Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Forks

We went to the Forks today and got some good photos... here are a few. While we were there we caught many birds flying to and from nests with twigs, we didn't get any pictures but the one below is from one of the nest-sites-to-be.
House Sparrow Nest Site, Male is just visible inside.
Male House Sparrow

Male and Female House Sparrow

Male House Sparrow

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Geese getting aggressive

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose Close Up

Canada Goose Head On
Ring-Billed Gull Foraging

Aggresion... Canada Goose

Time for a Swim... Canada Goose


B.O.T.D. Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida)

At first glance it seems that when nature's treasures were being distributed among North America's birds, sparrows in general (and the clay-colored in particular) must have waited near the end of the line. Next to the party-dress finery of the wood warblers, sparrows seem to be outfitted like chain-gang workers, clothed mostly in a blend of uniform grey and commonplace brown. As songsters, too, they are far behind the music hall voices to orioles, or the exquisite, liquid calls of thrushes. The clay-colorer sparrow typifies the generally undistinguished musicianship of the sparrow family, announcing himself with a sonorous, insect-like call of three or four buzzes.

For all these seeming drawbacks, however, there is nothing hand-me-down about this bird. Perched atop a bush on a summer morning, this little sparrow has an unmistakable gentrified air. Its soft grey and crisp brown feathers are subtly woven like a fine English tweed, well cut  and expertly fitted. The younger birds wear a warm, buff-brown sweater with a grey collar before growing into the tweedy look, and both parents tend to their welfare in the meantime. The male sometimes feeds his mate while she nests, and the female is an adept impersonator, luring predators away from her hatchlings by feigning an injury that promises an easy meal - but hardly ever delivers it.

Cornell Lab: Clay-Colored Sparrow                                                         Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds

Monday, 30 March 2015

A New Month and March in Review

Two local Canada Geese
This month was a fruitful month once again! Thank you all for following this blog, by the way! This month was fun, especially counting all the geese you could see in one day... the best so far is 351 by Joel. Lifers included the California Gull... a rarity also along with a Swainson's Hawk early this season. Today, also, the first meadowlarks showed up! Meadowlarks are among my favourite of birds, and thankfully, they are abundant at my place! Don't forget to watch my bird log for updates on what is happening.

Thank you!

Photo Contest!

We are starting a new photo contest! Every two weeks we will judge the photos you send us and the winning photo will be put up for public viewing on our blog with the link to your website! A little free advertising! Send your entries to our email at jcbirds09@gmail.com

B.O.T.D. Pink-Footed Shearwater

Pink-Footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)

Shearwaters are long-winged seabirds that fly with shallow, rapid wingbeats and stiff-winged glides. Outside the breeding season, Pink-Footed Shearwaters are birds of the open ocean, generally seen on land only infrequently. Among swarms of other shearwaters encountered at sea from April to November, the Pink-Footed Shearwater is second only to the Sooty Shearwater as the most common shearwater off Canada's Pacific Coast. Although they tend to stay well off-shore, small numbers of Pink-Footed Shearwaters may be seen  from strategic coastal locations with the aid of a telescope.

Once their nesting duties are complete, Pink-foots migrate north along the continental shelf in search of large schools of fish and squid. They prefer to forage along the edge of the continental shelf where upwellings of cold water occur and marine life is plentiful. As is true with other members of the shearwater family, Pink-Foots assemble with astonishing quickness at any food source. They will closely approach any boat if food of any description is tossed overboard. They regularly dive up to three meters below the surface to catch prey, and have even been known to dive to depths of 25 meters in pursuit of food.

Reader's Digest Book of North American Birds

Friday, 27 March 2015

B.O.T.D. California Gull

California Gull (Larus californicus)

In the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah, stands a monument to sea gulls that commemorates their contribution to the Mormon's settling of the surrounding area. To many visitors, such a landmark must seem somewhat puzzling.

