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Jul
5
Voices from the Field - July 5

Hi, we are the Nature Saskatchewan Rare Plant Rescue team members Ashley Mills and Spencer Lyons. We recently joined Nature Saskatchewan this summer to search for species at risk in southern Saskatchewan. Spencer has dabbled in both archaeology and biology and is really into bones while Ashley’s background is mainly biology and she is especially interested in plants and birds. Between the two of us, there were always little treasures catching our eye as we embarked on the search for the rare Slender Mouse-ear-cress (aka. SMEC). Our first trip was a 10-day scorcher and wow what a tremendously fun way to kick off the field season. We found ourselves “SMEC” dab in the middle of a heat wave in Leader to begin and the week ended with wonderful rain showers in Eastend, SK. Every day, we found ourselves learning more than we could have ever imagined about Saskatchewan’s prairies and we both sat staring at the ceiling each night wondering what fascinating find we would uncover the following day.

 

 

The Rare Plant Rescue Search crew 2021, Ashley Mills and Spencer Lyons

 

This first search period consisted of looking for the elusive rare plant SMEC, a brassica (i.e, mustard family) that is rather tall and dainty with a spattering of small white flowers on top. This plant has not been located in a couple years and so we were excited to see if we could crack the case. To pass the time on our long transects we made up songs replacing words with SMEC and laughing until our guts hurt. After a weeks’ worth of searching we came up empty handed with no SMEC to show for our efforts. However, along the way we found multiple patches of the provincially rare Small lupine, as well as a Northern Blue Eyed Grass, Prickly Milk Vetch, and the stunning Gumbo Evening Primrose. We were out star gazing on Jone’s peak near Eastend when we happened to spot this beautiful white flower. It was fascinating to find such a big flower out on the prairies and especially one that blooms at night. What a treat!

 

 

In our off time we found the quietness and friendliness of the small towns to be quite enchanting. Visiting with the locals and landowners was a rewarding experience that brought both of us out of our shells and allowed us to feel like we were right at home. There was plenty of time in the evening to explore and no shortage of hidden gems to uncover. Checking out the life-size animal statues in Leader was a definite highlight, while the unique views from Jones Peak and Pine Creek Regional Park left us feeling like our little adventurer hearts were full to the brim. 

 

Our time in the field was never wasted and we found ways to take our mind off the frustrations of ending the day with no target species to show for it. After washing away our woes in a wonderful creek, we filled our cameras with countless plants, mushrooms, lichens and even an ant super city with “ant highways”. Ashley’s previous ID skills came in handy as she showed Spencer how to properly ID birds and plants while she learned about bone and lichen ID from him. Our happiness must have been at an optimal level since Ashely said and I quote, “my happiness is equally proportional to the amount of pictures I take per day”. We were definitely happy campers then because both our phones were full of pictures of the awesome adventure. After ten straight field days we are certainly ready for a well-earned rest which will hopefully fly by so we can get back to our rare plant search mission.

 

 

 

Note: All photos credited to Ashley Mills and Spencer Lyons

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