Shorebirds flock to Chaplin each year thanks to a nearby salt mine and a once-thriving brine shrimp industry. Many stay to nest, and others stop to fatten up and rest for the next leg of migration. With a bounty of food to choose from, shorebirds saunter the salty shores and shallow waters, feasting on masses of brine shrimp.
The lake is a principal breeding area in the province for the endangered Piping Plover. It’s a special place that makes the chances of seeing one really quite high — I was fortunate to see a few while visiting. If you’ve ever envisioned what shorebird heaven looks like, I’ve found it here. (For instance, in 1994 a shorebird count tallied 110,061 birds!) With hundreds and thousands of birds, a myriad of species from photogenic American Avocet to tiny, wading Wilson’s Phalarope and more can be found in close vicinity. And if there is a shorebird photo that you have always dreamed of taking, you’re almost certain to get it at Chaplin Lake.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Freshwater marsh, inland saline lake, native grassland, mudflats.
Flat. Tours are done by vehicle along a private dirt road. There’s opportunity to exit the vehicle for better viewing.
More than 180 species. Common: Piping Plover, American Avocet, Red-necked and Wilson’s Phalaropes, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Marbled Godwit, Short- and Long-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstone, Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary, Least, Spotted, and Upland Sandpipers, Willet, Wilson’s Snipe, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, Hudsonian Godwit, Red Knot, Black-necked Stilt. Rarities: Snowy Plover, Burrowing Owl.
When to go
Spring and summer. Shorebird numbers highest in mid-May. Tours run May 18-August 31.
Chaplin Nature Centre offers information on shorebirds, migration, conservation, and history of the brine shrimp and mining industry. Tours are booked through the centre and recent sightings and bird checklists are available. Restrooms and gift shop onsite, and plenty of space to park.
Area managed by Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals, Ducks Unlimited, and the Chaplin Nature Centre. Access is via tours on a private road (only for use by Chaplin Tourism or Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals) or independently along Hwy. 58 (grid road). Tours take visitors in and around the lake in a horseshoe route and cost $10 per person for 30 minutes or $20 per person for two hours.
Ensure your camera has a lens filter. When windy, fine blowing salt covers everything.
For more info
Chaplin Nature Centre, 306-395-2770.
20 minutes west of Chaplin in Morse. The fresh water attracts other shorebirds, particularly Stilt Sandpiper. Features a viewing tower.
About 30 minutes east of Chaplin. This almost unknown prairie oasis features an abundance of waterfowl, prairie birds, raptors, flycatchers, warblers, and, if fortunate, Long-billed Curlew.