Archives for 2020
- Where have the birds gone?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorne Scott, Nature Saskatchewan Conservation Director
306-306-695-2047 or 306-695-7458 email@example.com
- Saskatchewan Needs a Wetland Conservation Policy We Can Celebrate
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.
Manager of Provincial Operations, SK
Ducks Unlimited Canada
- Temporary Office Closure
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.*
- Spring Meet cancellation
- 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 (email@example.com) or call our office (1-800-667-4668).Check back often for updates.
- Spring is here and our HOOT line is up and running!
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!
- Calling all Private Eyes! Spring is Here and It’s Time to NatureWatch!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and Happy NatureWatching on this beautiful Earth Day!
- Arbor day/week officially proclaimed by the Government of Saskatchewan
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.
- Welcome home! Burrowing Owls have returned to raise a family!
Regina, SK – June 2, 2020 – It is that time of year again when the endangered Burrowing Owl returns to the Prairies after a long migration from its wintering grounds in Texas and Mexico. But it’s no time to rest. After migration, the 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, approximately 9 inches tall, similar to the size of a robin, and their light and dark brown mottled plumage with white spots. They appear as though they are walking on stilts, due to their long featherless legs. They have a round head, with large yellow eyes, and white ‘eyebrows’. Unlike some other owl species, they are very active during the day; especially in the spring when gathering food for their young. During the nesting season, male Burrowing Owls can often be seen next to their burrows or on nearby fence posts while the female incubates the eggs down in the burrow.
Nesting is not always easy or successful. Burrowing Owls have many predators including hawks, foxes and even house cats, and finding a suitable nesting spot can be challenging. According to Nature Saskatchewan’s Operation Burrowing Owl Coordinator, Kaytlyn Burrows, “Burrowing Owls love open areas of short grasslands with vacant burrows for nesting. Since they cannot dig their own burrows, Burrowing Owls rely on badgers and Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, a.k.a. gophers, to do the dirty work for them. The owls also coexist with cattle very well and benefit from grazing, which keeps the grass short enough for the owls to spot their predators.”
If you discover Burrowing Owls on your land, congratulations! 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 runs the voluntary stewardship program Operation Burrowing Owl, and is currently working with just over 350 landowners and managers to protect and enhance Burrowing Owl habitat and monitor Burrowing Owl population numbers. “Nature Saskatchewan is 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 conserve and restore the habitat and population of these charismatic birds.
“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 also encourages the public to report any sighting of a Burrowing Owl by calling Nature Saskatchewan’s toll-free line, 1-800-667-HOOT (4668). “As residents of Saskatchewan, we can all work together to help this amazing species survive and thrive.”
Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.
- Notice of Annual General Meeting
Dear Members of Nature Saskatchewan,
We are in unprecedented times. Nature Saskatchewan’s Bylaws require that an Annual General Meeting be held within three months of the end of our fiscal year (March 31) in order to conduct certain business of the organization. Due to public health orders stemming from the current virus outbreak we have made the decision to move our Annual General Meeting online. We will be holding the AGM on the evening of June 22, 2020 at 7:00pm via Zoom. The agenda will be:
1. Acceptance of the Agenda
2. Minutes of 2019 Fall Business Meeting
3. Presentation of the Annual Report
4. Treasurer’s Report and Financial Statements
5. Appointment of Robert Szautner as Auditor for 2020-21
6. Nominations Report and approval of Board of Directors
7. Members Forum
In order to keep this meeting secure, we ask that all who wish to attend register in advance using the following link:
You will receive confirmation of your registration from Zoom. Please be sure to register prior to June 17, 2020. Documents necessary for the meeting will be emailed to registrants on June 19, 2020. Dial-in technical support will be available shortly before and during the AGM in the case that you require assistance.
We feel that the members forum is an important part of the Annual General Meeting and we are working to find an effective way of including this in our upcoming AGM. We ask that any questions you have in advance of the meeting be emailed to email@example.com. If questions arise during the presentation portion, there will be an opportunity to address these during the Q & A at the end of the meeting.
Should you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact Jordan Ignatiuk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-780-9293.
Thank you for your participation and understanding,
Nature Saskatchewan, President
- Back to the Beaches with Our Breeding Piping Plovers!
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 email@example.com, 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.
- Who’s That Shrieking in My Back Yard? The Shrikes have Hatched!
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.
For further information, please contact Nature Saskatchewan:
Shirley Bartz (306) 780-9832, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Habitat Stewardship Coordinator
Melissa Ranalli (306) 780-9270, email email@example.com
Species at Risk Manager
- Call for award nominations 2020
Each year at the Fall Meet, Nature Saskatchewan recognizes outstanding service and contributions that Society members, and/or affiliate and partner organizations have made towards Nature Saskatchewan’s objectives and goals.
