Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 19, 20, 21-Day 17, 18, 19 Elbow to Saskatoon

We dodged rain showers during our stay at Douglas Provincial Park but it was a great place to camp.  The facilities are excellent here.  When we pulled into Gordon Howe RV Park in Saskatoon June 20, we called local birder Gordon Taylor.  Gordon had generously offered to show us some local hot spots.  He picked us up at 8AM and we were off towards the west.  Not sure of our exact route but to keep a long story short, the following pictures will tell some of the story.  Many thanks Gord, for a great day.

To find a Sora in the open is always a great thrill.  Gord picked this one out as we cruised Goose Lake.

Gord took to us to a weir to watch the Pelicans.  It was entertaining watching this one navigate the current.

A few Common Grackles were also watching the Pelicans-perhaps hoping for scraps.

Eared Grebes were in abundance in many of the ponds we visited.

We also saw some Horned Grebes.  To compare with the Eared Grebe above, one has a black neck and the other a red neck (among other things).

This tagged Turkey Vulture was west of Delisle. (K36)

This Vulture was south of Elbow. (B59)

It would be great to tour the prairies and just take pictures of old buildings.

The wind prevails from the left.

A visitor at our campsite at Douglas.  American Redstart.

Douglas campsite.  Dian looking nonchalant.

This is the best I could do with many shots of the Yellow Warblers I took.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 16,17,18-Day 14,15,16 Val Marie to Elbow Sk.

     We were a little reluctant to leave Grasslands Park as it is a magical spot.  However we have to move on if we want to complete our trip.  Chaplin was our first stop as we heard there were Piping Plovers there on Chaplin Lake.  A huge lake where they mine sodium phosphate.  I wondered where they get that stuff from.  The local campsite was $15 a night on the honour system.  A nature center catering to birders told us where we might find the Plovers and they were right.  We found our lifer after little searching.  We decided to celebrate by travelling 40 miles to Gravelberg for supper.  We heard they had a good restaurant called the Cafe de Paris.  When we got there we found out they only served paninnis and wraps.  But they were good.  On the way back we saw a badger peeping at us through some long grass.  I should say I saw it as Dian never could pick it out.  We checked for Piping Plovers again before we left Chaplin but no luck.  We considered ourselves fortunate to have seen one.  June 17 we left for Douglas Provincial Park on the shores of Diefenbaker Lake.  A great campsite for $22 a night.  Redstarts, Veerys, Yellow Warblers, House Wrens, Catbirds and more serenaded us as we set up the trailer.   June 18 we set out for a location north of Elbow where Scott Wilson, a Saskatchewan birder, kindly informed us of another Piping Plover location.  He was bang on as we found a pair with young after a half mile hike on the shores of Lake Diefenbaker.  I took a few shots and we left trying to disturb them as as little as possible.

A shot taken at the Crossing RV site.  A fellow was setting up is tent and the cattle gathered to watch him.  It was hilarious.

A Shoveler mother and her brood.

An Upland Sandpiper checking me out.

A Willet is quite a drab bird until it flies and reveals the wing pattern.

A male Wilsons Phalarope incubates the eggs.  This one must have had a nest close as it was doing a distraction display.

It was raining as we headed to Douglas Park so we decided to take a side trip to Moose Jaw and visit the Western Development Museum.  This trailer handmade in Manchester England caught our eye.

Franklins Groundsquirrel or Bush Gopher-they are all over our campsite.

Veerys are also common in the campsite.  

Last evening I went down to a small pond hoping to find some beaver.  I lucked out with 2 but not with my lens.  It was way to powerful to capture all of these surprisingly tame subjects.  They would swim up to me and stare me down.

Diefenbaker Harbour at Elbow Sask.  where I have found a WIFI signal for the blog.

Another nice flower.

While I was watching the beaver this muskrat also wanted to get in on the action.

Our target bird.  We have looked for the Piping Plover many times before and it was satisfying to finally find them.

3 young Piping Plovers were scurrying away from us.  These shots are heavily cropped as we didn't want to get too close.

     We have to do our birding and photography between rain showers as the weather is unsettled. We are also finding ticks to be a problem.  I found one at the nape of Dian's hair.  I think they like the dark as I found one close to where the sun don't shine on myself.  We average 3 or 4 a day.  Luckily I don't think any have bitten us yet.  Off to Saskatoon tomorrow, June 20.


