Cypress Hills – The Backroads!

We just spent five days of epic birding in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park!

And…we were just accepted as new contributing authors to Bird Canada, a multi-author site for birding across Canada, so we’re pretty excited about that as well!  We did a full write-up with 21 great photos of our experience in Cypress Hills.  You can read our blog post over on Bird Canada here.

In addition to what we saw inside the official Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, we also made a few excursions outside the park which were equally amazing.  This blog post will focus on those experiences and images.

One evening we were driving the gravel backroads just SW of Cypress Hills and we found what must be “the eternal source” of raptors!  No kidding, we saw a hawk about every half kilometre one stretch of road.  It was a perfect evening with perfect light, and this first year juvenile Swainson’s hawk was just stunning. You could certainly tell she was not wise to people yet because she allowed us to get close and didn’t fly away.

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Red-tailed Hawk (likely a light-morph Harlan’s race)

While driving down a very lonely gravel road north of the park, we saw a flock of 15-18 birds on a grassy hill and a few on the road itself–we accidentally happened upon a small Sharp-tailed Grouse Lek!  We slowly crept closer until we captured a few shots and then left, not wanting to disturb the jousting rituals.  Seeing these grouse was a nice reminder of our outstanding experience at a Lek earlier this year (full story on that experience here).  This female was calling to her 3 chicks safely hidden in the grass.

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Sharp-tailed Grouse

Shortly after seeing the Sharp-tailed Grouse we came upon this little guy!   Aren’t these Horned Lark’s the coolest birds!  He was singing his heart out early in the morning with his devilish little “horns” sticking straight up!

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Horned Lark

Western Kingbirds are fairly common in open habitats but this was actually our first “close encounter.”  We stopped the car to turn around and he was sitting on a sign watching us.  It’s a pretty bird that reminds us of the Tropical Kingbird we often see in Panama!

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Western Kingbird

We were treated to both Kingbird species on our excursions – the Western Kingbird in the image above, and this Eastern Kingbird below.  These Eastern Kingbirds are really beautiful and we caught this moment when she was flapping her wings trying to get the black hair off the barbed wire fence while her mate looked on!

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Eastern Kingbird

Now these are some funny looking birds!   Actually, interesting fact, pronghorn are not actually antelope.  Their closest living relatives are giraffes and okapi!  We spotted this adult female pronghorn with a gaggle of young ones!  It seems she was stuck with babysitting duty while the other females grazed nearby.  In Alberta, they only live in the extreme SE corner of the province.  These animals are pretty spooky and even though we spotted them at a good distance, the second they became aware of us they ran pretty fast the other way.

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Pronghorn on the grasslands

Our trip to Cypress Hills was action-packed and not one we will soon forget.  The birds were cooperative, the encounters memorable, and even the thunderstorms while camping were out of this world!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next blog post coming soon!  If you would like to receive our StaderArtBirds blog posts to your email, simply sign up using the form near the top left of the screen.

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

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