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To Melville And Back Again...

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  • Guy J. Wapple
    To All My Snow-Bound Sask Birder Friends! The past few days are a reminder of why we love living in this province! One day sun, the next day who knows...
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5 2:01 PM
      To All My Snow-Bound Sask Birder Friends!

      The past few days are a reminder of why we love living in this
      province! One day sun, the next day who knows... Surely this cruel
      joke by the God(s) is over now and we can get spring migration fully
      underway.

      As Mary Ann (and no doubt others) had her/their experience in the
      storm, I thought I'd relate mine as well. On Wednesday afternoon, I
      was called out for train 102 to Melville for 1515 hrs. While we
      hadn't had much snow in S'toon yet, my Mom had called from Biggar on
      Tuesday night, warning me of icy highway 14 and plenty of snow from
      Asquith to Biggar. Fortunately, I was ready when the call came in and
      gave myself some extra time for the drive out. While the road wasn't
      too bad, the final 30 clicks from Perdue to Biggar were a bit of an
      adventure to say the least. Thought I'd pop into Mom's for a minute
      or two to let her know I'd made it and check and see if there was any
      snow to shovel. She'd already cleared her driveway out however, so
      that saved me a couple of minutes.

      In the backyard were my first AM. ROBINS (8) of the year. They were
      feeding on the numerous crabapples on the ground, along with what I
      assumed to be the over-wintering male N. FLICKER. Four D.-E. JUNCO'S
      were also present, as were a couple B.-C. CHICKADEES. I checked the
      level of the feeder and off to the station I went. As it turned out,
      I could have had a cup or three of coffee, as our train was still over
      an hour west of Biggar. There was a late 9000 foot "speed" 104 ahead
      of our guy (no pun intented!). It had been running all the way from
      Edmonton into a stiff east wind and our 102 (two units and only 4400
      feet) was stuck behind it. Cond. Bernie Johnson and yours truly never
      left Biggar until nearly 1800. Not much was along the track by that
      time. The usual PARTRIDGE (now mostly paired up), CROWS, RAVENS,
      MAGPIES and small groups of HORNED LARKS. Many of the small sloughs
      that had been open last week were frozen again, so the only waterfowl
      seen were the odd bunch of CANADA GEESE.

      CN does some funny things occasionally, and today would be no
      exception. In spite of the two engines and short train, we barely
      went 85 kms./hr. downhill into the stiff wind which was increasing as
      the afternoon went on. But because we were short and light, they had
      us head into Saskatoon to set off the trailing engine to save fuel.
      By the time this fiasco was over (more delays as trains came and
      another two left ahead of us) it was dark and we had only six hours to
      make it to Melville. Train 104 was still leading the pack, and only
      doing about 60 kms./hr. and we ended up not doing much better.
      Finally, they sent out two taxis from Melville (the snow hadn't
      started yet) and rescued the crew on 104 and us at Raymore as our
      twelve hours had nearly expired. During our night travels no birds
      flew across our headlight path. If they had, I'm sure they'd of been
      going so fast with the wind, I wouldn't have been able to identify
      them anyway! We arrived at our objective just before 0300.

      When I awoke just before lunch, it was back to a winter wonderland.
      At least 25 cms. of white stuff had gathered and it was still
      snowing hard. We had a relatively short layover and were ordered for
      train 115 for 1340 hrs. This is the hottest train going these days,
      and usually it's a good trip home---rail from Mel. to S'toon, then
      another crew takes the train onto Kindersley, and eventually Calgary.
      We were a little aprehensive about the impending taxi ride from S'toon
      to Biggar, but decided to cross that bridge when we came to it. After
      some delay in Melville, we blasted off at 1455 with three brand new
      units (nearly 18,000 horses!) and 8717 feet. We indeed were treated
      like the Royal train and were in Saskatoon exactly four hours later.
      Didn't see much for birds, as the storm raged around us but I did
      manage to see a group of six AM. TREE SPARROWS at Raymore, a new year
      bird. The only other things of note were 12 SHARP-TAILED GROUSE at
      Tate siding and 3 MALLARDS on a bit of open water at Undora siding.
      Plenty of CANADA'S and CROWS plus a few other goodies. There were
      several large flocks of HORNED LARKS gathered near the rails as well,
      making it seem like an early March trip.

      Our taxi ride fears turned out to be mostly unfounded, as we had a
      good driver (who I've had several times before over the years), and
      the road wasn't any worse than the day before. By the time I turned
      around in my vehicle to chase him home, the road conditions had
      deteriorated somewhat. There were a couple of white-knuckle moments
      between Biggar and Perdue, but nothing too serious and I arrived back
      home shortly after 2200.

      I'm on the same job this week, and head out again tomorrow afternoon.
      Perhaps spring will arrive one of these days, and I can tell you all
      about something other than Canada Geese and Crows!

      Cheers,

      Guy
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