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Prize Presentation – eBird Calgary 2015

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The highlight of the January Birds & Beers meeting was the presentation of the prizes for the eBird Calgary 2015 Birding Competition. Almost all of the winners were able to make it, and it was a lot of fun to reward the winners for their accomplishments. (All photos by Wayne Walker except where indicated.)

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Some of the birders at the January Birds & Beers. Fifty-three people attended.

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Dan Arndt and I presented the prizes. Preliminary remarks.

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 Ruth and Phil Ullman – 1st place, Yard Challenge, with 88 species.

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Lorrie and John Anderson – 2nd place, Yard Challenge, 61 species.

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Aidan Vidal – 1st place, Youth category, with 241 species, and 3rd place in Latecomer Challenge, with 46 species after August 1st, 2015.

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Ethan Denton, 2nd place, Youth category, 235 species, and 2nd place in the Latecomer Challenge, 49 species.

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Simone Pellerin-Wood, 3rd place, Youth Category, 175 species.

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Graeme Mudd, tied 1st place, Beginner category, 225 species.

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Brian Elder, 1st place, Experienced category, 275 species.

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Blake Weis (left) and Ray Woods (right), tied 2nd place, Experienced category, 257 species.

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Brian Elder also won the Big Day Challenge, with 153 species recorded on May 27, 2015.

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We also recognized Blake Weis’s incredible achievement of 638 complete eBird checklists submitted in 2015.

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George Best won for Bird of the Year. He found the Golden-winged Warbler in Griffith Woods Park.

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Bob, Dan, and the prize winners. Missing were Aphtin Perratt and Chris MacIntosh, who tied with Graeme Mudd for 1st in the Beginner category with 225 species, and Bernard Tremblay, who won the Latecomer Challenge with 52 species added after August 1st.

It was a lot of fun to get together and reward the winners, and to hear them talk about their birding year. Many of the competitors have told us that they really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot, whether discovering new birding locations, where to find particular species, patterns of bird movements, or using eBird as a tool and a resource. I hope we have helped some of the competitors to become better birders and to get involved in the local birding community. The use of eBird increased greatly in our region in 2015 and we hope to see this continue.

Many thanks to our sponsors who donated prizes or money for prizes: Nature Calgary, The Wild Bird Store, Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park, Burrcan Holdings, Phil Evans, Lynne Colborne, Richard Schulze, Lynn Wilsack, Susan Thierman, Phil Cram, and an anonymous donor.

Each winner received a framed photo certificate listing their accomplishment (each with a different photo). Here is a sample (photo by Bob Lefebvre):

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Each 1st-place winner in the Year List categories received a 24″ by 36″ canvas print of a bird photograph of their choice. The winner’s selections were not yet ready for the prize presentation. Four will be awarded: Youth winner Aidan Vidal, Experienced winner Brian Elder, and two for the three people tied as winners of the Beginner category – a shared one for Aphtin Perratt and Chris MacIntosh (a birding couple) and one for Graeme Mudd.

Other prizes awarded included 2016 Bird Photo calendars by Dan Arndt, copies of the book Looking For the Wild by Lyn Hancock (personally signed by Gus Yaki), vouchers good for one season of the Friends of Fish Creek birding course, and gift certificates of various amounts to be used at the Wild Bird Store or Robinson’s Camera.

Here is a list of the winners and their prizes:

CategoryWinnerSpeciesPrize 1Prize 2Prize 3
Latecomer -1Bernard Tremblay52$50 Robinson'sCalendar
Latecomer -2Ethan Denton49$25 Wild Bird Store
Latecomer -3Aidan Vidal46$25 Wild Bird Store
Yard -1Ruth & Phil Ullmann88Bird Feeder$75 Wild Bird StoreCalendar
Yard -2Lorrie & John Anderson61$75 Wild Bird StoreCalendar
Youth -1Aidan Vidal241Canvas PrintBook
Youth -2Ethan Denton235$75 Wild Bird StoreBook
Youth -3Simone Pellerin-Wood175$75 Wild Bird StoreBook
Beginner -1Aphtin Perratt & Chris MacIntosh225Canvas PrintBookFFCPP Course (X2)
Beginner -1Graeme Mudd225Canvas PrintBookFFCPP Course
Experienced -1Brian Elder275Canvas Print$50 Robinson's
Experienced -2Blake Weis257$75 Wild Bird Store
Experienced -2Ray Woods257$75 Wild Bird Store
Big DayBrian Elder153$50 Robinson's
Most ListsBlake Weis638 lists$50 Wild Bird Store
Bird of the YearGeorge BestGolden-winged Warbler$100 Robinson'sBook

