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Sep
24
Encouraging Young Conservationists

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Hello everyone, my name is Emily Dornstauder. Ever since I was a little, the banding station has been a place close to my heart. For me, it is not just releasing, identifying, extracting, and banding, it is so much more. It’s the staff and volunteers. It’s the random things that are said on the banding trail. It’s my summer home; my happy place. I started attending LMBO with my grandparents when we first got our cottage in 2006. I would beg my grandparents and parents to take my sister and I every chance we could so we could “go let go the birdies.” When I was 7 years old one of the banders, Ross Dickson, told me that when I was 14 I could start volunteering and even banding/extracting the birds. And sure enough in the summer of 2017, I had extracted my first bird and started scribing for Jordan and Ryan. I had become a volunteer. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was. Saying I was over the moon, would have been an understatement!  In 2018, I banded my first bird and created the LMBO version of, the hit board game, CLUE. In 2019, I continued extracting, banding, and building strong relationships with the banders. In August of 2020, I was lucky to be an intern at LMBO, because of coronavirus. My internship consisted of pretty much the same things that I have been doing in previous years, along with some new tasks and of course the COVID 19 protocol. It was so weird not having the public come and join Jordan and me on net runs, however, it allowed me to learn a lot more in terms of small details about each bird I was either unsure about or needed a second opinion on. I was able to do more 1 on 1 learning/training and asking my own questions rather than answering those of the public. I hope that next year we can get mostly back to normal. Nevertheless, we are all taking each day as it comes and hoping for the best in these strange times. Thank you for reading a little bit about me and my journey at LMBO! I highly recommend coming to check us out when it is safe to do so! Stay safe everyone and happy birding!

 

- Emily Dornstauder

 

 

Photo credit: Alan R. Smith (right) with Emily (centre) and Ava (left) Dornstauder; pictures drawn by Emily and Ava for the banding station at LMBO

 

Aug
18
August is the Month for Sandy Dune Specialists in Saskatchewan!

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While thinking of the prairies might bring to mind rolling grasslands and big blue skies, parts of southern Saskatchewan are also much sandier than many people realize. As the ice sheets retreated 10,000 years ago and remnant glaciers melted, the resulting glacial lakes and water channels gathered sediment to form ancient sand bars that would eventually form the many sand hills of Saskatchewan. This includes the well known Great Sand Hills and Elbow Sand Hills, massive areas with wide open active dunes, but also lesser known areas right across the southern portion of the province, including the Mortlach, Dundurn, Webb, and Burstall Sand Hill areas.

These sandy habitats support unique ecosystems. They are home to sand dune specialist species found nowhere else, including many of the province’s rare plants. In the month of August two of these rare plant species, Smooth Goosefoot and Hairy Prairie-clover, are in bloom, making it the perfect time to get out and search for them!

 

Smooth Goosefoot is a small annual plant with a yellowish green colour that is federally listed as a threatened species. Its leaves are fleshy and smooth with a visible central vein. The flowers resemble small balls and grow in dense clusters that are sparsely spaces along the branching stems. Smooth Goosefoot likes to grow at the edges of dunes and blowouts and along slopes of stabilized sand hills. It can be found in 11 Saskatchewan sand hill complexes mostly in the southwest Great Sand Hills area, but also within the Mortlach, Elbow, and Dundurn Sand Hills.

 

Hairy Prairie-clover is a somewhat woody perennial species that is listed as special concern in Canada. It looks similar to the much more common Purple Prairie-clover, but as its name suggests the entire plant is covered in soft dense hairs. Purple flowers grow in long spikes with the lower, older flowers opening first. “The whole plant is soft to the touch, including when the seeds start to develop,” explains Emily Putz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “A good way to tell it apart from some of its look-a-likes is to run a stem through your hands, none of the other prairie clover species are nearly as hairy.” Hairy Prairie-clover grows in sand blowouts and partially stabilized sites, found within the Mortlach and Dundurn Sand Hills.

