Looking back… and looking ahead

With the end of one year comes the beginning of another — 2014 was full of excitement as well as some difficulties; I got my driver’s licence, had the best summer job, and my trip to Washingto, DC, where I finally met Ray Brown and the crew of the Takin’ Birds radio show. There were also some sad moments: my grandfather moved into the nursing home after a stroke and my dad was diagnosed with cancer (though his surgery was successful and is feeling great now).

My lists:

I saw a total of 170 species in Alberta this year — it’s a good list of species, my best so far.

I added three species to my Year List while in Washington, DC: Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

I was able to add five species to my Life List bring it up to 272 species I’ve seen since I started birding in 2012. The new species for 2014 were Black-backed Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Western Kingbird, Le Conte’s Sparrow, and American Bittern.

My resolutions:

1. To blog more. A blog needs fresh posts regularly.

2. Make more of an effort to submit eBird checklists every time I go birding.

3. Read through my collection of bird books. I have lots of books I still haven’t read yet.

4. My target species for 2015: Boreal Chickadee, Fox Sparrow, and Buff-breasted Sandpiper.

Here are some of my favourite photographs from 2014. Happy New Year everyone and may you have a happy and healthy 2015!

A Northern Mockingbird from my trip to Washington, DC, in November,


A squirrel,


A Dark-eyed Junco,


A male Ruffed Grouse,


A male Mountain Bluebird,IMG_4333


Birding News #94

:: The Calgary Zoo says that it will continue with its captive breeding program for the endangered Greater Sage Grouse, despite a difficult start which has seen only two of 13 hatchlings survive to the age of seven months.

:: GrrlScientist writing for The Guardian has her first-ever list of best bird books of the year; and her list of best nature books of 2014 is here.

:: Scientists figure out just when birds lost their teeth

:: PacifiCorp Energy pleaded guilty in federal court in Wyoming to two counts of violating the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, after the discovery of more than 370 dead protected birds at two of the company’s wind farms, under a plea deal with prosecutors, and will pay US $2.5 million in fines.

:: The journal Science has published a series of papers on the evolutionary origin of birds, the genes and brain mechanisms that drive their behaviour, their relationships to each other. The papers are the result of an unprecedented consortium focused on the sequencing and analyses of at least one genome per avian order; the analyses have resulted in eight papers published in Science, as well as 20 papers in other journals, with the flagship study announcing that 48 birds — at least one from every major bird lineage — now have had their entire genetic code uncovered.

:: A recent study suggests a never-before documented ability in Golden-winged Warblers, to sense severe storms in advance of their arrival

Great posts in birding blogs this week:

:: From Bob at Birds CalgarySnowy Owls of the Calgary Area

:: From Maureen at Hipster Birders2014 Year in Review

:: From Clare at 10,000 Birds: Gifts to Impress a Female Friend

:: From Julie at Birding Is FunSeafood Feast at Low Tide

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your BackyardMy Field Guides Update

:: From Rob at City BirderChristmas Bird Count at Floyd Bennett Field

Listening to Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds Radio Show Tomorrow

Just a reminder that tomorrow morning at 9:30 eastern is the special radio broadcast celebrating the 500th show of Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds [this link isn’t working for me at the moment], live from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  You can listen tomorrow online with live streaming or via podcast. You can also follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. One of tomorrow’s guests is  Smithsonian ornithologist Bruce Beehler. I’ll be on the show too, and I’m sure Ray and crew will have some other surprises!

Here we are earlier today, after checking out the Q?rius Theater at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; from left to right, associate producer Emma Morgenstern, me, Ray Brown, and executive producer Mark Duffield (photo courtesy of Talkin’ Birds Instagram),

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 4.01.15 PM

More about Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds:

Yesterday’s interview with Ray Brown, at Nicholas Lund’s blog, The Birdist (Nick will be here tomorrow, too)

Boston Globe article by Linda Matchan

Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds website

Talkin’ Birds podcasts at iTunes

Talkin’ Birds on Facebook

Talkin’ Birds on Twitter

Talkin’ Birds on Instagram

Talkin’ Birds Tumblr

Ray Brown, beyond the birds

Birding News #66

:: The government of Alberta is considering a Sandhill Crane hunt for the autumn of 2015

:: The Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program, the Ventana Wildlife Society, and several federal and state government agencies have signed a memorandum of understanding to work toward reintroducing captive-bred California Condors to the north coast region

:: A Saudi prince poached more than 2,100 internationally protected Houbara Bustards in 21-day hunting safari in Pakistan, during which he also hunted in protected areas

:: Birds are continuing to die at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in San Bernardino County,

:: In February, Oxford University evolutionary biologist Joseph Tobias and colleagues published a study in Nature questioning how widespread character displacement is in nature, focusing on Ovenbirds.

:: The California Department of Food and Agriculture is working with the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service to develop an anthraquinone-based bird repellent to minimize damage to crops such as almonds, lettuce, melons, and ginseng.

:: The continuing California drought is endangering fish and bird populations, including the Tricolored Blackbird, and causing mortality in Foothill Pine trees.

:: There’s a new penguin cam at Antarctica’s Yalour Islands.

:: 28 years after the Chernobyl disaster, researchers have found that birds in the exclusion zone are adapting to, and possibly benefiting from, long-term exposure to radiation.

Great posts in birding blogs this week: 

:: From Jacob at The Eyrie: Bird Courtship

:: From Dan at Bird CanadaSpring Scouting at Frank Lake

:: From Josiah at Birds in Your Backyard: Spring has Sprung (Part 4)

:: From Kirby at Birding is Fun: Pledge to Fledge — Every Day!

:: From Larry at The Brownstone Birding BlogThe Secret City Of Great Blue Herons

:: From Rick at the ABA BlogWader Quest in South Australia

:: From Eileen at Viewing Nature with EileenSaturday Walk

:: From Jeff at NeoVista BirdingComing Soon: New Generation of Cooper’s Hawks

:: From Alex and Drew at Nemesis BirdWillow Ptarmigan – 1st for New York!

Off to the Big Apple!

On the second week of July my family is taking a trip to New York City. Unfortunately, it’s not a pleasure trip (more of a “family business trip”) so birding is low on the list. I won’t have lots of time for birding, but I hope to see some new species and meet some New York birders. I’ve never birded in Central Park in the Summer (just in the Fall and Winter, and I know Spring and Fall are the best seasons), so I’m hoping to see something new. If I don’t, I’m sure a lot of the regulars will be great subjects to photograph!

I’m planning to go on one another one of Robert DeCandido and Deb Allen’s Central Park bird walks (I’ve been twice before), so if I do I’ll post on it. I would love to meet some NYC birders and go birding together.

I won’t have my laptop with me so I probably won’t be able to post while I’m there, but I’ll try to have some posts lined up before I leave.

What Is Your Pet Playing With?

I went with my mother to Wal-Mart last week so she could check out the nursery for plants, and on the way outside we went through the pet section where we noticed these. Almost as “interesting” as the concept is the product name — “Natural Instincts”. Oh no!



I think the plush toys are suppost to represent an American Robin, House Wren, and an American Goldfinch (not very life-like representations if you ask me, which is probably all for the best!),


To leave you with something nicer than the bird-unfriendly pet toys, here’s a beautiful rose we saw at one of the nurseries,