Nature Saskatchewan 75th Anniversary Logo

Archives for 2018

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

view details »

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


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


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


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

Budget 2018: Billion-Dollar Breakthrough for Nature Conservation

view details »

Press Release from Nature Canada:

Ottawa, ON (February 27, 2018)—Budget 2018 is a billion-dollar breakthrough for nature conservation according to Nature Canada. “This budget is a game-changer,” says Graham Saul, Nature Canada’s Executive Director. “We congratulate Finance Minister Morneau, Prime Minister Trudeau, and Environment Minister McKenna on making these critical investments. We think that Canada’s wildlife would also applaud.”

Budget 2018 commits Canada to investing $1.3 billion over five years to establish new protected areas and to recover endangered and threatened species.

“Investing in protected areas is the way of the future for federal, provincial and Indigenous governments, says Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation. “Providing financial support to Indigenous governments such as the Moose Cree First Nation to protect and manage their sacred places such as the North French watershed is the right step forward to reconciliation.”

“Meeting Canada’s international commitment to protect 17 percent of our lands and waters by 2020 will be a challenge. We need this money to make it happen,” says Hazell. “Nature Canada and provincial and local nature groups are eager to work with governments, local and Indigenous communities, and industry to take full advantage of the opportunities to protect ecologically important places across the country, whether it’s grasslands in Saskatchewan, Carolinian forests in Ontario, Acadian forests in the Maritimes, or wetlands in British Columbia and Quebec.”

Nature Canada is Canada’s oldest national nature conservation charity, and is a member of the Green Budget Coalition (GBC). The GBC’s recommendations for the Budget 2018 can be found here.

For media commentary please contact:
Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel
613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240

To contact a French-speaking spokesperson, call:
Ted Cheskey, Senior Manager of Conservation Programs
613 323 3331 (cell)

For media assistance please contact:
Janet Weichel McKenzie, Nature Canada Media Specialist


Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect more than 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of over 65,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country with affiliates in every province.



Le Budget de 2018: Un Investissement Historique pour la Protection de la Nature

Ottawa, ON (27 février 2018) Nature Canada est d’avis que le budget de 2018 représente une contribution à la protection de la nature sans précédente. Le directeur exécutif de Nature Canada, Graham Saul, dit tout simplement que le budget « a l’étoffe pour faire une différence, » et que l’organisation « veut féliciter le Ministre des Finances, Bill Morneau, le Premier Ministre Trudeau et la Ministre de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique, Catherine McKenna, pour cet investissement crucial. » Ajoutant aussi, « Nous croyons que, si ce serait faisable, les nombreuses espèces sauvages exprimeraient similairement leur reconnaissance. »

Le budget de 2018 présente un investissement de $1,3 milliard qui seront investi au cours des prochaines cinq années. Cet investissement contribuera à la conservation de paysages naturels et des aires marines du Canada, et à la protection et le rétablissement de ses espèces sauvages.

Stephen Hazell, le directeur de conservation de Nature Canada, stipule « qu’investir dans la protection de paysages naturels est l’approche qui devrait être adoptée par les administrations fédérales et provinciales, ainsi que les nations autochtones. » Il exprime aussi la satisfaction de Nature Canada de l’engagement des administrations provinciales et des nations autochtones pour établir les aires protégées. « Pourvoir les nations autochtones, comme le Moose Cree, avec les fonds nécessaires à protéger et gérer leurs terres ancestrales, tel que le bassin versant du North French River, est un acte nécessaire à la conservation et la réconciliation. »

« Réaliser l’engagement de protéger 17 % des zones terrestres et d’eaux intérieures par 2020 s’annonce à être un défi pour le Canada. Ainsi, cet investissement est nécessaire pour qu’on puisse atteindre cet objectif. » Hazell exprime que « Nature Canada, avec les groupes de conservation provinciaux et locaux, et l’industrie entière, sont prêts à capitaliser de ces opportunités pour protéger de nombreux paysages canadiens, que ce soient les prairies au Saskatchewan, la région forestière Carolinienne en Ontario et Acadienne aux Maritimes, ou les milieux humides en Colombie-Britannique et au Québec. »

Nature Canada est la charité nationale de conservation la plus ancienne du Canada.

Contact pour commentaires aux médias (EN) :
Stephen Hazell, Directeur de la Conservation et Avocat Général
613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240

Contact pour commentaires aux médias (FR) :
Ted Cheskey, Gestionnaire sénior du Programme de Conservation
613 323 3331 (cell).

Contact pour assistance aux médias:
Janet Weichel McKenzie, Spécialiste de média pour Nature Canada

Interested in Supporting Save Last MTN/Qu'Appelle Lakes Association Inc.?

view details »

From SAWS:

Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes Association Inc. Letter


March 7, 2018

To:  Residents of Last MtnQu’Appelle Lakes


Re:  Quill Lakes Common Ground Drainage Diversion Proposal

You have all read about the proposal from the Quill Lakes Watershed Association (QLWA) to drain saline water from the Quill Lakes basin into Last Mountain and the Qu’Appelle Lakes. A large number of cottage owners from Last Mountain Lake to Round Lake have established a Non-Profit Corporation registered as Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes Association Inc. to oppose any such proposal.

