Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horse Lake

Bald Eagle (Photo By Dee)
Last night we had dinner alfresco alongside our campfire and overlooking Horse Lake. Unfortunately one of the downfalls of setting up camp next to water in this neck of the woods is the mosquitoes, which are now starting to awaken from their winter slumber. Notwithstanding, we did well and only managed two bites each!

It was a lovely calm evening and we sat watching the many waterfowl on the flat calm lake. Good numbers of Red-necked Grebe looking stunning in full summer plumage and various numbers of Common Merganser, Barrow’s Goldeneye, both Surf and White-winged Scoter and my favourite all time water bird the Common Loon.

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Loon calls are amazing to hear and can sound mournful and eerie to some people but to other Loons it’s a way of communicating with each other. Their calls are almost mesmerising when the long cries travel across the lakes. Loons have four distinct calls and the alert call can sound like a Wolf howling and it was this call that alerted us to a hunting Bald Eagle, which passed right overhead. Thanks to Dee the moment was recorded! As dusk fell a number of other birds were using the lake to roost and a couple of Great Blue Heron flew into the nearby wood. Both Californian Gull and Bonaparte’s Gull were also seen and at one stage two Black Terns passed through.

We made the decision to stay a couple of nights at Horse Lake and so today (Tuesday) we visited 100 Mile House Marsh, a local reserve we visited in 2010 and only around 20kms away. Just prior to setting off I recorded our first Western Grebe of this tour when a lone bird was seen on the lake among a large flock of Scoters while I was having breakfast.

Virginia Rail
100 Mile Marsh is an excellent stop off point to see migrating birds as it lies on the central migration route, it offers an excellent all round trail with nature centre and various observation points. The first vocal and obvious birds of the day were the Yellow-headed Blackbirds and we spent a good half hour photographing these stunning looking birds. The surrounding reeds were a hive of activity with nesting American Coot, Ruddy Duck, Red-winged Blackbird and Marsh Wren. However, the bonus was when we managed several shots of Virginia Rail.

The lagoon had varied numbers of Bufflehead, Canvasback, White-winged Scoter, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Common Merganser, Barrow’s Goldeneye and Lesser Scaup, there were also two Greater Scaup present.

Within the wooded areas on the southern end of the reserve a Garter Snake was basking in the afternoon sunshine and we also recorded of note: Wilson’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Brown-headed Cowbird. Swallows were also in good numbers, mainly Violet-green and Tree with a few Northern-rough winged in among them.

Basking Garter Snake
The highlight of the visit was the sudden arrival of around 50 or so Long-billed Dowitchers flying low over the water and in pursuit a stunning Peregrine Falcon, the first of this visit!

Finally before heading back to Horse Lake, a drive through the nearby Green Lake Provincial Park once more. Here, unlike yesterdays visit, we concentrated more on the woodland areas and came up with two new species for our Canadian List in the form of Tennessee Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow. Dee also managed a Blue Grouse, which I missed while driving and today Mule deer were numerous.