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It’s official – the snow is gone, the sun is shining*, the days are long and the elm trees are green. It’s spring! And alongside the blooming bulbs and blossoming fruit trees, the sun has brought out an abundance of brand new wildlife that I couldn’t help but share with you. I hope you enjoy this little journey into the urban fauna of Saskatoon.

(*I confess that as I write this, I’m listening to the beautiful sounds of a spring thunderstorm. But… mostly the sun is shining).

In bloom

The streets are lined with the gold of conifer pollen

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Blossoms are everywhere. The nature strips on my morning walk to work have exploded with colour and bulbs are peaking their way up through the soil in every garden. And oh, the conifer pollen! The streets are lined with gold!

Look up!

Now, I love Australian fauna. I especially love Aussie birds. But as the elm trees lining Munroe Ave have put on all their greenery, the warm weather has coaxed back a stunning array of bird life – and they vary from adorable to stunning.

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Black-billed magpies

These guys were the first ones back after winter – or maybe they never left. Also called the American magpie, they belong to a completely different family to their Aussie counterparts (they’re Corvids, like our crows!). Although they have similar black and white colouring on the ground, in flight they are stunningly beautiful, with iridescent blue in their long tail plumage.

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Photo courtesy of Kicking Bull Gallery
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Highly engineered nests

Despite their beauty (I’ve been longingly watching the ground for one of those amazing tail feathers), my favourite thing about them are their nests. Instead of the standard open-style tree nest, these guys fashion a 3D dome nest of twigs that they can disappear into. I’m sure it’s warm.

Although they don’t warble, they’re  chatty, social, and adorably inquisitive – check out this footage of a maggie in the Rocky Mountain NP and be prepared to fall in love.

Robins

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These sweet, secretive little fellows were the next to appear in early spring. They’re much larger than their teeny European namesake, so it took a bit to convince me that they really were Robins.

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Although they don’t really look all that similar, their behaviour and movement is identical to the common black birds we get at home (Bren figured it out, not me – I thought they were similar to those pesky Indian mynas that roost in chimneys and wake you up at dawn). Anyway, he was dead right – they’re in the same genus.

That’s right – my husband picked that these two birds were in the same genus, based on behaviour alone. Gosh he impresses me.

Bluejays

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Photo courtesy Canadian Geographic

I’ve only been lucky enough to spot one of these, and I certainly wasn’t quick enough to snap a picture – this one is from Canadian Geographic. Apparently they’re highly migratory birds, so I dearly hope we see more of them as the weather warms up and they return to the northern corner of their habitat range. So pretty.

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Bren did find a feather though. He’s much better at this game than me…

 

 

 

 

 

Look down…

Prairie dogs

Oh. My. Gosh. These guys are my new favourite things. I want to keep them as pets. I practically squeal each time I see their little faces poking out of the ground. Like, seriously.

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Prairie dogs (named for their delightful barking noises – see the video link above) are a type of ground squirrel. They’re highly social, living in large colonies called “towns”, and they build extensive, highly organised burrows to nest in, and to shelter from the severe prairie whether.

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Ok, I get that they’re pests. I get that they dig ridiculously huge underground homes and cause loads of damage to lawns, farmland and crops. I get that their funny, poorly placed burrow holes are a danger to life and limb (well…ankles).

 

But I gaze out the window at them frolicking in the grass and they just make me smile.

Jack Rabbits

2016-04-19 17.13.361I’ve come across a few of these fellows over the last couple of months, and I’ve loved watching them change colour as they lose their white winter coats in exchange for the prairie-brown of summer. They’re much bigger than bunnies – bigger than Morgan, and much more heavyset than Aussie hares. My favourite thing about them is that they are totally unperturbed by my presence – they glance over at me, and when they decide I’m close enough, they casually amble away.

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I’ve got no idea how territorial or migratory they are, but I think we’ve got two nearby – one fellow who lives on our block, and whom I occasionally surprise nibbling on our front lawn late at night; and this guy, who lives in a nearby park. Look at those spectacular ears!

 

 

 

If you go down to the river today…

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With long, sunny evenings stretching out before us each day after work, we’ve been wandering down to saunter along the banks of the South Saskatchewan river, which flows north through the centre of Saskatoon. Lush with the green of spring, it’s not only beautiful, it’s also a wonderful place to spot local wildlife without leaving the city.

Beavers

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – but it wasn’t this! Yes, that’s a beaver gnawing through a log the size of my leg. No, they’re not really that cute. Actually, they kind of resemble giant-swimming-rat-guinnea-pigs – and they’re not even the largest of the rodent family! And yet, despite their formidable teeth, and their frighteningly hand-like claw-paws, they’re kind of adorable. I mean, I wouldn’t hug one – but look at their faces! (I took the top photo through Bren’s binoculars!!)

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As a quick aside, cartoon beavers may be way off the mark, but cartoon beaver logs? Perfectly depicted.

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Canada Goose

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It takes a village to raise a child – and seemingly a gaggle to raise a gosling. We found these elegant birds paddling quietly upstream in near-perfect alignment, and we watched as their elders harried them up onto the sandy bank in this little alcove. Canada geese return to the same nest each year, and return to the same area as they hatched – and goslings can communicate with their parents while they’re STILL IN THE EGG! Maw.

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Makes you miss your mum, doesn’t it?

Love you all.

jx

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