Thursday 28 May 2020

Birds in Art, Film & Photography

Black-mandibled Toucan

Do you long to take a close look at a magpie’s black and white splendour or a toucan’s striking plumage? Two recently published books and a documentary let you do just that.

Close to Birds: An Intimate Look at our Feathered Friends 
“Birds touch us. No other wild animal can waken the curiosity, warm the heart, and quicken the pulse of so many of us. No other wild animal is as close to our hearts. We want to tell you about all of this: about birdsong inspiring comfort and joy, bird flight rousing dreams of freedom, bird presence giving life and character to seasons and landscapes.” 

Close to Birds: An Intimate Look at our Feathered Friends combines magnificent close-up images of birds by Roine Magnusson with short essays and anecdotal accounts about each species by Mats Ottosson and Asa Ottosson. It’s a book to savour and share and is sure to enhance your appreciation for the diversity and beauty of the avian kingdom.

You can view some of the photographs on Roine Magnusson’s website.

The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years 
“Nothing like this had ever been done: a mural depicting all 243 modern families of living birds, five modern families that had gone extinct by human hand within the last thirty thousand years, twenty-one prehistoric ancestors, and a ten-foot caiman to remind people of the mind-bending reality that the crocodile family is more closely related to birds than it is to other reptiles." 

There was a blank wall at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, that cried out for a mural. When Jane Kim came to the Lab as a Bartels Illustrator in 2010, she leaped at the opportunity. And so began a 3-year project to depict “270 life-size animals, from the thirty-foot-long Yutyrannus to the tiny Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird, which weighs about as much as a penny.”

You can now view many of the images and learn more about the birds and Kim’s experience in painting them in The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years.

Jane Kim and writer Thayer Walker founded Ink Dwell studio in 2012 to create art that explores the wonders of the natural world. Images of their work are available on Ink Dwell’s website.

Dancing with the Birds 
“The filmmakers introduce us to individual birds as the male dancers strive to present their best side to females watching nearby. We see not only their successes, but their failures, too. . . . This approach lets us relate to the birds and their strange, idiosyncratic behaviors as they face an existential challenge: In a cacophonous forest with sometimes hundreds of other flashy bird species, how do they find the one—or, for that matter, anyone?” (Audubon)

Dancing with the Birds is a 2019 Netflix documentary narrated by Stephen Fry. It showcases the courtship preparations and dances of birds of paradise. A short preview is available on YouTube and shown below.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

EcoSask News, May 26, 2020

Mallard (male)

Upcoming Events (online)
Let’s Talk About Water Virtual Film Festival, May 21-June 26
The Let's Talk About Water Film Festival combines water science with film to promote active discussion about water issues and solutions and aims to connect researchers with students and the general public. Films by both professionals and amateurs will be available online from May 21-June 26.

Regina Climate Hub, May 27
People interested in volunteering to be part of the brand-new Regina Climate Hub are invited to participate in an online meeting from 7:30-9 pm, May 27.

SK Low Carbon Stories, June 3
Margret Asmuss will present low carbon stories at the 7:30 am, June 3, online meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Tools to Protect Nature, June 4
Nature Canada is offering a webinar from 12-1 pm (SK time), June 4, on Canada’s new Impact Assessment Act and the tools available to local and provincial groups to participate in federal reviews of proposed industrial developments.

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

Local News
You’re invited to sign a petition calling for a moratorium on logging which is slated to begin as early as September in the Nesslin Lake recreational area.

Baltimore orioles have been spotted out of their normal range in La Ronge.

Meewasin Valley Authority is making changes to the trails around the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan site. You can review the proposals on the Meewasin website and provide feedback through an online survey (deadline June 30, 2020).

Mallard pair

From Information to Action
“It frustrates me when I see farmers ditching their fields to drain wet areas. Yes, we get to farm a few more acres, but at what cost? How much flooding occurs downstream? . . . How much taxpayer money is spent on flood prevention and repair? How much topsoil is washed away from that land? How many riparian areas are destroyed?”

A third of people admit to throwing away furniture that they could have sold or donated. Does the cheap furniture boom have a heavy environmental price?

