Monday, January 28, 2013

Awesome Evening Grosbeaks!

Evening Grosbeaks are ongoing, welcome visitors to our backyard feeders. The first photo in the series was taken a few years ago by Martha near Burleigh Falls, ON. I snapped the last four shots yesterday morning. The current flock size varies from day-to-day. Sometimes there may be only three or four, on other days there may be more than forty. What a sight!

Check out this ongoing research into five "types" of Evening Grosbeak - we thought that Alberta EVGRs sounded different from those in the east.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Owls near Fort Saskatchewan

Since arriving in Alberta a few months ago we've seen more owls than we'd seen outside of province in the previous five years. It's been great! On Dec 1st we participated in a day-long owl prowl with about 20 cold-hardy members of the Edmonton Nature Club though the farmland around Fort Saskatchewan. Our sharp-eyed leader Gerald Romanchuk guided us to eight Snowy Owls. Most appeared to be hatch year birds.

I bravely snapped the first photo through our windshield while the Edmonton owl warriors were pummelled by howling north winds and snow pellets. Go warriors!

Since then, we've randomly encountered more than a dozen Snowies in the same area.

The plot of Snowy Owl sightings submitted to eBird this month reveals a widespread movement of birds into settled regions of southern Canada and the northern United States.
The winter owl highlight for us (so far) occurred at dusk on December 12th. While I was driving along a township road I caught a glimpse, barely, of something small and owl-like beside the road (see road view in the following photo). I wasn't especially excited because his happens to me so often. Sometimes I stop to investigate and it invariably turns out to be a snagged plastic bag, an old wasp nest, gall, burl or bunion - never an owl. Most often I just keep driving, because I'm already late for something. This time I was early (!) so I turned the vehicle around, parked and found myself gobsmacked to be looking into the disapproving eyes of a Boreal Owl. Very cool! I think I was very fortunate to find one sitting on such an exposed perch. The bird remained in that spot for the next hour, long enough for me to return with Martha. We haven't seen it since.
More reliable is a Great Horned owl that frequents our back yard.

There will be more owl content in the coming months as we've adopted a couple of Nocturnal Owl Survey routes near our home. Woo whoooOOO!