Preface: If you have no sense of humour and think birding is not supposed to be fun... and you like to evaluate and judge all of us by our carbon credits... dont bother reading any further!
Well a lot has happened since my last post... but for now lets stick to one really cool event. Paul and I decided to do an Alberta big day in early June while on a two week adventure in Sask and Alberta. It turned out to be a huge success. Here is the story.
We scouted the southern half of the province briefly and then slapped together a route based mostly in Cold Lake. We had set the provincial record with Tom Plath in 2001 (I think?) with 178 species, but the weather was horrible that year and we really felt that we only scratched the potential.
Paul and I spent three full days in late May scouting around Cold Lake and we even got a chance to help out a bit with the Cold Lake spring bird count. I think during those three days we recorded around 175 species which gives you an idea of how diverse this area is in late May. The scouting highlight was undoubtedly three small groups of Sabine's Gulls totaling 12 birds on the waterfront of Cold Lake proper.
We decided to make our attempt on June 2nd, and the day began around 11 pm the night before with what else but Tim Hortons coffee (reheated as the Tims was closed!) and a high protein fix of sausages and eggs.
On our last attempt in 2001 the night birding... well, it sucked! On this night however, we came up trumps at almost every site. We recorded Long-eared, Barred and Northern Saw-whet Owls, Yellow, Virginia and Sora Rails, Sedge and Marsh Wrens, Connecticut Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, Sandhill Crane, American Bittern and a dizzying array of nocturnal ticks by 4 am. Most surprising was a widespread passage of Lapland Longspurs at almost every stop for the first five hours of the day. I didnt even realize this bird was a nocturnal migrant! By the time this photo of Paul was taken around 4 am at Cold Lake waterfront, we had just recorded our 52nd species which was Common Nighthawk.
As it began to get lighter, we worked a series of stops around Cold Lake Provincial Park, Ethel Lake road and English Bay. Everything fell in to place though our schedule was being stretched a little by the cold morning and reluctance of birds to chime off with their usual vigour. Next we headed south to Jessie Lake happily ticking a fly by Northern Goshawk en route. There was a decent selection of shorebirds and we left knowing the chances of setting a new record were very good. Next stop at Kehewin lake filled in some necessitities like Great Crested Flycatcher, Philly vireo and Veery and by 9:55 am we were on our way south towards Wainright with a massive morning haul of 159 species.
Now rather than let the full story out of the bag, I'm going to skip all the rest of the route details. That keeps everyone guessing a bit which is probably a good thing! Suffice it to say that we had a great afternoon and ended up in the south of the province around Pakowki Lake. This Burrowing Owl along the roadside there was a complete fluke, as we had not seen this bird anywhere during scouting and had no sites for it. It was our 205th species for the day. Yes you read that right!
The day ended at Pakowki lake where White-faced Ibis and Black-crowned Night Heron pushed our total to an incredible 207 species for the day! We were stunned by our success and we cant wait to go back to see if this total can go even higher... watch out Manitoba!!!