South Island, New Zealand

During our layover in Vancouver, Sue and I met up with our friends Dave and Pat.  We stopped for lunch and went for a walk….not much was happening birding wise.  Only thing of interest we found, was this lovely Long-billed Dowitcher.

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And had some great blackberries on the walk, they were everywhere along the path.

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It’s amazing how much shorter Dave is, than I remember.

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The only insect we saw was this Fiery Skipper.

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Soon it was time to head back to the airport for our 13 hour flight to New Zealand.

Great flight, food was very good, drinks were free, lots on the entertainment screens and the seat were very spacious.  A very enjoyable time.  I’d fly Air New Zealand anytime.

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As if 13 hours wasn’t enough, we waited  for our next flight to Queenstown.  Was a good call by my daughter Zoe, instead of driving to the South Island and back.  We would drive from south to north.   We never would have had enough time to drive both direction.  Driving is on the left and while the roads are good.  Averaging 80km per hour is tough.

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We arrived in Queenstown, and as we walked to the rental car, came across this sign.  Pretty cool.

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After 15 hours in planes, we headed straight to our hotel just outside of Queenstown, I got a taste of driving on left again.  Then we headed out to Moke Lake to get some fresh air.

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My first New Zealand was a Pacific Black Duck (Grey Duck to the Kiwi’s).

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There were many Pied Oystercatchers in the fields.

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I also saw this import, a Chaffinch, on a post.

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Even the sheep were happy with the weather, remember this is supposed to be their winter….

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It was getting dark and we were bagged, so back to the hotel for a dinner and a few drinks then off to bed.  Lovely sunset that evening.

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Great view of Queenstown from our hotel the next morning.

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We headed towards the West Coast, stopping briefly at Wanaka, on Lake Wanaka.  Pick up a few birds and again breathtaking scenery.

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New Zealand Pipit

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When we arrived at Wanaka, their were many birds….

White-eye

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Small Pied Cormorant

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New Zealand Scaup

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Black-billed Gull

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Eurasian Grebe

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Black-billed Gull

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Little Pied Cormorant

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Eurasian Blackbird

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We moved on up the West Coast, heading in the direction of the Fox and the Franz Josef Glacier.

Australian Magpie

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Paradise Duck

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Kelp Gull

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A lovely Red Deer Stag

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Purple Gallinule

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We finally arrived at the Glaciers…

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After a 30 minute walk we arrived at the glacier.

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On the way out I found a few birds in the shrubbery..

Not sure about this one

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Fantail

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Tomtit

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We went moved on to the Bella Vista Motel, in Franz Josef,  heading out to the Franz Josef Glacier, the next morning.  Another climb, to get the best view.

Before heading out to the Glacier, I took a short walk through the town….came around the corner and found my only Moa of the trip.

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On to the Glacier

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We stopped along the coast and were enjoying the scenery but the sand flies had other ideas…the only time we encountered biting bugs on the whole trip.

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A lovely water fall…

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We headed for Arthurs Pass, where I’d been told you could see wild Kea’s.  Not that I couldn’t see one anywhere but these birds were used to having people nearby.

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Zoe making a new friend…

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These birds love rubber, and any unattended vehicle is fair game, if you go there keep an eye on your car.

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After a coffee break we headed towards the east coast, with great scenery and the occasional bird.

Spur-winged Plover

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Perfect Reflection

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Plenty of sheep on South Island

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Black Swan (European Import)

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Young Gull

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Red-Billed Gull

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White-faced Heron

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1st year Kelp Gull

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Variable Oystercatcher

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We arrived in Kaikoura that afternoon and I went by the Albatross Encounters office and arranged a pelagic for the next morning.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Antelope Island and Bear River NWR

I had been keeping lists since the early 90’s and was never satisfied with my Chukar entry on my list and since both Chris and I needed a Chukar for our year lists, off we went to Antelope Island.

Antelope Island never disappoints, there may have been half a million phalaropes on what little water there was, feeding on a fly hatch.  Every inch of shoreline was occupied by thousands of Franklin Gull’s feeding on the same flies.

Red-necked Phalarope

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As soon as I set up my scope to look over the water, I heard Chris say he had a Chukar in his scope.

