2022-07-05 Kimiwan Lake

Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
When I first saw the Common Terns flying over the marshes at Lake Kimiwan, I mistook them for Forster’s Terns. But Forster’s Terns are rare in this region.
Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
I found most of the grebes at Lake Kimiwan were tending to babies. My only regret was the stormy weather and distances to my subjects inhibited my ability to gather high-quality images.
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
Wilson’s Snipe at Lake Kimiwan mostly stayed out of sight. Yet this bird briefly perched in plain view during my visit.

My long drive from Grande Prairie ended Monday at Lake Kimiwan near the Town of McLennan in the province of Alberta. There is a boardwalk over the marsh at the southern shore of the lake that the locals promote as “The Bird Capital of Canada”; a lofty claim probably not universally accepted. The boardwalk direly needs repair and one must wade through shallow water to access the elevated walkway over the ponds and marsh, and walk its entire length, which is impressive. I saw three grebe species there; Pied-Billed, Red-Necked, and Eared. All had their babies with them and riding their backs. The conditions for photographing these grebe families was abysmal. Not only were they quite far away, but the dark and stormy skies compounded the problem by limiting the light on these subjects.

Black Terns and Common Terns were the most entertaining subjects I met out on the marsh. These birds would hover in place over the water while foraging for food. I found a place where I could capture the action from close enough that I could get full-frame images. I was especially happy to see the Common Terns. Prior to this encounter, my only meeting with this species was in 2003, with a bird migrating through San Diego. It was fortuitous to get an image of the San Diego bird, because the book “San Diego County Bird Atlas” needed an image for this species, and I was able to deliver.

I stayed out on the boardwalk long enough to get pounded by rain, which was an interesting experience. Both me and my camera wore rain gear, but the accompanying lightning made me nervous. Combined with the impossible conditions for photography, I took my leave from the Bird Walk, and ambled back to the RV. When I arrived back at the van, all the visitor center’s doors were locked up tight. I looked over the parking area and concluded this would be my campsite for the evening.

Tuesday morning I took another tour of the Bird Walk. And while there was no rain, the heavy overcast was a problem for me. I walked out to the end of the pier, which I avoided on my first walk, because of the electrified weather. I took a few pictures, and rounded out the species I missed on my first walk, but I didn’t spend a long time on these trails.

In the “Lower Forty-Eight ”, Montana is called “Big Sky Country”. I’ve spent years in Montana, and I took it for granted that the nickname was applicable, and it truly is. But if I’d seen Alberta first, I might have chided my Montana friends that they really didn’t know anything about what a big sky looks like! 

Alberta is called a “prairie province”, and as one travels the southern tier, the reasons are obvious. But in the northern two-thirds of the province, the Boreal forest dominates the landscape. Much of the primeval forests has been cleared, making way for the stockmen and farmers. There are still enough stands of these woodlands left where black bears and moose roam through the tangled shrubs and fallen trees, making a living much as they have done for thousands of years.

For those unsure of what is meant by “Boreal Forest”, here is some of what I’ve learned. The trees in these forests are both broadleaf and coniferous trees, and grow on lands mostly north of the 50th parallel. While Canada’s Boreal forests have been whittled away, it still hosts over three million square kilometers of unadulterated forests, and is believed to be the largest intact forest on the planet.

The roads criss-crossing these forests are all built on high berms to defeat the boggy soils that would otherwise swallow all the wheeled traffic that encountered it. Another feature shared by the highways I’ve seen in this region is clearing of trees and grass to about a hundred feet from each side of the road. This‌ gives drivers plenty of vision to avoid wildlife collisions. Even with this precaution, there are still mishaps to the detriment of all involved.

My time in this region has come when verdant growth abounds. Grasses of many kinds, and wildflowers decorate the highway corridors. All the paths I’ve explored on foot have been lush with these beautiful botanical specimens. I’m happy to have met this region during its green season.

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