Alberta Birding and Nature Festivals

Festivals are a terrific way to connect with other birders, learn about birding hotspots, hear new speakers, and learn from experts on guided tours. They are also great for outings with family and friends.

Alberta offers some fantastic bird and nature festivals, so I decided to compile this year’s listing as a handy reference. If you know of an event to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below so I can make the changes.

— April 23-24, 2016: This year marks the 17th annual Tofield Snow Goose Chase organized by the Edmonton Nature Club and the town of Tofield. In the morning, stop in at the town hall to see the displays and exhibits from the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Beaverhill Bird Observatory, John Acorn “The Nature Nut“, and Pete Heule from the Royal Alberta Museum. I’ll be there too with the Young Naturalists’ Corner. There will be an owl banding talk and public bus trips for viewing the Snow Geese, swans, and other spring migrants.

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—  April 23-24, 2016: The Friends of Saskatoon Island along with Alberta Parks celebrate the return of Trumpeter Swans to the Peace Country by holding the Saskatoon Island Swan Festival, features guided tours, presentations, and activities for families.

—  May 28-29, 2016: The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory holds a Songbird Festival in Slave Lake, Alberta. The event kicks off on Saturday with a pancake breakfast followed by guided birding hikes, workshops, and tours of the migration monitoring station.

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— Saturday, June 18, 2016: The Camrose Purple Martin Festival will be celebrating its seventh annual festival this year with keynote speakers, bus and walking tours to Purple Martin colonies, activities for kids, and tips and techniques for making a wildlife-friendly yard.  

— June 19-23, 2016: The Waterton Wildflower Festival celebrates Waterton as the wildflower Capital of Canada. The festival features guided walks on plant identification and park ecosystems, family programs, and photographic presentations. Last year the festival offered birding sessions with experienced guides, so they might be available this year too.

— July 1st, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm Bluebird Festival near Lacombe, Alberta, focuses on the Mountain Bluebirds that nest around the farm. Come to the farm for free crafts for children, a talk on Purple Martin and Mountain Bluebird migration research, and a Neighbour’s Market.

— July 23rd, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm BioBlitz will feature biologists on site to share their expertise on all the wildlife at the farm, as well as site tours.

— August 6, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm’s Bug Jamboree opens with a performance by John Acorn, “The Nature Nut”, and a butterfly count. Garden tours and children’s crafts are also part of the event.

— September (date to be announced): Waterton also hosts a wildlife festival in September, celebrating the park as one of the best places in the Rocky Mountains to view wildlife, especially mammals. Bighorn sheep, elk, deer, bears, and foxes, more than 200 species of birds, six species of amphibians, four species of reptiles, and 24 species of fish have been found in the Park. Workshops, presenters, and guided walks are some of the activities at the festival.
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— October (date to be announced): Canmore celebrates the migration of Golden Eagles over the Alberta Rockies with a Festival of the Eagles. The weekend celebration includes guided hikes, bird walks, interpretive displays, and guest speakers. Spotting scopes are set up at Canmore Collegiate High School to view the migrating eagles.

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.

After two years of seeing only a handful of Common Redpolls, that never stopped at my feeders, they have returned! For the past week, about 30 Common Redpolls have descended on my feeding station devouring the sunflower and nyjer seed.

I took this photo through our kitchen window with my Nikon D610 and 200-500mm lens,DSC_1036

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

JG Birds+

4forfeathers

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Photo Essay: A Snowy Owl

I had a chance to practice with my early Christmas present, a new Nikon 200-500mm lens, f/5.6, last Saturday. My subject was a beautiful male Snowy Owl just north of our farm, who was very accommodating and great for practice. Because the owl is so white, and the sky was very light too, I was really working on getting a good exposure.

The owl wasn’t too keen on looking straight at me, so I have only one photo of him looking directly at me. In all the others, he’s looking ahead or looking away.

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This photo is a little underexposed for my liking,DSC_0971

Because Snowy Owls are quite common in southern areas again this fall/winter, here are some tips from the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio and Kaufman Field Guides for observing or photographing Snowy Owls:

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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.

Sorry for missing Feathers on Friday last week. Here’s photo of a Cedar Waxwing I took at the beginning of September,IMG_9598

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

JG Birds+

4forfeathers

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Swans and Digiscoping

Our yearling heifers have been on pasture 45 minutes away from our farm since June. Every couple of days, we check on them to make sure none has crawled through the fence or needs medical help. I checked them on Saturday and enjoyed driving around the countryside on a beautiful fall day. I brought along my scope, Canon SX50 HS camera, new Viking Optical Universal digiscoping adapter and new Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter release.

