John Macoun.

Manitoba and the great North-west: the field for investment; the home of the emigrant, being a full and complete history of the country .. online

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sport to obtain them, as they always lie close amongst the
grass and have to be taken on the wing. I have never
noticed the Black Duck in any part of the North-West, nor
do I know that others have. Teal are in great numbers,
and these with the Spoon-bill make up the greater part of
the ducks, south of the Touchwood Hills, prior to the migra-
tions. It is scarcely credible the myriads of ducks that fill
every pond and marsh in September and October, and no
description could give an adequate picture of the astonishing
sight. On the margin of a pond, the Tattlers are running
backwards and forwards, making all manner of discordant
noises. Killdeer Plover, Ring-necked Plover, and eight
or ten species of Sandpipers are just as busy. Red-breasted
Snipe are in hundreds, and very busy thrusting their long
bills into the mud. Outside the line of waders are the
Spoonbills and Teal, and still farther out, the Widgeon and
Butter Ball, but we want none of these — they are too small
and not worth shooting for food. Behind a tuft of sedges,
we hear the " Quack " of the Mallard, and we still lie close
though sorely tempted. Sailing majestically from behind
the sedge, comes a fine drake, followed by three ducks.
They are in line, and a good shot will fetch them all. Aim-
ing ^at their heads, the gun is fired, and with loud cries all
the life of the pond rises with a roar like thunder, and
darkens the air with their numbers. Four ducks, each
larger than a very fine tame duck, are struggling in the



36G MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.

pond, they are picked up, and a supper for six is soon in the
little camp behind the ridge.

The Mergansers, or, as we call them, " Saw-bills," are
river ducks, and often during the month of August, will
keep before a boat for days, as it passes up or dowu a river.
They are beautiful ducks Ijut poor food, except men are on
short allowance, when they are considered valuable. By
their aid, I was enabled, lust summer, to accomplish my
work when food grew scarce, and it was only when full
supplies of food were ol)tained that we discovered they were

_ii-^litj.

Order Vni. Steganopodes .

White Felicaii, Pelecanvs irachyrhynchus. Lulh.

Itouljle-crested Cormorant, Gracuhis dilophux. Oray.

Pelicans are numerous on Long Lake, Old Wives Lakes,
■and Gull Lake, north of Cypress Hills. These are their
breeding places on the plains. They are very abundant, as
well as the Cormorants on Lake Winnipegoosis, and doubt-
less many of the large northern lakes. On many of the
rivers are Pelican Rapids, because here, they sit on the
boulders, watching for the fish which are ascending the
rapids. In 1875, when ascending Beaver River, we came
to the Pelican Rapids on that river. Numerous Pelicans
were sitting on the large boulders in mid stream, and all
but one flew at our approach. At first, I was amused at
the contortions this one was making, but it was only when
the bow Indian seized a pole, and the others put all their
energy in the paddle, that I realized that the bird could not
rise. When we were almost within striking distance he
made a greater effort than before, heaved his load of fish
into the river, and sailed away. We only remembered the
guns when the shooting was out of our power. Lying be-
side me, as I write, is a Pelican's pouch, sixteen inches long
and nine inches deep, so it can easily be seen that they
have space for a considerable load.



BIRDS OF THE NORTH-WEST.



367



Order IX. Longipennes.



Herring Gull,
Ring-billed Gull,
American Mew Gull,
Franklin's Rosy Gull,
Bonaparte's Gull,
Forster's Tern,
Common Tern,
Black Tern,
White-Winged Black Tern,



Larus argentatus, Bniiin.

" Delawarensis, Ord.

" brachyrhynchus, Rich.

" FranhUniy Rich.

" Philadelphia, Gray.
Sterna Forsteri, Null.

*' JTirundo, Auct.
Ilydroclielidon lariformis, Cuues.
" nigra, Gray.

