Category Archives: Bird of the Week

Canada’s National Bird: The Grey Jay!

It may or may not be news to you, but for the past while, Canada has been searching for a national bird. Starting with forty contestants, then narrowing down to 5, it has been an intense period of voting on exactly which species to choose.

The decision to have a national bird is (another) way of celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, which is fast approaching. In the end, the five finalists were voted on by the public, but the winner was decided by a committee with members from the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, second in the voting

At the end of the voting period, the Common Loon had the most votes, followed by the Snowy Owl, and then the Grey Jay. The other two contestants were the Canada Goose, and the Black-capped Chickadee.

Unfortunately for the owl, loon and chickadee, they had all been claimed already as provincial birds. The Snowy Owl in Quebec, the Common Loon in Ontario, and the Black-capped Chickadee in New Brunswick. This, according to the deciding committee, ruled them out.

Common Loons

Common Loons

That left the Canada Goose and the Grey Jay.  The Jay has a lot going for it in that battle.
The Canada Goose is despised in many places, by many people. It is considered a pest; it eats crops, spoils public parks, and, to top that off, has a renowned bad temper. Is this the bird that Canadians want representing them? Frankly, it goes against the current public view of us as a kind, gentle group of people who couldn’t be temperamental if we tried. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but it conveys the general idea.

Who, me? Temperamental?

Who, me? Temperamental?

The Grey Jay, on the other hand, is a hardy little songbird, braving the north cold, and storing and remembering vast numbers of caches. It comes across as cute, intelligent and yet still tough, perching on your hand to take a seed while its mate devours a vole, or insect. Oh, and it was called the Canada Jay for over two hundred years.

Grey Jay

Grey Jay

Although I personally would have chosen the Pine Grosbeak, I believe that the Grey Jay, or Whiskey Jack, is the best choice out of the five contestants. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Black-throated Blue Warbler Update

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

The rare warbler I saw on Friday has been hanging around our house recently. It is a
Black-throated Blue Warbler and is really a south-eastern species, having between 15 and 25 official reports in Alberta. A few people have been over to see him, but all these photos are mine.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Here, it’s bending it’s wing over its back to get past a close tree branch as it flies.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

The Rarest of the Rare

I’m sitting here in shock. Looking through the photos, checking Sibley’s, looking at the photos.  There’s no doubt that I saw what I immediately identified. I just still can’t believe that it’s over here.

Back it up. I had just been out for a walk along the best birding areas in Canmore, but I hadn’t seen much. Instead of turning home with a book full of warblers and thrushes, I had a few Mallards and an American Crow.  I turned into my yard and saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and then another, and a third. Kinglets are tiny and bounce around a lot, and it was while I was watching them that something else flew into the large bush.

I looked over, expecting to see a Dark-eyed Junco, or a White-crowned Sparrow, and instead see a stunning, male warbler. And not just any warbler. A Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Of course, as I maneuvered around the cars and trees (yes, they were that close together, this is Canmore) I was thinking about this eastern species. Suddenly I remembered. If you see a rare bird, especially one like this, you take a photo to confirm it.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

It naturally flew away very soon after that thought and I was left with forgetfulness to blame for my few snatched photos as it hopped around on the other side of the bush.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

So, I’m sorry that I can’t give you better shots, but I will try again today, if I can find it.
A Black-throated Blue Warbler is quite the find in Alberta, never mind in this little mountain town. And, of course, in my own yard.

Heli-Hiking

I am sorry to say that the West Coast posts will come out later than expected. My excuse is that I have been Heli-Hiking for the past week. For those of you who don’t know what Heli-Hiking is, it is a form of mountain hiking where you are transported by a helicopter to hard to reach places, where you procced to hike. This came out of the blue last Monday, and we spent a frantic night packing before a 6:00 start on Tuesday. My dad works for Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) and we got a special place amongst the guests.

The Helicopter

The Helicopter

We stayed at the Bugaboo Lodge, which was super nice. This is the best shot I could get of it from the helicopter.

The Bugaboos

The Bugaboos

The birding wasn’t great, but I managed a lifer in Rock Ptarmigan, though I only heard them. Ptarmigan are very difficult to see. There were a family of Willow Ptarmigan that a few people saw but no matter how many times I went out to find them, I missed them.

Photos courtesy of Fiona Laird

Photos courtesy of Fiona Laird

Photos courtesy of Fiona Laird

Photos courtesy of Fiona Laird

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did, however see a Wolverine. Flitting glance though it was, I saw enough to confirm the identification before it cleared a hill and disappeared. Wolverines are very secretive creatures, and I did not get a photo.

That same day, I saw a family of Harlequin Ducks, some Spotted Sandpipers and a group of American Pipits.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

I also got a good shot of the famous Bugaboo Spire.

The Bugaboos Spire

The Bugaboo Spire

So that is my excuse, please forgive me for getting out the West Coast posts late. 🙂

Drive to Drumheller and Back Again

We were going out to Drumheller for the Saturday. I knew what this meant. No more than fifteen minutes out of our way was Langdon Corner Slough. I had been preparing all week – for what? For the first time ever, an Arctic Tern was nesting in Alberta, and we were going to see it.

I know Langdon Corner Slough pretty well, and I knew that the tern was nesting on an island a good distance out, too far for our cameras too do much good. That was why I had my Uncle’s gleaming fixed 400 ml. lens beside me with two extenders. The extenders would slow down the shutter speed by a stop or two depending on which one we used, but it would give us the extra distance I needed to get a half-decent shot.

Sadly, the ARTE is not the one flying, but second from the left sitting.

Sadly, the ARTE is not the one flying, but second from the left sitting.

I found it almost immediatly, but could not get a good photo because of the distance and heavy camera. Through my scope, we found also the two hybrid Common/Arctic immatures, but they were hidden by the long grass. Here is a Common feeding its baby (not a hybrid).

Common Tern feeding young

Common Tern feeding young

The terns were active quite a bit, and the one time that the Arctic flew and I caught it, it was out of focus. Here is the shot. The Arctic is in the bottom left corner.Flying TernsIn one corner of the Slough, we saw a large number of Marbled Godwit. I haven’t really looked for one, so if anyone sees a Hudsonian in there, please let me know.

Godwits

Godwits

That was it for Langdon, but there will always be Upland Sandpipers on the way out East.

Going, Going...

Going, Going…

False Alarm!

False Alarm!

I also got a nice photo of the all too common White-crowned Sparrow. If your ebird checklist doesn’t have one here, you’re cheating.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

And that’s it! I will post again soon.

Best Photos of The First Half of The Year

This post is for the photos, so I’ll keep the words short. All of the photos after a certain header are from that place/event, and they are the best that I took there. Enjoy!

CRANBROOK

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Mountain Goat

Mountain Goat

LONG-EARED OWLSLong-eared Owl Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owlets Long-eared Owlets

JUNE FOURTH BIG MORNINGIMG_6369-3

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

THE BOWKAN BIRDCOUNT

Little Blue Butterfly

Little Blue Butterfly

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

MY GREAT CANADIAN BIRDATHON

Black Bear

Black Bear

Black Bear

Black Bear

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

BIRDING AROUND THE VALLEY

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

EAGLE-WATCHING

Lynx

Lynx

Lynx

Lynx

ENGLAND

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Brambling & Chaffinch

Brambling & Chaffinch

Turnstone

Turnstone

Pink-footed Goose; Brent Goose

Pink-footed Goose; Brent Goose