Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Birds of Strawberry Lakes Community Pasture

Clay-coloured Sparrow, by Kim Mann

On the second weekend of June, a birding friend, Chris Harris, and I joined with nine other keen birders to do a one day survey of the breeding birds in the landscapes in and around Strawberry Lake Community Pasture.

Strawberry Lake is one of Saskatchewan's provincial community pastures and one of the southernmost in the Aspen Parkland eco-region. The provincial community pastures, like the federal ones being transferred to Saskatchewan, provide important remnants of grassland habitat for a wide range of grassland and wetland birds as well as woodland species, many of which are on Canada's Species at Risk list.

Spreading out in four groups, we counted birds from 5 am to mid-afternoon, visiting the lakes and wooded coulees and creeks in the Indian Head Creek drainage just north of the pasture--Cherry, Margueritte, and Deep Lakes--as well as the wetlands and grasslands in and around the community pasture itself.  Since the event we have been entering the data onto eBird, an online database where volunteers record and store their sightings from all over the world.

We recorded 123 species of birds, almost all of them breeding in the area. Here is a gallery of images from the event, all taken by the birders who helped out.

The day started with mist on Cherry Lake. Fran Krbs contributed this photo.

Ten Wilson's Phalarope were seen, including this one that Brian Sterenberg caught on camera.

And here is a phalarope nest I photographed near one of the larger wetlands in the Community Pasture

Bob Luterbach, Ed Rodger and Jim Cummings made the most astonishing bird discovery of the day by finding a pair of nesting Trumpeter Swans. Two weeks later I returned to photograph them and found they had five young swimming beside them. This is a first record in modern times for the southeast part of the province. The resurgence of the Trumpeter Swan in recent decades is one of the great victories of endangered species recovery. In the 1930s Canada was down to 77 individuals of this species and today we have as many as 16,000.

Red-winged blackbirds were giving this turkey vulture some misery. Here are two images by Dennis Evans followed by one taken by Brian Sterenberg.

Fran Krbs got a distant photo of this American Bittern hiding in plain sight in the southeast corner of the Community Pasture. It was one of two we recorded--both on Strawberry Lake Community Pasture.

Brian Sterenberg caught this Grey Catbird (one of 34) showing off the colour on its undertail.

This female mountain bluebird preened in an Aspen bluff in the middle of the pasture as Fran Krbs took her photo. We found a total of eight, seven of which were on the community pasture.

Fran also got this image of a Marsh Wren (one of three we recorded) near one of the abundant wetlands on the Community Pasture.

We recorded four Green-winged teal on the day. Brian Sterenberg took this photo of a male.

Black terns breed on several of the larger wetlands on and near the community pasture. We counted 107, including some on nests. Kim Mann took this photo.

Other significant sightings for the day included a single Ruddy Turnstone that should have been much farther north by then, two wood ducks, three Great Crested Flycatchers, 515 canvasbacks, four common goldeneye, two hooded mergansers, 500 eared grebes in one colony, 90 Least Flycatchers, 35 Red-eyed Vireos, aYellow-throated vireo, 26 grasshopper sparrows, ten Sprague's Pipits, and 19 bobolinks.

Finally, a couple of prairie wildflower photos. Ed Rodger contributed the Yellow Lady's Slipper and Kim Mann took the photo of a pussytoes or Antennaria species.

A tremendous day of prairie bird counting during one of the rare sunny breaks we had this June. Thanks to all who came out to help and to those who shared their photos: Dennis Evans, Kim Mann, Brian Sterenberg, Ed Rodger, Dale and Paule Hjertaas, Bob Luterbach, Fran Krbs, Dan Sawatzky, Jim Cummings, and especially Chris Harris who did so much of the preparation and eBird consultation to make the day both fun and fruitful.


  1. Trevor, these photos are amazing and seeing them warms my heart!

  2. Thanks Andrea. There are some great photographers in the group.

  3. A terrific day of birding, especially the news of the Trumpeter Swans. The Black Tern shot is exquisite

  4. Thanks--I love that shot of the tern Kim took too.


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