Nature Notes Archive 2008 - 2009

Spring Wild Flower Walks 2009

Spring wild flower walks occurred along the Kristi Lake Nature Trail and the MacDowall Bog area. The Kristi Lake walks took place on June 4 and June 11 with a total of 37 NPA members and friends taking part. Even though it appeared to be a later spring, most of the spring-flowering plants were flowering, with the prairie crocus already gone to seed. Some of the key plants in the jack pine ecosystem were: bearberry, early blue violets, lily-of-the-valley, wild strawberry and pin cherry and chokecherry shrubs. Some key plants in the conifer swamp were: marsh marigold, dwarf raspberry, kidney-leaved violets, wild red currents and arrow-leaved coltsfoot. Along the lake riparian, some of the key plants were: Saskatoon berry, star-flowered false solomon's seal, cream-coloured vetchling, wild rice grass and a lone apple tree. Some of the key plants in the mixed-wood ecosystem near the end of the trail were: dewberry (trailing raspberry), tall lungwort and many yet-to-flower shrubs - red-osier dogwood, twinning honeysuckle and gooseberry. Many other plants were recorded along with some birds, most notably the red-eyed vireo.

MacDowall Bog Walk on June 20 had many plants recorded quite different from the Kristi Lake Nature Trail area, primarily because the walk started in the upland prairie and then continued in the very wet bog and fen. Some of the upland plants listed were: field chickweed, low everlasting (pussy-toes), blue-eyed grass, prairie (purple) avens, three-flowered avens, golden-bean, coral bells (alumroot), dandelion, goats beard, hoary puccoon and lots of snowberry shrubs. The forested area between the upland and the bog had sarsaparilla, meadow-rue and bishop's cap in flower. In the bog and next to the bog we found: yellow lady's slipper, round-leaved orchid, fringed milkwort, bog violets, pitcher-plants, round-leaved sundew, buck-bean and alder-leaved buckthorn. Numerous other plants were listed. A mallard hen flushed from the edge of the bog. A nest with eight eggs was well hidden in the bog birch and shrubby cinquefoil. Many chorus frogs and dragonflies were also observed.

Keith Dodge

June 8, 2009
Erickson Pond Dedication

Over 50 individuals attended the dedication of the Erickson Pond. Everyone who attended was a dignitary - Minister of Environment, MLA, Reeve and Councilors from the RM of Paddockwood, Conservation Officers, representatives from PANP, Nature Saskatchewan and NPA, nature enthusiasts, friends and family, and a singing cowboy.

A cursory inventory of bird life at the pond:

Song sparrow
Barn swallow
Wilson's snipe
American avocet
Sora rail
Common goldeneye
Buffle head
Ruddy duck
Franklin gull
Black tern
Sand piper

The ceremony ended with a flyby - a turkey vulture

Keith Dodge

Nature Prince Albert
May 19, 2009 Meeting
Guest Speaker - Marty Ferguson - trapper
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths

At the May 19 meeting of Nature PA the guest speaker, Marty Ferguson, described his lifestyle as a trapper in the Candle Lake area.

Ferguson works in fire control and forestry with Sask Environment. He is a graduate from the Integrated Resource Management program 21 years ago and acknowledged Keith Dodge as one of his teachers.

Ferguson has been trapping for 30 years, since age 10. He has seen some changes in trappers' lives.

People who have taken the trappers course can be licensed to trap on private land in the farming areas south of Prince Albert. But in the northern zone, trappers have registered trap lines. Ferguson's designated area near Candle Lake is approximately 18 miles by eight miles, but it is not square. Boundaries are set by rivers, roadways or lakes. Trappers meet once a year to set boundaries and decide other issues.

A third kind of trapper spends two to three months at a time living on their trap line. They practice a traditional lifestyle and live off the land. Ferguson has great respect for these folks.

