Thursday, 16 September 2021

Our Magpie Neighbours



With a loud voice, a long tail, and distinctive black and white markings, black-billed magpies are easy to spot. They are large birds (1.5-2 ft) living year-round in northwestern Canada and the United States. You won't find them along the west coast, but you will find them in the interior of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. 

Western Canada’s black-billed magpies are one of 17 different species of magpies around the world. They are almost identical to Eurasian magpies. However, magpies found in South and East Asia have vivid blue and green feathers. 
“In ancient Rome, the magpie was associated with magic and fortune telling, while in Scandinavia some witches rode magpies or turned into them. In Germany, the bird was considered a bird of the underworld and in Scotland it was said that magpies had a drop of the devil’s blood on their tongues. 

"Outside of Europe, the magpie has a much more positive image. In Native American legends, the magpie was considered a friend of hunter-gatherer tribes. In Korea, the magpie is thought to bring good news and in China it is a symbol of happiness, foretelling and good fortune.” [Horniman Museum & Gardens
Magpies are omnivorous, eating everything from insects, grains, and berries to small rodents, other birds’ eggs, and even young chicks (although eggs and chicks make up only a very small portion of their diet). They’ve adapted well to urban living, helping themselves to leftover food scraps. In rural areas, they pick the ticks from the backs of large mammals such as moose and deer. The ticks they don’t eat immediately are tucked away for future meals. “Most of the ticks, however, are cached alive and unharmed, and may live to reproduce later.” 

Magpies belong to the corvid family along with crows, ravens, and jays and are some of the most intelligent birds in the world. Magpies “can use tools, play games, work in teams, and even mimic human speech.” 
“One of the most notable Black-billed Magpie behaviors is the so-called ‘funeral’—when one magpie discovers a dead magpie, it begins calling loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of raucously calling magpies (up to 40 birds have been observed) may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse and fly off silently.” [All About Birds
Unlike other crows, magpies have a very long tail. In fact, it’s the same length as their body. Scientists aren’t sure why they have such a long tail, “but it may provide magpies with the ability to make swift turns while in the air. This would allow the birds to evade larger predators and make up for rather average flying abilities.” 

Magpies spend up to 40 days constructing large, solid domed nests roughly 30 inches high and 20 inches wide. They are so well constructed they can last for many years. “The male gathers sticks for the exterior. The female tends to the interior, forming a mud cup and lining it with grass.” 
Photographer Ron Dudley has been photographing one nest for over 7 years and shares some of his photographs. [Feathered Photography
Magpies are vocal, social birds. You’ll often find them sitting in groups calling loudly. A group of magpies is known as a parliament, possibly because they often gather in large groups to converse among themselves. They will also band together to chase away a raptor. In the spring, you may hear large groups of birds cawing loudly as younger birds try to chase away and take over the territory of more established pairs. 
“Magpies are very curious, just like their relatives, the jays and crows. They may sometimes pick up shiny things, but they don’t show any preference for shiny over dull. A magpie’s more likely to grab your sandwich than your silver.” [Audubon
Magpies often perch on poles or the tops of trees to provide a visual display of their territory. The males establish dominance over other males by stretching their neck and flashing their white eyelids. Magpies mate for life. The females initiate the mating display by begging for food from the male. They lay one brood of 1-9 eggs each year. The fledglings learn to fly when they are about a month old but may stay with their parents for a year before flying away to find a mate. Magpies are non-migratory and normally stay within a 10 km radius of where they were born.
juvenile magpie

See Also 

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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

EcoSask News, September 14, 2021

wood frog

Upcoming Events 
The Saskatoon Nature Society is hosting an online presentation on amphibians at 7:30 pm, Sept. 16. 

Library of Things, Saskatoon, will be open for pick-ups by reservation from the back door in the alley from 1-4 pm, Sept. 18. 

