Sunday, April 27, 2008

Riverbank Hike Part Two

Well, it looks like this latest series of photos from the river may stretch to 3 or even 4 parts as it seems I took more photos than I thought.
Unfortunately last week's weather was nothing but grey skies, but that didn't put me off, as sometimes you can have some nice surprises in even the worst of conditions...

Eastern Phoebe :
I watched as this little Flycatcher would fly off for awhile then return to its perch along the edge of the water bobbing its tail. I hid and waited in some bushes for over 20 minutes while it was gone and got my knees very wet and muddy in the process, but was rewarded when back he came to that favorite perch :

Hermit Thrush :
The night before I went out, it had snowed, so the next day it was still pretty cold out, hence why this little Thrush is all fluffed up :

American Kestrel :

This handsome male hunted near the Weir for about 30 minutes.

Ring-billed Gull :

Richardson's Ground Squirrel :

Our little 'Gopher' was not expecting to see snow in April ...

Osprey :

This is the prime time to see this impressive Hawk as they follow the river. Hopefully I can get some in better light another time ...

Kildeer :

Its always easy to tell if these birds are around as they are very loud ...

Black-billed Magpie :

I stood and watched this bird from about a meter away as it completely ignored me and gorged itself on what looked like a House Sparrow. This is one of the tamer images ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Riverbank Hike Part One

This update will be in two parts, with part two to come later as there are many photos :

Starting out at 8am on Friday I hiked around the riverbank, beginning at the Weir, then across the CN Bridge, past the Mendel, over the University Bridge,into Cosmopolitan Park, Rotary Park and finally finishing up at Gabriel Dumont Park.

Here's what I saw ( not in order of appearance )
* = new for the year
Fox Sparrow* - 1 rusty colored bird scratching leaf litter in Cosmo Park. White-throated Sparrow* - 1 at Rotary Park.
American Tree Sparrow - 2 by the Train Bridge and 1 in Rotary Park.
House Sparrow - 6 in various locations.
House Finch - 4 in Cosmo Park.
Dark-eyed Junco - 3 near the Weir and 10 in Cosmo Park.
American Robin - 35 pretty much everywhere.
American Crow - 3 by the weir.
Common Raven - 2 over the river.
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1 by the Mendel and 2 at Gabriel Dumont Park.
Black-capped Chickadee - 11 scattered in various locations.
Merlin - 8 in various locations , including 2 courting near the Mendel.
Red-tailed Hawk - 1 flying over the river.
American White Pelican* - 5 near Goose Island.
Double-crested Cormorant* - a flock of 23 on Goose Island.
Mallard - 5 on the river.
Gadwall - 1 bird on the west side of Goose Island.
Canada Goose - 120 pretty much everywhere.
Cackling Goose - 5 near Goose Island.
Ring-billed Gull - 75 below the train bridge.
California Gull - 2 by the Weir and 45 more at Gabriel Dumont Park.
Herring Gull - 6 at Gabriel Dumont Park.
Rock Dove - 300 under the Idlwyld Bridge and 50 under the train bridge.

Mammals :

Muskrat - 2
Least Chipmunk - 7
Richardson's Ground Squirrel - 1
Meadow Vole - 1
Jack rabbit - 1

Butterflies :

Milberts Tortoise Shell - 6
Compton Tortoise Shell - 1
Mourning Cloak - 3

Overnight we had a snowfall, combined with freezing rain, so thinking that this freakish weather would have brought some more birds down, I went out again for a few hours on Saturday.
Right off the bat, arriving at the Mendel Art Gallery, I spotted 2 'Myrtle race' Yellow-rumped Warblers looking out of place in the snow.
Heading along down the Meewasin Trail, I found another 7 , and once the day was done, I had a grand tally of 17 of these Warblers, others were on the east side of the river.
Once at the Weir I spotted 2 Killdeer among the rocks.
Looking up, I noticed what at first I thought was a huge gull , then as it got closer it was quite apparent I was staring at an Osprey.
This bird spent a good while hovering and looking down at the water, before finally plummeting down and heading off with a large fish while being chased by a Herring Gull intent on getting a free meal.
Like the Warblers , this was not to be the only Osprey I'd see.
Would you believe I saw a total of 8 of these amazing birds of prey, and all
of these were seen while walking along the lower trail on the east side. This is obviously a great time to see this bird as it follows the Saskatchewan River, and is by far the most I've seen in one day.
A surprise was seeing 2 Tree Swallows zip over the Diefenbaker Center as I rounded a path on my way to the university bridge.
Once at Cosmopolitan Park I was rewarded with 4 Hermit Thrushes (my first for 2008) and another Fox Sparrow (possibly the same one as yesterday)
Before finally heading home, a quick last scan of the river got me a Common Loon that I'd missed during yesterdays marathon trek .

