Monday, December 29, 2008

Backyard Woodpeckers

Here is a male Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker that has been visiting the backyard every day for the past week, for a drink at the heated birdbath :

This male Hairy Woodpecker is now a regular visitor. The unsalted Peanut Butter is still proving to be a big hit :

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Birding

On Christmas Eve, seeing as it wasn't quite as cold as I was used to, I thought I'd walk around my neighborhood and see what I could find.
My biggest surprise was to find a Red-tailed Hawk that flew over the city, heading towards the general direction of the river.
This was a dark-phased bird that looked very similar to the one I saw last December at Holiday Park.
Maybe this will become a tradition and I will see these every December ! :-)

Here are my other findings for the day :

White-breasted Nuthatch - This is not a common bird in our area of town , so I was pleased to see this bird at a front yard feeder fairly close to home.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee

White-winged Crossbill

Hairy Woodpecker - another fairly uncommon bird in our local vicinity.

Downy Woodpecker - 1 male

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) - 3

House Finch - 2 flocks of about 10-15 birds.

Common Raven - 1

House Sparrow - 10-20 in almost every alley I looked.

Here are some photos :

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-winged Crossbill

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas !

Here's a male House Finch I photographed today on an enjoyable walk around my neighborhood. I had some other nice sightings that I will put up over the next few days.
I'd like to thank all my blog visitors & friends for all their kind comments and emails during 2008.

I look forward to sharing more photos & stories with you all in 2009.

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year !

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yet another White-winged Crossbill

And to think I didn't have a single photo of this species last year in my files.
This seems to be the year for them. At least around our birding area anyway.
I'm surprised I haven't seen any of their bigger cousins the Red Crossbill yet.
This male WW CR ( the only one we saw all day ) was taken on the Clarke's Crossing Bird Count :

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Clarke's Crossing Bird Count

Today was another cold one, and this time it was the Clarke's Crossing CBC (Christmas bird count).
There were a few teams in designated areas, and our team, despite the nasty weather and blowing snow, managed to get the following 13 species :

Great Horned Owl
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
House Sparrow
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Common Redpoll
European Starling
Brown Creeper
White-winged Crossbill
Rock Pigeon

Here are some photos I managed before my fingers froze up !

Common Redpoll

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-billed Magpie

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Bird Counts

Well, its that time of year again. It looks like I have another 5 bird counts on my agenda this year, and 2 more in January.
This weekend was absolutely freezing, with temperatures not getting much higher than minus 29 degrees celsius and with the wind-chill it was almost minus 50.
Still, even that didn't stop myself and a hardy ( or is that crazy ? )group of local birders who all took part on counts at the Qu'Appelle Dam/ Elbow region.
The following day, another 4 of us braved the weather again for Gardiner Dam and the surrounding areas.
The total number of species for the Elbow count was 34 and we found 32 for Gardiner which under those conditions, I think is pretty darn respectable !

Some highlights for both were :

Glaucous Gull
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
Northern Shrike
Pine Siskin
Cedar Waxwing
White-winged Crossbill
Pine Grosbeak
Prairie Falcon
Snowy Owl
Great Horned Owl
Common Redpoll
Horned Lark
Gray Partridge
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Eurasian Collared Dove
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagle

Here is one of 15 American Robins that has not decided to migrate this year. There was also another small flock at Douglas Provincial Park on the Elbow Count. This male was at Coldwell Park yesterday :

And a male White-winged Crossbill from the town of Elbow :

Here is a Nuttal's Cottontail Rabbit , taken at an abandoned farmstead near Elbow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another White-winged Crossbill

Here is another male White-winged Crossbill from President Murray Park :

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Straggling Chipping Sparrow

Here is the extremely late, winter plumage Chipping Sparrow that we found at the Forsburg Farm near Gardiner Dam last week.
Usually, Chippers depart our area by late September !
I wonder if it'll still be hanging around in time for the bird count next week...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

House Finch

Here is a male House Finch that was in a back alley close to President Murray Park yesterday :

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

White-winged Crossbills at President Murray Park

Today, I foolishly braved minus 19 degree conditions to see what was hanging around President Murray Park and some nearby back alleys.
I hoped to find the Varied Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper, but none of those made an appearance during the 2 hours I was there.
I did however get a fleeting glimpse of a female Pine Grosbeak ( I still think this is the same bird I found awhile back).
I also had some nice binocular views of feeding White-winged Crossbills, intent on eating pine seeds.
Here is a full list of what I found plus a couple of photos :

House Finch - 15+
White-winged Crossbill - 20+
Pine Grosbeak - 1
Blue Jay - 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 5
Black-capped Chickadee - 6
Black-billed Magpie - 2
Merlin - 1

White-winged Crossbill - Once again, these proved extremely hard to photograph, seeing as they were at the very tips of the spruce trees for the most part :

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Here is a Sharp-tailed Grouse that we found in Danielson Provincial Park last Saturday.
I've yet to see a Partridge in a pear tree, so this will have to do for now :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Northern Mockingbird

Yesterday morning I accompanied friends from the Saskatoon Nature Society on a trip to Gardiner Dam and surrounding areas.
I have been joking a few times this year and on past years , that " we might get a Mockingbird " on this or that trip, as very occasionally one will venture north from its home in the United States and linger in our Province for awhile.
Well, today I got my first ever Mockingbird :-)
It just goes to show that even on a bitterly cold, snowy day in December , you can still add to your life, and year lists !

Here is a photo of the bird, followed by a list of all the species seen..

In all, we found 29 bird species this trip, and also met up with a porcupine at Danielson Provincial Park that seemed to be missing quills and fur from its backside.
I will be posting more photos from this trip later .

Species list:

Canada Goose
Mallard - a flock of several 1000s of birds north of bank, flying around
Scaup species - 4
Bufflehead - 2 female
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser - 3 female, 1 male
Common Merganser - 1 or 2
Gray Partridge - 1 covey north of Broderick
Sharp-tailed Grouse - several at Danielson Provincial Park
Bald Eagle - 16+
Golden Eagle - 1 at Lake Diefenbaker above dam
Herring Gull - several
Glaucous Gull - 1
Rock Pigeon
Great Horned Owl - near Broderick, also Coldwell Park
Snowy Owl - North of Cutbank and another near Broderick
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 at Cutbank
Blue Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Northern Mockingbird (see above)
Chipping Sparrow - a very late bird and the other highlight of the day
Snow Bunting - several flocks
White-winged Crossbill - a couple at Danielson Provincial Park
Common Redpoll- several small flocks
House Sparrow

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

White-breasted Nuthatch

Here's another one from Pike Lake taken last month :

Monday, December 1, 2008

Birding The Nisbet Forest

Yesterday morning I set out with a friend to the Nisbet Forest , about 80 mins north of Saskatoon.

Once again I was treated to spring-like weather and the wind was almost non-existent.
There were many criss-crossing animal tracks on the ground , including Coyote , Fox , Squirrel, Snowshoe Hare, vole and Weasel.

Here is a list of the birds found :

Pileated Woodpecker - 1 bird made a quick fly-over us.
Black-backed Woodpecker - 1 male & one female
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 male
Boreal Chickadee - 2 heard
Gray Jay - 5
Blue Jay - 1
White-winged Crossbill - small flock of 10 flying overhead
Redpoll Species - small flock of around 20 flying overhead
Evening Grosbeak - 1 calling bird flying over
Pine Grosbeak - 5-6 birds flying over
Common Raven - 6
Black-capped Chickadee - 2 heard
Black-billed Magpie - 3

Here are three new photos ( click to see full size )

Gray Jay

Black-backed Woodpecker

Red Squirrel

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hoary Redpoll and another Varied Thrush

Yesterday, seeing as it was such a nice day again with virtually no wind, and the promise of sunshine. I set out on another walk, starting at Cosmopolitan Park, then Rotary Park, along Saskatchewan Crescent and finally ending at Gabriel Dumont Park.

Here are the highlights :

Merlin - 1 perched atop a spruce on Broadway.
Common Redpoll - a flock of around 15 birds on a lower trail of Cosmopolitan Park, feeding on seeds of some kind.
Hoary Redpoll - I managed to spot one among the group of Common Redpolls.
White-throated Sparrow - This was a nice surprise. I found this late bird skulking alone in one of the dense shrub 'islands' in Rotary Park. Every so often it would give its drawn out "shiiip" sound.
Varied Thrush - This was my biggest surprise of the day. I found her on my way home after taking a shortcut through some posh gardens of a retreat centre. ( I had permission to go in there :-)
As I made my way across a lawn, I noticed the bird drop down onto the lower branches of a Mugo Pine Tree. As I got closer, it completely vanished, and I was unable to locate it again, after searching diligently for nearly 30 minutes. This looked like a female bird.
It just goes to show, you never know how many of these are in the city at this time of year...
Common Raven - 2 squawking as they flew north over the river.
White-winged Crossbills - a flock of around 15 flying towards the west side of the river, heading for some evergreen trees.
My last bird of the day was a male Northern Flicker sitting atop a spruce tree on 4th st.

Other species seen were , 3 Downy Woodpeckers , 4 Red-breasted Nuthatch , 10 Black-capped Chickadees , 5 House Sparrows and at least 200 Rock Pigeons under the Idylwyld Bridge jumping onto the floating icebergs every so often to get a drink.

Here's the Hoary Redpoll I found in Cosmopolitan Park . Note the smaller bill , steeper forehead, light pink on breast and the white on the rump.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Grosbeaks , Crossbills & Finches

One of my favorite places to go birding in town is President Murray Park. This two block long park is full of spruce trees and can be rewarding at any time of the year.
In late fall/early winter the park might be frequented by both species of Crossbills , Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet and the occasional Pine or Evening Grosbeak.
I still have not managed to locate a single Brown Creeper at all this season.
On the day I found the Varied Thrush, I also spent about 2 hours looking in this park and then some of the adjacent back alleyways and found a lone Pine Grosbeak, feeding in the same yard as some Blue Jays and a Red-breasted Nuthatch.
I'm glad I had my trusty flash with me, as these photos would not have turned out at all. It was quite dark and shady in this particular alley...

