Archives for 2019

Jul
29
Voices from the field - Check in with the Bird Species at Risk staff

Hello!

This is your Habitat Stewardship Assistant Grace writing to update all of you with the highlights of our most recent Bird Species at Risk trip. My co-worker Josh and I have just returned from nine days of driving the grid roads of Southwest Saskatchewan in search of the Loggerhead Shrike – aka the butcher bird! We are pleased to share with you some very exciting sightings and stories!

We began our journey the second week of July and headed out towards Lake Diefenbaker. With our main goal being to find as many Loggerhead Shrikes as possible, we slowly and carefully began our route. Our first few days, we only recorded a few sightings but things quickly turned in our favour. Following the grid roads, we had the opportunity to see so much of our beautiful province and fortunately, we came across a number of Loggerhead Shrikes as well! At this time of year, the chicks have already begun to leave the nest, and are learning to fly and hunt. The picture below on the left is an immature shrike which can be identified as such by its fluffy, “messier” plumage on its belly and also its shorter tail feathers. The adult shrikes have much smoother feathers on their bellies and longer tail feathers – as can be seen in the picture on the right. The young are also more likely to stay still for photos because they are inexperienced and have not yet learned to be more cautious around visitors.

 

 

Left: an immature Loggerhead Shrike. Right: an adult Loggerhead Shrike. Photos: Josh Christiansen

 

 

 

A Loggerhead Shrike perched on the fence watching a Swainson’s Hawk before dive-bombing it. Photo: Josh Christiansen

 

 

For the first few nights of our trip, we camped in Douglas Provincial Park. In the evenings, we enjoyed exploring the wilderness and found a number of outdoor activities to occupy our time. Our first night, we completed about 10 km of the TransCanada loop by bike. The trail passed through dense forest and open grassland where we saw many Western wood lilies, Saskatchewan’s Provincial flower, blooming along the way. After the ride, we went for a quick swim in the cool water of Lake Diefenbaker and took in the beautiful beach views. Another evening we decided to hike into the park’s sand dunes located just minutes from the campground. The sand dunes continued as far as the eye could see and seemed to stretch endlessly. It was hard to believe that such diverse ecosystems could exist in such close proximity. During our hike in the sand dunes, we came across a dead ten-lined June beetle over 4 cm long, a beautiful goldfinch, and a deer.

 

 

Left: Western wood lily growing along the TransCanada bike loop. Right: Josh and Grace hiking in the Douglas Provincial Park sand dunes. Photos: Josh Christiansen

 

 

Left: Ants eating a dead ten-lined June beetle. Right: Goldfinch perched on branch. Photos: Josh Christiansen

 

 

Josh enjoying  the sand dunes. Photo: Grace Schaan       Grace on top of a dune. Photo: Josh Christiansen

 

Although our main target for the grid road search was the Loggerhead Shrike, we also spotted a number of other bird species at risk. We came across four Ferruginous Hawks as well as several Bobolinks! Pictured below are a few of the Great Horned Owls that we discovered along the way. While they are not a species at risk, they certainly are a sight to see!

 

Left and right: perched Great Horned Owls. Photos: Josh Christiansen

 

We ended our trip with Nature Saskatchewan’s Conservation Awareness Dinner in Val Marie. We gave a joint presentation with our Rare Plant Rescue colleague, which was followed by a presentation on Loggerhead Shrikes from Shirley Bartz, Habitat Stewardship Coordinator. It was a fantastic evening of informative presentations, delicious food, and great conversation with local landowners and producers.

With only a few weeks of summer remaining, we are keen to get back on the road soon to meet with more landowners and discover even more species at risk. Until next time!

Grace Schaan, Habitat Stewardship Assistant

 

An immature Loggerhead Shrike perched on the fence wire. Photo: Josh Christiansen

 

 

 

 

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