Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 02/06/2014

Photo taken on January 11, 2014

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blue shadows
E of Calgary
rural scene
Anne Elliott

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Winter outside the city

Winter outside the city
A farmyard winter scene, taken on 11 January 2014, when I went with a group on a birding outing, east of the city. Can't remember exactly where it was taken, just "somewhere" east of Calgary. Well, they did say that this winter would be a long, hard one, and how right they were! We must have had about four months of it already and it is getting way beyond monotonous. On 11 January 2014, I woke up to find an overcast sky and everywhere covered in a freshly fallen blanket of snow. People had been so busy clearing their driveways the day before and the snow was beginning to melt a little. The next day, they started all over again.

The 11th January was a day of reasonably nice weather and I spent the whole day with a group of friends, driving the backroads east of the city. Can't remember if this photo was taken before or after we had, within just a very short time, sunshine, cloud, freezing rain and snow, lol. There was quite an ominous build-up of dark cloud for a while, too, like a solid, black wall. As so often is the case these days, there were very few birds to be found - mainly Magpies, ha. This made the one Great Horned Owl and the one Snowy Owl extra special! If I remember correctly, we saw the Great Horned Owl where the photo above was taken.

The leading car had three superb birders in it and I found it rather amusing that they didn't notice the Snowy Owl sitting on a close fence post until they had reached it and it flew. I think by then, everyone's eyes had been trained to search the distant fields, rather than look close. The snow is SO deep out there and with the recent milder temperatures, the surface would have melted a little and then frozen again to form a crust, making it too difficult for the owls to find rodents at ground level. In so many places, as in this photo, just the tips of fence posts were visible, showing how deep the snow was. Out in the rural areas, everywhere looked so pure and clean, but within the city, the roads are edged with great heaps of dirty, brown snow.

By the end of the day, most people had already left to return to Calgary. The driver of the one remaining car, in which I was riding, was given directions to get back home, as none of us know the area east of Calgary very well. It seemed clear, but when we got to the road that was supposed to take us on to a major highway, we discovered that it, instead, went into a residential area. We were lost, hopelessly lost, and it took us a long time to eventually find ourselves somewhere familiar. Val, you did an amazing job of driving three of us for the whole day and then having to try and get us all back to the city in one piece! Thanks so much! I'm just SO thankful that it wasn't me who was driving. Terry, thanks for another great trip east of the city - always enjoyable, even if the birds don't always cooperate quite how we would like : ) We all know that if they had been there, with your skill, you would have found them.

The following excellent, detailed report for the day is by trip leader, Terry Korolyk, and added with thanks:

"Nineteen birders showed up for today's Field Trip east of Calgary searching for various species of birds. Participants saw some unusual waterfowl species for Winter at Elliston Park in southeast Calgary. Amongst the Canada Geese; Mallards, and, Common Goldeneye, birders saw 5 Hutchinson's subspecies Cackling Geese and another Cackler that may have been a Taverner subspecies bird. This is probably the most Cacklers that have been recorded in our area in Winter since the species was split from Canada Goose a few years back. Also there were 3 male Hooded Mergansers, one of our more sought after Winter waterfowl species.

A stop at Weed Lake at Langdon in the afternoon found the hybrid male GADWALL-NORTHERN PINTAIL and one male and 2 female Mallards still at their patch of water there. The overwintering male Northern Pintail was still amongst the Mallards and Canada Geese at the Hamlet of Shepard in the late afternoon.

Weather was good until 2:00 P.M. when a cold front challenged us on the prairie southeast of Langdon. Eighty-100 km/hour winds made it impossible to scope at Weed Lake and I had to use the binoculars from inside the car. I will post a photo of the Front in my album when I get a chance as it was rather striking.

As mentioned, the deep hard snow made it difficult finding birds. We found one 1st. year Snowy Owl at the southwest corner of Eagle Lake; saw 2 Great Horned Owls (one on the snow in the middle of the day); found one flock of 5-6 Gray Partridge; saw 1 Ring-necked Pheasant and saw a flock of 10 Horned Larks on Highway 564 east of Highway 9. We saw 2 Rough-legged Hawks, one an adult male north of the Cattleland Feedlots north of Strathmore and saw a Merlin and a Downy Woodpecker in Shepard.

The cold front moved through quickly and the day ended with temperatures as warm as 8 degrees."

Jakob Tiefenthaler, Cats 99 have particularly liked this photo

Nicely seen and shown
5 years ago.
Cats 99
Cats 99
This looks like a postcard - it's very pretty. Though I can say I am sick of winter and am ready to see the snow go away.
5 years ago.
Wonderful play of light and shadows on the snow.
5 years ago.