On Monday afternoon I called up the homeowners and asked if I could come chase the bird and, disaster struck! They weren't going to be home, and apparently the bird doesn't like to show up if people are out in the yard. There was a glimmer of hope though as they said they might be back in the afternoon. Even though I had two final exams on Wednesday I wasn't willing to give up on the bird.
Tuesday morning came and Chris and I decided to drive to Waterton for the morning and make our way up to the Brambling site later on in the day. On the way to Waterton there were multiple raptors flying about, Golden Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk and Balled Eagle were all tallied up in short succession, but the real highlight of the drive for me was a male Barrow's Goldeneye on a pond near Mountain View. This was my first sighting of the species this year.
Once we reached Waterton we stopped at the park gate to see what was around. Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds were singing making it very clear that spring had arrived. After that, we headed straight for the feeder on Fern Street but bird activity was limited. There were a few Steller's Jays, Black-billed Magpies, and American Crows around scaring away anything that wanted to come in and feed. Eventually we picked up both Black-capped and Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, and Pine Siskin. Unfortunately, my target birds, Evening Grosbeak, Cassin's Finch, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, were no where to be found. We took an uneventful drive up Cameron Lake Road and returned to the feeder an hour later. Not much had changed, but just as I was about to give up I though I heard what I thought was the call of an Evening Grosbeak! I started scanning the trees with my bins and sure enough, there were two male grosbeaks hiding in a spruce. This was a life bird for me. I had tried for them multiple times, but my timing was always off.
|The Evening Grosbeaks! Photo by Chris Do|
After our success we decided to get on the road and head to Pincher Creek. We stopped for lunch at Tim's and I called the homeowners one more time. Ring ring ring "hello?"... Yes! I thought to myself, they are home!, but my excitement quickly faded away as the homeowner explained that the quite regular bird hadn't been seen in a few hours and he suspected that if flew off with a flock of Rosy-Finches. Chris and I decided to try anyway. We arrived at the location and the homeowners came out and greeted us and set us up with a couple of lawn chairs in the back yard facing the feeders. It was a bit chilly but there were so many birds that I hardly noticed. There were Dark-eyed Juncos everywhere, both Hairy, and Downy Woodpeckers made appearances, a Eurasian Collared-Dove was feeding on the ground and a Northern Ficker called in a nearby tree. I was very excited when I noticed a few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches under one of the feeders, but no Brambling...
After about half hour of waiting Chris got a bit bored and decided to take a drive and photograph some of the nearby raptors. I sat and waited. Out of nowhere a flock of over 200 Rosy-Finches landed in a tree above the feeder! Even if I didn't find the Brambling, the trip would have been worth it for this moment.
|A good portion of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch flock taken with my cell phone and binoculars|
Luckily I did see the Brambling! About 10 minutes after the Rosy-Finches arrived I heard the homeowner yell from inside the house "It's there!". But it flew off before I got my eyes on it. It showed up a few minutes later and allowed me to watch it for eat under the feeder before it flew off again. Unfortunately, Chris was still gone and didn't get to see the bird. Along with him was the camera... I didn't even think to digiscope it as I was just so thrilled to be watching a bird that has no reason to be in North America at all.
After the bird left I went inside and thanked the homeowners for their hospitality as they poured me a cup of coffee. We chatted for quite some time before Chris finally returned, but It was getting late and I still had two finals to prepare for! I thanked them again and jumped in my Jeep and headed back to Lethbridge.