Value of trapping

            Trapping plays a huge part in the economy. Most sell their pelts to the North West Co. Prices plummeted this year due to the global downturn in the economy. In the late 1980s, fur prices also dropped due to the green movement. A wolf trap costs $150 to $250 and the price of gasoline remains high. Ferguson says trapping is something like farming, in that the successful operator has to be able to wait out low prices.
He stores rolled pelts in a big chest freezer for years at a time.
            Personal value -- His daughters, ages 10 and four, have the opportunity to view nature while out on the trap line.
"It's not just about catching an animal, it's about everything else. It's an important experience for these young kids."
            Health benefits - He feels in good shape from all the walking and fresh air.
Environmental benefits - Walk through the old growth forest. Have better respect for the environment; become a more rounded person.
            "These other benefits are more important than monetary value."
            Another value is research. This year he shipped 144 skeletons and skulls to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Also, in March, he sent a truckload of canids to the veterinary college in Saskatoon for study of parasites in intestines.
            Ferguson traps a variety of animals: three types of weasel, raccoon, muskrat, beaver, mink, martin, squirrel, lynx, coyote, wolf and fox. He doesn't trap if the population is on the decline. He sees this as a benefit of having a registered trapping area
            "People take care of populations and don't want to hunt them out."
             He sees fur as a renewable resource and the trapper as a resource manager.
            Wolves prefer to eat White-tailed deer, because they are more likely to be injured trying to bring down a moose or elk. The deer population is down now and wolves are being seen in the more settled areas. He has also noticed that the wolf scat contains elk and moose fur.

Nature Prince Albert
Minutes of meeting of May 19, 2009
SIAST Woodland Campus Room AC120

Attendance: Carman Dodge, Douglas Hodgins, Jim Bahr, Keith Dodge, Keith Hay, Milly Fillmore, Wanda Scissons, Ruth Griffiths, Pam and John Burt and visitor Rick Lauzon.

Approval of agenda:
President Carman Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Carman welcomed members and guests to the 2009 annual meeting, outlined the agenda and invited annual reports:

Keith Dodge reported revenue of $225 and expenditures of $1,069.50 leaving a balance of $3,087.19.

18 paid memberships during 2009

Ruth is mailing out approximately 20 copies of the quarterly newsletter. She asked for photographs and reports of any kind plus feedback about what members would like to see in the newsletter. There were no expenses arising from the newsletter during 2008 because only edition was produced and it was not mailed. A bill for 60 stamps was submitted.

If anyone has photos of birds, mammals, flowers or any nature photos we could place these on the website Prince Albert tourism office often searches the website. The website attracts visitors to our community and new members to the club.  
Ruth moved a vote of thanks to Doris Dodge for maintaining the website.
Moved by Jim Bahr, seconded by Pam Burt that we pay $178 for the website. Carried.
June 4 and 11 - Flower treks at Kristi Lake Nature Trail

President's report
: Carman suggested Nature PA celebrate the fact that has a survived another year when many other organizations are dying off. There are still many members of many ages and interests. During the past year Carman made a presentation to teachers at an SFA event. The wildflower walks brought out some people as did the bog walk. We are also holding our own financially.

Speakers during the past year were:

  • Oct. 21, 2008 John Gruszka, provincial apiculturalist who described changes in the beekeeping industry during his 31 years of service with the provincial government.
  • Jan.20, 2009 Members night: Hamilton Greenwood and Gerald Murphy showed photos.
  • Feb. 17, 2009 Shannon Poppy of Forest First described an experiment to use geese to control weeds in a poplar plantation.
  • March 17, 2009 Jim Bahr made impromptu presentations on identification of tadpoles and upland game birds.

On the evening of April 21, four members went owling in Prince Albert National Park. They saw one owl but the highlight was 56 white pelicans.
Coming events include flower walks at Kristi Lake Nature Trail on June 4 and 11, a flora and fauna inventory at Erickson's Pond near Paddockwood on June 8 and dedication of that nature area on June 18, The Macdowall Bog Walk is scheduled for June 20.

Moved by Keith Dodge, seconded by Doug Hodgins that all reports be received. Carried.

Election of officers and directors
: No changes from 2008.
President Carman Dodge
Vice-president Jim Bahr
Treasurer Keith Dodge
Secretary and newsletter Ruth Griffiths
Director Pam Burt
Director, phoning, John Burt
Director Sandra Jewell
Director Wanda Scissons

: Moved by Jim Bahr, seconded by Milly Fillmore that the meeting be adjourned.


Keith introduced the speaker, Marty Ferguson, who described his lifestyle as a trapper in the Candle Lake area. He displayed wolf, coyote and fox pelts plus two types of traps to illustrate his talk. (Note: See above for write-up.)

Carman thanked the speaker and adjourned the meeting at 8:30 p.m.

