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008 Life in a Rut, Fall Hikes, Dark Skies, and Canada’s National Bird

In this episode, we’ll look at romance in the fall elk rut, hikes to get you into larch country, Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival and finally the hunt for Canada’s National Bird

Story 1 – Life In a Rut

Now that September has arrived, thoughts will be turning to romance in the local elk population. The antlers that have been covered in velvet since late-April are now beginning to peel as the blood supply is cut off to the velvet. Big bulls, properly called stags will begin to rub the antlers against trees to get rid of the itchy skin as the velvet dies. At the same time, they’ll get more standoffish with other males and begin to collecting the cows, or hinds, into a harem. The strategy of the elk is not one guy, one girl, it’s one guy and all the girls!

Story 2 – Famous Fall Hikes

This story looks at some of the great places for fall colours in the Canadian Rockies – and in particular, the autumn golds of the alpine larch. We look at several trails and the important information for getting the most out of your autumn hiking experience. In particular, we talk about the following walks:

  • Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass in Banff National Park
  • Sunshine Meadows as well as Healy Pass, also in Banff
  • Burstall Pass and Chester Lake in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country.

Story 3 – Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival

Have you ever sat under a starlit sky and just wondered at the bazillions of stars that you can see overhead. When I was a kid, we had a cottage (to us it was called a camp), at a place called Birch Beach on the shores of Lake Superior. There were no street lights and when it got dark, it got really dark. As a kid, I could see all kinds of scary things in the shadows of the forest if I found myself having to walk alone after dark. I learned that if I looked up at the stars, all the monsters disappeared…and I’ve been a lover of the night sky ever since. Unfortunately, for many of you listening, you may not have had a similar experience. In

Unfortunately, for many of you listening, you may not have had a similar experience. In fact, a new atlas of light pollution reveals that 80% of the world’s population, and even worse, 99% of Americans and Europeans can’t see the magic of the Milky Way anymore because of urban light pollution.

This makes places with pristine, dark skies a mecca for star lovers and Jasper National Park has been designated as one of the largest dark sky preserves on the planet. This year, on October 14-23 they will be hosting one of the greatest geekfests of all time with the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. It gives visitors an opportunity to really experience the night sky and Milky Way in all of its glory. And are you ready for the best part, and I’m soooooo excited about this, On Oct 15, Bill Nye, the Science Guy will present at 10 am and 3:30 pm and on Oct 21, George Takei, better known as Sulu on the greatest sci-fi show of all time, Star Trek, and also a well-known LGBTQ activist will host another evening event. OK. What more could any geek want.

Well, how bout this? On Oct 15 Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hanson will speak and the same night the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will perform Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons under the stars. These are just a few of the events that will bring star lovers to Jasper this October. For more information visit .

Story 3 – Canada’s National Bird

Like many countries, Canada as a nation has numerous federally adopted symbols. The national animal is, naturally, the beaver. So much of our history and our founding as a nation are related to this industrious rodent and it seems like nothing else could stand next to it in terms of national significance.

Our national tree is the maple. It is the symbol of our flag and our nation, and even though it doesn’t grow in all regions of Canada, it is a symbol that most Canadians feel proud to represent our nation.

Our national sport is lacrosse, a sport invented in the Iroquois first nations in southern Ontario, Quebec and several northeastern U.S. states. It may have been played as far back as 1100 AD and so has a history dating back almost a thousand years. Of course, in winter, hockey is the national sport simply for its pervasiveness in the day to day life of most Canadians. Hockey is simply a way of life. Hockey and Canada go hand in hand.

What about a national bird? Well, we don’t have one. In Alberta, we recognize the great horned owl. In British Columbia, it’s the Steller’s jay. Nationally though we have yet to recognize a single bird.

The Royal Canadian Geographic Society would like to remedy that. After all the U.S. has the bald eagle so it’s about time – right! In January of 2015, the society opened a contest for Canadians to vote on their choice for the most Canadian of birds. The top choice so far, with almost 14,000 votes was the Common Loon. Who hasn’t marveled at its haunting call? Heck, it even represents the theme song of this podcast so clearly, it’s important.

Next up was the great horned owl with 8490 votes and the gray jay with 7918. Rounding up the bottom five were the Canada goose followed by the black-capped chickadee. All fine choices although I think I agree with the loon taking the top spot. What about you?

Sometime this month, a panel of experts will debate the list and decide which bird they will support. A final choice will be announced on Nov. 16 after which their recommendation will be sent to Ottawa for their 2 cents worth.
We’ll keep you posted as this story unfolds.