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.

This immature Harris’s Sparrow visited our yard earlier this week. It stayed for only a few minutes, so I’m glad I looked out the window when I did.DSC_0896 DSC_0892 DSC_0895

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

Call for Photos — “Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide”

Myrna Pearman, manager and biologist at the Ellis Bird Farm (EBF) in southern Alberta, is updating EBF’s now out-of-print Winter Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide. The revised book, to be called Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide, will cover the feeding of wild birds through all seasons for the province of Alberta.

Myrna is looking for photographs of the following species to include in the book:


Clark’s Nutcracker
Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Varied Thrush
Wild Turkey
Gray Catbird
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Gray –crowned Rosy-finch
Golden-crowned Kinglet

Preferably on/at feeding stations or birdbaths:

Black Bear
Weasel, any species
Saw-whet owl
American Crow
Ruffed Grouse
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-bellied/Red-naped Sapsucker
Flying Squirrel
Northern or Loggerhead Shrike
Red-winged Blackbird (male and female)


Bald Eagle on roadkill
Townsend’s Solitaire at a birdbath
Mobbing behaviour by feeder birds
Crows washing/dipping food in a birdbath
Any bird bathing in winter
Any bird drinking at a birdbath
Any bird eating grit/oyster shell/eggshells
Feeder bird (preferably Blue Jay) in moult
Displacement behaviour at a feeding station
Cat at or around feeder, or with bird or small mammal in mouth
Woodpeckers pecking at siding/window sills (causing damage)
Any interesting/unusual feeder bird/birdbath behaviour

If you have photos of some of the species listed, please send them to mpearman@ellisbirdfarm.ca no later than January 31, 2015. The final photo selection for the book is February 28, 2015.

Selected photos will be published in the book, and the photographer will be credited and will also receive a complimentary copy of the guide.

The guide is expected to be published in May 2015.

Here’s a photo I submitted — a Harris’s Sparrow from 2013,


2013 in Review

Looking back on the past 12 months, I did a lot of bird-y things in 2013 — helping out with the Edmonton Nature Club’s Young Naturalists’ Corner at the Snow Goose Chase, raising money for Bird Studies Canada and my local naturalist society with the Baillie Birdathonbirding in Central Park, a month-long internship in Ontario helping with fall migration monitoring, working on my Young Birder of the Year projects, and the Alberta Birds Facebook group I started in 2012 is up to 763 members, including lots of great birders and photographers.

A Savannah Sparrow (digiscoped) in June,


I added 31 new species to my Life List, putting it at 266 species. I was a little disappointed with my Alberta List, since I saw only 137 species compared to 154 last year. For my Year List, I saw 22 mammal species and 210 bird species.

On of my lifers this year — a Harris’s Sparrow that showed up at my feeders this past spring,


I added a new species to my humble yard list — a Blue Jay which stayed for only a few minutes in October, but I was very excited to see it,


A Double-crested Cormorant in Central Park in July,


Don’t Overlook Sparrows!

Some more advanced birders overlook sparrows because they are just “Little Brown Jobs”. For novice birders, sparrows species can very tough to identify. And to others, sparrows don’t have the flashy plumage of warblers or complex songs of orioles. But sparrows are very beautiful birds if you really look at them and take the time to tell them apart.

Where I live, I’m lucky if I see more than five species of warblers a year, so I focus on sparrows instead.

I’ve seen Clay-colored Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Vespers Sparrows, a Harris’s Sparrow, Chipping Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos visiting my feeders at one time or another, and Song Sparrows around our yard. Some of their songs are quite melodious and it’s really fun watch their antics, especially the Savannah Sparrows.

For those who would like some more help with sparrow identification, there’s a very good article by Marcel Gahbauer on telling sparrow species apart, at the Migration Research Foundation/McGill Bird Observatory website.

Chipping Sparrows are very distinct looking sparrow and their song is a long trill,


White-throated Sparrows have a beautiful song are very easy to identify and the mnemonic for their song is ” O Sweet Canada Canada Canada”,


Vesper Sparrows are one of the more nondescript sparrows, but their song is very lovely,


Dark-eyed Juncos are very pretty sparrows, and depending on where you live you might get different variations of juncos,


One of the first sparrows to arrive in the spring are the White-crowned Sparrows, they don’t stay for long as they are just migrating through. I think they look as if they are wearing bicycle helmets,


Don’t overlook sparrows because you might find something out of the ordinary! This Harris’s Sparrow stopped at my feeders last month and stayed for a couple of days. I was very excited to see him, because I had never seen a Harris’s Sparrow before and they are uncommon in my area,


A Sparrow on a Soggy Day

I was making my breakfast this rainy and windy yesterday morning (the first proper moisture in two months) and I carelessly looked out the window at my feeders. I saw a bird that looked different than the usual ones, and then it dawned on me — a Harris’s Sparrow, a life bird for me!

I had to run downstairs to my bedroom to get my camera, hoping the bird wouldn’t leave. In fact, he stayed around all day. He was in the yard when my mother and I returned home from our trip to pick up almost 1,000 shelterbelt trees, and then at the end of the day when we came back from my egg run in town.

Here’s my first photograph of the sparrow,