Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Migrants

While on a recent look along the river while checking to see if the American Dipper was still around ( it is ) I found these two new birds for the year.
A Myrtle race Yellow-rumped Warbler & a Hermit Thrush.
I was wondering when they'd show up and now, more should start appearing every day...

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Hermit Thrush

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gardiner Dam Birding

A friend and I recently visited Gardiner Dam, Broderick Reservoir and the neighboring countryside.
Most Duck and Grebe species are back now in fairly good numbers, as are the Geese and Swans, plus a few shorebirds.
We had a pretty great trip, and found 73 species in total.

Here are some photos from the day...( as usual , click to see full size versions )

Snow Goose/Greater White-fronted Goose & Ross's Goose
- The diminutive Ross's Goose can be seen to the right of the picture :

Snow Geese:

Tundra Swan:


Northern Harrier:

American Tree Sparrow:

White-tailed Jack Rabbit:

Monday, April 27, 2009

River Birds

More new species are arriving every day and migration seems to be in full swing.
I'm playing catch up time right now, as I have taken so many photos and will post new one's every other day.

So, here are some photos from the river last week, followed by a recent list of new year birds...

Common Loon - There were 10 of these on the river, the most I have seen here in the city.


Green-winged Teal

Canada Goose

Ring-billed Gull

American Robin

Here are some new species I have seen over the past few days :

Turkey Vulture
Loggerhead Shrike
Red-breasted Merganser
Hooded Merganser
Pied-Billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Eared Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Lesser Scaup
Ring-necked Duck
Common Loon - 25
Tundra Swan
American White Pelican
Ross's Goose - 10 ( new for the year )
Hermit Thrush
Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Tree Swallow
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Mourning Dove
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Marbled Godwit
Long-billed Curlew
Savannah Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Purple Finch

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Short-eared Owl

Last night , myself and two friends headed out in chilly conditions to partake in an Owl survey.
The weather over the past few days had been very windy, so last night we were treated to only minimal gusts of 4k and sometimes less, but it was actually below freezing!
The sky was clear, the stars were bright and it was pretty much perfect!
On the way up to our location, as the sun had just gone down and the sky was a beautiful pink colour, I noticed something sitting on a signpost, and was elated to see it was a Short-eared Owl, a species I have rarely seen, let along photographed.
Infact ,I did not see one at all last year.
As the night went on, things got better as we found yet another Short-eared Owl and 4 Great Horned Owls.

We found some more new birds for the year :

Lesser Yellowlegs
Wilson's Snipe ( calling )
Blue-winged Teal
Ruffed Grouse ( drumming )

Mammals were :

White-tailed Deer
Mule Deer

Short-eared Owl

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Two from the Backyard

Well, it seems as if the Junco's have already moved on. We had them in our yard for about 5 days, but I got to enjoy them while they were here, and I'll see them again up north next month anyway.
We have had a pair of American Crows visiting us for the past couple of days, taking shelled peanuts meant for the Blue Jays, and also some American Robins have stopped by for a drink.

Some friends and I visited the river last night and both the American Dipper and Slaty-backed Gull put in an appearance, the Gull didn't show until 8:30pm though, in near dark.

The gull ended up being a lifer for all of us , so we toasted the fact at a downtown pub before heading home.

I didn't bother taking photos of the Gull last night as it was mostly sleeping .

Here are two pics from the yard :

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided)

American Robin

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some recent photos

Here are some new photos taken along the river , and a couple from a drive out to Goose Lake on the weekend.

Northern Shrike

American Beaver

Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Horned Lark

Western Meadowlark

Monday, April 20, 2009

American Dipper

Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon and early evening birding with my friend around Goose Lake ,then finishing up at Pike Lake, we then decided to check the Gull roost opposite the QE2 power plant.
It wasn't long before we found a dark backed gull among the many other usual species.
This particular gull has been the subject of much debate, but the general feeling is that it is now a Slaty-backed Gull , Saskatchewan's 3rd ever.
The highlight for me though was an American Dipper that was hopping along the rocks along the west shore.
This is Saskatoon's 2nd sighting , the last one being in 1997. 9 have been seen in total in Saskatchewan.
This bird is now 259 on my Saskatchewan list and a lifer. I hope to reach over 300 someday :-)
Dipper's are usually found along fast-flowing mountain streams, so the trickling water here must have been enticing.
The bird was very active, bobbing up and down, as it jumped from rock to rock, and occasionally dipping its head into the water.
This species, is equipped with an extra eyelid called a "nictitating membrane" that allows it to see underwater, and scales that close its nostrils when submerged. Dippers also produce more oil than most birds, which may help keep them warmer when seeking food underwater.
I would have loved to have seen it swim, but for now , this is the best sighting I have had for a long time..

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Black-billed Magpie at the River

I went for a long hike along the river this morning, even though the wind was blowing up to 45k and it was cloudy a lot of the time threatening to rain and blow in a storm.
A nice thing to see was a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches excavating a nest hole which I'd not seen before.
I also found the Lesser Black-backed Gull again from the east side of the river.

