I will get back to writing posts about grassland issues soon, but first I thought I'd show a few bird photos from some of my travels this summer--in grassland and elsewhere:
This black-billed cuckoo shot was taken by my good friend Chris Reed who lives in Toronto but comes out to Saskatchewan where he and his partner keep a second home in a small town. Chris is the naturalist who appears in the Greater Sage-Grouse chapter of Grass, Sky, Song. I was in Toronto in July at a reading at the Harbourfront Centre and Chris and I went for a long bird walk on the Leslie Street Spit. We heard the cuckoo first and then discovered it near at hand on a low branch. If you look at the throat in this image you can see how it distends as it utters its low, "cow-cow" song.
Now for some grassland birds, taken mostly in the upper Indian Head Creek drainage, on and around the Strawberry Lakes Community Pasture, the landscapes featured in Grass, Sky, Song.
This male Bobolink (a species of concern according to COSEWIC) let me get rather close to him in the saline grass along Indian Head Creek just west of our property.
Here are a couple more shots, including a final one with his more cryptically-plumaged spouse:
While I was standing at the edge of this wet grassland, a Wilson's Phalarope nesting in the creek's marshes kept circling overhead and giving its alarm calls:
On the uplands above the valley, the community pasture was in high June bloom, spangled with astragulus, pentstemmon, gaillardia, and anntenaria flowers.
An upland sandpiper cirled past me and landed in the grass momentarily. . .
. . .before rising up again to fly past. It must have had a nest or young in the vicinity so I backed away.
Another prairie shorebird, the willet, flew over while I retreated.
Turkey vultures often wait for the sun to warm the air in groups along fencelines. On my return drive, I found eight of them perched on eight fenceposts, lined up like some kind of grim tribunal of old men. Here is a shot of one of them.
Here are the best shots of ruby-throated hummingbirds I could manage this summer. First a couple of females in flight . . .
. . . and two shots of a male perched (when the sun is not hitting the gorget directly, it turns black):
Two pairs of Eastern Phoebe nest in buildings on the property. This one was flycatching for the young in its nest by sallying out over one of our garden plots.
In late July we had a moonrise that shot the sky with colour and streams of light after a rain shower.
The next morning, July 26, was calm so I rose early to see what grassland songbirds I could find in the western part of the pasture land. Here is what our little valley looked like, with strands of mist hugging the hills and lake, as I drove up onto the prairie:
The first birds I heard were Grasshopper Sparrows, singing from barbed wire perches.
Here is a closer view of one singing:
Nearby I found a lone Sprague's Pipit, as usual several hundred feet up in the air--damned near impossible to see with the naked eye and still only a smidgen through my 400mm zoom lens.
I saw a handful of Western Meadowlarks that morning. This was the only one who allowed me a photo of his yellow breast. Something about this pose and the shape of the chevron on his breast reminds me of the Fred Lahrman painting on the cover of GSS.
These young Brown-headed Cowbirds were feeding among a herd of Angus on the pasture.
This summer we followed the fortunes of a pair of Cedar Waxwings who nested in the lilac hedge near our cabin. Here is photo of an adult on the nest on July 13:
When it flew off to feed, I snuck a shot of the eggs.
By August 2, the nest looked like this.
As far as I know, three young waxwings fledged.
Next posting, I will show some images from a holiday to the Okanagan, which has perhaps the rarest kind of grassland in Canada.
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