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Archives for 2017

Invitation to Participate in SaskForward

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

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

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



Launch of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas Website

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

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

Stuff, Stories, and Strategies for the Future

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A Networking & Planning Event for Saskatchewan Ecomuseums and other Community-Engaged Museums

April 27-29, 2017 - Regina


  • To give Saskatchewan ecomuseums and other community-engaged museums a chance to describe what they have been doing, what they are aiming to do, and what they need for further development.
  • To revitalize and encourage growth of the Saskatchewan Ecomuseum Network by highlighting how the ecomuseum model has been applied around the world and how it can be used to foster sustainable forms of development.
  • To identify opportunities for action research that could be supported by a SSHRC Partnership Development grant.


  • Thursday, April 27 – Public keynote address – Ecomuseums Today: Heritage Tools for Sustainability?       René Rivard, Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association
    • 7 pm – Royal Saskatchewan Museum – Free admission
  • Friday, April 28 – U of R
    • AM – Brief presentations
      • Dr. Tobias Sperlich, UofR Dept of Anthropology – Objects, Stories, Places, People
      • Dan Holbrow, Museums Assoc. of Sask – Museums and Sustainable Communities
      • Sandra Massey, Heritage Saskatchewan – Ecomuseums and Living Heritage
      • Dr. Lynne Teather, University of Toronto – Training Requirements
      • Dr. Glenn Sutter, Royal Sask Museum – Growing Ecomuseums in Saskatchewan
    • PM – Updates from Saskatchewan ecomuseums and roundtable discussion


Presented by the Saskatchewan Ecomuseum Partnership and
the University of Regina Department of Anthropology



Official Parliamentary Petition

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As a result of recent developments in Ottawa and in the national media, PPPI has launched an official parliamentary petition to Hon. Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, calling on her to work with livestock producers, First Nations and Métis organizations, local committees and conservation organizations to create a multi-use prairie conservation network on all former PFRA Community Pastures.
Please fill out and share this petition with others before July 6th when it closes. Already it is garnering support across Canada  - we need 500 signatures in order for final certification.
Grasslands are the most endangered, the most altered and yet the least protected ecosystem on the planet. The Community Pastures in Saskatchewan contain some of the largest, best managed and biodiverse rich blocks of remaining native grasslands in North America. A conservation network will not only protect our grasslands but support Canada's biodiversity Target 1 to protect 17% of all terrestrial areas and inland water.
A Bioblitz Canada 150 Event

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June 9 and 10, 2017  Regina, SK

Dear Scientists, Naturalists, Community Organizations and Individuals,
BioBlitz Canada 150 is one of 38 Signature Projects under the federal Canada 150 initiative. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is coordinating the BioBlitz Canada 150 project with bioblitz events from coast to coast to coast including five flagship events in urban areas, 20 community events and 10 science-intense blitzes.

We would like to invite you to join us in Wascana Centre on June 9 and 10, 2017 for the
Regina BioBlitz. This flagship event is the only one in the prairies; it will represent both Saskatchewan and the Prairie Region in BioBlitz Canada 150.

The Regina BioBlitz will be held in Wascana Centre and is hosted by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Friends of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in partnership with Wascana Centre Authority, Friends of Wascana Marsh, Saskatchewan Science Centre, Nature Saskatchewan and Bird Studies Canada. We have confirmed that Wascana Centre will be available to blitz for our event, centered on the 23-acre Habitat Conservation Area of the park.

You may be wondering - what is a public bioblitz and why should I participate?

A public bioblitz is a period of biological surveying by scientists, students, naturalists and the general public, working together in an attempt to record all the species in a defined area for a defined period of time – this mixture of wildlife experts and the wider public is key to the BioBlitz concept.
The aim of the Regina BioBlitz is to provide fun, enjoyment and connection for those who may not normally interact with nature. Our goal is to invite the people of Regina and surrounding area to develop an understanding of local wildlife and habitats, and gain first-hand experience of how to record biological data. Our hope is that participants who develop wildlife identification skills, and have opportunities to connect with wildlife, are more aware of conservation in their communities.

Scientists, Naturalists and Taxonomic Experts: If you can identify organisms, we need
your help!

• BioBlitz Canada 150 is an opportunity to share your enthusiasm and expertise of
living organisms and potentially even advance your research.
• Successful collection and reporting is essential to a BioBlitz and we cannot do
this without your help. Our main data collection tool for the event will be the
iNaturalist app. This citizen science app allows anyone to upload their findings in
order to share data and crowd source species identifications.
There are a number of ways you can contribute to the event:
• Leading groups of all ages on guided field inventories lasting 1-2 hours. These
sessions are designed to introduce people to the notion and practice of biological
inventory by involving them in one. These sessions are really important as they
provide time and space for building true connections with enthusiastic participants.
During the inventory, scientists show participants how to find and record
• Expert volunteers may be asked to spend some time working at a booth to
identify, document and photograph organisms.
• In addition to working with the public, you may be able to arrange a targeted
inventory to answer a specific question. You can use this opportunity to create a
team to tackle a small research project and make observations for the BioBlitz at
the same time.
• Even if you can’t join us in person, you can become an iNaturalist curator to
identify observations online during the event. Every identification helps.

Nature Education and Community Organizations: If you have a mandate for outreach
and working with the public, we need you!

• We need your help to provide ongoing, nature based drop-in activities for the
public during the day on June 10, 2017. Activities may include: pond dipping,
arts and crafts, nature journaling, worm charming, etc. Maybe you have an idea
for an activity, maybe you just have a motivated group willing to help. Contact us
to explore the possibilities.
• If you are able to run a public activity, your organization will also have the
opportunity to set up an information booth in the Bioblitz Regina basecamp tent.
Interested Individuals: If you don’t fit into one of the above categories but want to be
involved on a deeper level, we need you!
• We will need volunteers to help with everything from running the
registration/research base camp to assisting researchers to planning and
running family activities.
• If you are somewhat photographically and digitally savvy but are concerned you
aren’t “expert” enough to lead an inventory, you can volunteer to be an iNaturalist
pro-observer to help make sure that every species found during an inventory
is recorded.

Whatever your expertise, we need you. This is Canada’s nature selfie for our 150th. Join us
in answering one of the most basic questions: What lives here? Volunteer today.

Sarah Schafer
Visitor Experience Supervisor
Royal Saskatchewan Museum

For full details visit BIOBLITZCANADA.CA   #BIOBLITZ150

YFBTA Organizes Earth Day Event

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By Kathy Morrell

A giant owl floats on silent wings through the boreal forest as it seeks something to eat, mice, chipmunks or other small mammals. The bird is a dapper fellow dressed in a grey suit and bow tie. Harold Fisher, an expert in hawks and owls, recognizes it as a Great Grey Owl. A retired math teacher from Prince Albert, he will talk about owls at an Earth Day event organized by the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA).

Fisher calls himself a citizen scientist. He has been interested in nature and owls since he was child growing up on a farm south of North Battleford. As a boy, he would take a nestling from a nest, climb down the tree trunk, and hand it off for banding to his mentor, Spencer Seeley. Fisher hasn’t changed much over the years. He still climbs trees and nesting platforms in order to band birds.

In addition to banding nestlings, Fisher uses a net in the winter to capture and band adult saw whet owls.

“They’re elusive,” he said. “You can spend your entire life in the woods and not see a single one.” He bands 250 – 300 Saw-whet Owls a year; 3000 in the last ten years.

Fisher keeps careful notes of the bird’s weight, dimensions and location during migration and breeding seasons. He also notes the age, a fact he can determine if the owl has been banded as a nestling. His data, along with that of other birders, is valuable for research about the species of birds and the fluctuations in their populations. Scientists use the data to analyse the effect of climate change and human intervention on bird populations.

Scientists know the Fisher acreage as the Nisbett Banding Station. The name and location allow them to locate the source area for the data. Every fall, people come to observe and help with the banding. Girl Guides and 4-H groups visit to discover the joy of banding birds.

“People are fascinated with owls,” Fisher said. “I’m not sure why. It may be that they have these big eyes. It may be the contrast between the birds as creatures of the night and human beings as creatures of the day.” 

As much as people may be captivated with owls, they seem less taken with snakes. Ray Poulin, another Earth Day presenter, is the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. He finds that, although adults may be nervous, generally children are fascinated.

“The Bull Snake,” he said, “is, at six to eight feet in length, the largest of the nine species of snakes found in Saskatchewan. Although its size might make it look a little threatening, it’s really not.”

“There are four species of rattle snakes in the southwest and southeast of the province,” he adds. “They use that rattle to tell you they’re out and about. Just back away and they won’t pursue you.”

Poulin is the curator of Snakes Alive, an exhibit that features all the snakes found in the province. A few weeks ago the museum was happy to announce the arrival of a “family” of nine little garter snakes.

“The museum has seen its largest attendance in the last 20 years.” Poulin said, “probably because of people’s fascination with snakes. Through the exhibit, people learn not to judge a species until you know something about it. That’s an important factor in promoting conservation.”

Ray Poulin is an enthusiastic advocate of the natural world, a direction that began as a child growing up in southern Ontario.

“I’ve been collecting critters since I was four years old,” he said. “I think I was born a biologist.”

As a university student, Poulin’s first summer job was working with a biology professor at the University of Windsor. His responsibility was to look through a microscope at aquatic insects, Even though others might find the work tedious, he loved it.

“That was a good indicator what I was to do in my career.”

Poulin continued as a student at the University of Regina and then at the University of Alberta. On completion of his studies , he obtained his dream job at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where he has studied Mayflies, Burrowing Owls, lizards and that most fascinating of insects, the Dung Beetle.

At the Earth Day event, Kelsey Marchand will introduce participants to the turtle. The turtle is a reptile “cutified” in the cartoon world of the Ninja Turtles and Disney’s Robin Hood. After all this animated charm, we’re simply programmed to like turtles.

“Turtles are fascinating in that they can persist in a variety of environments,” she said. “In Canada, you wouldn't necessarily expect to find reptiles and amphibians, let alone turtles, because they spend the majority of their lifetime trapped under ice during the winter. Their active season, where they will bask, forage and mate, is only about four to six months every year.”

Marchand, a Master’s student at the University of Regina, adds that there is a stereotype that turtles are slow moving and in some cases, that is fact but it is also true that some turtles can move incredibly fast. That is one fact that people might learn from Marchand’s discussion about turtles.

“I love to do talks like the one in Yorkton,” Marchand said. “It gives people an opportunity to learn about wildlife in a way that they may not have had the opportunity to do before. In addition, I'm able to share my passion for turtles and the outdoors, in hopes of inspiring other generations to do the same.”

Marchand developed a love of the outdoors, playing in her back yard and going on hikes and camping trips, but her love of turtles and field biology really began in her second year of college when she had a co-op work term with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The topic of the fourth presentation is the conservation of an environment that allows all three of these species to thrive. The speaker, Kenton Lysak, is Senior Interpreter with the Meewasin Valley Authority where is actively involved in developing environmental education and stewardship programs in Saskatoon.

Lysak grew up on a three-generation farm outside Theodore. His mentor in all things nature was his grandfather, Glenn Wiseman.

“I was always at the creek, my hands muddy, my eyes focused on the birds, animals and insects. At Cherry Dale Golf Course, I had to be told to pick up my club and quit looking at the ants.”

Like Poulin and Marchand, Lysak’s interest in the environment as a career began with his first summer job working at an Ecology Camp for children in Saskatoon.

“I kept returning to the Camp,” he explained. “I continued to learn so much about nature and I was interested in passing on my enthusiasm to the kids.”

Lysak completed an honours degree in biology at the University of Saskatchewan and then moved on to further studies.

“I worked on Sable Island during the summer of my Master’s degree. My job was to study the food web of the area. I tried to figure out how the 350,000 seals brought nutrients to the land, how those nutrients were used by the plants and how those plants then contributed to the success of the wild horses on the island.” 

“I developed a special relationship with the herd. I could identify each of the horses on the island. When the foals were born, the mares brought them to me, as if showing off their new offspring. It was something I’ll never forget.”

From his studies, Lysak has learned the importance of habitat conservation.- particularly prairie habitat.

“Grasslands habitat is the most endangered in the world. Seventy percent of it has changed in the last one hundred years. Without that habitat, prairie plants, animals and insects are threatened. We need to protect their environment if we are to see positive conservation in Saskatchewan.” 


Celebrate Earth Day with the YFBTA

St. Gerard Parish Hall, Yorkton

April 22, 12:30


Kelsey Marchand: Turtles

Kenton Lysak: Grasslands

Ray Poulin: Snakes

Harold Fisher: Banding Owls



More Information and Registration:

Photo Exhibition on Display

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Martin Phillips and Morley Maier are residents of east-cental Saskatchewan and are avid photographers and naturalists.  They have assembled a wonderful, framed-set of bird photographs that depict the spectacular diversity and beauty of the birdlife in their region of Saskatchewan.

