Sunday, June 17, 2018

Badger, Grasslands Nat. Park Saskatchewan, June 10 2018

Grasslands National Park has always been one of our favourite places to visit.  This was our third visit over 20 years.  The wide open spaces, Buffalo, Rattlesnakes, Prairie Dog towns, Sharp-tailed Grouse and other birds form a source of attraction for us.
The Park is on the southern border; adjacent to Montana.  There are 2 blocs; east and west.  This was the first time we visited both blocs.  The west bloc is mostly rolling prairie grass hills while the east bloc resembles badlands.
In the west bloc we camped at Frenchman Creek Campsite.  There were 6 RV's here and 3 of them were popular Escape trailers-made in Chilliwack.  Ours is on the right.
We were driving through a Prairie Dog town one evening when I noticed a geyser of dirt been thrown up from a dog hole.  We pulled over and this badger popped out.  It went back down the hole and continued digging.  Every time it backed out I took a picture.  

Out of the corner of my eye I saw another badger approaching.  Look at the claws.
It was running towards the hole where the other badger had appeared.
When it got to hole where the other badger had been digging, it stopped and peered in.
Then it ran to another hole.
This was the last shot of it before we returned to the original hole thinking we would wait until the badger that went down there would eventually emerge.  We waited about 15 minutes before we realized it wasn't coming out and the original badger must have travelled underground and came out of another hole undetected by us; then returned to its original hole to see if it had scared a Prairie Dog out.  
We were not sure if this Black Tern was feeding a young one or performing a mating ritual as they both looked like adults.
Years ago when we first visited the park, there were no Buffalo. 71 were introduced in 2006 after being absent for 120 years.  Now there are over 300. Having reached the park capacity, some will be harvested and the meat sold.

Bobolinks are common here.  
This Brown Thrasher was in the East bloc.  The east bloc is 170 kilometres and 2 hours from the west bloc.
A Common Snipe taking a break from winnowing.

Eastern Kingbird in east bloc.

This family of gophers was at our campsite.  It was nice to sit back in a camp chair with a beer and watch them.  I didn't miss TV.
Grey Partridge at the east bloc.  They seemed to be common here but not easy to get a picture of.  When I was kid growing up in Northern Alberta they were called Hungarian Partridge because they were introduced from Europe.
Horned Larks were common in both blocs.  Horned Larks vary in color across North America. Some arctic-breeding birds have little or no yellow on the head, while Eastern and south Texas breeders have the head extensively yellow.
I am always fascinated by the appearance of shorebirds, like this Long-billed Curlew, in the prairies. 
Marbeled Godwits are another shorebird that breeds on the prairies.

 While walking around the campsite in the east bloc this male Northern Harrier kept circling me.  There must have been a nest nearby.
A Black-tailed Prairie Dog. 
If one gets out before sunrise one can sometimes get photo ops with Sharp-tailed Grouse.  

These Grouse where in the same location when we visited about 15 years ago.
Common Nighthawks are common.  They like to perch on rail fences and are quite approachable.
Another sandpiper type bird.  This one is an Upland Sandpiper.
We took long hike in the east bloc.  Hiking is the only way to explore this section as there is no road through it.  We spotted about 25 grouse.  We were hoping they may be Sage Grouse which are becoming rare in Canada.  There were only about 100 birds in 2012.  However they were very spooky and the best shot we got was not conclusive.  
Can you spot the 2 heads sticking up?

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mar. 18-Apr. 7 2018 Bryce and Zion Canyons Utah, Southern Arizona, Cotton Carrier, Lucifer Hummingbird

March 16 2018 Dian and I headed south to St. George, Utah.  We were off to meet Dian's brother Neil and his wife, Wilma.  Wilma was doing a pickle ball circuit in southern California and Utah and we were going to share an AirB&B for a couple of weeks.  It was an opportunity to explore Bryce and Zion Canyons and other local natural wildlife areas.  While there, we decided we may as well go little further south to Green Valley, Arizona and find some birds.  So we booked an AirB&B there too.
First stop was St. George Ut. indicated by red marker.
Next stop was Green Valley.
Zion provides buses to gain access to the many trails in the park.  Sometimes the wait for a bus can be over an hour.  You can get off at any time and get back on again.                                                         I would like to comment on the camera vest I am wearing.  It is a Cotton Camera Harness and I couldn't be without it.  It is about 4 years old and the hub in the centre broke on this trip.  When I returned home I contacted Cotton and they had a new one in the mail the next day.  This was the second time they have replaced it because of defects.  I am really impressed with the customer service this company provides and thought I just had to give them a plug.

