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.

Thank You!

I would like to offer an enormous thank you to Angela, Curtis & Michelle, Dave of the Wild Bird Store in Calgary, Donna, Greg, Marcel, Nicholas of Hipster Birders, and Sandy for their amazing generosity and support in helping me reach so far, 41 percent of my goal for the Great Canadian Birdathon. Thank you each so very much!

I’m just a few weeks away from my Birdathon on May 21st, , and so far I’ve raised $640 of my $1,575 goal. If you’d like to help me reach my goal, you can visit my team page. Your support will be greatly appreciated, not just by me but also by the conservation groups receiving the funds I raise — the Calgary Bird Banding Society and Bird Studies Canada.

Thank you all so very much for your wonderful support!

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The Great Canadian Birdathon 2016

I signed up for my fifth Great Canadian Birdathon earlier this week. As you might know, I’ve participated since 2012 in the Great Canadian (formerly the Baillie) Birdathon, the oldest sponsored bird count in North America, hosted by Bird Studies Canada.

This year I signed up with the goal of raising $1,575. Part of the money will go to the Calgary Bird Banding Society, and the other part to Bird Studies Canada. This year, I’m hoping to see at least 100 species — I saw 76 last year. Here are my Birdathon results from 20152014, 2013, and 2012.

I would like to offer an enormous thank you to my good friends Curtis & Michelle, and to Sandy, for their early donations to my Birdathon!

If you’d like to sponsor me, you can visit my team page. I’d be delighted to reach my goal for my fifth Great Canadian Birdathon, to help the very worthy cause of bird conservation.

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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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Alberta’s Christmas Bird Counts 2015

December brings an important event for birders — the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running wildlife census in North America. It was started over 100 years ago by the National Audubon Society in the United States, and in Canada is co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada. The information collected by thousands of volunteers makes up one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data, and provides scientists with important information on populations and distribution of wintering birds.

Christmas Bird Counts are conducted on a single day for each community between December 14th and January 5th. Counts are carried out within a 24 km (15 mile) diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. Birders count every bird they see or hear, and all the data are compiled at the end of the day, sometimes at a get-together or potluck.

There are two different types of counters: field observers and feederwatchers. Field observers cover a portion of the count circle individually or with a small group. Feederwatchers count the birds at their feeders, often in the comfort of a warm house, which makes it the perfect activity for young children, seniors, and those in colder climates.

New and beginning birders are always welcome and encouraged to participate. Most organizers place an experienced birder on each team, so don’t be concerned if you’re still learning the ropes of birding.

I’ve been participating in my area’s count for six seasons, and this year I’m organizing our count in Vermilion.

There are lots of counts taking place all over Alberta, and while the Nature Alberta website has a list of some of the counts, I thought I’d make a more comprehensive “At a Glance” list. You can find a PDF version here. If you see that your community isn’t included, please let me know in the comments below.

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To find all the counts happening across Canada, go to the Bird Studies Canada’s map here.

To find all the counts happening across the United States and Canada, go to the National Audubon Society’s map here.

 

Birding with Rick Mercer

I love watching The Rick Mercer Report on Tuesday nights, so when I found out that Bird Studies Canada (BSC) was going to be on the show I was very excited. Bird Studies Canada is a very special place to me, doing work I consider very important, so it’s wonderful to know that more people will learn about this wonderful organization and its staff.

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From left, Steven Price, Rick Mercer, Jody Allair, and Stuart Mackenzie at Bird Studies Canada, Port Rowan; photo by Elaine Secord.

For those who don’t know about The Rick Mercer Report or its host, Rick Mercer is a Canadian satirist, author, and television personality. The show, on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), is in its 11th season, and we try to watch it every Tuesday.

The Rick Mercer Report crew visited the Bird Studies Canada headquarters in Port Rowan, Ontario for a tapping on October 25th and 26th. Rick met President of BSC Steven Price and my friends Jody Allair and Stuart Mackenzie, who showed him around and introduced him to all the great conservation projects BSC is involved in including the migration monitoring research at the Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO).

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From left, Jody Allair, Rick Mercer, and Stuart Mackenzie at Bird Studies Canada, Port Rowan; photo by Elaine Secord.

Jody, BSC Biologist and Science Educator, was the main guide for the day, showing Rick and his crew around and talking to them about bird research and conservation – and some aspects of what BSC does, and why. The RMR crew also spoke with BSC’s president Steven Price about Bird Studies Canada and conservation. And Stu, LPBO Program Manager, was co-leader for the portion of the visit where they learned about migration monitoring.

Vortex Canada generously donated a pair of Viper HD binoculars to Rick, who didn’t have his own pair.

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Stuart Mackenzie and Rick Mercer at the Old Cut banding station in Port Rowan, looking at a White-throated Sparrow; photo by Elaine Secord.

The visit will air on the The Rick Mercer Report on CBC-TV, Tuesday, December 1st at 8 pm (8:30 NL). If you can’t watch the show on Tuesday, you can catch it online following the broadcast by visiting The Rick Mercer Report’s YouTube channel.

Peterson Guide to Owls

IMG_0964Last week’s mail was very bird-themed*, in part because I received a copy of the new Peterson Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean by Scott Weidensaul, sent by my good friend Ray from the radio show, Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds.

(If you’re not familiar with Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds, it’s a live radio show from Massachusetts about birds, birding, and conservation. The show airs Sundays at 9:30 am (Eastern time). You can listen live from anywhere in the world through the WATD website. If you can’t listen live, all of the past shows are available on the website and iTunes. If you’re looking for a birding show or podcast to listen to, Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds is excellent and you might even win a Droll Yankees feeder for their Mystery Bird contest!)

I just had time to page through the book quickly, and noted some very good photos of owls by a number of photographers, including from my friend Christian Artuso in Manitoba (Christian has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, did his thesis on Eastern Screech-Owls, and is the Manitoba Program Manager for Bird Studies Canada). I’m hoping to read the book and write a review before the end of this month.

Thank you for the great book, Ray! Some readers might remember that I had the incredible opportunity to meet Ray and the Talkin’ Bird’s crew one year ago this month when I traveled with my father to Washington, DC to be a part of Ray’s 500th episode. For the past year, I’ve also been part of the show with a “Charlotte’s Weblog” segment every other week, which includes my sightings from here in Alberta as well as information for young birders and naturalists.

*Also in the mailbox: the latest issue of BirdWatch Canada from Bird Studies Canada, the Birder’s Guide to Listing & Taxonomy from the American Birding Association, and two new digiscoping adapters!