14 March 2014

What the Swallow Saw


Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Five of us headed south to bird - three people from Fernie, one from Cranbrook and one from Kimberley.

It was a more typical early spring day, weatherwise, and our optomism was high that we would finally get some migrants, considering the late snow and bitter cold and dreariness of past weeks. 

Like many bird species, birders are drawn to water - so we headed to Tie Lake first - Incredulously incredulous to find most of it still frozen over.  But the drive there turned up:
- three calling BROWN CREEPER on either side of the road in one spot.  Although unsuccessful in actually seeing them, we imagined what it was like for them to keep in touch with each other using their wee little calls.
- three TUNDRA SWANS flying high and far off in the sunny wind, northward. (they must be just bypassing still frozen Wasa Lake as the following day they were not there but reported from Columbia Lake)
- a brief discussion about how to sing 'cheeseburger': the almost two tones of the Black-capped Chickadee or the three definite tones of the Mountain. 

At Tie Lake, we were lucky enough to come across a well-attended feeder, and while pinning down the actual number of EVENING GROSBEAKS, our awareness eventually registered the soft song of some VARIED THRUSH, blended in with the background noise of breeze and human activity. Some years, I've missed seeing them altogether, so it was beautiful to get good views this day.

Greg Ross photo

Our next highlight was at the big bridge/causeway over Koocanusa Lake, west of Kikomun Provincial Park.  One sleeping duck amongst a few Canada Geese, held our attention for half an hour, at least, and while waiting for it to show it's head or turn itself to better light, one lone VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW considerately flew over, only two meters above our heads, flashing its top-side - vibrant violet and green, and blue and white and ...  

This is what the Swallow saw: the icy scales of the dragon of winter clinging to the earth. 

Greg Ross photo

Scanning the grassy flats south of the bridge turned up the rusty flash of a lone KILLDEER hopping to a slightly different spot, but otherwise just standing there, staring at the ice maybe. 

And the sleeping duck? A lone male Blue-winged Teal, another species sometimes missed all season by some.


Continuing on our journey, the nest boxes at the main corner were already hotly contested by 6 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS, my first of the year. 

Further on, a Wildlife Official parked in their truck chose the following view for her office-of-the-day, and we chose it to startle 3 RUFFED GROUSE on the way in, and to scan a flock of CANADA GEESE etc. down below on the banks of the Elk River.

Greg Ross photo

Touring south to the border, including McDonald Loop Road - site of the infamous White-headed Woodpecker report of several years ago - and Edwards Lake, revealed mostly more frozen waters, another GOLDEN EAGLE, and a 26 cent data roaming charge from the auto-updates of my cell phone apps (which I can't get rescinded until my next billing period, and now I know to turn off data roaming)

Our last great gasp of birdiness was encountered on the Elko-Grasmere Road where we picked up, among other things, 2 MOURING DOVE perched together low in the hedgerow, and half a dozen WILD TURKEY skittishly crossing the road.

A good day of feathered-friend encounters made longer by the recent spring-forward time change. 

Canada Goose 12
Tundra Swan  3
American Wigeon  3
Mallard  5
Blue-winged Teal  1
Northern Pintail  3
Bufflehead  1
Common Goldeneye  2
Common Merganser  20
Ruffed Grouse  3
Wild Turkey  6
Golden Eagle  1
Bald Eagle  3
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Rough-legged Hawk  1
Killdeer 1
Mourning Dove  2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Northern Flicker 2
Pileated Woodpecker2
Steller's Jay 2
Black-billed Magpie 1
American Crow 18
Common Raven 12
Violet-green Swallow1
Black-capped Chickadee 9
Mountain Chickadee 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
Brown Creeper 3
American Dipper 1
Western Bluebird 6
American Robin 7
Varied Thrush 4
European Starling 38
Song Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 20
Red-winged Blackbird 11
House Finch 1
Evening Grosbeak 6