The term "sea gull" is often a misleading one, for many gulls spend much of their lives far from the ocean. The California Gull - itself somewhat misnamed - breeds primarily on islands in lakes of the interior plains of the West. This opportunistic feeder not only plunges after lake fish but also takes cutworms, grubs, small rodents, and other agricultural pests in freshly plowed fields - habits that make it welcome to farmers. Indeed, to the first Mormon settlers in Utah, the California gull seemed to be divinely sent.

In 1848 and again in 1855, plagues of grasshoppers broke out in Salt Lake Valley and threatened to destroy the settlers' crops, which would have meant almost certain starvation. But as one newspaper reported, "the gulls made war on them, and have swept them clean." In 1913 the Mormons erected their monument to that event, and the California full, almost certainly the species that came to the rescue, is honoured now as the state bird of Utah.

Cornell Lab: California Gull

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds

Thursday, 26 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Gray-Headed Chickadee

Gray-Headed Chickadee (Poecile cinctus)

The Gray-Headed Chickadee, also known as "Siberian Tit," breeds throughout  northern Europe and Asia, from Norway eastward to northwestern North America. In Canada, the Gray-Headed Chickadee is primarily found north of the Arctic Circle in northern Yukon and northwestern Northwest Territories. Gray-Headed Chickadees are generally sedentary, though some populations become nomadic during winter months. Like other chickadees, they form mixed-species flocks with other passerines outside the breeding season. The female excavates and constructs the nest while the male guards against rival males and predators. During incubation, the male feeds the female, who remains on the nest throughout the incubation period. Each birds stores as much as  3 Kilograms of food in cavities, holes, and under bark to help it through the frigid, dark winters.

The Gray-Headed Chickadee can be distinguished from the similar Boreal Chickadee by its greyer cap, extensive white cheeks and dusty flanks. Juvenile Boreal Chickadees have a greyer crown and hoarser voice than adults and are sometimes misidentified as Gray-Headed Chickadees. Although the Gray-Headed Chickadee is rare but apparently stable in Canada, populations in Eurasia have declined considerably because of human disturbance and especially logging.

Lone Pine Publications: Birds of Canada

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Check out the new BIRDS FROM THIS SUMMER post at: Birds From This Summer

Game On!

Hello it is us again! A contest has been proposed by Josiah that me and him should do a contest to see who can see the most species of birds this year. So far I am beating him by one species! Best of luck to both of us. We have invited Jo's brother William and my partner in JC Birds+ to join. I am in the lead! If you have suggestions where to go for optimum birding tell us! Also I have a goal this year of adding 15 species to my life list! Lets go!

Also follow my bird log to follow my progress! I will indicate a lifer with the word lifer in brackets.

You are on my blog now so feel free to comment! To see Josiah's click this link: Birds In Your Backyard

What is the prize? BRAGGING RIGHTS!


Weekly What Bird Wednesday

Thank you for once again joining me for W.W.B.W. Last weeks bird as Bird Boy, Josiah, and William all guessed was an American Bittern. Here's this weeks clue:

I belong to a family of bird that pecks at trees. Although not named as the other more common in my family I still fit in. The male has a red crown and throat with a black and white striped head. There is  a yellowish tint to his breast and stomach.

Other W.W.B.W. posts:*

Birds In Your Backyard
Bird Boy
The Cats and the Birds

*The posts may not be up yet as this post is set to post at 6:30 Central Time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Universal Bird Records


Bird Species:
Male Bee Hummingbirds (2.75 inches)

Bird of Prey
Black-Legged Falconet & White-Fronted Falconet (5.5-6 inches)

Pygmy Parrot (3 inches)


Bird Species
Ostrich (6' 9")

Bird of Prey
Eurasian Eagle Owl (30 inches)

Hyacinth Macaw (40 inches)


Flying Bird
Kori Bustard & Great Bustard (40-52 pounds)

Bird of Prey
Andean Condors (20-27 pounds)

Kakapo (7 pounds)


Strangest Diet
An ostrich living in the London zoo was reported that it had eaten an alarm clock,  a roll of film, a handkerchief, a 3 foot long piece of rope, a cycle valve, a pencil, three gloves, a collar stud, a Belgian franc, four half-penny's and two farthings.

