A month in AB – then birding in SK – YAY!

Caught up on a bunch of stuff after returning from the south.  It was good to see family, especially Mom!  Jane had left our home sparkling, as usual, so it was nice to be there.  Egads – Robyn and Arnie eloped in Tofina April 1st – HOLY MACKEREL!  Way to go you 2!

Now we’re in Swift Current for 6 days.  A lovely drive in sunny weather, arriving to calm winds and 15C!  Took awhile to get set up again, ran some errands, ate out and early to bed – 7:20 PM!!  Slept for nearly 12 hours!

May 10:  Mother’s Day.  We celebrated with my Mom last week (dinner and a movie, plus a few other gifts).  So, our first really good day of birding was to SK Landing on Diefenbaker Lake.  We walked in the morning in t-shirts only – light wind and high 15C.  The crocuses (croci?) are finished, but we found a few flowers blooming.

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These early blue violets were profuse in a sheltered path – I’ve never seen so many all at once!

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On the north side of the lake, where the campgrounds are, these pink bushes (not sure what they are) are gorgeous.

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We saw a couple of these huge bumble bees – this one on a dandelion.  They are fat and slow-moving.

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Of course the ground squirrels are out in full force – though it was interesting that we didn’t see many hawks.

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On the lake a few Am. White Pelicans were floating around.  They have grown a special nose protuberance for spring mating!  It disappears after breeding season.

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The first birds we saw were these 2 Barn Swallows.  Only 2 amongst many, many Tree Swallows, which have taken up most of the nest boxes along the road.  Next to the little pond here was a Brown Thrasher singing, bukt Bill did’t have his camera set up yet!

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My favourite bird of the day was Mountain Bluebird.  We saw both male and female – this bright blue male was set off so nicely by a yellow post.

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Two different woodpeckers drummed in the equestrian campground,  but only this male Downy was photographed.  The male Hairy was also busy.

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There were a few sparrow species – the most common Vesper.  They have a distinct rust shoulder and lots of nice face markings – plus a beautiful song!  They sang everywhere we walked today.

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This Spotted Towhee  sang from a blossoming branch.

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Two Caspian Terms hunted fish along the shore of the lake.  This is 1 of about 30 photos, which, if seen quickly, show the complete act of hovering and diving for fish!  We also managed to find a Clark’s Grebe, among only 5 Western Grebes on the far side of the lake (their usual spot).

Interestingly, not a single warbler was seen – not even a Yellow-rumped!!  It is obviously a bit early.  Our pals who just returned from a successful AZ birding trip (with a total of 170 species – and a 5-year grand total of 238!) – have not sent those warblers up here yet!

May 11:  To the east of us, Reed Lake has a road running through the lake, but it was closed because it was washed out!  It is our favourite place to spot shorebirds, so we were sorely disappointed.  However, ther sloughs everywhere are so full, there is very little habitat (mud flats) for those guys.  Onward to Chaplin Lake, where we did get some much wished-for species!

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One of our first sightings was this Black-necked Stilt in the slough outside the town of Morse.  We’ve seen them here before, so were specifically looking.  This guy was chattering away to beat the band!  This is especially for Lorne!

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A Marbled Godwit has a huge bill for probing the mud.  It is not often we see it slightly agape!  As you can see our winds were very calm, enabling a lovely reflection.

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Another one for Lorne is this Avocet.  We have a wooden model in our bathroom at home, behind the sink, reflected in the mirror.

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We saw many Eared Grebes, but only a few Horned.  It is amazing how much birds can change from winter to summer.  Here is the Horned Grebe in winter (from the internet).

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Onward to Chaplin Lake, where we did get some much wished-for species.

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Here are a couple of Semi-palmated plovers.

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Very similar, but smaller, and more delicate, is a Piping Plover.  They are monitored since they are quite an endangered species.  It’s wonderful to be able to see them when we can.  Unfortunately Bill is having issues with his lens or camera and sometimes the photos are a but blurry.  These are for the record only and he apologizes for the quality.

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Another bird we don’t often see are these Red-necked Phalaropes.  They occurred alongside the more common Wilson’s, which I didn’t bother including (sorry guys!).  They are one of only a few species of bird where the female is the prettiest of the sexes – and she doesn’t raise the young – it’s left ot the males! HA!

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Here is another bird we don’t often see – Short-billed Dowitchers.  Long-billed are more common.  Their bills aren’t very much shorter, but there is a definite difference between them.

The next 2 species aren’t very common in SK, so we were happy to record them.

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First we found 3 Cattle Egrets near Old Wives’ Lake.  Here’s one, a but blurry again.

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Also common in AB but not so much in SK are White-faced Ibis.  They lose most of their rust color in winter and look black.

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This Black-crowned nNight Heron sat for its photo, even though we pulled up right alongside it.  It did not get off its one leg, just continued to sit there.  Thanks bud!

It got windier as the day progressed, so a good day for birding from the truck.  There were sloughs everywhere, mostly much fuller than normal – evidenced by sunken trees!  It is an exciting time for birders and we had a marveous day!

Think I’ll post this, since Bill is working today there are so many photos!  More later!

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