June 22-July 3 2015 The Return Trip
Bas-St-Laurent/Rimouski/Parc National du Bic to Toronto.
Bas-St-Laurent/Rimouski/Parc National du Bic to Toronto.
|Morning fog rolls off the Saint Laurent River at Parc National du Bic.|
After driving through a wet and soggy New Brunswick I spent a few days relaxing in Quebec. I arrived a day before St Jean Baptiste Day, a Quebec national holiday. On my outward journey I had booked my van in for an oil change not realizing my error. The extra day stopover was a good chance to practice my rudimentary Quebecois. It was enough to order my favourite comfort food, a large poutine with extra gravy. Most Quebecois I spoke to only had a few words of English, some were fluent even the mechanic who changed the oil spoke no English or wasn't comfortable enough so I had my brother-in-law explain some things I might want to fix on the van when I returned home.
Note: I made it back to BC after 20,000 kms with just an oil change. Gotta luv VW Westfalia's.
I stopped off in Ottawa's Andrew Haydon Park for a few hours where a Little Egret had been reported. I searched and searched finding a Great Egret and a Groundhog but no Little Egret. I was about to leave when another birder approached me and one thing led to another and soon were on our way to the other side of the lake where we joined about twenty other birders who were good enough to share their scope views of the rare egret. I believe it is the first record ever for Little Egret in Ottawa. Too far for a photo but yet another lifer for me.
|Great Egret with fish at Andrew Haydon Park, Ottawa.|
Agawa Rock Paintings
The next notable stop after a scenic drive through Northern Ontario was Agawa Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Fortunately Lake Superior was calm and most of the rock paintings were accessible. A precarious 45 degree slope leads to the cliff face and one slip would lead to a very cold dip in the deep water below. The forest trail was very birdy with Magnolia Warbler, Ovenbird, Swainson's Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglets the most evident. The mosquitos were in a miserable mood so I high-tailed out of the woods after visiting the rock paintings.
|Agawa pictographs and rock paintings.|
More on Agawa Rock Paintings
The next stop was Sault St Marie to observe a colony of Chimney Swifts where I shot some video of the swifts but a better version from Tube is posted below. My video only shows a hundred birds. The swifts were lifers for me. It was too dark and they were to far way to photograph but the UTube video shows thousands milling around the post office chimney before plunging down to roost for the night.
More on Chimney Swifts
Chimney Swift Video
Terry Fox Memorial.
As I made my through Northern Ontario I promised myself to visit the Terry Fox Memorial. I have to admit it was an emotional experience. I had lump in my throat as I drove up a beautiful tree lined avenue to the memorial. The site is a fitting memorial to Terry Fox and his legacy. Having just driven from St John's Newfoundland I cannot imagine the effort it must have taken him to reach Thunder Bay where his journey prematurely ended.
Canada Day July 1 2015 Regina Beach, Saskatchewan.
|Regina's Tavria Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble|
July 2-3 The Manitoba Grasslands Birding Trail
"Where the Grassland Birds Still Sing"
The Southwest corner of Manitoba is one of the best places in the province to see grassland birds. There are two well documented routes to take.
A handy map with detailed description of birds that might be encountered can be found at Manitoba Tourism offices along the Trans-Canada.
I based myself in the town of Melita. The community run campground was quiet, clean with heated facilities including laundry and was very affordable at $20 a night. A good place to make a base for a few days. There are also a hotel in town.
On my arrival in the early afternoon I decided I had just enough time to drive the Northern Route with total driving distance of 53kms or 33 miles.
Here are some images from my four hour drive along gravel roads, past historic settlements, old school houses, farms, washed out bridges and incredible scenery.
Note: the speckled head which is normally jet black occurs during the summer and the breeding period.
Swainson's Hawk v Eastern Kingbird.
I include this series of an Eastern Kingbird dive-bombing a Swainson's Hawk. Forest fires made visibility difficult, there was no sunlight even in the late afternoon. There were two Swainson's which I would assume were a pair and they were up to no good. In some pictures the hawks were being attacked by another kingbird, a Red-winged blackbird and a Common Grackle, all at the same time! I think the pictured Swainson's acted as a decoy while the other went after nests. Later I observed the two Swainson's flying over the nearby wetland where both the kingbirds and blackbirds were nesting.
Technically the images are below par as they were taken from quite a distance in lousy light but I think they are interesting enough to publish.
|An Eastern Kingbird comes into harass a Swainson's Hawk|
|The Eastern Kingbird pecks the head of the much larger Swainson's Hawk. |
In some pictures the red crest of the kingbird is clearly show.
|Ouch! I am sure this hawk is more than a little angry.|
|Eared Grebe with young hitching a ride.|
|Another Eared Grebe with s a singlechick.|
I just had to find a Grasshopper Sparrow. I had already found LeConte's and Field Sparrow so a third rare or difficult to find sparrow would be a fitting end to my grassland adventure.
Anyway I drove along gravel roads and some smaller side-roads where the grass scraped underneath the van. I was also on the lookout for Upland Sandpipers which I had seen north of Winnipeg close to Oak Hammock. Because of the remote location I was lucky enough to see several pairs hanging around a cattle pasture. The grasses about the same height as the birds themselves, the perfect nesting site.
I was pretty exited to get this close to such an elegant bird. A few miles down the road I found another bird and set up to photograph it when suddenly its mate or a competitor appeared out of nowhere, flushing my subject.
|Had I looked away for a second I would have missed this scene.|
|Just another Upland Sandpiper!|
A ground nester, a Western Meadowlark collects food and keeps a wary eye open for predators like crows, magpies, coyotes and foxes. She also has to look out for flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds who are looking for a host nest in which to lay their eggs.
|Wilson's Snipe can usually be heard before they are seen.|
|A snipe makes the familiar winnowing sound.|
|Yellow-headed Blackbird binging food to the nest.|
Wherever you find cattle you will see cowbirds. Certain species like the rare Brewer's Sparrow and to some extent the Grasshopper Sparrow need a specific type of grassland to nest in. They prefer native pasture which has been grazed by ungulates. Now that there are very few Pronghorn Antelope and no Bison the grassland is either sown for crops or used for oil extraction.
|Brown-headed Cowbirds look for a host nest.|
Of course, we still haven't learnt our lesson and as I look out at the remaining 3% of Manitoba'a grasslands I wonder why there are new oils wells are even being allowed on the last remnants of native grassland.
"It's never late to start birding"