B.O.T.D. Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)

Yes, the tundra swan does indeed sing a beautiful and haunting death song. In 1898, Daniel G. Elliot, a noted authority on ducks, swans and geese who knew every sound a tundra swan ordinarily uttered, wrote of having been with a hunting party on Currituck Sound, North Carolina, when a member of his group shot and mortally wounded a swan flying overhead. The swan set its wings and, Elliot wrote, "sailing slowly down, began its death song, continuing it until it reached the water nearly a half a mile away." The song was not like any other swan note he had ever heard. Elliot inquired among local hunters and found that they too had heard that sand and beautiful song as a dying swan fell through the air.

Then, in 1955, H. A. Hochbaum, a scientist who specialized in the study of waterfowl, observed that before they take off into the air, tundra swans always sing what he chose to call a departure song. The reputable authority John K. Terres later described this departure song as "one of the most beautiful utterances of waterfowl - a melodious, soft, muted, series of notes ..."  Hochbaum himself believed that the departure song was "probably the swan song of legend, for when a swan is shot and falls crippled to the water, it utters this call as it tries in vain to rejoin its fellows in the sky."

Cornell Lab: Tundra Swan

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Bird Log Update

Hi, you may have noticed on the bird log that now it either says (J) or (C) behind the bird. That is to tell you which of us saw it. The number in brackets on the bottom is the number of individual birds seen that day. The other thing is, is that the labels on the side are for if you see a certain amount of birds in a day: say I saw 120 House Sparrows, I will then label it under 50, and 100.

Thank you!

B.O.T.D. Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

So much like the sharp-shinned hawk that even experts are often fooled, the Cooper's hawk has just one real distinction: it is larger and stronger and able kill prey larger than the "sharpie" can. As luck would have it, the common barnyard chicken of the 19th century fell within the Cooper's' prey range. The 'chicken-hawk' thus became an outlaw, to be shot on sight. Since few people troubled to distinguish between the Cooper's hawk and other species, all hawks by definition became chicken hawks. For years, over much of North America, they were slaughtered by the thousands.

Fortunately, most people have come to understand the role that predators play in nature, and hawks are protected by federal law. But many are still inadvertent victims of man. Flying hawks strike roadside wires; some die after eating gophers or other animals that have been poisoned to control their numbers. Perhaps the greatest threat, though, comes from an unseen foe - the plate glass window. Cooper's hawks are woodland birds; they know nothing about reflecting surfaces. When Cooper's hawks see a window, they see whatever the glass reflects, be it sky or trees. They think they can just fly through it. Sadly, they sometimes succeed, but the price of success is still a broken neck.

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds 

Friday, 20 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Acadian Flycatcher

Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens)

As a bird watcher's identification skills grow, there are formidable challenges to be confronted and conquered. Learning the sparrows requires patience; mastering the profusion of fall warblers is an anguishing rite of passage; and sorting out small sandpipers is an enduring trial. But for pure consternation, all other groups pale next to the scientific genus Empidonax. These small, enigmatic, bray-green flycatchers can bring tears of frustration  to the most skilled birder's eyes. Imagine the puzzlement of early ornithologists whose task it was to determine where the fine lines are that separate species. One lingering reminder of that early confusion is the misnamed Acadian flycatcher, a southern member of the clan.

Initially, ornithologists recognized just one small flycatcher with wing bars and an eye-ring - from a bird collected in Acadia, as Nova Scotia was once called. The specimen was dubbed Empidonax acadicus, and for years the subtle differences between it and other birds within its genus went unnoticed. Over time, it was realized that several different species do exist, distinguished by songs, nesting practises, and habitats, rather than by appearance. But it was a southern flycatcher, which ranges no closer to Nova Scotia than Connecticut, that inherited the name of the original bird from far-off Acadia. Its scientific name was changed to Empdonax virescens, but the common name, Acadian flycatcher, stubbornly persists to this day.

