IBA Chaplin Lake
Chaplin, Saskatchewan
Site Summary
SK033 Latitude
50.365° N
106.607° W
668 - 671 m
171.41 km²
native grassland, inland saline lake, freshwater marsh
Land Use:
Agriculture, Nature conservation and research, Other, Rangeland/pastureland, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Agricultural pollution/pesticides, Drought, Extraction industry, Interactions with native species/disease, Industrial pollution
IBA Criteria: Globally Significant: Threatened Species, Congregatory Species, Shorebird Concentrations, Nationally Significant: Congregatory Species
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
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Site Description
Chaplin Lake is situated in south central Saskatchewan, near the town of Chaplin. It is a large saline lake approximately 35 km in length and up to 10 km wide (after the Quill Lakes, it is the second largest saline lake in Canada). The lake is divided into four sections by a series of dykes and roads that were constructed as part of a sodium sulphate mine development on the north shore. Extensive marshes are located in the southern half of the lake. Water levels fluctuate considerably, with extensive mudflats becoming exposed during the late spring and summer; during some years the lake may become completely dry by mid-summer.
Chaplin Lake supports tremendous numbers of shorebirds, especially during spring migration. One-day aerial surveys in 1987, 1993, and 1994 yielded estimates of 59,773, 73,359, and 55,127 respectively. For 1994, species peak numbers on Chaplin Lake provided a total count of 110,061. One of the most abundant species at this site is Sanderling; although a site specific number is unavailable, (estimates for Chaplin and Old Wives Lake were combined) the average number was 55,471 for both these lakes. This may represent as much as 30% of the estimated North American population. Large numbers of Baird's Sandpipers (29,862 in the spring of 1987 as much as 21% of the world's population), Semipalmated Sandpipers (30,404 in the spring of 1987 and 28,796 in the spring of 1994), and Stilt Sandpiper (4,349 in May, 1993, representing 4.3% of the global population) have also been recorded at Chaplin and Old Wives Lake. Other shorebirds that have been recorded in large numbers at Chaplin Lake include American Avocet (2,685 1994; over 4% of the estimated Canadian population), Red-necked Phalarope (7,755 1994), Wilsons Phalarope (7,100 1984, and 6,192 1994; both approximately 1% of the Canadian population).

Chaplin Lake also supports a significant breeding population of the nationally endangered and globally vulnerable Piping Plover. As many as 205 adults were recorded during the 1996 International Piping Plover Census (about 3.4% of the world's estimated population). Over a three-year period (1996-1998) an average of 169 breeding Piping Plovers were recorded. Burrowing Owls, another nationally endangered species, have also been recorded nesting in the grasslands surrounding the site.

Of additional ornithological interest is the presence of nesting Snowy Plovers in 1987 (2 pairs 1 female appeared to be incubating). Since 1987, this species has been reported on several occasions. This site is one of only three known breeding locations for Snowy Plover in Canada. Also, two species that are nationally vulnerable, the Ferruginous Hawk and the Long-billed Curlew, nest in the surrounding grasslands in small numbers.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Baird's Sandpiper 1994 FA 3,439
Baird's Sandpiper 1987 SP 29,808
Piping Plover 1995 OT 154
Piping Plover 2012 - 2017 SP 13 - 29
Piping Plover 1984 - 2019 SU 13 - 359
Red Knot 1993 SP 1,122
Sanderling 2018 FA 3,500
Sanderling 1987 - 2020 SP 2,658 - 52,984
Sanderling 1996 - 2020 SU 2,525 - 17,120
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1987 - 1994 SP 28,796 - 30,404
Stilt Sandpiper 1999 SP 7,000
Whooping Crane 2009 FA 1
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
Threats to the lake include cattle access to the Piping Plover beaches as well as vegetation encroachment. There have been some efforts to improve nesting habitat for Piping Plovers with gravel being spread on the shore during the winter of 1987-88. The entire west bay and Midtskogen Bay have been designated as critical Piping Plover habitat, along with portions of the east and south bays. Critical Piping Plover habitat is protected under the Provincial Wildlife Protection Act. Chaplin Lake, along with nearby Old Wives and Reed Lakes, was designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) site for both staging shorebirds and endangered species.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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