Tuesday, 22 June 2021

EcoSask News, June 22, 2021

Blue Jay

This Week’s Highlights 
Help weed and mulch the 200 fruit-bearing trees and shrubs on the east side of the river between the Circle Drive and train bridges from 1-4 pm, Saturday, June 26. Tools will be provided. Contact Jordan for additional information (306-380-9565, jrs260@usask.ca). 

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Switch from videoconferencing to voice-only online meetings and you’ll reduce your environmental impact by 96%. [Anthropocene

Upcoming Events 
Have your say on the City of Saskatoon’s Green Infrastructure Strategy at a virtual workshop from 1-3 pm, June 24, or 7-9:30 pm, June 29. Or you can complete an online survey from now until July 4. 

Nature Conservancy of Canada is hosting a webinar on tackling invasive species from 11:30 am-12:30 pm, June 24. 

City of Regina residents can dispose of hazardous waste from 4-7 pm on Friday, 9 am-4 pm, Saturday, and 9 am-4 pm, Sunday, June 25-27. 

EnviroCollective Regina will be holding an online meeting from 7-9 pm, June 28.

Looking Ahead 
Enjoy art classes in a natural setting at Ness Creek from July 26-29.
 
Silver-spotted skipper

Local News 
“In a province that’s home to nearly half of Canada’s arable land . . . the impact of farming operations on downstream water bodies is huge. . . . a careful balance has to be struck between the vital economic necessities of farming and protecting the environment for the future” [Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Find out more about the prairies with games and activities from the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, including an interactive game, a field guide to the plants and animals living on the prairies, and field activities. 

What a Good Idea! 
E-scooter fees will partially fund a $2 million program to add 3 miles of protected bike lanes in downtown Miami. [Planetizen

The online shopping boom calls for new urban freight options to reduce emissions, air pollution, and traffic congestion. Here are 10 proven options as well as 4 new ones. [Pembina Institute

Ten Bold Ideas: Accelerating Climate Action in the 2020s offers some intriguing ideas, such as a repair workshop on every main street, menu flipping, and real golf. [Possible

Over 100 wildflower meadows, funded by the municipalities, have been planted in Germany’s largest cities over the past 3 years. Their goal is to protect Germany’s wild bees, more than half of which are endangered or on the verge of extinction. [The Guardian

A colony of rare orchids, thought to be extinct in the UK, has been discovered in the rooftop garden of a London bank, demonstrating that green infrastructure can protect and maintain biodiversity. [The Guardian


We Can Do Better! 
Cascades: Creating a Sustainable Health System in a Climate Crisis wants to engage the health care community in climate action and is hosting a listening tour, starting July 7. [Centre for Sustainable Health Systems

A proposed lithium mine in Nevada highlights a dilemma facing green tech: it’s still reliant on extractive industries. Opponents “assert that the mining industry is simply greenwashing old practices and exploiting the political climate that favors green energy, while using the laws that have enabled dispossession and destroyed environments for over a century.” [Earth Island Journal

“Peatlands, such as fens, bogs, marshes and swamps, cover just 3% of the Earth’s total land surface, yet store over one-third of the planet’s soil carbon.” They’re drying out or being destroyed, and that’s a problem. [The Conversation

If you’re looking for hard economic data to support climate action, check out The economics of climate change: no action not an option, which states, “The world economy could be 10% smaller if the 2050 net-zero emissions and Paris Agreement targets on climate change are not met.” [Swiss Re Institute

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Nature Companion, a free nature app/website for Canada's 4 western provinces


Thursday, 17 June 2021

Community Highlights: Boreal Rangers Outdoor Adventures 4-H Club


1. How and when did you form your group? 
Amy McInnes is the general leader of the Boreal Rangers Outdoor Adventures 4-H Club in Prince Albert. She and her husband Aron grew up on farms and met when they were in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves. They believe their “Adapt and Overcome” philosophy blends nicely with the 4-H motto, “Learn to Do by Doing”. 

There are 11 members in the club this year, ranging in age from 8 to 18 (younger children were not invited due to the focus on online activities this year). Amy and Aron try to make links to what the members are learning in school, the kids’ interests, and the club’s learning goals. The club is constantly linking to other programs and groups, such as SaskOutdoors and Water Rangers. 

