Christmas Bird Count (CBC)

On Sunday December 17, I participated in the Chirstmas Bird Count.  Started in 1900 this is the oldest citizen science project in North America, and the 66th year the count has been held in Calgary.  It was a fairly windy day with very little sun, but there were still a few birds on the river. We counted 23 Redheads tying the altime record as well as having a good number of 5 Trumpeter Swans. Another highlight was 6 Ring-necked Ducks an uncommon bird along the Bow in the winter.

Trumpeter Swan

There was still more to be seen so after a quick stop at Tim Hortons we were back birding. We walked in the opposite direction that we came from hoping to find some new birds incuding our main target Killdeer. The walk to the boat launch was fairly dissapointing with very few waterfowl on the river, though we did manage to get good looks at a Black-capped Chickadee a bird that we saw in high numbers this year.

Black-capped Chickadee

As we walked down the trail I heard the unmistakable call of a Killdeer I looked as one flew along the bank followed by two more. In total three Killdeer!! We needed one more species to get to 30 on the day thats when we decided to go up the hill to the strip mall where I saw three flyover European Starlings. We finished the day with 30 nspecies not a bad total for an Alberta winter.



* = Bird Seen by my Group


Cackling Goose 17

Canada Goose 11145*

Trumpeter Swan 5*

Tundra Swan 2

Wood Duck 1

Gadwall 3

American Wigeon 6*

Mallard 12513*

Northern Pintail 2

Redhead 23*

Ring-necked Duck 6*

Lesser Scaup 6*

Harlequin Duck 1

Bufflehead 227*

Common Goldeneye 751*

Barrow’s Goldeneye 3*

Hooded Merganser 3

Common Merganser 159*

Red-breasted Merganser 1

Gray Partridge 46

Ring-necked Pheasant 4

Ruffed Grouse 2

Double-crested Cormorant 1*

Bald Eagle 34*

Sharp-shinned Hawk 5

Rough-legged Hawk 3

Merlin 16*

Prairie Falcon 1

Killdeer 3*

Rock Pigeon 1843*

Eurasian Collared-Dove 36

Great Horned Owl 7*

Belted Kingfisher 2

Downy Woodpecker 177*

Hairy Woodpecker 36*

Northern Flicker 210*

Pileated Woodpecker 1

Northern Shrike 7

Blue Jay 111

Black-billed Magpie 2689*

American Crow 105*

Common Raven 858*

Black-capped Chickadee 1852*

Boreal Chickadee 2

Red-breasted Nuthatch 293*

White-breasted Nuthatch 80*

Brown Creeper 11

American Dipper 1

Golden-crowned Kinglet 10

Townsend’s Solitaire 6

American Robin 114*

European Starling 92*

Bohemian Waxwing 111

Cedar Waxwing 34

Dark-eyed Junco 110

Pine Grosbeak 77

Purple Finch 3

House Finch 877

Red Crossbill 7

White-winged Crossbill 175

Common Redpoll 147*

Pine Siskin 50

American Goldfinch  1

House Sparrow 5680*


Count Week Species (not recoreded on CBC)

* =  Bird I’ve seen during count week

Pied-billed Grebe*

American Three-toed Woodpecker




White-tailed Ptarmigan Trip

Got up at five this morning to drive out to the Highwood Pass in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan. We met up with Ethan Denton at the Stoney Nakoda Casino and continued on. It was not long after we spotted the first Ptarmigan followed shortly after by three others. In total there were four Ptarmigan present. Continuing on the way back we saw flocks of Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings. We drove out towards Longview and saw some Rough-legged Hawks and many Common Ravens. We continued back to Calgary where we stopped at Weaselhead Natural Area it was fairy quiet but we saw some Common Redpolls and a close flyby Bald Eagle

The first out of fourWhite-tailed  Ptarmigan we spotted.

Bird ID: Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs

Identification of yellowlegs can be difficult in other situations the answer can be obvious. Here are some ID tips for sepperating them. The Greater Yellowlegs compared to the Lesser is noticably larger, the bill is longer and slightly upturned. Greater Yellowlegs give a  sharp three not call where as the Lesser give a softer two-note call.


Greater Yellowlegs



  • Larger bird (30-40cm)
  • Longer upturned bill
  • Gray at base of the bill (sometimes)
  • Sharper three-note call
  • More barring on flanks


Lesser Yellowlegs



  • Smaller bird (25-30cm)
  • Shoerter more poined bill
  • No gray at base of bill.
  • Softer two-note call (sometimes three)
  • Less barring on flanks


Happy Thanksgiving! 

There is no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving that getting two lifers! Even better when the two lifers are in the same location at the same time. Thet were Harris’s Sparrow a uncommon migrant through the Calgary area and a Golden-crowned Sparrow a regional rairity.

Harris’s Sparrow #488

The owner of the property was kind enough to let us into his yard to see these birds. We spent around forty minute there seeing all the members of the Zonotrichia genus.

Golden-crowned Sparrow #489

A Ruff Twitch

I  was sitting at home last friday browsing my emails when I saw a report of a female Ruff (Reeve). Unfortunately we had plans for that day so we could not make the two and a half hour drive to Barker. The next morning I set my alarm for 6:30 the problem was it was 6:30pm and not am. I woke up at 7:15 and we were on the road by 7:30. There was no traffic and we couldn’t ask for better conditions until we got to the U.S./Canada border. We were in line for at least an hour. Once we arrived in New York it was still a fifty minute drive from Lewiston to Barker where the Ruff had been seen. When we arrived someone told us that it had been seen that morning at seven on an organized birding tour and not been seen since. We scanned with our binoculars because we left our scope in Calgary. We saw many species of sore birds but not a Ruff. We had spent almost two hours there arready and I was starting to loose hope when a man from a scope motioned that we come over. “I’ve got it” he said we rushed over and got a look in his scope and saw theRuff number 478 on my life list. I managed to take some poor photos

Ruff, Lower Lake, Rd.

and then it flew an American Kestrel had scared all the birds luckily we crept our eyes on it as it landed in another pond. Soon after many more birders arrived we stood beside the head curator of the Macaulay Library the media collection run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He said that a new update in eBird was coming!!

Dickcissel Invasion!

Dickcissels have made a name for themselves this year by temporarily “invading” an area specifically the Canadian Great Lakes region that is typically outside of their range. The first map shows the typical breeding distribution of Dickcissels in the Great Lakes region. The second is a map of this years abnormalities.

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As you can see Dickcissels have been expanding north. In 2016 there are four locations in Southern Ontario in the breeding season, as for 2017 there are as many as thirty (and probably more). I’m sure many people are asking why? There are many reasons to why this is happening. the fist one is, the normal breeding range of the Dickcissel is experiencing a severe drought and this has push some of them east. The second reason is that similar to Fish Crows & Black Vultures that they are “slowly” expanding north.

Male Dickcissel near Milton, Ontario