Over the last several months a number of volunteers have done an incredible amount of work, research and organizing to challenge the QLWA and Water Security Agency on their proposal. As volunteers can only do so much, continued effort is going to cost a significant of money.

Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes will have to underwrite the cost of legal professionals, media consultants, environmental experts and publication costs in order that we can properly and successfully oppose the drainage into our lakes. At the heart of this will initially be to convince the Government of Saskatchewan to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment. We have retained a law firm to represent our interests.

Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes is soliciting contributions for this purpose from cottage owners, sportsmen and business owners from the north end of Last Mountain Lake to the south end of the Qu’Appelle Lakes. We expect we will have to sustain our opposition for the next 3-4 years. We project we will need to raise $150,000 so donate generously.

All recipients of this solicitation letter are stakeholders on the Lakes. We remind you there will only be one opportunity to stop this drainage and contamination into our Lakes and to secure an Environmental Impact Assessment, so please help out. Any success we have will protect the value of your property or business on the Lakes.

Please make donations by forwarding your cheque payable to Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes to the address below. For further information log on to our website at:

We thank you in advance.

Save Last MTN/Qu’Appelle Lakes Association Inc.

International Migratory Bird Day

view details »

Join us as we celebrate the return of our migratory birds. Bird banding, bird masks, migration obstacle course and more!  Free BBQ lunch. Fun for all ages. RSVP to Lacey no later than May 8th. Space is limited so be sure to RSVP early. 

Lacey Weekes
306-780-9481 or 1-800-667-4668

Voices from the Field May 11

view details »

Hello blog readers! We are excited to be back for another season of ‘Voices from the Field’!

After a long winter of writing grant applications and reports and attending a few workshops and a conference, we were feening to get out!  So when an opportunity came up to help with Ferruginous Hawk (FEHA) nest surveys across southern Saskatchewan, we happily accepted!

The day finally came and we headed out to survey for FEHA nests! The first survey was on a beautiful mostly clear-sky, calm, early evening, and… YES! Within a couple minutes, we saw our first FEHA nest! Even more special, the nest was on the edge of a Great Blue Heron rookery! Nine majestic Great Blue Herons were calmly perched watching the sunset. We could not help but stop a moment and take it in along with them.



Great Blue Heron Rookery. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus



After searching until dusk, at the end of our route, we were treated to our first porcupine sighting! This may not seem as exciting to some, but it was our first time observing a live porcupine in the wild. It looked so laid-back and fluffy, slowly waddling along (apparently, this is their full speed)…. so adorable to watch.

After an amazing start, we were welcomed to our home away from home, a two-bedroom suite above the Manley Bakery in Consul. How perfect! Every morning we were greeted by the owner, Vicki, and her staff for a fresh breakfast, and every evening we were served a delicious home cooked meal and enjoyed great conversation with Vicki and her husband Dave. We indulged (a lot!) in fresh donuts, muffins, and stuffed buns, and by the end of the week, we were ready for hibernation.

The week took us through many beautiful landscapes with pristine prairie grasslands and rolling hills. As we were looking for FEHA nests, we saw many other species that often challenged our ID skills, and even though the trees had not leafed-out yet, the large nests provided great hiding spots. When we spotted a nest, the most likely of species it could be was a FEHA, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Swainson’s Hawk, a Great Horned Owl or a Canada Goose. To try and figure out what species was sitting in the nest, there are a few key features we would look for. Great Horned Owls and Canada Geese have a distinct grey color to that the other three hawks do not have. Once we eliminated that it was not a Great Horned Owl or a Canada Goose, which on occasion it was, we would move on to what species of hawk are we seeing. Because they are sitting in nest, and often quite low in the nest, the best features to focus on are the beak length, colour of cere (fleshy patch above the beak), chin coloration and length of mouth. FEHA’s have a large beak, a bright yellow cere, and a long mouth or gape that extends from the beak past the eye. They also have a bright white chin, throat, and chest. Swainson’s Hawk have a white patch above their beak and a white throat that turns into a brown ‘bib’ on their chest. Red-tailed Hawks have a grey-blue beak with a very small yellow cere and a brown hooded head. Just to add complexity, all of these hawk species have a dark morph! It can sometimes take a half an hour or more to determine what species was in the nest!



An adult dark morph FEHA sitting in their large nest. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows



Some other exciting observations were Chestnut-collared Longspurs preforming their mating display, Sprague’s Pipit singing high in the sky (they are nearly impossible to see), and a pair of Burrowing Owls, just to name a few!  We also saw many different waterfowl species such as Northern Pintails, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Northern Shovelers, and of course Mallards.



A Burrowing Owl pair standing next to a burrow. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows



Lastly, all along our trails looking for FEHA nests, we were on a mission we called Pronghorn Zing! Every time we would see one or more Pronghorn we would open our PronghornXing (Prong-Horn-Cross-ing) app and enter our sighting. The app is very user friendly and so easy to use! We encourage everyone to download this app and contribute your Pronghorn sightings!


