Monday, June 10, 2019

May 23rd; more prairie wetlands and Writing on Stone PP

May 23rd
Early morning its sunny and 10C at dawn but soon warms up to 21C.
We negotiate our way out of Lethbridge with the inbuilt Sat Nav seemingly via an odd route and head for Writing on Stone PP but first call off at the recommended Tyrrell Lake. This proves to be a good recommendation and call in again on the return journey producing a good list of birds but a large falcon perched on the fence in front of us flies off before I can get a decent look at it and we don’t see Prairie Falcon during the trip. Not a lot of mud around the lake edge but what there was held a good variety of waders including 5 Semi-palmated Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, a flock of 35 Sanderling that drop in while we are there, 3 Short-billed Dowitchers, 10 American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Western Willets feeding and in spectacular display flights overhead and Marbled Godwitsalso displaying in flight but the real star birds are phalaropes with at least 10 Wilson’s on the Water and a spectacular flock of 240 Red-necked Phalaropesspinning around in the lake. Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican, multiple ducks including lots of Cinnamon Teal and Blue-winged Teal, Shoveler and Pintail and a very close Swainson’s Hawk form a good photo opportunity. We then head off for Writing on Stone but the Sat Nav says go straight on at Milk River which seems to me to be wrong but its been really accurate so far so it may know a short cut! Reaching the US border things look less than correct but it takes us left along the border and roughly east. On a small pond at the turn off at Coutts are a really nice pair of Canvasbacksthat produce my best images so far and a guy in a pickup tells me its his land and I can walk where I want – such a pleasant change but no time to linger as the Sat Nav tries to take us across several ploughed fields albeit with the statement that maps may be uncertain in this area. After wasting almost two hours we retrace our steps on the correct route to Writing on Stone passing some nice sloughs and ponds with all the usual waterfowl and Wilson’s Phalaropes and American Avocets. Roadside birds include Northern Harriers, Swainson’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks. Eventually arriving at Writing on Stone its pretty hot and we have no food plus the back is playing up a bit. Merlin, Ferruginous Hawk, House Wren, two Lark Sparrows, Spotted Towhee, Least Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Violet-green Swallows and singing Spotted Sandpiper o the river bank are the best birds along with the ever-present Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks. Hungry and hot we retrace our steps to Milk River and get a nice salad at the Sandstone Lounge and Eatery seeing a pair of Western Kingbirds feeding by the visitor centre. Call at Tyrell Lake on return journey then back to Lethbridge and Helen Schuler reserve which is hot and very low in birds but the river has Common Merganser and Bald Eagle with a Lark Sparrow, Mourning Doves and House Finch singing by the hotel. Diner at the Keg steakhouse in Lethbridge where we leave the hotel keys but fortunately the waitress catches us in the parking lot.  

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