Thursday, 22 October 2020

5 Amazing Facts about Owls

barred owl

Owls are outstanding hunters relying on both their eyes and ears to spot their prey: 
  • The circle of feathers surrounding many owls’ faces acts like a satellite dish, helping to collect the sound waves and channel them to their ears. In addition, their ears are often located at different heights on their head helping them to pinpoint where a sound originates. 
  • Owls’ eyes function like a pair of binoculars. They are cylindrical and immobile, which increases depth perception and helps them to focus on their prey. 
  • Owls can swivel their heads up to 270 degrees, giving them an amazing opportunity to see in all directions while remaining almost motionless. 
Owls swallow their prey whole, digesting what they can and storing the indigestible parts – teeth, bones, claws, feathers, and fur – in the second part of their stomach, the gizzard. The undigested parts are compressed into a pellet the shape of the gizzard and regurgitated several hours after they finish eating. By examining an owl pellet, you can discover what they have been eating. 

Burrowing owl

Owls use their feet to grab their prey. The bones are shorter and stronger than in other birds, helping them to withstand the shock when they make contact with their victim. The bottom of their feet has a rough, knobbly surface that improves their grip and helps them to hang on to the animal they have captured. Like other raptors, owls have 3 toes facing forward and one facing back. But owls are able to rotate one of their forward-facing toes to the back, giving them a better, more even grip on their prey as it struggles to escape. 

If a Canada Goose flies overhead, you can clearly hear its wings flapping. But that’s not the case with owls, particularly those that hunt at night. Their large wings (Snowy Owl have a wingspan of 4-5 feet) enable them to fly as slowly as 2 miles per hour with little flapping. A comb-like fringe on the wing feathers creates smaller streams of air, helping to muffle the sound of the air rushing over their wings. Silent flight means that their prey don’t hear them coming and the owls’ hearing isn’t masked by the sound of their own wings. 

Not all owls hunt by night. Some only hunt by night; others only hunt by day; while many are active both day and night. Northern Hawk Owl hunt by day, relying on their eyesight more than their hearing. Birds that usually hunt at night, such as the Great Horned Owl, are often after rodents, which are more active at night. 

Find out more about Saskatchewan wildlife on EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion

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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

EcoSask News, October 20, 2020

autumn leaves

Upcoming Events 
EnviroCollective, Oct. 22 (online) 
Regina’s EnviroCollective is hosting a virtual meeting at 7 pm, Oct. 22. 

Advancing a Circular Economy, Oct. 22 (online) 
The Recycling Councils of Alberta and British Columbia are hosting a webinar on national updates and provinces’ efforts to advance the circular economy at 10 am, Oct. 22. 

Household Hazardous Waste Days, Oct. 23/24 (Regina) 
The City of Regina is holding Household Hazardous Waste Days on Oct. 23 from 4-7 pm and on Oct. 24 from 9 am-4 pm

River Cleanup, Oct. 25 (Saskatoon) 
The Environmental Studies Students Association, U of S, is hosting a riverbank cleanup from 2-3:30 pm, Oct. 25. Everyone is welcome to assist.

Toads & Frogs, Oct. 29 (online) 
There will be a discussion about Great Plains Toads and Northern Leopard Frogs at noon, Oct. 29, as part of SK PCAP’s Native Prairie Speaker Series. 

Looking Ahead 
Early Childhood Education, Nov. 9-23 (online) 
SaskOutdoors is offering an online series on early childhood outdoor and environmental education resources from 7-8:30 pm, Nov. 9, 16, and 23. 

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
Katie Suek, Restoring 71, shares her story of landowner-driven conservation, restoration, and education during a pandemic in a short video. 

Nature Saskatchewan has prepared 3 videos: 

Southern Saskatchewan residents hold conflicting opinions, caught between the need to address climate change and support for the oil and gas industry

A new Nature Conservancy property extends a wildlife corridor near Saskatoon. 

A Pike Lake bioblitz – “I learned lots and had fun!”
autumn leaves

From Information to Action
Secondhand jeans - Levi’s joins a select handful of fashion brands that have developed a ‘reverse supply chain’ to support secondhand sales. 

Canada’s hydroelectric power is a hot export commodity – but at what cost? 

There are over 24,000 orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells in Saskatchewan. The cost to clean them up continues to grow. 

“Bringing the buffalo, the black-footed ferret and now the swift fox back, bringing those family members back home, connects us to our history with this land. It gives us a lot of pride as Natives.” 

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

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

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Owls of Saskatchewan

Burrowing owls

There is something mysterious about owls. Their silence, intense gaze, and immobility lend a dignity not found in many other birds. Below are the owls you’re most likely to find in Saskatchewan. 

Boreal Owl 
As their name indicates, Boreal Owl live year-round in the spruce and fir forests of northern Canada. They are small birds (8-11 in) with a square-shaped head. They have white spots on a brown back and brown streaks on a white belly. The grayish white facial disc is surrounded by a dark border and there are tiny white spots on the top of their head. 

Boreal Owl hunt at night, sitting on a tree branch until they spot and pounce on their prey (small rodents and squirrels). They lay up to 19 eggs in tree cavities, such as those created by woodpeckers. They will also make use of nest boxes when they are provided. 

Did you know? The male’s low hooting call can be heard from mid-February to April as they entice the females with food and song. The males offer the females a choice of 1-5 nesting sites on their territory and feed them for up to 3 months prior to nesting. 

