I had long wanted to see the Upland Sandpiper, not all that rare of course, but very localized. I must have seen about a dozen, both in SE Alberta and around Chaplin Lake along the Trans-Canada Highway a bit west of Moose Jaw. In Alberta, the Upland's breeding areas are restricted to the southern grasslands and the Peace River area.
|Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicauda|
At this time of year it is also common to see the Wilson's Snipe standing sentry over its nesting area. Normally they are easier to hear than to see because of their insistence to stay under cover in wetland grasses. I was pleased to come across a small colony of them in a wet sedge field in the SE Alberta.
|Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata|
Continuing with birds on a post theme ... the Willets, breeding in high grass adjacent to wetlands, have hatched their young and watch over them vigilantly, often sitting on a post to oversee the brood and watch for predators.
|Willet - Tringa semipalmata|
If you stop nearby and step out of the vehicle they raise a righteous ruckus and buzz you. I could not resist trying to get some flight shots to show their remarkable wing plumage pattern that is not seen unless the bird flies.
I had half hoped to catch a burrowing owl since I went through parts of their shrinking breeding area, but no such luck. But, I was not unhappy to see several Short-eared Owls at the edge of an area in which an irruption of them has been reported this summer.
|Short-eared Owl - Asio flammeus|
Many, many more species made the drive very entertaining: lots of the expected Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson's Hawks, Common Nighthawks, even a couple of Ferruginous Hawks, several variety of sparrows, Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks galore, Western Bluebirds, Eastern and Western Kingbirds, Bobolinks, several Loggerhead Shrikes, countless Avocets with fledglings, many Marbled Godwits, and the usual ducks and teals.
Besides the Upland Sandpiper, a lifer, two other highlights. The first, a flock of Lark Buntings, also a lifer, which one can see only in the very southern prairie grassland regions.
|Lark Bunting - Calamospiza melanocorys|
|Chestnut-collared Longspur - Calcarius ornatus|
Every birder should be lucky enough to spend some days on the open prairies during late spring!