As I mentioned in my last post (Springing into Spring), the Great Canadian Birdathon is happening again this year, and it is a special one for me, as it will be my fifth time participating. Those of you who have been with me the whole time will remember that some of my first ever posts involved the 2013 Birdathon, back when it was called the Baillie Birdathon.
I have included links to all of the previous Birdathon posts at the bottom of this one.
The new shirt design
The Birdathon has taken me many places and given my many exiting experiences. I am trying a new approach this year, which is to captain a team. This team will include Canadian Birder, and hopefully we will see some new birds – perhaps even that Short-eared Owl that has been evading me for so long.
James L. Baillie was an Assistant Curator in the Department of Ornithology at the Royal Ontario Museum for roughly half a century, and both the Baillie Birdathon and the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund were set up in his honor. The birdathon’s name was changed in 2015, but the memory continues in the memorial fund, which receives part of the funds raised every year from the Birdathon.
Thank you everyone who has donated already, and if you haven’t, consider joining the cool crowd by following this link: Birdathon, and donating to keep our backyard beauties in fine feather!
Spring has finally started to slouch back in to Alberta. Swans, ducks and geese, shorebirds and sparrows are all starting to arrive from down south. And what is spring without a good snow-storm?The Eagle watch is running once more, (see posts here and here about my experiences with that in previous years) and the Great Canadian Birdathon has started (previous posts: 20132014, 2015, 2016, 2016 #2). This is the first year that I will be doing my birdathon in a team, and I will be joined by Canadian Birder.
In terms of bird species arriving, it is just starting, but some good birds are coming through already. A first ever Killdeer on my local creek, as well as Robins, Song Sparrows and a Varied Thrush.
American Robin and Killdeer
Reports have been streaming across the province of Pintail, American and Eurasian Wigeon, Scaup, Geese and Gulls. A Wood Duck has arrived already, and I saw only the third Trumpeter Swan in the Calgary area this year, then followed it up a week later with five more.
Green-winged Teal and Ring-billed Gull
Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers are drumming and displaying nuthatches litter the woods. American Crow numbers are growing, and the snow is slowly melting as I type.
I’ll post more photos soon, as the light increases and the birds grow in numbers. There are lots of events coming up, so I’ll be really busy, but I’ll do my best to get some posts out.
This is the second post in my series of two posts about my Great Canadian Birdathon. In my last post, I mentioned the abundance of waterbirds that we saw. This post is all about the passerines. Find the first post here. To find out more about the Birdathon, listen to my radio interview here:
I woke up early on the Saturday, and toured the local hotspot near my house. Surprisingly, there was not too much new there, but it was still an enjoyable walk.
At 7:30, we stopped by at an Osprey nest to pick them up, and found not only the pair, but a Pileated Woodpecker in addition.
We found ourselves racing against the clock to get to the Banff Birdwalk in time. Screeching to a halt, we jumped out just in time to depart on the walk. The organiser, whose birding by ear is brilliant, was unfortunately not there, so the walk was perhaps slightly slower than we would have liked. The ponds were dried up, and the morning was cold and wet, but the birds were active. By nine, we had seen a few new species including a Western-wood Pewee displaying for us.
Western Wood Pewee
At 9:30 I was twitching, and by ten I gave up. “We have to leave the group. We’re not getting anything new, and by my count we need four species still to break 100.” My Dad agreed, and we slipped away from the group and continued, going at a rather faster pace towards a better birding place. On the way we found a Boreal Chickadee.
As we turned a corner, we ran into an off-shoot of the group that had had the same idea as us. “Did you see the Wilson’s Warblers?” they ask. “No.” A Wilson’s would be a new one for the day. Before we had the chance to find one, a thrush flew up onto a branch above us. Northern Waterthrush! And then the Wilson’s called. “That’s it” I crowed, “100 species!” How wrong I would turn out to be.
Nearing the very end of the count, first I, then my Dad ventured into the swampy undergrowth at the side of the marsh, pursuing what would turn out to be a Le Conte’s Sparrow. Out of nowhere, the sharp tic-tic-tic of avian feet walking along thick branch caught our attention. Simultaneously, we swung around just in time to see a Virginia Rail disappear into the bushes. This rarely seen bird is heard on most Christmas Bird Counts here, but to see it is pretty good going. Too bad we didn’t get a photo.
