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May
6
Arbor day/week officially proclaimed by the Government of Saskatchewan

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The Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA), an affiliate of Nature Saskatchewan, has received official word from the Hon. Dustin Duncan, Minister of the Environment, that the Government of Saskatchewan officially proclaimed May 22 as Arbor Day and May 17-24 as Arbor Week on April 25.

In doing so, the Hon. Dustin Duncan indicated that the announcement will be publicized through Saskatchewan Environment's Facebook page. On the Certificate of Recognition Mr. Duncan states, ”I request the citizens of the Province of Saskatchewan to recognize this day/week.”  Thank you, Minister Duncan.

The YFBTA began working towards this goal early in 2019 by asking the Province to proclaim and publicize an annual spring Arbor Day/Arbor Week. The support of Nature Saskatchewan added appreciated weight to the call.

For many years within the province an annual spring observance occurred that involved most schools, many community groups and municipalities, and concerned individuals. The day was marked with the planting of trees, the cleaning up of yards, streets and alleys, choosing and protecting a particular area of natural habitat and generally celebrating our dependence upon nature and specifically trees.

Arbor Day was founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a newspaperman, in Nebraska City, Nebraska. On the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted. The idea and the observance of the special day spread quickly through North America and to many other parts of the globe.

Arbor Day and Arbor Week observances are locally planned and carried out. They are participatory and at their best when the activities are inter-generational and involving of as many citizens as possible. Groups can work together or an individual  or household can celebrate by planting a tree and encouraging a neighbour to do the same.

This year, because of COVID-19, it may take a little more imagination to become personally engaged and for groups and communities to plan special projects or activities safely. Whatever you do will contribute to healthier communities, healthier environments, a healthier world. Plant a tree.

Apr
22
Calling all Private Eyes! Spring is Here and It’s Time to NatureWatch!

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Rebecca Magnus
Conservation & Education Manager, Nature Saskatchewan

 

With all the little ninjas and private eyes in and around their yards this spring, the coming weeks will be a perfect time to get them engaged in NatureWatch! This citizen science project gives public of all ages an opportunity to learn about their environment while contributing to a data set that scientists need to monitor and protect it. This data is being used to add to our knowledge of the effects of climate change and other impacts on biodiversity. People of all ages and skill sets can participate in NatureWatch. The four programs allow you to participate at your own pace and chosen locations, even in your own backyard. While the monitoring protocols are scientifically rigorous, they are quick and easy to follow, and cater to beginner and expert alike. Some of the NatureWatch programs are PlantWatch, FrogWatch, and WormWatch.

PlantWatch participants observe the first bloom, mid bloom and leaf out of 18 native or 2 non-native plants in their area. Observations of a plant at the same location over many years will help us understand how climate change is affecting the blooming times of specific plants in Saskatchewan. FrogWatch participants listen for toad and frog calls during mating season in the springtime. Frogs and toads can be used as indicator species of a healthy environment, because they are vulnerable to changes in the atmosphere, the land, or the water. By participating in this program you will help increase our knowledge of frogs and toads in Canada. WormWatch participants record how many and what species of earthworms are located at their site. The number of worms in a specific volume of earth can tell us a lot about how the habitat is being managed, because earthworms are very sensitive to soil disturbance.

All of these monitoring programs can be found on the website www.naturewatch.ca

For more information on how to participate in NatureWatch, please follow Nature Saskatchewan on facebook and Instagram. Feel free to also email Rebecca at rmagnus@naturesask.ca. Thanks, and Happy NatureWatching on this beautiful Earth Day!

Apr
14
Spring is here and our HOOT line is up and running!

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Hi All, those of us working at Nature Saskatchewan on the Stewards of Saskatchewan Banner Programs wanted you to know that we are still here, working from home, to keep our programs running.

Spring is (sort of?) here! Nature Saskatchewan’s HOOT Line (1-800-667-4668) is being answered at home by our dedicated Office Coordinator, Becky Quist, and she is beginning to receive reports on sightings! As spring warms up, people often notice songbirds returning to their yards and feeders. This is also the time that our focal species will be returning as well, and we would be grateful to hear of any sightings of these rare birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles!

Have you heard the Northern Leopard frogs calling? Their call sounds like a finger rubbing a balloon, followed by a soft “chuckle”. Piping Plovers have been running around the beaches and shorelines since early March setting up territories and will begin building their nests later this month. Short-eared Owls born in SK last year spent the winter in the prairies, but the adults will be returning this month to breed, so keep an eye out for these majestic ground-nesters!

As you have likely noticed, the Richardson's ground squirrels are up and racing around. That means the American Badgers and Ferruginous Hawks will be out hunting them and we would be very excited to hear about sightings of these two species at risk.

Please email us or call us on our HOOTline (1-800-667-4668)! The excitement in our callers’ voices and the tone of their emails is palpable. It is one of our most enjoyable times of the day when we listen to those messages. It’s a pleasure write back or to chat with our participants and conservation-minded folks! So, keep your eyes out for these and other species of wildlife returning to our province, and let us know what, when and where you made your sightings in southern and central Saskatchewan!

Apr
8
Spring Meet cancellation

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Due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic we regretfully have made the decision to cancel the 2020 Spring Meet.
 
We are planning to hold the annual general meeting virtually on Monday June 22 at 7PM. Details for how you can participate and documents for the meeting will be sent to members via email. If you have not provided Nature Saskatchewan with an email and wish to participate, please send us an email (info@naturesask.ca) or call our office (1-800-667-4668).
 
Check back often for updates.
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.

At this time we are also unable to ship any books or merchandise. Please wait to order any of these items until our office has re-opened. That being said, we are still able to process  memberships and donations that are processed through our web-store.

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

 

Dec
5
It's time for Christmas Bird Counts!

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The are several bird counts being held throughout the province. Each count is led by an experienced birder so it is a great place to start if you are new to briding. Take a look!

 

  • December 14 - Clark’s Crossing, register with the Saskatoon Nature Society or call 647-390-6645
     
  • December 14 - Southwest Naturalists (Swift Current), (Message on Facebook to register)
  • December 14 - Craven (count area includes Lumsden). Please contact Chris Harris at 306-569-5300 or chrisgharris2013@gmail.com to RSVP or for details.
  • December 16 – Gardiner Dam (Danielson Provincial Park region), register with the Saskatoon Nature Society or call 306-249-3280
     
  • December 17 - Fort Qu'Appelle, call 306-332-3070 for more information.
  • December 21 – Saltcoats & area, call Arden & Donna Bradford at 306-774-7730 or Gerri & Ron Knudsen at 306-744-2969, rgknudsen@sasktel.net to register.
  • December 26 – Moose Jaw, call 306-690-6267 to register
  • December 28 – Regina - Unless you have received instructions otherwise, we’ll be meeting in front the Legislature by the statue of the Queen at 8:30 a.m. and will split into groups from there. Meet for lunch at 2617 Argyle for soup, cheeses, pickles, and pulled pork sandwiches before heading back out for the afternoon.

    Please Contact Brett Quiring at 306-551-8729 or bquiring@sasktel.net to RSVP or for more details.
  • January 4 – Balgonie (including White City and Pilot Butte)

    The Regina group will meet at the Royal Sask Museum parking lot at 8:30 a.m., and then drive to the count circle. Locals who live in the area can meet =at the Tim Hortons’ parking lot in White City. We should arrive at about 8:50, and then we will assign count areas from there. We will meet for lunch at The Ice House in Emerald Park at noon.

    Please Contact Brett Quiring at 306-551-8729 or bquiring@sasktel.net to RSVP, or for more details.
  • January 4 – Pike Lake/ Whitecap, register online or call 306-956-3437
     

Christmas Bird Counts for Kids
 

  • December 8, 2 pm – Yorkton – Ages 5-15 accompanied by an adult. Meet at the Tupper Avenue entrance to Logan Green. Bring binoculars if you have them and dress warmly.
  • January 2, 9:45 am-3 pm – Saskatoon – Saskatoon Nature Society and Saskatoon Zoo Society are hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. There will be 20-30 minute bird walks at the top of each hour. Further information available online or call 306-370-8839.
  • January 4, 1-4 pm – Regina – Nature Saskatchewan is hosting a Christmas Bird Count for Kids at Wascana Park (2900 Wascana Dr.). Join us for bird walks throughout the park followed by hot chocolate and snacks. We will be treated to a visit from Loki the crow, courtesy of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation. Register early as spaces are limited  at306-780-9481 or rmagnus@naturesask.ca
     

*Thank you to EcoFriendly Sask for their help in compiling this list*

Aug
23
Farewell from the RPR Field Crew

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Hello once again fellow nature enthusiasts! Hard to believe our last trip for the summer has come and gone, but before we say goodbye we are back to share some of our final adventures from the field!

