Buffer Lake is located 5 km northeast of Vonda, Saskatchewan (about 90 km northeast of Saskatoon). It is a large, shallow lake that is largely dependent on seasonal rains and spring run-off. Extensive mudflats result from periods of drought. Beaches that provide habitat for nesting Piping Plovers are located along the northern and western shorelines. Nearly all of the surrounding land has been cultivated for agricultural purposes.
Whooping Cranes, a globally and nationally endangered species, are regularly recorded at Buffer Lake during fall migration. Between 1975 and 1997 an average of 4 cranes were observed during a total of ten surveys. The migratory Whooping Crane population has increased from a low of 13 or 14 birds in 1941, but still consists of only 183 birds (winter 1998/99).
Buffer Lake is also significant for staging shorebirds. During surveys in the spring of 1987, a one-day count of 10,672 shorebirds was recorded. On another occasion (spring migration during the early 1990s), a total of 12,000 Red-necked Phalaropes was recorded. The site also receives shorebird usage during the fall migration: 834 Baird's Sandpipers; 444 Hudsonian Godwits (almost 1% of the world's estimated population); and 270 Sanderlings have been recorded. This area seems to be important for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper as it is one of the few areas in the province where it still occurs as a regular spring migrant.
Piping Plovers, a globally vulnerable and nationally endangered species, also nest at this site. During the 1996 International Piping Plover census, a total of six plovers were observed. During the 1991 census only three birds were observed.
Buffer Lake, like all shallow lakes in this region, can be negatively affected by extended periods of drought. The resulting increase in salinity may affect primary productivity and subsequent use of the lake by birds. Five small, gravely beaches along the north and west shorelines have been designated as critical Piping Plover habitat (used by one or more pairs of plovers with a reasonable expectation of repeat use). This designation protects the shoreline to the high water mark from development under the provincial Wildlife Habitat Protection Act. The surrounding land is all under private ownership.IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status