Boys And Girls,
As expected, my 11 days off came to a jarring end at 0315 Monday
morning. I was called to take train 118 to Melville with Mr. Bill
Fisher. Since I planned to do some long-overdue tree pruning in my
Mom's yard, I had to take my light and head to the backyard shed to
pick up my trusty Corona. No, not the excellent Mexican beer but my
saw! A quick check of the rain guage revealed that we'd had an inch
of rain in Erindale through Sunday night. Nice to get that.
You forget how early the days are getting when you haven't been up for
awhile! As I neared Biggar, it was actually getting light enough to
see silouettes, and I managed to spot three separate GREAT HORNED OWLS
sitting on power poles. Our train was an hour "off" the call figure,
so by the time we blasted off, it was a daylight trip. A nice way to
ease back into the swing of things---two big units and only 60 cars
(4100 feet) to drag behind. As we traded off with the inbound crew, I
heard my first VESPER and SAVANNAH SPARROWS of the year.
Needless to say, but things had changed dramatically along the
right-of-way since my last voyage. Leaves were unfolding, grass was
greener and there were lots more flying creatures! Although it was
kind of a gray morning, there were lots of ducks and blackbirds around
all the sloughs. Nothing new, but good to see anyway. As we came up
to Zelma, it started to rain. By the time we hit Watrous (30 kms.),
we were in the middle of another spring blizzard! It was enough to
cover all the fields again and got worse the further east we went.
From the Touchwood Hills to Melville there was another 10 to 15 cms.
on the ground. As a result of reduced visibility, there weren't too
many birds seen during the last 90 kms. of our trip. The snow quit
towards Melville and we arrived at 1210.
New Year Birds were:
TUNDRA SWAN: 6 west of Zelma.
GADWALL: 1 male at Hawoods.
RING-NECKED DUCK: A pair near Fenwood.
SWAINSON'S HAWK: 1 at Leney, two near Asquith and one at Undora
MOURNING DOVE: One at S'toon and two later at Melville.
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD: 25 at Leney and dozens more as we went down the
The VESPER and SAVANNAH mentioned above.
Only five RED-TAILED HAWKS were noted, while a female MERLIN was at
Ituna. From Touchwood to Melville there were at least 250+ sparrows
flushed from the grass beside the track. Unfortunately we never
stopped again, so I couldn't confirm any. My gut feeling is that most
of them would have been WHITE-THROATED and WHITE-CROWNED.
Mammals included: WHITE-TAILED DEER (10 at Eagle Creek); MULE DEER
(15 at the creek as well); PRONGHORN (one at the creek and 6 at
Zelma); WHITE-TAILED JACKRABBIT (one near Grandora); RED FOX
(beautiful "cross" animal at Boulder Lake) and COYOTE (3 at Jasmin).
We laid over until 2210 for train 357. Two old units and 7200 feet.
It wasn't too bad of a night and we arrived in Biggar at 0600. The
only thing of note was a SHORT-EARED OWL near Semans at 0135 hrs.
Feeling not too bad, I decided to go ahead and do the tree pruning at
my Mom's. There was a lot more work than I thought, but I soldiered
on and finished two hours later! During the course of the job, had a
few birds in and around the yard:
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET: 1 (New)
AM. ROBIN: 5
D-E JUNCO: 2
COM. GRACKLE: 15+
HOUSE FINCH: 10+
PURPLE FINCH: 5+
HOUSE SPARROW: 10+
Still not feeling tired enough yet, I then spent an hour at the marsh
and lakes at Perdue to check up on them. There were hundreds of
birds. New year birds indicated (NYB):
PIED-BILLED GREBE-1 heard (NYB)
EARED GREBE-22 (NYB)
D-C CORMORANT-37 (They aren't all that common in our district)
RUDDY DUCK-17 (NYB)
"PEEP" Shorebirds-6 birds too far out to identify with my binocs.
SORA-1 heard (NYB). A bit of a surprise---almost the earliest arrival
date ever for Rosetown-Biggar.
SPRAGUE'S PIPIT-1 heard (NYB)
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD-4 (NYB)
I finally made it home at 1330 hrs. and had a great crash nap for the
afternoon. Next trip is right now (Thursday morning) and I'll talk