Thursday, 23 June 2011

Any Port (a-loo) In A Storm

The Comfort Inn at Dawson Creek wasn't even built the last time we came here in 2007, but is sited directly opposite the Greyhound Station and is totally civilised as it serves breakfast from 05:00. Checking the weather before heading to be the first to eat, it was overcast and pouring with rain but there was some brightness on the horizon. The first proper breakfast I've had since the William Henry on my departure day, but under normal circumstances I skip this meal opting for something mid-morning. The bacon and scrambled eggs were just to tempting, so satiated and with a bagel or two consigned to the bag it was off to try for a lift.

is some 6 to 7 miles from the town, and with no bus service the only chance of getting there is via 'the thumb'. Whoever said 13 was an unlucky number was wrong on this occasion as it was the 13th vehicle to arrive that picked me up. Sean Hingley was my savior this morning, and was in fact only going half the way to the Slough (pronounced Slew) but took a diversion and dropped me at the gate. Thanks a million Sean and I hope you are reading this?

At this vast lake, reed-bed and woodland reserve there is no Visitor's Center, no hides or shelters in fact nothing except the boardwalks to allow access.

I did notice a fenced off compound with a small concrete building within, but this was padlocked with the only other structure being a small shed outwith the fence.

The first sign of bird-life was an eerie buzzing seemingly coming from above, and have to say my first thoughts went towards maybe an Owl - let's hope so! Even as the first bird was recorded, a

Marsh Wren*, the sound continued and even after a long search I was no nearer finding out what it was (*denotes an addition to the list). Even as

a pair of Canvasback*, Mallard, Northern Shoveler*, Green-winged Teal*, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck*, Black-capped Chickadee, Raven, American Crow and Gadwall entered the notebook in quick succession the buzz continued and seemingly following me. It was only when looking high into the sky did it become clear that this was 'roding' Common Snipe*, a dozen of them at least at an altitude of about 100 feet, and an avian sight indeed!

Next came this delightful female American Redstart along with half a dozen 'summer plumage' Franklin's Gull*, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing and a Sora Rail* that sora me and disappeared quicker than it had arrived. That's when I disturbed this

American Kestrel from its perch but

soon settled down again to give a prolonged and close view. That was until

this American Robin (lower) decides o have a go at it but don't know if a Kestrel would take such large prey, but it could leave a severe injury.

Eventually each decide it had to be a draw and flew off in opposite directions.

That's when the first of what were to be several Yellow Warbler* reveled its presence by continuously singing and the first

Savannah Sparrow showed up.

There was an extremely lucky sighting and photo of this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker* which remained for just a matter of second and coincided with camera poised for the Yellow Warbler. There then followed a further 2 fantastic surprises, as this

Ruffed Grouse* appeared to be

just waiting for me in the middle of the pathway, and as it disappeared a Le Conte's Sparrow*, not uncommon here according to the literature, showed itself. This was 2 World Lifers in as many minutes, and even though there were 2 more of the Sparrows none succumbed to the lens.

A Toad? was a diversion from the birds for a moment, but normal service was soon resumed when this

American Coot* chugged by followed by at first a single

Blue-winged Teal* (male)

and then 2 more.

Musk Rat wasn't unexpected, but what was waiting for me at the

far end of this boardwalk was!

A Common Snipe quite impervious to my presence that simply continued

singing away, even at perch, to its hearts content.

Damselfly Sp.

At Home With A Tree Swallow
At least 3 chicks in the nest awaiting more food.

Tree Swallow

There are dozens of nest boxes around the reserve and most, if not all are occupied.

This little belter, a Common Yellowthroat* although at a distance

did nonetheless still qualify as one of the birds of the day.

Black Terns* were here in good numbers which

now, by all accounts, this American sub-species has been given 'full species status'.

Ruddy Duck* (male)

Ruddy Duck (female) were not to be outdone while other Wildfowl present, but too distant to photograph, included Common* & Barrow's Goldeneye*, Lesser Scaup*, Ring-necked Duck* and American Wigeon*. In other departments Song, White-crowned, Chipping and House Sparrows were in attendance as were Killdeer and Magpie*.

There had been one heavy but not too prolonged shower during the morning, but what was approaching as the noon bell struck and proceeded by a violent thunder storm was an altogether more threatening looking dose. Although I had my foul weather gear, this lot looked like it would drown a Dolphin let alone me so I returned to the small hut seen earlier in the hope of some shelter. Thankfully it was open, but it was a toilet but the alternative was not an option. The raindrops were the size of golf balls which were now falling in deluge proportions, and apart from the continued presence of a few Mozzies, it didn't 'pen & ink' and at least there was somewhere to 'sit down'.

My little sanctuary - The Bagsy Bog.

After a violent storm that lasted the best part of an hour, it was time to think about heading back. Quite a different ball game to the outward journey where there was plenty of town traffic, this was 6 or 7 miles of deserlate country road. But wait a minute, is that a car approaching, it was but even with the 'charm valve' wide open there was no persuading these 2 people to take me back to town. Walking the dirt track to the main highway, I took a longer look at some of the 'red-wings' that had been flying around all day and had to ask myself are they

Red-winged Blackbird or Tricoloured Blackbird as the lower edge of the wing panel in some looked to be pure white, making this one at least of the latter. There were also quite a few at this site sharply contrasting with those showing a 'yellow' fringe. It maybe that Tricolour range has extended, as a few species have including Le Conte's Sprrow, but it always was confined to central & northern California.

Brewer's Blackbird (male)

Brewer's Blackbird ( female) made up the final species of the day, and this time even though I had to wait a little longer, it was the 10th vehicle that picked me up.

Joseph and Lori, who are on the cusp of having their first child, were taking a quiet Sunday drive with no destination in mind, so were king enough to drop me back to Dawson Creek. There was a chance for a 'photo call' at the Mile Zero post, but more about that tomorrow. For now I'd like to thank these 2 lovely people once again for their kindness, and as I did on parting wish them the very best with the confinement and the new family!

The day ends, as it started, with torrential rain but who cares with 42 species in the day, 23 being additions to the Trip List including 2 World Lifers, LET IT RAIN! Good Night.

Trip List = 135 World Lifers = 14

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