All the gulls and terns, except the last one, are abundant
on Lakes Manitoba and Winnipegoosis. On the lakes of
the prauie, Franklin's Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, and the
Ring-billed Gull are quite common. As they vary much
in immature states, an amateur may be led to believe he
has many species when he has only three. The Black Tern
is very common in all marshy tracts on the prairie, and
seems more like a large species of Swallow than a Tern.
On a small lake, at the head of Swan River, a few of the
White-Winged Black Tern were observed, and one was
shot This is an extremely rare bird. Forster's and the
Common Tern are very plentiful on the larger lakes in the
forest country, and enliven many a sand bar and group of
bare rocks heaped up by ice in the shallow of a northern
lake.

Order X. Pygopodes.



Colymbus torquatus, Briinn.

" sepientrionalis, L.

Podiceps occidetitalisj Coues.

" cristatus, Lath.

" rubricoUis, Bon.

" comutus, Lath.

" auritus, Nutt.
Podilynibus podiceps, Lawr.



Great Northern Diver, Loon,
Red Throated Diver,
Western Grebe,
Crested Grebe,
Red-necked Grebe,
Homed Grebe,
American Eared Grebe,
Dab-Chick,

The two latter aie quite common on the deep pools which
are found on some parts of the prairie, and occasionally a
loon may be seen in the larger bodies of water. On Water
Hen River and Lake, the Western and Red-necked Grebe
breed in great numbers. Their nests are built on the old



368



MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.



Hedges, and rise and fall with the water. Here, the In-
dians collect large numbers of eggs in the proper season, and
one old fellow, last season, astonished me by the remark
that he cmild have fresh eggs all summer. On enquiry, I
learned that he went regularly' to the same nests, and never
took all the eggs, so that- he kept the poor bird laying all
summer. The various species of Grebe, the Coot, and Bittern
are all called W;iter Hens hy Indians, but more especially
the ^a'st mentioiied . The Western Grebe is a very beautiful
and graceful bird. Its length averages nearly thirty inches,
including the bill which is very narrow and sharp-pointed.
Underneath it is a pure glussj^ white, from the base of the
hill to its other extremitj'. The upper part of tlie head and
neck are .sooty black, back and wing coverts greyish-black
becoming lighter nn the lower part of the back. This bird
seems to ho altogether miknowii in tlie interior, and yet it
has brud in tliousands, at Water Hen River, from time im-
memorial, l^p to the present, it has oidv \>vn known From
the Pacific Coast.

I place the whol<.' scries of birds in tlie ff)llowing table,
merely giviua', ]i()we\-ei'. the Orders. Families. Genera. ari<l
S]iecii's : —

i'Sj/iKij^iti'yll Tiihli .



OltDER ,


I-'AMIM


! (!1-\P,H \


sr'KCIKS


Passin'CF


Turdiila.

Saxicolida!

Cinclidai.
















Sylviida?

Paridic ,

Troqlodytid.T


1


.




Alaudid.'e

Mofacillida^

Sylvicolidar^

Hinindinid;c

Ampclida;

VireonidfE

I>aniiida5


1

I

1






IT





-^




Friiiffillidai

IrturidiH

Coi-vida^. ...
Tymiiiiiida'


■_'l)
1


.,.,




10

8



BIRDS OF THE NORTH-WEST.



369



ORDER.


FAMILY.


SENERA.


SPECIES.


Ficariae


Cypselidag


1
2

1
1
1

5
8
9
1

1
6
3
1
2

11
2
1
3

14
1
1
3
1
2


1




Caprimuligidas ....


2




Trochilidie


1




Alcedinid^e


1






1




Picidse


8


Raptores

it


StrigidsB


9


FaloonidsB


14


11


Cathartidse


1


ColumbEe


Columbidffi

Tetraonidae


1
12


Grallatores..


Charadriidae


5


II




1


li


Phalaropodidas


2


I


Scolopacidae


20


u


ArdeidsB


3


a






u


Eallidas


3


TiATTipl HrnstrfiR


Anatidse


"6






1


u


Phalacrocoracidaa


]










CoIymbidEe


2


H




6








OEDEES.

PassereE

Picariae


Recapitulation.

FAMILIES.

1 17

1 6

1 3

1 1

1 1

1 7

1 1

1 2

1 1

1 2


GENEHA
65
11

18

1

6
23
U

2

3

3


SI


>ECIES-

103
14
24


Columbae

GallinEe

Giallatores

Steganopodes

LongipenneB

Pygopodes


1

12

36

26

2

9

8



10



41



146



235



I have been careful to introduce no species into the fore-
going catalogue of which I had not seen specimens east of
the Rocky Mountains and west of Winnipeg. "When a
better knowledge is obtained of the country a few species
will be added, so that we may say the Avi-fauna of the
territory, leaving out the Arctic birds, is about 250 species.
The few notes appended will be read with interest by many
parties settling in the country, as they were written on the
ground.

24



370 MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.

While encamped at Grand Valley (now Brandon) on the
Assiniboine, numerous birds, common in Ontario, were ob-
served, such as Meadow Larks, Robins, Blackbirds, Cow
Birds, Bob-o-links, Bitterns, and numerous finches, which
were breeding either on the prairie or in the bush along the
river. On the prairie the Kill Deer Plover was noticed, and
on the drier upland the " Prairie Plover" or Bartram's Tatt-
ler was occasionally seen. Farther west these birds were quite
common, the latter on the prairie and the former along the
lakes or ponds throughout the country. One evening in July
we pitched our camp close to the nest of a Kill Deer Plover,
at this time one little bird being hatched out and the other
emerging from the shell. In our presence she assisted the
chick out of the shell, and as soon as both were able to stand
she coaxed them away from the nest, and before dark had
them safely hidden away in the sedges bordering the pond
from which we obtained our water.

On the sand hills at Flat Creek two fine specimens of the
Long Billed Curlew were obtained. One or two others were
shot near the Cypress Hills, but it was a very rare bird and
seldom seen. In the marshes east of Moose Mountain both
the Sand Hill Crane and the White Crane were breeding,
together with the Phalaropes. These beautiful and interest-
ing birds were quite numerous near Moose Mountain. The
Shoveller or Spoonbill Duck, the American Widgeon, the
Green Winged Teal, the Blue Winged Teal, and the Mal-
lard were breeding in or near the marshes, and their eggs
were occasionally obtained. Skimming over these eastern
marshes, and occasionally darting down to the surface, was
the beautiful Black Tern.

On the great plain west of Moose Mountain few birds
were met with, but on the eastern side flocks of the Yellow
Headed Blackbirds were seen around ponds, and on the
western part near Moose Jaw Creek, the rare and interest-
ing White Winged Blackbird was met with. The common-



BIRDS OF THE NORTH-WEST. 371

est bird on this prairie was the Chestnut Collared Bunting,
although never recognized after this.

In the vicinity of the Coteau we reached a few salt water
ponds, and here obtained numerous specimens of the beauti-
ful Avocet, which were very plentiful around all the salt
lakes on the western plains, and so fearless that we had no
difficulty in shooting all the specimens we desired. On the
same pools were the Marbled Godwit and the Willet or Stone
Snipe, both large and beautiful birds. Numerous sand-
pipers and many of the smaller snipe were abundant, and
during the months of August and September could have
been shot by the hundred as they waded or swam in the
various pools or lakes we passed.

After the middle of August we began to shoot ducks, and
besides the species mentioned above, the Gadwell or Grey
Duck and Red-breasted Merganser bred in numbers on the
plains. Coots or Mud IJens and Pied Billed Grebe were in
great numbers, and afforded fine sport, as we had to wade
almost up to our neck to obtain our specimens, as they were
very difficult to kill owing to their diving power.

After the middle of September the sea ducks began to
arrive, and it is no figure of speech to say that the ponds
and lakelets were alive with them. For the following six
weeks feathered game of every kind were so abundant that
any person in a week could have shot enough ducks and
geese to have lasted a family all winter. The abundance of
water fowl in the interior is of such importance at this time
when Indians are being fed by the Government, that they
should be compelled to lay in a stock of food for themselves
during the winter. To see hunters perishing of hunger, or
living on supplies furnished by the Government, and at the
same time surrounded by millions of birds is, a paradox ; but
these men carry rifles, and bird shooting to them is a small
business after buffalo hunting. Within a day's journey of
the Cree Reserve on the north side of the Cypress Hills, is



i>iZ MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.

a large lake named by me Gull Lake, which during the last
da}'s of August was literallj' alive with birds, and when one
siiot was enough to supply six of us with a dinner, yet these
Indians were largely depending on the Government rations
at this time, and Colonel McDonald could scarcely persuade
some young men to go and kill a few ducks by liberal offers
of powder and shot. At the Assinilwine Reserve it was
just the same, plenty of birds in the neighborhood but
scarce!}' any attempt made to shoot them, as the men pre-
ferred Government rations to independence. Rifles to-day
are of little value to the plain Indians, and they should be
equired to exchange these for shot guns at an early da}'.

Geese, ducks, and prairie chickens are taking to the stubble
fields in the fall, so that no difficulty will be found by in-
coming settlers to lay up a supply of fat fowl for the winter.
About forty species of game birds were either shot or seen
on the prairie, and it is vciy proljabie that many species
A\'e-re not observed as we were far east of the main migrating
lines. All birds shot were fat, and soup made from the
various species of snipe and plover was considered a great
dainty. Tlie value of the bird crop after the railroad is
built will be enormous, but the destruction of eggs in the
spring by Indians must cense . None but those who reside
in the interior or have been there in the autumn can realiz''
the number of birds living there or passing through at thar,
season.

Hawks were numei'ous, and various species were shot both
on the prairie and in the ri\'er valleys. The sparrow hawk
was always found in tlie vicinity of wood, and frequented
all the stream valleys throu<;h()ut the country Along the
prairie and over ponds and marshes tlie Marsh Harrier was
constantly gliding, and frequently paid the death penalty
for his inquisltiveness. Many fine specimens of Swainsou's
Hawk were shot, and it was only liy obtaining the skins
that we were able to decide on tiie species, owing to the



BIRDS OF THE NORTH-WEST. 373

daxk color of the plumage. This hawk delighted to sail
close along the top of the cliffs bordering a stream, and pick
up any living thing observed. Occasional specimens of the
Rough Legged Hawk were obtained, but it was very wary,
and always soared at a great height. Other species were in
more or less abundance, and one young specimen of the
Bald Headed Eagle was obtained where it was evidently
catching snakes at the margin of a lake.

Owls were not common on the prairie, and only one species
the Short Eared or Marsh Owl, was seen with any degree of
frequency. Along the margin of the woods the Greater
Horned Owl and the Lesser Horned Owl were occasionally
noticed but were apparently rare.

Of the Gull family many fine specimens were obtained at
some of the larger lakes. On the 28th August five species
were shot on Gull Lake, a large sheet of water north of the
Cypress Hills. Franklin's Rosy Gull was secured in fine
plumage, and many of the others in various states and
different ages, so that in twenty specimens one would be
led to believe there were at least ten species.



CHATTER XXII.

Notes on Reptiles, Fishes, and Iiisects.

List of RcptilcK — Snaki's in Hpriug and Autumn — Gathering of Snakes at Livingstone —

SnakoK in BuUrusli Lake — Fisliing for Hiredons — Rattlesnakes — Lizardfc Toads

and FrogR — List of Fishes — Tlie Perclies — The " Dore " — Carp Family — The\> .jlreat
Numbers — Not Considered Good Food — Dried for Dogs and Bait — The Pike or Jaick
Fish — Its Habits — The Cat Fish — Salmon Family — Arctic Salmon — Mountain Trout
— Arctic Trout — Anecdotes — Bow River Trout — White Fish — Their gre^t Value —
White Fish in the Pi-airie Region — In the Forest Region — West of the Mountains —
The little White Fish or HeiTing — Th(^ Gold-eye — Fishing for Gold-eyes in the
-Rivers of the Prairie — Western Pickerel — Its Value — The Loclie or Biu-bot — The
Sturgeon — Fish Supply of the Saskatchewan Valley and Prairie Country — Qu'Appclle
and Long Lake Fisheries — Notes on Insects — Butterflies of the Prairie — Myriads in
June — Absence of Moths — Coleoptera or Beetles — Grasshoppers and their Allies —
Grasshopper Plague — Its Causes and Prevention — Conclusion.

