Tuesday, 13 April 2021

EcoSask News, April 13, 2021

Ring-billed gull with crayfish

This Week’s Highlights 
The Centre for the Study of Science and Innovation Policy, JSGS, is hosting a video conference to discuss “Are SMRs right for Saskatchewan? Five questions that need answers” from 12-1 pm, Apr. 15. 

A rare, newly-discovered habitat in northern Saskatchewan is home to extraordinarily high numbers of rare species. Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan government is currently refusing to protect it from resource development. You can help by contacting the Ministry of Energy and Resources. 

Upcoming Events 
Nature Conservancy of Canada will present a new national study on the importance of wildlife corridors in a webinar at 12:30 pm, Apr. 15. 

City of Moose Jaw residents can dispose of hazardous waste from 9 am-3 pm, Apr. 17. 

Gravelbourg Green Initiatives is hosting an online composting workshop from 10-11 am, Apr. 17. 

Saskatoon Makerspace invites you to drop in and work on a sewing project with an instructor there to help from 11 am-2 pm, Apr. 17. Tickets are $50. 

Branimir Gjetvaj will discuss action for climate and biodiversity: why small steps are important at the 7 pm, Apr. 19, virtual meeting of Nature Regina. 

Regina Public Library is hosting an online talk to help you identify the birds you see in your community at 7 pm, Apr. 20. 

There will be a noon-hour webinar on native pollinators in the prairies on Apr. 20 as part of the Native Prairie Speaker Series. 

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will hold their virtual annual general meeting and a series of short presentations on powering the transition: outstanding issues in our energy future at 7 pm, Apr. 21. 

Our Land, My People covers the impact of resource exploitation on the Lubicon Cree. The film will be shown at 7 pm, Apr. 22, in Regina. 

The Saskatoon Nature Society’s Golden Eagles invite retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world to attend their field trips
Apr. 22, 10 am – Wanuskewin Heritage Park 
Apr. 29, 8 am – Waterfowl Trip
Ring-billed gull

Local News 
The Saskatchewan government plans to tax electric vehicles. Other provinces are offering rebates. The government has also cut the funding for the provincial office responsible for climate change policy by almost 50%. 

Saskatoon’s spruce trees could be at risk as drought makes them more susceptible to insects and disease. 

From Information to Action 
Three Canadian trucking companies are employing emission-reducing solutions that also improve their bottom line. Musket Transport “provides training to drivers on fuel-efficient driving techniques, such as reducing acceleration and deceleration, and identifying optimal speeds.” Canadian Tire is using one third less fuel by replacing two trucks with one long multi-trailer vehicle. Erb Transport is employing a variety of tactics to reduce drag and rolling resistance. 

There’s a lot of hype about green hydrogen. But the questions remain: Make it from what? Move it how? At what cost? And who benefits? 

Light pollution is increasing at more than 2% per year and has a surprising number of implications, including increased transmission of the West Nile Virus, changes in landscape, and interfering with the food supply for entire marine ecosystems. 

The GHG+H2O Green Facility Toolkit provides health care organizations with a specialized package of educational materials, awareness tools, and technical resources. 

Food for Thought 
“Nobody is denying that humans are exceptional. The concept of human uniqueness is only a problem when we deny the beauty and necessity both of our animal lives and the lives of other animals. . . . We’re only at the beginning of scientific discoveries about the way memory and intentions grip animal bodies from tip to claw. Eventually, we’re going to have to reckon with the true complexity of the other lives that surround us.” 

Avian Magic 
To power their perilous migratory journeys, birds undergo extreme feats like doubling their body weight and rearranging or even consuming their internal organs. 

16 fabulous photographs of birds, from a comical duckling and a surfing penguin to sunlit birds of happiness. 

Did you know? Nesting colonies of Ring-billed Gull normally include a few two-female couples, both of whom lay a clutch of eggs. (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 by email (top right corner). 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Early-Flowering Trees and Shrubs on the Canadian Prairies

Aspen flowering

They may not be as showy as crocuses or violets, but trees have flowers too. You just have to look a little closer. 

