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Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan -- A Safe Haven For Migratory Birds

Updated on November 25, 2014

Migratory Birds Refuel at Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan

Chaplin Lake is across the Trans-Canada Highway from the Village of Chaplin in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. The lake became a designated Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in 1997. There are 35 such sites in the Western Hemisphere and only five of them are in Canada. Chaplin Lake is the second largest saline lake in Canada. It is big – approximately 20 square miles. It's a special lake for hungry, tired migratory birds because it has brine shrimp in its summertime waters.

Swans and Geese Preparing to Head South Again


Brave and Beautiful Birds

The brave and beautiful birds out there on Chaplin Lake and other nearby lakes do not know it, but they are the recipients of cooperation among the human beings in the hierarchies of nations’ governments so that the thirty or more bird species who visit can safely find food in the Chaplin, Old Wives and Reed Lake areas -- and fly safely on their way, God willing.

Swans on the Lake -- Soon to Fly Away


The Important Bird Area (IBA) Program

The Important Bird Area is a program which was created by BirdLife International in the UK. Today there are more than 100 countries enlisted as BirdLife Partners. Saskatchewan’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Program awards an IBA designation where there are large numbers of birds at risk. There was an IBA dedication ceremony for Chaplin Lake in June, 2000.

The aquatic systems of the Chaplin Lake, Reed Lake and Old Wives Lake are all part of the Wood River Watershed consisting of hundreds of ponds, several lakes – some freshwater and others saline – which are critical to the lives of thousands upon thousands of birds. A large percentage of these birds fly from South or Central America all the way to the Arctic using only a couple of trusted sanctuaries to stop and refuel. Chaplin Lake has brine for the birds to eat until each bird feels it has sufficient weight and strength to fly onward.

Migrating Swans


Three Different Categories of Bird Reserves

The Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site is the highest designation of three categories. Joseph K. Schmutz, states in his Community Conservation Plan for the Chaplin, Old Wives and Reed Lakes Important Bird Areas (July 2000):

“This network was created under the urgent recognition that some shorebirds rely on certain strategic sites to complete their spectacular migration.” Spectacular is certainly one of the words I would use to try to describe the birds' migration but really words fall short.

Josef Schmutz explains in his Community Plan:

Categories by which these reserves are organized
are --

  • Hemispheric -- Sites hosting more than 500,000 shorebirds in a year or more than 30% of a flyway population.
  • International -- Sites hosting more than 100,000 shorebirds in a year or more than 15% of a flyway population.
  • Regional -- Sites hosting more than 20,000 shorebirds in a year or more than 5% of a flyway population.

Photographer: By Biswarup Ganguly (Own work)  CC-BY-3.0 (
Photographer: By Biswarup Ganguly (Own work) CC-BY-3.0 ( | Source

History of Bird Protection in Canada -- With U.S. and Mexican Cooperation

In the early 1900s it became evident that bird populations were declining in Canada and the United States. There was too much hunting and also there was loss of habitat beginning to occur. The United States Senate legislated migratory bird protection in 1913. Canada and the United States signed a Migratory Birds Treaty in 1916 and Mexico signed the treaty in 1936.

The Migratory Birds Convention Act was created in Parliament in Canada in 1917. This Act and its rules gave Canada the mandate to protect migratory birds by controlling length of hunting seasons and the amount or bag limits.

Until 1947 bird management in Canada was under the Parks Branch of government, but in 1947 a section of this national department of government became the Canadian Wildlife Service. Soon each province created a department to line up with the national standards. In 1973, the Canadian Wildlife Act was created to foster partnerships between each provincial government and the national level of government. The Wildlife Act was not only for birds, but also for park management, protection of fish, wildlife – and in 1997 Species at Risk were added to the Act.

It was at this time that the nearby areas to Chaplin Lake, namely Old Wives and Reed Lake were designated as provincial Wildlife Refuges. Under the newly introduced Representatives Area Network identity created under the Conservation Easements Act, any approach within 100 meters to the refuges is strictly prohibited during nesting season.

