Tag Archive | christmas bird count

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

Carburn and Southland Park Christmas Bird Count

This year, I also did the Christmas Bird Count; I was assigned the S1 route, encompassing both Carburn and Southland Park. We started the morning birding from the Eric Harvie bridge in Southland, right beside the dog park, before splitting up, 2 groups going south along the river (one on each side) and 2 groups going north along the river. The day was off to a good start as we observed 2 adult eagles and 2 immature eagles flying low overhead; the rising sun was beautiful, adding to the good beginning and silhouetting the many ducks and geese on the Bow River.

We observed thousands of Mallards, Common Goldeneyes and Canada Geese throughout the day with several hundred Buffleheads as well. There were also several Barrow’s Goldeneyes in these waterfowl flocks.

The Common Goldeneyes weren’t quite as numerous as the Mallards however they were still present in large numbers.

We continued to walk further down the river, spotting Redpolls, plenty of waterfowl, Killdeer, magpies and… RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!! As we were hiking along the river, we flushed up a brownish-black bird about the size of a Robin from the bank. It landed nearby at the top of a poplar where we all got good looks at it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my photographs of this species! This blackbird, is an unusual bird in Calgary, explaining, perhaps, my excitement at the sighting (also, this was only my second time seeing this species).

We headed back to the meeting spot, the Eric Harvie Bridge, where we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk and discovered that another group had found an American Wigeon. We then headed to our next stop, Tim Hortons! After warming up and getting refreshments at Tim Hortons, we headed out near the Glenmore bridge, where at a pullout, we walked out and did some more birding, turning up a Killdeer and a Hairy Woodpecker.

The next and final stop for our group was Carburn Park. Our goal at Carburn, was to find an American Pipit  that had been reported here a little while earlier. Though we couldn’t agree to the location where this bird had been seen, we did manage to find it. This happens to be the first pipit recorded on the Calgary CBC since its beginning, 59 years ago.

Also in Carburn, we found a pair of Great Horned Owls, that were extremely well camouflaged against the tree branches they were perched on, several more Barrow’s Goldeneyes and another juvenile eagle. I decided to head home early and only found out later that the rest of the group had also found a Northern Pintail and a Wood Duck in Carburn. I birded around my neighborhood, which was inside our count circle, and managed to add both species of crossbills, a robin and a Merlin to our list, among other species.

The pipit and the Rusty Blackbird were definitely the highlights of the day for me, however they were only two of the 33 species and 7924 individuals recorded by 10 counters in this particular area. Here are the complete results:

Canada Goose, 1500; Wood Duck, 1; American Wigeon, 1; Mallard, 3000; Northern Pintail, 1; Bufflehead, 150; Common Goldeneye, 2800; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 20; Common Merganser, 20; Bald Eagle, 5; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Merlin, 1; Killdeer, 5; Rock Pigeon, 25; Great Horned Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Northern Flicker, 3; Black-billed Magpie, 125; American Crow, 3; Common Raven, 12; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; American Robin, 1; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; House Finch, 4; Red Crossbill, 12; White-winged Crossbill, 26; Common Redpoll, 25; House Sparrow, 110; American Pipit, 1.

Posted by Matthew Sim

Christmas Bird Count

As a follow-up to Bob’s post on the Christmas Bird Count this year, I am posting from my experiences last year.

For the 2010 Big Year birding here in Calgary, I decided to participate in my first Christmas Bird Count. I had heard great stories about this annual winter event and I was not disappointed. I was scheduled to a very productive route on the Bow River, with Southland Park and Carburn Park our main birding spots. We had a very good turnout for species, recording about 29, if I remember correctly. Some of the highlights on our route, were Killdeer, a Northern Shrike, a Rough-legged Hawk, a pair of Great Horned Owls and two immature Trumpeter Swans. These swans were seen continually in January of 2011 and were identified as one immature Tundra Swan and one immature Trumpeter Swan.

A fellow bird-counter participating in the 2010 Calgary CBC

Overall, almost 200 people took part in the 2010 count, with 102 feeder-watchers and 92 birders in the field. Temperatures ranged from -15 to -13 degrees Celsius with some light snow falling in the morning. Birders in the field put in a combined
205 party-hours total, 230 km  on foot and 881 km by car. These stats were compiled by Phil Cram, Donna and Arthur Wieckowski, Bob Lefebvre and John McFaul and can be more extensively viewed  by following this link:


Bald Eagles are usually seen on the Bow River

My group divided ourselves up into small parties in the morning, scanning the Bow River on either sides in and around Southland Park. Once we had spent several hours scouring the snow-swept landscape for birds, we headed to the nearest Tim Hortons for some warmth, where we traded stories and identification tips over refreshments. We headed back out, this time to Carburn Park, where we added Bohemian Waxwings, the shrike and some Barrow’s Goldeneyes. We ate lunch in our heated cars at Carburn and spent the afternoon searching our range for any missing species. That evening, all CBC participants from all over the city flocked to the Flynn’s house where we were served delicious chili and shared our tales from the day.

Birds are not the only wildlife seen on the Christmas Bird Count

The 2010 Christmas Bird Count was very enjoyable; if you have never done it before I highly recommend it. Calgary is historically a very high count in North American for number of participants; last year we had a total of 194 participants which was the 7th highest count in the US and Canada (Edmonton was 1st in North America with 439 participants!!!). Calgary also had the most species of birds recorded on the CBC in Alberta with a grand total of 64.

I will be back in Calgary for the holidays and I hope to see you there!

Posted by Matthew Sim

Christmas Bird Count 2011 – Here’s Your Chance to Volunteer!

House Finch

The 60th annual Calgary Christmas Bird Count will take place this year on Sunday, December 18th.  There are two ways to get involved – as a birder in the field, or as a feeder-watcher in your yard.

