Thursday, April 30, 2009

Alberta Trip - June 4, 2008 - Moose Lake

June 4th we decided to not spend a second day at Cold Lake and to move on. While Ernie was doing the hook up chores, I wandered off down the road, to see what I could see, and that is when I found the Warblers! The vegetation on both sides of the main road, leading to the boat launch was absolutely alive with Warblers. Of course all birders know that Warblers are small, blend into the environment well and never hold still! Another of my goals on this trip had been to get pictures of American Redstarts........ I had, of course, meant 'good' pictures of them, however these were the first and only American Redstarts I would see on the trip and these pictures are as good as they got! That is a female above....and a male below.
There are quite a few Warblers that are found in the east, whose western most range just dips into this corner of Alberta. The Chestnut-sided Warbler is one of those. So I was very fortunate to get pictures of this species.

It helped that the male spent a lot of time singing....and therefore, holding still!

more views of the Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Other Warblers spotted were Magnolia and Blackburnian - and how I wish I'd gotten photos of them! The truck and trailer were sitting out on the road, the engine running....Ernie did offer to unhook and spend another day....but alas...the road beckoned.
We didn't travel far that day. We were headed in the general direction of Elk Island National Park, north east of Edmonton, but weren't in a hurry and planned to check other campsites along the route. Headed south on Highway 55 from Cold Lake but then turned west on highway 28, headed to Bonnyville. We had been told there was good birding in that area, so headed to Moose Lake Provincial Park were we found ourselves in completely different habitat than we had been in for the past while.

This is the campground at Moose Lake, it was a much drier area, more open with little undergrowth. The trees were Spruce (Black Spruce I think) and covered in lichens. Birdlife was abundant. Yellow Rump Warblers, were of course everywhere. I saw what I am pretty sure was a Black and White Warbler, but couldn't get a picture.

A number of Northern Flicker, the Yellow-shafted variety as you would expect in this area.

This is a female Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker.

Dark eyed Junco (above), as well as the inevitable Chipping Sparrow. After setting up and having some lunch and exploring the campground area itself (there were only a couple of other units in the smallish campground), we took a walk towards the lake.

This is the eastern end of Moose Lake. There was a nice path that ran along the shore of the lake, so we started to follow it. Came to a sandy area which was the 'beach area' for the campsite.

It is virtually impossible to not see a Spotted Sandpiper on any body of water you encounter, anywhere in B.C., Alberta, the N.W.T. and prop ably lots of other places as well, but the Spotted Sandpiper here were some of the most co-operative for pictures........

more Spotted Sandpiper pictures......

and one more.....

Further along the shore trail we came upon this newly erected Osprey nesting site. There was a sign post with quite a write up about how the local service clubs, along with the local Boy Scouts had erected this platform....and considering the location, it must have been quite the chore, but there was a pair of Osprey, busy constructing a nest on it, so their efforts had been worthwhile.

About the only flower we could find, were these early Blue Violets that are found in such a wide range of open habitats.

The above picture, taken on an evening walk, shows some more of the interesting habitat. That light colored stuff is lichen and it, and the moss were very dry....'crunchy' if you walked on it.

An evening view of Moose Lake.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alberta Trip - June 3, 2008 - Cold Lake

June 3rd we had to make a decision, stay at Lac la Biche for a while longer....or continue on to see what else we could see. We figured we'd lucked out on the owl family, so it was probably time to move on. I took one last look at the lake while Ernie hooked up the trailer, and managed this shot of an American White Pelican as it flew past.
Back to the main road, now Highway #55 and headed east again, destination, Cold Lake Provincial Park, which we reached about mid afternoon. This is another large park, very well kept but quite busy, probably due to it's close proximity to the town of Cold Lake. The campground offered a choice of powered or non powered site, so we opted for some power so I could get some pictures downloaded to my laptop and some CD's burned.
As we were searching for the right spot, we spotted this Eastern Phoebe....this was obviously a favorite perch as I saw one there almost every time we went by. After we were set up I went for a walk along a trail that circled the campsite, but ran through the forest....and found a pair of these Eastern Phoebe

They were hanging out around a washroom. In fact I had noticed that when we were in the N.W.T., washrooms or shower houses seemed to be a favorite spot for these guys. You can only lurk around a washroom with a camera in hand for just so long before people get suspicious....but I did manage to get a few pictures of them in the bushes beside the washroom. The build their nests on the buildings, but I couldn't spot just where.

