Friday, July 13, 2018

BIRD NERD IN ALBERTA

Male Yellow-headed Blackbird
My recent trip to Alberta was not a birding trip, as I was there to spend 10 days with my brother and his family and to celebrate the high school graduation of my oldest niece, Ashlee.

I had never visited them in the summer months before and it quickly became apparent to me that there were many birds to see at this time of year. I was taking daily walks and decided to do something I don't normally do, keep a species list while I was there. I was actually quite surprised at how many species I was seeing on my walks, but their subdivision is quite close to the Sheep River and that probably played a huge part in the species I was seeing on an almost daily basis. It was a joy to see flocks of Franklin's Gulls fly over every morning. Seeing a lifer bird on a morning stroll is quite nice.

My big "bird nerd" moment happened the evening of July 4th. It was my last free evening there, and my sister-in-law, Sandy, insisted on taking me to Frank Lake, a place I had mentioned earlier in the week as being recommended to me on the Alberta Birding Page on Facebook. It was about a 30 minute drive from where they lived. My youngest niece Tayler wanted to go too, so off we went. 

While we were driving there I spotted a male Yellow-headed Blackbird sitting on a fence post and literally gasped out loud, "Oh my god, I just saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird!". This was a lifer for me, and I wasn't expecting to see one.

We were having a hard time finding the location, and I was ready to give up, after all, seeing the Yellow-headed Blackbird was a lifer for me, so I was already thrilled. But they would not give up, so we pulled over and Tayler got busy on her phone and found directions. As we were following the new route we could see a large body of water ahead, and Sandy said, I wonder if that's it, and it was.

As we were driving in, my birding senses went into over drive. I saw a flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds before I was even out of the van. When we parked and got out I was in awe. I have never seen so many birds or birds species in one place before. There were hundreds of birds if not more, I was overwhelmed. Everywhere I turned I was seeing a species I hadn't seen before (American Avocets) or witnessing something I had never seen, like an Eared Grebe feeding young. And the chatter of the birds! What a glorious sound track! I got a little too excited upon spotting a Ruddy Duck, and was "Shhh'ed" by a photographer. After I mentally pushed her in the pond I had a lovely visit, though I kept wishing Rob had of been with me. There were less than 10 people there, and the other birders I chatted too were very friendly. We stayed for about an hour, even my non-birder sister-in-law was impressed.

I only had an older power-shot camera with me, and I'm not a photographer, but I did take some pictures, here are the best ones.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

American Avocets and a Dowitcher
I like the refection in this shot even though you can't see the bill.
Eared Grebe with young close behind.

There they go.....
Ruddy Duck....look at that bill!!!
Though not a lifer, I was over excited about seeing this bird in breeding plumage.
He's so handsome!
Female Yellow-headed Blackbird.
The stunning male Yellow-headed Blackbird.
American Coot with young crossing the path and a male Yellow-heading Blackbird.
Part of the Frank Lake area near High River, Alberta.  
I took the above picture as we were leaving. Even though you can't see them, there are probably a few hundred birds in the shot, most of them shorebirds. I am so grateful that Sandy insisted on taking me there and Tayler for finding the directions to get us there. It was a very memorable evening, and I can't wait to return to the area next year with Rob.

Below is my species list, I'm only listing what I know 100% I saw. I probably have another dozen or so species that I wasn't sure of, Next time I go back, I'll have a proper guide, and Rob to take the photos. Birds in bold were lifers for me. (Lifers = first time seeing a bird species)

1. American Avocet
2. White Pelican
3. Franklin's Gull
4. Great Blue Heron
5. Double Crested Cormorant
6. Rock Pigeon
7. Swainson's Hawk
8. Tree Swallow
9. Eastern Kingbird
10. Raven
11. Red-winged Blackbird
12. Cedar Waxwing
13. Chickadee
14. House Sparrow
15. House Finch
16. American Goldfinch
17. Mallard Duck
18. Brown-headed Cowbird
19. Northern Flicker
20. Song Sparrow.
21. Common Goldeneye
22. House Wren
23. Chipping Sparrow
24. Eastern Kingfisher
25. Yellow Warbler
26. Downy Woodpecker
27. Mourning Dove
28. Western Wood Pewee 
29. Black-billed Magpie
30. Pine Siskin
31. Barn Swallow
32. European Starling
33. American Crow
34. Ring-billed Gull
35. Eared Grebe
36. Blue-winged teal
37. American Coot
38. Killdeer
39. Black Tern
40. Common Tern
41. Yellow-headed Blackbird
42. Clay-colored Sparrow
43. American Robin
44. Common Grackle
45. California Gull

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