Birding the Fenland Nature Trail

While I was birding the Bow Falls trail on our last day in Banff, I caught up with my parents and went back to our cabin for lunch. After drying my mittens and recharging my camera batteries we drove to the Fenland Nature Trail — the trail is a two-kilometre loop with the river running around it. 

I was dropped off at the north end of the trail on Vermilion Lakes Drive and walked down the path to the bridge that crosses the river. After not being able to find an American Dipper earlier in the day, I was determined to find one before we left. While I saw something fly over the water just as I got to the middle of the bridge, it wasn’t enough for me to ID it as a dipper.

Looking out over the bridge,IMG_0007

I continued down the path finding good numbers of Brown Creepers, Mountain Chickadees, White-winged Crossbills, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a Belted Kingfisher perched on a snag along the river.

This nuthatch along with a second one was foraging underneath a spruce tree,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

A group of about 20 Elk were feeding just off the path,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/3,200, ISO 2500, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

This female has a radio collar for tracking her movements,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/1,600, ISO 1600, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/1,600, ISO 1600, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/1,600, ISO 1600, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Completing the two kilometre loop, I was going to try again to find the dipper when — success! An American Dipper was feeding on the far bank and then flew and landed on the close bank on a dead branch. It was fascinating to watch, but when a jogger ran by the bird flew off and I lost sight of it.

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/1,250, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Showing its white eyelid,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/1,250, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Back down the path was a male American Three-toed Woodpecker flaking off bark,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

The Fenland Nature Trail is a great birding and mammal spot and the walking is very easy. Here’s my eBird checklist for the walk.

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 6400, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

Keeping with the Banff theme — after my parents and I drove back to Banff from Lake Louise, we met up with local birder Neil (father of Bird Boy) who was kind enough to take a very late and long lunch to show me around the area.

I was hoping to see an American Three-toed Woodpecker on our trip and Neil was able to locate two on our walk! We watched the woodpeckers for a while then went off to find a Townsend’s Solitaire that never showed.

Thank you again, Neil, for your time and for showing me around and finding a lifer for me.

A male American Three-toed Woodpecker,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 3200, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 3200, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 2500, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 2500, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

JG Birds+

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Anotherdayinparadise

Visiting the Canadian Rockies

Last week we took a short vacation, our first family skiing trip to the Rocky Mountains — known for some of the best downhill skiing in the world. We stayed at Hidden Ridge Resort just outside Banff. It was a real treat because skiing is such great fun and the setting is so incredibly beautiful.

I was also excited about the photography opportunities and birding. There were a few species I was hoping to see and add to my Life List: Mountain Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Clark’s Nutcracker, American Dipper, Stellar’s Jay, Northern Pygmy Owl (a slim chance for this species, but worth a try), and American Three-toed Woodpecker.

The first two days in the mountains, my brothers and I skied all day at Sunshine Village, a 20 minute drive from Banff. As we drove to Sunshine on the first morning, I was looking at the scenery and as we turned onto the Sunshine EXIT, there was a Northern Pygmy Owl sitting at the top of a tree! I saw it for only a few seconds but long enough to ID it. It was one of the first birds of the trip and certainly a special one.

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Taken with my iPhone 6

I had only my iPhone when we were skiing and to the chagrin of my brothers would stop and get a few shots of the mountains on the way down the runs,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The mountains are breathtaking and the skiing was terrific. From one of the chairlifts, I saw my second lifer of the trip — Clark’s Nutcrackers below us in the spruce trees.

The second day of skiing I saw Mountain Chickadees and White-winged Crossbills on the mountains,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The final two days I went birding instead of skiing. My parents and I dropped my brothers off at Lake Louise and then drove to the Chateau Lake Louise. The last time we were in the mountains and visited the lake, I was 18 months old, so I don’t remember anything.

We pulled into the parking lot at the hotel and immediately saw Clark’s Nutcrackers at very close range,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

They sit on parked vehicles hoping to get a meal from the visitors,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

It was an overcast day, but the snow and vistas were lovely. It’s truly a winter wonderland,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

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Taken with my iPhone 6

My parents and I walked quite a ways down the lake, this is a view of the Chateau from the sleigh ride path,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

The heavy snow blankets everything,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

I believe this is black tree lichen growing on the branches,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Back near the Chateau, Clark’s Nutcrackers were everywhere,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

I had to back up to get the whole Nutcracker in the frame, because they get so close,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

There were also Grey Jays which weren’t as curious as the Nutcrackers and stayed at the top of the spruce trees,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

An inukshuk made of snow outside the Chateau,

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Taken with my iPhone 6

We took a swing through the Chateau were we stayed 17 years ago. My dad remembered that I called the mounted Caribou on the wall “bearabou” at the time.

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Taken with my iPhone 6

Stay tuned for more posts and photos about my adventures in the Rockies! 

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

I’m in Banff at the moment for a skiing and birding vacation, and yesterday we visited Lake Louise. There were Clark’s Nutcrackers everywhere around the lake and hotel grounds! They were so close I got decent photos with just my phone. I’ll post the good photos, which I took with my Nikon D610 and 200-500mm lens, when I get home in few days.

The Clark’s Nutcrackers are very habituated to people as they get fed by the tourists who visit the Lake,

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More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

JG Birds+

4forfeathers

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Fall for Raptors

I’ve been seeing a large number of raptors lately, from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles. This past Wednesday, I drove around looking for raptors and enjoying the colours of fall. The day was very overcast and cool, but I saw some top-quality birds!

This American Kestrel had been hunting around our house for the past few days, finally perching long enough for me to get a photo. The photos are not the best quality, but I love the colours of the kestrel and the trees behind it,IMG_9757IMG_9755

I barely got out of the truck, opting to park on the side of the road most of the time. I live in an area where the county roads have a good deal of traffic at harvest time — combines, swathers, grain trucks, pickup trucks going to town for parts. But the roads are quiet on rainy days when farmers are at home waiting for the fields and grain to dry.

Whether rural roads are quiet or busy, I always park in as much of the ditch as I can when birding with a vehicle, and I never park on the crest of the hill. If I’m driving and see a bird sitting close to the road, I check the rearview mirror to make sure it’s safe to pull over.

Our neighbours often stop to check on me when I’m watching something from the truck, just to make sure I’m not having any trouble. Everyone knows by now that I’m birding/photographing birds, but it’s a very nice gesture and I appreciate the stop very much.

I love birding by vehicle because you can get fairly close to some birds. Ducks and geese are very cautious at this time of year, so watching birds from the truck gives me more of a chance to look at them. I took our new truck as it’s very quiet, excellent on fuel, and has ample room for my scope, two cameras, and binoculars in the front seat.

A Blue-winged Teal,IMG_9761

This summer, the American White Pelicans frequented the slough (pond) across the road. There was only one this time, accompanied by Black-bellied Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mallards, Gadwalls, teals, Northern Shovelers, an adult Bald Eagle; Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese; Ring-billed Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes.

The American White Pelican and a Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9763

In the willows along the road were White-crowned, White-throated, and Clay-coloured Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The birds were very difficult to photograph as they stayed hidden in the branches, like this White-crowned Sparrow,IMG_9774

I left the slough and headed north. A Blue Jay flew out of a neighbour’s yard and there was a Northern Goshawk sitting in a dead tree just up the hill. I was disappointed I didn’t get a photo of the goshawk, but just then, a Great-horned Owl landed in the tree in front of me.

The owl was uncomfortable with my presence so it took off. Fortunately, it landed nearby in the slough just off the road.

The Great-horned Owl flying away,IMG_9775

I quietly got out of the truck and snuck around the slough and got these photos — my best yet of the species!IMG_9782IMG_9784

After five minutes, the owl flew away, scaring a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs on take off,IMG_9789

The most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a Eurasian-collared Dove that flew out of the willows. At first, I though the dove was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then it came into view. I’ve never seen this species before, but their range is moving northward in Alberta so I might be seeing more of theses doves in the future.IMG_9791

The migrating geese enjoy feeding on the combined grain fields. I spent 15 minutes taking pictures with my new camera,DSC_0782DSC_0798

The building on the hill is Chatsworth School, a one-room school house between 1917 – 1953 for all the children in the area,DSC_0816DSC_0817

Playing with the exposure a little bit,DSC_0821

The sun was shining through the clouds,DSC_0829

After an hour and a half, I started heading back home and was passing by our wheat field. On a six-acre section of the field, we’re growing Red Fife Wheat, the oldest variety of wheat in Canada, originally from the Ukraine. This Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in the poplars along the field and there was a Merlin on a fence post.

Red-tailed Hawk,IMG_9803

I took these photos of the Merlin with my Nikon D610 with the 70-200mm lens. I cropped them just a bit,

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All the raptor species I saw on my drive: American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Great-horned Owl, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier.

10 Days in the North

Last month, I enjoyed a wonderful 10-day trip to the Northwest Territories (NWT) with 4-H, and even got to do some birding. I hope you don’t mind a little bit of a 4-H detour before I get to the birds I saw!

Back in May, I headed down to Olds, Alberta, to participate in my first 4-H Selections. Selections is a program for senior Alberta 4-H members, from 16 to 20 years old. It’s a little like camp but more about personal development. At Selections this year, there were 103 members at Selections this year who had applied and been chosen for the program.

At Selections, members are scored on their 4-H Diary (members fill out a dairy each year to keep track of their 4-H career, because for every event you attend you receive points — and the more points you have, the higher you rank at Selections). During the program, members are also judged by the group facilitators and peers, and their knowledge of 4-H is tested with a quiz. Everything combined creates a ranking for the program.

At the end of the long weekend, I was honoured to be chosen as one of six members in the Premier’s Award Group. All six of us became 4-H Ambassadors for the province, for a two-year term. I didn’t receive the Premier’s Award, but I am thrilled  to be part of the group of six and to be able to represent 4-H as an ambassador.

