Nature at its Best
In this area we’re lucky to have such a large variety of birds. Some of our birds prefer to live near people in our towns or groves. A few we often see are robins, mourning doves, orioles, bluebirds and goldfinches. The lesser known ones may be vireos, warblers and tanagers. We also live near Fife Lake where we find water lovers such as ducks, geese and grebes and numerous shorebirds including the beautiful Avocet and the rare Piping Plover. Besides that, hawks, owls and birds of the open plains such as buntings and longspurs abound.
Many migrating birds fly over on their way north to nest. They arrive in full mating plumage which makes for very exciting bird watching.
This is nature at is its best just waiting to be enjoyed.
Piping Plovers Survive at Fife Lake
Since 1940 environmentalists have been surveying and observing the decline in the number of Piping Plovers all across Canada. By 1985, their numbers had dwindled to fewer than 6000 birds world-wide. It was at that time they were placed on the endangered species list and put under the protection of the Federal Migratory Bird Convention Act and the Species at Risk Act. They are also protected by the Saskatchewan Wildlife Act. Our province has an important relationship with this little shorebird. Saskatchewan has the largest number of Piping Plover sites on the prairies, acting as host to them in more than 64 wetland areas during their northern migration from Texas.One of these wetland basins is Fife Lake, a large water body located 6.9 kilometers east of Rockglen and covering 28 square kilometers.
This lake is home to a number of Piping Plovers. In 1996, there were 53 adults identified on the lakeshore including 13 nesting pairs, but this population declined to only 14 adults in 2002. The little bird has fallen victim to a number of stress factors. The drought of the last few years, coupled with increased predation, and destruction of the shoreline by cattle, have created difficult nesting conditions and fewer birds have been surviving. A number of initiatives in the area have been started to increase awareness of this endangered species.
Rockin’ Beach Regional Parkhosted two field days this past summer to discuss and demonstrate the plight of the Plover and to outline improvements that are being made. In addition, the Saskatchewan Wetland Authority has begun work with a number of farmers and ranchers in the area to ensure that the condition of the Fife Lake shoreline is maintained or reclaimed. Purging and hummocking of the shore in some areas has created an environment that is unfavorable to nesting by the little bird. Some areas of the shore will be fenced to create guardianship areas and prevent predation, while education and an increase in awareness should help to preserve others.Conservation of the nesting habitat is crucial to the survival of this species. Bird watchers can observe the little birds from canoes with binoculars, or from grassland areas near the shore but far enough away that the birds will not be disturbed.
Though the Piping Plover resembles the larger, familiar Killdeer, there are a number of distinguishing characteristics to look for. The Plover is smaller and lighter in colour, and has only one black neckband compared to the Killdeer’s two. In summer, the Piping Plover is sandy coloured with orange legs, a black headband and a black neckband. Its distinctive bill is orange with a little black tip. The under parts are white and it has a white rump. The birds blend in well with their habitat so observers must take their time and observe quietly in order to spot them.Their distinctive series of melodic “Peep-lo” calls will help identify them. A pleasant afternoon of Plover watching is a great way to enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Rockglen area.
Wild Animals of Rockglen and District
The Wood Mountain Uplands have been home to wild animals since prehistoric times. Escaping the last Glaciation has made possible the finding of archeological fossils of brontosaurus and giant sea turtles, which lived in the Triassic Period 181 million years ago, in this area. Much more recently, about 15 million years ago, numerous primitive mammals lived here, as evidenced by the fossils of Mastodonts, Wooly Mamoths, three-toed horses, antelope, shrews, weasels, squirrels, mice, beavers and rabbits. Most of these have been found in archeological digs as near as two miles form the Town of Rockglen.
For the sharp-eyed visitor, progeny of these prehistoric animals are still to be seen in the area.Bison are present in protected environments, while Mule Deer, White Tail Deer, Elk, Pronghorn Antelope and even a rare Moose roam freely in the valleys and hills. Predators including coyotes, badgers, foxes, weasels, bobcats and a rare lynx may be seen as they prey on jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, Richardson Ground Squirrels, rats, mice shrews, moles and other small mammals. Raccoons, skunks and squirrels bestow their sometimes unwanted presence in or near our homes, while beavers and muskrats make themselves comfortable in several local creeks. A short time spent watching these natural engineers at work is an education in itself.
In Historic perspective, few places in Canada offer a more comprehensive panorama of wildlife to be seen in its unaffected state, living in a natural balance of death and survival, than can be seen within walking distance or a short drive from here. Refresh your memory of natural history, then bring your binoculars and prepare to be impressed by the inherent richness of your wildlife heritage.