Earth Day Symposium - April 22nd, 2017
The YFBTA Organizes Earth Day
by Kathy Morrell
A giant owl floats on silent
wings through the boreal forest as it seeks
something to eat, mice, chipmunks or other small
mammals. The bird is a dapper fellow dressed in
a grey suit and bow tie. Harold Fisher,
an expert in hawks and owls, recognizes it as a
Great Grey Owl. A retired math teacher from
Prince Albert, he will talk about owls at an
Earth Day event organized by the Yellowhead
Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA).
Fisher calls himself a
citizen scientist. He has been interested in
nature and owls since he was child growing up on
a farm south of North Battleford. As a boy, he
would take a nestling from a nest, climb down
the tree trunk, and hand it off for banding to
his mentor, Spencer Seeley. Fisher hasn’t
changed much over the years. He still climbs
trees and nesting platforms in order to band
In addition to banding nestlings, Fisher uses a
net in the winter to capture and band adult saw
“They’re elusive,” he said. “You can spend your
entire life in the woods and not see a single
one.” He bands 250 – 300 Saw-whet Owls a year;
3000 in the last ten years.
Fisher keeps careful notes of the bird’s weight,
dimensions and location during migration and
breeding seasons. He also notes the age, a fact
he can determine if the owl has been banded as a
nestling. His data, along with that of other
birders, is valuable for research about the
species of birds and the fluctuations in their
populations. Scientists use the data to analyse
the effect of climate change and human
intervention on bird populations.
Scientists know the Fisher acreage as the
Nisbett Banding Station. The name and location
allow them to locate the source area for the
data. Every fall, people come to observe and
help with the banding. Girl Guides and 4-H
groups visit to discover the joy of banding
“People are fascinated with owls,” Fisher said.
“I’m not sure why. It may be that they have
these big eyes. It may be the contrast between
the birds as creatures of the night and human
beings as creatures of the day.”
much as people may be captivated with owls, they
seem less taken with snakes.
Ray Poulin, another Earth Day presenter,
is the curator of vertebrate zoology at the
Royal Saskatchewan Museum. He finds that,
although adults may be nervous, generally
children are fascinated.
“The Bull Snake,” he said, “is, at six to eight
feet in length, the largest of the nine species
of snakes found in Saskatchewan. Although its
size might make it look a little threatening,
it’s really not.”
“There are four species of rattle snakes in the
southwest and southeast of the province,” he
adds. “They use that rattle to tell you they’re
out and about. Just back away and they won’t
Poulin is the curator of Snakes Alive, an
exhibit that features all the snakes found in
the province. A few weeks ago the museum was
happy to announce the arrival of a “family” of
nine little garter snakes.
“The museum has seen its largest attendance in
the last 20 years.” Poulin said, “probably
because of people’s fascination with snakes.
Through the exhibit, people learn not to judge a
species until you know something about it.
That’s an important factor in promoting
Ray Poulin is an enthusiastic advocate of the
natural world, a direction that began as a child
growing up in southern Ontario.
“I’ve been collecting critters since I was four
years old,” he said. “I think I was born a
As a university student, Poulin’s first summer
job was working with a biology professor at the
University of Windsor. His responsibility was to
look through a microscope at aquatic insects,
Even though others might find the work tedious,
he loved it.
“That was a good indicator what I was to do in
Poulin continued as a student at the University
of Regina and then at the University of Alberta.
On completion of his studies , he obtained his
dream job at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum,
where he has studied Mayflies, Burrowing Owls,
lizards and that most fascinating of insects,
the Dung Beetle.
At the Earth Day event, Kelsey Marchand will
introduce participants to the turtle.
is a reptile “cutified” in the cartoon world of
the Ninja Turtles and Disney’s Robin Hood. After
all this animated charm, we’re simply programmed
to like turtles.
“Turtles are fascinating in that they can
persist in a variety of environments,” she said.
“In Canada, you wouldn't necessarily expect to
find reptiles and amphibians, let alone turtles,
because they spend the majority of their
lifetime trapped under ice during the winter.
Their active season, where they will bask,
forage and mate, is only about four to six
months every year.”
Marchand, a Master’s student at the University
of Regina, adds that there is a stereotype that
turtles are slow moving and in some cases, that
is fact but it is also true that some turtles
can move incredibly fast. That is one fact that
people might learn from Marchand’s discussion
“I love to do talks like the one in Yorkton,”
Marchand said. “It gives people an opportunity
to learn about wildlife in a way that they may
not have had the opportunity to do before. In
addition, I'm able to share my passion for
turtles and the outdoors, in hopes of inspiring
other generations to do the same.”
Marchand developed a love of the outdoors,
playing in her back yard and going on hikes and
camping trips, but her love of turtles and field
biology really began in her second year of
college when she had a co-op work term with the
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and
of the fourth presentation is the conservation
of an environment that allows all three of these
species to thrive.
Kenton Lysak, is Senior Interpreter with the
Meewasin Valley Authority where he is actively involved in developing environmental
education and stewardship programs in Saskatoon.
Lysak grew up on a three-generation farm outside
Theodore. His mentor in all things nature was
his grandfather, Glenn Wiseman.
“I was always at the creek, my hands muddy, my
eyes focused on the birds, animals and insects.
At Cherry Dale Golf Course, I had to be told to
pick up my club and quit looking at the ants."
Like Poulin and Marchand, Lysak’s interest in
the environment as a career began with his first
summer job working at an Ecology Camp for
children in Saskatoon.
“I kept returning to the Camp,” he explained. “I
continued to learn so much about nature and I
was interested in passing on my enthusiasm to
Lysak completed an honours degree in biology at
the University of Saskatchewan and then moved on
to further studies.
“I worked on Sable Island during the summer of
my Master’s degree. My job was to study the food
web of the area. I tried to figure out how the
350,000 seals brought nutrients to the land, how
those nutrients were used by the plants and how
those plants then contributed to the success of
the wild horses on the island.”
“I developed a special relationship with the
herd. I could identify each of the horses on the
island. When the foals were born, the mares
brought them to me, as if showing off their new
offspring. It was something I’ll never forget.”
From his studies, Lysak has learned the
importance of habitat conservation -
particularly prairie habitat.
“Grasslands habitat is the most endangered in
the world. Seventy percent of it has changed in
the last one hundred years.
habitat, prairie plants, animals and insects are
threatened. We need to protect their environment
if we are to see positive conservation in
Close page to return
or go to
Main Symposium page.