2022-07-02 Piper Pond

Rusty Blackbird - Euphagus carolinus
Rusty Blackbirds gave me unsatisfactory views during my first day exploring Piper Pond, north of Dawson Creek. I didn’t get the results I wanted, so I returned a few days later for a second try, and finally got the results I’d hoped for.
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
Wilson’s Snipe gave me distant views during my first day exploring Piper Pond, north of Dawson Creek. 

I spent time north of Dawson Creek at a location called Piper Pond. I’d heard there were Rusty Blackbirds there, and I hoped to gather some images. When I arrived, before I could get my camera gear ready, I watched a Gray Wolf trotting along the brush line at the lake. I regret I wasn’t able to get a picture, but the memory will have to suffice.

I walked with my gear down to the last place I saw the wolf, but I had no illusions about finding it. This was where I planned to explore anyway, hoping to find the Rusty Blackbirds. In “finding” them, I was successful, but in getting good pictures I was not. I wished I had more time to learn their habits. It has been a little frustrating getting only distant views. Like many aspects of life, for me, learning by trial-and-error is the most meaningful way to gather knowledge.

It looked to me like many of the agricultural fields in this region were planted in mustard. I later learned that the crop was Canola. The plants were the spitting image of the wild mustard I’ve seen regularly growing in so many fields around my southern California home. I understand they harvest the tiny seeds from the plants and squeeze out the oil. The field at Piper Pond seems to have several acres of plants in curved rows. While I explored the margins of the lake, I kept my feet off the crops. I had no reason to make life for the farmer any harder than it already was.

Before saying goodbye to Dawson Creek. I bounced back and forth between Piper Pond and McQueen Slough. During the three days I stayed here, I’d hoped to get good images of Rusty Blackbirds. On my last visit, I was rewarded with the opportunity I was wishing for. I parked across the street from a place I’d seen the elusive blackbird perch briefly during my first visit here. The bird then flew up to the power lines in a disappointing setting on overhead wires with a bright overcast sky for a background. Not only was the straight-up view not to my liking, I’m not fond of pictures of birds on wires.

On my third visit here, while I parked and patiently waited for an opportunity, the Rusties showed up, and brought their friends, the Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles, and I got the pictures I’d been trying to get since my time in Whitehorse.

While I waited for the birds, the folks living in the nearest house drove home and saw my Oregon Plates. After parking in their usual place at home, they walked out to meet me, and we had a lovely visit. I learned their names were Ann and Dan, and they’d lived here for 27 years. Dan grew up in Grants Pass, close to my relatives in Central Point, and thus the attention to my Oregon plates. I also learned that Ann maintained bird feeders in her yard, and then it made sense why the blackbirds frequented the corner where I’d been photographing them.

With my spirits now lifted, and the itch for the Rusty Blackbird now scratched, I drove back to McQueen Slough for a final visit there, I concentrated mostly on the birds there that had been stingy with their face-time during previous visits, and I got better images of Eastern Kingbirds, Marsh Wrens, and Tree Swallows.

Back in town, I took on some last-minute chores and drained and filled my holding tanks, then shopped for a few more groceries before launching on the road. I planned to drive to Grande Prairie, looking for birding opportunities as I proceeded. If I find a roadside rest within striking distance of town, I might stop there and spend the night. Goodness knows, I still have much work to do getting caught up with my blogs.

With the capture of the Rusty Blackbirds, I could now place my attention on meeting some new birds. The Winter Wren would be nice to see, as would some new warblers. Upland Sandpipers, and Common Terns are birds I’d enjoy meeting while in these higher latitudes, but I expect my chances will improve for some of these species as I work my way south.

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