Friday, June 15, 2012

June 14 &15- Day 12 &13 of our trip Grasslands Nat. Park

This is part 2 of our visit to Val Marie Sask. and the Grasslands Nat. Park.  Two mornings we awoke at 3AM to get out to the park for sunrise.  We found a grouse lek and wanted to get a few pictures while they were active.  We were successful but lighting conditions weren't ideal for good results.  Last evening we climbed 70 Mile Butte to find a Golden Eagles nest.  It was a great hike but couldn't find the nest.  Of course we left our map in the trailer.

Looking north from 70 Mile Butte

Looking east from 70 Mile Butte so named by the settlers because you can see 70 miles in all directions

The view of the Crossing Resort with 70 Mile Butte in background

Brown Thrasher

Looking for Burrowing Owls can be difficult.  But they have no problem spotting us.

But getting there early in the morning helps .

Black-tailed Prairie Dog towns are huge

And they are fun to watch

This Upland Sandpiper was trying to stay on top of the post with the wind having different ideas.  Yes, it is windy here.

Blue-winged Teal sitting in the rising sun.

A Ferruginous Hawk flew by.  My camera was on the wrong settings but I managed to save one shot.

Distance and lighting wasn't conducive to great photography but I have always wanted to get shots of these birds in their mating rituals.

This bird is heading to the center of the lek and we presumed he was the dominant male.

This one is a subordinate and lingers around the fringes of the lek.  The lek is actually a parking lot and if you arrived during the day you would have no idea it was used by the grouse in the early morning light.  All shots were taken while sitting in the truck.

Here is the dominant male daring a rival to enter his arena.  We didn't get to much confrontation between the birds as the breeding season is winding down.  In fact we saw no females and believe they are probably on nests.

Tomorrow, Saturday June 16 we are heading to Chaplin.  We heard we may find Piping Plovers there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13- Day 9,10 &11

Day 8 (June 10) was a wash out at Reeslor Ranch. Literally.  We spent the day in the trailer as the rain pelted down all day.  It seems to be worse in the high country as we were right in the clouds in the Cypress Hills.  It was better Monday as we left the ranch.  It was 33 Kilomters out to the highway and when we got there we heard air leaking from the rear tire on the trailer.  I unhooked the trailer and left it in Walsh as we headed as fast as we could to Medicine Hat hoping the tire wouldn't fully collapse.  We made it and got it fixed.  Headed back the 60 k to the trailer only to find out the tire was still leaking...
Decided to hook up and headed to Maple Creek Sask. where we found Kal Tire.  They found a hole the other idiots didn't.  We eventually pulled into The Crossing RV and B&B around 6PM.          This is adjacent to Grasslands National Park.  Day 11 (Tuesday) Dian and I toured the park and it is spectacular if you like badlands type scenery.  The weather was hot and there were things to photograph everywhere.

Typical scenery at Grasslands.  We heard a Golden Eagle is nesting up there so waiting for a chance to hike up.

I was photographing this old house at the Maple Creek Winery when a lady pulled up and said she was the owner.  It was built in 1893 and had raised all her ancestors.

This was shot at the Reeslors Ranch.  I couldn't help naming it "Scotties Bar and Grill"
after the proprietor.

I think this is Brewers.  Any thoughts?

Dian saw a hawk flush up some large birds in the distance.  Hoping they might be Sage Grouse we hiked over.  We found a couple of Curlews and Godwits.

I have no idea what this flower is but it is large, beautiful and showy.  Dian thought someone had put some plastic flowers in.

Horned Lark.  Not a great picture but not easy to capture.  Maybe I'll get another better one.

Another bird that is plentiful but difficult to photograph because of the lack of contrast.  The eye and head are both black.  Lark Bunting.

Speaking of Larks, here is a Lark Sparrow.

Marbeled Godwit.  Quite common in the Grasslands.

Common Nighthawks seem to be everywhere.  An old corral had 12 sitting on various posts.  Our host here says they are not as common as they used to be.

Ring-necked Pheasant doesn't seem to like me.

Ruddy Ducks are really quite comical when they try to impress a lady.

Our site at The Crossing.  You can also rent Tipis here.  A young couple from Quebec are          presently staying in one.

Driving out the driveway yesterday we encountered this Upland Sandpiper.

Vesper Sparrow.

We found a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek and managed a few shots before the clouds made shooting difficult.  Maybe have better luck later in the week.

We will probably stay here a few days and leave Saturday.  There is so much to see.  Buffalo were reintroduced a few years ago and we have seen lots.  Rattlesnakes, Swift Fox, Black-footed Ferrets, Sage Grouse-all rare but we have high hopes.