- YFBTA Organizes Earth Day Event
By Kathy Morrell
A giant owl floats on silent wings through the boreal forest as it seeks something to eat, mice, chipmunks or other small mammals. The bird is a dapper fellow dressed in a grey suit and bow tie. Harold Fisher, an expert in hawks and owls, recognizes it as a Great Grey Owl. A retired math teacher from Prince Albert, he will talk about owls at an Earth Day event organized by the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA).
Fisher calls himself a citizen scientist. He has been interested in nature and owls since he was child growing up on a farm south of North Battleford. As a boy, he would take a nestling from a nest, climb down the tree trunk, and hand it off for banding to his mentor, Spencer Seeley. Fisher hasn’t changed much over the years. He still climbs trees and nesting platforms in order to band birds.
In addition to banding nestlings, Fisher uses a net in the winter to capture and band adult saw whet owls.
“They’re elusive,” he said. “You can spend your entire life in the woods and not see a single one.” He bands 250 – 300 Saw-whet Owls a year; 3000 in the last ten years.
Fisher keeps careful notes of the bird’s weight, dimensions and location during migration and breeding seasons. He also notes the age, a fact he can determine if the owl has been banded as a nestling. His data, along with that of other birders, is valuable for research about the species of birds and the fluctuations in their populations. Scientists use the data to analyse the effect of climate change and human intervention on bird populations.
Scientists know the Fisher acreage as the Nisbett Banding Station. The name and location allow them to locate the source area for the data. Every fall, people come to observe and help with the banding. Girl Guides and 4-H groups visit to discover the joy of banding birds.
“People are fascinated with owls,” Fisher said. “I’m not sure why. It may be that they have these big eyes. It may be the contrast between the birds as creatures of the night and human beings as creatures of the day.”
As much as people may be captivated with owls, they seem less taken with snakes. Ray Poulin, another Earth Day presenter, is the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. He finds that, although adults may be nervous, generally children are fascinated.
“The Bull Snake,” he said, “is, at six to eight feet in length, the largest of the nine species of snakes found in Saskatchewan. Although its size might make it look a little threatening, it’s really not.”
“There are four species of rattle snakes in the southwest and southeast of the province,” he adds. “They use that rattle to tell you they’re out and about. Just back away and they won’t pursue you.”
Poulin is the curator of Snakes Alive, an exhibit that features all the snakes found in the province. A few weeks ago the museum was happy to announce the arrival of a “family” of nine little garter snakes.
“The museum has seen its largest attendance in the last 20 years.” Poulin said, “probably because of people’s fascination with snakes. Through the exhibit, people learn not to judge a species until you know something about it. That’s an important factor in promoting conservation.”
Ray Poulin is an enthusiastic advocate of the natural world, a direction that began as a child growing up in southern Ontario.
“I’ve been collecting critters since I was four years old,” he said. “I think I was born a biologist.”
As a university student, Poulin’s first summer job was working with a biology professor at the University of Windsor. His responsibility was to look through a microscope at aquatic insects, Even though others might find the work tedious, he loved it.
“That was a good indicator what I was to do in my career.”
Poulin continued as a student at the University of Regina and then at the University of Alberta. On completion of his studies , he obtained his dream job at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where he has studied Mayflies, Burrowing Owls, lizards and that most fascinating of insects, the Dung Beetle.
At the Earth Day event, Kelsey Marchand will introduce participants to the turtle. The turtle is a reptile “cutified” in the cartoon world of the Ninja Turtles and Disney’s Robin Hood. After all this animated charm, we’re simply programmed to like turtles.
“Turtles are fascinating in that they can persist in a variety of environments,” she said. “In Canada, you wouldn't necessarily expect to find reptiles and amphibians, let alone turtles, because they spend the majority of their lifetime trapped under ice during the winter. Their active season, where they will bask, forage and mate, is only about four to six months every year.”
Marchand, a Master’s student at the University of Regina, adds that there is a stereotype that turtles are slow moving and in some cases, that is fact but it is also true that some turtles can move incredibly fast. That is one fact that people might learn from Marchand’s discussion about turtles.
“I love to do talks like the one in Yorkton,” Marchand said. “It gives people an opportunity to learn about wildlife in a way that they may not have had the opportunity to do before. In addition, I'm able to share my passion for turtles and the outdoors, in hopes of inspiring other generations to do the same.”
