Cooler with fresh wind and 11C with rain in the forecast for later. Leave Lethbridge with the usual roadside raptors, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s and Red-tailed Hawks on our short journey to Fort Macleod where we plan a look round the old fort but arrive early so drive over the river to the Wilderness area of old cottonwoods alongside the river. A pair of American Ospreys calling and flying around in the freshening wind are the first of the trip. Other birds include several singing Least Flycatchers, one empid I can identify on song I remember! A singing Black-headed Grosbeak proves to be the only one of the trip, Wilson’s Snipes are displaying, Hairy Woodpecker is a trip tick with House Wrens in a big fight, Cedar Waxwing, Common Goldeneye, Clay-coloured Sparrows, Yellow Warblers and the ubiquitous Swainson’s Hawk. Look round the historic old fort then an early lunch late breakfast at the Orange Café in Fort Macleod. We are then heading for our nest B&B at Dungarvan near Waterton Park via Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and a Range Road recommended for Baird’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper by Ken Orich. Having looked at the map on the ipad the night before I thought I knew where we were going and didn’t set the Sat Nav. Missing the turn to HSIBJ we were heading west on the Crowsnest Highway and it seemed a long way to the desired Range Road but after about 45kms we did indeed come across a RR 273 and turned up it but the desired native long grass prairie didn’t seem to be in good condition. After about 90 minutes driving miles up and down this road and seeing only Savannah, Chipping and Clay-coloured Sparrows plus an Eastern KingbirdI put HSIBJ into the Sat Nav to see that we were in fact 45kms away! Retracing our steps we eventually found the correct Range Road 273 but the growing grey clouds in all directions were becoming a bit foreboding on a gravel road. The roadside fence line produced the usual array of Savannah, Clay-coloured and odd Chipping Sparrows plus Western Meadowlarks but nothing small. I asked Julia to look out for anything perched on a fence post that looked like a wader and shortly afterwards she pointed out an Upland Sandpiperon a post about 500m away in the heat haze! It flew off and that looked like that was that as we turned around and drove back seeing Swainson’s Hawk at the nest and Red-tailed Hawks and Ravens but no more Uplands. One of the great things about having modern technology is that the Sibley Guide on my phone has sound recordings at the touch of a fingertip so we had a quick listen to see what displaying Upland Sandpiper sounds like and then almost in disbelief heard the same song heading our way. Two birds flew past, again not close and landed in some longish grass where another bird was walking about and one did some wing raising display but they remained beyond camera range and coffee at HSIBJ was calling before the rain arrived. It was spitting as we arrived but a quick walk showed the breeding Northern Harriers were again present near the trail and the Yellow-bellied Marmots were in residence but then the thunderstorm hit and we gave up and headed for the car and the drive down to Dungarvan B&B seeing the usual Red-tailed and Swainson’s Hawks en route along with another Common Goldeneye. As we arrived at Dungarvan I realised this was one of the better accommodation choices I had made. The pond in front of the accommodation held a pair of breeding Horned Grebes, pair of Buffleheads, 8 Blue-winged Teal, a pair of Ring-necked Ducks while Cliff Swallowsand Tree Swallows were feeding over the water, Yellow and Audubon’s Warblers were in the small willows by the lake side with White-crowned Sparrow and Wilson’s Snipes were displaying. After checking in we drove to Waterton for a meal at Trappers and a quick walk that produced a pair of American Ospreys and Spotted Sandpiper in the now lighter rain.
American Osprey Fort Macleod, American Robin, Black-headed Grosbeak a different angle, House Wren, Least Flycatcher and Mourning Doves