Aspen prefer cold regions with cool summers (it grows at higher elevations in warmer regions). Trembling Aspen is found throughout Canada and the United States. It’s a slender tree (20-80 ft tall) with heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall. The leaf stem is flat and set at a 90-degree angle to the leaf, causing them to tremble in even a gentle breeze. Aspen has greenish-white bark with dark ridges on older trees. 

Male and female flowers are found on separate trees, appearing before the leaves. The catkins resemble soft caterpillars dangling from the twigs. The male flowers appear first, releasing pollen into the air. The female catkins turn green and form capsules that later release loose cottony seeds. 

Did you know? Trembling Aspen's roots send up shoots or suckers and can form large stands of up to 100 acres of identical trees or clones. Individual trunks die, but the roots can live on for hundreds or even thousands of years.
early flowering poplars

Balsam Poplar 
Balsam Poplar is a slender tree with a straight trunk and a narrow crown (65-100 ft tall). The leaves are shiny and dark green with a pointed tip. It’s often found in floodplains as it grows best in moist, rich soil with plenty of sunlight. 

Long catkins (3 in) on the male trees are the first to appear in the spring, followed by large, sticky leaf buds that smell of balsam. Balsam Poplar, Aspen, and Cottonwood are members of the same family, which explains why they all produce similar loose cottony seeds. 

Did you know? Bees sometimes use Balsam Poplar's resin to disinfect their hives.
Birch against sky

Birch (20-70 ft) is common in the temperate and boreal forests of Canada. It has triangular green leaves with serrated edges that turn yellow and then fall in autumn. The bark on mature trees is white and peels in paper-like strips. 

Both male and female catkins appear on the same tree, before or at the same time as the leaves. The male flowers dangle from the twigs, while the female flowers are upright and inconspicuous. When the female flower matures, it releases winged seeds. 

Did you know? Birch syrup can be made from the sap of the tree. It’s been described as tasting of caramel with a hint of spiciness.
bee on willow catkins

More than 100 species of Willow are native to North America. Willows have long, narrow leaves and thrive in moist soil. Black Willow is North America’s largest native willow (10-60 ft tall). It's a fast-growing tree with several trunks growing out from the root and an open crown. Peachleaf Willow is a medium-sized tree (35-40 ft) and usually has a single trunk. 

Male and female flowers are found on separate trees, appearing in early spring just before the leaves. Male flowers are longer and fall from the tree once they've released their pollen. 

Did you know? Young willow branches are very flexible and can be used to make baskets, fences, or other objects.
Wolf Willow flowers

Wolf-willow flowers in late May/June, later than the other trees mentioned but merits inclusion because it has such a distinctive musky-sweet scent. Wolf-willow is a small shrub (under 7 ft) with silver oval leaves and small yellow flowers that mature into silvery berries. Despite its name, it isn’t a willow at all but belongs to the oleaster (wild olive) family. 

Did you know? Indigenous peoples of North America used the large, yellow-striped seeds to make necklaces and the fibrous bark can be twisted to make rope. 

Nature Companion 
You’ll find lots more information about trees and shrubs on EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, an entry-level nature app for Canada’s four western provinces. 

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 by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

EcoSask News, April 6, 2021

squabbling geese

This Week’s Highlights 
An online webinar hosted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada will discuss the importance of community pastures at 11:30 am, Apr. 8. 

The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan has added 3 new plant checklists to their website: two from Pine Cree Regional Park (grassland and forest) and one from Batoche National Historic Site. 

Upcoming Events 
Saskatoon Public Library is offering a virtual workshop on camping with babies and toddlers from 7-8 pm, Apr. 12. 

SaskOutdoors is hosting online training to introduce educators to Flying Wild from 7-9 pm, Apr. 14 and 21. 

Saskatoon Public Library is hosting an online discussion for teens about making our community more sustainable from 6-7 pm, Apr. 15. 

Katie Harris will discuss Saskatoon’s urban wildlife monitoring project at the 7:30 pm, Apr. 15, online meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. 

Looking Ahead 
Saskatoon Young Naturalists are planning a crocus hike on Apr. 24/25 and pond dipping on May 1. Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment

Registration is now open for the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council’s virtual Waste ReForum from Apr. 27-29. 

