2015 Christmas Bird Count and CBC4Kids

The 26th annual Vermilion Christmas Bird Count was held on December 19th. I’m the president for our local Naturalist Society this year, so I organized the count, made sure we had field counters for each of the quadrants, and also tried to publicize the count in the local papers to encourage more feeder counters and let the community know to expect birders walking around. We had a total of 29 field counters and nine feederwatchers.

My friend Sharon picked me up at 9 am and we drove around our part of the NW Quadrant, stopping at farmyards along the way, checking to see if there were any birds at feeders or in the mature spruce trees surrounding the yards. Black-capped Chickadees, Black-billed Magpies, and Common Ravens were our most seen species, but the Common Redpolls were the most abundant — we saw over 400 in just under two hours.

At 11:30 am we headed to my grandmother’s acreage to see what was at her feeders. We enjoyed mugs of hot chocolate and ate Christmas baking while looking out her kitchen windows. We added two Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers to our list. Three Blue Jays fed from the peanut ring that my grandmother put out.

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One of the Blue Jays checking out the peanut feeder,IMG_9982 IMG_9983

A male Hairy Woodpecker,IMG_9988

A White-breasted Nuthatch also made a brief appearance,IMG_9997

This year, I organized the second annual Vermilion CBC4Kids in the Vermilion Provincial Park. Sharon dropped me off at home and I drove to town for the CBC4Kids starting at 1 pm. We had seven kids, six parents, and one novice adult birder come out for birding in the park. I talked about the possible species we could see and explained more about the Christmas Bird Count, then we started walking the trails.

A reporter from the one of the local newspapers joined us to cover the CBC4Kids just before we started our walk. Thanks for coming out, Shannon, and for the great article, which I hope encourages other families and young birders to come out. 

Two junior birders, photo courtesty of Shannon O’Connor, The Vermilion Voice.

Two junior birders (photo courtesty of Shannon O’Connor, The Vermilion Voice)

We looked for the large flocks of finches that had been previously reported in the spruce trees, but all we saw for winter finches were two Common Redpolls. Black-capped Chickadees were the most abundant on the walk and one particular bird came very close to the group, so everyone got a good look.

Other than birds, we found snowshoe hare tracks, various bird nests, a willow where a porcupine had stripped the bark off the top branches, and a bunch of trembling aspens that beavers chopped down in the summer or fall and left behind.

Searching for woodpeckers to no avail,IMG_1452

After a climb up a fairly steep hill, we caught our breath and got a group photo,IMG_1450

We finished the walk having traveled over two kilometres and seen six species. Even though the kids were a little tired after the long walk, they all had a good time. I’m looking forward to next year’s CBC4Kids, and think I might lead a walk for beginning adult birders who can’t commit to a whole/half day of counting, but would like to learn more about the wintering birds in Vermilion.

Here’s our list of species from the CBC4Kids walk:

Blue Jay — 1

Black-billed Magpie — 2

Common Raven — 2

Black-capped Chickadee — 38

Bohemian Waxwing  — 35

Common Redpoll — 2

There’s always a CBC potluck supper in town where everyone shares stories from the day, and our compiler tallies the count numbers. From the regular count and the CBC4Kids, counters saw a total of 4,340 individual birds of 41 species, a new record on both counts. Two of the species — a Cooper’s Hawk and a Northern Saw-Whet Owl — were new additions for the count and were both seen in the NE Quadrant.

Christmas Bird Counts around North America run up until January 5th — CBCs are excellent ways to meet other birders in your area as well as to add some new winter species to your list.

:: Find more CBC4Kids events here

:: Find CBC events across Canada here

:: Find CBC events across the U.S here

Fall Warblers and a New Nikon

Last month, I received a terrific 18th birthday present from my parents — a Nikon D610 with 50mm and 70-200mm lenses! I’d like to thank my parents very much for my new camera and also my good friend Nicole for her camera expertise and helping me to narrow my choices.

I went for a drive earlier this week with my Swarovski scope and binoculars, and Canon SX 50HS. I was thinking about bringing my new camera along, but the battery was a little low and I wasn’t expecting to see anything close enough to photograph with it.