These photographs have been kindly loaned to Nature Saskatchewan and will be "on tour" from Mid May until the end of June 2017. The collection of photos will start its "spring migration" from 13-15 May at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory (LMBO). LMBO is celebrating 30 years of bird banding in the Regional Park adjacent to North America's oldest bird sanctuary .

From 29 May until 23 June, the collection will move to Prince Albert where some of the images will be on display at the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP).   These images have been integrated into the post-secondary Biology program that the SUNTEP students will be taking this summer. Projects around each image will show young teachers how they can incorporate images of wildlife into their curricula to bring ecology, anatomy and art  alive in the First Nation and Community School classrooms where the graduates of SUNTEP usually begin their teaching careers. 

A second component of the collection will travel to the Hannin Creek Education and Applied Research Facility (HCEARF) jointly owned by and operated by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.  HCEARF is hosting Nature Saskatchewan's Spring Meet at Candle Lake from 2-4 June. During this time, Natural History members from across the province will have an opportunity to view and appreciate this wonderful collection of bird photos.

Nature Saskatchewan thanks Martin Phillips and Morley Maier for sharing their expertise captured through hundreds of hours of field photography. It is hoped this collection can inspire Saskatchewan residents to value beauty and diversity of our wonderful natural world.


They’re back! Burrowing Owls return to Saskatchewan!

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Regina, SK - May 29, 2017 – It is that time of year again when the endangered Burrowing Owl returns to the Prairies from its wintering grounds in Texas and Mexico. By now, the males have chosen a burrow and have stocked it with mice in hopes of attracting a mate. Females arrive shortly after the males and search for a mate by listening for the “coo-coooo” call of the males. Burrowing Owls are one of the smallest owls in Canada, and the only Canadian owl that nests underground. These owls use abandoned badger and ground squirrel (gopher) burrows for their nests.

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.

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 or more 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 report 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.”


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


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

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

Rare Plant Rescue Crew Ready for 2017

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Hi from the Rare Plant Rescue search crew; we are excited to be on the 2017 team for Nature Saskatchewan!

We are just finishing our first week out in the field where we travelled to the southwestern corner of the province to begin plant searches. On our first day, we gained some hands on experience with searches and were able to meet some fantastic landowners! By day two however, the weather took a turn for the worse and we found ourselves caught in a field under pelting rain! As we were scrambling back to our vehicle, we saw a moose cow and calf running for the cover of nearby trees. Nothing like a good initiation to a new job! Ironically, the night before at supper we heard some locals asking if people were ready for the ‘hurricane’. Lesson learned – always listen to the locals!


Photo credit: Michelle Lang


This week we have been searching for Slender Mouse-ear-cress, a federally threatened plant in the mustard family. Turns out there is a reason it is threatened, and it has evaded us in our searches so far. On the bright side though, we have already found another rare plant, the uncommon Small Lupine! Although this plant is small and resembles Indian Breadroot in its early stages, we can’t wait to see its beautiful blue flowers later in the summer! We’ve also been blown away by the variety of other plants we’ve had the opportunity to see. Our favourites so far are blue-eyed grass, saline shooting star, yellow meadow violet, and early yellow locoweed.

We are also excited about the variety of wildlife we have seen in just one week. Our ongoing list includes a moose and her calf, a mule deer buck, a red-tailed hawk patrolling her nest, and more pronghorns than we can count! Our stewards have such beautiful land, and we are so lucky to get to experience some of it!


Photo credit: Michelle Lang


Other exciting things we’ve found were the melodious calls of the threatened Sprague’s Pipit (a major part of our Stewards of Saskatchewan banner program) and a shrike’s impalement! We have heard a lot about how the Loggerhead Shrikes impale their food to keep it as a snack for later, but finding a gopher head stuck onto a barbed wire fence was pretty exciting!


Photo credit: Michelle Lang


We’re looking forward to a summer filled with exciting sights and experiences. We’ll catch back up with you in August to fill you in on our summer adventures.



Photo credit: Catherine Boutin



Rare Plant Rescue search team,

Catherine and Michelle


Endangered Piping Plovers Return to Saskatchewan Beaches

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Regina, SK – June 5, 2017 – Piping Plovers are Endangered migratory shorebirds that breed in Saskatchewan. They have been listed as Endangered since 1985 due to large declines in their populations across their range. The plovers arrive in Saskatchewan around the beginning of May, set up territories and nest sites, and females lay 4 well-camouflaged eggs directly on the beach around the end of May. Saskatchewan makes up a large portion of their breeding range and several nesting pairs have already been spotted this year.

Nature Saskatchewan coordinates a survey every five years that counts all adult Piping Plovers breeding in the province, with the most recent survey having taken place in 2016. Last year’s results were low with only about 800 Piping Plovers counted. Those results were very similar to the previous census in 2011, approximately half the number of plovers counted in the census prior to that. “We were hoping the numbers would be higher,” says Ashley Vass, coordinator for Nature Saskatchewan’s Plovers on Shore program, “recovering from the significant amount of flooding in 2011 that made a lot of nest sites unavailable.”

Since those numbers had come in, Hurricane Matthew hit an important wintering site for the plovers in the Bahamas “so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a measurable impact from that, but we really won’t get the full picture until the next complete census in 2021,” says Vass.

Aside from weather, many factors affect Piping Plover populations, one of which is human activity. Plovers and their nests are very difficult to spot and are easily trampled by livestock, vehicles, and even beachgoers. “We are asking the public to help keep an eye out for Piping Plovers when on beaches this summer, minimize disturbance in areas where plovers are known to be nesting, and report sightings.”

Piping Plovers have a sandy body with a white belly, a black band on their forehead, a single black band around their neck, orange legs, and an orange beak with a black tip. Killdeer are similar looking birds but are slightly larger, darker, and have two neckbands instead of one. If you think you see a Piping Plover or a nest, please call our toll free Hoot Line at: 1-800-667-HOOT (4668).


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


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

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


Photo credit: Emily Putz


What exactly is Bird Banding?

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At Last Mountain Bird Observatory, we get a lot of visitors. Many of these visitors do not have any experience with banding birds and have a lot of questions. We get it, the bird observatory is an interesting and important place. Hopefully these FAQs will help you out and we will see you during the fall migration.

Why do you band birds?

The main purpose of banding is to monitor populations of migrating songbirds. Catching the birds allows to estimate population size, the age structure, and the sex ratio of the population. This data allows us to predict future population trends.

Does banding hurt the birds?

