March started off with lots of snow. It is too bad we didn’t have snow like this in January for our snow- shoeing activity. March is also the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox (on Tuesday, March 20 this year). The days are starting to get longer and the Equinox marks the date when the length of the day equals the length of the night (and the sun’s energy is equal in both north and south of the equator). The changing day length all has to do with the tilt of the Earth as it orbits around the sun. Our orbit, however, in not circular. It is shaped like an oval, or what scientists call an elliptical orbit. In March our elliptical path will take us out to the far ends of the oval. We are actually moving away from the sun. But the tilt of the Earth makes up for it by exposing the northern part of the planet to more direct energy from the sun. In other words, it’s going to get warmer.
Spring is arriving!
It is very easy for our government to monitor how much electricity we use from hour to hour on each and every day. We can use this technology to show our government we care about climate change.
The World Wildlife Fund-Canada (WWF) calls on people across the country to join others around the world to send a strong global message and show your commitment to the planet. You can switch on your social power by simply switching off your lights. You can learn more and sign up at https://www.earthhour.org
The 12th annual Earth Hour takes place at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 24, 2018.
Six continents, over 170 countries, and 24 time zones will be united as a global community, making our voices heard through individual action. Turn off as much power as you can and focus on your commitment to climate action for the rest of this year.
Butterflies when there is snow?
The arrival of spring, marked by the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox, will mean temperatures will start to warm and our snow will start to melt. One of the most fascinating things I find about the warmer temperatures is the waking of our hibernating butterflies. In Saskatchewan we have several types
of butterflies that hibernate over the winter months as adults. Mourning Cloaks, anglewings, and tortoiseshells are the only Saskatchewan butterflies that hibernate as adults. (Other butterflies and moths usually survive the winter in the egg stage, although some will overwinter in the, caterpillar or pupae/ chrysalis stages). The amazing part is they freeze completely solid in the winter and come back to life when they thaw out. Watch the daily temperatures in March. If we get a day that is 12 degrees or warmer be sure to keep your eyes open for brown-coloured butterflies fluttering about. These brown butterflies are the Mourning Cloaks or Nymphalis antiopa.
You would think that a butterfly with a name like Mourning Cloak would be somewhat depressing; but it is hard to get depressed on the first warm, sunny day after a long, cold winter! These large, dark butterflies (with light upperwing edges) pop onto the scene on the first warm sunny day when the temperature hits 12 degrees or warmer. They will often appear on a very warm day in March even when there is still snow on the ground. Don’t worry; they go back into hibernation until the willows bloom in April. Mourning Cloaks have a long life span for a butterfly. The adult life span is about 10 months to a year (most adult butterflies in only live a week or so). The adult Mourning Cloak will usually come out of hibernation in April and lives until June. In early April, willow catkins are about the only flower available, so look for Mourning Cloaks around the ‘pussy willows’.
They will also feed on sap and mud (for moisture and minerals). The males are also anxious to find a mate at this time of year, so you will often see the males chasing after every female that visits a willow tree. The spiky caterpillars of Mourning Cloaks hatch in June. They feed in groups, spinning webs around
the twigs and leaves of host tree (usually a willow or poplar). Sometimes they can be considered a pest when large groups of caterpillars feed on our local elm trees. The group feeding is actually to scare predators. If you get close to a group of feeding Mourning Cloak caterpillars, they will shake in unison, giving the appearance of a larger animal.
These guys are all about avoiding predators. It is thought that the light border on the adult wing resembles a worm or caterpillar, and helps lure attacks from predators away from the butterfly’s fat, furry body. The adults emerge from metamorphosis in July, but they don’t seem to like the really hot days of summer. August is usually spent in aestivation (a state of dormancy similar to hibernation). The under- wings of the Mourning Cloak resemble dead leaves, so they can be well camouflaged during their aestivation period. Once the weather cools in the fall, the Mourning Cloaks once again make an appearance. During the fall they feed voraciously on flower nectar, decaying fruit, and sap. A good place to look for Mourning Cloaks is around tree trunks that have been drilled by the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. They overwinter as unmated adults and the cycle begins once again on the first warm days of spring.
Photos by Marcie O’Conner (Prairie Haven- Native Habitat Restoration in Wisconsin. www.prairiehaven.com)
There are some great kid-friendly event in March to get your in the spring mind-set.
Seedy Saturday – Saturday, March 10
This year, the 20th annual Seedy Saturday will take place on Saturday March 10th, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Station 20 West (1120 20th St. West).
Admission will be $2.00 (free for students/children). The event features the annual seed exchange, environmental and horticultural exhibitors and vendors, workshops, musical entertainment and children’s activities. For more information visit the CHEP Good Food Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CHEPGoodFood/
GardenScape – March 23 to 25
The annual GardenScape event runs for three days from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, March 25.
This annual gardening show attracts thousands of people to Prairieland Park to learn everything about backyard and outdoor living from Super Dogs to the latest gardening and plant products. The Saskatoon Nature Society will be there with two displays: one promoting the Saskatoon Nature Society and one promoting the importance of wetlands.
Daily General Admission: $12.50
(Two-Day Admission: $18.00/Three-Day Admission: $26.00)
Student (15 & under): FREE
For more information on GardenScape visit http://www.gardenscapeshow.ca/
Thank you for your donations
Thank you to everyone who has tossed a few coins into our donation jar at Young Naturalists’ events. We use those donations to help finance our activities. Some of those donations have been larger amounts. The Saskatoon Young Naturalists can give you a tax receipt for donations of $10.00 or larger. If you are going to donate a larger amount and would like a tax receipt, please let me know.