At the first clump of willows I stopped and rolled down the truck window. I heard lots of “chips” coming from the bushes so I pished for a few seconds and then Palm Warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens, and a Orange-crowned Warbler came into view. The Palm Warblers were very inquisitive and came particularly close, so I was immediately regretting not bringing my new camera.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were all over and they were very easy to get photos of as they didn’t move around as much as the other warblers.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler or as some like to call them, “butter butts”,

IMG_9707I was very excited to get this photo since the coverts, alula, and other feathers you usually don’t get to see are visible,IMG_9729IMG_9730There were a number of palm warblers that afternoon. Palm Warblers have bright yellow undertail coverts, and they bob their tails,IMG_9691 IMG_9696After 45 minutes, I decide to head back home and grab my new camera, better late than never. This is the first time I’ve photographed birds with this camera, so I still have lots of learning to do. The second time around, the warblers weren’t as cooperative, but I’m very happy with the shots I got.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

 Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

The Orange-crowned Warblers moved incredibly quickly through the willows making it almost impossible for me to get photos. I was able to capture this photo which I cropped just a little,

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Orange-crowned Warbler, Nikon D610, handheld, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-200mm, natural light

If you have any suggestions/tips for me on taking photos with my new camera, I would love to hear them. Please leave any suggestions in the comments or email me at cnafarm AT gmail DOT com. Thank you!

Birding in Germany

Before I left Canada for Europe in early January, I emailed my German friend, Jochen, who writes at 10,000 Birds as well as his personal blog, to ask about birding in Lower Saxony during our visit to my grandmother’s cousin’s family. Jochen helped me with my list of target species and sent me maps of the area where we would be staying. I was also hoping that we might get to meet after several years of corresponding, but Jochen doesn’t live nearby.

Jochen also mentioned my name on some German birding listservs, and from there I got in touch with Imme and Ludger, birders from the Barnstorf area. I made plans to go out birding with them one day during our stay, in mid-January. We stayed at my grandmother’s cousin’s farm and had a wonderful time.

Their house is 100 years old and they have a dairy farm, where we were able to help with chores. Imme and Ludger collected my mother and me at 9am at the farm. The morning was quite frosty with some fog, but as the day progressed the sun came out and the day was perfect for a birding trip.

I didn’t have much time to do any birding on my own in Germany, so having Imme and Ludger to show me around was terrific.

The first species we saw were Little Grebes, Whooper Swans, and Tundra Bean Geese in a field near my family’s house. We didn’t stop for too long at any one place as Imme and Ludger were eager to find as many species as possible.

Imme and Ludger used a well-illustrated german field guide, and I had my iPad with the Collin Bird app. Between the two, it was easy to get both the German and English names for each species.

Many of the fields, such as this one at Lange Lohe, were filled with hundreds of Fieldfares and Mistlethrushes, IMG_7721

Here we are looking for a Common Snipe that didn’t want to be found.

Here we are looking for a Common Snipe that didn’t want to be found.

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Still looking for the snipe

When we arrived in Germany, everyone was talking about the cranes (or Kranich in German) which are now stopping in Northern Europe on their migration route, with some birds overwintering in Germany.

We were able to find several small flocks of cranes, often with Tundra Bean Geese. The cranes were very skittish, but we got some very nice views. In total, we saw 66 Common Cranes.

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Two Common Cranes and Tundra Bean Geese

At the Drebbersches Moor near Lange Lohe we saw European Starlings, a small flock of Egyptian Geese which flew above us, more Fieldfares and Mistlethrushes, and a Yellowhammer singing at the top of a tree.

The last bird we saw near the moor was a Redwing sitting at the top of a tree. The Redwing and Yellowhammer were sitting in the trees in the middle of the photo, IMG_7728unnamed-2 There was a Hen Harrier (or Northern Harrier in North America) hunting around the fields. We walked to the moor and my mother and I were both expecting to see vast marshland, but what we saw was so very different, IMG_7727 As far as the eye could see were stacks of drying peat cultivated from the moor. Imme and Ludger told us that Black Grouse is now extinct in the area because of habitat loss in the moors. unnamed-1 We saw many birds just driving around, including many flocks of swans and geese. In one of the flocks, we found three species of swans including Mute, Tundra, and Whooper Swans. While we looking at the swans through the scope, a bunch of Greenfinches flew past.

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Some Tundra (Bewick’s) Swans

One of the best birding areas in the region is around Dümmer Lake which is particularly good for waterfowl. As we walked to the dock in Hüde, a Sparrowhawk flew right in front of us chasing a small songbird.

There were quite a few Chaffinches, Great Tits, and Blue Tits in the trees near the dock. Because of the cooler night time temperatures, the lake was frozen near the shore, and the only birds that were around were Graylag Geese sitting on the ice.

We left Hüde and drove to the west side of the lake. On the west side, we were hoping to find the White-tailed Eagles that had been seen in the area. We parked the vehicle and walked a little ways. On the walk we saw a Great Egret, a Gadwall, and had a better look at a Common Snipe.

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A Great Egret near the Dümmer Lake

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A Gadwall in a ditch near the Dümmer

Imme and Ludger set up their scopes and started looking for the eagles, which were sitting in some trees quite a distance away, but we could clearly see their white tails through the scope.

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Graylag Geese along the Hunte river which runs through the Dümmer Lake.

A sign near the Dümmer letting you know you are entering a nature reserve, IMG_0809-2 On the south-west side of Dümmer Lake, there’s another observation platform where we found open water. On the lake, we saw lots of Mallards, Common Mergansers, European Wigeons, Tufted Ducks, Black-headed Gulls, and a Great Black-backed Gull flying by.

As we were about to leave the platform, Ludger saw some pipits in the tall grass. In Germany, in winter, there are two species of pipits, but we weren’t able to get good views, so the pipits went unidentified. We did however see a female European Stonechat, which was a very nice find, IMG_7750

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A view of Dümmer Lake from the observation platform

In Lembruch, we walked along the beach and found some Common Mergansers, Eurasian Coots, Mallards, Great Cormorants, a Mew Gull, and Caspian Gull, both lifers for me.

From Lembruch, we drove to the Osterfeiner Moor looking for shrikes that had been seen by other birders, but we didn’t find any. There were a few Northern Lapwings, European Goldfinches, and this Common Buzzard with a European Hare, IMG_7755 At the Osterfeine Sewage Treatment Plant we saw Eurasian Teals, Mallards, and Eurasian Coots. The teals swam away as we got closer, but the coots didn’t seem to mind our presence.

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Eurasian Coots

Near the end of our drive, we stopped at the meadows north of Dümmer Lake to look at a large flock of geese. The flock mostly consisted of Canada Geese, a few Tundra Bean Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, and a handful of Barnacle Geese.

The last birds we saw were Stock Doves feeding in a field. We were unable to stop because we were on a highway, but I got a good look at the doves as we drove past.

Thank you so much to Jochen for all his help before my departure and to Imme and Ludger for sharing their birding knowledge and taking the better part of a day to show me the birds around such a beautiful part of their country. We had some very good conversations, and I learned a good deal about birds and birding in Germany; Imme said that there are few young people and women birding in Germany.

Here’s a list of all the species we saw (in order of appearance). The species in bold were lifers for me:

Little Grebe, Whooper Swan, Tundra Bean Goose, Eurasian Jay, Mistle Thrush, Carrion Crow, Ring-necked Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Common Magpie, Common Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Common Crane, Greater-White fronted Goose, Canada Goose, Common Buzzard, Yellowhammer, Hen Harrier, Egyptian Goose, Common Kestrel, Redwing, Northern Lapwing, European Starling, Tundra Swan, Mute Swan, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Great Cormorant, European Goldfinch, Rook, Great Egret, Greylag Goose, Eurasian Moorhen, White-tailed Eagle, Gadwall, Common Snipe, European Stonechat, Great Tit, Common Blackbird, European Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Great-crested Grebe, Great Black-backed Gull, Blue Tit, European Robin, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Caspian Gull, Mew Gull, Eurasian Coot, Common Merganser, Black-headed Gull, House Sparrow, Eurasian Teal, Barnacle Goose, and Stock Dove.

Review: The Collins Bird Guide App

Preparing last fall for my family’s trip to Europe last month, I researched field guides, websites, and apps that might be helpful for birding in France and Germany. I planned to take my iPad and iPod, but not my laptop.

I knew I was going to take my paperback copy of Birds of Europe (second edition) published by Princeton University Press, but a few days before we left I came across The Collins Bird Guide app which I though might be useful to use with my iPad. 

