Wednesday 3 July 2013

'A Slough of Birds' Saskatchewan Part 2

June 4 2013 Regina Beach, Craven, Saskatchewan.

A Slough of Birds

The second day of the 2013 road trip in Saskatchewan was one of driving around exploring new backroads in the hope of seeing a Sharp-tailed or Ruffed Grouse. Everyone I spoke to had seen 'Prairie Chicken' and suggested I take an early morning drive along just about any gravel road. Apparently they were everywhere. I drove and walked and searched but none were to be found, not even a tail feather, not a glimpse! I suppose it's a perfect excuse to plan another road trip sometime soon! 
However, I did see fifty-three species of birds including some goodies like Forster's and Black Tern Willet and Swainson's Hawk.  I'm sure any experienced birder could have achieved a much higher tally quite easily but I know that will come with time spent in the field.
What can one say out this little corner of Saskatchewan. It's amazing,very accessible and close enough from B.C. for a two week road trip and if you fly, less than an hour from Regina Airport. You could be birding that same evening. If you decide to drive don't forget to stop off at Chaplin Lakes to see the Piping Plover, Black-Crowned Night-Herons and flocks of American Avocets. While Saskatchewan has some of the best birding in North America, April or May are the prime times with the Fall being the best chance of seeing both Sandhill and Whooping Crane migrations. 
On a weather note both April and May can produce surprise snow storms so make sure you are well prepared and are able to hunker down for a few days while keeping warm and fed. You can still bird but the backroads can get difficult. That is how I came to see the Piping Plover last year. I had to shelter at Chaplin Lake and when the snow stopped I took a drive around the lake and within minutes found a single Piping Plover feeding in the shallows. 
A roadside portrait of a Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata),  Regina Beach, Saskatchewan.
The Slough
  • Slough, a stream distributary or anabranch, or in some cases, a regular stream.
More localized meanings of slough are:
  • a muddy marsh in the British Isles.
  • swamp or shallow lake system with trees (Eastern and South Eastern United States).
  • a secondary channel of a river delta, without trees (Pacific coast of North America).
  • pond, often alkaline, often a glacial "pothole" (prairies of North America (see Prairie Pothole Region).

A typical prairie slough in June. Note the cultivated fields behind.
Farmers are working with naturalists to leave a swath of wild grasses to ensure nesting birds are safe from tilling, ploughing and spraying. A slough like this in Craven will host numerous species of ducks, grebes, phalarope, and Yellow-headed and Red-winged blackbirds. Various sparrows including Vesper and Savannah while Meadowlarks, Bobolink, Horned Lark and sometimes Willet nest nearby.

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Redhead (Aythya americana)

Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) feeding on dragonfly larvae.

A pair of Willet nest close to a slough at Regina Beach hunt and for food in the adjoining fields and pastures.

1 comment:

  1. John, the adventure continues! What a great trip you are having!
    Wonderful shots! You make me homesick for the prairies!