Tag Archive | listing

My 2013 Birding Year in Review

Posted by Dan Arndt

First and foremost, Happy New Year, and I wish you all the best in 2014.

Aside from all of the personal challenges 2013 brought me, I blew past my personal record in my first year of serious listing (and serious birding, for what it’s worth) of 236 bird species found within 80km of Calgary. 2013 netted me a total of 248 species in the Calgary region, and a whole lot more experience birding both in the Calgary area, in Alberta as a whole, and even in some more remote places.

My year started off in Mexico, after a night of some hearty ringing in of the new year, and a hangover that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Some say that your first bird of the year has some significant meaning for how the rest of your year will go. Mine started off with the ubiquitous calls and chatter of a Hooded Oriole outside my room on the resort. I think it was one of only a few birds I managed to see that day, due to my very sorry state!

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole
Yucatan Peninsula
January 2013

A couple highlights from my trip down south, which I hope to repeat in the future, included the incredible sights at Ria Lagartos on the Gulf of Mexico, a birding trip with a local guide, Rene, from Green Birding Tours out of Tulum, and being woken up a few mornings by a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl right outside my room!

Ria Lagartos

Pelicans, Gulls and a few shorebirds at Ria Lagartos
January 2013


Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Gran Bahia Principe Coba, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
January 2014

February came in with a bang, and while the birding was fairly typical of an Alberta winter, a locally rare Northern Mockingbird showed up in Vulcan, prompting a trip with local wildlife and landscape photographer, Jeff Bingham. 

Northern Mockingbird Vulcan, Alberta February 2013

Northern Mockingbird
Vulcan, Alberta
February 2013

March’s highlights included a chance encounter with a pair of Short-eared Owls near Frank Lake, a second trip to Frank Lake later in the month heralded the beginning of spring migration, with tens of thousands of ducks, geese, and swans on the slowly thawing lake, and an incredible encounter on Grand Valley Road with a very accommodating Great Grey Owl the very next day, and my lifer Long-eared Owl a few days after that!


Great Grey Owl
Grand Valley Road
March 2013

migration at Frank Lake

migration flock at Frank Lake
March 2013


Long-eared Owl
north Calgary
March 2013

short-eared owl

Short-eared Owl
Frank Lake entrance
March 2013

In April I was able to photograph a family of White-winged Crossbills at my feeders, who had successfully fledged a winter brood in my neighbors spruce tree in their back yard. And then the Swarovski came, and along with it, a fallout of Mountain Bluebirds at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and along with them, an assortment of other usual spring migrants and great chances to shoot them, including my two favourites, this Red-necked Grebe and Northern Shoveler.

immature White-winged Crossbill Hillhurst, Calgary April 2013

immature White-winged Crossbill
Hillhurst, Calgary
April 2013

immature male White-winged Crossbill Hillhurst, Calgary

immature male White-winged Crossbill
Hillhurst, Calgary
April 2013 

Mountain Bluebirds Inglewood Bird Sanctuary April 2013

Mountain Bluebirds
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
April 2013

Red-necked Grebe Frank Lake April 2013

Red-necked Grebe
Frank Lake
April 2013

Northern Shoveler Weed Lake April 2013

Northern Shoveler
Weed Lake
April 2013

The highlights for May were another pair of lifers that I was incredibly happy to find. First, early in May, the first Alberta record of Purple Sandpiper showed up at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and one afternoon after work I stopped by to take some shots of it at the exact same spot I was at a month before with the bluebirds. The second was this adorable little Piping Plover I discovered north of Hanna, while on my way home from a work trip.

