The Red Coat Trail Hwy 3 to Val Marie and Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
After leaving the Calgary area the plan was to head toward Cypress Hill Inter-Provincial Park and look for warblers. I had visited the area a few years ago and is well known for its Wild Turkeys and Cougars. This time the skies were overcast and apart from a single Osprey and some Vesper Sparrows not a single warbler was to be heard. Eventually I decided to drive south to the Red Coat Trail, a lightly used gravel road. It is here the road splits with the 501 heading west into Alberta and
route 13 East heading toward Saskatchewan and the towns of Eastend and Shaunavon. After that marathon drive it was south on the 37 to Climax and on the Val Marie and into the Grasslands National Park.
It was soon after after turning onto the #13 that I came upon a flock of Longspurs. I thought there was something a little different and when I checked my files later in the day I was surprised and happy to have photographed a McCown's Longspur, my second lifer of the trip. There were so many Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Horned Lark I lost count. I drove another 50-60 kms before seeing habitation.
(Below) Many farms like these in Eastend had signs like the ones below.
I camped in the ranch lands, woke up to a glorious sunrise, was serenaded at breakfast by the Western Meadowlark and watched a Horned Lark feeding right in front of me. I can't get much better than that!
Grasslands National Park
I made my through a succession of small towns always with one eye on the gas tank. The distances between towns could be eighty to a hundred kms. I had breakfast in Consul and chatted to the farmers who were in the process of planting. There had been a frost the previous night so they were debating whether to wait until midday to plant. There's not much oil or gas in south-west Saskatchewan so its mostly ranching and grain crops.
I took this picture below at the entrance of Grasslands National Park. There were at least least 6 nesting birds in the first 200 metres, outside the park entrance where grain crops were being planted and rocks had been removed there were no longspurs. A grassland ground nester, the longspurs likes a rock to perch on which is close to their nest from which they can survey the surroundings.
|Female Sharp-tail Grouse|
|Black-tailed Prairie Dog|
'It's never too late to start birding'