2022-07-06 Revisiting Lesser Slave Lake

Bay-Breasted Warbler - Setophaga castanea
Prior to this visit to Boreal Center for Bird Conservation at the edge of Lesser Slave Lake, my only meeting with a Bay-Breasted Warbler was in south Texas during the spring migration of 2021.
Philadelphia Vireo - Vireo philadelphicus
I first met Philadelphia Vireos on their spring migration through south Texas. Meeting them on the breeding grounds at the Boreal Center for Bird Conservation on the edge of Lesser Slave Lake was a treat for me.
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
One of my missions for my visit to Lesser Slave Lake was to meet Common Terns. I succeeded during my stop at ‘North Shore Beach’ at Lesser Slave Lake, which is actually at the eastern edge of the lake.

I spent Tuesday night at the Slave Lake Walmart, and I broke my fast at the Sawridge Travel Center, where I’ve enjoyed dining on my earlier visits. I explored the southeastern shoreline Tuesday after arriving here from Lake Kimiwan.

I’ve been on a mission to meet Common Terns before I leave Canada, The terns I’ve been finding look like Forster’s Terns to me, but I’ve reviewed some images on the Cornell “All About Birds” website, and I’m starting to entertain the idea that these may be Common Terns. It’s possible that both species might be here, so that complicates any conclusion I might draw. After I studied further the Common Tern identification criteria, it turns out that the birds I’d been assuming were Forster’s, were actually the Common Terns I’ve been looking for. I hadn’t realized how closely they resemble each other. The key that I was able to sort out the difference was a subtle one. The color of the top side of the primary wing feathers of the Forster’s Tern’s are bright white, while the Common Tern’s are slightly gray. Here at Lesser Slave Lake, I was told the Forster’s are unlikely. Between the images I collected at Lake Wimiwan and those I got here at North Beach, I was satisfied I’d gathered enough images of the Common Tern for this expedition.

I spent Wednesday at the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation. I walked the path through the woods they call the “Songbird Trail” and enjoyed meeting birds there again. The Canada Warbler continued its frustrating dance through the thick woods, evading my attempts to get a picture. I focused mostly at a location where a Winter Wren has been reported. I heard the bird during my vigil, but I never got eyes on it. This will be a tough bird for me to get on my search here in Canada on my exit route. 

The bird that I most enjoyed meeting this day was the Bay-Breasted Warbler. And they were generous with me. Both the male and the female gave me reasonable views. My only other meeting with this species was on South Padre Island, when I briefly met a female bird in the Black Mangroves during Spring Migration. Another bird that I enjoyed on this day’s trek was the Philadelphia Vireo. When I met this bird before (again on SPI), there was confusion distinguishing it from the Warbling Vireo. But the birds I met Wednesday had enough yellow on their throats and bellies, leaving no doubt who they were. I understand the Warbling Vireo is uncommon here, so it is hard to go wrong to call the ID for this bird.

All the MacGyvering I’ve done on the RV continues to provide enough curiosity from the local folks, especially those in their “Golden Years”, like myself! I enjoyed a conversation this morning at breakfast with a 75-year-old patron of the restaurant, who told me his name was John. I invited him to sit at my table while we talked. Our chat covered a wide range of subjects. It was the work on the RV I’d done that captured his attention and piqued his curiosity. These sort of encounters are such an enriching experience for me, adding color and texture to my time on the road.

This town (Slave Lake) and its nearby locations have been a joy to explore, but alas, it was time to continue my journey. After I finished my breakfast, I headed east. With still sufficient miles to the border with Saskatchewan, I doubted I’d make it there today. I’ve charted some locations where I might find the Winter Wren, and I planned to stop to look for these elusive birds as I traveled. When I get further south, I’ll include Upland Sandpipers in my searches. Grasslands National Park promises to provide opportunities for this species.

The weather liars are predicting rain for both this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon. It will influence my decisions about stopping to explore the birding locations. Stopping is bound to happen, and if I need to, I can simply stop and work on the backlog of blogs. They are backed up to record levels.

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