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,

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Just Canada Geese,

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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,

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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,

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More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

10 Days in the North

Last month, I enjoyed a wonderful 10-day trip to the Northwest Territories (NWT) with 4-H, and even got to do some birding. I hope you don’t mind a little bit of a 4-H detour before I get to the birds I saw!

Back in May, I headed down to Olds, Alberta, to participate in my first 4-H Selections. Selections is a program for senior Alberta 4-H members, from 16 to 20 years old. It’s a little like camp but more about personal development. At Selections this year, there were 103 members at Selections this year who had applied and been chosen for the program.

At Selections, members are scored on their 4-H Diary (members fill out a dairy each year to keep track of their 4-H career, because for every event you attend you receive points — and the more points you have, the higher you rank at Selections). During the program, members are also judged by the group facilitators and peers, and their knowledge of 4-H is tested with a quiz. Everything combined creates a ranking for the program.

At the end of the long weekend, I was honoured to be chosen as one of six members in the Premier’s Award Group. All six of us became 4-H Ambassadors for the province, for a two-year term. I didn’t receive the Premier’s Award, but I am thrilled  to be part of the group of six and to be able to represent 4-H as an ambassador.

At Selections, members are also awarded a variety of trips — for example, to Ottawa, California, Washington, DC, and the Northwest Territories. All of the trips are in conjunction with a 4-H event except for the Northwest Territories trip, which is a camping and agricultural tour. At the beginning of the program, each member ranks the trips in order of personal preference. I put down the 10-day Northwest Territories camping trip as my first choice as I’d never been before, camping is right up my alley, and it was a good time during my summer job to go.

At the awards ceremony, the NWT trip was the last to be awarded and I was over the moon to get a spot with 21 other members.

I highly recommend attending Selections to any 4-H members, as you meet some wonderful new friends and might even get an award or two out of the program.

In mid-August, my parents drove me to Edmonton, where the 4-H members and our chaperones boarded a bus and started the drive north to our destination — Yellowknife, NWT. We camped at each stop — Queen Elizabeth Campground, Hay River Territorial Park, Fred Henne Territorial Park, Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, Last Lake Guest House (absolutely charming!), Tangent Park Campground, and the Carson-Pegasus Campground.

We stopped at Hutch Lake, Alberta on our second day for our lunch break. The lake was beautiful and very clear. The Mallards were certainly enjoying it,

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A view of Hutch Lake,

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We made it!

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Common Ravens are very common in the NWT. I saw them everywhere and because they are important to the First Nations culture, they are very popular in the local art,IMG_9343

On the trip we stopped at a number of waterfalls, one of my favourite parts of the trip. This one is Alexandra Falls,IMG_9299IMG_9301IMG_9312IMG_9318IMG_9319

In Yellowknife, we camped at the Fred Henne Territorial Campground. It’s a very nice campground and the views from the Prospector Trail are beautiful.

Walking the Prospector Trail,IMG_9393IMG_9401IMG_9399

A view of Great Slave Lake from the trail,IMG_9415IMG_9397

The Fred Henne campground was very good for birding. I added Common Loon, Pine Siskin, and Belted Kingfishers to my Year List and three species — Hudsonian Godwit  and Gray Jay — to my Life List. Unfortunately, I was the only birder on the trip.

The Gray Jays were very inquisitive and came close to our campsite,IMG_9402

This Herring Gull was sitting on rocks along the shore of the Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife,IMG_9347

A juvenile Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9353

I’ve seen the Northern Lights before at home, but their vibrancy was nothing like what we saw in the NWT. The Northern Lights are famous for “dancing” in the sky and we certainly saw them do so,IMG_9432IMG_9439IMG_9432IMG_9422

In Yellowknife, we walked around Old Town and did some shopping and sightseeing. On one of the large rock formations, you can see the Common Raven design,IMG_9452IMG_9455

We said goodbye to the city by taking a photo in front of the Yellowknife sign,IMG_9460

We were all sleeping on the bus when we could feel our bus driver slam on the brakes. Looking out the window, we could see a mother Black Bear and her cub — everyone was wide awake at this point and trying to get photos of the two before they disappeared in the trees,IMG_9474IMG_9480Another roadside mammal we saw from the bus was a bull Woods Bison, grazing in the ditch,IMG_9469IMG_9467

We saw this sign about the bison earlier on the trip,IMG_9372

The waterfalls seemed to be situated perfectly for bathroom breaks! We got out of the bus and walked down the trail to view Lady Evelyn Falls.

If you look closely at the middle of the photo, right above the water, you can see two Red-breasted Mergansers flying — another species for my Year List.IMG_9489IMG_9483IMG_9488

The last falls we visited were Louise Falls,IMG_9500IMG_9499IMG_9506IMG_9507IMG_9517IMG_9514

On the way back to Edmonton, we toured historic Dunvegan, near Fairview, Alberta.  The Dunvegan area was first occupied by the Beaver First Nations people. European explorers arrived in the late 18th century and Fort Dunvegan, named after Dunvegan Castle in Scotland, was established in 1805 by the North West Company.

The Peace River,

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We spent our last full day heading to the Carson-Pegasus Campground near Whitecourt, Alberta. When walking around the campground, I saw over 30 Common Loons on the lake. You can view my eBird checklist from the campground here

Sunset over the lake at Carson-Pegasus,IMG_9576

I had a wonderful time on my trip and was sad to say goodbye to friends, new and old, and some new favourite places.IMG_9583

Fall Warblers and a New Nikon

Last month, I received a terrific 18th birthday present from my parents — a Nikon D610 with 50mm and 70-200mm lenses! I’d like to thank my parents very much for my new camera and also my good friend Nicole for her camera expertise and helping me to narrow my choices.

I went for a drive earlier this week with my Swarovski scope and binoculars, and Canon SX 50HS. I was thinking about bringing my new camera along, but the battery was a little low and I wasn’t expecting to see anything close enough to photograph with it.

At the first clump of willows I stopped and rolled down the truck window. I heard lots of “chips” coming from the bushes so I pished for a few seconds and then Palm Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens, and a Orange-crowned Warbler came into view. The Palm Warblers were very inquisitive and came particularly close, so I was immediately regretting not bringing my new camera.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were all over and they were very easy to get photos of as they didn’t move around as much as the other warblers.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler or as some like to call them, “butter butts”,

IMG_9707I was very excited to get this photo since the coverts, alula, and other feathers you usually don’t get to see are visible,IMG_9729IMG_9730There were a number of palm warblers that afternoon. Palm Warblers have bright yellow undertail coverts, and they bob their tails,IMG_9691 IMG_9696After 45 minutes, I decide to head back home and grab my new camera, better late than never. This is the first time I’ve photographed birds with this camera, so I still have lots of learning to do. The second time around, the warblers weren’t as cooperative, but I’m very happy with the shots I got.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

The Orange-crowned Warblers moved incredibly quickly through the willows making it almost impossible for me to get photos. I was able to capture this photo which I cropped just a little,

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Orange-crowned Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

If you have any suggestions/tips for me on taking photos with my new camera, I would love to hear them. Please leave any suggestions in the comments or email me at cnafarm AT gmail DOT com. Thank you!

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.

I saw this adult White-crowned Sparrow on Tuesday. In the fall, I usually see immature sparrows, so it was a treat to see this nice-looking adult,

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More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds