Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Golden Eagle over Elk Island National Park

Martha and I took the dog out for some exercise on January 13th in Elk Island National Park and were thrilled to come upon a well-scavenged bison carcass attended by three Coyotes, five Common Ravens and a dozen or so Black-billed Magpies. Perched about one hundred yards away was this juvenile Golden Eagle, our first sighting of this species in the park where it's considered to be a rare spring-fall migrant.

The eagle took flight and passed slowly overhead. Awesome!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fort Saskatchewan Christmas Bird Count

Martha and I had an excellent time participating in the Fort Saskatchewan CBC on December 14th. Conditions were fair to good - overcast, moderate wind, temps between -15 C and -12 C. We spent a good portion of the day snowshoeing through deep snow in the river valley.

In Turner Park, a mob of Black-billed Magpies drew our attention to a lovely weasel eating the face off of a dead Varying Hare.

A few small open stretches of water on the North Saskatchewan River hosted Common Goldeneye. Otherwise waterfowl weren't to be found. Winter finches were also absent despite an abundance of forest food crops, i.e., White Spruce cones, Mountain-ash fruit and White Birch seed.

As usual, Bohemian Waxwing was the most abundant species (photos from Turner Park during count week).

A total of 29 species were seen. A Northern Flicker was also seen during the count week. Here's the final tally.

Common Goldeneye 61 Common Raven 159
Gray Partridge 13 Black-capped Chickadee 472
Bald Eagle 3 Boreal Chickadee 3
Northern Goshawk 1 Red-breasted Nuthatch 11
Merlin 1 White-breasted Nuthatch 16
Gyrfalcon 1 Brown Creeper 1
Rock Pigeon 449 American Robin 12
Great Horned Owl 2 European Starling 129
Snowy Owl 1 Bohemian Waxwing 2,198
Downy Woodpecker 28 Dark-eyed Junco 27
Hairy Woodpecker 7 Snow Bunting 400
Pileated Woodpecker 3 House Finch 27
Northern Shrike 3 American Goldfinch 4
Blue Jay 57 House Sparrow 455
Black-billed Magpie 447

Many thanks to Art Hughes for coordinating/compiling the count and to Deb Wegner for hosting the compilation gathering and meal.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three Snowies near Fort Saskatchewan

The charismatic Snowy Owl is staging a significant irruption into eastern North America this winter. In the Edmonton area, there hasn't been an especially high number of Snowies reported so far this winter as best I can judge.

Today I was surprised to encounter three birds during my 20 km drive to Fort Saskatchewan. Usually I'm fortunate to see a single bird on this trip.