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.

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 apologize for missing FoF last week. To make up for that, here’s a photo of a female Purple Finch at my feeders from a few weeks ago,

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

JG Birds+

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Anotherdayinparadise

A Day in The Life

Evening Photography

I went for a drive one evening at the end of April with the intent of photographing the nearby one-room school house in the beautiful evening light, but I saw some good birds as well.

There were lots of Snow Geese, Canada Geese, and Northern Pintails feeding in our field and in the neighbours’; Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, American Avocets, Lesser Yellowlegs, Tree Swallows, Snow Buntings, and a Red-tailed Hawk were also around.

A pair of Buffleheads,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Northern Shovelers,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

Driving down one of the back roads, there was a big raptor sitting on a fence post, and it was a Peregrine Falcon! I took a few photos before it flew off. This is the second Peregrine I’ve seen in the area. The last and first one I saw was in September last year.

The Peregrine Falcon — such a stately bird,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

A view of the school from distance,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 100, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

I switched my 200-500 mm lens to the 50mm lens to better photograph the school. A Great Horned Owl was sitting in the back window of the school, and because of the lens switch, I didn’t get very good photos.

The departing Great Horned Owl,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/400, ISO 160, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

The quaint Chatsworth School,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/500, ISO 125, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

Two Rock Pigeons then flew out the windows, and that pretty much concluded the birding for the evening.

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Nikon D610, handheld, f1.4D, 1/1,000, ISO 320, Nikkor 50mm, natural light

Smartphone Birding

In the past few years, smartphones have made big gains into birding since one small device can now be used to share information, take photos, record songs, and supplement or even replace printed field guides. There are so many birding apps and products available now that I thought it might be helpful to share some favourites.

Many of the major field guide publishers have created app versions of their books. While I’m always on the hunt for free or inexpensive apps, good birding ID apps can can get expensive, though they are well worth the price considering that you’re getting a whole field guide that takes up virtually no space, and weighs only as much as your phone. You get text as well as search functions, range maps, illustrations, and multiple songs and calls in the palm of your hand. There are also great apps, often free, not specifically meant for birders but which can be very useful in the field and handy to have.

A good list of bird apps can be found hereand there are some more in this past post here. Although the Collin’s Bird Guide app covers European birds, it’s my absolute favourite. I even use it for looking up species that can be found in North America. It’s well designed, with comprehensive information, and the functions and features are top-notch.

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A good North American equivalent is the Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America. The app hasn’t been updated since last May, so hopefully a new version is in the pipeline with updated taxonomy, new species, and some of the changes from the second edition of the printed book.

The BirdsEye app helps find nearby birds by showing you which ones have been reported to eBirdand also shows birding hotspots from all over the world. This was the app I used most during my Banff trip in January, because it helped me to find lots of new species and excellent birding locations.

Great to pair with the BirdsEye app is the eBird Mobile app, available for free at both the App and Google Play stores. The eBird Mobile app lets you submit your birding checklists from the field in an easy format.

Raptor ID app was just released in February by HawkWatch International and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The app covers 34 species of North American diurnal raptors with almost 1,000 photos, videos, range maps, links to interactive seasonal eBird maps, and vocalizations for each species.

The Merlin Bird ID app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the perfect app for young or beginning birders who are looking for an interactive way to ID birds. Users answer five questions about the bird in question, and then the Merlin app provides a list of possible matches. The app includes songs and calls, as well as multiple photos for each species covering 400 species across North America. The app is at the App and Google Play stores for free.

I like tracking my movements when birding to note the distance and length I bird. I’ve found that exercise apps are the best for this, and the two I use the most are MapMyRun and Strava.

For counting gulls at landfills or Snow Buntings in a field on your Christmas Bird Count circle, a tallying app can make counting a breeze. There are various apps available for iOS and Android devices. The one I use is called Tally Counter.

Orienteering apps are very useful for birding, especially if you want to know the latitude and longitude for adding to your eBird checklists or field notes. The free Coordinates Lite app is good for plotting both. If you need more in an orienteering app, try Spyglass, which has a high-tech viewfinder, milspec compass, gyrocompass, tactical GPS, speedometer, sniper’s rangefinder, and inclinometer among other things. For birding, use the apps to determine your distance from a bird or to find the precise location of a rare bird.

When I’m away from my laptop, I use the Inoreader app to keep up to date with the birding blogs I follow. Some other RSS apps are Feedly, Flipboard, and Bloglovin’ which are free and available for Apple and Android devices.

I don’t do much blogging through my phone, but I have the WordPress app downloaded for the times I’m away from my laptop. Blogger also has an app. I’ve found the WordPress app bit wonky but it’s good in a pinch.

Smartphones are perfect for recording bird calls for identification purposes and submitting sound recordings to databases like Xeno-Canto. You can use your phone’s default recorder, but for better quality recordings the RØDE REC app is $8.49 at the App store. For capturing high-quality sounds, try an external compact mic.

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A Clark’s Nutcracker photo I posted on my Instagram account

For birders interested in pairing optics and smartphones, digiscoping is an ever-growing activity. I’ve written an introductory post about this photography technique and the photo editing apps you can use to help improve your photos.

With a phone, social media platforms are always at hand making it easy to stay up to date with rare bird alerts, Facebook bird groups/pages, and birding Twitter accounts. Instagram is also a great app for sharing bird photos and seeing what others are posting. I post some bird photos to my general Instagram account and some of my favourite birding IGs are kojobirder, lovingfornature, petersownbirds, nickparaykoimages, and phoneskopebirding to name a few. You don’t need an Instagram account or a smartphone to follow someone’s account.

If you have any apps to recommend, please let me know in the comments.

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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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.

A pair of Mountain Bluebirds arrived in our yard the other day. They were both very co-operative when it came to  photos, and hopefully they’ll nest in one of our bird boxes.

The male Mountain Bluebird trying out the American Kestrel box,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

The female,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

The blue of the male is just so vibrant,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 200-500mm, natural light

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

JG Birds+

Backyard Bird Blog

The Morning Side of Life

Anotherdayinparadise

A Day in The Life

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