May Species Count – Longview Area

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

On Saturday May 26, 2012 I surveyed the Longview area for the May Species Count.  This is the fifth straight year I have done this area, and I’m getting to know it pretty well.  I counted 73 species, down two from last year.

A rocky hillside west of Longview.

These large rural count areas take a long time to cover. It is mostly driving, stopping regularly to record birds and to listen.  There are only a few short walks.  I started at 5:30 a.m. and had made a first pass through the area by about 4:30 p.m.  You have to record the numbers of each species of bird and mammal you see, being careful not to over-count, which makes for some tricky record-keeping as you go down a road for the second time.  After going quickly over my checklist, I continued until 8:15, searching for species I missed earlier, and adding to some of the numbers.  It seems there are always a few birds you just can’t find.  Once again, there were few shorebirds in this area, because there just isn’t enough good habitat for them.  But there should be Bald Eagles, and I couldn’t find one.  I was compensated with two Golden Eagles. I never had a Gray Catbird, and spent the last half hour of the day searching dense thickets for one of these birds (unsuccessfully).

Here are a few of the species I photographed.

Female Mountain Bluebird.  There were good numbers of bluebirds.

This Killdeer was doing its “broken-wing” display, and likely had made its nest right on the gravel road.

I don’t get Pied-billed Grebes here every year.  This was the only grebe I saw.

Lincoln’s Sparrows were common.

There were dozens of black birds in mixed flocks in livestock fields.  It was difficult to separate the Brewer’s Blackbirds (above) from all the Brown-headed Cowbirds and European Starlings.

I had two male Northern Harriers, which seems to be a scarce species around Calgary this year.

Wilson’s Snipe.  More often heard than seen, but will sometimes sit on fence posts.

A mixed flock of about 60 Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches settled onto this field, and practically disappeared.  I can see four goldfinches in this photo but there were many more. 

I was quite entertained by this bird, which was trying to collect nesting material.  Unfortunately for the Oriole, the rope was too tough, and it left empty-handed.

Here are a few of the mammals I saw:

I think this is the same Red Fox I saw last year, in almost the same place. (See last year’s post.)

Most of the ground squirrels are Columbian, not Richardson’s as in Calgary.

These Elk kept a close eye on me as I explored a dirt trail where a Nashville Warbler had been heard a few days before.  I didn’t find the warbler.

Can you see the Bighorn Sheep in this photo?  Taken with a 400 mm lens.  I saw one in the same spot three years ago so I was looking for it, but nevertheless was surprised to find one there.

A cropped version of the photo above.

The May Species Count can be gruelling (I started at 5:30 again on Sunday and did another 13 hours in the city) but it is rewarding.  There are lots of interesting birds out there at this time of year.  Stay tuned for Dan’s post about our count in the Weaselhead.

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