Purple Sandpiper Inglewood Bird Sanctuary May 2013

Purple Sandpiper
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
May 2013

Piping Plover north of Hanna May 2013

Piping Plover
north of Hanna
May 2013

June was a blur, but for a whole number of reasons. Evening Grosbeaks were a highlight early in the month, but by mid-June I was laid off, making the rest of the birding year a bit more of a challenge. I still went ahead with the Big Day I had planned with David Pugh, writer of the “A Calgary Birder” blog, which involved a whole lot of terrible weather, but remained an incredible experience, and one that I would definitely repeat, even with the close call we had near the end of our trip with this very curious Black Bear at the Waterton townsite. The now famous flooding of southern Alberta came less than a week later, forcing me from my home for a weekend, but also allowing an impromptu visit to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park and a thorough exploration of the region surrounding Brooks. On my return home, another trip up Grand Valley Road turned up both a Northern Pygmy-Owl and a nesting pair of Sandhill Cranes, both species I’ve never had a chance to photograph.


Evening Grosbeak
Priddis, Alberta
June 2013

curious Black Bear Waterton Lakes National Park June 2013

curious Black Bear
Waterton Lakes National Park
June 2013

Dinosaur Provincial Park north of Brooks, Alberta June 2014

Dinosaur Provincial Park
north of Brooks, Alberta
June 2014 


Sandhill Crane
Grand Valley Road
June 2013


Northern Pygmy-Owl
Grand Valley Road
June 2013

July was a matter of flood recovery for many of us in Calgary and the rest of southern Alberta, and while I spent a few days here and there out in the field, I spent others helping family and strangers with their own struggles. I did have time to check in on a family of Loggerhead Shrikes near Calgary that were found by our very own Matthew Sim last year, and as hoped, they had returned to the area and fledged a good number of young! The end of July allowed a brief trip down to the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, and on the way down we checked out a side road that Alan Plumb and Marg Matheson reported finding Lark Buntings and Grasshopper Sparrows a few days before, and sure enough, there they were!


Grasshopper Sparrow
south-east of Vulcan, Alberta
July 2013


immature Loggerhead Shrike
north-east of Calgary
July 2013

In August, I joined a trip with Nature Calgary down to south-east Alberta, and a stop at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park turned up a great experience with an inquisitive Rock Wren, and more Common Nighthawks than I’ve ever seen in my life, with as many as 60 seen in one evening at our campsite in Foremost. It was also a month I spent many mornings up at Confederation Park, and had my first Canadian sightings of a few Black-and-White Warblers.


Rock Wren
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
August 2013


Common Nighthawk
Manyberries, Alberta
August 2013

Black-and-White Warbler Confederation Park, Calgary August 2013

Black-and-White Warbler
Confederation Park, Calgary
August 2013

As fall migration continued into September, the standouts were a great opportunity to shoot this Say’s Phoebe, and a fairly uncommon American Golden Plover out at Weed Lake, east of Calgary. Mid-September I took a visit to Ucluelet, British Columbia to take part in a pelagic birding trip put on by Wild Research. Needless to say, this was another highlight of my year overall, and the best sighting by far was the Black-footed Albatross. On another note, who would have thought I’d get my lifer Chestnut-sided Warbler while I was 40km out to sea?


Black-footed Albatross and Buller’s Shearwater
Wildresearch Pelagic trip out of Ucluelet, B.C.
September 2013


Chestnut-sided Warbler
Wildresearch Pelagic trip out of Ucluelet, B.C.
September 2013


American Golden Plover
Weed Lake, east of Calgary
September 2013


Say’s Phoebe
Weed Lake, east of Calgary
September 2013

As the fall wore on, and the new and remarkable birds began to wane in number, it was a surprise year for Anna’s Hummingbirds in southern Alberta. With at least seven different individuals being reported in the Calgary area, it seemed to be a major invasion of these late little birds. A few days later, by complete surprise, this Sabine’s Gull (also a locally uncommon bird) turned up on the Glenmore Reservoir.

Sabine's Gull Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary October 2013

Sabine’s Gull
Glenmore Reservoir, Calgary
October 2013

Anna's Hummingbird Northwest Calgary October 2013

Anna’s Hummingbird
Northwest Calgary
October 2013

As autumn wore on into November, it felt like the depths of winter here in Calgary. Extreme low temperatures and massive amounts of snow led to a paucity of good weather days to go out birding, but still we all trudged on, in hopes of finding one of the incredibly rare winter finches that decided to stay up north this winter. A trip down to Lake McGregor before the worst of the weather came in turned up the last of the really huge numbers of Snow Geese on their way south.

