A forest grows in Meewasin Park

National Forest Week Returns from September 19 to 25

Trees growing in Meewasin ParkIt’s hard to argue the importance that forests play in the world. Naturally, they help keep the air clear but they also provide habitats for an endless array of mammals, birds, and insects. Plus, research has shown they have a positive impact on our physical and mental health.

That’s why Canadians celebrate National Forest Week each year. In 2021, this incredibly important week of celebration runs from Sunday, September 19 to Saturday, September 25. And there will be events going on across the country.

In Saskatoon, that includes a massive tree planting event in Diefenbaker Park on Wednesday, September 22. Meewasin, the City of Saskatoon, and Tree Canada have partnered to plant 100 new trees in the park. The volunteer list is full for this event but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate forests in your area!

The history of National Forest Week

This week actually dates back to 1920 when it was known as Forest Fire Prevention Week. While the overall goal was to promote greater public awareness of Canada’s forests, there was still the specific message of reducing forest fires attached to the event.

As time has gone on, we have come to understand the importance fire plays in renewing our environment. That’s why Meewasin has an active prescribed fire program. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we don’t work against careless fires being set anywhere by humans.

After being renamed in 1967, Forest Fire Prevention Week became National Forest Week. This was the start of an evolution of bringing in more of the human and environmental aspects of Canada’s forest resources while still including fires. And Canada has a lot of forest resources.

Celebrating our forests

The forest in Meewasin Park

Part of what makes National Forest Week so special are the various events going on across Canada. In Saskatoon, we have the previously mentioned tree planting day, which actually falls on National Tree Day. But there is more happening in other regions of the country.

A big part of the week is actually getting outside and enjoying nature. National Forest Week is a call to action, both to protect and grow our forests but also to understand them better. The best way to do that is by spending time in the forest.

However you choose to enjoy National Forest Week, just take time to do it. Simply stepping out into the natural world and taking a breath can do wonders for you. It also reminds you of how beautiful, precious, and precarious this resource is.

Check out the Canadian Institute of Forestry.

Check out Tree Canada.

Meewasin Planting Day at Diefenbaker Park.

The Prescribed Fire Exchange Continues to Grow!

Prescribed fire in use at the Meewasin Northeast Swale

Years of fire suppression leave the Prairies in a fire deficit, resulting in uncontrollable fuel buildups, intense and widespread fires, and a fear of what fire is capable of. But fire is a natural process that also renews life and is vital to managing healthy ecosystems.

While fire deserves our respect, prescribed fires can be used to make urban areas safer, create wildlife habitat that fights off invasive weeds, and preserve rangelands. Most importantly, it can be planned and executed in a manner that ensures a safe perimeter, has emergency resources on site, and will not be lit unless the perfect predetermined conditions exist.

That’s where Meewasin and the CPPFE come in

The Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange is an inter-agency collective established to increase capacity for knowledge sharing and training surrounding the use of prescribed fire. Specifically, it advocates for its use as a management tool in Canadian prairie and parkland ecosystems.

At the same time, this organization exists to promote the safe, responsible use of prescribed fires, not to implement them.

In August, the CPPFE partnered with Meewasin to host the second Introduction to Prescribed Fire in the Grassland Environment course along with the first Landowner Workshop to the Association of Manitoba Community Pastures. Events like these are important steps in adding prescribed fire to our collective toolkits correctly.

Want to know more about prescribed fires?

Prescribed fire used in conservation at the Meewasin Northeast Swale

If you’re looking for a little knowledge, Meewasin has produced a short video featuring Renny Grilz, our Resource Management Officer. He explains what prescribed fire is, why Meewasin uses it, and how it’s implemented safely.

Always remember that prescribed fire is only to be used under very specific conditions by trained, experienced professionals. Whether you’re new to prescribed fire or have been using it for years, we encourage you to join us for some of our training events.

Please do not attempt anything you see in the following video at home, at work, or anywhere without the supervision of someone with experience and training. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange.

Check out Meewasin’s prescribed fire video.

Check out the Canadian Prairies Prescribed Fire Exchange.

A view of River Landing in Meewasin Valley Saskatoon

Meewasin Announces the Valley-Wide Monitoring Framework

Maintaining the Meewasin Valley is a full-time job for a lot of people.