In 1986 the North American Waterfowl Management Plan was approved in Canada. The plan was approved by the government of Mexico in 1994. It is an extension to the Migratory Birds Convention Act. It facilitates cooperation between the three signatory countries of Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Migration of birds
Migration of birds | Source

Other Major Bird Areas in SK -- Quill Lakes and Last Mountain Lake

Quill Lakes, comprised of Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake, and also the Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary are other nationally and internationally recognized bird areas in Saskatchewan.

Quill Lakes is a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve designated site like Chaplin Lake. The area has had counts of over 300,000 birds in one day and annually has approximately a million birds -- from song birds to drakes and geese -- stop by to refuel as they use all their might to fly North America's Central Flyway.

Last Mountain Lake has 280 different species either fly in or reside permanently on its habitat which attracts 9 of Canada's 36 named birds of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species. The peregrine falcon, piping plover, burrowing owl and the whooping crane are among the birds on the endangered list who like and trust Last Mountain Lake habitat.

Morse-Reed Lake -- Near Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan


Chaplin and Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan

Can You Fly 70 Hours Without Resting?

Chaplin Lake tours are offered from the middle of May until the end of August from the Chaplin Nature Center. A shuttle bus departs every two hours.

Depending on the month and day a person arrives at Chaplin Lake's edge, one could see some of the following birds: Western Sandpiper, White-Rumped Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Snowy Plover, Piping Plover (on the endangered list) Long-billed Curlew, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, American Golden Plover, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Common Snipe, Dunlin, Ferruginous Hawks, Ducks, Geese, Herons, Cranes, Rails and many more kinds.

The information at Chaplin Tourism ( on their Bird Gallery page states an amazing fact: some of these birds fly 70 hours before stopping to refuel -- up to 3100 miles -- before descending to rest. Therefore, it is essential that their food, clean water, and safety needs be met.

The Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve at Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan is set up for good purposes and is fulfilling those purposes year by year. Meeting the needs of the magnificent fowls of the air has been a long journey for people throughout the decades who care about birds. I salute them. Good job! (Now if only like-minded people could get the proverbial ball rolling to ban hunting completely and forever -- unless the hunter can prove he or she is too destitute to buy meat at the local supermarket.)

I look forward to your comments. Thank you for taking the time to read this hub.

Canada Goose


Copyright and Sources

All Rights Reserved 2012 (c) Pamela Williams a.k.a. Pamela Kinnaird W on Hubpages


  • Community Conservation Plan for the Chaplin, Old Wives and Reed Lakes Important Bird Areas, July 2000, by Josef K. Schmutz (See
  • Photographs' copyright and Creative Commons information is placed under each photo.

Male Northern Pintail Duck



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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      4 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      ologsinquito, thank you.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      It's so nice that all these creatures have this unspoiled wilderness to roost in. Voted up, shared and pinned.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Me, too, Sherry Hewins. Thanks for visiting.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Amazing. I'm so glad those magnificent birds have places to rest on their journey.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      5 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thank you for visiting, rebeccamealey. It is a beautiful spot seven months of the year.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a lovely place and such beautiful birds. I don't believe I could bring myself to shoot one! Thanks for sharing the beauty of this spot!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Millionaire Tips, thanks for stopping by. Yeah! 70 hours is amazing!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      Such beautiful birds and pictures. I am glad that we (the world) have finally realized what we are doing to the living creatures when we take over their spaces. I did not know that birds can fly for 70 hours without rest! That is amazing. Voted up.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Thanks again, Eiddwen. I like everything to do with wildlife, too -- as long as its happy stuff. Sometimes there's sad things and much we cannot help with.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      This is such a well informed and wonderful hub. I love anything to do with wildlife etc and this one was indeed a treat !!!


    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      billybuc, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Hi aviannovice. Thanks for reading. I'm looking forward to reading your newest hub -- which I'll be doing in just a few minutes.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Nice material! When I was in DE, I wasn't far from Bombay Hook, an important stopover for snow geese. It was remarkable, too. Thanks for sharing what is close to you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Such beautiful creatures and pictures....such great information.....wonderful hub my friend!


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