Burrowing Owl 
Burrowing Owl are tiny (7.5-10 in) with long legs and a short tail. They are a mottled brown with white eyebrows and throat. They can be found during the summer in southwestern Canada and the western United States. Northern birds migrate further south for the winter. They are found year-round in southern California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and the Florida Panhandle. 

Burrowing Owl live in treeless areas with an open view and plenty of holes for shelter. Look for them standing on the ground next to their burrow or perched on a nearby fence post. You may see them near a prairie dog colony as the owls use the abandoned burrows of prairie dogs and ground squirrels for nests. 

Burrowing Owl turn their head upside down when curious and bob up and down when threatened. They are active day and night. 

Could it be? Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Snowy Owl also live in grassland areas, but they're all much larger than the Burrowing Owl. Short-eared Owl (14-17 in) are the most similar, but they have shorter legs, an obvious facial disc, and fly low over the fields rather than walking on the ground. 

Did you know? Burrowing Owl often line the entrance to their burrows with animal dung to attract insects that they then catch and eat. 

Great Gray Owl 
Great Gray Owl are the tallest (24-33 in) North American owl with the largest wingspan (4.5-5 ft) but are mostly fluff and only half the weight of a Snowy Owl or a Great Horned Owl. They can be found year-round in the evergreen forests of Alaska and northern Canada as well as the western mountain region stretching from British Columbia through Washington, Idaho, Montana, and parts of California. They have silvery gray feathers, a round head with a large facial disc, a black and white bowtie across the neck, and yellow eyes and beak. 

Great Gray Owl hunt for rodents and other small mammals during the day. They prefer a mix of dense forest for nesting and open areas (meadows, clearings) for hunting. 

Could it be? Great Horned Owl hunt at night and have earlike tufts on their head. Northern Hawk Owl are also found in northern boreal forests, but they have a long tail and short pointed wings. Barred Owl are smaller with dark eyes and no black-and-white throat markings. 

Did you know? Great Gray Owl live in Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, and Mongolia as well as North America. 

Great horned owl

Great Horned Owl 
Great Horned Owl can be found in forests from the Arctic all the way to South America where their short, wide wings allow them to manoeuvre between the trees. They are large (18-25 in) birds with long earlike tufts pointing out to the side, a white bib, a dark brown body with white markings, and bright yellow eyes. They have a deep hooting voice that is unlike any other North American owl. 

Could it be? Great Gray Owl are also forest dwellers, but they hunt during the day and don't have ear tufts. Long-eared Owl prefer open grasslands and are smaller and slender with ear tufts that point straight up rather than out at a slight angle. 

Did you know? Great Horned Owl are ferocious predators with prey ranging from birds or mammals larger than themselves to small insects, mice, and frogs. They use their large, strong talons to break the spine of large prey. 

Long-eared Owl 
Long-eared Owl are slender birds (13-16 in) with long ear tufts pointing straight up. Their dark mottled feathers and rusty-orange facial disc provide excellent camouflage when roosting during the day in thick stands of trees. They can be found in Canada during the summer breeding season and are found year-round and during the winter in the United States. They may be spotted in the far southern interior of British Columbia all year round. 

Long-eared Owl hunt in open grasslands at night, occasionally at dusk, flying low over the ground and searching for prey by sight or sound. They eat small mammals, particularly rodents. Long-eared Owl don't build their own nests. Instead, they use stick nests built by crow and magpie. 

Could it be? Great Horned Owl are larger than Long-eared Owl. Their ear tufts are shorter and point out at an angle rather than straight up and down. 

Did you know? If disturbed on their nest, Long-eared Owl raise their ear tufts and compress their feathers to disguise themselves as a broken branch. 

Northern Hawk Owl 
As their name indicates, Northern Hawk Owl bear similarities to hawks as well as owls. They are the only owl with a long hawk-like tail, but their head and body are wider than a hawk’s. They have a dark, medium-sized (14-17 in) body with white markings and a pale face surrounded by a black border. 

Northern Hawk Owl hunt during the day, pouncing on their prey from on high like a hawk. They can be found year-round in the boreal forests of Alaska and northern Canada. They move south in extreme weather or when there is a shortage of food. 

Did you know? Northern Hawk Owl can detect prey by sight at up to half a mile. 

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl 
Northern Saw-whet Owl are small birds (7-8.5 in), close to the size of a Robin. They have a large round head, big yellow eyes surrounded by a white facial disc, and no ear tufts. They have a brown back and a white breast with dark brown streaks. They hunt at night for rodents, especially mice. Listen for their single shrill repeating call. 

Northern Saw-whet Owl are forest dwellers and can be found year-round in southern Canada, southern Alaska, as well as forested regions from Washington to California, from Montana to Arizona and New Mexico, and around the Great Lakes and the northeastern United States. They winter in the dense forests of central and southern United States. 

Could it be? Northern Saw-whet Owl are smaller than Boreal Owl with streaks instead of spots on their forehead. Screech Owl are also small, but they have ear tufts. 

Did you know? Young Northern Saw-whet Owl are very distinctive as they have a dark brown head, a white triangle on their forehead, and a rusty-colored breast. 

Short-eared Owl 
Short-eared Owl can be found in open grasslands from North and South America to Europe and Asia. In Canada, you will be most likely to spot them in the spring as they migrate north to breed, although some breed in Saskatchewan. 

Short-eared Owl are medium-sized owls (13-17 in). Their yellow eyes are rimmed in black within a pale facial disk. They have streaky brown feathers with broad, rounded wings. The small ear tufts can be hard to spot. A pale patch on their upper wings can be spotted when they are in flight. 

Short-eared Owl are most active at dawn or dusk. They fly low over open areas, ready to pounce on voles and other rodents and occasionally birds (especially in coastal areas). They are unusual among owls as they construct their own nest, a hollow in the ground lined with grass and feathers. Males bring food to the females who then feed the young. 

Did you know? Female Short-eared Owls are reluctant to leave the nest when they are breeding. If they have to, they defecate on the eggs, presumably hoping that the stink will deter predators and mask the smell of the nest. 

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl 
Snowy Owl prefer treeless, wide-open spaces. The islands high above the Arctic Circle are their summer breeding grounds, but they can be seen in Saskatchewan during the winter flying over the fields or perched on a fence post or hay bale as they scan the area for small animal prey. Some years large numbers will appear south of the Canadian border in search of food. 

Snowy Owl (20-28 in, 50-57 in wingspan) have a round head and yellow eyes in a white facial disc. Males can be pure white, but females have mixed white and brown feathers. Their feet are covered with feathers to protect them from the cold. 

Did you know? Snowy Owl hunt both day and night, perhaps because they've adapted to almost day-long sunlight during the Arctic summer and day-long darkness in the winter. 

Find out more about Saskatchewan wildlife on EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app covering Canada's four western provinces.

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner)

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

EcoSask News, October 13, 2020


Upcoming Events 
Breeding Bird Atlas Update, Oct. 19 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina for an update on the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas from 7-8:30 pm, Oct. 19. RSVP as seating is limited

Sask Watersheds, Oct. 20 (online) 
Bob Halliday will describe Saskatchewan’s watersheds with particular emphasis on the southern half of the province in an online Sustainable Speakers series presentation from 7-8:30 pm, Oct. 20. 

Drones for Avian Research, Oct. 23 (online) 
Dr. Ann McKellar will discuss the use of drones for avian research and conservation at 3:30 pm, Oct. 23, as part of the WildEcol Seminar Series.

Saskatoon Nature Society 
Golden Eagles 
Oct. 22, 9 am – Pike Lake & area 
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate. 

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Oct. 24, 9 am-12:30 pm – Waterfowl Viewing 
Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
As the area affected by the Rabbit Creek fire in Prince Albert National Park regenerates, it’s attracting a wide variety of birds and animals

Fertilizer is dramatically over-applied worldwide and has a profound effect on climate change. Its effects are obvious in the blue-green algae covering southern Saskatchewan lakes. 

From Information to Action 
In a world that needs metals, how can we mine more responsibly? 

“New roads do little to reduce congestion, and they will usually result in increased emissions.” 

Alex Honnold compares addressing climate change to climbing: “Something that seems impossible must be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces until you can find an appropriate way forward.” 

“They are designed like a jet fighter.” Bar-tailed Godwits migrate non-stop for over 12,000 km from Alaska to New Zealand.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

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

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Educational Resources for Kids on Nature and the Environment

Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar

If your kids are homeschooling this year or if you’re a teacher eager to take your class outside, you may be searching for resources. We’re sure you’ve already checked out many of the local options, but here are some you may not have come across. 

Alberta Council for Environmental Education 
There are lots of teaching resources on the Alberta Council for Environmental Education’s website. Did you know you can sign up for a virtual field trip on Skype in the Classroom? Would you like to measure the heat loss from your home this winter? 

Climate Atlas of Canada 
The Climate Atlas of Canada website includes an interactive map as well as a large number of short videos on topics such as energy, emissions & agriculture, wind power on the prairies, and Indigenous climate action. 

Kids for the Bay, Earth Island Institute 
There’s a wealth of activity ideas on the Kids for the Bay website. If your kids are interested in nature, you can make a sound map, get active with play-yoga, or go on a seed hunt. If you’ve got some junior environmentalists, why not try making natural pesticides or logging how much water you use in a day? Or you can conduct an experiment to help your kids understand ocean currents or coastal erosion. There are accompanying videos and links that provide additional information. 
Grass Spider

Let’s Talk Science 
Let’s Talk Science offers a wealth of science projects. You can try your hand at cleaning up an oil spill, find out how walking on soil changes the way water soaks into the ground, or discover how dinosaur footprints turned into fossils

Nature’s Wild Neighbors 
Wild Neighbors, established by the Robert Bateman Foundation, has a creative arts contest for kids as well as educational resources. Activity sheets explain how to record a bird song playlist, grow fungus, or work out what is renewable and what isn’t

Resources for Rethinking 
Resources for Rethinking connects teachers to lesson plans, books, videos, and other materials that explore the environmental, social and economic dimensions of important issues and events unfolding in our world today. Activities include imagining the world kids want in 2030, redesigning plastic packaging, or role playing whether or not to destroy a salt marsh to build a highway. 

Science NetLinks 
Find out how passive solar design mitigates climate change, investigate sources of renewable energy, or find out how sedimentary rocks are formed using educational toolkits on Science Net Links, a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Wild About Vancouver 
Wild About Vancouver is an outdoor nature festival similar to Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival. Individuals and organizations are invited to submit lesson plans and there are lots to choose from. Discovering decomposers is a great fall activity – what actually happens to those leaves that fall to the ground? Is there a really tall tree in your neighbourhood? Why not measure it (with or without technology)?

