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Archives for 2024

Saskatchewan’s Newest Nature Society forms at Moosomin

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On January 18, four members of the Indian Head Natural History Society (IHNHS) were invited to Moosomin to participate in the inaugural meeting of Saskatchewan's newest Nature Society, aptly named Gateway Nature. This newly minted group is ready to offer nature lovers in the South East part of the province with nature based learning tools and events. This inaugural meeting was well attended by Moosomin and area residents. 

The Gateway Nature group was initiated and chaired by local Moosomin resident Kendra Parrish, who is an avid nature lover and enthusiastic and supportive citizen scientist in that area. As chair of the newly formed group, she explained the reason for the name: “…nature enthusiasts from Moosomin, Rocanville, and Redvers met in Moosomin to create Gateway Nature. The name symbolizes our general geographical location near the Manitoba border (the gateway to Saskatchewan) and how we aim to be a gateway through which the public enters into a love of the natural world”.

Kendra helped facilitate the inaugural meeting and started off by asking those in attendance what they would like to see as the focus for their newly created nature society. This group is off to a great start with amazing ideas and a positive energy. They agreed to focus on the following areas/objectives: 

  • Engaging community members of all ages in directly observing nature

  • Gathering data on local wildlife for use by researchers

  • Building bonds of friendship and fun among nature enthusiasts

  • Promoting eco-friendly practices among local residents

  • Encouraging landowners to explore easement options

  • Teaching ourselves and our neighbours about nature through lectures, videos, and pamphlets

During the meeting, using these 6 objectives as a guideline, this enthusiastic group of people decided on a list of activities and events to do in the next 12 months. How amazing is that! Their list of activities include hosting several nature walks and species identification expeditions in the Moosomin, Rocanville & Redvers areas. They also plan on promoting pollinator-friendly practices through the distribution of ‘Bee Friendly’ signs as well as the growing and distribution of native plants for area residents. Other ideas they discussed included birdwatching contests, fundraising events as well as targeted lectures, including their first event which will be held on February 29th at the Moosomin library to hear Dr. Cory Sheffield, from the Royal SK Museum, talk about bee conservation.

This was an impressive meeting amongst an equally impressive group of talented people. Gateway Nature has formally registered and been accepted as a local chapter/branch of Nature Saskatchewan. The group will be run by the following individuals: Chair - Kendra Parrish; Vice-Chair - Lana Shaw; Secretary/Webmaster - Coral Wiebe; Treasurer - Jody Blyth.

We wish them all the best and we look forward to seeing all the good things that will be completed by this new group.


The roll of the IHNHS committee members (Lorne Scott, Laura Poppy, Bruce Neill & Dora Nichols) at the inaugural Gateway Nature meeting was to offer support and answer questions for this newly formed neighbouring Nature group. The IHNHS has been an active nature society and local chapter of Nature SK since the early 1970’s. Even more special, one of the group’s original members and founders, Dora Nichols, was able to attend the Moosomin meeting to offer support and wisdom. Dora has consecutively served as the secretary for the IHNHS since its beginning! That’s over 50 years of service to nature and her local society! Also of interest, two of the IHNHS members in attendance at the Jan 18 meeting also serve on the board of Nature Sask:  Lorne Scott (president) and Laura Poppy (Vice) wore two hats while attending the meeting in Moosomin. 

By Laura Poppy 

(on behalf of the Indian Head Natural History Society & Nature Saskatchewan)


Interested in being part of Gateway Nature? You can contact them here.



Badgers and Pastures: A Habitat Management Workshop

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Join Nature Saskatchewan and our partners Prairie Conservation Action Plan, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation and Sodcap Inc. for Badgers and Pastures: A Habitat Management Workshop.  This workshop is geared towards landholders and managers with hands-on activities and case studies. Workshop also includes snacks, coffee and supper!