Amy says a lot of knowledge passes back and forth between the leaders and the kids based on what the kids ask about and the information the leaders obtain so they can teach the kids. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
At the beginning of each year, 4-H clubs choose a number of different projects to work on during the year. The Boreal Rangers' focus is very hands-on and outdoor adventures and sustainability are a staple. This includes camping, hiking, and learning about falcons, wolves, and owls. Aron works with the older kids on sustainability. Discussions often centre around features of the McInnes home, including solar panels, a forest garden in the front yard, an aquaponics set-up in the dining room, and vermicomposting. In addition, the 4-H club donates time and plants to two community gardens that are designed to help families that are struggling. 


3. What were your successes (big or small) in 2020? 
How the club functions was definitely affected by Covid, but the club has used the time to adapt and find new ways to connect and experience things they might not have taken the time to do otherwise. Most of the programming over the past 12-14 months has been online as a group with members sending in photos to show how they followed through with what they learned. Zoom meetings are offered but for shorter time periods as attention span is less on a computer. 

The times the group did gather were very different, but they are looking every day for ways to build a positive outlook into what they are learning from this experience. The group couldn’t go snowshoeing together so everyone received a voucher for equipment rental and went out in family bubbles (thanks to a grant from SaskOutdoors). Drama activities took place on Zoom. The volunteer running the sessions had a theme and would suggest activities such as emotional responses to music clips, ad lib, and coming up with and sharing a character. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
The club has been planning an Indigenous culture project that will get underway this summer. They hope to return to their family-inclusive outdoor adventures as well. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
  1. Increased connection within Prince Albert city and area, through programming or volunteering. We’d like to learn the local history and respect its place in how the community was formed. 
  2. Community members consider sustainability in their daily lives. 
  3. Listen to youth! They have ideas that can and will shape the future. 

6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? 
Amy says she and Aron involve other leaders for activities that aren’t within their areas of expertise, such as this year’s drama and canine projects. They are working with Cree and M├ętis Elders and Knowledge-Keepers on an Indigenous culture project. They also take advantage of local expertise, learning about owls with Harold Fisher, falcons with Lynn Oliphant, and honey with Hannigan Honey.

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

EcoSask News, June 15, 2021

Barn swallows

This Week’s Highlights 
Canadian swallow populations are in rapid decline. Home and farm owners can make a difference by not removing or damaging nests [Nature Canada

A film tour of the proposed peat-mine site in northern Saskatchewan will be followed by a discussion and question period from 7:30-8:30 pm, June 15. 

Upcoming Events 
Protecting, better managing, and restoring Canada’s wetlands (including peatlands), grasslands, and forests can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more, register for a webinar at 10 am, June 16. 

The City of Saskatoon will be reporting on the natural areas screening that was completed as part of planning for the University Heights 3 development online from 7-8:30 pm, June 21. This area includes both Swales as well as various other remnants of native prairie. 

Michael Nemeth will discuss lessons learned from Saskatoon’s Radiance Cohousing in a Passive House Canada webinar from 10 am-12 pm, June 25. 

Urban Development 
“CPAWS-SK remains engaged in urban and near-urban conservation discussions and will continue to broaden our engagement at a local, regional, and national level to ensure the opportunities for and values of urban conservation are shared and prioritized. . . . We must find new ways to encourage and incentivize our municipalities and governments to see the merit – economic included – of protecting our most valued habitats and species in perpetuity and providing these landscapes with the necessary buffers and connectivity for both flora and fauna to thrive” [CPAWS-Sask

Food Production 
Emissions from food production have been underestimated for decades. A new study shows that, taken as a whole, the food system generates 20-40% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide [Inside Climate News

Competing interests: Louisiana farmers, the majority of whom lease their land, support state legislation to block solar projects from receiving industrial tax credit [Planetizen]
 
pronghorn and fawn

Activism 
“I wish that everyone who said they believed in angels would actually believe in insects” is the first line of Jay Griffiths’ book Why Rebel? . . . Here, then, the causes for rebellion: survival and awe, beauty and necessity, grace and grief” [book review, Earthbound Report

“We need a new language to communicate about the climate crisis and justice — one that embraces creativity and culture. . . . My activism is no longer rooted in fear or anger, but in love: a love for the people, humanity, and the planet, and love will always be greater than fear. There also has to be a place for fun in the climate justice movement if we’re going to pick ourselves up and keep going after every setback” [op-ed, Teen Vogue

Protecting Wildlife 
For pronghorn and mule deer, fences can change migration routes and cause death or injury. Removing or replacing fences is expensive, hence a software package illustrating the most problematic sections [The Revelator

Check out these online resources on gardening for birds [Nature Canada

The pileated woodpecker – a regal presence with a maniacal call [Wild Life


Did you know? New mule deer mothers usually give birth to a single spotted fawn, while older mothers usually have twins [Nature Companion

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

EcoSask News, June 8, 2021

Choke Cherry flowers

This Week’s Highlights 
What impact does mountain biking have on wildlife? How can parks managers reconcile their dual mandate of nature conservation and human recreation? 

Wascana Junior Naturalists is hosting nature programming for kids in Regina every Saturday from June 19-Aug. 21 from 9-10 am. 

Upcoming Events 
Nature Conservancy of Canada is presenting a webinar with 10 stories of Canadian wildlife recovery and why they matter at 12:30 pm, June 10. 

Regina Public Library is offering a virtual series of short talks with artists with environmental elements to their practices at 7:30 pm, June 15. 

As part of this year’s Spring Meet, Nature Saskatchewan is hosting a variety of online activities, including Nature Trivia on June 15, a presentation on Leave-No-Trace outdoor cooking on June 16, a photo/video sharing session on June 17, and an AGM at 7 pm, June 21. 

The Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan is hosting a virtual panel discussion on waterways, wetlands, and stewardship at 7 pm, June 16. 

SK-PCAP is hosting a native plant Id and quiz webinar at noon, June 16, as part of Native Prairie Appreciation Week. 

Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin is hosting an online annual general meeting at noon, June 16. 

SK-PCAP is hosting a webinar on Stewards of Saskatchewan: prairie species at risk at noon, June 16, as part of Native Prairie Appreciation Week.
 
Ladybug

Local News 
Ron Jensen will be banding ruby-throated hummingbirds at Beaver Creek Conservation Area. The hummingbird feeders were donated by Wild Birds Unlimited.

Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has gathered 3,000 signatures, calling on the City of Saskatoon to ban the use of neurotoxins on pigeons

Let’s Get Practical 
Canada Greener Homes Grants – who is eligible, what they cover, drawbacks, and how to get the most bang for your buck. 

Should you replace a used car with an EV? That depends on how many miles you’ll put on it and on how electricity is produced in your area. 

Art & Nature 
“Cities around the world should identify, protect and make accessible places in nature that are dedicated to silence in the outer sense and stillness in the inner sense.” 

An online photography exhibit explores 3 themes: Incredible Wildlife, Wildlife in Crisis, and Reasons for Hope. 

The arts can help solve the climate crisis by telling stories that persuade people to “fall in love with nature again” and prompt government to back green policies. 

Success Stories 
Toronto’s TD Centre is undertaking North America’s largest bird-safe building retrofit by installing bird collision deterrent markers on glass. 

People are more likely to install solar panels if their neighbours have already done so

A 5-storey residence at Red Deer College is covered in solar glass cladding on 3 sides


Did you know?
Bears pull chokecherry to the ground and tear its branches apart in their eagerness to eat the fruit (Nature Companion, a free nature app, downloadable directly from its website

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 3 June 2021

The Natural Wonders of Pine Cree Regional Park

White-tailed deer

Just 300 metres below the sun-drenched prairie is a small campsite nestled in a grove of pine trees beside a quietly flowing stream. Pine Cree Regional Park, located 13 km northeast of Eastend, Saskatchewan, offers 28 non-serviced campsites and features rare orchids, possible cougar sightings, and a wide variety of birds and animals. There are three self-guided trails through the park that can be booked through the park officer. One trail takes you up to the highest point in the park where you will discover teepee rings, while another leads you up above the Hermit’s Cave. All three trails are described in Robin and Arlene Karpan’s book, Saskatchewan’s Best Hikes and Nature Walks

Wildflowers 
The park’s website provides lists of the flowers you may spot while walking on the prairie or in the forest. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll spot the blunt-leaved bog orchid, the green bog orchid, or the round-leaved orchid, all of which flower in June-July. You may also spot the northern bog violet, the western Canada violet, or the downy yellow violet. The western Canada violet spreads rapidly via its roots and is often found in clumps. 

If you look closely, you’ll find so many different flowers among the prairie grasses. Wild licorice has spike-like clusters of narrow pea-like yellowish-white flowers with an erect upper petal. The hooked bristles on the seed pods catch and cling to animal fur and human clothing distributing the seeds to new areas. Later in the summer, you’ll see purple prairie clover and goldenrod.
 
Purple prairie clover

Wildlife 
Sit quietly and you may be fortunate enough to spot moose, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and bobcats. Moose are the largest members of the deer family and are so tall that they prefer to browse on higher plants as it can be difficult to bend their head to ground level. They are often seen in lakes or wetlands feeding on aquatic plants. They have poor eyesight but a strong sense of smell. 