Our third last trip took us to the sandy soils of Southwest Saskatchewan on the search for Smooth Goosefoot. This plant is threatened and is unique in that its small green sphere-shaped flowers grow in dense clusters. Aside from growing in eroded sandy soils, you can find it at the edges of dunes. Our search was quite successful as we came across many occurrences of Smooth Goosefoot including the tallest and widest one we have seen all summer! This trip turned out be an exciting one in terms of reptile sightings too as we had some of the coolest interactions with snakes! As we were trekking through the sandy soils I spotted something slowly moving between the vegetation out of the corner of my eye. As I looked closer I realized it was snake and shouted with joy to Levi! It was the first time either of us had ever seen a bullsnake! Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, the bull snake stopped, dug its head into the sand, and then continued to burrow as we watched the rest of its body disappear in front of us. We also were lucky enough to see two hog-nosed snakes. Later that trip we were treated to one of nature’s finest stormy skies as an orange and pink filled sunset sky was overlaid with blueish-grey clouds with flashes of lightning.

 

Smooth Goosefoot (top left), the stormy sky (top right), a defensive hog-nosed snake (bottom left), bull snake burrowing (bottom right) 

 

 

Next we ventured into the hills on the hunt for a threatened plant known as Tiny Cryptantha. This plant is a member of the Borage family. Its hairy or bristly appearing leaves are a key feature in identification. Even though after three days of searching we did not find the target species, we took in the spectacular views of the rising sun spreading a gorgeous golden glow over the rolling hills and a great amount of wildlife including deer, golden eagles, coyotes, turkey vultures, and cute rabbits. A couple of days in, we switched gears from our usual searching routine into a visit trip. This gave us the opportunity to say hi to several landowners and exchange stories of nature and plants which is always great! We were even taken on some tours around their lands to see the wildlife in their yard, and of course we got to stop and say hi to several friendly and cuddly farm dogs! One of the highlights during these visits was getting to watch both male and female hummingbirds feed. We also got to see the entertaining sight of watching ducks munch down on grasshoppers which I had no idea was even part of their diet! The drives between locations were quite pleasant as it seemed to be a week full of baby animals. We saw an abundance of pronghorn accompanied with babies (super scrawny and cute by the way!), fawns, a mama coyote carrying her pup, and two fox pups. What would a summer be without getting lost on back roads?! On our way back from a visit we missed our turn off and ended up on an unfamiliar road which led to one of our most exciting scenes of the summer: four loggerhead shrike chicks (the predatory songbird that is the target species of our Shrubs for Shrikes program) all in a line on the thorny branches of buffaloberry! During our explorations we stopped in at the Great Sandhills, the Standing Rock, and the T-rex Discovery center.

 

 

Loggerhead shrike chicks Photo credit: Natanis Kuster

 

 

Some of the beautiful sunrises we saw throughout our last few trips. 

 

 

A pronghorn we came face to face with (left), Myself and Levi during our explorations at the Great Sandhills (right).

 

Our final journey took us in a different direction as we headed out southeast near Estevan with hopes of seeing Buffalograss. Its preferred habitat is dry, shallow coulee bottoms and clay soil slopes. This grass is very interesting as the male and female grasses appear different. The males are easily identified by orange coloured anthers and can grow up to 12 cm tall while female flowers appear shorter and often entangled amongst the short curly grass with the seeds encased in a burr. A good time to see Buffalograss is in August as patches will appear golden separating it from the surrounding grass. This monitoring trip was a huge success, and we found most populations to still be alive and thriving! It also had Levi very happy as the fields were filled with fescue which is his favourite. We experienced a bit of an eerie feeling on our last day there as ten turkey vultures were circling in the sky in close proximity to us. It was neat to see so many at one time!

 

 

Male Buffalograss with anthers (left), female Buffalograss (middle) photo credit: Levi Boutin, photographic evidence of Levi as happy as can be in Fescue (right). 

 

On our final drive back to the city with thunder and lightning rolling in all round us, we recalled all our favourite moments from the summer: stumbling upon a moose skull, finding pincushion cactus flowers after months of searching and anticipation, making friends with owls, staying in hotels with bats, and so much more! It has been a summer filled with laughter, learning, beautiful native plants, various wildlife experiences, and many country music sing alongs. It truly has been one for the books! And with that we say farewell and hope everyone has a great rest of their summer and gets a chance to head out to experience their own wild Saskatchewan adventures!

 

 

 

Dotted blazing star (top left), Pincushion cactus flower (top middle), Prairie lily (top right), Gaillardia (middle left), Prairie coneflower (middle right), the moose skull we found (bottom left), Ferruginous hawk (bottom right). Photo credit: Natanis Kuster

 

 

 

Take care everyone!

Natanis  – Rare Plant Rescue Searching Crew member