Two dates and locations to pick from:

Val Marie, SK - February 27

Eastend, SK - February 28


Please RSVP in advance by emailing or by call/text to 306-780-9833

Burns, Bees and Butcherbirds!

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This FREE event will be held on Thursday March 21 at the Elks Hall in Milestone, SK. There will be a free locally catered supper at 6pm and following supper you will hear from some great presenters:
  • Prescribed fire as a management tool (Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange)
  • Saskatchewan's Bees (Royal Saskatchewan Museum)
  • The Loggerhead Shrike (Nature Saskatchewan)
  • Habitat Management Agreements (Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation)
This event is FREE but pre-registration is required by March 14. To RSVP please call/text 306-780-9832 or email


Spring Migration Birdwatching Challenge from Gateway Nature

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The contest is open from April 1 to May 31 and the rules are simple:

Individual Challenge - Count as many species as you can during the challenge period and return your form to Gateway Nature by email or by dropping it off to the Moosomin Library. Spring Migration Challenge Entry Form

Classroom Challenge - Classrooms will compete as a group and tally all of the species they see during the challenge period and return their form to Gateway Nature by email or by dropping it off to the Moosomin Library. Spring Migration Classroom Form

Not sure what birds to look for? This video will help you.



Know your Butcherbird- Telling our Seasonal Shrikes Apart!

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As the sun starts to stay with us longer each day, and the spring weather starts to arrive, migration starts to begin to kick off another breeding season! This is an exciting time for birders, as they can spot species stopping by on their way up north and species showing up to scope out space for the breeding season. For two similar species, however, this period can bring brief range overlap that makes IDing very tricky.

The Northern Shrike (Lanius borealis) and the Loggerhead Shrike Prairie subspecies (Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides) both spend significant portions of their time in Southern Saskatchewan each year. The difference is that the Loggerhead Shrike is our summer shrike, they spend their breeding season here raising their young and their winters down in Texas and Mexico; the Northern Shrike is our winter shrike, they breed up across Northern Canada where the boreal forest meets the tundra and come spend their winter vacation down in balmy Southern Saskatchewan each year. During migration in the spring and autumn, there are a few weeks’ overlap as one species is arriving and the other is heading out. This wouldn’t be a problem, but both Shrike species look very similar and display similar behaviours (such as prey impalement!). So how do you tell who you are watching? Subtle differences help when you are playing the look-a-like game!

The Loggerhead Shrike starts arriving in April, with the males arriving first to stake out territories that will impress the gals. As the Males start to arrive you will hear more vocal territory calls and may see groups as they work out who gets what. Loggerhead Shrikes have crisp colouring; a grey back, a white belly and throat, black wings and tail with white markings, and a crisp defined black bandit mask extending right over their eyes past to their ears. Loggerhead Shrikes also have the sharp black beak that allows them to be such fierce hunters! “This species is also at-risk,” explains Emily Putz, coordinator of the Shrubs for Shrikes program, “with number declines continuing each year, they are listed as threatened, so we want as many people out there able to ID them and report sightings as possible. Every bit helps!”

Northern Shrikes, as denotes their name, have a bit frostier colouration. They share the sharp black bill and general grey/white/black colours, however their markings are less defined overall. Their mask extends through the eye instead of over it and narrows towards the bill. Above their bill, they often show a band of white extending above the eye. Their white belly can have a slight grey barring pattern that breaks up their shape. These shrikes will start arriving in September and will often be seen in the wintertime scouting out bird feeders to hunt and impale sparrows or hunt small rodents drawn by dropped seed. Both male and female Northern Shrikes are known to sing all winter long, unusual for a winter songbird, and the male sings with more frequency towards the end of winter. Though boreal species are often hard to track, numbers for Northern Shrikes appear stable.