Clear criteria have been established in terms of purpose, eligibility, and nomination procedure. This year, we are seeking nominations for three classes of awards – Volunteer Recognition Award, Fellows Award, and Conservation Award. The Volunteer Recognition Award and Conservation Award can be conferred on the same individual or organization more than once.
The Cliff Shaw Award will also be presented at the Fall Meet. The recipient is chosen by the Blue Jay editors.
Local societies throughout Saskatchewan play an important role in furthering conservation and appreciation of nature at the local level. There are always those who step up to the plate to organize meetings and outings, go the extra mile to help others connect with nature, or work silently and tirelessly behind the scenes. It’s time those contributions were recognized. We encourage anyone from a local society to consider nominating someone from your local group who is a Nature Saskatchewan member, who deserves recognition for any of these awards. Note that nominees for the Volunteer Recognition Award and Fellows Award must hold a current membership with Nature Saskatchewan.
In the interests of space, we are including the Nomination Procedure only for the first award, since the procedure is the same for all three awards. The criteria and names of past recipients can be found on the website at www.naturesask.ca/what-we-do/awards. The office can also send you a copy by mail, if you prefer.
- Nominations can be made by Nature Saskatchewan members, directors, and staff. Local societies should consider nominating someone from their local group.
- Self-nominations will not be accepted.
- Nominations are to be made in writing and submitted by the published deadline.
- Nominations are to include the following information: The nominee’s name, address, and phone number; The nominator’s name and contact information; Details of the nominee’s efforts.
- The Awards Committee will independently rate the nominations, and confirm that the nominee holds a current membership with Nature Saskatchewan.
- Chairperson of the Awards Committee will bring the recommendations to the Board.
- If ratified, the President or his/her delegate shall confer the respective Awards to the recipients at the Fall Meet.
The deadline to submit nominations for awards is August 21, 2020.
All Nature Saskatchewan Awards consist of the following:
- The announcement of the recipient’s name at the Fall Meet.
- The presentation of a certificate recognizing the contribution.
- An announcement in Blue Jay recognizing the distinction.
Volunteer Recognition Award
This award was created in 1996 to acknowledge an individual Nature Saskatchewan member who has devoted significant time and energy to promoting the objectives of the Society, including contributions made at the local society level. Priority for this award will be given to a Nature Saskatchewan member whose volunteer work has helped to enhance the public awareness of the Society (this may include contributions to a Society conservation project or program). It may be appropriate in some years to have this award shared by more than one person, if they have worked together on the same project, or on closely related projects.
Nature Saskatchewan members who have provided valuable time and effort in contributing to the Society are eligible. Local societies are encouraged to nominate someone from their local group who is a Nature Saskatchewan member, recognizing that Nature Saskatchewan values their contributions to the overall goals of the Society. The nominee must be a current member of Nature Saskatchewan. This award can be conferred on the same person more than once.
Purpose of the Award
A motion was passed at the 1987 Annual General Meeting creating a new class of honorary membership entitled “Fellows of the Saskatchewan Natural History Society”. This award recognizes an extensive and continuing contribution of time over many years to the Society and its objectives. Up to five recipients may be chosen annually. Once selected, Fellows hold that title as long as they remain members of the Society. It is the highest honour the Society can bestow upon a member.
Eligible individuals are members of Nature Saskatchewan who have provided an outstanding time and work contribution to the Society over many years. These contributions have been significant, and may have come in the form of leadership, communication, authorship, social media outreach, research, and other areas. The contributions have been cumulative or ongoing, and represent long-standing service or commitment to Nature Saskatchewan and its objectives.
Purpose of the Award
In addition to advocacy and other forms of conservation action, it is important that Nature Saskatchewan recognize, as it has done since 1953, those both within and beyond the organization who have done “meritorious work in the interest of conservation in Saskatchewan.”
Nature Saskatchewan’s Conservation Award will be presented to an individual or organization whose total contribution to conservation is outstanding, whether in relation to a particular project or in a number of roles over a period of years.
Individuals, affiliate and/or partner organizations, not-for-profit associations, institutions, community groups, businesses, government and non-government organizations that have contributed significantly to conservation in Saskatchewan.
This award can be conferred on the same individual or organization more than once.
CALLING ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS
Larry Morgotch Images of Nature Event: Any member may show up to 10 images that illustrate natural history interests and activities, and may speak briefly about them (no longer than two minutes, please). Images labelled with your name should be left with the projectionist before the start of the program. Digital images may be individual files, assembled as a Power Point or similar type of presentation, or an executable file if you are using a slideshow editing program. Please be sure your presentation runs on a standard PC. Individual images must be in jpeg format with the longest dimension of no more than 1500 pixels. Name your images so that they display in the correct order. Digital images should be stored in a folder indicating your name and saved on a USB flash drive. Please be sure that your presentation runs on a standard PC.
We’ll have a computer and digital projector already set up.
Here’s a chance to showcase some of your favourite images of nature without pressure of competition.
- Call for resolutions 2020
The resolutions considered during the Business Meeting at each year’s Fall Meet are important expressions of member concerns on environmental issues. The Nature Saskatchewan Board of Directors is responsible for acting on all resolutions that are passed by the members. This includes sending resolutions directly to the responsible government ministry and pursuing further action and/or meetings with government and others, as deemed appropriate.
Anyone wishing to submit a resolution for consideration at the 2020 Business Meeting, to be held on Saturday, Saturday September 19, is asked to send a written draft to the Nature Saskatchewan Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than Friday, August 7. This provides an opportunity to receive feedback from members of the resolutions committee that can help to improve your resolution. It also helps us prepare for the meeting. Please note that resolutions not submitted to the Nature Saskatchewan office by 5 pm on Friday, September 4th will be considered only with the agreement of a 2/3 majority of those attending the business meeting.
1. Resolutions must be in keeping with the society’s mandate, bylaws and goals.
2. All resolutions must be submitted in writing.
3. A resolution is, essentially, an exercise in communication. Simple, clear language and focus on one topic or issue is most effective.
4. Supporting information presented in “Whereas” statements must be accurate and factual.
5. Resolutions should be no longer than one page, and preferably less.
- For the young Burrowing Owls, it’s now time to leave the nest!
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 email@example.com. Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.
- Let’s Get Ready To Celebrate Monarchs Together On August 22nd!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share photos, we love to see them!
Let’s Get Ready To Celebrate Monarchs Together On August 22nd!
- August is the Month for Sandy Dune Specialists in Saskatchewan!
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 email@example.com. Personal and sighting information is never shared without permission.
- Encouraging Young Conservationists
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
- Canadian Bat Box Project
By: Karen Vanderwolf
If you have a bat box I want to know about it!
Bats in Canada face multiple threats from habitat loss and disease. As towns and cities expand, the large old trees that bats call home are being cleared, and bats are losing their roosts. Bats need a warm and secure place to roost during the day in the summer. A bat box is a simple and effective way to provide additional roosting habitat for bats, but little is known about bat box use in Canada. This especially important as three bat species in Canada are listed as endangered: little brown bats, northern long-eared bats, and tricolored bats. Bats now face additional persecution due to worries about COVID-19, but bats in North America do not have the virus that causes COVID-19 https://cwf-fcf.org/en/about-cwf/faq/faqs/should-i-be-worried-bats.html?src=blog
Which bat species use bat boxes?
Of the 18 bat species that are regularly found in Canada, 13 have been documented using bat boxes, although these data come from studies farther south in the United States. Current recommendations on bat box design are based on research in the United States, especially Texas, and in Europe. Since the box design bats prefer varies by region and species, more information on bat boxes in Canada is urgently needed. There is very little previous research about which bat species prefer which bat box designs in Canada. Little brown bats are known to use bat boxes throughout Canada, big brown bats use boxes in some parts of Canada, and Yuma bats use boxes in British Columbia.
How you can help!
Our research seeks to determine which bat species use bat boxes across Canada, what box designs are preferred by bats, and which temperatures bats prefer for roosting in our northern climate. To accomplish this, we need to know where bat boxes are located in Canada, the physical characteristics of the boxes, and whether they are being used by bats! Participants will be sent temperature loggers to install in their box and supplies to collect guano (bat poop), as bat species can be identified from guano.
If you have a bat box and would like to participate in this study, please fill out this online multiple-choice survey with questions about your bat box.
This project is in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Canadian Wildlife Federation https://wcsbats.ca/Our-work-to-save-bats/Batbox-Project/BatBox-Project-Canada-wide
More information about which box designs bats use in Canada will help bat conservation by providing recommendations for improving bat box design and placement in our northern climate.
Why install a bat box?
Installing a bat box gives bats an alternative to roosting in your house, and since all bats in Canada eat only insects, you may even notice a decrease in the insect population around your house! Bats eat a variety of insects, including agricultural and forestry pests. You can watch bats swooping around your backyard at dusk catching insets in midair.
How do I tell if bats are using my box?
You can tell whether your box is being used by bats by searching for guano underneath your box and watching your box at sunset in June to count bats as they emerge for an evening of eating insects. You can watch an example of bats flying out of bat boxes in Prince Edward Island here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqZbyjhC0XI&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1qGaCvi6ucbCdgaJkTES2O517H1uzhTbGeqAN6Srf_oLGrYmPH4TPj5L0 You can also shine a light up into the box during the day to see if there are bats inside from May to October in Canada. The boxes will be too cold for bats during the winter.