At the end of the prize presentation, we all shared a cake supplied by Joan and Wayne Walker!

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Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the competition a success: Committee members Dan Arndt, Joan Walker, Wayne Walker, Rose Painter, Andrew Slater, Rob Worona, Kris Fernet, David Pugh; plus Andrew Hart, Linda Vaxvick and Sue Konopnicki at Nature Calgary. We also received a lot of feedback on our initial ideas from Yousif Attia, Marcel Gahbauer, and Ilya Povalyaev. Special thanks to Wayne Walker for booking the Horton Road Legion for the prize presentation and for taking the photographs. Joan, Wayne, Rose and Dan made sure we had everything ready for the presentation and arrived early to set it all up.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, who went out on field trips, and who attended Birds & Beers and Nature Calgary events. It made for a memorable birding year!

A final presentation about the competition will be given at the April meeting of Nature Calgary’s Bird Studies Group on Wednesday April 6th, at the U of C.

The next Birds & Beers event is next Friday, February 26, at the Horton Road Legion, 9202 Horton Road SW, starting at 6 pm. Come and join your fellow birders for food, drinks, and conversation!

Christmas Bird Counts – Part II

Posted by Dan Arndt

Just before Christmas I had to send my long lens (Sigma 150-500mm) in for repair, so am back to using my original birding lens, my Sigma 70-300mm. As such, I can’t get quite as close to the birds as I used to, but it does allow me to have a bit better control over framing more “artsy” shots, but also making do with what I’ve got to use, rather than relying on the reach of the lens to make the image better. I do hope that I managed to do that well with the few photos I was able to take on the Dinosaur Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count, and the annual New Years Day Fish Creek Provincial Park Bird Count.

While it’s a great area to bird in both the summer and winter, the day we headed out there (December 30) was bitterly cold, and it seemed that the birds were nowhere to be found. In previous years, there were a few groups covering the whole area, but this year Nick Bartok and I were the only two out on the count so we had to cover the entire count circle, giving us only enough time to see and hear the birds we could observe from the car. What that meant for us was that we would miss out on a lot of the smaller birds we usually would hear on a walked route, but it did mean we got to cover way more area.

The cold weather made shooting from the vehicle a little tough, with the heat distortion from the vehicle and from the heat radiating off the snow from the bright sunlight, but I managed a few shots.

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Great Horned Owl, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

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One of the first good birds of the day was this Great Horned Owl that we stumbled upon while driving down one back road east of Patricia.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Patricia – December 30, 2015

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Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville - December 30, 2015

Sharp-tailed Grouse, east of Steveville – December 30, 2015

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By far, the most numerous birds that we found on the Dinosaur Provincial Park count were Sharp-tailed Grouse. They seemed to be everywhere in the trees and shrubs nibbling on the buds for their breakfast and lunch!

Back in Calgary, the Fish Creek Provincial Park New Years Day Bird Count was a little bit (but not too much!) warmer, but we got a few good birds to start off the year.

Great Horned Owl - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Great Horned Owl – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

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Brown Creeper - Fish Creek Provincial Park - January 1, 2016

Brown Creeper – Fish Creek Provincial Park – January 1, 2016

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At the Ranche, the usual pair of Great Horned Owls were present, along with a great opportunity to see the elusive Brown Creeper as the sun came over the horizon.

Sikome Lake - January 1, 2016

Sikome Lake – January 1, 2016

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The snow covered poplars at Sikome Lake made for a great backdrop to see all these great birds.

