Victoria Day Big Day 2012

Posted by Dan Arndt

Long weekends are always a great time to get some extra birding in, and this one was no exception. I had initially intended on just making a morning of it with Gus Yaki’s Monday morning group with the Friends of Fish Creek Birding course at Mallard Point, but those plans went by the wayside when I was invited to join the annual Victoria Day Big Day.

What is a “Big Day”, you ask? The idea behind a Big Day is to get as many species as possible in 24 hours of birding. Some really hardcore birders begin at 12:01 AM and go all the way through until 12:00 AM the following morning, covering a huge area and generally getting a very high number of species. For instance, the current record for an Alberta-wide Big Day is somewhere around 235, and the participants started up around Cold Lake, Alberta and trekked all the way south to the SE corner of Alberta. When I heard that number, I was absolutely stunned. Not only by the magnitude of species seen, but also by the huge distance covered.

Traditionally, the Victoria Day Big Day is restricted to the Calgary city limits, and is organized by locally well known birder Tony Timmons. Instead of a competition style event, like some can be, this one is attended by all participants, with some coming and going throughout the day. This year, we started at 5:30 AM at Votier’s Flats and spent most of our time in the south end of the city, finally finishing up at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary around 6:30 PM. A long day, that’s for certain.

Both Bob Lefebvre and myself participated, and due to a bit of luck and determination, we were able to count the full 116 species reported by the group as a whole, along with 2 bonus species. One seen on the way down to Votier’s Flats, and the second in Confederation Park before Bob dropped me off at home.

I’ve posted the map and rough timeline of our locations below, along with the new species that we added to our total at each location. Oh, and of course I’ve added some photos as well!

Enjoy!

Victoria Day Big Day Locations

Victoria Day Big Day Locations

Crowchild Trail & Memorial Drive – Incidental – 5:15 AM

– Osprey

Votier’s Flats – 5:30 AM

  1. - Canada Goose
  2. - American Wigeon
  3. - Mallard
  4. - Blue-winged Teal
  5. - Bufflehead
  6. - Common Merganser
  7. - Ring-necked Pheasant
  8. - Sharp-shinned Hawk
  9. - Spotted Sandpiper
  10. - Belted Kingfisher
  11. - Downy Woodpecker
  12. - Northern Flicker
  13. - Least Flycatcher
  14. - Black-billed Magpie
  15. - American Crow
  16. - Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  17. - Tree Swallow
  18. - Bank Swallow
  19. - Barn Swallow
  20. - Black-capped Chickadee
  21. - Boreal Chickadee
  22. - Red-breasted Nuthatch
  23. - House Wren
  24. - American Robin
  25. - Gray Catbird
  26. - European Starling
  27. - Cedar Waxwing
  28. - Tennessee Warbler
  29. - Yellow Warbler
  30. - Spotted Towhee
  31. - Chipping Sparrow
  32. - Clay-colored Sparrow
  33. - Song Sparrow
  34. - Lincoln’s Sparrow
  35. - White-throated Sparrow
  36. - Red-winged Blackbird
  37. - Brown-headed Cowbird
  38. - Baltimore Oriole
  39. - House Finch
  40. - White-winged Crossbill
  41. - Pine Siskin
  42. - American Goldfinch
  43. - House Sparrow

Weaselhead – 7:30 AM

  1. Common Goldeneye
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Bald Eagle
  4. Swainson’s Hawk
  5. Red-tailed Hawk
  6. American Kestrel
  7. Merlin
  8. California Gull
  9. Rock-pigeon
  10. Rufous Hummingbird
  11. Calliope Hummingbird
  12. Hairy Woodpecker
  13. Pileated Woodpecker
  14. Eastern Phoebe
  15. Blue Jay
  16. Common Raven
  17. Cliff Swallow
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch
  19. Swainson’s Thrush
  20. Savannah Sparrow
  21. White-crowned Sparrow
Cliff Swallows collecting mud for nests

Cliff Swallows collecting mud for nests

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

North Glenmore Park & Glenmore Reservoir – 9:30 AM

  1. Gadwall
  2. Lesser Scaup
  3. American Coot
  4. Killdeer
  5. Baird’s Sandpiper
  6. Pectoral Sandpiper
  7. Bonaparte’s Gull
  8. Franklin’s Gull
  9. Ring-billed Gull
  10. Red-necked Grebe

53rd St and 22X – 10:45 AM

  1. Snow Goose
  2. Green-winged Teal
  3. Ruddy Duck
  4. Eared Grebe
  5. Sora
  6. Wilson’s Snipe
  7. Vesper Sparrow
Snow Goose

Snow Goose

Sora

Sora

Spruce Meadows Slough – 11:20 AM

  1. Cinnamon Teal
  2. Redhead
  3. Northern Shoveler
  4. Pied-billed Grebe
  5. Black Tern
  6. Marsh Wren
  7. Common Yellowthroat
Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

South Calgary Bluebird Boxes – 11:45 AM

  1. Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

South Calgary Ravine – 12:00 Noon

  1. Cooper’s Hawk
  2. Mourning Dove

Sikome Lake – 12:45 PM

  1. Horned Grebe
  2. Great Horned Owl
  3. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  4. Eastern Kingbird
  5. Warbling Vireo

Shepard Slough #1 – 2:20 PM

  1. Northern Pintail

Shepard Slough #2 – 2:32 PM

  1. American Avocet
  2. Willet
  3. Wilson’s Phalarope

Shepard Slough #3 – 2:37 PM

  1. Western Meadowlark

Shepard Slough #4 – 2:41 PM

  1. Canvasback

Shepard Farmhouse – 2:51 PM

  1. Brewer’s Blackbird
  2. Common Grackle
Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Ring-necked Pheasant

Ring-necked Pheasant

Shepard Slough #5 – 3:07 pM

  1. Lesser Yellowlegs

Shepard Slough #6 – 3:30 PM

  1. Black-necked Stilt
  2. Least Sandpiper
  3. Semipalmated Sandpiper

White-faced Ibis Flyover – 4:07 PM

  1. White-faced Ibis

Main Shepard Slough – 4:11 PM

  1. Double-crested Cormorant
  2. Stilt Sandpiper

Shepard – 4:31 PM

  1. Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary – 5:33 PM

  1. Wood Duck
  2. Harlequin Duck
  3. Hooded Merganser

Confederation Park – 7:45 PM

  1. Alder Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher

Alder Flycatcher

2 thoughts on “Victoria Day Big Day 2012

  1. I knew someone would set me straight on the Alberta Big Day numbers! I still don’t even know how that would be possible, unless you had things timed down to the minute, had spent the entire week leading up to it checking eBird, various listservs, and phone calls to other birders along the planned route to see what birds are where… 218. Wow.

    – Dan

  2. Hi Dan,

    That is a respectable Calgary Big Day and some fantastic photographs! The current Alberta Big Day record is 218 species and was set in 2011 by Tom Hince and Paul Pratt of Ontario. This record is also the highest Big Day total in Canada so we should be proud of our province’s diversity. Manitoba held the previous record at 214 for at least 5 or 6 years until recently. Now, Alberta is home of the national Big Day battle grounds….Thanks for sharing.

    -Yousif

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