Our horizons may have shrunk somewhat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but nature’s panorama is still there, waiting to be explored.

These five conservation quests will take you into the night sky, into the soundscape of a beluga whale, into the world of birds and bats, and into a community of citizen scientists. And you don’t even have to leave your backyard to take the trip!

1. Go birding... inside and outside.
Western tanager.
Western tanager, Point Pelee National Park

Birds won’t stop migrating, nest-building and mating because of COVID-19. Your backyard is a perfect spot to start looking for the bird species that frequent our many birding destinations such as Point Pelee National Park.

And for the birder who's stuck inside, there’s always Google Street View.

Google birders begin their expeditions by clicking on the Street View option of Google Maps. Then they do what birders do everywhere—meander down a lane, scan the horizon, scope out a likely-looking field. But they’re using the “zoom” and “rotate the view” functions to spot the birds captured by Google.

Plants and animals of Point Pelee National Park

Transcript [This video contains no spoken words]

2. Pitch your tent at the edge of infinity... on your back lawn.
The Milky Way above a lake.
The Milky Way over the shore of Lake Annette, Jasper National Park.

If you have to shelter in place, Earth is a pretty good planet for it. On a clear night, you might be able to see as far as the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light-years away.

Thirteen Parks Canada places have dark sky designations, where the night sky is protected like any other natural feature.

To get ready for your return to them, you might want to explore your corner of the universe through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Canada's national parks hold a dark secret


Canada’s national parks hold a dark secret
Away from glaring city lights… stars shine bright
Dark-Sky Site designation is awarded to areas where artificial light is minimal
And where efforts are made to reduce light pollution in nearby municipalities
This makes for spectacular stargazing

Parks Canada manages many of Canada’s Dark-Sky Sites
And the number is growing
At these sites, visitors can experience mind-boggling views of the Milky Way
Offering visitors a rare glimpse of our galaxy
And all that lies beyond

Protecting the night sky is also great news for wildlife
Unnatural light affects mammals, amphibians, birds, plants, and insects
Some migratory birds rely on the stars to find their way

Join the dark side
See the stars this summer at Dark-Sky Sites across Canada

3. Watch for beluga whales... and download a beluga ringtone.
Beluga whale.
Beluga whale, Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park

During the summer, the beluga (an endangered species) frequents Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park to feed, socialize, and rest. You might be able to catch sight of belugas on the park’s webcam.

Belugas are sometimes called sea canaries because they communicate using a wide repertoire of whistles, clicks and squeals. And what better way to experience this rich soundscape than by downloading the beluga ringtone for your smart phone?

Have you ever heard a beluga sing?

Transcript Have you ever heard a beluga sing?

In this video, Nadia Ménard, an ecologist at Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, gives an interview. There a a few shots scattered throughout where we see images of the Saguenay-St. Lawrence marin park and beluga whales.

The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park was established in 1998. Now the catalyst was to favour the recovery of the endangered beluga whale population. In my work as a marine ecologist I had the opportunity to work throughout the marine park but in one specific area called Baie-Sainte-Marguerite which is in the Saguenay Fjord. This area is mostly known for its importance for beluga whales, namely females with their calfs, because they’re the future of the population. It’s the area, in the summer range of the population, where the waters are the warmest. So we think it might be a good area also for calving but also to feed their young because the beluga calves depend on the females for milk, they’re a marine mammal. All this is happening underwater. Baie-Sainte-Marguerite is not only an area where we’ve done work on what types of pods are in the area, the food that’s available, but it’s an area where we want to enhance the protection. On a more personal note, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Baie-Sainte-Marguerite many time with my children. We bring along a picnic on the beach and watch the sun setting over the Saguenay Fjord and sometimes we have the chance to hear the beluga singing while we’re having dinner. These are unforgettable memories, probably some of my best wildlife viewing events that I’ve ever had.

4. Become a bat for a night.
Small bat flying in a cave.
Little brown bat (Photo: Sherri and Brock Fenton)

Scientists use computer models to simulate and explore the living world. But you can also go low-tech and use a “thought experiment.” (Albert Einstein was a big fan of these.)