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

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

EcoSask News, October 6, 2020

fall colors

Upcoming Events 
Bird Collisions, Oct. 5-11 (Regina) 
Nature Regina is looking for early risers to meet at 6:30 am from Oct. 5-11 to log bird-building collisions. 

Dark Skies at the Creek, Oct. 10, 17, 24 & 31 (Saskatoon) 
Saskatoon Nature Society is hosting a variety of presentations to celebrate Dark Skies at Beaver Creek Conservation Area on Oct. 10, 17, 24 & 31.

Canada Jay, Oct. 15 (online) 
Dan Strickland will talk about the triumph and downfall of the Canada Jay at the 7:30 pm, Oct. 15, online meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. Meetings are currently members-only so sign up now

Looking Ahead 
Outstanding Owls Camp-In, Oct. 23 (online) 
The Saskatchewan Science Centre is hosting a virtual camp-in at 7 pm, Oct. 23. An activity kit will be provided for creating a hand puppet, dissecting an owl pellet, and much more. 

Virtual Repair Café, Oct. 24 (online) 
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is hosting a virtual repair café from 10 am-2 pm, Oct. 24. Register a broken item and you’ll receive a link to a Zoom meeting where knowledgeable volunteers will coach you through fixing your item. 

Project WET, Nov. 2-Feb. 12 (online) 
SaskOutdoors is hosting a distance Project WET workshop involving phone calls and opportunities to engage in activities with your class from Nov. 2 to Feb. 12. 

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
A company is proposing to harvest peat south of La Ronge. For more information on the potential impact of this project, check out the Global Peatlands Initiative website and a petition opposing the project. A Facebook group has been set up - For Peat’s Sake - Protecting Northern Saskatchewan’s Muskegs.

Orion Morgan, Salt Box Studios, Saskatoon, builds passive houses. He’s also saving trees. SOS Trees Coalition reports that he is going out of his way to protect not only City trees but also other mature trees and shrubs on a construction site.

Do you have a bat box in your yard? If so, you’re invited to participate in a survey looking at which types of bats are using the boxes and what type of boxes work best in Canada

Wood frog

“Instead of demolishing houses, Corneil's company deconstructs them and salvages the materials so they can be returned to the supply chain.” 

York plans to build Britain’s largest zero-carbon housing project. It will also be car-free with allotments, fruit trees, and shared cargo bikes. 

From Information to Action 
“Carsharing is an avoidance tactic that allows a privileged group to bypass the gaps in our transportation network.”

“Canada produces nine times more plastic waste per person than India, up to 3.6 times more than some countries in Southeast Asia, and up to twice that of some Scandinavian countries.” 

DataStream, an online open-access platform, allows users to share information about the health of waterways across Canada

Dual-flush toilets were expected to use less than half the amount of water per flush, but they are prone to leaks, wasting more water than they save

Read and Watch 
“Embracing of wildness calls on us to stop feeling annoyed, threatened and endangered by everything that escapes control and to resist the urge constantly to direct and dominate the world around us.” [book review] 

Check out these new environmental action books, including All We Can Save by women climate leaders, Tales from the Ant World by E O Wilson, and Earth AD: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities that Fought Back

Striking Balance Season 2 explores 9 of Canada’s biosphere reserves. It will be available to stream on TVO’s YouTube channel. 

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

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

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

EcoSask News, September 29, 2020

fall colors

Upcoming Events 
Orienteering for Kids, Sept.-Nov. (Saskatoon) 
SaskOutdoors is offering 6 weekly sessions of orienteering for kids ages 5-12 in Saskatoon. Sessions are on Sundays from Sept. 27 to Nov. 1 (2-3 pm) and on Wednesdays (5:30-6:30 pm) from Sept. 30 to Nov. 4. 

Climate Reality Campus Corps, Sept. 30 (online) 
Find out about Climate Reality Canada’s Campus Corps, a student-led climate action initiative at U of S, in an online presentation at 7 pm, Sept. 30. 

Reclaiming Our Relationship to Mother Earth, Oct. 1 (online) 
Part Four of Mother Earth Justice Advocates’ Declaration for a Better World explores sustainability and local empowerment as they are rooted in kinship relationships from 5:30-7:30 pm, Oct. 1. 

St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Clean-up, Oct. 3 (Saskatoon) 
The Fat Tire Brigade is hosting a clean-up at the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area on Oct. 3. 

Household Hazardous Waste, Oct. 4 (Saskatoon) 
You can dispose of household hazardous waste at City of Saskatoon’s Civic Operations Centre from 9 am-3:30 pm, Oct. 4. 

Build Better Walls, Oct. 7 (online) 
The Energy Management Task Force is hosting an online presentation on building better wall assemblies from 7:30-9 am, Oct. 7. 


Protecting Canada’s Fresh Water, Oct. 8 (online) 
Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin is offering a webinar from 12-1 pm, Oct. 8, on creating a Canada Water Agency

Would you like to replace cement with green shrubs and trees? 
Take a self-paced training program and become a certified Depave Paradise coordinator. For more information, contact Emily Amon at Green Communities Canada

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In the News 
A steady diet of fertilizer has turned crops into couch potatoes – “big fat high-yielding crops that look good on the outside but are poor in minerals on the inside

Grass – “It’s a symbol of nature . . . . but a form of nature that’s perfect: uniform, smooth, and hardy” and it entails greenhouse gases, noise pollution, large amounts of water, and loss of biodiversity. 

A tidal wave of climate lawsuits looms over the fossil fuel industry. 

Energy giant BP predicts a “fundamental restructuring” of the global energy system, offering 3 possible scenarios

Natural forest regrowth - “Sometimes, we just need to give nature room to grow back naturally.” 

Canada needs zero-emission vehicle standards – here’s why. 

“A Dutch startup has created a biodegradable living coffin made of a fungus instead of wood that it says can convert a decomposing human body into key nutrients for plants.” 

Canadian and North American research shows that beaver coexistence tools (pond levelers, culvert protectors) are a cost-effective way to manage chronically flooded beaver conflict sites

What type of cloud is that? A basic guide to cloudspotting

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

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

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Nature Regina: Watch Them Grow, Part Two

You can grow much more than just plants in a garden, as Nature Regina discovered. We started telling their story in Part One of this article. The story continues. 

Shannon Chernick, a volunteer at the Native Plant Garden that is maintained by Nature Regina volunteers, has two sons, Damon and Graham. They love spending time outdoors so Shannon brought them with her to the garden one day. The other volunteers wanted to know how she got her kids interested in nature and this led to a more general discussion about how to get more kids involved in Nature Regina. When Nature Regina received the public engagement grant from Nature Canada, they immediately thought of Shannon, who has a Bachelor of Education and has worked as a youth engagement coordinator. 

Shannon signed the contract on April 1 when the province was under lockdown. She and her sons took daily walks outside for their mental health. One day, when Damon and Shannon were out walking, he suggested they take photographs to let other families know what was going on outdoors. And that was the start of Wandering Wednesdays which are self-guided, family-friendly hike guides to help families explore the green spaces in Regina. (PS It was Shannon’s husband who came up with the name and the idea of a weekly guide.) 

“It’s my kids’ brain child and they’re the ones making it happen,” Shannon says. “They see things I’d never have seen on my own. They even come up with activities they think other kids would enjoy.” Shannon’s job is to capture photos of their outdoor adventures and put the outdoor adventure guides together. She also needs to identify the insects and plants they’ve discovered. And for that she turns to the other members of her “team” – the knowledgeable people in Nature Regina. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t contact Dale Hjertaas or Gail Fennell,” she says. Many other volunteers have also helped, including Glen and Maureen Lee, Brett Quiring, and Kim Mann. 

The family outdoor adventure guides are posted simultaneously on Nature Regina’s website and Facebook page and sent out in the organization’s e-newsletter every Wednesday. With 15 guides and counting, that’s a big commitment from Nature Regina’s communications volunteers. “Every week, our volunteer communications team - Daralyn Sheffield, Ingrid Alesich, and Jim Elliott - are ready to get it posted,” Shannon says. “Without them, no one would know about Wandering Wednesdays.” 

The family outdoor adventure guides are proving extremely popular and both Nature Regina and Shannon want to see them continued. They are looking for outside grants that will support their efforts to provide Regina with kid-friendly outdoor activities. 

Over the summer, Wandering Wednesdays focused on places – Condie Nature Refuge, White Butte Trails, Hidden Valley, Wascana McKell Conservation Park. This winter, Shannon plans to focus on activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter birdwatching with Wandering Wednesdays - Winter Edition to inspire Regina residents to spend time outside. Her mind is bubbling over with additional ideas. Regina schools have cancelled recess due to the pandemic. Instead, teachers are expected to integrate outdoor activities into their daily schedule with their classes. The schools have banned travel outside of the city and redeployed their outdoor education staff, but they are encouraging in-city travel into green spaces close to schools. Shannon and Nature Regina hope they can be of assistance, especially as there is a Wandering Wednesday site within a 30-minute walk of three-quarters of Regina’s schools. 

“We’re listening and trying to respond to local needs as quickly as possible,” Shannon says. It’s challenging given limited funds, but Shannon is forging partnerships with other organizations to make it happen. Nature Saskatchewan delivers Nature Canada’s Naturehood program of activities designed to get students outside and enjoying nature. Lacey Weekes is their conservation and education manager and has all sorts of resources. 

Lacey and Shannon are working together to assemble materials to assist teachers with outdoor education. “We really want to respond to needs within our community,” Shannon says. “It’s a stressful time for teachers. Not-for-profits have a real opportunity to be part of the solution.” 

Lacey and Shannon have also set up a Get Outside! Outdoor Adventures: Kids Club with help from SaskOutdoors who are managing registration and have developed a participant survey and designed the graphic for the program as they have expertise in those areas. 

Kids Club is proving popular. Registration was at maximum capacity within 12 hours of registration for the first session. Nature Regina is now looking for additional volunteers so they can increase their capacity and give more family groups an opportunity to participate in the program. Each volunteer would lead separate groups of 10 families through a round robin of activities. 

This was the format Nature Regina used at two events earlier this season. One event, at Wascana McKell Park, led families through a series of activities, such as pond dipping. Ducks Unlimited provided background information about the site and led a train-the-trainer session. “We’re working together and not trying to do it alone,” Shannon explains. “Ten people came to train-the-trainer. Three of them had never volunteered for anything before. We’re constantly recalculating to try and make things work.” 

