Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 33 – Writing On Stone

With only about 100 km to go to get to Writing On Stone Provincial Park, and knowing that it was Monday of a long weekend and check out time in Alberta isn’t until 2:00 pm, we took our time getting on the road, however Grassy Lake wasn’t the most exciting place in the world so there wasn’t much sense hanging around there….so we headed back east on #3 until we reached #879 which would take us directly south…

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On route we passed the ‘Spitz’ sunflower seed factory….took a picture to satisfy my husband!

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 Next stop was the Duck’s Unlimited and Nature Watch site…

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This large wetland project spans both sides of #887.  The above ‘sign’ and a viewing blind is located to the left of the picture…

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From the ‘blind’ looking back at the highway….

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I walked up the road away (it is a very quiet secondary highway), to get this over view, looking westward

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and from the same point, looking to the east.  There were cattle there on the hillside.  You can see it was a pretty overcast day….but dry.

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As for what we saw there ~ well lot’s of Yellow Headed Blackbirds…one of my favorite!

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Eared Grebe….you can really see the red eye and the yellow feathers that create the ‘ear’….

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One of the reasons I’d walked up the road to start with, was to try and get pictures of the masses of Cliff Swallows that kept swooping out from under the bridge….I never did get any other than this one pitiful shot!

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But getting pictures of these two male ducks made up for it.  Both males, the top one is a Cinnamon Teal and the bottom one a Blue Wing Teal….both are rather shy, retiring species, not easy to photograph, but for some reason they were happily spending time in the open water just below where I was standing on the road…

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Speaking of ducks, here are some Northern Pintails flying by….

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and of course, where you have wetlands and open areas, you have raptors – this a Northern Harrier cruising the area….

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One more male Yellow Headed Blackbird, before we continue on…..

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there were lots of flooded fields along this stretch of road, these American Avocet were taking full advantage of one of the big puddles…..

So we arrived at Writing on Stone just after noon and verified our decision to have not attempted to come there the day before – what a zoo!  Writing on Stone is definitely one of my favorite places, but I’d never come on a long weekend or during the summer.  There isn’t a terribly large campground, maybe 50 or 60 places….there is a large ‘day use’ area that is obviously well ‘used’.

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We managed to find a lovely big campsite on the perimeter and set up and then waited for the remaining hoards to depart…..

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this is looking along the campground road, back towards the visitor’s center that is perched up there on the hill….with only a few stragglers left (those that ignore the 2 pm check out time), we decided to go for a walk up to the visitor center…

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this walk goes up through the hoo doos…

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One of the reason’s I’d wanted to come was to see what wildflowers were in bloom….we’d been here in late June (when the Cactus are in flower) and we’d been here in early September, this was just a bit earlier … is Smooth Blue Beardtongue (we saw this plant in bud back at the west block of Cypress Hills – here is was in full bloom)

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We’ve seen these before too….those Yellow Prairie Violets…this one growing right beside a little barrel cactus…if that don’t say ‘hot and dry’ I don’t know what does!

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We’re now up on top, looking down onto the campground.  That white spot is the top of our camper…the river is the ‘Milk River’ and those mountains are the Sweet Grass Hills in Montana.

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There’s them ‘Sweet Grass Hills’ seen through what I have decided isn’t ‘Owl Clover’ after all…despite what a sign said…to me the leaf shape is all wrong….I think it must be ‘Golden Bean’ or ‘Buffalo Bean’ – if anyone knows for sure, please let me know!

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another Yellow Prairie Violet….tenacious or what!  growing right in the sandstone.

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and here is another toughie….Low Growing Larkspur… opposed to the ‘Tall’ growing that you find in more hospitable habitats.

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back down in the campground, I headed over to the river….this low fence is to keep the Beavers from attacking the lovely big old Poplar trees that shade the campground…

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and there is the Milk River….looking sort of north eastwards…

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and just up and around the corner, we’re looking westwards now….we’ll go for a walk along those rocks tomorrow ~ weather permitting!

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Back in the campsite, we were being visited constantly by Swainson’s Thrush!

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If we thought we’d been lucky seeing them before ~ here they were practically running over our feet!

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This female Downy Woodpecker kept flying onto this large Poplar, located in our campsite

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and like other places we’d been, there were masses of Chipping Sparrows eating the dandelion seeds…

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this male Yellow Warbler spent a lot of time flying between our campsite and the empty one across from us, in fact it actually spent a lot of time fighting with it’s reflection in our trucks mirrors….something I know robins and chickadees do….and apparently Yellow Warblers.

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an evening walk, and I spotted what turned out to be a pair of House Wren at the entrance to another empty campsite…in fact, by evening there were only about a dozen sites that were occupied….and most of them by ‘birders’!

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that same walk led me to find, first, a female American Redstart…

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and then a male….these Warblers, often described as ‘Butterfly like’ are extremely difficult to photograph….these are the best pictures of them I’ve got!

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and finally, the evening drew to a close.  Shantz settled down in ‘her’ chair…by 8 pm, it was raining.  As I already mentioned, this was our 3rd time here, and despite the fact that this is supposed to be one of the hottest and driest areas of the province….it’s rained every time!  The first time, there had been a heavy shower just prior to our arriving, creating puddles everywhere, the second time it poured the entire first day of our visit….and now this.  With time running short we’d only be able to spend one more day here….we’ll see the morning brings!

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