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 
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 
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

Willow 
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 
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

Ants 
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

Neighbours 
“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. 


Resources 
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).

EcoSask News, March 23, 2021

Downy woodpecker

This Week’s Highlights 
The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is hosting a virtual repair cafĂ© from 11 am-2 pm, Apr. 10. There will be darning and sewing machine tutorials. Register to participate. 

10 climate podcasts that are worth a listen. 

Upcoming Events 
SaskOutdoors is hosting an online panel discussion on global citizenship education at 6:30 pm, Mar. 30. 

Wild About Saskatoon is hosting an online conversation from 7-10 pm, Mar. 31, regarding progress in the past year on the City of Saskatoon’s Green Strategy

An online event from 7-8:30 pm, Apr. 1, will look at how to leverage the National Climate League report card to support local climate action. 

All ages are welcome on an outing to explore the Habitat Conservation Area with Nature Regina on Apr. 2 (various time slots). Register in advance and confirm the event is going ahead. 

Looking Ahead 
SaskOutdoors and the Saskatchewan Orienteering Association are offering an Orienteering for Kids and Youth program in Saskatoon with six sessions (1 session/week) starting the week of April 12. 

SaskOutdoors is hosting a remote first aid workshop from Apr. 16-18 on White Butte Trails east of Regina. 

Local News 
The City of Saskatoon is developing a renewable energy strategy and would like your thoughts. 

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce has published a report on Building the Low Carbon Economy: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Saskatchewan. 

Agriculture 
Food systems generate one third of global greenhouse gas emissions with a large chunk generated in the earliest stages of farming: “Land-use change, which involves the conversion of wild land into farms, made up the remaining 32% of the 71% figure, manifesting in carbon loss from deforestation and the destruction of organic and peatland soils to make way for farmland.”

A new report from the National Farmers Union, Imagine If . . . A Vision of a Near-Zero Emission Farm and Food System for Canada: “The report argues that a climate-friendly food system can be designed to increase farm income. Using, and paying for ever-larger quantities of fertilizers, fuels, chemicals, plastics, and other inputs have increased emissions and at the same time lowered farmers’ net incomes. . . . a low-emission food system will necessarily be a low-input food system that increases farm profitability.” 

Yard Work 
Some gas-powered leaf blowers “produce more than 100 decibels of low-frequency, wall-penetrating sound—or as much noise as a plane taking off—at levels that can cause tinnitus and hearing loss with long exposure. Beyond that, gas-powered lawn care of all kinds spews pollutants linked to cancers, heart disease, and asthma, and blowers blast air up to 280 miles per hour, eroding topsoil and sending pollen, fertilizers, and herbicides adrift. Workers who spend hours a day with equipment are most at risk.” 

Spring clean-up – 7 tips for a biodiverse yard

Last, But Not Least 
Our cultural discomfort with death has led us to overlook the environmental cost of funerals and burials. There are eco-friendly options, from embalming and the casket to burial and cremation. 

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). 


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

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Regina Car Share Co-operative


1. How and when did you form your group? 
Regina Car Share Co-operative was formed in 2008 as an idea to reduce emissions and provide a service growing in popularity around the world. Regina is designed to be a car-centric city, so our members are typically people used to living without owning a vehicle but who like to use one occasionally to meet needs or desires not served by public transportation or bicycles. A few dozen people met a couple of times for community potlucks to discuss how to start a car share service, and we agreed a co-operative was the right way to proceed. With some government grant money to operate an office and a private loan to purchase a vehicle, we had our first car shared to members the following year. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
We principally exist as a way to reduce carbon emissions in our province, and we do that by operating a car share co-op in Regina. Members of our co-operative share use of vehicles that are generally better than ones they could privately own, and they take up less space and fewer resources by being shared. 

3. What were your successes (big or small) in 2020? 
We survived the first year of the pandemic without government assistance. Additionally, with the generous support of Affinity Credit Union, we were able to add 2 electric vehicles to our fleet, replacing one of our aging vehicles. 


4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
We hope to double our membership in 2021, which would support our expansion to other vehicle locations and types like a pickup truck. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
Improved public transportation and cycling infrastructure are important to us because our members tend to use each when they don't use our service. The City Council motion to get Regina to 100% Renewable by 2050 is something we're interested in facilitating. 

6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? If so, please describe them and indicate how people can contact you. 
Memberships in our Co-op are only $10, and members can serve on the Board of Directors. We're currently seeking 1-2 new board members to join our team of dedicated environmentalists who have a vision of a Renewable Regina and a passion to get there by operating Saskatchewan's first car share co-op. We could use a variety of skills, so please contact us at reginacarsharecoop@gmail.com or 306-550-7223. 

