Wednesday 6 June 2012

Western Canada Road Trip Part 1 (Critters)

May 7th 2012.
I had no idea what to expect when I left Langley on a twenty-one day birding trip on May7, 2012. First stop was Manning Park where the only birds were a few robins, a black-capped chickadee and a yellow-rumped warbler.
Black bear/Manning Park
Snow was still clinging to the shaded areas of the campsite and the Similkameen River had risen a foot overnight.  Soon after leaving the campsite I came across a Black bear eating grass at a roadside salt lick. Soon a number of others stopped and asked me to take pictures with their cel phones. Eventually, fed up with all the attention the bear growled and we all ran for our vehicles. As I approached Princeton a herd of ten or more Mule deer took little notice of me or the passing cars.
Coyote/Christmas Pass B.C.
A Coyote posed for picture after picture at Christmas Pass.
My three week sojourn would eventually see me spend 10 days in the Okanagan, two days in Creston, five days in Saskatchewan which included a wicked snowstorm. On the way back, a night in the Elk Horn area of Cypress Hills, Alberta, a damp night in the Rockies at Lake Louise where a Raven stole my bread. The trip finished in Vernon and then back home.

There were special moments everyday. The highlights were the new sighting like the Yellow-breasted chat (a special thanks to Russell Cannings for all his advice on location) 
At Cypress Hills I was in search of songbirds but only found three Wild turkeys that woke me up at 4.45a.m. Some birder I am, I didn't even know there were Wild turkeys in Canada! It is said the Turkey call can be heard a mile away, these birds were just feet away so needless to say I didn't need my alarm clock!
Other highlights were a Burrowing owl that I happened to flush while walking through a farmers field. It settled on a fence post, posing briefly with an angry glare.
Finally, if that wasn't enough, I tracked down a Piping plover at Chaplin IBA Saskatchewan.

See more about the Piping plover at
An endangered species with an estimated population of 5700 in North America. There are 50-200 at Chaplin which is on the Trans Canada just west of Moose Jaw, Sask. After much scanning the lake I managed to shoot this grainy record shot from the road (below) I now know where my next trip will based.
Piping plover, Chaplin Lake( IBA)

On the last day I photographed a Clay-colored sparrow (see separate post) near Vernon bringing the total of "lifers" for the trip to 35 with a further 70 species photographed. One bird I didn't manage to photograph was the Brown thrasher at Writing on Stone Provincial Park in Alberta. I did however join a very hospitable group of Alberta birders who were taking part in a May long weekend bird count. Being a typical Vancouverite I high-tailed out just before the snow was expected to fall only to spend the next six hours battling snow from Medicine Hat to Regina.

Please see Western Canada Road Trip Part 2 for more photography.

1 comment:

  1. Nice job - I have yet to see my first Piping Plover, so may have to go to Saskatchewan sometime and find them!