Our area of South West Saskatchewan has experienced two years of severe drought, and the pastures have been seriously depleted of moisture. While the snow melt has provided some relief, the region still needs rain to replenish the soil moisture and grow grass for cattle to graze.
We have significantly reduced our cow herd to accommodate the diminished grass production and the limited forage available for winter feeding. These pastures tho definitely need rain. Drought stress also weakens plants, making them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
We are grateful to see this water running this spring from the snow melt. Dugouts and dams are filling for water supplies for cattle to drink and we are hoping that water quality will improve this season if we receive timely rains.
While we really appreciate this snow melt and water runoff we are also experiencing some damage from erosion of creek banks and fences that will require repair.
Soil temperatures are still too cold for seeding in our area, however the birds are returning. It is not uncommon for birds to return to their breeding grounds before the soil temperatures have fully warmed up. Many bird species rely on specific environmental cues, such as day length and temperature, to initiate their migration and breeding behaviors. For some species, the timing of their migration is critical to ensure that they have enough time to breed and raise their young before winter sets in.
While soil temperatures can impact the timing of plant growth and seed germination, it may not have an immediate effect on the birds’ ability to breed. Birds have adapted to cope with a wide range of environmental conditions, and they can adjust their breeding behavior in response to changes in their environment.
However, if the soil temperatures remain too cold for too long, it could potentially impact the availability of food sources for birds. Insects, which are an important food source for many bird species, may not be as abundant in colder temperatures, which could make it challenging for birds to find enough food to support their breeding efforts.
The common Goldeneye has arrived as well as Swans, Blue Herons, Sea Gulls, Mallards, Pintails, Killdeer, Meadowlarks and other prairie song birds. Red-tailed, Swansons, Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks, Bald and Golden Eagles, American Kestrels and Northern Harriers are also showing up.
It is unusual for us to see the Goldeneyes here. Goldeneyes are migratory birds and can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, rivers, and coastal areas. They feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish and are known for their ability to dive to depths of up to 30 meters to catch their prey.
In addition to their striking appearance and impressive diving abilities, goldeneyes play an important role in their ecosystems. As they feed on aquatic insects and small fish, they help to control the populations of these species, which can prevent overpopulation and maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem. They are also an important food source for predators such as eagles and foxes.
Birds play a crucial role in prairie habitats, serving as important indicators of ecosystem health and playing key ecological roles as predators, prey, and seed dispersers. They help to control populations of insects and small mammals, and their presence or absence can signal changes in the environment, such as habitat loss or degradation. Additionally, birds provide important economic benefits, such as supporting ecotourism and some birds serve as pollinators for some species of plants. Overall, the conservation and protection of bird populations in prairie habitats is essential for maintaining the health and balance of these important ecosystems.
In prairie habitats, the arrival of migratory birds such as songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors is eagerly anticipated each year. As the seasons change, so do the birds that are present in the area, making birdwatching an ever-changing and dynamic experience.
Observing the different behaviors, calls, and plumages of birds as they arrive and depart from prairie habitats can provide insight into the health and dynamics of these ecosystems. It can also be a great way to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the world around us. From the striking colors of Meadowlarks and Pheasants to the majestic flight of eagles and hawks, watching birds in prairie habitats is a rewarding and awe-inspiring experience.