Cypress Hills to Eastend and back

Up early this morning to do dawn chorus around Cypress lodge. Wonderful weather and birds. Then a great breakfast with Red Crossbills at the lodge restaurant. This male was part of a family group including a juvenile, a one year female, and an adult female. This 'type' of Red Crossbill has a distinct song type that differs considerably from the birds we are used to in Ontario (less trilling and more jumbly if that makes sense). It was a gorgeous bird.

The highlight of the day was watching a male Prairie Falcon feed a one or two day old hatching at close range. We had superb views with the scope looking right into the nest. Then the bigger female appeared and they did a mate exchange before she began brooding. This picture is pretty crappy but it gives an idea of the view!

The raptors in southwestern Sask are great. There are Swainsons, Red-tails and Ferruginous everywhere and we found multiple nests of each plus two Great Horned Owl nests. Out here there is nowhere to hide with very few nest tree options! This light phase Swainson's perched nicely for an early evening shot.

Tomorrow we are off to Bigstick, Luck Lake and then spending the night in the Battlefords. Should be another great day!


Calgary to Cypress Hills Saskatchewan

After a great evening with Cathy and Roger Watson (thanks guys!), Paul and I began our two week adventure in Alberta and Saskatchewan by heading east from Calgary towards the Cypress Hills. We pulled into the Tims at around 2:40 am (seriously) and were soon heading out of the city rolling towards the hills. Shortly after 3 am the first light started to appear in the sky, though the sun wouldnt rise for over two more hours.

We spent most of the day in the Cypress Hills in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, ending up south of Maple Creek where will spend two nights. There were tons of highlights today but the biggest flurry was early on in the day when we had an adult Goshawk stoop low across the road in pursuit of a songbird (sorry, it didnt garner much attention), soon followed by a provincially rare Red-headed Woodpecker looking very lost on a fence line in the middle of the prairies! I took a record photo of the latter just for documentation. The actual location of the bird was at the corner of Hwy 41 and the Cypress park turnoff a few km south of Elkwater.

Soon after this, a pair of uppies (Upland Sandpipers) landed at the roadside and provided stunning views. This provided my best photo opp of the day.

In early afternoon we had lunch at Cypress Lake resort in Sask. The feeders there are great fun with Red Crossbills regular attendees (pics to follow in the next post). A showy pair of Western Tanagers provided some nice colour while we enjoyed a well deserved lunch break. Here is the male.



Finally caught up enough to get out and do some video and still shooting at Pelee and Ojibway over the weekend. While several birders described the birding as 'slow', I found that there was a good diversity of birds at both sites. In short, the birding was good, especially considering it was May 2nd. How quickly folks forget what the typical pattern is at this time of year! Every day cannot be a twenty plus warbler species day, though even that was possible today if you worked hard all day.

One of the most rewarding finds was a bird that had been staked out for several days in front of the visitor center - a Grasshopper Sparrow. I got great video of it foraging at distances as close as ten feet. I also snagged a bunch of stills. Here is one of the best.

When I examined some of my video and stills on a larger screen I noticed that the sparrow had an interesting tag along - a small tick embedded just under its right (from its perspective) eye. While most humans find ticks disgusting, they are a fact of everyday life for many birds and mammals which are the normal hosts for many tick species. Obviously this also makes birds vectors for the spread of ticks, and tick born illnesses. I wonder where this tick actually originated? Did it pick up the tick at Pelee or perhaps somewhere in the southern US where the sparrow wintered? Regardless it is a reminder of the rigors and realities of the natural world - tough, but still beautiful.

It was great to spend some time videotaping at Ojibway reserve and nature center in south Windsor. The feeder set up that Paul (Pratt) and staff have put together there is great. Birds were abundant and diverse and a huge flowering redbud provided a nice backdrop for the attendees. The park was full of song and one of the nice surprises while taping the 'regulars' was hearing a singing male Blue-winged Warbler. With a little effort I managed to get a decent image of the stunning bird.

I'm looking forward to another great spring at Pelee. This will be the 38th year I have spent a week or more birding here in spring and its always a fabulous learning experience. Always unique each time, and always a wonderful journey. I look forward to seeing my old friends on the trails and meeting some new ones as well.

Good Birding! Tom