Saturday, 17 November 2012

Water Valley Area

This morning Brian, Phil and I set off for a little birding and mammaling northwest of Calgary. The circuit along Horse Creek Rd., Grand Valley Rd., Jack Eby Trail and Winchell Lake is one we make several times each year. This year however, with our rather hectic cross-Canada travels, we have not been in the area quite so often.  It was a lovely morning to get back out there!

While we were not quite as target-driven as usual today, we nevertheless had a number of possible species in mind . On the mammal side, we are ever-hopeful that an American Marten might show up. This is a mammal we fully expected to see this year, but to date - no luck! On the birding side, we had no expectation of a new year-bird but we hoped to come across a Short-eared Owl, or possibly a Spruce Grouse, or maybe an adult Northern Goshawk. Additionally, while new year-birds are unlikely in the area at this point, we're always on the look out for upgrades to our photo collection.

For the most part, it was pretty quiet today but there are always a few active moments and today was no exception. The cone crop is looking good right now and we soon came across good numbers of  Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills.  At one stop we were surrounded by Red-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chickadees, Gray Jays and Blue Jays. There were so many and they were so vocal we expected to see a raptor fly in at any moment but none appeared.

Gray Jays were fairly common.
Around mid-morning we stopped off to visit long-time birder friend Doug Collister and his wife, Barb, who have a wonderful acreage in the area. While enjoying a nice cup of coffee and some baking we added Pine Grosbeaks, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker to the day list. We also had a single Snow Bunting and a single Rough-legged Hawk this morning.

Pine Grosbeak in full colour!
The highlight of the morning however was that ever-hoped for American Marten! One ran across the road 100 yards or so ahead of us. Taking full advantage of his "spanking-brand-new" snow tires, Phil brought the car to a screeching halt and we managed to get fleeting binocular views of the Marten as it scurried away into the forest. Ironically, Phil and his wife Rae had seen an American Marten during a recent trip to Banff but since he had no Fur & Feathers team-mate at his side, it didn't add to our team tally. But this one did, bringing our mammal total to 76 and our combined species total to 505! We had no chance to get a photograph of this Marten but happily, Phil had managed to get a picture of the one he saw in Banff so for fun we have included it below. I don't think Phil is quite as proud of this picture as of the Polar Bear shot he captured in Nunavut this summer but what the's better than nothing!

American Marten

We saw a few other mammals this morning too: White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer, White-tailed Jackrabbit and Red Squirrel. The Red Squirrel posed nicely for us in stunning morning sunlight.

Red Squirrel

Mike couldn't join us today but next week we're all four going to be in town and undoubtedly we'll be out looking for species 506!

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