Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spring Bird Count

       Two of my favorite days of the year are Christmas Bird Count and the Spring Bird Count. Today was the day spring bird count was held in our local area.

       Today was overcast and cool 2-3 C . Yesterday we had a major snow storm. Weather conditions determine what you will see and how much. Since the weather was recovering after yesterday's blast, birds were fairly active. They had to get out and start feeding to regain from being limited by weather yesterday.

      I have done the same count area for a long time . It's a heavily wooded coulee with old growth forest. You have to watch for the openings to see your birds. I usually get the same number of species and about the same number of birds. Today was no exception. I saw crows, magpies, robins, black capped chickadees, boreal chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, white breasted nuthatches, house finches, house sparrows, song sparrows, chipping sparrow, and mallards so 12 species. I heard 2 warbler species and two others that I could not identify by sound. I also saw another bird and was not able to identify it because it was too far away. So I had a very enjoyable time.

      Sometimes you will see a species not seen before so that is a bonus. I know there are other species in this area. There will be 4 species of woodpeckers. They are hard to spot when they are nesting. I heard one woodpecker and would say it was a flicker but I'm not 100% sure. I know there are blue jays but blue jays are also very quiet when they are on the nest. So you take what you can get and be satisfied.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snow on May 29

       It's always a shock when it happens, but we quite often get snow in late May and early June.

      Most of the time there is very little damage. Today a few tree branches have broken. Soft tissue perennials wilt but there is very little damage. They will be later. Soft annuals have to be covered well or brought in. Some young birds will not survive. The adults will likely nest again. Take a look at the peregrine falcons on the top of the 101 meter tower. You can click on the link on my blog.

      I was to lead a bird sighting group at 7AM. Needless to say it was cancelled. Tomorrow is the spring bird count. I will go out but birds will stay close to cover and the count will be poor.

      So other than saying nasty things about the snow we just have to suck it up and live with it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Diamond, My Niece: an Up and Coming Track Star

        My niece, Diamond, has been referring to upcoming track meets for the last several weeks. So that means she has been doing some training and anticipating going to regional meets.  The only results I have heard about to this point is a sunburn!

     Now I'm more pleased with the fact that Diamond is being active rather than her stats. It's important to learn to be active at a young age and to learn some basic skills and activities one can participate in later in life. I'm not for highly competitive results. That's why I haven't asked her what else she got besides a sunburn. I find it difficult to comprehend the measurement of results in hundredths of seconds. The most important point is participation and enjoyment. Diamond is also active in martial arts along with her two siblings and their mother. This is super to do things as a family. Diamond also downhill skis with her Dad.

     So Diamond, whether you become a track star is not an issue. The most important thing is that you are active and I hope you are learning things that will keep you active the rest of your life. I like your good example.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lena Horne:Legacy

        Lena Horne left this life last week after a long and eminent run. Lena Horne has left us many things but there are two I wish to comment on.

        Lena Horne's music influenced in many ways. She brought an interpretation to a song that was meaningful, memorable and enjoyable. Who will ever forget "Stormy Weather?" Many performers learned from what Lena Horne did and they were able to try things that they wouldn't have tried without Lena Horne's leadership. I will listen to some of Lena Horne's music again to remember.

      Lena Horne also spoke out on racism and left us the message that racism is still alive and well. Her message will make us think again and work for more equality. There were times that she was not given opportunities to perform simply because she was black. So for all those who thought racism died when slavery was ended , guess again. Racism is still here. For aboriginals racism was formalized by the Indian Act. Immigrants of color face many challenges when they come to this country.
      So Lena Horne, thanks for the music and thanks for reminding us that we still have things to do when it comes to racism.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Red Deer River Naturalists Develop Alberta Bird Trail

         This winter Red Deer River Naturalists(RDRN) have been hard at work developing an Alberta bird trail. We decided to develop the bird trail in stages. This year we have materials ready for a bird trail which is within the city limts of Red Deer Alberta. We have had maps prepared for eight good birding sites within the city. Each map shows the features of an area with trails, facilities and brief description of birds which may be seen. So birders can get the material and decide which area they would like to spend some time exploring.

        Next year we will produce materials which will describe birding sites around Red Deer . We are hopeful that groups in Calgary and Edmonton will produce materials featuring birding sites within the cities and in the surrounding areas. Thus the name Alberta Bird Trail.
       Our pamphlets will be on tourist sites shortly. We will also have these maps on our website It may be a few weeks before the first maps appear on the website. There is also an email address on the website so if you have questions you can email us for more details.

This is the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary which is a fine example of one of the sites we feature. There are two oxbow lakes with three viewing decks and 3-4 km of walking trails.

         We hope that people will use the Alberta Bird Trail and enjoy finding and watching some fine Alberta birds.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Front Row Seat for Chickadee Nesting.

        At this  time of year it is appropriate to write about birds breeding . My last post was on Chickadees and their behaviour. Many chickadees have begun setting up nests which are usually a cavity dug into a tree trunk. Sometimes they will find an unoccupied nesting cavity. Sometimes they will find a suitable location behind large pieces of bark which are hanging on a tree. Chickades will also readily take up a nest box in your yard or way out in the boonies.

       A few years ago I was very fortunate to have a front row seat to watch chickadees hollow out a cavity in a tree and then raise youngsters. A dead birch tree was 3 m from my back step. The tree was over the fence and in my neighbor's yard.

       First I noticed a couple of black-capped chickadees pecking away on the birch trunk. I thought , "You poor little beggars! A birch has such hard wood!"  The chickadees knew more than I did. The wood inside the bark was quite rotten so it wasn't the challenge I thought. After a few days these two birds disappeared so I was disappointed and thought that they had abandoned the project.

       A few days later I noticed two boreal chickadees working on the cavity. I was happy again. It's amazing how much time they spend hollowing out the nesting cavity. They bring out a tremendous amount of saw dust. Well, the two boreals disappeared after a few days and I was saddened again.

       Well, you guessed it, black-capped chickadees showed up again. I have no idea if it was the same two birds. The hollowing out of the cavity seemed to take forever and I thought these birds would never nest. Things did cease on the construction scene and I still had birds. It was hard to tell if they were really nesting as they seemed to be continually coming and going. Finally, a change. The birds were carrying food into the nesting cavity. Now activity really picked up. Little baby chickades apparently have a huge appetite. Then they started peeping especially when food was brought to the nest so they were saying, "We're really hungry!" More feeding and noise and finally little heads appeared at the cavity entrance. More days of feeding, peeping and looking out of the cavity. Finally, one day four little feather puffs were fluttering in my lilac hedge. It didn't take many hours and the parents and youngsters were out of the area.

       Watching this take place was a thrill and and education at the same time. Not often do you get a front row seat for a few weeks. I took pictures of this event but they are not on digital.