Day 1

Birding reports from our roving reporter, Lesser Spot Finder, in Alberta, Canada.
Lesser Spot Finder
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Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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Day 1

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Thu Jun 02, 2011 2:45 pm

This first of, I suspect, many reports has been written under the influence of jetlag. Please forgive me for any bad English for the time being.

I’ve been in Alberta for less than a day and already I can say ‘God I love Canada’. I managed to bag 5 lifers along the Route 1 from Calgary to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Suffield – a major accomplishment considering the fact that I was fighting off sleep following an eight hour flight from London and at a time when, at home, I would have been in bed for 3 hours. That said, I had just had my first of what I suspect will be many Tim Horton’s coffees – this probably kept me in the land of the living.

Tim Cowley had briefed me to expect birds after about an hour after leaving Calgary but I had bagged my first lifer, American Avocet*, within a few minutes. Lesser Scaup (2nd lifer) was seen on one of the many flooded areas on the Prairie – there has been considerable rain fall in this part on Canada with parts of Medicine Hat flooded. Trumpeter Swan (3rd lifer) closely followed, as did many Brewer’s Blackbirds (4th lifer). At Brooks I glimpsed a Greater Yellowlegs (5th lifer) in another flooded area where there was also a lone Black-winged Stilt (Black-necked Stilt here). Raptors were very much in evidence throughout the journey with many Red-tailed Hawks, 3 Northern Harriers and a lone Ferruginous Hawk sitting at the side of the road.

Wildfowl have been extremely familiar to date with Canada Goose (albeit wild), Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Mallard and Gadwall all making an appearance. They are everywhere given the amount of water around, even at the camp entrance.

On arrival I politely declined a trip into Medicine Hat and, following a quick iron of my uniform, walked into Ralston Village, followed by swarms of Mosquitoes, in the hope of bagging a couple more birds. Western Meadowlarks were everywhere; this is one of the birds I remember from my last trip in 1989. Again there were many flooded areas between the base and Ralston and these were full of wildfowl including my 6th lifer Blue-winged Teal. Bird of the day though was Wilson’s Phalarope* (7th lifer) with 2 mating and a lone bird at the side of the main road. On arrival in Ralston I picked up the omni present American Robin along with a Loggerhead Shrike behind the CANEX (Canadian NAAFI). Lifer 8, Wilson’s Snipe flew over my head and I finally caught up with several Yellow-headed Blackbirds (9th lifer) in a small patch of bulrush 1’5 kms into the eturn trip to camp.

A respectable 32 species seen in a few hours and one bird, an Empidonax Flycatcher of some sort, unidentified; this bird was outside the accommodation so I may pick it up again.

It should be noted that there is a strong regional dialect in this part of the world; American Robins sound different to the birds on the East Coast.

Note:

*I’m sure I had these two species last time I came here but they appear to be missing off my list.
Last edited by Lesser Spot Finder on Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Wandering Tattler
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Location: Beverley, East Yorkshire
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Suffield Birding

Postby Wandering Tattler » Thu Jun 02, 2011 11:07 pm

Glad to hear you made it safely!

The Empid Fly is highly likely to be a Least Flycatcher, these are by far the most common; look for the obvious eye ring. The stilt you saw would be a Black-necked (Himantopus mexicanus), rather than a Black winged (Himantopus himantopus).

The parcel has gone special delivery, so should be with you soon. I am trying to update some old Canada records on to Wildlife Recorder and will try and send you some material later. Let me know via work email how you would like this (electronic or hardcopy) and I will try to deliver.

All the best!

Lesser Spot Finder
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:18 pm

Tim,

Thanks for all the info you have sent to me. Once I can get on a DII terminal here I'll print off. I intend to go to waterton for 2 days next week so will keep you posted. Not sure if I want to basha up in the hills there as there is still quite a lot of snow. Whilst we have torrential rain here I suspect they are having blizzards in the hills.

You are right about the Least - there was a small fall yesterday in Ralston. I had suspected Alder initially and still think I might have found one - any chance?. Birds are appearing thick and thin - walk to Ralston this morning produced a Prairie Falcon and 2 Merlins, 1 of which flew down the centre of the one the streets.

I gathered that it was a Black-necked stilt - has it been split, if so, another lifer!? Wildlife recorder stills shows it as Himantopus Himantopus mexicanus. I note that Sibley shows Pine Siskin as a seperate species to our Siskin which has cheared me up no end - all for armchair splitting.

Rich

Wandering Tattler
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BATUS BIRDING

Postby Wandering Tattler » Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:14 am

Rich,

As the pack arrived or are you referring to the emails?

I will have to check the flycatchers for you but Least and Western Wood Pewee are most likely. Keep your eyes open for Say's Phoebe too.

It sounds as though migration could be a little late this year. If there is still snow in the Cypress Hills you might be better going for one day and using the second for something else. If snow is on the ground hopefully the residents of Elkwater village will be still feeding the birds and you have a chance of Turkey in the gardens. Pine Grosbeak and White-breasted Nuthatch winter in Elkwater but it it is probably too late for these now. Inevitably birds will be driven in to where there is food and therefore anything could be found in Elkwater. Looking back on some July dates for Elkwater there were some good birds there at that time, including: breeding Bufflehead, Am Wigeon, R-N Grebe, Spotted and Upland Sands and Bobolink.

If you can get out to the CFB Sewage lagoons, via the gate opposite the southern of the three entrances into Ralston, then follow the track. You should be getting more species of diving ducks (Redheads, Buffleheads) and grebes. Look to for R-N Phalaropes. There should be blackbirds on the marsh south of Ralston or on the marsh south of the CFB sewage works, including Red-winged, Yellow-hooded and Brewer's, plus Brown-headed Cowbirds. Common Whitethroat and Sora may be there too. Check hirundines for Cliff Swallow, they often breed at bridges and culverts in the prairie zone.

Merlins breed in trees in Ralston Village and used to be regular around the cul-de-sac in the north of the village. They are very noisy around their breeding site, so easy to locate if they are about.

The Stilts have been split according to my Wildlife Recorder, what version are you working from?


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