Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gardiner Dam Trip

Yesterday morning, seven of us set off to Gardiner Dam and some surrounding areas and spent until after 4pm looking for birds and other wildlife.
The weather was minus 28 when we left and ended up at around minus 16 and sunny in the afternoon, with barely any wind.
The open water on the dam was covered in a mist for most of the time we were there and only eventually cleared a little in the afternoon when we returned to get a better look at what might be there.
We found a total of 23 species of birds and 6 mammals.

Here is the list in no particular order :

Snow Bunting - 200+
Horned Lark - 30+
Great Horned Owl - 1
Black-billed Magpie - 5
Common Raven - 7
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 at Glenside
Downy Woodpecker - 1 at Glenside
House Sparrow - 200+
Mallard - several thousand
Common Goldeneye - 10
Bufflehead - 1 female
Blue Jay - 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Common Redpoll - 10+
White-winged Crossbill - 4 or 5 at Cutbank
Gray Partridge - several coveys
Sharp-tailed Grouse - many, early in the morning
Rock Pigeon - 30+
Bald Eagle - 6
Bohemian Waxwing - 80+
Black-capped Chickadee - 6
American Robin - 15 at Coldwell Park

Mammals were :

Coyote - 8
Moose - 1
Jack Rabbit - 2
Nuttal's Cottontail Rabbit - 1
Common Porcupine - 1
White-tailed Deer - 4

Here is the Porcupine :

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Candle Lake Grosbeaks

Here are 2 more images of male Grosbeaks from our recent trip to Candle Lake.

Evening Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eastern Towhee and more at Candle Lake

On Saturday, two friends and myself traveled north to Candle Lake, in the hopes of finding some more Owls.
Unfortunately, this time, we were out of luck. I think we were very fortunate back in December when they were more numerous.
Of course, we still had a fantastic day of birding and notched up 19 species when we were all done.
The highlights were many, but most notable was an Eastern Towhee that we had heard all about over the Christmas period, but did not get to see while we were there at that time.
This bird is another fine example of migration gone slightly awry as it should not be in Saskatchewan at all right now !
Of course, we are so used to seeing the Spotted Towhee in our part of the Province, so this is a nice surprise.
For a couple of months, it has been visiting a front yard feeder and will often fly in to feed on sunflower seeds when the other birds give it some room.
The other big bird of the day, was a male Varied Thrush that flew like a missile past the window of our vehicle which we then relocated perched high in the dark boughs of a spruce tree. While not completely unusual, this is not something you see every year this far north and was another welcome addition to our winter/year lists.
Again, we have to thank the fine hospitality of the property owners who allowed us into their homes and yards in order to see these excellent birds.

Here is the list of species we found :

Northern Goshawk - one perched adult bird ( new for the year )
Downy Woodpecker - 2 or 3
Hairy Woodpecker - 8
American Three-toed Woodpecker - 2 males ( new for the year )
Blue Jay - 13
Gray Jay - 6 ( new for the year )
Black-billed Magpie - 4
Common Raven - 28
Black-capped Chickadee - 44
Boreal Chickadee - 26 ( new for the year )
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 4
White-breasted Nuthatch - heard one
American Robin - 2
Varied Thrush - 1 male
Eastern Towhee - 1 ( lifer )
Pine Grosbeak - 85+
Common Redpoll - 80+
Hoary Redpoll - 1
Evening Grosbeak - 30

Mammals were:

White-tailed Deer - approx. 23
Red Squirrel - 9
Snowshoe Hare tracks - 1 set

Here are a few photos :

Eastern Towhee - I only had a couple of seconds to fire of 6 shots of this bird before as it landed in some shrubs close to the feeder, then flew off over the house. I'm extremely happy I was able to document this rarity :

Boreal Chickadee - I had hoped to get some shots of this active little species, as they are not always obliging. Luckily, they were quite abundant on Saturday. :

Being the perfectionist that I am , I am never completely happy with photos taken through a pane of glass, as the quality tends to suffer and detail is often lost. That being said , the colours of the following two male Grosbeaks seemed to glow so brightly in the overcast light that I thought I'd still share them anyway...

Pine Grosbeak :

Evening Grosbeak :

White-tailed Deer :

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frosty Blue Jay

This morning it was very cold and there was hoarfrost everywhere. I went for a short walk around the neighbourhood and found a big group of about 10 Blue Jays , all being very vocal.
The same area had 2 Yellow-shafted Northern Flickers , a few House Finch, a Hairy Woodpecker and 4 Black-billed Magpies.

