The Twelve Days of birding (#2)


Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Photo courtesy Carol Wagg


On the Second Day of Christmas, my Gramma gave to me:

2 Feeders full of birds!

In June after my Kindergarten year, we visited my Grandparents in Ontario.¬† At home, we’re not allowed to have feeders up from April to October as they attract bears; at Gramma’s it’s OK.

She had a seed feeder and a nectar feeder up just outside the window by the breakfast table. Soon I started keeping a list of all the birds I saw there.  After this trip, I was hooked on birds!

Species seen at Gramma’s feeders, and on that trip in Ontario:

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Mourning Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • American Robin
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • American Crow
  • Mallard
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Canada Goose
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black Duck
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • House Wren
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • Northern Flicker
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Ring-billed Gull

The Twelve Days of Birding

Inspired by the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, I’m going to post one thing birding has brought me per day for each of the 12 days.

Golden Eagle

 On the First Day of Christmas, my teachers gave to me:

12 birds to go out and see!

In May of my Kindergarten year, two teachers gave us a sheet of 12 birds to go out and spot.  Some were easy РBlack-capped Chickadee, Common Raven Рand some a bit harder to find РGreat-horned Owl, American Dipper.

I didn’t find all 12, but I did find 17 species in total – and so began my love of birds.

Thanks to Madame Lepage and Madame Sara for starting this!

Here’s the list of species that I saw in that challenge:

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Canada Goose
  • American Robin
  • Golden Eagle
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Osprey
  • Common Raven
  • Mallard
  • Blue Jay
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Pine Siskin
  • Common Merganser
  • Western Grebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Wilson’s Warbler

Great free Downloads


Here are a couple of great, free downloads to help you ID a few more birds during the migration season: On warblers  again on warblers.
On backyard/feeder birds and raptors.

Thanks to the crossley ID guides for giving these away, and to my dad for informing me about them.


What happened on the Baillie Birdathon?


It dumped rain and a rather harsh wind on us all of the first afternoon and evening! But was I put off? No (but my dad suggested postponing it!)

On Friday we went to Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Weed Lake and as many Marshes and Sloughs as we could get to.  On Saturday we went to Lac Des Arc and the Beaver dams and a special little marsh near my house where we picked up an unusual bird in the form of a Sora.

Now, if you’re queasy or your favourite bird is the Rock Pigeon, you might want to skip ahead a paragraph… because before we actually started counting we checked a known Peregrine Falcon nesting site and saw a bird eating a pigeon alive – but not, however a Falcon as¬† you may think; a Common Raven was sitting on a still-flapping Rock Pigeon!

Raven eating pigeon
This raven didn’t wait for the pigeon to die before eating

Even with the rain, we saw a total of 50 species that first night!  My highlights would be: a Willet, the large number of Red-necked Phalaropes and four Wood Ducks. One disappointment would be the small number of shore birds we saw.

American Avocet
Taken through the rain – American Avocet
Ethan Baillie Birdwatching
me on the Baillie Birdathon

The BowKan Bird count was not quite as successful as last year, but we did see some interesting birds including Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers, an Osprey and 6 kinds of Swallows.

Click Baillie Birdathon 2013 Species List for a full list of the birds we saw.

My fundraising goal was $300, but with so many kind and generous people around I’ve overshot and raised at least $550, with donations still unfinished. But don’t think it’s too late to donate! There’s still time if you want to.

My Baillie Birdathon

In my earlier post, I mentioned the Baillie Birdathon in which I am trying to achieve two main things: reaching at least $300 in my fundraising and also, when I actually do the Birdathon, seeing 100 or more species.
The challenge is to identify as many bird species as possible within a 24-hour period, during the month of May.
I chose May 25th and 26th because the 26th is the day of the BowKan Bird Count. Last year, on that count, I saw 73 different species! I have chosen from 4:00 p.m. on the Friday to 4:00 p.m. on the Saturday so I have time on the 25th to visit some different habitats. This also means that I have time to go to the count potluck on the Saturday evening.

