Monday 27 February 2017

California Adventures

I'm going to be heading to California for March break with Cait for a week.  We are planning to travel from San Diego up to San Francisco, stopping along the way to see the sights.  We are going to camp at various spots including Joshua Tree National Park, Redwood State Park and at spots along the coast!  We will be flying from Buffalo to Los Angeles and then flying out of San Jose after our trip is over.

I will also be heading back to California in August to do the annual backpacking trip with Jensen, Kyle and Mike.  We are planning to stop at Yosemite and hike some trails and then do a longer backpacking trip in Ansel Adams Wilderness.  We will be flying into and out of Las Vegas.  This is my first time booking a trip in the Sierra Nevadas, and it is a bit of a pain.  Unlike many other wilderness areas, the ones in California get heavy usage, and so permits are awarded based on a quota system of first come-first serve.  With 30 million people within just a few hours drive, these fill up fast!  Yosemite is apparently booked almost immediately.

I did some research and picked us a spot on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas.  We will travel through part of the John Muir trail, Pacific Crest Trail and will camp for 5 nights in some of the most scenic parts of this mountain range.  The Sierra Nevadas have some towering mountains, including Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S at 14,505ft.  We will be a good ways to the north of this, but will still have plenty of mountains to choose from.  We are planning to climb Mount Ritter, the 16th highest in California at just over 13,000ft. I took a shot of a 3D rendering from Google Earth of the area we are planning to stay in Ansel Adams Wilderness.  I love using Google Earth for trip planning, it is really helpful to visualize the terrain!

Mount Ritter is in the background

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Eastern Ontario Boreals

Every now and then you get on a hot streak and can't seem to miss.  My friend and co-worker James Barber and I had one of those streaks from Monday-Tuesday while doing some field work in eastern Ontario in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (near Cornwall).  

Our luck began when we stumbled across a Great Gray Owl perched on a road sign!  It was completely indifferent to our presence, and I manged to get a few decent shots out the window of the car.  It eventually flew from its perch to a nearby fence post where it perched.  We watched it for a few minutes and then continued on our way, finding another just a few hundred metres down the road!  We decided to press our luck and actually made a few wrong turns in our state of 'owl fog' before coming back to the honey hole.  We discovered possibly a third Great Gray a bit further down the road.

Great Gray Owl

The third (or second) bird hunting as it was getting dark
The next day we got an early start, and checked the owl spot on our way up to our work site.  We were unable to locate any of the owls.  I think that the best time is between 4pm to dusk.  However, we did find a Northern Shrike (one of two we saw that day).  Shortly thereafter we discovered a flock of robins and starlings eating crab apples beside a quiet road and found three Bohemian Waxwings! 

Bohemian Waxwing

Our luck continued as James picked out an Evening Grosbeak among a flock of several hundred robins flying over!

As we were standing there looking for the grosbeak, a Northern Shrike flew right up to us and perched in a nearby tree!  It eventually flew off over head, making the nearby starling nervous.  

Northern Shrike - note the hooked beak

After work we decided to press our luck further by driving 20 minutes up to the Lafleche Landfill to look for Gyrfalcon.  Although unsuccessful, we did see over 100 Glaucous Gulls!  What a spectacle! Our hearts skipped a beat as we saw a large falcon perched way off in the distance, but upon closer examination it turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon.  It treated us to an entertaining few moments after it flew from its perch, taking a swipe at a nearby Rough-legged Hawk before gaining serious altitude thousands of feet in the air before plummeting down to the earth, splitting a flock of starlings in half and narrowly missing its target.  A great cap on a wonderful 24 hours of birding!  

Lafleche Landfill
We also came across some interesting winter tracks in the snow, anyone want to take a guess what made them (we saw the animal that made it).

What made these imprints in the snow?