Thank You!

I would like to offer an enormous thank you to Angela, Curtis & Michelle, Dave of the Wild Bird Store in Calgary, Donna, Greg, Marcel, Nicholas of Hipster Birders, and Sandy for their amazing generosity and support in helping me reach so far, 41 percent of my goal for the Great Canadian Birdathon. Thank you each so very much!

I’m just a few weeks away from my Birdathon on May 21st, , and so far I’ve raised $640 of my $1,575 goal. If you’d like to help me reach my goal, you can visit my team page. Your support will be greatly appreciated, not just by me but also by the conservation groups receiving the funds I raise — the Calgary Bird Banding Society and Bird Studies Canada.

Thank you all so very much for your wonderful support!


Tofield Snow Goose Chase

The 17th annual Tofield Snow Goose Chase hosted by the Edmonton Nature Club is coming up very soon, on Saturday, April 23rd and Sunday, April 24th, at the Tofield Community Hall on Main Street from 9:30 am until 12 noon, followed by bus rides into the countryside to see the Snow Geese and other arrivals.

In the morning, stop in at the Town Hall to see the displays and exhibits from the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the Beaverhill Bird Observatory, and meet John Acorn (aka “The Nature Nut”), and Pete Heule (“The Bug Guy”) from the Royal Alberta Museum.

I’ll also be there at the Young Naturalists’ Corner, so please stop by and say hello! I’ll have a display of nature-related books, and might even be giving away a few prizes!

Here are my two blog posts about the 2012 and 2013, and also my page on Snow Goose Chase Resources.

I hope to see you there!


The Great Canadian Birdathon 2016

I signed up for my fifth Great Canadian Birdathon earlier this week. As you might know, I’ve participated since 2012 in the Great Canadian (formerly the Baillie) Birdathon, the oldest sponsored bird count in North America, hosted by Bird Studies Canada.

This year I signed up with the goal of raising $1,575. Part of the money will go to the Calgary Bird Banding Society, and the other part to Bird Studies Canada. This year, I’m hoping to see at least 100 species — I saw 76 last year. Here are my Birdathon results from 20152014, 2013, and 2012.

I would like to offer an enormous thank you to my good friends Curtis & Michelle, and to Sandy, for their early donations to my Birdathon!

If you’d like to sponsor me, you can visit my team page. I’d be delighted to reach my goal for my fifth Great Canadian Birdathon, to help the very worthy cause of bird conservation.


Alberta Birding and Nature Festivals

Festivals are a terrific way to connect with other birders, learn about birding hotspots, hear new speakers, and learn from experts on guided tours. They are also great for outings with family and friends.

Alberta offers some fantastic bird and nature festivals, so I decided to compile this year’s listing as a handy reference. If you know of an event to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below so I can make the changes.

— April 23-24, 2016: This year marks the 17th annual Tofield Snow Goose Chase organized by the Edmonton Nature Club and the town of Tofield. In the morning, stop in at the town hall to see the displays and exhibits from the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Beaverhill Bird Observatory, John Acorn “The Nature Nut“, and Pete Heule from the Royal Alberta Museum. I’ll be there too with the Young Naturalists’ Corner. There will be an owl banding talk and public bus trips for viewing the Snow Geese, swans, and other spring migrants.


—  April 23-24, 2016: The Friends of Saskatoon Island along with Alberta Parks celebrate the return of Trumpeter Swans to the Peace Country by holding the Saskatoon Island Swan Festival, features guided tours, presentations, and activities for families.

—  May 28-29, 2016: The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory holds a Songbird Festival in Slave Lake, Alberta. The event kicks off on Saturday with a pancake breakfast followed by guided birding hikes, workshops, and tours of the migration monitoring station.


— Saturday, June 18, 2016: The Camrose Purple Martin Festival will be celebrating its seventh annual festival this year with keynote speakers, bus and walking tours to Purple Martin colonies, activities for kids, and tips and techniques for making a wildlife-friendly yard.  

— June 19-23, 2016: The Waterton Wildflower Festival celebrates Waterton as the wildflower Capital of Canada. The festival features guided walks on plant identification and park ecosystems, family programs, and photographic presentations. Last year the festival offered birding sessions with experienced guides, so they might be available this year too.

— July 1st, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm Bluebird Festival near Lacombe, Alberta, focuses on the Mountain Bluebirds that nest around the farm. Come to the farm for free crafts for children, a talk on Purple Martin and Mountain Bluebird migration research, and a Neighbour’s Market.

— July 23rd, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm BioBlitz will feature biologists on site to share their expertise on all the wildlife at the farm, as well as site tours.

— August 6, 2016: The Ellis Bird Farm’s Bug Jamboree opens with a performance by John Acorn, “The Nature Nut”, and a butterfly count. Garden tours and children’s crafts are also part of the event.

— September (date to be announced): Waterton also hosts a wildlife festival in September, celebrating the park as one of the best places in the Rocky Mountains to view wildlife, especially mammals. Bighorn sheep, elk, deer, bears, and foxes, more than 200 species of birds, six species of amphibians, four species of reptiles, and 24 species of fish have been found in the Park. Workshops, presenters, and guided walks are some of the activities at the festival.

— October (date to be announced): Canmore celebrates the migration of Golden Eagles over the Alberta Rockies with a Festival of the Eagles. The weekend celebration includes guided hikes, bird walks, interpretive displays, and guest speakers. Spotting scopes are set up at Canmore Collegiate High School to view the migrating eagles.

Alberta’s Christmas Bird Counts 2015

December brings an important event for birders — the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC)!

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running wildlife census in North America. It was started over 100 years ago by the National Audubon Society in the United States, and in Canada is co-ordinated by Bird Studies Canada. The information collected by thousands of volunteers makes up one of the world’s largest sets of wildlife survey data, and provides scientists with important information on populations and distribution of wintering birds.

Christmas Bird Counts are conducted on a single day for each community between December 14th and January 5th. Counts are carried out within a 24 km (15 mile) diameter circle that stays the same from year to year. Birders count every bird they see or hear, and all the data are compiled at the end of the day, sometimes at a get-together or potluck.

There are two different types of counters: field observers and feederwatchers. Field observers cover a portion of the count circle individually or with a small group. Feederwatchers count the birds at their feeders, often in the comfort of a warm house, which makes it the perfect activity for young children, seniors, and those in colder climates.

New and beginning birders are always welcome and encouraged to participate. Most organizers place an experienced birder on each team, so don’t be concerned if you’re still learning the ropes of birding.

I’ve been participating in my area’s count for six seasons, and this year I’m organizing our count in Vermilion.

There are lots of counts taking place all over Alberta, and while the Nature Alberta website has a list of some of the counts, I thought I’d make a more comprehensive “At a Glance” list. You can find a PDF version here. If you see that your community isn’t included, please let me know in the comments below.


To find all the counts happening across Canada, go to the Bird Studies Canada’s map here.

To find all the counts happening across the United States and Canada, go to the National Audubon Society’s map here.


Interview with Steven Price, Great Canadian Birdathon celebrity guest birder

This year’s celebrity guest birder for Bird Studies Canada‘s annual Great Canadian Birdathon (formerly the Baillie Birdathon) is Steven Price, the new president of Bird Studies Canada.

Today, I’m happy to share my interview with Steven. Thank you, Steven, for agreeing to do this interview, during what I know is a very busy time of year between presidential duties and spring migration.

Please consider donating to Steven’s Birdathon as all the money raised contributes to bird conservation in Canada. You can find his Great Canadian Birdathon page here; his Birdathon goal is $10,000.

Prairie Birder: Please tell us about yourself. 

Steven: I’m a biologist who’s become a conservationist, having worked over 30 years now in the nonprofit environmental sector in Canada. Trained in ecology and evolution, I enjoy birds as a hobby. This led me to apply for the president’s job at Bird Studies Canada in the summer of 2014 – and they hired me!