Managing the resources of the Valley sometimes feels like an insurmountable task. The Valley currently spans 67 square km, which is the equivalent of 13,400 football fields! As such, effectively monitoring it and managing its resources is a challenge, one that Meewasin has been happily doing for more than 40 years.

But what is the Meewasin Valley-wide Monitoring Framework?

Glad you asked! Meewasin is in the first stages of building what we’re calling the Valley-wide Monitoring Framework. Rolls right off the tongue, right? During this five-year process, Meewasin is creating a network of like-minded environmental citizens and groups to work together to help watch over the Valley and monitor its important resources.

A scenic view of the Meewasin Valley SaskatoonAll of this information will help Meewasin in a number of ways. Most obviously, it gives us an ongoing narrative about what’s happening in different parts of the Valley. It will also help us plan for the future. Meewasin takes the long view of most strategies but anything related to the environment needs an especially long horizon, and we need a lot of information to make it happen.

The early stages of the Valley-wide Monitoring Framework are mostly internal to Meewasin itself. But the later stages are where we head outside and really get to work. Conservation groups, traditional knowledge-keepers, partner institutions, and stakeholders will all be involved.

That’s where you come in.

A big part of this project being successful will come down to the citizens of Saskatoon who frequent the Meewasin Valley. You being part of this Valley-wide Monitoring Framework is going to be the base of the whole operation. Without you, it simply won’t work.

Meewasin has only started building the Framework and the actual implementation of it is down the road, however we have many activities such as bio-blitz events and volunteering opportunities that will feed into this work.

To learn more about the Valley-wide Monitoring Framework, please check out the following.

Meewasin Valley-wide Monitoring Framework

Meewasin Valley-wide Monitoring Framework News Release

People walking down a trail in Meewasin Valley Saskatoon

TRAIL CLOSURE

The trail from Gordie Howe Bridge to the Sanitorium Site will be closed for an estimated two weeks for repairs and improvements. Please watch our website and social media for further details and re-opening dates.

Trail closures in the Meewasin Valley Saskatoon

Sheep get ready to graze at Beaver Creek Meewasin

Sheep Grazing Demonstrations are BACK this Fall!

Click to see our Calendar for a full list of dates/times/locations.

Register here to join us in the Northeast Swale.

Register here to join us at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area.

Join us in watching and exploring targeted sheep grazing for conservation through free demonstrations!

Meewasin has been a provincial and national leader in using targeted conservation grazing with small ruminants, including sheep, to manage conservation lands in urban and semi-urban landscapes for over 17 years!

 

Sheep grazing at Beaver Creek MeewasinAnd this year, the sheep are baaah-ck!

Shepherd Jared Epp and his flock will be working with Meewasin for a total of 15 days from early September to mid-October at both the Northeast Swale and the Beaver Creek Conservation Area, offering FREE demonstrations to the public two times per day. These demonstrations are made possible with partial funding from the RBC Tech for Nature Fund!

These Demos are completely FREE! (Donations are welcome!)​​

Register and choose a FREE ticket or a ticket by Donation.

Tickets to register at either the Northeast Swale or Beaver Creek are online now, and you can join us through the Fall Season on selected dates. But hurry! These spots will fill up fast. 

Dates & Locations are up on our calendar.

The RBC Tech for Nature Fund

Meewasin wouldn’t be able to provide these efforts if it wasn’t for the financial support from the Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Habitat Stewardship program.

A huge thank you this year to the RBC Tech for Nature Fund for supporting this special and important project.

Jared Epp with his herding dog at Beaver Creek MeewasinMeet Shepherd Jared Epp, his sheep, and his dogs

Meewasin’s conservation grazing program encourages the public to participate in grazing demonstrations as provided by Shepherd Jared Epp and his dogs.

Jared works with the Meewasin Resource Management team, educating children and adults on grazing ecology, the relationship between predator and prey, the grazing history of the prairies, the species targeted for grazing, and how to get the sheep to eat them.

 

Click to see our Calendar for a full list of dates/times/locations.

Register here to join us in the Northeast Swale.

Register here to join us at the Beaver Creek Conservation Area.

Naughty by Nature at Beaver Creek by Meewasin

Naughty By Nature – New Dates Added!

