2022-06-29 McQueen Slough

Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
Black Terns danced over the marsh during my visits to McQueen Slough, which is only a few miles from Dawson Creek in British Columbia. It became a favorite birding location during my stay.
Marsh Wren - Cistothorus palustris
I enjoyed the company of Marsh Wrens during my visits to McQueen Slough.

I explored three locations around Dawson Creek in my quest to find photographic birds. Two were very productive locations. I spent most of my time at a place called McQueen Slough. There are two small lakes surrounded by cattails. Some of the birds, especially the waterfowl are difficult to photograph because the open water, where these ducks and grebes spend much of their time, lies beyond the wide cattail belt, and beyond practical camera range. 

While I was standing at the first location where a trail led me, the first bird that caught my eye looked like a Black-Billed Cuckoo. It wasn’t close, and it had the sun behind it. Later, when I studied the images I captured, I realized the bad lighting made an Eastern Kingbird appear like a cuckoo. 

As I was working on some of the other birds like the Cedar Waxwings, a young man and his dog walked down the trail to meet me. He was parked and boondock camping when I pulled in, and wanted to visit. I learned his name was David, and he was on holiday from Switzerland. He was headed north, and I gave him some insights about the road ahead for him. 

We touched on the topic of our respective governments, I learned much about how the Swiss run their governmental affairs. It differs ‌from any system I’d heard about before. It seemed to me a rather enlightened system with a seven-man chamber servicing as a sort of executive branch. There are provisions where citizens can produce petitions for new laws, and with enough signatures, the measures can be placed for a vote by the public, and with a majority vote, the measures are adopted to the constitution. By David’s account, the right-wing, left-wing and centrists all share a voice in government. There are about four or five political parties, but by David’s explanation, legislators are prone to vote their conscience, rather than on the strict party line. What a concept!

While I was visiting with David, I watched Black Terns foraging over the marsh. They were too far away to photograph, and into the sun. I wished I was sitting further east. Rather than curse the darkness, I tried to get the most I could from the Blackbirds, Chickadees, and Warblers that shared themselves with me where I stood. 

When I took my leave from this first location, I walked the trail leading west toward a narrow strip of water joining the two lakes. The trail continued to get boggier and muddier the farther I proceeded. I turned around and began my trek in reverse. While I walked, I noticed the wide variety of plant-life along the trail. I’ve always had a curiosity about plant identity, but not much aptitude for remembering when I was given the opportunity to learn them. Then technology came to my rescue. On my first trip to Texas in 2020, I learned of an app for my phone called “Picture This”, that had an annual subscription costing $20. Before I spent my money, I tried several free apps that claimed the same function. But after trying them out, and comparing the results, I paid my fees and removed those other apps. As I walked the trail, I began taking pictures of the plants and learning the species. There were many.

When I neared the location where I parked, I noticed a different trail leading into the marsh that I missed on my initial walk. I followed it and found it led to the marsh where I’d seen the Black Terns foraging. Better yet, there was a boardwalk leading out to the middle of the sea of cattails. Black Terns are tricky subjects to capture. Their buoyant flight, and rapid changes in direction make tracking their movements a challenge. But I persisted in my efforts, and with enough repetition, I gathered enough credible images to feel like the effort was worthwhile.

My stay in Dawson Creek lasted several days, and it allowed me to return to the slough several times. The gallery shown here is the product of multiple visits. The other location I found worthwhile near town was called Piper Pond. I will save that story for my next tale.

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