Monday, July 22, 2013

To Eagle lake and back

Eagle Lake BC
Eagle Lake, if you haven't heard of it don't feel bad, I hadn't heard of it either until this year. In the last decade this lake unknown to many has become the harbinger of nesting Arctic Terns, and seeing as how I never made it to the northeast corner of BC, this would be my only real chance of seeing them. So on July 7th after work I hit the road, destination Williams Lake.

I spent the night there, and in the morning I made a brief stop to Scout Island Nature Park, its a wonderful little bird sanctuary and this morning the birds were putting on a show. Northern Flickers, Bullock's Orioles, Willow Flycatchers, and Gray Catbirds, were all out in the open enjoying the morning sun before it got too hot.
Red-winged and Red-shafted

 There were also a few American White Pelican's on the water, as well as this family of Red-necked Grebe.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebes-Scout Island Nature Park

Red-necked Grebe

From Williams lake it was an almost three hour drive on Highway 20 towards Bella Coola. The habitat for the first half was pure grasslands mixed with alder forests, the second half became more coniferous dominated forests as well as wetlands and bogs. There were a few burns I inspected for Northern Hawk Owl.

Fireweed grows where flames once rose

Crystal clear Eagle Lake

By the time I made it to Eagle lake it was noon, and pretty hot out. Seeing the Arctic Terns was a bit anti climatic, I assumed they would be flying around the lake, careening through the air while there calls echoed over the water. But no, the two Arctic Terns I saw pretty much didn't move at all, they seemed content to laze about on some small rocks poking out from the water.
Arctic Tern

One of them finally decided to start calling, making a nasal "kreek" noise. Nevertheless I had plenty to look at with Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, and even three Semipalmated Plovers all actively feeding around the shores. There were also at least 5 White Pelicans.

White Pelican passes by an Arctic Tern

Semipalmated Plover

After Eagle lake I drove back towards Williams Lake. I checked some ponds, finding nesting Greater Yellowlegs. I checked a few bogs and alder forests, as well as a burnt forest. My other target birds here were Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Rusty Blackbirds, neither were to be seen.

Hairy Woodpecker

Vertical Charcoal

Indian Paintbrush

Ducks Unlimited Area along hwy 20

A little before Williams Lake is the turn off for Becher's Prairie. Bechers prairie is a huge grassland, one of British Columbias true natural wonders. I soon found myself hiking the treeless hills of bunchgrass prairie. The scenery was amazing.

Becher's Prairie

At the top of a plateau i flushed a Horned Lark, my first of the year, and the first grassland lark I've ever seen. I have found them in migration in farmers fields, jetty's and in the alpine, but never one of the grassland nesters. I soon had 3 of them calling around me.

Horned Lark hidden in the grass

By the time I made it back to Williams Lake it was 7pm, my plan was to take the road to Alki lake and follow it all the way out to highway 97 by Clinton. Of course having never done this drive before I was unprepared for the length of it, and what I thought would be a 2 hour drive turned into five because it got dark and then I had to drive slowly through a rough road.

Near Alki lake

Fields in flames


I won't complain though, because I saw a lot of cool things. The sunset along Alki Lake was breath taking, and worth the drive alone, once it got dark I started having to dodge toads crossing the road, I think I managed to evade them all, at least I hope so, I also got out and caught one.
And as tradition has it, this toad peed on me
Then there was this Nighthawk, I first noticed him flying off in front of the headlights, only to settle back down a bit further up. He seemed hypnotized by the headlights, when I would get out of the car though it would fly off, making a big Meep! but then it came back and sat right in front of me for a while, what a cool bird.
Common Nighthawk

I didn't make it out to highway 97 until 1am, i was pretty tired, luckily there was a rest area that seemed full of other tired people in their cars, so I conked out there for the night.
Sunday morning I spent checking the cliffs from Clinton to Spences bridge looking for Prairie Falcons, I did not find any. This is one of those birds that I am having big problems with but other people seem to just look up and see one. Luckily i still have time as in August and September there should be more of them migrating through..I hope. This is what birding looks like from here on out, battling for one or two species each weekend, its going to get interesting to say the least.

Out here in the dark

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