I glanced at my watch. Time was up. By my count, we had broken 100 species by exactly one. Boy was I wrong. In retrospect, going through photos and adding all the lists together, the count was 1 short of my biggest big day ever. We got 120 species. See the full list here: 2016 Great Canadian Birdathon Species List
Oh, and on the way home I got some decent photos of a Black Bear, so I thought that I would share them.
There is still plenty of time to donate! Please help me make this Birdathon even greater by supporting me here! Thank you very much to those who have done so already, your donation is greatly appreciated!
I had 46 species before the Birdathon had even started. An owl chick, a mating pair of hawks and a Vesper Sparrow were all things that I was not to be graced with during the count. But I would never have guessed what I would see during my fourth birdathon.
Great Horned Owl
As per usual, I spread my Great Canadian Birdathon over two days, starting at 11:08 at Frank Lake on Friday, May 20th and ending at the same time on the 21st at the Cave and Basin (Banff).
Frank Lake… possibly the best birding lake in Alberta. The fifty odd species that I saw there ranged from Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson’s Phalarope to Western Meadowlark and four types of swallow. We only went to the North West access point, where the blind is, but there are two excellent places that only take a minute or two to walk to.
We bombed at Blackie, where there are often two species of dove at the grainery, but we found nothing new but a Downy Woodpecker.
Everyone knows that the back roads are rich in birdlife, and only a little slower than the big roads. On 306 Ave east, we found seven new bird species. Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs made up the contingent of shorebirds, while hawks and harriers roamed the fields.
At Langdon Corner Slough, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher and Greater Scaup were amongst the newcomers. However, what we watched the most was the antics of a Foster’s Tern divebombing a Cananda Goose, trying to drive it away from its nest. This event, unfortunatly was too far away for any usable photos with my lense, so here is a photo of a different Forster’s.
It was a day for Swallows, as we found many in all places, but especially at Inverlake Road where over 600 of the birds were flying. In 1000 or so other birds, though we were not sure at the time, we have now confirmed a lifer there in the form of Semi-palmated Plover!
Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Least Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover might be in there too.
McElroy Slough was deserted because of its exposure to the howling wind. If I were a duck, I wouldn’t want to be out there.
We were worried for a time at Chestemere, for it appeared that the Purple Martins would not show until single bird fluttered over our car as we were leaving.
Uh Oh. 5:00 and we didn’t have a single Ring-billed Gull. Time to head for Glenmore Reservoir. Amongst the 500 Franklin’s Gulls we found three Great-Blue Herons, a Solitairy Sandpiper and, yes, four young Ring-billed Gulls.
We were not at Glenmore for Glenmore, though. We were there for the Weaselhead Natural Area right beside the reservoir. If you glance back through the post, you’ll see that it was mostly wetland that we visited, so the passerine numbers were rather low. An hour at the Weaselhead proved invaluable.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Female)
And (supposedly) to end the day off, we headed to Horse Creek Road Marshes to try for Yellow Rail, Nelson’s Sparrow and Le Conte’s Sparrow. By a quarter to nine, it didn’t look like we would find any of them. But just as we were pulling out of the pull-out, I heard a buzzy “T-shhhhhhhh-t” as a Le Conte’s Sparrow sounded. And we drove home.
Or, I thought that we were driving home. My Dad had other ideas.”Don’t laugh, it might work” he says as we turn into Ghost Lake where there is often a Calliope Hummingbird. It’s 9:30 at night, and dumping a gallon of rain per foot per second. I laugh, but my tune changes when I spot a Rufous hovering around some bushes.
But that’s not all. As we watch the hummer, something sings out from behind us. Not a song I’ve heard in (exactly) a year. It’s a warbler, and not the most regular, though it does not show up as a rarity in eBird. Chestnut-sided Warbler, to be presise. Try as we did, we could not see it, but the song is exactly right.
The Great Canadian Birdathon is a fundraiser to help endangered species, and to keep common birds common. My webpage is here. It’s that simple! There is no designated amount to donate, so you can give anywhere from $1 to $10,000.
For more information, see here and here. To donate, go to my webpage here. Thank you for your important support!
The Great Canadian Birdathon is coming to an end but there is still time to donate. Up to date, I have raised 894 Canadian dollars. It will not say this on my Birdathon page yet because
$141 is in offline donations. Thank you to all my supporters for contributing to help make this an amazing Birdathon!
If you haven’t yet, please help me break a record of one thousand dollars by clicking here.
Thank you all for supporting my Great Canadian Birdathon!