Monday, May 4, 2009

Alberta Trip - Elk Island National Park

Back on the road and heading to Elk Island National Park. It really wasn't a very long run from Garner Lake, west on highway 28/36 until the secondary road 831 which pretty well took us to the north entrance of the park. We always purchase annual passes to our National Parks, so no problem there. Straight to the campsite which hasn't changed much in years and years, which means it hasn't kept up with the times and is pretty small, cramped and crowded. I think there was also a parking lot style site for RV's as well, but since we avoid those types of places like the plague, we opted for the other choice - after all we weren't here for the camping experience but the location.

After an early lunch we headed out to see what we could see. Elk Island is actually know for the Buffalo, I think there are Wood Buffalo on one side of the main highway that bisects the park and Plains Bison on the other. When you have traveled in the N.W.T. and had to sit and wait for herds of Wood Buffalo to amble off the road, their backs level with your truck window, or you've watched a herd magically appear out on the Great Salt Plains.....well seeing these guys just doesn't hold that much of a thrill. We drove to a site that offered viewing possibilities and found a large, well maintained picnic site and parking lot, with trail. There was a viewing platform but the lake was so low that the water was so far off, it was impossible to see anything. Fortunately there was a trail that seemed to take you down the side of what I guess was a lake.
The above photo shows the trail we followed and eventually came to the area shown below.

There was a great profusion of waterfowl and shorebirds, but still a little too far out to get really good pictures of. I could have ventured closer I suppose, but this spot was in full view of the viewing platform and I didn't want to get charged with harassing the wildlife.

Another view......

and another, this one showing a pair of Trumpeter Swans, which were the only Swans we saw that trip.

There were a number of American Avocet there, including a number that seemed to be sitting on nests. American Avocet are one of my favorite shorebirds, just because they are so pretty! By the way, those yellow flowers that lined the shoreline are Marsh Ragwort.

We met a young fellow in the parking lot and got talking, he was working as a surveyor of some sort and was traveling all over northern Alberta and doing some bird watching at the same time, he told us about a place he had stayed at where there were more Avocet than he had ever seen and the birds in the campground were incredible, the name of the place was Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park - stay tuned!

Back to the campground. I went for a walk down to the main lake, there is a big picnic area and beach between the campground and the lake, all very civilized (too civilized for my liking). As you can see the weather was a bit 'iffy'.

Headed along the pathway (it was paved - you can't call it a trail!), that led to a board walk. On the way I passed these gulls, a mixture of Ring Bill and Franklin. The Franklin are the ones with Black heads. Did the board walk but didn't notice anything too exciting. A pair of Red Neck Grebe (of course!) and a female Red Wing Blackbird with nesting material in her mouth.....we then ventured a little further along, past the golf course (yes 'golf' course)......

Got this picture of the lake from a different angle and yes, more Pelicans.
After supper we decided to head in the opposite direction and after getting past the boat launch we found a trail that looked more like a 'trail' and started to follow it as it went around the north edge of the lake.

This young buck deer was browsing in one spot, not the least bit perturbed by us. I was a tad nervous walking past him. Fortunately Shantz has a healthy respect for deer. When she was quite a young pup we were staying in the Kettle River Provincial Park just outside of Rock Creek, B.C. There are a lot of deer in that campsite and one evening they went sort of berserk, racing around all over the place, right through campsites. Shantz was on her tie out and jumped up on the table to either get a better view or escape from them - in fact Ernie always says that she figures picnic tables save you from marauding deer - which is why she always lays on them....whatever the reason or thinking, she is now interested when she sees one but walks past respectfully.

In another wet spot (there was a boardwalk bridge), this Muskrat was busy gnawing right beside the path. He wasn't quite as accepting of us as the deer had been.

We were getting to the stage where I was getting a bit nervous, it was quite late in the evening and we hadn't seen another this was about where we turned around. There is a bird's nest in that shrub right in front

I put the camera up for a quick peek, and yes, there were eggs in it. I don't know what kind of bird nest it was, possibly a Yellow Warblers as I had seen one in the general area.
Enough for that day, we headed back to the trailer and it was soon time for bed. Seems, if memory serves, we had a thunder storm that night.

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