Archives for 2022

Aug
24
A summer as a Rare Plant Rescue Habitat Stewardship Assistant

My role as Rare Plant Rescue habitat stewardship assistant provided me with plenty of diversity in my work. It offered a great balance of fieldwork outings and office work (data entry, trip planning, land owner phone calls, etc.). Creating and maintaining a positive relationship with the landowners is crucial in the success of our programs. Local landowners and ranchers are an integral part of the work we do at Nature Saskatchewan, without their passion and care for their land and the species that call it home, we would not be able to search or monitor our federally listed target species.

The bird crew, rare plant rescue (RPR) search crew and I kicked off our summer in Southwest Saskatchewan to search for Slender Mouse-ear-cress (Transberingia bursifolia). Our first outing consisted of a group training trip around Cabri to learn different search and monitoring techniques that we would be utilizing throughout the summer. Though we didn’t find our target, it was a good chance to learn about fieldwork and build a bond with each other. There is no such thing as disappointing scenery when it comes to travelling through Southwest Saskatchewan and the hospitality is second to none.

We saw and heard many species at-risk around the area including Sprague’s pipits (Anthus spragueii), Chestnut-collared longspurs (Calcarius ornatus), Loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus), Ferruginous hawks (Buteo regalis), and common nighthawks (Chordeiles minor). Many of the landowners in the area do a great job of caring for their land and listening to the happy singing and calls of the grassland bird species makes that evident!

A highlight that stands out the most from my summer was the encounter with a coyote while searching for the plant, Dwarf Woolly-heads (Psilocarphus brevissimus). While my coordinator Emily and I were searching, we noticed a figure coming up over the hill, thinking it was yet another pronghorn, it was in fact a coyote. He noticed us but didn’t seem overly bothered by our presence, nor were we bothered by his. After a few moments of him lying there observing us, he decided he wanted to get a closer look at what we were. As he made his way down the hill slowly and cautiously cruising towards us, I remember feeling more frozen in awe than fear. Oddly enough, there was no sense of danger, only curiosity and a mutual respect. Once he got down-wind from us and caught our scent, his pace quickened as he realized what we were and he cautiously ran off looking back every now and again. These beautiful animals tend to get a bad rap but this encounter will be an experience I will hold close to my soul for the rest of my life. The next day we found our target species, Dwarf Woolly-heads! Needless to say, it was my most successful and memorable trip of the summer.

 

 

Left: Sharing an apple with Chad the caterpillar, Right: Curious Coyote, photo credit: A. Sweeney

 

 

Our search for Smooth Goosefoot (Chenopodium subglabrum) surveys brought us into the Great Sandhills area. Saskatchewan’s diversity never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately, we didn’t find Smooth Goosefoot during this trip, but we did come across plenty of occurrences of the provincially rare plant, Small Lupine (Lupinus pusillus) and a few Ferruginous hawks along the way.

Our last trip of the summer brought us to the Southeastern part of the province to Estevan to search for Buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides). This trip was special for a few reasons. First, it ended the same way it started; together with the bird crew and RPR search crew. Second, despite not being able to find any Buffalograss, we did have quite a few species at-risk sightings. We heard the call of a Sprague’s Pipit, saw two American Badgers (Taxidea taxus), many Northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), and even a few majestic and endangered Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). One of the more memorable sightings for me would have to be one beautiful Monarch in particular that had chosen to land on my knee just long enough for a picture!

 

 

Alora and a Monarch butterfly. Photo credit: B. McMaster

 

 

We wrapped up the summer by heading back to the Great Sandhills area where Nature Saskatchewan partnered with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and Birds Canada to put on a presentation of the ecology of the Great Sandhills followed by a wonderful, private tour of a local rancher’s breath-taking land.

From sharing lunch with caterpillars, to a face-to-face encounter with a coyote and everything in between, this experience has given me the opportunity to get up close and personal to some beautiful flora and fauna. I am so thankful for the partnerships and connections made over this summer; it is an experience I will take with me in every facet of my life.

 

 

Private Great Sandhills tour with the land owner, Nature SK, NCC and Birds Canada. Photo credit: A. Sweeney

 

 

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