Day 4 – Off to Grasslands National Park

I stayed the night in rural southern Saskatchewan. I didn’t want to stay along the TransCanada highway. It is great for travel, but not for stopping and birding. With my plan yesterday of birding with no plan working so well, I decided to repeat it. I made my way through the countryside towards Grasslands National Park. I once again got a late start to my day, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As I made my way through the countryside I was able to fin 2 new birds for the year. They were LARK BUNTINGS and CHETNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR (# 300 for my year!!!! Woo-hoo!). I would end up seeing several of both of these species throughout the day. They are both gorgeous birds.

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Photos: Lark Bunting and Chestnut-collared Longspur

 Other interesting birds en route to the park included several American Avocets, Wilson’s Phalaropes and once again a lot of waterfowl.


Photo: Blue winged Teal, American Avocets, Wilson’s Phalaropes


After making my way to Val Marie I went to the visitor information for info on where to look for birds. The staff were incredibly helpful and after a few minutes I was on  my way. I decided I would do part of the driving Ecotour.

As I was leaving town I noticed a strange dove fly by. Something about it wasn’t quite right. I got my binoculars on it and realized it was a EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE. Lifer! These non-native birds are rapidly expanding, so it was only a matter of time!


Photo: Eurasian Collared-Dove in Val Marie

 I made my way to the entrance to the Ecotour Scenic Drive. Once in the park I pulled over and started to listen. The very first bird I saw was a SPRAGUE’S PIPIT that flew right over me and landed about 10m away. Awesome! I ended up hearing 5-6 throughout the afternoon, and saw 1 singing away high up in the sky.

The second bird I had in the park was a BAIRD’S SPARROW singing not far from where I just saw the pipit. Unfortunately it wouldn’t show itself. I ended up hearing 5-6 of these birds as well, and eventually found one that I got in my scope. It sat there just singing away for my viewing pleasure. What a treat!

A short was down the road I stopped at the prairie dog colony and quickly got on to 2 BURROWING OWLS. Once again, great scope views of these wonderful birds. The prairie dogs were also quite entertaining. The one thing that I quickly realized was that there are a lot of mosquitos on the prairie. I couldn’t believe how quickly they found me. They had me running back to the car multiple times!


 A few km down the road I had a flyby LONG-BILLED CURLEW. I saw 1 more of there cool looking birds at another prairie dog colony, which I got some record shots of with my camera. Their bills are insanely long.


Photo: Long-billed Curlew with prairie dogs

 My next new bird flushed off the road and onto the fence by the camping area. A LARK SPARROW! On my way back through the park I had a Northern Mockingbird hanging out in the same area. I don’t think mockingbirds are very common here.

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Photos: Lark Sparrow and Northern Mockingbird (with a Common Nighthawk nearby)

 After spending a few hours of my afternoon in the park I started heading further west. Not too far south of Val Marie I had a GRAY PARTRIDGE fly across the road in front of me. Bonus bird! I missed them this winter in Ontario, so I was happy to add it to my list.

My last new bird of the day was a FERRUGINOUS HAWK sitting on a telephone pole. They are a nice looking raptor.


Photo: Ferruginous Hawk

 What a day – 3 life birds and 6 new Canadian birds. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?!





















About canadabigyear2013

I'm a lifelong birder and naturalist who is undertaking a Canada Big Year in 2013.
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