See Also 

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).

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Falcons of Western Canada

American Kestrel

It’s always a treat to see a bird of prey. We’re eager to introduce you to the ones you’re most likely to see in Western Canada. Next up are the falcons - good timing as we’ve had reports of merlins being sighted in Saskatoon this past week. 

Falcons have thin, pointed wings that allow them to fly very fast. Western Canada is home for at least part of the year to kestrels, merlins, peregrine and prairie falcons. 

Kestrel 
American kestrels are North America’s smallest falcon. They are less than a foot long with a wingspan of less than two feet. They can be seen in Canada in the summer before migrating to the southern United States for the winter. 

Kestrels hunt for insects, small rodents, and birds in grassy or desert areas with few trees. Look for them perched on fence posts and utility poles or hovering over a field on rapidly beating wings. Kestrels are smaller and more colourful than other falcons with reddish-brown bodies, a pale belly, and two vertical black stripes on either side of their white cheeks. The males have a blue-grey head and wings. 

Did you know? If kestrels kill more than they can eat, they hide the excess in holes or under grass clumps and tree roots for days when they're less successful. 


Merlin 
Merlins are small, stocky falcons with a broad, heavily streaked chest and a banded, medium-length tail. Males are dark grey, while females and juveniles are browner. Merlins fly fast and low with rapid wingbeats and are fierce hunters of small birds, dragonflies, and bats, which they capture in mid-air. Merlins are darker and stockier than other falcons and beat their wings more rapidly when flying. Their shrill, chattering cry is very distinctive and can last for up to 4 seconds. 

Merlins prefer open forests, grasslands, and coastal areas where there are flocks of small songbirds or shorebirds. They can sometimes be found in prairie towns and cities where they can count on a steady supply of sparrows. 

Did you know? Merlins will sometimes hunt in pairs. One will disturb a flock of waxwings from below and the other will take advantage of the confusion to attack. 


Peregrine Falcon 
By the mid-1900s, peregrine falcons had almost disappeared in North America, but they’ve made an amazing recovery and are now most commonly found in coastal areas and cities. They’re a medium-sized bird (14 in) with a wingspan of 3-3.5 feet. Peregrine falcons have a blue-grey back, a cream-coloured chest with dark markings, and bright yellow feet and legs. Dark feathers on the head and sides of the neck look like a helmet. 

Peregrine falcons sit on high perches making swift, steep dives to catch their prey - ducks and shorebirds or pigeons in the cities. 

Did you know? The peregrine falcon may be the fastest bird in the world reaching speeds of up to 238 mph when diving after prey. 


Prairie Falcon 
Prairie falcons can be seen flying low over the deserts and grasslands of southern Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. They've adapted well to human habitation and can often be found in cities or farm country in the winter. They avoid forested areas and coasts. 

Prairie falcons are large (15-18 in, 35-45 in wingspan) with a light brown upper body and a cream-coloured chest streaked with brown. There are brown vertical streaks below their eyes and dark-coloured patches at the base of each wing on the underside. 

Peregrine and prairie falcons are larger than merlins and kestrels. Peregrine falcons have a dark helmet, while prairie falcons have dark patches under their wings. 

Did you know? During courtship, the male and female spend a month or more visiting potential nest sites together. 

See Also 
Eagles of Western Canada (coming soon) 

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, 16 March 2021

EcoSask News, March 16, 2021

Canada Goose

This Week’s Highlights 
There will be an online discussion on the potential for conservation and restoration of Saskatchewan forests to mitigate against climate breakdown at 7 pm, Mar. 23. 

A climate activist in California has spent 589 days cleaning up a park and is encouraging others to follow his example. "Climate action is a group project," he tweeted. "There will be no hero that will emerge from the fog to save us from ourselves. To preserve this planet, we'll need a billion climate activists." 

Upcoming Events 
Regina residents are invited to a virtual public open house at 7 pm, Mar. 18, for the Foxtail Grove Solar Energy Project, a 10 MW project that will generate enough green electricity to power over 2,600 Saskatchewan households. 

The WildEcol Seminar Series is hosting an online presentation on the research studying contaminants in loons and gulls being undertaken as part of the Boreal Watershed Initiative at 3:30 pm, Mar. 19. 

Join Nature Regina for an online presentation on how you can grow native plants for pollinators in your own yard from 2-3:30 pm, Mar. 20. 

Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on the following outings. Field trips are currently for members only, so sign up now. Advance registration is required.
Mar. 20, 8:30 am-4:30 pm - Gardiner Dam Waterfowl Trip
Mar. 26, 7:30-10 pm - Owling Evening
Mar. 27, 10 am-4 pm - Snowy Owl Trip

Saskatoon Seedy Saturday has gone virtual with online gardening workshops and presentations from Mar. 20-27. 

The Saskatoon Zoo Society is holding a virtual annual general meeting at 1:30 pm, Mar. 21. 

Let’s Talk About Water is hosting an online panel with experts from the industry, research, and non-profit sectors about valuing water at 11 am, Mar. 22. 

The Saskatchewan Chapter of The Wildlife Society is offering an online workshop for members on navigation from 3-6 pm, Mar. 22. 

Blue Gold: World Water Wars will be screened in Regina at 7 pm, Mar. 22. 

The film, Addicted to Plastic, will be shown in Regina at 7 pm, Mar. 24. 

Public Pasture - Public Interest will be holding its AGM online from 7-9 pm, Mar. 24.

Regina Public Library is hosting an online talk on starting to compost at 7 pm, Mar. 25. 

The Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards will discuss biosecurity and invasive species online at noon, Mar. 25, as part of PCAP-SK’s Native Prairie Speaker Series. 

Find out about Climate West, a regional hub for climate services, at a noon-hour, Mar. 25, presentation hosted by Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin. 

Local News 
The City of Saskatoon is reviewing speed limits in residential neighbourhoods. The survey is open until April 30. 

A USask research “study hopes to find ways to better manage the wetlands and marginal areas in Saskatchewan fields . . . in order to design effective incentive programs for improving sustainable farm production.” 

The Saskatchewan Orienteering Association has been established to promote and administer orienteering as sport and recreation in Saskatchewan. 

Transportation Options 
“Without the Keystone XL pipeline . . . Canadian oil producers are turning to trains. And using a new technology to help make it more affordable — and less flammable.” 

The demand for materials needed to make batteries for electric cars and other clean technology is driving interest in deep-seabed mining. “One of my greatest fears is that we may start ocean mining because it’s profitable for just a handful of years, and then we nail it with the next gen battery or we get good at doing low-cost e-waste recycling . . . . And then we’ve done irreversible damage in the oceans for three years of profit.” 

Drive-thru fast food chains have become increasingly popular during the pandemic and the trend is expected to continue, reinforcing a reliance on cars over more environmentally friendly forms of transportation. 

A Pembina Institute report looks at the costs, benefits, and uptake on fuel-efficiency technologies in the highway transportation sector.
 
Lodgepole pine

Forests 
“The lodgepole pine’s ability to live in many environments—and to live a long time—gives it a genetic boost that could make it more resilient to climate change than other species.” 

“In western North America, huge swaths of forested areas may become unsuitable for trees owing to climate change.” 

Natural Wonders 
Dismissing all wasps because of a few aggressive ones is kind of like giving up on Mexican food because you don’t like cilantro.” 

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). 


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

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Community Highlight: Wascana Solar Co-operative


Wascana Solar Co-operative’s aim is to lead their community to cost-effective renewable energy solutions. 

1. How and when did you form your group? 
Wascana Solar Co-operative (WSC) began with two grassroots community meetings in Regina in 2017. It was at these meetings that our two foundational programs were born – Solar Investment Opportunity and Group Buy. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they’re important? 
With our Solar Investment Opportunity (SIO) program, co-op members purchase preferred shares ($1,000 each). We then reach out to potential partners who offer us space to install our systems. We help our partners “go green” while they pay us the cost of their power usage. 

In our Group Buy (GB) program, we organize a group of our members interested in purchasing panels, gather the technical requirements for solar projects, then tender it out in a request for proposal. In our first group buy we estimate that our group of 13 members collectively saved $67,000 off of the market rate on our panel purchases and installation (that’s an average of $5,000 each). To date, we have installed 353 solar panels through our three GB programs. 

3. What have been your successes and challenges? 
We have installed 468 panels in southern Saskatchewan through our SIO and GB programs. This is an estimated reduction of 150 tons of CO2 per year. We partnered with Conexus Credit Union and MiEnergy for our first SIO, installing 115 solar panels on the roof of the North Albert Conexus branch. 