Chukar

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Driving the circuit there were many free ranging animals to see…

Mule Deer

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Bison

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Pronghorn Antelope

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A very cooperative Rock Wren, my best photo to date.

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Lots of Swallows suffering in the 106 F degree temperatures

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I didn’t find many insects but Western Meadowhawk’s were numerous

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On our way out we came across a young pheasant

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It was time to move northward towards Bear River Wildlife Refuge.  We both needed Grebes for our list and we hoped we’d see Western Grebes and maybe a Clarke’s Grebe.  Were we in for a surprise….there must have been at least 400-500 of both species in the water.  Some as close as 5 feet off shore and many still had young of various ages.

Clarke’s Grebe – Western Grebe Comparision

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Clarke’s Grebe

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Western Grebe

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It was so much fun photographing these birds at such close range.

Many other species could be found at this Wildlife Reserve.

American Crows

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Black-necked Stilt

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With Young

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Young American Coot

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Long Billed Dowitcher

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Marbled Godwits

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Northern Harriers

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Ring-billed Gull

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Ruddy Duck

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Sage Thrasher

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Sandhill Crane

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White Pelican

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I will visit this Wildlife Refuge again, what an awesome place.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Salt Lake City, a Birding Hotspot

We had allotted 6 days for the Snowcock and luckily we had only needed three days.  We had 4 free days to increase our year totals, we were both close to 400 and a few birds would put us over the top.

Our first stop was the town of Brighton up Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, their had been reports of Williamson’s Sapsucker in the area and I desperately wanted to get a photograph.

Of course the first bird we saw was the Williamson’s as he flew by us onto a shaded trunk.  By the time we got our binoculars on the bird, it decided to go elsewhere.  We stayed there for the rest of the morning but it never showed itself again.

We did see:

Hermit Thrush

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Mountain Chickadee

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Red-naped Sapsucker

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Red Crossbill

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Gray Flycatcher

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We decided to move on to Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, there had been Ebird reports of Black Swift.  Once there we quickly realized how high these birds were flying.   I took photos of many birds that I thought might be Black Swift’s but for the most part were White-throated Swifts.  Below are the darker birds:

What do you think?  The bird in the square is a photo from the Internet of a Black Swift soaring.

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We decided to make it an early night and head north the next day….

We headed to Powder Mountain Ski Resort just east of Ogden.

On the drive up the road we came across this doe.

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A lovely Lazuli Bunting

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Awesome Scenery

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On the dirt track road on the way in we found Mountain Bluebird and Olive-sided Flycatcher.

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The meadow had hundreds of Butterflies.

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Great Spangled Fritillary Female

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Police Car Moth

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Great Spangled Fritillary Male

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Western Tiger Swallowtail

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Ebird had reported Williamson’s Sapsucker’s in the area.  The directions were a little vague but we did find the area and the birds.

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The drumming lead us to the Sapsucker.  Not my best photos but they are my only photographs of this bird.

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Chris found a lovely male American 3-toed Woodpecker, giving us both excellent views.

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This was a haven for Woodpeckers we also found a Hairy.

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For me I seldom see this next bird, a Western Tanager.

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Another great day, Thanks Chris.

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Himalayan Snowcock – Island Lake, Nevada

Chris Feeney and I decided in 2015 to try for the Himalayan Snowcock, a bird we both wanted to see before we were to old to make the climb.

I spoke to many people about the climb asking if it was it harder than the Colima Warbler climb?  Which is a  3 hour 1800 foot uphill climb in sweltering heat.  Most said easier, but staying hydrated was important.

On the drive from Salt Lake to the Ruby Mountains we had

Many Black-billed Magpie

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Harlan’s Hawk

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Chris and I arrived at the trailhead at 1pm and headed up the 2 mile trail to Island Lake.

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The photo below shows the trail approximately 3/4 of a mile from the car, a steady uphill grade.

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It was rough at first but once We started pacing ourselves and stopping for frequent water breaks it got a bit easier.   Chris was a trooper on this climb, he has a few years on me and trouble with his knees, he was slow and steady.

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We passed the wooden bridge over the water fall that people told us was a bit over the half way point.

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From this spot it was 6 switchbacks to the lake…

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Once you cross over the culvert your about a minute from the lake, you should really start listening and looking from this point on.  We met a couple who had 3 Snowcock’s fly over their heads at the lake.

