Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
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1) - Blueridge - Goose Lake - Carson Lake

2) - Nojack - Carrot Creek
3) - Hanna - Chinook

by Barb and Jim Beck

Blueridge - Goose Lake - Carson Lake

The triangle between Blueridge, the Goose Lake which is located North of it, and the Carson Lake Campground is a very rich area for birds including the much sought after Connecticut Warbler which can frequently be heard singing in the area between approximately the 5th and 25th of June. There is a hotel in the tiny hamlet of Blueridge, many hotels and motels in the town of Whitecourt and public camping at Carson Lake Provincial Park. From Edmonton go west of the city on Highway 16. Turn north on highway 43 then turn north on Highway 658 to the town of Blueridge. Goose Lake is located approximately 22 km North of Blueridge on Highway 658. To get to Carson Lake Provincial Park travel north through the town of Whitecourt on Highway 43 and turn toward the town of Swan Hills on Highway 32. The access to the campground is about 11 km up highway 32. Exploring the many logging roads in this area is always rewarding..

Bird the road which runs east and west of Blueridge. Six to 7.5 km west of Blueridge on the north side of the road looking down on the Athabasca River is a consistently good place to find Canada Warblers. Connecticut Warblers are common in the area but there are two especially good places to find them. From the town of Blue Ridge cross the Athabasca River traveling North. Shortly after crossing the river a big well maintained gravel road (the main haul road for the mill) intersects 658 from the left (west). From this haul road proceed north 3 km on the paved road, highway 658, then turn west (left) on a gravel road. Bird this short road from the Highway 658 to the main haul road which it intersects in a few miles often Connecticut Warblers appear here. Return to Highway 658. The place where Connecticut Warblers are most numerous is farther up Highway 658 just before it reaches Goose Lake. As many as 21 singing males Connecticut Warblers have been recorded in a 1.6 km stretch of road in this area. If you proceed up Highway 658 the road turns slowly to the east. Approximately 16 - 17 km from the first Connecticut Warbler area the road makes a right angle turn north. Go another 3.2 km then turn left (west) and you are at the start of the Connecticut Warbler area. Bird 3.2 km west on this road then 3.2 km north and finally about 6 km east. At this point you are near Goose Lake. Continue on the road taking the branches to the left and you reach Lone Pine.

The main haul road which is crossed by Highway 658 just north of Blueridge is a good place to bird as are some of the well maintained smaller logging roads which branch off of it. Ruffed grouse and occasionally a Spruce Grouse cross your path. A large number of owls are in the area including Barred, Great Gray, and Pygmy Owl as well as the more common Great Horned and Saw-whet Owl. The muskegs and mixedwood in this area are a good places to spend an evening owling. Woodpeckers are abundant in the mixedwood forest including many Pileated, Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers in addition to the more common Northern Flicker, Yellowbellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker.

The lakes, small ponds and streams in the area have a large variety of waterbirds including: Common Loon; Pied-billed, Horned, and Red-necked Grebes; Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, and Ruddy Duck, Common Tern, Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Sora and American Coots. If you are really lucky you may spot a cavity nesting Hooded Merganser on a beaverpond near her nesting hole. Other birds found near these wetter areas and include: Yellow Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Northern Waterthrush; Marsh Wren; American Bittern; Belted Kingfisher; LeConte's, Song, Lincoln, Nelson's Sharp-tailed, and Swam Sparrow; and Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

You can hear and occasionally see some of the Sandhill Cranes which nest in the Muskegs. Shorebirds in the area include the Kildeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Snipe and Wilson's Phalarope. Many raptors also make their homes in the area including Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk and Osprey near the lakes.

The corvid family is well represented here with the camp robbing Gray Jay, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven and Black-billed Magpie. Near the beaverponds listen for the "quick-three-beer" of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. Other flycatchers common in the area include the Western Wood-peewee, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, and Eastern Kingbird. Barn, Tree, Bank, and Cliff Swallow can be seen feeding on the large number of flying insects which inhabit the boreal forest in the summer. Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees as well as Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches are also common. A few Golden-crowned Kinglets can be found in the bigger spruce stands while the tiny Ruby-crowned kinglet's big voice can often be heard from all of the conifer stands. Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes sing their beautiful songs in the morning and the evening. Occasionally a Veery is also heard. Many tiny busy House Wren occupy some of the many cavities in the deciduous trees in the boreal mixedwood stands. Occasionally a Mountain Bluebird has also finds a home in one of these holes which is located in a more open area created by a disturbance such as a fire or logging.

