Summer Nests and Some Ethics

This past week, I was out birding and came across six bird nests all around our farm. Whenever I come across a nest, it’s likely because the parent sitting on the nest has flushed from my presence; this is a particular problem in Alberta at this time of year, with farmers starting to swath alfalfa in their hay fields and surprising many nesting birds, particularly ducks.

I will take about a minute to look at the contents in nest, but will spend as little time near it as possible, as my presence may attract predators, and make the parents feel so unsafe that they might decide to abandon the nesting site. I’ve found quite a few nests from small songbirds to waterfowl. I try to follow the ABA’s Code of Birding Ethics as well as the North American Photography Association (NANPA) Principles of Ethical Field Practices.

A friend of mine, Utah wildlife photographer and blogger Mia McPherson, wrote a post in May titled, “Please… give nests and chicks respect”, in which she gave a helpful list on

Ethics on photographing nesting birds:

Do not approach too closely

If the birds show any sign of distress, back away

Don’t trim leaves, twigs or branches to get a clearer shot, you may inadvertently attract predators or cause the eggs/chicks to over heat

Follow local, state and federal guidelines concerning nesting birds

Don’t harass the birds to get an action shot

Don’t stay a long time with nesting birds or chicks, that disrupts their normal behavior

Always remember that your scent may draw predators to the area of nesting birds or birds with chicks.

I believe this is a Chipping Sparrow as it looks similar to a Chipping Sparrow nest I found last year. This nest is on the ground, but the nest I found last year was in a spruce tree,

A Mallard nest,


Brewer’s Blackbird nest in our lilac shelterbelt,


This Sora nest had seven eggs and one chick, but as I walked past the nest, the chick jumped out and swam away,


A female Robin nesting in one of our maple trees,


Here’s another duck nest, but I’m not sure on the species. The eggs are a little smaller than the Mallard’s, but larger than Teals’,


Turkey Vultures Galore

Yesterday I travelled around northeast Alberta with Dr. Wayne Nelson, a retired Alberta Fish and Wildlife biologist, checking on Turkey Vultures. I had contacted Dr. Nelson earlier this year to report a pair of Turkey Vultures at an abandoned building 30 miles or so north of our house. He emailed back to ask if I’d like to join him on his July travels checking abandoned farm buildings for nests, and I said yes!

We left at 10:30 am, and our first stop was at the house I reported. Unfortunately, nothing was there. We stopped at five other sites where vultures had been reported this year, and also at some nesting sites reported in previous years, but disappointed again!

While driving to the next spot, we saw four adult vultures, but no chicks. Then, at the next abandoned building we visited, I was very happy and surprised to have my first looks at two young Turkey Vultures! Their hissing is quite loud and if you don’t know where it is coming from, it is quite unnerving, and not many things scare me.

The next two buildings we visited each had two young vultures. Many of the buildings had Barn Swallows nests in them, and one had an Eastern Phoebe nest. These old buildings are very important if they can sustain Turkey Vultures, Barn Swallows, and Eastern Phoebes nests all under one roof.

In total, Dr. Nelson and I saw seven adult Turkey Vultures and six young vultures. Dr. Nelson estimates that the chicks are about 35 to 40 days old. Today was just a scouting trip, and in a few day Dr. Nelson will go back with a licensed Turkey Vulture bander and wing tag them. Thank you very much to Dr. Nelson for taking me along.

I had a wonderful time looking at the vultures, and hope to do it again some time!

My first look at young Turkey Vultures,

At the second house with chicks,

An adult,

A house with a Turkey Vulture in the background,

Here is a video of the vultures hissing,

Also, Dr. Nelson is imprinting a young Peregrine Falcon for falconry, and it rides along in his car, in a box. Before yesterday I had never seen a Peregrine Falcon in real life, so it was very entertaining having one in the backseat.

The falcon is 26 days old,

Checking the Tree Swallow Boxes

Yesterday afternoon I checked our 10 Tree Swallow boxes. The most eggs I found in one box were eight, and the most chicks I found were eight!

Five chicks and two eggs,

Dive-bomb by a protective parent,

Eight chicks,