No. The metal bands are very small, and it’s like wearing a bracelet. The mist nets that we use to catch the birds are also designed to prevent injury to any bird we catch. As banders we also do our best to minimize stress and injury to the bird.

What kind of birds do you catch? What’s the biggest bird you caught?

We catch mostly songbirds, like warblers, robins, thrushes, and vireos. We also occasionally catch larger birds like Flickers, hawks, or owls, but with the size of mist nets we use most of the bigger birds are able to escape the nets. The biggest bird we caught since I have worked here is a Broad-winged Hawk.

Where are the birds coming from and going to?

The birds are currently migrating from the south. The exact location depends on the species. They may be coming from the southern United States, Mexico, or South or Central America. Lots of the species we catch here are migrating to the boreal forest up north to nest.

What is the average lifespan of a bird?

There is a lot of variation between songbirds. In general, warblers can live anywhere from 4-10 years, and the average is 5-7 years. Even though these birds have the potential to live longer, many die on their first migration to the wintering grounds due to inexperience.

See you in the fall!

Another season is in bloom for Nature Saskatchewan’s Rare Plant Rescue program.

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Regina, SK – June 12th, 2017 – As another summer gears up to start, the Rare Plant Rescue (RPR) crew gather their gear to head out to the field once more.

 After two years of field season dormancy, RPR crews are out with the warm weather to search for and monitor the province’s rare plants. Rare Plant Rescue, a land stewardship program celebrating 15 years since its launch, engages with landowners to conserve native prairie that might support plant species at risk. Currently the program has 79 participating landowners conserving over 103,000 acres of native prairie habitat!

There are many both nationally and provincially rare plant species in Saskatchewan; RPR targets sixteen of the most imperilled species, which include nine federally and seven provincially listed plants. “Each summer we focus our efforts on searching for a select few of these sixteen. This year, Slender Mouse-ear-cress, Small-flowered Sand-verbena, Tiny Cryptantha, Smooth Goosefoot, and Buffalograss are the focus of our efforts,” Emily Putz, the program’s coordinator explains. “Small cryptic plants, like Tiny Cryptantha, are hard to find, and that particular species has not been seen for many years in the province despite search efforts; we hope to once again be able to say definitively that it is here.”

The most common threats to rare plants tend to be the loss or degradation of their habitat. Many of RPR’s target species, including many of this year’s focus species, are specialists that live in sandy soils, blowouts, or active sand dunes. While Saskatchewan has many of these features throughout its southern reaches, these are also some of the province’s most threatened landscapes, sensitive to stabilization through the encroachment of woody or invasive vegetation, industrial activities, or through the removal of natural disturbances such as grazing.

“There are a lot of benefits to having a rare plant on your land,” says Putz. "Not only do you have a unique piece of the prairie that is disappearing, but plants like Hairy Prairie-clover are great for pollinators and others, such as Buffalograss, are valuable forage species for grazing livestock.”

If you have native prairie or are interested in more information on Rare Plant Rescue’s target species please contact us or visit our website for a free pocket guide. Also, if you know someone with native prairie encourage them to look into our program and the work that we do. RPR aims to conserve rare plant habitat by building respectful relationships with landowners who have rare plants or rare plant habitat on their land. Private information is never shared without landowner permission and we always contact the landowner for permission before accessing their land. For more information about the Rare Plant Rescue program, or to report a rare plant occurrence on your property, please contact Rare Plant Rescue at 1-800-667-4668. Reporting plant species at risk occurrences helps increase knowledge about their distribution and population size, facilitating conservation efforts and helping downlist the species’ risk level in the future.


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For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:


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

Phone: (306) 780-9273 or 1-800-667-4668
Fax: (306) 780-9263; Email:


Emily Putz: (306) 780-9417
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator


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

Great Canadian Birdathon 2017

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I was looking forward all week to May 13, the day I was leading The Great Canadian Birdathon for Nature Saskatchewan. It strategically coincided with International Migratory Bird Day, and what better way to celebrate migratory birds than finding as many species as possible? The Great Canadian Birdathon is a fundraiser for Bird Studies Canada (a non-profit bird research and conservation organization), but a substantial portion of the funds raised remain local (in our case, they go towards Last Mountain Bird Observatory).

The morning of the birdathon, I woke up well before sunrise, made tolerable instant coffee, then joined up with my good friend, James Villeneuve, to try and catch the dawn chorus. The dawn chorus is when birds are most actively singing, and begins shortly before sunrise. There were still a few hours before we were planning to meet the main birding group, but who can resist the melody of the waking prairie? As I hopped into his SUV, I heard a Merlin calling – the first bird of the day! We drove to Regina’s A.E. Wilson Park and walked the trail around the park pond…and discovered it was frightfully windy. Birds tend to sing less when it’s windy, perhaps because they too know that the sound they produced does not travel as far as in calm conditions. It can be difficult to hear them in such conditions, but we managed to scrape 31 species from the park in two hours, including Barn Swallows foraging high in the sky and a pair of Spotted Sandpipers manoeuvring away from us with their quivery flight.

Next, we drove downtown to City Hall with hopes of glimpsing the Queen City’s resident pair of Peregrine Falcons, but they were nowhere to be seen. After a fruitless search, we moved on to Wascana Park, where we were meeting the rest of the group in front of the legislative building. There were 15 eager birders braving the wind and cool morning temperatures, binoculars at the ready. We almost immediately found a White-breasted Nuthatch that disappeared into a tree cavity, carrying nesting material. This observation was likely of breeding behaviour – exciting! Other than Canada Geese, Mallards, and some Tree Swallows, there were few birds on the lake so we continued further down the trail. Someone picked out snatches of an American Goldfinch singing, followed by a House Wren, but the wind was so strong it was difficult to hear anything but bits and pieces of these birds’ lovely songs.

The wind was also keeping the birds huddled deep in the trees, and it was difficult to see any birds – the group was turning into “bird-listeners” rather than bird-watchers. Our small army of binocular-laden troopers continued finding new species, despite the tough conditions. A Yellow Warbler singing, an American Wigeon tucked against the shore, a Belted Kingfisher calling. We slowly added to the species checklist. Then a highlight appeared when Phil Rose, a grassland songbird researcher at the University of Regina, found a singing Warbling Vireo tucked away in the canopy of a tree. We pointed the spotting scope at the vireo and were rewarded with excellent mid-song views.

We also heard Chipping Sparrows singing, and among them was a singing Orange-crowned Warbler! These two species can easily be confused with one another, especially if the individual warbler’s song finale lacks a pitch-change, as this one’s did. I pointed out the differences between the songs of the sparrows and the warbler to the group to help ensure everyone not only heard the songs but understood the differences as well. It was a great opportunity to have such a good comparison of the two songs. We searched for it, and once again Phil found the bird as it was singing…except it wasn’t an Orange-crowned Warbler. It was a Chipping Sparrow. Fantastic. Now my ‘good comparison’ was a good example of how much a single species song can vary, how easily the two species can be confused, and how you should never blindly trust your group’s leader.

After we finished chuckling about the sparrow/warbler mishap, we picked up a Cooper’s Hawk flying above the legislative building, a Baltimore Oriole flashing orange as it whizzed by us, and the newly-listed species-at-risk Harris’ Sparrow foraging under a shrub. The group then split up, some heading home and others continuing with me to Last Mountain Bird Observatory. As we were leaving a flock of American White Pelicans cruised into Wascana Lake, putting us one species below the half-century mark.

The high winds kept waterfowl and raptors out of view, so the drive north was largely uneventful. A quick stop at Valeport yielded little more than Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a Forster’s Tern. A flock of Pectoral Sandpipers buzzed the vehicle as we neared the observatory, showing off their abrupt breast line well. At the park, we reorganized the group, and added several more birders. A Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk, the palest subspecies, flew overhead, showing off its indistinct belly band and faintly red tail. Our group set off, and we soon stumbled into a foraging flock of several warblers. There were amazing views of a Palm Warbler singing, Yellow-rumped Warblers emerged regularly, an (actual) Orange-crowned Warbler made an appearance, and a surprise female American Redstart showed off her subtle yellow sides. Our species list grew slowly as we continued down the shrub-row, but we added Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Western Kingbird while in the line-up for some delicious burgers provided by Sask Energy.

A second birdwalk near Last Mountain Lake added a Common Tern floating along the shoreline, a Le Conte’s Sparrow buzzing from somewhere within tall, wet grass, and the distinctive sound of a Sora bursting out from the cattails. All too soon though, it was time to head back to Regina. We picked up our last species of the day as we drove down the grid road leading to the observatory, a Canvasback floating in a roadside slough. This brought us up to a grand total of 84 species – a reasonable number of species for a windy day of birding, and a fine time enjoying the migrants!

Submitted by;
Gabriel Foley


Photo credit: Branimir Gjetvaj


Call for Resolutions 2017

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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 2017 Business Meeting, to be held on Saturday, Saturday September 30, is asked to send a written draft to the Nature Saskatchewan Office ( no later than Friday, August 11. 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 8th 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.


Call for Award Nominations 2017

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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 at 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, 2017.


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.



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:

Voices from the Field June 20

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After our first couple weeks at Nature Saskatchewan, it was time for Tiffany and I to conduct our first landowner visits of the summer. The morning started early with a classic Saskatchewan 90km/h wind to followed us on our way. Driving through the southeast portion of the province we watched dirt blowing off the barren fields, impatiently waiting for the rain to fall. With butterflies in our stomachs, as we approached the door of our first landowner visit, we were greeted by a friendly canine face, and we soon forgot about how nervous we were.

Driving through the Saskatchewan prairies, we peered out the windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Loggerhead Shrike, Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Hawk, or many of the species at risk we had learned so well in our training. Our excitement peaked at every sighting of the back of a meadowlark perched on the fence post beside us, only to come back to reality when it showed us it’s beautiful, bright yellow breast. After spotting numerous Red-tailed Hawks, we were finally rewarded with a sighting of a threatened Ferruginous Hawk gliding through the air showing us its bright white undersides and rusty legs.

After a nice talk with some new and friendly faces, we discussed our programs and gained our first Operation Burrowing Owl participant of the summer. We listened to their stories of impaled bugs on barbed wire fences and big yellow eyes peeking out of burrows. They were happy to travel down the road with us to show us a rare sighting of a Burrowing Owl; a first for Tiffany and I! The day passed all too quickly as it was time to continue down the road, driving into the wind and accompanying rain, watching the faces of the curious cows while we traveled.

Before we knew it, the final day of our first trip was upon us, and after scouring the trees for days, it finally paid off as we spotted a pair of Loggerhead shrikes sitting together on a barbed wire fence. It was a successful first trip not only because we saw our first Burrowing Owl and Loggerhead Shrikes, but we also got to glimpse some gory impalements (food cached by Loggerhead Shrikes).

While our first trip out of the office ended all too soon, it only meant that the annual Piping Plover census at Lake Diefenbaker was that much closer. As we hit the road early in the morning, our minds were focused on the endangered shorebirds that we have been itching to see. We met with our friends from the Water Security Agency, and after a quick introduction we were on the way to a guaranteed sighting of the plovers. The beach searches brought much more to light than the Piping Plovers, as we saw many species including American White Pelicans, Gartersnakes, American Avocets, Marbled Godwits, Common Merganser, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Golden Eagle, as well as many deer, moose, and beaver tracks. After a long search of a relatively unoccupied beach, we saw our first plovers and a new nest! I never really understood the veterans’ advice when they told us to “look for the moving rock” until we saw just how well these small birds camouflaged on the rocky shorelines that they call home for the summer. As we saw movement along the beach where the birds were not on record, we had to stop from a great distance to hope that they’d sit on their nest; since it blends so well into their habitat, it’s nearly impossible to find otherwise. The next few beach searches really showed us how protective the parents were, as they displayed their broken wing act in an attempt to lure us away. We even got a chance to see some Piping Plover chicks!

Over the next few days, I had time to reflect on the last couple trips with our crew. It was a successful few weeks, catching up with current program participants and meeting many new ones. I also got to check a lot of species at risk sightings off my summer bucket list, as we had now seen a Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, many Barn Swallows, and Piping Plovers, and even heard a Sprague’s Pipit. We can only imagine what other species we will come across throughout the season! We learned to ID many different birds, as well as their tricksters, and made friends with every breed of dog imaginable. After learning almost all the tricks of the trade, we anxiously wait to take the reins on the next set of visits, and can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has to offer!


Jenna Van Parys, Habitat Stewardship Assistant

Butcherbird Babies are Hatching Now

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Regina, SK – June 26, 2017 – Be on the lookout for Loggerhead Shrikes (a.k.a Butcherbirds) perched on fence posts, barbed wire, or dead branches in shrub patches and shelterbelts.

These migratory songbirds are a threatened species and Saskatchewan is an important part of their breeding range. They return to the Saskatchewan prairies each spring from their wintering grounds in southern Texas and Mexico; and right now their chicks are hatching!