At Selections, members are also awarded a variety of trips — for example, to Ottawa, California, Washington, DC, and the Northwest Territories. All of the trips are in conjunction with a 4-H event except for the Northwest Territories trip, which is a camping and agricultural tour. At the beginning of the program, each member ranks the trips in order of personal preference. I put down the 10-day Northwest Territories camping trip as my first choice as I’d never been before, camping is right up my alley, and it was a good time during my summer job to go.

At the awards ceremony, the NWT trip was the last to be awarded and I was over the moon to get a spot with 21 other members.

I highly recommend attending Selections to any 4-H members, as you meet some wonderful new friends and might even get an award or two out of the program.

In mid-August, my parents drove me to Edmonton, where the 4-H members and our chaperones boarded a bus and started the drive north to our destination — Yellowknife, NWT. We camped at each stop — Queen Elizabeth Campground, Hay River Territorial Park, Fred Henne Territorial Park, Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, Last Lake Guest House (absolutely charming!), Tangent Park Campground, and the Carson-Pegasus Campground.

We stopped at Hutch Lake, Alberta on our second day for our lunch break. The lake was beautiful and very clear. The Mallards were certainly enjoying it,

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A view of Hutch Lake,

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We made it!

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Common Ravens are very common in the NWT. I saw them everywhere and because they are important to the First Nations culture, they are very popular in the local art,IMG_9343

On the trip we stopped at a number of waterfalls, one of my favourite parts of the trip. This one is Alexandra Falls,IMG_9299IMG_9301IMG_9312IMG_9318IMG_9319

In Yellowknife, we camped at the Fred Henne Territorial Campground. It’s a very nice campground and the views from the Prospector Trail are beautiful.

Walking the Prospector Trail,IMG_9393IMG_9401IMG_9399

A view of Great Slave Lake from the trail,IMG_9415IMG_9397

The Fred Henne campground was very good for birding. I added Common Loon, Pine Siskin, and Belted Kingfishers to my Year List and three species — Hudsonian Godwit  and Gray Jay — to my Life List. Unfortunately, I was the only birder on the trip.

The Gray Jays were very inquisitive and came close to our campsite,IMG_9402

This Herring Gull was sitting on rocks along the shore of the Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife,IMG_9347

A juvenile Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9353

I’ve seen the Northern Lights before at home, but their vibrancy was nothing like what we saw in the NWT. The Northern Lights are famous for “dancing” in the sky and we certainly saw them do so,IMG_9432IMG_9439IMG_9432IMG_9422

In Yellowknife, we walked around Old Town and did some shopping and sightseeing. On one of the large rock formations, you can see the Common Raven design,IMG_9452IMG_9455

We said goodbye to the city by taking a photo in front of the Yellowknife sign,IMG_9460

We were all sleeping on the bus when we could feel our bus driver slam on the brakes. Looking out the window, we could see a mother Black Bear and her cub — everyone was wide awake at this point and trying to get photos of the two before they disappeared in the trees,IMG_9474IMG_9480Another roadside mammal we saw from the bus was a bull Woods Bison, grazing in the ditch,IMG_9469IMG_9467

We saw this sign about the bison earlier on the trip,IMG_9372

The waterfalls seemed to be situated perfectly for bathroom breaks! We got out of the bus and walked down the trail to view Lady Evelyn Falls.

If you look closely at the middle of the photo, right above the water, you can see two Red-breasted Mergansers flying — another species for my Year List.IMG_9489IMG_9483IMG_9488

The last falls we visited were Louise Falls,IMG_9500IMG_9499IMG_9506IMG_9507IMG_9517IMG_9514

On the way back to Edmonton, we toured historic Dunvegan, near Fairview, Alberta.  The Dunvegan area was first occupied by the Beaver First Nations people. European explorers arrived in the late 18th century and Fort Dunvegan, named after Dunvegan Castle in Scotland, was established in 1805 by the North West Company.

The Peace River,

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We spent our last full day heading to the Carson-Pegasus Campground near Whitecourt, Alberta. When walking around the campground, I saw over 30 Common Loons on the lake. You can view my eBird checklist from the campground here

Sunset over the lake at Carson-Pegasus,IMG_9576

I had a wonderful time on my trip and was sad to say goodbye to friends, new and old, and some new favourite places.IMG_9583

Happy as a Lark

This past Sunday, my grandmother stopped by to see our lambs, chicks, and calves (I hope to post some pictures soon).

As she was leaving the yard, I heard a bird singing in one of the spruce trees on the south side of the house — it would sing every minute or so. The bird was very well hidden in the branches and it took me some time to find it.

When I finally was able to see it peeking through the branches, I saw it was a Lark Sparrow, which I’d never seen before and which is fairly uncommon for this area.  I ran into the house to get my camera, but the sparrow had left and I didn’t get a photo.

Lark Sparrows are more common in southern Alberta, so it was very nice to have one show up in our yard.

When I went outside yesterday morning, I heard the Lark Sparrow singing in the spruce tree again. I was able to get quite a few good photos of the bird and so far, it’s the best “Yard Bird” I’ve seen! Lark Sparrows are very beautiful and have a lovely song — I hope I get to see more soon.

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