Spring Scouting at Frank Lake

As I’m sure it’s been made clear by now, I absolutely love Frank Lake. I do a trip down there at least once a month, and in the spring it’s a very productive major staging area for gulls, waterfowl, and even prairie songbirds because the water around the lake opens up much sooner than the surrounding farmland and smaller sloughs. Each spring I take a few trips down there to see what is showing up, and while the rest of southern Alberta remains covered in snow, and often still averaging below zero temperatures until mid- to late-April, Frank Lake seems to have its own special micro-climate that all the migrating birds take full advantage of.

This year was no exception, as I headed down in late March and again a couple times in early April to be once again rewarded for my efforts.

Northern Pintail super-flock March 22, 2014

Northern Pintail super-flock
March 22, 2014

On my first actual spring trip to the lake this year, I was greeted by a sight similar to the one above. Flock after flock of Northern Pintails were making their way both onto the lake itself, and into the fields surrounding the lake. A rough estimate of numbers placed the total number of birds on the main basin at over 30,000 individuals.


Frank Lake 8

Tundra Swans at Frank Lake
April 3, 2014

On my next trip down I was able to find a few more Tundra Swans that were a bit more accommodating for photo opportunities, though most of the Northern Pintails had already dispersed to smaller ponds, lakes, and sloughs throughout the area.

Lesser Scaup March 22, 2014

Lesser Scaup
March 22, 2014

Snow Goose in flight March 22, 2014

Snow Goose in flight
March 22, 2014

I also was able to find some of the first of season Lesser Scaup and even a few Snow Geese that were more than happy to provide some relatively close fly-bys as they decided that I was worth a closer look!

Golden Eagle April 3, 2014

Golden Eagle
April 3, 2014

One of the other perks of the area, as I mentioned before, was the other non-waterfowl birds that can be found in the area. Golden Eagles, on the other hand, aren’t really a bird that sticks around that area most years, so this was a real treat to see overhead!

Western Meadowlark April 3, 2014

Western Meadowlark
April 3, 2014

One of the real harbingers of spring down around Frank Lake are the Western Meadowlarks. These little beauties not only provide a little splash of color on a dreary, snowy early spring day, but also show off just how well adapted they are to the prairie grasslands with the cryptic coloration displayed on their backs.

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Greater Yellowlegs
April 14, 2014

Frank Lake 2

American Avocets
April 14, 2014

Frank Lake 1

Black-necked Stilt
April 14, 2014

The next trip down was only a week ago, and already the fauna had changed so much. Gone was much of the ice, and almost all of the Northern Pintails, Tundra Swans, and Common Goldeneye had dispersed, only to be replaced with such new arrivals as Ruddy Ducks, many, many more Lesser Scaup, and three species of shorebirds: the American Avocets, Greater Yellowlegs, and Black-necked Stilts which will be present at the lake for the next five months and provide many more opportunities to photograph them!

Franklin's Gull April 14, 2014

Franklin’s Gull
April 14, 2014

It was also a very pleasant surprise to find a few Franklin’s Gulls last week, as they were another “first of season” bird for me. The next three or four weeks will undoubtedly be bringing many more migrants both to the lake and to the city of Calgary for another breeding season!

Thanks again for reading, and good birding!

This entry was posted in Bird Canada, Canadian Birds, Grasslands Birds, Migration, Nature Photography, Shorebirds, Waterfowl and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Spring Scouting at Frank Lake

  1. Dan Arndt says:

    Hi Mark,

    Yep, I know Greg fairly well I’d say. He does great work down there and he always makes sure that I put everything I see down there in on eBird!

    – Dan

  2. Pingback: This Week in Birding 66 by Charlotte Wasylik | Nemesis Bird

  3. Susan Ellis says:

    Great post! Makes me want to head west immediately!

  4. mark garbutt says:

    Hi Dan , have you meet Greg Wagner yet ? If not he is a great resource about Frank Lake he has been compelling bird stats from there for along time .He would be interested in any of your sightings .

    keep up the good work