After we completed our surveys and feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, it was time to travel home and rest up for our next exciting adventure.



Beautiful rolling hills in Southern Saskatchewan. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus


Until next time, happy trails to you all!

Rebecca and Kaytlyn

The Hunt Continues for an Elusive Rare Orchid

view details »

Regina, SK – May 15th, 2017 – As Nature Saskatchewan’s Rare Plant Rescue (RPR) program gets ready for another field season, the crew is once again on the hunt for one of the province’s most elusive plants. The Small White Lady’s-slipper is likely one of the rarest plants in the province, with a provincial status of “possibly extirpated”, meaning provincially extinct. Within Canada this species is listed as Endangered and can still be found in small pockets throughout Manitoba and Ontario.

For the second year, RPR will be assisting the Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre in their surveys to hopefully locate this rare orchid in the province. “These surveys are a bit of a treasure hunt,” explains Ashley Vass, Program Coordinator for RPR, “not only is this species considered extremely rare within Canada, but in Saskatchewan the last time it was seen was in 1895 - over a century ago. We are following clues such as ‘near a spring by Indian Head’ to relocate the species.”

On the Canadian prairies, this small perennial orchid averages around 15 cm tall. Flowering from May to June, the Small White Lady’s-slipper relies on insects for pollination, with its flower shape facilitating cross-pollination. A few leaves sheath a single stem, and its single flower has a small modified petal pouch resembling a slipper. The pouch is about 2-3 cm long, and is white with occasional purple veining or speckling. A more common orchid, Yellow Lady’s-slipper, has a yellow flower with a similar shape and will readily hybridize with this species to produce a cream coloured slipper. The Yellow Lady’s-slipper and the hybrid can be distinguished from the Small White Lady’s-slipper by their colour and larger size.

“Along with the Qu’Appelle Valley, southeastern Saskatchewan is an area of interest,” says Vass. Suitable habitat for Small White Lady’s-slipper includes remnant moist native prairie, prairie sedge fens, and openings in woodlands. As this type of habitat has been greatly reduced in Canada over the past century, Small White Lady’s-slipper often grows in conjunction with other rare or at risk species and its presence is an indicator of intact native prairie health.

Rare Plant Rescue engages with landowners to conserve native prairie habitat that supports (or likely supports) plant species at risk. There is little known about many of Saskatchewan’s rare plants’ population sizes and ranges, which contributes to their risk status. Increased knowledge about distribution and population sizes facilitates conservation efforts and can help reduce the species’ risk status level. Over the summer months, program staff survey suitable habitat to collect data on unknown plant occurrences and work with RPR landowner participants to monitor populations in the following years.

To report a sighting of a rare species, if you think you may have suitable habitat, or if you are interested in more information on Rare Plant Rescue and its other target species, please call Nature Saskatchewan at 1-800-667-4668 or email Private information is never shared, nor is land accessed, without landowner permission.

- 30 –  

For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:  

Ashley Vass, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator
(306) 780-9417   


Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager
(306) 780-9270


photo credit: E. Putz

photo credit: E. Putz


The Life of Bird Banders

view details »

The bird bander’s day starts at 6:00am. They wake up to birdsong, and drink something caffeinated to kickstart their day. They make sure the banding equipment is clean, and ready for the day ahead. They also check the weather. If it is rainy or windy, she will not be able to open the nets. If it is rainy, the birds get wet and they can die of hypothermia. If it is too windy, the birds can be injured in the nets. At 7:00am precisely, they head out to the net lanes and open the 13 mist nets. After that they check the nets every half an hour. How many birds they catch will depend on a number of factors. If it is calm or if the wind is going the right direction, birds will migrate through. If there was a full moon last night, birds will keep on flying. Typically migrating birds will fly at night, and stop to forage during the day. The brighter it is at night, the more birds that will keep flying. Spring migration also tends to be quieter compared to the fall. Many birds caught at the Last Mountain Bird Observatory nest in the boreal forest. They rush up there in the spring to set up breeding territories so that they can start nesting as soon as possible. This spring there has only been one day where the banders caught over 100 birds. When the banders catch a bird they take it back to the station. They put a band on it, and collect some data on the bird. The bander will determine the age and sex of the bird, measure the wing, and weigh the bird. This data can be used to estimate population trends which can be used by conservationists to determine whether a bird species is increasing or declining. At 9:00am, the banders conduct a census. This means they walk along a designated route and count the birds they see. They continue to check the nets until 1:00pm. At that time, they close the nets. That is a basic day of one of the banders at Last Mountain Bird Observatory.

Of course, a day as a bander can be a lot more variable than I have described above. But it should give you a basic idea of what we do. We have had a typically quiet spring at the banding station. We have been catching mostly White-throated Sparrows, but we have also been catching lots of American Robins, and Tree Swallows. We have also been catching a variety of sparrows, thrushes, and warblers. We have not had any birds that are rare or uncommon yet this year. Stay tuned for more updates during the summer!

