Tag Archive | christmas bird count

Travel Tuesday – Christmas Bird Counting

Posted by Dan Arndt


This year I participated in a few Christmas Bird Counts, and while I wasn’t able to get too many photos from some of them, I did manage a few here and there.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count:

As per usual, my area this year was the Weaselhead, and I managed a few photos of some good birds while down there. While we did miss out on some expected birds in that area, we didn’t have too bad a day overall. Of course the most reliable birds here are the Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Ruffed Grouse. One of the pleasant surprises in our area was a small flock of Common Redpolls, which quickly flew in, landed for a minute or two, and flew off as quickly as they arrived.

male Ruffed Grouse Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Ruffed Grouse
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/1000sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Black-capped Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Black-capped Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1000

Red-breasted Nuthatch Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Common Redpoll Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Common Redpoll
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/800sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Canmore Christmas Bird Count:

Most years, the Canmore Christmas Bird Count is one of the first ones I participate in, as it’s on a Saturday, and Calgary’s count is on a Sunday. This year, the beginning of the Christmas Bird Count window fell on a Sunday, and so the Canmore count was scheduled for the following Saturday. Because I wasn’t in quite as much of a rush to get home and get prepared for the Calgary count the next day, I had some time to actually spend a bit of time with the subjects, and explore a bit of a different range of habitats. My extra time paid off and I was able to find a couple more species in this area that I hadn’t found before!

American Three-toed Woodpecker Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

American Three-toed Woodpecker
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/200sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Brown Creeper
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200

Mountain Chickadee Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Mountain Chickadee
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/400sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

male Pine Grosbeak Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

male Pine Grosbeak
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2500

Fish Creek Christmas Bird Count (and bonus bird):

The unofficial Fish Creek Provincial Park Christmas Bird Count is always conducted on New Year’s Day, which also gives me a great opportunity to get a solid start on my bird list for the year. For the past couple of years I’ve joined Phil Cram and the group that searches along the south-east corner of the park, including Sikome Lake, Hull’s Wood, and the area around the boat launch, so we tend to get a pretty good variety of birds. Following the morning count, I did manage a trip over to Bebo Grove to search for the elusive Northern Pygmy-Owl that had been seen here recently, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint, but not before I was heading back to the car to head home. Sure enough, just as I was preparing to leave, he had already been found by another photographer who pointed him out to me at the parking lot!

Canada Goose Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Canada Goose
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/500sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 1250

Killdeer Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/640sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 800

Northern Pygmy-Owl Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm 1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

Northern Pygmy-Owl
Pentax K-5 + Sigma 150-500@500mm
1/320sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 2000

This week marks the beginning of the Friends of Fish Creek Winter Birding Course, so check back here next Monday to find out what we saw on our first Sunday outing!

Christmas Bird Counts 2014


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.

CBC circles

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.







Sun Dec 14

Phil Cram


crampj at telus.net

Calgary Feeder Watchers

Sun Dec 14

Donna Wieckowski


astolat at shaw.ca

High River

Tues Dec 16

Greg Wagner


greg.wagner at athene.ca


Sat Dec 20

Heather Dempsey


hjdempsey at shaw.ca


Sun Dec 21

Mike Truch


mike_truch at shaw.ca

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Mon Dec 22

Yousif Attia


ysattia at gmail.com

Horseshoe Canyon/Drumheller

Tues Dec 23

Mike Harrison


tringa at telus.net


Sat Dec 27

Frank Hennessey


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


collistr at gmail.com

Fish Creek Park (1/2 day)

Thurs Jan 1

Jim Washbrook


jwashbrook at prairiesky.ab.ca

Sundre (Snake’s Head)

Sat Jan 3

Doug Collister


collistr at gmail.com


Sat Jan 3

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.


 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.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count – Weaselhead

Posted by Dan Arndt


It may seem a bit repetitive, but a week following our last Friends of Fish Creek Autumn Birding course, my Christmas Bird Count area was also down in the Weaselhead. Our route took a bit longer though, and covered a huge amount of area, and took the better part of the day. We had some really great helpers this time around, as we usually do, and had some awesome birds, a few fewer species than our usual number, and a few different species than we had turn up last year, but all in all, it was a beautifully warm day, and a good time was had by everyone involved. Hope you enjoy these photos I took while we were out!



