Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bird Count Highlights

This is Christmas Bird Count time, and upon writing this, I have completed 6 of them, each with their own highlights.
I still have 2, maybe 3 more to go up until the 2nd of January, when the last one will be at Pike Lake.

For most of the counts the weather has been pretty tolerable. I remember, much of last years count-weather was absolutely freezing, with wind chills of minus 50 degrees centigrade or more in some cases.

Some of the best birds I've seen over the last 6 counts done this season have been :

Townsend's Solitaire
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Pine Grosbeak
Common Redpoll
Northern Shrike
Northern Goshawk
Pine Siskin
Snowy Owl
Great Horned Owl
Glaucous Gull
Harris's Sparrow
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagle
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Gray Partridge

Here are a few new photos from the counts done so far :

Red Crossbill

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Townsend's Solitaire

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas

I would like to thank all my blogger, and birding friends and every other single visitor to this webpage during 2009.
Let's hope that 2010 is an even better year for birds and wildlife !
I have already completed 3 Christmas Bird Counts and am almost out the door to begin my 4th.
After that, will leave 3 more counts up until January 2nd finshing up at Pike Lake.
I have 11 more days to see if I can find 2 new species by Dec 31st, and reach my highest ever Saskatchewan Year List of 250 , but its quite a tall order and I might be shooting a little high :-) Watch this space !

Here is a Harris's Sparrow from the fall that I have not posted before that has a Christmas-like quality to it.

All the best for 2010 and thanks again !!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Great Horned Owl

Here's a Great Horned Owl from last Sunday near Martensville, Sk.
I'm lucky there was some blowing snow at the time the photo was taken. A shame we can't get that nice effect in all our Owl photos !

PS. My Saskatchewan Birds 2010 Calendar will be here tomorrow, so folks who live locally can email me to collect theirs in the afternoon. I will priority-ship the calendars to my friends in the US, to hopefully get them their orders before the 25th.
Sorry for the delay, they will be mailed out much earlier next year !

( Click to see full size )

Monday, December 7, 2009

Short-eared Owl

On Saturday I went on a trip to Gardiner Dam to look for waterfowl and see what other treats may be in-store.
I added a few more birds to my winter-list , and on the way home , there really was a treat to behold...
A very co-operative Short-eared Owl (click to see full size):

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Brown Creeper Photos

Seeing as I spent a long time trying to get shots of this species, here are three more from my time at the park :

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brown Creeper

One of my favourite birds, but certainly not the easiest to photograph !
I found two at a city park this morning and eventually got lucky with some photos that I thought turned out ok.
The first one was when the sun was just coming up, and the second one I had to wait a long time to get, when I waited for him to come around from behind the tree and in the full sun.
Not the warmest of days. It felt like minus 20 in the park...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two November Rarities

Towards the end of the year, a few rarities show up in Saskatchewan , either having migrated the wrong way, lingered too long or are birds that are getting a more permanent foothold in the Province.
The Eurasian Collared Dove is one such bird .
There are a several growing populations in various towns within the Province.
This one was photographed in Moose Jaw, SK during the recent trip I took, looking for the Yellow-throated Warbler.
As I reported earlier in the year. We have a few of these currently residing in Saskatoon.
These Doves are usually a more grey-ish colour, but this one looks almost beige in the morning light. The distinctive black collar can be clearly seen :

Eurasian Collared Dove

Once again, another American Dipper is in town.
The American Dipper, a bird of mountain streams, has only been seen here in Saskatoon a couple of times, most recently in April.
This one is actively foraging next to a sewer outlet that runs into the river.
On Saturday a friend and I observed this bird (also known as a Water Ouzel) swimming and having some success catching aquatic insects :

American Dipper

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yellow-throated Warbler

One thing I love about birding, is you never know what might show up during the tail end of migration.
For instance, this male Yellow-throated Warbler, which spends its winter at the Gulf Coast states of South America, has somehow taken a wrong turn and ended up in a backyard at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan last week.
There are two subspecies of this warbler, and the one furthest south, from the Gulf Coast, has Yellow lores while the other one has white lores ( the coloured markings next to its bill ).
Well, it looks like the one we have in Moose Jaw right now is even rarer as it's the most southern sub-species.
Yesterday I was privileged to see this bird, and got one lucky shot of it on a natural perch at the front of the property before it vanished.
I have other photos of the bird at a feeder, but thought this one was the prettiest.

(click for full size)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pileated Woodpecker

Here is a male Pileated Woodpecker taken at Pike Lake Provincial Park last week.
I had seen him the day before and went back the following day and found him on this snowy tree stump.
The snow only lasted a couple of days and has stayed away for the time being :-)

Please click for full size :

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snow Bunting at Prince Albert National Park

A couple of weeks ago when we were at P.A.N.P , my wife and I decided to walk the 'Boundary Bog' Trail to look for Spruce Grouse.
Unfortunately none could be found that day, but we did find a lone Snow Bunting on the outskirts of the trail, at first sitting on the handrail of one of the paths, and then he conveniently landed on a lovely spruce perch covered in ' old mans beard' .

As with all photos, please click on it, to view in better quality and size :

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World Wildlife Fund 2010 Calendar

I thought some of my blogger friends ( and friends from everywhere else ! ) might like to know that the 2010 WWF Calendar is now for sale.

It features one of my photos ( for March ) and proceeds go towards the World Wildlife Fund.

If anyone wants to order it, here's the link :

Some of you will recognize the photo that they used for the month of March :

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Black Fox

Another wonderful highlight of our recent trip up to Prince Albert National Park was this gorgeous Dark-phase Red Fox that we found ambling along the road as we were heading home.
One more post from Prince Albert after this, then its back to seeing what I can find around town or perhaps a nearby lake.

I just love his markings...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Timber Wolf

Last Sunday was a special time for me and my wife. This will be remembered as the first time we saw a wolf in the wild.

After hearing that a wolf ( or wolves ) had been sighted in the park a few weeks back, we decided to go for a drive up to Prince Albert National Park and try our luck.
The weather was on our side for Saturday, and we found some nice birds and animals but no wolf.
My next update will showcase what else we saw, with a full list of highlights.

The following day it was dark , cloudy and it was spitting rain...great...
We had a choice, either head for home , or try one more time to see if we can find those elusive wolves.
After driving around for a bit , I suddenly spotted a little dark 'blob' in the distance.
I had to look through my binoculars to see what that thing was, as it was on the top of the hill as the road went up.
We eventually got up to him and he was quite unafraid, but would not stop walking, and only looked at us for a split second before plodding on down the road, occasionally glancing back.
I managed a few shots through the car window as we were moving, thankfully I had set the camera up for low light.
I did some reading up on this particular species, and it seems they have been known to prey on Black Bears, as well as White-tailed Deer, Beavers and Muskrats.
I'm glad we were not on the menu that day ... :-)

Here he is :

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Northern Hawk Owl

Here is the male Northern Hawk Owl found recently at the South end of Blackstrap Lake not too far from Saskatoon.
My wife and I had an excellent little trip out to Prince Albert National Park last weekend where we were treated to our first ever wild Wolf, a River Otter and a beautiful dark-phase Red Fox.
I'll post those photos next time...

Click to see him much larger

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Sparrows

Its been a strange , and mild fall this year . We still have a small group of migrants visiting our front and backyard that on previous years would be on their way south by now.
We got some snow , but for the most part, it is mostly thawed. The lawn in our backyard is still nice and green, and there are many leaves still on the trees !
This weekend it is supposed to get up as high as 14 degrees, so I guess we shouldn't complain !
Over the past few days we've been lucky enough to have a variety of backyard visitors, including my favourite , the Fox Sparrow. A species we've not had in our yard for nearly 5 years.

Some nice recent findings since my last post have been a group of Whooping Cranes, a Brown Creeper, Rusty Blackbirds and a Northern Hawk Owl, but they will have to wait until next time.

Here is a bunch of photos taken since my last update (All best viewed at full size) :

Fox Sparrow -

Harris's Sparrow -

White-crowned Sparrow -

White-throated Sparrow -

Dark-eyed Junco -

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saskatchewan Birds 2010 Calendar

My 2010 Saskatchewan Birds Calendar will be going to the printers next month, so anyone that would like one (or more) copies, should let me know, so that I can order them and make payment arrangements.
They will be $20.00 and can be picked up at my place on request ( if local ) or I can post them for an extra $3.00.

They are printed on heavyweight, glossy cardstock that is easy to write on and measure 10.25 x 15.6".

I toiled over the idea of maybe just having 12 larger photos, but it was impossible to choose only 12, as I took so many photos this year !
I ended up opting for the same layout as last year. At least this way you get more photos !

The deadline for orders is November 12th.

Here is a small preview :

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Fall Birds and a Coyote

Well, if our current weather is anything to go by, I'd say that Autumn is in full swing.
As I'm typing this, the wind us gusting with speeds up to 40mph and our backyard has become a shelter for White-crowned Sparrows, a lone Song Sparrow , Dark-eyed Junco's , Magpies and of course many House Sparrows.
Yesterday we had visits from a Spotted Towhee and 2 Orange-crowned Warblers.

Here are some new photos :

Palm Warbler

American Pipit

Black-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Coyote - Here's a healthy-looking Coyote from last month

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Birds Around Town

The Fall Bird Count I took part in last Saturday, wasn't as productive as last years count, with 55 species tallied compared to the year before ( 69 ).
This could be because of the late spring we had and cool weather during the breeding season that kept many species away ?
I'm thinking many migrants overflew us days before and headed straight south.
We have had many clear calm nights, over the past few weeks, so it wouldn't be too much of a surprise.
Highlights of this years count included a Broad-winged Hawk and a Black-crowned Night Heron.
It was still a great day though with fabulous hot weather and myself and my partner were on our feet for almost 11 hours!

Here are some photos taken this Fall of a few Warblers and other passerine's I've found on my travels around the city...

( Left click on photos for bigger view )

Palm Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Wilson's Warbler - female

Here's a young Least Flycatcher from a local park 2 weeks ago :

The young Cedar Waxwings seem to be quite numerous and are gorging themselves on the ripened fruit now readily available on many of the shrubs and trees around town :

Friday, September 11, 2009

More From Cypress Hills

Here is another bunch of photos from my recent trip to the Cypress Hills ( as usual click to see bigger versions ):

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - I found this youngster on the 'Highland trail' portion of the park :

Turkey Vulture - My wife and I found a few of these perched at Eastend, a nice drive not too far from Cypress Hills :

Swainson's Hawk - I caught this hawk as he was about to lift off . The background here is a lush green field that was beautifully out of focus behind him :

Loggerhead Shrike - One of two individuals we saw on the journey home :

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- This juvenile was also on the Highland Trail and as much as I wanted to, I couldn't turn him into a Red-naped Sapsucker. Next year !

Song Sparrow - Another young bird. This was taken by the Cypress Lake and posed nicely by a berry bush :

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk - This light phase Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk was a nice surprise to see on the way home. The background here is a canola field. The light was fading so I had to boost the ISO to 800 on this one just to keep it in focus :