In only our first year of incorporation as a co-operative (2018-2019), WSC installed a total of 398 panels through our SIO and GB programs. While some of this success was due to government subsidies at both the provincial and federal level, a very significant contributing factor was SaskPower's 1:1 net-metering program. The restructuring of this program into a net-billing program (more like 0.5:1) has devastated the solar energy industry in our province. 

In spite of this change, we remain confident in our ability to achieve our vision of "acting as a catalyst for growth in solar power." Both our SIO and GB programs still offer some of the most economical ways that Saskatchewanians can decrease their carbon footprints. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
The Co-op enters 2021 with new board members and a revised business plan. We plan to introduce an energy monitoring program that would work in a similar way to our GB program. This program would enable those who were interested to assess their energy use throughout one calendar year so that the site-specific project economics could be evaluated and guide the property owner to better understand their project economics. 

We are also considering an industrial-size solar investment project such as the Saskatchewan Environmental Society Solar Co-op’s partnership with CNH Industrial and are considering several possible partnerships. 

The government has promised a home renovation incentive of up to $20,000 that applies to solar power installations, and this is being monitored by WSC. 

In addition to residential use, the GB program could also include one or more commercial projects. Please contact Will Ingenthron for more information at 639-999-5995. 

Under the direction of Andrew Tait, our second SIO installation is coming up soon. If you would like more information about this upcoming opportunity, please visit our website and/or contact Andrew at 306-201-6107. 

If you live in Saskatoon, be sure to check out the SES Solar Co-operative

We’re planning to highlight the work of volunteer organizations in our communities on a regular basis. 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, 9 March 2021

EcoSask News, March 9, 2021

deer

This Week’s Highlights 
Let’s Talk About Water is offering a free virtual filmmaking workshop from noon-2 pm, Mar. 11, for scientists who are interested in sharing their scientific work through film. 



Upcoming Events 
Regina Public Library is hosting an online talk on the benefits of including prairie grasses in your garden at 7 pm, Mar. 10. 

The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is offering a noon-hour online presentation regarding water policy and the contention which arises between individual goals and social group pressures for water management on Mar. 11. 

All ages are welcome on an outing to explore the Wascana Waterfowl Display Ponds area with Nature Regina on Mar. 12 (various time slots). Register in advance. 

Meewasin Valley Authority is hosting self-directed eco-scavenger hunts to help track wildlife at Beaver Creek Conservation Area on Mar. 13 and 27. 

Saskatoon Public Library is offering an online workshop on basic camping skills from 7-8 pm, Mar. 15. 

Join Nature Regina online at 7 pm, Mar. 15, for a discussion on the mandate of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan

Enjoy noon-hour presentations on wetlands, grasslands, and prairie biodiversity as well as a 3 pm, Mar. 16, presentation of an Indigenous perspective of the goods and services provided by the prairie ecosystem and wetlands during the virtual Prairie’s Got the Goods Week organized by SK-PCAP. 

Create a poem or spoken word piece to honour World Water Day during this online workshop from 7-9 pm, Mar. 18. 

The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is offering an online presentation on decarbonizing agriculture from 10:30 am-noon, Mar. 18. 

Nature Saskatchewan is offering a multi-species management and conservation awareness online workshop at 7 pm, Mar. 18. 

Saskatoon Public Library is hosting an online discussion for teens about making our community more sustainable from 6-7 pm, Mar. 18. 

Global Water Futures is offering an online lecture series on women and water with a 12:30 pm, Mar. 18, talk on valuing water

Saskatoon Nature Society members are invited to share their photographs at the online annual general meeting of the Society at 7:30 pm, Mar. 18. 

Regina’s EnviroCollective will be meeting online from 7-10 pm, Mar. 18. 

Local News 
The Government of Saskatchewan is reviewing the Multi-Material Recycling Program. You’re invited to read a discussion paper and complete a survey

Research at the Canadian Light Source has demonstrated that key proteins protect wildlife when temperatures drop below freezing. 

You can borrow a birding backpack from the Saskatoon Public Library. Are any other Saskatchewan libraries doing this? 

From Information to Action 
The David Suzuki Foundation has released a guide to help you work with your local government on addressing climate change


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). 


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

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Managing & Exploiting Nature

Kingsmere Lake sunset

We’ve come across some thought-provoking articles that we wanted to share with you. 

Against the Duck Factory 
Many members of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) in Manitoba and Cumberland House Cree Nation in Saskatchewan have an uneasy relationship with Ducks Unlimited. They are wary of the dams and other water control measures that have been established in the Saskatchewan River delta that they believe have ruined lakes, rivers, and creeks. It’s unclear what their purpose has been, but it’s worth noting that Ducks Unlimited “controls more land and water in Canada than all First Nations combined.” 

The Last Frontier 
Canada has a long history of natural resource exploitation. Is northern Canada the last frontier? 

Saskatchewan residents, many of whom live in northern Saskatchewan, are speaking out against a proposed peat mine south of La Ronge. “Although peatlands, also called bogs and muskegs, cover only 3 per cent of the Earth’s surface, they store twice the carbon of all the world’s forests combined. Peatlands also regulate water flows, mitigating the risk of flooding and preventing drought. In addition, they act as natural water cleansers and support a rich assortment of flora and fauna, which is why they are sometimes called ‘nature’s nurseries.’ . . . Over the course of a millennium, the peatland will grow by only one metre, which hardly makes it a renewable resource.” 

“A coalition of Indigenous and environmental organizations is calling on the Canadian and Ontario governments to impose an ‘immediate moratorium’ on all mineral exploration or impact assessment work related to the Ring of Fire region.” The Ontario government has acknowledged that industrial activity could have a negative impact on the wetlands and peatlands in the region. 

“Two Yukon First Nations are renewing calls for a regional land use plan to be completed before any new development on their traditional territories is considered . . . . Allowing industry to explore in a region where land use planning is underway could rule out protecting areas with high conservation values.” 

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, 4 March 2021

Hawks of Western Canada

Osprey

It’s always a treat to see a bird of prey. We’re eager to introduce you to the ones you’re most likely to see in Western Canada. Let’s start with hawks. 

Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey with large eyes, hooked beaks, and sharp, curved claws. Despite being similar in appearance and behaviour, they don’t all belong to the same family. 

Osprey 
Osprey can be found near lakes, rivers, and coasts during the summer months. They’re large birds with a 5-6 ft wingspan, brown above and white below with a white head and a brown stripe across the eyes and cheeks. When they fly, there is a distinctive kink in their wings in the shape of an M. Bald eagles frequent similar habitats but they’re larger and don’t have the osprey’s white underparts. 

If you're lucky, you'll spot an osprey plunging feet first into a lake to catch a fish in its claws. They build large stick nests near water on poles or dead trees. 

Did you know? Osprey are the only North American hawk to catch and eat live fish. They have gripping pads on their feet to help them hold and carry the fish for long distances. 


Red-tailed Hawk 
Red-tailed hawks are common in southern Canada during the summer months. Look for them soaring in circles over open fields or perched on poles and fence posts. Red-tailed hawks have a 4-ft wingspan, a rusty-red tail, a pale face, and paler underparts. They have broad rounded wings and a short wide tail. A dark bar at the edge of their wings is visible in flight. 

Did you know? Red-tailed hawks are one of the largest North American birds, but they weigh at most 3 pounds. Dogs of a similar size would weigh 10 times as much. 


Sharp-shinned Hawk
 
Sharp-shinned hawks (Sharpies) are the smallest North American hawk (9-14 in) with a small head, short wings, long legs, and long tail. They can be hard to spot as they hide in bushes and wooded areas, ready to leap out and pounce on passing songbirds. Merlins are a similar size but have pointed wings, a shorter tail, and usually hunt in the open. 

Sharp-shinned hawks have a dark grey back and head and a white breast with reddish-orange streaks. Juveniles have a brown back and head. There are broad dark bands across their tail. 

Sharp-shinned hawks spend their summers in the dense, coniferous forests of Alaska, Canada and the northern plains of the United States, heading south to spend their winters in the United States. 

Did you know? Small birds make up 90% of the sharp-shinned hawks' diet and are plucked before being eaten. 


Swainson’s Hawk 
Swainson's hawks are a common sight in summer, soaring over the prairies and open grasslands of western North America. They prefer wide open spaces where they can easily spot ground squirrels and other small rodents, their preferred food when they are breeding. They also eat lots of grasshoppers – hence their alternate name of grasshopper hawk. 

Swainson's hawks vary in colour, but they usually have a dark breast, a light-coloured belly, and brown or grey upper parts. Most males have grey heads, while most females have brown heads. The large white patches edged with black flight feathers on their underwings help to identify them when they are in flight. Swainson's hawks are slimmer and longer-winged than other hawks. 

Did you know? Swainson's Hawks' long migration to Argentina can take up to two months. Their large migratory flocks number in the tens of thousands and they may travel for several days without feeding. 

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


See Also 
Falcons of Western Canada (coming soon) 
Eagles of Western Canada (coming soon)

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