2015-2016 Winter Finch Forecast

Every year, Ontario ornithologist Ron Pittaway analyzes the seed and berry crops of the boreal forest to predict the movements of winter finches. Certain species will move south or stay in their usual wintering grounds. This year’s Winter Finch Forecast predicts several species will stay in northern Canada for winter as the food supply is relatively good, but others might move south.

However, it’s a good idea to take the forecast with a grain of salt, as some species might move further south than predicted. Have your feeders full and ready, just in case.

General Forecast: This winter, spruce seed specialists such as White-winged Crossbills and Pine Siskins should be concentrated in eastern and western North America where cone crops are heaviest. Northwestern Quebec and Ontario have the least spruce cone abundance with only poor to good crops. Conifer crops including on ornamentals are heavier in southern Ontario and could attract finches. Common Redpolls may move into southern Ontario because birch seed crops are low to average in northern Canada. A small flight of Evening Grosbeaks is expected in the East because of increasing numbers due to expanding spruce budworm outbreaks in Quebec. Pine Grosbeaks also should move south in small numbers because the mountain-ash berry crop is below average in northern Ontario. Expect a scattering of Red Crossbills across the East this winter.

You can read the full 2015-2016 Winter Finch Forecast here.

A Common Redpoll,IMG_8205

Pine Grosbeak,IMG_9120

Nature Alberta Youth Award

Nature Alberta has introduced Youth Awards this year, for young naturalists ages 6-11 and 12-17, and is looking for nominations for award recipients. The deadline for nominations is October 15th, 2015. Nature Alberta is aware of the short notice, but the executive staff are hoping to present the award at the 45th anniversary gala on November 7th, 2015.

If you know of a deserving young Alberta naturalist, please nominate him or her in order recognize young Albertans who are making a difference in conservation efforts and nature awareness.

Nature Alberta’s criteria for the Youth Award:

There are two categories for nomination for the Nature Alberta (FAN) Youth Award based on age:
Ages 6-11
Ages 12-17

Youth members of any member group or affiliate group related to Nature Alberta are eligible for nomination. This includes the program group NatureKids.

Youth nominees are expected to be active participants and members of their local nature club, or affiliate club.

Nominees will have experienced, appreciated, and enjoyed Alberta’s natural resources through regular activities of the club.

Youth nominees will have illustrated an ongoing interest in learning about Alberta’s natural resources and natural elements of Alberta’s wild environment relevant to their age and abilities.

A letter of support will accompany the nomination. It should outline the nominee’s participation and growth as a young naturalist and reasons for the club’s nomination of that individual. It will be submitted by email to the chairperson of the Awards committee by a member of the club who is making the nomination for the Award.

A person wishing to nominate a youth member will not be a family member of the nominee.


(Above, a photo I took last December during the Christmas Bird Count of two young helpers!)

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

These Pine Siskins were feeding in our spruce trees this week. Can you count them all?DSC_0852

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

Happy Autumn! In the fall, I love watching the geese fly overhead. Here are some Greater White-fronted and Canada Geese,


Just Canada Geese,


More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

Fall for Raptors

I’ve been seeing a large number of raptors lately, from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles. This past Wednesday, I drove around looking for raptors and enjoying the colours of fall. The day was very overcast and cool, but I saw some top-quality birds!

This American Kestrel had been hunting around our house for the past few days, finally perching long enough for me to get a photo. The photos are not the best quality, but I love the colours of the kestrel and the trees behind it,IMG_9757IMG_9755

I barely got out of the truck, opting to park on the side of the road most of the time. I live in an area where the county roads have a good deal of traffic at harvest time — combines, swathers, grain trucks, pickup trucks going to town for parts. But the roads are quiet on rainy days when farmers are at home waiting for the fields and grain to dry.

Whether rural roads are quiet or busy, I always park in as much of the ditch as I can when birding with a vehicle, and I never park on the crest of the hill. If I’m driving and see a bird sitting close to the road, I check the rearview mirror to make sure it’s safe to pull over.

Our neighbours often stop to check on me when I’m watching something from the truck, just to make sure I’m not having any trouble. Everyone knows by now that I’m birding/photographing birds, but it’s a very nice gesture and I appreciate the stop very much.

I love birding by vehicle because you can get fairly close to some birds. Ducks and geese are very cautious at this time of year, so watching birds from the truck gives me more of a chance to look at them. I took our new truck as it’s very quiet, excellent on fuel, and has ample room for my scope, two cameras, and binoculars in the front seat.

A Blue-winged Teal,IMG_9761

This summer, the American White Pelicans frequented the slough (pond) across the road. There was only one this time, accompanied by Black-bellied Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mallards, Gadwalls, teals, Northern Shovelers, an adult Bald Eagle; Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese; Ring-billed Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes.

The American White Pelican and a Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9763

In the willows along the road were White-crowned, White-throated, and Clay-coloured Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The birds were very difficult to photograph as they stayed hidden in the branches, like this White-crowned Sparrow,IMG_9774

I left the slough and headed north. A Blue Jay flew out of a neighbour’s yard and there was a Northern Goshawk sitting in a dead tree just up the hill. I was disappointed I didn’t get a photo of the goshawk, but just then, a Great-horned Owl landed in the tree in front of me.

The owl was uncomfortable with my presence so it took off. Fortunately, it landed nearby in the slough just off the road.

The Great-horned Owl flying away,IMG_9775

I quietly got out of the truck and snuck around the slough and got these photos — my best yet of the species!IMG_9782IMG_9784

After five minutes, the owl flew away, scaring a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs on take off,IMG_9789

The most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a Eurasian-collared Dove that flew out of the willows. At first, I though the dove was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then it came into view. I’ve never seen this species before, but their range is moving northward in Alberta so I might be seeing more of theses doves in the future.IMG_9791

The migrating geese enjoy feeding on the combined grain fields. I spent 15 minutes taking pictures with my new camera,DSC_0782DSC_0798

The building on the hill is Chatsworth School, a one-room school house between 1917 – 1953 for all the children in the area,DSC_0816DSC_0817

Playing with the exposure a little bit,DSC_0821

The sun was shining through the clouds,DSC_0829

After an hour and a half, I started heading back home and was passing by our wheat field. On a six-acre section of the field, we’re growing Red Fife Wheat, the oldest variety of wheat in Canada, originally from the Ukraine. This Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in the poplars along the field and there was a Merlin on a fence post.

Red-tailed Hawk,IMG_9803

I took these photos of the Merlin with my Nikon D610 with the 70-200mm lens. I cropped them just a bit,


All the raptor species I saw on my drive: American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Great-horned Owl, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier.

Peregrine for the Win

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting outside, working on a blog post and enjoying the sounds of the geese and cranes on the slough (pond) across the road. At one point, I looked up from my laptop and saw a good-sized raptor hunting over the cattails in the slough.

I grabbed my binoculars and saw a bird that looked a lot like a Peregrine Falcon. I ran and got my scope and camera to get a better look. It was a Peregrine Falcon and was getting closer.

It eventually flew right over our house and headed west. This is one of the best species I’ve seen around our house and I’m so glad I decided to work outside.

The first time I saw a Peregrine Falcon was back in 2013 in Ontario. This is my first sighting for Alberta, and I can even add it to my “Yard List”.

View my eBird checklist from yesterday here.

Peregrine Falcon!IMG_9821

The same photo, just cropped,IMG_9821

Here’s a photo of the huge flock of Sandhill Cranes that was circling above me as the falcon flew over,IMG_9822IMG_9825

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for my Feathers on Friday meme, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I’ll add the link to my post.

Sandhill Crane migration has been very active lately — these cranes landed just across the road from our house earlier this week,


More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds