Breeding Bird Survey 2012 – The Shoals
Our morning started early once again. Today, we would be doing the Shoals Lake route. Two years ago, a large forest fire to the west of the route. That year, we had decided to find a motel, rather than camping out in the woods somewhere along the route since the fire had chased wildlife into the area of our route and there were signs of black bear and foxes in many locations. Then, last year, we had set up tent very close to the start of the route with the plan that that would give us some time to explore the area late in the day and also get an extra hour’s sleep without the need for a long drive early in the morning. That plan would have worked well except that we hadn’t quite planned on the extremely plentiful bugs that necessitated plenty of DEET and mosquito gear. (My tent as shown above lit by the car’s headlights is a North Face Mountain 25)
This year, we decided to be a bit more civilized and stay in the closest campground at the Shoal Provincial Park. That worked out fine except that we needed to be up very early to make the 70 km pre-dawn drive over gravel roads in the dark to get to the start point 🙂
On previous trips to this area we would occasionally see a rabbit. This morning, we saw a total of 17 rabbits in the headlights at various points along the way. Watching those rabbits trying to avoid certain death beneath the wheels gave a great demonstration each time of how their evolved avoidance procedures of darting first one way and then zig zagging back and forth along a trail might help them escape a four-footed predator or bird of prey but would do nothing to help them avoid the four-wheels of a fast moving vehicle. Happily for seventeen rabbits, I was willing to slow down each time to let them decide which way they wanted to go after zigging and zagging down the centre of the road.
The first bit of morning excitement was when Gerhard summoned me to come out with my camera to photograph a couple of Northern Flickers that were flying back and forth to a nesting hole in a dead tree close to the road. The birds didn’t take notice of Gerhard standing there observing them with his binoculars but flew off as soon as my Nikon with its 300mm lens was pointed in their direction. Shortly after leaving that spot, we rounded a corner and spotted a Broad-winged Hawk in a tree some distance away. It, too, flew almost as soon as we stopped the car. but I was a bit quicker this time :-).
Nice to have road signs in the middle of nowhere but we had done this route before so weren’t too worried about getting lost. As the day progressed and the temperature rose, the wildflowers began to bloom and right on cue, the butterflies also began to show their flashy colours. One thing that we saw this time around, that we hadn’t encountered on previous trips, was a number of species of butterflies joining the carrion beetles on a pile of bear scat.
(Note: If you think that I have the wrong .i.d. on any of the butterflies, dragonflies, etc. in my posts, please let me know)
Metalmark butterfly (sp. ?)
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa)
Comma Butterfly (Polygonia comma)