 

Just like many of the province's rare plants, these species are threatened by a number of factors contributing to habitat loss. “Stabilization of dune habitat is a big challenge for specialist species,” explains Putz, “lack of grazing, invasion of non-native species such as leafy spurge, and encroachment of woody shrubs and trees can all contribute, making it hard for these plants to find the kind of habitat they need.” Other threats such as sand and gravel extraction, oil and gas activity, and changes to hydrological processes due to climate change also lead to declines.

If you or someone you know own land with sandy soils in the areas mentioned, we encourage you to take a look in your pasture this month and report any sightings to Nature Saskatchewan’s Rare Plant Rescue Program. New sightings contribute to a better understanding of these species’ distributions in the province and can help inform recovery actions in the future.

 

Since 2002 Nature Saskatchewan’s Rare Plant Rescue program has worked with landowners to raise awareness about Saskatchewan’s rare plants, document and monitor rare plant occurrences, and conserve rare plant habitat in Saskatchewan. If you think you’ve seen these species or have any questions on the Rare Plant Rescue program, please let us know by calling our toll-free Hoot Line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or by emailing rpr@naturesask.ca. Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.

 

Photo credit: Candace Neufeld

 

Aug
11
Let’s Get Ready To Celebrate Monarchs Together On August 22nd!

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The last couple weeks has seen a surge in Monarch butterfly and caterpillar (larvae) sightings. With the up-coming national Flight of the Monarch Day on August 22, now is the perfect time to sharpen your Monarch identification skills and capture some photos and observations to share in the celebration!

 “Follow us on social media to join in the celebration on August 22nd” says Rebecca Magnus, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “There will be something for everyone to participate  in the virtual celebration, and participants can even win prizes!” explains Magnus. “You can start now by getting out and exploring your NatureHood to see if you can spot and photograph Monarch butterflies and caterpillars”.

Monarch butterflies are identifiable by their bright orange colouring with black veins throughout their wings, along with white spots on their black body and the outside edges of their wings. “Watch out for look-a-likes such as the Viceroy,” explains Magnus. “Viceroys look very similar but have an extra stripe on their hind wings that cross their veins.” The Monarch caterpillars have distinct white, yellow and black stripes with black tentacles on both ends. Magnus adds “you will see these caterpillars nearly exclusively on milkweed plants”.

Monarchs are a species at risk throughout their range with Saskatchewan being at the northern extent of their range. Magnus says “it takes between three and four generations for Monarchs to get from their over-wintering grounds, in Mexico, to Saskatchewan.” She adds “the generation emerging now will live the longest, making the full journey south back to Mexico to overwinter, so it is extra important that we help conserve the habitat for this incredibly important generation of Monarchs.” Nature Saskatchewan runs the voluntary Stewards of Saskatchewan program that works with communities and landowners to conserve Monarch habitat and help monitor the population each year.

If you see a Monarch in Saskatchewan, or would like more information about the national Flight of the Monarch Day on August 22nd or the Stewards of Saskatchewan program, call Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668), text (306)780-9832 or email us at outreach@naturesask.ca. Feel free to share photos, we love to see them!

Let’s Get Ready To Celebrate Monarchs Together On August 22nd!

 

Photo credit: M. Ranalli

 

Aug
4
For the young Burrowing Owls, it’s now time to leave the nest!

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Regina, SK – August 4, 2020 – The beginning of August marks the end of an important milestone in the life cycle of a Burrowing Owl and the beginning of another. Young Burrowing Owls are now starting to leave the nest and forage for themselves after weeks of being fed by their parents. The young owls are practicing their hunting and flying skills and venturing out on their own to other burrows nearby. They are a bit like teenagers now and are becoming more independent as they begin to prepare for their fall migration to southern Texas and Mexico. For people travelling in rural Saskatchewan, this is an especially good time to spot Burrowing Owls. However, it can also be a dangerous time for inexperienced young Burrowing Owls. Owls will often forage in roadside ditches, looking for insects and rodents. “At dusk the road surface tends to be warmer than the surrounding area, attracting many small insects and rodents,” explains Kaytlyn Burrows, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan, “as a result, young owls are also attracted to the road and ditch when they begin searching for prey.