Here is another of those Albertan Song Sparrows.

Cold Lake was the first place where we actually ran into annoying bugs...that is mosquitoes! so we were sitting inside having our supper, when we looked through the screen door and saw this female Yellow Bellied Sapsucker sitting on the chopping block in the campsite. (a male would have red under the bill as well as on the head).

She jumped down and was picking up something on the ground - one thing about campsites in Alberta.....they don't keep the individual sites up like they do in B.C. In B.C., as soon as a site is vacated, an attendant is there with a rake, smoothing out the site and picking up any garbage - in Alberta, there is no such attention.

I honestly don't know what this bird is. It doesn't have enough white on the back to be a Hairy Woodpecker, it is the wrong shape to be a Three Toed, there is no red on it so not a sapsucker, and it is too early in the year for it to be a juvenile......

After supper we drove back to this marshy lake area near the entrance to the park. There was a viewing platform part way down, so we walked to the platform.

This was the view, looking back towards where the entrance to the park would be......

and this was looking back towards the campsite. There wasn't a lot visible on the water.

but there were quite a few of these red Dragonflies, on the viewing platform itself.

Spotted this male Hairy Woodpecker on a snag......

The ground, where ever there was a bit of moisture, was carpeted with these Canada Violets which are common throughout B.C., Alberta, and presumably other areas of Canada as well.

From one end of the park (the marshy lake), past the campground, to the very large, multiple parking lots at the boat launch area, that attest to the popularity of the lake for fishing. That is Ernie and Shantz out on one of the docks where there was a constant traffic of boats in and out. Remember this was northern Alberta and we were getting on to the summer solstice which meant it stayed light for a long time in the evenings....lots of time to get out and fish after supper!

Alberta Trip - June 2, 2008 - Lac la Biche - Day 2

Our second day at Lac la Biche was mainly spent doing some of those necessary things that you have to do, regardless if you are on vacation or not - doing laundry, grocery shopping etc. So it wasn't until fairly late in the afternoon that we could return to the campsite. I would have loved to have put the canoe in the water (there was a boat launch and large picnic site on the north side of the park), with an eye to getting a little closer to that bird covered rock (mind you there were signs saying you had to stay away and that you'd be fined for molesting the birds - not that I had any intention of doing that - just thought it would be nice to be able to get a slightly closer picture), but it was quite windy that day, certainly too windy to take a canoe out onto an unknown lake, so we had to settle for viewing with the spotting scope. While we were doing this, a couple told us that there was a nest of Owls in the campsite itself. We hadn't actually walked through the campsite, so decided to go back and do that. It didn't take long to spot this Great Horned 'Owlet' in an aspen tree, right where we were told they would be.
a quick look around and we spotted brother or sister, sitting in this tree at the back of a vacant campsite.
Ernie and Shantz stayed on the roadway, but I worked my way slowly into the site in order to get some closer pictures.

Neither mom.........

nor dad (or vice versa) were very far away!

I think the above shot shows how it would be so easy to just walk by a Great Horned Owl without even noticing, as he/she looks just like part of the broken off tree trunk! Seeing this owl family was a special treat.

Back at the campsite, Shantz was entertained by what we call 'husky T.V.' The arrow is pointing to the object of her attention.......

a very unconcerned, Red Squirrel!

This picture gives a better idea of the distance between them. The squirrel is in the white circle. Although Shantz looks like she is about to spring any second (she is on a tie out cable), in actual fact she is perfectly content just 'watching'. She has been taught from day one that you 'watch' and not 'chase' and she does have her very own little furry friends back home in her yard....I've seen her laying on her bed on the patio with a chipmunk sitting just a few feet away, and although she knows it is there, she doesn't make a move to chase it.

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.