Here's one of the Blue Jays :

Monday, February 16, 2009

GBBC - Days 3, 4 & 5

On day 2, I set out like the lone ranger , a black scarf wrapped round my face to keep out the -25 wind-chill and about 3 layers of clothes.
I had a great 2 hours checking out Buena Vista Park and some surrounding back alleys, but still ended up with a freezing face. The mask becomes annoying after awhile. I have no idea how Batman does it.
For day 3 , myself and 5 members of the Nature Society walked around Montgomery, spending 2 hours looking around for signs of birdlife.
Today, ( day four ) the weather turned nasty again, with overcast skies and falling snow, but a few birds were still found of course :-)

Here are the 20 species I was able to see during the count period :

Dark-eyed Junco
American Robin
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Northern Flicker
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-winged Crossbill
Bohemian Waxwing
Blue Jay
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
House Finch
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Redpoll
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Rock Pigeon
Common Goldeneye
House Sparrow

Some photos...

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Hairy Woodpecker :

Common Redpoll :

Friday, February 13, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count Day 1

For the first day of the count, my friend and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours walking along the sheltered trails of Meewasin Park here in town.
We ended up finding 14 species.

Here is our list :

House Sparrow - 10
Black-capped Chickadee - 12
Black-billed Magpie - 5
Rock Pigeon - 4
Mallard - 4
Common Goldeneye - 3
Blue Jay - 3
Common Redpoll - 20
Dark-eyed Junco - 2 ( new for the year )
American Robin - 6
Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 5
Hairy Woodpecker - 4
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1

American Robin :

Black-billed Magpie :

Common Redpoll :

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2009

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Last year our province did very well. We always strive to beat the previous years tally of species found in Saskatchewan.
I encourage everyone with an interest in birds to take part. This count covers all of Canada and the United States.

Here is how to sign up :

Monday, February 9, 2009

Boreal and Saw-whet Owl

I'm very lucky to have such good friends in Saskatchewan, and in particular one excellent fellow who I won't embarrass by naming here. All I will say, is that I owe him a beer or three!

So, yesterday, a few of us spent a bit of time at some acreages not too far away from town where we were treated to not only a roosting Northern Saw-whet Owl, but also my first good look at a Boreal Owl, an Owl I have only ever heard calling before, but never actually seen.
The property owners were very kind, allowing us to look around, so a big thankyou to them also.

Although these two species of Owl look quite similar, aside from their very different sounding calls, there are in fact, many ways to seperate them by sight...

Boreal Owl - Height approx 10". Yellowish beak. Large-headed and long-tailed with dark brown streaking on the breast.

Northern Saw-whet Owl - Height approx 8" . A dark, almost black beak , shorter tail and a more rusty coloured brown streaking on the breast :

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Forestry Farm Park

Yesterday afternoon , I spent 3rs walking the grounds of the Forestry Farm Park.
I had some interesting observations and ended up with 15 species, but because of the overcast conditions I only took a couple of photos :

Evening Grosbeak - Four of these birds flew directly over me in full 'flight song'. Had I not seen the yellow, I might not have believed it myself, as they are so seldom seen in town these days.
Great Horned Owl - I flushed a very large white individual from a stand of Jack Pines. I found it again later when I heard 4 Chickadees going ballistic.
Common Redpoll - Given away by their call, I found at least 10 of these.
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2 near the gardens.
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1 in a tree next to the main office.
White-throated Sparrow - 1 straggler also near the gardens lurking under some juniper.
Dark-eyed Junco - 1 - Seen fleetingly ,right at the main entrance in some dense evergreen shrubs.
American Robin - 5 over-wintering birds at the far south of the park, sheltering from the wind.
Blue Jay - 1 at the south end of the park
Black-billed Magpie - 7 in various areas.
Common Raven - 1 near the wedding platform area.
Black-capped Chickadee - 10+
House Finch - A flock of 11 birds near the entrance.
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 heard near the zoo office.
House Sparrow - 5 or 6 chattering away in some bushes next to the mountain goat pen.

Also of note was this odd-looking Red Squirrel. It looks a lot like a cross-bred European-American Red Squirrel, with its ear tufts ,and different features such as its pinkish eyes. I found it sat in a tree very close to the pond :

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spring-like weather at Pike Lake

This afternoon a friend and I took a leisurely drive out to Pike Lake and picked up 14 bird species and 2 mammals.
The weather was fantastic with hardly any wind, and clear blue skies. It was good to see so many Robins present that have successfully overwintered.

Here's the cast in no particular order , followed by some photos:

American Robin - 30+
Pine Grosbeak - 4
Blue Jay - 2
Horned Lark - 1 ( new for the year )
Snow Bunting - 125
Bohemian Waxwing - 80+
Downy Woodpecker - 2
Common Raven - 12
Black-billed Magpie - 9
Black-capped Chickadee - 14
White-breasted Nuthatch - 4
Northern Flicker - 1
Common Redpoll - 3
Rock Pigeon - 4

Red Squirrel - 3
Snowshoe Hare - 1

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red Squirrel

Snowshoe Hare

American Robin

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Here is one of two regular Red-breasted Nuthatches I see most days in our backyard :