Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A hard rain's a gonna fall

The weather I had been experiencing over the first few days was becoming disconcerting. It had gone from mild nuisance to an actual hindrance. There were several times where the rain fell so hard that I had to just sit and wait in my car for it to pass. I had gone through 5 pairs of socks and all of my pants in 2 days. While all of this was minor it was the fact I was being prevented from accessing some of the major birding sites that scared me.

For those who haven't been up north most roads are dirt or dirt with loose gravel. When it rains for an extended period of time the roads can become something more closely related to quicksand, and when you drive a small Toyota, you can bet it becomes a bit of a risk.

It was road 201 where I came inches from being irreversibly stuck. Somehow maybe a bit of skill or just sheer luck, or maybe i prayed to the right birding God, i managed to reverse about a km backwards down the road to where I could turn around. I parked the car and managed to walk out to one of the meadows near the lake, locking in on a call from somewhere in the field I knew right away it was a Leconte's Sparrow.

They sound similar to Savannah Sparrows, but lack the beeping at the start, while the buzzy trill of their call is more harsh. I had a hell of a time to get visuals on the bird, and only managed to see it when it flushed in front of me from the tall grass. I checked the wetter parts for Nelson's Sparrow but like all the other times before, there were none to be seen.

From Swan Lake I travelled north to Ft St John but took the long way through the Clayhurst area. Clayhurst is a vast swath of forest along the Peace River about 50 kilometers east of Ft St John.
There are a few places you can park and just saunter through the forest, I spent a few hours during the midday sun walking through the woods, while it was fairy hot out the birds were active.

Red-eyed Vireo's were everywhere, as were Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts, they seemed to be flitting from every tree. I managed a look at a Peregrine Falcon doing a flyover above the river valley, the first and only Peregrine I would see.

From Clayhurst it was north to Boundary Lake. Boundary lake is one of those legendary sites in the Peace. My imagination had run wild as to what secrets would be held inside this mythical lake I always pictured in my mind. Truth be told I was not prepared for the reality of what the place was actually like.

Firstly, all the roads branching off the main road to go into the lake were turned to the equivalent of brownie batter. My car, I decided was no match for them so I walked towards the lake. I don't know the exact strain this mud was, but I do know this mud was the stickiest mud I had walked through. It adhered to my boots with such force that within ten steps I was a good foot taller and it felt like I was walking in ski boots.

The air had an ominous feeling to it, maybe it was dark clouds, maybe it was all the threatening signage of high pressure oil lines, or the thunder in the distance, but I felt uneasy being there. Through it all I did my best to scour the wet sedge along the way for Nelson's Sparrow to no avail.

After what seemed forever I found the lake and marveled at the bountiful variety of waterfowl. Almost every species was accounted for except for things that aren't this far north like Cinnamon Teal. There were also Eared and Red-necked Grebes, as well as a huge flock of Black Terns. A bolt of lightning struck on the horizon, and i lost my nerve and loped back to my car, just as the rain began to fall again.

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