Living Skies
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 November 2017

Living Skies by Craig Hilts Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5 There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both. He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image. His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies. Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger…

Magnificent Nahanni, The

The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place by Gordon Nelson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-460-5 Can man and nature live in harmony? Can they even co-exist? These are issues Gordon Nelson addresses in The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place. Nahanni National Park Reserve, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, is indeed impressive. Nelson describes a magical place with cliffs, canyons, caves, and a waterfall even higher than Niagara Falls. This is a place where wildlife predominates – bright flowers, butterflies and birds, caribou and wolf. The Nahanni River itself “stands out among northern rivers, not because of its size but because of its unique grandeur and rich natural diversity,” he says. All these attributes have been described in other books, but what sets Nelson’s apart is his detailed description of the enormous efforts required to preserve this lush landscape, focusing on the long struggle to conserve the river and its watershed as a national park reserve. The name of the Nahanni River likely evolved from the mysterious Indigenous people who inhabited the area. Nelson notes that the name has a “vague mystical flavour” suggesting the inhabitants…

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 6 February 2013

Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan by Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $19.95 ISBN 978-0-921104-29-2 Saskatchewan’s uncultivated prairie, the archetypical provincial geography, is grassland — yet many of those thin-leaves are not grasses. The sedges, or Carex, which have three sided blades as opposed to the round stems of grasses, have ‘edges’. And they increase in abundance at edges. If you have canoed through a waterside fen, recall the rough whisper of sedge blades against your hull and paddle. Hiking or hunting in the boreal forests, sedge skirt open spaces, forming thick carpets between forest stands and providing a valuable source of forage and seed to wildlife, as well as a protected habitat for flowering and medicinal plants. With over 103 native species the sedges are the largest genus of vascular plants in Saskatchewan, yet one of the least known and most difficult to identify. Sedges (Carex) of Saskatchewan, Fascicle 3 of the Flora of Saskatchewan’s compendium of provincial botany, reveals the importance of the genus and its role in each of the provincial ecozones. The volume is dedicated to John Howard Hudson (1923-2010), a botanist and educator whose detailed notes and archival specimen collection remain…

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 27 June 2012

Lilies, Irises, & Orchids of Saskatchewan by Vernon L. Harms and Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-28-5 There is something about flowers—from Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” to Spike Jonze’s film “Adaptation,” our culture celebrates their transient beauty above the reproductive bodies of other flora. Intriguing though mushrooms and pinecones may be, they just don’t have the aura of mystique that draws floraphiles to the many-coloured monocots. In this keyed field guide from Nature Saskatchewan, professional and amateur botanists are introduced to Saskatchewan’s fifty-one species of lilies, irises and orchids, twenty-one of which are considered rare or endangered. The guide’s authors, Anna Leighton and Vernon L. Harms, are key players in the Flora of Saskatchewan Association’s volunteer-driven initiative to document the province’s flora, and in this offering they supplement detailed line drawings, colour photographs, and identification keys with interesting notes and commentary regarding the distribution and seasonal appearances of each flowering species. True to the diversity of species at large, the guide includes both native species and ‘garden-escapes.’ Thus, we see cultivated chives beside Red ‘Tiger’ Lilies in the Lily Family, and introduced German Irises alongside native Blue Flag in the…

Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens
Nature Saskatchewan / 29 February 2012

Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens by Bernard de Vries Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-978-0-921104-26-1   Working between the fields of geology, biology and naturalist fiction, I have spent a lot of time with field guides. These books are tools—a prompt to explore and a means to identify those subtle components of our natural environments that we so commonly overlook. Every now and then a guide appears that bests the beauty of its utility and brings its subject forwards as literature. “Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens” is a refreshingly good read—an introductory guide that effuses esteem for the patience and hardiness of its subjects.                  Author Dr. Bernard de Vries is one of Canada’s foremost lichen experts and an enthusiastic advocate for the protection of rare lichen species. “Getting to Know Saskatchewan Lichens” has been complied as a tribute to de Vries’ favorite flora and, with his broad experiences in public science education (as a teacher, university lecturer and botanical museum curator), novice naturalists are in skilled hands. Growing as symbioses of photosynthetic microbes and fungi, lichen work nutrients from wood, soil or stone, and draw water from the air. The guide’s introduction provides an…

Dragonflies & Damselflies in the Hand
Nature Saskatchewan / 23 November 2011

Dragonflies & Damselflies in the Hand: An Identification Guide to Boreal Forest Odonates in Saskatchewan and Adjacent Regions by G. Hutchings and D. Halstead Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Colette Wheler $24.95 ISBN 978-0-921104-25-4 Nymphs, sedge sprites, meadowhawks, and jewelwings – these may sound like characters from a new fantasy novel, but they’re actually real life creatures from this special publication made possible by Nature Saskatchewan. Part field guide and part natural history, this 158 page softcover book is full of fascinating facts about dragonflies and damselflies, which together are known as odonates. Authors Gord Hutchings and Dave Halstead share their extensive knowledge, admiration, and spectacular photographs of the 49 species of dragonflies and damselflies found in the western boreal forest, an area covering the northern parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and a small bit of British Columbia. The book begins with a general overview of how odonates live, behave, feed, and reproduce, including an impressive account of their flying abilities – not only can they hover and fly backwards, they can reach speeds up to 35 km/h! Helpful tips are given on where and when to find these insects and how to safely “catch and release” them to…

Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan
Nature Saskatchewan / 31 August 2011

Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan by Vernon L. Harms and Anna L. Leighton Published by Nature Saskatchewan Review by Sandy Bonny $ 19.95 ISBN-13 987-0-921104-27-8 This book provides a keyed guide to the ferns and fern allies (quillworts, club-mosses, spike-mosses and horsetails) of Saskatchewan—a boon to medicinal herbalists, fiddlehead gourmets, and environmentalists interested in the identification and preservation of rare plants and their habitats. Ferns and Fern Allies of Saskatchewan includes 58 species from all parts of the province; several are rare or endangered but many are pervasive species that will be familiar to local readers. A first flip through the book brought waves of nostalgia for afternoons spent pulling apart the black banded segments of the hollow green stalks of Equisetum hyemale, Common Scouring Rush, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan. There was also a moment of revelation: those strange brown pillars that waved above the moss beds we hid in playing ‘flags in the woods’ at summer camp were cones, the fruiting bodies of Lycopodium lagopus, Running Club Moss. The ferns that my husband and I struggle to keep from taking over our shaded urban yard belong to Matteuccia struthiopteris, the Ostrich Ferns, and I was…