Pine Grosbeak

White-winged Crossbill - this is about as close as you are going to get with this species, unless you are lucky enough to have them visit your feeder :

This male House Finch was also close by :

And so was this Red-breasted Nuthatch :

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Varied Thrush

On Sunday, after a field trip to President Murray Park, some friends of mine saw 2 Varied Thrush in a yard on Temperance St.
Most years in Saskatoon, we are lucky to play host to one or two of these colorful large, Robin-like thrushes of the Pacific Northwest.
I looked for them the following day and dipped, but yesterday I had success finding this male ( only the 3rd individual I have ever seen ), one block down from where they were originally spotted.
This is my 230th species this year in Saskatchewan. There may still be time to get another new year bird before 2009...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Horned Owl

Yesterday, a friend and I took another visit to Pike Lake to see if there were any species around that were not there on our last visit.
The thing about Pike Lake, and birding in general, is that you can go to one place one day and find nothing, then go the next and be rewarded with all kinds of things.
Once again, I heard small flocks of Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks, but none seemed to settle anywhere where we could actually look at them.
The usual Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers were also here as well as the ever present Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatch.
Compared to our last trip, we found a soaring Bald Eagle over Snake Trail Road and this Great Horned Owl sleepily, sunning itself in the woods :

(Click for bigger versions )

Friday, November 21, 2008


Today while out with a friend looking for Snowy Owls ( we found one that gave us a few looks from a distance ), I spotted this young Porcupine grazing on something in the middle of a field next to a highway :

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Around supper time yesterday, after it had just finished snowing, this Merlin was sitting on a powerline in the alley behind our house.
This is the 'Prairie' race of Merlin that is fairly common during the winter months here in Saskatchewan.
There is usually a never ending supply of feeder birds for them to catch, so its no wonder they like the suburban areas.
She was fanning her tail and preening when I snapped this shot :

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Long-billed Dowicher

Until the weather improves and I can set out in search of more wildlife & birds, here is a new juvenile Long-billed Dowicher shot from back in September :

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

White-breasted Nuthatch

Here are two more White-breasted Nuthatches from Pike Lake.
This is the first shot I have gotten of one of these on the ground :

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hairy Woodpecker

This afternoon, myself, my wife and other members of the Saskatoon Nature Society took a trip to Pike Lake.
Apart from the usual suspects that can be found there, I'm 99% sure I spotted a fly-over by a Pileated Woodpecker at the south end of the park. Unfortunately none of us could re-locate it.
Another highlight was a small flock of Pine Grosbeaks that also flew over, but didn't give us a chance to have a good look at them.

Here is a male Hairy Woodpecker that I managed to entice in while I explored the woods on my own.
As usual click to see full size :

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

This morning our backyard was full of Blue Jays, 8 of them in fact, the most I have ever seen in our yard at one time.
While they were busy grabbing , and stashing peanuts , this Red-shafted Northern Flicker showed up in the yard.
Last year we had a visit from one as well, and I can't help wondering if this is the same female that we had back then.
Red-shafted Flickers are not that common in Saskatoon, although a few will turn up from time to time.
Unfortunately, it was very gloomy outside this morning ( the sun has not been out for days it seems ) and shooting through my kitchen window never produces great results, but the orange-reddish wing markings are clearly visible.
It it had been a male then it would have had a nice red 'mustache '.

Here is a shot as it took off , showing the distinct orange/red on the wings

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prairie Falcon

Around noon today I took a walk around both Gabriel Dumont & then Diefenbaker Park.

It was quite chilly along the waters edge, as to be expected, with the temps hovering just under freezing, and with a 20k wind.
The highlight of my 2 hrs outside, was a nice flyover by a juvenile Prairie Falcon at the north end of Gabriel Dumont .
This is the first time I've seen one of these within the boundary of the city.
It flew directly overhead, allowing me to get 3 quick shots of it as it headed towards Diefenbaker Park, possibly to see if there were any pigeons under the bridge there.

Other stuff seen :

Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Northern Flicker - 2
Common Redpoll - a small flock of about 22 in the wooded area of Gabriel Dumont.
White-winged Crossbill - 15 or so flying over the river towards Holiday Park.
Black-capped Chickadee - 7
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 3
Mallard - 14
Common Merganser - 1 bird associating with some Mallards at Gabriel Dumont.
Canada Goose - 50+
Cackling Goose - 10
Ring-billed Gull - 35+

I also found tracks by least Weasel and Snowshoe Hare

Here is an animated gif I made, taken from the 3 shots I got of the Prairie Falcon - click for bigger version :

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Downy Woodpecker

Here are 2 shots of the male Downy Woodpecker from Pike Lake recently :