Thanks to Touchpress, publisher of the Collins Bird Guide app, I was able to get a review copy downloaded onto my iPad before our departure. I spent the flight to France learning the features of the app, and because I enjoyed it so much and found it so helpful for my trip, I thought I’d share my opinions and a little about how to use the app in this post.

The Collins Bird Guide app is based on the book, The Collins Bird Guide by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, and Dan Zetterström, which is considered the standard European field guide.

The app is very easy to navigate through its three-tier structure which includes over 700 species and more than 3,500 excellent illustrations. The first tier, which is the home page, shows a list of all the families or species groupings included in the app — you can organize the list taxonomically or alphabetically with the app’s settings. The home page also has an introduction at the top of the screen on how to use the app with references to the maps, plumages, terminology, and more. At any point, you can move between the tiers by tapping on the “house” or “bird” icons at the bottom of the screen. Both the family groupings and the species accounts are on a continuous scroll, so it’s easy to keep scrolling through the app.

Here is the home page with all the family groupings:

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Click on a family group — this takes you to the second tier of the app. A list will open with all the species in that family which you can scroll through. Tapping on the family name above the illustrations exposes information about that family. For woodpeckers, the entry reads:

All but the aberrant Wryneck specialists in climbing and excavating nest holes in vertical tree trunks. Anatomical adaptations include strong feet and mobile toes (species with four toes have two directed backwards) and sharp claws, stiff tail-feathers which serve as support on vertical surfaces, also powerful awl- or chisel-shaped bill and “shock-absorbant” brain-case. Food includes wood-boring insects; have a greatly elongated tongue base for scouring and emptying deep insect burrows. Most species use drumming as a “song” (both sexes drum). Only the Wryneck is a long-distance migrant, others largely residents.

Here is the woodpecker family group:

image1-2

From the family page, touch a specific species and it will open to the third-tier — the species account. The species account includes multiple illustrations of the bird in different plumages, general information on the bird, range maps, the species conservation status, and audio recordings.

Here is the European Green Woodpecker species account:

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The illustrations are very good and the text is quite informative — the developers have taken all the text and illustrations from the body of the book and converted them to a digital format. To get the illustrations in full-screen, tap once. If you like, tap the screen again to remove the text and symbols. You can also pinch-to-zoom to enlarge the illustrations to see close-up details.

One of my favourite app features is the comparison function. This was useful with so many new-to-me species to identify. There are two ways to compare species. The first is accessible on the right hand side above the species text. For example, below you can see the comparisons for Eurasian Nuthatch include Algerian Nuthatch, (Western) Rock Nuthatch, and Eastern Rock Nuthatch.

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Here is where the comparison buttons are located (in red):

Nuthatchcomparisonimage

The other comparison button is accessible at the bottom left of the app’s screen. Tapping on this allows you to create a customized side-by-side comparison of any species. You can do side-by-side comparisons of up to 12 species, but I found personally that two species is the best way to compare as the illustrations are still fairly large and the text is easy to read.

A majority of species in the guide come with multiple audio recordings. Songbirds have songs and calls included, while less vocal species — such as waterfowl, shorebirds, and game birds — usually are accompanied by a single recording.

There’s a search function that allows you to try to identify a species by selecting from a series of attributes including location and season, habitat, shape, size, plumage colour, family, bill colour, and more. The app then provides a list of species that fit that criteria.

Here I’m searching for species that frequent the highlighted map area:

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The app includes the option to keep a life list and to create any others lists. The lists I kept/created were my Life List, Year List, France List, and Germany List.

Tapping on the checkmark next to the species text will add that bird to your Life List (and there’s also an option to share your Lifer on social media). Then, tapping on the list icon next to the checkmark lets you add that species to any other lists you’ve created, or add a new list.  To view your lists, go to the search bar where they’ll appear under “My Lists”. The lists are arranged in the three tiers, just like the rest of the app.

One suggestion I have for any future app updates is for the app to total the number of species on each list and to let users add a date for when they see a particular bird.

This is the family groups page from my Germany List. I saw a species in each of the families that’s highlighted:

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Play around with the app and you’ll quickly get the hang of the layout and flow. The Collins Bird Guide app is excellent with an easy-to-use interface and intuitive design — of the seven bird identification apps I’ve tried (The Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America, Audubon Birds Pro, and Peterson Birds, to name a few), this one is easily the best, and it would be wonderful if there were a comparable app for North American Birds. I highly recommend this app to any birders living in or travelling to Europe — it’s terrific!

