Birds fill the living skies
With over 350 species to be observed, birdwatching in Saskatchewan is a year-round activity. However, the fall and spring migration seasons present fantastic opportunities for viewing as species both rare and plentiful cross the Land of Living Skies.
The Saskatchewan Birding Trail Experience is a brochure that provides excellent information on Saskatchewan’s many prime birding areas. The brochure provides detailed birding information for 21 areas around the province, including typical species and prime viewing locations. It also provides tips on other local activities and amenities, so you can turn your birding adventure into a full vacation experience.
The prime viewing season for flocks on their winter trek southward begins around mid-September. With some planning and a little luck, you may be able to experience the thrill of sighting endangered species such as Piping Plovers, Sage Grouse, Burrowing Owls or even a Whooping Crane. On their way southward, seemingly endless flocks of Canada and Snow Geese fill the sky in immense shifting formations.
About 45 minutes west of Moose Jaw on the Trans-Canada #1 Highway is the town of Chaplin. Nearby Chaplin Lake, along with nearby Old Wives, Frederick and Reed Lakes, forms a complex that has been designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. More than 30 species of shorebirds (some endangered) gather in numbers exceeding 100,000. Some are residents of the area, others have stopped to rest and refuel on their fall migratory journey.
Further west and not far off the #1 Highway you will find the town of Cabri. Nearby is an area centred around Galloway Bay and Miry Bay on the South Saskatchewan River, where thousands upon thousands of geese and ducks gather in late September and early October. This area attracts other species as well; birders have reported as many as 80 bald eagles in view on a single outing.
Another Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site, in the Quill Lakes area, hosts upwards of 1,000,000 birds annually. Big Quill Lake is the largest saline lake in Canada, and the region is a major breeding and staging area for 250,000 geese, 40,000 Sandhill Cranes, and up to 150,000 arctic-nesting shorebirds on their way south for the winter. One of Canada's most nationally and internationally recognized bird areas, it is also home to the Quill Lakes International Bird Area. The Quill Lakes are located adjacent to the Trans-Canada #16 Yellowhead Highway near the town of Wynyard, about 100 kilometres/60 miles east of Saskatoon.
Just an hour or so from Regina is the Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary. Designated as such by the Canadian government in 1887, it is the oldest bird sanctuary in North America. Last Mountain Lake offers habitat to nine of Canada’s 36 endangered species, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Loggerhead Shrike and the Caspian Tern.