New Year’s Day Bird Count 2013

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Once again I participated in the Fish Creek Park half-day bird count on New Year’s Day. Though not an official Christmas Bird Count, it is now in its 20th year.  Six teams spent the morning counting birds in different parts of this huge park, and then we met at noon to compile the results.

This year I joined Phil Cram’s team in the east end of the park.  We covered the Bow Valley Ranch, Sikome, LaFarge Meadows, and Hull’s Wood areas.

It was a beautiful mild sunny day, but we found it pretty quiet when we started at Bow Valley Ranch. We did have six White-tailed Deer pass through before sunrise.

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The first mammal of the day – and year.

We failed to find any roosting Great Horned Owls in the row of spruces, and it took a while before we heard even a chickadee. Eventually we heard some White-winged Crossbills in the tall spruces.

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Yes, there are crossbills in this photo.

Next we heard the high-pitched call of the Brown Creeper, and found four of them in the area.

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Brown Creeper.

Heading over to Sikome, we quickly found the two Great Horned Owls that roost there every winter in the trees behind the buildings.

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There are two owls here – one of them is doing its spruce-bark impersonation.

Again, the area was pretty quiet.  We did get a flicker and this Downy Woodpecker (but failed to find a Hairy Woodpecker or White-breasted Nuthatch, which are often seen there).

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Downy Woodpecker.

Over at the Boat Launch we had four White-breasted Nuthatches, and a flyover of a young Bald Eagle.

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Immature Bald Eagle.

On the river we failed to find anything besides Canada Geese, Mallards, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and Common Mergansers. We had hoped for Killdeer, Barrow’s Goldeneyes, and perhaps some other species of ducks.

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Mallards on the ice.

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Canada Goose flying over.

At the highway 22X bridge we checked for Rock Pigeons – in these bird counts every new species is important. You never know if any of the other groups will see one or not.

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Rock Pigeon, with colours that match the rust on the bridge.

Our final stop of the morning was at Hull’s Wood, where we saw a staggering number of Mallards – about 8000 (some of them were outside our territory and were counted by another group of birders). Again, there were few other species except the usual.

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Our best bird of the day was the last, a Northern Goshawk that was being harassed by magpies on the hillside.  We didn’t get great looks (and no photos) before it departed.

In the end we had 19 species of birds (and four mammals – Coyote, Eastern Gray Squirrel, and White-tailed Jackrabbit in addition to the deer). A good start to the new year.

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