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Archives for 2016

Christmas Bird Count for Kids a Great Success

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January 3rd, 2015 - Nature Saskatchewan held the first annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids. The weather co-operated nicely and the event was well attended. A total of 8 different species were sighted with a total of 532 individual sightings. 

Thank you to Margaret Skeel for leading the count and thank you to Larry Going from Sask. Falconers Association for bringing Ferrah the Peregrine Falcon.
Prestigious Prairie Conservation Event Coming to Saskatoon

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The Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan (SK PCAP) is pleased to host the upcoming Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference (PCESC) on February 17 and 18, 2016 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This prestigious event has been held every three years for over three decades and highlights a diverse collaboration of projects, research and conservation efforts from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The only event of its kind, PCESC continues to bring together prairie and species at risk scientists, researchers, ranchers, educators, communicators, and naturalists.

The conference features numerous expert speakers, including Barry Adams, a recently retired range specialist from Alberta who has garnered a lot of experience in his 38 year career. “The PCESC series has been the key venue to meet and build connections with those people most closely engaged in the work of prairie conservation,” says Adams. While grassland and species challenges have evolved, Adams points out that PCESC continues to be at the forefront to bring attention to critical issues. “In recent years, a long overdue awareness of cumulative impacts to native prairie has emerged and with it, the need to better protect and manage what is left,” he says.

There are some presentations that will hit close to home for Saskatoon residents. Kenton Lysak, Senior Interpreter with Meewasin Valley Authority, will discuss Meewasin’s efforts to connect urban residents with prairie grasslands. “An educated public can be the most useful tool in preserving important habitats through local stewardship activities, citizen science projects and in promoting local conservation efforts,” says Lysak. Similar to Adams, Lysak considers PCSEC to be a exceptional and valuable opportunity. “Considering the current pressures facing prairie conservation within the City of Saskatoon today, events like this provide an opportunity for local organizations and researchers to learn about advancements in the field and successful management and restoration practices that can then be applied to local conservation efforts,” he continues.

While grassland and species at risk challenges remain, an awards banquet on February 17 will celebrate the many inspiring conservation successes that are taking place on the landscape. The Prairie Conservation Award will be awarded to an individual from each of the Prairie Provinces recognizing their significant contribution to native prairie habitat or species at risk conservation. The Young Professional Stewardship Grant will also be presented to young conservation professionals who are age 18-30 to help support and motivate their future endeavours.

Unique to this forum will be a restoration pre-workshop, held on Tuesday, February 16, led by David Polster, an accomplished natural areas restoration professional from British Columbia. This full day training session is focused on restoration strategies and natural processes of drastically disturbed areas, including streambanks and riparian areas.

The Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference includes a tradeshow and a poster session highlighting innovative prairie and species at risk research, conservation practices and initiatives. Registration is now open, visit and receive a reduced rate until January 15.

For more information, contact:

Kayla Balderson Burak, SK PCAP Manager - (306) 352-0472;
Event Website:
Twitter: @PCESC16


Importance of Wetlands - News from DUC

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Wetland loss in Saskatchewan is important to everyone.

Wetlands in Saskatchewan are also called sloughs, marshes, potholes, swamps or ponds and are areas that hold water either temporarily or permanently. Some wetlands hold water year-round while others may only hold water for a short time each spring. Wetlands are much more than the animals, water and plants that call them home. They are productive ecosystems that provide numerous benefits to our society as a whole.

Wetlands are part of the planet’s “natural capital” and they provide us with billions of dollars of ecological goods and services on a global scale. In Saskatchewan wetlands are the workhorses of our watersheds. They maintain, or improve, water quality. They hold water from spring melt and rains and release it slowly, which then decreases soil erosion and the impacts of downstream flooding, including costly infrastructure damage. Many wetlands are important for spawning fish. Wetlands provide nesting and summer habitats for migratory birds and are important on a year-round basis for a variety of insects, amphibians, reptiles and other animals in Saskatchewan. Wetland soils store carbon that is released into the atmosphere when wetlands are drained and cultivated, contributing to global climate change. Wetlands have been referred to as the kidneys of the landscape as the plants, bacteria and animals filter the water, capturing nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, which can cause harmful algal blooms in downstream wetlands and lakes.

If you want to visit an outdoor classroom, go to a wetland. They provide endless opportunities for teachers, students and others to learn about our world.

Wetlands support and protect our economy in many ways. Clean water and a healthy environment are important for economic growth and stability in Saskatchewan. For example, ranchers depend on wetlands for their livestock. Saskatchewan is also known for its pristine recreation environments. Over $350 million dollars is spent on fishing and hunting annually as Saskatchewan residents, and people from around the world, pursue outdoor activities in and around wetlands.

In spite of all of the positive attributes mentioned above, we lose over 10,000 acres of wetlands each year in Saskatchewan, mostly through agricultural drainage, but also as a result of urban growth and industrial activities. The effects of the damage are cumulative and those who live downstream know all too well how damaging the results of drainage and wetland loss can be.

Saskatchewan wetlands are important to us all, regardless of where we live, or which political party we vote for. Our provincial government must take a leadership role in the protection of our wetlands. If you are concerned, ask your candidates what they will do to protect Saskatchewan’s remaining wetlands if they are elected. Please help protect wetlands by visiting


Check out these fact sheets from Ducks Unlimited Canada for further information:

An amazing video, take a look - "The Importance of Wetlands"

Making a Difference for the Community Pastures and Our Grasslands

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News Release from Public Pastures - Public Interest

We have received word that there is a possibility that the new federal government may consider reviewing the Harper decision to dump the PFRA pastures system. However, we are told that, for that to happen, our elected MPs, and the Minister of Agriculture Canada in particular, must hear about it from concerned citizens.

So we are asking everyone to send letters to the Minister of Agriculture, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as the Hon. Ralph Goodale and the Prime Minister as soon as possible (see addresses below).

We have a brief window of opportunity to convey our deep concerns over the demise of the PFRA Pastures in Saskatchewan and to ask for the federal government to halt the transfer of the pasture lands and conduct a full review of the Harper government’s decision.

Your letters need not be long and detailed. A simple approach is to ask the federal government to halt the transfer of these pastures to the province of Saskatchewan which is not recognizing, managing or investing in the value of public goods on these vanishing grasslands.

We have heard from government sources that it important to emphasize the climate change benefits of native grassland but you should use your own words and choose any of the points listed below stating why these grasslands are important to you (e.g. climate change mitigation, conservation, Species at Risk, hunting, etc.)

Tell them you want to live in a Canada that protects endangered landscapes and sustainable agriculture initiatives like the PFRA system always did.

We would also like people to request a full Strategic Environmental Assessment of the risks to the natural and human heritage in the PFRA Pastures, in accordance with The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.

It is very important that you include your full name and address, even if you are sending an email. Politicians always note the location where correspondence comes from. Be sure to request a reply to your letter.

Below are some points you may wish to reference in your letter. Select two or three. Use your own words.

- The Community Pasture lands are not “just agricultural lands.”

- These pastures contain the largest and best managed grasslands in Saskatchewan.

- Some 80% of our natural landscape in southern Saskatchewan has been lost to development.

- These pastures are part of Canada's commitment to its 2020 Biodiversity Goals, in accordance with the Global Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

- Prairie grasslands are vital elements of the public trust every bit as precious as our northern forests and lakes.

- The prairies have more Species at Risk than any other region of Canada.

- Over 30 Species At Risk are found on the pastures.

- Carbon sequestration is an important benefit of native grasslands.

- Soil and water conservation is provided by the pastures.

- Pastures contain many heritage sites from indigenous people and homesteaders.

- Pastures provide important hunting opportunities, generating $70 million annually.

- Keeping the pastures publicly owned is the best way to protect the many benefits they provide.

- Indigenous rights to access the land based on international declarations would be harmed by privatization of the land.

- Producers should not be expected to pay for managing the land for public benefits.

- The many public benefits should be maintained and enhanced with public dollars.

- The Canadian people’s 75 year investment in the Community Pastures could be lost by eliminating the federal support for Community Pastures.

Address your letters to:

The Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Send copies to the PM and Ministers listed:

The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

The Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and MP for Regina-Wascana

The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

If you send your letter by regular mail, all mailing addresses are:
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0A6

No postage is required on any mail addressed to the House of Commons.

Many thanks, for your support. We believe we have a chance to make a difference with this letter campaign. Your letters are very important and could help turn the tide.

For more information:

Public Pastures – Public Interest

E-mail:, Phone: 306-515-0460 Website:


Take the Challenge! Keep Cats Safe & Save Birds Lives!

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News Release from Nature Canada:

Ottawa (February 29th, 2016) – Canada’s bird and cat populations are in trouble and Nature Canada and its partners are calling on Canadians to help keep them safe with the launch of its campaign to keep cats from roaming free.

Canada’s birds are in trouble; some species have declined by over 90%. Declines can be attributed to habitat destruction and climate change, and an estimated 270 million birds die each year due to human factors such as collisions with windows and buildings, and hunting by cats. Cats, both pet and feral, cause 75% or approximately 200 million bird deaths a year. We have a responsibility to mitigate loss and protect our birds, as they are a key part of a healthy environment.

We also have a responsibility to keep our cats safe and healthy. The feral cat population is growing rapidly and shelters can’t keep pace. In 2011, more than 50,000 cats were euthanized because homes could not be found. In comparison with dogs, twice as many cats are dumped in shelters and less than 5% of cats are returned home. It is a sad statistic that more than 1,300 dead cats were collected on the streets of Toronto in just one year. Outdoor cats are exposed to a variety of threats, including diseases like feline leukemia, parasites, vehicle collisions, malicious humans and fights with wildlife and other cats.

“While cats’ independent natures might lead some people to treat them like something between pet and wildlife, we owe them the same level of care we give our dogs,” said Eleanor Fast, Executive Director for Nature Canada. “Keeping a cat from roaming freely, while providing adequate stimulation is what they deserve. Therefore, we are challenging cat owners to take Nature Canada’s pledge in support of protecting both cats and birds.”

This initiative is just the start of a larger awareness campaign that will include a series of graphic novels to be penned and released starting later this year by Margaret Atwood.

“We are honoured to have the support of Margaret Atwood and all of our partners in this important campaign,” said Eleanor Fast. She added, “We could not do our work to raise awareness of critical conservation and species issues if it were not for the individuals and organizations who give so generously to Nature Canada year after year.”


Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives is a coalition of individuals and organizations concerned about the well-being of cats and birds. It is led by Nature Canada and is supported financially by Fuller Landau, LLP, The Crabtree Foundation, The Walrus, Indigo, Environment Canada, Pets Plus Us and Toronto Life. For more information about this campaign or to see a full list of national, regional and local partners please visit or

Tips on how to keep cats safe and healthy can be downloaded here. Images for use by media can be found here.

