Prince Albert National Park of Canada
Wildlife & Bird Watching
Wildlife watching takes patience and knowledge of the animals.© Parks Canada / Craig Zimmerman / PANP E1734
Seeing wild creatures in their natural environment is often one of the highlights of a visit to a national park; from the red squirrels chattering by your campsite to a stag elk grazing in a clearing or an osprey circling the water’s edge.
Each of these and the thousands of other species of bird, mammal, fish, invertebrate and vegetation deserve attention and respect. For, one of your greatest opportunities when visiting a national park is to come to understand and appreciate the ecosystem’s wonderful web of interactions.
Improving the Odds - Tips For Wildlife Watching
It is surprisingly easy to visit the park but not see much in the way of large mammals and birds. Do not be disappointed. One key to fulfilling wildlife watching is to match your expectations with the daily, seasonal and yearly patterns of wildlife needs and behaviours . For instance, during the heat of an August afternoon is not a great time to hear or see songbirds. But a visit to Treebeard Trail, for example, early one June morning will inevitably be filled with the music and colour of dozens of species. Beaver are more active at dusk and throughout the night during summer but become more creatures of the daytime in autumn as they extend their active hours to prepare for winter. Dragonflies nymphs emerge from their aquatic home to become adults throughout the spring and summer.
Another tip for wildlife watching is to realize that it takes time . Wild creatures don’t appear or perform ‘on cue’ like they do in the movies. And those spectacular video scenes of spawning fish, fledging eagles and wolf hunts demanded hundreds of hours of waiting. So, let patience be your guide . Find a quiet spot and sit, stroll slowly down the trails or drive leisurely along a park road.
Finally, begin to imagine and watch for the nature of the national park unfolding as processes . Things happen because it is an eco ‘system’, where one action influences another. Watch for red foxes choosing the easiest sites to hunt small mammals beneath the snow after a heavy snowfall. Rove a lakeshore after a big windstorm. Wildlife in search of food that has washed up may be there too. Remember where the hazelnuts or bunchberries bloomed in profusion and visit again when their nuts and fruits will be meals for squirrel, chipmunk or ruffed grouse.
Over 50 species of mammals, 20 species of fish and 600 species of plants have been found in the park.
Red-necked grebe at floating nest.© Parcs Canada / Merv Syroteuk / PANP A410
The park is located within a biological transition zone of aspen parkland intermingled with a few islands of grassland and boreal forest. This accounts for the large variety of bird species found in the park as residents or migrants. Some 243 birds have been recorded here. About 25 species are winter residents.
A bird checklist is available from the Friends of the Park Bookshop in Waskesiu.
Interesting Areas for Bird Watchers
Narrows Day Use Area
17.8 km from the Junction of Highway #263 and the Narrows Road.
At this location, Waskesiu Lake narrows to less than 50 metres. It is one of the last places for birds such as common loon, mergansers, scaup and eagle to find open water in the autumn and one of the first to thaw in late winter. Treebeard Nature Trail, only 1 km from the Narrows, is an excellent area to find brown creepers, nuthatches, three-toed woodpeckers and a variety of warblers which prefer mature spruce and fir forests.
4.2 km from the junction of highway #263 and the Narrows Road
At this point, Mud Creek flows under the Narrows Road. There's a pull-off area big enough to accommodate a few cars. Put-in your canoe on the upstream side. Over two-thirds of this lake is out of view from the road. This shallow lake is more of a large marsh than a lake and is home to many waterfowl. Avoid nesting areas and give a wide berth to the birds on the water. Hidden in the cattails on the far southeast shore of the lake is the mouth of the creek that will take you into Shady Lake. Be prepared to cross beaver dams.
These are wild creatures you are watching. They may not behave predictably. Find out more by reading about Safety and Hazards in the national park.