The app is compatible with the iPhone and iPad; and I’ve read that the developers are working on a version for Android. The app is $17.99 (US), $20.99 (CAN), or £13.49 on iTunes

Thank you very much to Touchpress for providing me with a review copy.

Call for Photos — “Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide”

Myrna Pearman, manager and biologist at the Ellis Bird Farm (EBF) in southern Alberta, is updating EBF’s now out-of-print Winter Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide. The revised book, to be called Backyard Bird Feeding: An Alberta Guide, will cover the feeding of wild birds through all seasons for the province of Alberta.

Myrna is looking for photographs of the following species to include in the book:

Species:

Clark’s Nutcracker
Baltimore Oriole (male and female)
Varied Thrush
Wild Turkey
Gray Catbird
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Harris’s Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Gray –crowned Rosy-finch
Golden-crowned Kinglet

Preferably on/at feeding stations or birdbaths:

Black Bear
Weasel, any species
Saw-whet owl
American Crow
Ruffed Grouse
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-bellied/Red-naped Sapsucker
Flying Squirrel
Northern or Loggerhead Shrike
Red-winged Blackbird (male and female)

Other:

Bald Eagle on roadkill
Townsend’s Solitaire at a birdbath
Mobbing behaviour by feeder birds
Crows washing/dipping food in a birdbath
Any bird bathing in winter
Any bird drinking at a birdbath
Any bird eating grit/oyster shell/eggshells
Feeder bird (preferably Blue Jay) in moult
Displacement behaviour at a feeding station
Cat at or around feeder, or with bird or small mammal in mouth
Woodpeckers pecking at siding/window sills (causing damage)
Any interesting/unusual feeder bird/birdbath behaviour

If you have photos of some of the species listed, please send them to mpearman@ellisbirdfarm.ca no later than January 31, 2015. The final photo selection for the book is February 28, 2015.

Selected photos will be published in the book, and the photographer will be credited and will also receive a complimentary copy of the guide.

The guide is expected to be published in May 2015.

Here’s a photo I submitted — a Harris’s Sparrow from 2013,

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Off to France and Germany

I’m heading to France and Germany shortly to visit family and friends for several weeks. In France, we’ll be staying about an hour south of Paris, near the forest of Fontainebleau, and in Germany we’ll be staying between Osnabrueck and Bremen.

I’ve traveled to parts of Canada, the US, and the Caribbean, but never to Europe. I’m looking forward to seeing the beautiful countryside and to seeing European birds, including the European Robin, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, European Nuthatch, European Magpie, European  Jay, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, and Hawfinch.

If you’ve been reading here, you probably know that one of the more frequent commenters is Jochen from Bell Tower Birding. Last month I got in touch with him to see if we might be able to meet (unfortunately not because the distance is too far), and he’s sent me maps of the area I’ll be in and helped me with finding my target species.

I’m bringing my copy of Birds of Europe (2nd edition) and also the Collins Bird Guide app for my iPad. 

I’m not sure what my internet situation will be on my trip, since our hosts are older and don’t have internet at home, but I’ll try to post a few photos while I’m away. And if I can’t post during my trip, I’ll have a full trip report when I get home.

The Christmas Bird Count, a Lifer & The Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids)

This past Sunday was the annual Christmas Bird Count for the Vermilion area. The weather was quite nice, probably the warmest CBC I’ve participated in. The temperature was just under -10 degrees C  without any wind, which made the birding much more enjoyable than in previous years. It was also quite foggy and the hoarfrost on the trees was beautiful.

The Vermilion CBC is split up into the usual four quadrants — SW, SE, NE, NW — as well as the Town, College, and Reservoir.

I live in the NW quadrant, so I cover this area every year with a friend who lives nearby.

Sharon picked me up at 9 am and we both decided to head straight for my grandmother’s yard. On the way over, we saw a flock of Snow Buntings, and some Common Ravens and Black-billed Magpies.

At my grandmother’s, we watched the birds in almost constant motion as they flew to the many feeders in her yard; three Downy Woodpeckers, two Hairy Woodpeckers, 26 Black-capped Chickadees, two White-breasted Nuthatches, a wary Blue Jay and three Black-billed Magpies were all the species we counted just in the yard.

We shared mugs of hot chocolate and ate Toffifee while looking out the kitchen windows. My grandmother spotted a Dark-eyed Junco feeding on the ground underneath a spruce tree. She said a pair of Juncos had been hanging around her feeders, so it was very nice to see one on count day.

A Blue Jay enjoying peanuts at one of my grandmother’s feeding stations.

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One of the White-breasted Nuthatches,

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The female Hairy Woodpecker in the Mayday tree,

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I’ve never seen a Dark-eyed Junco in December before, so it was exciting to be able to add one to our list,

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My grandmother has been regularly seeing a Snowy Owl on the road just south of her house. We drove down that road where the Snowy Owl was supposed to be, but unfortunately didn’t see it. The only birds we did see were two Common Ravens and one Black-billed Magpie.

We drove through town and saw a large flock of Rock Pigeons then headed down to the Vermilion River on the old bridge where there is currently open water. In some years there’ve been a few ducks on the river during the Christmas Bird Count, so I was hoping there would be some again this year. We didn’t see anything at first, but then I saw something flying towards us. It landed on the river right in front of us, and it was a drake Mallard.

A Mallard in the river and snow on the edge,

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We finished ups after three hours of birding and counting since Sharon had another event at noon, and I had to be at provincial park for the CBC4Kids at 1 pm.

In three hours of birding with Sharon we saw 12 species of birds: Snow Bunting, Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Rock Pigeon, Northern Shrike, and Mallard. We also counted the two mammals we saw: a Meadow Vole and a Muskrat.

I had a quick lunch at home and then headed out the park to lead the first CBC4Kids for Vermilion as well as for the province of Alberta! Joining me for the walk were four very excited young birders/naturalists and their parents; we were also happy to have Emily from the local office of Alberta Fish & Wildlife come along. Even though the weather was very nice, perhaps because of the heavy fog, the birds didn’t seem very active — at least where we were. Black-capped Chickadees were feeding in the trees along the trails and two squirrels were chasing each other around a spruce tree. Common Ravens were performing aerial acrobatics and a White-breasted Nuthatch called from a tall spruce.

At one of the benches in the park everyone posed for a photo,

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Playing in the snow,

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As we headed back to the CN Station, five birds flew overhead, and at first I thought they were Bohemian Waxwings. When they landed in some nearby trees I could see that they weren’t waxwings, but Pine Grosbeaks.

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On one of the trails leading to the parking lot, we could hear the tapping of a woodpecker on a tree. Listening, we followed the sound until we were finally able to get a good look. It wasn’t the expected and usual  Hairy or Pileated Woodpecker, but something entirely different. We were able to get great looks at the bird as it was completely absorbed in stripping the bark from the dead spruce tree looking for grubs and insects.

We identified the bird as a female Black-backed Woodpecker,

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This woodpecker species is a little south of its usual range, since Black-backed Woodpeckers usually stick to boreal forest, especially areas with burned trees.

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Watching the bird of the day, and lifer for all,

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We saw seven species in total in the park and the two squirrels. The CBC4Kids was lots of fun and I hope we can hold the event again next year.

In the evening, there’s always a CBC potluck supper in town where everyone shares stories from the day and our compiler tallies the count numbers. Here are the official count numbers:

CBC count day:

Snow Bunting – 140
Black-capped Chickadee – 461
Rock Dove – 174
Northern Flicker – 2
Pine Grosbeak – 37
Blue Jay – 21
Dark-eyed Junco – 1
Black-billed Magpie – 189
Mallard – 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch – 2
White-breasted Nuthatch – 27
Snowy Owl – 2
Gray Partridge – 24
Common Raven – 49
Common Redpoll – 9
Northern Shrike – 1
House Sparrow – 265
Bohemian Waxwing – 90
Downy Woodpecker – 33
Hairy Woodpecker – 15
Merlin – 1
Woodpecker species – 1 (the Black-backed Woodpecker)

Total Species – 21 Total Individuals – 1,544

Count Week:

American Robin – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
House Finch – 12

Christmas Bird Counts around North America run up until January 15th — CBCs are excellent ways to meet other birders in your area as well as to add some new winter species to your list. And you might even find a lifer.

:: Find more CBC4Kids events here

:: Find CBC events across Canada here

:: Find CBC events across the U.S here