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds

Thursday, 19 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

Wonderfully evocative names have been attached to the common nighthawk. Like all members of its family, it is known as a goatsucker, a bizarre term based on European folklore. Because its old world cousin, the nightjar, has a wide, gaping mouth and a fondness for pastures and other open places, the peasants long ago concluded that the mysterious night flyer sucked milk from their animals.

Two popular names for our common nighthawk - pork-and-beans and bull-bat - derive from characteristic sounds it makes. Beans resembles the nasal note the bird repeats emphatically during its jerky-jerky insect-hunting flights. Bull refers to to an odd nonvocal noise. During courtship, the male frequently interrupts his foraging flights with dramatic vertical plunges, swinging back upward just before hitting then ground. As its wings sweep into braking position, air rushing through the feathers produces a kind of sonic boom that has been likened to everything from a bass trumpet note to a whirring spinning wheel. Bull, a shorthand reference to the booming of bullfrogs, is imaginatively suggestive of the sound.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Weekly What Bird Wednesday

Thank you for joining me for W.W.B.W. once again! Have fun guessing this week's bird! Last weeks was a Cackling Goose as William and CAN Farm suggested.

I stand in the reeds, I am a reed. I sway back and forth hiding from any potential threat. I am a beige to buffy heron with a streaky neck and breast. A master of camouflage, what are the chances that you'll find me?

Other W.W.B.W. posts:

Birds In Your Backyard
Bird Boy
The Cats and the Birds

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Golden-Crowned Kinglet

Golden-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

What is there about evergreens this bird can't ignore? Perhaps it's the insects - the aphids, scales, and budworms - that feed golden-crowned kinglets both summer and winter. Or perhaps it's the shelter that keeps cold winds at bay. Whatever the allure, golden-crowned kinglets and evergreen stands are inextricably linked. Nesting among them in springtime northern forests, flitting through hem on wintering grounds to the south, these acrobatic songbirds never seem to be far away from needles and pine cones - be they natural or planted by humans.

In the wilds of Quebec, a spruce bog may attract kinglet pairs, while farther south, in the northern United States, kinglets are drawn to groves originally planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Formed by the federal government to provide jobs during the Depression, the CCC planted thousands of price and pine seedlings across the northeastern states. As these young trees matured, golden-crowned kinglets flocked to the dense stands they created, and the bird's population burgeoned. When alter the trees were harvested, the kinglets moved on, seeking native stands or other, younger, plantations that timber growers had planted. Adapting to an altered landscape, their numbers ebbing and flowing with the growth and harvest of evergreens, golden-crowned kinglets have tailored their lives to the human presence.

Monday, 16 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Heermann's Gull

Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni)

What a relief it is to lay eyes upon a Heermann's gull! Here is a gull that is easy to identify, its dark body handsomely set off by a blood-red bill and, in breeding garb, an elegantly white head. Even the chocolate-brown young are easy to identify from other gulls.

Both young and adult Heermann's clearly diverge from the "mainstream" appearance of our white-bodied (and sometimes black-headed) North American gulls. And they are exotic in habits as well as looks. They breed in spring, primarily in northwestern Mexico - where the main task of the "incubating" parent is not to warm the eggs but to shade them from the blazing sun. After breeding, Heermann's gulls and their young disperse northward from Mexico across the western U.S., reaching British Columbia by July and remaining along the Pacific coast until they move south to nest again.

No one knows how Heermann's gulls came to reverse the usual pattern of southward dispersal after breeding, but the food-rich West Coast is a natural destination for any gull breeding nearby. Nine other species of gulls "winter" there as well - eight of them migrants from farther north. In any event, the Heermann's contrary habits clearly meet its needs quite nicely, and its summer tourism provides a welcome sight on our western beaches.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Owl Prowl: On the Prowl for Owl(s)

There's not many more exciting things for a birder to see and hear at night than an owl. It's easy to distinguish their calls that range from screeching and the more well-known hooting. Searching for owls at night can be very exciting but most birders go in the morning. But owls appear mostly at dawn and dusk and through all the night, so going while everyone else is asleep can be a very exciting adventure. You must remember though that many owls will be found in the day. They will be easier to spot especially in daylight. Who cares if they are sleeping? You saw your owl!

