|My friend Andre captured this photo of an owl during his annual bird-banding trip to the prairies. The photo was taken between Kyle and Swift Current in southern Saskatchewan.|
I know my friend Andre mainly as a Virginia Woolf aficionado, but every year he turns into someone else entirely. He drops his books and papers and joins a band of raptor enthusiasts attempting to ensure the birds’ survival in the Canadian prairies.
They find nests of owls and other raptors and band the birds (not easy) so they can be tracked. The hope is that the resulting information will help preserve them in a landscape that is rapidly changing in the service of the industrialization of agriculture. Hills, sloughs, and bushes – everything raptors need for survival -- are being eliminated so computer-controlled machinery can make maximum use of every inch of territory.
But there’s enough of the landscape left that Andre, who grew up on the West Coast, returned from this year’s trip to Saskatchewan marveling at the beauty of the prairies. “It is just too bad the camera can't capture the sky and the wind and the vastness of the horizon,” he wrote when he sent me his photos from the trip, knowing I am a prairie native. “It also fails when trying to record the beauty and variety of the coulees. So many breathtaking sights.”
|Raptors are often found around deserted homesteads like this one. What a wonderful family home this would have been!|
|Another old house, with one of the bird-banders in the doorway.|
|Andre's son Sam with one of the more than 70 birds that were banded on the trip.|