Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alberta Trip 2008 - Gooseberry Lake - June 8

After taking a look at the map and the time we had remaining, the lure of Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park was too great to ignore. It meant a long day of driving as we headed out the north gate of Elk Island National Park and proceeded on highway 15 until it ran into the main highway #16 which we followed until we could turn south on secondary highway 36, once that road intersected #14 we proceeded on a south easterly direction to Wainwright, where we turned south again, this time on highway 41 (a run straight down #41 from Cold Lake would have brought us to this park). It was lovely countryside along the route, gradually getting more open and drier as we headed south. Along the route, in a pond in a field beside the road, I spotted a life bird for me - a Black-necked Stilt. The only picture I got was so poor I couldn't post it here, but so far that is the only Black necked Stilt I have ever seen, so I'm keeping it, for proof.

By the time we reached the turn off to Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park we were in really cattle country and it wasn't just the huge Rodeo Grounds that turned out to be adjacent to the park, that clued us in.

As it turns out, Gooseberry Lake is an internationally recognized 'Important Bird Area' known partly for its popularity as a stopping place for waterfowl and shorebirds during spring and fall migration, but also because it has a small breeding population of the endangered 'Piping Plover'.

The campground and park was very well maintained with lots of large shade trees and green lawns. The amenities such as large playing fields and golf course sort of gave testament to the fact that this must be a pretty popular place, and the fact that the 'lawn' at the entrance, although mowed, consisted of 90% cactus and 10% grass....sort of gives you an idea that this is probably a pretty warm place during most of the season. When we arrived it was cloudy and threatening rain and there were only a few other units parked at the far end of the campground, but obviously early arrivals for the rodeo that was apparently going to be that weekend.
The above is a view of the lake itself. Not the most scenic of lakes, and you can see that the country around about is pretty flat, just gently rolling grasslands for the most part. The above view would be looking from the location of the campsite towards the north east.

This view is taken from a trail below the campsite and is looking more directly eastwards.

There were huge cat-tail marshes along much of the shoreline. Who knows what and how many creatures were lurking in that massive bulrush bed!

and yes, there were the promised Avocets!

The lake side was alkaline type mud - a shore birds delight! Here are some of those Avocet......

and some more........

and just one more........
The campsites themselves were nestled in trees and shrubs on a slight hill, below that area there was an extensive trail system that ran along the shoreline between the campsite and the lake shore. You couldn't really access the actual lake shore, which is probably a good thing, considering those endangered Piping Plover.......

part of the trail ran past these Silver Berry Shrubs. Silver Berry grow where ever it is hot and dry - including in many areas of B.C. and in the Rocky Mountains. You always know when you are in Silver Berry country, especially in June as the perfume from the tiny flowers shown in the next picture is wonderful! I'm not a perfume fan, but if they could bottle this scent - I would wear it!

a close up of the Silver Berry flower (by the way, the berries that will show up later in the season, really are silver in color.

This pretty little flower is a 'Mealy Primrose' and they were growing in areas along the trail

Avocets weren't the only birds on the shoreline. This fellow is a Bonaparte Gull - similiar too but also quite different from those other black headed gulls - the Franklins that we saw at Elk Island.

This fellow is a Marbled Godwit.

back to the flowers, as close as I can figure, the yellow flowers in the above photo are Narrow-leafed Puccoon

and this one, that shows up in one of those views of the lake at the beginning of this post, is the highly poisonous Buffalobean or Golden Bean.

This shrub was growing in amongst a number of trees, where the hillside rose up towards the campsite and park entrance. As close as I can figure it is Tartarian Honeysuckle, a shrub that is apparently native to areas of Asia and has now naturalized in some parts of Alberta, after escaping from gardens.

Back at the campsite, you can tell from the water dripping off the branch that the weather deteriorated.....this House Wren was put off it's singing though

While this Gray Catbird didn't look quite so happy!

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