Great Canadian Birdathon 2016 Results

My 2016 Great Canadian Birdathon was Monday, May 23rd. Armed with my scope and phone, I digiscoped all the photos I took during the day, though I wasn’t able to photograph every species I saw.

Tree Swallows were the first species to make the list and just standing outside our front door at 6 am I could hear Sprague’s Pipits, Western Meadowlarks, Killdeer, and an American Robin.

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A digiscoped American Robin

I started off scanning the mudflats at the slough across from our house where I was able to find Killdeer, American Avocets, Semipalmated Plovers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, White-rumped Sandpipers and a few Baird’s Sandpipers. Another flock of peeps flew in just a few hundred feet away, so getting closer I found a Stilt Sandpiper (FoS) and a Spotted Sandpiper. Along with all the sandpipers, there were Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teals, and Buffleheads on the slough.

I walked over to the woods and I added Baltimore Oriole, Song Sparrow, Least Flycatcher, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat (FoS), Warbling Vireo, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, European Starling, and Eastern Kingbird (FoS). It started to rain very gently, but the birds didn’t seem to be affected by it.

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American Avocet

I stopped at the house for more breakfast and an opportunity to watch for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that had been frequenting our window feeder for the past few days. The female hummingbird showed up shortly after I sat down at the kitchen table!

I walked south behind the house to Indian Lake to look for loons and other passerines. I hadn’t been at the lake at all this spring for actual birding and I was surprised to see how much water the lake is holding. There is no longer a shoreline and the water has reached into the woods.

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Tree Swallow,

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Other than Buffleheads, Blue-winged Teals, and lots of Eared Grebes, I didn’t find any new species. I did hear some warblers “chipping” in the trees, so I followed the vocalizations away from the lake. In the trees I saw more American Redstarts and Magnolia Warblers, Clay-coloured Sparrows, and a Lincoln’s Sparrow — a new species for the day.

Blue-winged Teal,

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I was just about to leave the woods when I heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing. I had never seen a grosbeak on any of my previous Birdathons before, so it was a really exciting to see not just one, but two!

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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Red-winged Blackbird

I drove over to our farmyard where I found Brown-headed Cowbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Vesper Sparrows, and Black-billed Magpies. Two male Cinnamon Teals have been feeding in a little slough near our house everyday for weeks, but as I drove to the farm yard they were absent. I did my morning chores and then drove around to the next township road where the slough crosses the road.

There were American Avocets all over the road and my suspicion that there were nests around was correct. There were multiple nests on the road and others on the edge of the slough. More shorebirds landed nearby and there were two new species in the flock, Least Sandpipers and a Red-necked Phalarope.

The nests on the road,

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I was still missing a few species such as Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, and Pied-pied Grebes but found them at another slough down the road. Lunch time was rolling around and back at the house I decided to try again for the teals and there they were, and a Mountain Bluebird on the barbed wire fence to boot.

After lunch I drove to my grandparents’ yard after lunch where I was expecting to find some particular species. On the drive over, there was a Turkey Vulture soaring over the road, with a Swainson’s Hawk below it on a fence post, and an American Kestrel sitting in a snag.

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This White-tailed Deer has just crossed the river when it started bounding into the tree. I wasn’t quite fast enough to get a good photo, but I was fun to watch it,

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I found Pine Siskins, an Eastern Phoebe, and Yellow-rumped Warblers in my grandparents’ yard. From their yard I birded the Vermilion Provincial Park — a Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorants, and Purple Martins helped my list grow.

I also found this mass of tent caterpillars on a trembling aspen,

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I continued birding throughout the afternoon picking up new species here and there. It was getting later in the evening, and as I counted the species on my list I realized I was very close to 100 species for the first time ever in my Birdathon. There were still a few species I could try to find and one of those was Common Grackle. We have some land 12 kilometres north of our house where there’s a slough surrounded by lots of mature trees — it gives the impression of a Boreal Forest slough. There was a Common Grackle singing on there other side of the slough and I heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming on a log.

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A male Blue-winged Teal on the slough

There are occasionally some Snow Geese hanging around on the larger sloughs in the area and though I didn’t see any at the first one, after scanning the far shore of the second I did find a lone Snow Goose mixed in with the Canada Geese.

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Wilson’s Phalaropes were MIA all day but I finally found two females a few kilometres west of the large slough. The last species of the day was a Veery at our farm yard which was my last stop for the day.

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Altogether my Birdathon was excellent and I tallied 102 species (I originally tallied 101 species, but noticed when writing this blog post that I had mistakenly omitted Northern Pintail on the list).

My goal for the Birdathon was $1,575, with my funds earmarked for the Calgary Bird Banding Society and Bird Studies CanadaI’ve received great, generous support and generosity from birders across North America, raising $1,205 so far. Thank you very, very much to everyone who has supported my Birdathon this year — I greatly appreciate all of the donations and encouragement.

If you’d like to add more to my total for the worthy cause of bird conservation (as a reminder, donations over $10 are tax deductible), you can visit my team page.

A list of all the species I saw on my Birdathon (in taxonomic order):

Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Eared Grebe Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Gray Partridge, Ruffed Grouse, Yellow Rail, Sora, American Coot, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, American Avocet, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Veery, American Robin, American Pipit, Sprague’s Pipit, European Starling, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Lapland Longspur, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

Great Canadian Birdathon Day

Today is my Great Canadian Birdathon Day!

Thank you all very much for your support and encouragement thank you to all my recent supporters, Janet, Dave, Stu (you can find his page here), Tracey, Darcey, Delores, and my very supportive parents!

You can add your support to my Great Canadian Birdathon by visiting my team page and clicking on the “Give Now” button. This year, I’m raising money for the Calgary Bird Banding Society and Bird Studies Canada. If you’re participating in the Great Canadian Birdathon before the end of this month, please leave a link to your page in the comments!

I’ll be posting some of my photos throughout the day on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, and I’ll be using the hashtag #BSCBirdathon. I will also have a follow-up blog post with my official results.

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Volunteers Needed: WildResearch Alberta Nightjar Survey

Nightjars are some of the most understudied species in Canada, and there is concern that their populations are in decline. There are two species of Nightjars found in Alberta: Common Nighthawks which are listed as Threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act; and Common Poorwills which are classified as a Data Deficient species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species (COSEWIC).

An adult Common Nighthawk. Photograph by Dwayne Gaschermann, used with permission.

An adult Common Nighthawk. Photograph by Dwayne Gaschermann, used with permission.

The WildResearch Nightjar Survey is a citizen science program that collects data for this family of birds. Before this year, the surveys were conducted only in British Columbia, but this year the program has expanded to five new provinces and territories, one of which is Alberta. WildResearch is looking for volunteers to survey for Common Nighthawks and Common Poorwills in the province this summer. Because of the nightjars’ nocturnal habits, little is known about them in Canada, and there is concern that the population numbers are dwindling.

Anyone with a vehicle and good hearing is capable of conducting a WildResearch Nightjar Survey! Signing up for a WildResearch Nightjar Survey route will require approximately two to three hours of surveying and one hour of data entry. Each route is a series of 12 road-side stops and needs to be surveyed at dusk once per year between June 15 and July 15. Routes are located along existing Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), and we would love to have help from existing BBS volunteers! Surveys will follow a new standardized national nightjar survey protocol. Data will be made publicly available on Bird Studies Canada’s NatureCounts portal.

As noted above, a survey route will require two to three hours of surveying and one hour of data entry. Each route needs to be surveyed once between June 15th, 2016, and July 15th, 2016. In Alberta, the routes use the existing Breeding Bird Survey framework, and surveys will follow a new national standardized nightjar survey protocol.

You can check out the available routes in your area, sign up for a survey route, and learn more about this program at the WildResearch website. If you have any further questions, please email Elly Knight at nightjars.ab@wildresearch.ca for more information.

Help WildResearch by volunteering a bit of extra time this summer to learn more about this cryptic species!

2016 Nightjar Survey poster - letter - AB

New Program for Young Canadian Birders

I’m delighted to help spread the word about a new workshop for young Canadian birders!

Named for the chairman and co-founder of the Beaverhill Bird Observatory (BBO) near Tofield, Alberta, the Geoff Holroyd Young Ornithologists’ Workshop is being offered by the BBO this summer. This new education program is based on the longstanding Doug Tarry Young Ornithologists’ Workshop at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario.

The Beaverhill Bird Observatory banding station

The Beaverhill Bird Observatory banding station

The new workshop will provide up to eight birders between the ages of 15 and 18 with “a practical, working knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of birds [and] other wildlife and their conservation”. Here’s more from the application form:

“Participants will be immersed in the daily, hands on work of field ornithology while they learn about the BBO’s migration monitoring program and participate in the running of a banding lab. They will improve their bird identification while being trained in the skills and art of handling and banding birds, aging and sexing techniques, bird behaviour and the life histories and conservation concerns of species. The students will be tenting and sharing camp duties, another necessary skill for a field biologist. Field trips to surrounding areas, nocturnal work and talks by experts on natural history topics will be offered in the afternoons and evenings.”

The dates for the workshop are Sunday, July 31st to Saturday, August 6th. Young birders from across Canada are welcome to apply. The deadline to apply is May 15th and applications with all of the details (Click Here), should be sent to helentrefry AT gmail DOT com.