There are over thirty territories in the count circle, so we need to get a lot of birders out in the field to identify and count all the birds.  In recent years the number of field volunteers has dropped below 100, and we’d like to get it back up over that number for this 60th count.

The Count Circle (click to enlarge).

If you’d like to help with this, please consider volunteering.  You don’t have to be an expert birder – there will be at least one experienced birder in each territory, so you will be assigned to help them out.  Most groups will be going out for the full day, but you can participate for a half-day if you wish.

Contact Phil Cram at crampj@telusplanet.net to volunteer, or for more information.  

American Wigeons


If you are unable to get out birding with us on December 18, you can still participate by spending some time counting the birds in your yard.  You needn’t spend all day at this, but should try to record the maximum numbers of each species in your yard, and the time spent watching.

To participate as a feeder-watcher, you must register to take part, and live within the above 24-km-diametre count circle.  If you are outside the circle, perhaps you have friends who feed birds and live within it – you could persuade them to take part, and assist them with their counting.

Contact Jean Moore at jmmoore@ucalgary.ca or phone 403-282-4162 for more information on the feeder-watch program, or to volunteer.

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

There are several other Christmas Counts in the Calgary region every year.  Keep an eye on our “Free Nature Walks” tab at the top of this page for updates on these, or see the Bird Studies Canada page to find a list of all counts in Canada.

(Previous blog posts on this topic: 2009 Christmas Count2010 Christmas Count.)

Posted by Bob Lefebvre.  All photos by myself unless otherwise indicated.  Click on pictures to see a larger version.

Christmas Birds Counts – We Need Your Help

In 1900, to oppose the so-called “side-hunt” wherein groups of gunners competed to see which could shoot the most wildlife on Boxing Day, American ornithologist Frank Chapman asked North Americans to head out on Christmas Day, to count the birds in their communities and submit the results as the first ever “Christmas Bird Census”. His suggestion has evolved into one of the largest organized birding events in the world, and now is  a holiday tradition during the Christmas season for well over 50,000 participants each year.

The 110th annual Christmas Bird Count, as it is now called, is conducted in well over 2200 localities across Canada, the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The bird observations, collected during one-day counts between December 14th and January 5th, within a 12 km diameter circle, have been amassed into a huge database that reflect the distribution and numbers of winter birds, over time. The northward spread of many wintering species, so depicted, shows clear evidence of climate change.

The next annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) are coming up shortly. About 370 Canadian CBCs are reported to Bird Studies Canada each year. In all, some 12,000 to 20,000 people participate across Canada. You can be one of them. It’s a great way to get to know your area, and to see and to learn more about the birds that you can expect during the winter months.

The Christmas Season is a busy time for many, but it also offers some free time for others. If you have that time, regardless of your knowledge, you are invited to join in this fun-filled activity. Most CBCs are all day outings, but you can participate for half-days, if you so wish.

To help you to plan, below are the dates for some of this season’s upcoming local activities. Participation in the Calgary activities will be particularly valuable for the 2010 Big Year Bird Competition, as you will learn where to find the rarer species beginning Jan. 1st.
Sun Dec 13, 8:30am to noon: Scout some local Calgary CBC territories. (One is the Elbow River from Stanley Park to Rideau/Roxboro). Meet at 420 Brunswick Av SW [approximately at 46 Av & 4 St SW] in time to leave at 8:30am. Return at noon for a hot complementary lunch. Contact Gus Yaki, 403-243-2248.

Tue Dec 15, High River CBC. We’ll leave Calgary approx. 7am, and return about 7pm, after a potluck evening meal.

Sat Dec 19, Banff/Canmore CBC. We’ll leave Calgary approx. 6:30am, returning about 5pm.

Sun Dec 20, Calgary CBC. Join one of the approximately 30 parties that will be scouring Calgary’s parks and natural areas.For assignment to a group, contact Phil Cram, 403-228-4142 or crampj@telusplanet.net. Alternatively, meet at 420 Brunswick Av SW, in time to leave at 8:15am. Depending upon the number of participants, we usually break into two groups, to cover both sides of the Elbow River. At noon, we return for hot soup and sandwiches. After lunch, if you have the time and energy, we’ll drive in the Mount Royal area for additional species, ending at about 4pm. After 5pm, optional, we’ll gather at the home of Dick and Lenora Flynn’s, 71 Mapleburn Dr SE, to tally the day’s results – and to have supper, $4.00

Sun Dec 27, Nanton CBC. We’ll leave Calgary about 7am, assembling at Laurie Messner’s home, 3.2 kms W of Hwy #2,on N side of Twp Rd #154, staying in the field until dusk, then compiling the results and partaking of a complementary supper, arriving home about 7pm.

Tue Dec 29, Cochrane Wildlife Preserve CBC. (Water Valley area). Depart about 6:30am. Return home about 5:30pm.

Wed Jan 6, 7:30pm: Summary and analysis of some of the local area CBCs results. Meet in Room 211, Biosciences Building, Univ. of Calgary.

See January CBC trips on our Free Nature Walks Page


NOTE: To cover costs of processing the huge amount of data collected, there is a fee of $5.00 for each CBC, free if you are under 18 or are a member of Bird Studies Canada (BSC). Individual membership in BSC is $35.00 annually ($25.00 for student). You will receive an informative, in-depth publication quarterly and can elect to also get bi-weekly electronic newsletters. For more information, contact http://www.birdscanada.org.

Questions anyone? I will gladly answer any that you may have. Please feel free to contact me at 403-243-2248; or by email: gyaki@calcna.ab.ca. Once you register for any activity I’ll supply further updated information as we approach the actual date.

Gus Yaki