But before you go night prowling, if you go night prowling, it would probably be better if you knew a bit more about where and what and why, so that your owl prowl can be more successful and enjoyable.

Map it Out

Planning your trip ahead of time. It can save you parts of the night. Plan out where you're going to go at certain times.

Do Some Research

It can also be helpful to find out what species of owls you might be seeing and whether there are paths that you can walk through or if you're going through thick underbrush.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Though it may be hard to get rest because of your exciting night, it is best that you do. Lack of sleep can cause your ears and eyes to be less keen. Both of these senses are very handy when looking  for owls.

What to Look and Listen For

How do you know if an owls has been by lately. Look for these hints:
- Owls Feathers
- Owl Pellets
- Crow Mobbing (During the Day)

Listen for these Hints
- Screeching and Hooting
- Crow Mobbing (During the Day)

Crow Mobs

Have you ever seen a extremely high number crows together making a huge ruckus? They're not hard to notice since you can hear them indoors as well as outdoors. Over 100 crows can fit in one mob with only one of two missions. To mob owls or to harass birds for food. They will circle them, with their calls tease  them, and will even harm them. If you hear or see one of these mobs, there's certain to be an owl nearby. Be aware that not only crows mob! Other small birds do to. For more go to On the Mobbing of Owls by Christian Artuso.

So, now that your'e ready for the trip through the night, get your binoculars and go prowling.

B.O.T.D. Wandering Tattler

Wandering Tattler (Tringa icana)

Named for its migratory prowess, the Wandering Tattler remains little known to most Canadians. Many of these birds head out to sea to reach distant shores during migration, but a small number hug the Pacific coastline and linger at rocky headlands, jetties, and tide pools before continuing as far south as Peru, eastern New Guinea and Australia. The Wandering Tattler has been recorded as a vagrant in migration as far east as Ontario.

This bird's breeding sites remained a mystery until 1912, when a geologist exploring river gravel bars discovered the bird's secret. Eventually, nests and sticks were found in northwestern British Columbia, Yukon, Alaska and southeastern Siberia. Although Wandering Tattlers conduct flight displays and much of their daily activity along riverine gravel bars, recent studies found that nests are often situated on tundra hundreds of meters removed from water. The tattler tends to stand and walk in a horizontal posture while its tail, and its cryptic plumage makes it difficult to spot when the bird stands still. The name tattler is derived from this bird's habit of giving a rapid series of clear, hollow alarm whistles at the first sight of any perceived threat.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

"Everything's Perfect... Except for the Squirrels"

If I got a nickel every time I heard that! Everything is going good with the birds until the squirrels come along. No matter how hard we try, squirrels seem to outdo us again and again. It all boils down to one question. "Can we stop them?" The answer is: "Absolutely!" Though it takes some work, it's good to be satisfied by the end results. Below are some ideas that can help you get rid of squirrels.

Squirrel-Proof Feeders

Many experienced birders probably have one of these. But if you don't have one, it would be a great idea to get one. Though they don't come cheap, money is saved by not refilling the feeder over and over again after a squirrel raids it. It's lots of fun to watch the ways how squirrels will try to get to your feeders.
WARNING: The feeder will not work if it is too low off the ground and too close to a branch. Otherwise squirrels can easily jump the distance since most squirrel-proof feeders are weight-activated.

Get what they hate

Another way to get rid of squirrels is to feed food that the birds will like... but not the squirrels. Some examples:
- Nyger Seed
- Millet
- Safflower
- Canary Seed
- Canola Seed
The only problem is, is that famished squirrels will eat almost anything that will provide nourishment.

Make it Hot!

Buy Hot Pepper products at the store or stir it into your home-made feed. The birds won't mind, the squirrels definitely will!
WARNING: Do not use powder hot pepper  because if the wind blows it into the birds eyes, it can severely disturb the bird.

Squirrel Bafflers

You can buy squirrel bafflers at any bird store. Or for a more cheaper one, poke a hole in a 2 L bottle. Then attach it to the pole of your bird feeder. It is impossible for squirrels to climb up, but make sure your feeder is high enough so that the squirrels can't jump it!


