Monday 25 May 2015

Mini Big Year Craven Saskatchewan Part 6

Craven  and Long Lake May 19 2015 Sunny and no mosquitos.

As I sit on the veranda and drink coffee with my brother-in law Terry, a dozen American Pelicans gently land on the calm surface of Long Lake. The Lake is a hundred kms long and three kms wide. The northern end of the lake is called Last Mountain Lake and the location of Rowan's Ravine Provincial Park, Saskatchewan's first bird sanctuary. Large flocks of Sandhill Cranes pass by each during migration. Terry tells me he sees Whooping Cranes among the sandhills most years. The lake teems with fish and in winter is covered in ice fishing huts. He tells me spring has arrived three weeks early and he should know, he spent most of his life on horseback, herding cattle on community farms. Something he says is changing with the weather and it's affecting not only flora and fauna but the geology of the area. Erosion has become a big problem in the Qu'Appelle Valley with landslides happening on a regular basis, some homes are even in danger of slipping into the lake and gas lines and roadways are being damaged. Terry tells me the water table has changed, even a clay bank behind his house which used to have a colony of Bank Swallows has collapsed.


For more about Saskatchewan click to Trevor Herriot's blog on the right hand of this blog.


A Western Kingbird appears out of nowhere and hawks a large dragonfly right in front of our eyes. Below us a pair of Chipping Sparrows busily feed on the edge of the driveway and a White-throated Sparrow peeks out from the shadows of a pine tree. The trees around are alive with birds even though many species have already passed through on their way to the boreal forests, hundreds of kms north of here.
In a Whispering Aspen a pair of very raucous bright red and black male Baltimore Orioles spar, the females who are yet to arrive will turn up when the males have established a territory. A Catbird sings from the highest vantage point and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak suddenly pounces on a juicy grub.
I finish my coffee, grab my camera and go for a walk before it gets too hot, besides it's an off day between travelling.

I hear an unfamiliar buzzing in the grass, I can't make out if it's a cricket or grasshopper when all of a sudden the sounds stop. In a lone bush I spot a sparrow. I hide in the grass and carefully make my way closer and glass the culprit, The sounds are coming from Clay-coloured Sparrows, another bird for my 2015 list and all the time I thought it was crickets...some birder Eh!

Clay-coloured Sparrow

As I carefully check for any wood ticks I may have picked up from the grass or from the trees. I hear a loud chattering and then the silhouette of a large bird that can only be a Brown Thrasher. The sun was in my eyes so I had to get a better angle. I roll up my white socks again over my trousers and stalk the bird in the undergrowth. Thirty minutes and one huge wood tick later I finally win the confidence of the bird long enough for it to sit still long enough to pose for a pleasing portrait.

Brown Thrasher
*It is best to wear light coloured clothes  during tick season so that the icky critters can be seen easily and then dispatched. Some, like deer ticks drop from trees so a a hat is a must, others are found where deer and birders might walk, an occupational hazard I suppose.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

Now it's time to make my way back to the village of Regina Beach where am staying a few days with in-laws. After travelling I was hoping for some creature comforts but alas a water pipe break in the village meant no water. A good time to hit the road for Manitoba and beyond.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

1 comment:

  1. Brown Thrashers are such gorgeous birds I miss them. Please bring one home in your pocket John! Keep on having a great trip!