Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Boxing Day Book Special

shooting star

Books - new and old, fiction and non-fiction. We hope you find a new favorite. 

Action-Oriented Visionaries 
Neal Stephenson laments the dwindling of big dreams such as placing a man on the moon. Developing new technologies and implementing them “on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It’s the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments.” He believes that science fiction has the power to inspire and provide well thought-out alternate realities. [Wired

In Neal Stephenson’s most recent book, Termination Shock, a Texas restaurant chain magnate has a big idea for reversing global warming. Will it work? What are the consequences? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 

If you’re looking for more big ideas, here’s a list of 10 books published since 2020 that address transformational change - from Post-Growth Living for an Alternative Hedonism to Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril. [Orion Magazine

Wild Hope
magazine shares conservation success stories “that show how anyone can participate in saving Earth’s biodiversity by applying whatever skills or talents they have and that a science degree isn’t a prerequisite to making a difference.” [Wild Hope

Invisible Wonders 

What does a bee look like under its furry coat? How does a tree frog use its eyes to swallow? Inside In: X-Rays of Nature’s Hidden World uses x-ray images to display creatures and their habitats in a completely new way. 

Levon Biss has used his camera to capture The Hidden Beauty of Seeds and Fruits. He says, “The aim of my work is to bring to light details in nature that are normally invisible to the human eye.” Do take a look at the images. You’ll be amazed. [PetaPixel

In The Songs of Trees, David Haskell pays regular visits to a dozen trees and listens. Haskell says, “Listening involves paying attention to the acoustics of the tree itself … A maple tree is going to have a very different sound in the wind than a pine tree, and, in different seasons, the tree will have different voices, revealing some of its physiology and nature … The sounds of the tree also involve the other creatures that are using the tree — insects, birds, and so forth. You must attend to those sounds, as well. And then humans are another creature … So part of the listening process involves talking to people whose lives are intertwined with trees, in an effort to discern some of the threads of stories that connect us.” [Utne

Water Words 

Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds
edited by Yvonne Blomer is an all-Canadian collection of poems about streams and rivers. You’ll find poems about local places and situations – Toronto’s hidden streams, the Alberta flood of 2013, and Warren’s Landing in Manitoba. 

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, 21 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 21, 2021

Christmas tree worm

Ocean-dwelling Christmas tree worms use their festive crowns to catch dinner as it floats by. [Oceana]

Upcoming Events 
Participate in iNaturalist’s Winter Bug Project from now until March 1, 2022. Photograph any arthropod (insect, spider, sowbug, etc.) found active indoors or out – in Alberta or Saskatchewan – on land or in water (but not including pets or pet food) and post it online. Experts will help you identify it and it will be added to the count.

Gardening at USask is offering the following online classes, beginning at 7 pm: 
Jan. 3 – Winter Compost Tips 
Feb. 7 – Wasps 

Details about all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Climate Caucus, a group of locally-elected climate leaders, has asked the federal government to adopt an energy-efficient, zero-carbon, outcomes-based building code that will set a high standard for local governments. [LinkedIn

“If buildings are to make meaningful contributions to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, limiting emissions from building materials is crucial.” [The Conversation]

“Instead of funding new and wider roads, we should build places where people want to slow down and get out of their cars.” [Undark

A cartoon lampoons the growing size of trucks and SUVs – Share the road? No way! [The Nib via Planetizen

Toronto has amended its bylaws to allow pedal-assisted cargo e-bikes for personal and commercial delivery purposes, but “emerging issues regarding vehicle and pedestrian safety highlight a need to examine how best to regulate cargo e-bikes.” [Pembina Institute

The sale of peat to gardeners in England and Wales will be banned by 2024. The government hopes to end use of peat in the professional horticulture sector by 2028. [The Guardian

Le Printemps, an iconic Parisian department store, has transformed its top floor into an haute couture and vintage thrift store that also showcases sustainable brands. [Sortir à Paris

“The Day the World Stops Shopping offers a thought experiment: what if, overnight, we reduced shopping by 25%? What would happen? … What would it mean for fashion brands? What about the people who make those clothes in low income countries? How would it affect the advertising industry, or traffic rates? What would happen to the global economy, and to carbon emissions? Nature gets a look in too, with a chapter investigating the impact on wildlife.” [book review, The Earthbound Report

