Chap­lin Shore Bird Festival Marks 15 Years

Moose Jaw - - Front Page - By Ron Wal­ter For Moose Jaw Ex­press Pho­tos by Ron Wal­ter

Or­ga­nizer of the Chap­lin Shore­bird Festival Clem Mil­lar says it’s hard to be­lieve the festival cel­e­brated its 15th year this June. “And we con­tinue to get the sup­port we got when we started. Ev­ery­body is so sup­port­ive.” The festival de­vel­oped af­ter Saskatchewan govern­ment wildlife em­ploy­ees talked to the com­mu­nity about the lake’s sig­nif­i­cance as habi­tat for shorebirds and for birds mi­grat­ing north and south. Un­til then most peo­ple in the area thought of the shorebirds as snipes of no real value. Mil­lar was a driv­ing force in or­ga­niz­ing sup­port to build the Chap­lin Na­ture Cen­tre and do bird tours. The festival tours, sup­per, silent auc­tion and penny pa­rade is a ma­jor fundraiser for the Na­ture Cen­tre. Well-known con­ser­va­tion­ist Lorne Scott rec­og­nized Mil­lar’s work on the project at the shore­bird din­ner, say­ing Mil­lar’s ef­forts have made a dif­fer­ence. Operating the cen­tre has been a strug­gle at times, but a new part­ner­ship with Na­ture Saskatchewan and Na­ture Canada has longterm im­pli­ca­tions, says Mil­lar. The project con­tin­ues links with other western hemi­spheric re­serves at Salt Lake City and in Mex­ico. “Lori Wil­son was at the Salt Lake City Con­fer­ence and kept us linked,” said Mil­lar. The Chap­lin group plans to host the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in the next year or two. Chap­lin hosted the con­fer­ence in its first few years of op­er­a­tion. Vis­its to the Na­ture Cen­tre have been strong this year. “Last year was ex­cel­lent and this year so far looks good again,” said Mil­lar. “We’ve got good peo­ple. They will go the ex­tra mile for the cus­tomer.” The cen­tre is open from mid-May to the Labour Day week­end. Tours of the lake are of­fered. Bi­ol­ogy stu­dent Terry Mat­tern is run­ning the cen­tre this sea­son. Places like Chap­lin Lake are im­por­tant to con­serv­ing birds, says a Na­ture Saskatchewan spokesper­son. Shelly Fisher told the Chap­lin Shore­bird Festival that Chap­lin Lake is a can­di­date for an Im­por­tant Bird Area (IBA). The lake meets two of the ma­jor cri­te­ria for the IBA des­ig­na­tion. It is home to en­dan­gered bird species – piping plover and bur­row­ing owl — and habi­tat for threat­ened species like Sprague’s pipit and log­ger­head shrike. And the lake is an im­por­tant stop on mi­gra­tory routes to the north and south. “Half of the san­der­ling pop­u­la­tion in North Amer­ica stops here on the way north. They would miss it if it wasn’t here.” Sav­ing bird habi­tats is im­por­tant be­cause “when you save the birds you save habi­tat for the other wildlife.” Na­ture Saskatchewan needs vol­un­teer mon­i­tors for IBA habi­tats, said Fisher. The vol­un­teer task isn’t oner­ous, re­quir­ing one mon­i­tor visit a year with a re­port on sight­ings and changes. In­ter­ested per­sons should con­tact Na­ture Saskatchewan.

Ron Wal­ter can be reached at

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