Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Northward Bound ... Why???

Three weeks ago I was northward bound, leaving the southern hemisphere and leapfrogging millions of migrating birds.  We spent 7 delightful weeks in Argentina (and a couple of days in Chile) and had great weather for most of the trip.  I arrived back in Canada for the first day of spring and had high hopes that the migrants wouldn’t be too far behind … HAH!   As I should know, in Calgary the spring calendar and spring weather aren’t coordinated - emphatically reinforced by the wintry conditions for the past three weeks.  

Still, one mustn’t be deterred by the weather so I have been birding a few times.  The first was a visit to the Water Valley area to the northwest where there was a decent mix of resident birds [Great Gray Owl], winter residents [Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk] and migrants [American Tree Sparrow].
Great Gray Owl
My next two trips were to the south: Ray Woods and I had a nice daytrip to Waterton and, a couple of days later, I went as far as Claresholm with Phil Cram and Mike Mulligan. Around Calgary, lakes are still covered by ice but we found some open water to the south. We saw many species of ducks crowding any available open water but nothing unusual. Richardson’s Ground Squirrels were now appearing in the fields and this brought the return of Ferruginous Hawks.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Before the last storm hit, I drove east looking to photograph some ducks.  They all were very skittish when I approached on foot so the only decent shots I got were taken from my vehicle.  I also enjoyed observing different mannerisms of the ducks such as their take-off methods.  As shown below, the Northern Pintail explodes upwards from the water whereas the Common Goldeneye runs along the water (or ice) before taking flight.
Northern Pintail

Common Goldeneye
During last year’s big year, we went birding regardless of the weather; this year I find that I am much more selective with my outings.  Similarly, the big year blog had to be written otherwise we would fall too far behind; this year, my blogs have been sporadic with little focus on my distant end target of 5000 species.  While waiting for the birds to come back, I am hoping to make some progress compiling my mammal list so I will at least know how far I have to go.

Good birding,