Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gone ducky! May 28-31am, Morse, Saskatchewan

The weather while we were at Morse, Saskatchewan really was just meant for the ducks. It rained even on days when the sun shone (and while the sun shone). That reeked havoc with the Saskatchewan back roads which was were we wanted to be. Could our van get any muddier? Would we get stuck in gumbo? When we arrived on the 28th it was raining and there were thousands of shorebirds lining Chaplin Lake (a saline lake) in a feeding frenzy. They looked like they were starving! Of course there was no light for photography. Besides the shorebirds at Chaplin and Reed Lakes there were lots of ducks at the lakes and the nearby sloughs (ponds to Easterners). Like this Northern Shoveller, above which seemed to be happy rain or shine.
We love the sloughs south of Morse/Reed Lake. They seem to be so active with all kinds of birds, like coots, willets, phalaropes, and a flock of eared grebes (above) that all seemed to want the same nest spot at the slough’s edge in the reeds. They are quite striking when the sun hits their golden ear patches. The yellow-headed blackbirds are always captivating with their shrieking song and contrasting colours (below). We were pleased to see that the old barns and abandoned houses continue to support a family of great-horned owls. This year Ron photographed a fluffy young owl in a tree behind one of the barns. Last year it was an adult that he photographed in the barn window: We also saw a muskrat swim by, a few deer and antelopes (pronghorn) in the nearby fields and this cute family of Richardson's ground squirrels (gophers to the locals) with their black marble eyes.
One of the interesting things of staying at Morse, Saskatchewan is the campgrounds. It's washrooms with showers are always clean but it is located beside the 9th hole of the town golf course. Beyond the ninth hole are the train tracks (and trains run every few hours), very busy grain elevators and then Highway 1. If you want to sleep for long you need to get used to the trains. Here's the view from our tent. If you look hard you can see the flag marking the hole and the greens (which weren't exactly green right now).
Reed Lake Golf Club

Saturday, May 27, 2006

In Search of Burrowing Owls, Moose Jaw May 26-27

Last year with some help from the Burrowing Owl Centre we found a burrowing owl pair (endangered species) nesting in a new subdivision in Moose Jaw. Since we are here earlier in the season we were hoping to get some pictures of the birds near their nest hole while the weeds still weren't too high to see it (and if the hole was near enough to the protective fence). However so far no owls have been seen at that location. This should make the Developers happier as it will probably mean that construction can continue after 2 years of stoppage on a 200 meter wide area. The Developers and City get credit for fencing the area off and trying to protect these very endangered birds while they were nesting. Too bad the male didn't come back again this year with his newly selected mate! Since it has now been 2 days and counting of rain we have hunkered down in a very reasonable and decent suite at the Dreamland Motel. We have nothing but Saskatchewan gumbo on our boots to show for the last 2 days. So here is a link to some burrowing owl pictures we took at that subdivision last year:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Manitoba's Tall Grass Prairie Preserve

From Kenora we headed to Southern Manitoba to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near Tolstoi and Gardenton. Stopped in Steinbach to pick up food at Sobies in the mall on Highway 12 (voted mall with best washroom ambiance on the trip so far). At the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve we ran into John Morgan, Jo-Anne Joyce, and Doug Collicutt, who were instrumental in getting this land preserved. Thanks for that! They were looking at some Small White Lady's Slipper Orchids that had been touched by frost. The rare orchids and other wildflowers are what draws us here. But it is also a good spot for wetland and grassland birds, like snipes and upland sandpipers. They seemed happy to see us there and John even took our picture next to our Ontario plates - evidence I guess that tourists really would come all this way to see the preserve. We probably made a good picture with my hair blowing in the high winds and us both in rubber boots - Ron's are hip waders. This is a wet prairie although this year it was dryer than the last time we were here. Because of the high winds, emminent rain, and brown petals due to frost we decided we wouldn't stay to shoot now but would try to come back on August 12 when Christie and the always bare-foot Laura, the Preserve's protectors/interpretors for more than 12 years, hold a Prairie Days event. So instead of posting any pictures today I'll put this link to pictures we took on the preserve the last time we were here:
Note that there is more than one type of rare and endangered orchid at the preserve!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Don't Worry Mom!

Somewhere east of Dryden along Highway 17 we came across a couple of cow moose doing what moose do - eating twigs in the boreal forest. Later we found this black bear foraging along the road-side. If you look real close you can see he is surrounded by blackflies. What else would you expect in Northwestern Ontario in May? Don't worry Mom the picture was taken from the safety of the car. He found an old bone and wondered off into the woods with it before we had time to pose with him and our government prescribed hatchet (not that we have one yet Charlie). Today's destination is Kenora. We have to check-in somewhere with a TV so I can get my season finale fix of "Lost".

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rocks and Trees - Why it's Northern Ontario!

After freezing at Lake Superior Provincial Park (even the toothpaste felt frozen) we headed off to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay. Got there late afternoon set-up camp, ate dinner and headed out to find wildlife. Mostly we just found blackflies. However this raven was willing to pose. We did a couple of hikes including a small one along the Plantain Trail in to this lovely little waterfall (below). If we wanted to see wildlife we could have just stayed at our campsite though. 3 scruffy looking deer were eating their way around our tent when we returned. People didn't seem to bother them at all.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hiking Boots would be Handy

I got the day off to a good start by forgetting to grab my hiking boots on the way out the door at Mom's. I got up at 4:30am and we hit the road by 5:08 as we were to meet the Smith's and Leeney's in Massey, ON for breakfast at 7:00am. However somewhere around Ice Lake I suddenly realized that I couldn't remember putting my boots in the car so I asked Ron if he had. Nope! So it was fly back to Barrie Island grab the boots and hit the road again. We were at the restaurant by 7:10. No officer we weren't speeding! After a pleasant breakfast we headed off again with today's planned destination being Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon. From here on in our time is our own so we are no longer in a rush. We stopped for a snack at a picnic grounds in Bruce Mines mid-morning (we've voted the pit toiets there the cleanest we've EVER seen), and lunch in Sault Ste. Marie. By mid-afternoon I could no longer stay awake so we decided to stop driving and pitch our tents at the very cold lake side at Lake Superior Provincial Park. Overnight it was around freezing. However in the evening Ron got some nice pics of pebbles on the beach.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Manitoulin Gold

The photographic highlight on Manitoulin Island came while wandering the pavement alvar at Misery Bay Provincial Nature Reserve on Saturday. The Lakeside Daisy there was at its peak. No wonder they call it Manitoulin Gold! It was everywhere. This is a threatened plant that is only found in Ontario and Ohio. For more info and photos on Misery Bay and alvars see our AGPix site at: Sunday night Ron gave an "Images of Canada" slideshow to a select audience.

Friday, May 19, 2006

May 19-21 Destination Manitoulin Island, ON

Here we are at the beginning of our trip. Okay so anyone that saw us just before we left know that the glasses are wrong and therefore this isn't taken at the begginning of our trip. So sue me. It's the most recent picture we have of the two of us. Maybe we'll try to post something more recent somewhere along the line. Chances are we won't get much access to the internet - certainly won't be daily. So instead we'll try to post weekly with the highlights.