“Now is the best time to observe the adult Loggerhead Shrikes as they are constantly on the search for food, and bringing it back to their ravenous chicks in the nest” explains Ashley Vass, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan.

The shrikes provide natural pest control as their diet consists largely of grasshoppers and other insects; they also eat other unwanted creatures like mice, voles, and even snakes! Most birds of this size are eating only insects, berries, or seeds, but Loggerhead Shrikes can take prey that is larger than they are. The problem is that they have little songbird feet, and are therefore unable to grip their prey and tear pieces off like a hawk would. To get around this, they impale their prey on thorns or barbed-wire, and then use their hooked beak to tear off edible bits. “This is how they got the name Butcherbird,” says Vass, “because they hang their meat like your neighbourhood butcher.”

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

Nature Saskatchewan delivers a voluntary stewardship program called Shrubs for Shrikes that works with rural landowners to conserve this species at risk. They are asking anyone who sees a Loggerhead Shrike, or impaled prey, to call their toll free line at 1-800-667-4668 to help them monitor the population. “Personal information is never shared without permission”, adds Vass.

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

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

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


Operation Burrowing Owl Celebrates 30 Years of Conservation!

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Regina, SK – July 5, 2017 – 2017 marks 30 years of Burrowing Owl conservation in the province! Nature Saskatchewan’s Operation Burrowing Owl, a voluntary stewardship program, launched in 1987 by Nature Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Wildlife Habitat Canada, and Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. Public awareness increased by the presence of Prince Philip at the initiation of Operation Burrowing Owl (he was the president of the World Wildlife Fund at the time), which led to increasing public concern and desire for the protection of the species. Today, it is one of the longest running voluntary stewardship program in Canada.

Operation Burrowing Owl forms a partnership with landowners/land managers who voluntarily agree to conserve habitat for the endangered Burrowing Owl and other prairie wildlife. Today, almost 360 Saskatchewan landowners/land managers participate in the program. Together, they are conserving approximately 140,000 acres of habitat in pastures and other lands, while farming or ranching on their land as they have for generations. “Operation Burrowing Owl would not exist without the voluntary efforts of our Saskatchewan ranchers and farmers,” says Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan.

“In addition to habitat conservation, these landowners annually report the number of owls on their land,” says Burrows. Operation Burrowing Owl records owl 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. Any information given is never shared without the landowner’s permission.

Thanks to our dedicated participants, we look forward to the next 30 years of Operation Burrowing Owl and continuing to promote the Burrowing Owl as a well-known symbol of prairie conservation for generations to come in Saskatchewan!

Be sure be sure to visit our website and follow Nature Saskatchewan on Twitter and Facebook for program highlights, special 30th anniversary merchandise (proceeds going directly back to Operation Burrowing Owl programming) and to help us celebrate 30 years of conservation success!


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


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

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

Check in with Important Bird Areas Summer Staff

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I have what is arguably the best summer job. I am the summer assistant for the Important Bird Area program. The program identifies and monitors areas that are important to large numbers of birds. These areas are referred to as an Important Bird Area or IBA. Most areas are designated because they are migration stopover sites. Like Chaplin Lake provides a place to rest and refuel for thousands of shorebirds during the spring and fall migration. These areas may also be important to birds that are colonial breeders. For example, Last Mountain Lake has a large colony of breeding American White Pelicans. This program is carried out predominantly by volunteer caretakers. Usually a local birder signs up to monitor an IBA. This means that they record bird species and numbers in the IBA, and any major changes to the area. These changes can be conservation efforts by local groups, new land use by farmers, changes in recreational use, or commercial developments. My job is to monitor the IBA if the caretaker hasn’t been able to, if the caretaker wants to go out with me, or if the IBA doesn’t have a caretaker. The way I see it, I have tricked Nature Saskatchewan into paying me to birdwatch.

This week I visited three IBAs. On Monday I went to Foam Lake to monitor because it does not have a caretaker. I was excited about monitoring the lake because I thought there were plenty of access points, trails and watch towers. I spent a lot of time looking for these supposed access points. It had been raining, and to say it was muddy is a gross understatement. One access road was partly underwater. Another just kind of disappeared into a marsh. The third access point did in fact lead to a watch tower, and I did manage to do some birding. I saw a variety of ducks, Eared Grebes, Franklin’s Gulls and even a Snow Goose.

On Tuesday I headed out to the Quill Lakes. I knew that most of the old access roads had been flooded out, and I would have to do a bit of walking. Before I even got out of the car, I saw a Great Egret standing in the shallow water by the road. He stood and looked at me before finally deciding to fly off. Not far down the road from there was hundreds of American White Pelicans and Franklin’s Gulls. They flew off of the road as I walked up, and surprisingly I was only pooped on once. There were also many coots, a variety of ducks and grebes, and a few Black Crowned Night Herons. In the end I saw a total of 37 species!

On Wednesday I went up to Tobin Lake to meet up with the caretaker. Despite the rain and wind, we managed to see 46 different species of bird! There was huge numbers of Double Crested Cormorants, pelicans, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Ring-billed Gulls. We also saw a variety of ducks, geese, terns, a couple Common Loons, songbirds, hawks, and an American Kestrel. The caretaker showed me a Eastern Phoebe nest in his yard, and a family of flying squirrels that was using the nesting boxes he had put up for Northern Sawhet owls.

I had been planning on going to Cumberland Marshes today, but unfortunately I was rained out. But at least I can catch up on my paperwork now. Next week hopefully, with some hopefully improved weather, I will head south to monitor Fife Lake, Dryboro and Burn Lake, and lead a birdwalk at Oldwives Lake. After that I head up north towards Saskatoon to monitor Redberry Lake, and Radisson Lake. Needless to say I’m looking forward to monitoring these areas and hopefully adding a few new birds to my summer list!

Jordan Rustad – LMBO/IBA Summer Assistant

Voices from the Field July 12

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Desirée here! I am very excited to be a part of the Nature Saskatchewan team this summer. It has been a great first couple months with the program and it is crazy how quickly the summer is flying by.



After spending the first couple weeks learning the ins and outs of plant identification and search and monitoring methods, I was eager to go on our first field work trip. Our first trip brought us out to the southwestern part of Saskatchewan looking for Slender Mouse-ear-cress (SMEC), a plant federally listed as threatened. Unfortunately, the infamous SMEC could not be found. However, what I did find was a great sense of appreciation for Saskatchewan native prairie. There is something magical about seeing all the different kinds of plants that the prairie encompasses, from two-grooved milk vetch to prairie cacti, we really do have it all.

Our second excursion brought us on the hunt for the Small White Lady’s-slipper in the southeastern part of Saskatchewan. What I find interesting about this orchid is that its cousin, the Yellow Lady’s-slipper, can be found in the marsh-like fens of Saskatchewan, and close-by in Manitoba. So it is strange that this plant has not been found in over 100 years in Saskatchewan! Another exciting aspect of this trip was the habitat that we were lucky to explore. Small White Lady’s-slipper likes habitat that allows for a lot of moisture. This had us walking in floating fens that bounced with every step we took. Although we did not find any Small White Lady’s-slipper, we spotted several other species at risk, including Bobolinks and Northern Leopard frogs!

On our most recent journey out of town, we found ourselves out on the sandy banks of the South Saskatchewan River looking for Small-flowered Sand-verbena. Small-flowered Sand-verbena is part of the 4-o’clock family, named because its flowers open in the afternoon. What makes the search for this plant so exciting is that it is federally listed as endangered, meaning it is one of the rarest of our target species this summer. After acknowledging this fact, and after having no luck with SMEC or Small White Lady’s-slipper, it was easy to feel doubtful about whether or not we would find any occurrences of Small-flowered Sand-verbena. However, as we set out with our GPS’ to monitor our first occurrence we managed to stumble upon (quite literally) the small, white flowered plant! The plant appeared to be in good health and we found others nearby as the plant likes to grow in patches.

 Later in the week our sunny day streak came to an end and we were out monitoring in the rain! As we were monitoring our last occurrence for the day, we came across our biggest patch of Sand-Verbena yet. Stretching down the shore for approximately 50m, were over 800 Small-flowered Sand-verbena plants! Along with Sand-verbena we also found occurrences of Small Lupine and another one of our target species this summer, Smooth Goosefoot!

This week’s monitoring highlighted that although a species may be at risk, if given the proper habitat it can be locally abundant. Therefore, this type of conservation work is important because some plants are at risk simply because no one knows what they look like or where to find them. The more land that is searched, the more plants we are likely to find! With higher population numbers and distributions hopefully certain plant species can be “down-listed” to a lesser risk category in the future.

I am looking forward to what the rest of the summer in Saskatchewan native prairie has to bring, and the exciting sights that come with it. The next couple months we will be monitoring and searching for occurrences of Tiny Cryptantha, Smooth Goosefoot, Hairy Prairie-clover and Buffalograss. Wish us luck!


Pincushion Cactus



Small-Flowered Sand-Verbena



The RPR Summer Crew jumping for joy



Two-Grooved Milk Vetch



Voices from the Field July 27

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Summer is in full swing and we have been lucky to see many different species at risk on our trips! In June, we had an exciting and eventful trip in Southwestern Saskatchewan. We spent our time watching shelterbelts and pastures for our chance to see species at risk near Assiniboia, Val-Marie, Gull Lake, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. We had great visits with many landowners and we were lucky enough to see a Burrowing Owl up close living peacefully with a herd of Bison!











It was a very special treat for us! We had never been so close to Bison or a Burrowing Owl! As we traveled, we found many other species at risk, such as a Ferruginous Hawk pair with a nest, Chestnut-Collared Longspur, Sprague’s Pipit, Barn Swallows, Bobolinks, and many others. Taking in the uniqueness of the area we appreciated every landowner who agreed to help and continue to conserve this special native prairie habitat.


Time continued to ‘fly’ by as July was busy with our crew on the search for Threatened Loggerhead Shrikes! We carefully prepared for our grid road search and we were not disappointed. During our 100+ hours and over 1000 miles traveled we spotted many Loggerhead Shrikes and other species at risk in Central Saskatchewan. Cemeteries were a hotspot for Shrike activity and we found a nest with 6 young in it! Cemeteries are great locations for Loggerhead Shrikes as there is usually minimal disturbance and plenty of shrubs and trees to make nests in. It was a great experience for us as we were able to listen to the loud call of a mother and her young. We also were overjoyed to hear and see the Threatened Sprague’s Pipit. Almost every native prairie pasture we happened upon we could hear their descending call. Sprague’s Pipits fly very high up in the air and during one sunny, but overcast day we were able to see a Pipit flying. We always had our binoculars ready to identify any birds that came our way!






Along our journey we were also lucky to spot wild Prairie Lilies, which are Saskatchewan’s Provincial flower. Prairie Lilies are protected under the Provincial Emblems and Honours Act and cannot be cut, pulled, or destroyed. It was a special sight as I had never seen them growing in the wild before. We stopped to smell the flowers and continued on our way! It is amazing what you can see and enjoy when you travel and explore Saskatchewan. We have such a beautiful place to call home! Although it was a very hot trip we were still able to see a lot of birds and help to conserve their habitat! Thank you to all the landowners who continue to help out our species at risk in Saskatchewan!














Until next time!

Tiffany Blampied, Habitat Stewardship Assistant

Bobbing with excitement over young Burrowing Owls!

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Regina, SK – July 31, 2017 - The end of July marks an exciting time as juvenile Burrowing Owls have been spotted leaving their nests! After weeks of being fed by their parents they are now able to forage for themselves and perch up on lookouts and fence posts. If you are traveling around rural Saskatchewan, it is a great time to spot a Burrowing Owl. However, vehicles can be dangerous for the young and inexperienced owls. Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator at Nature Saskatchewan explains that “at dusk the road surface tends to be warmer than surrounding grasslands, attracting many small insects and rodents and as a result, young owls are also attracted to the road and ditch when they begin searching for prey”. 

The Burrowing Owl population has been steadily declining, making the survival of each and every owl critical for the ultimate survival and growth of the endangered population. Motorists this summer can reduce the risk of owl-vehicle collisions by slowing down near known or potential nest sites and keeping an eye out for low-flying owls.

Doing this will not only help Burrowing Owls to survive, but may also increase your chances of spotting this endangered bird! A few key features to remember when identifying a Burrowing Owl are their 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).

Nature Saskatchewan has been involved with the protection and conservation of the Burrowing Owl for 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 and central Saskatchewan, and uses 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.” Personal information is never shared without permission.


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


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

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


The Voice from the Field August 3

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It’s almost the end of my field season working with the Important Bird Area Program, and I have had an amazing summer. As of today I have monitored 27 IBAs, seen over 100 species of birds, and put over 10,000 kilometers on my rental car. Also since I’ve been away from home so much, 5 of my house plants died. I have also visited a few provincial parks to do bird walks and presentations on the IBA program. This week I have done a little bit of everything.

I started my work week on Saturday. I went up to Moose Mountain Provincial Park to do a bird walk in the morning, and a presentation after lunch. I had originally been told I would be doing my walk at the beach. I waited there, but no one showed up. I called the Interpretive Centre to make sure I had the right place. They had changed the start location to the Beaver Lake Trail and I had not gotten the memo. I rushed over to the trailhead and sure enough there was a good sized group waiting on me. The presentation went a bit smoother since I actually got the location right. Right after that I started the long 5 hour drive to Pike Lake Provincial Park. I had a bird walk at the park in the morning. The park interpreter and I waited 15 minutes to see if anyone would show up, and no one did. So we started the hike by ourselves. Within 10 minutes a few campers caught up with us and by the end of our walk we had a pretty big group.

On Monday I met the caretaker for the Luck Lake IBA. Even though the day was very windy, she made me walk across an old road that goes right through the lake. It was worth it though since we saw lots of ducks and shorebirds. Earlier in the day we heard a Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, letting me add a new species to my summer birding list. The next day I headed up northeast of Saskatoon to monitor Buffer Lake and Porter Lake. Both of these lakes were pretty easy to do. The roads around the lakes were good, and there were plenty of birds to see. Wednesday was the most exciting day of my week. I stayed at home and got caught up on paperwork. On Thursday, I went up to Blackstrap Coulee. Part of this IBA is in the provincial park, and there was a great grassland hiking and birding trail. However, it was over thirty degrees Celsius by the time I got to the park. I made the decision to stay in the safety of my air conditioned vehicle, and thankfully I still got to see plenty of birds.

Even though my IBA season is almost done, I still have lots to do. I have a presentation tonight at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. I have at least three more IBA’s I plan to do around Lake Diefenbaker, and one more bird walk at Outlook Provincial Park. I have enjoyed this field season very much. That being said, I’m looking forward to a weekend at home and buying some new house plants.

Voices from the Field August 4

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Hello from the Rare Plant Rescue Search Crew again! Michelle and I are excited to report back on our jam-packed summer. Our trips in the field have kept us on our toes and blessed us with breath-taking experiences, from the moment the rising sun peeks over the horizon to the crashing thunder and lightning that chase us back to safe shelter.


photo credit: Michelle Lang


In June we headed out for our Small-flowered Sand-Verbena trip. Searching on the shorelines of the South Saskatchewan River was a welcoming change of scenery – the calming sound of flowing water makes everything better, as does dipping our hot, tired feet into the clear icy water during our lunch breaks. After passing many unfinished and abandoned beaver lodges during our searches, we finally saw our first beaver of the summer. Completely oblivious, it swam happily through the reeds of a creek right next to us as we pointed with happy exclamations. We were also privileged with spotting a bald eagle family busily flying around their nest, and dozens of tadpoles swimming about in their awkward teenager-stage. During this trip we also found our very first target species – the endangered Small-flowered Sand-Verbena. Although at first glance it looks like Sand dock, these rare plants are fleshy, and can only grow in active sand dunes and river banks.

Sand Verbena, Michelle Lang

In our next trip we set out to the top of the rolling river valley, in search of Tiny Cryptantha. This species’ status has been recently downlisted from endangered to threatened as a result of previously unknown populations. This success story is an example of one of the reasons why we search for rare plants; a lot of them have been given their rare status partially because their population numbers are generally unknown. Our search crew efforts hope to change this by finding and tracking unknown populations so that we can contribute to future decisions based on more accurate numbers.

On our first day of this trip we were greeted with two rattlesnakes! After the initial surprise, we quickly got over our fear as we understood their shy nature, though we kept our eyes peeled after that! We certainly got a workout during those searches, walking up and down the juniper-covered hills, greeted with new views of golden grass at each rise.


Sunflowers, Catherine Boutin


In our most recent trip, we went back out to look at sand dunes, but this time for Smooth Goosefoot, a threatened member of the goosefoot family. As the temperatures climbed into the 30’s, we pulled ourselves out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to hit the road as the sun rose. Even without a cup of coffee, I’ll go on record to say that a sunrise is the best way to start a morning. Each day we spotted new mysterious tracks in the sand as the first morning light touches them, telling the stories of the goings-on of all sorts of creatures overnight. In other good news, we are currently in a flurry of tracking many new Smooth Goosefoot occurrences. Even though they grow best after a wet spring, it appears that in some areas the drought hasn’t affected them too negatively.



Smooth Goosefoot, Catherine Boutin



Prairie Coneflower, Catherine Boutin


Spending most of our summer searching through pastures in the Southwestern part of the province has shown us that our hardy native prairies are still productive and beautiful even in a drought summer. The brilliant fuchsia and yellow of cactus flowers will never get old (though their prickles sure do!), and the fragrant juniper and sagebrush fields kept our senses alert and excited all summer. We may be a little scratched up and sunburnt, but with cameras full of photos and eyes full of happy memories, who knows what might happen next. After all, there’s still a month of summer left.


Prickly Pear Cactus, Michelle Lang



Search crew hard at work! , Michelle Lang



By: Catherine Boutin

Royals Are on the Move!

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

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

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

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


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


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

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



Monarch Butterfly - M. Ranalli



Monarch Caterpillar - S. Vinge-Mazer



Viceroy Butterfly - A. Sanborn



Viceroy Butterfly - J. Van Parys




















Voices from the Field August 21

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Hello from the field!      

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

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

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

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


Buffalo Grass patch

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

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


Your 2017 Habitat Stewardship Assistants,

Tiffany Blampied & Jenna Van Parys

Voices from the Field Sept 6

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

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

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


Indigo Bunting. Photo credit: M.Anderson



Long Eared Owl. Photo credit: M.Anderson



Loggerhead Shrike. Photo credit: M.Anderson


A Sandy Autumn Hike at the Fall Meet

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Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator, Nature Saskatchewan

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

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

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

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

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


'Tis the Season for Christmas Bird and Mammal Counts

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

A few other important notes:

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

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

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

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

5. Please, please use the forms provided.

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

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

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



Alan R. Smith

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



Christmas Bird Count 2017 Form


Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Count Web page:


Bird Studies Canada Christmas Bird Donation Link:


Call for Applications for the Margaret Skeel Graduate Student Scholarship

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

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

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

Application Guidelines

Please include the following documents:

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

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

Please submit your completed application to the Scholarship Committee:

- or -

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



Wintering Whooping Crane Update

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current conditions at Aransas NWR:

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

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


Join a Christmas Bird Count Near You

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

Plan to join in on the fun:

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