Other species seen:

Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
California Gull
Northern Flicker
Black-billed Magpie
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Raven
American Crow
Blue Jay
Dark-eyed Junco
American Tree Sparrow
House Sparrow
House Finch
Song Sparrow ( new for the year )
American Robin
Rock Dove
Northern Shoveler
Canada Goose
Cackling Goose
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant

Mammals :

Richardson's Ground Squirrel
Least Chipmunk

Here are the first batch of photos ( click to enlarge )

Fox Sparrow

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Dark-eyed Junco

American Robin


American White Pelican

Red-breasted Nuthatch

California Gulls

Least Chipmunk

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Return of the Whooping Cranes

This according to Wikipedia : "As of April 2007 there were about 340 Whooping Cranes living in the wild, and another 145 living in captivity".

We are very lucky in Saskatchewan to play host to a few of these magnificent rare birds every year.
For the past couple of years I've been fortunate to see small groups of this Crane ( the tallest bird in North America) as they pass through our province and graze in the crop fields feeding mainly on waste grain.

Yesterday I had another chance to see this bird. There were 3 reported in the area of St.Denis.
This hilly region seems to be a favorite spot for this bird and its smaller cousin the Sandhill Crane and also many Geese.

Friends of ours were already at the location and kindly showed us the exact spot the birds were feeding, saving us the time of scanning the horizon for 3 white 'blobs'.

The Cranes were a good distance away but still gave us excellent views through binoculars and scopes and although the heat haze didn't help for photos much, I still had to get a record of the days sightings and couldn't go home without getting something with the camera.

I went for a more ' scenic ' look to these photos seeing as the birds were so far away. This captures some of the background landscape , and in one picture, the rolling hills :

Other birds seen on the day were as follows :

American Crow - 3
Common Raven - 1
Canada Goose - 300+
Cackling Goose - 10
Snow Goose - 400+
Greater White-fronted Goose - 14
Sandhill Crane - 100
Whooping Crane - 3
Red-tailed Hawk - 3
American Kestrel - 1
Merlin - 1
Great Horned Owl - 2
American Wigeon - 4
Canvasback - 2
Gadwall - 2
Mallard - 12
Northern Pintail - 10
Northern Shoveler - 8
American Coot - 1
Horned Lark - 20
Lapland Longspur - 50
European Starling - 5
Bohemian Waxwing - 45
American Robin - 5
Ring-billed Gull - 12
Rock Dove - 2
House Sparrow - 10

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring Robins at the Forestry Farm

A few days ago, a friend and I ventured out to the Forestry Farm Park to see what Spring arrivals were coming through.
The morning was somewhat cold and grey as a light sleet had fallen the night before, so we only stayed for an hour or so.
The most obvious birds there were the Robins and Junco's.
Actually I'm surprised at the amount of birdlife at the park seeing as there was a predator amidst...
A Merlin was racing around the sky giving its high-pitched shriek, but this didn't seem to deter the species that were seen:

American Robin - 70
Dark-eyed Juncos - 32
American Tree Sparrow - 1
Northern Flicker - 1
Blue Jay - 2
Canada Geese - 14
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
House Finch - 2
Ring-billed Gull - 5
House Sparrow - 15
Merlin - 1

The were also at least 5 Jack Rabbits in the park.

American Robin :

Friday, April 4, 2008

Great Day for Raptors

Yesterday I traveled south of Saskatoon in overcast & rainy conditions with 2 friends, for almost 2 hours. I had heard good things about Raptor sightings in between Rosetown & Elrose from my friend Marten and wanted to see for myself.
It was a long journey but very worthwhile !

Here's what was seen :

Red-tailed Hawk - 39 in total ! at one point there was a pair on a
power pole every 2 k or so. Stopping on the high highway was pretty scary , so we opted to just ID them as we were driving.

Rough-legged Hawk - my first of the year - 4 birds including a very dark phased individual.