Marchand developed a love of the outdoors, playing in her back yard and going on hikes and camping trips, but her love of turtles and field biology really began in her second year of college when she had a co-op work term with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The topic of the fourth presentation is the conservation of an environment that allows all three of these species to thrive. The speaker, Kenton Lysak, is Senior Interpreter with the Meewasin Valley Authority where is actively involved in developing environmental education and stewardship programs in Saskatoon.
Lysak grew up on a three-generation farm outside Theodore. His mentor in all things nature was his grandfather, Glenn Wiseman.
“I was always at the creek, my hands muddy, my eyes focused on the birds, animals and insects. At Cherry Dale Golf Course, I had to be told to pick up my club and quit looking at the ants.”
Like Poulin and Marchand, Lysak’s interest in the environment as a career began with his first summer job working at an Ecology Camp for children in Saskatoon.
“I kept returning to the Camp,” he explained. “I continued to learn so much about nature and I was interested in passing on my enthusiasm to the kids.”
Lysak completed an honours degree in biology at the University of Saskatchewan and then moved on to further studies.
“I worked on Sable Island during the summer of my Master’s degree. My job was to study the food web of the area. I tried to figure out how the 350,000 seals brought nutrients to the land, how those nutrients were used by the plants and how those plants then contributed to the success of the wild horses on the island.”
“I developed a special relationship with the herd. I could identify each of the horses on the island. When the foals were born, the mares brought them to me, as if showing off their new offspring. It was something I’ll never forget.”
From his studies, Lysak has learned the importance of habitat conservation.- particularly prairie habitat.
“Grasslands habitat is the most endangered in the world. Seventy percent of it has changed in the last one hundred years. Without that habitat, prairie plants, animals and insects are threatened. We need to protect their environment if we are to see positive conservation in Saskatchewan.”
Celebrate Earth Day with the YFBTA
St. Gerard Parish Hall, Yorkton
April 22, 12:30
Kelsey Marchand: Turtles
Kenton Lysak: Grasslands
Ray Poulin: Snakes
Harold Fisher: Banding Owls
More Information and Registration: www.yfbta.com
- A Bioblitz Canada 150 Event
June 9 and 10, 2017 Regina, SK
Dear Scientists, Naturalists, Community Organizations and Individuals,
BioBlitz Canada 150 is one of 38 Signature Projects under the federal Canada 150 initiative. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is coordinating the BioBlitz Canada 150 project with bioblitz events from coast to coast to coast including five flagship events in urban areas, 20 community events and 10 science-intense blitzes.
We would like to invite you to join us in Wascana Centre on June 9 and 10, 2017 for the
Regina BioBlitz. This flagship event is the only one in the prairies; it will represent both Saskatchewan and the Prairie Region in BioBlitz Canada 150.
The Regina BioBlitz will be held in Wascana Centre and is hosted by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Friends of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in partnership with Wascana Centre Authority, Friends of Wascana Marsh, Saskatchewan Science Centre, Nature Saskatchewan and Bird Studies Canada. We have confirmed that Wascana Centre will be available to blitz for our event, centered on the 23-acre Habitat Conservation Area of the park.
You may be wondering - what is a public bioblitz and why should I participate?
A public bioblitz is a period of biological surveying by scientists, students, naturalists and the general public, working together in an attempt to record all the species in a defined area for a defined period of time – this mixture of wildlife experts and the wider public is key to the BioBlitz concept.
The aim of the Regina BioBlitz is to provide fun, enjoyment and connection for those who may not normally interact with nature. Our goal is to invite the people of Regina and surrounding area to develop an understanding of local wildlife and habitats, and gain first-hand experience of how to record biological data. Our hope is that participants who develop wildlife identification skills, and have opportunities to connect with wildlife, are more aware of conservation in their communities.
Scientists, Naturalists and Taxonomic Experts: If you can identify organisms, we need
• BioBlitz Canada 150 is an opportunity to share your enthusiasm and expertise of
living organisms and potentially even advance your research.
• Successful collection and reporting is essential to a BioBlitz and we cannot do
this without your help. Our main data collection tool for the event will be the
iNaturalist app. This citizen science app allows anyone to upload their findings in
order to share data and crowd source species identifications.
There are a number of ways you can contribute to the event:
• Leading groups of all ages on guided field inventories lasting 1-2 hours. These
sessions are designed to introduce people to the notion and practice of biological
inventory by involving them in one. These sessions are really important as they
provide time and space for building true connections with enthusiastic participants.
