Blueberries and Ospreys

Last week, my parents and I headed up to Moose Lake to pick up my brothers from 4H camp. The landscape around the lake is quite different from home as the lake area is part of the northern boreal forest. The habitat around the lake includes paper birch, poplars, jack pines, white spruce, sand dunes, and lots of wild blueberries!

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There were quite a few of other berry pickers in the woods, but there were lots of berries go around. My family picked three ice cream pails of blueberries and so far, my mom has made jam, and a blueberry crumb cake, and I made blueberry-cream muffins.

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There weren’t very many birds in the woods, but there were quite a few squirrels,

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This squirrel was nibbling on a pine cone,

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More blueberries,

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I was walking through the woods and came across this active Osprey nest. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the Ospreys on the nest as they flew away as I approached, but I watched them circle the nest for quite some time,

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A close-up of the very large nest,

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The Ospreys were a Year Bird for me, putting my 2014 Year and Alberta lists at 162 species,

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There was a flock of Black-capped Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers feeding in the the pines. There were also a few small songbirds mixed in with the chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers that I wasn’t able to identify as they were difficult to see in the trees.

Here’s my eBird checklist from our adventure of blueberry picking.

Here’s one of the three Dark-eyed Juncos that were feeding in the low shrubs,

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Some of the beautiful trees that surround Moose Lake,

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A Month at the Long Point Bird Observatory, Part 2

(Part 1 of my internship account is here)

September 1st: It was a little windy today, so some of the nets were closed, but we caught a hatch-year female Sharp-shinned Hawk which was very neat! An after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers were caught in the same net. It was a good opportunity see the differences in plumage in the hand, and side by side. There weren’t very many songbirds around, but I did find a Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart, and a Wilson’s Warbler flitting about in some bushes near one of the nets.

A female Sharp-shinned Hawk,

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The after-hatch year male and female Canada Warblers,

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We saw a few Ospreys at the Tip, and this one was very obliging for a photograph,

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September 4th:  Today was the only day we banded over 100 birds while I was at the Tip. It was a lot of fun to see so many birds but it was also very tiring for the banders. Most of the birds caught were Catharus thrushes, Blackpoll Warblers, a Wood Thrush, and other species, and a Connecticut Warbler was also banded later in the morning. There were hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds flying over with a few Bobolinks in the mix, and there were 25 Sanderling feeding along the beach.

A Connecticut Warbler,

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A Viceroy Butterfly,

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LPBO staffer Janice with a male Indigo Bunting (and matching shirt and fingernails!),

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September 5th: Today wasn’t as busy as yesterday for banding, but the number of warblers moving through the area was astounding! Some of the warbler species were Wilson’s Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Canada Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Nashville Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, Northern Parulas, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Cape May Warblers were all seen around the Tip. In the afternoon Ana, Antje, Daniel, and I did a supplementary census and the highlights were a large mixed flock of 16 warbler species, a Brown Thrasher, a Baird’s Sandpiper feeding in a group with three Least Sandpipers, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a very co-operative Philadelphia Vireo. My two lifers for the day were the Philadelphia Vireo and Northern Parula.

A Bay-breasted Warbler,

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Northern Parula,

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September 8th: It was much too windy to open any of the nets today, so in the early morning Dayna, Ana, and I went out to the Tip to look for any unusual gulls and Jaegers that would have been brought in by the strong winds; unfortunately we didn’t see any. We did see over 4,000 Double-crested Cormorants flying past the Tip which was quite the spectacle. There were three Great Black-backed Gulls at the Tip and large flocks of Sanderlings were flying around with a Baird’s Sandpiper and two Semipalmated Plovers mixed in.

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A beautiful Pandora’s Sphinx Moth,

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A Monarch Butterfly chrysalis I found in the sand at the Tip,

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September 9th: Bird activity is still very slow and since it wasn’t too windy we were able to open some of the nets. Double-crested Cormorants were flying past the Tip in large numbers, and a Great Blue Heron was hunting along the shore of the Tip. On one of my net rounds, I saw a banded Rock Pigeon sitting on the Heligoland Trap. Some of my favorites banded today were a Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers.

Tennessee Warbler ruffled from the wind,

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A male Chestnut-sided Warbler,

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Sunrise at the Tip,

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LPBO staffer Dayna with a Black-throated Blue Warbler,

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One of my favorite warbler species — a male Black-throated Blue Warbler,

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A very ratty looking moulting Eastern Towhee,

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Eastern Whip-poor-Will,

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September 11th: Swainson’s Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Veerys, Wilson’s Warblers, American Redstarts, Red-eyed Vireos, and American Robins were some of the species caught this morning. The best bird of the day was an immature male Eastern Towhee. Stu and Ed were on census, but about half an hour into the census Ed came running back to tell the rest of us at the banding station that they had found an Upland Sandpiper in a tree. It was really interesting to see the sandpiper just standing on a branch high up in a tree.

An Upland Sandpiper,

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September 14th: Banding was steady this morning with LPBO’s first Orange-crowned Warbler of the Fall season and lots of Swainson’s Thrushes. I was able to band a Wood Thrush, many Black-throated Blue Warblers, and American Redstarts. There were lots of American Redstarts in the woodlot around Old Cut and many of them were adult males instead of the usual females and immature males. In the late morning, someone who was birding around Old Cut found an Eastern Whip-poor Will roosting in a spruce tree, it was a great way to end my stay at Long Point!

Late in the afternoon of the 14th I left Long Point and got on a plane in Hamilton to fly back home to Alberta.

During my month stay at Long Point, I read the first 40 pages of Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part II which is essential to bird banding; there are copies of both volumes in all the LPBO banding labs and library. From my banding work and the book, I learned a lot this summer about skull ossification and molt patterns. I also learned just how much work is put in by volunteers, from entering data, and bleaching the walls of the house at the Tip to keep molt and spider droppings from wrecking the paint, to sweeping all the sand out of the house daily and installing a new refrigerator. Without all the hard work done by volunteers, the Long Point Bird Observatory wouldn’t run as smoothly as it does.

I had so much fun at Long Point again and learned so much. I hope to go back sometime soon!

The species I was able to add to my Life List at Long Point, August-September 2013:

Eastern Whip-poor Will, Upland Sandpiper, Philadelphia Vireo, Northern Parula, Wood Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Palm Warbler, Peregrine Falcon, Wilson’s Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Virginia Rail, and Magnolia Warbler.

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,