Serendipitous encounters with birds are often the subject of this travel blog but sometimes it’s a delightful encounter with human strangers that makes our day on the road. On Friday night we had a sour experience with a bad campground operator at Herbert SK. Just 13 km further along Highway 1 lies the hamlet of Morse whose proximity to a prime birding location drew us there on Saturday morning for breakfast.
Morse is a one-cafe town. In just a few minutes its proprietor, Linda Lalonde, made up for the previous night’s fiasco – in spades. Linda and her husband fell for Morse during a tourist stop four years ago, bought a little fixer-upper house for $5,000 – no, that’s not a typo – and set up their eatery in the oldest building still standing in Morse. They appear as happy as lottery winners. I asked whether she is related to Newsy Lalonde, the great long-ago hockey player. Indeed yes, her granny and the prolific goal-scorer were first cousins.
Newsy’s cousin steered us to the town museum, housed in Morse’s original school building and operated by a young curator, Heather, whose museum just happens to have recently won a national award. We could see why. Heather showed us the highlights of her pride-and-joy; we relished it all.
We lingered in Morse ‘til mid-morning then headed back out into the rain, wind and cold to look for birds. Saskatchewan highway 58, a good gravel road heading south out of Chaplin, delivered the goods. With almost no vehicle traffic we could stop at whatever pond and pothole looked promising. In miserable weather the truck makes a comfortable and effective bird blind. At one stop a gang of barn swallows showed interest in our freshly mud-encrusted rig. A suitable structure for nest building? We moved on.
We picked up trip birds in twos and threes as we drove south to Shamrock, then east on SK 363. A black-crowned night-heron here, black terns and purple martins there. A gang of 15 white pelicans on the wing. By the time we reached Moose Jaw we’d added 18 species to the trip list. It would be nice if the rain and wind would give it a rest for a while but for the time being I’ve mastered Jan’s mantra: I content myself to play the hand we’re dealt.