For media inquires contact:
Cate Murray

Invitation to Bid

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Nature Saskatchewan is co-ordinating the Saskatchewan portion of the 2016 International Piping Plover Breeding Census. We are inviting bids to conduct surveys of Piping Plovers in the areas outlined below. This is the 6th International census; others have occurred in 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011. Tentative notification of waterbodies (see areas to be surveyed) to be awarded to candidates will be sent out in March 2016.

For complete details please read the Invitation to Bid - International Piping Plover Census

Questing Winged Wonders in Saskatchewan: Locating Chimney Swifts and Their Habitat

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Questing Winged Wonders in Saskatchewan: Locating Chimney Swifts and Their Habitat

Barb Stewart, MCSI Steering Committee Member

Chimney Swifts are masters of aerial feats. Watching these insectivorous birds forage is a wonder-filled experience. Airspace is covered quickly, as Chimney Swifts change direction on the proverbial dime, while they hunt and gorge on up to 1,000 flying insects a day. It is easy to identify a Chimney Swift. Look for a sooty coloured bird with a cigar-shaped body and long, tapered wings which extend well past the short stubby tail feathers. Chimney Swifts have a distinctive chittering vocalization that also can alert birders to their presence.

Sightings of Chimney Swifts will be limited to airborne flights or quick entry/exit events at nest or roost sites. With feet which are adapted for clinging onto vertical surfaces, Chimney Swifts will never be seen perching or resting on horizontal surfaces.

Traditionally, Chimney Swifts used hollow, large diameter trees in old growth forests. With the loss of those forests, Chimney Swifts shifted to using man-made structures in urban settings. Brick chimneys constructed in the pre-1960’s era provide ideal habitat for Chimney Swifts. A candidate chimney must be open, unlined, and have a rough interior. Old churches and homes in historic sections of towns and cities are good places to start looking for Chimney Swifts. But why should we?

In Canada, Chimney Swifts are listed as Threatened (COSEWIC; 2007). As with many species of insectivores, populations of Chimney Swifts have declined significantly in recent years. Habitat loss and the reduction of sufficient quality/quantity of insect prey are thought to be major contributing factors. It is essential to understand the distribution and abundance of Chimney Swifts, and their biology, in order to implement conservation measures to halt or reverse the population decline.

Since 2007, the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative (MCSI) has grown from a grass roots organization, interested in constructing artificial habitat, to one that embraces monitoring, habitat stewardship, and outreach programs. An ever-growing group of citizen scientist volunteers are the backbone of MCSI activities. In 2015, Manitoba monitors participated in the spring National Roost Monitoring Program (NRMP) which is organized by biologists from Environment Canada (Quebec Region). Over 56 volunteers documented activity at 45 sites in 14 communities. Thereafter, monitoring data were collected to follow activity at Manitoba roost and nest sites throughout the summer.

MCSI has learned much about Chimney Swifts living at the periphery of the summer distribution and their biology differs from those birds living in the concentrated “hot-spot” areas to the east.1 Chimney Swifts arrive in Manitoba mid- to late-May, often after peak numbers in Ontario and Quebec have been recorded. There are only two large roosts known in Manitoba (Dauphin and Winnipeg), compared to many in eastern provinces, and they have housed 150-225 Chimney Swifts instead of several hundred as in the east. At Manitoba nest sites, the percentage of successful nesting attempts, and the number of fledglings produced per successful nesting attempt, is significantly lower than elsewhere in the summer range. In Saskatchewan, Chimney Swifts also live “on the edge” and likely experience conditions similar to those found in Manitoba.

The more we look, the more we discover about Chimney Swifts. In 2015, a group from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship found 3 chimneys in Melita, tantalizingly close to Saskatchewan, which were occupied by swifts. A group of volunteers also located high numbers of swifts in Souris. A quick perusal of eBird revealed that at least 5 Chimney Swifts were active in Estevan in southeastern Saskatchewan.

MCSI invites interested Saskatchewan birders to put Chimney Swifts on their radar for 2016. As we enter the 10th year of monitoring these elusive birds, MCSI hopes to broaden our understanding of prairie Chimney Swifts. Information gleaned from observations made in Saskatchewan will add significantly to that understanding. Getting acquainted with your Chimney Swifts this year will also be useful for continuing with the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas activities which start in 2017.

To begin, either find the birds first then search for nearby habitat, or try to identify potential habitat then verify its use. Look up for Chimney Swifts foraging near riparian areas, over horticultural garden areas, and cemeteries etc.  Swifts can often be mixed in with groups of Purple Martins. To determine a chimney’s suitability for swifts, count the number of bricks on two adjacent faces. A smaller chimney of at least 2.5 X 2.5 bricks is often used for a nest site. Chimneys which are ~4 X 4 bricks, or larger, provide attractive spaces for bigger groups of Chimney Swifts to roost or rest for the night.

In addition to location, it is important to consider timing for finding swifts – both time of the year and time of the day. The spring arrival of Chimney Swifts depends on weather conditions and insect availability. In Manitoba, typical arrival dates range from May 10-30. At roost sites generally, Chimney Swifts enter ½ hour before to ½ hour after sunset to rest for the night; birds leave the site within ½ hour of sunrise the next morning. It is a thrilling experience to see the funneling of swifts as they swirl about a chimney opening before “draining” inside. At Manitoba nest sites, daytime activity will be intense from late May through mid-June as breeding adults build their twig nest on the interior face of the chimney, several feet below the rim. The activity pattern (frequency and sequence of entry/exit events) shifts with stages of nesting as incubation, hatching and feeding, then ultimately fledging occurs. Decoding behavioural clues is part of the fun of Chimney Swift sleuthing. In Manitoba, pre-migratory movements can start by early August with southern migration being complete by mid- to late August. Similar to spring migration, fall migration is influenced by weather and prey availability.

Report your Saskatchewan Chimney Swift observations to Melissa Ranalli and Rebecca Magnus at Nature Saskatchewan at If you are interested in joining the national effort, the 2016 NRMP dates have been set for Wed. May 25, Sun. May 29, Thurs. June 2, and Mon. June 6. Beyond the NRMP, any opportunistic sightings or monitoring data from dedicated sessions would be useful to hear about!

These are early days for implementing a provincial Chimney Swift monitoring program in Saskatchewan, so the organizational framework will be developed over time. For the campaign liftoff in 2016, count yourself in the group of citizen scientists who keep their eyes to the sky. Chimney Swifts are winged wonders waiting to be “discovered” in Saskatchewan. Good luck on your questing!

Barb Stewart

International Migratory Bird Day & The Great Canadian Birdathon at LMBO

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Lacey Weekes, Conservation and Education Manager, Nature Saskatchewan


In celebration of International Migratory Bird Day and the 30th anniversary of the North American Wetland Management Plan, Nature Saskatchewan is hosting an event at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. Come join us on Saturday, May 14th, 2016 to have a lot of fun and help birds at the same time! The day begins at 10am where participants will be split into groups. The groups will spend the morning rotating through four different stations: bird banding, shorebird adaptations and nature journals, migration obstacle course, and wetland metaphor display. A free BBQ lunch is provided at 1pm. In the afternoon, groups will participate in geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are several treasures hidden around the regional park. The event concludes at 3pm.

Nature Saskatchewan will also be hosting the Great Canadian Birdathon on Saturday May 14th 2016 starting at 8am in Regina and concluding at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. Plan to get together with our Birdathon leader (TBD), to enjoy a morning of birding around Wascana Lake and the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. It will be fun, challenging, and a great learning experience Come on your own, or bring your friends and family - everyone is welcome!   If you have binoculars, then don’t forget to bring them along too. Please meet at 8 am at Wascana Centre Authority and then everyone can walk around the lake as a group. After a morning of birding please join us at the Last Mountain regional park for a free BBQ and more birding.

More than 7,000 people from across Canada (and from several countries around the world) participate in and/or sponsor Birdathons in May of every year. During a 24-hour period, “birdathoners” attempt to find as many bird species as they can, sponsored at a flat rate, or on a per-species basis.

Help fundraise for the Last Mountain Bird Observatory and become a part of the 2016 Great Canadian Birdathon by registering & finding sponsors. You can sponsor yourself, a participant, or our Birdathon leader. A tax receipt is issued for all sponsorships of $10 or more. 

To register for the Great Canadian Birdathon (aka Baillie Birdathon) contact Nature Saskatchewan (1-800-667-4668 or 306-780-9481).

Can’t make it to LMBO?  You can do your own Birdathon: sign up by calling Bird Studies Canada (1-888-448-2473 ext.210), or visit BSC at to download your Birdathon Participant kit – be sure to name “Nature Saskatchewan” as your sponsoring club on the registration form so that funds will go to LMBO (about 60-90%). The remainder supports bird conservation in Canada.

These two events are open to the public and fun for all ages. Please RSVP for the BBQ by Monday May 9th by contacting Lacey Weekes at 306-780-9481 or by email Thanks and Happy birding!



Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation

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Regina, SK – May 2, 2016 – The Last Mountain Bird Observatory (LMBO), located in Last Mountain Regional Park, 15km West of Govan opens on May 9th for the spring season. The observatory is open in the spring and fall of each year to monitor the number and species of migrating songbirds and to offer educational opportunities to the public. Visitors of all ages are welcome in May, August and September from 9 am to 1 pm each day to see bird species up close and observe catching, handling and banding techniques.

Saturday, May 14 is International Migratory Bird Day and what better place to celebrate then the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. This year also marks the centennial of the Convention between Canada and the United States for the protection of migratory birds. The Migratory Birds Convention laid a foundation for the conservation of birds that migrate across international borders. The Bird Day celebration begins at 10am where participants will be split into groups. The groups will spend the morning rotating through five different stations: bird banding, mist nets, shorebird adaptations and nature journals, migration obstacle course, and wetland metaphor display. SaskEnergy will be sponsoring a free BBQ at 12:30pm at LMBO. In the afternoon, groups will participate in geocaching. Event concludes at 3pm. Nature Saskatchewan has partnered with the Regina Open Door Society to sponsor a group of new Canadians to attend this event.

Nature Saskatchewan will also be hosting the Great Canadian Birdathon on Saturday May 14th 2016 starting at 8am in Regina and concluding at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. Plan to get together with our Birdathon leader Ryan Dudragne, to enjoy a morning of birding around Wascana Lake and the Last Mountain Bird Observatory. It will be fun, challenging, and a great learning experience. Come on your own, or bring your friends and family - everyone is welcome!   If you have binoculars, then don’t forget to bring them along too. Please meet at 8 am at Wascana Centre Authority and then everyone can walk around the lake as a group. After a morning of birding please join us at the Last Mountain regional park for a free BBQ and more birding.

