Every year I am just a bit too early. Too early that is, to see flocks of brilliant blue wings flutter across the prairie skyline making their way to spring nesting spots.
Little handcrafted bird houses sit atop fence lines throughout the roads around Craven, Saskatchewan – especially just east along route 99. And each year, mountain bluebird couples migrate back, often times taking up residence in the same box as years past – that is if they get there before the tree swallows.
This is a time I really look forward to each year. I love the drive there. In fact, those who read my blog regularly know how much I adore driving along prairie roads. It is my Zen and truly one of my favourite pastimes. I don’t even mind the strain I put on my eyes and neck in search of my favourite sign of spring, the return of mountain bluebirds.
The Qu’Appelle Valley and Craven in particular are one of the province’s best spots to catch a glimpse of the pretty birds.
For this year’s annual drive I wasn’t alone. Instead, my seven year old son Finn insisted he tag along. Beyond being an incredible bird spotter, he is a budding photographer and I was really happy about spending some quality time together.
Along the way there was so much beauty to take in as spring slowly ushered out winter. We stopped often to enjoy the view.
Signs of spring (in terms of birds) were evident before hitting the valley. The first hint came from lines of V’s up high in the sky – the geese were back. Then, as we drove through the town of Craven, a few robins zipped back and forth – the first I had seen of the season. But, we knew we had to go a bit further for the bluebirds.
As we worked our way toward route 99 we received a little treat. Flocks of cedar wax wings could be seen in groups of 10-20 in many of the trees. Lacking any leaves, they were easy to spot.
Shortly after, we saw a bright flash of blue and just like that we had spotted the first mountain bluebird of the season – and THEN we spotted his mate. Last year I had only seen a lone male, so this was indeed a treat!
I wasn’t able to get many good shots as nearby, another car had stopped and the bluebirds were quite skittish. As soon as I started making some progress, the other car creeped closer and decided to stick around – and let their dog out to run. Unfortunately, the birds weren’t keen on that decision.
So, we called it a day and counted our blessings for spotting the pair. Next year if I can hold out a bit longer I am sure that we will have even more opportunities to view these magnificent little birds.
As we drove home, we chit-chatted about the experience. When asked which bird he liked best, Finn shared “the blue blue kind was my favourite.”
It was so much fun to have Finn along for the ride. I have been secretly hoping that one of my boys would learn to love birding.
He said he had a lot of fun taking pictures with my camera and I was mighty impressed with how well he wielded a pair of giant binoculars. He said he enjoyed the experience with a nonchalant response of “It was pretty good,” but was also quick to add in his disappointment of not spotting a bald eagle. What can I say? We all have our favourites.
The opportunity to share this passion of mine with my son is amazing. Not only do I get to enjoy his company – seeing his knowledge and appreciation for nature grow, make me so incredibly proud. If there is anything I hope my children will adopt, it is the love and empathy for wildlife and our natural environment.