The mixedwood is also home to the Warbling, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireo. The Philadelphia Vireo whose song is very similar to that of the Red-eyed Vireo can also be found in the area associated with the predominately conifer stands. Cedar Waxwings nest in the area. In addition to the warblers mentioned above many other species are found in these woods including: Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Magnolia, the Myrtle form of the Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, Mourning, and Wilson's Warbler; American Redstart, and Ovenbird. Rose-breasted Groseak sing their Robin-like song from the Aspen. Baltimore Oriole can also be found in the Aspen. Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, the Slate-colored form of the Dark-eyed Junco, and Purple Finch are common along the roads in the forested areas. White-winged Crossbills and occasionally Red Crossbills are found in considerable numbers in the conifer stands in some years. Flocks of Pines Siskins are frequently flying overhead in the coniferous regions giving their noisy chatter. The fields and more open areas in the region are home to many birds including the Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Brewer's Balckbird and American Goldfinch..

Nojack - Carrot Creek

Nojack is a couple hours drive west of Edmonton on Highway 16. There is a small motel in the area in Ninton junction which is located farther wast of Nojack (between Nojack and Carrot Creek) on Highway 16. Motels are available in the town of Edson which is west of Ninton junction. Camping is available at Minnow and Wolf Lake campgrounds described below.

This is a very rich birding area with lots of warblers, thrushes and sparrows, nesting Sandhill Cranes, and lots of owls including nesting Great Gray, Hawk and Pygmy Owls as well as the more common Great-horned and Saw-whet Owl. Evenings spent owling in this area are always rewarding. In the summer listen carefully for the soft single hoot the Great Gray Owl gives to its young as you approach. The birding is best on the oil and gas development roads south of Highway 16 but a trip north to the bridge over the Lobstick River usually yields surprises. Take the road just east of Nojack which runs north through the town of Mackay (Highway 751). The bridge is about 5 km north of highway 16. Sandhill Cranes breed in the area. You often hear their calls from the road. If you are lucky you will see a pair with their young in the fields near the bridge and a little farther north. Marbeled Godwit have occasionally been seen in these fields.

Travel back down to Nojack. Drive south of Nojack 1.6 km then east 1.6 km. Turn right (south) for 3.2 km an at the T in the road jog left (east) for a short distance then turn right (south) at the start of the road to the Granada Gas Plant. Birding south on this road will yield many warblers thushes and possibly owls. If you are more adventurous explore the oil and gas development roads further in this area and in the area south of Carrot Creek, which is located about 18 km west of Nojack on Highway 16. Some well graveled gas and oil roads give easy access to muskegs and great nesting habitat for the Great Grey, Hawk Owl, Palm Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler It is a great way to explore the muskegs without getting your feet too wet. Because these roads frequently change it is not advisable to travel in this area without a recent 1:5000 Resource Access Maps which are available from Map Town, 10344 105 St NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 1E6, Telephone 780-429-2600. Map 83-G-12 covers the area adjacent to Highway 16. Map 83-G-5 is the area south of that and for the really adventurous map 83-G-4 will take you to the Pembina River.
About 12 km past the town of Carrot Creek on Highway 16 there is a road which goes south to the Wolf Lake Campground and Minnow Lake Campground. This area is also good birding. Continuing south on this road leads you to the Pembina River and connects to the gas and oil development roads which run just north of the river. The Resource Access Map 83-F-1 has the connection to the gas roads on it.

In addition to the birds mentioned above the lakes, streams and ponds in the area have a large variety of birds including: Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Sora, American Coot, Franklin's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Tern, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Balckbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Shorebirds found in the area include the Kildeer, Lesser-Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and Common Snipe.

Common Nighthawks feast on the numerous flying insects as do the Tree, Bank, Cliff and Barn Swallows in the area. Many raptors are in the area including the Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Northern Goshawk. Ruffed Grouse are common as are the Gray Jay, Blue Jay, Balck-billed Magpie, American Crow and Common Raven. Woodpeckers are abundant. One can find Pileated, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers as well as the more common Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker. Many flycatchers inhabit the wooded areas including the Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Western Wood-peewee, and Eastern Kingbird.

