Nature Notes Archive 2009 - 2010

Burrowing Owl
Submitted by Keith Dodge
June 28, 2010

On a dusty gravel road in southern Saskatchewan with an eye on the horizon for pronghorn antelope and along the marshy ditches for the American avocet, I was not expecting to see a burrowing owl. I have only ever seen one in the wild and that was some years ago.

photo of burrowing owl
This fellow flushed from the road edge. A rounded brown wing registered that this needed a second look. After turning the vehicle around and returning to the spot where the owl flushed, it was spotted in the newly sprouted wheat field standing on those long stilt-like legs. As I approached for a picture, it crouched down and then flew back to the gravel road where I took this photo.

There was an old cemetery nearby that I believe did have burrowing owls at one time. There was no sign that this site was being used by burrowing owls, but it was the only habitat around that one might expect to see burrowing owls.

I'll be on the watch next time I am in this area.

Nature Prince Albert
May 18, 2010 Annual General Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Keith Dodge

President, Carman Dodge opened the meeting by introducing the guest speaker, Jamie Chartrand. Mr Chartrand is a conservation compliance officer and is presently the only member of the Canine Handling Unit with the Ministry of Environment. The presentation was very informative on how his dog Keela was trained, the type of situations Keela was used in and the life of a canine conservation officer. Keela showed a sense of alertness and a friendly demeanour in the room.

Carman opened the business portion of the evening by thanking Ruth Griffiths for her continued commitment to producing the NPA newsletter. Members were asked to support Ruth by submitting nature interest articles.

Membership status: Keith Dodge identified a small increase in membership in 2010 with 19 individual and 9 family memberships. In 2011, Vice-President Jim Bahr will encourage SIAST students to participate in NPA activities.

President’s Report: Carman Dodge outlined the many activities, speakers and shared wildlife sightings of NPA for 2010. Carman also mentioned an increased visibility in the community with our website and presentations by NPA members to other organizations. Still on the horizon for this spring are: Carman will support NPA at the Girl Guide Jamboree in May, Carman and Keith will lead a nature walk at Elkridge for a group of SIAST employees, June 3 and 10 are evening wildflower walk for the public and June 19th is the MacDowall Bog walk.

Executive: Keith Dodge addressed the changes to the executive. He thanked those members of the executive who will continue to hold their present position and the new directors for letting their names be brought forward.

The executive for 2011 will be:
President: Carman Dodge
Vice-President: Jim Bahr
Treasurer: Keith Dodge
Secretary/Newsletter:Ruth Griffiths
Directors: Pam Burt, David Halstead, Sandra Jewell,
Barbara Wood, Brenda Parenteau

Jim Bahr moved to accept and approve the above reports, seconded by John Burt, carried.

Keith Dodge, Treasurer, reported on the finances of NPA for 2010. This is the first year in many that the association ended the year with a small surplus instead of a loss. This was primarily supported by the feeder program where 22 feeders were built and sold to members and friends. A recent change to our website host for 2011 will see a fee cost reduction of about $150.00.

Gerald Murphy moved to accept the financial report, seconded by Jim Bahr, carried.

Adjournment: Carman Dodge adjourned the meeting at 9:00 p.m.

The evening ended with a sharing of wildlife sightings.

Nature Prince Albert
March 16, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths

Attendance: Derek and Barbara Wood, Pam and John Burt, Carman Dodge, Keith Dodge, Ruth Griffiths, Millie Fillmore, Anita Stewart, Elsie Janzen, Gerald Murphy, Marie Braaten, Landon Parenteau, Brenda M. Parenteau

President Carman Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30 p.m. and introduced the guest speaker, Andrew Didiuk, wildlife biologist with Canadian wildlife Service.

Andrew Didiuk listed and described the reptiles and amphibians of the Prairie Provinces.

  • Widespread and common in this area of the province: Wood frog, Boreal chorus frog, Northern leopard frog, Red-sided garter snake, Canadian toad.
  • Widespread in the more southerly part of the province: Plains garter snake, Tiger salamander, Western painted turtle
  • A few species from the Western area: Western toad, Spotted frog, Long-toed salamander, Western terrestrial garter snake, (only into Saskatchewan along the South Saskatchewan River).
  • Species in Saskatchewan along Manitoba border: Common snapping turtle. Northern redbelly snake, Smooth green snake, Gray tree frog, Cope's gray tree frog, Spring peeper, American toad, Blue spotted salamander, Mud puppy, Mink toad, Prairie skink.
  • Species along southern border: Plains spadefoot toad, Plains hognose snake, Great plains toad, Bull snake, Prairie rattlesnake, Eastern yellow-bellied racer, Greater short-horned lizard.