The biggest hurdle to energy-efficient retrofits is the upfront capital costs. Municipal Property Assessment Clean Energy policies can address this issue but require adequate consumer protection, targeted financing, and administration support for smaller municipalities.

Clear guidance for keeping both wolves and livestock owners happy.

Will Scotland have the first domestic hydrogen gas network?

Shooting the Rapids: Long Crisis Scenarios shows 4 potential futures and the strategies that will be needed to thrive in each.

We need to reframe the debate between global and local to incorporate transformation, connection, and agency.


Good News & Natural Wonders
When pollen is scarce, bumblebees bite plants to force them to flower earlier than expected.

Solar-powered passenger canoes reduce reliance on diesel in the Amazon and are supported by a grant from the Honnold Foundation.

Internet of Elephants designs digital games and online experiences to tell real conservation stories based on real data.

Dave Manning roots for the underdog and has spent years studying turkey vultures. “By showing people the intricacies of their daily lives, he’s given people an appreciation for the species”.

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).

Thursday 21 May 2020

Bat the Bugs Away!

Bats can devour thousands of insects in a single night. What a great way to reduce the number of mosquitoes and other pesky insects that can take the pleasure out of an evening stroll by the river!

A group of students in the Sustainability in Action course at the University of Saskatchewan wanted to make walking through public spaces more enjoyable by reducing the number of mosquitoes. They chose to build and install 40 bat boxes in Saskatoon and the surrounding area to help stabilize the city’s bat population, particularly large brown bats, which are very common in cities as they like to hibernate in man-made structures. The students hope that the additional accommodation will reduce the number of bats nesting in homes where they are seen as a nuisance – and reduce the number of mosquitoes.

The first bat boxes have been installed in the Patterson Garden Arboretum and the students have permission to place the remaining bat boxes in city parks, on Meewasin land, and at Pike Lake Provincial Park. They will also be constructing educational signage that will be placed on the Meewasin trail to educate the public about bats.

The students’ work has been supported by an EcoFriendly Action Grant. More information about the students’ project is available online.

Bats and Covid: Bats have received a lot of bad press recently. Here are two science-based articles that shed a powerful light on this topic:

     Bats Are Not Our Enemies: The truth about bats and disease, Scientific American

     Bats and Disease: They may be the key to fighting viruses in the future, Undark

Did you know? Big brown bats fly very fast and can reach speeds up to 40 mph. They have strong teeth that can chew through the shell of beetles, one of their favorite foods.

See also: 8 Cool Facts about Bats and What to Do if you Find One in Your Home, EcoFriendly Sask

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

Tuesday 19 May 2020

EcoSask News, May 19, 2020

Yellow-headed Blackbird (male)

Upcoming Events
Genereux Park/Baker Area Eco-Quest (ongoing) 
Join a virtual eco-quest of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area and/or the George Genereux Urban Park.

Gardening @ USask, May 19 & 26 (online)
The University of Saskatchewan is offering a variety of online gardening workshops: Compost 101: Scraps to Soil – May 19, 7 pm; The Growing Buzz (bees) – May 26, 7 pm.

Rubbish Roundup, May 20-24 (Saskatoon) 
Join Saskatoon's Rubbish Roundup, May 20-24, organized by Wildernook Fresh Air Learning. For each bag of garbage collected and reported, EcoFriendly Sask will donate $10 to the charity of your choice (Saskatoon Search and Rescue, Saskatoon Crisis Nursery, or One School One Farm.

TimberNook Family Sessions, May 20-June 27 (Saskatoon) 
TimberNook Saskatoon is hosting self-guided outdoor family experiences in May/June. Week-day, evening, and Saturday time slots are available.

Covid-19 & Energy Transition, May 20 (online) 
Martin Boucher will focus on the recent COVID-19 pandemic and its implications on climate change and the energy transition from 12-1 pm, May 20.

First Aid for Day Trips, May 21 (webinar) 
SaskOutdoors and Back40 Wilderness First Aid Training are offering a mini first aid webinar on how to prepare for day trips from 7:30-8:30 pm, May 21.

Candace Savage’s Prairie Live, May 27 (online) 
Join Candace Savage online at Cranberry Flats from 12-1 pm, May 27, for the launch of the revised edition of Prairie: A Natural History of the Heart of North America.

Forum for Educators, May 29 (online) 
SaskOutdoors is hosting an online forum from 10-11 am, May 29, to discuss how to bring outdoor and environmental education into remote teaching.

May Day Bird Count, May 30 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatoon Nature Society is inviting experienced birds who are healthy and not in quarantine to participate in the May Bird Count. Different sectors (or sub-sectors) will be assigned to each individual or family to follow Covid-safe self-isolation steps. Email your name, phone number, and email address to if you wish to participate. If you have questions, call Stan Shadick at 306.652.5975.

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

Local News
EnviroCollective (Regina) has teamed up with Climate Reality Canada to form a climate hub. They’re looking for supporters and Climate Hub Captains.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

From Information to Action
Cobalt is critical to the renewable energy transition. How can we minimize its social and environmental cost?

“We should be aiming to identify diseases in other animals as early as possible, when there’s still a chance of preventing them from spreading to humans.”

To ensure healthy bird populations, cities need to increase their insect populations by planting trees and incorporating good management practices in their green spaces.

Tips for helping trees and beavers to coexist side by side.

White River First Nation plans to construct the largest solar farm in the Yukon as well as a biomass plant and district heating system.

How can we promote a green recovery with renewables emerging stronger than ever?

juvenile beaver

The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think by Jennifer Ackerman reveals that birds are “capable of nuanced, highly intelligent behavior that we once believed to be uniquely human.”

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape our Futures by Martin Sheldrake opens up “a vast unseen world that surrounds each one of us.”

Tearfund’s The World Rebooted – how can you, your church, and your network play a part in reshaping society?

Read an extract from Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, a 16-year-old nature writer, who describes bats as origami taking flight.

Even successful scientists struggle – 14 books to motivate teens to study science.

Natural Wonders
“Ants use their numbers to overcome navigational challenges that are too large and disorienting to be tackled by any single individual.”

“Older barn owl chicks will share food with younger ones.”

The tenacity of trees: surviving – and thriving – in difficult circumstances.

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).

Thursday 14 May 2020

Sarah Ludlow: Protecting the Prairie Habitat through Birds, Bats, and Fieldwork

Sarah Ludlow is the Conservation Science/GIS Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy of Canada -Saskatchewan (NCC). Sarah spent a lot of time in nature as a child and was always interested in identifying the wildlife she encountered, but it was an undergraduate class in ornithology that sparked a particular interest in birds. Sarah took a year off from university – but not from birds – after completing her Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Geography. While working on bird-related fieldwork, Sarah thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could do something with all this data?” She headed back to university for a graduate degree researching the impact of oil and gas development on the density and reproductive success of grassland birds.

The fieldwork for her graduate degree involved two summers mapping the habitat, the number of birds, fledgling success rate, and nest survival on Antelope Creek Ranch, Alberta. Sarah and her team stayed on site for the entire season, sharing two RV campers. “There were a lot of really early mornings, getting up before sunrise to map the songbirds we saw and heard,” Sarah says. “Then we moved on to other components of the research.” The team established a 50-metre grid on each 300 x 600-metre study plot, moving slowly through the area, flushing the birds off their nests to count them and then going back to flag and monitor the nests. They also conducted habitat and vegetation surveys, mapping oil and gas infrastructure as well as the presence of crested wheatgrass. The research focused on songbirds – Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Baird’s Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, and Sprague’s Pippit – but Sarah obtained enough data to later analyze and put out a paper on ducks and shorebirds.

“We found enough nests to have robust, meaningful results,” Sarah says. The results showed that proximity to wells and roads was not a big factor in determining the birds’ density and reproductive success. However, in areas with a high percentage of crested wheatgrass, the Sprague’s Pipit nests didn’t do as well and had a lower survival rate. Areas with large amounts of crested wheatgrass had less plant diversity and fewer insects/arthropods than areas with abundant native grasses. As a result, there was less food available for the chicks and reduced nest survival.

After obtaining her Master’s degree, Sarah spent several years working for the Canadian Wildlife Service with fieldwork in the summer and data analysis and report-writing in the winter. She started working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2015. She ran the volunteer program in her first year, moving on to the GIS position the following year and is now involved in broad-level planning for the Saskatchewan region while continuing the GIS work.

The Geographic Information System (GIS) provides a framework for presenting data visually and connecting it to a location (species density, for example). One of the first things the NCC does when buying a new property or establishing a conservation easement is to map the area. The map illustrates the conservation value of the property and serves as a baseline for future conservation work on the property.

Over the past few years, the NCC has devoted considerable attention to monitoring grassland songbird and bat populations on their properties. Songbird point counts on the larger grassland properties have been complemented by Sarah’s involvement with MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) and BBS (Breeding Bird Survey). The MAPS program monitors breeding birds across Canada and the United States and is administered by the Institute for Bird Populations. It allows scientists to monitor the demographic parameters for species across their entire range and provides a snapshot of the local bird population. The BBS is a continent-wide program that began in the 1960s. It monitors population trends during the peak breeding season each year. Much of the work done to monitor bird populations is carried out by volunteers. “They’re passionate about bird conservation,” Sarah says. “Plus, it’s fun!”

As a science-based organization, the NCC uses the best available science to guide their management practices. However, there is limited data on bat populations in Saskatchewan. “It’s hard to protect habitat for a species if you don’t know what habitat it uses,” Sarah explained. “We want to find out where bats are roosting and what habitat they use, especially for the endangered myotis bats.” In the first phase of their research, the NCC hired a bat researcher to carry out acoustic monitoring. Over the past few years, recorders have been placed near water on over 12 properties. Based on the audio data, they can work out which species are present and their activity level and can then manage the properties to make it easier for the bats. A couple of the properties have shown really high activity levels for little brown bats. The NCC was also interested to find quite a bit of bat activity on several grassland properties: “There must be a reason they’re making the trip over open grassland to find water,” Sarah says.

The original acoustic monitoring of bats is now being supplemented by additional tracking of little brown and northern myotis bats on NCC’s properties at Nebo and Meeting Lake 3. They’re catching and putting tiny radio transmitters on bats, tracking them to where they roost, and then going back at dusk to count how many bats come out of the roost. NCC is also comparing the trees bats choose to roost in with other nearby trees to work out what the bats are looking for. The tracking has had to be put on hold this year as bat agencies don’t want any handling of bats as they’re concerned that Covid-19 could be transmitted to the bats.

Sarah says that the Nature Conservancy is making other programming changes due to Covid. Volunteer activities have been cancelled and staff will be following strict protocol when carrying out essential fieldwork. Sarah had hoped to band and monitor nestlings found in the nest boxes volunteers have put out over the last couple of years. But that won’t happen as the supply of bands is restricted to what organizations already have in stock. “It will be very collaborative,” Sarah says. “If I don’t need bands of a certain size, I’ll offer them to someone else who does.” Bird banding operations will also need to take precautions to protect both the banders and the birds from Covid-19. Measures will include maintaining physical distancing with people, ensuring only healthy banders handle birds, and extra sanitation of equipment.

Photo Credits
Photos 1 & 2 - Nature Conservancy of Canada
Photo 3 - Joseph Poissant

See Also 
Conserving Nature in Saskatchewan: Nature Conservancy of Canada
Prairie Beauty: NCC’s Dundurn Property

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

Tuesday 12 May 2020

EcoSask News, May 12, 2020

American Robin

Upcoming Events
Reducing GHG Emissions in the Power Sector, May 19 (online) 
The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is presenting a panel discussion on reducing GHG emissions in the power sector from 1:30-3 pm, May 12.

Grassland Songbirds, May 19 (webinar) 
Jody Daniel will discuss the cumulative effects of oil and gas development in Alberta on grassland songbirds in a noon-hour webinar on May 19 sponsored by PCAP-SK.

Climate Law after Covid, May 26 (webinar)
Join West Coast’s Climate Lawyer Andrew Gage for a virtual dialogue about the future of climate change law and litigation and how we need to adapt in the context of COVID-19 from 1-2 pm (in Saskatchewan), May 26.

More and more events are going online. Be sure to check the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar for details. 

Beginner Bird Id Workshop, Birds Canada

The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, Marc Jaccard

American Robin

Local News
Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) in partnership with Retail Co-ops across Western Canada are working on the roll-out of an EV charging corridor along Highway 1. EV owners who are interested in testing the chargers should contact Sean Gault at 306-649-5333 or 

Saskatchewan should lay the foundation for a stronger future by setting aside a portion of its revenues from natural resources.

