Tag Archive | citizen science

Christmas Bird Count Results, 2016-2017

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Another Christmas Bird Count season has come and gone, and tonight at the Nature Calgary Bird Study Group meeting you can get details about all the sightings on six of the counts in our area, plus the Fish Creek Park New Year’s Day count. You can get all the details on the meeting here.

Only 32 Common Redpolls were recorded on the Calgary count. Photo by Tony LePrieur.

This year we had our first ever Christmas Bird Count For Kids in Calgary, and they have added another one to be held this Saturday, January 14, from noon to 2 pm at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a great way to get children interested in birding. For all the information and to register, see this page.

On the main Calgary Count, which was held on December 18th, 61 species were recorded, and about 39,000 individual birds. This is below our twenty-year average of 65 species and 50,000 birds, a result that was mostly attributed to the high winds we experienced that day.

There is always a bit of a friendly competition between Calgary and Edmonton in everything we do, and we like to come out ahead in the number of species found on our CBC’s. We usually do (they had 47 this year), but you can only find the species that are actually there, and it just happens to be the case that Calgary has a little more diversity in birds in the winter than Edmonton does. A better comparison between these two similar-sized cities would be participation in the counts. In that respect, I’m afraid to say, Edmonton always beats us, and it isn’t very close. We had 139 birders go out in the field this year, and they had 170. We had 107 Feeder-watchers report on their yard sightings, and they had 286!

Now is a good time, while it’s fresh in your mind and you’re not busy with Christmas preparations, to express your interest in taking part in next year’s count, to be held on Sunday, December 17, 2017. If you think you might like to go out with one of the groups please contact the organizer, Phil Cram, at crampj[at]telusplanet.net.

The territory that I am leader for, which includes the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Calgary Zoo, Pearce Estate, and some adjacent areas, is far too large for us to cover with the six or seven people we usually get out. If you’d like to join my group, email the blog and I’ll add you to my list of contacts.

I would particularly like to see more people involved in the Feeder-watcher program. If you think you might have a few minutes to count the birds in your yard that day, and if you live within the count circle shown below, please contact Donna Wieckowski at astolat[at]shaw.ca. We have a long way to go to catch up to Edmonton in Feeder-watchers! Don’t think that the birds you see in your yard aren’t important – they are an integral part of the bird fauna in the city. Often our only reports of birds like White-throated Sparrows, Harris’s Sparrows, and Varied Thrushes come from Feeder-watchers.

Expressing an interest now does not mean you are committed (it’s hard to plan for an event that is eleven months away) but it will at least get you on the list to get all the information when the time comes.

The Calgary Christmas Bird Count Circle.

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

Sunday Showcase – Rusty Blackbird Blitz!

Posted by Dan Arndt

The Rusty Blackbird used to be a common sight in Alberta, ranging from the prairies to the boreal forest, and often a nice splash of color in a mixed flock of migrating blackbirds both in spring and fall. Over the past 50 years, their population has declined between 85 and as much as 99% by some estimates, and is a particularly vulnerable species at risk, not only in Alberta, but all over North America. It is with great pleasure that I note that eBird.org has organized yet another citizen science project in order to better understand the ecology, migration hotspots, and to develop some strategies to better accommodate this highly vulnerable species.

The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz opened March 1, 2014 all over North America, and the usual target dates for spotting them in our area are between April 1 and mid-May. The goal is to get as many birders to go out, as they usually would anyway, and report the observations to eBird under the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz survey type.

Read more about this project here: International Rusty Blackbird Working Group, and enjoy the one and only photo of this species that I have to date, taken at Eagle Lake in the fall of 2012.

female Rusty Blackbird Eagle Lake October 12, 2012

female Rusty Blackbird
Eagle Lake
October 12, 2012

Bio-Blitz: Volunteers Needed

If you’re free this Friday, September 23, you couldn’t find a better way to spend the day than to help Andrew Stiles of the Nature Conservancy of Canada conduct a bio-blitz in the Bragg Creek area.  A bio-blitz is an intense biological survey that attempts to record all the species of flora and fauna in a designated area.  Naturalists and volunteers will try to identify all the birds, animals, insects, and plants on the Connop Estate.  Volunteers are needed to help with this, and no particular experience is needed.  It’s enough to be able to point out a bird or mammal, or a plant species that hasn’t yet been recorded.

The last time the area was studied, many raptors were observed, as well as Elk and wild horses.

Typical forest scene in the Bragg Creek area – in this case, in Brown-Lowery Provincial Park, not at the Connop Estate.

How many species?

If you’d like to take part, or to get more information, please call Gus Yaki at 403-243-2248.  The group will carpool from the south side of the Canadian Tire parking lot on Richmond Road SW in Calgary (just east of  Sarcee Trail) at 8am, or meet at the Cinnamon Spoon, at the south end of the shopping centre in Bragg Creek at 8:30am, on Friday, 23 September 2011.  But please call Gus first so he knows who to expect, and in case there is a change of plans due to rain.

Bring suitable clothing for the season, as well as a lunch and drinks.

American Three-toed Woodpecker in the Bragg Creek area.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Help Us With the May Species Count!

The May Species Count is an event held on the last weekend of May each year, in which birders try to find every species of bird in the Calgary area.  Over the two-day period, teams or individuals scour their assigned areas to identify every bird species they see and hear, and also note the total numbers of each species.  This year the count will be on May 28 and 29.

How many Mallards?

The area covered is huge – a circle 160 kilometres in diameter centred on the Centre Street bridge in Calgary.  Organizers have broken the count circle into many smaller territories, and assigned volunteers to each area.  We need a lot of birders to cover all this territory!

          The Count Circle.  The numbers indicate the territories to which birders or teams of birders are assigned.  Click on the map to enlarge it.

There are still some territories that are not covered, so if you want to contribute to a very worthwhile citizen science project, contact the co-ordinator:

Terry Poulton  –  May Species Count, May 28-29, 2011

phone    403-274-7393        email    tpoulton@yahoo.com

Everyone is invited to participate, whether beginner or seasoned pro.  You can do a whole day, a half day, or both days.  Terry will try to assign you to an interesting route, and try to match new-comers with experienced birders, and drivers with riders.  There are a wide variety of environments, from urban to prairie to foothills habitats. Most years, more than 200 bird species are seen in total within the circle.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in Calgary and area birding, and to see as many as one hundred species of birds in a single day.  If you can identify most birds you see, you can survey an area yourself.  If you are a new birder, you will be assigned to a team with other experienced birders where you can help to spot and count birds, and learn about the process.

If you are at all interested in this, please contact Terry to get more information.  It’s one of the funnest birding experiences of the year, at the birdiest time of the year!

Posted by Bob Lefebvre