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Feb
7
Launch of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas Website

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Bird Studies Canada is excited to announce the launch of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas website http://sk.birdatlas.ca/. At this stage, the website provides an overview of the project and includes instruction manuals and maps, but be sure to bookmark the site and check for updates and expansions in the coming weeks. Prompt registration will help with accommodating and planning a scheduling of regional training workshops.

The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas is the result of a partnership between Bird Studies Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Nature Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation. Other sponsors and participants are being sought for this ambitious project, which will be the largest citizen scientist volunteer effort ever conducted in the province. This tool for bird conservation will map species distributions, identifying hotspots of avian biodiversity and will help to determine the status of breeding birds in the province. Registration is now open for the project, so get involved today!

Jan
5
Invitation to Participate in SaskForward

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SaskForward is a consultation process regarding the provincial government’s plans for “transformational change” in Saskatchewan.

They are asking individuals and organizations across the province to answer the question “What ‘transformational change’ would you introduce to make Saskatchewan a happier, healthier, and more prosperous place for all?” These recommendations will be compiled, released to the public, and shared with the Premier.

Submissions can be made using the online platform or by emailing info@saskforward.ca. It can be as brief or comprehensive as you like.

 

 

Nov
12
Backyard Birding and Beyond - November

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Greetings birders! When I left home mid-October the weather had turned cool and rainy. There were flocks of robins around town feeding on the remaining berries and earthworms. The juncos, thrushes and the migrant sparrows were in our back yards on their way to their winter homes further south. My travels took me to Southern California. When I arrived here the White Crowned Sparrows which nest further north along the Pacific coast had made their way south to their winter home. They were joined by the local year round residents ….. Anna’s Hummingbirds, Lesser Goldfinches, Black Phoebes, House Finches, California Towhees, Scrub Jays and American crows.

Late one afternoon the grandchildren and I witnessed a strange event involving crows. We heard it first ….. the loud noisy cawing of many crows. Looking into the backyard we saw a number of crows attacking something in one of the palm trees. Some were swooping in on the tree, some were landing in the tree while others were waiting in the trees nearby all the while cawing incessantly. At one point I counted 50 crows. What a racket! This went on for a good half hour. As dusk settled the crows lost interest and left. This is when we went out to see what had caused such a commotion. There among the fronds sat a Great Horned Owl. As we took our time checking him out he quietly looked down on us apparently unaffected by what had just happened. Great Horned Owls are very common throughout the western United States and Canada. They can be heard in this area on a regular basis during the night …. and apparently crows love to harass them during the day. If you would like to read more about the Great Horned Owl go to:  www.johnthebirder.com article No. 102. Until next month successful birding!

by Connie Senkiw

Nov
7
Chronic Wasting Disease - How Hunters Can Help

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News from the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation:

For Immediate Release
November 2, 2016


To maintain the health of Saskatchewan’s wildlife population, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) is encouraging hunters to submit heads for Saskatchewan’s Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing this hunting season.
CWD is a disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose, and while infected animals may appear healthy for more than a year before signs appear, it is a fatal disease for these animals.
Although there is no evidence of CWD impacts on humans at this time, the potential is uncertain. The World Health Organization, Health Canada and Ministry of Health recommend hunters not eat any animals known to be infected with CWD, and as such the need for testing is imperative. Hunters should also take precautions when field dressing and processing animals.
“This disease isn’t something that hunters can easily detect in an animal themselves,” says SWF Executive Director Darrell Crabbe. “They need to submit the heads for testing, and we can’t stress enough the importance of this, as this disease will have permanent and devastating effects on our wildlife.”
To help encourage hunters to participate in CWD testing, the SWF will offer a draw for six pairs of binoculars. Simply turn in heads to any Ministry of Environment field office and your name will be entered into the draw.
Hunters can help slow the spread of CWD by not introducing the disease to new areas of the province by leaving gut piles on site and properly dispose of carcasses and meat from CWD-infected animals.
This disease has the potential to change herd structure across the province. By helping to monitor for CWD, hunters will help maintain the health of Saskatchewan’s wildlife population for generations to come.
For a listing of field offices, visit http://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/directory?tab=browse&ou=%7bCEFCDC1B-D7CA-4E50-ABA3-1EE557C5F2D7%7d, and for more information on CWD, visit www.swf.sk.ca/resources/for-hunters/chronic-wasting-disease-cwd.