 

Every year, young Burrowing Owls are injured or killed by vehicle collisions while they forage along the road. The Burrowing Owl population has been steadily declining, making the survival of each owl critical for the long term growth of the population. “Motorists can reduce the risk of owl-vehicle collisions by slowing down and being cautious for owls foraging on roads and in ditches”, says Burrows. Slowing down will also increase your chances of spotting this endangered bird!

 

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 or tame pastures that have been well grazed. Burrowing Owls nest in abandoned burrows excavated by badgers, ground squirrels (gophers), or other burrowing mammals, and are often seen standing on or next to their burrow, sitting on nearby fence posts, or foraging in roadside ditches.

 

Since 1987 Nature Saskatchewan’s Operation Burrowing Owl has worked with landowners to conserve and enhance Burrowing Owl habitat in Saskatchewan. In addition, the program relies on the participation of landowners to help monitor the Burrowing Owl population. Currently, there are over 350 participating landowners across Saskatchewan. If you spot a Burrowing Owl, please let us know by calling our toll-free Hoot Line at 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or by email at obo@naturesask.ca. Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.

Photo credit: James Villeneuve

Jul
13
Who’s That Shrieking in My Back Yard? The Shrikes have Hatched!

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Regina, SK – July 9, 2020 – We all know that hungry babies are insistent, but these babies sure do make a lot of noise! Loggerhead Shrikes (a.k.a Butcherbirds) have particularly noisy little ones, and they just might startle you if you’re not ready for them. The little masked bandits will steal away your quiet lazy afternoon, and have you looking around for the culprit!

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 right now, their chicks are hatching - noisily!

“Now is the best time to see the adult Loggerhead Shrikes because they are constantly on the search for food, to feed their ravenous nestlings. While some chicks are in the nest growing feathers and muscle in preparation for flight, others have jumped ship and are clumsily following their parents out on hunting expeditions”, explains Shirley Bartz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan. “The adults’ hunting strategies include perching high on a twig, hovering above a field and diving onto prey, or walking on the ground while flashing their white wing patches to startle prey into movement”.

The shrikes provide natural pest control as their diet consists largely of grasshoppers and other insects. They also eat mice, voles, frogs, small birds, and even snakes! Shrikes will sometimes take prey larger than they are. However, with their little songbird feet, they are unable to grip their prey and tear pieces off like a hawk would. To get around this, shrikes impale their prey on thorns or barbed-wire, and then use their hooked beak to tear off edible bits. “This is how they got the name Butcherbird,” says Shirley, “because they hang their meat like your neighbourhood butcher.”

Loggerhead Shrikes are slightly smaller than a robin, with a white breast and belly, a grey back, and contrasting white markings on their black wings and tail. They also have a distinctive black eye “mask” and a black hooked beak. Adults Loggerhead Shrikes have a song composed of short bubbling trills, as well as a variety of rasps and clacks. When alarmed Shrikes give a distinctive high pitch shriek.

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

- 30-

 

For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:

Shirley Bartz (306) 780-9832, email outreach@naturesask.ca
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator           

           

Melissa Ranalli (306) 780-9270, email mranalli@naturesask.ca
Species at Risk Manager

 

 

Photo credit: George Tosh

 

Jun
9
Back to the Beaches with Our Breeding Piping Plovers!

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Regina, SK – June 8, 2020 – At long last our provincial parks and lake side campsites have opened throughout the province, and many of us can’t wait to head to the beach! While you’re out there taking in the summer sun, please remember to keep an eye out for other families who are out for a stroll – Piping Plover chicks and their parents may be wandering the shoreline with you!

 

“As we return to our favourite beaches, it’s a great time to see Piping Plovers! This endangered species has some of its highest numbers of breeding pairs in Saskatchewan. Mid-June is a time to be watchful as late nesters may still be incubating eggs or have young chicks toddling along the water’s edge, making them vulnerable to trampling”, explains Shirley Bartz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator with Nature Saskatchewan.

