Unveiling the wonders of Pipestone Creek
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) recently partnered with landowners Clint and Jody Blyth to conduct a bioblitz at their Pipestone Creek conservation agreement property. A bioblitz is an event where NCC staff and volunteers come together to conduct an inventory of the plants and animals found in the area. This information helps inform how to best take care of the landscape to help those species thrive.
Around 20 people participated in the Pipestone Creek bioblitz. There were birders, botanists and folks that simply enjoy spending time in nature. The event was held the day before Father’s Day, and there were a few families who attended with their adult children to celebrate the special day. One man was even gifted the trip by his family for Father’s Day. I was lucky enough to obtain a few casual interviews with some interesting people at the bioblitz.
Jared Clark is a well-known birder and guided one of the early-morning birding tours during the bioblitz. He got into birding when he was five years old and saw a spotted towhee in his backyard. He didn't know what it was but found it very interesting, so his mom gave him a bird book to help identify it, and his interest grew from there. He's spent 32 years birding, contributing to population data through platforms like iNaturalist (a plant and animal identifier website and app) and eBird and becoming a bird expert. His all-time favourite bird is the purple martin. Purple martins feed primarily on insects, catching them mid-air during flight. They are highly beneficial to humans as they help control insect populations. There is a colony of them in Jared’s backyard that he likes to watch. He says it's impressive to see them up close and that is part of the reason he enjoys them so much.
Participants searching for critters during the Pipestone Creek Bioblitz (Photo by NCC)
Kendra found out about the bioblitz when Jody Blyth, the landowner, messaged her on iNaturalist. She has always liked insects and remembers spending all of Grade two recesses looking at bugs. In the last few years, she’s found iNaturalist has helped her get into nature more. She remembers finding a particular beetle and wanting to know what it was, so she talked to an expert. They recommended iNaturalist to her. Originally, she was only interested in insects but decided to add birds during the winter months to have something to do. She ended up loving them just as much. Her favourite insects are ichneumonoids, especially parasitic wasps. These wasps are parasitoids, meaning they lay their eggs on or inside other insects. Their larvae develop inside the host, eventually consuming it as a source of nutrition. These fascinating insects play an important role in regulating insect populations and are considered beneficial in pest control. Kendra’s favourite bird is the red-breasted nuthatch. These charming little birds are known for their active and energetic nature, often making repetitive “yank-yank-yank” calls as they forage or defend their territory. They are a delight to observe and are popular among birdwatchers for their lively behaviour and striking plumage.
Downy paintbrush (Photo by Anja Sorensen/NCC staff)
The people weren’t the only interesting species at the bioblitz. There were several different types of plants, animals and birds we observed on the property. My favourite being the fox that sprinted past our group as were looking at plants. It didn’t look like a typical red fox, instead its fur had orange and white patches, unlike anything I had ever seen before. There were raccoon prints down by the creek, and evidence of moose and deer throughout the forest. Although our group wasn’t lucky enough to get any mammal photos, the plants were much more accommodating. We found a whole hillside covered with downy paintbrush that the botanists in our group were excited to photograph. The Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre has ranked downy paintbrush as rare to uncommon. It was thrilling to find so much of it.
Each species encountered during a bioblitz holds its own story, adaptation and ecological role. From the acrobatic flights of purple martins to the intricate parasitic lifestyle of ichneumonoids, these captivating creatures showcase the wonders of the natural world. The collective efforts and enthusiasm of participants in a bioblitz highlight the importance of studying and protecting these species and their habitats. To learn more about unique prairie species and NCC’s work to conserve their habitat, visit prairiegrasslands.ca.