Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Back in Action!

We've been back from our Yukon/NWT trip for a week now and I think for all of us it's been a time of catching up on the home front. Today however, Brian, Mike and I were able to make a day trip west of town in pursuit of a few key Alberta species we wanted to get before our upcoming swing through Atlantic Canada. Once out of town we drove west along Big Hill Springs Road continuing west along Weadon Trail to Horse Creek Road. Along the way we came across a White-tailed Deer chasing a Red Fox! None of us had ever seen such a thing before. The fox zigged and zagged with the deer always just a pace or two behind until they disappeared over the crest of a hill. I'm sure the fox wasn't at risk but I'm also sure he had no intention of hanging around!

We stopped along Horse Creek Road to listen for Yellow Rail and after a while heard its characteristic tapping quite nearby. Those of you who are experienced with Yellow Rail will know that hearing it is one thing, seeing it is altogether different and once again, we had to settle for "heard only". A good consolation prize was a close up encounter with a Le Conte's Sparrow - not a new year bird but certainly our best view of one this year and possibly ever.

Le Conte's Sparrow
Our next stop was at Perrenoud Conservation Area where we were hoping for Connecticut Warbler. Within a minute or two of stepping out of Mike's van, we heard its explosive song and a few minutes later we spotted it. This bird was indeed a new year bird for us and a key target for the day! It flew in very close at one point allowing for a great photo.

Connecticut Warbler

From Perrenoud we drove back south along Grand Valley Road keeping our eyes peeled for a Badger which we had reason to believe might be found in the area, but not today! Once we reached Highway 1A we drove west stopping in the small but generally "birdy" community of Exshaw. Out target here was a McGillivray's Warbler - a species the rest of team saw on our late May trip to B.C. but unfortunately not while I was paying attention! Brian and Mike assured me we had only to drive to the spot they knew of, get out of the car and wait ten seconds and we'd be on our way again. As is so often the case, the bird had other ideas and after 45 minutes or so we gave up and continued west to Johnston Canyon.

The first thing we noticed in Johnston Canyon was how crowded it was. Why this would be so on a Tuesday morning in mid June I don't know but I have never seen so many people there before. Despite the crowds we walked the short trail up the canyon to the first falls and then beyond. The creek was a raging torrent of water today and made for some spectacular photo ops. Maybe that's why everyone was here? Our objective however was to spot a Black Swift. Black Swifts can be found here quite reliably, nesting on small crevaces in the cliff face that borders the creek in many places. Brian had found a nest site four days earlier so we knew exactly where to go.

More bad luck! The ledge was empty and despite our close scrutiny of the cliff face over a several hundred yard stretch, we could find no sign of it. On the bright side, we had better luck with our key mammal target for today - a Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. We came across many of them along the trail. This is a new mammal species for the year.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
On the way back down the trail we heard a Pacific Slope Flycatcher. It wasn't overly cooperative, flitting around high up in the aspen trees but eventually it must have taken pity on us because it found a nice perch, out in the open and stayed there for several minutes.

Pacific Slope Flycatcher.

From Johnston Canyon we drove a little further west to Moose Meadows, not to find a moose but to listen for a Willow Flycatcher, a species we have seen here in previous years. Sure enough, it is there again this year and we first heard its raspy fitz-bew call and then saw one. From here we travelled on, stopping at one or two more spots but finding nothing new. We were back in Calgary by mid afternoon, happy to have made at least some modest progress on our target species list. Later this week all four of us will make a two day sojourn to southeastern Alberta where - weather permitting - we have a number of species of interest to pursue - a Burrowing Owl for example! Stay tuned!

No comments:

Post a Comment