Monday, 26 May 2014

Beaverhill Lake Bird Watching

I spent Sunday morning in the forest bordering Beaverhill Lake a few miles east of Tofield, Alberta. I was alone on this quest, just enjoying the peace of this beautiful place. I carried my binoculars, camera and tripod down a grassy trail lined with willows and young aspen.
It was a gorgeous sunny morning with the big blue sky filled with billowing clouds warning of possible rain showers later in the day. Aspen leaves have nicely emerged from their sticky buds, still less than half their full size, very odoriferous displaying that beautiful bright green that is so full of spring time promise. A light breeze rattled and rustled the leaves against it's neighbour with a muffled murmur.
Where Does This Trail Lead?
Cheeps, and peeps and songs issued from the treetops from various warblers that I struggled with kinked neck to see and identify. I think they are ventriloquists sometimes as I try to find them by sound alone. Mostly it is a flit of quick movement that I finally spy to get a location at which to point my unfocused binoculars. By the time I get focused the little flash of colour has moved to another limb. I try to bring my camera to focus at other times and may even get a quick glimpse but by the time I press the shutter release a leaf has fluttered between us knocking the auto-focus out of whack. Why do they not sit still for a minute? I am not going to hurt them. Why do they always seem to sit with a leaf or limb partially obscuring them from my lens?
Yellow Warbler
I look at myself from their perspective once I sat down on a bench to contemplate. Here is a large critter prowling down a trail peering here and there, as if hunting. I am a predator to the bird, one more they have to watch out for in this dangerous world. Every time the bird lands, I stop, stare at it, then lift my two big eyes, (binoculars) up to stare even harder. Then I focus my big eye (camera with telephoto) on the little bird. Now I get real stealthy as I try to hold still and not shake too hard. (stalking cat like) I move side ways or closer to get a clear view (the better to pounce). No wonder the little guy doesn't want to sit still. It is about to get attacked.
I have talked previously about sitting still for a while and let the world around us settle down to normal routine. I may even get a bit of a blind to wrap myself in and try that. I have always enjoyed sitting still anyways, especially if there is a wide view.  I got a few shots at least and when I did sit still. I got a few shots of various black birds once they got used to the idea that they could move quicker than I.
Shucks, everything can move faster than I can anymore. All in all it was a very enjoyable three hours of peace and relaxation with the wild birds.
I noticed along the road into this refuge many birdhouse now occupied by tree swallows. Last year and the year before they were almost all inhabited by blue birds. Are the swallows chasing the blue birds away?
Following is a list of birds I was able to reasonably able to reliably identify on this tour:
Red winged blackbird
Yellow headed blackbird
Black Terns
Northern Shoveller, more than I remember seeing other years.
Green winged teal
Blue winged teal
Sora  (heard)
American coots
Canada Geese
Tree swallows
Yellow warblers
American redstart
Eastern King bird
Sharp shinned hawk
Red tailed hawk
Horned grebe
Ruddy ducks
Common yellow throat
Lesser scaup
Ring necked duck
Canvas back
Mourning doves
Hairy woodpecker
Least flycatcher
Horned lark
Swanson's Thrush
Savannah sparrow
All in all, a pretty good day for a stalking, photographing, predatory birdwatcher.
I took a different road home and paused at an area of shallow wells. You can always tell that when you see old windmills on abandoned homesteads. These windmills pumped water for household use or for filling cattle troughs.
I then enjoyed a Ukrainian lunch buffet at a small cafe in the town of Mundare. There was a Chinese cafe and the one I chose across from each other so had to flip a coin. Perogys and sausage won out. The only table left was for the "Old Farts" who apparently merge here every morning for coffee and current worldly affairs discussions.

I even paused for a look at one quircky item on the edge of the village of Lamont. This is the location of a large automobile wrecking yard and a limousine graveyard memorial. Don't ask why, ask why not! There has to one somewhere, right?
There is plenty of action and sights to see in this part of the world, if we can just get out there and quietly observe. This tour took about 6 hours.

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