Lights, camera, nature

Find your perfect setting at Nebo

When visitors first drive up the main road to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Nebo property, they are greeted by rolling fields of grass and several wetlands, full of ducks and other birds, dotting the landscape.

The boreal forest here creates a vibrant, dark green backdrop for this natural area, located about 50 minutes west of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

“Once you arrive at the access gate at Nebo, you enter the part of the property that is being restored,” says Sarah Ludlow, conservation science coordinator/GIS for the NCC’s Saskatchewan Region. “There are lots of shrubs and young trees here, as well as grassy fields and more wetlands, specifically one with a fairly large beaver lodge.”

Don’t be surprised if you find Sarah on Nebo’s southwest quarter section, taking in the sights and sounds of nature.

“There is a clearing among the trees here — with a variety of wildflowers, as well as a lot of bird activity,” she says.

“It’s a peaceful, and somewhat magical, spot, and I enjoy sitting in the clearing and watching the birds and insects as they go about their day.”

Flashing the bat signal

In addition to the many mammals, waterfowl and grassland bird species that live here, Nebo is also a haven for bats — especially little brown myotis.

“Nebo is one of the sites for our bat tracking project,” explains Sarah. “This project aims to determine habitat used by endangered myotis bats, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to help out. My favourite memory of Nebo so far is being able to see the bats up close and to hold in my hands silver-haired and hoary bats that were being tagged.”

A unique history

Nebo features mixed-wood forest and wetlands, but the fields nearby tell the tale of the property’s history.

“You would never know to look at it that in the first part of the 20th century, there used to be a community here, complete with a grain elevator and post office. There are even rumours that there were a general store, freight passenger train shelter, stock yard, gas station and curling rink,” says Sarah. “The post office closed in 1969 and the grain elevator in 1970. I’m not sure why the townsite closed down; I need to do further research.”

Hear nature sing

Visitors today will see a landscape gently folding into balsam poplar, dogwood, white spruce, trembling aspen and chokecherry. Rough fescue and northern snowberry are also found in this gently rolling terrain. They may even see a Canada warbler singing above in a tree as they explore the property.

“It was definitely surprising to find this species at Nebo, since most of the forest on Nebo is not the typical habitat these birds prefer,” says Sarah. “Canada warbler is listed as threatened in Canada and we have documented singing males on the property, so it’s clear at least a portion of Nebo is to their liking!”

Monitoring bats

Since 2017, NCC’s Saskatchewan Region has been conducting acoustic surveys to create an inventory of bat species present on our properties. Acoustic surveys involve using an ultra-sonic recording device in areas likely to be used by bats and passively recording the echolocation calls of bats as they fly around and forage for insects. Echolocation calls of each species are unique, and by reviewing sonograms of the recorded bat calls on each property, we can determine which species are present as well as their levels of activity.

Re-establishing a connection to nature

Working on Nebo and other NCC properties nearby has allowed Sarah to become more familiar with this part of Saskatchewan and get to know the ecosystem here. Her work here has given her an opportunity to experience a forest system, which is a different experience compared to grasslands.

“I’ve been able to learn some of the finer details regarding the differences between forest types,” reflects Sarah. “Also working in forests means you need to be much more aware about potential predators in the area — like black bears that have been spotted here.”

Sarah believes exploring nature helps foster an appreciation and helps protect it for the future. She feels that for conservation to be successful, people need to have a relationship with the land.

“Exploring nature is a great way to form a connection with nature,” she says. “It’s a way to learn new things and contribute to conservation efforts.”

Get to know nature and yourself at Nebo property, a place where the rolling hills welcome visitors with open arms and the birds sing a song of hello.

Species to Spot

– American badger
– American black bear
– barn swallow
– black-and-white warbler
– boreal chickadee
– Canada warbler
– common nighthawk
– gray jay
– green-winged teal
– great crested flycatcher
– hooded merganser
– horned grebe
– moose
– northern long-eared bat
– olive-sided flycatcher
– rusty blackbird
– western grebe

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): Mike Dembeck; Mike Dembeck; Mike Dembeck; Gerald Deboer; Ann Froschauer, US Fish and Wildlife Service; Mike Dembeck; Shirley Humphries; Mike Dembeck.

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