Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Photo gallery: watching the birds of Saskatchewan's native grassland

Earlier this month photographer Branimir Gjetvaj and I spent a couple of days driving and walking through parts of the province's southwest. Ed Rodger, who is Nature Saskatchewan's Important Bird Area (IBA) caretaker for a big stretch of grassland in that region, joined us. Fire bans kept us off the three big PFRA community pastures in Ed's IBA, but we drove the roads on their margins, and spoke to the manager of Govenlock pasture and the manager of Battle Creek pasture.  By the time we turned north to drive home we had seen a lot of grassland managed very well by both private and public managers.

On our drive south we passed a spot where a landowner had just begun plowing a pasture of native grass, a few miles north of Maple Creek. People in Saskatchewan Agriculture often say that no one plows native grass any more. Folks who live in the southwest and are concerned about the remaining native grass will tell you otherwise. (That is Branimir in the photo taking much better images.)

Camping at NCC's (Nature Conservancy of Canada) Old Man on His Back (OMHB) headquarters, we were surrounded by Common Nighthawks  (threatened species on the Species at Risk list) roosting on corral rails during the day waiting for the dusk sky to bring the insects out. I counted 13 on the rails during the day.

Another threatened bird we found at OMHB and at several other locations was the loggerhead shrike. This one was at the home of Sue Dumontel, who works for NCC.

The most abundant bird at OMHB and on many other grasslands we travelled through was the threatened Chestnut-collared Longspur.

The second most numerous songbird was the Baird's Sparrow--here are two shots

But the Sprague's Pipit (threatened) was almost as common. This is one of only three times I have seen a pipit on the ground so I am including this photo even though it is very poor.

My favourite bird moment of the trip was watching this Long-billed Curlew (threatened) in Arena Community Pasture (provincial), a lovely grassland of rolling hills west of OMHB.

We also found a few Ferruginous Hawk nests. At the road side in Govenlock PFRA community pasture we found a pair nesting atop a small building.

We conducted a nightjar survey one evening on a trail that started in OMHB and then passing through Arena community pasture.

Here is a really nice photo Branimir took of Ed and I listening to nighthawks as the sun set through a smoky sky.

image courtesy of Branimir Gjetvaj (

During the survey we recorded several nighthawks and had a good look at a Burrowing Owl (endangered), one of Canada's rarest breeding birds. Here is a photo and a short video of the owl.


  1. Wonderful post Trevor. I haven't been to that area for a couple of years and miss it. Next year I think!

  2. You should, Nick--just imagine what a photographer with your skills could do!


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