Reptiles are far from numerous in the North- West, yet
wonderful stories are told of the immense numbers of
Garter Snakes {Eutcenia slrtalis) in some localities. At
Stony Mountain, sixteen miles from Winnipeg, they are
seen in myriads in early spring and in September. During
these periods they lie in the sun and coil into terrible look-
ing objects, but are perfectly harmless.

Last autumn they were gathering for their winter sleep
when T was at Livingstone (Swan River Barracks), and as
they were said to be numerous I went to see them. All
accounts I had ever read fell far short of the reality. They
were congregated in and around three basin shaped hol-
lows, which were partly filled with very large boulders,
;ind bordered by a few clumps of bushes. The grass for
rods around was filled with them, and the stones completely
covered. As we approached, a hiss that caused a shudder
to pass through me, greeted us from all sides. A few
hurried steps and Inspector Griesbach, of the Mounted
Police and I, stood on the great boulder, in the centre



NOTES ON REPTILES, FISHES, AND INSECTS. 375

of the hollow, from which the snakes slid as we took pos-
session. As soon as my excited nerves allowed me to look
intelligently around, I saw a sight never to be forgotten.
Coiled on every bush and forming cables from the size of a
hawser up to writhing masses three feet in diameter, were
snakes from one to five feet in length. Around the
hollow, but more particularly on the sunny side, they
lay in great heaps, so closely packed together that
nothing but heads could be seen. It was terrible to look
upon the glittering eyes that were fixed upon us by thou-
sands, and see the forked tongues thrust out and withdrawn
as the perpetual hiss unceasingly fell upon our ears. After
a few minutes we became more accustomed to each other's
society, and now instead of being disgusted with the writh-
ing masses, we saw beauty in every fold. The rays of the
western sun falling on their bodies at every angle, caused
a mingling of color that none but a master pen could depict.

At Bullrush Lake, on the prairie west of Old Wives
Lakes, during the month of July, Bald Headed Eagles and
Eough Legged Hawks were feasting on snakes. The snakes
were catching their food in the lake. I cut one open and
discovered the remains of an animal like a lizard. Having
abundance of fishing lines with us, we set some lines baited
with pork, and next morning hauled out a strange looking
animal. Having seen the Menobranchus {Necturus lateralis)
of the Great Lakes, I took this animal to be a species of
Siredon, possibly Siredon lichenodes, which has been ob-
tained south of the boundary. The specimen looked very
much like an overgrown lizard, but the prominent gills
showed it to be a denizen of the water. It is extremely
probable that many, if not all the Lizard Lakes in the
North-West, get their names from this animal.

Between the Forks of the Bow and Red Deer Rivers,
a species of rattle snake is said to find a home, but I have
never seen it.



376 MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.

I have heard many stories about the number of lizards
ill certain localities, but must confess to a disbelief in the
number. While passing through the Touchwood Hills witlt
Half-breeds, I have always heard of multitudes of lizards,
but never saw one. During the many summers I have
spent on the. prairies. I have observed not more than half a
dozen, and these were very small, seldom attaining a length.
of six inches. Archbishop Tache, in his work on the North-
West, speaking of lizards, says : —

■' Our lizards are of two species— one, rather larger thaji.
the other, is marked with green ; the other is altogether
grey. These animals are very harmless, and are chiefly
found in the centre of the prairie region. They are most
numerous in the small lakes, and in the neighborhood of
the Touchwood Hills. Their only unpleasant points ai'e
their appearance, and desire to approach travellers. Wheii
camping, at certain seasons of the year, it is necessary to
surround one's tent with a small ditch, of which the inner
side is cut vertically, as these lizards climb up only gentle
slopes. Unless this precaution is taken, they come into the
tents in every direction ; and there are many who would
dislike to be either awake, or asleep, on a bed covered with
lizards."

Toads and frogs a)-e aljundant, (^specially the latter. it
is probable that there are at least half a dozen species
of small frogs on the southern prairies. Man\- of them
are very beautiful, and their bright colors were much ad-
mired as we marched across the monotonous plains of the
south. A large frog was seldom seen, except in the woods
or along the rivers of the plains.

The only troublesome animal met with is the leach,
which infests all running streams and most of the lakes.
They are of two species, — one from three to four inches,
the other quite small. While wading around in the ponds,
collecting aquatic plants, my legs havc^ often been covered



NOTES ON REPTILES, FISHES, AND INSECTS. 377

with the smaller species, but these were easily taken oflF
by scraping with a knife. Last season, when ascending
Red Deer River, the men were much troubled with the
larger species, which infested the mud and other debris
found in the river bed. Usually, the men wore old shoes,
without socks, and the leeches would get into the shoes,
and then attach themselves to the ankles or feet. Often
they crawled between the toes, and caused great incon-
venience, as it was extremely difficult to get them off.
When taken off, the blood would flow freely for some time,
but no ill effects followed.

In the enumeration of the fishes, I shall be as accurate
as possible, where no authorities on the subject are attainable,
Richardson's work being so rare, that it is practically beyond
my reach. The value of the fishes of the northern rivers
and lakes is so little known to the world, that some of the
statements regarding their numbers may be looked upoa
with suspicion.

CATAL©GUE OF WESTERN FISHES.
Order. Teleocephali. (The Typical Fishes.)

I. Sub-Order. Acanthopteri. (The Spiny-rayed Fishes.)

family I. Percidse. {Tlie Perches.)

\ . Perca Americana, Schrank. (Common Yellow Perch.)

2. Stizostethium vitreum, Jorden & Copeland. (Wall-eyed Pike. Dory Pickerel.)

Family II. Centrarchidse. {The Sun Fishes.)

:;. Eupomotis, Gill & .Jordon, (Common Sun Fish.)

Family III. Sciamidie. (The Maigres.)

4. Haploidonotue grannlens, Eaf. (Bubblers. Drum. White Perch.)

Family IV. C'ottidie. (The Scidpins.)

5. Cottus cognatus, Rich. (Northern Sculpin.)

//. Sub-Order. Anacanthini. {The Jugular Fishes.)

Family V. Oadidse. (The Cod Fishes.)

6. Lota maculosus, Less. (Methy Burbot.)

7. " compressa, Less. (Ling or Eel-Pout.)



378 MANITOBA AND THE GREAT NORTH-WEST.

///. Sub-Order. Hemibranchi. {The Half-Gilled Fishes.)

Family VI. Gasierosteidsc. (The Sticklebacks.)

8. Gasterosteus concinnus, Rich. (The Stickleback.)

IV. Siib-Order. Haplovii. (The Toothed Minnoios.)

Family VII. Escoidcc. {The Pikes.)

9. Esox nobilior, Thomp. (Muskalhinge. )

10. " lucius, Linn. (Pike or Jack-Fish.)

F. Sub-Order. Isospondyli. {The Trout-like Fishes.)

Family VIII. Salmonidsc. (The Trout.)

1 1 . Halmo salar, L. (Great Sea Salmon.)

12. " quinnat, Rich. (The Columbia River Salmon.)

13. " Scouleri, Rich. (The Ekewan or British Columbia Salmon.)

14. ■' Rossii, Rich. (Roes'b Arctic Salmon.)

15. " Hearnii, Rich. (Coppermine River Salmon.)

16. •' namaycush, Block. (Great Lake Trout. )

1 7. siscowet, Agassiz. (Lake Superior Trout.)

18. Mackenzii, Rich. (The Inconnu.)



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