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The scenery was pretty impressive…

We started scoping the hillside from this spot but soon realized the climb wasn’t over and crossed the creek again, heading uphill another 1/2 mile.

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Look for the tallest trees you can see up hill and head for them, another 3/4 hour found us at the spot.  A large flat rocky area, perfect for scoping the cliffs and meadows.

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We stayed until 7 pm and while we did hear a male calling, we just couldn’t get any views.

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We took the next day off and birded locally, I don’t think either of us wanted to redo the climb without resting up.   We were in bed by 6pm that night, waking up at 1am so we could arrive at the trailhead by 2pm.  With headlamps and flashlight we headed out and made very good time arriving at the viewing area by 4:30am.

It was cold, if your planning on doing this trip dress in layers it was about 4C (38F) and we couldn’t wait for the sun to make it over the horizon.  The moon wasn’t providing much heat.

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Shivering, we scanned the mountain top for any movement, praying that we’d see a Snowcock, neither of us wanted to redo this climb anytime soon, at 5:15am I spotted a rock on the crest of the hill that wasn’t there moments earlier.  Our quest was over, one Snowcock had made an appearance.

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We stayed on site for another 3 hours hoping another bird would make an appearance.

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Looking down mountain…

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We headed for the car, with lots of time to smell the flowers.

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On the trip down I found another life bird, I had searched for in South Dakota only a few short months ago…Dusky Flycatcher.

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I think both of us were asleep, as soon as our heads hit the pillow that night.

 

 

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Baird’s Folly

I had wanted to go to Winnipeg to meet up with Donna Martin and Chris Artuso for Baird’s Sparrow and Yellow Rail.  When I began checking for flights it was instantly apparent that the cost of the flight was through the roof.  It was $768 dollars to go from Ottawa to Winnipeg, incredible for a 4 hour flight from Ottawa.  I checked Regina and Saskatoon which were both near the $900 mark.

Ok, I had a simple solution fly to the cheapest place in the US and rent a car and drive up.   I found a flight to Minneapolis for $427 taxes in.

I figured to drive to South Dakota’s, Black Hills search for a White-winged Junco (not an ABA bird but it was considered a species in the Golden Guide Book.   Also I’d have a chance for Dusky Flycatcher, well worth the 570 mile detour.  I arrived in Rapid City, SD at 8pm after a 10 hour drive from Minneapolis, tired but glad longest leg of my trip  was over.

I did stop a few places on the way….

My Best Ever Photo of a Chimney Swift

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Many Yellow-headed Blackbirds

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You could hear and see Ring-necked Pheasants everywhere…

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Song Sparrow

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Savannah Sparrow

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Just as the sun was going down I spotted this sculpture on a hillside, I just had to stop and get a photo.

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I was dead tired when I got to my hotel and crashed…no food, no shower just sleep was all I needed.

I was up super early, picked up a coffee and an Egg Mcmuffin and drove the 20 miles to the Pactola Visitor’s Centre (44°04’07.9″N 103°29’00.4″W).  I been told by David Rich that he’d seen White-winged Junco’s coming to the feeders at the back of the building on his trip.

On this day unfortunately there weren’t any Junco’s but I had a great closeup opportunity with a pair of Violet-green Swallows.

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They were both gathering nesting material……

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There was also a Mountain Bluebird pair in the area..

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Mount Rushmore was nearby and I just had to go take a look….

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I will go back to Mount Rushmore again, awesome area.

I drove the roads and anytime I saw a flash of white tail feathers hoping for a Junco.   My efforts were rewarded on the backside of Mount Rushmore.   My first good look at a White-winged Junco.

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At the Pactola Visitors Centre I met Jen, a great source for birding information, who told me about an area in northwest South Dakota where I might find Baird’s Sparrow, since it was close to noon I decided to start heading north.

I just had to stop in Deadwood

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The drive north on the highway was uneventful and soon I was turning onto the road Jen had told me about.

First thing I saw was my firs ever wild Badger…..

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Lots of sparrows

Vesper Sparrow

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Grasshopper Sparrow

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Clay-colored Sparrow

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Lark Buntings

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Pronghorn Antelope by the hundreds

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Black-tailed Jackrabbit

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Pheasant’s Everywhere

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Sharp-tailed Grouse

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And a Huge Surprise…Female Greater Sage-Grouse

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I did manage to hear a Baird’s Sparrow singing but by the time I found it, it had buried itself in the grasses.

A great place that Jen put me onto, thanks so much.

Darkness was upon me again and it was time to find a place for the night.  The next day I’d use eBird information and try to find the Kerr Road in Montana where multiple people had seen Baird’s Sparrow.

Next morning I headed north through Montana, 50 miles from the Canadian border to the Kerr/Baylor Road.  I didn’t talk long to locate the sparrows, their were many singing along this road.

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Not a lifer but a photo I’d needed for the past 14 years…

Baird’s Sparrow

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Driving on to The Canadian Border, hoping to cross and head up to the Mainstay Inn on Lake Diefenbaker, I’d stayed there a few years back.

Well it just wasn’t in the cards that day, for some strange reason Canadians aren’t allowed to cross into Canada if they are driving American Rental Cars, without proper paperwork.  Sunday was not the day for paperwork.  The officers were nice about it and tried calling head office but to no avail, I just wasn’t getting into Canada unless I walked.

McCown’s Longspur and Yellow Rail would have to wait for another time

So, what to do…..I turned around and headed back to the Black Hills and would try for the Dusky Flycatcher Monday.  The road trip back south was again alive with birds and now I had lots of time to kill.

I found one spot that was alive with Chestnut-collared Longspur’s

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Meadowlarks were the most numerous bird

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Horned Lark

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I found a small pond with a few Wilson’s Phalarope

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I saw many Bald Eagles along the way and can only think that they were in the area hunting the Pronghorn young.

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The next day, I searched every stand of deciduous trees with coniferous undergrowth for the Dusky Flycatcher but even though they are listed as numerous, after logging many miles on foot, none showed themselves.

Lovely scenery but no Dusky Flycatcher’s..

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I left the Black Hills in the late afternoon, going through the badlands. Lovely area but just not enough time left in the day to explore it.

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Common Nighthawk

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Nice Red-tailed Hawk

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Great Horned Owl

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Western Kingbird

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Ticks were again an issue although I didn’t run into any Back-legged Ticks (Lyme disease carriers), Wood Ticks were everywhere and if you walk in the grasses, check yourself carefully……

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That night I checked the ABA rare bird report, next morning found me heading east towards a lake where there was a Gull-billed Tern on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. The further east I got the more water, I had many excellent birds along the way.  Here are just a few.

White Pelican

WhitePelican2016

Snowy Egret

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Marbled Godwit

MarbledGodwit2016

Franklin’s Gull

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Bobolink

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This Kildeer did the broken wing maneuver, while I was walking along a road.  I had to tread carefully back to the car.

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As the sun went down I had one more look at a Great Horned Owl

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Another great trip, although it would have been great to meet up with Donna Martin and take a few photos or spend an afternnon with Chris Artuso at the Brandon Marsh searching fo Yellow Rail (and getting eaten by mosquito’s).

Next time I guess….Ciao for now.

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Ruff – Newest ABA Bird – Brighton Wetlands

After leaving Leamington and driving the 5.5 hours north to Brighton, I curled up in the car for a short 3 hour nap hoping that the Ruff would still be at the wetlands when I woke up.

My phone alarm went off and after a few minutes to wake up, I got out of the car and tried to find a vantage point from the road, where I could scan the wetlands.

Without a permit to enter the wetlands, I have to scan from the periphery.

I just couldn’t see the Ruff, so I climbed a gate at one end and from a totally unstable position scanned.   What  a sight I must have been to people on there way to work.  Standing with one foot on a post and the other on the gate, looking into the Wetlands, camera and binoculars in hand.

From this vantage point the bird was easy to spot.  A lovely breeding plumage male.

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It was time to head home but on the way I did find a few more birds.

Eastern Bluebird

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Golden-winged Warbler

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A great few days of birding during migration, you got’ta love it.

A bit of good news when I got home, my Eco Cardiogram showed nothing, so I can now get travel insurance.   Himalayan Snowcock here I come.

Ciao for now.

 

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Point Pelee 2016

I had planned to go down to Point Pelee later in May but other commitments forced me to go the first week of May instead of the second.

Thursday I left after my golf game and went via the Perth Road, through Chaffey’s Locks and spent a nice leisurely day birding, not many small birds but a few very obliging Broad-winged Hawks along the way.

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An American Bittern was watching the traffic go by, catching them in the open is something that doesn’t happen very often.

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A few other new arrivals that I saw while on the road.

Eastern Towhee

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Bobolink

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Eastern Kingbird

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Turkey Vulture

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On Opinicon Road, I came across Ruffed Grouse feeding on buds….

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Friday May 6th was very slow and I had to work very hard to see 6 species of warbler but the NE wind didn’t help very much.

Highlight of the day, was seeing my first Prairie Warbler in Canada.  A warbler flew into the tip and I looked at it thinking Yellow Warbler but when I got my binoculars on the bird, I realized it was a Prairie Warbler.

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Blackburnian Warblers were also being seen in numbers, but I could never find one that co-operated.   They were always on the move.

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Orchard Oriole

OrchardOriole2016

Horned Grebe

HornedGrebe2016

White-throated Sparrow

WhiteThroatedSparrow2016

Saturday the winds changed and most people thought it would bring the birds in, but number were still low but a few more species arrived during the night.

Baltimore Oriole

BaltimoreOriole2016

Chestnut-sided Warbler

ChestnutsidedWarbler2016

Warbling Vireo

WarblingVireo2016

Tree Swallow

TreeSwallow2016

Black and White Warbler

BlackandWhiteWarbler2016

White-eyed Vireo

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Red-phased Screech Owl was relocated

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Blue-headed Vireo

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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American Robins were the most numerous bird.

AmericanRobin2016

The best bird Saturday was a lovely Hooded Warbler that Tom Hanrahan and I found after we returned from seeing the White-winged Dove at Rondeau.  I had seen many of these birds in Texas and Florida but this was the first time seeing one in Canada.  The photo below was taken in Texas.

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A few birds seen at Rondeau Provincial Park.

Catbird

Catbird2016

American Goldfinch

AmericanGoldfinch2016

Red-bellied Woodpecker

RedBelliedWoodpecker2016

Blue Headed Vireo

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Least Flycatcher?

LeastFlycatcher2016

Just before finding the Hooded Warbler we came across the noisy House Wren.

HouseWren2016

Hooded Warbler from Point Pelee, one of my favourites.

HoodedWarbler2016

Sunday was the best day I’ve had at Point Pelee I’ve ever had.  From 7am to 7pm, there was a non stop flow of birds through the park.

Highlight of the day was two Kirtland’s, one in the morning and one in the evening.

Morning Kirlands….

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There seemed to be so many new birds and they were everywhere.

Black-bellied Plover’s

BlackBelliedPlover2016

Lincoln’s Sparrow

LincolnSparrow2016

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

NorthernRoughWingedSwallow2016

A Frisky Gobbler

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White-crowned Sparrow

WhiteCrownedSparrow2016

Blue-winged Warbler

BluewingedWarbler2016

Red-headed Woodpecker

RedheadedWoodpecker2016

Veery

Veery2016B

Common Yellowthroat

CommonYellowthroat2016

More Blue-headed Vireo’s

BlueHeadedVireo2016C

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RoseBreastedGrosbeakFemale2016

Magnolia Warbler

MagnoliaWarbler2016

Cape May Warbler

CapeMayWarbler2016

In the late afternoon a Male Kirtland’s Warbler was found at the northernmost part of the park feeding along the shoreline.  We hurried to the spot and the bird walked right out to us.  A bird that until today I’d only seen once….within 2 feet of me.

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Mmmmm, a tasty snack for the road

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Kirtlands

KirtlandsWarbler2016F

KirtlandsWarbler2016G

After a great day, Henrik, Rick, Richard, Tom and I had a nice feed at Freddie’s and talked about what a great day this had been in the park.   It’s days like this that keep us coming back.

On checking my email, I saw a report that a Ruff had been seen that evening at the Brighton Reconstructed Wetlands.  This was a bird I had need for my ABA list and had tried for it many times without success.

I told the guys that I would not be staying the next day and left for Brighton.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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