This week’s Feathers on Friday is a female Western Tanager, part of a twenty-five strong flock found in South Canmore. Migration is truly upon us!
A surprisingly low number of people came out for the third Canmore Spring Bird Walk, with only seven participants compared to 25 last time. The seven, however were treated to a bird not reported in Banff county for over fourty years, and only three times before that – a first spring Bullock’s Oriole! We started as usual at 7:30, but one end of the Boardwalk was closed, so we walked around to behind the Raman bar to see the back of the creek. There we picked up some Yellow Warblers, a Northern Flicker and European Starlings at nests, and Wilson’s Snipe winnowing.
We then worked our way around to the area where there stands a telephone pole, poorly disguised as a tree. My Dad had just mentioned that we rarely, if ever see birds in this “tree,” when I spotted a bird in it. Training my binoculars upon it, I was slightly to slow to catch it, as it flew across the field. We relocated it, however, and it proved to be a Bullock’s Oriole. Keeping us at a distance, it winged it’s way across the tracks and perched in a faraway tree. My photo proves the bird, but not much more than that!
High water levels had pushed a Sora into view, but it still did a magnificent job of not being seen properly. Soras can pick their way through the marsh without moving a single blade of grass more than a millimeter. We also saw small numbers of Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows, and heard Policeman’s Creek’s first ever Willow Flycatcher.
Also, a quick update on the Boardwalk – the eBird hotspot now has 125 species, of which I have seen almost 120. Thanks for coming out last Sunday, and I hope you’ll all be here for the final walk of this spring, on June 18th at 7:30. We’ll still meet at the Big Head. Let me know if you think I should run some walks this fall in the comments, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next time!
A few photos for this Feathers on Friday. Sharp-tailed Grouse from the lek! They were very tolerant of the blind, coming within ten feet of us, so though the day was overcast, I managed to extract some nice photos. The males would hold their wings out, turn in a circle and stamp their feet very quickly while popping their purple air sacs.
I’d seen Sharp-tailed Grouse once before, but that was distant, and of course, the males weren’t displaying, so this was quite an experiance. We had to be settled in the blind an hour beforee sunrise, which meant a 3:30 start from our hotel (it would have been 1:00 AM from home).
The females were in short supply, and were constantly being chased around by hopeful males.
All in all, a brilliant way to spend Mothers Day!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Here, it’s bending it’s wing over its back to get past a close tree branch as it flies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We stayed at the Bugaboo Lodge, which was super nice. This is the best shot I could get of it from the helicopter.
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.
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.
I also got a good shot of the famous Bugaboo Spire.
So that is my excuse, please forgive me for getting out the West Coast posts late. 🙂