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
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
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
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
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
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!
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!