American Kestrel - 5

Merlin - 1

Snowy Owl - 4 on the way home . Including a great look at a male.

Great Horned Owl - 2 on the way home

Western Meadowlark - new for the year . 5 birds including one singing

American Robin - 1 at Harris.

American Tree Sparrow - 2

Mountain Bluebird - 1

European Starling - 35

Canada Goose - 150

Green-winged Teal - ( new for 2008 )1 male among many Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail ( new for 2008 ) - 65 + in a slough east of Elrose

Horned Lark - 9

American Crow - 12

Common Raven - 6

House Sparrow - 20

Here are a couple of photos :

Snowy Owl

Rough-legged Hawk - not the closest view. This handsome bird was way out in a field.

...and the first Western Meadowlark of 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Weekend at Prince Albert National Park

Setting out on Saturday morning , my wife and I accompanied members of the Saskatoon Nature Society to Prince Albert National Park , home to some Northern species of birds and animals not found locally.
Weather-wise, it could have been better the first day, but we still managed to find a respectable 28 species on the first day, including 2 Pileated Woodpeckers at Little Red River Park ( the first time I've seen this species at that park )
Unfortunately, the only Owl seen on Saturday was a lone Great Horned Owl on the highway back in the Saskatoon area .
This was a different matter on Sunday when my Wife and I accompanied our friends Marten and his wife Regina to Montreal Lake, were we found and successfully banded 3 out of 5 Northern Hawk Owls.It was fascinating to learn that the females will make a shrieking sound when they hear a male close by.
I was hoping to see a Spruce Grouse over the weekend as they tend to stick to one area of the Park, and I missed out on seeing a co-operative Male on Saturday afternoon, and then tried unsuccessfully again on Sunday afternoon. My prize finally came on Monday morning when I found a handsome Male sitting 10ft up a lichen-covered Jack Pine on the Boundary Bog Trail.
Leaving on Monday afternoon we added another 6 species to our list on the way home .
Here's what was seen , followed by some new photos :

Canada Goose - many scattered in fields
Gray Partridge - 3 on the way there
Ruffed Grouse - 15 along the Narrows Road on Monday
Spruce Grouse - 1 Male at the Boundary Bog Trail on Monday
Bald Eagle - 5 in total could be seen soaring from the Boundary Bog Trail
Northern Harrier - 1 flying low on the way there on Saturday morning
Red-tailed Hawk - 2 on the way there and one sat in a tree on the way home
American Kestrel - a surprise to see this fly out from an old barn on the scenic route on the way home on Monday.
Merlin - one sat on a power line on the way home on Monday
Ring-billed Gull - a few flying over the city on the way home
Rock Pigeon - a few scattered near grain elevators on the way home
Great Horned Owl - one on the journey there
Northern Hawk Owl - 5 along the Montreal Lake road on Sunday
Downy Woodpecker - 1 Female within the park on Saturday
Hairy Woodpecker - A pair on Sunday on the Boundary Bog Trail
American Three-toed Woodpecker - 1 Male on the Narrows Road on Monday
Black Backed Woodpecker - 1 at Little Red River Park on Saturday
Pileated Woodpecker - 2 at Little Red River Park on Saturday
Northern Shrike - 1 along a dirt road west of the highway on the way home
Blue Jay - a few at the park
Gray Jay - 25 or more in various areas of the park. On Monday they were very abundant
Black-billed Magpie - many scattered in various places
American Crow - several in varying places on the way there and back
Common Raven - many in varying places on the way there and back
Horned Lark - a lone bird along a dirt road west of the highway on the way home
Black-capped Chickadee - a few scattered in various parts of the park
Boreal Chickadee - 2 ( heard only ) I'm surprised we didn't see more of these
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1 at Little Red River Park
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1 at Anglin Lake
European Starling - 3 on the journey there
Bohemian Waxwing - a flock of around 60 on the way home
Common Redpoll - many at little Red River Park and within Prince Albert National Park
Evening Grosbeak - at least 12 at the Waskesui town site and another 15 or so within the park.
House Sparrow - a few on the journey there

Mammals seen :

Red Squirrel
Pine Marten - My wife and a few lucky others got a brief glimpse of one
Mule Deer
White-tailed Deer
Snowshoe Hare

Here are some photos ( click to enlarge )

Spruce Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Gray Jay

Evening Grosbeak

Northern Hawk Owl

American Three-toed Woodpecker

White-tailed Deer