Minutes submitted by: Ruth Griffiths, secretary

Approved by: Keith Dodge

April 22, 2009 - OWLING EXCURSION to Prince Albert National Park

Owls versus Frogs! In 2008 the frogs were a clear winner. The wood frogs and course frogs were so noisy that we couldn’t hear the owls. In 2009, there were no frogs croaking. The owls were the winners by the slimmest of margins – one Barred Owl was seen and no owls were heard.

Our first sighting was a pair of Great Blue Herons near the south gate to Prince Albert National Park. Other waterfowl species observed during the trip were: mallard (6), golden-eye (2), loons (6) and Canada geese (4). There was open water right at the Narrows but most everywhere else was iced in. At some distance from the far edge of the open water was a linear collection of 32 common mergansers. In the past, when I have seen a group (flock) of mergansers, they were always in a line, shoulder to shoulder, ready to advance or to depart in unison. Our big moment of the evening occurred while we were observing two white pelicans near the shore – 56 white pelicans appeared without a sound, like a shining white scarf floating in the wind. They made one circle and gracefully landed with little sound just off the shore. With little open water, they were content to calmly enjoy our presence as we enjoyed them. A bald eagle came in for a closer look and landed on the top of a large white spruce some distance away.

A merlin and an American kestrel were part of the count as well. Other count species were: northern flicker (1), raven (1), crow (1), magpie (2), dark-eyed junco (10+), ruffed grouse (5) and the melodious song of the winter wren (2). Most of the ruffed grouse, except for one, were scrounging for gravel along the roadway. The singleton ruffed grouse was balancing at the tip of a tall balsam poplar stuffing its face with poplar flowers, like a child popping smarties.

Our animal encounters for the evening included 4 white-tailed deer, 8 elk and 4 beavers.

Keith Dodge for: Carman Dodge, Barb Wood, Derek Wood 

Nature Prince Albert
Minutes of meeting of March 17, 2009
SIAST Woodland Campus Room AC120 

In the absence of the president, Keith Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30 p.m. on March 17, 2009.

Attendance: Approximately 10 people attended. There was no sign-in sheet.


Keith introduced Jim Bahr, an instructor in the Natural Resource Technology program at Woodland Campus. Jim demonstrated methods of identifying tadpoles and game birds.

Tadpoles: Using drawings and photographs, Bahr described tadpole morphology and how to identify them based on the colour, shape, arrangement and size of their body parts. He said there are about six frogs and toads in Saskatchewan. The Leopard Frog, for example, is only one with an egg that is white on top and black on the bottom.   

Upland game birds: The two non-native species, Hungarian Partridge and Ring-neck Pheasant, do not have feathers on their lower legs, as do the grouse and ptarmigan species native to this area. He showed pheasant feet which demonstrate the difference between a mature and an immature male, based on the size of the spur.

Pheasants have bands which go across both sides of the feather, unlike native species. He showed how wear on the ninth and tenth wing feathers indicates that the bird is a juvenile, as mature birds replace those feathers during the fall molt.

Several other differences between different gender and species were demonstrated using wings and tail feathers submitted by hunters.

Old Business

Saskatchewan Forestry Assoc. and P.A. Model Forest are going to share an office. Excess office equipment is being auctioned until March 26 at 137 1062 Central Ave.

New Business

Trevor Herriot will be at Cuelenaere Public Library on April 28 at 7 p.m. He will read from his new book on prairie birds: Grass Sky Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds.

Upcoming programs

April - authors Arlene and Robyn Karpan presentation at John M. Cuelenaere Library.

April 21 - do an owl survey, possibly at Anglin Lake. Carpool.

May 19- annual general meeting

May - waterfowl field trip

June 4 and 11 - flower treks at Kristi Lake Nature Trail


Meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m. by Keith.

Minutes submitted by: Ruth Griffiths, secretary

Approved by: Keith Dodge, treasurer

Great Horned Owls

Be on the lookout for nesting Great Horned Owls. Some will already have young under wing. They are probably using last years' hawk nests.
Keith Dodge, March 15/09
Grassland Birds

Trevor Herriot is a renowned Saskatchewan birder. In April 2009, Trevor will read from his new book, Grass Sky Song: Promise and Peril in the World of Grassland Birds at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library in Prince Albert. See attached for more information.
Keith Dodge, March 15/09

Nature Prince Albert
Minutes of meeting of February 17, 2009
SIAST Woodland Campus Room AC120

President Carman called to order the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. on February 17.
Present: Doug Hodgins, John Burt, Deb Despins, Marie Braaten, Shirley Swain, Ruth Griffiths, Milly Fillmore, Barbara Wood, Linda Fornal, Fred Routley, Keith Dodge and Carman Dodge.


Carman introduced Shannon Poppy who is in the Agroforesty Unit of ForestFirst (formerly Saskatchewan Forest Centre). Shannon described her 2007 research project to test the use of geese to control weeds in a poplar plantation at the Conservation Learning Centre south of P.A. Carman thanked her for her presentation (write-up attached) and she distributed ForestFirst pins and copies of her report to those present.

Old Business

Carman made available copies of the birds that were recorded during the 2009 Christmas Bird Count in Prince Albert in district. The Northern Cardinal is still being sighted in the city.

  • Building bird houses: Carman has a contact who is building a log house at Christopher Lake who will provide scrap lumber. In the past, Woodland Campus has allowed the use of its tools and shop for construction of bird houses.
Financial Report

No change. Treasurer Keith Dodge will accept memberships.
  • Keith said we need to pay $50 (Annual Domain Name Fee) to keep up the website in addition to the monthly website hosting fee of approximately $15. It was agreed by general consent.
  • Saskatchewan Forestry Assoc. and P.A. Model Forest are going to share an office. Excess office equipment will be sold. Keith will get a list of surplus office equipment.
New Business
  • Carman thanked Ruth for producing a newsletter prior to the February meeting. He encouraged members to let her know about items for the newsletter, including websites, books or speakers. Ruth suggested the next newsletter be produced in May before the annual meeting with two more in early September and November before the Christmas Bird Count.
  • Nature Prince Albert has been contacted to be tour guides for some Grade 8 exchange students from Quebec May 6-13. It was suggested they tour the Forks and La Colle Falls but those areas are subject to erosion and muddy at that time of year. Both trails may be difficult to navigate. They are also scheduled to tour P.A.National Park, so Carman suggested maybe we could do a nature tour for them in the park .He will get more details from the coordinator, Vicky Gauthier.   
Upcoming Programs

March - Carman will ask Ron Berezowski to talk about his use of sheep in silviculture
April - Authors Arlene and Robyn Karpan presentation at John M. Cuelenaere Library.
April 22 - do an owl survey, possibly at Anglin Lake. Carpool.
May - annual general meeting
May - waterfowl field trip
June - Flower treks at Kristi Lake Nature Trail

Milly Fillmore won the door prize, a Sask. Forest Centre coffee mug.
Meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m. by Carman.  The next general meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on March 17 in Room AC120 SIAST Woodland Campus. (Park at southwest corner of building and use main entrance.)

Minutes submitted by: Ruth Griffiths, secretary
Approved by: Keith Dodge, treasurer
2008 Christmas Bird Count Results
Prince Albert and Area

January 20, 2009 Meeting Notes
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths

The January 20, 2009 meeting of Nature Prince Albert was Members' Night. President Carman Dodge called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. in Room 120 of SIAST Academic Centre.

Present: Fred Routley, Doris Town, Isabelle Rice, Shirley Swain, Keith Dodge, Gerald Murphy, Ruth Griffiths, Pam and John Burt, Hamilton Greenwood, Carman Dodge, Marie Braaten, Brenda Parenteau


  1. Bird Count: Carman commented on the results of the 2008 Christmas Bird Count for Birch Hills, Candle Lake, Steep Creek, Fenton, Prince Albert and Prince Albert National Park. He noted a lack of Great Horned Owls. A Varied Thrush and an Eastern Towhee were unusual sightings in the Candle Lake count. Full CBC results will be forwarded to the website.
  2. Build bird feeders:  Keith Dodge suggested that this year we suspend the Birds of Christmas public meeting usually held in advance of CBC. There were only six participants this year, exceeding the number of door prizes. He suggested that instead we construct and distribute free 50 feeders and recruit the recipients for a feeder watch during the CBC count period.
  3. Newsletter: Ruth Griffiths has volunteered to again produce a newsletter but only four times a year instead of six. Carman encouraged people to submit items. He will pass on information about the activities of other societies in the province.
  4. Next meeting: Shannon Poppy will speak about the use of geese in weed control at the Conservation Learning Centre. The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.


