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 Red-winged Blackbird at the slough,


Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 100, 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


A Day in The Life

The Angling Birder

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.


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.


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.


Tree Swallow,


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,


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!


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


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,

IMG_0025 IMG_0026

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.


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,


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,


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.


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.


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.


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.

A male Red-winged Blackbird displaying from earlier this week,


More Feathers on Friday Posts:

From Sheila at Wolf Song Blog: Today’s Feathered Friend ~ Color Me a Rosy Red

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.

Because I’m away, interning at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario, here’s a picture I took last year, of a female Red-winged Blackbird hiding in the reeds,


Back from the YOW, Part 2

I didn’t think I would have to write three parts, but I will have to!

Aug. 8: Today was our last day at the Tip, and we were all very sad to leave.

There are thousands of gulls at the very tip and Ana thought, as a last tribute, we should run all the way to the Tip and scare all the gulls. It was a plan, and that’s what we did!

On the boat ride back, we stopped at a very large sandbar, about half way between the Tip and Old Cut, with many Ring-billed Gulls, Common Terns, and about a dozen Caspian Terns. There were also a good number of shorebirds — Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Killdeer, one Semipalmated Plover, and one Ruddy Turnstone.

We all made it back to Old Cut in one piece, except one oar which came back in two pieces.

At the very Tip,

Thousands of gulls and terns at the sandbar,

Ruddy Turnstone,

Aug. 9: Today was the first day the YOWs were officially able to band. The first passerine I banded was a Swainson’s Thrush! The birds we caught in the nets today were excellent, and we banded 43 birds of 21 species. The most exciting bird we caught in the mist nets was a Common Grackle because of its size. Birds American Robin-size and bigger do fly into the nets but they are big and strong enough to get out, so it’s very exciting to get a large bird that stayed in the net.

When banding, there are usually two people at work: the bander who bands, takes the measurements, weighs, ages, and sexes the bird; and the scribe, who writes down the species, banding code, band size, measurements, and reminds the bander if s/he has forgotten anything.

Common Grackle,

Banding my second bird, a Blackburnian Warbler,

In late morning, Jody Allair took us to one of his field stations, where he does his species at risk work. Jody led us on an hour-and-a-half walk. He showed us three very special nests that past YOWs had never seen: There were two Louisiana Waterthrush nests, Hooded Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher nests.

Hooded Warbler nest,

Acadian Flycatcher nest,

Louisiana Waterthrush nests,

While walking through the woods we heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and saw two Broad-winged Hawks. When we got back to the road we walked along it for a while and saw Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees, and a young Raccoon. In the afternoon we visited Bird Studies Canada headquarters and saw where Stu, Jody, and Liza work.

Aug. 10: Today was our Big Day! The weather wasn’t the best at the start, but we definitely made the most of the day! Jody was with us all morning and afternoon and drove us around. Without Jody, we probably would have had a very low total. We visited St. William’s Forest, Backus Woods, Townsend Sewage Lagoons, Bird Studies Canada, Long Point Provincial Park, and Big Creek National Wildlife area. We saw so many great birds but the best were Least Bitterns, Hooded Warblers, Great Egrets, White-rumped Sandpipers, and one Stilt Sandpiper! In total we saw 102 species, not the YOW record but we were all really happy with our total!

All the species we saw on our Big Day:

Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck/Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, King Rail, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, American Woodcock, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Alder/Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Marsh Wren, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

Least Bittern,

Aug. 11: More banding this morning, but no particularly exciting species. Stu showed those of us who don’t already have them how to set-up eBird accounts, and Katie entered all of the numbers from our Big Day into eBird.

In the afternoon, Mary Gartshore came to teach us how to make study skins. We each had a bird, killed from a window strike or that had been hit by a car to work on. Most of the YOWs had Baltimore Orioles, and I had a Red-winged Blackbird.

Warning, some of the photos below, taken during the skinning bee, are not for the faint-hearted!

Mary showing us how to remove the skull (yes, that is yellow cornmeal, which is used as an absorbent),

The body, and other parts of my bird,

My blackbird on a stick,

Stay tuned for part three! I hope to get it up as soon possible too.

Prairie Falcon Encounter

My mom and I were on our way home from town this afternoon, (we were getting the exhibit hall and grounds ready for the fair which starts on Tuesday), and she was driving while I was partially asleep.

Almost 20 feet from our driveway, my mother saw a raptor holding something in its talons and realized it wasn’t the usual Red-tailed Hawk. Her excited yell woke me up and when I looked, the bird was flying across the road in front of the truck and then landed on a fence post. When we arrived to the house I got my scope, new camera and my other camera and went outside.

With my scope I could see the bird really well, and identified it as a Prairie Falcon, which surprised me, eating a female Red-winged Blackbird. Prairie Falcons aren’t very common in Alberta and most of the recent reports on eBird are in Southern Alberta. I was very lucky to see one, and it’s always fun to add another lifer to your list if you don’t have to travel to far.

The live Red-winged Blackbird in the pics is probably the mate to the one killed.

All my photos are digiscoped,

Prairie Falcon and Red-winged Blackbird,