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards, Geese, and a Wigeon – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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Mallards in flight - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Mallards in flight – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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Bald Eagle - Hull's Wood - January 1, 2016

Bald Eagle – Hull’s Wood – January 1, 2016

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The usual accumulations of waterfowl along the Bow River were no exception to the rule, and there were even a couple of great surprises in the water, including an American Wigeon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, and more than a few Common Mergansers. A couple of fly-bys of Bald Eagles flushed many of the birds up briefly, but they soon came back down into the water at the confluence of Fish Creek and the Bow River.

American Robin - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

American Robin – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

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Hermit Thrush - Shaw's Meadow - January 1, 2016

Hermit Thrush – Shaw’s Meadow – January 1, 2016

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At the compilation lunch, Bob and I waited around to hear if there had been any particularly noteworthy observations, and when we heard that a Hermit Thrush and American Robins had been seen at the water outflow at Shaw’s Meadow, we headed over there right away. It took us a while of watching the American Robins and got to see them feeding in the water, and finally got a great look at the Hermit Thrush, but only briefly. Two shots later, it disappeared into the deep brush, but it was more than long enough to get a look at the bird, identify it, and snap a few frames.

While normally this post would be a recap of the first week of the Friends of Fish Creek outings, I was away for that first trip, so keep an eye out for my post next week for the birds from our second week out at Bebo Grove!

Have a great week, and good birding!

Christmas Bird Count in Inglewood

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

For the Calgary Christmas count on December 20 I was once again part of a group that covered the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, the Zoo, and surrounding neighbourhoods. As usual we started with breakfast at the golf clubhouse, and then split into two groups to cover the river and golf course north and south of there.

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Canada Geese and Mallards on the open water.

It’s a challenge to get accurate counts of the thousands of birds on the water, and on this stretch of the river, it’s a challenge to find anything other than Canada Geese and Mallards. But we knew that three Snow Geese had been seen regularly along here, and we soon found them resting on the bank with the other geese. This was the first time that Snow Geese had ever been reported in the 72 years of Calgary Christmas Bird Counts, so it was great to add them to the list.

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Snow Geese – one adult and two immatures, a new species for the Calgary CBC.

There are usually quite a few Bald Eagles on this stretch of the river in winter, and we had nine on the count, seven immatures and two adults.

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Three of the eight immature Bald Eagles we saw from the golf course.

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Immature Bald Eagle wondering what I am up to down there.

One of the other waterfowl species we were looking for among the Mallards and Canada Geese was Cackling Goose, a very small relative of the Canadas. It can be very tricky to find these among some of the small subspecies of Canada Goose that overwinter here. I took quite a few photos of some small geese, and we later decided we had seen at least four Cackling Geese. This photo shows one just to the right of the Mallard with its wings up. It is short-necked and stubby-billed, and only about one and a half times the size of a Mallard.

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Cackling Goose

During Christmas Bird Counts you have to count all the birds you see in your territory, but we are collectively trying to find as many species as we can. Each group in the field is also in a friendly competition with all the other groups to see who can get the most species, and the most unique species, in their territory. So it was good to get Snow Goose, which no one else was likely to find.

While our half of the group went south and found the Snow Geese, the other half was counting birds at the north end of the golf course. One of their targets there was a Harris’s Sparrow, which I had seen there while scouting the area the week before, and which had been seen daily since, usually with or near a mixed flock of chickadees, nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a Brown Creeper. This was the only Harris’s that we were aware of in the count circle, so it was important to find it in case no others turned up elsewhere during the count. Unfortunately our group wasn’t able to find this shy bird in the morning.

We decided that we would try again for the Harris’s, so three of us went back to that area while the others went to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Although we added a couple of other new species, we again failed to find the Harris’s Sparrow.

Next stop, in the early afternoon, was the Calgary Zoo grounds. Quite a number of wild birds are attracted to the grounds due to the cover, open water, and food available there. Four of us explored the zoo while one of our group covered Pearce Estate and another drove the residential areas to check bird feeders. However, while the other two were adding some new species to our list, we found it very quiet at the zoo this year for wild birds. We had a few species but nothing new for the count.

