Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 17 – Elk Island National Park

In real time, I’m about to head out for a short 4 day trip to our ‘home away from home’ ~ Tunkwa Lake, but thought I’d try to get another posting done before we leave….I told you posting this trip was going to be a slow process!…..

Now, since we found ourselves at Elk Island, we decided we might as well stay for the weekend….

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Waking up to weather like this only helped with the decision!  This was the view that greeted us that morning, May 8th, just a few feet from where we were parked.  We decided to ‘stay put’ for the day and just take the various walks in the immediate area….

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This path leads from the boat launch parking walk where we were camped…along the lake front, past the beach and day use area (in the middle of the picture) and on to a floating boardwalk….

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 This is one of the viewing points along the trail.  You’ll note that cloud did move in, but it never amounted to much and by afternoon the skies were clear once more.  The name of this lake is ‘Astotin’ Lake.

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Water levels in the lake were actually very low….this is just past the beach area….you can see there were lots of birds in the area….

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Lot’s of these Horned Grebe….

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Lesser Yellowlegs along the shoreline…

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Here a Solitary Sandpiper with a pair of Blue wing Teal ducks.

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the path ends at the board walk….here Ernie and Shantz are out on a section that projects right out into the lake…

DSLR Spring Trip 174 There were American White Pelicans feeding in the little bay beside the board walk….

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Here is a closer look at one of those Pelican…

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While I was taking the Pelican pictures, I looked down and there was a Beaver coming right at me!

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He then veered to the side, but it was obvious he wanted to go under the portion of the floating walk that I was standing on.

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There were also large numbers of these Red-neck Grebe….we’ll come back to them in a bit….this guy is just barely into his breeding colours.

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A number of Song Sparrows in the reeds as well….

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Walking back, I heard a familiar and unmistakable sound….the calls of Sandhill Cranes!  Looking up we spotted this flock of them flying over head…

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and here another one…..another species of birds that must have been held up a bit by the weather…

DSLR Spring Trip 197 Circling around and walking back past some picnic shelters….we first heard, and then saw…these Northern Phoebe ~ it is easy to tell how they got their name as their call is ‘Phee –bee’.  We have seen them before in the N.W.T. and Northern Alberta….they are always found hanging about man made structures where they build their nests…..

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Which is exactly what these ones were doing.  There is the nest.

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back at our end…there were now Pelicans in this bay as well…

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never get tired of looking at (or taking pictures of…) these guys!

In the afternoon I went out wandering again, going back over some of the areas we’d done in the morning….

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There were quite a few pairs of Common Goldeneye on the lake, and the males didn’t tolerate another one getting too close to ‘his’ female.

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A few Ring bill Gull – you can see the black ‘ring’ on the bill…

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Back at the floating boardwalk, the Red neck Grebes were busy doing nest construction….here with a mouthful of nesting material…

DSLR Spring Trip 215 Add it to the nest….

DSLR Spring Trip 219 and go back for more.Spring Trip 2010 889

Some tapping sounds led me to this Yellow bellied Sapsucker that was busy working on a nesting hole…

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and a Black capped Chickadee doing the same..

Spring Trip 2010 887 Here is just a peaceful picture of the lake….you can see the deciduous trees are just barely leafing out..

Spring Trip 2010 894 and I’ll toss in a few more Pelicans…

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including this one coming in for a landing….

After supper we did yet another walk, this one the 3 1/2 km ‘Lakeview’ walk at the northern end of the lake…

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It goes by this marsh area where there really wasn’t much activity…

Spring Trip 2010 917 here is a view of the lake….

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and another, this taken from the area of a viewing platform situated at the furthest point of the trail

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part of the trail back wound through this Aspen forest….

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here is another viewing platform, this time at the marsh… where we happened to meet another couple, armed with binoculars, cameras AND a Siberian Husky!  Theirs was a gray, blue eyed male.

Spring Trip 2010 927 You’ll note, up to now I haven’t mentioned a flower ~ that is, because until this point I hadn’t seen a flower ~ this Coltsfoot, growing beside the marsh in the above picture…was the first flower seen.

So ended a long but delightful day….and it ended in spectacular fashion as I’ll share these sunset shots with you.

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Nice – note the Pelicans…

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Spectacular!  This one is now my desktop!

Bird List:  White Throated Sparrow – 1; American White Pelican – 11; Red neck Grebe – 12; Common Loon – 1; Northern Phoebe – 6; Horned Grebe – 7; Canada Geese – 12; Common Goldeneye – 6; Mallard – 16; Lesser Yellowlegs Sandpiper – 1; Blue Jay – 1; American Crow – 14; Robin – 2; Blue Wing Teal – 4; Ring bill Gull – 4; Solitary Sandpiper – 2; American Coot – 8; Sandhill Crane – 60; Song Sparrows – 3; Red wing Blackbird – 10; Bufflehead – 2; Yellow bellied Sapsucker – 3; Yellow rump Warbler – 6; Great Blue Heron – 3; Black Cap Chickadee – 3; Killdeer – 1; Merlin – 1; Barrows’ Goldeneye – 2; Hairy Woodpecker – 1; Ruffed Grouse – 1; Double crested Cormorant – 5; Tree swallow – 1.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 16 – Elk Island National Park

Friday, May 7 we woke up to no snow, no rain, no wind….time to go!!! 