The heifers are well trained and expect treats, so they all came running toward me as soon as they saw the truck. I gave them their hay which they all enjoyed.

The herd is a mix of crossbreeds including Shorthorn, Black Angus, and Speckle Park,FullSizeRender-3FullSizeRender-4 FullSizeRender-2

Birds were few and far between, but on the way back from the pasture I finally found something to photograph/digiscope. A large group of Tundra Swans were feeding and preening on a slough (pond) north of our farm.

I used my Canon camera for these photos, but the wind picked up and it was tough to keep everything stable.

There were over 100 Tundra Swans on the slough and even though they were on the far side I was able to get some decent photos,IMG_9868 IMG_9874 IMG_9877

I hauled out my scope, iPhone, Viking Optical Universal adapter, and Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter release to digiscope some shots of the swans.

The Bluetooth shutter came in the mail from Phone Skope on Friday and this was my first chance to test it out. The shutter release removes all contact with the phone to prevent shake and blurry photos. It’s very handy and an excellent tool for digiscoping.

Getting the correct exposure on white birds can be tricky, especially on water. These photos are a little overexposed and there’s also a bit of chromatic aberration outlining the swans. I took photos of the swans three different ways with the iPhone’s camera, with the Pro Camera app, and with the Manual app, playing around with the exposure and other settings.

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter, Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece, and the Manual app

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter, Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece, and the iPhone’s camera

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter, Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece, and the Pro Camera app

I drove to another slough, where there were only 10 swans, some Mallards, Northern Pintails, and this muskrat house, which is at least three feet tall,IMG_9880Though there were fewer swans, these were a little more co-operative as they were closer to the shore,

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They weren’t too concerned by my presence and were busy preening and spreading their wings. This is one of my favourite shots from the afternoon,IMG_9906  IMG_9915

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter, Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece, and the iPhone’s camera

Viking Smart Phone Adapter: First Impressions

:: I received a Viking Optical Smart Phone adapter from the company for review; all opinions and writing are my own ::

Viking Optical is a UK company that makes scopes, binoculars, and optics accessories including their Universal Smart Phone Adaptor, which is designed to allow any smart phone to attach to a spotting scope. Viking is an independent company in the UK with a long history of supporting conservation organizations, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International, the species champion for the Forest Owlet and Seychelles Paradise-flycatcher.

This digiscoping adapter is comprised of two elements — a platform to support the smartphone and a collar that twists and locks onto the platform.

Viking Optical has a choice of five collar sizes designed to be compatible with five scope models: 39mm (RSPB AG), 48mm (Viking ED Pro Zoom, Viking AW Zoom),
55mm (Swarovski ATS/STS Zoom; Kowa TSN 770/880 Series, Zooms and 30x),
56mm (Leica APO Televid 65/82 Zoom; RSPB HD Zoom), 59mm (Swarovski ATX). The collars will also work with other brands. I was sent the 55mm and 56mm collars as we weren’t sure which would fit my older-model scope. The 55mm collar fits best on my scope’s eyepiece and provides the most support for the platform.

Just align the phone’s camera with the centre of the adapter’s opening. Secure the phone in place by tightening with the four adjustable flexible rubber clamps which are tightened to hold the phone in place. The clamps can be removed and placed in different sections for a better fit no matter the design/model or thickness of the phone. Once secured, the camera is able to rotate within the adapter, alternating between portrait and landscape shots.

This adapter would be great to share on birding walks with other birders since various phones can be switched in and out to get digiscoped photos.

Another benefit to this adapter is that I’m able to leave on my protective phone case while using this adapter. Setting up the adapter for use is simple, and the adapter is both lightweight and sturdy. It also fits inside a larger jacket pocket, and comes with a detachable lanyard in case you find yourself pocketless.

The Black-capped Chickadees at my feeders are great for practicing my digiscoping technique.

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

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Photo taken with an iPhone 6, Viking Optical Universal adapter, and Swarovski ATM 80 scope with 20-60 zoom eyepiece

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.

Almost all of the geese have left the area for the season except for these Snow Geese,IMG_9839

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

JG Birds+

4forfeathers

Backyard Bird Blog