Two new year birds seen today were:
Sandhill Crane - 14 flying noisily over the river
Common Grackle - 12

I took a few photos of which I will post more over the next few days.
Here is a Black-billed Magpie I found on the way home.
(As usual click to see full size)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gulls & a Great Horned Owl

Last week, I found what I believed to be an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull close to the QEII Power Plant, but did not have any decent photos for verification.
Luckily the gull made another appearance last night when myself and members of the Nature Society found it among the thousands of other gulls which consisted of Ring-billed, Herring , California and 5 Franklin's Gulls, all sat on a sandbar opposite the plant.
Update alert - This Gull could now well be the Slaty-backed , I recently found.

Slaty-backed Gull ? - Unfortunately when I decided to take photos of the bird, it decided it was nap time !

California Gull - These two made us all chuckle as they sat on this little iceberg drifting along with the current of the river :

Ring-billed Gull - One of many :

Great Horned Owl

This Owl sits in a tree close to where his mate is on a nest at Pike Lake.
This shot was taken last week :

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Red Fox

While walking back from Gabriel Dumont Park last weekend, out of the corner of my left eye, I watched a Red Fox sprinting along the frozen river toward the direction of the bridge at Diefenbaker Park.
I didn't have much time to react, but got off 3 shots. 2 of which are posted.
I also made an animated gif file of him running, that I will put up along one of the sidebars.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Recent Finds

I've been birding quite alot since my last post, and taking lots of photos.
New species for the year include :

Killdeer - 1 at Gabriel Dumont Park
Snow Goose - several flocks over Gabriel Dumont and the river.
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 at Chappell Marsh
Greater White-fronted Goose - A flock of 50 flying over Pike Lake

We had our first Dark-eyed Juncos in our yard last night around 6pm. I have been seeing this species off and on over the past couple of weeks, including a few at my local park.
I'm looking forward to seeing more, along with the migrant Sparrows, Warblers and much more over the next few weeks.

Here are some new photos from the past week :

Western Meadowlark

Northern Harrier

Black-billed Magpie

American Tree Sparrow

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ferruginous Hawk

Earlier in the week I was very lucky to find a pair of Ferruginous Hawks along a quiet country road near the town of Hanley.
Ferruginous Hawks are our biggest Buteos here in Saskatchewan.
Light morph birds like this pair have a rusty brown or 'chestnut colour' on the upper parts and are pale on the head, neck and underparts with rust on the legs and some rust marking on the underwing.
These are the true prairie hawks and seeing them this far north is pretty rare.
On the day these were seen it was incredibly windy and cloudy, but there was an abundance of prey out in the open fields.
In one photo you will see a Richardson's Ground Squirrel that had just been caught.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bluebirds, Spring Song & Northern Harriers

Well, the Bluebirds are definitely back. I have probably seen about 40+ individuals since they arrived, on various drives around the countryside.
The air is filled with the songs of these blue beauties if you stop to listen where you find them. Meadowlarks are also singing their familair spring song, as are Horned Larks, trilling away from fence post or snowfilled ditch.
On Sunday, my wife and I took a drive out to Cranberry Flats and some backroads around Pike Lake.
This morning, I took the same route with a friend and then ended up near Hanley where we were rewarded with a pair of Ferruginous Hawks ( of who I will save for their very own post later in the week )
Many new duck species are now also making there way back where-ever there is open water.
New year species seen over the last 2 days are : Northern Shoveler, Redhead, American Wigeon & Northern Pintail.

Here are some new photos :

Mountain Bluebird ( male )

Northern Harrier ( male )

Horned Lark

Western Meadowlark

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Raptors and Snow Buntings Galore

This morning, my friend and I set out early and birded the towns of Rosetown, Zealandia , Harris and Milden.
We had a very good day for raptors, after a pretty slow start.
Harriers were plentiful as were Horned Larks, but the winner were Snow Buntings
with an incredible 4000-5000 birds.
In fact we saw several huge flocks, so I might be under-estimating just how many there were!
Easily the most I have ever seen.

Here are the highlights for the day :

Northern Harrier - 15 , of which only 3 were females.
Ferruginous Hawk - 1 light adult ( new for the year )
Red-tailed Hawk - 2
Rough-legged Hawk - 1
American Kestrel - 1 ( new for the year )
Snowy Owl - 3
Snow Bunting - 5000 maybe more
Horned Lark - 100+
Western Meadowlark - 15
European Starling - 10
American Tree Sparrow - 4

American Badger - 1 , poking its head out of a freshly excavated burrow ( new for the year )
White-tailed Deer - 7

Snowy Owl

Snow Bunting

American Tree Sparrow

Ferruginous Hawk - Here is a very distant shot, not the best but not a lot of choice at the time :-)