Merlin coming in for a landing

Merlin coming in for a landing

This Merlin gave us quite a show, hunting while we watched from the bridge over the Elbow River. I believe that it was hunting one of the many Bohemian Waxwings we saw that day.

American Robin

American Robin

A nice surprise for us was the often spoken-of and quite legendary American Robin. We do have a few that end up trying to spend their winters here in Calgary, and just a week prior, one of Gus Yaki’s groups had a flock of fifty of them. I was happy just to see one!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This male Pileated Woodpecker gave us a few flybys throughout the day, but in the grove we usually find Boreal Chickadees he flew in for a closer look. We played a few calls which he came to investigate even closer, allowing us a bit better vantage.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

We headed back towards the South Glenmore Park side of the park and stopped for lunch, and it seemed this little Boreal Chickadee wanted some lunch as well.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Another gorgeous little Golden-crowned Kinglet, the first one we saw that day, was spotted just before lunch. After lunch we heard another dozen or so in the dense spruce on the south slope of the Glenmore Reservoir.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

And of course, what day in the Weaselhead would be complete without a few adorable Red Squirrels hamming it up for the camera.



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).

Troy Eagle 1

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


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!

_96B2562 - Version 2 (1024x909)

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

_96B2625 - Version 2 (1024x830)

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.

Troy me

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

IMG_4550 (2)

Photo by Bob Lefebvre

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

IMG_4576 (2)

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.


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.


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.

IMG_4640 (2)

Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre


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!

Christmas Bird Count – Canmore, AB

Posted by Dan Arndt

Canmore’s Christmas Bird Count is was held this year on December 15th, the day before Calgary’s. While I’ve lived in and around Calgary for almost my entire life, I’ve never really spent much time birding around Canmore. Hiking, mountain biking, and road-tripping, sure, but just looking for birds? Never before. Quarry Lake is also an area that I hadn’t ever set foot in, so it was an adventure to explore and learn more about the native birds to the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains.

My Canmore Christmas Bird Count area

My Canmore Christmas Bird Count area

The added bonus about birding in Canmore is the amazing scenery.


EEOR, or East End of Rundle peak, just west of Canmore

Rocky Sunrise 2

Left to right: Princess Margaret Mountain, Mount Charles Stewart, Mount Lady Macdonald


My total area was about 1.5 square kilometers, and within that area I tallied up nearly 8km of traverses back and forth in the park, and up and down the streets of the adjoining neighborhood. I was fairly impressed too, with 14 species, including a couple that I would be very lucky to have on any Calgary list.

I did manage to get a few decent shots of some absolutely gorgeous birds in my morning out, and I hope you had as much fun on your Christmas Bird Count adventures as I have this year!


Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

female White-winged Crossbill

female White-winged Crossbill

male White-winged Crossbill

male White-winged Crossbill

male Pine Grosbeak

male Pine Grosbeak

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire








Calgary Region Christmas Bird Counts

As always there are many Christmas Bird Counts coming up in the Calgary Region (and throughout North America).  There are lots of dates and locations to choose from, so get out and participate in as many as you can.  This citizen science project is in its 113th year!

Sat Dec 15: Banff/Canmore.  Contact Mike McIvor, mdmcivor(at)shaw.ca  403-762-4160.

Sun Dec 16: City of Calgary. Contact Phil Cram, crampj(at)telusplanet.net  403-228-4142.  To count birds at your feeders in your yard, contact Jean Moore, jmmoore(at)ucalgary.ca  403-282-4162.

Tue Dec 18: High River. Contact Greg Wagner, greg.wagner(at)athene.ca  403-601-3893.

Sat Dec 22: Horseshoe Canyon. Contact Mike Harrison, tringa(at)telus.net  403-236-4700.

Sat Dec 22: Pincher Creek. Contact Sam Miller, sammiller(at)telus.net  403-627-3275.  Offering free overnight accommodation if needed.