More than 7,000 people from across Canada (and from several countries around the world) participate in and/or sponsor Birdathons in May of every year. During a 24-hour period, “birdathoners” attempt to find as many bird species as they can, sponsored at a flat rate, or on a per-species basis.

Everyone is welcome to join us for our Bird Day celebration and the Birdathon. Please RSVP to the BBQ by May 11th. Media is welcome to come out to the Observatory to observe the catching and banding of birds, as well as have a tour of the facility. Please call Nature Saskatchewan for more information.



Help support Team Nature Sask

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Help support the conservation of Canada's birds!

Ryan Dudragne will be participating in the Great Canadian Birdathon, the oldest sponsored bird count in North America, to raise money for bird research and conservation. On May 14th, he is leading a group of birders from Regina to Last Mountain Lake, SK on behalf of Team Nature Saskatchewan.

A portion of the proceeds that are raised will be directed towards the Last Mountain Bird Observatory, Saskatchewan's only active full-scale landbird migration monitoring station, which has been in operation since 1989.

Please consider donating to this important cause by visiting Ryan's personal fundraising page.

Thank you in advance for your generosity and support!

Follow This Link to visit Ryan's personal web page and help him in his efforts to support Bird Studies Canada

Backyard Birding and Beyond - May

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Greetings Birders!  Spring is here. The countryside is greening and the spring bird migration is in full swing. This is the best time of year to enjoy bird watching and as the birds are in their summer plumage it is the easiest to identify them. 

So what is in my backyard?  Well, the Harris’, White-Throated and White-Crowned sparrows are here for a short while as they are on their way further north to their nesting areas. These sparrows tend to be ground feeders so check under your hanging feeders or in the leafy mulch areas of your yard or garden as this is where you are most likely to see them. The Chipping sparrows are here for the summer and I have a pair hanging out in my front yard. Last week the Tree Swallows arrived and one of them has claimed the bird house they have used for several years. Yesterday, May 7, a male American Goldfinch visited the niger feeder and my resident Purple Martins arrived this morning. I look forward every spring to hearing their gurgling, chortling sounds announcing their arrival. My feature birds this month, although there are so many to choose from, are the white-throated sparrows.  Birding articles # 1 and #2 at  point out the subtle differences between the White-Crowned and White-Throated sparrows.

The next family of birds to watch for are the warblers. Warblers are small, active, warm weather birds that feed mainly on insects. Most of these birds move about in the foliage of the trees and so tend to go unnoticed by many people. (However, a few warblers like the Waterthrush and the Ovenbird that live close to the ground.)  There are some fifteen different kinds of warblers that can be spotted in our area.

May is the best and busiest birding month. So enjoy the birds visiting your backyard and till next month Happy Birding!

Connie Senkiw



They’re Back, and They’re Here Owl Summer!

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Regina, SK - May 24, 2016 – After spending the winter in tropical Mexico and the Southwestern United States, one of Saskatchewan’s most well-known species at risk has returned home for the season – welcome back the Burrowing Owl! After migration, these endangered owls are busy; starting the mating process, finding a home, and laying and incubating their eggs. Mid-May to Mid-June is the crucial period in which the Burrowing Owl accomplishes these tasks.

Burrowing Owls are identifiable by their small size (~9 inches tall) and light and dark brown mottled plumage with white spots. They give off the appearance of walking on stilts, due to their long featherless legs. They have a round head, with large yellow eyes, and white ‘eyebrows’. Unlike other owls, they are active during the day; especially in the spring when gathering food for their large broods. During the nesting season, male burrowing owls can often be seen on lookouts next to their burrows, or on nearby fence posts while the female incubates the eggs. Burrowing owls make a chuckling or chattering call. They also bob their heads to express excitement or distress.

Despite their name, Burrowing Owls do not dig a burrow themselves. They have to rely on the empty, abandoned burrows that have already been created by ground squirrels, badgers, and other burrowing mammals. Once a suitable nest is found, the female lays 6 - 14 eggs each spring. These eggs are of critical importance to the survival and recovery of the species – there are thought to be less than 800 pairs nesting throughout Canada.

To ensure the nesting success of Burrowing Owls, it is important to minimize human activity around the nests as much as possible. However, the owls coexist with cattle very well. In fact, cattle are even beneficial to the Burrowing Owl. Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator at Nature Saskatchewan, explains why: “On grazed pastures, the shorter grass gives Burrowing Owls the chance to sight possible predators more effectively. Additionally, the owls use cattle manure inside their nests to absorb excess moisture, regulate burrow temperature, attract insects for food, and hide their scent from predators.”

If you discover Burrowing Owls in your pasture, do not fear! There are many advantages to having these owls on your land, especially the free pest control. “Burrowing Owls eat huge numbers of insects, mice, voles, and grasshoppers,” says Burrows. “One nest of Burrowing Owls can consume over 1,000 rodents in a single season!”

Nature Saskatchewan’s Operation Burrowing Owl works with landowners to protect and enhance Burrowing Owl habitat, and monitors Burrowing Owl numbers at participating sites. “Nature Saskatchewan is very fortunate to have so many passionate landowners participating in our programs and keeping a look-out for species at risk, including the Burrowing Owl,” says Burrows. Operation Burrowing Owl records sightings to help determine the population trend and distribution of the Burrowing Owl throughout Saskatchewan. The information can then be used towards efforts to restore the population of these amazing creatures. Any information given is never shared without the explicit landowner’s permission.

“Without the voluntary efforts of landowners, land managers, and the general public, recovery of this unique prairie owl would not be possible” says Burrows. She encourages the public to record any sighting of a Burrowing Owl by calling Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668). “As residents of Saskatchewan, we can all work together to help this amazing species survive and thrive into future generations.”

For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

Kaytlyn Burrows (306) 780-9833, email
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator

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


Nature Saskatchewan
206 - 1860 Lorne Street
Regina, SK S4P 2L7
Phone: (306) 780-9273 or Toll Free: 1-800-667-4668
Fax: (306) 780-9263; Email:


The Voice from the Field - May 24-27, 2016

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A broad expanse of clouds loomed above the rental as we glided out of Regina this past Tuesday. The Nature Saskatchewan team was full of excitement; it was our first landowner visit of the summer, and we had a good lineup across the Southwestern portion of the province. The goal was to visit mainly potential participants for the programs: Operation Burrowing Owl (OBO), Shrubs for Shrikes (SFS), Plovers on Shore (POS), and Stewards of Saskatchewan (SOS). RM maps were unfolded, and the grid road navigation began after a quick search for the odometer reset button.

Our first stop came shortly quickly. We parked the car, and as the four doors clapped shut, we were walking up to our first landowner visit of 2016. Shayna and I stood back as we watched Ashley and Kaytlyn skillfully describe Nature Sask’s programs; I smiled and nodded. It went over quite well, and the landowner was very receptive to our information. Walking out, I felt a sense of enlightenment at the very nature of what we were doing (no pun intended); one person at a time.

The morning gave us a few more good visits, and around lunchtime, we stopped inside a cemetery to briefly search the shelterbelts for Loggerhead Shrikes. A few minutes of looking passed by, and we saw no shrikes – only a noisy Merlin, but we decided that it was time for food. The afternoon gave us a few more interesting visits enhanced by some friendly farm dogs. The highlight of the day was a new Operation Burrowing Owl participant; a young couple who were very open-minded and friendly.

While the car zipped by armies of barbed-wire fence posts, I scanned each one in hopes of seeing a burrowing owl sitting there – the bird of legend. All of a sudden, it was seen. “Stop the car!” was shouted, and the brakes kicked in. Shayna pulled a quick U-turn, and we coasted back to the owl. Just as we rolled up, we were greeted by a full melodic song of a meadowlark, pointed towards us, its yellow stomach puffed out brightly. It seemed it was now mocking us.


Night number one was spent back in the city; we weren’t far enough away yet to justify a night on the road. We updated our trip itinerary, and prepared for the next 3-day stretch , which would indeed keep us out on the road.

Day two started off rather rainy as we left the city once again. It was a blessing and a curse at the same time, because although most farmers and ranchers would be inside on a rainy day, the roads leading to some more remote properties would be impassable. Our first visit went smoothly; a short conversation around a warm dry table. As we were leaving the property, a beautiful Ferruginous Hawk sat on a perch, eyeing us through his pale plumage. It was a lifer for both Shayna and I, and it was exciting to get such a good viewing opportunity.

The further south we went, the more interesting the topography got. All along the fence posts, we kept getting tricked by meadowlarks – their size almost identical to that of a burrowing owl. We drove and drove, and Shayna and I slowly realized that having a schedule does not necessarily mean having a schedule when it comes to landowner visits. We finished off the day at a local Chinese (and Western!) Restaurant, before resting our day, excited for the next adventure.

I opened my motel room door in the morning, and was greeted by a torrent of rain hitting me in the face, carried by a strong wind. I closed the door again and grabbed my rain jacket. With a quick goodbye, we were out on the flooded highway again.

Wanting to check out a possible Burrowing Owl sighting, we started navigating down a “Primary Grid Road”, only to find that when it has rained 20 mm, it isn’t so primary. As we slowly started to sink in to the muck, fear became a reality; we were going to get stuck if we continued on any further. The 4 point turn almost did us in, but with a bit of tire spinning, the rental pulled over a small rise, and we got out safely. The sighting would have to wait until another day.

We visited an existing OBO participant, and had a nice chat about his practices as of late. He hadn’t seen any owls yet this year, but he said would keep an eye out. Back out on the road, Shayna spotted a Loggerhead Shrike with her eagle eyes, and got really psyched up to talk with the landowner, and let him know about the shrikes before heading out again.

Kaytlyn and Ashley slowly started letting Shayna and I take over the visits , as we had been watching intently the first two days. I nervously took the lead on my first OBO visit – for your first time, it’s surprisingly intimidating to knock on someone’s door, and ask them to join a program. But as Ashley says, “Just remember – they’re people themselves.”

We spent the last part of day searching for Species at Risk (SAR) along the roads, which were starting to dry up as the late afternoon sun shone down through the humidity. Ashley’s parents had kindly volunteered to let us spend the night at their cabin and when we arrived there, we were speechless at what a ‘cabin’ was. The night felt like a vacation almost; collectively, we fished, kayaked, and roasted campfire food over a fire while looking up for bats.

It was a little hard to leave in the morning, but I think we all understood why Ashley had volunteered for us to stay there. We visited two possible Shrubs for Shrikes participants in the morning, and just like that - it was on to the last round of visits. A new Shrubs for Shrikes participant was very enthusiastic, and both her and her husband loved the birds; having created a sanctuary in their yard site. We left a bird ID book with them so they could put a label to what they were seeing, as well as some Buffaloberry tree seedlings to plant for future shrikes.

