Archives for 2017

Check in with Important Bird Areas Summer Staff

I have what is arguably the best summer job. I am the summer assistant for the Important Bird Area program. The program identifies and monitors areas that are important to large numbers of birds. These areas are referred to as an Important Bird Area or IBA. Most areas are designated because they are migration stopover sites. Like Chaplin Lake provides a place to rest and refuel for thousands of shorebirds during the spring and fall migration. These areas may also be important to birds that are colonial breeders. For example, Last Mountain Lake has a large colony of breeding American White Pelicans. This program is carried out predominantly by volunteer caretakers. Usually a local birder signs up to monitor an IBA. This means that they record bird species and numbers in the IBA, and any major changes to the area. These changes can be conservation efforts by local groups, new land use by farmers, changes in recreational use, or commercial developments. My job is to monitor the IBA if the caretaker hasn’t been able to, if the caretaker wants to go out with me, or if the IBA doesn’t have a caretaker. The way I see it, I have tricked Nature Saskatchewan into paying me to birdwatch.

This week I visited three IBAs. On Monday I went to Foam Lake to monitor because it does not have a caretaker. I was excited about monitoring the lake because I thought there were plenty of access points, trails and watch towers. I spent a lot of time looking for these supposed access points. It had been raining, and to say it was muddy is a gross understatement. One access road was partly underwater. Another just kind of disappeared into a marsh. The third access point did in fact lead to a watch tower, and I did manage to do some birding. I saw a variety of ducks, Eared Grebes, Franklin’s Gulls and even a Snow Goose.

On Tuesday I headed out to the Quill Lakes. I knew that most of the old access roads had been flooded out, and I would have to do a bit of walking. Before I even got out of the car, I saw a Great Egret standing in the shallow water by the road. He stood and looked at me before finally deciding to fly off. Not far down the road from there was hundreds of American White Pelicans and Franklin’s Gulls. They flew off of the road as I walked up, and surprisingly I was only pooped on once. There were also many coots, a variety of ducks and grebes, and a few Black Crowned Night Herons. In the end I saw a total of 37 species!

On Wednesday I went up to Tobin Lake to meet up with the caretaker. Despite the rain and wind, we managed to see 46 different species of bird! There was huge numbers of Double Crested Cormorants, pelicans, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Ring-billed Gulls. We also saw a variety of ducks, geese, terns, a couple Common Loons, songbirds, hawks, and an American Kestrel. The caretaker showed me a Eastern Phoebe nest in his yard, and a family of flying squirrels that was using the nesting boxes he had put up for Northern Sawhet owls.

I had been planning on going to Cumberland Marshes today, but unfortunately I was rained out. But at least I can catch up on my paperwork now. Next week hopefully, with some hopefully improved weather, I will head south to monitor Fife Lake, Dryboro and Burn Lake, and lead a birdwalk at Oldwives Lake. After that I head up north towards Saskatoon to monitor Redberry Lake, and Radisson Lake. Needless to say I’m looking forward to monitoring these areas and hopefully adding a few new birds to my summer list!

Jordan Rustad – LMBO/IBA Summer Assistant

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