 

“Piping Plovers’ best defense is camouflage. Nests are just a shallow depression lined with small stones, eggs look like speckled rocks, and chicks blend in with the beach sand until we see them run. Although chicks can walk and run within hours of hatching, they are not able to fly for the first couple of weeks out of the nest,” adds Shirley. “So, to give Piping Plovers the best chance possible, we are asking beachgoers and anglers to keep watch around their feet and along shorelines, like those at Lake Diefenbaker.”

 

Piping Plovers are a small shorebird identified by their distinct markings – a black band on their forehead and a single black band around their neck. They also have a bright white belly, grey-brown backs, 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 their neck instead of one. “Like the Killdeer, Piping Plovers have a broken wing display around their nests: they pretend to be injured to draw potential predators (e.g., you!) away from their nest. But, it is all an act, and the bird will fly back to its chicks once it has lured you far enough away”, says Shirley.

 

Between now and early August, Piping Plovers will be eating as much as possible in an attempt to build up body fat to fuel their 3,500 km flight back to the Gulf of Mexico where they spend the winter. “Since Saskatchewan has the highest numbers of breeding Piping Plovers in Canada, we feel a great responsibility to give these endangered shorebirds the best chance possible for breeding success before their long journey south,” says Shirley.

 

Nature Saskatchewan works with landowners and the public to monitor and conserve suitable shorelines. If you see a Piping Plover please call our toll-free Hoot Line at: 1-800-667-HOOT (4668) or email outreach@naturesask.ca, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668). “As residents of Saskatchewan, we can all work together to help this amazing species survive and thrive.”

 

Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.

Mar
19
Temporary Office Closure

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In light of Covid-19 and the recent protective measures put in place by the Government of Saskatchewan and for the safety and health of our staff and their families, our office is closed until further notice. We will be working remotely and will be accessible by email. We will be re-evaluating on an ongoing basis. You can find a staff listing here in order to best direct your email.

For any urgent questions or concerns, please e-mail info@naturesask.ca, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and visit our website at www.naturesask.ca for further information and updates concerning events and office availability going forward. Please note that events and gatherings have been cancelled across the province for the near future.

Thank you for your understanding. We encourage you to continue to enjoy nature on your own or with members of your household. Please remember the importance of social distancing while being out in nature. Take this time to slow down and appreciate the calm that nature can provide. 

*If you are needing information regarding sick or injured wildlife, please contact one of our wildlife rehabilitation groups in the province; Living Sky Wildlife in Saskatoon region and Salthaven West in the Regina region.*

Mar
13
Saskatchewan Needs a Wetland Conservation Policy We Can Celebrate

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On February 2, 2020 people all around the globe celebrated World Wetlands Day, a day where we recognize and celebrate the many benefits that wetlands provide. This year’s theme was “Wetland Biodiversity Matters: Life thrives in wetlands”.

In Saskatchewan, we’ve lost, and continue to lose, many of our wetlands and the benefits they afford. Wetlands positively impact people from all walks of life by providing clean water, flood and drought protection, and recreation opportunities. When wetlands are drained, these ecological goods and services are lost.

In late 2019, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) began consulting stakeholders on a new Wetland Conservation Policy for agricultural land that would allow drainage to occur, but with limits designed to ensure preservation of wetland benefits. This policy has the power to reduce the effects of wetland loss and protect wetland benefits, while demonstrating that the agriculture industry is committed to increased sustainability. It falls short.

The biggest deficiency of WSA’s policy is the provision allowing landowners to drain smaller wetlands in exchange for implementing alternate conservation measures, such as planting winter cereals or protecting other natural areas. While conserving other habitat types is well-intentioned, wetlands provide a unique suite of values that are quite simply not met by conserving any other habitats. This would be like swapping out your fridge for your stove in your kitchen. They both look great but perform completely different tasks. The tasks and services provided by wetlands are just not met by other habitats to the same degree.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) believes the Saskatchewan government should ensure all developments that result in the loss of wetlands follow a true mitigation sequence: avoid, reduce, and compensate. Avoid harm to wetlands where possible, reduce impacts to wetlands if avoidance cannot be achieved, and finally, as a last resort, compensate for loss of wetlands. Compensation must include restoration of all features being lost. This is standard practice for other industrial development in Saskatchewan and much of Canada. Replace wetlands with wetlands. It only makes sense and is most fair to those other industries that are already mitigating wetland loss for the benefit of Saskatchewan residents.

