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When you see the large, white salt deposits near the Trans Canada Highway between Moose Jaw and Swift Current, you're entering the Chaplin Lake area, reverted for it's shorebirds. The Chaplin Lake area was designated a Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network site in May of 1997 with hemispheric importance. This is the highest designation possible and there is only one other site in Canada with this designation, the Bay of Fundy.
Chaplin Lake encompasses nearly 20 square miles (45,000 acres) and is the second largest saline water body in Canada. Shorebird surveys conducted by the Saskatchewan Wetlands Conservation Corporation and Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service revealed that over 30 species, with a peak count of 67,000 birds in a day using the lake.
Counts of over 50,000 Sanderlings, or about 25-50% of their hemispheric population, have been counted in a single day in and around Chaplin Lake. This area is also one of the top four breeding areas in Saskatchewan for the Piping Plover, an endangered species whose principal breeding area is in Saskatchewan.
The Chaplin area fulfills the needs of many North American shorebirds. The area is a bounty of delight for the birds as they banquet on shore flies, brine shrimp, midge larval, and seeds from the salty shores and shallow waters. They intermingle their eating with rest, made easier by the scarcity of predators.The majority of birds that stop in Chaplin stop only briefly before continuing to their nesting grounds in the Arctic. This stop of just a few weeks is very necessary for the birds. They can double their weight during this time. In a pattern repeated for thousands of years, shorebirds link their winter stations in South America with the spring and summer nesting in Canada's prairies and high Arctic. During their passage with some birds flying more than 70 hours and over 5000 kms(3100 miles) between stops, it is critical their needs be met.