Well, I made it to Calgary. It’s been a long few days…
Photo: A nice herd of Pronghorn Antelope in Saskatchewan
Wednesday evening I decided it was time to hop in the car and try for some of the super rare birds that have shown up in British Columbia (Red-flanked Bluetail, Brambling, and Citrine Wagtail). While I am not even sure if they are still around I will still be able to add several new birds for my Big Year.
When I left southern Ontario on Tuesday evening I left in the middle of a thunderstorm, with heavy downpours and fog. By the time I reached Sudbury at about 3 am it had turned into freezing rain. Due to the awful road conditions and localized flooding, the highway was closed. I sat in my car for 9 hours! Once the roads reopened I continued to Sault Ste. Marie where I spent the night (due to the heavy snowfall and terrible road conditions). I found out the next morning the TransCanada was closed overnight, so I made the right decision. By now the bitterly cold weather had set in, and this stayed with my right to Brandon, Manitoba where I spent last night. It was -25 when I woke up in the morning. At first my car wouldn’t start, but after a few tries I was on my way. The frigid weather continued to Regina, Saskatchewan and at one point I am pretty sure there was some ice fog happening. By the time I reached Alberta this afternoon it was a bit rainy and back above zero and quite pleasant. I guess when you drive 3000+ km you are bound to experience a wide range of weather…
Photo: A lovely male Pine Grosbeak near Dryden, Ontario
While I hope to find some of the super rare vagrants I also hope to see 75+ new Big Year species on this trip. That will put me over the 200 species mark by the time I return to Ontario. I am off to a slow start with only 2/75, but hopefully that will pick up as I cross the Rockies and descend into British Columbia. The highlight was definitely the 6 Snowy Owls that I had within 20 minutes west of Regina!
The bird sightings:
Ontario: Common Raven, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, American Crow, Pine Grosbeak
Manitoba: Common Raven, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE
Saskatchewan: Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie, Rock Pigeon, Snowy Owl (6!) Common Redpoll, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Northern Shrike, MERLIN
Alberta: Black-billed Magpie, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Finch, House Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, Canada Goose, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Raven, Pine Siskin, White-winged Crossbill
Animal sightings have been far more interesting. While driving around Lake Superior I saw 1 Moose and 1 Red Fox. Throughout the prairies I have seen hundreds of deer, and right on the border with Alberta I was treated to a herd of 75-100 PRONGHORN ANTELOPE. It was such a treat to see them so close to the road.
Photo: A Moose pre-dawn outside of Sault Ste. Marie
Photo: PRONGHORN ANTELOPE! Yes, we have these amazing mammals in Canada!
My stop here in Calgary is mainly to visit with friends, so I will likely only do a little birding here before heading to the coast.