Join Stan Shadick for a May series (May 9, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 24 & 25) of online and outdoor (Saskatoon) workshops designed to improve your skills at identifying common bird songs in the prairie provinces. Proceeds will go to support Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation

From Information to Action
Urban gardens are an important source of nectar and floral diversity for insects and compare favorably with rural areas. 

Greater sage-grouse populations in the US have fallen by 80% since 1965. The report recommends a proactive approach alerting government agencies when local sub-populations are in trouble

leafcutter ant

Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth’s Tiny Conquerors, Susanne Foitzik & Olaf Fritsche: “Just like us, ants grow crops, raise livestock, tend their young and infirm, and make vaccines. And, just like us, ants have a dark side: They wage war, despoil environments, and enslave rivals—but also rebel against their oppressors.”

Kidnapper ants can’t feed themselves. Instead, they kidnap other ants and brainwash them into looking after the kidnapper ants’ young, foraging for food, chewing it, and feeding it to their kidnappers. [5-minute video

Book Reviews 
In A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds, Scott Weidensaul conveys his joy and amazement at the ability of birds to navigate the hemisphere. 

Beyond Capitalist Realism: The Politics, Energetics, and Aesthetics of Degrowth by Samuel Alexander explores, in a series of essays, “post-capitalism by design not disaster,” covering topics such as simple living, land and housing options, and monetary theory. 

Post Growth: Life after Capitalism by Tim Jackson is “perhaps the most imaginative book I’ve read on the topic of economic growth, a lyrical and thoughtful account of where capitalism fails and the many ways that things could be done better.” 

Have you spotted any butterflies this spring? Mourning Cloak Butterfly overwinter as adults in tree cavities, under bark, or in unheated buildings. Once they come out of hibernation, the males perch in a sunny spot and wait for a female to flutter by so that they can mate. They die soon after the eggs are laid. 

Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces 

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 by email (top right corner).

Sunday, 4 April 2021

2021 Natural Areas Clean-Up Grants

The snow has melted and laid bare the garbage along our riverbanks and trails and in our parks. It’s time to spring clean our communities and we’re encouraging youth and community groups in Saskatchewan to head outside and clean up their favorite outdoor space. 

EcoFriendly Sask is offering a limited number of $500 grants to local organizations for cleaning up a natural area in or around their community. Priority will be given to groups who will use the grant to support environmental/nature activities that protect, preserve, or repair the natural, non-human environment. Apply by sending us an email telling us about your group and your clean-up plans. We’ll let you know whether or not your grant application is approved. 

Groups that are approved for a grant will be sent a cheque once we’ve received a photograph of some of your clean-up crew and the garbage collected. 

We want you to stay safe! Please follow the current Covid guidelines for your community. Collect garbage in individual family bubbles or wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. 

Did you spot any wildlife or flowering plants while you were outside? We’d love to hear about your wild encounters! With EcoFriendly Sask’s 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. 

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 by email (top right corner).

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Community Highlight: Rita's Re-Coop-eration

Rita Schmidt rehabilitates orphaned or injured pigeons. Here is her story. 

1. How and when did you form your group? 
 I am an affiliated rehabilitation facility under the umbrella of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation. So far I haven't come up with a name for myself . . . maybe "Rita's Re-Coop-eration? 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
I rehabilitate pigeons that are either orphaned or injured. To me this is important because pigeons are lovely birds and they need every chance in life. I house, feed, and clean up after the birds. I encourage them when they're first learning to fly and when they learn to eat seed. Once a pigeon is ready to "graduate" (flying, eating seed, fully feathered, injury healed), they go on to their final home. This is a farm outside of the city with ready access to daily food, water, and shelter. They are kept penned up there for 2-3 weeks so that they come to recognize this as their home (so they don't just fly back to the city). 

3. What were your successes (big or small) in 2020? 
I took in over 100 pigeons between June and December 2020. A large proportion of these were able to "graduate." There was unfortunately some mortality, but it was minimal and is to be expected when you are dealing with very young and/or sick birds. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
I would like to make improvements to the shed where the pigeons are housed (new paint, flooring, a window that opens). I would like to improve my "success" rate. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
The banning of Avitrol, a type of poison that is used for pigeons (and doesn't work - actually causes a resulting increase in population). ***

6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? If so, please describe them and indicate how people can contact you. 
There aren't really any volunteer opportunities, especially with COVID. However, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is always looking for volunteers. 