Unidentified Bird

We looked all through our Birds of Alberta field guide but weren’t able to identify this bird we saw at the zoo.

At 3 pm, we decided there was just enough time to take one more trip to the golf course to try to get the Harris’s Sparrow before sunset at about 4:30. The two of us that remained explored the whole north end for the third time that day. Again we found mixed flocks of passerines and lots of crossbills of both species, but no sign of the sparrow.

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White-winged Crossbill. Both this species and Red Crossbills can be found all over the city this winter.

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Brown Creeper, in a mixed winter flock of small foraging birds.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet. Briefly playing their song drew three kinglets out to inspect us, where we had only been seeing one.

Kinglet 2Golden-crowned Kinglet in the setting sun.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet. A male, showing the red in the crown.

As the sun touched the horizon we decided we had better call it a day and started walking back along the river to the parking lot. I saw a robin at the water’s edge and was watching it when I saw a dark shape move just below the bank. Just the top of its head and a bit of its back was showing below a bank of snow, but I waited for a minute of so, and it finally walked slowly into view – the Harris’s Sparrow! It moved up into a bush and I got a photo in the fading light.

Harris's Sparrow

It was 4:18 pm, just 13 minutes before sunset. It had taken us most of the day to get that one bird, and it brought our group’s total to a very respectable 29 species.

Then it was off to the wind-up dinner and compilation of results. We are already looking forward to next year to see if we can crack 30 species!

Here is a better photo of the Harris’s Sparrow, taken in good light by Trevor Churchill on December 13.

Trevor Churchill Harris's Sparrow, IGC

Harris’s Sparrow. Photo by Trevor Churchill, Inglewood Golf Course, December 13, 2015.

The results of the Calgary Christmas Bird Count, and several counts in surrounding areas, will be presented at the meeting of Nature Calgary’s Bird Studies Group on January 6, 2016.

2015 Calgary Christmas Bird Counts

It’s time again for the Christmas Bird Counts. Calgary’s count is Sunday December 20. You can help to count birds within the circle by going out with a group and walking or driving an area, or by watching birds at your feeders. To participate contact Phil Cram at crampj(at)gmail.com, or the Feederwatch coordinator, Donna Wieckowski at astolat(at)shaw.ca.

The Calgary Count Circle is fifteen miles in diameter.

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There are many counts in the Calgary area in the period December 15 to January 3. See this Nature Calgary page for a complete list and the contact information for each.

Christmas Bird Counts 2014

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Barred Owl in Fish Creek Park, Calgary, December 7, 2014. Photo by Tony LePrieur

The 115th annual Christmas Bird Count season runs from December 14, 2014 to January 5, 2015. There are many one-day counts taking place in the Calgary region. New participants are always welcome, and in many cases there are opportunities to contribute by watching birds at your feeder as well as by going out in the field. If you are interested in taking part, contact the count compiler.

There are over 2,600 Christmas Bird counts taking place this season. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding one near you on a date that you are available.

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Just a few of the 2,600+ circles where counts are taking place this year. Calgary is near the centre of this screen shot, Edmonton near the top.

Here are details of a few of the nearby counts. You can find information on all of the Canadian counts on the Bird Studies Canada site, and more information on the Audubon site. If anyone can help fill in the blanks below or has updated information, please let us know at birdscalgary at gmail.com.

Location

Date

Compiler

Phone

Email

Calgary

Sun Dec 14

Phil Cram

403-228-4142

crampj at telus.net

Calgary Feeder Watchers

Sun Dec 14

Donna Wieckowski

403-276-7799

astolat at shaw.ca

High River

Tues Dec 16

Greg Wagner

403-333-1200

greg.wagner at athene.ca

Banff/Canmore

Sat Dec 20

Heather Dempsey

403-762-3056

hjdempsey at shaw.ca

Nanton

Sun Dec 21

Mike Truch

403-829-6986

mike_truch at shaw.ca

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Mon Dec 22

Yousif Attia

403-585-1125

ysattia at gmail.com

Horseshoe Canyon/Drumheller

Tues Dec 23

Mike Harrison

403-236-4700

tringa at telus.net

Cochrane

Sat Dec 27

Frank Hennessey

403-932-4986

Frankhennessey at gmail .com

Cochrane Wildlife Preserve

Sun Dec 28

Jamey Podlubny

svisser at ucalgary.ca

Sheep River/Turner Valley

Tues Dec 30

Doug Collister

403-637-2922

collistr at gmail.com

Fish Creek Park (1/2 day)

