Peterson Guide to Owls

IMG_0964Last week’s mail was very bird-themed*, in part because I received a copy of the new Peterson Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean by Scott Weidensaul, sent by my good friend Ray from the radio show, Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds.

(If you’re not familiar with Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds, it’s a live radio show from Massachusetts about birds, birding, and conservation. The show airs Sundays at 9:30 am (Eastern time). You can listen live from anywhere in the world through the WATD website. If you can’t listen live, all of the past shows are available on the website and iTunes. If you’re looking for a birding show or podcast to listen to, Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds is excellent and you might even win a Droll Yankees feeder for their Mystery Bird contest!)

I just had time to page through the book quickly, and noted some very good photos of owls by a number of photographers, including from my friend Christian Artuso in Manitoba (Christian has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science, did his thesis on Eastern Screech-Owls, and is the Manitoba Program Manager for Bird Studies Canada). I’m hoping to read the book and write a review before the end of this month.

Thank you for the great book, Ray! Some readers might remember that I had the incredible opportunity to meet Ray and the Talkin’ Bird’s crew one year ago this month when I traveled with my father to Washington, DC to be a part of Ray’s 500th episode. For the past year, I’ve also been part of the show with a “Charlotte’s Weblog” segment every other week, which includes my sightings from here in Alberta as well as information for young birders and naturalists.

*Also in the mailbox: the latest issue of BirdWatch Canada from Bird Studies Canada, the Birder’s Guide to Listing & Taxonomy from the American Birding Association, and two new digiscoping adapters!

Great Canadian Birdathon 2015 Results

I held my Great Canadian Birdathon on Saturday, May 30th — it was a cool and windy day but there were lots of birds to been seen!

The first bird I saw was a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at my window feeder at 6 am. I saw two female hummingbirds throughout the day while in the house for snacks.

At the slough across from our house where I was able to find many species of waterbirds, including Cinnamon Teals, Black Terns, Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue-winged Teals, Wilson’s Phalaropes, and American Coots.

A female Yellow-headed Blackbird,

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I walked over to the woods where I added Yellow Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Song Sparrow, American Robin, European Starling, and Clay-coloured Sparrow. I think the strong winds prevented many birds from singing, so I wasn’t able to find many songbirds in the woods.

A Bonaparte’s Gull,

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A Marbled Godwit,

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A male Ruddy Duck,

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A Red-necked Grebe,

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I stopped at my grandmother’s yard where I saw lots of American Goldfinches and another female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

A male American Goldfinch,

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A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at my grandmother’s feeder,

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From my grandmother’s, I drove to the Vermilion Provincial Park. There weren’t as many species in the park as I was hoping for, but I was able to see Purple Martins, Yellow Warblers, a Great Blue Heron, and a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows (a life bird for me!).

I also saw this Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in the park,

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After the park, I drove north on the gravel roads hoping to find more species to add to my list. On my drive through the countryside I picked up Northern Pintails, Eastern Kingbirds, Ring-necked Ducks, two Snow Geese, an American Kestrel, and possibly the best bird of the day — a Loggerhead Shrike (another life bird) several miles north of my house.

The shrike flew across the road in front of my truck and then landed on a fence post. The photos are very blurry since the shrike was quite a distance off,

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A California Gull with a duck egg,

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A Canada Goose,

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Altogether my Birdathon was very good and I tallied 76 species.

My goal for the Birdathon was originally $1,000, with my funds earmarked for the Beaverhill Bird Observatory and Bird Studies Canada, but thanks to great support and generosity, I’ve raised $1,750 so far. Thank you very, very much to everyone who has supported my birdathon this year, I greatly appreciate all of the donations and encouragement.

If you’d like to add more to my total for the worthy cause of bird conservation (and donations over $10 are tax deductible), you can visit my team page.

A list of all the species I saw on my Birdathon (in taxonomic order):

Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snow Goose, Canada Goose, American Widgeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Sora, American Coot, Killdeer, American Avocet, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Wilson’s Snipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Warbling Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Sprague’s Pipit, European Starling, Yellow Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

Birdathon Day!

Today is my Great Canadian Birdathon Day!

Thank you all very much for your support and encouragement — I can’t believe I’ve once again exceeded my fundraising goal for the fourth year in a row, raising funds for bird conservation in Canada.

You can add your support to my Great Canadian Birdathon by visiting my team page and clicking on the “Give Now” button. This year, I’m raising money the Beaverhill Bird Observatory in Alberta and Bird Studies Canada.

My Birdathon goal is to see 90 species today and my original financial goal was $1,250. I’ve already raised $1,650 with so much generous support. You can still give for another 62 days (until the end of July), and all donations of at least $10 are tax deductible.

If you are also doing the Great Canadian Birdathon before the end of this month (tomorrow!), please leave a link to your page in the comments!

I’ll be to posting some of my photos throughout the day on my Facebook and Twitter pages, and I’ll be using the hashtag #BSCBirdathon.

I will also have a follow-up blog post with my official results.

An American Goldfinch from last year’s Birdathon,

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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!

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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!

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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!

A Great Canadian Birdathon Thank You, and A Goal Met!

I would like to offer an enormous thank you to Jill, Phillip, Jaynne, Ray of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds, Steve from the Wildbird General Store in Edmonton, Linda, Tracey, Theresa, Jackie, Gus, and Aileen for their generosity and support of my Great Canadian Birdathon this year!

I’m very excited to announced that through online and offline donations, I’ve exceeded my goal of $1,250. To date, I’ve raised $1,375! I’m so glad to have reached my goal, and I still have more than a month until my Birdathon.

This year, I’ve earmarked the funds I raise go the Beaverhill Bird Observatory near Tofield, Alberta, and Bird Studies Canada.

Again, thank you all so very much for your kind and generous support of the Birdathon, which goes to support bird conservation.

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SongbirdSOS — The Messenger

bird_infographicFive years ago, Su Rynard, Joanne Jackson, and Diane Woods created SongbirdSOS Productions Inc. with the idea of producing documentaries about the challenging affecting songbirds around the globe. This spring, SongbirdSOS Productions is releasing The Messenger, full-length feature film:

The Messenger is a visually thrilling ode to the beauty and importance of the imperiled songbird, and what it means to all of us on both a global and human level if we lose them. Humans once believed that birds could carry messages, their presence was meaningful. They have helped predict the change of seasons, the coming of storms and the rise of toxins in the food chain. Once again they have something to tell us, and the message is not a comfortable one.

Last Thursday, CBC’s longstanding “The Nature of Things” featured a special documentary on SongbirdSOS, narrated by David Suzuki and directed by Su Rynard. If you’re in Canada, you can watch the documentary at the CBC website. Because documentary films are expensive to make, there’s a crowd-funding page for The Messenger. The money raised will cover film post-production, completion of the sound mix, picture editing, colour grading, and mastering finishing costs. You can support The Messenger by helping to  fund their Indiegogo campaign here. By donating, you can receive some great perks, including bird-friendly coffee, signed copies of books by Bridget Stuchbury who appears in the documentary, a DVD copy of the film, some great resource material from Bird Studies Canada, and more.

In Canada, Tree Swallow numbers have declined 62 percent since 1966, IMG_3866