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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Central Canada 14 May - 3 June 1995,
My mother-in-law lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and being a dutiful son-in-law we decided to visit her for the first time nearly six years after getting married. As we rather cleverly timed our trip to coincide with the end of the VE day celebrations in Europe we could not get a flight to Canada from Scotland. Our round about route was Air UK (now KLM uk) from Edinburgh to London Gatwick then to Minneapolis St Paul by NorthWest and then onto Winnipeg. We arrived at around 10 p.m. on the 13 May.
My information sources for the trip were The Rough Guide to Canada, A Bird Finding Guide to Canada by J. Cam Finlay and The National Geographic Guide to North American Birds. Later at Oak Hammock I was able to buy The Birder's Guide to South-eastern Manitoba and The Birds of Oak Hammock Marsh.
14 May 1995
My first day in Winnipeg. Ted and Linda's (Linda is my mother-in-law and Ted is her husband - stepfather in law?) house is in North Kildonan and backs onto a large pond. I had seen my first two North American birds at Minneapolis St Paul airport, a Common Starling and a Tree Swallow, and I was looking forward to a bit more variety today. The pond didn't disappoint me this morning as a swirl of hirundines were feeding over it, These were mainly Sand Martins (Bank Swallows), Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows but among them were a single Cliff Swallow and a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a couple of Purple Martins.
The gardens around the lake were rather new with few shrubs or trees and there were a few small birds American Robins, House Sparrows, Common Starlings and Common Grackles were the commonest but warbler migration was evident in two Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler. On the water there were Canada Geese, Mallard, three female Buffleheads, a pair of Blue-winged teal and lots of Ring-billed Gulls. Around the shore a Killdeer had a territory. As is often the case this lake never had anything like this variety of birds on it for the rest of the trip.
15 May 1995
We went shopping today and so the only birding was in the evening when I was dropped off at Kildonan Park. It was rather cold and a little breezy but this appeared to be of benefit to the birding. There were some Wood Ducks on the Red River but little else while the still bare trees had lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers ticking away. There were White-throated Sparrows in the leaf litter but when I moved away from the river to the bushes and trees around the Chief Peguis Creek I saw a lot more birds including a solitary Solitary Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch and Black and White Warbler. As I walked back to the house I saw a singing Western Meadowlark on the telephone wires.
16 May 1995
Again I spent the day in the city but this evening we went for a walk along the Red River again. The spring floods had left a lot of waterlogged soil in this area. The first birds we saw perplexed me. They were obviously sparrows with pink bills and black throats and caps, singing a distinctive song. These were Harris's Sparrows on their way north from their southern US wintering grounds and, it would appear, a reasonably good find for a visiting Scottish birder on his second day's birding in Manitoba. Along the riverbank we flushed a Spotted Sandpiper and saw small groups of Lesser Scaup on the water. The woodlands had lots of small birds, more than Kildonan Park and these included American robin, Brown Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler and Hermit Thrush.
17 May 1995
Today we went birding at Oak Hammock Marsh and I was smitten as I hail from an area where the biggest wetlands are ponds and the variety and numbers of birds just doesn't compare to Oak Hammock in spring. Flocks of American White Pelicans were above us while at eye level Franklin's Gulls and Forster's Terns were everywhere. Of course there were Blackbirds, Yellow-headed and Red-winged. I, however, wanted to see peeps and found a mixed flock on a patch of mud and started trying to sort them out. It was great, a flock of Calidris sandpipers with not a Dunlin among them. I managed to identify Least, White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers as well as Willet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitcher.
Other shorebirds here included Marbled Godwit, Wilson's Phalarope and American Avocet. The wildfowl were impressive including lingering Whistling Swan, Canada Geese, Mallard, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck. American Coots were as interesting as their Eurasian counterparts but the Black-necked (Eared) Grebe is a beauty wherever you see it.
Another pleasing sight were the Hen (Northern) Harriers which terrorised the marsh birds as they hunted in good numbers. Here in Scotland they are scarce birds of heather moorland, persecuted for their perceived depredations on the chicks of Red Grouse. To see them so easily was a highlight of the trip. The Red-tailed Hawks didn't seem to bother the Marsh residents quite so much.