How do I get bats to use my box?
Not all bat boxes will be occupied in the first year after installation. Occupancy depends on many factors, ranging from the period in which it was installed to the fact that bats are very selective and might need a little time to familiarize themselves with your bat box. There are no lures or attractants, such as guano, that can attract bats to a bat box, although larger bat boxes with multiple chambers more commonly attract bats than smaller boxes.
Bat boxes are most successful when attached to houses or poles as opposed to trees. Trees shade the box and can block access to the box entrance. If bats are not using your box after two years, try moving the bat box to a new location.
Like tree hollows, bat boxes need to have temperatures that bats like. Bats like hot temperatures, but even in Canada some bat boxes get too hot during the summer, which can increase bat mortality. Temperatures of over 40˚C in bat boxes is too hot, and temperatures in some bat boxes in Canada have been recorded over 50˚C!
Our research group measures the temperature inside bat boxes using temperature loggers that can take a reading every hour over the whole summer. One way to ensure that bats can choose their preferred roosting temperature is to install multiple bat boxes as they will vary in temperature depending on how much direct sunlight they receive.
- 2020 Annual Appeal
Dear friend and supporter of Nature Saskatchewan,
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed much of our day to day lives and has increased anxiety and worry around the globe. However, throughout this pandemic one thing has remained a constant in our lives, the need for nature. Being in nature provides us with a relief from anxiety and supports mental health, it offers us a place to play and exercise safely, it boosts our immune system and allows our children the space they need to enjoy and explore.
In 2020, Nature Saskatchewan has adapted to a new way of doing things. Much of our programming has been held online, such as our annual celebration of International Migratory Bird Day or bringing the Last Mountain Bird Observatory to the public through videos posted toour YouTube channel. Through partnerships with like-minded local groups like SaskOutdoors, we have had success sharing the joy of nature safely with home-school children through the Get Outside Kids Club. While the delivery may be different the message remains loud and clear, nature needs us but more importantly humanity needs nature.
For years, Nature Saskatchewan’s conservation efforts have focused on the importance of protecting the natural world so Saskatchewan’s wildlife and precious ecosystems have a fighting chance at survival. An ecosystem can only be healthy when the web of species is connected and playing their part. While we look for different ways to connect to each other, it is also important for our health, both physical and mental, to connect to nature.
Nature Saskatchewan remains a strong voice for nature and conservation in Saskatchewan. In February, we once again attended Nature on the Hill in Ottawa along with 49 other organizations from across Canada. Together, over 60 MP’s from all parties were asked to support the commitments for expanding protected areas and finding solutions to the issues that threaten our habitats and wildlife. We are proud to have a voice in this large Nature Network and to be one of the groups speaking for Saskatchewan.
Early this fall, we finally heard the long awaited announcement that the transfer of three former PFRA pastures in southwest Saskatchewan (Govenlock, Nashlyn and Battle Creek) from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to Environment and Climate Change Canada had been completed. This occurred with a corresponding swap of any provincial lands on these pastures with federal lands on the other former PFRA pastures. A designation to a National Wildlife Area is expected within a few years.
In 2020 we received a bequest of land near Leader, adding to our nature sanctuaries. A local sanctuary steward has been found to keep an eye on the property for us and a management plan to protect this piece of land into the future will be developed next year.
Please take the time to renew your membership for 2020 if you have not already done so. Nature Saskatchewan memberships now run on the calendar year and you have the option of receiving a print or electronic copy of the Blue Jay. If you are a print subscriber, you will automatically be given access to the online version as well. Retaining our existing members and attracting new members is extremely important. We ask that you help us spread the word and consider giving a Nature Saskatchewan membership as a gift to someone you care about, following us on our social media channels and by signing up to receive our electronic newsletter.
We thank you for your continued support and ask that you consider helping in the form of a donation. Donations can be directed to any program you choose, or can be split amongst the various programs that are meaningful to you. A donation to Nature Saskatchewan as a whole will allow funds to be used where they are the most needed, or simply purchasing a membership for yourself or a loved one will help us to remain strong and keep our voice heard. You may prefer to give a little each month by joining our Nature Savings Plan. Contributors to the Nature Savings Plan have the option of contributing directly through their bank or via a monthly credit card payment. Each and every way you choose to help will have a positive effect on the work we do. Thank you for being a part of a team working to conserve Saskatchewan’s natural landscapes and all that call it home.
Please take a moment now to decide how you will help.
Yours in conservation,
President, Nature Saskatchewan