Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alberta Trip - June 1, 2008 - Lac la Biche

June 1st we left Lesser Slave Lake, and headed east on highway 2. In many areas the country this highway passed through reminded us of the North West Territories, a feeling that was intensified when we spotted a pair of Sandhill Cranes off in the distance in one spot. Our goal that day was Lac la Biche and Winston Churchill Provincial Park.

If I ever decide to relocate to Alberta, Lac la Biche is certainly a town I would consider. I was totally enchanted with it. Small, but not too small with a mix of heritage and modern, set on the shores of the lake by the same name.....and if I had to name my favorite top 10 provincial parks, Sir Winston Churchill would certainly have to be in there somewhere. The park itself is an island, the only way to reach it, other than by water, is via the causeway built specifically for that purpose. The island is fairly large and varied in vegetation. The road circles the outer edge of the island with the campground on the south shore. The campground itself is spread out and made up of a series of small loops, with nice, private campsites set back into the vegetation, so I imagine that even if the park was full, it wouldn't feel crowded. We headed for a site on the far end and set up camp. Red Squirrels were everywhere. The main part of the island was quite forested, which suited these little guys to a 'T'.
This Osprey nest was located just behind one of the campsites (vacant) in our 'loop'.

The willows were full of these butterflies....a type of Satyr I think.

and here is another of those White Throated Sparrows...skulking around in the undergrowth. This area was actually a ditch along side the road and had just enough water in it to attract a steady stream of birds.

These flowers go by the rather unattractive name of 'Large Flowered Lungwort' or, the name I prefer, 'Northern Bluebells'. We've seen them in northern B.C., the N.W.T. and now here they were in northern Alberta.

This is a view of our campsite, I was standing in the next site to take the picture. There was short trail here that led to a trail that ran along the shore, just past where our campsite was, there was quite a boggy area, with a board walk through it and this proved to be a fantastic birding site.

This is probably one of the best pictures I'm likely to get of a Chipping Sparrow.

I thought I was after something really special with this bird, but turned out to be a Song Sparrow. Song Sparrows are the only bird species that is found in every single province and state in North America. They can, however look quite different from place to place. The ones in Alberta were 'crisper' in appearance than the ones we are used to seeing on the coast.
Although I never managed photos, there were lots of Yellow Warblers and flycatchers in this area as well.

After supper we went for a drive along the park road, and came to a nice look out area where we stopped to take the following pictures. I had not realized at the time that I had somehow managed to put a nice greasy fingerprint on my camera lens, so must apologize for the lack of clarity......

OK, I see I mixed these up a bit. The above picture is actually taken from just behind our campsite, late in the evening.

Now for the above picture, I must ask you to click on it to make it full screen, and look carefully at the sky. Notice all those black specks? They are bugs. Millions and millions of bugs. They aren't biting bugs, they are chronomide...and any of you who are fishermen know about chronomide. During the day, there was a constant low hum as these bugs sheltered in the tops of the trees, but as evening fell, the bugs came down lower, vast clouds of them. Walking along the board walk, at times, was like walking through a snowstorm of little black bugs.

This is the shot I thought I had put first in line, this was looking sort of southwest, back towards the area we would have driven through that day.
We then continued on along the park road until we came to a parking lot that said there was a viewing platform, so stopped to take a look.

This was the site that the viewing platform was focused on. Again, I urge you to click on the picture to bring it full size (use your 'back' button to get back to the normal blog). All of those dark specs were Double Crested Cormorant. The smaller white specks are gulls. I'm not sure what type, probably a mix of Ring bill and Franklin as both are pretty popular in the area. The larger white birds in the middle are American White Pelican, and there is one lone Great Blue Heron in the very center.

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