Cape Breton Highlands National Park has been monitoring bats since 2015. Their discoveries—and some great photos of bats—are captured in this story map:

Bats and white-nose syndrome


Parks Canada Agency Branding Logo

Music plays

Photo of bat in flight


Music continues playing

Bats flying in cave

Bats are fascinating mammals,
and are important components of healthy ecosystems.

Photograph of a bat eating a moth

The bats native to Canada are insect-eaters,
and their value in controlling crop and forest pests
is estimated in the billions of dollars.

Photo of bat with white muzzle

Yet, three bat species in Canada
are now listed as endangered
because of a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome.

Map of New York State, zoom out to reveal Ontario and other parts of the United States.

The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome
may have come from Europe.
It has spread quickly throughout Eastern North America,
and may continue to spread.

Bats hibernating

The fungus can transfer quickly between bats
during winter hibernation,
when they gather in underground openings,
like caves or abandoned mines.

Bat climbing snowy rocks

Infected bats can arouse early from hibernation.

Dead bat on a snowed log

With no insects to eat,
they use up their stored energy reserves, and die.

Photograph of a dead bat on snow

Since 2006, millions of North American bats have died
from white-nose syndrome.

Fade to black

Music continues

Fade in from black to photograph of 3 cavers looking into cave from outside
Parks Canada manages national parks
and historic sites across the country

Fort Lennox building

including both buildings and caves where bats can be found.

Group of bats in a cave

Across the Parks Canada network, we are protecting bats
in all stages of their lifecycle.

Photograph of a scientist handling bats

Parks Canada collaborates with bat experts
to better understand the impacts of white-nose syndrome

Photograph of a scientist's hand with gloves on holding a bat

and to find ways to delay its spread.

Parks Canada agents inside the cave

Park staff are identifying bat habitat,
and monitoring bat populations and health.

Photograph of a scientists at the entrance of a cave with white suits

Scientists and park staff who monitor bats
decontaminate their clothing and equipment,
to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Photographs of artificial bat houses

Artificial bat houses, when they are placed
in the right location, can provide roosting habitat
for hundreds of bats at a time.

Webcam video of bats moving around

Webcams installed in Parks Canada buildings
can help visitors observe bats first-hand,
and provide opportunities to study their behaviour.

Bat moving around in cave. A second bat flies into frame.

You can help us to protect bats and their habitats.

Bats in a cave flying around

Respect all closures of caves and other sites.
Avoid entering caves, since humans can carry spores
on their clothing or footwear, and can unintentionally move
the fungus to new areas.

Group of bats with condensation

The fungus can be present even if bats are not.

Group of bats in a cave Entrance of a cave. Parks Canada Agents walk into the cave.

Anyone entering a Parks Canada site
where bats are present must have a permit,
and will be required to follow a decontamination protocol

Screen shot of CWHC website.

Text on screen: Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative


which is available on the website of the
Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative.

Group of bats in a cave

We invite you to visit Parks Canada sites
to learn about bats and the challenges they face,
and share this information with others.

Group of active bats in cave

Bats are at great risk.

Bats in a cave flying around

We all have the responsibility
to do everything we can to help them.

Photograph of bat on hat with Parks Canada logo

Join Parks Canada and other agencies
to reduce the threats faced by North American bats.

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Fade into text on screen:

Photo credits by order of appearance: B.Fenton, H.Broders, and J.Segers

Extra footage: Carl Mrozek and Hugh Broders

Graphic on screen: Parks Canada Branding

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Fade to text on screen: © Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada Agency, 2016.

5. Share your memories and observations on iNaturalist.
Red fox in winter.
Red fox, La Mauricie National Park

iNaturalist.ca helps you capture your observations of plants or animals—anytime, anywhere. Every observation contributes to our knowledge of biodiversity.

You can upload the photos you’ve taken of plants, animals, and insects at Parks Canada places. Don’t worry if your observations are from previous years; they still count… and can be important data points.

And of course, check out the photos uploaded by other visitors!


Parks Canada on iNaturalist