An Adult-Only Tour at Beaver Creek Conservation Area

Charcuterie board for Naughty by Nature at Beaver Creek by MeewasinWe’d never offered an experience quite like Naughty by Nature before 2021. This adult-only program was launched this summer and it was an absolute hit! We sold out every single night and had a long waitlist to boot.

Now, Meewasin has decided to extend this new experience into the fall!

Did you miss your chance to join us for Naughty by Nature? It’s not too late! We’re happy to announce this exciting opportunity will be extended to every Thursday night through September. Take in the autumn magic of Beaver Creek with exclusive after-hours access. Enjoy a tour filled with hilarious facts, group games, and fun, a custom cocktail-making kit with local ingredients, and a charcuterie box with your choice of drink. Plus, the beautiful fall foliage and migrating birds will only enhance the evening.

You must be at least 19 years old to attend. Register for any of these dates at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/naughty-by-nature-new-dates-added-tickets-161542374591

    • September 9th – 5:30pm to 8:30pm
    • September 16th – 5:30pm to 8:30pm
    • September 23rd – 5:30pm to 8:30pm

But don’t wait too long as space is limited and booking up quickly.

Introducing Naughty By Nature at Beaver Creek, Hilarious Adults-Only Tours

I can’t stop thinking about fruit flies.

A friend pointed out that I’ve been staring at mosquitoes strangely.

And don’t get me started on what is literally the birds and the bees.

The Meewasin Valley Authority’s very own conservationist, Jamie, has been working with the flora and fauna at Beaver Creek’s Conservation Area for over 20 years. Her passion and connection to the site has fostered an incredible understanding for all sorts of species living in the Meewasin Valley.

What’s perhaps most fascinating about Jamie is that she can use that knowledge to gunsling unbelievably true facts about their…well, courtship in the valley, let’s call it.

Again, I can’t stress this enough,

I never thought I’d ever adoringly say “Awwww” out loud about a mosquito before.

A chance to re-connect

When we first started the Naughty by Nature program for adults a couple of weeks ago, I thought – “I can’t remember the last time I ate so well and laughed so hard! Certainly, these days, that’s been huge.”

As wickedly funny as Jamie can be with her albeit completely factual information, it was the re-connection to community, and the re-connection to nature that I found most exciting.

To laugh and learn together in the sunset’s glow, while delighting in charcuterie, so beautifully and generously hand crafted by local legend Style and Graze, was the treat of the year.

What do I get with my ticket?

Your ticket price allows us to visit the much protected and breathtaking Beaver Creek, after hours, in private, with one of Meewasin’s top conservationists. It also allows you to explore, enjoy and support the many AWESOME local businesses that helped put this event together:

All well-deserving of the top accolades they’ve received, 9 Mile Legacy provided their refreshing new No. 1 Durum Wheat Ale, Spot On Cider, their sparkling small-batch cider, Black Fox Distillery, with their Gin #3, Style and Graze with their generously handpicked local charcuterie…even the amazing staff at Primal Pasta had a hand in creating our specially crafted cocktails!!

Most of all, our ticket helps support the Meewasin Valley Authority, so that we can keep conserving, developing, and educating our huge community about the equally as huge river valley that we care for. That means, we can create more fun, and immersive activities like this one for you, your friends, your family, and your community.

Tickets are on sale now, and you can join us through the summer on selected Thursdays, but hurry, because tickets are selling fast. 

We’ve never offered an experience quite like this before. 

Wanna join us on the next one? Register here

Celebrating Donors with Dedications Ceremony

In place of our usual in-person Dedications Ceremony for all of our Dedication Program participants, we are celebrating our amazing supporters with a video that includes sharing stories, and showing appreciation for our wonderful community.

Meewasin works closely with donors to create their own legacy in the Meewasin Valley though gifts to commemorate events, relationships, or occasions, as something that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, not just as a memory.

Here are some greetings from supporters, partners, and donors for this year’s Meewasin’s Dedication Program. Enjoy!

Click here to view the 2021 Dedications Ceremony program, including all of this year’s participants and item identification numbers.

Download Meewasin’s New App!

We’re excited to launch Meewasin’s new app!

The 1st of its kind in our region, the focus is interpreting stories of First Nation and Métis People throughout Meewasin Valley and region in an outdoor, urban setting. It provides interactive educational content to lifelong learners & tourists!

