From Ft. Smith we now began the long drive to Hay River. This trip is about 320 km and takes about four hours of solid driving. Our target was to get there by noon with a few birding stops along the way. Not long out of town we passed a long wide area of low stunted spruce and both screamed when a medium sized raptor flew along the roadside and landed on the top of a tree. We were thrilled to see that it was a NORTHERN HAWK OWL!! Despite the time pressure we stopped to take a few pics. The photos below were actually taken the next day, of a different hawk owl we found later on the big day near Yellowknife!!
Not long after the Hawk Owl we stopped at a roadside site in Wood Buffalo National Park known as the wetland pulloff. Here we had an incredible string of luck with HOODED MERGANSER, FOX SPARROW, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, COMMON GRACKLE, PEREGRINE FALCON, RUSTY BLACKBIRD, EASTERN KINGBIRD and BLACKPOLL WARBLER (our 16 warbler for the day) all being added within minutes!! While scoping Paul spotted a LYNX at the edge of the highway digging in the sand bank for some tasty morsel. Speaking of mammals, we saw lots up here and during the Big Day other highlites included no fewer than 8 BLACK BEARS, a RED FOX, the LYNX, BEAVER, WOODCHUCK, and over a hundred BISON! The pic below as taken a few days before of a BLACK BEAR grazing by the roadside at dusk. In four days here we spotted at least 25 bears.