PB: What are some of the changes you’re hoping to bring to Bird Studies Canada as the new president? What are some of your plans to raise public awareness of the need for bird conservation?

Steven: Mostly, I hope to keep BSC as the productive, science-based organization that it is, working across Canada and on all groups of birds. Globally, we are part of the BirdLife network, with representatives in dozens of countries worldwide. I hope to help BSC focus on urgent and important goals for research, awareness, and conservation, which are the three elements of our mission. Regarding public awareness, we plan to grow the number of volunteers who serve as “Citizen Scientists”, helping out with various bird and natural history surveys of all kinds.

PB: What would you tell Canadian birders in 2015 who want to know what BSC can offer them? And what would you tell Canadians who are not birders? 

Steven: Bird Studies Canada is the country’s only national, science-based, nonprofit organization devoted entirely to understanding, appreciating, and conserving birds. We are modest in size and immodest in pride about our role in bird conservation. To those who do not call themselves birders, I suggest you join a nature walk near where you live and watch a new hobby develop right before your eyes! It’s healthy, fun, inexpensive, and inspiring.

PB: This year’s Birdathon has a name change, from the Baillie Birdathon to the Great Canadian Birdathon. What do you hope the name change will do for the Birdathon? 

Steven: I have a great attachment to the memory of James L. Baillie. BSC will maintain his memory by keeping the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund. My earliest work with birds involved charting the birds he’d seen and noted in his diaries, stored in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. Most of his birding was in southern Ontario. Now, under the name Great Canadian Birdathon, we are encouraging Canadians to have some fun with family and friends birding anywhere in the country!

PB: Where and when is your own Great Canadian Birdathon taking place? Will you be birding as an individual or with other birders, and if so, with whom?

Steven: I look forward to my own Birdathon on May 29 in the Greater Toronto Area. Urban areas are often close to rivers, lakes, or oceans, offering a tremendous diversity of bird habitats and birds, even amidst considerable development. I’ll be birding with keen BSC staff in the Toronto area, and I hope to attract Rick Mercer!


PB: Do you have a target number of species you’re hoping to see during your Birdathon? 

Steven: Well, keen birders like me always hope to top 100, somewhat of an arbitrary number, but an achievable one on a good day in May in southern Ontario. More importantly, we are urging people to not be hindered by the friendly competition for high species numbers, as the Birdathon is more about getting out, enjoying yourself, learning more about birds, and raising funds to conserve them.

PB: For people who aren’t able to donate to the birdathon, what is the next best thing they can do?

Steven: Everyone can donate through the Birdathon, and thereby support the cause. They can also examine their bird-friendliness in the backyard, at the cottage, on the farm, and at work: keep domestic cats indoors, reduce or eliminate pesticide use, and treat windows to reduce collisions.

PB: Where are some of your favourite places, in Canada and outside of Canada, to go birding?

Steven: I always enjoy familiar places, like my local ravine and family cottage in southern Ontario. But travelling to Long Point and Point Pelee in Ontario, or the Riefel Refuge or Okanagan in B.C., or the Prairies, or Maritime beaches – it’s all so beautiful and exciting for a birder. Outside of Canada, I’d say Costa Rica, Mexico, and Cuba have been favourite places of mine to visit and bird.

PB: Lastly, Canadian Geographic is looking for a species to represent the country as Canada’s national bird. Out of all the candidates, which species has your vote and why? 

Steven: This is a tough choice, but I like the Gray Jay, as it’s national in distribution and a good symbol of connecting people to nature, given how it can be so fearless around cabins, cottages, and campfires. This familiarity is what gave it the nickname, “Whiskey Jack”. The Gray Jay is not, however, regularly seen in urban areas, where most Canadians now live. But perhaps it is still appropriate as a draw to encourage people to get out and see natural areas.

* * * *

Thank you, Steven, for the opportunity to interview you and good luck on your Great Canadian Birdathon!