Jordan Rustad


Photo credit: D. Bonnet


Welcome back Burrowing Owls!

view details »


Regina, SK - May 28, 2018 – After spending the winter in sunny Mexico and the Southwestern United States, one of Saskatchewan’s most iconic species at risk has returned to their breeding grounds for the season – welcome back Burrowing Owls! After migration, these endangered owls are busy! They are starting the mating process, finding a home, and laying and incubating their eggs.


Burrowing Owls are identifiable by their small size; they are only 9 inches tall! They have light and dark brown mottled plumage with white spots, a round head with large yellow eyes, and white ‘eyebrows’. One of their key features is their long featherless legs that gives the appearance of walking on stilts. Unlike some other owl species, Burrowing Owls are active during the day; especially in the spring and early summer when the male is busy gathering food for his family. During the nesting season, male Burrowing Owls can often be seen standing next to the burrow or on nearby fence posts while the female is in the burrow incubating the eggs. Burrowing owls make a few different chuckling or chattering calls and 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, Burrowing Owls coexist with grazing very well. In fact, grazing is extremely 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 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 stewardship program Operation Burrowing Owl works with landowners to conserve and enhance Burrowing Owl habitat, and monitors Burrowing Owl numbers at participating sites. “We are very fortunate to have so many passionate landowners participating in the program and keeping a look-out for Burrowing Owls,” 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.


“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 “get out there this summer and explore, you never know what you will find.” If you are lucky enough to see a Burrowing Owl, Burrows asks that you call Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free HOOT Line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email “When you report a sighting you are playing a very important role in Burrowing Owl recovery. Every sighting is critical!” says Burrows. Private information is never shared without permission.


For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:



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


Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager
(306) 780-9270




Photo credit: Kim Mann





It's Good to be Back in the Field!

view details »

The RPR crew headed out to kick off a fantastic field season looking for Saskatchewan’s rare plants, this time a dynamic duo team of Ashley and myself (Emily)! We started the summer off once again on the hunt for the elusive Slender Mouse-ear-cress (SMEC). This biennial plant in the mustard family has proven difficult for us to find in past years and seems to be continuing the trend. While we didn’t find our tricky target species this trip, we did see plenty of its many look-a-likes, including some great examples of Purple Rock Cress and Reflexed Rock cress, two species in the Arabis genus that look very similar to SMEC! Finding these guys boosted our confidence that if SMEC was out there our trained eyes would be sure to pick it out! In a few weeks’ time we will be once again looking for SMEC and we have our fingers crossed that we will be able to finally pin it down in our searches.


Purple Rock Cress, a SMEC lookalike. Photo credit: Ashley Vass




Lance-leaved Lungwort, a provincially rare species. Photo credit: Emily Putz



One of the best parts of being on the RPR crew is that we get to see the entire sequence of blooming plants while we are out working, starting with the early bloomers that most people miss in a season. The colours of choice for spring seem to yellow and blue and we were treated to a sea of these colours in every hue. While dodging some picturesque and breathtaking thundershowers, we were treated to the last of the blooming crocuses, Smooth Blue Beardtongue, Early Blue Violets and Nuttall’s Yellow Violets, carpets of Golden Bean, and my favourite, the lovely and rare Lance-leaved Lungwort. We were also lucky enough to be serenaded while we worked by a number of bird species at risk, including Sprague’s pipits, Baird’s sparrows, Chestnut- collared Longspurs, and Long-billed Curlews!



A late blooming Prairie Crocus. Photo credit: Emily Putz



Photo credit: Emily Putz



We finished off our week down in Grassland National Park’s East Block assisting with planting sage plugs. In an attempt to enhance existing Silver Sagebrush cover and increase habitat for Greater Sage Grouse. The goal was to plant 4000 seedlings by the end of the week; we are happy to report they reached their target! It was a great way to end the week and very relaxing to be out in the prairie planting these little guys. Our hard work was also definitely rewarded, as on the last day while driving to field site we were greeted by two Sage Grouse; which was quite a treat, as neither of us had seen one before! It was a nice cap to end our fantastic week and reinforced in our minds how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and diverse province!



The RPR crew this year, Ashley Vass and Emily Putz



Hear from us again soon!

Emily Putz

Explore a local prairie during the Native Prairie Appreciation Week

view details »

Join us in exploring the beauty and diversity of Saskatchewan grasslands during the Native Prairie Appreciation Week, June 17-23, 2018. Nature Saskatchewan and its local societies, in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan (NPSS) are leading a series of field trips to a prairie patch near you. Plant and wildlife experts will be present to help you spot and recognize elusive critters hidden among the grass. Trips are family friendly and casual in nature. Dress for the weather; bring sturdy walking shoes, snacks, a water bottle and mosquito repellent.

Saturday, June 16, 2018 - Reed Lake NCC property

A guided tour of NCC properties surrounding Reed Lake, a large saline wetland recognized as one of five wetlands in Saskatchewan to provide habitat for the endangered Piping Plover. Due to its importance during annual bird migration, Reed Lake is designated as part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. We will explore wetlands and gently rolling slopes with native and seeded grasslands.

