Peregrines at the U of C: An Update

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In this recent post about local bird nest cameras, I mentioned that the camera at the Peregrine Falcon nest at the University of Calgary was no longer available online, and that most of the historical data was no longer available either. I have been told by the Media Relations department at the U of C that the decision to remove support was not a budget issue (as I stated), but a resource one. Libraries and Cultural Resources at the U of C are now working with Alberta Conservation Association and Biological Sciences (UCalgary) to partner and take over the project.

The good news is that the historical data about the Peregrines nesting at the U of C has been permanently archived and is available online at this link. We will have a link on our right-hand sidebar under “Calgary Nest Cameras” also.

The bad news is that the Peregrines did not return to nest at the U of C this year. The nest camera continues to be monitored by U of C staff, and if they return the camera link will be restored. (This page would have a link to the camera feed if it was live.) But since the birds are usually back here by the end of March, if they are not here yet, they are not coming. Either something happened to one of the adults, or they are nesting elsewhere.

If you know of any Peregrine Falcons nesting in Calgary, either at the Foothills Hospital, Downtown, or elsewhere, please leave a comment.

World Shorebirds Day September 6

The third annual World Shorebirds Day is September 6, 2016. Birders are encouraged to count shorebirds from September 2-6. You can register a location where you intend to go birding that week, and then make a careful count of the shorebirds (and other birds) you see there and submit the results to eBird or to the official website of World Shorebirds Day.

Long-billed Dowitchers Frank Lake - September 12, 2013 Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500 + Tamron 1.4x Teleconverter 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 400Long-billed Dowitchers, Frank Lake. September 12, 2013. Photo by Dan Arndt

You can read more about this project on the official website.

There are plenty of great shorebird locations in the Calgary area so register your spot and help this citizen science project. Only with better knowledge of the numbers and distributions of these long-distance migrants can we help to conserve them.

Western Grebe Surveys

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Here is a bird survey that any birder can participate in, to increase our knowledge of this threatened bird.

Download the PDF file .

grebe with chick

Western Grebe with chick. Photo by Dan Arndt, May 29, 2016.

One of the many hazards these diving birds face is from discarded fishing lines and equipment. In 2014 we found a dead Western Grebe on the shore of the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. (Something had been feeding on it.)

dead grebe

Dead Western Grebe, Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary, May 19, 2014. Photo by Dan Arndt.

On inspection, one of its legs was tangled in fishing line as you can see here.

bob with grebe

Here I am holding up the dead Western Grebe, May 19, 2014. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Please help to monitor the Western Grebe’s habitat, and please keep their habitat clean!

Volunteer for the WildResearch Nightjar Survey!

Posted by Dan Arndt

Common Nighthawk, southern Alberta - Photo by Dan Arndt

Common Nighthawk, southern Alberta – Photo by Dan Arndt

WildResearch is seeking volunteers to survey for Common Poorwills and Common Nighthawks across Alberta. Due to their nocturnal habits, little is known about nightjars in Canada, and there is concern that their populations are in decline. Common Nighthawks are listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. Common Poorwills have been assessed as Data Deficient by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species (COSEWIC). Sign up for a survey route to help us learn more and conserve these unique species!

torpid Common Poorwill in the Okanagan - Photo by Mark Brigham

Torpid Common Poorwill in the Okanagan – Photo by Mark Brigham

Anyone with a vehicle and good hearing is capable of conducting a WildResearch Nightjar Survey! Signing up for a WildResearch Nightjar Survey route will require approximately two to three hours of surveying and one hour of data entry. Each route is a series of 12 road-side stops and needs to be surveyed at dusk once per year between June 15 and July 15. Routes are located along existing Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), and we would love to have help from existing BBS volunteers! Surveys will follow a new standardized national nightjar survey protocol. Data will be made publicly available on Bird Studies Canada’s NatureCounts portal.

Common Nighthawk nestling - Photo by Elly Knight

Common Nighthawk nestling – Photo by Elly Knight

To sign up for a survey route, check out the available routes in your area at Learn more about the program and find the survey protocol at Email Elly Knight at for more information.

Common Nighthawk, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, August 2010 - Photo by Dan Arndt

Common Nighthawk, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, August 2010 – Photo by Dan Arndt

Ron Pittaway’s 2014-2015 Winter Finch Forecast

Posted by Dan Arndt

The moment many birders wait for each fall has arrived. Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists has been publishing the Winter Finch Forecast since the fall of 1999, and his record has been relatively spot on. He relies on input from citizen scientists, environmental scientists, and enthusiasts throughout Canada’s northern region to determine the abundance of the cone crop of trees in the boreal forest and across the Canadian Shield. Though the majority of his data come from Ontario, these forecasts have been pretty reliable even out west here in Alberta since I was made aware of his reports in 2011.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

You can find the original report by clicking here, but I’ll give you the distilled version for Alberta below:

Across northern Alberta, spruce cone crops range from poor (MB-SK) to average (southern Yukon). Based on what I saw up north earlier this summer, I’d say it’s closer to poor in the areas I surveyed. Birch seed crops are poor to average, while Mountain-ash berry crops have had a bumper year here in the west.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

What does this mean? Well, we will likely not see large numbers of Pine Grosbeaks, Red and White-winged Crossbills, Evening Grosbeaks or Bohemian Waxwings (no, these aren’t finches) given the abundance of food further north and west. We can look forward to seeing both Common and Hoary Redpolls, given the state of birch cones further north, and Pine Siskins have already been seen in and around Calgary already this summer. Red-breasted Nuthatches (also not finches) are also expected to make their way south this winter.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll


Why is this important? Well, all of these winter finches are regular visitors to bird feeders, and will readily feed on nyjer seed (for finches), peanuts, and black-oil sunflower seeds (for non-finches), so if you’re a regular bird feeder, it’s quite likely you’ll find some, or if you’re really lucky, all of these birds at your feeders this coming winter!

Good birding!

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll