Last Mountain Lake Birding on Saturday Morning
- As we arrived at Trestle Bay just after six o'clock this morning, we experienced near perfect viewing conditions, calmer waters with only lighter winds from the southeast; however, that situation did not last long. The winds abruptly switched directions to the northwest and became brisk creating 'white caps' and hence very difficult viewing conditions. Once we returned to Regina after 11:30 a.m., the winds appear to have abated somewhat. Please note that weather conditions at Regina Beach are typically more similar to Moose Jaw rather than Regina.
I always mention the winds at Regina Beach because a stronger flow from a northerly direction predictably creates poor viewing conditions, whereas, light winds blowing offshore from the south or calm conditions are obviously the best. Now on to the birds.
It was great to see a Ferruginous Hawk perched on a roadside pole this morning along the highway # 54 halfway to Regina Beach from the # 11 turnoff. This is a traditional fall location for this species. I have been watching for this species as they appear often about mid-September. There is suitable habitat in nearby pastures, hayfields and some native prairie in the area. Note this species typically is seen early in the morning prior to the onset of streams of cars driving to and from Regina Beach.
On another note, today is obviously a major migration day for Red-tailed Hawks along our entire route and near the City Airport. Jim Cummings and I counted 40+ Hawks during the morning, including later 8 or so soaring together over harvested stubble fields just west of the Airport. Among that specific group was a solitary Swainson's Hawk, the only one of that species noted today during our journey. It was interesting to note that several of these Red-tail's were kiting or hovering much as do typical Rough-legged Hawks. Western Red-tailed Hawks including Harlan's will exhibit this tendency at times and can easily be confused with RLHA's by that behaviour.
Waterfowl were not abundant today at the Lake. Perhaps this reflects the level of boat activity or just the poor visibility associated with stronger gusting winds and the resulting 'rough waters.'
Waterfowl species noted were increasing numbers of Ruddy Ducks, a few scaup species, Northern Shovelers, Mallards and Gadwalls. Canada Geese and a flock of Snow Geese passed high overhead.
Grebe species observed included all expected species except Red-necked and Clark's. (This fall, I have only seen one Clark's so far in spite of carefully scanning the 250+Western's in the area.) Red-necked Grebes typically are here at this time !?
Gull species observed included now fewer many fewer Franklin's, increasing numbers of Ring-billed Gulls and a few California Gulls. We saw 3 Forster's Terns.
We saw and heard 2 Common Loons at Trestle Bay just prior to the onset of the winds. Near dawn, one bird flew several circuits around the area calling loudly. This is typical early morning and evening fall loon behaviour at this location. These 'training trips' no doubt prepare loons for the arduous migration to follow.
Some other species noted during our journey included: A Merlin chasing a flock of Pine Siskins at Regina Beach. twenty of so Yellow-rumped Warblers and a single Black and White Warbler at Condie Reservoir, 7 Gray Partridge together in the Lumsden Beach Highlands, 2 male Ring-necked Pheasants at Kinookimaw.
We also noted the absence of Vesper Sparrows. These typically disappear from the area about this time.
We saw a single Belted Kingfisher, 3 Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, a YS Flicker, several Dark-eyed Juncos, a couple of lingering Western Meadowlarks, several Mourning Doves and little else.
When scanning groups of birds in fall always particularly check those on the periphery or the edge of the flock. Birds frequenting on the edges of groups/flocks maybe stragglers travelling with others for perhaps safety and security. There is safety in numbers.
During fall always check for adults and hatch year birds as both maybe be present in the same group. Learning the various plumages of common birds allows one to scan larger numbers of these more quickly and efficiently. If you are searching for rarer species, learning/knowing the common ones to perfection, will pay dividends,
Enjoy your birding
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