Friday, 1 June 2012

Home Sweet Home

After spending most of May in Ontario and BC, we were looking forward to being home for a few days.  Some TLC might be a refreshing change to the daily interchange of barbs regarding ones eating, sleeping and birding habits!  However, being at home didn’t mean we wouldn’t be birding.  Although our Ontario and BC trips netted most of the bird species regularly seen in Alberta, we still had a few targets.

On Monday, Ray and I ventured to the Water Valley area northwest of Calgary.  Our first stop was along Horse Creek Road and we heard Yellow Rail calling as soon as we got out of the car.  We tapped two stones together to try to entice it into view but the bird didn’t play along.  At this same site, we expected Nelson’s and Le Conte’s Sparrows but did not get either one.

Our next stop was Perrenoud Nature Reserve to look for Connecticut Warbler.  Perrenoud is the best spot around Calgary for this bird but none were singing.  In fact, it was very quiet with only a Hairy Woodpecker, House Wren and Tennessee Warbler making their presence known.  We then drove further along Grand Valley Road to the Winchell Lake area.  It was quiet at both the lake and the slough to the east but, just as we were about to leave, Ray spotted a Solitary Sandpiper.  At the same time, an Alder Flycatcher called from its hiding spot.  We ended up with 3 new team birds but only saw one of them.
Solitary Sandpiper
On Tuesday, I joined Mike and Phil at the Weaselhead area in Calgary.  Our targets were Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Least Chipmunk and Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (all seen the previous day by Bob Lefebvre and Dan Arndt).  The Least Chipmunk was easy – right where Bob told us it would be.  These animals are quite common and we saw 3 more on our walk.  Next up was the ground squirrel – it has some holes right beside the path.  However, there were lots of people around so the animal either stayed in its hole or was in the bushes.  As for the sapsucker, we heard it call and got brief glimpses but could not determine whether it was a Yellow-bellied or Red-naped (both have been seen in the area).  We had a very enjoyable 10 km morning walk but only one new species.
Least Chipmunk

On Wednesday, Ray, Mike and I headed southeast of Calgary.  At our first stop, just east of Third Lake, we saw a White-faced Ibis which was a catch-up bird for Ray and me.  From there we headed to the SW corner of Namaka Lake where we had seen Upland Sandpipers in the past.  We spent about 10 minutes scanning the fence posts and finally Ray heard the sandpiper calling.  We quickly found the bird on a distant post and had decent scope views.  Our final target for the morning was an American Badger.  My wife’s cousin has them on her farm near Chestermere.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t there to give us more specific directions and we didn’t find one.  Our consolation was a Le Conte’s Sparrow singing near the house.

Our final outing for the week was a repeat of our Monday travels, this time with Phil along as well.  The same stops (but in a different order) yielded a Yellow Rail (heard only) catch-up for Phil, a very distant Nelson’s Sparrow at the same location, catch-up birds Alder Flycatcher and Solitary Sandpiper for Phil and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  We also had great looks at an American Beaver and Great Gray Owl.
American Beaver

Our four morning trips netted us 7 new birds and 1 new mammal.  We are off to the Yukon shortly so we will still have a few Alberta birds to find when we get back:  Connecticut Warbler in the NW, Lark Bunting, Baird’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow and Burrowing Owl in the SE and Dusky Grouse in the SW.  If we have time, we may make a trip NE for Mourning Warbler, Sedge Wren and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (all are possible on our forthcoming east coast trip).

That’s all for now – next post (if we have internet) from the land of the midnight sun.

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