Day 5 – From the grasslands to the mountains

After another sleep in (this time I just slept through my alarm) I packed myself up and continued west. I had one goal in mind, find a McCown’s Longspur.

I continued west through SW Saskatchewan and found my way on some gravel roads. Once I entered into the extreme SE corner of Alberta the birding became excellent. I would drive a few hundred meters, stop the car, have a listen, and continue on my way. I had the whole prairie to myself (well, I did encounter a few herds of cows). I really enjoyed watching and listening to several Sprague’s Pipits singing away, while many Chestnut-collared Longspurs chased one another. One of the nice things about the quiet gravel roads is that the birds like to hang out on them.

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Photos: The open, fenceless grasslands and a couple of Pronghorn Antelope

I encountered my first new year bird of the day in an area with some sage brush next to the road. I noticed a drab sparrow skulking about, which turned out to be a BREWER’S SPARROW! A lifer for me. A short distance down the road I noticed another slightly different looking sparrow-thing. Upon closer examination it turned out to be a MCCOWN’S LONGSPUR! Mission accomplished! I had 2 very obliging males hanging out on the road. This is the first time I have seen this species in breeding plumage.

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Photos: Brewer’s Sparrow and McCown’s Longspur


I eventually hit a paved road that headed north to Cypress Hills. This was the direction I was headed so I continued north until I reached the interprovincial park. I took a very brief drive around a few of the roads and added 2 new birds. I saw several MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS  (I have never seen a male before, so I was thrilled to see its brilliant plumage!) and a few WESTERN WOOD PEEWEES.


Photo: Male Mountain Bluebird at Cypress Hills

 I had originally planned to visit Calgary for a few days, but with the current epic flooding that the area is experiencing, I decided to skip that and head to the SW and into southern BC. There are far more birds I could add to my list here rather than driving through northern Alberta.

On my way through Taber I noticed a large lake. I failed to find public access to it, but I did find a small pond with a pair of sleeping teal. I could tell that one was a Blue-winged, but the other one looked different. Upon closer examination it turned out to be a drake CINNAMON TEAL, another Canadian lifer! I saw my first of this species in Chile in the winter, I wonder if it was one of the same bird? Haha, most likely not, but you never know….


Photo: Drake Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal

 I made my way across the Alberta/BC border, and into the Rocky Mountains. I stopped in Fernie, and while I was getting my bearings I heard a bird song that I didn’t recognize. Moments later I was staring at a LAZULI BUNTING! Another Canadian lifer. What a day!


Photo: Male Lazuli Bunting in Fernie, BC

 I look forward to bird various parts of interior BC tomorrow. There are many birds that I could potentially add, so hopefully my good luck will continue!




About canadabigyear2013

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