18 May 1995
Tried Assiniboine Park this morning, managing to see a Solitary Vireo in the bushes before we had to go back early. An Osprey flew over the house at lunchtime was some compensation for the curtailed trip and that evening I revisited Kildonan Park. Now, as we say in these parts, Kildonan Park was hoachin'. There were migrants all over the bushes and we were having a great time with the Magnolia Warblers American Redstarts, Olive Sided Flycatchers, Swainson's Thrushes, Veeries and others.
19 May 1995
Despite it being cold and rain we traipsed out to Birds Hill Provincial Park, north of Winnipeg. Here we could again appreciate the diversity of small birds in this part of Canada seeing many warblers including our first Mourning, Cape May and Canada Warblers. Other sightings included our first Canadian Black-billed Magpies and our first Blue Jays.
20 May 1995
Another trip to Kildonan Park but nothing new seen and there were less birds about then two days ago.
22 May 1995
After a non-birding day yesterday we visited my wife's aunt at Winnipeg Beach on Lake Winnipeg. A lakeside walk was good for a single Snow Goose, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Terns, Ring-billed and Bonaparte's Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. The only new passerines were Yellow and Wilson's Warblers in the lakeside willows but I enjoyed watching the American Redstarts, Blue Jays and Tree Swallows around the houses at the barbecue.
23 May 1995
We began our journey across the prairie today. Wendy, my sister-in-law had come from the UK at the same time as us and we had been joined by her husband Gordon who had flown from their home in Zimbabwe. Linda kindly gave us a loan of her car and now we were heading to Banff. As a first timer on the Trans-Canada I loved it, the Canadian speed limit is slow enough for some backseat birding and I saw lots of species at the side of the road. The highlights were a huge shallow lake beside the road in the middle of Saskatchewan which was lined with shorebirds and covered in waterfowl but the driver wouldn't stop to allow me to scope the lake (probably wisely as I could have been there for hours), and seeing the raptors hunting by the road. These included Hen Harrier, plenty of Red-tailed Hawks, a few Swainson's Hawks and a single Ferruginous Hawk.
Lifers included Long-billed Curlew, California Gull and Sharp-tailed Grouse. A mammalian highlight was the Pronghorns. At the first one I saw I pointed it out and explained how rare these were. Then we saw some more, and some more, then some more. Everyone else then asked me "Exactly how rare are Pronghorns?"
24 May 1995
After an overnight stay in Medicine Hat, Alberta, we headed for the Dinosaur Provincial Park. What an excellent site, I enjoyed the tour and its Mountain Bluebirds and I enjoyed seeing Lark Sparrows at the visitor centre. The dinosaurs were rather interesting too. On the way to and from the park we had driven through prairie seeing Loggerhead Shrike, McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs and Horned Larks. Around the park picnic area we saw Eastern Kingbird, Western Wood Pewee, American Kestrel, Cooper's Hawk, Vesper Sparrow and others. The Horned Larks had black and white face markings, unlike the yellow and white faces oof the birds I have seen in the UK.
25 May 1995
We spent the night in Calgary and headed to Banff in the morning and booked into the Rocky Mountain Resort set in the Lodgepole Pine forests on the outskirts of town. That afternoon we went to the rather birdless Vermilion Lakes and drove up Mount Norquay. We saw few birds but did see Mule Deer. Elk and Bighorn Sheep. A compensation was provided by the Violet-green Swallows which were common around the Resort. In the evening I went for a walk in the woods, although it was a bit on the cool side, and I found it very difficult to connect with any birds other than American Robins and Gray Jays. Eventually I did manage to see Chipping Sparrow, Mountain Chickadee and Aubudon's race of the Yellow-rumped Warbler.
26 May 1995
The weather forecast for the Banff side of the Rockies was poor so we decided to go west into British Columbia and the Kootenay National Park. We stopped at the Vermilion Pass and the Great Continental Divide where there are supposed to be Hawk Owls in the burnt trees but all I could see was a slate coloured Dark-eyed Junco. Further into Kootenay and the birding improved with White-crowned Sparrow, McGillivray's Warbler and Townsend's Warbler all seen for the first time on this trip. At the Paintpots, where we picnicked among some spectacular mountain scenery, we were joined by a pair of Gray Jays and I saw a male Common (Red) Crossbill on the trail.
As we drove back to Banff we saw a Bald Eagle over the Bow River Parkway and an Osprey over the Vermilion Lakes. We went to see Lake Minnewanka in the early evening and here I saw Buff-bellied Pipit, Oregon Dark-eyed Junco, Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), Red-necked Grebe and Western Grebe. It was still cold and there was some sleet.
27 May 1995
A better day dawned so we headed north into Jasper National Park to visit the Columbia Ice Field and now Clark's Nutcrackers became evident. We stopped at the aptly named Wildfowl Lake which had obviously just thawed and through the scope I could see Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and some Barrow's Goldeneyes. A melee of parked cars and coaches at the side of the road caught our attention. A Black Bear was feeding in low shrubs beside the road under the scrutiny of around a hundred tourists. At the Athabasca Galcier the only birds seen were Canada Geese and Barn Swallow.
In the evening I went for another walk in the woods around the resort and some Elk I was watching led me to a grassy clearing. Here at last were a few birds and I was able to identify Hammond's Flycatcher among the Wilson's, Yellow and Aubudon's Warblers, Mountain Chickadees, American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos and Chipping Sparrows.
28 & 29 May 1995
The journey back to Winnipeg via Regina. The lake in Saskatchewan was still covered in birds and we still didn't stop. Saw the only Chimney Swifts of the trip as we entered the western suburbs of Winnipeg.
30 May 1995
We left Winnipeg again and headed north westwards to the Riding Mountain National Park and booked into the Mooswa Resort in Wasagaming. In the afternoon we went to a picnic area on the far shore of Clear Lake. At one point I sneaked into the woods to answer a call of nature and was able to get excellent views of a pair of Connecticut Warblers foraging under the trees. Later we saw a male Purple Finch singing in the birches outside our cabin.
31 May 1995
I got up very early and had a productive walk around Wasagaming. Just outside the cabin was a small flock of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks with lots of American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens and, one of my highlights, a single Evening Grosbeak. When everyone else got up we drove to the Bison Enclosure at Lake Audy but before we left a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers had gate-crashed our breakfast by using the telephone pole outside our cabin as a drumming post.
As well as the Bison, the Audy area produced a handsome male Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Bald Eagle which sat in the lakeside trees and didn't budge. We also saw the only Moose of the trip here. After returning to Wasagaming Lillian and I went on the Arrowhead Trail through Aspen and Pine forest seeing a superb Broad-winged Hawk as well as a Common Loon on its nest and a single Beaver.
1 June 1995
We returned to Winnipeg and I returned to Kildonan Park where there were now more leaves and fewer birds. A new bird for me was a splendid male Baltimore Oriole, its orange and black plumage making it look like a hot coal flitting among the trees.
2 June 1995
Gordon and Wendy went home today so after seeing them off at the airport Lillian and I went to Assiniboine Park again. More Baltimore Orioles were seen and we caught sight of a Warbling Vireo and a Gray Catbird but we were too late in the day for it to be really productive. After lunch we went to the Fort Whyte Nature Centre where we met some Canadian birders who tried to tempt us with a male Eurasian Wigeon. They were surprised when we said we had seen thousands of them at home, as both of us have Scottish accents I was surprised at their surprise but maybe they thought we were Newfies. The only new bird was a Philadelphia Vireo but we saw more Baltimore Orioles and Gray Catbirds.
3 June 1995
The last day of birding and we started off at Oak Hammock where there were more shorebirds than last time. New for the trip were Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, a Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, Grey (Black-bellied) Plover and American Golden Plover. Another highlight was a male Bobolink sitting on a fence line. My last birding of the trip was at Grand Beach where I saw Common Yellowthroat, Caspian Tern and Piping Plover.
