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 :

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Red Squirrel

Here are some more Squirrels from Pike Lake. I was really happy with these photos , as I really wanted to get a shot of these guys among the Fall leaves.

Click to see full size :

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Feeding the Wildlife at Pike Lake

In a previous post, I mentioned my wife and I went to Pike Lake last Sunday and had a wonderful afternoon feeding the wildlife there.
Its always a thrill to have a wild bird perch on your hand and take food.
The Red Squirrel and Downy Woodpecker were either very hungry, or just very friendly, as this is the first time I've seen either so tame before.
In fact I've never seen a Woodpecker feed from anyone's hand before, until now.
The Red Squirrel actually sat on my wife's foot at one point , happily eating peanuts without a care in the world while she petted him.

Here are some photos ( As usual click to see them full size )

Downy Woodpecker :

White-breasted Nuthatch :

Red Squirrel :

Friday, November 7, 2008

River Walk This Morning

It was a chilly -5ยบ this morning when I left the house and the sky quickly turned overcast.
I decided to hike over to the weir to see what was at the river and then made my way back through Cosmopolitan Park.

Here is what I saw :

Common Goldeneye - 9 south of the CN Bridge , and another 15 north up the river.
American Coot - 1 near Goose Island
Mallard - 45+
Canada Goose - 175
Cackling Goose - 12
Black-billed Magpie - 7
Blue Jay - 1
Ring-billed Gull - 30 on a sandbar south of Goose Island
Northern Shrike - 1 feeding juvenile at Cosmopolitan Park.
Great Horned Owl - 1 just north of the railway bridge
Hairy Woodpecker - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 3
Common Redpoll - 30+
Black-capped Chickadee - 11
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
House Finch - 4
House Sparrow - 15

Snowshoe Hare - 1 pure white rabbit at Cosmo Park
Muskrat - 1 swimming on the river

Here are 3 photos taken today. Unfortunately, they suffer from poor light, and obstructive branches, but I was extremely happy to find both of these species ,as they are both new finds for me along the river on my usual route :

Northern Shrike - This 1st winter bird was busy eating its meal when I found him..

Great Horned Owl - I spotted this Owl from quite a distance away and got off this shot before it decided to fly onto the west side of the river..

Thursday, November 6, 2008

White-breasted Nuthatch

Last weekend my wife and I spent a couple of hours at Pike Lake.
This is a great place not too far from town, where you can find White-breasted Nuthatches.
They are quite tame, and will sometimes come down to your outstretched hand to take food, along with the even tamer Black-capped Chickadees that are always present.
I got some photos of them feeding from my wife's hand which I will post soon.

For now , here are some photos I got of this handsome bird
( click to enlarge ):

This is what a Nuthatch will do when a Chickadee gets too close :

Monday, November 3, 2008

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Well , last year a Northern Cardinal showed up in a city yard and delighted local nature enthusiasts.
The year before that, a Curve-billed Thrasher was way off course and hung around a yard in Dalmeny, not too far from town.
Taking the prize for the biggest surprise of 2008 ( at least so far ) has to go to a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was spotted on a Saskatoon Nature Society field trip yesterday at Blackstrap Lake.
The only previous record of this species in the Saskatoon area was way back on the 20th September 1980.

More commonly found in south-central United States and northeastern Mexico , this bird is also the state bird of Oklahoma.

So, of course, upon hearing about this sighting , myself and 5 friends were not disappointed when, despite the overcast and rainy conditions, the bird was still in the same spot as yesterday!

Here are the best shots I could get of it this morning. I really had to crank up the cameras ISO sensitivity just to get a decent shuttter speed because of how poor the light was. ( Click to enlarge )

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Golden-crowned Kinglet & more

This afternoon I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the old Sanatorium site and Holiday Park.
Almost as soon as I arrived, while I was speaking to the friendly owner of the Bowerman House, I heard the distinctive 3 note call of a Golden-crowned Kinglet.
I soon found a pair of them foraging in a thick stand of shrubs and then watched as they flew high to the lofty branches of one of the many spruce trees at the park.
The Northern Cardinal that visited this area last year apparently left in March , so hopefully it made its way south with no problems.

Other birds seen at the park :

Common Merganser - one actively diving bird on the river
Mallard - 10 on the river
Canada Goose - 12 on the river
Ring-billed Gull - 5 flying over the river
Dark-eyed Junco - 6
Black-capped Chickadee - 10
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 4
White-breasted Nuthatch - 4
House Finch - 20+ feeding on choke cherries near the house
Blue Jay - 4
Black-billed Magpie - 3
Common Raven - 1 heard
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 3
Northern Flicker - 4

Here are some photos ( click to enlarge )

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-billed Magpie