Snow Goose flock Lake McGregor, east of Vulcan November 2013

Snow Goose flock
Lake McGregor, east of Vulcan
November 2013

December was marked early on with a trip out to the northeast of Calgary in search of Snowy Owls, and also gave me some great opportunities to get very close to one brave little Snow Bunting. Following the Christmas Bird Counts in Calgary and Canmore, my Christmas holidays took me out to the Comox Valley to visit the family of my better half, but also gave me a great opportunity to see some great winter birds on the coast before the year was through. No spoilers there though, because that will be the subject of my post for Bird Canada coming up on January 19th, 2014!

snowy owl

Snowy Owl
northeast of Calgary
December 2013

snow bunting

Snow Bunting
northeast of Calgary
December 2013

Thanks as always for reading, and best wishes for birding in 2014!

Fur & Feathers Wrap-Up

I’m sure many of you have followed the Fur & Feathers 500 blog. Four Calgary bird watchers (and mammal watchers) did a bird and mammal Big Year in 2012, trying to see as many species as they could within Canada. They were successful in reaching their goals of seeing 500 combined species as a team, and of visiting each Territory and Province in Canada.

Brian Elder has summarized their efforts in two excellent posts, which highlight some of the most interesting species they saw, and which feature their great photographs too.

A Look Back at the Birds of our Big Year

A Look Back at the Mammals of our Big Year

Now that the Big Year is over, Brian has launched a new blog to document his efforts to reach a life list of 5000 bird and mammal species worldwide. Follow him at:

Fur and Feathers 5000

At Birds Calgary we will be following this with great interest, and we wish him luck!

The Alberta Winter Bird List

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

One way to spice up your winter birding is to keep a list of species seen in the winter months of December, January, and February.  It’s fun do do this for yourself, but you can also help contribute to the provincial winter list.

For the past eleven years, Richard Klauke has kept track of all bird species seen by anyone anywhere in the province of Alberta between December 1 and the end of February.  It is an excellent resource for anyone birding here in the winter.

See the Alberta Winter Bird List here.

The list has three categories of birds:

  • winter residents and other species that are reported every year (111 species).
  • species often reported but not every year (81 species).
  • rarities (30 species).

The total number of species reported in the last eleven years has varied from a low of 126 (in 2010/2011) to a high of 153 (in 2002/2003).  The average is 140.  Last winter was a good one, with a total of 148.

IMG_3960 (1024x768)

House Finch – one of the core winter species

The most productive periods for the winter bird list are the the first two weeks of December, when there are still some lingering migrants, and the last two weeks of February, when some early spring birds begin to arrive.  Richard compiles the list from reports on the Albertabird listserv.  Starting today, post your sightings on Albertabird and help build the list.  For example, if you happen to be in the Votier’s Flats area and see the Song Sparrow and Wilson’s Snipe that have been reported there recently, please post them again to Albertabird.  These are core species but may not be around much longer.

As the list builds, check back to Richard’s page periodically, and if you see something that hasn’t yet been reported, post it to Albertabird.


Harris’s Sparrow – a more elusive core winter species (photo by Daniel Arndt)

Some new birders may not belong to Albertabird yet, so if you see something good you could let us know at the blog and we’ll pass it on (include details of date and location).  But I encourage all serious birders to join and follow Albertabird.  That is where important sightings should be reported so that other Alberta birders know what is being seen and where, and can have a chance to find the birds themselves.

Richard’s page also includes links to winter lists for the other nine provinces, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, and the Ottawa region.  So if you are travelling you can see what to expect.

Update: Already this morning, an Eastern Bluebird has been seen near Medicine Hat!  This is the first winter report of this species in the twelve years the list has been kept.

Pat Bumstead still has her three Mourning Doves in her yard too.