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Senators, MPs call for $1.4-billion in conservation funding from federal government

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As you may have heard, more than 100 Canadian Senators and MPs have signed a letter to the Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, asking for $1.4 billion in conservation funding to be included in the next federal budget.
We are encouraging members and supporters to write their own letters to both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. Mailing addresses can be found at the bottom of the page.
Now is the time to really apply the pressure to ensure that the budget includes the $1.4 billion.  Here are the key messages that CPAWS and Nature Canada, among others, have been using to build public support:     
  • Right now the Prime Minister and federal finance minister are deciding what to fund in Budget 2018. We are excited to tell you that they are considering a proposal for the biggest single investment ever made to protect Canada's land, freshwater and ocean!
  • Now, we urgently need your help to secure this Billion dollar plus investment that would help protect Canada's endangered wildlife and safeguard our country's spectacular natural beauty for generations to come.
  • Please take a moment now to let our federal Finance Minister and Prime Minister know you support a big investment to deliver on their promise to protect at least 17% of our land and freshwater and 10% of our oceans by 2020. With this investment, and your support, we can get there!


The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.
Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.
80 Wellington Street.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2.


The Honourable William Francis Morneau.
Department of Finance Canada.
90 Elgin Street.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G5


The Globe and Mail has a well done story on this topic. You can find it here:

Join a Christmas Bird Count Near You

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It's time once again for the annual Christmas Bird/Mammal counts. Counts will be happening all over the province throughout the month of December and into early January.

Plan to join in on the fun:

  • Dec. 28 – Christmas Bird Count for Kids, Pike Lake Provincial Park – No registration is necessary. Meet at the Pike Lake Visitor Centre. At the top of each hour between 11 am and 4 pm, participants will go for a short (20-30 minutes) bird walk and then head back to the Centre to warm up with hot chocolate and cookies. No binoculars? No problem – some will be available to borrow.
  • Dec. 29 – Centre Block, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Meet at the Visitor Centre at 10:30 am for a walk-about and at 1:30 pm for a snowshoe hike. Dress warmly and bring your own lunch.
Wintering Whooping Crane Update

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The conservation of a species at risk is often a team effort. When it comes to those species that migrate, team work and collaboration are vital to a successful program. Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) serves as the breeding ground to an important population of Whooping Cranes that head south to Texas for the winter months. The Whooping Crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas is about 2,500 miles in length and can take up to about 50 days to complete. Waiting for their arrival is Wade Harrell, U.S Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator. Below you will see Wade's Wintering Whooping Crane Update for November 2017.



Wintering Whooping Crane Update, November 20, 2017
Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator

Fall migration is coming to a close and whooping cranes have all moved south out of their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP). It was a record breeding year in WBNP; with above average conditions contributing to an estimated 63 fledged whooping cranes headed South on their first migration to Texas. The Whooping Crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas is about 2,500 miles in length and can take up to about 50 days to complete. It will probably be a few more weeks until the entire Aransas Wood Buffalo whooping crane population has arrived on the Texas coast. We were able to fit a few whooping crane juveniles this August in WBNP with new cellular-based telemetry equipment, and I want to walk you through the fall migration of one of these juveniles and its parents.

First off, let me provide a bit of information about our new telemetry devices. In our former telemetry study, we used satellite-based telemetry. These devices provided 3-5 locations every 24 hours and communicated that via space satellite. Our new telemetry devices have the capability to provide significantly more data compared to our previously used devices. We are now using cellular-based telemetry devices, meaning they relay location data using ground-based cellular towers, just like your mobile phone does. The device is powered by a solar-charged battery. As long as the marked bird is in the range of a cellular tower, we receive a data download every day via internet. Each data download contains locations for the bird every 30 minutes over the past 24 hours. The new telemetry devices are also equipped with what is called an accelerometer, meaning we can determine the speed of the bird, indicating if it is in flight or on the ground.

The journey of “7A”, fall 2017 migration:
On 2 August, a team of biologist captured and marked a 3 month old whooping crane in Wood Buffalo National Park, around the nest where he was hatched about 60 miles south of the Great Slave Lake, and fitted him with one of our new cellular-based telemetry units (identified as “7A”). This young whooping crane and his parents left their breeding area the morning of 26 September, to start on their long journey south.

On the first night away from their nesting area, 7A and his family roosted on Gipsy Lake, 35 miles SE of Fort McMurray, AB. The next morning (27 September) the family traveled to Witchekan Lake near Spiritwood, SK and spent the night. On the morning of 28 September, they traveled to their “staging ground” area, the prairie pothole region of Central Saskatchewan. They spent the next month foraging on waste grains in the agricultural areas and in wetlands around Prud’ Homme, SK. After a strong frontal passage bringing northerly winds and colder weather, they proceeded south on the morning of 29 October.

They crossed the Canada/United States border around mid-day near the NW corner of North Dakota and spent that night on the banks of the Missouri River about 20 miles SE of Bismarck, North Dakota. The next morning, 30 October, they continued south, roughly following the Missouri River as it winds through South Dakota. With a strong tailwind, they were able to cross South Dakota in about 3 hours, without stopping. They continued through Nebraska that day, crossing the Platte River just east of Gibbon, Nebraska. They did not stop in Nebraska either, traversing the state in about 4 hours. That evening they arrived at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Central Kansas, known as the largest interior wetland in the United States. This is a well-known and established migration stopover habitat location for not only whooping cranes, but a number of other migratory bird species. The next afternoon, on 31 October, they traveled about 20 miles south to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, where they would spend the next 12 days. Quivira NWR received a record amount of migrating whooping crane use this fall, with over 112 individuals reported there, more than 25% of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population.

They left Quivira NWR on the morning of 12 November and traveled south about 150 miles to an area of native mixed-grass prairie about 3 miles west of Fairview, Oklahoma. They spent 3 days there, leaving on the morning of 15 November and crossing the Texas border mid-day just to the east of Wichita Falls. That night, they roosted on a farm pond in Bosque County in central Texas. The morning of 16 November, the family continued south through Texas, stopping briefly in southern Bastrop County and then northern Gonzales County. Evidently they were disturbed that night as they made several, short nighttime movements just west of Waelder, Texas. Nocturnal flight is fairly rare and relatively unknown for whooping cranes, but our new telemetry devices allows us to observe this behavior. Only a short distance from their winter home, they left the morning of 17 November and headed south. Early that afternoon, they flew over Victoria, just north of Aransas NWR. Shortly thereafter, they made it to the Tatton Unit of Aransas NWR and roosted there along Salt Creek. The next morning, they made a short jump south and set up what looks to be their wintering territory here on Aransas NWR, where they will likely spend most of their time over the next several months.

The “7A” family had a fairly normal fall migration, taking 52 days and a bit over 2,500 miles to complete. You’ll note that the “pit stops” that they made along the way almost always were tied to quality wetland and prairie habitats. Protecting and restoring these types of habitats across the vast Great Plains of North America really is key to making sure whooping crane migrations are successful.

Texas Whooper Watch
Be sure to report any Texas migration sightings via email: or phone: (512) 389-TXWWW (8999)

Current conditions at Aransas NWR:

Food & Water Abundance:
You’ve likely seen many of the news articles related to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey on Aransas NWR, so I won’t go into detail here on that topic. But from all appearances, the coastal marsh habitat that whooping cranes rely on here in the winter seem to have held up well to what is a natural disturbance. While the human impact has been significant, natural habitats often quickly recover after this type of event. From a long-term perspective, the freshwater inflows associated with the hurricane’s rain event will improve coastal marsh condition. We’ve seen a number of whooping cranes that have arrived at Aransas NWR foraging successfully in the coastal marsh as they have for eons. We will continue to monitor habitat conditions and whooping crane behavior and adjust our management accordingly.

Long-time volunteers recognized:
I want to take a minute to recognize a few long-time volunteers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge that really do make a difference for our wildlife and wild places. First off, Ron Smudy, a long-time volunteer at Aransas, will be awarded as the 2017 Coastal Steward by the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation at the annual Environmental Awards banquet on 7 December. Ron has put a great deal of “sweat equity” into Aransas over the years, from mowing, cutting and spraying invasive species to helping our maintenance staff with all sorts of projects. We truly wouldn’t have the Refuge as we know it without folks like Ron. Additionally, I want to recognize Fred and Linda Lanoue, long-time board members of the Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island Refuge. They will soon be leaving Texas and were honored this past Saturday at a luncheon, thanking them for all their work with environmental causes around the Texas coastal bend. Fred and Linda’s tireless work with the FAMI board help us accomplish worthwhile projects that just wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Unfortunately, both Ron and the Lanoue’s were personally impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Our hearts go out to them as they start new chapters in their lives and we reflect on all the good work they have done at Aransas NWR.


Call for Applications for the Margaret Skeel Graduate Student Scholarship

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In the fields of biology, ecology, wildlife management, environmental education and environmental studies including social sciences applied to advancement of conservation and sustainable use of natural resources

A $2,000 scholarship, administered by Nature Saskatchewan, will be awarded in 2018 to assist a graduate student attending a post-secondary institution in Saskatchewan. This scholarship must be applied to tuition and associated costs at the named institution.

The Margaret Skeel Graduate Student Scholarship is awarded to a student pursuing studies in a field that complements the goals of Nature Saskatchewan:  to promote appreciation and understanding of our natural environment, and support research to protect and conserve natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. We work for sustainable use of Saskatchewan's natural heritage, ensuring survival of all native species and representative natural areas, as well as maintenance of healthy and diverse wildlife populations throughout the province. We aim to educate and to stimulate research to increase knowledge of all aspects of the natural world. Research that will contribute to resolving current conservation problems have a special priority. For more information, contact our office by email or phone 306-780-9273 (in Regina) or 1-800-667-4668 (SK only).

Application Guidelines

Please include the following documents:

  • An updated resume with a cover letter
  • A full description of your present  and/or proposed research
  • A transcript of the undergraduate and graduate courses completed so far and those currently enrolled in
  • An indication of what other source(s) of funding  you hope to rely on to complete your studies
  • Letter of References are optional

Application Deadline:   February 28, 2018
Winner Announced:     March 31, 2018

Please submit your completed application to the Scholarship Committee:

- or -

Nature Saskatchewan
206-1860 Lorne Street
Regina, SK S4P 2L7



'Tis the Season for Christmas Bird and Mammal Counts

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Below you will find the forms for the 2017 Christmas Bird and Mammal Count as well as important links to follow. For those of you that are starting new counts, or if you have not already sent us a map of your count area for our files, please do so. At the very least, please send us the location (legal land description, latitude-longitude or UTM) of the centre of your count circle.

A few other important notes:

1. Remember party hours and party kilometers are the combined number of hours spent or kilometers covered by all parties of one or more observers. Thus if you had two parties each spending 7 hours in the field the total number of party hours would equal 14 hours.

2. Please fully describe any rare birds or mammals on the forms provided.

3. As they are not comparable to other CBC data, counts not conducted at a single locality or on a single day within the count period will not be published in the “Blue Jay”.

4. Regarding the count period, counts that are published in the Blue Jay include any additional bird or mammal species seen during the entire count period (14 Dec. to 5 Jan.); counts submitted to BSC include only those species seen 3 days before or after count day.

5. Please, please use the forms provided.

As always, we encourage count compilers to submit their bird data to Bird Studies Canada (BSC), the Canadian partner to the Audubon Society for CBCs. Your counts will then become a part of the continent-wide database of CBCs, which is used for bird conservation. In order for CBCs to be included in the continental database, counts must include at least 6 hours of field observation (not counting feeder hours). The data is entered online at the BSC website (see below); if you are unable or uncomfortable about doing data entry online, please let us know when you return the data forms and we will have the data entered for you. Note that no participation fee will be charged for counts sent to BSC. As alternate funding will always be needed to replace the fees, donations to BSC would be gratefully accepted (see link below). The fee was used to offset (but not cover) the costs of database management and the maintenance of the Audubon website which makes CBC information available to the public.

The deadline for return of counts is 31 January 2018. Counts submitted after that date will not be tabulated for the Blue Jay. They will, however, be incorporated into the Saskatchewan database.

Have fun on your counts and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Alan R. Smith

Compiler Saskatchewan Christmas Bird Count/Saskatchewan Christmas Mammal Count
Box 154, Avonlea, SK S0H 0C0
Phone: (306) 868-4554



Christmas Bird Count 2017 Form


Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Count Web page:


Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Donation Link:


A Sandy Autumn Hike at the Fall Meet

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Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator, Nature Saskatchewan

A weekend of beautiful crisp fall weather was the backdrop to this year’s fall member meet in Elbow, Saskatchewan. The weekend kicked off with everyone getting together with old friends, as well as hopefully making some new ones, to enjoy viewing other member’s photos of this summer. Photo presentations included Donna Bruce encouraging us to explore Big Gully, Sk; Bill MacKenzie sharing some great bird shots with us; Morley Maier showing us some truly amazing Barn Swallow shots; Ed Rodger sharing some wonderful photos from his trip to South America, and myself who gave our members a little update on what the SOS program staff were up to this summer. Members enjoyed this show to the beautiful background view overlooking Lake Diefenbaker through Elbow Harbour Golf Club and Resort’s surround windows, our venue for the weekend.

Saturday dawned nice and early with members loading the bus to head to Douglas Provincial Park’s sand dune trails to do some hiking. Here members were treated to finding some of Saskatchewan’s rarest plants, including Western Spiderwort and Annual Beaked Skeletonweed. Even though the season has long past for Western Spiderwort’s peak blooming, everyone wasted no time putting their ID skills to the test and finding quite a few plants. Members also enjoyed hiking out to the unique landscape that is Douglas Park’s active dune and saw many tracks within the sand including bobcat, moose, coyote and fox. We were also lucky enough to find some late blooming Prairie Sunflower and Common Skeletonweed, the last of the year!

The afternoon Saturday saw us loading the bus after a delicious lunch prepared for us by the Harbour Golf Club, to head to Gardiner Dam, the seventh largest earth filled dam in the world, for a private tour of the dam’s facilities. This was truly a unique experience as not many members of the public have been treated to seeing the inner workings of the dam. Those that went on this tour went down 50 feet below lake level to the spillway’s lower gallery before climbing all the way up to the walkway above the spillway’s gates. We continued the tour at one of the dam’s five large control structures, special thanks to Cam Leslie from the Water Security Agency for leading this wonderful tour.

Back at the hall, the Fall Business meeting started and after some discussion, resolution was passed for the eradication of feral boars escaped or released from game farms. After a short break the evening started, with a delicious banquet meal of roast beef catered by the Elbow Harbour Golf Club. During the banquet new members were recognized and welcomed and awards were presented to Harold Fisher (Cliff Shaw award), Rob Wilson (Fellows award), Brain Jeffery (Volunteer award), and Dr. Jon and Naiomi Gerrard (Conservation award). The evening concluded with our after dinner presenter, David Weiman, who spoke on his experiences on his trapping line, humane trapping of fur bearing animals, and what trapping means and its value in the present day. This talk was very interesting and a new topic for many members in the crowd, and was accompanied by a display on the different traps used and pelt examples from many species.

The meet was a great success, special thanks to our planning committee, our MCs and presenters, tour guides, and the wonderful venue and catering by the Elbow Golf Club. Have a great winter and we hope you’ll join us for our spring meet 2018 in the Big Muddy!


Voices from the Field Sept 6

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We had a busy August at Last Mountain Bird Observatory. The first day we opened the nets we caught the very first Indigo Bunting in the station’s history. If you’re lucky enough to have seen our e-Newsletter, you can see my chipped nail polish starring right alongside the beautiful male bird. By the end of the day we had caught over a hundred birds. On our second day we had another exciting bird. We caught a Marsh Wren in our very first net run. These guys don’t get caught in the nets very often. The rest of our first week was busy and we caught about a hundred birds each day. By the weekend we slowed down a bit. Despite this, our banders caught a young Loggerhead Shrike. Then just today we caught a Blue-headed Vireo!  We have seen many species of songbirds this month, most of which are warblers. So far we have caught 15 species of warblers. We have also caught flycatchers, sparrows, thrushes, swallows, orioles, and vireos, just to name a few.

We have also had lots of people visit us this past month. We had a couple of very dedicated volunteers learning how to record data and help us with the mist nets. One volunteer used up his overtime and his weekends off coming to band with us. We also had a couple undergrad students come from the Canadian Wildlife Service to learn about handling wild birds. Just this August we have had almost 100 people visit the station. Most of our visitors are from Saskatchewan, but we have had people from all over Canada including Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. If you have been planning to come out this year, but haven’t made it, you still have time. The station is open to the public in September. We will be welcoming a few school groups to the station in September

My field season comes to an end on August 31st, and I will be sad to go. The first couple weeks of September are usually when we expect peak migration, and in all likelihood I will sneak back up to the station on weekends so I don’t miss any of the excitement!


Indigo Bunting. Photo credit: M.Anderson



Long Eared Owl. Photo credit: M.Anderson



Loggerhead Shrike. Photo credit: M.Anderson


Voices from the Field August 21

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Hello from the field!      

With our summer with Nature Saskatchewan coming to an end we had the opportunity to travel to a few more special places! We ended July by going down to the Big Muddy Badlands and area! Whoever says Saskatchewan is boring must have missed this part of the province!

Along with the views came many Loggerhead Shrike sightings, as well as the melodic, descending calls of Sprague’s Pipits. Talking with land owners in this area showed an interesting change in species with more mentions of Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens, Eastern Yellow-bellied Racers, Piping Plovers, Common Nighthawks, and many others. We were very happy to visit very friendly people in the midst of one of Saskatchewan’s wonders!

