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.

I apologize for the late posting, but our power went out this morning and only recently came back on. Here’s a photo from earlier this week of Snow Geese and some Canada Geese across the road from our house,

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Nikon D610, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, 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

Anotherdayinparadise

A Day in The Life

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.

Almost all of the geese have left the area for the season except for these Snow Geese,IMG_9839

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Bird Boy

Birds in Your Backyard

The Cats and the Birds

Wolf Song Blog

Kathie’s Birds

JG Birds+

4forfeathers

Backyard Bird Blog

Alberta’s First Spring Goose Hunt

In January, the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) announced its first spring Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose hunt. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have had spring goose hunts since 1999.

The current Snow Goose population in Canada is about one million birds, which is about twice the number scientists believe the Arctic nesting grounds can support.

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The new hunt will attempt to deal with overpopulation that could devastate the arctic breeding grounds. The degradation of the breeding grounds would affect all wildlife, not just geese, that depend on that habitat. Environment Canada’s 2013 Bird Conservation Strategy for Bird Conservation Region 7 Prairie and Northern Region: Taiga Shield and Hudson Plains notes,

Ecosystems within BCR 7-PNR, particularly in the coastal regions, but more recently in the tundra areas of the Hudson Plains, are under high pressure from a large overabundance of Lesser Snow Geese and rapidly growing populations of Ross’s Geese. A special publication from the Arctic Goose Joint Venture (Leafloor et al. 2012) is a current and expansive review of the situation and conservation options for dealing with this issue. Lesser Snow Goose populations have increased at a remarkable rate, up to 7% per year from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s, due primarily to the agricultural food resources available throughout their migratory routes and on their wintering grounds (Abraham et al. 2005). The abundance of these herbivores on breeding areas in BCR 7-PNR is causing loss or degradation of habitat for a variety of other bird species, and may, over time, cause changes in bird communities in the affected habitats. For example, Savannah Sparrows and their grass/shrub habitat showed large declines, up to 77%, over a 25-year period from 1976 to 2001 in an area adjacent to coastal salt marshes in northern Manitoba (Rockwell et al. 2003). This is attributed to destructive foraging by snow geese causing changes in the properties of the soil, and erosion of the unvegetated soils resulting in potentially irreversible changes (Jefferies et al. 2006). Decreasing Snow and Ross’s Goose numbers will likely require large-scale, intensive management efforts since recent evidence suggests that increased bag limits and the special conservation season (spring hunt) are not curtailing population growth as much as expected (Leafloor et al. 2012).

The spring hunt season this year will run from March 15th to June 15th. The daily bag limit will be 50 geese total (Snow and/or Ross’s), but there will be no possession limit.

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Some Albertans are concerned that hunters might accidentally shoot swans instead of geese. Many hunters are very good at identifying geese from swans, so I don’t think this hunt will be much different from the annual fall hunt.

For reference, Snow Geese can be identified by black wing tips and a short neck. Swans and much larger and have entirely white wings and a long neck. This goose/swan ID comparison from the ESRD website,

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Snow Goose Chase 2013


Last year was my first time to attend the Tofield Snow Goose Chase, organized by the Edmonton Nature Club, and I had a wonderful time! Not too long after the Chase I had an email from Mr. Parsons, the ENC’s  Special Events Co-ordinator, who had invited me to the Chase in the first place, and who does so much of its organization. He had an idea for this year, to include a Young Naturalists’ Corner, and asked if I could help with the organization beforehand, and then working at the table. I thought it was a wonderful idea and started planning for the table last May.

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At this year’s Snow Goose Chase — this past Saturday, April 27th — there were some terrific displays at the Tofield Community Centre, including four live raptors from the Edmonton Valley Zoo; Alberta’s own John Acorn, the celebrated naturalist and entomologist whose enthusiasm on Saturday was infectious; a Bugs & Beetles wetland display; an incredible variety of touchable animal pelts from trapper Bill Abercrombie of Alberta Trapline Adventures; Royal Alberta Museum ornithology curator Jocelyn Hudon with the always fascinating mounted bird specimens (including a beautiful Scarlet Ibis); a table from the Beaverhill Bird Observatory; a display of various live and preserved reptiles and amphibians (including some of the preserved ones in water for the kids to touch), and a display of bird and animal carvings from the Boag Lake Carving Studio.

Considering it was our first year, the Young Naturalists’ Corner seemed to be very popular with all the kids and their families. In fact, there were nine buses of kids and their families, so it was almost overwhelming at times with so many people. Bob arranged for Andrea, a student, to help out, and our mothers were there as well, and also Petra Rowell, the executive director of Nature Alberta, with whom we shared the space.

