We left Cape Breton on a "Road Trip" to travel to Saskatchewan in search of Whooping Cranes. We had to drive to Manitoba for our first lifer, Harris's Sparrow.
Harris's Sparrow - When we left Big Whiteshell Lake Provincial Park heading West to Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, Stonewall, MB, Harris's Sparrow were flying up off the shoulder of the road into the roadside bushes. We had lots of opportunity to observe them and take pictures.
Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, Stonewall, MB
Brewer's Blackbird were walking around the parking area and rest stops along the trails.
Northern Shoveler at Oak Hammock Marsh.
We birded our way West to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Migrating Ducks, Geese, Swans and Sandhill Cranes were flying over us landing in the fields and ponds to rest and feed. We found ourselves wanting to stop at every pond we passed so it took us all day to travel a few hundred kilometers.
American White Pelican on a pond in a farmer's field.
American Avocet were seen in Whitewater Lake on our way to Grasslands.
Bulls with big horns in a farmer's field.
Sandhill Cranes were seen by the thousands in fields and in the air along our drive through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. At the campground in Outlook, Saskatchewan the Sandhill Cranes flew over us at dusk by the hundreds and landed on sandflats in the Saskatchewan River. They called through the evening and late into the night. It was early morning before they settled down and became quiet. It was a great experience as we had no idea that the cranes were going to be spending the night with us.
The farthest we travelled West was to Val Marie, Saskatchewan which is at the entrance to Grasslands National Park (West Block). We have no strict itinerary. We try to get to the best place at the best time to find the birds species we are looking for. We had time to linger at Grasslands before moving on in search of the target bird, the Whooping Crane. Grasslands was a highlight of our trip and we wish we had stayed longer. We especially enjoyed our stay in the campground.
Pictures of Grasslands National Park.
Burrowing Owl was a great surprise. We knew they were in Grasslands Park but we were not expecting them to be so easy to find. We found them on the shoulder of the road shortly after entering the park.
Prairie Dogs were seen in their Prairie Dog Towns along the roadside. Among the Prairie Dogs were Burrowing Owls and Black Footed Ferret.
The campground at Grasslands Park was inside a large corral with a Texas Gate at the entrance to keep in the campers and protect the buffalo.
Western Meadowlark were perched along the fence rails.
Wood Bison were roaming on the grasslands.
Sharp-tailed Grouse as well as Gray Partridge were seen inside and outside the Park.
Vesper Sparrow were easy to find along the roadside.
Mule Deer, Pronghorn, and Coyote were amoung the non-bird species we enjoyed.
On our trip we were checking the internet for Bird Reports. Two Whooping Cranes were reported in a farmer's field near Luck Lake. We made our way North stopping at Prairie Lake Regional Park and left early the next morning for Luck Lake. We got off to a slow start when we found and photographed Mountain Bluebirds when exiting the campground.
Driving along the highway, Luck Lake came into view and we were met with a birding spectacle that caused us to pull over and exit the vehicle. There were thousands of birds in every direction, in the sky, in the lake and in the fields. We put up our binoculars and began to scan the sky and there in a flock of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans we believed we saw two Whooping Cranes. They disappeared down onto the shore of the lake. We had to get down to the lake, but we didn't see how. We began to drive the roads around the lake. We sighted a badger in a field and stopped to take his picture.
We continued turning down the roads trying to get closer to the lake when we met a farmer working on the roadside. He was a friend of the farmer that reported the Whooping Cranes and he gave us directions to a dike that crossed the lake. We drove out onto the dike and found hundreds of Sandhill Cranes loitering on the shore at the Southeast end of the lake and there amoung them were two Whooping Cranes. We were too far for photos or even a record shot of the birds. We sat and watched from the narrow dike the two Whooping Cranes and all the thousands of Ducks, Geese, Swans and Sandhill Cranes. I texted my children to tell them we found Whooping Cranes. When we crossed the lake to the otherside we found a Merlin sitting on a hay bale.
On our last morning before leaving to return home we went back to Luck Lake and crossed the dike, but no Whooping Cranes were seen. We searched the fields around the lake for a few hours and just when we had started for home we spotted them again. They were at the far end of a farmer's field with a flock of Sandhill Cranes. There are only a few hundred Whooping Cranes left in the wild so we snapped a few shots from the roadside and left the birds still in the field and headed for home. Hunting season opened the next day and on the way home the ponds and fields were emptied of migrating birds and when we did stop to view any they were wild and flew away.