Guest post from a Saskatchewan birder

Hello, my name is Shannon Gilmour and I live on a small acreage near Swan Plain, Saskatchewan. My family and I moved here seven years ago from small town Alberta, and have affectionately claimed Saskatchewan as home. The winters I do not think we will ever get used to, but that’s a small price to pay when you have a wilderness for your backyard! There is something to see all year round. With the cold stiff air of winter’s chill, a crow is often heard in the distance, with a blue jay in swift reply. However, with the lure of the spring, and the thawing creek just a short walk past my window welcoming geese, and ducks that I never knew existed let alone had a direct flight path through the province.

The Canada goose is a mainstay everywhere, but there is something different about seeing them paired up in a natural habitat wading through icy water instead of watching them waddle their way through the grounds at a park or zoo.

cdagoose

The scaup, although not a frequent flyer to central Saskatchewan, found its way to our creek bed and stayed for two weeks, making friends with a pair of Teal ducks, who would rarely leave the lone duck on his own for very long.

scaup

teal

This year, it’s a Mallard pair and it seems that since they have taken up residence on our property, Mallards are what I see everywhere. They seem to like the flooded ditches along the highways, and back roads but as the heat of the summer arrives drying up the ditches, I imagine seeing these birds will be less frequent as they seclude themselves to the many natural marshes and preserved wetland habitats.

mallard

Spring seems to have arrived in our neck of the woods, as our property is only a few miles from the forestry, and that enables us to see an eclectic array of birds such as the long-eared owl. The mother owl was kind enough to allow us to get close enough to take a few pictures. I need to add a word of warning, that a mother with newly hatched owlets or fledglings is a very protective and a dangerous bird. Had I known that owls do attack, I would not have approached as close as I did. She clacked her beak at me from above as she perched in the tree. The talons in the picture do not give this lovely lady justice as seeing those claws with my eyes, gave me great respect and our family gave her and her family the space they needed. This family took up residence near the greenhouse and needless to say, the greenhouse was not used that year. We noticed that three owlets were significantly bigger than two and it turns out that if a clutch is lost, the mother will lay another clutch three weeks later. Although this double brooding is rare, it isn’t uncommon.

leo

owlet

owlets

One thing I found really hard to get used to living out in the country was not the silence, or the undulating croaking of the frogs, or the chirps of the crickets; it was the obsessive cawing of the crow calls. It seemed every where I went, a crow was sure to follow. Any quiet time in the garden was soon carried away by a distant and then not so distant call of a crow. I was convinced that one call was to bring in a whole murder of them! That was one call I could not get used to, the clicking, the warbling and that caw-caw- caw nature in a laugh like tone. It was if they knew they were irking me to no end. It was my mission to beat the crows, to finish my work in the yard before they came ‘a- calling’. That never happened, because even with the window closed when I was nestled in the house, I could still hear them. They would perch themselves on the tallest tree and look in the direction of the living room window and squawk. My obsessive listening to their calls drowned out the squeaky trill of the sap sucker, and the loud playful banter of the blue jay. All my attention was given to the crow, and in retrospect, I think that is what they wanted.

It wasn’t until the day I had the opportunity to care for a fledgling did I begin to look at the crow differently. Seeing this helpless little black bird in a tree, helpless unable to move for some reason, my heart just flew into instinct mode to help. It only took a week and this little creature was back with its parents, as I was extremely careful not to impose myself on him. During that time, I got to know his species a bit better, they call just like any other bird; to mate, to feed, to warn, to calm, to direct. They really have an extensive system of calls but I’m still convinced they are smart enough to know when their calls are bugging you and milk that baby for all its worth. But I found out that if you just treat them as with any other bird, respect and admiration and ignore their silliness, they will fly off to let someone else listen to their voice, as I am also convinced, they caw just to hear themselves talk But I say this affectionately of course.

The crows it turns out, are respectful of other birds, and with that said, I am able to sit in silence while listening to the other bird songs, well in truth, I think after seven years, I just became good at tuning the crows out!

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