A final stop on the way took us to the home of a couple who had sighted Burrowing Owls on top of posts just this year, in 2016. The man led us into his pasture where the owls had been seen, joined by his cute dog and kid; we scanned the wooden posts, and the barn for any owl-like silhouettes. Unfortunately, we came up empty-handed; but even so, the habitat looked perfect for owls, so we left information and a sign-up sheet with him to go over with his wife.

The first landowner visit trip of 2016 was a success, and although we battled inclement weather at points, we succeeded in getting some new participants, and as the summer staff, we learned all the tricks of the trade from Kaytlyn and Ashley. It gave us a full spectrum of what we should expect over the summer. Here’s til next time!






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:

Call for Regional Coordinators

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The Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas is currently seeking volunteers to serve as Regional Coordinators to help manage the atlassing effort within birding regions across the province. The Atlas is a five-year systematic survey to document the distribution and relative abundance of all breeding birds across the province. Fieldwork for this ambitious citizen-science project is scheduled to run from 2017 to 2021, with an official launch of the project in Fall 2016. Regional Coordinators (RCs) are the "backbone" of an Atlas project and are vital to its success. RCs serve two main functions: the first is to act as the main contact and information source for participants within their region, the second is to work with Atlas staff to ensure adequate regional coverage and data quality. Potential RCs should have solid bird identification skills and knowledge of the breeding birds likely to be found in their region. If you are interested in making this significant contribution to the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas by serving as a Regional Coordinator or would like more information, please contact us at or call us at 306-249-2894.

Backyard Birding and Beyond - June

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Greetings Birders!  The last of our summer resident birds, the Cedar Waxwings, arrived in my yard just this week. They are late nesters. On my morning walk I saw Barn Swallows in flight heard the winnowing sounds of the Common Snipe and the catlike mew of the Catbird. While some birds are just making an appearance, the early arrivals are busy gathering insects for their young hatchlings. Goslings and ducklings have been spotted in the rural areas.  In the next few weeks our backyards will be filled with young birds learning to fly and the sounds of fledglings demanding that their parent still feed them.

My feature bird in this article will be the Brown Thrasher. Thrashers belong to the Family Mimidae or “mimic thrushes”. This bird is rusty brown in colour with a striped breast. It is slimmer than a Robin, has a longer tail and yellow eyes.  I am quite fortunate to have had a pair visiting my yard for the last few summers. I usually spot them foraging in my perennial flower bed or coming to the bird bath for a drink of water. On the odd occasion they will stop for a bath. Although thrashers are ground feeders they will move up into the trees to sing. They are very musical songsters and do a lot of singing at this time of year. To read more about the Brown Thrasher or other birds mentioned above you can go to (Brown Thrasher, article # 126)

I also want to share with you that as I was driving along the south end of Fishing Lake yesterday I spotted a Great Egret. This is a tall stately white heron with a yellow bill and black legs and feet. Great Egrets have been sighted at the Quill Lakes over the last couple of summers and in a few other places in the province, however, I think this is the first for Fishing Lake. This is a new species to look for in this part of the province.

Until next month Happy Birding!

Connie Senkiw

photo credit: John Senkiw

Consider adding your name to the Protect and Consult petition

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A meesage from:

Consider adding your name to the Protect and Consult petition to immediately restore habitat protection in Canada’s Fisheries Act. We have a small window of opportunity to see that habitat protections are put back into the Act as a first step toward improving our waterways and fisheries.

In the next couple of weeks, we’re expecting to hear announcements from the federal government on processes for the regulatory review of the Fisheries Act among other pieces of environmental legislation. We think that this government has a great opportunity to announce a return of habitat provisions at the same time that they announce a process to address other needed changes.

Here’s how we can work together to protect Canada’s rich fish resources:

  1. Share this petition with your friends, family, and neighbours.
  2. Write or call your MP and let them know you want habitat protection back in the Fisheries Act (Find your Member of Parliament using your postal code). Tell them your story about why fish are important to you. Or just leave a brief message that you support this ask because, quite simply, you can’t protect fish without protecting habitat.

The more MPs across Canada hear from us, the more likely the government will make this a priority.

As you may have heard, Hunter Tootoo recently resigned from his position as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Coast Guard. We wish him all the best and look forward to working with Honourable Member of Parliament, Dominic LeBlanc who has been appointed as the interim minister. That means that he’s holding the torch to “restore lost protections” from the previous government. We think there’s nobody better to hold this file today—it was Minister LeBlanc’s father Roméo who, along with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, introduced habitat protection in the Fisheries Act in 1977.

There’s still enough time to make sure that habitat protections are put back in the Act now! Please share this petition far and wide, and write or call your MP today.

In support of healthy waterways and fish,

- Nikki and Valine

The Voice from the Field - June 13-17

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Our Nature Saskatchewan team wasn’t deterred by an early Monday start as we were on our way to the town of Elbow, where we would be taking part in the 2016 International Piping Plover Census. The IPPC, for short, is a worldwide effort to monitor the endangered Piping Plover population across its known breeding grounds. Volunteers and employees alike spend hours walking along the shorelines of beaches across the continent to record the number of plovers they observe.

Historically, the species has been recorded at 172 basins (waterbodies) in Saskatchewan including five reservoirs and five river segments. In the 2011 IPPC, 775 Piping Plovers were found at only 36 basins; this is a 46% decrease from 1,435 Piping Plovers (at 69 basins) in 2006. There has been an immense recovery effort and much research done over the years to determine and undertake actions that can increase the plover's population. Every five years starting in 1991 and including 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011, there has been an international census of the Piping Plover.

Saskatchewan is home to 64% of Canada’s population of breeding plovers. Our assignment was Lake Diefenbaker; a true hotspot for the Piping Plover, with a large portion of Piping Plovers nesting on the beaches. 

Managing the searches around Lake Diefenbaker was the Piping Plover summer crew, managed by the Water Security Agency, of whom members were also present. There were also a few volunteers that had come out from the University of Regina and other locations. Needless to say, it was a diverse and experienced crowd; all ready to hit the shorelines of Diefenbaker. The energy was great, and I could tell that everyone was quite excited to get going.

After a quick debrief, we split into four separate teams, and the drive to the lake began. Dropping off cars at different access points was a strategy we used so that different teams could walk an entire length of beach in one direction and reach the vehicle at the end without doubling back. Most of the access was along trails we were given permission by the landowner to access, and gave beautiful views and unique approaches to the lake.

As soon as we opened the door to our first beach, the fish flies rose from every corner of the earth, and seemed to all dive bomb us at once. There was a unanimous “Get to the beach!” thought shared between all of us. I had to cover my mouth as we descended to the shoreline, just to not breathe in a mouthful of bug. Even after we got to the beach, the flies did not go away… in fact, they were just as bad. My first taste, literally, taste, of Diefenbaker ended up being a sole fly that I ingested while taking a sharp breath in.

We finally got moving, and within 10 minutes, we saw our first plover pair of the day. Emily, one of the full-time Piping Plover summer crew members, had heard the first “Peep-lo!” and had sighted the bird before I even realized what had called out. I heard it the second time it called, and sure enough, I put my binoculars up to my eyes, and saw in the distance a pair of protective Piping Plover parents, scuttling with their fast little legs across the beach towards us. The birds get quite vocal when humans are nearing their nest, so we knew we were getting close. This nest had already been ‘exclosed’ too, which means is has a small cage put around it, to protect the eggs from predation. The cage has square holes big enough for the plovers to get through, but not big enough for a crow or other predator to get inside. From a distance, the cage is invisible, and it takes trained eyes to see it in the middle of a rocky, sandy beach. We approached the nest, looked to make sure the eggs were doing alright, tallied the parents on the field pad, and continued on down the beach. The morning went on and we saw two more nests, and two more pairs of plovers. As we approached the truck, there appeared to be wispy black smoke in plumes. As it turned out, when I looked closer, it wasn’t smoke – it was bugs!

The sun was beating down, and the scorching heat sent ripples through the air. In the afternoon, after a quick lunch by the nice sandy shoreline, and a quick foot dip in the water, we moved to our second beach of the day. The second beach we walked along was refreshingly bug-free. There was only one plover nest, but we did find a solitary male wandering the beach by himself. We spotted a few Killdeer as we spread out across the wide sandy flats, all walking in unison. A common mistake is to think a Killdeer is a Piping Plover. The key difference is to look for one band around a Piping Plover’s neck; contrastingly, the Killdeer has two. The Killdeer also calls out higher and more staccato than the Plover and are generally darker in colour.

Day two brought with it more volunteers and mine and Ashley’s group were assigned a ~20 kilometer stretch of beach just opposite to Elbow, which we would hike in one direction. As we started along, we realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t exactly prime plover habitat. There were quite a few large boulders, and a steep shoreline would prevent plover chicks from going to the water to drink. Even so, we continued to look and listen for any birds that might be in the area. Finally, later in the afternoon, we came across our first plover of the day. It was doing the classic ‘broken wing’ display, where it will pretend to have a lame wing, and drag it along the ground while leading the predator (you) away from its nest. Another tactic the plover started employing was ‘false brooding’, where it sits down like it’s sitting on a nest, but in reality, it’s sitting on nothing, and is trying to trick you into thinking the eggs are in a different spot. It’s quite amusing to witness these behaviours, but for actual predators, these actions could be very successful in protecting the young chicks.

As I lay in my hammock later in the evening, I thought of hot sand and cute scuttling Piping Plovers. The moon, thin as a knife, sliced up through the pastel oranges of the west, and glided up through twisted, dark cirrus clouds. I thought of all the great people who were dedicating their time to try and help save this endangered species, and it made me feel good inside that I was a part of it.

Day three was our last day participating in the IPPC. By the time we were heading out to scan the beaches, the temperature was already in the mid-twenties, and this was still the early morning. Our first beach was more public, and there were a few beachgoers that stared at us as we hiked past in full backpack, binocular and camera getup. Thankfully, the nearest plover nest had not been interfered with by any human or animal, and the eggs looked good. We walked on determinately through the 32 degree heat, which was reflecting off of the sand, back towards us. I started to get really excited later in the day, because our next nest we would be observing would be just hatched, with newborn chicks already up and running. As we came closer to this nest, they started peeping rapidly, and both did the broken wing display at the same time. I have to say – seeing the Piping Plover chicks may have been one of the cutest things I’ve seen.

Overall, I think the blistering heat had taken its toll as we all piled into the car at the end of the day. It was time for the Nature Saskatchewan gang to go back to Regina – and we said goodbye before driving off into the early evening light, through the heat ripples and towards home. The song ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time’ was going through my head, but with a twist; ‘Plovers……. in a dangerous time….’. And it’s good to know that there’s still hope.





BE-A-WARE OF BUTCHERBIRDS – Loggerhead Shrikes are back and will be looking for snacks

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For Immediate Release

Regina, SK – June 20, 2016 – Be on the lookout for Loggerhead Shrikes (a.k.a Butcherbirds) perching on fence posts, barbed wire, or dead branches in shrub patches and shelter belts; especially around abandoned farmsteads. These threatened migratory song birds have returned to prairie farmlands for the breeding season from their winter vacation in southern Texas and Mexico.

Any parent will know when you have four children they’re hungry…all the time. Loggerhead Shrike chicks are no different and the parents are constantly on the search for food. These birds are natural pest controllers and feed on insects as well as rodents such as mice and voles. They have even been observed eating snakes! But why is a songbird eating prey that a hawk would? The Loggerhead shrike is an almost perfect mix of song bird and bird of prey, they are small bodied and excellent flyers but also have a sharp, hooked beak for tearing off pieces of prey. Unlike hawks and other birds of prey, the Shrikes don’t have talons (claws) to hold onto their prey while they eat it. “Loggerhead shrikes hang their prey, much like your neighbourhood butcher would. They use anything they can to hang it on, but most commonly barbed wire and thorny shrubs”, says Ashley Fortney, the coordinator of Shrubs for Shrikes at Nature Saskatchewan, “this allows them to hold their prey while they eat and is also how they got their nickname.”

Loggerhead Shrikes are slightly smaller than a robin and have a distinctive black eye “mask” and contrasting white patches on their wings and tail. They have a grey back, white underparts and black wings, as well as a black hooked beak. When alarmed Shrikes give a distinctive high pitch shriek, but also have a series of harsh calls and “clacks”. 

“Loggerhead Shrikes nest in in thorny shrubs such as hawthorn or buffaloberry, in shelterbelts, farmsteads, golf courses, and cemeteries. Our Shrubs for Shrikes program works with landowners who voluntarily conserve these nesting habitats for the Shrikes”, explains Fortney. “Nature Saskatchewan is asking anyone who sees a Loggerhead Shrike, or hanging prey on barbed wire or thorny shrubs, to please call our toll free HOOT line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668)”, by reporting sightings to Nature Saskatchewan’s Shrubs for Shrikes program you are helping to monitor the population, and provide valuable information for the conservation of species at risk in Saskatchewan. “Personal information provided is never shared without permission”, adds Fortney.

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For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

Ashley Fortney (306) 780-9832, email

            Habitat Stewardship Coordinator           

            Rebecca Magnus (306) 780-9270, email

Species at Risk Manager

Call for Resolutions

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The resolutions considered during the Business Meeting at each year’s Fall Meet are important expressions of member concerns on environmental issues. The Nature Saskatchewan Board of Directors is responsible for acting on all resolutions that are passed by the members. This includes sending resolutions directly to the responsible government ministry and pursuing further action and/or meetings with government and others, as deemed appropriate.

Anyone wishing to submit a resolution for consideration at the 2016 Business Meeting, to be held on Saturday, October 1, is asked to send a written draft to the Nature Saskatchewan Office ( no later than Friday, August 12. This provides an opportunity to receive feedback from members of the resolutions committee that can help to improve your resolution. It also helps us prepare for the meeting. Please note that resolutions not submitted to the Nature Saskatchewan office by 5 pm on Friday, September 9th will be considered only with the agreement of a 2/3 majority of those attending the business meeting.

Resolution Guidelines:

1. Resolutions must be in keeping with the society’s mandate, bylaws and goals.

2. All resolutions must be submitted in writing.

3. A resolution is, essentially, an exercise in communication. Simple, clear language and   focus on one topic or issue is most effective.

4. Supporting information presented in “Whereas” statements must be accurate and factual.

5. Resolutions should be no longer than one page, and preferably less.


Nature Saskatchewan Awards: Call for Nominations

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Each year at the Fall Meet, Nature Saskatchewan recognizes outstanding service and contributions that Society members, and/or affiliate and partner organizations have made towards Nature Saskatchewan’s objectives and goals. Recently, the Awards Committee has recommended that the awards be restructured slightly.

Clear criteria have been established in terms of purpose, eligibility, and nomination procedure. This year, we are seeking nominations for three classes of awards – Volunteer Recognition Award, Fellows Award, and Conservation Award. The Volunteer Recognition Award and Conservation Award can be conferred on the same individual or organization more than once.

The Cliff Shaw Award will also be presented at the Fall Meet. The recipient is chosen by the Blue Jay editors.

Local societies throughout Saskatchewan play an important role in furthering conservation and appreciation of nature at the local level. There are always those who step up to the plate to organize meetings and outings, go the extra mile to help others connect with nature, or work silently and tirelessly behind the scenes. It’s time those contributions were recognized. We encourage anyone from a local society to consider nominating someone from your local group who is a Nature Saskatchewan member, who deserves recognition for any of these awards. Note that nominees for the Volunteer Recognition Award and Fellows Award must hold a current membership with Nature Saskatchewan.

In the interests of space, we are including the Nomination Procedure only for the first award, since the procedure is the same for all three awards. The criteria and names of past recipients can be found on the website here. The office can also send you a copy by mail, if you prefer.

Nomination Procedure

  • Nominations can be made by Nature Saskatchewan members, directors, and staff. Local societies should consider nominating someone from their local group.
  • Self-nominations will not be accepted.
  • Nominations are to be made in writing and submitted by the published deadline.
  • Nominations are to include the following information: The nominee’s name, address, and phone number; The nominator’s name and contact information; Details of the nominee’s efforts.
  • The Awards Committee will independently rate the nominations, and confirm that the nominee holds a current membership with Nature Saskatchewan.
  • Chairperson of the Awards Committee will bring the recommendations to the Board.
  • If ratified, the President or his/her delegate shall confer the respective Awards to the recipients at the Fall Meet.


The deadline to submit nominations for awards is August 31, 2016.


All Nature Saskatchewan Awards consist of the following:

  • The announcement of the recipient’s name at the Fall Meet.
  • The presentation of a certificate recognizing the contribution.
  • An announcement in Blue Jay recognizing the distinction.


Volunteer Recognition Award

This award was created in 1996 to acknowledge an individual Nature Saskatchewan member who has devoted significant time and energy to promoting the objectives of the Society, including contributions made at the local society level. Priority for this award will be given to a Nature Saskatchewan member whose volunteer work has helped to enhance the public awareness of the Society (this may include contributions to a Society conservation project or program). It may be appropriate in some years to have this award shared by more than one person, if they have worked together on the same project, or on closely related projects.


Nature Saskatchewan members who have provided valuable time and effort in contributing to the Society are eligible. Local societies are encouraged to nominate someone from their local group who is a Nature Saskatchewan member, recognizing that Nature Saskatchewan values their contributions to the overall goals of the Society. The nominee must be a current member of Nature Saskatchewan. This award can be conferred on the same person more than once.

Fellows Award

Purpose of the Award

A motion was passed at the 1987 Annual General Meeting creating a new class of honorary membership entitled “Fellows of the Saskatchewan Natural History Society”. This award recognizes an extensive and continuing contribution of time over many years to the Society and its objectives. Up to five recipients may be chosen annually. Once selected, Fellows hold that title as long as they remain members of the Society. It is the highest honour the Society can bestow upon a member.


Eligible individuals are members of Nature Saskatchewan who have provided an outstanding time and work contribution to the Society over many years. These contributions have been significant, and may have come in the form of leadership, communication, authorship, social media outreach, research, and other areas. The contributions have been cumulative or ongoing, and represent long-standing service or commitment to Nature Saskatchewan and its objectives.

Conservation Award

Purpose of the Award

In addition to advocacy and other forms of conservation action, it is important that Nature Saskatchewan recognize, as it has done since 1953, those both within and beyond the organization who have done “meritorious work in the interest of conservation in Saskatchewan.”

Nature Saskatchewan’s Conservation Award will be presented to an individual or organization whose total contribution to conservation is outstanding, whether in relation to a particular project or in a number of roles over a period of years.


Individuals, affiliate and/or partner organizations, not-for-profit associations, institutions, community groups, businesses, government and non-government organizations that have contributed significantly to conservation in Saskatchewan.

This award can be conferred on the same individual or organization more than once.



Larry Morgotch Images of Nature Event: Any member may show up to 10 images that illustrate natural history interests and activities, and may speak briefly about them (no longer than two minutes, please). Images labelled with your name should be left with the projectionist before the start of the program. Digital images may be individual files, assembled as a Power Point or similar type of presentation, or an executable file if you are using a slideshow editing program. Please be sure your presentation runs on a standard PC. Individual images must be in jpeg format with the longest dimension of no more than 1500 pixels. Name your images so that they display in the correct order. Digital images should be stored in a folder indicating your name and saved on a USB flash drive. Please be sure that your presentation runs on a standard PC.

We’ll have a computer and digital projector already set up.

Here’s a chance to showcase some of your favourite images of nature without pressure of competition.




The Voice from the Field - June 30

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SAR-AH, the newly named Nature Saskatchewan vehicle, left town once again last Monday, in pursuit of its acronym, Species at Risk and Habitat. Loaded with field and camp equipment, information for landowners, monarch butterfly seed mixes, and buffaloberry seedlings, it was sure to be an exciting week.

On one of our first stops, the landowner had a Burrowing Owl which he had been keeping track of. He generously showed us pictures and offered to take us out to where he had been seeing it. We happily agreed – neither of us had seen a Burrowing Owl before. The area was plentiful with Richardson’s Ground Squirrels and it looked like perfect habitat for a Burrowing Owl. Unfortunately, after waiting around for a few minutes, the owl was a no-show. We drove to another spot to check out a Northern Leopard Frog sighting which the landowner said was always in “its spot”. Sure enough, we found it right away. The frog was floating around in some standing water, and seemed to be enjoying life in the small oasis.

Further on down the road, we checked in with some current participants to see how they and the species were doing on their land.

Between landowner visits and after discovering we both have a competitive nature, we made up a game that would not only help us work but also help us practice our species identification. Introducing:  SAR-SAR!  The object of the game is to be the person who spots the most species at risk during the day. Some of our sightings so far have been birds such as Loggerhead Shrikes and Bobolinks - but if either of us spots a Burrowing Owl, we agreed that this said person would be crowned SAR-SAR King/Queen for the remainder of our time here at Nature Saskatchewan.

Concluding the day at a local campground with a campfire was a nice way to wind down from the excitement that the day had to offer. The trip was going very well -  we talked with participants about our habitat enhancement program, initiated a few Beneficial Management Practices reports, we welcomed some new participants to the programs  and SAR-AH was helping us spot more species at risk! 

That night, we hunkered down in a campground cook shelter in a large expanse of native prairie as a large thunderstorm rolled through. Lightning shot down from both sides and a gusty rain cascaded downwards. After the storm had passed, we witnessed a magical double-rainbow, illuminated by the setting sun, and back dropped by a pitch black storm cloud in the distance. Saskatchewan truly lived up to “Land of the Living Skies” that night.


As the week progressed, we spotted a couple more Loggerhead Shrikes, as well as an exciting discovery on a remote grid road – a nesting Ferruginous Hawk pair with 1 – 2 juveniles.


On Thursday, we sat down with a few more participants before we met with Kaytlyn and Ashley to participate and help out the Society for Range Management tour “Blues, Bats, and Blue Grama” in Maple Creek and Cypress Hills in conjuction with Native Prairie Appreciation Week.  The tour began Thursday evening at Ghostown Blues Bed and Breakfast with a delicious locally catered meal followed by a fascinating presentation by Royce Pettyjohn on the history of the Cypress Hills and surrounding area.

The next morning, we drove to Cypress Hills West Block. Kaytlyn and Ashley were helping out with local producer tour and plant identification while we assisted with the Kids Discovery Tour. The activities included geocaching, plant identification, and games relating to species at risk and their habitat. The kids were very enthusiastic and were quick learners. They picked up on the plant species and they were identifying quite well. During the games, before and after, it was evident that they were having a lot of fun while learning and retaining the information that was taught.

The day also included a quick stop at the Conglomerate Cliffs; a geological rarity in Saskatchewan. Cypress Hills was the only area that wasn’t glaciated during the last Ice Age in Saskatchewan, and therefore, has quite varied and unique topography. Gazing off into the green rolling valleys, scattered throughout with Lodgepole Pine, was both calming and exhilarating.

We had reached out as far west as we could, and with a turn of the wheel, we were headed back to Maple Creek, and then back to Regina. The second landowner visit trip of 2016 was a journey, to say the least. We are starting to realize how, in every corner of the province, there’s a friendly steward who goes out and looks species at risk every day, or who walks the land looking for birds, plants, and other wildlife. At another corner, there’s a male and female Ferruginous Hawk, sitting in a nest while their young feeds on freshly caught mice. Around the bend, there’s a whole generation of kids who are learning - not just from textbooks, but from the field - how to be responsible and caring for the land, well into the future. And there’s us, doing our small part for the bigger picture, by doing the best we can. 

 Kris & Shayna

Backyard Birding and Beyond - July

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Greetings Birders!  The calendar and temperatures are telling us that we are now in the summer season. As I sit here in the fresh morning air having my coffee I am surrounded by the uplifting sounds of the birds going on with their busy lives….enforcing their territories, feeding their young, building nests, encouraging and watching their offspring take flight, and so forth. A family, or so it appears, of Chickadees have just landed in the chokecherry tree and they immediately proceed to scour the branches for insects. The House Sparrows are happily chirping and one has just disappeared into the bird house with bugs in its beak. Purple Martins are chortling near their bird house while a robin sings from a tree nearby. There have been a pair of Catbirds in my backyard and one of them has just appeared with nesting material in its beak…..rather late nesters for this pair.  The House Wren has just chimed in singing from the nearby wren’s birdhouse. The mate I assume is on the nest. In the distance I hear the sharp harsh chatter of the Merlin which has its nest in the evergreen trees a few blocks away. (Most birders don’t appreciate having Merlins in town as they are bird hawks that hunt and kill smaller birds along with larger insects like dragonflies.)  And now I hear the sound of the Yellow Warbler. Its song is very bright and cheerful. This is one bird I have seen and heard a lot of this summer, whether in my backyard or on my daily walks. Maybe I am just more “in tune” with this bird this year. The Yellow Warbler is small bright yellow bird with a dark eye. The male is brighter than the female and has reddish brown streaks on its chest. The female is duller in colour and may have streaks but they are more difficult to see. These warblers are usually heard and seen in the early spring and summer fliting about in trees and thickets looking for insects. Yellow Warblers build their nests in thickets at about 4 to 6 feet from the ground and are therefore easy to spot if one knows where to look. To read more about the Yellow Warbler or other birds listed above you can go to . (Yellow Warblers, articles 153 and 89). I hope you have the time this summer to get out and enjoy the many birds that live and  nest in this part of the prairies. Until next month……happy birding.


                                                                                ……by Connie Senkiw



I Spy… A Piping Plover Chick!

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Regina, SK – July 7, 2016 – Summer is underway, and that means heading to the beaches for some fun. But we aren’t the only ones who enjoy the hot sand on a Saskatchewan shoreline! Piping Plovers are endangered shorebirds, and are raising their families on beaches across the province. The Plovers first arrived on Saskatchewan beaches in mid-May and now have adorable chicks combing the beaches for invertebrate prey.

Piping Plovers have been classified as endangered since 1985 and their numbers are continuing to fall. “There are many factors that contribute to the Plovers decline”, explains Ashley Fortney, the Plovers on Shore coordinator, “but a few factors are flooding of nesting areas, predation, and the loss of nests from being trampled by livestock and human activity.” An international census counting Piping Plovers across North America is completed every five years. Less than 800 plovers were observed in Saskatchewan in the 2011 census which was a 53% decrease from the previous one. The 2016 census has just been completed and Fortney is hoping, once the data is compiled, the population trend will show a rebound. “Saskatchewan experienced exceptional flooding in 2011, so we’re interested in finding out if the low numbers from that year are a reflection of the extreme weather.”

Piping Plovers are a small shorebird and are well adapted to blending into the beaches they live on so they can be difficult to spot. You can identify a Piping Plover using the distinctive black markings – a black band on their forehead and a single black band around their neck. They also have a sandy body with a white belly, orange legs, and an orange beak with a black tip. “It is easy to mistake a common Killdeer for a Plover”, says Fortney, “but Killdeer are larger, browner in colour, and have two black bands around their neck instead of one.” Both male and female adult Piping Plovers make distinctive “Peep” and “Peep-lo” calls.

Looks aren’t the only thing that Plovers share with their Killdeer cousins, as they both exhibit many of the same behaviours when raising chicks. These displays can include running away, while stopping to make sure you are following, and vigorously flapping one or both wings. “This broken wing display is named accurately because they will look injured and appear to be an easy meal”, states Fortney, “but it is all an act and the bird will fly safely back to the chicks once it has lured the predator far enough away.”

Piping Plovers and their chicks will be increasing their fat stores in order to complete the 3,500 km flight back to the winter beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. These tiny “cotton balls on stilts” as Fortney describes them, blend in to the sand with their exceptional camouflage. Their distinct colouring allows them to avoid predators by lying flat on the beach, but that doesn’t eliminate all the risk. “Even dogs are a significant threat to plover chicks” says Fortney, “the public can help by keeping dogs on leashes when using Saskatchewan beaches, especially where plovers are known to be nesting.”


If you see a Piping Plover please call our toll-free Hoot Line at: 1-800-667-HOOT (4668).

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For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:


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

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


Photo credit: A. Fortney


Fall Meet 2016

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The Saskatoon Nature Society is pleased to host Nature Saskatchewan’s Fall Meet September 30 to October 2, 2016. Join us in celebration of Whooping Cranes – welcome visitors to our region at this time of year. And if you’ve really seen these amazing large cranes too many times already or want to do something more active, we have some interesting field trip alternatives. Optional field trips are also offered for late Friday evening and for Sunday. Many of our field trips have size limits, so register early to secure your spot. Note: registration fees increase by $15 after September 1, 2016. We really want you to register early! Use the registration form provided or download it from the Saskatoon Nature Society website (

We’ll be meeting at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 362, 3021 Louise St. See for map and contact information. All field trips will depart from and return to this location.


Driving Directions: From Circle Drive, turn west onto Taylor Street East. Get into the left lane and take the first left turn on to Arlington Avenue. Drive one very long block and turn left onto Louise Street. Follow Louise around the corner to the right, and look for the Legion Hall and parking lot on your right. 


Program Schedule

Friday, September 30


6:00 p.m. Registration and Reception

Light refreshments and cash bar, displays to view. (Supper on your own)


7:30 p.m. Program

  • Welcome and opening remarks
  • Larry Morgotch Images of Nature Event (bring 10 images to share – watch for further details in the Fall issue of Blue Jay)
  • Overview of field trips


9:00 p.m. Saw-whet Owl Banding Field Trip (limit of 25 people, no fee, carpool)

Join Marten Stoffel at his Saw-whet owl fall migration station just north of Saskatoon. These owls only move after dark so we will leave in a car convoy at 9 pm. Participants should be back in Saskatoon shortly after 11pm. Priority will be given to registered out-of-town participants. This trip may be cancelled if the weather is bad.


Saturday October 1


Breakfast on your own


8:00 a.m. Whooping Crane and Peregrine Falcon Field Trips depart from Nutana Legion


Whooping Crane Field Trip (limit of 55 participants, fee is $40, travel by bus, lunch provided)

We will travel by bus to locations east of Saskatoon where Whooping Cranes have frequently been seen in recent years. There are no guarantees, but in previous years our success rate for finding Whoopers has been high. We also expect to see Sandhill Cranes and migrating waterfowl. We will stop for lunch in Cudworth and, if time permits, we’ll take a walk to look for other migrants. Bring binoculars, a water bottle and appropriate footwear. 


Peregrine Falcon Hunt (limit of 20 people, no fee, carpool, morning only)

Watch the world’s fastest animal – the peregrine falcon - catch its prey. We will carpool and drive approximately 30 minutes outside of the city to where the falcon (trained by falconer Dr. Lynn Oliphant) will hunt. This trip will require a fair bit of walking and standing. It may be cancelled if the weather is poor due to limitations on the falcon’s ability to fly and hunt properly.


8:30 a.m. Wanuskewin Field Trip departs from Nutana Legion


Wanuskewin Heritage Park (Fee is $10, travel by bus, lunch available for purchase on-site)

Human history and natural heritage come together in Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This tour will offer the opportunity to learn about 6,000 years of habitation in this rich natural area. It will include activities guided by Wanuskewin interpreters and a chance to ramble and explore over 6 km of trails along the Opimihaw Creek Valley and across the grassy uplands. Lunch can be purchased in the Visitor Centre restaurant, and there are galleries and a gift shop to explore if the weather is bad. 


4:00 p.m. Nature Saskatchewan Business Meeting, Nutana Legion

Report from the Board, Resolutions, Member’s Forum


6:00 p.m. Cocktails (cash bar)


6:30 p.m. Banquet


7:30 p.m. Awards Presentation


8:00 p.m. Keynote Speaker: Brian Johns “The secret life of Whooping Cranes past, present and future”. Brian is President of the Whooping Crane Conservation Association and retired from a distinguished career as coordinator of the Whooping Crane monitoring program for Canadian Wildlife Service.


Sunday October 2


9:00 a.m. Blackstrap Lake Field Trip departs from Nutana Legion


This optional field trip is ideal for folks who are travelling home to points south of Saskatoon. We’ll travel in a vehicle convoy to look for migrating waterfowl that congregate on Blackstrap Lake in the fall, and stop for lunch at a picnic site in the park. You can pick up something to eat during the trip at the Subway at the entrance to Dundurn. Spend an hour with us, or a few; you can leave the trip at any time.


Accommodation Options 


Saskatoon has lots of choices for accommodation, but it can be a little on the expensive side. These are some suggested options.


Bed and Breakfast

Glacier Park Bed and Breakfast: 46 Harvard Crescent. 306-381-0912,


Inn-Chanted Bed and Breakfast: 210 Laycoe Crescent. 306-651-5006,


Prairie Rose Bed and Breakfast: 526 Guelph Crescent. 306-374-7204,


Wild Rose Bed and Breakfast: 1426 Acadia Drive. 306-979-6640,



Gordon Howe Campground: 1640 Avenue P South, 135 electrical & water sites plus 12 tent sites, 1-866-855-6655



These hotels are relatively close to our meeting location, of reasonable quality and provide breakfast. Note that you can get a better rate if you are willing to prepay.


1. Best Western Plus East Side: 3331 8th Street E, 306-986-2400


2. Hampton Inn Saskatoon South: 105 Stonebridge Boulevard, 306-665-9898


These slightly less expensive alternatives are near the airport. The drive to our meeting place is relatively easy from there, following Circle Drive across the river to the Taylor Street exit. 


3. Day’s Inn Saskatoon: 2000 Idylwyld Dr North, 306-242-3297


4. Super 8 Saskatoon near Saskatoon Airport: 706 Circle Drive East, 306-384-8989  Note: there is more than one Super 8 in Saskatoon. This one is the better of them.


5. Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton 110 Gateway Boulevard, 306-933-1010


Do your research and book early for better deals. For further information, contact Tourism Saskatoon at 1-800-567-2444 or consult their website at There are also a number of Saskatoon listings on Airbnb that may be worth checking out.

A Butcher’s Apprentice – Threatened Loggerhead Shrike Chicks are Learning how to Impale Prey

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Regina, SK – July 18, 2016 – “Young Loggerhead Shrikes (a.k.a. butcher birds) are out near their nests learning to perfect their hunting and impaling skills,” says Ashley Fortney, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “This is the best time to observe shrikes and their graphic behaviours as the young may be in groups of 4 to 7, clumsily hunting and impaling prey in a localized area.”

Taking a lesson from butchers who hang their meat to dry, the Loggerhead Shrikes do the same with their food. Fortney explains, “These birds impale and hang their prey on barbed wire fences, thorny shrubs, and broken branches, in order to effectively eat their oversized prey, affording them the nickname of ‘butcher bird’”. The shrike’s prey items include beetles and grasshoppers but also larger prey such as snakes, mice, voles, frogs, and even smaller songbirds. Similar to birds of prey these birds have sharp hooked beaks; however, unlike the birds of prey, shrikes lack strong talons, and must impale prey in order to tear pieces off during feeding. 

The Loggerhead Shrike is slightly smaller than the American Robin. Shrikes have a black mask that extends from the black bill past the eyes. These birds earn the “Loggerhead” part of their name because they have relatively large heads compared to their bodies, and the “Shrike” part of their name because they have a high pitched shriek for an alarm call. The Loggerhead Shrike has a grey back with white underparts, black wings and a black tail with characteristic white patches on the wings and stripes on the edges of the tail. These traits are easily seen when shrikes are in flight.

Loggerhead Shrike chicks are the fuzzy fluff-ball equivalent to the parents. They have a similar black eye mask, although not as distinct, and a less smooth appearance when compared to their parents. “My favourite feature about the chicks is their tail, which is very short a stubby compared to the length of the body”, says Fortney. The chicks also have the same black and white marking on their wings. Around this time is when the young butchers-in-training are exploring the world around their nest.

The prairie population of Loggerhead Shrikes has seen declines of over 80% in the past 35 years. Causes of decline are primarily habitat loss and degradation (e.g. removal of shelterbelts), as well as pesticide use and road mortality. To learn more about the Loggerhead Shrike or to report a sighting please contact Nature Saskatchewan at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668). By reporting Loggerhead Shrike locations, you are providing valuable information used to assess population size and distribution in order to help direct the conservation efforts for this threatened bird. Information will not be shared without a landowner’s permission.




For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:


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

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


The Voice from the Field - July 23

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Grid Road Searches

It was a surprising turn of events when our newly named field vehicle, SARAH (Species At Risk And Habitat), had to return home and was replaced with a shiny blue SARAH 2.0. She took a little bit of getting used to but after discovering that 2.0 let us know when we would run out of gas we decided she could stick around. A quick fill up with gas marked the beginning of the next journey…. grid road searches!

The objectives of these searches were simple; drive the grid roads checking as many historical species at risk (SAR) sightings in the survey area as possible, and watching for new SAR locations. Anticipation built as we hit the highway to get to the start point. We couldn’t wait to find out what all we would see in the beautiful Saskatchewan countryside. Thoughts of Shrikes and Bobolinks flew through our minds but the one we were most excited for would be the chance to see a Burrowing owl. After all, a SAR-SAR winner needed to be crowned (a game we adapted where you compete to spot SAR first, by calling out “SAR-SAR” and the number of animals) and we had a good feeling this could be the trip for it.

It didn’t take very long after the survey started before SAR started popping up. Bobolinks on the barbed wire here, a Ferruginous Hawk flying over there, and even some Loggerhead Shrikes flitting between shelterbelts were spotted on the first day.

The only problem when it comes to grid road searches is that not all grids are created equally. Some roads were graded and graveled, others looked fairly dry and were given a test before venturing too far down them (we don’t want SARAH 2.0 to literally stick around). Then there were the roads we would pull up to, take one look at, and say “Nope! No way are we going down that one!”

About half way through the first day we went to check our first historical Burrowing Owl sighting. Was this it? Was this the day we would both see a Burrowing Owl for the first time in the wild?? We slowly approached the site of the first spotting and we vigorously scanned the roadsides for anything that remotely looked like a bird or a burrow but we didn’t see anything. We still had one more spot to check. My stomach felt like it was in knots! My heart was racing and my palms were sweating, and I wondered if Kris was freaking out as much as I was but next thing I knew we were approaching the site of the supposed owl pair.

There were burrows everywhere in the short prairie grass, perfect habitat for the owls, and I began working my way through the burrows. “ground squirrel, ground squirrel, Meadowlark, ground squirrel,” I listed off in my mind as I identified them. The next burrow over I thought “Huh, that’s a funny looking ground squirrel!” I think that’s when my heart skipped a beat, “wait a minute is that a ground squirrel?” I turned to Kris, who had his camera and zoom lens out, and very tentatively said “I don’t think that is a ground squirrel in that burrow…” He knew exactly where I was looking and was already snapping the picture. I watched as he zoomed in on the photo he just took, and he didn’t have to say anything.

 The change in facial expression, first of shock, then of pure joy, was enough to confirm that there was not a ground squirrel sitting in that burrow! Shocked silence ensued for a minute while admiring the pair of owls sitting on the camera screen before I slowly said “SAR-SAR 2.” Even though I verbalized it first we both agreed to share the SAR-SAR crown as we had both spotted the owls at the same time! Now for the tie breaker, who will be the first to spot a Swift Fox? More pictures were taken and the couple was admired a little longer before resuming our grid searches.

The end of the day brought us to an amazing little regional park that was run by volunteers from the nearby town. Not a single soul besides the two of us was there and it was truly breathtaking. Native prairie rolled over the hills into a lake as smooth as a sheet of glass with sunlight glinting off of its surface. Sprague’s Pipits called from above us and the occasional songbird would drink at the lake below us. The lake was all too inviting, and once the day’s paper work was finished and base camp was set up we hit the water with a splash.

While doing some pre-supper exploring of what would be home for the next three days, I discovered George. George was a very curious and also very adorable Red Fox. With his den situated a mere 20 meters from our campsite Kris and I had the immense pleasure of observing the young fox explore, practice his hunting skills, and play. So curious was George that he came within 4 feet of me to see what I was and even came down the next morning while we were eating breakfast to reclaim a piece of sod he had been playing with. All the while his parents were roaming the surrounding hills hunting for food.

Day two we were awoken much earlier than we would have liked to be - queue the 4 AM thunderstorm and pouring rain. This made finding species at risk more difficult as most animals hunkered down in the dreary weather. We had planned our survey routes so that we would be driving past a lot of historical sightings but as the surveys continued, we encountered more stormy weather. Avoiding the secondary and seasonal roads made navigating to our site checks more challenging. At one point we were able to witness the touchdown of a small tornado! From a safe distance that is, and my inner 13 year old want-to-be storm chaser was ecstatic!

One afternoon, there was a particularly ominous-looking cloud, and the rain started coming down hard. That’s when I had a horrifying realization that I had left the tent window open. It had been sunny and warm in the morning, and I hadn’t thought about rain at all; I had just presumed it would be a nice day. When we came back to the tent, my fears became reality as all of my clothing was sitting in a puddle. The drying process began inside the tent as rain continued to pelt everything.


More species were spotted, including Loggerhead Shrikes, and a Ferruginous Hawk family with two adults and three juveniles. Another interesting sighting was a White-faced Ibis strutting around in the wetland, which was a new bird for both of us.

During the grid road searches, we also conducted some Nightjar surveys, which is part of a coordinated effort across Canada to help monitor and better understand Common Nighthawks, Common Poorwills, and Eastern Whip-poor-wills. The surveys started half an hour before sunset, and continued until well after dark. Unfortunately, not too many birds were out, and the only things around were mosquitos and cows. We plodded on down the road with the survey sheets and keen eyes and ears, stopping ever y 1.6 kilometers to listen and watch for 6 minutes. We did not end up identifying any Nightjars.

Part way through the trip, the forecast was not looking good and Kaytlyn and Ashley made the executive decision to have us come back to the office for a couple of days to wait it out and allow the roads to dry up a little. After a brief hiatus in the office we were back out on the road for the last few days of searching.

We had several sightings on the last couple of days including a badger, some loggerhead shrikes, Ferruginous Hawks, and an auditory ID of a Sprague’s Pipit. There was beautiful pasture land where we were driving through, and we kept a keen eye out for any sort of burrowing creature that wasn’t a mammal.

One thing that was hard to miss was the constant reminder of habitat loss. There were many locations that used to be habitat for nesting Burrowing Owls that are now cultivated fields. It made me realize just how important it is to keep those remaining patches of native prairie for the species that rely on it.

