Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Great Gray Owl and Spruce Grouse, with luck on our side

After returning from our enjoyable and successful BC trip, we are back in Calgary working away at our dwindling “winter” target list here. While we’d been gone we’d read reports of sightings in the Water Valley area of Spruce Grouse and Great Gray Owl, birds which had eluded us thus far. Brian and Phil drove up to Water Valley on Monday, and we came across a Spruce Grouse standing on the verge of Grand Valley Road at about 8:00 AM. Brian took a photo from about 50 m away, and we hoped to get closer, but a fast-moving pick-up truck flushed the bird into the forest. If we’d arrived two minutes later, we would have missed it!  
Spruce Grouse near Water Valley

Our hopes of finding a Great Gray Owl were fading as the morning progressed (the birds are best found near dawn and dusk), but at 9:20 AM Brian eventually spotted one next to a tree trunk, an unusual position for a bird which often perches in prominent view. It dropped onto a snow bank and snatched some prey (undoubtedly a mammal we needed), and almost immediately flew off into the forest. Again, a bird we would have missed had we been two minutes later.

The rest of the morning we spent looking for a Northern Goshawk, without success. Still, we enjoyed great looks at 2 Golden Eagles interested in a carcus near Grand Valley road, at least a dozen Rough-legged Hawks, a few Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Northern Shrikes and several Mountain Bluebirds on or near boxes.

Golden Eagle Soaring over Grand Valley Road

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