“While having either shrike is sure to brighten your birdwatching season, if you think you have identified a Loggerhead Shrike, please let us know,” continues Emily Putz,” we would love to hear about it and discuss our Shrubs for Shrikes program. If you are unsure on your ID we can also always help you if you have a photo!” Nature Saskatchewan’s voluntary stewardship program, Shrubs for Shrikes, works directly with land stewards to conserve habitat for species-at-risk and monitor population numbers in Saskatchewan. Sightings are recorded to help determine the distribution of these species throughout the province, which can then be used towards efforts to help these species. Anyone can report their sightings of a Loggerhead Shrike, along with any other species-at-risk, as they are out this spring enjoying Saskatchewan’s natural beauty. 

If you would like to learn more about the Loggerhead Shrike, please join us this Thursday, March 21st, in Milestone SK for a free dinner and night of presentations, including one all about Shrikes! For more information about this dinner or our programs, please call Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668), text (306) 780-9832, or email us at Private information is never shared without permission. Please also feel free to share photos, as we love to see them!


For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:


Emily Putz

Habitat Stewardship Coordinator
Cell Phone: (306) 780-9832

Rebecca Magnus

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


Loggerhead Shrikes- Back and on the Attack!

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Keep an eye out for returning Shrikes this May! Spring has sprung and that means many of our birds are back on the prairies to once again raise their families. In this busy time, Nature Saskatchewan asks everyone to keep an eye out for the threatened Loggerhead Shrike.

This fierce bird is often seen perched on tall branches near open spaces. When looking to ID this bird watch for a slate grey back, white belly, and black wings and tail. They also have a striking mask that extends across their face to behind their eyes. When in flight, watch for the flash of hidden white patches on their black wings. “These birds have the unique behaviour of impaling their prey,” Emily Putz, Shrubs for Shrikes coordinator for Nature Saskatchewan explains, “they will find sharp points such as a thorny branch or a wire barb to hang their prey, then rip small pieces off with their hooked beak. Pairs will often hang prey on branches near their nest as a larder for later as well, living up to their nickname as the Butcherbird!”

Prey can often be seen hung in areas with shrikes, especially in the spring when the males return and try and impress the females with their hunting skills. Prey can include insects such as caterpillars and grasshoppers, birds, amphibians and snakes, and rodents such as mice and voles. They have even been known to take larger prey such as a young gopher! “Thorny shrubs such as Buffaloberry and Hawthorns are especially attractive to nest in and great shrubs to include in your yard site if you are trying to attract shrikes for their pest control abilities,” further explains Putz, “but in yards or shelterbelts, Shrikes might also use prickly conifers or caraganas as substitutes.”

Loggerhead Shrikes populations have been on the decline since the 1960s, with up to 80% of the population lost across their range. Habitat loss and degradation is the leading cause of their decline, both of their prairie hunting habitat and the shrubs they call their homes. Shelterbelts are becoming things of the past which further contributes, as their adapted shrub habitat also becomes sparse.

While the prairie Loggerhead Shrike is listed as Threatened in Canada, Saskatchewan, at the heart of their remaining range, still has the largest population of breeding pairs in the country. Nature Saskatchewan’s Shrubs for Shrike’s program aims to keep Saskatchewan’s population strong by getting more eyes and ears our looking for these unique birds and contributing to their population monitoring. The program also works directly with landholders and land managers that may have spotted them nesting on their land, by conserving their habitat and reporting their sightings through our annual census.

If you happen to spot a Loggerhead Shrike this spring, please report your sighting to Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free HOOTline, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email Emily Putz at Every sighting helps with tracking the population and range of this iconic prairie bird. All Caller and program participant information is kept confidential.


Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator
Phone: (306) 780-9832

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


Photo credit: Kim Mann


Hoot, Hoot, Hooray! Burrowing Owls are back!

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It’s that time of year again when the endangered Burrowing Owl returns to the prairies from their wintering grounds in southern Texas and Mexico. By now, the males have chosen a burrow and stocked it up with mice and other prey to impress their future mates. From mid-May to mid-June, these little owls are starting the mating process, finding a home, and laying and incubating their eggs.

Burrowing owls are identifiable by their small size (approximately 9 inches tall) and light and dark brown mottled plumage with white spots. They have a round head, with large yellow eyes, and white ‘eyebrows’. Another characteristic feature is their long, featherless legs, which gives them the appearance of walking on stilts. During mating season, females will listen for the “coo-coooo” call of the males. Burrowing owls also make a chattering or chuckling call.

Despite their name, Burrowing Owls do not dig their nests themselves. Instead, they use abandoned burrows that have been previously used by burrowing mammals such as badgers or ground squirrels (gophers). Burrowing Owls choose to nest in several different habitat types. Most nest burrows occur in grazed native or tame grassland pastures, but they have been known to be found in cropland. “Grazing is very beneficial to the Burrowing Owl”, Grace Pidborchynski, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator at Nature Saskatchewan explains. “On grazed pastures, the shorter grass helps these owls detect potential predators more effectively. In addition, the owls use manure in and around their nests to absorb excess moisture, regulate burrow temperature, attract insects for food, and hide their scent from predators.” 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 are generalist predators, meaning they will prey on anything small enough for them to catch. They will hunt prey that is most readily available to them, such as mice in the early spring, and grasshoppers in the late summer. Burrowing owls are most active during the day; especially when the male is busy gathering food for his family in the spring and early summer. There are several techniques to which Burrowing Owls hunt, such as hovering above the ground and pouncing, perching from a fence post or mound, running after insects, and catching insects mid-air with their talons. A Burrowing Owl family can eat 1,800 rodents and 7,000 grasshoppers during a single summer, making them great pest control!

Each spring, female Burrowing Owls will lay between 6 and 12 eggs. Because there are thought to be less than 300 pairs nesting throughout Canada, the success of each nest is important to the survival and recovery of this species. Nature Saskatchewan’s stewardship program, Operation Burrowing Owl, works with landholders to conserve and enhance Burrowing Owl habitat and monitors Burrowing Owl numbers at participating sites. “We are very fortunate to have so many passionate landholders and land managers participating in the program and keeping an eye out for Burrowing Owls,” says Pidborchynski. Operation Burrowing Owl records sightings to help determine the population trend and distribution of the Burrowing Owl throughout Saskatchewan. “Without help from landholders and the public, recovery of this unique prairie owl would not be possible,” says Pidborchynski. If you are lucky enough to see a Burrowing Owl, she 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 an important role in Burrowing Owl recovery. Every sighting is critical!” says Pidborchynski. Personal information is kept confidential and is never shared without permission.

For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

Grace PidborchynskiHabitat Stewardship Coordinator
Phone: (306) 780-9833

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



photo credit: Grace Pidborchynski


Share the Shore Piping Plover nesting season is here again!

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Schools out and its time to hit the beach! As families head out to our provinces beautiful shorelines for some R & R, they should be on the lookout, as this is also the time when the endangered Piping Plover will be hitting the beaches for a different reason…to nest!

Piping Plovers, listed as Endangered since 1985, are masters of camouflage and nest directly on the shoreline; above waterline and below the vegetation growth. Saskatchewan boasts the largest remaining breeding population in the world each summer on our beaches. Because they prefer sandy open beaches, Piping Plovers are often threatened by human activity, since we too favour these types of shorelines in our recreation. “Since the Plovers nest on the ground and mostly rely on not being seen, activities like ATV traffic and loose dogs on beaches are a risk to them,” Emily Putz, Coordinator for Nature Saskatchewan’s Plovers on Shore program explains, “limiting these kind of activities on beaches where they are known to nest can go a long way.”

In June, Piping Plover females will lay four eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand lined with pebbles. Over the next 28 days, both parents will incubate and fiercely defend their nest. “They make fantastic parents,” says Putz, “especially the males who stick around a bit longer in late summer with the fledglings. During the breeding season they will both defend the nest, leading predators away with broken wing displays or false scrape incubation.” Peak hatching occurs in mid June to early July, and the babies are up and moving within the day. “It’s just being mindful that we are sharing these spaces with these small creatures that can use our help,” further explains Putz, “something as insignificant as a deep footprint to us can mean life or death if a small chick falls and is trapped in it.”