New content will be added monthly to help you explore the history and culture of the Meewasin Valley and region!

Download it today! Find the links to download below:

Google Play Store
Apple App Store

Build Your Own Birdhouse for Your Backyard Birding Hobby

Throughout 2020 and 2021, social distancing considerably limited our options for entertainment and hobbies. Sheltering-in-place has definitely expanded our appreciation for nature and creative pastimes. It’s no surprise that many people have turned to backyard birding as a free way to relax, get fresh air, and add enjoyment to their days.

Backyard birding is an activity suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities. It is also completely free and can be done anywhere. All you need to do is go outside with the intention of watching the birds. You don’t even need a backyard — a simple window bird feeder is a great way to attract birds into view for you to enjoy.

With some time, a guide book, and a method of tracking, such as a simple notebook, you can get acquainted with the unique characteristics and habits of your local wildlife all year round, and even help local conservation efforts!

Birdwatching 101: Beginning Your Backyard Birding Adventure

Before you begin your new adventures in backyard birdwatching, it’s important to remember thatbirdwatching is wildlife appreciation. While this hobby should be fun, it is even more important that it is a pastime based on the conservation of the species. Bird watching should never cause harm or stress to the birds, even in your own backyard. Structures such as decks, gazebos, and porches offer you a perch to observe without disrupting the birds.

Staying still and quiet will also keep the birds calm and relaxed, making it more likely that they will get close to you. Another technique for blending in is to wear camouflage or muted colors — never white — while you are birding.

Birders should always give back more than they take and never leave traces of their presence where they are birdwatching. Reviewing the American Birding Association Code of Ethics is a great place to learn more. Another great way to participate in the active conservation of birds and other wildlife species is to record your sightings in citizen science apps such as iNaturalist or eBird, to help guide future conservation efforts!

Use a Field Guide to Identify Your New Feathered Friends

Part of the fun and excitement of birding is identifying the birds you are watching. Ornithology, the study of birds, involves observing characteristics of the bird as well as the habitat in order to identify them.

Depending on where you live, you may see up to 200 species of birds in your back yard. Keeping track of what bird you see and when you see it will help you be more in tune with nature and the world around you.

A field guide helps you identify the birds in your back yard. You can use a book that is custom written for the area you live in, with birds and details specific to your region, or use an app. An app may provide helpful extra features such as AI recognitions from a photograph of the bird, samples of the bird’s calls and songs, and records of sightings from other watchers in your area. Audubon.org, Sibleyguides.com, and Merlin.allaboutbirds.org are popular online field guide apps that have a multitude of resources for learning about bird behavior, habitat, and conservation all in one place.

 

Keep Records of The Birds You Are Watching

Once you identify the bird, it’s important to take notes. By noting the birds you see, when you see them, and their behaviors, you can begin to anticipate migrations or other patterns. Some serious birders keep a list of the birds they have identified over their entire lifetime.

Spotting a bird can happen at any time, so be ready to record what you see. The more birding you do, the more you’ll become tuned in to your surroundings. Simply by practicing birdwatching, you may begin to see things you never noticed before.

The two challenges of birding are: staying patient and quiet enough to see the bird and properly identifying the species. Because of this, birdwatching is a long game that requires time, concentration, and mindfulness.

Birdwatching is not competitive — there is no race to acquire the biggest list of birds. The fun of getting to know your feathered friends is noticing how they are behaving or singing, how that changes over the seasons, and when they come and go from your backyard.

Gearing Up for Birdwatching

We have already established that you do not need any special gear for a satisfying adventure in birding. But it is much more fun when you can see the action up close with binoculars.

Binoculars are easy to bring along with you and give you an up-close and personal look at the birds you’re searching for. Binoculars help you enjoy the beauty of nature while keeping your distance and letting it do its thing.

Like anything else, binoculars range in price and function. The power, field of view, and focus will vary depending on the quality of the binoculars. It’s important that the binoculars are comfortable, easy to hold onto, and that they fit the user’s needs in every way. It’s helpful if you can test them out before buying them. The Audubon Binocular Guide is a great resource for selecting the perfect pair of binoculars, and locally in Saskatoon, you can check out Don’s Photo Ltd. to help you find the right gear!

