Wildlife abounds in the bare trees and under the icy waters at A.E. Wilson Park in Regina. You just have to know where to look.
Nature Regina is partnering with the City of Regina to help people explore. Every Friday from Jan. 29 to Feb. 26, a field biologist will be offering guided tours around the city.
"People don't realize how many birds still hang around Regina in the winter," field biologist Jordan Rustad said. "And there's tons of plants to look at and even just looking for Bird's Nest on your walks is really awesome."
Rustad is running the tours throughout February. At AE Wilson Park, people may see a black-capped chickadee, red-breasted nuthatches or downy woodpeckers. She said she also challenges kids on the walks to count as many bird nests as possible.
Beyond what's in the trees, there's also action under the ice. Rustad said this is because the ice doesn't actually freeze all the way to the bottom.
"There's still fish and frogs and turtles under there," Rustad said. "Everything just kind of slows down. It doesn't really go away. The fish are still swimming."
The frogs will burrow down into the mud and freeze solid, but they have an antifreeze type substance in their blood so it doesn't hurt them, she said. Instead, "they become little frog-sicles."
People are usually pretty excited to know that they can still go out and look for these things, even in the coldest temperatures. - Jordan Rustad
Rustad said people are excited to learn about the outdoors.
"People don't really realize what's happening during winter. They just look outside, it's snowing, it's cold, the trees are bare," she said. "But nature still continues on.
"So people are usually pretty excited to know that they can still go out and look for these things, even in the coldest temperatures."
Rustad hopes encouraging people to get outside will help them connect with nature, especially those who are feeling cooped up. She said it's awesome for people's mental and physical health.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada agrees. In a release, it said a recent Ipsos poll conducted for the conservancy showed that 94 per cent of respondents credited their time spent in nature with helping them relieve the stress and anxiety of the pandemic's second wave.
The poll also showed four out of five Canadian respondents agreed that spending time in nature was important to their mental health during the pandemic, and 75 per cent say spending time in nature is more important than ever before.
The poll was an online survey of 2,000 people and results are considered accurate to within a 2.5 percentage point for the adult population. It was done as a part of the organization's Landmark Campaign that resulted in 115,000 square kilometres being protected across the country and 540 new areas for people to use for nature recreation.
"Nature is a lifeline for so many people as we cope with the fallout of a global pandemic," Catherine Grenier, president and CEO of the conservancy said. "Together we are committed to do more to make sure the nature that means so much to us today will be there for generations to come."
Rustad's Jan. 29 tour is at AE Wilson Park, but she's not stopping there. She'll be doing guided tours on Feb. 5 at McKell Wascana Conservation Park, Feb. 12 at Lakeridge Park North, Feb. 19 at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Feb. 26 at the Neil Balkwill Civic Arts Centre's grounds.
People are asked to register online ahead of time at natureregina.ca/events.
For anyone wanting to get outside but unavailable during the Friday tours, Rustad said Nature Regina also has guided walks on its website. People can search for the park they're in and it will give information about rocks, what's happening under the ice and birds.