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We pulled into the viewpoint at the top of the hill, to take a final look at Dinosaur Provincial Park ~ there is Sandhill Creek down there, and barely visible the trail we walked along the coulee…


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Ernie, standing there taking pictures, gives some perspective….

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and one final look, this one showing remnants of the snow for the last few days.  Now it was time to head to Highway 36 north…..we had gone only a very short distance when we found a lovely big campground right on the Red River….drove in and checked it out…way to early to think of camping for tonight, but something to keep in mind for another time as this campground didn’t appear on any of our maps.

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The road ahead…as you can see…pretty flat country with the weather falling into a ‘little bit of everything’ category…

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and on we go….now the terrain starts to become more ‘rolling’….

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by lunch time we had reached the junction of highway #36 running north and south, and #9 running east and west.  There was a large truck stop/gas station/restaurant at that corner (seen here in the distance) where we topped up the fuel because large signs warned that there were no services on #36.  Across the street from the truck stop was a large rest area which is where we stopped to make some lunch.  I don’t know if there is normally a pond here, or whether it was just flooded fields but a number of birds were making use of the water….

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Including Killdeer…

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and Lesser Yellowlegs Sandpiper.  There were also Snipe, and lots of songbirds.  I should mentioned that while we ate lunch there were snow pellets falling on us.

Back on #36, heading north….another hour or two had passed, with steadily improving weather….just before the town of Alliance, we came upon another little campground…this one on the Battle River, so we pulled in to give us and the dogs a break.

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That would be the Battle River down there….

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This was looking directly west from the campground…that far hill was a local ‘ski hill’…

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Ernie found the ski hill fascinating and zoomed in for this closer shot….

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This is where I also spotted this little guy….I didn’t know at the time, but found out later (‘cause you will be seeing more of them) that this is a ‘Thirteen Line Ground Squirrel’.

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It was a nice enough little campground, although noisy as it was right beside the highway and #36 is obviously a favorite route for large trucks…..and being it was still fairly early and we were trying to make up for some lost time, we took a last look – and enjoyed the warm (8 degree) sunshine, and once more, turned north….

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The countryside was changing with more areas of trees and many roadside bodies of water such as this one….we’d passed through the town of Viking (situated at the junction with #14 that headed to Edmonton) and were continuing on when we were treated with a sight that was one of the things we had hoped to see by traveling this early in the season….

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A large mixed flock of migrating birds….

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Primarily made up of Greater White Fronted Geese and Snow Geese

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there were also Canada Geese, and I’m pretty sure a few Ross’s Geese as well…

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there were also a few of what used to be called ‘Blue Geese’ (just to right of middle on the near shore of the lake)….Blue Geese are now recognized as a variation of Snow Geese…

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Besides all the Geese varieties there were a number of species of shorebirds, ducks and grebes.  If one took the time to study the whole flock with a spotting scope I’m sure all sorts of interesting birds would have been found.  I imagine the weather had held them up, just as it had us.  Unfortunately, being it was getting late and also the fact that semi-trucks continued to roar past, not happy with campers pulled over to the side of the road watching birds….we moved on.

We had thought, after finding two campgrounds that day, we’d come across another one…but by the time we’d reached the junction with #16, having not found anywhere to camp and it now being supper time, we elected to turn west on #16 and head to Elk Island National Park.  Another place we know, like, but hadn’t planned to go to on this trip.

Reached the park entrance, bought another annual pass ($136.90) ~ we feel strongly about supporting our National Parks and figure we usually get our money’s worth out of the pass ~ we then found that the actual campground would not open until the Monday (it was Friday) “when the university students arrive” BUT that there was ‘winter camping’ at the boat launch parking lot on Astotin Lake and the best part….it was free….so we may have had to buy our pass….but already we would have got a good part of our ‘money’s worth’ back…

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So now we joined several other units, and got set up in the parking area.  This view was just a few feet from our spot at the actual boat launch….

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a walk went off from the boat launch, up a slight hill….towards the main part of the park which we will visit tomorrow, but I just really liked the colours…the white of the Birch trees, the red of the unfurling leaves etc.

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In the evening,  a couple of Great Blue Heron were feeding at the edge of the lake in the sheltered bit by the boat launch…

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and for a perfect ending to the day….some Pelicans feeding while lit by the setting sun!