Species at risk: Northern leopard frog, Great Plains toad, Short-eared lizard, Eastern yellow-bellied racer. Didiuk said the "at risk" designation may be misleading when the species are plentiful in adjacent geographic areas. The criteria for determining if a species is threatened include, among other factors: area of extent, area of occupancy, number of reproductive males and females, rate of change.

Didiuk invited members to sign up for a monitoring program. It involves monitoring a site three times during spring and early summer. Those involved in the program receive colour species ID cards.

Old business:

  • Club reimbursed $200 for building bird feeder installed near Cosmo Lodge at Little Red River Park.
  • Carman put two feeders in the Jewish cemetery. They are being used well.

Old business:
Request to reinstate the phoning committee.
Bird observations:
Carman said crows had been reported. Horned larks observed along Highway 302. More cardinals are being observed in the city. Could be the farthest NW breeding pair.

Carman referred people to a website tracking Ruby-throated hummingbirds. They are about two weeks behind schedule.

Future programs:

  • April 15, Owl trip. Meet Keith Dodge in SIAST parking lot at 6 p.m. to carpool.
  • May, annual general meeting and speaker Jamie Chartrand, a conservation compliance officer, and his service dog.
  • June flower walks and Macdowall Bog trip on the Saturday before Father's Day
  • September speaker from Forest Service on the topic "mushrooms." May involve field trip.
  • Possible future outings: fall Whooping crane count, field trip to Quill Lakes, bird banding at Last Mountain Lake June to September if weather is suitable, Geology trip to Lower Fishing Lake, shoreline of ancient Lake Agassiz.

Adjournment: Carman adjourned the meeting at 9 p.m.

Minutes approved by: Keith Dodge

Bird Feeder at Little Red River Park

Little Red River Park has a new bird feeder. It was built by Nature Prince Albert with technical assistance from Danny Maclennan. It is a great place to have a close look at and photograph Boreal Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, woodpeckers and jays. Enjoy!

Photo of Bird Feeder at Little Red River Park

Nature Prince Albert
February 16, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Keith Dodge

President, Carman Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30PM.

Program: Jonathon Theaker, Economic Development Officer with the North Central Enterprise Region (NCER) talked about the formation of NCER and its role in the community. NCER receives its direction and funding from Enterprise Saskatchewan. NCER annually brings some half a million dollars to Prince Albert and the North Central Region to fund its operation end and offer programming.

Points from Mr. Theakers presentation:

  • Economic development is about the creation of jobs and wealth in a community and is typically measured in terms of jobs and income, but it also includes improvements in human development, education, health, choice and environmental sustainability.
  • The mandate of Enterprise Saskatchewan is “to assist each region in increasing business and key sectors within their respective regions”.
  • Enterprise Regions provide the focus and leadership necessary to build high performing regions.
  • NCER is non-profit, regional focused and governed by a volunteer board of directors from four sectors: Aboriginal, Business, Municipal and Market.
  • NCER’s mandate is “to assist the region to increase business and industry competitiveness, realize its economic potential and compete globally”.
  • NCER’s strategic directions are:
    building regional economies
    fostering a culture of enterprise, innovation and collaboration
    building on competitive advantages
    engaging leadership and effective governance

Strategic initiatives for 2010/2011 and the Tourism Unleashed conference on March 24 & 25, 2010 can be viewed on NCER website or contact Mr.Theaker at 306 953-4031 at the Forest Centre in Prince Albert.

The presentation was followed with numerous questions about opportunities for partnerships.

Old business:
Keith Dodge, Treasurer, reported that 23 small bird feeders were built and sold as a NPA fundraiser to members and friends. Material for another 10 is available upon request.
Keith Dodge, Treasurer, reported that the larger bird feeder has been built and placed at Little Red River Park. The City of Prince Albert will pay NPA for the construction materials.

