Day 3 and the return of better weather

Birding reports from our roving reporter, Lesser Spot Finder, in Alberta, Canada.
Lesser Spot Finder
Posts: 230
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk

Day 3 and the return of better weather

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:56 pm

It had been noted that I had been absent from my office yesterday. An explanation that life was short and so was my time in Canada and thus birding was at the top of things to do seemed to rub! I think there was also some admiration given that I had walked some 3 miles in torrential rain in pursuit of my hobby. Don’t know how long I can pull it off though.

The day started slightly better this morning with only light rain as I left Suffield for Ralston. Little to note on the way down although I found my first American Wigeon on North American soil with a pair on a flooded area adjacent to the path. Previously I had seen this species a number of times in the UK and once in Holland. Add to these a couple of Blue-winged Teal, a Wilson’s Phalarope and a backdrop of displaying Yellow-headed Blackbirds and singing Western Meadowlarks then this was a surreal Canadian Birding moment.

Ralston was pretty quiet, probably due to the drizzle, and as I searched the hedgeline for anything that had been grounded by the rain I heard a call not dissimilar to Peregrine but much higher; I looked up to see a stunning Prairie Falcon pass overhead. Within minutes a Merlin shot down one of the side streets and over the Jenner Highway and I confirmed this species 30 minutes or so later when the same or another bird flew over my head. It was obvious that this species appears much lighter in this part of the world. Sadly nothing much else bar a couple of Least Flycatchers and my first Black-capped Chickadee of the trip so I move on heading back towards the base when, outside the CANEX, I flushed 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, my first lifer of the day and a much welcome bird.

A couple hundred metres onwards and just as the drizzle was turning to rain I noticed the ghostly shape of a male Northern Harrier flying to the west of me. The bird gave a masterclass in Harrier identification and even landed on a fence post so that I could have a better view. Wonderful!

The flock of Cedar Waxwings were still feeding around camp and the call was so reminiscent of early January and the mass of their Bohemian Cousins in Farnborough. I checked the Officers Mess on my return for the Great Horned Owls but without success although I did manage to pick up a couple of Yellow Warblers flitting in the adjacent conifers. Ditto with lunchtime – the Owls weren’t in their usual place but the Yellow Warblers had been replaced by Veery which appeared to be all over the camp.

If you guessed that I went to Ralston again early evening you would have guessed correctly. The walk down produced my first Marbled Godwit of the trip and a lifer to boot. The hedgeline had a large fall of Least Flycatchers within in along with a Western Wood Pewee (lifer) and a Yellow Warbler. Little else was around Ralston so I crossed over the road at the southern end of the village and looked over the two medium sized ponds and found several Redheads (lifer) and displaying Ruddy Ducks which look far better in Canada than they do on Staines Reservoir.

Finally, with supper calling, I headed back. No lifers were to be had but I did find two Eastern Kingbirds which were a surprise; I had seen them before in North Carolina but didn’t know they were this far west.
Another excellent day with four lifers added to the ever expanding list and a respectable 45 species seen in all.

I realise that I may have to go elsewhere to see anymore lifers and plan a trip to Police Point in Medicine Hat on this space.

Wandering Tattler
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 4:57 pm
Location: Beverley, East Yorkshire


Postby Wandering Tattler » Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:45 am


It appears that the weather conditions may be affecting migration.

The B-B Sands are really good birds to see in that area. The traditional site is Tofield, several hundred miles to the north. I searched for this species and did not see a definite in Canada at all, so if you catch up with any local birders let them know.

If you walk from the Canex towards the village you have several road options. Edgeware is the first road, by the long hedge. The second road back I think is unnamed and the third road is a long curving road, Cawnpore Crescent. Try the gardens along the unnamed road and then turn left back towards Cawnpore. Be sensitive to the residents, these are the largest gardens with the best cover in the village: warblers, vireos, etc. You can guess who will live there. Also locate feeders if the weather is bad and take note of where there hummingbird (red) and oriole (orange) feeders. Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are possible. Check every oriole for Bullock's, they are rare and appear to keep close to the Saskatchewan River. Another brightly coloured bird worth looking for is the Western Tanager; see female plumages too.

You should be able to find Red-breasted Nuthatch some where in the village, like European Nuthatch their call normally gives them away. Also Downy Woodpecker. If you are getting Veerys then there is a very good chance that Swainsons are around or coming (Swainsons out numbered Veerys several times over when I was there). Hermit and Grey-cheeked are also possibilities, even Varied Thrush if the Rockies are still covered in snow. I have had the latter in the Officers' Mess garden! All of the thrushes used to come into my garden, which can be walked past using the footpath between Rawalpindi and Woolwich and on the edge of the village (walk stright back behind the Canex to the gold driving range and then head towards the School. This walk around the backside of the village can be good for thrushes, which are often close to vegetation and dart into it if they see you first.

Another place for the G-H Owl is along the footpath opposite the Community Centre in Ralston. Normally breeds in one of the large conifers.

If the conditions allow try walking back from Ralston, via the golf driving range, along the dirt track that runs parallel and about 300-400m back from the 884. There is an obvious fence line and you may pick up birds that do not like the disturbance of the road: Lark Bunting, Sharp-tailed Grouse if you are lucky.

What is the weather forecast for the next few days? If I had two days birding coming up I think I would consider doing Tillebrook Campsite and Kinbrook Island Provincial Park closer to Brookes on one of those days.

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