Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Bird Count - Calgary

Plans for a quiet Christmas around town enable me to participate in three Christmas Bird Counts this year.  The first of these was last weekend's Calgary count where I counted with four other birders in South Glenmore Park and the Weaselhead Natural Area.  This area has been referred to as "the long walk" by some as it's a relatively remote area for an urban count, has historically low species diversity and is therefore assigned to birders willing to spend six or seven hours wandering the woods in winter weather.  Nevertheless, I've had fun on this count the last couple of years and looked forward to our day out.  Here are a few shots of some of the twenty-one species we encountered.

Although I've seen a lot of Golden-crowned Kinglets, Regulus satrapa, I've not had much luck photographing them.  That's perhaps not surprising as they are Alberta's tiniest songbirds, barely bigger than our smallest hummingbirds, and weighing in at just six grams - less than a loonie!  Their flight reminds me of hummingbirds too as they flit around the shadowy branches of spruce trees looking for food and somehow eking out a living at thirty below.  This particular bird finally sat still in the sun long enough for me to get a decent shot.

Believe it or not, this photo is also an improvement on previous work.  Of course that's easy when I have never managed to photograph Brown CreeperCerthia americana, in Alberta!

Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus, started the year as a bit of nemesis for me - never seen in Alberta or anywhere since I started birding in earnest a few years ago.  I finally found one in the spring and then got fantastic looks a few weeks ago.  Two of the members of our group, who were newer birders, had been having similar issues so it was nice to relive my experience through them as we got great looks and a startlingly close flypast from this female.

I don't have much to say about this photo except that it's a Common Redpoll, it's very pretty, we saw a hundred and thirty others just like it, and no, we didn't see any Hoary Redpolls.  But that's fine because these birds are perfectly lovely with their streaks intact.

Boreal ChickadeesPoecile hudsonicus, are a target species for this count area and we found a half dozen of them hanging out with various flocks of Black-capped Chickadees.  They are distinguishable by their brown caps, reddish-brown flanks and different calls but this uncharacteristically bold individual made life easier by feeding a few feet away while we ate lunch.

At the end of the day, we had another great count experience and I look forward to the next one - Sheep River/Turner Valley on December 29th.  There's a full list of counts on the Birds Calgary website and lots of time to get involved.  Hope to see you out there!

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