More wonderful Rob English photos of a Great-horned Owl, Horned Larks and Snow Buntings taken near Blackie, AB the last week of December.
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.
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.
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.
Snow buntings are notoriously difficult to photograph, as they’re always in motion. Duane Starr was lucky to run into thousands & thousands of them and managed to get a series of wonderful pictures of these hyperactive little birds. He says when the flock was in the air they were everywhere and when they were on the ground they were everywhere. Click here to view his snow buntings on the fence, in the air, on the ground…
Duane Starr has had some excellent snowy owl luck lately, and sent us a couple of links to his photo galleries.
The first set has some wonderful in-flight and action shots. Click here to view, then click on Slideshow on the right hand side.
His second set of snowy pictures shows the complete sequence of an owl coughing up a pellet, which looks like an extreme amount of hard work! View here.
Have you ever wondered how the Golden Eagle got its name? These outstanding photos from Paul Turbitt answer that question. Paul took these juvenile eagle pictures at The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA) just south of Calgary. If you haven’t visited this magical place, put in on your to-do list!
The ASCCA is open to the public, but visitors must make a booking online prior to their visit. Upon arrival, you must also register at the kiosk and pay the $2/person user fee.
Jim Walling has sent us some truly outstanding Snowy Owl photographs. The rest of us can only hope to ever get shots like these!
Male Snowy Owls are almost pure white.
Females and juveniles have the dark bars and spots, with the heaviest markings on immature birds.
According to Lillian Stokes, “this is a clear Snowy Owl irruption year, although not for the usual reason of their food source, lemmings, having a population crash. There were an abundance of lemmings during this breeding season, leading to now an abundance of young Snowy Owls who cannot compete with adults for food on their wintering grounds, so these owls head south.”
They have been recorded as far south as Kansas and Missouri this winter, and birders in the Calgary area are putting in many hours on country roads to join in the Snowy Owl bonanza. Our Snowy Owl Sightings page is currently the most popular one on the blog, and it’s updated with each reported sighting.
Posted by Pat Bumstead