-30-


For more information, contact:
Darrell Crabbe, SWF Executive Director
(306) 692-8812 or cell (306) 630-8780

Oct
13
Backyard Birding and Beyond - October

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Greetings Birders! I have chosen to write this article after our early October snowfall. My backyard is covered in six inches of snow and at daybreak the thermometer was reading -2C. A large flock of geese have just flown over, heading south, of course. Their migration started about four weeks ago.

Another possible sign that we could be getting an early snowfall were the Juncos. I spotted the first ones in our area in mid-September but after this snowfall they can be seen everywhere. Juncos go further south for the winter but in warmer winters can be seen in Southern Saskatchewan and the odd straggler in our area. In my backyard I have seen the White Throated Sparrow, the Swainson’s Thrush and several different warblers. All stopping briefly to feed and then continue on to their winter homes further south. A large flock of robins have invaded our town. They are busy filling up on berries and the last earthworms of the season. On my morning walks I have also seen and heard the call of the nuthatch. The Red-breasted Nuthatches have been regular visitors to the sunflower feeder on my window. The Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches are common in our area and winter here. They can be regulars at the sunflower or suet feeders in the dead of winter. The nuthatch can often be seen head down walking along tree trunks looking for insects. The Red-breasted Nuthatch has a short tail, a blue grey back with a black eye stripe and a white eyebrow. It’s breast is a buffy orange colour. The White-breasted Nuthatch has an all white face and breast with a black head (crown) stripe. If you would like to read more about nuthatches go to www.johnthebirder.com. Articles 32, 70 and l64 deal with nuthatches in our area. Until next month, check your feeders for nuthatches and keep looking for them throughout the winter months. Until next month, keep warm and happy birding!

….by Connie Senkiw

 

photo credit: John Senkiw

 

Oct
10
A Celebration of Whooping Cranes at the Fall Meet

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Another Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet has come and gone and 2016 was one to remember. The weekend started on Friday evening at Nutana Legion in Saskatoon. For me the meets are the only place that I get to connect in person with many of our members, some of whom have become friends. Although the weekend long meets hold many highlights, Friday evening has always been special to me because of the chats with people who I don’t see often in my day to day life. This year was no different and I finally got a chance to meet several people in person that I have been in contact with only via email up until this point. After a short update on the plans for the weekend we were treated to the Larry Mortgotch Images of Nature Event. This is an opportunity for members to share their pictures and stories with the group. The images that were presented were varied and beautiful but what shone through the most was the passion that our members have for nature. Listening to their presentations simply made me happy in the feeling that I was surrounded by people who shared my love of the outdoors and all of the fantastic things you can find if you take the time to look. Friday evening concluded with a small group heading out to learn about Saw-whet owl banding. I did not take the time to join the group but opted for my hotel room instead to get a good night sleep. By the sounds of it, I made the wrong decision!  They banded 22 owls that night and had many stories to tell the following morning.

 

photo credit: Ashley Vass

 

The morning came early and although we didn’t get the sunshine we had been promised everyone set out on their chosen tours. A large bus group went out in search of Whooping Cranes and were delighted to find large group of them. For many this was the first time they had seen this magnificent bird in the wild. A second group went to learn about Peregrine Falcons and had the awesome opportunity to watch a trained falcon hunt.

 

photo credit: Ashley Vass

 

I joined the group that headed out to Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This was my first time there and the beauty and history of the location made it the right trip for me. For the tour I brought my six year old son with me. Although the formal tour was very interesting, I will admit that the highlight for me was hiking the trails with him. Soon we were looking for large leaves, finding slugs and asking questions about the birds we saw along the way. This is also a perk of the Nature Saskatchewan meets, you will always find yourself on a tour with very knowledgeable people who are very willing to share their knowledge with you.

 

photo credit: Ellen Bouvier

 

As the tours concluded people began to head back to Nutana Legion for the Nature Saskatchewan business meeting. There were some good updates presented to the membership along with one resolution. As the meeting concluded the conversation turned to the many stories of the afternoon. We enjoyed a lovely banquet which was attended by very special guests. Every fall, Nature Saskatchewan presents awards to some very deserving members. Congratulations to Lori Wilson winner of the Conservation Award, Rob Warnock winner of the Volunteer Recognition Award, Harold Fisher winner of the Fellows Award and Chris hay winner of the Cliff Shaw Award.

 

photo credit: John Patterson

 

The theme of the weekend was “A Celebration of Whooping Cranes” so it was only fitting that we were treated to a presentation by Brian Johns, President of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association. It was a very interesting presentation and the perfect way to end the weekend.

 

photo credit: Rebecca Magnus

 

I am sure there are many more stories about the weekend that never made it my way but from what I could see the weekend was enjoyed by everyone. AND although we were complaining that the sun only made an appearance at the end of the afternoon at least we beat the snow!

The Spring Meet is scheduled for June 9-11, 2017 at the Hannin Creek Education Facility in Candle Lake!  See you there!

- Ellen Bouvier, Nature Saskatchewan Communications Manager

Sep
21
Saskatchewan Takes Major Steps to Protect Wildlife and Promote Renewable Energy

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Sept 20, 2016. Yesterday was a momentous day in Saskatchewan for wildlife protection and renewable energy. On the same day the government rejected the controversial Chaplin Lake wind energy project, they introduced their new Provincial wind energy siting guidelines. American Bird Conservancy, Nature Canada, and Nature Saskatchewan applaud the Government of Saskatchewan for their progressive leadership on wind energy development and wildlife protection.   

“Nature Canada supports appropriately sited wind energy development, and these guidelines establish a new standard in Canada for protecting wildlife while providing the industry much needed clear direction on how to avoid costly conflicts and delays,” said Ted Cheskey, Senior Manager for Nature Canada. The guidelines set out clear “no-go” zones for wind developers that, for the first time in Canada, include Important Bird Areas with five-kilometre buffers around them, as well as many other natural features of high significance. The guidelines also include  clear language that directs developers to avoid siting projects on native prairie. 

“We are thrilled about the decision and the new guidelines,” said Jordan Ignatiuk of Nature Saskatchewan. “Bird conservation has made a big leap forward, thanks to these new provincial guidelines.”

“When it comes to wind energy, placement is everything. Large, commercial wind energy facilities should not be built in major migratory routes, breeding areas, or other sensitive habitats for wildlife, such as wetlands,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign “There are plenty of other places wind turbines can go that will result in fewer birds killed. Hutchins added, “ABC recognizes that Canada and the United States share billion of migratory birds, and that we need to work more closely together for their conservation.”   

Grassland birds and shorebirds, species for which the Chaplin Lake area is of great importance, are in serious trouble, based on recent reports such as the State of North American Birds and the Partners in Flight 2016 Report. “This is exactly the type of action that is needed to meaningfully start helping the species in trouble,” Cheskey said. 

For more information . . . .

Nature Canada
Ted Cheskey, Senior Conservation Manager
tcheskey@naturecanada.ca
(613) 323-3331

American Bird Conservancy
Michael Hutchins, Ph.D. Director, Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign
mhutchins@abcbirds.org
(202) 888-7485
 

Nature Saskatchewan
Jordan Ignatiuk, Executive Director
(306)780-9293 office
(306) 551-0152 cell

Sep
11
Backyard Birding and Beyond - September

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Greetings Birders!  Fall is definitely here……the leaves are dropping as are the temperatures. Harvesting of gardens and fields has begun. On my drives I have noticed that crows and Red-winged black birds are in flocks and small bands of Canada Geese are taking short flights getting ready for their trek south. Fall migration has begun. Last week I noticed that my fruit trees had a variety of small birds busily feasting on the small flying insects that are plentiful at this time of year. The birds were mainly Chickadees and warblers. Many birds especially the warblers are hard to identify in the fall due to the large number of juveniles and the summer molt that a lot of the adults go through. However, I was able to identify a Tennessee warbler from the warblers present. Passing through my yard were also a couple of female American Redstarts, a Northern Waterthrush and a Swainson’s thrush. My feature bird this month is the Swainson’s Thrush. This bird is smaller than a Robin but larger than a sparrow. It has an olive brown back, spotted breast and a distinct buffy eye-ring. This one I noticed when it landed in a tree. However, in the spring or early fall they can often be seen walking through a freshly tilled garden. They are probably picking up the worms that have been brought to the surface. To read more about this common thrush you can go to johnthebirder.com and check out Article No 46. Migration has just started so keep looking for new birds in your yards and gardens. Note: migrant sparrows usually begin making their appearance near the end of September. Until next month enjoy the season and happy birding.
 

Submitted by: Connie Senkiw

Sep
11
Madge Lake Loon Count - 27 August 2016 (member submitted)

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Madge Lake Loon Count - 27 August 2016

Submitted by: Doug Welykholowa

Nancy and I were joined by Sharon Korb and Kevin Streat for our latest loon count on Saturday, 27 August. Waters were calm, and we went out later in the day, so we were able to spot the birds at long distances. We also find that most of the adults return to their territories in the late afternoon, so the chances of us spotting them is better at that time of day.  

We noticed that over 50% of the adults have begun moulting into their drab winter gray colours, about 2 weeks earlier than previous years. Early winter??  We were particularly excited to spot two new juveniles in territories where we had previously suspected nesting activities, and where the associated adults were present and still being protective and nervous (calling to us as we approached, lowering themselves in the water and swimming away). That brings the count to 8 surviving babies, nearer to the 10-12 that we expect as an average based on the 25 observed territories. There are a couple of other pairs that get very nervous when we get close, so we suspect there may be a couple of additional juveniles out there that we haven't yet spotted. This seems to becoming a trend over the last couple of years, where the adults are not bringing their young into open water until later in the season. Instead, the young are kept out of site in little bays and areas with with lots of deadfall and reeds to hide in. Conversely, in some cases, the more open nesting areas, we observed in the past are being abandoned. Boating activity has increased significantly over the last few years, so that may have something to do with it. At this time of year, it is normal to see the juveniles by themselves, near to the shore and in or close to reeds, while the parents can be up to 300m or more away from them. These parents will try to distract you by calling and swimming away from the juveniles.

As noted above, many of the birds are starting to moult, or are well advanced in their moult into winter colours (Gray on top, white underneath and light gray bills). Some, such as the 6th photo below, are so advanced that we initially mistook them for juveniles. In previous years, apart from the odd adult, we didn’t see such a change until the 2nd week in September. We aren’t sure if this is an indication that the adults will depart earlier than usual. Non of the adults seem to have left their territories yet, and many of the non-paired younger adults that gang up in the middle of the lake are still here (we spotted 18 of them this outing). We hope to get out at least once or twice more to monitor this. We also haven’t seen additional juveniles fly in from other water bodies, as they tend to do in September. These fly-ins gather in groups in  areas other than the established territories and remain here for at least 2 weeks after the adults have departed. They will all then normally depart in groups by the end of September. It would be interesting to find out how they learn to navigate to the coast without the adults.

We have established that 25 Territories have been occupied over the summer. This is on par with previous years, and as in the past, a handful have changed in location somewhat, either by the birds that returned, or new pairs that have made the lake their home. I will show the changes in my final report as I did last year.

We had a positive response to the three groups of nest alert buoys that we placed in front of the three  most vulnerable suspected nesting sites. Two of the three sites produced chicks, while the third site in East Bay was again unsuccessful, unless we haven’t yet spotted the juvenile(s). We will see. The buoys themselves stood up very well, less the fluorescent paint, which faded, and will have to be re-applied next spring. I still have $200 in the grant account, so that should cover my repair costs for a few years.

 


Aug
20
The Voice from the Field - August 20

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It was time for one last journey in the field. We’d be approaching quite a few potential and current OBO participants, and some SFS and SOS participants. We were quite excited to reach all the landowners, and gain some new participants to the stewardship programs.


Combines twirled their blades through swaying golden fields, beckoning us back into the rural landscape as we left Regina. The weather had stabilized, and the memories of daily thunderstorms and downpours from the Loggerhead Shrike Survey days were pushed into the background as a late summer sun poked through the cumulus clouds. Moments later, we spotted a tiger salamander! This was our first salamander sighting this summer.

We then checked a Burrowing Owl sighting from earlier in the summer to see if the owls were still there. Sure enough, 3 heads popped out of a large burrow. One head was tilting sideways out of curiosity, while the other two stared, unblinking. It was a real treat to see this small family living happily in their home.

The farm dogs of summer were plentiful, and the amount of cuteness we encountered was unrivaled. This trip was no exception – at one point, we came across a fluffy playful golden retriever named “Happy.”

The last couple of grassland health assessments were completed. One landowner who watched us do the health assessment was most enthusiastic to have us over for a visit, and included his son’s name on his new gate sign. He has been a part of the Operation Burrowing Owl program since 1997!

Another participant is ready to tackle some habitat enhancement projects, and looks forward to receiving new seedlings to plant for the shrikes when we get our next stock in.

Well, as for us two summer students, this is it – the summer is winding down and coming to an end for us; Shayna is heading back to University of Regina, and Kris is heading back out west to University in BC. We have had an amazing time working with Nature Saskatchewan over the summer, and have learned so much. Until next time!                                   

Kris and Shayna