Proposed coal mining in southern Alberta could lead to contamination of the South Saskatchewan River from metals such as arsenic, selenium, and cadmium. “If you’re going to look at mining development of the headwaters, you have to look at the whole river basin, the whole watershed, and follow the impacts downstream … And that hasn’t been done.” [The StarPhoenix

Shifting Priorities 
“Genuinely sustainable investing could help shift trillions of dollars toward renewable energy and other clean technologies, but only with strong parameters. So far, however, there are no stringent requirements in Canada for climate disclosures, nor is there a single set of standards for what counts as a sustainable investment—regulatory gaps that can make it hard for climate-conscious investors to know how to make the right choices.” [The Walrus

Wishing you a very happy Christmas from Andrew and Penny at EcoFriendly Sask. We’ll be back next Tuesday with a Boxing Day Book Special and EcoSask News will resume on January 4. 

Snowshoe Hare snort when they’re annoyed. Find out more on EcoFriendly Sask’s free nature website/app for Canada’s 4 western provinces. [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, 16 December 2021

Introducing the Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

“A kingfisher’s burnished plunge, the color of felicity afire” (The Kingfisher, Amy Clampitt)
A swift flash of colour over the water and a loud rattling call – the Belted Kingfisher has moved on before you’ve really seen it. Fortunately, you’ll have better luck spotting them when they’re perched on a branch looking for fish or diving headfirst into the water below in search of fish or crayfish. 

Belted Kingfisher can be found near lakes, rivers, and ponds across Canada during the summer breeding season and year-round along the coasts where there is open water year-round. They have a blue-grey body (11-14 in, wingspan of 19-23 in), a white chest, and a large head with a shaggy crest and dagger-like bill. Females have blue and chestnut bands across their breast; males only have a blue band. 

These experts fishers can fly very fast in a straight line but may hover for extended periods over water as they search for prey. Once the prey is spotted, they dive headfirst into the water to catch their meal. 

Belted Kingfisher dig a tunnel 1-8 ft deep in the banks of rivers or streams with a nesting chamber at the far end. The tunnel slopes upwards so that rainwater won’t collect inside.

Did you know? 
There are nearly 100 species of kingfishers, but the Belted Kingfisher is the only one seen in most areas north of Mexico. The greatest variety of kingfishers are found in the tropical regions of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific islands. 

The Laughing Kookaburra (second photo) is the heaviest member of the kingfisher family. Unlike other kingfishers, it’s a social bird. Older offspring, usually males, live with the mated pair and help with feeding and protecting the nestlings. 

Despite their name, not all kingfishers eat fish. Others, particularly forest-dwellers, eat frogs, lizards, snakes, and even small mammals. 

Once Belted Kingfisher catch their prey, they return to their perch and beat it against a branch to soften it. Sometimes they throw the prey into the air to reorient it for easier swallowing. They regurgitate pellets of food they can't digest (fish bones and scales, shells). 

We still don’t know why the females have the more distinctive markings when in most species the males are the one with brighter colours. Various hypotheses have been put forward. Males are highly territorial, often remaining on their territory year-round to guard it, and the females’ chestnut-coloured stripe may help males to identify them as a welcome visitor to their territory rather than a rival that must be chased away. On the other hand, the added band of colour may be related to the fact that female kingfishers tend to be more aggressive than males and their high testosterone levels may have influenced their colouring. 

Charlie Hamilton James started photographing kingfishers when he was 13 years old, and they inspired him to become a photographer. He published Kingfisher: Tales from the Halcyon River in 1980. 

Robert Fuller, another British artist, replaced a waterside bank with a garden shed containing a hide and an artificial nest chamber so that he could watch kingfishers inside their underground nest

For more information on Belted Kingfishers, take a look at EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion app/website for Canada’s four western provinces. Download it for free to your phone or tablet.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 14, 2021

Song sparrow

Song Sparrow make short, fluttering flights pumping their tail up and down. They prefer areas with low shrubs and bushes. [Nature Companion

“Saskatchewan has a tremendous opportunity to use energy efficiency to achieve our climate commitments … every electron saved through energy efficiency results in fewer emissions from carbon-emitting coal and gas plants.” Martin Boucher outlines 5 effective options. [Martin Boucher, Regina Leader-Post