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society Solar Co-op will be building a nearly 1000-panel solar array at the CNH Industrial-New Holland site on 71st Street.

From Information to Action 
A national investment in climate-oriented upgrades to homes and buildings would improve efficiency and move us towards a low-carbon future.

“Don’t kill bats. They might actually be the key to learning how to fight these viruses in the future.”

Capitalism has been suspended during the coronavirus crisis, but have we changed the rules?

Need more public space to accommodate an indefinite period of social distancing – how about golf courses, cemeteries, parking lots, and university campuses?

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).

Thursday 7 May 2020

Earth Day Challenge 2020

On April 28, students and family members from 6 Saskatoon Public School classes (Collective Voice, Ecoquest, iGen, Let’s Lead, Off the Grid, and Outdoor School) competed to see who could remove the most garbage from 30 of Saskatoon’s green and naturalized places. 130 people collected 172 large garbage bags of waste! The iGen class made the biggest contribution with 31 people picking up 42 bags of garbage.

The school initiative was supported by a $500 EcoFriendly Action Grant. The iGen students* chose to donate this money to The Lighthouse Supported Living.

Congratulations to everyone who participated. Thanks to you, Saskatoon is cleaner and greener for its wild and not-so-wild residents.

*The grade 6 students in the iGen program meet at the Sherbrooke Community Centre where they work with and learn from the Elders.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

EcoSask News, May 5, 2020

gopher (Richardson's Ground Squirrel)

Upcoming Events (online)
Caring Sustainably for Saskatchewan, May 12-June 16 (webinars) 
The Caring Sustainably for Saskatchewan Collaboration is hosting a free webinar series on Tuesdays and Thursdays from May 12 to June 16 about addressing climate change at the local and provincial levels.

Sustainability Awards, May 13 
RCE Saskatchewan's 2020 Education for Sustainable Development Recognition Event is a virtual event from 9:30-noon, May 13. To attend, email the Event Coordinator at

Environmental Philanthropy, May 14 (webinar) 
The Sustainability Network is offering a webinar on environmental philanthropy: what now, what next? at 11 am (in Saskatchewan), May 14.

More and more events are going online. Be sure to check the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar for details.

Local News
Birds in Real Danger, Saskatoon (BIRDS) needs your help in documenting bird window strikes in order to educate the public and gain support for the adoption of bird-friendly guidelines for buildings. Contact and join BIRDS in looking for evidence of window strikes in Saskatoon’s downtown area, on the University campus, or in your own neighbourhood.

The University of Saskatchewan’s 2019 Sustainability Report is now available online.

A new telescope at the Sleaford Observatory near Saskatoon allows users to go online, at any time of day, using a web-based program to schedule telescope observations.

Pronghorn are no longer at risk of extinction, but they still face many barriers.

Educational Resources
Basic bike maintenance: how to do your own spring tune-up.

The NatureForAll Discovery Zone includes resources from all its partners - from videos to lesson plans, comic books to coloring books.

Students across generations are flocking to online courses on movement building and the Green New Deal.

Build your own pinhole video camera.

gopher (Richardson's Ground Squirrel)

From Information to Action
Cleaning up orphan oil and gas wells is a good start, but we need a long-term strategy for industry responsibility, economic diversity, and sustainable systems.

A movement is growing to retrain oil workers for the emerging renewables sector.

Coronavirus counter-measures have resulted in a record drop in fossil-fuel demand, but will it have a lasting impact? [infographic]

Next to water, sand is our most consumed natural resource – and it’s becoming scarce.

Efforts to ban single-use plastic have come to a screeching halt, without evidence that plastic is safer than other reusable packaging.

The changing role of sidewalks – from hygiene to equality to transportation.

Good News
Europe's first solar panel recycling plant opens in France.

A Dutch company will lease you a pair of jeans for 12 months. When the year is up, you can keep them, exchange them, or return them for recycling.

Hydrogen has been used to power commercial steel production for the first time in a pilot project in Sweden.

The beauty and diversity of the world’s 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).