Thu Dec 27: Town of Cochrane. Contact Frank Hennessey, frankhennessey(at)gmail.com  403-932-4986.

Fri Dec 28: Cochrane Wildlife Res. Contact Jamey Podlubny, svisser(at)ucalgary.ca  403-288-0658.

Sat Dec. 29: Sheep River/Turner Valley. Contact Doug Collister, collistr(at)gmail.com 403-540-4573.

Sun Dec 30: Nanton. Contact Mike Truch, mike_truch(at)shaw.ca  403-829-6986.

Mon Dec 31: Snake’s Head, Sundre. Contact Doug Collister,  collistr(at)gmail.com 403-540-4573.

Fri Jan 04: Dinosaur Prov. Park. Contact Yousif Attia, ysattia(at)gmail.com  403-585-1125.

Sat Jan 05: BowKan (Exshaw). Contact Cliff Hansen, cehansen(at)telusplanet.net  403-673-2422.

Counts are all day but you may quit early. Everyone, regardless of skill level is invited to participate. Compilers ask that you register your intention to participate as soon as possible to facilitate planning, and to avoid going out when count is postponed due to weather, etc.

In addition, there is the half-day Fish Creek Park count, which is not an official Christmas Count but is in its 20th year:

2013. Tue Jan 1, 9am; 20th Fish Creek Prov. Park Bird Count (morning only). Contact Jim Washbrook, jwashbrook(at)prairiesky.ab.ca  403-613-9216.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count 2012

The 61st Calgary Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday December 16, 2012.  Phil Cram is organizing it, and as usual he’d like to get as many birders involved as possible.  The goal is to have over 100 people in the field that day, and over 100 watching their feeders.  If you want to participate in the field, contact Phil by email at crampj(at)gmail.com.  If you’d like to take part in the Feederwatch program, email Jean Moore at jmmoore(at)ucalgary.ca or phone (403) 282-4162.

Note that Bird Studies Canada is no longer charging a $5 fee to participate in the field, as they did in the past.

Wood Duck.  Photo by Daniel Arndt, December 11, 2011.

It would great to see new records for participation!  It’s a lot of fun, so sign up now, and pass this message on to anyone you know who might be interested.

19th Annual Fish Creek Park New Years Day Bird Count

Last week I was asked by Bob Lefebvre if I would be interested in participating in the Christmas Bird Count for Fish Creek Provincial Park, and I immediately jumped at the chance. I always look forward to the walks in Fish Creek Provincial Park, and I was very glad to be grouped once again with Gus Yaki, Bob Lefebvre, along with 11 other participants to do the count in the Marshall Springs area of Fish Creek.

If you’re not familiar with the area, Marshall Springs is located between Bebo Grove and Votier’s Flats, on the west side of Fish Creek Park, just south of the Bow River. I started up the GPS on my phone and mapped out our walking route, to explain a bit more graphically the route we took. I’ll be experimenting with this format in future posts, so let me know how you like it!

Walking route taken through Marshall Springs

Starting at the parking lot to Bebo Grove, we trekked south through the woods, then crossed the river into the Marsall Springs area proper. On the whole, I didn’t end up taking as many photos as I would have liked to, mostly due to the relatively quiet morning we had in terms of both species present, and population. One of the first birds seen all morning was this Pine Grosbeak, along with one other, in the trees just north of the base of hill at the southern boundary of the park.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

If there was any bird that I felt best described the walk though, I would have to say it was the Downy Woodpecker, the first of which we spotted shortly after the Pine Grosbeak, tap-tap-tapping away at the trees for some food.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Followed shortly by our first sighting of a Hairy Woodpecker, also searching for food under the bark of the poplars and birch.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

I don’t know whether it was the company, the conversation, or the lack of birds present, but most likely a combination of all three that found my next photos taken near the end of the walk, when this Pine Grosbeak called from a nearby treetop, and across the banks of Fish Creek this White-Tailed Deer grazed on the edge of the slope.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

