wonders of nature right in their backyard. They all agreed the Kumdis River Conservation Area is a place they will return to to enjoy its natural beauty.

What's so special about sandhill cranes?

Sandhill cranes (Photo by Steve Ogle)

Sandhill cranes (Photo by Steve Ogle)

  • Sandhill cranes are very large, tall birds with a long neck, long black legs, and very broad wings. Their short tail is covered with drooping feathers that form a “bustle.” They are largely gray, with pale cheeks and red skin on the crown.
  • They are omnivorous and forage in prairie, grassland and marsh habitats for seeds, grains, berries, tubers, small vertebrates and invertebrates.
  • Sandhill cranes have one of the longest fossil records of any living bird. The earliest sandhill crane fossil is estimated to be 2.5 million years old!
  • Sandhill cranes are known for their dancing, which includes behaviours such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing and wing flapping. Though it is commonly associated with courtship, dancing can occur at any age and season.
  • Sandhill cranes mate for life (which can mean two decades or more) and stay with their mates year-round. They choose their partners based on dancing displays. Courting cranes stretch their wings, pump their heads, bow and leap into the air in exuberant dance. Although some start breeding at two years of age, sandhill cranes may reach the age of seven before breeding. Females typically lay two eggs each breeding season. Juveniles stick close by their parents for nine or 10 months after hatching.
  • The sandhill crane's call is a loud, wooden-sounding bugle with a rattling-like quality. Their unique tone comes from their long trachea (windpipe) that coils into the sternum and help the sound develop a lower pitch.

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