Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Ponds Of Timberlea


There are a  few places in Timberlea and Eagle Ridge I've been wanting to explore and do some birding but for a number of reasons I just haven't found the time to get over to them.  Until today. With the days getting shorter and the weather starting to cool off, I decided to bite the bullet and get over there this afternoon no matter what.  And I'm glad I did.  There were three storm ponds I was curious to check out and to be honest I am now kicking myself that I hadn't done this much sooner.  There were a couple of species I was hoping to add to my year list and realistically, this was probably going to be my last chance to do it before they  leave for the winter.  

Eagle Ridge was still being built when I moved to Fort McMurray.  I took a drive through back around 2010 or so and this was the first real time I had been back.  I HAD travelled through part of it back in May but that was during the evacuation from the big forest fire so it was nice to be able to take my time rather than be in a panicked rush to get home.  Appropriately enough, given my purposes for the afternoon, all the streets in Eagle Ridge happen to be named after birds.

Mallards and Blue-winged Teals...and there was the odd American Coot swimming in there as well closer to the reeds.



This is the same pond but looking in the other direction.  None of those house or condos in the background were there when I first visited the area.  How quickly this place has changed in the mere 6 years that I've lived here.  A brief  moment of levity occurred when I thought I had spotted some type of owl only to look through my binoculars and discover it was just a rather large dark cat hiding among the reeds.


The next couple of photos are from the second pond I visited over by a couple of newly-constructed elementary schools.  My birding journey started out mostly with song birds and it took me awhile to familiarize myself with the many types of waterfowl.  I still sometimes forget that if I'm careful enough I can get up pretty close.  These guys are more likely to swim away from shore if they feel spooked rather than fly away.  My big weakness (that I AM working on) is being able to identify birds in flight, so I always appreciate it when they stick around.

American Coots......


American Coots and Mallards co-existing...


It started to cloud over a bit by the time I reached the last pond off of Brett Drive.  I've been by it the odd time  but this was my first chance to really explore it and I wasn't about to let overcast skies spoil things.  I also never realized how big the place was.  

Initially it was frustrating as all I managed to see were insane numbers of grackles that I managed to flush out of the scrub along the pond's edge.    I also came very close to landing on my backside when I lost focus when walking through a patch of mud at the pond's edge.  Persistence paid off when I spotted something I hadn't seen before...ever.  I had to slowly make my way around to the other side of the pond to figure out just exactly what I was seeing as they were at quite a distance.  All I was seeing were dark shapes they really could be anything....except the head just looked different.

After several moments of angst (I lost sight of them a couple times) and fearing that they would fly off before I reached a better vantage point, the mystery birds revealed themselves to be eared grebes. Four of them.


So all in all, not too bad of a day.  A new species for the life list along with two or three others for the year list.  I don't really know if I'll have a realistic shot at getting back over there before the snow hits the ground though I am definitely keeping these little urban oases in the back of my mind for the future.

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