White-tailed deer are the smallest North American deer with white fur around their eyes and nose. They raise their tail, displaying its white underside, to signal danger. White-tailed deer use scent to communicate with other animals. Every step is marked by a smelly substance from glands between their toes. 

Listen for coyotes calling at night. They are very vocal with a wide range of calls to greet and communicate with each other or warn of danger. 

Bobcats are twice the size of a domestic cat. They are solitary animals and fierce hunters, silently stalking their prey before taking it down in one enormous leap. 

Cougars live in the Cypress Hills and there’s a chance you may spot one in the park. Cougars are shy animals that keep to themselves and prefer isolated areas. The park pamphlet explains that cougars will normally avoid people; “however, if you see a cougar and it doesn’t run off, it may be sick, have a food kill nearby, or young, and could feel threatened by you.” In this situation, “Make yourself big and loud. . . . Maintain eye contact, and back away slowly. . . . Cougars are big cats and lazy, so if you appear to be a lot of work, they will likely leave, or give you an opportunity to back away.” 

Birds 
Pine Cree Regional Park is home to pink-sided dark-eyed juncos, mountain bluebirds, great horned owls, and common poorwill. Great horned owl are forest dwellers and have a deep hooting voice that is unlike any other North American owl. They hunt at night, using their large, strong talons to break the spine of large prey.

great horned owl

Starry Skies 
The southwestern corner of Saskatchewan is an excellent spot for star-gazing as there are large wilderness areas and only small urban centres. Both Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and Grasslands National Park are Dark Sky Preserves, sanctuaries where people can enjoy the night skies. 

See Also 

Heading outdoors? With the Nature Companion app on your phone, you’ll have easy access to information about over 300 common plants, trees, birds, animals, insects, reptiles and amphibians in Canada’s four western provinces. The Nature Companion app/website was developed by EcoFriendly Sask and is free (and ad-free) and can be downloaded directly from its website


EcoFriendly Sask
supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

EcoSask News, June 1, 2021

Canada Geese goslings

This Week’s Highlights 
SaskPower is holding online conversations on June 9 & 16 to consult with the public on its long-term power strategy. You can register for morning or afternoon sessions. 

“Environmentalism emerged from the 1960s as a movement to save the natural world. Now it seems to have been appropriated to describe the fight to save industrial civilisation — life as we know it.” 

Upcoming Events 
Margret Asmuss will provide an overview of climate impacts and action in Saskatchewan at 6:30 pm, June 3, online. 

City of Saskatoon residents can dispose of household hazardous waste from 9 am to 3:30 pm on June 6. 

There will be a noon-hour webinar on bats on June 8 as part of the Native Prairie Speaker Series. 

The Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan is hosting a webinar with Jo Jozsa discussing zoning bylaws to protect lakes at 7 pm, June 9. 

Project WILD and Flying WILD will be combined in a one-day virtual workshop on June 10. 

City Life
Form follows fuel: “From the earliest known archeological remains to the trends of the 21st century, the availability of energy has shaped architecture. That’s a perspective that deserves exploring, especially since the energy constraints imposed by climate change now present ‘the toughest challenge the world of architecture has ever faced’.” [book review] 

Canadian cities tend to sprawl – and sprawl costs money, time, and energy. What if we moved away from that model to the “20-minute city” where everything you need (work, grocery store, coffee shop) is within 20 minutes? “Touted benefits include better air quality, a healthier population, higher property values and lower transportation costs for those who can eschew an automobile. . . . Making cities more walkable involves creating a more compact footprint, where more businesses are built near existing homes. But it also means building housing near existing businesses, such as stores and restaurants.”

Canmore, AB, has grown from a small coal-mining community to a large bustling tourist destination. Residents are now struggling to reconcile tourism development with climate, transportation, and housing goals, as well as protection of an important wildlife corridor. A group of residents hopes to purchase a piece of land to create a permanent conservation area and affordable housing. 
 