August also sent us back to beautiful Gull Lake and Val Marie areas to finish up our last landowner visits for the summer. We chatted with long time participants and enjoyed hearing of many recent species at risk sightings! Driving so near to Grasslands National Park and across Highway 18 was a treat as Val Marie sunsets never disappoint. Being surrounded by rolling hills and native prairie pasture you can’t help but appreciate the landscape. We were quite excited to still find a few Loggerhead Shrike families before they migrated for the winter and we even spotted a few Ferruginous Hawks hunting. Finding species at risk still gets our hearts beating!

One last trip each to southeast and southwest Saskatchewan was an adventure as we parted ways to help search and monitor for plant species at risk! This was new for us, but we were excited to learn more about plants (of course we always had our binoculars at the ready to spot birds!). Tiffany monitored for Buffalograss, while Jenna searched for Smooth Goosefoot. We had a lot of fun walking through pastures and sand dunes as we learned the ways of the plant crew! While monitoring for Buffalograss, the most thrilling part was a pasture filled with large mats of this beautiful golden plant and seeing a Great Blue Heron fly overhead. It was really interesting to learn that Buffalograss is only found in the Estevan area and that it was downlisted this year from Threatened to Special Concern, meaning that it is considered to be less at risk now than it was before! This is a great example of how monitoring efforts are so important for species at risk.


Buffalo Grass patch

Jenna was excited to find the provincially rare Beaked Annual Skeletonweed while searching as well as finding almost 4000 Smooth Goosefoot plants! We learned that Smooth Goosefoot is a threatened species with a pretty specific habitat, thriving in eroded sandy soils at the edges of dunes!

Sadly, the summer is coming to a close and we would like to thank everyone and everything that made our summer so enjoyable. We both learned so much and appreciate the time and effort that landowners, members, and coworkers put into the conservation of Saskatchewan’s native environment. It wouldn’t be home without our native grasses, plants, birds, and animals. We couldn’t have had a better summer!


Your 2017 Habitat Stewardship Assistants,

Tiffany Blampied & Jenna Van Parys

Royals Are on the Move!

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Regina, SK – August 14th, 2017 – Monarch butterflies are a spectacular creature. Not only are they absolutely beautiful but they complete the longest and largest insect migration in North America! Millions of Monarchs fly thousands of kilometres from their summer habitats to their wintering grounds. Saskatchewan is at the northern extent of the Monarch’s range and Nature Saskatchewan is asking the public to keep an eye out for these royal butterflies to help monitor their population and aid in habitat conservation efforts.

Monarchs are a species at risk and numbers have dropped by as much as 90% across North America. The three lowest overwintering populations in Mexico on record occurred in the last 5 years. One of the largest threats to the butterflies is habitat loss, both in the winter and summer breeding grounds­, due to logging, destructive bark beetles, agriculture, urban development, and pesticide use affecting milkweed and wildflowers.

Monarch butterflies are identifiable by their bright orange colouring and black veins through their wings, along with white spots on their black body and trailing the outside edges of the wings. A male Monarch has two distinct dots on its hindwing, which distinguishes it from a female. “Don’t be fooled – there are a few Monarch lookalikes, the most notorious of which is the Viceroy,” explains Ashley Vass, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “The colouring and patterns are very similar to the Monarch, but a Viceroy has an extra stripe on its hindwings which intersects the other veins.”

“We haven’t had any Monarchs reported to our hotline yet this year, but I am hoping public sightings will start coming in soon”, says Vass. Nature Saskatchewan delivers a voluntary stewardship program called Stewards of Saskatchewan that works with rural landowners to conserve habitat for species at risk. They are asking anyone who sees a Monarch butterfly to report the sighting. “It is also really helpful if you are able to provide a picture with your sighting so we can verify that it isn’t one of the many lookalikes” adds Vass. If you see a Monarch butterfly in Saskatchewan, or for more information, call Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668).


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For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan (English only):


Ashley Vass (306) 780-9832, email
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator               

Rebecca Magnus (306) 780-9270, email
Acting Species at Risk Manager



Monarch Butterfly - M. Ranalli



Monarch Caterpillar - S. Vinge-Mazer



Viceroy Butterfly - A. Sanborn



Viceroy Butterfly - J. Van Parys




















Stewards of Saskatchewan Census

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Now that the summer season is upon us, it is time once again for the annual OBO, SFS, and POS census! Please fill out the appropriate census form(s) with as much information as possible.

You will find the census here: