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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Birding with Birders BCFO Extension Trip




Southern Alberta Prairie Potholes May 24-27 2016
Pre-Conference Trip.

 Prior to the British Columbia Field Ornithologists (BCFO) Conference May 27-29 in Cranbrook B.C. a group of BCFO members including myself took a three day extension trip to Southern Alberta. We met our guide Dan Arndt in Canmore. We made our way to the front ranges and foothills of the Rockies and eventually Cochrane for the night
Prior to arriving at Canmore and during a break for lunch in Castlegar I photographed chipping sparrows and a vaux swift, a lifer. I snapped off a few shots of the vaux flying overhead, that was the only way I was going to get an ID of the fast flying bird high in the sky. The cigar shaped bird could have easily been overlooked as just another swallow had I not snapped image below.


I used a Nikon D500 and a Nikon 200mm-500mm F5.6 handheld for the entire trip. Had I been on my own I would have probably used a tripod and a fixed 500mm. Joining a dozen birders proved to be a great learning experience with plenty of new friendships gained.

Below is a small selection from the extension trip.

*****

Passing through the BC Rockies on my way to Canmore I photographed the distinctive interior race of the Stella's Jay. Our coastal birds lack the same amount of white around the face and the crest is smaller. I didn't know any of that until renowned naturalist Al Grass pointed it out to me as we browsed through the files at the BCFO AGM.
Stella's Jay (Interior race)
The tour of the potholes with Dan included a mixture hard core ebirders who were counting everything, there were a few who knew a lot more than they were letting on, there were a few who had birded from childhood and there were those who finding lifers on a fairly regular basis. It was a great mix with years of experience on board and a great leader to point out regional differences in birdsong. For example the white-crowned sparrow was just one bird that sounded different than we are used to on the coast.

****

The foothills of the Bow Valley proved to be quite birdy. On one of our first stops at Barrier Lake where we had twelve Tennessee Warblers, a lifer for some, they had all of our group reaching for their bins. We ended with 37 species, a great start to the trip.

     Tour leader Dan Arndt and BCFO members at Barrier Lake.

                         


Moving onward and downward to the land of cheaper gas we passed ponds with breeding spotted and solitary sandpipers, fields with Western bluebirds and wet marshlands with red-winged blackbirds, sora and nesting ruby-crowned kinglets. Good views of Northern waterthrush provided a lifer for a number of the group.
Ruby-crowned kinglet with nesting material.



Tennessee Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

at
we found sixteeen species including a white-throated sparrow singing away at the end of a branch, a Wilson's snipe and the most common warbler of our entire trip, the Tennessee warbler.
 
White-throated Sparrow singing over its territory.
The first half-day of the birding tour was beginning to wind down. Tomorrow we would be rising at 4.30 a.m. to search for Le Conte's sparrow and yellow rail. 

Day 2 May 25 2016
As promised we were all up, bleary eyed and raring to go and on the road by 5 a.m. We were just aboit to embark on a 16 hour birding day, the stuff of dreams!

We arrived at 
It was still dark when we arrived at Horse Creek Road. As soon as our eyes adjusted to the light we were serenaded by a symphony of bird sound. It was magical to hear the yellow rail, a rare species that many have never seen and many will never see. Only one of our group had ever seen one but we were able to hear it 'tic-tic tic-tic' similar to two pebbles being knocked together. One of our group told the story about how one had landed near to him at a logging camp not once but twice.
One of the birds a number in the group wanted to add to their life lists was the Le Conte's sparrow. The diminutive sparrow likes undisturbed wet pastureland. As the sun peeped over the horizon and the fog lifted a few sparrows including savannahs sunned on the barbed wire fence, one was different, a Le Conte's. If we were to use calls to bring in birds they were to be used in very small doses and we were lucky when after a few seconds our bird arrived in front of us to see who was threatening his territory. 

Le Conte's Sparrow

As the day warmed and the light quality improved there were a number of good birds to observe.
A Wilson's Snipe sat on a fence post and small flock of Wilson's Phalarope flew overhead.

(Below) There is always a notion with bird photographers to get as close as possible especially when encountering a species for the first time. Sometimes though all we land up with is a bird on a stick or fence pole and little or no information about habitat. I have numerous pictures of snipe on fence post already so I thought I'd try to be a little more creative and shoot from a lower angle and include more of the scene.

Wilson's Snipe
In the above photo I could have tried to get closer to show the birds details better but how many of those shots do I already have or need. Here I have tried to place the viewer with a visual cue with the fence post on the left anchoring the image. In Western culture we read left to right so our brains are trained to look at images the same way. The bird is in the center of the frame forcing the eye past the bird to the last last two posts and then back to the bird. If this engages the viewer for more than three seconds then I have been successful. In a world where we are bombarded with fantastic on a continual basis it's all a photographer can ask for.

Red-tailed Hawk
        The flight shot taken from the car window as we made our way between locations.

****

A few other birds popped up their heads before it was time to move on.
Wilson's Phalarope
Sora.
It was a good morning with plenty of good birds, good company and glorious weather. The day before we had all arrived in Alberta there had been a late spring snow fall, fortunately it had all melted by the time we started our tour.

A typical prairie slough with many species of birds to keep everyone happy. a black tern and Franklin's gull colony
Birders discuss their latest finds on Interlake Road.
American Avocet

Canvasback
Another grab shot from the van. Vehicles make excellent blinds.

Day 3 May 26 2016


Our group arrived at Kinbrook Island around 7 a.m. Four mule deer grazed at the entrance. An American white pelican flew overhead while clay-coloured sparrows and Western Meadowlarks were in full song.
Western Meadowlark.

Least Flycatcher.
Past the pond and just by the park office we parked our cars. The campground was very birdy. Swainson's Thrush, American redstart, house wren, red-eyed vireo, brown thrasher, Baltimore oriole, cedar waxwing and more.
 
House Wren

Common Grackle


Red-eyed Vireo in the campground.
I was particularly happy to photograph the red-eyed vireo as it hopped from branch to branch picking off insects. I must have shot thirty frames to get two of three satisfactory images.

Eastern Kingbird.

                                                                     
Brown Thrasher.
The brown thrasher was probably the most vocal bird in the campground

     Day 4  Oldham River May 27 2016
 Our tour finally ended in Pincher Creek and the last day produced some nice birds including the two below.
Marbled godwit showing grassland habitat.




Ferrugious Hawk near Pincher Creek. A lifer.

 I ended the trip with three lifers not including the yellow rail which is a heard only tic. The countryside was amazing, the company evem better and the last but not least the birding was second to none thanks to the fine weather and an excellent guide whose contact information is below.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale
BC Canada



A complete list supplied by our guide Dan.
Daniel Arndt
Cell: (403) 836-7405
bowvalleytours.com
Flickr.com/photos/ubermoogle
www.birdscalgary.com

Pre-AGM Trip Count








May 24, 2016 - May 27, 2016









24-May
25-May
26-May
27-May




Number of Species
48
86
74
53




Number of Individuals
262
2,671
1,175
967




Number of Checklists
4
6
7
4




Total Number of Species
145







Total Number of Checklists
21

















24-May
24-May
25-May
25-May
26-May
26-May
27-May
27-May
Species Name
Species Count
Sample Size
Species Count
Sample Size
Species Count
Sample Size
Species Count
Sample Size
Snow Goose - Chen caerulescens
--

--

--

3
1
Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
30
3
130
4
40
2
27
2
Gadwall - Anas strepera
--

90
3
12
2
23
2
American Wigeon - Anas americana
--

6
1
2
1
1
1
Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
11
3
35
2
14
3
49
2
Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors
5
2
34
3
--

24
2
Cinnamon Teal - Anas cyanoptera
--

12
3
--

5
2
Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
2
1
62
3
4
1
85
2
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
--

8
3
4
1
4
1
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
1
1
5
2
--

--

Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
--

4
2
--

2
1
Redhead - Aythya americana
--

10
1
--

2
1
Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris
6
2
--

--

--

Greater Scaup - Aythya marila
1
1
--

--

--

Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis
2
1
5
1
--

4
1
Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
7
2
--

--

--

Common Merganser - Mergus merganser
12
1
--

--

--

Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis
--

10
1
--

1
1
Ring-necked Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
--

--

1
1
--

Gray Partridge - Perdix perdix
--

--

--

3
1
Ruffed Grouse - Bonasa umbellus
1
1
--

--

--

Common Loon - Gavia immer
2
1
--

2
1
--

Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
--

1
1
--

--

Horned Grebe - Podiceps auritus
--

--

--

2
1
Red-necked Grebe - Podiceps grisegena
--

--

7
2
--

Eared Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
--

40
1
3
1
50
1
Western Grebe - Aechmophorus occidentalis
--

--

62
2
--

Double-crested Cormorant - Phalacrocorax auritus
--

--

7
2
--

American White Pelican - Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
--

--

10
1
3
1
Great Blue Heron - Ardea herodias
1
1
--

--

--

White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
--

18
2
--

--

Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
2
2
--

--

--

Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus
1
1
--

4
2
--

Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
1
1
--

--

--

Swainson's Hawk - Buteo swainsoni
--

5
3
4
2
1
1
Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
--

1
1
1
1
--

Ferruginous Hawk - Buteo regalis
--

--

1
1
1
1
Yellow Rail - Coturnicops noveboracensis
--

2
1
--

--

Sora - Porzana carolina
3
1
8
1
--

--

American Coot - Fulica americana
--

60
2
--

4
1
Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
--

49
3
--

6
2
American Avocet - Recurvirostra americana
--

105
3
--

106
2
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
--

14
2
--

--

Killdeer - Charadrius vociferus
--

15
4
1
1
12
1
Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis macularius
10
2
4
3
--

2
1
Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
6
2
--

--

1
1
Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca
1
1
--

--

--

Willet - Tringa semipalmata
--

20
3
--

5
2
Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicauda
--

--

3
1
--

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
--

9
3
--

1
1
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
--

1
1
--

--

Pectoral Sandpiper - Calidris melanotos
--

--

--

--

Semipalmated Sandpiper - Calidris pusilla
--

40
1
--

--

peep sp. - Calidris sp. (peep sp.)
--

--

--

100
1
Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus scolopaceus
--

1
1
--

--

Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus/scolopaceus
--

--

--

1
1
Wilson's Snipe - Gallinago delicata
3
2
12
2
5
2
--

Wilson's Phalarope - Phalaropus tricolor
--

117
4
--

185
2
Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus
--

5
1
--

1
1
Bonaparte's Gull - Chroicocephalus philadelphia
--

1
1
--

--

Franklin's Gull - Leucophaeus pipixcan
--

1,265
3
10
3
70
1
Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensis
--

15
3
15
1
36
2
California Gull - Larus californicus
--

--

501
2
1
1
Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
--

60
3
--

--

Forster's Tern - Sterna forsteri
--

9
2
--

--

Rock Pigeon - Columba livia
--

--

1
1
--

Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura
--

2
1
40
1
--

Burrowing Owl - Athene cunicularia
--

--

1
1
--

Red-naped Sapsucker - Sphyrapicus nuchalis
--

3
1
--

--

Northern Flicker - Colaptes auratus
1
1
1
1
2
1
--

Pileated Woodpecker - Dryocopus pileatus
--

1
1
--

--

American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
--

--

--

2
1
Prairie Falcon - Falco mexicanus
--

--

--

1
1
falcon sp. - Falco sp.
--

--

--

1
1
Western Wood-Pewee - Contopus sordidulus
--

4
1
1
1
--

Least Flycatcher - Empidonax minimus
1
1
6
2
51
2
--

Dusky Flycatcher - Empidonax oberholseri
3
1
--

--

--

Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Empidonax difficilis
1
1
--

--

--

Eastern Phoebe - Sayornis phoebe
--

--

1
1
--

Say's Phoebe - Sayornis saya
1
1
--

4
1
--

Western Kingbird - Tyrannus verticalis
--

--

22
2
--

Eastern Kingbird - Tyrannus tyrannus
--

--

25
1
--

Loggerhead Shrike - Lanius ludovicianus
--

--

2
1
--

Warbling Vireo - Vireo gilvus
3
2
4
1
5
1
--

Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata
--

1
1
--

--

Black-billed Magpie - Pica hudsonia
--

1
1
1
1
--

American Crow - Corvus brachyrhynchos
--

4
2
1
1
--

Common Raven - Corvus corax
3
2
4
3
--

--

Horned Lark - Eremophila alpestris
--

5
1
--

--

Tree Swallow - Tachycineta bicolor
10
3
8
1
29
3
--

Violet-green Swallow - Tachycineta thalassina
--

--

3
1
--

Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
5
2
4
2
10
1
2
1
Cliff Swallow - Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
45
1
--

21
2
2
1
Black-capped Chickadee - Poecile atricapillus
--

1
1
--

--








Mountain Chickadee - Poecile gambeli
--

1
1
--

--

White-breasted Nuthatch - Sitta carolinensis
--

1
1
--

--

Rock Wren - Salpinctes obsoletus
--

--

5
2
--

House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
--

4
2
6
1
--

Sedge Wren - Cistothorus platensis
--

2
1
--

--

Marsh Wren - Cistothorus palustris
--

--

4
1
1
1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula
4
3
2
1
--

--

Mountain Bluebird - Sialia currucoides
3
1
3
1
--

--

Veery - Catharus fuscescens
--

--

1
1
--

Swainson's Thrush - Catharus ustulatus
--

4
3
8
1
--

American Robin - Turdus migratorius
7
3
6
2
22
2
--

Gray Catbird - Dumetella carolinensis
--

--

1
1
--

Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum
--

--

5
2
--

Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos
--

--

1
1
--

European Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
--

2
1
13
2
5
1
Sprague's Pipit - Anthus spragueii
--

8
1
3
1
--

Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum
--

--

8
1
--

Chestnut-collared Longspur - Calcarius ornatus
--

24
2
--

--

Northern Waterthrush - Parkesia noveboracensis
2
1
--

--

--

Tennessee Warbler - Oreothlypis peregrina
14
2
4
2
--

--

Orange-crowned Warbler - Oreothlypis celata
--

--

1
1
--

Common Yellowthroat - Geothlypis trichas
2
2
1
1
4
2
5
1
American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla
--

--

3
1
1
1
Yellow Warbler - Setophaga petechia
3
3
--

34
2
--

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Setophaga coronata
6
2
--

1
1
--

Yellow-breasted Chat - Icteria virens
--

--

3
2
--

Le Conte's Sparrow - Ammodramus leconteii
--

12
1
--

--

Chipping Sparrow - Spizella passerina
7
2
2
1
10
1
--

Clay-colored Sparrow - Spizella pallida
1
1
7
4
3
2
2
1
Lark Sparrow - Chondestes grammacus
--

--

7
2
1
1
Dark-eyed Junco - Junco hyemalis
1
1
--

--

--

White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys
2
1
--

--

--

White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis
1
1
5
2
--

--

Vesper Sparrow - Pooecetes gramineus
--

--

5
3
1
1
Savannah Sparrow - Passerculus sandwichensis
--

27
4
2
2
--

Song Sparrow - Melospiza melodia
--

1
1
2
1
--

Lincoln's Sparrow - Melospiza lincolnii
1
1
1
1
--

--

Swamp Sparrow - Melospiza georgiana
--

1
1
--

--

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus
--

2
1
--

--

Red-winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
24
4
124
6
9
1
40
2
Western Meadowlark - Sturnella neglecta
--

1
1
14
3
10
2
Yellow-headed Blackbird - Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
--

53
3
7
2
50
1
Brewer's Blackbird - Euphagus cyanocephalus
--

--

6
2
2
1
Common Grackle - Quiscalus quiscula
--

4
1
24
2
5
2
Brown-headed Cowbird - Molothrus ater
2
1
19
3
10
1
18
2
Baltimore Oriole - Icterus galbula
1
1
1
1
12
1
--

White-winged Crossbill - Loxia leucoptera
--

6
1
--

--

Pine Siskin - Spinus pinus
--

4
2
--

--

American Goldfinch - Spinus tristis
--

1
1
4
2
--

Evening Grosbeak - Coccothraustes vespertinus
--

1
1
--

--

House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
--

--

4
1
--





4 comments:

  1. Fantastic trip and congratulations on your lifers! I heard they got lark bunting on the post extension trip. I love birding the prairies and miss it spectacular place. Your photos are incredible I especially love the Canvasback, Le Conte's and Brown Thrasher. I noticed you said the Vaux's Swifts could be passed as a swallow if it werent for your photos next time watch how they fly they have swift wing beats very different from a Swallow and longer wings with that cigar look you pointed out.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the tip about flight differences. I really have to be more observant but that's what I love about birding. Learning all the time and having fount the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very nice summary of the trip John. Your pictures make me feel like I was there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Len, it was an amazing trip and to be birding 16 hours a day is the stuff of dreams.

    ReplyDelete