Grand Valley Road…a.k.a. ‘Raptor Road’ – 7 April

Perched perfectly by in a roadside tree for this shot

Having heard on the Albertabird website about many spring bird sightings (including Great Gray Owls) along the Grand Valley Road near Cochrane, AB, I decided to take a look for myself so headed off at 8:30am for the 30 minute transit. The bulk of the route is paved and cuts through cleared farmland and with minimal traffic (at least at this time of the day) so I was able to drive at a fairly sedate pace while scanning the trees, fencelines and telephone poles.  I’d barely gone 5 minutes when I saw the first  of many Red-Tailed Hawks, shortly followed by a female American Kestrel perched in a perfect shooting position next to the road. Shortly after I spotted another raptor atop a telephone pole, so I pulled over & started to shoot. This guy (later identified as a Rough-Legged Hawk) seemed fairly relaxed & intent on preening and I was eventually able to walk right up to the pole to shoot.

This fellow was completely unperturbed by my presence.

Continuing on, the raptors kept coming, albeit largely the common Red-Tailed. After about 45 mins I came to the Bates J Ranch gate where I had heard there might be some Great Gray Owls…no luck today though. I had no real plans for the southern return leg route, so just headed in that general direction back to Hwy1A. I spotted many pairs of Mountain Bluebirds, but this species being particularly skittish it took me several goes to get close enough with the car without spooking them. Fortunately, they would just move a few fence-poles further down the road allowing me to follow them until they were comfortable. I would love to take some more shots of this very colourful bird.

Finally on the last legs of the return I was shooting another Rough-Legged in a tree when a very dark-coloured and impressive Red-Tailed Hawk flew up and dislodged the other hawk from its perch. All in all, a very satisfying trip and I shall definitely return soon!

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