Spotted sandpiper

We Can Do Better 
Smokescreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate by Chad T. Hanson explains why wildfire are beneficial, the role fire-burned trees play in maintaining biodiversity, and the need to focus on home fire safety and defensible space as opposed to back-country vegetation management. [book review] 

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems and are “hundreds to thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere”. Refrigeration systems in supermarkets aren’t air-tight, so they lose 25% of their refrigerant every year – “that amounts to emissions equivalent to more than 12 million cars driving for a year”. There are alternatives, as demonstrated by a New York City grocery store, but no easy answers. [podcast & transcript] 

Arbor Week 




Did you know? Female Spotted Sandpipers mate with up to 5 males, leaving the males to incubate the eggs and feed the young [Nature Companion is downloadable directly from its website

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Spiders – Not So Scary After All

Crab spider

As the offspring of an entomologist (someone who studies insects) and avid supporters of all wild creatures, Andrew and I are intrigued rather than repelled by insects and arachnids. In fact, Andrew takes numerous photographs of crab spiders and fishing spiders every summer. 

Here are just a few facts about spiders that may help you to view these tiny creatures with awe rather than fear. 

Insect, Arachnid, or Spider? 
All spiders are arachnids, but not all arachnids are spiders. The arachnid category also includes scorpions, mites, ticks, and harvestmen (aka daddy longlegs). 

All arachnids have 8 legs (it’s safer to consider this as 4 pairs of legs as spiders often lose one or two legs and still manage just fine), whereas insects only have 6 legs. Unlike insects, arachnids only have two parts to their body and lack antennae and wings. 

A Vote of Thanks 
There are over 45,000 different types of spiders and we owe them a huge vote of thanks as they play an important role in safeguarding our food supply by reducing the number of agricultural pests. In our homes, spiders keep insect pests under control and even limit the spread of disease via fleas, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. One spider can catch hundreds of tiny flies in a single day. 

By the way, there are house spiders and garden spiders. Garden spiders only rarely come indoors and, if you put a house spider outside, it will die. 


Why Most Spiders Have Eight Eyes 
Unlike humans, spiders don’t have a neck so they can’t easily turn their head to look at things like we can. Extra eyes help them to see in various different directions. 

In addition, human eyes perform a variety of different functions, whereas each pair of spider eyes has a specific role to play. The main set of eyes provide sharp colour vision and are good at accurately picking out details. They’re often large, helping them to take in a larger field of vision. 

The secondary sets of eyes on the sides of their head detect motion and warn the spider when something is heading their way, be it predator or prey.
 
Fishing spider

Feeling the Vibes 
Spiders don’t have ears, but they can sense vibrations. Tiny hairs on their legs bend in response to vibrations in the air or transmitted through floors and walls. Scientists have found that jumping spiders will freeze when they pick up a low-frequency hum or buzz as this sound overlaps with the wingbeat frequency of predators such as parasitoid wasps and flies. 

Spiders pluck the strings of their webs, causing the webs to vibrate. Differences in the vibrations will tell them what type of meal is tangled in their web, if a potential mate is approaching, or whether the web is damaged and needs repairs. 

Weavers and Webs 
Spiders possess a remarkable ability to produce silk that is tough, flexible, and completely organic. The silk starts out as a watery gel. As it passes through an ever-narrowing tube, it picks up coatings that are responsible for stickiness and water resistance. The gel only solidifies when it is stretched. Spiders can create different kinds of silk for different tasks, whether it’s to build a web, wrap up prey or an egg sac, or provide a pocket of air for water spiders. 

Not all spiders spin webs to catch their prey. Some, such as wolf spiders, are hunters, while others sit and wait for the prey to come to them (e.g. crab spiders). Spiders also create many different kinds of webs – from the round, geometrical webs we may find in our homes to sheets, funnels, and loosely connected cobwebs. 

Webs are sticky – that’s how they catch their prey or get caught in our hair. So how do spiders avoid getting trapped in their own web? First of all, webs aren’t consistently sticky so spiders are able to step around the drops of glue. Even if they touch one, it’s annoying (like stepping on a wad of bubble gum) but not a serious problem. But when a fly hits a web, it hits about 50 drops of glue all at the same time and then it’s stuck.
 
Wolf spider

Protective Parents 
Garden spiders lay a sac of eggs in a sheltered spot and remain with it until they die in the fall. The spiderlings will emerge the following summer, forming a web with a ball of tiny spiders that scatter in all directions when disturbed. 

Fishing spiders create a nursery web to protect their spiderlings when they hatch. 

Wolf spiders carry their spiderlings around for a week, either feeding them with liquefied food or killing prey for them to eat. 

Some spiderlings leave home by heading to a high spot on a plant and producing one or more strands of silk that are then picked up and carried away by the rising air currents on a warm day. 

See Also 

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribe by email (top right corner).


Nature Companion, a free (and ad-free) app/website, introduces over 300 of the trees, plants, insects, reptiles, animals, and birds found in Canada’s four western provinces.