It was time for the trip to come to a close. We saw a good number of birds; although we hoped that we could’ve seen a few more. But that’s the way fieldwork goes! Mother nature always has the final say no matter how perfect your trip sounds on paper. Either way, searching the grids one at a time made us realize how vast our province is, and how many things there are out there just waiting to be discovered.

-Kris Mutafov and Shayna Hamilton

Young Prairie Bobbers Are Taking Flight

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Regina, SK – July 25th, 2016 – The Burrowing Owl is reaching an important stage in its life cycle – the juveniles are now starting to leave the shelter of the burrow, and forage for themselves. The juvenile owls have been fed by the adults for many weeks, and they are now becoming independent. If you are out and about during late July, it is a good time to spot Burrowing Owls in rural Saskatchewan, but it is also a dangerous time for these inexperienced juvenile owls.

Just like teenagers, the young Burrowing Owls have to learn the way of the world, and that includes learning the way of the road. “The juveniles often forage in roadside ditches, where they find small invertebrates and rodents that tend to congregate at dusk,” explains Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator. “But unfortunately, many of these young are killed by motorists whilst foraging along the sun-warmed road.”

The Burrowing Owl population has been steadily declining, making the survival of each and every juvenile owl critical for the ultimate survival and growth of the species. However, Kaytlyn Burrows says there are some things that we can do to help the juveniles survive this critical learning curve. “When motorists are driving in Burrowing Owl habitat, and especially near known nest sites, it’s important that they take a few extra minutes and slow down. This will reduce the risk of owl-vehicle collisions.” The owls are often found nesting in native prairie that has been well grazed by cattle, as this shorter grass allows them to spot predators. They are often seen standing on their burrow, on nearby fence posts, or foraging in the ditches.

To identify a Burrowing Owl, there are some key features to watch for. Look for mottled brown and white feathers, white ‘eyebrows’, and long featherless legs that look like ‘stilts’. Don’t be fooled by its small size – it is only 9 inches tall (about the size of a Meadowlark). The Burrowing Owl’s burrow is not dug by the owl itself; rather, they use abandoned burrows dug by badgers, ground squirrels, and other burrowing mammals.

Nature Saskatchewan has been involved with the protection and conservation of the Burrowing Owl for almost 30 years, but its success would not have been possible without the help of  landowners, land managers, and the public. Operation Burrowing Owl works with landowners across southern Saskatchewan, and signs voluntary agreements in an effort to preserve the rapidly disappearing habitat that the species needs. The program works alongside landowner practices, and the land continues to be used in a way that benefits the landowner. “If you see a Burrowing Owl, please give us a call on our toll-free Hoot Line, at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668),” Burrows mentions. “You will be helping to monitor the population and aid with conservation efforts.” Landowner information is never shared without permission.

For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

Kaytlyn Burrows (306) 780-9833,

Habitat Stewardship Coordinator


Rebecca Magnus (306) 780-9270,

Acting Species at Risk Manager

Photo Credit: Kaytlyn Burrows

Photo Credit : Kaytlyn Burrows

The Monarch – A Royal Migration

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Regina, SK – August 2, 2016 – Have you always wanted to see a Monarch butterfly?  NOW is prime time!  It takes 3 to 4 generations of butterflies to complete the migration they undertake, and the final generation starts here! Each generation lives only a few weeks, migrating north and laying eggs along the way, until Late August. The last generation lives for up to 9 months, starts as far north as here in Saskatchewan, migrates south, overwinters in Mexico or California, and finally lays eggs in the spring.

Monarch Butterflies complete the longest and largest insect migration in North America. “It’s hard to believe, but birds aren’t the only ones to travel thousands of kilometers due to the changing of the seasons,” says Ashley Fortney, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with the Stewards of Saskatchewan programs. Millions of these butterflies, every year, somehow fly south up to 5,000 kilometers. “It’s somewhat mind boggling when you think of a Monarch being born halfway through migration, transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly, and then simply knowing which direction to fly.”

Monarch butterflies are identifiable by their bright orange colouring, 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,” Fortney mentions. 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.

In Saskatchewan, the Monarch is distributed across the southern portion of the province, and is seen throughout mid to late summer as they finish the northern extent of their migration. Of the two populations of Monarchs in North America, the Eastern population is the one sighted in Saskatchewan, with the Rocky Mountains as a barrier to the Western population.

Monarch numbers have dropped by as much as 90% across North America. The three lowest overwintering populations in Mexico on record occurred in the last 10 years. One of the largest threats to these 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.

Monarchs rely on Milkweed plants for survival. The butterflies lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves, and larvae feast on the leaves growing 2,000 times their size! Bitter heart toxins from the plant are stored within the Monarch making them unpalatable to predators. “This is why there are Monarch lookalikes out there,” explains Fortney, “they pretend to be the poisonous Monarch to trick other animals into thinking they’re not a good meal.”

To help these butterflies, you can plant Milkweed, “even in your own backyard,” Fortney says, “it is very important that this plant is available to the Monarchs.” Another thing you can do to help Monarch research and conservation is to report a sighting of the butterfly. “Every sighting helps to determine the numbers and the range of the Monarch population,” Fortney concludes. 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)


Photo credit: M. Ranalli


The Voice from the Field - August 6, 2016

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already August. While many people are lounging around in lawn chairs and reveling in late summer’s heat for the next couple of weeks, nearly every bird has nested, raised young, and has readied themselves for the journey back south.

Here at Nature Saskatchewan, we’ve also been busy, with our programs, events, and our field work. We recently hosted a Conservation Awareness/Appreciation Dinner in Willow Bunch. A good group of landowners, participants, and presenters came together for the evening. Dinner was brought in locally from Nick’s Restaurant, and everyone enjoyed a hearty serving of lasagna, pizza, and salad. Special thanks go to Al Smith, who gave a presentation on the 2016 International Piping Plover census, Jamie Holdstock and Cierra Wallington, who spoke about Old Wives Watershed Association’s programs and services, and Tera Edkins and Allie Gallon, who brought two live Bull Snakes to highlight their research they are conducting in Saskatchewan Landing. Also, a big thank-you goes to all of the land stewards who attended the dinner! Along with dinner came some great conversations with the stewards on a wide range of topics pertaining to the land and the species that inhabit it.

The trip we were on this past week was the second last landowner trip before our short time with Nature Saskatchewan comes to an end.

An interesting visit we had near the start of the trip was with a golf course. When the maintenance staff asked us if we wanted to go and check the reported location of a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes on the golf course with the golf carts, we readily agreed. I have used many different forms of transportation for observing wildlife, but never have I gone searching for threatened species on a golf cart. Sure enough, we found the pair, and after returning to the clubhouse, we dropped off a good amount of Buffaloberry seedlings with the maintenance staff. We heard word as we were leaving that they were all going to be planted that very afternoon. Hopefully in the future the Shrikes can use them to impale their prey!

We also conducted a few Rangeland Health Assessments throughout the course of the trip. These are basic surveys of a pasture or native grass area to determine the health of the plant community. We use a 0.5 meter by 0.5 meter square, identify all of the species within this boundary, and what percent of the square that they take up. This includes any invasive species we find. Soil erosion, and loose dead plant material or “litter” was measured as well.

One steward was so excited to go and look for her Species at Risk that she took us out on a tour of her land, first, showing us some Barn Swallow nests in the barn, and then taking us for a drive along the edges of her shelterbelts. As we were driving along, we found 4 Shrikes in the bushes! She was overjoyed at the sight of them, and the fact that they were nesting close to (but not directly beside) her house.

We were having some great visits with landowners; many were very enthusiastic and passionate about the species and our programs. The underlying principle of conservation rang out with them and although they made decisions for what could benefit them, everything was done with consideration for the betterment of the biotic community. Some of the landowners had been on the same plot for 60 years, a short blink in geological time, but an expanse in a human’s lifetime – enough time to know every corner of the property, as well as every creature that inhabits it. It was humbling to talk to these landowners, who have rooted themselves so deeply in an area and are so wise and experienced.

Throughout this summer, we have visited many regional parks across Saskatchewan, and every trip, the beauty and the peacefulness of them never fails to disappoint. This trip was no different, and the regional parks we were in had absolutely stellar sunsets, complete with lakes, docks, and rustic windmills.

More visits in the later half of the trip were great – we talked to a couple whose daughter is interested in pursuing the natural sciences, and she thought what we were doing was pretty cool. We answered some questions she had about University, and the type of work we do. We then offered to take her out to do a Rangeland Health Assessment on their property. She was excited to join us and watch what we did. It’s always great to see high school students who are thinking of entering the field, and I think both of us are more than happy to talk (a lot) about what we do and how we do it.

The last day of our trip, we signed up a new Operation Burrowing Owl participant and visited with other current Shrubs for Shrikes participants.

It’s beginning to become second nature, this life on the road. We’ve visited many landowners and many farmhouses. There’s always a story to be heard from a participant, or a unique personality that is encountered. Every landowner has a slightly different way of doing things, or a bit of a different mindset when it comes to their practices. It’s not easy to predict, but it always keeps you on your toes.  



Backyard Birding and Beyond- August

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Greetings Birders!  August is here and summer is beginning to fade. Robins, Goldfinches, Thrashers, Catbirds, Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Yellow Warblers and common house sparrows are still around carrying on with their daily activities. I have also seen the Ruby Throated hummingbird visiting the flowers more frequently. However, my backyard is somewhat quieter now that the young Purple Martins have learned to fly and both parents and young have left the Martin house. I was away for a few days and when I returned the Catbird was very unhappy with me being here. As I sat on the patio I could hear her making “mewing” calls in the distance, she then moved into the apple tree nearby and looking directly at me continued to “mew”. She then landed near the fountain about two meters away and still looking at me continued to “mew” as if scolding. However, she soon lost interest and dropped to the ground to look for insects. (Note:  I referred to the bird as she but it also could have been the male as both sexes look alike.)  The Catbird is a dark grey bird with a black cap and chestnut brown under tail coverts and when sitting will pump its tail up and down. The Catbird belongs to the Mimidae family which is the same family as the Brown Thrasher. Along with its catlike “mew” its song is “a series of disjointed clear notes, squeaks and whines” (Kaufman). I am certain they have a nest nearby as I see them throughout the day often with worms in their beaks. So nice to have them around!  Thus my feature bird this month is the Grey Catbird. For more information about this bird refer to articles 87 and 55 at  Until next month Happy Birding! 

….by Connie Senkiw

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

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.


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 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

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
(613) 323-3331

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

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

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

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 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


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, and for more information on CWD, visit


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

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: article No. 102. Until next month successful birding!

by Connie Senkiw