Calgary-based Canadian Premium Sand is shifting from providing fracking sand for the oil patch to producing solar panels. [CBC

Airports’ flat roofs, parking garages, and open spaces are an ideal location for solar panels. And, as many airports are connected to the municipal grid, they may even be able to feed energy back into the system. [Gizmodo

Making Choices 
Cities world-wide are beginning to employ sensor technology to monitor and minimize urban noise. [Bloomberg CityLab

I don’t want to leave children a future “full of cement, full of destruction”. The Austrian government halts 8 highway projects in an effort to slow climate change. [France 24]


Most coniferous trees keep their foliage all year round, adding a welcome touch of green to a snowy winter landscape [Conifers of Western Canada, EcoFriendly Sask

Maintaining Biodiversity 
Yellowknife to Yukon is an ambitious project designed to protect an interconnected series of wildlands. A research team has concluded that this is an effective conservation strategy. Compared to neighbouring areas that weren’t part of the project, the protected area gained more land, more grizzly bears, and more wildlife crossings. The project also received mention in popular media (Gray’s Anatomy) and scientific publications. [Anthropocene

Environmental DNA (fragments of aquatic creatures floating in the water) can provide an early warning of invasive species entering new regions or threatened species moving outside their expected range. eDNA “could shape policy for protected regions and help monitor population shifts on a rapidly changing planet, but it may ultimately prove only as revolutionary as it is widely available and usable across the globe.” [JSTOR Daily

Nature-based solutions “can be highly effective in building long-term resilience for nature and people. It is a valuable asset in our toolbox for linking biodiversity and climate and addressing these twin crises.” However, care must be taken to recognize the inherent value of nature, to avoid treating nature-based solutions as offsetting, and to include stakeholders in developing countries. [International Institute for Sustainable Development

That’s Amazing! 
“Migrating birds push their bodies to the physiological limit, which creates excess heat. Some species cope by ascending to cooler air during daytime.” Many species also have lighter-coloured feathers, another way to stay cooler. [Science News

Snow Geese eat grasses and can often be spotted grazing on leftover grain in farm fields. They root in the mud for food so their faces are often stained a rusty orange. [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 December 2021

Farmland Drainage & the Environment Virtual Conference, December 14-17, 2021

Citizens Environmental Alliance (CEA) is holding the first part of its third annual Farmland Drainage and the Environment Virtual Conference from Dec. 14-17. The topics are listed below along with some additional reading material that may be of interest. Recordings of the discussions will be uploaded to the CEA YouTube channel if you are unable to attend. 

7 pm, Dec. 14 – Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects Town Hall 
Join a panel discussion and Q&A session to learn more about the irrigation project and its implications for Saskatchewan. This session is created to hear different perspectives with regards to the project, to learn from one another, and to ask good questions. 

Panelists: Aaron Gray, Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, and Bob Halliday, Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin 

Additional Reading Material 
Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects [Water Security Agency/Government of Saskatchewan] 

10 am, Dec. 15 – Crown (Public) Lands Gone Forever 
Lorne Scott’s webinar will discuss Saskatchewan’s Crown Lands, going right from settlement, into the 1930s, return of veterans in the 1940-50s, sell off in 1960s, Wildlife Development Fund, no sales in 1970s, Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA) 1980 - 90s, the lobby to save Community Pastures, and the Sale of WHPA and other Crown land in 2010-2020. Lorne will also give an overview of the current situation with ongoing breaking of native grassland and aspen parkland and the draining of wetlands on Crown Land. 

Lorne is Conservation Director with Nature Saskatchewan and Co-Chair of Public Pastures Public Interest. Lorne operates a farm near Indian Head and has served as president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation and the Saskatchewan Natural History Society. He was a member of the provincial cabinet, serving as Minister of Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management. 

Additional Reading Material 
Selling off Saskatchewan, Saba Dar [Sask Dispatch] 

10 am, Dec. 16 – Wetlands and Their Role in the Resilience of Prairie Communities
Chris Spence’s presentation will focus on the important role wetlands play in the resilience of the prairies and what the loss of wetlands, prairie, and aspen parkland will mean during future climate change. 