Thurs Jan 1

Jim Washbrook

403-613-9216

jwashbrook at prairiesky.ab.ca

Sundre (Snake’s Head)

Sat Jan 3

Doug Collister

403-637-2922

collistr at gmail.com

Exshaw

Sat Jan 3

Birding Competition Presentation

If you’d like to learn more about eBird Calgary 2015, the competition sponsored by Nature Calgary, please attend the Bird Study Group Speaker Series on Wednesday, December 3. The competition committee will present information about eBird, and the rules of the event. You will also be able to register in person to participate in this year-long activity.

In addition, Brian Elder will speak about how to get a good start on your winter birds list. This will be of interest to every local birder, whether you will be in the competition or not.

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Great Gray Owl. Find out where to go to look for these birds in the winter. Photo by Logan Gibson

Bird Study Group meetings are free and open to anyone. The doors open at 7:00 pm and the meeting starts at 7:30. It is held in Room 211 of the Biological Sciences Building at the University of Calgary.

Here is the Nature Calgary page which gives details of the location. Our Bird Study Group blog page also has information about the meetings.

Join Us For 2015 Competition!

eBird Calgary 2015 Birding Competition

We are now taking registrations for the eBird Calgary 2015 birding competition. Registration is free for Nature Calgary members until the end of December.

Harlequin Ducks

Harlequin Ducks at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary . Photo by Bob Lefebvre

This is a year-long effort in which participants try to see or hear as many species as possible within 80 km of Calgary. The competition is sponsored by Nature Calgary, and you can register now at this page.

All the details about the competition can be found at the 2015 Competition page on this blog (click the link or see the tab at the top of the page). There is also information on this Nature Calgary page.

Join us to meet new people, find new places to go birding, and see new birds!

Christmas Bird Count Week 2013

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Calgary Christmas Bird Count is coming up this Sunday, December 15, and that means that we are now in the Count Week period.  Any species which are seen from December 12 to 18, but missed on the count day itself, are included in the database as Count Week birds.  Sometimes there are very good birds which are known to be around but can’t be found on count day, and sometimes it’s an unexpected bird showing up before or after the count. Even better is to find a good bird on the count day itself.

If you see an unusual or out-of-season bird during count week, and it is inside the Count Circle, make a note of the sighting (please get details about the bird and the time and place of the sighting – a photo also helps!).  If the bird is not reported on count day, pass the information about your sighting to us at Birdscalgary(at)gmail.com.

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 Note that the circle doesn’t include the entire city.

There are many other Christmas Bird Counts in the Calgary area (and throughout North America). Check your area for a count and see if you can find an unusual species there.

Calgary-area counts listed here.

Great Backyard Bird Count Goes Global

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For the first time, anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can participate in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18, 2013. Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

This year, anyone visiting the GBBC website will be able to see bird observations pouring in from around the world and contribute their own tallies. Global participation will be made possible thanks to eBird, a real-time online checklist program that the Cornell Lab and Audubon are integrating into the GBBC for the first time this year. The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

“We’re eager to see how many of the world’s 10,240 bird species will be reported during the count this year,” said Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick. “We’re looking forward to this historic snapshot of birds that that will be reported from around the world. We need as many people as possible to help build the wealth of data that scientists need to track the health of bird populations through time.”

Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps and contribute their tallies for ongoing bird research and conservation efforts. For the first time, participants will also be able to upload their counts from the field using the eBird BirdLog app for Apple or Android smartphones. To celebrate the new global reach of the count, developers of the eBird BirdLog app are offering regional versions of the app for just 99 cents through February 18. Learn more.

common redpollJust how big is this year’s irruption of northern finches and other species such as the Red-breasted Nuthatch? GBBC reports will help define the answer.

