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Voices from the Field: Check in with the Bird Specis at Risk staff

Hello blog readers! It’s hard to believe we are over half way through July already! The summer always seems to fly by in the blink of an eye! We have been busy the past month taking reports of species at risk sightings, talking and visiting with our program participants, and learning new habitat monitoring techniques for Sprague’s Pipit, Chestnut-collared Longspur, and the Greater Sage Grouse.


Rebecca Magnus and the other workshop attendees learning habitat monitoring techniques for Sprague's Pipit. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows


In early June, we attended the Grouse, Grazing, and Grasslands workshop held in the east block of Grasslands National Park to learn these new habitat monitoring techniques. Depending on the type of site and species, monitoring techniques involved songbird point counts, measuring litter, estimating percent bare ground, forb cover, measuring droop height, and taking robel pole measurements. We also learned about native grass identification.

A couple of weeks later, we were ready to head out on our own to start habtiat monitoring! Every morning, we would get up with the sunrise and start the day doing songbird point counts. What a peaceful way to start your day! Listening to songbirds, particularly, Sprague’s Pipit and Chesnust-collared Longspur, and recording how often we hear them singing. We were extremely lucky with the weather as you cannot do point counts in the rain or if it’s windy but everyday we were able to complete our counts. We also took other measurements such as estimating litter, bare ground, forb cover, and robel pole measurements.



Rebecca Magnus listening for songbirds during a point count and setting up a transect. Photos credit: Kaytlyn Burrows.


One of the most challenging (and frustrating at times!) parts of the habitat monitoring is the native grass identification. This was our main focus on our second monitoring trip. We learned so much about what to look for and how to identify one grass species from the other. It requires looking at different grass parts such as the presence or absence of ligules and/or auricles, presence or absence of hairs, rough or smooth leaves, etc. It meant a lot of time spent on the ground (literally) getting up close and personal with our native grass species! Species we identified included Western Wheat, Northern Wheat, Needle and Thread, Western Porcupine, and Blue Grama.


Kaytlyn looking at grass parts with a hand lense. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus.                                        



Kaytlyn identifying native grass species. Photo credit: Rebecca Magnus.

This time around, we were not as fortunate with the weather! We encountered a very stormy afternoon with tornado warnings! Safety comes first so we made the decision to leave the field but we managed to take a few photos of the swirling storm clouds as we drove down the road and it was unlike anything we had ever seen before. It was a little eerie but also very neat to see!


Large prairie storm looming over south west Saskatchewan. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows



Our time in the field also came with other species sightings such as Pronghorn, Deer, Loggerhead Shrikes, Chestnust-collared Longspurs, Ferruginous Hawks, and one of our more exciting sightings, a Golden Eagle!


Golden Eagle perched on a fence post. Photo credit: Kaytlyn Burrows.


It was a great couple weeks where we learned so much! We improved our native grass identification and were able to see the beautiful southwest Saskatchewan landscape and all the species that call it home. We are so grateful to be able to do what we do! We also want to thank Lucky Horseshoe Haven for housing us for the week! Dawn & Chris were so welcoming and provided us with a lovely place to rest our heads at the end of the day. We highly recommend staying there if you are in the southwest/Eastend area! Visit for more information and to book your stay!


Until next time!


Kaytlyn & Rebecca

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