White-tailed Deer

Mule Deer

We convened later with the larger group near the main office of Fish Creek Provincial Park to collaborate data and share any interesting finds. Our group though had a fairly small number of species and individuals, and aside from a large overflight of Bohemian Waxwings, we had less than 100 individual birds among 12 species in our count area, detailed below:

11 Downy Woodpecker

1 Hairy Woodpecker

45 Black-capped Chickadee

4 Red-breasted Nuthatch

1 White-breasted Nuthatch

2 Common Redpoll

2 White-winged Crossbill

100 Bohemian Waxwing

11 Common Raven

8 Black-billed Magpie

1 Brown Creeper

8 Pine Grosbeak

One bird did stand out from the crowd at the reporting though, which Bob and I  went in search of shortly after. I leave you with a (relatively bad) photo of a rare Winter Red-tailed Hawk, seen on the east end of Fish Creek Park.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Posted by Dan Arndt

Christmas Bird Count in East Calgary

It’s been a busy week, but now I finally have time to post about my Christmas Bird Count experience.  This year I was assigned to cover route E8 with Andrew Hart.  This area is a narrow strip along the eastern edge of the count circle, bordering 84 Street at the extreme east edge of the circle, and reaching to McKnight Boulevard in the NE and Shepard Road in the SE.  It is an area that requires a lot of driving, scanning the open areas for raptors.  We had high hopes of finding a Prairie Falcon, or perhaps even a Snowy Owl.

The only open water is in the northeast corner of Elliston Lake, but this can harbour a lot of waterfowl at times.  We went there twice, and unfortunately there were very few birds on the water.  We did find four Hooded Mergansers, which were only reported on one other route, and also the only Lesser Scaup of the day.  Other than that, there were only Mallards, Canada Geese, and Common Goldeneyes.

Although we failed to find a Snowy Owl or a Prairie Falcon, we did find three Rough-legged Hawks on the day, two of which I managed to photograph.  Here is one with typical markings.


The other one, pictured perched below, had much darker underwings when it flew (which I failed to photograph).

The highlight as far as raptors went was a Northern Harrier, which was the only one reported on the count.  We didn’t get a picture, but after it flew, we saw something else in the shrubs along 50 Avenue and 68 Street SE, so we got out to investigate.  We flushed ten Ring-necked Pheasants out of the ditch, 7 males and 3 females or immatures.  Then we noticed that there were flocks of small birds all along the shrubs there, which proved to be upwards of 200 Common Redpolls (we tried to find a Hoary Redpoll among them, but no luck).

Common Redpoll (photo by Andrew Hart).

When we were checking out the redpolls, one bird stood out as much larger than the rest.  It was clearly a sparrow of some kind, but with the sun behind it we couldn’t initially see the colours or markings very well, and we weren’t sure what it was.  We lost track of it for a while, and I went around to the other side of the bushes.  We found three American Tree Sparrows among the redpolls, and although that wasn’t what our mystery sparrow was, they were good birds for the count, since only six were reported altogether, an unusually low number.

American Tree Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Finally the large sparrow reappeared, and with sun behind me I could see it well enough to see that it was a first-year Harris’s Sparrow.  These aren’t common here at any time, and only two were seen on count day.

Harris’s Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Harris’s Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Also nearby, on 51 Avenue near 68 Street, we saw a dozen Gray Partridges.  I got a poor photo of one.

We spent some time checking out the residential areas in the northeast, where we turned up a few new species.  The highlight was a pair of American Crows.  Terry Koryluk, who usually covers this route but was unable to this year, told us that there were two hanging out near Lester B. Pearson High School on 52 Street.  As soon as we pulled up there, the crows appeared and perched in a tree right in front of us.

We saw a lot of magpies, and the biggest concentration was at this deer carcass.

As for mammals, we saw a dozen (living) Mule Deer in all, and a few Eastern Gray Squirrels, but surprisingly, we saw no Coyotes.

Altogether we recorded 20 species of birds for the day, and although we missed a couple that we hoped to see, we saw a couple of others that were pleasant surprises.  The mild weather and the excellent wind-up at the Flynns’ made it another very enjoyable Christmas Bird Count.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre