Fur & Feathers Wrap-Up

I’m sure many of you have followed the Fur & Feathers 500 blog. Four Calgary bird watchers (and mammal watchers) did a bird and mammal Big Year in 2012, trying to see as many species as they could within Canada. They were successful in reaching their goals of seeing 500 combined species as a team, and of visiting each Territory and Province in Canada.

Brian Elder has summarized their efforts in two excellent posts, which highlight some of the most interesting species they saw, and which feature their great photographs too.

A Look Back at the Birds of our Big Year

A Look Back at the Mammals of our Big Year

Now that the Big Year is over, Brian has launched a new blog to document his efforts to reach a life list of 5000 bird and mammal species worldwide. Follow him at:

Fur and Feathers 5000

At Birds Calgary we will be following this with great interest, and we wish him luck!

Reflections on my New Years Resolution

Posted by Dan Arndt

As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a New Year’s Resolution to see 200 species of birds in the Calgary Region. I had no real idea of how difficult a proposition this would be, and if I’d known the lengths I would end up going to to get there, I might have reconsidered it. In the end, it turned out to be an improvised “Big Year” of sorts. While I’m not really sure where the records sit exactly, or what the highest number would be for the traditional 80km May Species Count circle in the Calgary area in the calendar year, I do know that I learned a whole lot about the species that live in my home town, the best places to go to track down certain types of birds, and that there are some places, for one reason or another, that seem like they’d be the perfect habitat for wildlife that seem to be somewhat devoid of birds.

80km circle centred in downtown Calgary

80km circle centred in downtown Calgary

As I write this, my 80km Calgary circle Patch List on eBird sits at 236. I’m happy with that number. It’s a nice, even number, and my original hopes of 200 are long in the past. After finding my Upland Sandpiper, I spent a bit of time searching Confederation Park, Chestermere Lake, and various other places to add a few new birds to my list. It seems that my excursions outside the city ended up being far more fruitful than my quick jaunts just up the hill to the warbler paradise of Confederation Park, as I found #205, Loggerhead Shrike, thanks to fellow blogger Matt Sim coming across this family of 5 just east of Chestermere Lake.

Loggerhead Shrike - species #205

Loggerhead Shrike – species #205

As fall set in, and the cold and dark became more prevalent as the days wore on, I knew the days of adding multiple species to my list were in the past. Fall migration turned out to be a bit disappointing as I had hoped to tack on at least 4 or 5 species of migrating songbirds to my list, but as the Glenmore Reservoir closed up, I, along with many in the Calgary birding community were surprised to find a good number of vagrants showing up. From the three scoter species (White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, and Black Scoter) to the Pacific Loon (which I missed, sadly) and Red-throated Loon (which I managed to find on multiple days) topped off with a fairly large flock of Long-tailed Ducks at the beginning of November.

White-winged Scoter - My 219th species seen this year in Calgary

White-winged Scoter – My 219th species seen this year in Calgary

Dunlin at Weed Lake - Species #224 for the year

Dunlin at Weed Lake – Species #224 for the year

Long-tailed Duck - This group of four seemed to be fairly comfortable getting close to the shore, and many excited birders - #227

Long-tailed Duck – This group of four seemed to be fairly comfortable getting close to the shore, and many excited birders – #227

Add to that an Anna’s Hummingbird a few days later, a few late gulls into mid-November, a few “catch-up” species in a couple of places I hadn’t visited as much earlier in the year, and to top it all off, a rogue Steller’s Jay in mid-December, and here I am at 236. I certainly missed a few species that I expected to find, but ended up with a well-rounded list and far exceeding my original goal!

Anna's Hummingbird - #228

Anna’s Hummingbird – #228

Mew Gull amongst a number of Ring-billed Gulls - #231

Mew Gull amongst a number of Ring-billed Gulls – #231

Steller's Jay - a fairly rare bird in these parts, and my last new tick for the year. - #236!

Steller’s Jay – a fairly rare bird in these parts, and my last new tick for the year. – #236!

So this ends my birding year in Calgary, and I am looking forward to starting all over again in 2013. I know there’s still a week left for me to find some of my nemesis birds, but tomorrow (December 25) I’m heading off to the Mayan Riviera for a couple of weeks, and so my year total will sit comfortably at 236. I plan to do a whole lot of vacationing, a bit of birding here and there, and just taking it easy in the sun, and maybe thinking about another birding resolution for 2013!

The Alberta Winter Bird List

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

One way to spice up your winter birding is to keep a list of species seen in the winter months of December, January, and February.  It’s fun do do this for yourself, but you can also help contribute to the provincial winter list.

For the past eleven years, Richard Klauke has kept track of all bird species seen by anyone anywhere in the province of Alberta between December 1 and the end of February.  It is an excellent resource for anyone birding here in the winter.

See the Alberta Winter Bird List here.

The list has three categories of birds:

  • winter residents and other species that are reported every year (111 species).
  • species often reported but not every year (81 species).
  • rarities (30 species).

The total number of species reported in the last eleven years has varied from a low of 126 (in 2010/2011) to a high of 153 (in 2002/2003).  The average is 140.  Last winter was a good one, with a total of 148.

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House Finch – one of the core winter species

The most productive periods for the winter bird list are the the first two weeks of December, when there are still some lingering migrants, and the last two weeks of February, when some early spring birds begin to arrive.  Richard compiles the list from reports on the Albertabird listserv.  Starting today, post your sightings on Albertabird and help build the list.  For example, if you happen to be in the Votier’s Flats area and see the Song Sparrow and Wilson’s Snipe that have been reported there recently, please post them again to Albertabird.  These are core species but may not be around much longer.

As the list builds, check back to Richard’s page periodically, and if you see something that hasn’t yet been reported, post it to Albertabird.


Harris’s Sparrow – a more elusive core winter species (photo by Daniel Arndt)

Some new birders may not belong to Albertabird yet, so if you see something good you could let us know at the blog and we’ll pass it on (include details of date and location).  But I encourage all serious birders to join and follow Albertabird.  That is where important sightings should be reported so that other Alberta birders know what is being seen and where, and can have a chance to find the birds themselves.

Richard’s page also includes links to winter lists for the other nine provinces, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, and the Ottawa region.  So if you are travelling you can see what to expect.

Update: Already this morning, an Eastern Bluebird has been seen near Medicine Hat!  This is the first winter report of this species in the twelve years the list has been kept.

Pat Bumstead still has her three Mourning Doves in her yard too.