Heading home!

Feb. 24:  Today is my BFF’s (Sandy) birthday.  She is younger than me (by 3 years – 63 to be exact) & very beautiful – inside & out.

xmas 04 and some earlier

She has an infectious smile & we always have a great time together.  I love you darling San & can hardly wait to get home to celebrate your day!

We headed to Beaver, UT today.  A perfect day for driving, though there was snow in the fields as we approached our destination.  High today was 5 (though with no wind & nice sun it was about 15C! – low tonight -5C!). Didn’t unhook overnight.

Feb. 25:  Off to Brigham City.  Saw my first Black-billed Magpie!  It’s always a great sign that we’re getting close to home when we see one of those.  We went out to dinner at Maddox Ranch Restaurant – which we always do at least once while we’re here.  It’s home cooking at its best.  The only drawback (at least as far as Bill is concerned) is that you can’t get a glass of wine with your meal (Utah you know).

Feb. 26:  So here we are in northern Utah hoping for some spring birding!  Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is only half an hour from us, so that was our 1st choice.

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It was still mostly frozen, with a little open water but birds are starting to pair up.

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A pair of Bald Eagles standing on the ice.

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A pair of Tundra Swans standing on the ice.  We saw many flocks of swans – close to 200 I’d say.  At first they were very far away & I didn’t think we’d see any very close.  But obviously we did – yay!  It was true spring birding with mixed flocks of ducks as well – numbers dominated by the elegant N. Pintails.

Our friend Don will be jealous (unless he’s already seen 1 & we haven’t heard yet) because we saw a Eurasian Widgeon, among the American Widgeons.  They are seen around Calgary regularly & must be becoming more plentiful over the years.  Also a pair of Cackling Geese among the Canadas.

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One of our favourite Ducks is the Red-breasted Merganser.  A couple of males (not a pair – at least I don’t think so!).

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Still can’t resist those beautiful Cinnamon Teal – another pair.

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We came across a pair of Sandhill Cranes courting!  They were leaping in the air, flapping their wings & calling to each other.  It was just wonderful – though they stopped when we stopped the truck & Bill leapt out to photograph them.  (Sigh)

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No shorebirds to be found – nor a meadowlark.  The only singers were Red-winged Blackbirds, though the sounds of ducks could be heard.  A couple of Song Sparrows were singing as well as Horned Lark.  N. Harriers were soaring around – One male amongst the females.

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On the way out we noticed a group of Eur. Starlings taking a bath.  They didn’t like us stopping to photograph this intimate activity (sorta like the Sandhills!) but you can see that this one certainly was still wet.

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They flew off to this tree.  We surely missed seeing our Guineafowl this year.  Nor did we rack up a Pheasant, which we normally hear in these fields.  Oh well – better luck tomorrow.

Feb. 27:  Off to Antelope Island State Park.  It was a cool but sunny & calm morning (temp 0C when we got up – but by 9 PM).  Perfect!  Since is is Saturday, quite a few people are heading for the park – and lots of cyclists who enjoy both the paved roads & mountain bike trails, horse trailers since riding is quite popular also as well as runners.

Here’s some of the scenery.

But we were here for a couple of target birds & immediately after crossing the causeway out to the island, spied a Chukar sitting on a rock just ahead.  Unfortunately there was no shoulder to pull off onto & the traffic started coming up behind & scared it away.

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imageAs you can see however, we found a few more & here are a couple of shots of a great looking bird!  Sun on the rocks made its tummy glow!

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At last the Western Meadowlards were singing!  Not as many as last time we were here (several weeks later than this).  This one’s for Tarie who loves hearing the first ones of spring on the prairies.  They have a different song than Eastern Meadowlarks – we think much nicer (!!).

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Bill saw his first Black-billed Magpie on this trip.  Took this one for Brian (it’s his favourite bird) – eating on a dead rabbit on the road.

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Here at last is our Burrowing Owl!  The only one we saw.  It did not come out from hiding behind the grass.

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The Bison keep increasing in numbers as far as we can tell.  Here is one with what we thought was probably a Brown-headed Cowbird on it – but NO – a Starling!

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Here’s another – what great looking beasts.

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Yes, they named the island after me – because I’m such a cool dude!”

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He is pretty cool!

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Looked twice at this bird – female Red-winged Blackbird – because they’re not usually alone!

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The masked Loggerhead Shrike.

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At last something for my friend JB (the tall, seismic cowboy).  A few shots of riders we saw today.

This will be the last of the bird photos (I imagine) since we’re pushing for home starting tomorrow.

We saw a Robin in a yard as we went to dinner last night!

Feb. 28:  Through the rest of northern Utah, a bit of Idaho, into Dillon, MT.  Good day for travel.  Clear & sunny, though pretty cool.

Feb. 29:  It rained & snowed last night – but just a bit.  Ice covered 1 side of the truck & trailer.  Temp was -7!  But we loaded up & left – changing our route to veer a bit further east on Hwy 41 to miss some of the hills & forested area.  The road report showed some ice/black ice/wet roads on Hwy 15, so it was a good choice.  We spotted our first Pheasant (male) on the road just after we left town – yay!  Grand total now 213!

From Boulder to Helena there were a few more hills & forests, but the roads were nice & clear.  The high in Shelby was only 3!  After Great Falls it flattens out & was very, very windy, but clear with sun & clouds.  Saw a Horned Lark just north of Great Falls, but the only other birds were Canada’s on the open rivers & a few C. Goldeneyes.  (Of course, magpies all along the way!)

Shelby was pretty cool & windy.  Overnight it really froze, so Bill had to go out & disconnect the water & hook up to the site next door (no one else in the RV park attached to the Best Western).

March 1st – Did quite a bit of packing & prep to stow the trailer.  Unfortunately, the propane heater was acting up again, so we’ll figure out how to work this out.  Can always put the cats in the truck in their carriers.  There was open water here & there with quite a few Canada Geese & some ducks (likely mostly N. Pintails).  A Bald Eagle flew over.

Border crossing was fairly uneventful except for Bill declaring his new camera lens & the officials making him pay duty on it because it was made in Japan!  Unbelievable!  He was happy to pay GST, but since he bought it from a very reputable dealer in NYC, couldn’t believe they’d make his do it.  He will appeal!

We were able to call the RV repair place in HIgh Rivr so dropped off the trailer to them & drove the truck to our storage place in Black Diamond.  Transferred everything to the car, left the truck & we’re hope around 4 PM.  HOME AT LAST!

GRAND TOTAL 213 BIRD SPECIES!

I will be keeping a blog of the building of our new home in Maple Creek, SK.  Probably not many will be interested, but it’s a great record for us!  I will post the plans & take photos as it comes progresses.

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2 Responses to Heading home!

  1. JB says:

    Good to see you made it home. We will likely be headed that direction in another 3 weeks or so. Wish your BFF a Happy Birthday from me as well. Always good to see some horses on a blog.

  2. Ron Jensen says:

    Hi Lois and Bill, good to read that you are back in Calgary. An interesting trip indeed and I thank you for sharing.
    What do you mean with not interested in the building of your new home in Maple Creek?? A new home is always exciting.

    By the way, some one you might want to meet in Maple Creek is Al Hartley. He and his wife moved to Maple Creek a few years ago from Saskatoon to enjoy a less expensive life style and the weather of course. Al is an active birder posting on SaskBirds from time to time his sightings. He might be a help in getting to know the hard to find birding sites. I suspect that you already know many but a local never hurts.
    talk with you more soon.
    Ron

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