The group will meet at the Morse, SK Esso gas station at 8:45 a.m., with the tour ending around lunch time. For more information contact the Southwest Naturalists at

Photo credit: Branimir Gjetvaj

Saturday, June 23, 2018 – Dundurn NCC property

 We will drive to a recently acquired NCC property west of Dundurn near the military reserve boundary and then hike looking for birds and wildflowers. The Dundurn property consists of 120 acres (48.5 hectares) of wet meadows and beautiful rolling sand dunes stabilized by carpets of native prairie and aspen bluffs. This land has high conservation value thanks to the pristine state of its diverse habitats, and connection to the large Dundurn military base which has vast areas of native habitat.

The Dundurn tour is led by the Saskatoon Nature Society and NPSS. The group will meet at 8 a.m. by the grain elevator at the Western Development Museum parking lot on Lorne Ave in Saskatoon. For more information contact Bob at (306) 343-8590.

Photo credit: Branimir Gjetvaj

Sunday, June 24, 2018 – Fairy Hill NCC property

Fairy Hill NCC property is located approximately 25 minutes north of Regina, in the beautiful Qu’Appelle River valley. It includes a 1,642 acre (665 hectare) network of native grasslands, woodlands, marshes and flood plains along Qu’Appelle. The diversity of habitats attracts a variety of terrestrial and aquatic species, many of them rare or threatened. Numerous ducks, geese and shorebirds gather in the valley wetlands.

The group led by Nature Regina will meet at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum parking lot for a departure at 8:30 a.m. For more information contact Gary at

Photo credit: Branimir Gjetvaj


WATCH OUT! School's out for the summer and so are Piping Plovers!

view details »

Regina, SK – June 25, 2018


School is out for the summer, meaning time to head to the beach. “But please be careful. Families of endangered Piping Plovers are out for the summer too! While it’s a great time to see them along the shores, it’s also a challenging time. Late nesters may still be incubating or have young out and about, making them vulnerable to trampling,” explains Rebecca Magnus, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “The nests and young are well camouflaged with the sand and stones, and the young are not able to fly for the first couple of weeks after hatching,” adds Magnus. “In order to give Piping Plovers the best chance of survival possible, we are asking beachgoers and anglers to keep watch around their feet along shores such as Lake Diefenbaker.”


Photo credit: David Krughoff



The Piping Plover is a small shorebird easily identified by its distinct black markings – a black band on its forehead and a single black band around its neck. Plovers also have a sandy body with a white belly, orange legs, and an orange beak with a black tip. Their look-a-like cousin is the Killdeer, which is larger, browner in colour, and has two black bands around its neck instead of one. “Like the Killdeer, Piping Plovers will do a broken wing display, looking injured trying to attract you to them. However, it is all an act and plovers will fly back to their young, which look like cotton balls on sticks, once they have lured you far enough away,” says Magnus.


Piping Plovers will be increasing their fat stores until early August, in order to complete their 3,500 km flight back to the winter beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. “Since Saskatchewan is a Piping Plover hotspot in Canada, we feel a great responsibility in giving these endangered shorebirds the best chance possible for breeding success before their great journey south,” says Magnus.


Nature Saskatchewan works with landowners and the public to monitor and conserve suitable shorelines for Piping Plovers. If you see a Piping Plover please call our toll-free Hoot Line at:   1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email


Photo credit: David Krughoff


- 30 –


For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:


Rebecca Magnus, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator    
Phone: (306) 780-9832


Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager
Phone: (306) 780-9270


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

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

On the road with our Important Bird Areas Staff

view details »

I am back at it again this summer with the Important Bird Area program! In the past month I have managed to put over three thousand kilometers on my rental vehicle, and have seen 99 bird species. The first week of June I focused on IBAs close to Regina. The first day I went to Valeport Marsh near Craven, and forced my boyfriend and his visiting mother to come with me. The highlight of the trip was the number of American Avocets we saw. The next day I travelled to Pelican Lake, which is a part of the Thundercreek Heritage Marsh. There was a good variety of birds, and lots of cormorants. I even found a couple of male Bobolinks. On Friday, I headed up to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park to monitor Nicolle Flats with the caretaker. We hunted for some Yellow-breasted Chats, and managed to hear a couple of them. We walked through the marsh, and some native prairie, and saw 48 species of bird.


Photo credit: Val Thomas


The following week, I had planned to be on the road all week north of Regina. I started my week at Tobin Lake, and monitored it with the caretaker and a volunteer. We managed to find 51 species over the day. The highlight for me was finding fledgling Killdeer. The next day I had planned to monitor only Ponass Lake. Instead I did three different IBAs on my way back to Regina. I started at Ponass Lake. This IBA is also part of the Heritage Marsh Program, and you can get a lot of species just from the road. It was only about 1:00pm when I finished. The Quill Lakes was the next IBA I had planned to monitor. I drove to where the road ends, and walked around Big Quill Lake. I was lucky enough to see some White-rumped Sandpipers. The next IBA I had planned to monitor that week, only takes about half an hour to monitor. So I went down to Foam Lake and finished up my day by watching all the Franklin’s Gulls in the marsh. This past week, I was volunteering to help conduct brood searches for Sage Grouse near Grasslands National Park. Unfortunately we did not see any grouse, but we did see lots of Common Nighthawks, and two Yellow-bellied Racer. I also probably got stronger legs from all the hiking. In the upcoming week I am monitoring Big Muddy Lake, Coteau Lake, Eyebrow Lake, and Old Wives Lake. For the rest of my summer, I will be all over Saskatchewan monitoring IBAs and doing public education in provincial and regional parks.