*** The Wildlife Rescue Society of Saskatchewan posted the following information on their Facebook page on March 21: “From April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 our Wildlife 911 Hotline received a total of 317 calls about injured and sick pigeons. Tragically, many of these birds passed away due to being cruelly poisoned. Many people think that poisoning is an extremely effective way to kill pigeons – WRONG! Poisoning is a very short-term control strategy as they will simply reproduce at a faster rate. Also, it’s nearly impossible to be able to target just pigeons alone – what if you accidentally poison a different bird? What if someone’s cat or dog eats a poisoned pigeon carcass? Many non-target animals end up suffering the same terrible fate that the poor pigeon did. Poisons cause the animal to suffer from a brutal death - impaired nervous systems, erratic flight, tremors, and violent convulsions. The poor bird will suffer for hours before finally succumbing to the effects of the poison. We understand that many people consider pigeons to be “pests” but no animal deserves to suffer cruelly. Please seek alternative and humane options if you are attempting to do any sort of pest control.” 

Further Information 

We’re planning to highlight the work of volunteer organizations in our communities on a regular basis over the next year. Do email us if you would like your organization to be profiled on EcoFriendly Sask

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 by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

EcoSask News, March 30, 2021

gopher (Richardsons ground squirrel)

This Week’s Highlights 
“The key to bringing the environmental impact of architecture in line with planetary limits is to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings while radically reducing new construction. In other words: less demolition, more refurbishment.” 

Jeff Olson will discuss the effects of farmland drainage on our environment in a 1:30 pm, Mar. 30, webinar hosted by the School of the Environment and Sustainability Students’ Association. 

Upcoming Events 
Learn about research directions and a grassroots movement that led to a reduction in the amount of lead exposure in wildlife during the WildEcol Seminar at 3:30 pm, Apr. 2. 

Saskatoon Nature Society is planning a bluebird trip on April 3 and a crocus trip on Apr. 14. Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now. Advance registration is required. 

Learn how to use a compass for orienteering in a free online webinar from 7-8 pm, Apr. 6. 

There will be an online discussion on plastic pollution and the efforts globally, nationally, and locally to identify solutions at 7 pm, Apr. 6, as part of the Sustainability Speaker Series. 

There will be a discussion on the Saturn power story and its Highfield solar project at the virtual breakfast meeting of the Energy Management Task Force on Apr. 7. 

Global Water Futures is offering an online lecture series on women and water with a presentation at 12:30 pm, Apr. 8, on women in the field

Saskatoon Nature Society’s Golden Eagles are planning a bluebird trip on Apr. 8 and a crocus trip on Apr. 15. Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate. 

Local News 
SOS Trees Coalition Saskatoon (trees@sostrees.ca) is looking for interesting true tree stories that will be shared in the organization’s newsletter right before Arbor Day

Join Stan Shadick, Saskatoon, for a socially distanced private birding tour or online/outdoor workshops (Signs of Spring, Sounds of the Night, Dancing Grouse). Proceeds will support Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation. 

Canada Geese visiting Innovation Place

“Nature, declares Richard Mabey, makes us ill. . . . ‘Bacteria and viruses and man-eating tigers and predatory Asian hornets are also all part of nature.’ . . . The most respectful terms of engagement, he argues, are not ‘anthropomorphism or manufactured empathy’ but ‘a sense of neighbourliness’. This is not friendship but ‘based on sharing a place, on the common experience of home and habitat and season’. ‘It might provide a bridge across the great conceptual divide between us and other species.’” 

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” 

From Information to Action 
Irrigation canals covered with solar panels are a powerful combination. 

“The quest for net zero health-care emissions involves re-imagining a society where health and wellbeing are prioritised, and incentives are aligned to promote fiscal and environmental stewardship. . . . Mitigating the health-care footprint requires interventions both to the health-care system and to the factors driving demand.” 

“In the last five years, while acceptance of climate change has gone more mainstream, the 60 largest commercial and private investment banks in the world financed the fossil fuel industry to a tune of nearly $4 trillion.” 

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 by email (top right corner). 

Did you know? Each adult female Richardson’s Ground Squirrel has her own tunnel where she raises her litter without help from the male.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Safe Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Rebecca Basset is the founder of Back40 Wilderness First Aid Training and a long-time member of Saskatoon Search and Rescue. She’s also the mother of two teenage daughters, so she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to bear in ensuring today’s kids can have fun and stay safe outdoors. 

Rebecca grew up in a small rural town. Her family didn’t go on camping trips, but she had the freedom to roam the “back 40” on her grandparent’s farm, to camp in a bluff of trees on the outskirts of town, to explore the creek, and toboggan on her own. Today’s kids don’t have the same freedom, leaving it up to parents to create opportunities for outdoor experiences. Parents recognize that risky play is good for kids, but they also want to ensure their children’s safety. 

“When I joined Saskatoon Search and Rescue, I really connected with the modern idea of outdoor adventure,” Rebecca says. “It reignited the part of me that always wanted to be outdoors as well as reinforcing my belief in the importance of being prepared.” Rebecca began hiking and camping more, at first by herself but then with her family. 

“Keeping it safe depends on the right choice of activity, place, and equipment,” she says. It’s also about progressively introducing new elements. Rebecca emphasizes the importance of starting small and building up to bigger adventures. “If I’m comfortable, then I’m comfortable taking my kids,” Rebecca says. For example, Rebecca rented a paddleboard for her first trips and stayed local. Once that felt comfortable, she bought her own paddleboard and started going on overnight trips. It was only once she felt completely comfortable on her solo adventures that she introduced her kids to paddleboarding – for a local trip on a day when the weather was great. 

Be Prepared 
Safe outdoor adventures start at home by ensuring that you are ready and equipped for your adventure. Being prepared encompasses everything from checking the weather forecast to ensuring you have the appropriate equipment (and that it’s in good working order). Be sure you have a backup plan. And be sure you carry a first aid kit. 

“There’s no excuse for not taking a first aid kit,” Rebecca says. “It doesn’t have to be a large massive bag. Kids can carry a zippy bag with bandaids, tensor bandage, and gauze. I have a few extra things in my kit.” Rebecca firmly believes that kids of all ages should have a backpack and carry some of their own gear. 

All children should have water, a jacket, extra socks or mitts, and a whistle (“Kids’ voices don’t carry far in the woods,” Rebecca says). 

A head lamp or flashlight is also recommended. “We get into the trap of only packing for the immediate activity rather than being prepared for future needs,” Rebecca explains. “Packing a head lamp means you can stay out late and watch the sunset or have parental peace of mind if your child gets lost and you’re searching for them in the dark.” 

When her kids were small, Rebecca always included a small toy in their backpacks to distract them if they were bored or alone. “It’s healthy preparedness,” Rebecca says. “If they were to get lost, I’d feel better knowing that they had something to help them through the hours until I can find them.” 

What is included in your child’s backpack will change as they grow older. Rebecca’s daughters now carry a knife and firestarter because they’ve been taught how and when to use them to start a fire. 

Progressive Adventures 
Some of Rebecca’s first trips with her family were to familiar places such as Beaver Creek. It felt far away, but it was still close to home. It was practice for her as a mother but an adventure for the kids. 

Once you and your kids are comfortable with an activity and have gained confidence in your abilities, you’re ready to take it to the next level, such as multi-day activities or better equipment. Rebecca’s daughters are now operating their own snowmobiles, but they’ve built up to that degree of power and speed, and Rebecca is comfortable about their safety. 

There is a wealth of online information. The EcoFriendly Sask website lists opportunities for summer and winter outdoor adventures as well as a list of nature programs for kids. Both Nature Regina and Wild About Saskatoon offer outdoor activity guides for their respective cities, and SaskOutdoors offers a wide range of workshops and activities. 

Rebecca highly recommends the AdventureSmart and Hug a Tree and Survive programs that help lost kids survive in the woods. “As a parent, it’s my worst nightmare if I couldn’t find my child,” Rebecca says. “I’ve always taught them what to do if lost.” 

Rebecca’s company, Back 40 Wilderness First Aid, offers a variety of wilderness first aid courses. In addition to the certification programs, she offers custom classes that can be tailor-made to fit a family or an organization’s particular needs. Rebecca is also considering offering youth courses in future. 

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 by email (top right corner).