Archives for 2019

Aug
23
Farewell from the RPR Field Crew

Hello once again fellow nature enthusiasts! Hard to believe our last trip for the summer has come and gone, but before we say goodbye we are back to share some of our final adventures from the field!

Our third last trip took us to the sandy soils of Southwest Saskatchewan on the search for Smooth Goosefoot. This plant is threatened and is unique in that its small green sphere-shaped flowers grow in dense clusters. Aside from growing in eroded sandy soils, you can find it at the edges of dunes. Our search was quite successful as we came across many occurrences of Smooth Goosefoot including the tallest and widest one we have seen all summer! This trip turned out be an exciting one in terms of reptile sightings too as we had some of the coolest interactions with snakes! As we were trekking through the sandy soils I spotted something slowly moving between the vegetation out of the corner of my eye. As I looked closer I realized it was snake and shouted with joy to Levi! It was the first time either of us had ever seen a bullsnake! Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, the bull snake stopped, dug its head into the sand, and then continued to burrow as we watched the rest of its body disappear in front of us. We also were lucky enough to see two hog-nosed snakes. Later that trip we were treated to one of nature’s finest stormy skies as an orange and pink filled sunset sky was overlaid with blueish-grey clouds with flashes of lightning.

 

Smooth Goosefoot (top left), the stormy sky (top right), a defensive hog-nosed snake (bottom left), bull snake burrowing (bottom right) 

 

 

Next we ventured into the hills on the hunt for a threatened plant known as Tiny Cryptantha. This plant is a member of the Borage family. Its hairy or bristly appearing leaves are a key feature in identification. Even though after three days of searching we did not find the target species, we took in the spectacular views of the rising sun spreading a gorgeous golden glow over the rolling hills and a great amount of wildlife including deer, golden eagles, coyotes, turkey vultures, and cute rabbits. A couple of days in, we switched gears from our usual searching routine into a visit trip. This gave us the opportunity to say hi to several landowners and exchange stories of nature and plants which is always great! We were even taken on some tours around their lands to see the wildlife in their yard, and of course we got to stop and say hi to several friendly and cuddly farm dogs! One of the highlights during these visits was getting to watch both male and female hummingbirds feed. We also got to see the entertaining sight of watching ducks munch down on grasshoppers which I had no idea was even part of their diet! The drives between locations were quite pleasant as it seemed to be a week full of baby animals. We saw an abundance of pronghorn accompanied with babies (super scrawny and cute by the way!), fawns, a mama coyote carrying her pup, and two fox pups. What would a summer be without getting lost on back roads?! On our way back from a visit we missed our turn off and ended up on an unfamiliar road which led to one of our most exciting scenes of the summer: four loggerhead shrike chicks (the predatory songbird that is the target species of our Shrubs for Shrikes program) all in a line on the thorny branches of buffaloberry! During our explorations we stopped in at the Great Sandhills, the Standing Rock, and the T-rex Discovery center.

 

 

Loggerhead shrike chicks Photo credit: Natanis Kuster

 

 

Some of the beautiful sunrises we saw throughout our last few trips. 

 

 

A pronghorn we came face to face with (left), Myself and Levi during our explorations at the Great Sandhills (right).

 

Our final journey took us in a different direction as we headed out southeast near Estevan with hopes of seeing Buffalograss. Its preferred habitat is dry, shallow coulee bottoms and clay soil slopes. This grass is very interesting as the male and female grasses appear different. The males are easily identified by orange coloured anthers and can grow up to 12 cm tall while female flowers appear shorter and often entangled amongst the short curly grass with the seeds encased in a burr. A good time to see Buffalograss is in August as patches will appear golden separating it from the surrounding grass. This monitoring trip was a huge success, and we found most populations to still be alive and thriving! It also had Levi very happy as the fields were filled with fescue which is his favourite. We experienced a bit of an eerie feeling on our last day there as ten turkey vultures were circling in the sky in close proximity to us. It was neat to see so many at one time!

 

 

Male Buffalograss with anthers (left), female Buffalograss (middle) photo credit: Levi Boutin, photographic evidence of Levi as happy as can be in Fescue (right). 

 

On our final drive back to the city with thunder and lightning rolling in all round us, we recalled all our favourite moments from the summer: stumbling upon a moose skull, finding pincushion cactus flowers after months of searching and anticipation, making friends with owls, staying in hotels with bats, and so much more! It has been a summer filled with laughter, learning, beautiful native plants, various wildlife experiences, and many country music sing alongs. It truly has been one for the books! And with that we say farewell and hope everyone has a great rest of their summer and gets a chance to head out to experience their own wild Saskatchewan adventures!

 

 

 

Dotted blazing star (top left), Pincushion cactus flower (top middle), Prairie lily (top right), Gaillardia (middle left), Prairie coneflower (middle right), the moose skull we found (bottom left), Ferruginous hawk (bottom right). Photo credit: Natanis Kuster

 

 

 

Take care everyone!

Natanis  – Rare Plant Rescue Searching Crew member

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