New business:

It was suggested that a NPA plaque should be placed on the bird feeder at Little Red River Park. No follow-up was identified.
A motion to continue paying for the operation of the NPA website was moved by John Burt and seconded by Gerald Murphy. The cost should be similar to last year with the Annual  Domain Registration cost at $52.50 and the Web Hosting fee at $16.45 a month. Carried.

Recent bird sighting by the group were a great gray owl near Tweedsmir, a robin and goldfinches in the city and boreal chickadees, black capped ckickadees and red-breasted nuthatches at Little Red River Park feeder. To follow the northern migration of the ruby-throated hummingbird, look up The 2009 data is available and the 2010 data will be posted in early March.
View NPAs website for upcoming activities at

Adjournment by Carman Dodge
Minutes approved by Carman Dodge

Nature Prince Albert
January 19, 2010 Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths
Attendance: Pam and John Burt, Carman Dodge, Ruth Griffiths, Michael Newman, Anita Stewart, Fred Routley, Elsie Janzen, Sharon Dice, Gerald Murphy, Marie Braaten

President Carman Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

Program: As it was Members' Night, all were invited to share items of interest.

  • Michael Newman described the book Our Road Trip Tips, written and illustrated by his wife Sheryl Jean. It features with dogs, Veronica and Piccadilly, plus several others of similar breed they visited in three provinces and 20 states. The books cost $15 each.
  • Carman Dodge described the Christmas Bird Count and circulated a two-page report for the counts at Birch Hills, Candle Lake, Steep Creek Fenton, Prince Albert and PA National Park. Several species were absent this year. There were no owls and few hawks. His comment, "Birds have wings and they fly." Pam reported that no one phoned her about feeder watch this year. There were 28 volunteers for the P.A. count.
  • There have been reports of cardinal, robin, crossbills at Candle Lake, and Cedar waxwings in the city.
  • Gerald Murphy showed his photo albums, some of which were taken on an Alaskan Cruise, plus photos of Erickson Pond and glaciers.
  • Anita Stewart showed photo albums and two "coffee table" books of her collected photos.

New business:

  • A Candle Lake representative has asked for the club's help to form a bird club in that resort community.
  • Keith and Carman are building a large bird feeder (3x4 feet with roof) to be installed near Cosmo Lodge at Little Red River Park.
  • Moved by Fred, seconded by Michael, that Keith be reimbursed $114 for materials. Carried.
  • The club is selling tray feeders for $10.
  • Carman is planning a field trip to PANP the week before our next meeting. Global Media group wants to film the birding event for television.

Future programs:

  • March Andy Didiuk, reptiles
  • April Owl trip
  • May, annual general meeting and speaker Jamie Chartrand, a conservation compliance officer, and his service dog
  • June flower walks and Macdowall Bog trip on the Saturday before Father's Day
  • Possible future outings: fall Whooping crane count, field trip to Quill Lakes, bird banding at Last Mountain Lake June to Sept if weather is suitable, Geology trip to Lower Fishing Lake, and the shoreline of ancient Lake Agassiz

Adjournment: Carman adjourned the meeting at 8:30 p.m.
Minutes submitted by:  Ruth Griffiths, secretary
Approved by:  Carman Dodge

2009 Christmas Bird Count Results
Prince Albert and Area

Nature Prince Albert
December 15, 2009 Meeting Minutes
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths
Attendance: Jim Bahr, Pam and John Burt, Carman Dodge, Keith Dodge, Ruth Griffiths, Michael Newman, Rahcole Spence, Anita Stewart, G. Slager

President Carman Dodge called to order the meeting at 7:30 p.m.

The meeting was intended to teach about bird feeding and to prepare people for the Christmas Bird Count.


Carman described the Christmas Bird Count and circulated the report form. He talked about birds that sometimes appear on the count. For example, Moe Mareschal at Birch Hills has recently reported American goldfinches and Hamilton Greenwood has reported a cardinal. Raccoons may be seen and Canada Geese if there is open water.

"We feed birds for our benefit so we can see them more easily," Carman said. He displayed some bird feeding accessories including a funnel scoop and a tray feeder which members of the club are selling for $10 each.

Birds are fed seeds and suet. Multiple feeders reduce competition. Seeds fed here include black and striped sunflower seeds, millet, canola, canary seed and peanuts. Some birds feed on the ground, some in trees and some anywhere. Feeders should be cleaned to reduce spread of bacterial disease. Salmonella is spread in bird droppings.