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum and the Saskatchewan Science Centre are adapting to the new reality and working hard to move their activities online during the pandemic. As there are Wandering Wednesday sites close to the Saskatchewan Science Centre and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Nature Regina has provided them with QR codes for nearby Wandering Wednesday locations. If families arrive and find the buildings closed because hours are limited during the pandemic, they have something to do in the area before heading home. 

Shannon’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. But she insists that she’s not doing it alone. “We’re working together, establishing teams and partnerships, and people are stepping up.” 

All 15+ Get Outside! Outdoor Adventure Guides are available for download on the Nature Regina website. If you would like to support the Get Outside movement in Regina, you can make a donation or purchase a membership to Nature Regina on their website

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Nature Regina: Watch Them Grow, Part One

You can grow more than just plants in a garden. Just take a look at Nature Regina where volunteering for the organization’s Native Plant Garden has led to new members, new activities, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. 

Elaine Ehman is the current president of Nature Regina, but she got her start pulling weeds in the garden. “I can’t identify plants, but I wanted to help,” Elaine says. "I hung around people who knew what they were doing and learned from them. I’m surprised at the number of plants I can now identify.” She’s begun using native plants in her own garden and encourages other people to volunteer. “You’re welcome. There’s a space for everyone in the garden.” Elaine then took one of the bird identification classes offered by the Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas project. “I’m really a novice birder, but in Nature Regina I’m surrounded by people who know them,” she says. 

Nature Regina first started holding meetings in 1933 as the Regina Natural History Society with their first public meeting in March of that year and their first nature hikes in May. Many things have changed over the years, but Nature Regina has never stopped fostering a greater appreciation for nature through field trips, education programs, and environmental advocacy. 

Nature Regina maintains the Native Plant Garden located at the southeast entrance of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. What is in flower changes from week to week, but it is always busy with butterflies, bees, and insects. Volunteers provided the original seeds and cuttings, and the plants spent their first winter in Wascana Centre’s greenhouse before being planted out in the spring. It takes a lot of work to maintain a garden, and it had stagnated for a few years until Gail Fennell moved to Regina from Edmonton and began organizing volunteer activities in the garden. “She’s a changemaker,” Shannon Chernick says. “She has a five-year vision for the garden, and she keeps everybody informed by sending out a weekly email with photographs to let us know what’s flowering and what insects have been spotted. There’s a real sense of community.” 

Nature Regina produced a calendar with members’ photos to celebrate the garden’s 25th anniversary last year, and it proved so popular that they are producing another calendar this year with photos of outdoor favorites. 

Nature Regina owns a half section of land near Lumsden in the Qu’Appelle Valley. The Hidden Valley property was obtained for $1 from the CPR in 1945. It’s retained as a wildlife sanctuary and members maintain the trails and try to keep invasive species out. They also gather seeds here for the native plant garden. It’s open to the public and they encourage people to use it. 

As president, Elaine hoped that Nature Regina could expand its membership. “I joined when I retired, and I noticed that there were a lot of other older members,” Elaine said. A talk at one of Nature Saskatchewan’s annual meetings led Elaine to investigate the possibility of a grant from Nature Canada designed to create public engagement. It’s a small grant of $8,000, but Nature Regina has put it to good use. Nature Canada conducted an audit of Nature Regina’s activities and organized webinars to guide association members through the engagement process. Of the 8 recommendations, 2 stood out. The association needed to create core teams for main functions and it needed to define its constituency. 

Daralyn Sheffield, Ingrid Alesich, and Jim Elliott were responsible for the website, newsletter, and Facebook, but they were working independently. Their goal was to increase their impact by working together as a team. They started using Mail Chimp for the newsletter and redesigned the website. “It was incredible,” Elaine says. “Way above what I expected. The biggest excitement was the look of it, but we could also do so much more. We could track activity, know who would be coming to an event, and obtain email contacts.” The communications team’s efforts were really put to the test when Nature Regina started posting weekly family activities. They came through with flying colours. 

Fine-tuning how the association functioned led Nature Regina to add more online features. Donations are now accepted on Canada Helps and you can sign up for the weekly newsletter or become a member directly from their website

With a strong team structure in place, it was time for Nature Regina to consider its constituency. They’d been attending volunteer fairs to interest university students, but it wasn’t producing the desired results. “We got speakers for our meetings, but we didn’t get the engagement we were looking for,” Elaine says. They decided to try a new approach and hired Shannon Chernick, a Native Plant Garden volunteer who just happened to have a degree in education and work experience as a youth engagement coordinator. Success? Oh, yes! Stay tuned for Part Two of our article about Nature Regina. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

EcoSask News, September 22, 2020

Red squirrel

Upcoming Events 
Sustainable YXE, Sept. 24 (online) 
The Saskatoon Public Library is hosting a program to help teens engage with others who share an interest in environmental sustainability. The first session is at 6 pm, Sept. 24. 

International Climate Strike, Sept. 25 (Saskatoon) 
YXE Youth Climate Committee is hosting a socially distanced (masks mandatory) climate strike from 1-2:30 pm, Sept. 25. 

Birds for Beginners, Sept. 25 (online) 
LeeAnn Latremouille, Saskatchewan Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator, will host a Zoom presentation on beginner bird identification at 2 pm, Sept. 25, for the Saskatoon Public Library. 

