Yesterday I joined Jukka for his Friday waterfowl count at the Tagish Bridge after I finished working at the community hall. The weather this past week has been pretty miserable; windy, snowing, sleeting, raining, and overcast… yesterday was no different. On the bridge the wind blew the snow crystals horizontally despite the fact that the wind was not strong, and each crystal that hit our faces stung. By the time Jukka finished his count, we were both more than happy to get off the bridge into the sheltered parking lot below. We decided to have a look around for any interesting birds, and I got to hear my first Northern Harrier call. It was a really weird, squeaky screech… I can’t even describe it. Had I been alone, I likely would never have connected that sound to the Harrier hanging around. It just didn’t sound like any typical raptor call I had ever heard. We saw two Gray-crowned Rosy Finches in with a flock of Common and Hoary Redpolls, along with three Bohemian Waxwings in the willows, near where Jukka had sprinkled bird seed on the ground.
As we went back to the road we heard the calls of a small mixed flock of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks. We decided to spend some time photographing the larks, and they let us approach pretty close. As they hopped into the ditch we followed them, and when they found an area that they liked for foraging we settled in. They actually came right back to us, they were so unconcerned. Their feeding strategies are really interesting; each lark would grab hold of an old Yarrow seed head and shake the seeds out, as you would do with a salt or pepper shaker. The seeds would scatter across the snow and then the larks would eat them. They spent the whole time we were with them doing this, travelling from seed head to seed head. Now that I know they do that, I am finding little bird tracks and scattered yarrow seeds everywhere. It’s pretty cool! I had never seen them at such a close range before, and the photos I took were my first ones ever of a lark.