According to Geoff Holroyd, the times he spent at Long Point Bird Observatory in his youth were instrumental in developing his birding skills and also his commitment to working with birds as a career. The Beaverhill Bird Observatory hopes to build on this tradition by offering another program in Canada where young birders can improve tehir skills and learn about the conservation issues facing local birds and wildlife.

I had such a wonderful time at the workshop (and follow-up Young Ornithologists’ Internship the year after) at Long Point, so I think another program, especially one in western Canada, is an opportunity not to be missed. These programs give young birders important new skills as well as the chance to meet other young naturalists who share similar passions.

Good luck to all the applicants!

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Tofield Snow Goose Chase

The 17th annual Tofield Snow Goose Chase hosted by the Edmonton Nature Club is coming up very soon, on Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th, at the Tofield Community Hall on Main Street from 9:30 am until 12 noon, followed by bus rides into the countryside to see the Snow Geese and other arrivals.

In the morning, stop in at the Town Hall to see the displays and exhibits from the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, and meet John Acorn (aka “The Nature Nut”), and Pete Heule (“The Bug Guy”) from the Royal Alberta Museum.

I’ll also be there at the Young Naturalists’ Corner, so please stop by and say hello! I’ll have a display of nature-related books, and might even be giving away a few prizes!

Here are my two blog posts about the 2012 and 2013, and also my page on Snow Goose Chase Resources.

I hope to see you there!

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“Backyard Bird Feeding” Book Signing

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I made this poster for the signing and posted them around town.

I’ve been meaning to post about biologist and author Myrna Pearman‘s Vermilion book signing this past December for some time now, but December, January, and February have been so busy between holidays, school, and activities.

Myrna’s new book, Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guidewas published late last year.  During November and the early part of December, Myrna traveled around Alberta to various Peavey Mart/Main Street Hardware Stores for book signings; Peavey Mart is one of the book’s sponsors.

Having corresponded with Myrna about photos for the book, I was looking forward to meeting her and so emailed her to ask if she might be coming to Vermilion for a signing.

The powers that be weren’t sure that there would be enough interest in our small town, so the originally scheduled signing had been cancelled. I told Myrna I would see if I could gauge interest, and in the end there was enough for a book signing not only at Main Street Hardware but also at our local library. As president of the Vermilion River Naturalist Society, I brought up the signings at our November meeting, and members decided to join the other businesses as a sponsor of the signing.

Fortunately, despite the snow the night before the signing, Myrna made the drive from Lacombe safely. I spent the day with Myrna starting with the first signing at 11 am at Main Street Hardware. There wasn’t an idle moment, with many people getting their books signed and talking to Myrna about the birds in their backyard.

With Vermilion Main Street Hardware manager Ebony (standing), and Myrna (seated, at right). MSH provided us with  feeders and bags of birdseed for the display and also offered coffee and doughnuts.

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We moved our table to the library after a quick lunch. During our time there, we had a bit more time to talk and learned that we are related through marriage — it is such a small world!

Two young naturalists got their book signed and told us their bird stories,

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Our adventure continued on into the evening since Myrna had been invited to the Wainwright Wildlife Society’s annual Christmas supper. She gave a presentation about the important work the Ellis Bird Farm does, and a slideshow of her amazing bird and mammal photos.

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With Laurence Hoover, the president of the Wainwright Wildlife Society

Knowing it was going to be a long day with a long ride back to Lacombe, my mother had invited Myrna to spend the night, so we had more time to talk in the evening and then in the morning over breakfast.

After knowing Myrna only through email correspondence, it was very nice to finally meet her in person.

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One of the local papers interviewed Myrna about her book

I’d like to thank Main Street Hardware, the Vermilion Public Library, and everyone who came out for the book signing!

Tuning into Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds Tomorrow

1455828928207Some of you may already know that I’m a regular contributor to the Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds radio show based out of Massachusetts on WATD. My twice-monthly segment, “Charlotte’s Web-log”, features young birder activities and events, my latest sightings, and this year is focusing on the U.S. National Park Service centennial and its Every Kid in a Park Initiative.

Tomorrow’s broadcast has a special guest lined up — my good friend Jody Allair, who is a biologist and science educator for Bird Studies Canada. Jody will be talking with Ray about the results of this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count earlier this month.

You can follow Jody on Twitter and his amazing Instagram account.

Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds airs Sunday mornings at 9:30 am Eastern standard time on WATD. If you live in Canada, or in another part of the United States, you can listen to the show through the WATD website on their live streaming player. If you aren’t able to listen live, you can always download the latest episodes from the Talkin’ Birds website or iTunes.

I hope you’re able to tune into the show tomorrow!

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