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Bow Valley Birding

Posted by Ethan Denton

Though it is not birded by many people, the Bow Valley – Banff, Canmore and area – can be an amazing place to bird. Whether it’s just for a few hours, or if you have a day or more, visiting the valley is an unforgettable experience. Recently, hotspots in Banff and especially Canmore have been heaving with birds, from late a Red-tailed Hawk and American Coots to a plethora of Rusty Blackbirds and Common Redpolls. Here are some of my photos – all taken within the last week. If you have time, visiting the area would be a great idea. Main hotspots are Policeman’s Creek (Canmore) and the Cave and Basin (Banff), but birds turn up anywhere, so check out some other locations on eBird or the local Facebook group, Bow Valley Birding.

Common Goldeneye, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Clark’s Nutcracker, South Canmore, November 8, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Injured American Coot, Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

And they’re not all birds, either. This Long-tailed Weasel was seen on Policeman’s Creek, in addition to Muskrat, Voles, Mule Deer and Red Squirrels.

Long-tailed Weasel (winter coat), Policeman’s Creek, Canmore, November 5, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Finally, if you are looking for a way to spend a Saturday helping birds and bird research, the Banff/Canmore Christmas Bird Count is coming up, on Saturday December 16th. It’s always a great time, and usually you see some interesting birds. Afterwards, there’s a big potluck in the senior’s centre in Banff, where we talk about the day, tally up the results and enjoy fabulous food! Anybody interested can contact me at birdboy.ca@gmail.com, or head over to birdboy.ca for more information.

Black-capped Chickadee, South Canmore, November 10, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton

Christmas Bird Count For Kids, 2017

The second annual CBC For Kids event in Calgary will be held on Saturday December 9th at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a great educational opportunity for kids, so if you have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew that you’d like to introduce to birding, register for this free event.

There will be experts on hand to teach the kids how to find and identify birds, but they could always use some more experienced birders to lead the participants on guided walks. If you’d like to help out, contact Zoe MacDougall, Nature Kids Program Coordinator, at naturekids[at]naturealberta.ca.

Birdboy Birdathon

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

In May, Ethan Denton completed his 2017 Great Canadian Birdathon to raise money for bird research and conservation. He was part of a team with Gavin McKinnon, called the Saw-it Owls. Here are just a few photos of birds the team saw on their birdathon.

Harlequin Duck (male), Lake Minnewanka, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Harlequin Ducks (female on left, male right), Lake Minnewanka, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Common Loons, Vermillion Lakes, May 20, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male) on lek, southern Alberta, May 14, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

Sharp-tailed Grouse (male) on lek, southern Alberta, May 14, 2017. Photo by Ethan Denton.

You can read about Day One of their birdathon on Ethan’s blog, Bird Boy.

The Great Canadian Birdathon (formerly called the Baille Birdathon) is a program of Bird Studies Canada. Participants are sponsored to count as many birds as they can every May. You can contribute to Ethan’s personal donation page here. Gavin McKinnon’s page is here. Please help them to reach their fundraising goals!

Global Big Day, May 13, 2017

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Tomorrow, Saturday May 13, is the third annual Global Big Day, organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The hope is that birders all over the world will go out that day and report as many species as they can.

Can you find a Long-eared Owl on the Global Big Day? Fish Creek Park, November 7, 2010. Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

In 2016, 15,953 birders in 145 countries contributed 43,848 checklists, and recorded a total of 6,263 bird species. Your individual contribution this Saturday is important in preserving a record of our local bird life. Here’s how to make your sightings count.

There will also be a random draw from everyone who submits at least three complete checklists on May 13, with the winner getting Zeiss Conquest HD 8X42 binoculars.

The results are already coming in from the Eastern Hemisphere, and you can watch the worldwide results as they come in here.

The Cornell Lab’s team of birders is raising money by trying to find 300 species of birds in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in twenty-four hours. You can sponsor the Cornell Big Day team here.

Locally, many birders are making a special effort to get out and put in their three checklists. Dan Arndt and a few others are actually doing a Calgary Region Big Day, trying to see as many species as they can within the local 80-km radius birding circle. You can follow Dan’s progress and see how many species they have (and perhaps learn where some really good birds are located) by following him on his Twitter account. Dan’s handle is @ubermoogle, so follow him, or go to his page on Twitter to see what he posts.

eBird Counties of Southern Alberta

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

If you are a birder in the Calgary area who uses eBird, you may be confused about where the boundaries for the eBird Counties are. As you enter sightings from various locations in the region, you will see that some are assigned to Calgary County, and some to Drumheller, Banff, Lethbridge, or others. It is not clear at first what these counties represent. Even when we were doing the 2015 eBird Competition we were not sure what to make of the eBird Counties.

It turns out that the boundaries for eBird Counties in Canada follow the federal government’s Census Geographic Units. This is not a well-known political or geographic entity, and the boundaries are not marked anywhere as you travel around. (In the United States, where eBird started, the eBird Counties are the same as the political Counties, which are well-known and have well-marked boundaries.)

However, it is possible to see a map of our County boundaries by going on Google Earth. If you don’t have Google Earth you should download it. It is free, and very useful for birders. You can see satellite maps of the entire world down to a very fine level.

When you are on Google Earth, zoom into the region you want to see, and turn off all the layers except “Borders.” The fine green lines on the map are the county boundaries. (Thanks to Dan Arndt for finding out what the counties are, and how to see the boundaries.)

Southern Alberta, showing eBird County boundaries in green.

Southern Alberta, with eBird County names in yellow and boundaries in green.

Feel free to copy this map as a reference, but I do recommend downloading Google Earth, so you can zoom in to see the boundaries at a finer scale. You can also turn on other layers such as “Places ” and “Roads” so you can see where the towns and highways are.

Below are four detail maps of the north, east, south, and west edges of Calgary county.

The north end of Calgary County.

The east side of Calgary County, along the Trans-Canada Highway. Drumheller County begins immediately east of Weed Lake, and actually includes part of Dalemead Reservoir.

The south end of Calgary County.

The west side of Calgary county.

The eBird Counties do not correspond well to any particular geographic birding region. Many of you may keep track of sightings within the 80-km circle centered on the Centre Street Bridge in Calgary, which is used for the annual May Species Count (and for both the 2005 and 2015 birding competitions). Here is the relevant map for that:

The 80-km circle of the Calgary birding region (red), with eBird Counties in green.

If anyone would like to be able to draw the 80-km circle on Google Earth on their own computer, just email me at birdscalgary@gmail.com and I will give you instructions.

Tonight, Wednesday February 8, 2017, Mike Harrison will speak at the Bird Study Group of Nature Calgary on The Ins and Outs of eBird. If you are an eBird user or want to learn about it, please come out. See this page for details.

Rare & Notable Bird Records For Alberta

By James Fox

The American Birding Association produces a birding journal titled North American Birds. NAB is a quarterly publication consisting of thirty-four regional reports, organized in taxonomic order and produced by some of North America’s top birders. Alberta is part of the Prairie Provinces Region and we need your help. Recently a few birders, biologists and ornithologists formed a team and have taken on the role of submitting reports to the regional editors on behalf of Alberta. Our goal is to submit reports that cover the entire province and reports comprised of records that have supporting documentation such as photos, audio or video.

If you have any rare or notable bird records, please contact James Fox at fox.james.ed[at]gmail.com. Rare or notable has a few meanings; it can mean an unusual species or exceptionally high numbers or a species out of range for that given time of year. If you have seen any of the birds on this list from the Alberta Bird Record Committee, then for sure it’s a rare bird. If you’ve seen a bird but it’s not on the list and you think it might be rare, contact James.

Purple Sandpiper at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary. A rarity, seen on fewer than eight occasions in Alberta (one occasion in this case). Photo by Dan Arndt.

The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of North America’s birdlife, including outstanding records, range extensions and contractions, population dynamics, and changes in migration patterns or seasonal occurrence. The North American Birds regional network represents the tip of an iceberg whose main mass consists of North America’s largest, widest and best-established networks of field birders. The network extends to regional editors, sub-regional editors and then to many thousands of local field birders. By sending in your records to the Alberta compilers, you’ll be ensuring that Alberta’s data is part of the bigger picture and you’ll be part of the team!

Hooded Warbler, Fish Creek Park, Calgary. Reported less than eight times in Alberta. Photo by Dan Arndt.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact James Fox, NAB Alberta Compiler, fox.james.ed[at]gmail.com, 780.999.0642.

Brown Thrasher. A breeding bird in Alberta, but if seen in the winter it should be reported as a seasonal rarity. Photo by Dan Arndt.

Christmas Bird Counts, 2016-2017

The Calgary Christmas Bird Count (CBC), organized annually by Nature Calgary, will be held next Sunday, December 18. If you would like to participate, either by joining a group of birders in the field or by counting birds at your feeders, please see this Nature Calgary page for details.

There are many CBCs in the Calgary region. For a complete list, with contact emails for the organizers, see this page.

How many Pine Grosbeaks can you find in your CBC territory? Photo by Tony LePrieur, Weaselhead Nature Area, December 11, 2016.

This year, for the first time, there will be a CBC for Kids in Calgary. It will be held at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary on Saturday, December 17. There will be an indoor introduction to birding before the count. You must accompany your child for this activity.

The first CBC for Kids was held in California in 2007, and they are now common across North America.

If you can take your child, grandchild, niece or nephew out for a couple of hours next Saturday it will be a great way to introduce them to birding! Register by emailing naturekids(at)naturealbetrta.ca.

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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 www.nightjar.ca. Learn more about the program and find the survey protocol at http://wildresearch.ca/programs/nightjar-survey/. Email Elly Knight at nightjars.ab@wildresearch.ca 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