22-Apr-2002 -- Spring got a late start on the Canadian prairies. Most of the snow has finally melted so it was time for us to go confluence hunting again. We headed north from Regina on Highway 6 at about 8:30 AM. We drove by pastures with cows and their newborn calves. Migrating geese were flying in "V" formations overhead. In one stubble field we saw hundreds of feeding Snow Geese. A few farmers were out working the fields. Crows were plentiful and ducks were swimming on what water they could find.
Sloughs (pronounced "slews") are the wet and marshy areas that dot the prairie region. Most of the sloughs we saw are in very poor condition due to the severe drought most of the Canadian prairies have been experiencing over the past five years. Some sloughs along the way contained next to no water. Usually in Springtime they are full to overflowing.
Near the confluence area we passed by the Quill Lakes and stopped at Clair Lake Regional Park just 3.9 km southwest of the confluence. As picnic tables were available, we ate our sandwiches at this park. Snow Geese were passing overhead, their white feathers glistening in the sun. Pairs of Canada Geese waddled along the shore and out on the ice covered lake. A sure sign of Spring were the furry grey pussy willows budding out on the willow trees.
After lunch we headed to the confluence site. We had determined that it was probably 40 meters off Highway 5 and by the looks of the views along the way would probably be a simple walk into a field. It wasn't quite that simple. The confluence is right in the middle of a slough. We were lucky to be able to get as close as 24 meters at 52°, and 33 meters at 104°, but only because of the drought and the very dry slough. The photos show how the slough would normally extend right to the trees. By walking across dried marsh grass and wet mushy plant life we were able to get near the bulrushes which dominate this slough. We took our confluence pictures while standing in the wet area and from the highway.
Having taken the official photos of the site we drove along Highway 5 to the first town, Wadena, about 14 km southeast of the confluence. After a visit with an old friend we continued south on Highway 35. 5 km south of town we took the road 6 km west to the Wadena Wetlands on Little Quill Lake. Along this road we saw a group of 200 hundred or more Great Blue Herons feeding in a stubble field. At the Wadena Wetlands, about 12 km southeast of the confluence, there are viewing stands, wooden walkways and interpretive trails to observe the abundance of bird life. We saw bird life, but no wetlands. How depressing to see the dried, cracked water bed stretching for several kilometers.
On the Wadena Town Web Site under "Bird Watching and Ecotourism" we learned the following facts about the Quill Lakes. The three large lakes comprising the Quill Lakes - Big Quill Lake, Mud Lake, and Little Quill Lake - are the largest salt water lakes in Canada. The lakes are nationally and internationally recognized as a site of importance to birds. 300 species and over one million birds visit the lakes annually. In the Spring and Autumn 200,000 shore birds, 400,000 ducks, 130,000 Snow Geese, 80,000 Canada Geese, and 40,000 Sandhill Cranes stop here during their migration. There are also breeding colonies of White Pelicans, Western Grebes, Eared Grebes and endangered species such as Piping Plovers, migrating Whooping Cranes, and Peregrine Falcons. Wildlife in the area includes white tailed deer, mule deer, red fox, badger, coyote, muskrat, and beaver.
We spent about an hour in this area. After climbing the viewing stand to look across the vast expanse of dried up "wetlands" we enjoyed a walk along one of the trails to another viewing stand. There was the odd hole partially filled with water and that was that. We fear there will be many homeless water loving birds this summer.
We reached home 9½ hours after our departure and covered a distance of 487 km. It was a great Spring day and a wonderful adventure.