Monday, 4 March 2013

The End of Winter?

The Winter List is traditionally kept between December 1st and February 28th and records all the species seen between those dates in the designated area.   The Alberta Provincial list is usually about 120-150 species, with traditional winter residents such as Bohemian Waxwings, American Tree Sparrows, and of course Snowy Owls keeping company on the list with more rare winter hangers-on like the Northern Shoveler at Weed Lake and a vagrant Northern Mockingbird in Vulcan.
Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus, near Mossleigh, Alberta
What have I been up to over the last couple of months?  Not much blogging and only a little bit of birding with the Friends of Fish Creek winter birding course.  Nevertheless, as of the end of the winter listing period, I was up to fifty species for the year so far.  The big question today is: why does the list end on February 28th?  To illustrate my point, here are the conditions in front of our house yesterday (March 3rd)…
Snowy weather in Calgary
Even in these kind of harsh conditions, evidence of birds is everywhere.  Judging from the noise, the nicely sculpted tree pictured below was sheltering a dozen or more House Sparrows and a few Black-capped Chickadees in front of a neighbour's house.  Between the dense foliage and the layer of snow, I suspect they were cozier than I was! (I should probably mention that two of the birders over at Birds Calgary were actually out birding in this and turned up a dozen species)

Winter is clearly not yet done here in Alberta but signs of spring are all around.  On this past Saturday’s bird group outing we had Mallards and Common Goldeneye vigourously courting and copulating in the river, we saw our first starlings of the year, and several of the magpies we saw were carrying nesting material. 
A winter Black-billed Magpie, Pica hudsonia
I’ll be taking a break from the course for the spring session.  This change should leave a little more time for photography and blogging, as well as home life.  I’m also interested to see how early morning starts and smaller groups impact the birds I see, although I’ll certainly miss the group birding and learning experience.  Whatever birds I see, there’ll certainly be more time to share with you!
A highlight of the winter session - a digiscoped Barrow's Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica, at Carburn Park showing two of it's most obvious identification traits: a steeper peaked head with shorter bill than Common Goldeneye and the crescent shaped white patch in front of the eye. 

No comments:

Post a Comment