“This count is so much fun because anyone can take part, whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “Invite new birders to join and share the experience. Once you get involved, you can continue with eBird year round.”

“The popularity of the Great Backyard Bird Count grows each year,” said Dick Cannings, Senior Projects Officer at Bird Studies Canada, “and with the new features, participation will be even more exciting.”

Participating is easy. To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, plus downloadable instructions, web buttons, and flyers, visit www.BirdCount.ca. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online. You can also read a summary of the 2012 GBBC. Portions of the GBBC site are now available in Spanish at www.ContandoAves.org.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Calgary Christmas Count in Inglewood

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last Sunday was a great day to be out counting birds. The weather was pleasant for the most part, and the sun came out, allowing for a few good photographs. I was covering the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Pearce Estate, and adjacent areas with Ian Neilson and Troy Bourque (both excellent photographers). At the end of the day I checked out the zoo grounds by myself – counting only wild birds.

We started the day walking the golf course and spent about two and a half hours checking the Bow River and looking for passerines. (We had permission from the club to be on their grounds for the count – you don’t need permission to walk the riverbank, but it is a very difficult walk in spots.) There were plenty of Canada Geese and Mallards on the river, plus a few Common Goldeneyes, but nothing else.

Troy Mallards

Mallards on the river.  Photo by Troy Bourque

On the golf course itself we did find one mixed flock of several Black-capped Chickadees, three White-breasted Nuthatches, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. A Rough-legged Hawk made a low flyover – the first RLHA I recall seeing in this part of the city. Across the river we spotted an adult Bald Eagle, which then flew over us, and was joined by its mate. The pair settled in the same tree on the golf course where they have nested for the past few years (they always overwinter and spend a lot of time near this tree).

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Bald Eagle on the Inglewood Golf Course.  Photo by Troy Bourque

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One of the adult eagles. Photo by Ian Neilson

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Eagle on takeoff.  Photo by Ian Neilson

A little farther along we came upon a porcupine perched in a Water Birch at eye level, feeding. The porcupine didn’t mind us at all, so the photographers got some very close shots!

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You don’t see these every day!  Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 1

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 2

Our best mammal of the day.  Photo by Troy Bourque

It was some pretty tough walking through the snow and brush along the river, so we stopped for a rest and a hearty breakfast at the clubhouse. Then we were off to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary across the river.  It was the middle of the day and pretty quiet. The chickadees were aggressively looking for handouts of seeds as usual, but we offered only to take their portraits.

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Can you please hold still for 1/500 of a second?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Bob Lefebvre

We had an unusually low number of woodpeckers for the day – no Downies, only one Northern Flicker, and this bird.

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Hairy Woodpecker at IBS.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

After the sanctuary Ian had to depart, and Troy and I had a quick walk around Pearce Estates, which was even quieter than IBS. Then Troy had to leave, and I rushed over to cover the zoo before it got dark. The zoo grounds attract quite a few wild birds because there is a lot of food scattered around for the zoo animals, and lots of cover. It was a little strange to be rushing past Snow Leopards and Siberian Tigers with hardly a glance, but taking note of every House Sparrow.

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Mallards.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Over half of the European Starlings reported on the count were at the zoo – 56 out of 109, which is a fairly low number for starlings on the Calgary count.

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European Starlings in winter plumage.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

As the light started to fade, I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet in a stand of Spruces, but couldn’t see the bird. I remembered something that Dan Arndt had told me – kinglets will respond strongly to a playback of their call even in winter – so I played the call on my smart phone app. Within a fraction of a second, three aggressive little kinglets materialized right in front of me, flitting about, vocalizing, and flaring their crown feathers.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

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Here you can even see some of the red in the centre of the golden crown.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Then it was off to Arthur and Donna Wieckowski’s to compile the data and enjoy a great chili dinner. For a while it looked like we were going to have a low number of species for the count, but as the last few routes reported, we ended up with 65 species, exactly on our average for the last twenty years.

It was a very long day of birding but also very enjoyable, as always!