Wildlife Rehab AGM, Sept. 26 (online) 
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan is holding a virtual annual general meeting at 2 pm, Sept. 26. Register in advance. 

Household Hazardous Waste Days, Sept. 26 & 27 (Regina) 
City of Regina is holding Household Hazardous Waste Days on Sept. 26 (9 am-4 pm) and Sept. 27 (9 am-4 pm). 

Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, Sept. 30 (online) 
Join Seth Klein, author of A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, for an evening of music, a reading, author Q&A, and a panel discussion with local climate emergency activists from 7-8:30 pm, Sept. 30.  

Climate Action Networking, Oct. 1 (online)
Are you working on climate change issues in Saskatoon? Register for an evening of networking and presentations on key climate policies from 7-8:30 pm, Oct. 1.

Saskatoon Nature Society 
Golden Eagles 
Sept. 24, 9 am – Petrofka Orchard & Trails 
Oct. 1, 9 am – Radisson Lake 
Oct. 8, 9 am – Whooping Cranes (members only) 
Oct. 15, 9 am – Blackstrap & area 
Retirees and partners who are interested in birds and the natural world are invited to participate

Other Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips 
Sept. 26, 1:45-9:30 pm – Goose & Crane Trip 
Oct. 10, 8 am-5 pm – Whooping Crane Field Trip 
Oct. 12, 9:30-11:30 am – Woodlawn Cemetery Bird Walk 
Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News 
Regina citizens have responded to a motion by Regina City Council to go 100% renewable with community meetings and a report emphasizing the need to include equity in the plan. 

Northern Saskatchewan residents can make a valuable scientific contribution by monitoring bird species and letting people know about species decline. 

Northeast Swale Watchers have updated their website – find out why speed kills

Milkweed seeds

From Information to Action 
The less you rake, the more you help fight climate change and save biodiversity. 

A new report demonstrates how countries can tap into the undervalued potential of their wetland systems to fight climate change. 

Reclaiming golf courses and waterways – how volunteer rewilders are building a new harmony with nature. 

That’s Amazing! 
From emergency first aid to spy games and booby traps – how plants defend themselves from insects

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

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

Thursday, 17 September 2020

SOS Trees Coalition

autumn leaves

A stroll down Spadina Crescent south of the weir on a summer evening is a delight. The tall elms on either side of the street provide cool, dappled shade and there is a constant chorus of birds. With the help of SOS Trees Coalition (formerly known as SOS Elms Coalition), Saskatoon’s elms are healthy and well maintained.

The situation could have been very different if a group of concerned citizens had not stepped forward to speak for the trees. SOS Elms was established in 1992 in response to a growing threat from Dutch Elm Disease, which was making its way across North America, killing elm trees in its path. 

The American elm is an ideal urban tree. It thrives in our climate, tolerating urban stresses, such as soil compaction, road salt, and poor drainage. But it can’t fight Dutch Elm Disease (DED), a fungus that blocks the tree’s vascular system, which carries water and food to all parts of the tree. DED is spread by the elm bark beetle when it lays eggs in fungus-infected elms. When the new adults emerge, they carry the fungus to healthy trees. Spread of the disease can be halted by not bringing in firewood from other parts of the country and pruning dead or dying wood. (To avoid spreading disease, elm trees should never be pruned between April 1 and August 31.) 

Advocacy efforts by SOS Elms have made a huge difference. The City now prunes its urban trees every 7 years, rather than every 50, and hires students in the summer to survey the city, looking for diseased trees or illegal firewood. One tree had to be removed in 2015, and just this week another case was confirmed. But the City foresters have identified the infected tree and are taking it down along with a few others close by to ensure the fungus hasn’t spread. This is good DED management and we can only hope that we can continue to contain this disease through diligent monitoring. 

fall colors

Based on their success in advocating for elms, the Coalition decided to expand its reach to protecting and fostering all urban trees. Advocacy continues to be an important part of their mandate. Faced by the wholesale destruction of the trees along the 33rd Street rail line, SOS Trees, along with other citizens approached the City, CP Rail, and the media. CP Rail eventually issued an apology and a committee has been set up to make remediation arrangements, including planting low-growing bushes and hopefully some trees. The City of Saskatoon has already planted new trees along the public right of way. 

An ongoing area of concern is providing protection for existing trees when construction work is underway. Most developers have caught on to the fact that they should install protective fencing around established trees on city boulevards. However, they frequently fail to protect the trees’ roots, which extend out to the drip line. “Driving heavy equipment over the area around the tree damages the roots by compacting the soil,” explains Linda Moskalyk, president of SOS Trees. “The damage may not be immediately apparent, but a few years down the road, you’ll see die-off and eventual death.” Developers can avoid compacting the soil and damaging the roots by laying down a thick layer of mulch and not digging within 3 metres of the trunk. 

Trees play an important role in creating a livable city. They lower the heat on hot days, reduce air pollution, and promote biodiversity by providing food and shelter for birds, insects, and small mammals. They also improve our mental health and are a source of beauty. But trees have a tough time in an urban prairie environment and there are only a limited number of species that can withstand the harsh winters, compacted soil, and poor drainage. Disease also plays a role. A cottony ash psyllid outbreak has killed over 7000 ash trees in recent years and the City is struggling to replace them. Residents can play a role by planting trees in their yards and caring for their boulevard trees. 