We also take other kinds of donations:
-Canadian Tire Money
-Used blenders and irons
-Old playpens (our friends over at Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation can use them for some of their orphaned critters).
Stand Up for Meewasin
If you want the provincial government to support the Meewasin Valley Authority, please e-mail the Premier and your Saskatoon MLA. A single line will do: “Please restore provincial funding to the MVA.” The provincial budget is being finalized right now. We may only have days to get this right. A sample letter and e-mail addresses can be found on the Stand Up for Meewasin Facebook page
Upcoming Young Naturalists Programs:
Enrolment is limited on Young Naturalists programs.
Early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.
Registration is taken on a first-come basis. To register e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate the program for which you would like to register. You must register for each activity separately.
(You can register for more than one activity at a time). Most programs are free unless otherwise indicated. At least one parent/guardian must accompany your child/children on all Young Naturalists activities
Young Naturalists Owl Pellet Dissection –SOLD OUT– (I am still taking names for the wait list)
Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 1:00 p.m.
Cost: Free – donations accepted. Advanced registration is required.
In this indoor session we’ll take a look at the ecology of the Great Horned Owl in Saskatchewan and learn all about owl pellets. What’s an owl pellet? More importantly, what’s inside an owl pellet? Find out at this exciting presentation.
Space is limited, so advanced registration is required.
Young Naturalists Birdhouse Workshop –Space still available–
Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 1:00 p.m.
Cost: $10.00 per child. ($5.00 for members of the Saskatoon Nature Society or the Saskatoon Zoo Society) Join the Young Naturalists for this National Wildlife Week program. Spring is just around the corner so it is time to prepare for the bluebirds and Tree swallows return from their winter migration. These cavity-nesting birds will be looking for suitable nesting sites. We can help them out by making your own birdhouse. Space is limited in this workshop so advanced registration is required.
Young Naturalists Crocus Hike
Sunday, April 22 at 1:00 p.m. Northeast Swale
Celebrate Earth Week with the Young Naturalists as we walk on the native prairie and look for Prairie Crocus and other signs of spring. Watch our web and Facebook page as this field trip date might change depending upon the blooming time for the crocus.
Young Naturalists Pike Lake Field Trip –only 1 spot left–
Saturday, May 5 from 12:00 noon to 3:30 p.m. Pike Lake Provincial Park
Cost: Free – donations accepted. Advanced registration is required.
Join the Young Naturalists for lunch around the campfire followed by nature activities including our search for wild dragons, damsels, fairies, and frogs*. (*Dragonflies, damselflies, fairy shrimp, and frogs). Space is limited on this very popular program so register early!
Young Naturalist Great Horned Owl Banding Field Trip –only 2 spots left–
May 2018 – date to be announced.
This is an evening program usually from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Free. Donations always accepted. Advanced registration is required.
We will join naturalists’ Marten Stoffel and Martin Gerard as they band and collect scientific information from wild Great
Horned Owls. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required.
Young Naturalists’ Bluebird Trail
Starts May 30 and runs into early July – evenings and weekends. Watch for a schedule on our web page around mid-May
Attention Nature Kids Teachers
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation Outreach Program: Engaging Students with a live animal
Wildlife Educators from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation will visit your classroom with live animals including bats, birds and their Thirteen-line Ground Squirrel for a wild 45 minute presentation. Because Living Sky is a wildlife rehab centre, they have a unique perspective on the connections between humans and animals. Topics are curriculum based for each grade level and focus on habitat, community, animal characteristics, animal growth, and what to do if you encounter an injured or orphaned animal. Fee is $50.00 per class and funds raised from the presentations support animal rehabilitation.
Call Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation for more information and available dates at 306-281-0554 or e-mail email@example.com to book your presentation.
NEW: Thanks to a grant from Nutrien and the Saskatoon Foundation the Living Sky Wildlife Outreach program can now be offered to
10 community school classrooms at no charge. This is a first-come-first-served offer.
Saskatoon Zoo Society On-site and Outreach Education Programs
The only reliable education at Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm Park Zoo is the Saskatoon Zoo Society curriculum-based
education programs. Programs take place at the Forestry Farm or through their outreach program in your classroom. Visit the
Saskatoon Zoo Society website for more information on educational critters, programs, and fees.
Want more nature?
Check out EcoFriendly Sask.
A weekly round-up of everything environmental in Saskatchewan, and small action grants as well.
The Prairie Naturalist is a live weekly radio show every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. on 91.3 FM, CJTR, Regina Community Radio. But you
can also listen on channel 806 on SaskTel Max, or download the CJTR Smartphone App. Host Jared Clarke covers a variety of nature related topics from the prairies. Podcasts can also be found at https://soundcloud.com/theprairienaturalist or http://cjtr.ca/podcasts/
Lots of field trips (open to all ages) and other information
You can even download the latest newsletter from the Saskatoon Nature Society.
The next meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society is Thursday, March 15 Saskatoon Nature Society Annual General Meeting and Members’ Slide Night Thursday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Room 106 Biology (W.P. Thompson) Building on the U of S Campus
Following a short annual general meeting it’s time for the always popular photographic presentation from the members of the Saskatoon Nature Society. Admission is free and everyone is invited. Visit www.saskatoonnaturesociety.sk.ca for more information.
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