Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trip Report: Snowy, Snowy, Snowy, Snowy

When the forecast called for a bright and sunny weekend, we made plans to get out of town. When the forecast changed to rain, the plans got shelved, but the midafternoon sun made it too tempting!

Plan: Drive out of Winnipeg!

Destinations: Oak Hammock Marsh, Teulon

Weather Forecast: Clearing

March 21, 2009: Left town going north on McPhillips, turned west onto Hwy 67, then north on PR 220 to head for the interpretive center. Encountered about 6 Canada Geese on PR 220, feeding in the stubble. I'm not sure if this exaggerated pose was for our benefit, or his (?) mate!

Canada Goose, Oak Hammock Marsh, March 21, 2009

Hoping for a Meadowlark sighting, but no such luck. Just before the turnoff, saw in the distance (around the Artesian Well?) a group of flying birds. Possibly the Mallards everyone had been talking about? Only a short debate was necessary over the possibility of heading that way - the Volvo is a trooper, but the possibility of getting stuck was too great... Turned into the interpretive center and drove up to the sightings board. Our footwear was inadequate for the amount of water and snow, so we didn't attempt the trails. Headed back down PR 220. Saw another group of geese hanging out on the ice just south of the Interpretive Center's parking lot.

Canada Geese, Oak Hammock Marsh, March 21, 2009

Turned west on Hwy 67 and saw a Snowy Owl on a road sign! He wasn't feeling charitable however, and flew off on our approach. Disappointing, but this breaks a five year dry spell on Snowy Owls for me! Very glad for the sighting!

Headed north on Hwy 7. Saw several crows and one Red-Tailed Hawk, but no photos. Drove around Teulon briefly, then went back down Hwy 7, before turning East, back onto Hwy 67 for another run past Oak Hammock.

Grain Elevator, Teulon, March 21, 2009

Major excitement - our Snowy Owl is still there! Perched on the opposite side of the road, picture-taking opportunities are limited to shooting through the windshield. I couldn't see any black spots on him at all! He gave us a few shots, then took off into the nearby field. I'm assuming this was the same individual we saw previously, as the two road signs were almost directly across the road from each other.

Snowy Owl, Hwy 67, March 21, 2009

Continued driving west, almost at the turn to Oak Hammock Marsh. "Wait, what's that over in that tree?" "What tree?" It always helps to have a birding partner with great eyesight! I don't know how he saw this one! The photo below was taken with a 48x zoom.

Snowy Owl, Hwy 67, March 21, 2009

Turned south of PR 220 to return to Winnipeg. Hadn't gone a hundred yards before having to stop! Another Snowy!! This one let me get one photo, then flew to the next pole. We continued, slowly, driving in what was hopefully a very non-threatening manner. Stopped under that pole, and got a few more photos, before the owl swooped down and landed in the field. I LOVE that crown of black feathers!

Snowy Owl, PR220, March 21, 2009

"What's it got?" "What do you mean?" Our owl hadn't left because of us - she'd found a meal!

Snowy Owl and Meal, PR220, March 21, 2009

While Owl #3 didn't seem particularly nervous about us, it looked like she ate quickly, then stayed in place, scoping the area. We got many photos, but the distance was too great for really detailed pics. Then... "What's that in the distance?" "Where?" Would ya look at that - Owl #4 is sighted, in the same field. Very far away, only just barely close enough for ID. No photos of Owl #4, sorry!

Snowy Owl, PR220, March 21, 2009

Continuing along the road (am I the only one who has trouble leaving a cooperative bird?), we saw another Red-Tailed Hawk, several more Crows, and two pairs of Gray Partridges, about a mile apart. Also saw a white bucket overturned on a post. We tried our best, but couldn't turn it into Snowy Owl #5.

Gray Partridge, PR220, March 21, 2009

Species Tally:

Snowy Owl (4)

Red Tailed Hawk (2)

American Crow (~10)

Gray Partridge (4)

Canada Geese (~12)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Drawing - Blue Jay

Blue Jay - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Blue Jays are conspicuous in many places. Not popular with everybody, but I love them. These brightly colored birds are a bright spot in winter, and always interesting to watch. Their calls are familiar to most, from the jay-jay call, to the "metal-scraping-on-metal" call. But if you're lucky enough to be close to a pair of them, they also make a beautiful warbling sound.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sketch - Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipe - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

We used to have the same snipe as the Europeans - the Common Snipe. Turns out the Snipe on this side of the pond has a different display flight and different tail feathers. Who knew? So we have the Wilson's Snipe. Most literature describes these birds as elusive, but around here in the spring, they are often conspicuous, perching on fence posts and vocalizing. One quick late afternoon drive through the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve (near Tolstoi, Manitoba) produced six such sightings in less than two hours, but there wasn't enough light for great reference photos. None were clear enough for full drawings. Hence, another sketch.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sketch - Ovenbird

Like the Northern Flicker, a woodpecker who doesn't act like a woodpecker, Ovenbirds are warblers that don't act like warblers. Rather than flit around treetops and branch tips, Ovenbirds are found on the ground. Skulking, to be precise. All descriptions of Ovenbirds seem to describe them as "skulking". As far as I could tell, this individual wasn't up to any mischief... Although the only clear photo I snapped of him/her was of the posterior view. Hence the sketch, rather than a detailed drawing.

In field guides, Ovenbirds look rather nondescript. I was surprised at how different they look in person - the few I've seen were not brown, much more of an olive color, visible even without the binocs.

Ovenbird - Graphite on Paper
Copyright Nicole MacPherson, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

White Rabbit

A White-Tailed Jackrabbit crossed the road in front of my car on the way back to work today! Industrial parks are strange areas, they support a lot of animals you may not expect to see in the middle of a big city! There was a delivery truck heading in the opposite direction, he must have seen him/her too, judging by the bug-eyed look he gave me... I must have had the same look on my face!! Sorry, I have no photos of any manner of rabbit to share... Sigh...