How to Attract More Birds into Your Backyard

One of the best ways to attract native birds to your backyard is to have lots of local native plants and insects available. It makes sense that birds would feel more at home and drawn to the natural habitat they were intended to thrive in.

Installing features like birdbaths, bird feeders, and birdhouses are also great for attracting local birds into your backyard. Be aware of the birds in your area before you choose the style of birdhouse and type of birdseed you’re going to use, though. These treats for your neighborhood flocks are not one-size-fits-all — choose the appropriate types for the birds you want to attract.

A specialty garden or nature supply store will offer the appropriate supplies and may have higher quality products than a big-box retailer. Be sure to research how high up you should mount the feeders and houses. Other mounting details to consider: which direction to face and nearby wildlife to avoid

Birdwatching from Home If You Don’t Have a Back Yard

If you don’t have a yard, no problem! You can create a sanctuary from your window that’s appealing for birds to visit. In fact, the higher up you are, the more likely you are to spot migrations of birds of prey like eagles, falcons, and hawks as they pass over your city.

If you are a little closer to the ground, installing a window feeder or a bird feeder on your balcony could make a pleasant pit stop for the birds in your neighborhood.

How to Build Your Own Birdhouse

You could buy a birdhouse, of course, but building one for yourself isn’t just rewarding — it’s also fun! You can customize it for your space and for your visitors.

The first things you will want to assess are the type of birds you’re making a house for and where you want to install the birdhouse. The type of bird you are housing will determine the style of the house and dictate where you can install it. How large the house is, how big the holes are for entering the house, the depth and height of it, and the material it’s made from are all very important things to consider in order to attract the right bird.

Once you know this information, you can choose the most appropriate place to mount, such as hanging or fixed from a pole or tree. Be sure to consider how the elements will impact the placement of the birdhouse.

Choosing a Free DIY Bird House Plan

If you know the type of bird you want to attract and what style of house you need to build, all that’s left to do is decide what you want to build it out of and how elaborate you want it to be.

You can build a fine birdhouse out of recycled materials, like a shoe tree feeder or a teacup, and have a unique feature in your backyard oasis. This is a fantastic activity to do with kids — upcycling old items and creating creature homes is a quality afternoon together filled with lessons that will last a lifetime.

Here is a list of 29 free DIY birdhouse blueprints from quirky to quick-up that gives you a great start for creating the birdhouse of your dreams from scratch for a personalized bird town in your own back yard.

Birdhouse Maintenance

Did you know that some species of birds can suffer from Pink Eye? Also known as conjunctivitis, this disease can be an extremely big problem for our feathered friends who share bird feeders and bird houses. Birds infected with this disease often have red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes, and in extreme cases, the disease can even cause them to become blind, unable to avoid their predators, and more likely to have fatal window collisions.

We can help birds avoid conjunctivitis and stop the spread by washing our bird feeders, bird houses, and bird baths with a diluted bleach solution (1 cup bleach to 9 cups water) once a week and letting the feeder, birdhouse, or bird bath air dry completely before replacing.

Birds Populations are Plummeting

As we are enjoying watching the birds and learning all about them, it is important to recognize that birds are declining across North America and can definitely use our help. Bird populations have plummeted in the past 50 years, dropping by nearly three billion across North America!

Did you know that predation by domestic cats is the number one direct, human caused threat to birds in Canada? It is estimated that cats kill between 100 and 350 million birds per year in Canada! We can help our feathered friends out by keeping our cats indoors.

Another way we can also help birds is by preventing them from hitting our windows. Birds have no concept of glass and with windows everywhere, reflective glass can be deadly. One solution is a product we use at Beaver Creek Conservation Area called feather friendly. Pick some up today over at Wild Birds Unlimited!

A couple other important things you can do to help out our feathered friends are to avoid using pesticide and herbicides, which are harmful to birds.

Birdwatching is a Hobby for a Lifetime of Enjoying Nature

Learning about the world around you is something you do throughout your entire life. Slowing down and noticing the natural world should be a daily practice. Birdwatching can be enjoyed anywhere, at any time — you don’t even have to go outside. It’s a free hobby that anyone can take part in. Stay safe, de-stress, and learn more about your ecosystem at home with an adventure in birding today.

Original blog posted here on Porch.com. Thank you to Hermann Samano, who submitted and wrote most of this blog.