Adult Plovers look very similar to the common Killdeer, with sandy grey backs, white bellies, and orange bill and feet. Where they differ is in their face markings, Piping Plovers will have a black headband marking and one black neck band marking, opposed to the Killdeer’s two neck bands. If you think you’ve seen a Piping Plover, please report your sighting to Plovers on Shore through Nature Saskatchewan’s toll free hoot-line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668). All caller information is kept private and every sighting goes towards helping learn more about these Endangered shorebirds.

Nature Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Service, also just completed the 2024 Prairie Piping Plover Census across the province. The survey window closed on June 16th and the data is pouring in. We are excited to see how the Piping Plovers are faring and would like to extend a big thank you to our many partners and volunteers that contributed time and effort to make this census possible, as well as landholders that gave access permission to their shoreline during the survey window!

If you have any questions about the Plovers on Shore program, or would like to learn more about this species, please contact Emily Putz at 306-780-9832 or

photo credit: E. Putz

Field Blog - June 2024: Never a Dull Moment on Plover Surveys!

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Hi there! I am one of Nature Saskatchewan’s Habitat Stewardship Assistants for the summer, Nathaniel Hak. Along with my field partner Kim Sowa, we’ve been busy as can be over the past month as our Stewards of Saskatchewan fieldwork got underway for the summer! This is my second summer with Nature Sask, and I’m super glad to be back! After a busy couple of weeks of office and field training with our program coordinators, Emily and Grace, Kim and I headed to Lake Diefenbaker at the beginning of June to assist the Water Security Agency (WSA) with their piping plover census! This year is particularly exciting, because a prairie-wide Canadian Piping Plover Census, led in Saskatchewan by Nature Sask’s Ashley Vass, is underway to find as many piping plovers on as many different water bodies as possible. The goal is to get a better understanding of how the larger population of plovers has been doing over the past couple of years.

Our week at Diefenbaker was a memorable one! On our first day, we had intermittent rain showers, which was a welcome change from when I did surveys last year in roughly 32 degree heat, with no wind. We found a couple of new/previously undetected nests that day, and were able to put some wire exclosures around the nests, which reduce nest predation. The second day, however, was more difficult - we quickly found that we were being buffeted by high winds and pouring rain, and eventually the rain was such that we had to stop surveying for the day at around noon - both for our own safety (to ensure our trucks didn’t get stuck on the way out!), but also for that of the plovers.

Day 3 rolled around, again without a dull moment! The rain had subsided, but we woke up to winds that were gusting near 80 km/h! After Kim and I took down our tents due to the high winds, we headed out to at least attempt our surveys. 5 of us: Kim and I, plus 3 technicians from the WSA crew, bundled up and headed onto the beach - only to be sand-blasted by the wind throwing sand and pebbles around! We quickly made our way back to our trucks, re-grouped, and moved the trucks - down a very bumpy, windy trail - to the other end of the beach, where we could at least walk in the same direction as the wind. That, paired with higher cliff faces on that side of the beach that provided at least some shelter, allowed us to safely survey in the high winds, where we found another small but mighty population of piping plovers! With the relentlessly high winds and rain in the forecast for that evening, Kim and I packed up and got some rooms in a nearby motel in Elbow - a welcome respite from the crazy weather!

The next day brought yet another extremely windy day, but we were nevertheless thrilled to find a pair of piping plovers nesting on a different lake! That day, at least, was quite sunny.