Photo credit: Dorothy Wark


Until next time,

Jordan Rustad

Fun in the Sun: the hot, hot, hot Sun

view details »


The Rare Plant Rescue crew spent the beginning of June aiding in the search for a rare orchid called the Small White Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium candidum). This orchid hasn’t been seen in Saskatchewan since 1895 and is thought to be extirpated from the province. Searching for this species was interesting as potential habitat included prairie fens that bounced underfoot, brush cover that released a minimum of 500 wood ticks on us, and hummocks that turned hiking more into leaping, as some of them reached nearly my height. Although we didn’t find the elusive Small White Lady’s-slipper, we were happy for the opportunity to survey some very unique habitat and found many beautiful Yellow Lady’s-slippers while we were at it.


Emily Putz stands on a hummock.




Sphagnum moss found in a prairie fen.




Ashley Vass poses with Yellow Lady’s-slippers.


We came across many other beautiful flowering plants during this trip, such as Marsh Marigold, Violets, Evening Primrose, Saline Shooting Star, and Blue-eyed Grass, just to name a few. We also saw or heard several interesting bird species, such as Sedge Wrens, Bobolinks, Sprague’s Pipits, as well as several different sparrows. We even came upon a few nests, one of which had me singing “one of these things is not like the others…”.



Clay-coloured Sparrow nest with Brown-headed Cowbird egg (left).



Saline Shooting Star.


Walking back to the car after we finished our last habitat survey, while picking clumps of ticks off our clothes and out of our hair, we came across mating Viceroy butterflies who were too busy to notice the paparazzi. These butterflies don bright colouring to indicate that they are poisonous and are often mistaken for the very similar looking Monarch. The easiest way to tell them apart is the black line that intersects the veins on the Viceroy’s hindwings.


Viceroy butterflies.



While completing range and riparian health assessments, we came across more interesting insects as pollen-covered bees were burrowing into the sandy side of a hill. Some had so much pollen that they could barely fit into their burrows and ants appeared to be taking advantage of the opportunity to steal pollen.





Ant potentially stealing pollen from a bee as it struggles to fully enter its burrow.


Then it was time to search for Tiny Cryptantha and Slender Mouse-ear-cress. While searching in challenging terrain, we managed for several days to avoid the half a dozen or so storms that encircled us to find ourselves in the burning sun and the lowest wind speeds I’ve ever experienced in this province. Our desire for water was answered with up to three inches of rain over night that made our site inaccessible for the better part of a day! It just goes to show you that the weather here is often unpredictable and the best advice is to just accept the moment and appreciate the beauty of the ever-changing prairie skies.


Encounters with Great Plains Toads, Common Nighthawks, a Sharp-tailed Grouse family, and a Prairie Rattlesnake kept us excited and the prairie landscape never disappoints. Colourful and bright Pincushion and Prickly Pear Cactus, Scarlet Mallow, Gaillardia, and Yellow Umbrellaplant flowers dotted the ground. Although we didn’t find the species we set out for, we did find one of our targeted rare plants, Small Lupine, as well as a few other provincial rares including Low Whitlowwort, and the very pretty, albeit ill-named, Clammyweed. 

Can’t wait to see what July has in store for us!

Ashley Vass and Emily Putz 







Pincushion Cactus (right), Gaillardia (middle), and Yellow Umbrellaplant (left).






We Love Our Lakes -

view details »

The Last Mountain Lake Stewardship Group and SAWS have prepared a series of information sheets regarding the drainage of the Quill Lakes. For further information please go to:

Voices from the Field: Check in with the Bird Specis at Risk staff

view details »

Hello blog readers! It’s hard to believe we are over half way through July already! The summer always seems to fly by in the blink of an eye! We have been busy the past month taking reports of species at risk sightings, talking and visiting with our program participants, and learning new habitat monitoring techniques for Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and the Greater Sage Grouse.


Rebecca Magnus and the other workshop attendees learning habitat monitoring techniques for Sprague's Pipit. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows


In early June, we attended the Grouse, Grazing, and Grasslands workshop held in the east block of Grasslands National Park to learn these new habitat monitoring techniques. Depending on the type of site and species, monitoring techniques involved songbird point counts, measuring litter, estimating percent bare ground, forb cover, measuring droop height, and taking robel pole measurements. We also learned about native grass identification.

A couple of weeks later, we were ready to head out on our own to start habtiat monitoring! Every morning, we would get up with the sunrise and start the day doing songbird point counts. What a peaceful way to start your day! Listening to songbirds, particularly, Sprague’s Pipit and Chesnust-collared Longspur, and recording how often we hear them singing. We were extremely lucky with the weather as you cannot do point counts in the rain or if it’s windy but everyday we were able to complete our counts. We also took other measurements such as estimating litter, bare ground, forb cover, and robel pole measurements.



