23 May 2013

Celebrating International Biodiversity Day in the field

Here's a sampling of some of the biodiversity we've been enjoying in PANP over the past few weeks.  
Photo by Jerod A. Merkle

04 May (JAM/BGM)
  • Lakes still frozen (LSF)
  • Lots of sandhill cranes!

05 May (JAM/BGM)

*Throughout field notes, meadows will be indicated in parentheses, at the end of each observation.  For example, two red tail hawks (Long mdw).

  • LSF
  • 2 red tail hawks (RT hawk) soaring high, with crane circling lower, calling incessantly (Long SSW)
  • 4 bison crossed West Side Road (WS Rd) right in front of us.
  • Cooper’s hawk on aspen close to where we stood + lots of geese (Long SSW)
  • Found old skull of young bison, and collected tooth for age analysis (Bush mdw)
  • Yellow-shafted flickers (3); crane going nuts; frogs not quite thawed out this AM (~8h45) (Long SW)

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
Beaver dam (pond still frozen) on Pie Plate Creek

Photo by Jerod A. Merkle

 06 May (JAM/BGM)

  • LSF
  • Phenomenal beaver dam on Pie Plate Creek, but leaking. Where are the beavers?
  • Neat bison skull (female) in Camp Lake Meadow.  Thought it might be a neat one to collect and prep (and write text!) for Waskesieu Interpretive Centre.  Will follow up with warden re this idea.

07 May (JAM/BGM)

*F indicates female bison which has a collar, as in F1028.

  • 26 bison, incl. F1028 w/ no calf; ribs visible on many animals; lg. group left mdw shortly after we arrived; @ 10H20, large group ran back into mdw (total of 17 now); @11H00, whole group slowly moving S, still in center of mdw, with 1 female in lead by ~200 meters and eventually she left the group; @ 12H45, 1 lone female emerges from forest to SW of main group and rejoins group; 13 bison in mdw when we left @ 13H00, at this time, a single female was out in front, again by a fair distance - not sure if it was the same female who was leading, nor if the one that came back was the same female, but it’s possible. (Spearpoint)
  • 5 cranes in Bear meadow
  • Lots of duck diversity on Tap Creek Lake
  • Day started cold (~25 F) but heated up by ~13h00

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
F1031 with her bum foot (left)
08 May (JAM/BGM)

  • LSF
  • 1st calf of the year, w/ uncollared female; whole group stopped grazing and crossed the meadow to see it when the cow and calf emerged from the woods; F1042 in group w/no calf (Indian)
  • 2 bison calves
  • 1 porcupine
  • 1 pine marten (loped RIGHT past us on trail entering Long meadow)
  • 1 bison (1031) w/ no calf and a bum left rear foot – very swollen just above hoof, puts no weight on it at all, but she is still vapable of running, as we saw @ 9H45, when she spooked and ran S most of the length of the mdw ; telemetry = F1036, F1038, and F1045 (Long mdw)
  • Pair of cranes grazing in Long SSW, along with several geese on nests
  • 29 bison, incl. F1042 w/ no calf (Indian)
  • 6 bison, including F1038 with calf (WS Rd)
  • 25 bison, including F1042 w/ no calf(Long SW)
  • Woodpecker drumming on dead tree is filling whole meadow with his rhythm. Wonder which kind it is – they say you can ID them by their drumming. This one is steady, no breaks, starts out loud and fades away…

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
Bison in Rat NE meadow right before the prescribed burn.
Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
Took about 600 photos of the two burns; will share more in a separate post.

09 May
· J @ meetings re bison conservation/management strategy
· B assisted (photographed) prescribed burns on Rat NE (fire guys called it Snare Lake Meadow) and Near Walrod; group of ~18 bison seen in Rat NE right before we lit the fires

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
Still trying to figure out what this flower is -
one of the earliest, grows right on the edge of meadows.

10 May (JAM/BGM/Seth Cherry)
  • Did a big loop today on foot (Indian->Long->Amyot->Corridor->Spearpoint->Long N->Indian N).
  • Found 2 skulls (collected teeth) in Indian N; 1 skull from recently dead animal estimated at <1 font="" old="" year="">
  • 3 cranes making lots of noise; 1 RT hawk (Long N)
  • 1 crane, but no alarm calls (Amyot)
  • 1 calf (several weeks old already); saw F1035 w/ no calf with group of 7 bison; difficult to tell which cow belongs w/ calf; calf is larger than any we’ve seen this year. Saw calf again in Spearpoint. (Corridor)
  • Saw F1035 w/ no calf, telemetry = F1045; group of 43 bison, incl. lg. calf from Corridor. Group from Corridor walked in and joined group at ~11H25. 1 pelican high overhead. (Spearpoint)
  •  Group of 10-15 bison seen in Near Walrod and another group in Rat NE (by fire patrol)

Photo by Jerod A. Merkle
Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
There are frogs EVERYWHERE!  It's great fun to see them,
as they make it seem like the forest floor is hopping.  Even
better, their calling disguises our footsteps a bit as we try
to sneak close enough to take photos of the bison.

11 May (JAM/BGM/SC)
  • Moderate frost overnight; surface of ground frozen; frogs didn’t start calling ‘til ~9H00 (couple hours late)
  • 1 elk, 1 deer (sml mdw just N of Long mdw, along the road)
  • LSF; 1 crane, lots of Redwing blackbirds, 1 blue jay, frogs still silent (Amyot)
  • Telemetry = Wolves M16 and F11, signal to the SW (Dry One)
  • SAW A WOLF! It came from Long SE at ~9H15; we were on the road crossing Long mdw, and spotted it because a deer in Long SW spooked and fled. Wolf slowly approached us, trying to figure out what we were, as we were visible from the road. Eventually, it disappeared. When it came out just downwind of us (on the road to Amyot), we realized it had cut across the aspen-covered knoll between Long SE and Long SW. While there on the road, it kept walking around, sniffing our tracks, and looking at us. Tail down the entire time – clearly somewhat nervous about us. Animal seemed somewhat young, and in good physical condition. Interestingly, the frogs were utterly silent while the wolf was present. Last saw it trotting away (direction of Long SE) at ~9H50.
  • 11 geese; found old wolf trap just up the road from trail to mdw (might be from when park was trapping to set out collars a few years ago) (Long SSW)
  • Collected upper 2nd premolar from female bison skull on right side of trail on the way in; clouds have burned off by now ~11H15; telemetry = F1044 (from E) and F1030 (from NE) @ 12H20 (Johnasson)
  • Group of 13-15 bison seen by wardon patrolling prescribed burn (Near Walrod)
  • Evening outing: Lake totally thawed out, vs. this AM; some swans flew over (J wonders if they were trumpeters, SC thinks it’s unlikely) (Amyot); bittern calling; spotted first buttercups; cranes and geese going nuts; 2 bison in Long N, incl. F1045 (Long mdw)
Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
Photo by Jerod A. Merkle

12 May (JAM/BGM)

  • 1 crane calling, 1 woodpecker, geese, 1st blue butterfly of the year (Tap NN)
  • Bison crossed road in front of us; incl. F1036 w/ no calf (Tap NN)
  • Lots of ducks (shoveler, eared grebe, blue-wing and green-wing teals, scaup, coot, mallard, red head, canvasback, golden eye….; bittern calling (Tap)
  • Small black bear on trail entrance (Near Walrod)
  • Lake has thawed (Walrod)
  • Knoll positively splattered with pasque flowers, while none were present when we were here two days ago (Sunny Hill)
  • 1 crane calling from S end; lots of robins; 1st dandelion (Spearpoint)
  • 1 female w/ 1 calf (Corridor)
  • Really hot & muggy (~22C); lots of gulls, and I haven’t noticed them here earlier this month; lake seems to still be (or have refrozen) frozen around edges (Amyot)
  • 1 female w/ calf, muggy, cloudy, much hotter than AM (Long N)
  • Telemetry = F1040 & F1001 (J. Reimer, Rat NE)
Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
This little character hangs out
in the aspens near where we live.

13 May


  • 23 bison, incl. F1042 & F1036, neither of which have calves
  • 1 young calf, 1 older calf w/ brown face and more tawny body already
  • Lots of tussling among the juveniles, including mounting, head butting, etc.; adult females pushing e/o and juveniles around, too. 
  • Found what might be a bison calf skull at NW end of pond in middle of meadow 
  • Started as small group of ~18, with a fusion of another several bison around 11H45 (no calves in second group)
  • F1035 & F1045 (neither with calves) in group of 32 (Rat NE)

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
The view from the front steps of the station.

Photo by Bethann G. Merkle
There are countless redwinged blackbirds
filling the air with their reedy water-cascading calls.


Gene said...

Looks beautiful, Bethann!
Sarah and I had a nice hike a couple of days ago. I'll send pictures.
Take care,

Jennie said...

Oh my. LOTS of fun reading and GREAT photography by BOTH of you. I feel really sad about the bison w/ the hurt leg.

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Glad you enjoyed it!

As for the bison with a hurt leg, that's life. We're pretty curious what happened to it, though. The leg, I mean. Also, if you think that's bad, just wait 'til you see the next blog post. :)

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Mr. Sentz,
The photos of your hike up Major Steel Backbone, etc. are amazing! One thing we're missing here in the hill country of SK are some real mountains. I don't think there are any in the whole province! :)

Thanks sharing!

Lisa said...

great photos. Love reading field notes.

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Thank you, Lisa! We're having a great time out here...obviously. I'm sure you can relate to how much fun it is to do field work with your love(s). Mind you, there are bugs thick enough to drive us out of our minds, and mud that sucks my feet down to the top of my rubber boots (which I think are leaking, boo), and all that. But still, it's great.

fruit.root.leaf. said...

Yes, we've been seeing animals left and right! And yes, I've been keeping a field journal with lots of sketches, ever since we arrived. I haven't scanned them yet, but I'm aiming to get to that this week. I'll post them soon.

Gene said...

The prairies are beautiful too, though, and you sure see a lot of wildlife!

fruit.root.leaf. said...

So very true. :) Maybe I'm just missing mountains - it's been at least a year since I saw one.

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