Week 2 of plover surveys brought more extreme winds (although only gusting to a comparatively mild 60 km/h), and more rain. I found an old, bright yellow rainsuit at home over the weekend, and I was able to put it to good use! We found about 6 more plovers that day despite the wind and rain, which was really exciting. Kim and I were happy to discover that the weather improved as the week went on, and we were eventually surveying a number of basins in southern Saskatchewan wearing shorts and t-shirts as the sun finally came out! We were kept company all week by scores of (very vocal) killdeer, willets, avocets, and other shorebirds, as well as the occasional common nighthawk and Sprague’s pipit!

I really enjoyed being able to spend a couple of weeks on the shorelines of Saskatchewan’s lakes and wetlands looking for the endangered piping plover. It was extremely rewarding to find as many adult plovers as we did, and it’s an incredible feeling to know that we were helping monitor the numbers and distribution of such a cool endangered species like these plovers. Saskatchewan hosts the world’s largest breeding concentration of piping plovers, with over 30% of the global population breeding here each year! So, it was really important to detect as many as we could throughout the survey period.

If you see a piping plover, or any other species-at-risk this summer, please call our toll free HOOT Line! Your observation helps us monitor the distributions and population numbers of endangered species in Saskatchewan, and every observation helps inform conservation efforts for the species that call the prairies home.

I’m looking forward to connecting with more of our incredible Stewards of Saskatchewan program participants as the summer goes on - see you in the field!

A Prairie Fairy Tale: the Threatened Sprague’s Pipit

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You may have heard it before, without even realizing what it was: a soft, tinkling call from an unseen bird, soaring high above the prairies. It’s the ethereal call of the male Sprague’s Pipit, who have one of the longest-known flight displays of any bird species in the world - able to call for 3 hours at a time, up to 100 metres above the ground! Nature Saskatchewan is asking for the public’s help in monitoring and protecting this unique grassland bird.

These cryptic, secretive birds are roughly sparrow-sized, measuring about 6 inches tall with legs that are quite long in comparison to their bodies and pink in colour. They have buffy brown, streaked plumage on their backs and heads, with a ‘necklace’ of short, brownish streaks above a pale, unmarked belly and flanks. Their white tail feathers are especially noticeable when fanned out during flight, forming a stark contrast to the inner brown feathering. They mostly remain out-of-sight, and are most easily detectable by their tinkling call.

Sprague’s Pipits require large, unbroken tracts of native prairie, typically more than 160 acres in size, with minimal woody shrub and tall grass cover. They also stay away from areas that are grazed too short or have too much bare ground. “Pipits are often referred to as the ‘Goldilocks’ bird because of their tendency to need things just right,” explains Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator. “They prefer native grass ranging from 10-30 cm in height, which can often be found in areas that have been moderately grazed.”

Between mid-May and mid-July, these birds lay 3-6 eggs on the ground in grass-lined, cup-shaped nests surrounded by vegetation. Females incubate the eggs for 11-15 days, and after hatching both parents will feed the chicks and clean the nest site, with young pipits leave the nest about 10-13 days after hatching. “Pipits are generalist insectivores, and will forage on the ground scooping up and swallowing any arthropod they can find, though grasshoppers and spiders are known favourites”, explains Putz. “especially with hungry chicks, a Sprague’s Pipit family will eat a huge number of grasshoppers in a summer.”

Unfortunately, Sprague’s Pipits are listed as Threatened in Canada as their populations have been shrinking in recent decades. Landholders and land managers can help the pipit by conserving native prairie Landholders can also ensure that livestock grazing is kept to healthy levels on quarters covered by native prairie or perennial forage. It is also recommended that any haying – which does help to maintain suitable habitat for pipits in tame pastures – is not done until after July 15, once pipits have left the nests and are not in danger of being crushed.

Nature Saskatchewan’s Stewards of Saskatchewan Banner program aims to engage participants in contributing to Sprague’s Pipit population monitoring and habitat conservation. Nature Saskatchewan also has funding available for the construction of wildlife-friendly fencing and for native seeding projects, both of which can contribute to the conservation of Sprague’s Pipits and the improvement of their habitat by keeping grazing on the landscape.

If you happen to hear or spot a Sprague’s Pipit this summer, please report your sighting to Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free HOOTline, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email Emily Putz at Every sighting helps with tracking the population and range of this iconic prairie bird. All caller and program participant information is kept confidential.


photo credit: T. Thomas


Loggerhead Shrikes: The Songbird that Thinks it’s a Hawk

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Hearing a ruckus in your yard? The loud shrieking coming from the bush or shelterbelt may be a nest full of shikes waiting for their fresh meal! These migratory songbirds are a threatened species, and Saskatchewan is an important part of their breeding range. They return to the Canadian prairies each spring from their wintering grounds in southern Texas and Mexico; and in July, their young are starting to leave the nest!

There can be up to seven young in the nest waiting with hungry mouths to be fed by their overworked parents. Look for nests about chest high in shrubs around your yard, preferably near something prickly. “July is a busy time for the Loggerhead Shrike, explains Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator of Shrubs for Shrikes with Nature Saskatchewan. “the adults are out hunting constantly to try to provide enough food for their nestlings, and soon those young will be fledging and venturing out of the nest to learn to hunt for themselves.”

Shrikes are predatory songbirds; they are opportunistic hunters that will catch anything they can carry. They share many of the same hunting practices as larger birds of prey, such as a hawk, but they have dainty songbird feet that lack the powerful talons of other predatory birds, meaning they can’t hold down the prey to tear pieces off. To get around this they will hang their prey on thorns or barbed wire, and use their sharp beak to rip off the edible pieces. Shrikes make excellent pest control since their main food sources are insects such as grasshoppers, mice, voles, and even snakes.

“This is a great time to hunt, but can also be a dangerous time for the young,” Putz continues,” as road mortality is one of their biggest threats.” Watch for shrikes by the roadside, especially near shelterbelts, as they are attracted to insects on the road. The fledglings will not be able to move out of the way of a moving vehicle, so slow down if it looks like there’s a bird on the road.

Nature Saskatchewan runs a voluntary stewardship program, Shrubs for Shrikes, that works with rural landholders to conserve and monitor 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 or email Personal information is never shared without permission and every sighting helps this species’ recovery!

photo credit: M. Yaskowich


Young Burrowing Owls Spread Their Wings

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The arrival of summer signals the beginning of family vacations and road trips across the prairies. This also includes young Burrowing Owls, who are now starting to leave the nest and forage for themselves after weeks of being provided for by their parents. The young owls are practicing their hunting and flying skills, and venturing out on their own to other burrows nearby. “At dusk, the road surface tends to be warmer than surrounding grasslands, attracting many small insects and rodents,” explains Grace Pidborchynski, coordinator of Operation Burrowing Owl at Nature Saskatchewan, “As a result, young owls are also attracted to the road and ditch when they begin searching for prey.” This can lead to vehicle collisions as the owls will fly low to the ground in search of food. Motorists are asked to be alert and on the lookout for owls as they drive on highways and the many grid roads that cross our province.

The Burrowing Owl population across the prairies has been steadily declining since the mid-80s, making the survival of each juvenile owl critical for the survival and growth of the species. Motorists can help reduce the risk of owl-vehicle collisions by slowing down near known or potential nest sites and being on the lookout for low-flying birds. Slowing down can also increase your chances of spotting this endangered owl!

Burrowing Owls are about 9 inches tall, with mottled brown and white feathers, bushy white ‘eyebrows’, and long featherless legs. They are often found nesting in native prairie that has been well grazed, as the short grass helps them to spot predators. Burrowing Owls nest in abandoned burrows excavated by badgers, ground squirrels, or other burrowing mammals. They are most often seen standing on their burrow, sitting on nearby fence posts, or foraging in ditches.

