Friday, 7 January 2011
As nearly a week has passed since my unheralded return, and its that time of year when even ex birders get a wee bit frustrated at lack of daylight, I thought I'd cast my thoughts back to the year just closed. While a lot has happened you would no doubt be unimpressed by tales of moving house. Late April, however, saw the beginning of our Canadian road trip. Our mode of transport was the rather large RV pictured here. This is a spot we discovered called Green Lake, which at that time of year is devoid of tourists but absolutely rammed with birds. Scanning the lake (and oh for the luxury of a scope - I'm sure the Assistant Clerk of Works could have done without her pushchair so I could have snuck it under the weight limit on the plane) there were hundreds of Surf Scoter, Bufflehead, Western Grebe, Barrow's Goldeneye, and Loons aplenty. This was one of our nightstops and one of the most atmospheric places I've been with the "haunting" cry of the loon drifting across the lake at dawn. We were also treated to the antics of a family of Beaver from the wagon. I would have been able to enjoy this spot even more if the night before, in the middle of nowhere, about 20k up a dirt track we hadn't been "attacked" by a pickup full of paint-ball gun wielding locals. It took half an hour the next morning to clean the pink splatters off!! Welcome to Canada.
Anyway, I was hoping for an extravaganza of migrants in the Rockies with a route that took us to Jasper and Banff National Parks. Early May? That's peak migration isn't it? Ermmm, no actually. I think my research may have been a bit lacking in its detail (worrying given that its what I do for a living!). Early May in the Rockies is...still deep winter. To say it was snowy was an understatement. It was also bloody cold. However, as you can see from the picture on the left, there were very few people about, and by and large we had this amazing landscape to ourselves. We were also treated to a pretty surreal experience of driving down out of the mountains into a valley and straight into spring with leaves on the trees, flowers in the verges and birds singing.
The other unexpected thing, and the Carter of Vancouver Island (of which more at some point) concurred with this thought - is that even in birdy places - Spring woodlands at lower elevations etc - there just ain't many birds about. Now a woodland in England would be full of the sounds of common birds, but in Canada its strangely quiet. I can understand why early colonists wanted to introduce the sounds of back home.
While I'm on the subject of Mountains I recently came across these young ladies (not in Liskeard I hasten to add) that go under the name of Mountain Man. Their first album - Animal Tracks - is a stripped down alt-country delight that verges on an oral history project (think the Unthanks with checked shirts). I'm not proficient enough to embed music or video but a hyper link is http://www.myspace.com/mountainmansquint