During the inventory, scientists show participants how to find and record
• Expert volunteers may be asked to spend some time working at a booth to
identify, document and photograph organisms.
• In addition to working with the public, you may be able to arrange a targeted
inventory to answer a specific question. You can use this opportunity to create a
team to tackle a small research project and make observations for the BioBlitz at
the same time.
• Even if you can’t join us in person, you can become an iNaturalist curator to
identify observations online during the event. Every identification helps.
Nature Education and Community Organizations: If you have a mandate for outreach
and working with the public, we need you!
• We need your help to provide ongoing, nature based drop-in activities for the
public during the day on June 10, 2017. Activities may include: pond dipping,
arts and crafts, nature journaling, worm charming, etc. Maybe you have an idea
for an activity, maybe you just have a motivated group willing to help. Contact us
to explore the possibilities.
• If you are able to run a public activity, your organization will also have the
opportunity to set up an information booth in the Bioblitz Regina basecamp tent.
Interested Individuals: If you don’t fit into one of the above categories but want to be
involved on a deeper level, we need you!
• We will need volunteers to help with everything from running the
registration/research base camp to assisting researchers to planning and
running family activities.
• If you are somewhat photographically and digitally savvy but are concerned you
aren’t “expert” enough to lead an inventory, you can volunteer to be an iNaturalist
pro-observer to help make sure that every species found during an inventory
Whatever your expertise, we need you. This is Canada’s nature selfie for our 150th. Join us
in answering one of the most basic questions: What lives here? Volunteer today.
Visitor Experience Supervisor
Royal Saskatchewan Museum
For full details visit BIOBLITZCANADA.CA #BIOBLITZ150
- Official Parliamentary Petition
- As a result of recent developments in Ottawa and in the national media, PPPI has launched an official parliamentary petition to Hon. Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, calling on her to work with livestock producers, First Nations and Métis organizations, local committees and conservation organizations to create a multi-use prairie conservation network on all former PFRA Community Pastures.Please fill out and share this petition with others before July 6th when it closes. Already it is garnering support across Canada - we need 500 signatures in order for final certification.Grasslands are the most endangered, the most altered and yet the least protected ecosystem on the planet. The Community Pastures in Saskatchewan contain some of the largest, best managed and biodiverse rich blocks of remaining native grasslands in North America. A conservation network will not only protect our grasslands but support Canada's biodiversity Target 1 to protect 17% of all terrestrial areas and inland water.
- Stuff, Stories, and Strategies for the Future
A Networking & Planning Event for Saskatchewan Ecomuseums and other Community-Engaged Museums
April 27-29, 2017 - Regina
- To give Saskatchewan ecomuseums and other community-engaged museums a chance to describe what they have been doing, what they are aiming to do, and what they need for further development.
- To revitalize and encourage growth of the Saskatchewan Ecomuseum Network by highlighting how the ecomuseum model has been applied around the world and how it can be used to foster sustainable forms of development.
- To identify opportunities for action research that could be supported by a SSHRC Partnership Development grant.
- Thursday, April 27 – Public keynote address – Ecomuseums Today: Heritage Tools for Sustainability? René Rivard, Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association
- 7 pm – Royal Saskatchewan Museum – Free admission
- Friday, April 28 – U of R
- AM – Brief presentations
- Dr. Tobias Sperlich, UofR Dept of Anthropology – Objects, Stories, Places, People
- Dan Holbrow, Museums Assoc. of Sask – Museums and Sustainable Communities
- Sandra Massey, Heritage Saskatchewan – Ecomuseums and Living Heritage
- Dr. Lynne Teather, University of Toronto – Training Requirements
- Dr. Glenn Sutter, Royal Sask Museum – Growing Ecomuseums in Saskatchewan
- PM – Updates from Saskatchewan ecomuseums and roundtable discussion
- AM – Brief presentations
- Saturday, April 29 – Sustainability planning workshop facilitated by Douglas Worts, www.worldviewsconsulting.org, at the U of R
Presented by the Saskatchewan Ecomuseum Partnership and
the University of Regina Department of Anthropology
- Launch of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas Website
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!
- Invitation to Participate in SaskForward
- 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.
- Backyard Birding and Beyond - November
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
- Chronic Wasting Disease - How Hunters Can Help
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.
For more information, contact:
Darrell Crabbe, SWF Executive Director
(306) 692-8812 or cell (306) 630-8780
- Backyard Birding and Beyond - October
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
- A Celebration of Whooping Cranes at the Fall Meet
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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