Nature Saskatchewan has been involved with the conservation of the Burrowing Owl since 1987, relying on the help of landholders and the public. Operation Burrowing Owl partners with stewards across southern and central Saskatchewan and uses voluntary agreements to conserve the rapidly disappearing habitat required by the owls, as well as to monitor the Saskatchewan population. The program works alongside steward practices, and the land continues to be used in a way that benefits the steward. If you see a Burrowing Owl, please give us a call on our toll-free Hoot Line, at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email “You will be helping to monitor the population and aid with conservation efforts,” Pidborchynski mentions. All caller and program participant information is never shared without permission.

photo credit: Boyd Coburn

Loggerhead Shrike Surveys a Success!

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After the couple of crazy weeks we had during the Piping Plover surveys, I thought that with the onset of summer, the weather would be more cooperative but I was wrong. Our Loggerhead Shrike surveys took place mainly in the car as we drove along pre-determined routes and kept an eye out for shrikes. They like to nest in shrubs and shelterbelts and are attracted to roads due to the insect activity. Mid-July is the best time to spot the threatened bird because the fledglings are growing up and learning to hunt for themselves. The only walking we had to do for the survey was around the occasional cemetery looking in the shelterbelts for active nests. Due to a minor foot injury, I stood watch over the shelterbelts near the car while my field partner Nathaniel walked the perimeter.

We started the adventure in Maple Creek on Wednesday at 8:00 AM. After getting our coffee to get us going, we began the survey route that would meander down to Consul. What we expected to only take a couple of hours ended up taking two days! The weather was beautiful, just a little too hot for Loggerhead Shrikes to be active. Once it hit 30 degrees, we had to pause the survey due to the high heat which reduces the detectability of shrikes. After a quick regroup to make a new plan, we decided to visit our participants in the area and try again the next morning.

The next day, we were ready and on the road by 6:00 AM to try and finish the survey within the time we had. It was already Thursday and the forecast was above 30 degrees for the rest of the week. The early morning surveying was almost peaceful after I had my morning coffee to keep me awake, or at least that’s what I thought until we got driving and Nathaniel felt something small fly into the car through an open window. We thought it was nothing until a bumblebee flew right into Nathaniel’s face! We quickly found an approach to pull over and try to get the bee out except he did not want to leave and found that the space between the windshield and the dash was a nice place to hang out. With lots of guidance, I got what I believed was our bee out of the car. I looked over at Nathaniel and said “That has to be the bee that was flying around, what are the chances there is another bee right outside of our car right now?” With a sigh of relief, we got back in the car and began driving again. When there wasn’t any suitable habitat for Loggerhead Shrikes, we were able to speed up a bit. After about 5 minutes, we heard buzzing again and assumed the noise was coming from the open window. That's when the bee decided to make another appearance, flying at Nathaniel’s face again! We got to another approach and attempted to get it out but we gave up after a couple of minutes to continue our survey, this time accepting we had a new insect companion.

Near the end of our survey, I got what I thought was our bee out and exclaimed, “That has to be our bee! What are the chances that there is a different bee while we have one in our car?”. I found myself wrong again. Continuing our drive, the bee made a final appearance before flying out the window, and after over an hour, we said goodbye to our new friend. The rest of the survey route was not as eventful but with 10 Loggerhead Shrike sightings, including young fledglings, I think it was quite successful.



photo: N. Hak



2024 Fall Meet and 75th Anniversary Celebration

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Our 75th Anniversary Committee has been hard at work to make sure this year is one to remember and the Meets are a big part of the celebration! For the Fall Meet, September 13-14 in Regina, staff, board members and representatives from local societies in Regina and Saskatoon are excited to bring you another wonderful weekend of presentations, field trips and more!
Our friends and cohosts at Nature Regina have planned two fantastic field trip options to choose from exploring the Qu’Appelle Valley! These tours will fill up fast, so register early to get the tour you want!
For full details and to learn how to register please click here.
Not able to attend the whole weekend? You can still join us for the 75th Anniversary Banquet at the Conexus Arts Centre! Tickets are $65 and can be purchased by contacting our office, or through our website.