On the Saturday we will be visiting the Exshaw/Dead-Mans-Flats area but on Friday I plan to tackle the Calgary/Red Deer Habitats (e.g. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary). The main habitats will be: Mountains, Rivers, Lakes and Prairies.
I am expecting to see: Yellow-rumped Warblers, Tree Swallows, Bald Eagles and Spotted Sandpipers to name a few.
If I get lucky, I may see an American Avocet and maybe even a Peregrine Falcon!

Check in after the 26th to see how it went!

Tofield Snow Goose Chase

Interview with Ethan

N.  Ethan, where did we go at the weekend (April 27/28)?

E. To Tofield, for the Snow Goose Chase – a weekend with organised bus tours for kids from Edmonton, and displays at the Community Hall in Tofield.¬† It’s held now because of the Spring Migration for Snow Geese, and other birds.

N. Oh, where do Snow Geese spend their winter?Snow Geese

E. They winter in regions on both American coasts as well as in some inland areas, frequenting open habitats like marshes, grasslands, marine inlets, freshwater ponds, and agricultural fields.

N. And where are they flying back to?

E.  Canadian and Northern Alaskan tundra in the vicinity of the coast, from the high arctic to the subarctic.

N. How many Snow Geese might you expect to see at a time?

E. Well, you can see 10,000 or more birds in a single flock!

N. How do you know they’re Snow Geese?

E. Their distinguishing features are not-too-big white geese, with black wing tips.¬† A tiny white goose with black wingtips, the Ross’s Goose is like a miniature version of the Snow Goose.

N. Was there anyone at the event that you were hoping to meet?

E. Yes – Charlotte Wasylik.¬† She’s a teenage birder who was there with the Young Naturalists, at a table with information for kids and their families.¬† She has her own birding blog and started the Alberta Birds Facebook page.

N. And what else did you see at the Community Hall that was interesting?DA3DF14EB9E91261C16011065F9D6629DCE258A7_large

E. They had some captive birds on display, including an immature Peregrine Falcon, and a Spectacled Owl – amongst others.

N. Did we do anything else?

E. We went out looking for Snow Geese ourselves, of course!¬† And any other kinds of birds.¬† We were hoping to see Ross’s Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Eared Grebe and others.¬† We went out to Beaverhill Lake – where the trails were flooded out, which wasn’t very helpful.¬† Even so, we saw some great birds there – including flocks of unidentifiable geese (flying too high in grey skies), American Coot, a couple of Horned Grebes, a male Northern Harrier and a flock of Sandhill Cranes, which I’d never seen before – a lifetime first.

N. Excellent, that’s exciting.

E. Yes, it is!

N. But I noticed that you didn’t mention Snow Geese…

E. We did not see any while we were looking on the Snow Goose Chase.  In fact, it turned out to be a Wild Goose Chase!

N. Groan!  That must have been disappointing.

E. Sort of.  We still had a long drive home, though.  And there was no way I was snoozing in the car when there was still daylight; I could look for birds still.

N. Did you see any? Starlings, maybe?

E. Yes, we saw a lot!¬† Starlings included, but other things too: Tundra Swans, Canvasback, Red-necked Grebes, and at one pond north of Camrose… 2000 Snow Geese!¬† Having finished the Snow Goose Chase without seeing any, wasn’t that ironic?¬† We also saw Greater White-fronted Geese on the same pond.

N. So would you say it was a successful day for you?

E. Yes – and I’d definitely recommend other people check it out next year!

Please sponsor me for the Baillie Birdathon!

Baillie BirdathonI am participating in the Baillie Birdathon, the oldest sponsored bird count in North America, raising money for bird research and conservation. I hope that this Birdathon will bring out many exciting results and I get to see some active nests. Please help me reach my fundraising goal.

If you are willing to support my fundraising, you may either donate a flat amount or you may specify an amount for each new species seen.

As of today, I have $550 (offline donations  included). My goal WAS $300.

Thank you.