Rebecca Magnus listening for songbirds during a point count and setting up a transect. Photos credit: Kaytlyn Burrows.


One of the most challenging (and frustrating at times!) parts of the habitat monitoring is the native grass identification. This was our main focus on our second monitoring trip. We learned so much about what to look for and how to identify one grass species from the other. It requires looking at different grass parts such as the presence or absence of ligules and/or auricles, presence or absence of hairs, rough or smooth leaves, etc. It meant a lot of time spent on the ground (literally) getting up close and personal with our native grass species! Species we identified included Western Wheat, Northern Wheat, Needle and Thread, Western Porcupine, and Blue Grama.


Kaytlyn looking at grass parts with a hand lense. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus.                                        



Kaytlyn identifying native grass species. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus.

This time around, we were not as fortunate with the weather! We encountered a very stormy afternoon with tornado warnings! Safety comes first so we made the decision to leave the field but we managed to take a few photos of the swirling storm clouds as we drove down the road and it was unlike anything we had ever seen before. It was a little eerie but also very neat to see!


Large prairie storm looming over south west Saskatchewan. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows



Our time in the field also came with other species sightings such as Pronghorn, Deer, Loggerhead Shrikes, Chestnust-collared Longspurs, Ferruginous Hawks, and one of our more exciting sightings, a Golden Eagle!


Golden Eagle perched on a fence post. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows.


It was a great couple weeks where we learned so much! We improved our native grass identification and were able to see the beautiful southwest Saskatchewan landscape and all the species that call it home. We are so grateful to be able to do what we do! We also want to thank Lucky Horseshoe Haven for housing us for the week! Dawn & Chris were so welcoming and provided us with a lovely place to rest our heads at the end of the day. We highly recommend staying there if you are in the southwest/Eastend area! Visit for more information and to book your stay!


Until next time!


Kaytlyn & Rebecca

Voices from the Field: Check in with the Rare Plant Rescue team

view details »

Hi Everyone! RPR crew once again checking in to let you know about our latest adventures in the field. This past trip took us to the far far southwest corner of the province and if you’ve never been there we definitely recommend going! We were welcomed to the area with a spectacular storm system moving through, and thankfully we made it to shelter before the hail hit; as you can see from the picture below, the hail pellets were something else! With the storm moving out after the first day we were treated to fantastic weather while we searched for our target plant for this trip, the Dwarf Woollyhead (Psilocarphus brevissimus). Dwarf Woollyheads, as their name suggests, are diminutive, low-growing annuals that have flowers about the size of your fingernail. This plant is actually in the Aster family, so the flower head consists of a number of smaller fuzzy florets that give it the name Woollyhead. They like to grow in depressions that are wet in the spring and dry out over the summer, and as we were looking we soon joked that they seem to be a bit of a goldilocks plant, liking things juusstt right. While looking for such a tiny plant was tricky, we are happy to report that we have found several new occurrences while searching, as well as visited an older known occurrence that has doubled in size! These are our first new occurrences of the summer, and we are so happy to share the news with you!

Another Highlight of our trip was the abundance of wildlife, specifically the species-at-risk! While that area is known to be a hot-spot and stronghold for many struggling species in the province, it seemed like we were checking birds off our list everywhere we went! We saw two nests of Burrowing Owls, several Ferruginous Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, both McCown’s and Chestnut Collared Longspurs, and the highlight for sure, a Sprague’s Pipit foraging on the ground! Sprague’s Pipit song usually accompanies field work on native prairie, but the birds themselves are secretive and very well camouflaged, so to see one on the ground is extremely rare, most people never do!

All in all our week was fantastic, filled with new plants found and exciting bird sightings. We can’t wait to get out there again and see some more!


Until next time,

RPR Crew

(Emily and Ashley)

Young Burrowing Owls are learning the tricks of the trade!

view details »


Regina, SK – August 20, 2018 - After weeks of being fed by their parents, young Burrowing Owls are now able to forage for themselves and perch up on lookouts and fence posts. If you are traveling around southern and central Saskatchewan, it is a great time to spot a Burrowing Owl. However, vehicles can be dangerous for the young and inexperienced owls. Just like teenagers, the young Burrowing Owls have to learn the way of the world, and that includes learning the way of the road. “The juveniles often forage in roadside ditches, where they find small invertebrates and rodents that tend to congregate at dusk,” explains Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator at Nature Saskatchewan. “But unfortunately, the young can be killed by motorists while foraging along the sun-warmed road.”

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


Nature Saskatchewan has been involved with the protection and conservation of the Burrowing Owl for over 30 years, but its success would not be 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.