Neil and Wilma sat opposite on the bus.
Some trails can be gentle at Zion.
There are photo opportunities everywhere you point the camera.

We took a trip to the Lytle Ranch Reserve.  This is an acerage owned by Brigham Young University close to the Utah/Nevada border.  They welcome birders and it was an oasis in the desert.  Here we found a leucistic Wild Turkey.  It really stood out among the regular turkeys. 
In a completely different area (Madera Canyon Arizona) this tom turkey was strutting his stuff.
Black-chinned Hummingbird at Madera Canyon.
On our way to Green Valley we spent the night at Wickenburg Az.  Before we went to bed we took a walk around the Hassayampa River Reserve.  An Anna's Hummingbird feeding on cacti in the late afternoon light was hard to resist.

An Acorn Woodpecker landed beside me at Ash Canyon B&B.  

Black-throated Grey Warbler at Madera.
A huge attraction for birders is the Elegant Trogon.  Madera Canyon in Southern Arizona is one of the few places north of the Mexican border where these beautiful birds can be found.

Broad-billed Hummingbird at Madera.
A target bird for us was the Lucifer Hummingbird. We picked up old acquaintance Thor Manson and headed to Ash Canyon B&B to find one.  Thor used to live in Oliver, BC and moved to Green Valley last year.  We had a great day with Thor and look forward to visiting him again when we return.  He pointed out two Lucifers for us as they landed on the feeders.

This is a Rivoli's Hummingbird.  For all you birders, it used to be the Magnificent Hummingbird but was name changed in 2017 because of a Magnificent in South Central America.  Now they have been split into the Rivoli's and the Talamanca Hummingbird.
Another bird that has recently been split is the Woodhouse's Scrub Jay seen above.  It was decided it is a different species than the California Scrub Jay which it was originally called up until 2016.
Dian and Neil in Snow Canyon State Park close to St. George Ut.
Dian and I at Red Cliff Canyon (close to St. George).
The weather was still bit chilly at the end of March.
An Hepatic Tanager appeared at Madera Canyon, Az.
A Phainopepla was nest building at the Lytle Ranch.

Back at Bryce Canyon we found a few Pygmy Nuthatches.
White-breasted Nuthatch at Bryce taken with a 40mm lens.
Vermillion Flycatcher at Tubac Az.
Yellow-eyed Junco at Madera Canyon.  Not much different than our Dark-eyed Junco except for the brown back and yellow eyes.

The following are a few shots from Bryce Canyon.

Snow is still visible in the background.  The cool weather was welcomed as the hike through the canyon can generate some heat.
I mentioned earlier that Wilma was doing a pickle ball tour.  In St. George she teamed up with a lady from Calgary and they won their class (four) in a tournament.  The highest class is "five", so they did extremely well.  On to class 5 now Wilma!

The main reason we decided to spend an extra week in Green Valley is there were many reports of a Sinola Wren in that area.  The Sinaloa Wren is small bird that spends much of its time in dense undergrowth making it difficult to find.  It is very rare north of the Mexican border.  We have tried 3 previous times to find this bird in as many years, without success. We spent about 2-3 hours almost every day we there, searching for our elusive nemesis.  On the last day I decided to cross a small river to see if it was on the other side.  While there, I saw a group of other birders on the other side of the river pointing at my side and taking pictures of something right in front of me.  Because of undergrowth and a brush pile I couldn't see what they were looking at-but I knew what it was.  I never got to see it, even though it was within 20 feet.  And Dian was further up stream so she didn't get it either.  Maybe it's just as well, as we now have an excuse to return..

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