Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Local Excitement

     We really don't have to travel far from our homes in Alberta to see exciting wildlife if we spend a bit of time. A bit over a month ago I went for a walk from my home in the center of Sherwood Park. Here is a small storm-water lake where there are several species of birds that mate, have babies and some just like to hang around. Countless Canada Geese nest and raise their broods as well as two pair of Red-necked Grebes, mallards and Common Golden-eye. In the bush and brush Magpies, Crows, Red-winged Blackbirds as well as various song birds including Robins, Sparrows and Warblers. The whole process of raising bird families is a fascinating study of behaviour, territory, love, devotion and diligence, caring and protection. Human mammals don't have exclusive rights to emotions according to birds. A pair of White Pelicans surprised me one morning and I had to run back home for my camera talking to myself all the way about always carrying the camera. "Serve you right if they fly away before you get back," I muttered. How many times have I missed a great opportunity for a good photo by not carrying the equipment, even on a short trip?
Preening Pelicans

     Two weeks ago we took a drive to the north-east part of Alberta where we had not explored before. Fay, my reliable critter spotter cried out, "An owl! I think." As I turned the truck around to go back we watched along the fenceline in the bush and sure enough, a Great Grey Owl sat watching us. I managed a couple of quick shots before another vehicle came along and we had to move.
Great Grey Owl

     Right in the town of Bonneville is a large wetland lake alive with the cacophony of bird calls. We were immediately attacked by a pair of Black Terns that were protecting their three precious eggs laid on a shallow mat of old cattails. I was promptly bombed by an accurate "crap bomber" who shot a white streak across my eye-glasses.
Black Tern with Eggs

     A little further down the boardwalk we noticed what appeared to be a dead muskrat laying on top of a pile of reeds, then two more. I was becoming alarmed about what was happening to the furry critters when one suddenly moved in Fay's binoculars. "It's alive!" she exclaimed and sure enough,with a bit of time each dozzy muskrat woke from their siesta and went about muskrat business.
Muskrat Pretending to Sleep

In the distance, on a floating reed island a very large flock of Franklin Gulls were packing sticks and reeds, darting in and out of sight with frenzied activity. Through shimmering heat waves we could see hundreds of nests and scruffy looking babies crying for food and attention. Grebe sand ducks also paddled and dove and dipped while American Coots called and darted in and out of reedy cover with tiny red-beaked black babies in tow.
Over there a muskrat dragged a freshly peeled cattail to a reed platform for it's snack.
Muskrat Feeding on a Cattail

     Yesterday I took a short, half-hour drive to Elk Island National Park to relax for a couple hours. Within a few minutes I stumbled upon a young American Bittern trying to hide amongst the cattails.
American Bittern Hiding

 This is one bird that has teased me with its distant booming call but I could not see it well enough to photograph. This day was my lucky day. I spent over an hour with it as it made its way to various cattail perches to groom and preen. It is no wonder that they are difficult to photograph. When they stand still they hide in plain sight behind a cattail or down amongst the old, bent-over mat of decaying reeds.
Young American Bittern Stepping Out

     Take a drive or take a walk and be sure to take your camera or binoculars with you. You never know when or where you will see some of Alberta's interesting wildlife.
Mule Deer Doe

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