SOS Trees pairs its advocacy efforts with educational initiatives. The Saskatoon Tree Tour booklet highlights 24 of Saskatoon’s most impressive trees. Copies of the booklet are available for a small donation from several locations around the city. SOS Trees has also led walking and cycle tours. They are currently working with Meewasin Valley Authority to develop a variety of different activities to celebrate Arbour Week in the spring. 

If you have questions about trees, don’t hesitate to contact SOS Trees. They’ll be happy to answer your questions, whether it’s how to care for a tree or the choice of a new one. You can follow SOS Trees on Facebook and they welcome new members
See Also 
Saskatoon's Urban Forest, EcoFriendly Sask
Saskatoon Tree Tour, SOS Trees 
Urban Forestry Booklet, City of Saskatoon 
Urban Forest, City of Saskatoon 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

EcoSask News, September 15, 2020

Sandhill cranes

Upcoming Events
Cycling in Saskatoon, Sept. 15 (online)
Avid cyclist Kira Judge will present possible solutions for people who do not currently ride their bike in Saskatoon in an online Sustainable Speakers series presentation from 7-8:30 pm, Sept. 15.

Outdoor Adventures Kids Club, Sept. 16-Oct. 28 (Regina) 
Nature Regina, Nature Saskatchewan, and SaskOutdoors are offering an outdoor kids club from 10 am-12 pm, Wednesdays from Sept. 16-Oct. 28. The outdoor education program, for kids ages 6-12, is designed to support the science curriculum and will include French enrichment.

Last Mountain Bird Observatory, Sept. 19 (online) 
Nature Saskatchewan is celebrating 30 years at Last Mountain Bird Observatory with a special Zoom presentation by Al Smith at 7 pm, Sept. 19. Pre-registration is required.

Outdoor Adventure Guides, Sept. 21 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina for a presentation on their new outdoor adventure guides from 7-8:30 pm, Sept. 21. RSVP as seating is limited.

Talking about Climate Change, Sept. 22, Oct. 6 & 20
Climate Justice Saskatoon is offering 3 free webinars on talking with people about climate change during the election campaigns from 7:30-9 pm, Sept. 22, and from 7:30-8:30 pm, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

Bison Restoration at Wanuskewin, Sept. 23 (online) 
There will be a webinar about bringing bison back to Wanuskewin at noon, Sept. 23, as part of SK-PCAP’s Native Prairie Speaker series.

Meewasin Valley Summit, Sept. 23 (online) 
Join Meewasin leadership for insight into upcoming strategies, priorities, and projects from 11 am-1 pm, Sept. 23 (online).

SODCAP AGM, Sept. 24 (online) 
South of the Divide Conservation Action Program is holding its annual general meeting online from 2-6 pm, Sept. 24. There will be presentations on helium development and badgers. You can join them at approximately 3 pm for the presentation about badgers.

Tree Wrapping, Sept. 24 (Saskatoon) 
Join Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, Meewasin Valley Authority, and SOS Trees in wrapping trees to help maintain a balance between food for beavers and urban forest from 5-7 pm, Sept. 24. Sign up to register.

Sandhill cranes

Looking Ahead
World Rivers Day, Sept. 27 (online) 
Safe Drinking Water Foundation, Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin, South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards, Meewasin, and The Saskatchewan First Nations Water Association are holding a Virtual World Rivers Day event from 1- 2:30 pm, Sept. 27. Start following them now if you want to win one of the prizes.

Whooping & Sandhill Crane Tour, late Sept.-mid Oct. (Saskatoon) 
Groups of 1-4 using their own vehicle are invited to join Stan Shadick on 1-day and 2-day custom tours to look for Whooping and/or Sandhill Cranes. Proceeds will go to Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation.

WILD Education Facilitator Training, Oct. 5-17 (online & Regina) 
SaskOutdoors is hosting an online WILD Education facilitator training from 7-9 pm on Oct. 5, 7, and 14, and from 10 am-4 pm, Oct. 17, in person, in Regina.

Virtual Repair Café, Oct. 24 (online) 
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is hosting a virtual repair café from 10 am-2 pm, Oct. 24. Register a broken item and you’ll receive a link to a Zoom meeting where knowledgeable volunteers will coach you through fixing your item.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News
The Prairie-Hardy Trees Forum is a new Facebook group to discuss, share, and ask questions related to trees.

From Information to Action
“Conservation organizations face a singular opportunity to reshape conservation into a discipline that promotes both the quantity of species and the quality of animal life.”

Geothermal projects in western Canada could herald a new era for an untapped resource and job opportunities for former oil and gas workers.

Should national parks close for a couple of months every year to give them a respite from human traffic?

“Oil and gas executives knowingly pushed the illusion that comprehensive plastic recycling is a viable practice — with no actual intention of making it that way — all in the interest of getting consumers to buy more single-use plastic materials.”

“Many of the world’s largest freight transporters are flailing during the pandemic and will be reliant on government money to survive. . . . governments have leverage to prod these industries to go greener and contribute their fair share to hitting international climate targets.”

Natural Wonders
The Natures Wild Neighbours Society invites you to get outdoors, connect with nature through the creative arts and upload your nature-inspired art, photography, writing, video or music entry before June 1, 2021, for a chance to win some wild prizes.

The miracle of flight – insects in slow motion

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner). 

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