Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 03/20/2016

Photo taken on March 19, 2016

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Anne Elliott
© All Rights Reserved
grain terminal
SE of Calgary
grain loading terminal
replaced old
wooden elevator
© Anne Elliott 2016
grain elevator
19 March 2016

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Blackie Grain Terminal, Alberta

Blackie Grain Terminal, Alberta
Yesterday, 19 March 2016, I was on a birding day trip with a group of friends, going SE of Calgary, E of High River. Near the end of the day, we called in at the small hamlet of Blackie. We were hopeful that we would see at least one of the Eurasian Collared Doves that live there, and we were in luck.

While we were walking along one of the streets, we saw this massive Cargill grain terminal. Not exactly the most beautiful of structures, but still rather impressive, and definitely not as photogenic as the three old, wooden elevators that apparently used to be along the railway line, just a very short distance away.

In 2004, Blackie apparently had 3 elevators, an Ex-Agricore, Pioneer and Agricore United steel elevator. The large, green, wooden elevator was torn down in 2005 and replaced by this huge, modern grain loading terminal. The other wooden elevator, the Pioneer elevator, was torn down in December 2012. It was a fairly modern, seemingly well-kept elevator. Wish I had seen these, but I hadn't plucked up courage to drive SE of Calgary back then.

"There were 1,651 elevators in Alberta in 1951, but by 1982 a total of 979 elevators remained. The 1990s spelled the death of the wooden “country” or “primary” elevator. At the end of the 1990s, as the full impact of both of the ending of the Crow Rate in 1995 and further impending rail abandonment was felt, the pace of demolition accelerated at an unprecedented rate. At the end of the 1996-1997 crop year, there were only 327 elevators left. Alberta’s largest cooperative grain companies, the Alberta Wheat Pool (which amalgamated with Manitoba Pool Elevators in 1998 as Agricore) and United Grain Growers, ultimately formed a new corporate entity known as Agricore United in 2001, issuing issued public shares. Demolition of country elevators has continued, and in 2005 there were only 156 wooden elevators of any kind still standing, only a handful of which are used by the grain trade.

The Government of Alberta has recognised the significance of the traditional wood grain elevators, and has designated 12 as Provincial Historic Resources. They are located in the following communities: Andrew, Castor, Leduc, Meeting Creek, Paradise Valley, Radway, Rowley (3 elevators), Scandia and St. Albert (2 elevators)."

I will add our leader's report that he sent into eBird, adding that I did not see all of the sightings, as the birds were much too far away. As always, my camera lens was turned to various other things, too. Thanks so much, as always, Andrew, for a most enjoyable day! Thanks, too, Anne, for driving - I really appreciated the ride!

"We had 16 participants when we left Calgary on a sunny but frosty morning.

We arrived at the main gate around 10:00 am and set off, in a chilly -5 deg C to walk down to the outfall and then around to the blind. The recent cold nights had refrozen some of the lake, but it is still mostly open water.

Most obvious were the thousands of Pintails and hundreds of swans (mostly Tundra today). We did see the overwintering (presumably) Song Sparrow near the outfall. About 60-80 California Gulls, no other gulls that we could identify.

We left and went to High River for lunch, stopping by the Sutherland Shelterbelt to acknowledge the resident Great Horned Owl.

After lunch we circled the lake on the usual roads and ended up at the Basin 2 West Bay. Several more swans and finally, the Eurasian Wigeon, spotted by Tony Timmons. By lunchtime the temperature had reached about 10 deg C and continued to rise reaching ~14 deg C and making a perfect Alberta Spring (almost) afternoon.

Leaving Frank Lake we stopped in at Blackie to find mostly Starlings, and a few Eurasian Collared Doves.

The list for Frank Lake and Blackie was:

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Frank Lake--NW lookout/blind
Date: Mar 19, 2016, 9:55 AM
(2): Sutherland's Shelterbelt (private property)
Date: Mar 19, 2016, 12:30 PM
(3): Frank Lake--Basin 2 (Southeast Corner)
Date: Mar 19, 2016, 2:15 PM
(4): Frank Lake--Basin 2 (West Bay)
Date: Mar 19, 2016, 3:05 PM
(5): Blackie (hamlet)
Date: Mar 19, 2016, 4:10 PM

650 Canada Goose -- (1),(3),(4)
4 Trumpeter Swan -- (1)
225 Tundra Swan -- (1),(4)
3 Gadwall -- (1)
2 Eurasian Wigeon -- (4)
60 American Wigeon -- (1),(4)
160 Mallard -- (1),(3),(4)
2 Northern Shoveler -- (4)
4550 Northern Pintail -- (1),(3),(4)
24 Canvasback -- (1),(4)
76 Redhead -- (1),(4)
5 Lesser Scaup -- (4)
150 Common Goldeneye -- (1),(4)
2 Gray Partridge -- (2)
1 Northern Harrier -- (4)
2 Bald Eagle -- (1),(3)
5 Killdeer -- (1),(2)
80 California Gull -- (1)
6 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) -- (3),(5)
4 Eurasian Collared-Dove -- (5)
2 Great Horned Owl -- (2)
1 Merlin -- (5)
5 Black-billed Magpie -- (1),(2)
1 Common Raven -- (3)
3 Horned Lark -- (1)
51 European Starling -- (2),(5)
2 American Tree Sparrow -- (1)
1 Song Sparrow -- (1)
8 House Finch -- (5)
20 House Sparrow -- (2),(5)

From Blackie we stopped by Third Lake on the way back to Calgary. A huge number of birds there, somewhere between 4000 and 8000, generally somewhat distant. Mostly Pintails, but we also saw American Wigeon, Mallard, a few Canada Geese, and California Gulls.

Clearly Pintails are on the move right now."

Andrew Hart