Friday, 30 December 2011

A Nice End to the Birding Year (and Reflections for the New One!)

We took a family trip to Drumheller to visit the dinosaurs at Royal Tyrrell Museum - never a bad destination with a 4 year old boy!  As we drove, we kept our eyes out for Snowy Owls as there have been several reports immediately east of Beiseker (click above for a map).  We were not disappointed and saw 7 in total, including possible "repeats" on the way back.
Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus, click to enlarge
same Snowy Owl in flight, ditto
It was a nice way to end off the year's birding and quite the year it has been.  If 2010 was the year I started organized birding then 2011 is the year that I started to somewhat have a clue what I was doing.  Consistently paying attention to birds is tremendously rewarding in several ways, the least of which is numbers, but as that's the easiest to put into a blog here they are: my Alberta list had exactly doubled from 85 to 170, starting with Blue Jay on New Year's Day in Fish Creek Park and ending with Northern Goshawk and Hoary Redpoll on the Christmas Bird Count.

My life list has grown even more, thanks to trips to Ontario and Vancouver Island bringing in birds like Caspian Tern, Bewick's Wren and Red-throated Loon.  On my first West Coast trip of the year I managed arguably my greatest ornithological feat thus far: getting Grade 9 students interested in birding. Apparently all it takes is scope-filling views of Bald Eagles mating!

I'll wrap up this little bit of self-indulgence with some goals for 2012:

  1. Improve my birding by ear,
  2. 200 birds for the year (or approximately matching 2011's 202 species),
  3. Review a book a month for this blog, and,
  4. Find the following ten species in Alberta:

  • Eurasian Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, and White-winged Scoter - the four more common Alberta duck species I haven't seen in the province (or anywhere in the case of the wigeon and the scoter)
  • Golden Eagle - which will mean at long last taking a trip to the Mt. Lorette count next fall
  • Peregrine Falcon - they nest ten minutes from my house every year so how hard can it be
  • Pileated Woodpecker - seen in Ontario before I was a birder, becoming something of a nemesis bird for me
  • Mountain Chickadee - given the amount of time we spend in the mountains you would think this would have made an appearance by now and it's my only remaining western chickadee
  • Canada Warbler - I just think they're pretty
  • Chestnut-collared Longspur (or any other variety of Longspur would be nice) - a classic prairie bird
Well that's it for 2011 - we'll see in 365 days how wildly optimistic that little list is!

Happy New Year!


  1. On re-reading this post I realized that there is still one more Western Canadian chickadee to be found. However, as I have no trips to the northern Yukon planned there's probably no Gray-headed Chickadee in my near future!

  2. For many years we had a Pileated woodpecker as a semi-regular visitor at our lake lot on Pine Lake. We also saw one (might have been the same one)south of the lake on 2 occasions. He loved our giant dead poplar tree and would spend 15 or 20 minutes on it looking for bugs. We didn't see him the last few years we were there, hopefully he changed his range. He is the only one I have ever seen. Tom.