- 30-



For further information please contact Nature Saskatchewan:



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


Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager
(306) 780-9270



Nature Saskatchewan

206 - 1860 Lorne Street

Regina, SK S4P 2L7

Phone: (306) 780-9273 or Toll Free: 1-800-667-4668

Fax: (306) 780-9263; Email:

Photo credit: K. Borrows

Photo credit: J. Villeneuve

Voices from the Field: Fall Migration at LMBO

view details »

The fall migration is in full swing here at Last Mountain Bird Observatory! We set up the nets Monday afternoon, and opened on Tuesday for our first day of coverage. We caught most of the usual suspects: American Robin, Yellow Warbler, House Wren, Least Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwings. We also caught a large amount of Eastern Kingbirds. They normally do not get caught in the net very often. But much to the pleasure of our new banding assistant Laura, she got to band all of them. We also caught some migrant warblers: Wilson’s Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Canada Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird. We also saw a lot of swallows and blackbirds starting to flock together for migration in the park. There was even a record of my nemesis bird, because I never see them, a White-winged Scoter. We also had a volunteer out our first week who was so excited to catch her first Common Grackle. She even signed our guestbook, “My first grackle! Yay!” The campers in the park were excited for the station to open again. A group of kids were kind enough to make us bird feeders for the station. They are hanging up around right now, and many birds have been visiting them. Our second week started off with some windy weather. We could not open the nets even to try to catch the Common Nighthawk that was hanging around. The next couple days we caught more migrants moving through. We caught an Olive-sided flycatcher, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Northern Waterthrush. Laura also got to band her first ever Barn Swallow. We also had our first big day with over 125 birds! There was over 50 birds in a single net run! We also got our first Bank Swallow and Swainson’s Thrush on our big day. We are still waiting for Orange-Crowned Warblers to come through, and we are looking forward to the waves of sparrows to come!


Canada Warbler, Photo credit: J. Rustad

Rare Plant Rescue Signing Off

view details »

This will be the last blog from the RPR crew this year. It's hard to believe that September is here. How quickly this summer has flown by. Although, with the weather being as variable as it can be in this province you can never count out the potential for a beach day regardless of what the calendar date says. We enjoyed the weather over the last few weeks and, although we always hope for rain in these dry years, we were also glad to not have been stormed out or encounter impassible roads this time around. In fact, we had a very successful field trip over the last couple of weeks searching for rare plant populations and monitoring past occurrences.

Thanks to some very useful habitat models we were able to find new locations of Smooth Goosefoot (bottom right), a threatened plant species that loves sand dunes, which was lucky for us because so do we. It’s always nice to get to explore the interesting dune habitat (bottom left) scattered across the province and I would recommend that if you haven’t been to the Great Sand Hills that you put it on your “must-see” list. We also found the Hairy Prairie Clover (top) populations that we were monitoring to be thriving, with several occurrences numbering in the thousands! This plant had been described to me as reminiscent of Sideshow Bob’s hair and after seeing it in person, I admit it is a great comparison.

Along with finding additional target species such as Small Lupine, Bur Ragweed, and Beaked Annual Skeletonweed, we found some beautiful Scarlet Gaura (right) still in bloom, lots of broomweed and rabbitbrush, and many dotted blazing star (middle) and blue lettuce plants (left) in flower.

We also saw some pretty cool insects such as Ten-lined June Beetles (right), whose large size, unusual appearance, and ability to hiss can be quite intimidating. As well, we were lucky enough to come across an adorable velvet ant (middle), whose plush appearance and misleading name are maybe not intimidating enough? Another common name for a velvet ant is “cow killer”. They are not actually ants but are wingless bees and although they do not actually kill cows, their name apparently stems from a reputation for having an extremely painful bite. I personally don’t care to find out what it feels like, though I must admit I am a little curious. Another neat find was a spider’s sand burrow (left). The tunnel was lined with silk and we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the brave engineer that lived inside but unfortunately weren’t so lucky.

We are still waiting to hear about results of some funding applications and, therefore, we stayed at the lake with family for a few nights while in the field to try to stretch a buck. It was nice to be able to cool off at the end of the day by jumping into the water, and it didn’t hurt that beavers, herons, and these adorable little minks also call the lake home. We woke up to some beautiful views of fuchsia sunrises and mist on the water that our cameras just don’t do justice to.

The latest encounters: male antelope watching over their harems, currently full of mothers and their twins; extremely well camouflaged coyotes; and Golden and Bald Eagles; were welcomed. This summer has gone by in a blur. I have truly loved spending more time in the field this year, and enjoy and appreciate all the animal and plant species that call this province home. A huge thank you to all the landowners who allowed us on their property, we couldn’t do any of this work without you!

Until next year!

Ashley and Emily - Rare Plant Rescue

Interested in learning more about the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas

view details »

This ambitious five-year project teams citizen scientists with professionals to deliver a province-wide account of the distribution and relative abundance of populations of breeding birds. A collaborative effort between conservation organizations, government, the private-sector, and the public, the Atlas will provide an invaluable tool for wildlife conservation, education, and research in the province.

Nature Saskatchewan is a proud partner of the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas project. More information can be found on their website at

Inaction on Rising Water Levels in the Quill Lakes Receives International Attention

view details »

The Quill Lakes water crisis received international attention during the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Please read the Rising Water Levels in the Quill Lakes article for full details.