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,

DSC_0839DSC_0840DSC_0838

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.

Feathers on Friday

We had another Spring blizzard yesterday, our second one this week, with lots of cold, snow, and wind. Not the best day for driving, but I had my singing lessons about 25 miles north of our house on a gravel road, and my mom was driving.

I was looking out the windows for birds trying to keep themselves warm in the storm, and as we were passing a yard with lots of spruce trees, I noticed a splash of color and saw it was an American Kestrel.

A very beautiful male American Kestrel,

Must-see birds: September

I got the idea for a northern Alberta version of “Must-see birds” from Pat Bumstead’s and Bob Lefebvre’s Birds Calgary blog. Matthew Sim, who is another young birder, had the idea for the “Must-see birds” posts and writes them all.

September is the month of migrants. Many of the shorebirds have left, and so have our hummingbirds. I wanted to find the best Alberta birds for Must-see birds September (all photos by me):

1. Sandhill Crane

The Sandhill Crane is a large wading bird with gray body, white cheek patches, and a red cap on the adults. The Sandhill Cranes are starting to migrate, so look for them flying high in the sky,

2. Osprey

I spotted this Osprey at Kehewin Lake on the way to 4H camp. I took this picture as we zoomed past the nest platform in our truck. The Osprey is a large raptor with a white head, a black eye stripe and dark upper parts,

3.  Bald Eagle 

I saw this Bald Eagle yesterday as I was riding my bike, and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be perfect for this post. The Bald Eagle has a dark brown body, yellow bill, and a white head and tail,

4. American Kestrel

The American Kestrel has two facial strips (I think they look like sideburns), a rust colored tail and blue-gray wings. This kestrel has caught what I think is a mouse and was flying around with it,

5. Lesser Yellowlegs

The Lesser Yellowlegs is a large sandpiper with a short straight bill, yellow legs, and a spotted back. A good field mark is the white rump,

My photos of many birds

Here are some pictures of birds I’ve taken in and around my grandparents’ garden.

Bananaquits, small pollinating birds,

A Cattle Egret immature Little Blue Heron on top of my grandmother’s pool house,

Beautiful Brown Pelicans at the beach,

Driving around the island I spotted 11 Greater Yellowlegs,

A female Black-faced Grassquit on one of the cacti planted by my grandfather,

Male and female American Kestrels,

Gray Kingbird,

Osprey,

Immature Blackpoll Warbler,