I saw 185 species of bird on this trip but managed to miss Red-eyed Vireo. I would say that Canadian birds are a lot tamer and more colourful than European birds, although there are a lot of species in common. I would recommend birding in southern Manitoba to anyone its superb
01. Great Northern Diver
02. Pied-billed Grebe Podylimbus podiceps
03. Red-necked Grebe Podiceps rufogrisegna
04. Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus
05. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
06. Western Grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis
07. American White Pelican Pelecanus erythtorhynchos
08. Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
09. Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus
10. Snow Goose Anser caerulescens
11. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
12. Wood Duck Aix carolinensis
13. American Wigeon Anas americana
14. Gadwall Anas strepera
15. Common Teal Anas crecca
16. Mallard Anas playrhynchos
17. Pintail Anas acuta
18. Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
19. Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera
20. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
21. Redhead Aythya americana
22. Canvasback Aythya valisineria
23. Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
24. Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
25. Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
26. Barrow's Goldeneye Bucephala islandica
27. Hooded Merganser Mergus cucullatus
28. Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
29. Goosander Mergus merganser
30. Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
31. Osprey Pandion haliaetus
32. Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
33. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
34. Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipter striatus
35. Cooper's Hawk Accipter cooperii
36. Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus
37. Swainson's Hawk Buteo swainsonii
38. Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamiacensis
39. Ferruginous Hawk Buteo regalis
40. American Kestrel Falco sparverius
41. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
42. Sharp-tailed Grouse Tympanachus phasianellus
43. Grey Partridge Perdix perdix
44. Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
45. American Coot Fulica americana
46. American Avocet Recurvirostra americana
47. American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica
48. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
49. Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
50. Killdeer Plover Charadrius vociferus
51. Piping Plover Charadrius melodus
52. Red Knot Calidris canutus
53. Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
54. Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
55. White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis
56. Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii
57. Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos
58. Dunlin Calidris alpina
59. Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
60. Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
61. Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus
62. Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus
63. Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
64. Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
65. Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
66. Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia
67. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
68. Wilson's Phalarope trocolor
69. Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
70. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
71. California Gull Larus californicus
72. Franklin's Gull Larus pipixcan
73. Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia
74. Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
75. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
76. Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri
77. Black Tern Chlidonias niger
78. Feral Pigeon Columba livia
79. American Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
80. Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica
81. Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon
82. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius
83. Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
84. Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
85. Northern Flicker Colaptes borealis
86. Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
87. Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
88. Olive-sided Flycatcher Nutallornis borealis
89. Western Wood-pewee Contopus sordidulus
90. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris
91. Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
92. Hammond's Flycatcher Empidonax hammondi
93. Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
94. Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
95. Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
96. Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina
97. Purple Martin Progne subis
98. Northern Rough-winged Swallow Steligidopteryx serripennis
99. Sand Martin Riparia riparia
100. American Cliff Swallow Hirundo pyrrhonota
101. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
102. Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
103. House Wren Troglodytes aedon
104. Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
105. Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum
106. Mountain Bluebird Sialis currucoides
107. Veery Catharus fuscescens
108. Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus
109. Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus
110. American Robin Turdus migratorius
111. Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
112. Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa
113. Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus
114. Mountain Chickadee Parus gambeli
115. White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
116. Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
117. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
118. Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
119. Grey Jay Perisoreus canadensis
120. Black-billed Magpie Pica pica
121. Clark's Nutcracker Nucifraga columbiana
122. American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
123. Northern Raven Corvus corax
124. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
125. American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
126. Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus
127. Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
128. Evening Grosbeak Hesperornis vespertinus
129. McCown's Longspur Calcarius mccownii
130. Chestnut-collared Longspur Calcarius ornatus
131. Fox Sparrow Passerella iliaca
132. Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
133. Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
134. Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana
135. Harris's Sparrow Zonotrichia querula
136. White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
137. White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
138. Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
139. Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandvicensis
140. LeConte's Sparrow Ammodramus leconteii
141. Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum
142. American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
143. Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
144. Clay-coloured Sparrow Spizella pallida
145. Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus
146. Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus
147. Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticis ludovicianus
148. Black & White Warbler Mniolta varia
149. Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina
150. Orange-crowned Warbler Vermivora celata
151. Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla
152. Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
153. Chestnut-sided Warbler Dendroica pensylvanica
154. Townsend's Warbler Dendroica townsendi
155. Cape May Warbler Dendroica tigrina
156. Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca
157. Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia
158. Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata
159. Palm Warbler Dendroica palmarum
160. Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata
161. Bay-breasted Warbler Dendroica castanea
162. American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
163. Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus
164. Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis
165. Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
166. Connecticut Warbler Oporornis agilis
167. Mourning Warbler Oporornis philadelphia
168. MacGillivray's Warbler Oporornis tolmei
169. Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla
170. Canada Warbler Wilsonia canadensis
171. Solitary Vireo Vireo solitarius
172. Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadephicus
173. Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
174. Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
175. Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
176. Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
177. Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
178. Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscalus
179. Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinensis
180. Brewer's Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus
181. Brown-headed Cowbird Molothus ater
182. Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus