I respectfully acknowledge that Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is located within the Treaty 6 Territory, the ancestral and traditional territories of the Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐊᐢᑭᕀ Nêhiyaw-Askiy (Plains Cree), Tsuu T’ina, Michif Piyii (Métis), Cree people. Source:

My 5:30 AM alarm came way too early, the sun was already up and the cool breeze was blowing in my bedroom window. I wanted to hit snooze and stay under the cozy, warm blanket, but knew that if I did that I would most likely fall asleep and miss an early departure and a quiet hiking trail. I surprisingly got out the door at a reasonable time, and headed to our hiking location.

I didn’t want to set any photography goals or expectations today. I just wanted to get out, enjoy nature, hopefully see a bird or two and practice my photography.

As I got out of the Jeep, I could feel the crisp, morning air. I zipped up my puffy, put my backpack on, and headed towards the trail, camera in hand. Immediately I was greeted by either a Yellow-headed Blackbird or a Baltimore Oriole. Too fast for my tired reflexes, I was unable to correctly identify it and get a photograph. I didn’t take too many more steps and I was transported into the forest feeling like a Disney princess. There were countless red-winged blackbirds flying overhead, red squirrels chasing each other and a few snowshoe hares hopping along the dewy grass. I had so many photography subjects, I didn’t know where to start. This was shaping up to be THE BEST morning hike ever that accidentally turned into a birdwatching adventure.

Even though I was blessed with countless photo opportunities, I was a little unsure how my photos would turn out. Earlier this week I felt like I was not having a great time in the photography department. It was my first time photographing anything to speak of since the beginning of 2020 and was I out of practice. But somehow this morning, I was taking the best wildlife photos I have ever taken. It was such an incredible feeling!

The best thing about heading out as early as we did, was that the trail was the quietest I have ever seen it. It was so peaceful. A family arrived just as we were getting ready and jetted down the trail so fast they were “miles” ahead of us, and we ran into a local birdwatcher a couple of times who shared some birdwatching tips with us, and another nearby location that we should check out. By the time we got back to the trailhead, the parking lot was full.

During our hike, we walked along the trail amongst mallards sleeping in the water, and on the shore. Canada Geese flew overhead, American Coots (I think) were chasing each other along the water, it looked like the Yellow-headed Blackbird may have been partaking in a mating dance, and the Red-winged Blackbirds were singing.

This morning was INCREDIBLE! I felt so immersed in nature and really enjoyed the slow pace of just being so present in the moment. And I also think this may have started a new hobby of birdwatching! My full list of sightings for the day, and photos are below.

May 22nd, 2022 Sightings:

  • American Coot Fulica americana
  • American Robin Turdus migratorius
  • Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
  • Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  • Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
  • Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
  • White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus – Lifer
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
American Coot Fulica americana
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
These might be American Coot’s but I cannot confidently ID them. (If you know what they are, please let me know!)
American red squirrel Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Snowshoe Hare Lepus americanus

Until next time, chase the stoke!
– Tracey

Chase the Stoke Mountains


  • All photos are taken with a telephoto lens.
  • When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears. Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to take a photo.

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