We had some great door prizes to give away including two new children’s birding and nature books:  Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, March 2013) and The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, and illustrated by Rachel Riordan. Annette donated three autographed copies of Look Up!, which was an amazing gift for the Corner, and Ken sent along some promotional bookmarks for The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book — thank you Annette and Ken. Both titles were among the stars of the Young Naturalists’ Corner, with kids reading through the books and hoping to win them, and parents and grandparents writing down the titles and authors. Petra and Nature Alberta donated a number of things too, including several toy/plush Ord’s Kangaroo Rats!

We all answered questions from kids and their parents, about how to start your own local nature club for the summer, where to find nature in the city, joining Nature Alberta’s “Young Naturalist Club” program, for kids ages 5-13. They loved guessing what animal had shed the antlers (White-tail Deer) and holding them up on top of their heads. Lots of the kids asked, “What are these books for?” or “Where can we get them?” So we told them that the books, which you can find at the library or a bookstore, are great for learning more about the animals they would see, and experiences they would have, at the Chase.

Bob did a wonderful job organizing everything and also taking time to help me with the Young Naturalists’ Corner. Thank you again, Bob, for everything — especially for asking to me to be part of such a wonderful day. It’s an honor to be asked to join everyone who works so hard to put on such an amazing experience.

I saw two first-of-season species while my parents and I were driving around Tofield: a large flock of Sandhill Cranes and five Canvasbacks. I also saw one male Mountain Bluebird as we were approaching Tofield in the morning, also 10 Red-tailed Hawks, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls.

Below are some pictures my mother and I took last Saturday:

The Young Naturalists’ Corner’s banner, especially made for this year’s Chase,

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Here I am with John Acorn and Andrea who was helping me at the YNC,

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Mounted waterbirds from the ornithology collection at Royal Alberta Museum,

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Here is part of our table with all the prizes and pamphlets from Bird Studies Canada and Nature Alberta, and some of the books I’ve written about in the past few weeks,

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A deer skull and a pair of antlers (both from White-tail Deer) we brought from home for the table (sorry for the blurry photo, my mom didn’t have her reading glasses on at the time!),

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A beautiful carved Green-winged Teal from the Boag Lake Carving Studio,

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Kids admiring the carvings at the Boag Lake Carving display,

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The Cows, Fish, Cattledogs, and Kids display,

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An Alberta crawfish (Orconectes virilis) in the pond life display,

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A young Peregrine Falcon,

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Even though we see thousands of Snow Geese in the slough across the road from our house, what would be a Snow Goose Chase without going to see some Snow Geese around Tofield?! Because of our late Spring the geese were a little harder to find, but we saw some very large flocks and I got some very good views, thanks to my scope!

Some digiscoped photos of the geese,

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Wild Bird Wednesday: Snow Geese

The Snow Geese arrived in our area on Monday, and I was very excited to see them after a long winter! I saw about 300 yesterday so they are back in full force. For the first time, today, I’m linking up with Stewart for his Wild Bird Wednesday. So, be sure to read through all the other bloggers’ posts with their wild birds.

A flock of Snow Geese,

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My Big Sit Results

I had a great Big Sit on Sunday. I was able to count 29 species.

I would have been sitting at 6:30 am but I had my favorite radio show to listen to at 7:30, Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds. I started my official count at 8:40. The first bird I counted was a Canada Goose which was not surprising since the part of Alberta I live in seems to be a major flyway for the geese. I counted 2,024 Canada Geese, 2,075 Greater White-fronted Geese and 6,158 Snow Geese. I was seated in a pretty good spot for birdwatching, near a pretty large slough, grasslands and woods. My count was made up of mostly water fowl: Tundra Swans flying overhead, Mallards, Teals Shovelers and alone Bufflehead swimming on the slough.

It took me a while to catch a glimpse of the very scarce chickadees. I also had good luck with raptors: two Bald Eagles, two Northern Harriers and one Rough-legged Hawk which was a life bird. I waited until it was quite dark so I could wait for owls but none came. I finished my Big Sit after 12 hours at 8:40 pm.

I had a great Big Sit this year. I can’t wait to participate in it next year!

My circle site,

I used sticks to mark my circle,

The first bird to be counted,

I saw 80 Short-billed Dowitchers,

Thousands of Greater White-fronted Geese flew over me throughout the day,

A bad photo of a Rough-legged Hawk, life bird,

A Northern Harrier flew right past me twice through the day,