Archives for 2019

Jul
2
Check in with the Stewards of SK Field Staff

Hi there! Your Habitat Stewardship Assistant Josh checking in! My coworker Grace and I have been busy these past two months talking with landowners about our habitat stewardship programs and have just returned from our third trip travelling across southern Saskatchewan. We have racked up some exciting memories that we want to share!

In mid-June we began our summer with Shirley and Kaytlyn (Habitat Stewardship coordinators) and were anxious to get out on the road. It didn’t take us long to find one of the species at risk under our stewardship programs; the burrowing owl! It was almost too good to be true to see a pair of burrowing owls on only our second day in the field! Fun Fact: Male burrowing owls are much lighter in colour than females because the sun bleaches their feathers while the females remain in the burrow with the eggs. The male kept a close watch as he hunted for insects; a few minutes later the female joined in on the fun! It was breathtaking!

 

A male burrowing owl hunting for his partner and protecting their burrow and eggs. Photo credit Josh Christiansen

 

Throughout all three of our trips, Grace and I have had to get accustomed to navigating the backcountry of Saskatchewan. I once directed Grace down an extremely wild dirt road that twisted through a small valley. In the end, we arrived nowhere near our destination but we were rewarded by sighting two loggerhead shrikes, a pair of bobolinks, and a western meadowlark that put on an absolute show as it screamed its elegant song. Saskatchewan’s dirt roads continuously provide us with amazing experiences. We get excited with every old building, deer, and pronghorn we see! However, there was one encounter with a pronghorn that was particularly special. Pronghorn are spectacular creatures; their unique shape allows them to run up to 98 km/h (even a young pronghorn can outrun their main predator, the coyote). We expected the pronghorn to bolt as we drew near but it stood its ground and showed off, allowing me to get a fantastic photo opportunity! Pronghorns are such beautiful creatures!

 

Left: A pronghorn showing off for the camera. Above: A melodious meadowlark. Photos credit Josh Christiansen

 

In addition to pronghorn, rural Saskatchewan revealed such an abundance of wildlife that driving down the Trans Canada Highway simply cannot provide. Sighting many loggerhead shrikes, a couple American badgers, a garter snake, and two short-eared owls, we felt so lucky! One dirt road even lead us to a ferruginous hawk nest that was home to two adults and three chicks! That was definitely one of the highlights so far this summer. The ferruginous hawk is the largest hawk species in Saskatchewan and their characteristic brilliant yellow gape and overwhelming size make for one spectacular sight! Carefully observing the chicks from the road, the mother soared above, keeping an extremely close eye on us like any protective mother would. This was just one of the three ferruginous hawk nests we came across during our travels.

 

Above: A ferruginous hawk nest home to three fluffy white chicks. Right: The mother ferruginous hawk soaring above. Photos credit: Josh Christiansen

 

 

A Loggerhead Shrike surveying the land from a shrub, a shy American badger peeking out of its burrow, a ring-necked pheasant flaunting its bold colour palette, a ferruginous hawk mother carefully assessing our car while she sits atop her eggs. All photos by Josh Christiansen

 

Along the way, we stayed in some extremely nice campgrounds in Douglas Provincial Park, Palliser Regional Park, and Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. We got to watch a storm roll over Lake Diefenbaker in Douglas, roast hot dogs and walk along the southern shore of Lake Diefenbaker in Palliser, and had a fantastic shoreline campground in Saskatchewan Landing where we fell asleep to the lulling sound of waves and eerie howls of coyotes. However, both Grace and I agree that our most eventful experience was in Saskatchewan Landing where, while hiking, we got a little lost. We had seen so many cactus and even a garter snake in the late evening sun but slowly the hills were getting dark and once we were completely consumed by shrubs and trees, we decided to turn around, climb all the way back up the hill and try a different route. Thank goodness it worked because as we came up over the hills, we were welcomed by the warm light of the setting sun over the valley. What a beautiful sight!

 

 

Grace loving the views in Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. Top Right: Josh absorbing the last rays of sun as they reflect off the water in the golden hour. Bottom Right: Grace enjoying her hike. Photo credits: Josh Christiansen

 

Our final days on the road were spent in Leader, SK whose wildlife statues showcase the species that inhabit the Great Sand Hills southeast of the town. We decided to adventure down into the sand hills and WOW! Out of nowhere, huge mountains of sand rise up out of the native grasses and create such a unique ecosystem! We got to run and cartwheel along the tops of the sand hills, witness a storm sweeping in from the west, and had a close encounter with a deer and blue bird!

 

 

Above Left: Josh and Grace standing atop one of the Great Sand Hills giant sand mountains. Above Right: A shot displaying how abruptly the sand hills shoot up out of the native prairie land. Below: Josh and Grace in Leader, SK with our programs’ species including the ferruginous hawk, loggerhead shrike, and burrowing owl in statue form.

 

 

We have been so lucky to have visited and learned from so many of our programs’ current participants as well as from new participants we have enrolled. Their knowledge of the land is infinite and we appreciate everything they have to teach us in addition to their continued support of our habitat stewardship programs.

 

Now that we are home and after three weeks on the road, we are exhausted  (in a good way) but ready to get back out there to meet more amazing landowners and farm dogs, see some more species at risk, and enjoy the hidden wonders of our beautiful province.

 

Until next time! Get out there and explore our beautiful province! You never know what you will find!

 

Our Bird Species at Risk crew in Willow Bunch SK. From left to right: Shirley Bartz, Kaytlyn Burrows, Grace Schaan, and Josh Christiansen. Photo credit: Josh Christiansen


Josh and Grace in Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park&hellip

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