Foam Lake Birding No. 175

No. 175
            My hiatus from writing these articles lasted a lot longer than the couple of weeks that I had anticipated.  A combination of medical problems will do that to a fellow.  To top it all off I have trouble reading my own handwriting at the best of times but after cataract surgery it is a real challenge to say the least (My first copy is hand written).  Anyway, here goes. 
            In the last week of June my wife and I took a five day trip through the grasslands in southern Saskatchewan starting in the east at Roche Perce and ending up in the west at the Cypress Hills.  Of course visits to the east and west blocs of the Grasslands National Parks were a must.  We did not see any lifers but saw many birds that are more or less endemic to that area.  I did not have a good picture of a Swainson's Hawk but I got a very good one this time.  Hawks are skittish in general but these two Swainson's were completely unconcerned as we stopped the car, backed up a bit, rolled down the window, poked out the camera and took the pictures.  This week's picture clearly shows the white chin, belly and breast with the rest being a dark brown. 
            The locals told us that there had been almost a foot of rain this spring and it showed.  Everything was a luxuriant green, all depressions were filled with water and cattle grazed in belly high pasture grass. 
            Recently the federal government decided to get out of the community pastures business and turn it all over to the provincial governments.  The provincial government of Saskatchewan does not want to manage the pastures and is developing  plans to sell/lease the pastures with restrictions as to their use and development.  A sizable group of conservationists wants the lands left in public hands.  Now we have two opposing points of view with strong support on both sides of the issue so a bit of a dust up is sure to follow.  Also, the debate has spilled over beyond Saskatchewan's borders.  When we stopped for lunch at a recommended restaurant in Val Marie we happened to bump into Margaret Atwood and her long time partner and renown birder, Graeme Gibson.  Both were supporting the group that wants the community pastures left in public hands.  It will be interesting to see how it all shakes down in the end. 
            We left Val Marie for a bed and breakfast near Eastend.  After a good night's sleep and breakfast we headed for the T-Rex museum perched halfway up the bank of the Frenchman River Valley overlooking the town of Eastend.  Save for the front the whole building is built into the side of the bank of the Frenchman River Valley.  It is really a cave with a fancy front and well appointed interior that only a federal government could afford to build.  There is no fee only a silver collection but the film and guided tour are informative.  Of course what would any museum be if it did not sell souvenirs - in this case fuzzy dinosaurs. 
            The last day we spent in the Cypress Hills.  The hills are good for rarities like the Bobcat (not Lynx) which is not found anyplace else in Canada.  There are about a half dozen birds here that cannot be found anywhere else in Saskatchewan.  I have been fortunate enough to have seen three such species- the Dusky Flycatcher,  the Macgillivray's Warbler and the Red Naped Sapsucker.  All three are common in the Rockies but are found only in the Cypress Hills east of there. 
            Although this article is short on birds I do hope some of you who have never been to the southern part of our province make a point of seeing it.  It is a whole different but very interesting world out there.