Other birds of the mixedwood include the Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and an occasional Golden-crowned Kinglet in areas with bigger white spruce.

Mountain Bluebirds can be found in more open areas created by logging or fire near trees with cavities. Cedar Waxwings nest in the area. Swainson and Hermit Thrush can frequently be heard singing their lovely songs and occasionally a Veery appears. The mixedwood is also home to Blue-headed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, American Redstart, Western Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Oriole, Purple Finch and Pine Siskin. White-winged and Red Crossbills are numerous in some years. The more open areas are home to Savannah Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Brewers Blackbird and American Goldfinch.

Hanna - Chinook

The area around Hanna and Chinook is a fantastic place to see prairie birds. Loggerhead Shrike and Ferugunous Hawks are common in the area. Spragues Pipits, Horned Larks, and Bairds Sparrows contribute to the beautiful "prairie bell" symphony which greets you early in the morning. The wet areas are teaming with shorebirds and waterfowl. There is even the possibility of spotting a Borrowing owl standing by its hole in a ground squirrel colony.

Hanna is located northwest of Drumheller near the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 36. The 1:250000 Provincial map 72M shows the back roads in the area. The map is available from Map Town, 10344 105 St NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T5J 1E6, Telephone 780-429-2600. Motel accommodations are available in the town Hanna. Several small hamlets in the area such as Cereal, and Youngstown have a motel or hotel. The Bale House (780-578 2519), north west of Hannah, is a Bed and Breakfast located in an area of unbroken range land. Camping facilities are available in the area at Little Fish Lake Provincial Park. The lake is located about 25 km south and 10 km west of Hanna. Piping Plovers breed on this lake.

In the fields just south of Hanna you might find a Grasshopper Sparrow as well as many other prairie birds.

The ponds at the park at the Sheerness Power Plant yield a variety of waterfowl. To get to the Sheerness plant you travel east of Hanna on Highway 9 to Highway 36. Travel south on Highway 36 about 20 km to the to the power plant. Travel the back roads east and west of Highway 36 in the area of the power plant looking for birds. The caragana hedges around the farm houses and abandoned farmsteads often contain a Loggerhead Shrikes. Examine the small stands of stunted aspen for nesting raptors. Upland Sandpipers can be heard giving their long "wolf whistle" from the fields. Marbled Godwit, Curlew and Willit are common. Fields and range land yield Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Lark Bunting, Savannah Sparrow, Baird's Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur as well Western Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewers Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird and American Goldfinch.

Another interesting drive is to drive west of Hanna on Highway 9 to Highway 871. Bird this road to the tiny location of Spondin about 30 km north of the highway, turn west about 12 km on Highway 586 then south to Highway 9 (The Bale House is located about 6 km north of Highway 586 on Highway 872.)

Sharp-tailed Grouse are common in the area. If you travel from Hanna to Chinook down Highway 9 they can be heard just off the Highway on the road going south from Chinook. Birding the road which intersects Highway 9 1.6 km west of Chinook can yield many prairie birds including McCowan's Longspur. The Longspur are found in the rangeland 30 to 40 km south of Highway 9.

In addition to the birds listed above Double-crested Cormorants can be found in the area. The lakes, sloughs and dugouts yield a variety of waterfowl including Canada Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal. Pied Billed Grebes, Forster's Tern, Sora and American Coots are common.

A variety of raptors are common including the Ferruginous , Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawk; Northern Harrier, Merlin and American Kestral. A Great-horned Owl may also be seen trying to rest in the meager covered offered by the short clumps of trees in the area. Gray Partridge and many shorebirds nest in the area. The Killdeer, and Common Snipe are common. Whilson's Phalaropes and Spotted Sandpiper can also be found. In the morning and evening the plaintive call of the Morning Dove is heard. Clumps of trees yield Least Flycatcher, Eastern and Western Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, House Wrens, Robins, Brown Thrasher, Yellow Warbler and Baltimore Oriole. Cliff and Barn Swallows are commonly seen feeding on flying insects over the wet areas.

Barb and Jim Beck