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A Search for Snowy Owls

This February, I was fortunate to travel to Alberta, Canada in search of several species of wintering birds, namely, Snowy Owls.


Beginning the drive from Nelson, BC to Calgary, AB at 7am, we briefly stopped in Creston, BC searching for Rough-legged Hawks. Though no Hawks were flying, we did find a flock of American Tree Sparrows in low lying snowberry bushes.


Once in the prairies, we began to make our way north towards Strathmore, just outside of Calgary, where we would be staying the night. Along the way, we made a lucky wrong turn where we found my lifer Snowy Owl flying next to the road, before perching on a fence post, taking the pressure off for the rest of the trip.


Snowy Owl


The next morning we made our way north towards Beiseker, AB, where Snowy Owls, Horned Larks, and Snow Buntings, had all been recently reported. Along the way, we found two male Ring-necked Pheasants and a small flock of Grey Partridge along the highway.


Ring-necked Pheasant


Upon arriving to the area where we hoped to bird, we noticed a photographer pulled over next to the highway and stopped to see if they had a Snowy Owl. There was a distant Snowy on a piece of agricultural equipment, but we didn't stay long since we noticed a tire getting flatter by the minute.


The low tire forced us to leave and head west to Airdrie, AB to get the tire repaired. Fortunately we found a Canadian Tire where they repaired the tire in less that 45 minutes. Even though owl hunting was cut short, we still had most of the day ahead of us to look for other species.


We decided to travel southwest to Brown Lowery Provincial Park in the foothills of the Rockies in search of forest birds. There, we saw Mountain and Boreal Chickadees, Canada Jay, Blue Jay, White-winged Crossbill, and American Three-toed Woodpecker.


American Three-toed Woodpecker


After this successful hike, we continued south to Williams Coulee Road in search of Prairie Birds. Along this stunning drive, we were lucky to find all of our targets; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Prairie Falcon, and Golden Eagle.


Sharp-tailed Grouse


Prairie Falcon


The next morning, on our way back to Nelson we found a great number of Black-billed Magpies and got better views of Grey Partridge though I didn't get any decent photos.


This trip was a great way to add some excitement to the long winter in Canada and I am incredibly grateful that I was able able to go.


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