2022-05-31 Crystal Lake in Grande Prairie

Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
The woods along the shore of Crystal Lake provided meetings with Yellow-Shafted Northern Flickers, and there was love in the air.
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
All the Mallards on Crystal Lake were competing for mates. Their antics involved many take-offs and landings, and I enjoyed chasing the action through my lens.

After I camped at Lake Winagami Tuesday night, I drove for a little over two hours to reach Grande Prairie. Family restaurants that serve breakfast are not so easy to find in this part of Alberta. I found a pretty good place called Major’s Family Restaurant, only a mile-and-a-half from a memorable birding location I previously visited.

There is a park near the center of the town which surrounds a good-sized lake called Crystal Lake. I stopped there in 2005 on my way to Alaska. I remember enjoying it then, but I enjoyed it more this time, because I was in charge of my itinerary. There is a dock at the southwestern shore that provides great views to the water and the nearby marsh.

While I was stationed at the dock, I concentrated on gulls and waterfowl in flight. I’d hoped for grebes, but Mallards put on a pretty good show with their amorous activities. I don’t often concentrate on Mallards, but on this day I could not resist their randy antics. I watched as the hens gave their “come hither” calls and once the suitors joined her, she took them on a ride as they struggled to stay close to her. There were a lot of take-offs and landings, and I tried my best to capture the action.

Most of the gulls there were Franklin’s, and I enjoyed spending time with them as they flew in close enough for competent images. There seemed to be only a single individual white-headed gull. After reviewing my images, I decided it was a Ring-Billed Gull.

Trumpeter Swans were here when I visited 17 years ago, and I saw them again on this visit, though they were quite distant. Given that these birds can live over 25 years in the wild (most live less than 12 years), I considered that perhaps these could be the same birds I met in 2005. But I learned from a conversation with a lady who lives on a lakeside property nearby, that last year, the resident male got into a violent confrontation with a Canada Goose and seriously injured a wing. Swans have a reputation for mating for life, but this season, the female brought with her a new mate. Local observers counted the previous male as overly aggressive, which stands up to my memory of the bird I met in 2005. So far, this new male is much more mellow.

During my visit yesterday, I explored the trails on the south-side of the lake and met birds I’d not seen in 2005. Yellow-Shafted Northern Flickers provided my best images here. I even captured a copulation in action.

I left Grande Prairie Wednesday morning, with Dawson Creek as my targeted destination. I made a random stop along the road west of the town of Beaverlodge, when I spotted Caribou in a field. They were fenced in and I followed a side road in their direction. I didn’t find a good angle to take a picture of them, but I spotted Wilson’s Phalaropes on a shallow pond, and captured a few images before resuming my trek to Dawson Creek.

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