Nature Regina is hosting a presentation on the Treaty Land Sharing Network at 7:30 pm, Sept. 20, at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. 

The Saskatoon Nature Society is inviting the public to attend a Sandhill Crane viewing from 6-8 pm, Sept. 20. 

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society and the Saskatoon Public Library are offering an online presentation on Electricity in Saskatchewan: Current Status, Future Prospects from 7-8:30 pm, Sept. 21. 

The Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy is hosting a video conference on nuclear development, communicating risk, and public engagement at noon, Sept. 23. 

There will be a global climate strike at noon, Sept. 24, in Saskatoon. 
Full event details can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

Local News 
William Hale has opened a used electric vehicle dealership in Saskatoon. William says he’s driven an electric vehicle (EV), winter and summer, for 3 years and loves it. “The electrification of transportation is one of the principal pathways to a low carbon economy and I want to help with this transition in Saskatchewan,” he explains. The dealership offers a lower-priced entry into the EV market and an opportunity to ask questions and test drive the vehicles. They also sell and install EV chargers for home use. 

Green Shift Automotive in Regina sells a range of electric vehicles from bikes, scooters, and skateboards to hybrid and electric cars. 

Alberta Lake Management Society is offering a fall webinar series with applicability across Canada. 

Exposure to traffic noise is associated with a range of health problems, including dementia, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. [The Guardian

The six problems aviation must fix to hit net zero: 1. fuel; 2. non-CO2 impacts, such as nitrogen oxides and contrail clouds; 3. frequent flyers; 4. policy development; 5. the new middle class; and 6. supersonic planes. [The Guardian]

Mormon cricket

Wildlife rescuers are the first to provide medical care for injured or sick animals and could provide an early-warning system for illnesses that also affect humans. [The Revelator

“Mountain and boreal caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.” [Raincoast Conservation Foundation

“Rebugging is looking at the ways, small and large, to nurture complex communities of these tiny, vital players in almost all the natural and not-so-natural places on earth. It means conserving them where they are managing to hang on, and restoring them where they are needed as part of a rewilding movement. And it means putting bugs back into our everyday lives, our homes and where we play and work.” [The Revelator, an excerpt from Rebugging the Planet: The Remarkable Things that Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do – And Why We Need to Love Them More by Vicki Hird) 

When they’re not looking for a mate, some female hummingbirds are adopting the same brightly coloured ornamentation as males as it “helps them avoid aggressive male behaviors during feeding, such as pecking and body slamming.” [Science Daily

“Air conditioning is the most obvious immediate response to the dangerous warming of the planet. It’s also making it worse. … People are going to keep buying air conditioners … so we need to offer them better, safer, cleaner devices … We’re doing a disservice to our citizenry when we let them buy something that is so expensive to operate, and so polluting that cooling is actually adding to the warming of the planet.” [The Guardian

Coal-fired plants made up 40% of global energy output in 2010. Here’s a breakdown of consumption on a country- by-country basis as well as a look at steps that could be taken to end coal use. [Climate Solutions

Despite what oil and gas companies would have you believe, blue hydrogen isn’t clean or economically viable. [DeSmog

Did you know?
Wood Frog hibernate under logs or leaf litter and can tolerate below-zero temperatures by increasing the amount of glucose in their blood, which lowers the freezing point and stops ice crystals from forming. [Nature Companion

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

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Community Highlight: Saskatoon Energy Management Task Force

1. How and when did you form your group? 
In the early 1980s, Energy Management Task Forces were formed across Canada with the support of the federal government. To our knowledge, the Energy Management Task Force in Saskatoon is the only one remaining. 

2. What are your principal activities and why do you believe they're important? 
We hold monthly breakfast meetings, from September to June, with speakers presenting on a variety of topics related to energy conservation and management. The breakfast meetings provide formal knowledge exchange as well as networking. 

We host the annual Rob Dumont Energy Management Awards to recognize and honour outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations in field of energy management. The awards are named in honour of the well-known and respected engineer. 

We manage the website, a resource for information on energy management and technologies. 

3. What have been your successes to date? 
Consistent attendance at breakfast meetings of 20-40 highly engaged energy professionals. 

Excellent discussions at breakfast meetings. 

Establishment and five years of Rob Dumont Energy Management Awards recognizing excellence in energy management. 

4. What would you like to achieve in 2021? 
We would like to expand attendance at the online meetings to people across Saskatchewan. 

We would like increased attendance by post-secondary students. 

5. If you could have 3 wishes for improving your community, what would they be? 
1. Energy efficiency is a priority at all levels of government 

2. There are high levels of energy efficiency in all new buildings. 

3. Good ideas for how to retrofit all existing buildings to reduce energy consumption by about 90%. 

6. Are there volunteer opportunities with your organization? If so, please describe them and indicate how people can contact you.
Attendees are always welcome at our breakfast meetings

The executive committee would welcome additional members. In particular, a person to monitor our social media accounts would be helpful. 

The Rob Dumont Energy Management Awards Committee would welcome additional members. In particular, people with marketing abilities and/or ability to obtain sponsors would be welcome. 

Additional Community Highlights 

Photo: pre-Covid breakfast meeting, provided by EMTF

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 subscribing by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

EcoSask News, September 7, 2021


Upcoming Events 
Saskatoon Nature Society is hosting a fall bird count on Sept. 11. Register by Sept. 10 if you’re interested in participating. 

Nature Regina is hosting a native plant sale from 9 am-1 pm, Sept. 11. 

The City of Prince Albert is hosting a household hazardous waste day from 9 am-4 pm, Sept. 11. 

City of Saskatoon residents can dispose of household hazardous waste from 9 am to 3:30 pm, Sept. 12. 

There will be an online federal election forum on climate, energy, and environment with Saskatoon candidates at 7 pm, Sept. 13. 

Nature Saskatchewan is hosting an online presentation on the migration and winter habitats of burrowing owls and monarch butterflies at 7 pm, Sept. 14. Register to participate. 

Looking Ahead 
Climate Reality Leadership Corps is offering online training from Oct. 18-24. 

Full event details are available on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar
gopher (Richardsons ground squirrel)

How We Build 
The City of Saskatoon is now offering a home energy loan program (HELP) to help residents make their homes more energy efficient. “HELP loans are repaid through property taxes over five-, 10-, or 20-year terms, and remain attached to the property. If someone moves before the loan is repaid, the new homeowner will take on loan repayment.” [CBC Saskatoon

Energy-efficient buildings in combination with improved indoor air quality could prevent 2,900 to 5,100 premature deaths annually. [Anthropocene

PFAS are used to make products water-, stain-, or heat-resistant and can be found in thousands of everyday consumer products, such as stain guards, carpeting, floor wax, and non-stick cookware. They are linked to various serious health problems and significantly contaminate indoor air. [The Guardian

An ice box demonstration highlights the effectiveness of passive house design for providing more comfortable homes with lower costs. [Inhabitat]

Wild Lives 
“So many people think about species in terms of how close to endangerment or extinction they are, but actually, what we want to do is recover species.” The goal should be measuring what we want to achieve as well as what we want to avoid. [Yale Environment 360

Wanted – conservation champions for rodents, evolutionary marvels that have adapted to almost every region on earth, serving as food for larger animals while their eating habits disperse seeds, pollinate plants, and recycle soil nutrients. [The Revelator

Making a Difference 
Don Kowalski of Griffin, SK, has donated 800 acres to the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation’s Habitat Trust Program. The land will be managed as a wildlife sanctuary and vehicles aren’t allowed. [Discover Weyburn

Climate caf├ęs come in all shapes and sizes, providing an opportunity to support people as they acknowledge climate change exists and manage their feelings about it. [The Guardian

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 subscribing by email (top right corner).