  1. Hamilton Greenwood projected his digital photos and passed around a "coffee table" book, A Prairie Primer. He published it through an online program called He also displayed a smaller book he had done for his father. He was able to lay out several books in a single afternoon and had them in his possession within 10 days. The colour, printing and binding are top quality. He suggested the club might consider doing a book as a limited fundraiser, a project or a significant contribution to provincial archives.
  2. Gerald Murphy projected his photographs and passed around several of his albums, large prints and a calendar he had produced this year. Most of the photos were from his trip to P.E.I. but one documented the small communities along Highway 44 spanning the Alberta/Saskatchewan boundary. His calendar was printed from digital photos at UPS in Saskatoon.
  3. Carman distributed a few colourful maps from the local tourism department. He handed out copies of the Nature Saskatchewan 60th anniversary Species at Risk calendar.
  4. Fred Routley brought along the book he is reading, Wesley the Owl, about a young woman who raised a barn owl.
  5. Ruth Griffiths passed around a photo of a tequila factory in Mexico showing a man weaving with the fibre from the agave plant from which tequila is made. She also passed around a sample of the fibre and the thorn from the tip of the agave leaf which was traditionally used as a needle. Hamilton Greenwood demonstrated how it can puncture skin!
  6. Members discussed recent bird sightings, many of which indicate spring mating behaviour.

The informal meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

Saskatchewan's Bee Industry
Story and photo submitted by Ruth Griffiths
October 23, 2008

The provincial apiculturist, John Gruszka of Prince Albert, was the guest speaker at the Oct. 21 meeting of Nature Prince of John Gruszka

Gruszka has seen a vast change in the beekeeping industry since he started working for the provincial government three decades ago. Most Saskatchewan beekeepers now over-winter their bees, whereas they used to import packages of queens and workers from the United States every spring to start their hives. The U.S. border was closed to bees in the 1980s to prevent the spread of parasitic mites.

Gruszka said with “wintering” yields have increased and hives are stronger. Saskatchewan beekeepers produce an average of 200 pounds of honey per hive and it’s some of the best in the world.

Gruszka has also seen changes in agriculture with larger, monoculture fields, which reduces the time blossoms are available to bees.

Heavy infestations of the verroa mite have led to colony collapse disorder in some areas. Gruszka says beekeepers are practicing intensive management and controlling the mite in their hives with chemicals. The mite is spreading from east to west and present in most hives in the province except the extreme northwest.

“Some producers have lost 70 per cent of hives,” said Gruszka.

In 2005 Saskatchewan Agriculture, Food and Rural Revitalization provided a grant of $10,000 to the Saskatchewan Beekeepers' Association for its Saskatraz project. The name "Saskatraz" refers to an apiary of honeybee colonies that will be kept in isolation while they are monitored and selected for mite resistance. Gruszka says the project is promising.

He says the biggest threat to honey producers today is offshore honey. China is selling honey at an artificially low price. Sometimes the honey is sold as “Product of Canada” because it was packaged here. Proposed labeling regulations could change that.

“We’re hoping that trends like the 100 Kilometre Diet take off,” said Gruszka, referring to the concept that people should commit to eat food that is grown and processed within a 100 kilometre radius of where they live.

Other factors affecting the profitability of honey production are increased costs for labour, gasoline and sugar (which is used to feed the bees before flowers blossom). Gruszka said the current cost of production is about $125 per hive.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Visits Saskatoon Area
Submitted by Carman Dodge
November 12, 2008

The scissor-tailed flycatcher was observed by Don Weidl and I in the Blackstrap Resevoir sitting on a buffaloberry bush November 9, 2008. The bird was still "hawking" flying insects while we watched.

The scissor-tailed flycatcher's home range is Arizona. There have been only 11 sightings in Saskatchewan according to Birds of Saskatchewan (1996). This is the second scissor-tailed flycatcher that I have been fortunate to see in Saskatachewan. The previous one was south of Saskatoon in the 1970's.

scissor-tailed flycatcher

Photo by Don Weidl (2008 Blackstrap)

scissor-tailed flycatcher

Photo by Don Weidl (2005 Costa Rica)