Tag Archive | Christmas bird count 2011

Christmas Bird Count in East Calgary

It’s been a busy week, but now I finally have time to post about my Christmas Bird Count experience.  This year I was assigned to cover route E8 with Andrew Hart.  This area is a narrow strip along the eastern edge of the count circle, bordering 84 Street at the extreme east edge of the circle, and reaching to McKnight Boulevard in the NE and Shepard Road in the SE.  It is an area that requires a lot of driving, scanning the open areas for raptors.  We had high hopes of finding a Prairie Falcon, or perhaps even a Snowy Owl.

The only open water is in the northeast corner of Elliston Lake, but this can harbour a lot of waterfowl at times.  We went there twice, and unfortunately there were very few birds on the water.  We did find four Hooded Mergansers, which were only reported on one other route, and also the only Lesser Scaup of the day.  Other than that, there were only Mallards, Canada Geese, and Common Goldeneyes.

Although we failed to find a Snowy Owl or a Prairie Falcon, we did find three Rough-legged Hawks on the day, two of which I managed to photograph.  Here is one with typical markings.


The other one, pictured perched below, had much darker underwings when it flew (which I failed to photograph).

The highlight as far as raptors went was a Northern Harrier, which was the only one reported on the count.  We didn’t get a picture, but after it flew, we saw something else in the shrubs along 50 Avenue and 68 Street SE, so we got out to investigate.  We flushed ten Ring-necked Pheasants out of the ditch, 7 males and 3 females or immatures.  Then we noticed that there were flocks of small birds all along the shrubs there, which proved to be upwards of 200 Common Redpolls (we tried to find a Hoary Redpoll among them, but no luck).

Common Redpoll (photo by Andrew Hart).

When we were checking out the redpolls, one bird stood out as much larger than the rest.  It was clearly a sparrow of some kind, but with the sun behind it we couldn’t initially see the colours or markings very well, and we weren’t sure what it was.  We lost track of it for a while, and I went around to the other side of the bushes.  We found three American Tree Sparrows among the redpolls, and although that wasn’t what our mystery sparrow was, they were good birds for the count, since only six were reported altogether, an unusually low number.

American Tree Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Finally the large sparrow reappeared, and with sun behind me I could see it well enough to see that it was a first-year Harris’s Sparrow.  These aren’t common here at any time, and only two were seen on count day.

Harris’s Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Harris’s Sparrow (photo by Andrew Hart).

Also nearby, on 51 Avenue near 68 Street, we saw a dozen Gray Partridges.  I got a poor photo of one.

We spent some time checking out the residential areas in the northeast, where we turned up a few new species.  The highlight was a pair of American Crows.  Terry Koryluk, who usually covers this route but was unable to this year, told us that there were two hanging out near Lester B. Pearson High School on 52 Street.  As soon as we pulled up there, the crows appeared and perched in a tree right in front of us.

We saw a lot of magpies, and the biggest concentration was at this deer carcass.

As for mammals, we saw a dozen (living) Mule Deer in all, and a few Eastern Gray Squirrels, but surprisingly, we saw no Coyotes.

Altogether we recorded 20 species of birds for the day, and although we missed a couple that we hoped to see, we saw a couple of others that were pleasant surprises.  The mild weather and the excellent wind-up at the Flynns’ made it another very enjoyable Christmas Bird Count.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Carburn and Southland Park Christmas Bird Count

This year, I also did the Christmas Bird Count; I was assigned the S1 route, encompassing both Carburn and Southland Park. We started the morning birding from the Eric Harvie bridge in Southland, right beside the dog park, before splitting up, 2 groups going south along the river (one on each side) and 2 groups going north along the river. The day was off to a good start as we observed 2 adult eagles and 2 immature eagles flying low overhead; the rising sun was beautiful, adding to the good beginning and silhouetting the many ducks and geese on the Bow River.

We observed thousands of Mallards, Common Goldeneyes and Canada Geese throughout the day with several hundred Buffleheads as well. There were also several Barrow’s Goldeneyes in these waterfowl flocks.

The Common Goldeneyes weren’t quite as numerous as the Mallards however they were still present in large numbers.

We continued to walk further down the river, spotting Redpolls, plenty of waterfowl, Killdeer, magpies and… RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!! As we were hiking along the river, we flushed up a brownish-black bird about the size of a Robin from the bank. It landed nearby at the top of a poplar where we all got good looks at it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my photographs of this species! This blackbird, is an unusual bird in Calgary, explaining, perhaps, my excitement at the sighting (also, this was only my second time seeing this species).

We headed back to the meeting spot, the Eric Harvie Bridge, where we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk and discovered that another group had found an American Wigeon. We then headed to our next stop, Tim Hortons! After warming up and getting refreshments at Tim Hortons, we headed out near the Glenmore bridge, where at a pullout, we walked out and did some more birding, turning up a Killdeer and a Hairy Woodpecker.

The next and final stop for our group was Carburn Park. Our goal at Carburn, was to find an American Pipit  that had been reported here a little while earlier. Though we couldn’t agree to the location where this bird had been seen, we did manage to find it. This happens to be the first pipit recorded on the Calgary CBC since its beginning, 59 years ago.

Also in Carburn, we found a pair of Great Horned Owls, that were extremely well camouflaged against the tree branches they were perched on, several more Barrow’s Goldeneyes and another juvenile eagle. I decided to head home early and only found out later that the rest of the group had also found a Northern Pintail and a Wood Duck in Carburn. I birded around my neighborhood, which was inside our count circle, and managed to add both species of crossbills, a robin and a Merlin to our list, among other species.

The pipit and the Rusty Blackbird were definitely the highlights of the day for me, however they were only two of the 33 species and 7924 individuals recorded by 10 counters in this particular area. Here are the complete results:

Canada Goose, 1500; Wood Duck, 1; American Wigeon, 1; Mallard, 3000; Northern Pintail, 1; Bufflehead, 150; Common Goldeneye, 2800; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 20; Common Merganser, 20; Bald Eagle, 5; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Merlin, 1; Killdeer, 5; Rock Pigeon, 25; Great Horned Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Hairy Woodpecker, 2; Northern Flicker, 3; Black-billed Magpie, 125; American Crow, 3; Common Raven, 12; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; American Robin, 1; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; House Finch, 4; Red Crossbill, 12; White-winged Crossbill, 26; Common Redpoll, 25; House Sparrow, 110; American Pipit, 1.

Posted by Matthew Sim

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