There is the potential to see 260 species in the Prince Albert area.

Pam again volunteered to take feeder watch calls.

Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. on Dec. 20 at Smitty's. Volunteers do a bird survey for three hours within 15 miles diameter circle around Prince Albert.

Members were invited to participate in the PA National Park CBC on Dec. 18.

Jim Bahr showed an excellent PowerPoint presentation describing the identifying characteristics of some of the most common winter birds in this area.

Member activity:
Michael Newman circulated a book recently published by his wife, Sheryl.

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

Minutes submitted by: Ruth Griffiths, secretary

Approved by: Carman Dodge, president 

Nature Prince Albert Builds Birdfeeders

photo of red-breasted nuthatch feeding in birdfeeder

photo of birdfeeder
Nature Prince Albert builds birdfeeders for members, friends and birds (red-breasted nuthatch).

For $10, you can purchase a birdfeeder and a small bag of seeds. For $20, you can purchase a birdfeeder, a small bag of seeds, and a membership in Nature Prince Albert.

Contact Nature Prince Albert so we can help you help our winter birds.


Nature Prince Albert
September 15, 2009 Meeting
Guest Speaker: Harold Fisher - Bird Banding
Submitted by Ruth Griffiths

The Nisbet Bird Banding station operated by Harold Fisher is accumulating a large amount of data about Saskatchewan's smallest owl.

Since the fall of 2007, Fisher has been netting Northern Saw-whet Owls near his home 12 kilometres northeast of Prince Albert on Cloverdale Road.  His is one of five banding stations in Saskatchewan.

Fisher was the speaker at the Sept. 15 meeting of Nature Prince Albert. Approximately 30 people crowded into the meeting room at SIAST Woodland Campus to watch his slides and here is explanation of his fledgling research program.

One of North America's foremost bird banders, Dr. Stuart Houston of Saskatoon, helped Fisher get the necessary federal and provincial permits to band raptors. He strings four mist nets in an H pattern in his yard, lures them with taped owl calls and catches as many as 30 birds a night during the peak period, mid-September to mid-October. He typically bands birds every night during the migration, 8 p.m. to midnight. It takes about 10 minutes to process each bird. Only rain, strong wind or a full moon stops the banding program.

Northern Saw-whet Owls are about the size of a robin, 75-110 grams, with the females larger than the males. The birds are so tiny that he can button one into his shirt pocket and sometimes slides them into juice cans until he is able to assess them.

The owls eat voles, mice and insects; the Red-backed Vole seems to be their favourite food in this area. The nocturnal birds are cavity nesters. To facilitate banding of juveniles, Fisher has put up more than 50 nest boxes. An article about his Nest Box 7 has been published in Blue Jay.

In his experience, the birds generally nest April 17-24 and lay five eggs. The eggs are brooded as soon as they are laid. Three to four chicks fledge.

After the birds are captured, he takes them into the kitchen of his home for banding and assessment. He measures the wing, tail and weight. He looks at body condition and eye colour. He photographs the birds and records environmental conditions as the time of capture.

Northern Saw-whet Owls are "as common as robins" yet information about them in the literature is sparse. They nest throughout the boreal forest and well into the parkland. East-west movement has been established by band returns.
In autumn 2007, he got a late start and banded 86 birds. In spring 2008 he banded 29. Last fall he banded 256 little owls. This spring he only banded six. Migration has been slow this fall.

Fisher has banded a wide selection of raptors and other birds. He showed photos of several of the birds he has banded, including Long-eared Owls, Goshawk, Northern Hawk Owl. Kestrel, Mourning Dove, American Rough-leg Hawk, Blue Jays and Gray Jays. Nestlings: Great Horned Owl, Coopers Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk. He uses a fishing rod to lure Great Gray Owls in winter. He has helped place wing-tags on Turkey Vultures.
Fisher asked people to watch for coloured bands on the Blue jays he has banded. You should note the band colours, which colour is on top and which leg the bands are on. All bird bands and the location where they were found, even those on road kill, should be reported to the Canadian Wildlife Service or call 1-800-327-BAND.

Fisher invited those at the meeting to help him with his owl banding project. Please call ahead if you wish to volunteer your time. Contact him at or 922-1363.