Thursday, 15 March 2012

Giddy Up

As recent posts have indicated, finding the few remaining “winter birds” we need in Alberta has been difficult, though our bird list is starting to inch up with the arrival of some early migrants. Consequently it is becoming a priority to build our mammal list, and today’s expedition was planned for that purpose.
Our prime objective was Wild Horse, found in only a few locales in Canada. The Sundre region north-west of Calgary is one such area, and we spoke to Jason at Red Deer River Ranches near Sundre kindly gave us very useful advice on where to look.

Leaving Calgary shortly after 6:30 AM, we made our way slowly to the Sundre area, hoping to find Porcupines or Great Gray Owls at recognised spots along the way, but not having any luck. Still, we had nice sightings of Rough-legged Hawks (12 seen today), an American Dipper, a Townsend’s Solitaire (a catch-up species for Mike) and a cow Moose.

By mid-morning the temperature had climbed from minus 7 to plus 5, and we arrived at the start of Williams Creek Road, a logging road which runs into Coal Camp Road about 25 km south of Hwy 584, west of Sundre. The deforested landscape in this area is rather depressing, and we encountered virtually no wildlife as we wound our way up the road, where Jason had recommended we focus our efforts. However, “evidence” of horse at various points on the logging road helped keep our spirits up and eventually, 17 km up the road, we saw a herd of horses about 500 m away.

Wild Horses in the deforested landscape SW of Sundre

Ray and Brian picked their way across the logged-out terrain to get closer and captured definitive shots of the horses. Wild? There were no screw holes in the hoof marks and they were wary of our presence.

Wild Horse
After returning down the logging road, we made our way back to Calgary via the Forestry Trunk Road, Harold Creek Road to Water Valley, and south on Grand Valley Road, arriving home at 4 PM. The wind picked up during the afternoon, and birding became slow but not without interest.
Highlights were three Golden Eagles seen flying north over Grand Valley Road;
 a Northern Hawk Owl by the Forestry Trunk Road;
Northern Hawk Owl

 a male Mountain Bluebird (new species for the year) by Grand Valley Road, and a Ruffed Grouse walking slowly across the road west of Water Valley.

Mountain Bluebird

Ruffed Grouse
A fine day in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains!

Mike, Phil and Brian in the Red Deer River valley, SW of Sundre

1 comment:

  1. Great post, guys. I was up that way on Family Day this year to catch some Wild Horse shots as well, and was very pleased with what I captured, thanks to a well informed guide! Love the Mountain Bluebird shot! I had no idea they'd be back already!

    It's too bad you guys dipped on the GGOs though. I've been up that way a couple times this year to try to find them at their regular spots, also to no avail.