WSA’s Wetland Conservation Policy will have significant ramifications. If done correctly, a true mitigation policy for the agriculture sector will create a balance between the conservation needs of society and the production needs of agriculture. As a result, communities will experience less downstream flooding, recreational users and cottage owners will enjoy improved water quality, governments will better work toward climate change commitments through carbon storage, and wildlife enthusiasts will be confident that the fish and wildlife habitat they value will be there in perpetuity.

It’s time that Saskatchewan follows the lead of our neighbours in Alberta and Manitoba and develop a more balanced mitigation policy, one that offers protection for municipalities, producers, and society. This type of progressive policy will not only acknowledge the full range of benefits wetlands provide, but also ensure our ag producers are poised to reap the rewards of a more sustainable industry, including increased public trust and better access to world markets.

With anticipation, we look forward to celebrating that type of wetland policy for Saskatchewan on World Wetlands Day 2021.

Brian Hepworth
Manager of Provincial Operations, SK
Ducks Unlimited Canada

Jan
22
Where have the birds gone?

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January 22, 2020 - Regina, SK – In the Fall of 2019 a report was published in the online journal Science indicating that since 1970, the United States and Canada have lost nearly 3 billion birds and in general, bird species have declined by an alarming 29 percent. Of that, grassland bird species were found to be especially hit hard, with a 53 percent decrease in population numbers.

To many, the bird’s role in the ecosystem may seem insignificant. Often they go about fulfilling their role without much notice. In addition to being an important part of the food web they also play an important role in pest control. For instance, the endangered Loggerhead Shrike preys on pests such as rodents and grasshoppers while Barn Swallows are amazing aerial acrobats that feed on pesky mosquitos. Many bird species also aid in seed dispersal, pollination and even help to keep the environment clean, as in the case of species such as the Turkey Vulture.

Many people hear these heartbreaking statistics and feel that this problem, while indeed sad, is just too big to do anything about on a local level. In fact, Nature Saskatchewan believes that this is exactly where changes need to begin first. “Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in Canada. We can all do something to assist birds and nature, whether it be feeding birds, building nest boxes, preserving habitat on our properties or keeping our domestic cats indoors, we can all help birds in different ways,” says Lorne Scott, Conservation Director for Nature Saskatchewan.

Simple measures taken by local residents, such as installing a film visible to birds on your home windows, using less plastics, gardening with native plants and joining citizen science projects will all have a positive effect. One of the biggest ways we can help is by teaching children and others about the importance of birds and why we should appreciate them. "It is common knowledge that children who spend time outdoors are generally healthier. With an ever increasing urban population, children are further removed from nature. Field trips or nature hikes provide exercise and learning opportunities for all ages. Observing nature in our communities and in parks can lead to outdoor projects that assist birds and provide outlets for new adventures,” says Scott.

It is clear that changes need to be made if we hope to help the birds and in turn help ourselves. But big change often happens when small steps are taken by many. To learn more about this study and what you can do to help, go to www.3billionbirds.org.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Jordan Ignatiuk, Nature Saskatchewan Executive Director
306-780-9293 or jignatiuk@naturesask.ca

Lorne Scott, Nature Saskatchewan Conservation Director
306-306-695-2047 or 306-695-7458  lorne.scott@sasktel.net


 

Photo credit: Gary Houston

 

Dec
11
Christmas Bird Count for Kids

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Join us once again for an afternoon of bird watching, snacks and fun. The Christmas Bird Count for Kids will be held on January 4, 2020 in Wascana Centre (2900 Wascana Drive) from 1-4pm. Participants will head out in groups to see what winter birds can be found throughout Wascana Park. After the bird walks, we will head back to the centre for snacks, hot chocolate and a presentation from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation featuring Loki the live crow! The event is FREE and all ages are welcome to attend. Advance registration is required and space is limited. Please RSVP to Rebecca Magnus at 306-780-9481 or rmagnus@naturesask.ca