Archives for 2018

Jul
3
Fun in the Sun: the hot, hot, hot Sun

 

The Rare Plant Rescue crew spent the beginning of June aiding in the search for a rare orchid called the Small White Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium candidum). This orchid hasn’t been seen in Saskatchewan since 1895 and is thought to be extirpated from the province. Searching for this species was interesting as potential habitat included prairie fens that bounced underfoot, brush cover that released a minimum of 500 wood ticks on us, and hummocks that turned hiking more into leaping, as some of them reached nearly my height. Although we didn’t find the elusive Small White Lady’s-slipper, we were happy for the opportunity to survey some very unique habitat and found many beautiful Yellow Lady’s-slippers while we were at it.

 

Emily Putz stands on a hummock.

 

 

 

Sphagnum moss found in a prairie fen.

 

 

 

Ashley Vass poses with Yellow Lady’s-slippers.

 

We came across many other beautiful flowering plants during this trip, such as Marsh Marigold, Violets, Evening Primrose, Saline Shooting Star, and Blue-eyed Grass, just to name a few. We also saw or heard several interesting bird species, such as Sedge Wrens, Bobolinks, Sprague’s Pipits, as well as several different sparrows. We even came upon a few nests, one of which had me singing “one of these things is not like the others…”.

 

 

Clay-coloured Sparrow nest with Brown-headed Cowbird egg (left).

 

 

Saline Shooting Star.

 

Walking back to the car after we finished our last habitat survey, while picking clumps of ticks off our clothes and out of our hair, we came across mating Viceroy butterflies who were too busy to notice the paparazzi. These butterflies don bright colouring to indicate that they are poisonous and are often mistaken for the very similar looking Monarch. The easiest way to tell them apart is the black line that intersects the veins on the Viceroy’s hindwings.

 

Viceroy butterflies.

 

 

While completing range and riparian health assessments, we came across more interesting insects as pollen-covered bees were burrowing into the sandy side of a hill. Some had so much pollen that they could barely fit into their burrows and ants appeared to be taking advantage of the opportunity to steal pollen.

 

 

 

 

Ant potentially stealing pollen from a bee as it struggles to fully enter its burrow.

 

Then it was time to search for Tiny Cryptantha and Slender Mouse-ear-cress. While searching in challenging terrain, we managed for several days to avoid the half a dozen or so storms that encircled us to find ourselves in the burning sun and the lowest wind speeds I’ve ever experienced in this province. Our desire for water was answered with up to three inches of rain over night that made our site inaccessible for the better part of a day! It just goes to show you that the weather here is often unpredictable and the best advice is to just accept the moment and appreciate the beauty of the ever-changing prairie skies.

 

Encounters with Great Plains Toads, Common Nighthawks, a Sharp-tailed Grouse family, and a Prairie Rattlesnake kept us excited and the prairie landscape never disappoints. Colourful and bright Pincushion and Prickly Pear Cactus, Scarlet Mallow, Gaillardia, and Yellow Umbrellaplant flowers dotted the ground. Although we didn’t find the species we set out for, we did find one of our targeted rare plants, Small Lupine, as well as a few other provincial rares including Low Whitlowwort, and the very pretty, albeit ill-named, Clammyweed. 

Can’t wait to see what July has in store for us!

Ashley Vass and Emily Putz 

 

 

Clammyweed.

 

 

 

Pincushion Cactus (right), Gaillardia (middle), and Yellow Umbrellaplant (left).

 

 

 

 

 

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