Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

Stormy Skies over Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Stormy Skies over Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Waking up extra early in Val Marie had its advantages.  Bob and I had time for a stroll around the village before it was time for breakfast.  At the bottom of Centre Street, the Val Marie Elevator stood tall.

grain elevator, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Val Marie, Saskatchewan, is a quaint little community whose economy is based on wheat farming, ranching and tourism.  It is situated at the gateway to Grasslands National Park.

common nighthakw, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

We could not believe our luck in finding a Common Nighthawk as we explored one interesting side street on our amble.

jean at a playground, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Wandering about, Bob and I were attracted to an open area when we spotted a novel and unique type of swing hung in a tree for the children.

a common nighthawk, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

When moseying back to our bed and breakfast along a shady back lane, what did we find but a second Common Nighthawk.  We were off to a good start that day.

campground at two tree & riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

A consultation with Park employee Danielle at the Grasslands National Park Office in Val Marie inspired Bob and me to look for one of the park’s known resident snakes.  Off we went to find the trailhead for the Two Tree and Riverwalk Trail.  A Bull Snake is often seen in the campground there.

unusual gasoline station, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

First, we had to fill the car’s gas tank with fuel but not at any regular gas station.

a swainson's hawk on the nest, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

As we drove in the direction of the campground, I happened to catch a glimpse of a bird in a large nest at the side of the road.  Initially, it was hunkered down leaving only its head visible.

a swainson's hawk, val marie, saskatchewan

It took flight revealing itself to be a Swainson’s Hawk.

a swainson's hawk, val marie, saskatchewan

We believe the Hawk had either eggs or young in the nest because it circled overhead until we left the area a couple of minutes later.

the campground at two tree & riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

We were thrilled to find the campground at the trailhead consisted of tipis available for rent, a nod to the indigenous people that used to follow the migration of bison decades earlier.

riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

No Bull Snake was seen, but it made sense to work off our breakfast by walking the 3-kilometre Riverwalk Trail that skirts the Frenchman River.  65° Fahrenheit felt rather cool with a brisk breeze blowing.

the riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

A wide swath had been cut to mark the trail through the riparian habitat.

wilson's phalarope, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

We didn’t get far before we were entertained by a pair of Wilson’s Phalaropes doing aerial acrobatics over the prairie grasses.

a wilson's phalarope, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

These birds would have flown all the way from the inland lakes in the Andes Mountains of South America to their breeding grounds on the Prairies.

bob on the riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves down at the edge of the Frenchman River.  It has carved a 341-kilometre waterway from Cypress Hills all the way south into Montana.

common ringlet butterfly, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

A few species of butterflies flitted about in the shorter grass of the trail such as this Common Ringlet.

a blue copper butterfly, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

We also spotted a Painted Lady Butterfly and this Blue Copper Butterfly.

white-tailed deer, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

Rolling hills covered in tall grasses adjacent to the banks of the river had kept a small group of White-tailed Deer hidden from view.

white-tailed deer, riverwalk trail, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

Only when they bounded clear of the vegetation did we become aware of their presence.

a yellow-headed blackbird, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Next, Bob and I drove south towards the Three Sisters Trail but got sidetracked when we came across a swampy area at roadside where a number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds were hanging out.

a yellow-headed blackbird, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

The Yellow-headed Blackbirds were numerous and put up quite a racket with their constant vocalizations.

a yellow-headed blackbird, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Being a new bird to us, Bob and I spent considerable time watching them move about the bulrushes, patches of white on their wings flashing when they took to the air.

a northern pintail duck, val marie, saskatchewan

It seemed that every ditch and depression was filled with water that early in the season, and most were occupied by a variety of ducks.  A prim and proper Northern Pintail was one duck spotted.

marbled godwits, val marie, saskatchewan

Park staff had mentioned a spring-fed pond along that stretch of the roadway, and when we happened upon it, six Marbled Godwits were seen flying and landing repeatedly.

marbled godwits, val marie, saskatchewan

We were mesmerized by their aerial displays and constant vocalizing.

a marbled godwit, val marie, saskatchewan, near Grasslands National Park

Marbled Godwits breed in shortgrass Prairies near wetlands such as the area where we found them.

a marbled godwit, val marie, saskatchewan

The average territory of Marbled Godwits can be up to 200 acres in size and that will include both the nesting and feeding areas.

a marbled godwit, val marie, saskatchewan

Within their territory, male Marbled Godwits perform flight displays early in the breeding season to attract a mate.  We were observing these birds in mid-June.

a marbled godwit, val marie, saskatchewan

After a male circles the area, all the while calling, it settles back on the ground with a beautiful display of wings and plumage.

a marbled godwit, val marie, saskatchewan

Marbled Godwits frequently return to the same area year after year, and often breed with the same mate.

storm clouds over val marie, saskatchewan

As Bob and I photographed the Marbled Godwits, we were keenly aware of a massive thunderstorm developing off to the west and coming in our direction.

rainstorm over val marie, saskatchewan

When the storm appeared to threaten our safety, we hopped in the car and prepared to leave the area.

hail, val marie, saskatchewan

The threat passed quickly but not before we were beset with torrential volumes of rain and small hail, thunder and lightning.

hail along the road, val marie, saskatchewan

We ate lunch in our car while it pelted down and were shocked at the volume of hail that accumulated at the sides of the road.

a handful of hail, val marie, saskatchewan

It looked like snow!

storm clouds over grasslands national park, saskatchewan

Unfortunately, we had to pass on the 8-kilometre hike at 3 Sisters in Grasslands National Park because, as we neared that trailhead, another thunderstorm was developing.

a mule deer, grasslands national park, saskatchewan

To finish out the afternoon, Bob and I drove a section of the Ecotour Route that we explored a day earlier.  Burrowing Owls eluded us again because all the owls and prairie dogs had retreated to the dry comfort of the tunnels in their colonies, but all was not lost.  We were blessed with a lovely view of a Mule Deer as dusk was settling over the land.

You May Also Like:

A Day of Adventure – Toronto to Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

Hiking the Valley of 1000 Devils Route, Grasslands National Park East Block

Our hike up to the Gros Morne Summit in Newfoundland

Driving the Ecotour Road to Borderlands Lookout in Grasslands National Park

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

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