Tag Archive | birders

Birds and Beers (or, getting to know your fellow birders)

Posted by Dan Arndt

As a relatively new “serious” birder, I have a confession to make. Until about a year ago, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Gadwall and a Northern Shoveler, a Bohemian Waxwing and a Cedar Waxwing, or in most cases, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Swainson’s Hawk. A lot of my job entails a lot of detail oriented work, that can be relatively monotonous, and I found that listening to something helped while away the time. I stumbled across Sharon Stiteler’s Birdchick podcast, and immediately knew that I’d found something great.

It’s not for everyone, and can sometimes get a little “blue”, but I find that it covers a lot of great birding news and information in North America, and it’s incredibly funny too. One of the things that Sharon has been great at promoting is the idea that birders really should just get to know each other better. Whether it be just to chat, share stories and experiences, or just as importantly, to be approachable not only to each other, but to folks who are completely inexperienced and who want to become more “serious” birders.

One of the greatest ideas for this is her “Birds and Beers” meetups, which are held semi-regularly, and generally well attended. I’m involved in a similar sort of meetup here in Calgary, with another group that I am involved with, the Calgary Skeptics, and we’ve run these events solidly for the past three years with good success and good turnout.

I agree with Sharon. Birders, especially those with a ton of experience, can be a little intimidating to talk to. Gulls, flycatchers, warblers, shorebirds, and many, many other groups can be very hard to identify properly, and no one wants to say “Hey, look at that Tennessee Warbler!” when you’re not entirely sure if it’s a Tennessee, a Nashville, an Orange-crowned, or even just a female Wilson’s Warbler. That goes doubly so when you’ve got incredibly experienced birders around who, one might expect, would be quick to chastise you for making an incorrect ID. What I’ve learned though, is that EVERYONE misidentifies birds. Even the most experienced and revered birders in the Calgary community have made mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes in the future. It’s really one of the only ways to get better!

But don’t take it from me. Come out to Calgary’s inaugural Birds and Beers on Thursday, May 10, 2012. We’ll be meeting at the Joyce on Fourth Irish Pub at 7:00 PM, and I definitely hope to see you and many others in Calgary’s birding community out there!

Christmas Bird Count

As a follow-up to Bob’s post on the Christmas Bird Count this year, I am posting from my experiences last year.

For the 2010 Big Year birding here in Calgary, I decided to participate in my first Christmas Bird Count. I had heard great stories about this annual winter event and I was not disappointed. I was scheduled to a very productive route on the Bow River, with Southland Park and Carburn Park our main birding spots. We had a very good turnout for species, recording about 29, if I remember correctly. Some of the highlights on our route, were Killdeer, a Northern Shrike, a Rough-legged Hawk, a pair of Great Horned Owls and two immature Trumpeter Swans. These swans were seen continually in January of 2011 and were identified as one immature Tundra Swan and one immature Trumpeter Swan.

A fellow bird-counter participating in the 2010 Calgary CBC

Overall, almost 200 people took part in the 2010 count, with 102 feeder-watchers and 92 birders in the field. Temperatures ranged from -15 to -13 degrees Celsius with some light snow falling in the morning. Birders in the field put in a combined
205 party-hours total, 230 km  on foot and 881 km by car. These stats were compiled by Phil Cram, Donna and Arthur Wieckowski, Bob Lefebvre and John McFaul and can be more extensively viewed  by following this link:


Bald Eagles are usually seen on the Bow River

My group divided ourselves up into small parties in the morning, scanning the Bow River on either sides in and around Southland Park. Once we had spent several hours scouring the snow-swept landscape for birds, we headed to the nearest Tim Hortons for some warmth, where we traded stories and identification tips over refreshments. We headed back out, this time to Carburn Park, where we added Bohemian Waxwings, the shrike and some Barrow’s Goldeneyes. We ate lunch in our heated cars at Carburn and spent the afternoon searching our range for any missing species. That evening, all CBC participants from all over the city flocked to the Flynn’s house where we were served delicious chili and shared our tales from the day.

Birds are not the only wildlife seen on the Christmas Bird Count

The 2010 Christmas Bird Count was very enjoyable; if you have never done it before I highly recommend it. Calgary is historically a very high count in North American for number of participants; last year we had a total of 194 participants which was the 7th highest count in the US and Canada (Edmonton was 1st in North America with 439 participants!!!). Calgary also had the most species of birds recorded on the CBC in Alberta with a grand total of 64.

I will be back in Calgary for the holidays and I hope to see you there!

Posted by Matthew Sim