Connecting with shorebirds at a unique Conservation Volunteers event
While attending the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) shorebird tour Conservation Volunteers (CV) event in June, I met first-time CV Naomi Derksen. Naomi found her way to the event through a roundabout internet route. She was looking for volunteer events on a local community site, which led her to information about the annual shorebird festival held in Chaplin, Saskatchewan. This then led her to information about the NCC shorebird tour, held in partnership with the festival.
Located along the Trans-Canada Highway between Swift Current and Regina, Chaplin is a hot spot for migratory shorebirds because of its three shallow, saline lakes: Chaplin Lake, Reed Lake and Old Wives Lake, which are part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
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Shorebirds stop in Chaplin during their migration to feast on brine shrimp in the lakes and to rest. The village of Chaplin has capitalized on the interest of birders from around the world; the Chaplin Nature Centre interpretive centre beside the highway holds a shorebird festival the first weekend in June every year.
Naomi, a first-year university student with a special interest in the sciences (especially biology), told her father that she wanted to attend the festival. Her mother also wanted to participate. So, the trip from the Derksen farm south of Swift Current to Chaplin became a family affair.
“I have an interest in migratory patterns and their effects on grasslands, birds and pond life,” said Naomi. “I want to learn more about how things connect.”
During the tour, NCC staff took 23 CVs to view several NCC properties in the area. This included three parcels of pasture land a few kilometres north of Chaplin and Reed Lake, which lies just south of the highway. The property on the south side of Reed Lake is mostly salt water, with a small strip of shoreline.
In total, volunteers observed 93 species on the properties over the course of a warm spring day, including six species at risk. At Reed Lake, the birders and NCC staff were told to look out for piping plovers, one of the species on the endangered list.
As for Naomi, she was pleased to participate in the Conservation Volunteers event and learn more about this varied landscape and habitat not far from her home.