Friday, June 19, 2009

Cypress Hills

Conglomerate Cliffs in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan

Tufted Milk Vetch. Astragalus spatulatus, was one of many small ground hugging wildflowers seen clinging to wind swept ridge tops.

I was surprised to see Pasque Flower, Anemone patens, still in bloom (but there was snow just a few feet away from these flowers). Other spring wildflowers such as Mountain Shooting Star were abundant in the Cypress Hills.

Mountain Bluebirds were commonly seen in the Cypress Hills.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saskatchewan & Alberta

A trip to Saskatchewan and Alberta May 25 to June 5 with Tom Hince was a nice break from the strike back in Windsor. Originally we planned to spend most of our time in Saskatchewan but the drought conditions this spring encouraged us to move west into Alberta for most of the trip.

Although this was a birding trip it was hard to ignore all the other wildlife such as Elk, White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer and Pronghorns. This very young Pronghorn was found on May 29 and the little Porcupine was waddling down the Luck Lake dyke at dusk on May 28.

This adult California Gull was easy to approach at the edge of a mall parking lot in Cold Lake Alberta.

American White Pelicans were common on most larger lakes and rivers. They are impressive with their 9-foot wing spans and huge bills. Both male and female birds have a distinctive protruding knob on the upper bill during the breeding season. This one was coming in for a landing at Pakowki Lake at dusk.

Our "Big Day" on June 2 ended with a beautiful sunset at Pakowki Lake, some 1100 km after our midnight start in northeastern Alberta at Cold Lake. The last birds of the day were Burrowing Owl, White-faced Ibis and Black-crowned Night-Heron which gave us 207 species for the day.

Sparrows are ever present along back roads through the prairies. While we may hope for a Grasshopper or Baird's Sparrow to be sitting by the roadside it is usually something more common such as this Vesper Sparrow.

I spent some time down near Wildhorse looking for Mountain Plovers. While none were found we did spot a badger den. I was lucky to have this badger pause long enough for a photo before it slid down its burrow.