Monday, July 5, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 18 – Elk Island National Park

Well in real time I’m back from our weekend trip to Tunkwa and since I have a lot of pictures to edit and organize before I can post them….I’ll continue on with the spring trip.

May 9th, which happened to be Mother’s Day, we woke up to sunshine and decided, once breakfast was over, to pack up and go exploring a bit more of the park.  Elk Island National Park is approximately 10 km wide and 20 km. long, so there is lots to explore. 

We started out by driving back towards the south entrance, to the Buffalo Paddock….

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and, surprise!  there were actually Buffalo there.  The Buffalo are free to wander the entire park so you can often come to the paddock and not see a single buffalo.

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These guys are actually Wood Bison….the Plains Bison roam in another section of the park that is on the south side of the main highway.

Next destination was Tawayik Lake to see if there were any waterfowl or shorebirds…

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Unfortunately the water level in this lake has dropped dramatically.  When you pull into the parking lot there is a viewing platform with spotting scope but the lake is now so far away from this area that even the scope is useless.  We were shocked at how much more the lake had dropped in just the two years since we had been here.  There is actually an 18 km.  trail that circles this lake, we walked for 3 km before we came to any where near water…..

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We could make out a few birds way, way in the distance…

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I suspect, from the way they flew, a flock of Dunlin….

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but this area, which 2 years ago was alive with birds, including nesting American Avocet….was now high and dry.  You can see that the blue sky is changing….large dark clouds moving in, but we made it the 3 km back to the parking lot without getting wet.

DSLR Spring Trip 229 That is some Buffalo or Bison fur hanging off a tree truck along the trail….

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Part way along the trail, dark clouds over head and Shantz sitting in the sunshine….one of those crazy mixed up days in the weather department!

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Heading back now, in the direction of the campground, we stopped at the trail head for the Hayburger Trail and made some lunch.  After lunch, we thought we’d wander along that trail for a while…

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But we didn’t get very far because this guy was standing right in the path…….

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at this point….Shantz could smell something, but hadn’t actually spotted it….but we decided we really didn’t need to walk that trail after all ~  there are all kinds of signs warning you that Buffalo are not tame and not to get too close….

So next we decided to take a road that said it went to the ‘west gate’ of the park….we didn’t know there was a ‘west gate’

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This road traveled along the south end of Astotin Lake and seemed to end at some administration offices.  Perhaps there had been a West Gate at some time in the past…..certainly the road was not in any shape for much regular traffic….

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There were Buffalo along that road as well…..including this guy up on a hillside.  By now we figured we might as well just head back to the boat launch parking lot and set up for another night…..

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When we got there, this guy and these Canada Geese were wandering around on the grass at the edge of the parking lot….and the showers had also materialized….

Despite the showers, I decided to go for a bit of a ‘wander’, so tucked the little Olympus Camera under my jacket and off I went….

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up the hill to the viewing area….

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along the foot path….I just had to take a picture of these colors….even though it looks more like a fall or winter picture than spring….

and then I discovered there had been a shorebird ‘fall out’ because there were shorebirds all along the lake shore…

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in the distance….this guy…

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a Willet …

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this is a species I don’t get to see very often….so you get to see a few pictures….

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There had been a few of these Lesser Yellowlegs the day before, but a lot more had arrived during the day….notice the drops in the water….at this point we were having a hailstorm!

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and then, there with another Yellowlegs….this little guy right at the edge of the water ~ a Least Sandpiper.

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a bit further along…a Semi-palmated Plover.

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and another Least…

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Look close in this picture….there is a pair of Green-wing Teal ducks, a couple of Yellowlegs and a Willet…

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a bit closer picture with the female Green wing Teal, the Willet and a Yellowlegs on the far left…

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this picture just gives a bit of an idea of how busy it was, all along the shore….

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a couple of Willet here…

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and one more…

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 After supper, when the sun had come back out….Ernie came running back to let me know that there was ‘something’ different …..a Marbled Godwit!

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difficult to take pictures when you are taking them into the setting sun….Godwits are big shorebirds and another species I don’t get to see very often….

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it seemed, with the evening, the clouds that had brought the showers and hail, were moving off so I took a final walk over to the floating boardwalk…

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There were quite a few Canvasback Ducks over there…

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And apparently the Grebe nest was now complete and being utilized…

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No sunset this night….it just sort of got dark.

Bird List: Robin –3; Yellow bellied Sapsucker – 1; Red Necked Grebe – 6; Common Loon – 1; Common Goldeneye – 3; Ring bill Gull – 6; Crow – 3; Canada Goose – 5; Mallard – 10; Willet – 3; Merlin – 1; Green Wing Teal – 2; Semi palmated Plover – 2; Lesser Yellowlegs – 12; Least Sandpiper – 2; Marbled Godwit – 1; Gadwall – 4; Canvasback – 6; Snipe – 2; Red wing Blackbird – 6; Yellow Rump Warbler – 4; Northern Flicker – 1; American White Pelican – 1.

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