• Spectacular migration of tens of thousands of geese and cranes • Fine selection of Prairie birds and mammals• Visit a variety of habitats from marshlands, wetlands to mixed-grass prairie
In mid-October, Sandhill Cranes migrate by the thousands south across southern Saskatchewan, stopping at various localities to refuel before continuing their journey. With them are a handful of Whooping Cranes, coming south from breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories.
We have a good chance of finding Whooping Cranes on our birding tour as there is a fine network of field observers scouting the area for these legendary birds. Along with cranes, tens of thousands of Snow Geese and Canada Geese, with lesser numbers of Ross’s and Greater White-fronted Geese, are pouring through, as well as other waterfowl including all three species of scoters, raptors and passerines, especially large flocks of Lapland Longspurs with Snow Buntings and possibly Smith’s Longspurs, and Northern Shrikes.
Day 1: Arrival in Saskatchewan
Day 2-4: Whooping Crane search
Day 5: Departure
Day 1. Arrival in Saskatchewan
Our Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes birding tour starts in Saskatoon with supper on Day 1.
Days 2 - 4. Whooping Crane Search
During the following three days, we travel to Last Mountain Lake one day, Miry-Galloway Bay on Lake Diefenbaker on another, and the Outlook-Gardiner Dam-Elbow area on the third. It is almost guaranteed that one or more groups of Whooping Cranes will appear in the Saskatoon area during the tour period.
Our schedule is flexible such that we can alter our itinerary to visit an area where the cranes have touched down. It is most likely that birds will appear southwest of Saskatoon, most likely close to Last Mountain Lake. The National Wildlife Refuge at Last Mountain Lake is a superb area – a mixture of grassland habitat with potholes, springs, fen bogs and saline wetland complexes. The site contains shallow marshy bays and inlets surrounding a large freshwater lake and is recognized as a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, a Ramsar site, and a National Historic Site. The area near Lake Diefenbaker and Gardiner Dam support thousands of Snow Geese each year; the actual fields that the birds occupy shifts from one year to the next, depending upon the type of crop grown the previous summer, but we should have little difficulty in locating the foraging areas for the flocks. Snow Geese will be the most abundant species in these flocks, but there are also groups of Greater White-fronted Geese, Ross’s Geese and several species of ducks. Sandhill Cranes will also be gathering. Raptors of several species will be present, and waves of Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings should be migrating south. Finally, both Sharp-tailed Grouse and Gray Partridge can be conspicuous at this time of the year.
Day 5. Departure
Our tour ends today. You can depart anytime for flights home.
• Whooping Crane
• Sandhill Crane
• Greater White-fronted Goose
• Ross’s Goose
• Tundra Swan
• Snow Goose
• Sharp-tailed Grouse
• Gray Partridge
• Golden Eagle
• Peregrine Falcon
• Lapland Longspur
• Smith’s Longspur
2016 Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes tour (pdf)2015 Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes (pdf)2012 Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes (pdf)
We stay in just one location, Saskatoon, for our four nights, which is very convenient. During our Saskatchewan Whooping Cranes birding tour, we take day trips to Last Mountain Lake, Lake Diefenbaker and Gardiner Dam, and the prairies in between the lakes. We do not start particularly early, as sunrise at this latitude in October is quite late. Most days will begin with breakfast at about 7:00 a.m., and then we leave for the day with a packed lunch, returning in the late afternoon to our accommodation, although this will vary according to the day’s activities. Driving will be in moderate amounts, and we walk some side roads; however, most birding will be done from the vehicle. We could have cold windy days with snow, and we could have fairly warm days with sunshine. Please dress warmly; bring layers, which can be added or removed as circumstances dictate. Bring warm headgear, scarves and gloves. Have footwear that is both warm and waterproof. We will not be on extended walks unless the weather is sunny and calm. Bring lots of film - photographic opportunities could be excellent. Do not bring mosquito repellent - there won’t be any mosquitoes! Each evening, the list of birds and other wildlife will be reviewed, and plans for the next day will be discussed.
• All accommodation• Breakfasts and lunches• Ground transportation• Guides• All park, conservation and entrance fees• Gratuities
Not Included:• Flights to and from Saskatoon• Evening meals• Travel Insurance• Items of a personal nature
"The guides were marvellous and the other participants knowledgable and very helpful. Seeing the number of individual species was wonderful. The Whooping Cranes were thrilling to actually see. Thank you!" - 2015 participant
“Save for our late arrival due to a snow storm, the tour went off without a problem. We saw all of our target birds, the leaders were very knowledgeable and friendly and our traveling companions were very nice.” - 2016 Saskatchewan Whooping Crane Participant
“The weather (snowy) was a bit of a challenge, but we saw a lot of birds very close up either beside or on the road. This was my first commercial bird tour and I found it very relaxing.” - 2016 participant
“Despite the snowy weather we saw many birds. Our two leaders Rudolf and Ken were just great at spotting birds and driving us around on muddy roads. I was happy to see five life birds. Thanks for the great trip.” - 2016 participant
"Seeing the Whooping Cranes, the Snow Geese, the moose and the eagles was wonderful. The guides were very knowledgable and mixed us socially and treated us with respect." - 2015 participant
“It was an excellent trip! Great leaders, nice people to travel with, nice country, good weather.” - 2015 participant
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