Chris works as a research scientist for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in Saskatoon. He holds adjunct professor appointments at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. His research focuses on better understanding hydrological and hydro-meteorological processes in cold regions for environmental prediction systems and policy development. ECCC informs Canadians about protecting and conserving our natural heritage and ensuring a clean, safe, and sustainable environment for present and future generations. 

Additional Reading Material 

10 am, Dec. 17 – All Our Conversations Begin with Treaty – The Duty to Consult in Saskatchewan 
Dana Martin will discuss the legal duty to consult Indigenous people and that relationship with society and our environment. 

Dana is the Director of the Battle River Indigenous Relations Council Inc., a not-for-profit corporation established to assist Treaty 6 First Nations in the Battlefords region with Crown consultation. Her background is in Indigenous law and municipal planning. 

Additional Reading Material 

Part 2 of the Farmland Drainage & the Environment Virtual Conference will be held in February 2022. 

Past Articles on EcoFriendly Sask 

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

EcoSask News, December 7, 2021

Green moray eel

Upcoming Events 
Citizens Environmental Alliance is holding its third annual Farmland Drainage and the Environment Virtual Conference from Dec. 14-17: 
7 pm, Dec. 14 – Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Projects Town Hall 
10 am, Dec. 15 – Crown (Public) Lands Gone Forever 
10 am, Dec. 16 – Wetlands and Their Role in the Resilience of Prairie Communities 
10 am, Dec. 17 – All Our Conversations Begin with Treaty – The Duty to Consult in Saskatchewan 

Full details on all upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Across the West 
The Government of Manitoba has leased St. Ambroise Beach Provincial Park to a private operator and is contemplating additional public-private partnerships. [CBC

“The South Saskatchewan River is well into the seasonal changes shared by cold-region rivers worldwide. As temperatures drop, life in and around the river begins to change. While a cover of ice suggests dormancy, under that cap of ice, water still flows, and life carries on.” An article by the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance explains how a cover of ice affects rivers and aquatic life. [SEAWA]

We Can Make a Difference 
“Organic and agroecological farmers … typically plant a cover crop to restore their soil with nutrients and organic matter. Turns out, cover crops and other key practices in organic, regenerative, and agroecological farming also help farms weather the climate crisis. In addition to keeping soils stable during floods, they protect the ground from extreme heat, which can kill important microbial ecosystems, and help retain moisture during dry spells.” [National Observer

A tiny bridge, just 12 metres long and 30 cm wide across a UK railway line, will connect two endangered hazel dormouse populations thereby increasing genetic diversity. [The Guardian

Strava Metro is a tool for charting human-powered movement. It is now free to urban planners and advocacy groups so they can keep improving active transportation infrastructure. [Strava

7 people talk about how they turned their back on consumerism – from furnishing a home for free to secondhand baby clothes to following the 90-day rule. [The Guardian

Climate Fresk is a collaborative workshop to collectively understand the implications of climate change and trigger action. Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report, says, “Climate Fresk have developed a set of cards that explain climate science … It deals with some surprisingly complicated science, but participants get to the answers through discussion and sharing what they know, tapping into a kind of ‘collective intelligence’.” [Climate Fresk

Climate Watch 
Soon, 1 out of every 15 points of light in the sky will be a satellite. There are currently no regulations to govern an industry creating air and light pollution. [The Conversation

While a controlled release of treated wastewater from oilsands tailings ponds is seen as preferable to a sudden accidental release, concerns are being raised about deteriorating water quality in the Athabasca River and downstream. [CBC

MiningWatch Canada has released an interactive map about mining impacts worldwide, noting issues with polluted air, land, and water; waste management; tourism; and biodiversity. [Environmental Justice Atlas]

Good News! 
“Ecuador’s constitutional court has blocked plans to mine copper and gold in Los Cedros, a protected cloud forest, ruling that the plans violate the rights of nature.” [Yale Environment 360

That’s Amazing! 
“Every evening, after twilight gives way to dark, hordes of marine creatures — from tiny zooplankton to hulking sharks — rise from the deep to spend the night near the surface.” Researchers are just beginning to understand the purpose and extent of this vertical migration. [Knowable Magazine

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, 2 December 2021

Endangered Species - What Can I Do To Help?

Northern Leopard frog

It can be really discouraging to read about birds, reptiles, or animals that are threatened with extinction. We want to help, but what can we do as individuals with no formal training or resources? We did some research and spoke with Melissa Ranalli, Species at Risk Manager, Nature Saskatchewan, and found some helpful information. 

1. Habitat Enhancement
Habitat loss or degradation is almost always one of the reasons a species is at risk. Any efforts you take to create a wildlife-friendly habitat on your property will be hugely beneficial. Add a pond or water feature, install nest or bat boxes, or plant wildflowers. Each of these actions will help a variety of different creatures. 

Swallows: Swallows are in rapid decline. If you find them nesting under your eaves, don’t stop them. You’ll be grateful when you see how many insects they can eat in just a few hours. 

Bats: Do you have a bat house in your garden? By monitoring and uploading the results to iNaturalist, you can provide valuable information about the best bat house design

Insects: Insects are particularly valuable as they are the primary food source for so many reptiles, amphibians, birds, and even some animals. They’ll really appreciate it if you keep your yard on the wild side. Don’t rake the leaves in autumn. Don’t mow the grass in early spring. Build an insect hotel. Leave a pile of detritus in an out-of-the-way corner. You’ll be creating cozy spots where insects can live and over-winter. 

You’ll gain lots of information and probably native seeds and plants by joining the Butterflyway Project in your local community, which encourages individuals and families to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. 

Dead Trees & Fallen Logs: We tend to remove dead trees or fallen branches from our private and municipal properties, but they play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity. From 10-40% of birds and mammals nest and raise their young in holes in trees. By maintaining multi-age ecosystems, we’re providing a habitat for birds, insects, and animals as well as maintaining the nutrient cycle. 

Pesticide-free: The pesticides and herbicides that you spray on your grass and lawn are poisons and will also harm insects, birds, and other wildlife that eat sprayed vegetation. 

Clean Up Litter: Removing litter from shorelines and other natural areas protects wildlife from hazards (such as ducks getting tangled in fishing line) and the soil and water from contaminants (cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals).
Barn swallows

Farms & Acreages: If you live on a rural property, you have a fantastic opportunity to protect and maintain the wildlife that share your land. Nature Saskatchewan offers 5 stewardship programs that engage rural landowners in conserving habitat to protect species at risk. 

You can also make sure any water running through your property isn’t contaminated and take steps to prevent run-off and erosion. One couple whose homes fronts onto a lake stopped weeding their shoreline last year and have noticed that they have far more wildlife – beavers, killdeer, and turtles. 

Katie and Aaron Suek of the Restoring 71 Project believe that acreages are a missed opportunity as they have so much potential for positioning the protection and restoration of natural areas as a convenience rather than an added effort. “It’s so much less work and you’ll see so much more wildlife if you let it go wild,” Katie says. 

The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan offers a guide to acreage living that you may find useful.
Burrowing owl

2. Species Reintroduction 
It can be tempting to attempt to reintroduce a wild creature such as a frog or lizard onto your property, but it’s risky. The habitat may be wrong or it may be the wrong species for your particular area (for example, there are several different varieties of northern leopard frog). A more effective approach is to volunteer or donate to support a professional reintroduction project. 

Volunteer: If your primary interest is plants, why not volunteer with the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan and help pull out invasive species or plant native plants along roadsides? Volunteers with the Nature Conservancy of Canada help with tree planting, reducing barriers and hazards to wildlife, installing nest boxes, and many other projects. There have been opportunities in the past to assist with wildlife reintroduction projects at Grasslands National Park

Donate: Conservation projects are always looking for additional funds and would welcome your support. Here are just a couple of local programs. 

The Calgary Zoo’s conservation research team is using science to sustain threatened wildlife. They are breeding whooping cranes, northern leopard frogs, swift foxes, and various other species for reintroduction into the wild. 

The Saskatchewan Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre offers displays and educational programs to promote the conservation of this endangered owl and its habitat. A similar program in British Columbia, the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia, has a captive breeding program and creates and maintains a system of artificial burrows for released owls. 

Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada play an important role in preserving and restoring ecologically significant areas by planting trees, restoring wetlands, and removing invasive species and wildlife hazards. They offer a variety of volunteering, donation, and legacy options.

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).