Chaplin Shore Bird Festival Marks 15 Years
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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