Make or buy a cage that has opening big enough for birds to get through but not squirrels. Make sure the feed it far enough from the cage so that squirrels can't reach in.

Weekly What Bird Wednesday

Hi and thanks for joining me for weekly what bird Wednesday! This is the first one, so I'll inform you upfront that the majority of mine will be text. You will have to guess from what I write down. Enjoy!

I have a black head and neck with a white chin strap. Many think me to be a subspecies of a common cousin, but only recently did I become a separate species. I am much smaller and have a stubbier, bill, body, and neck than my larger cousin. My call is not that of my common cousin, although we look the same I make a higher pitched and hoarser, hence my name. Another clue, if me and my cousin are right by each other, is that my plumage tends to be darker than his. You can find me in the north of Canada and I migrate through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in fall.

P.S: The last part of my latin name is close to that of the Winnipeg Jets' star goaltender!

Other W.W.B.W. posts:

Birds In Your Backyard
Bird Boy
The Cats and the Birds

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Feeding the Birds for Less

As much as most of us like to feed and entertain the birds we find that feeding them can be a bit too steep for our pockets especially to young birders who have almost no way of getting money. Yet it doesn't have to be hard. You don't have to go to a local bird store and get want you want at what seems to be a ridiculous price. The ideas below are very cheap and most of them you can do it yourself at home.

Naturally Feed The Birds

Let nature feed the birds!
Instead of spending the time and money on buying and refilling feeders, let nature do all the work for you. Plants provide birds with seeds, berries, nuts and nectar for your feathered friends. Choose plants that will live for a long time and are able to survive many temperatures and can grow in a large variety of different habitats. If you choose well, you can spend little on buying seeds and you'll get a steady food source for as long as decades.

Make Your Feed

I have tried making my own feed and have gotten some great results. Almost any combination of seeds, and fruit any birds would like, will work. You can use dried fruit, raisins, meal worms, sunflower seeds and leftover breadcrumbs. Making bird feed is a great time to spend together as a family.

To make suet, simply mix any of these together.
-Sunflower seeds
-Bread Crumbs
-Anything else birds will eat.
To make it stick together you can use peanut butter or, if you have allergies, you can use oatmeal as well. Stick suet to tree bark or hang on from pine cones.
WARNING: Though many sources tell you to use meat, DON'T!  The meat can actually kill the birds within hours. In fact, more birds die from eating meat than from hitting windows.

To make food for the humming birds mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water. Red dye is not needed.


You don't need to buy a fancy one, any wide and shallow dish will do. If the water is too deep, put rocks on the bottom. In the winter it is a good idea to heat it, even a heat lamp will do!


Go rummaging. Go to thrift stores and garage sales where you can get feeders cheap. Also, here are many cool feeder ideas on the internet and in birding magazines so I can't name all of them but I can name a few.

Muffin Tin Feeder

Hang a 2x3 muffin tin with cord or string to a tree-branch. Fill each tin with a different type of food. eg. one for oranges, one for jelly. If you want to be a bit more fancy, at perches and even a roof for your feathered friends to be protected from.

Pumpkin Feeder

Cut a pumpkin in half and fill it with seed. Add a few holes if you like and a perch.

Hummingbird Feeder

All you need is a bottle and a peanut butter lid! Take the cap of the bottle and glue it, face down, into the centre of the peanut butter lid. Make sure you can still screw the lid on; also make sure that the peanut butter lid is face down! With the bottle, on the bottom where the cap is (with the cap off at the moment) cut small triangles that will be covered up when the cap is on. Now fill up the bottle with your own hummingbird recipe and screw on the cap! When the feeder is running empty, simply twist the cap on the bottle and let some nectar trickle out through the triangles into the waiting peanut butter lid. If you feel artsy you can paint the bottle a nice deep red and saves you from having to put red or orange in the nectar.
If you do not want bees or bugs getting at your nectar put a piece of screen over the top of the peanut butter lid.


You can make so many different feeders with recyclable items. Simply use your imagination

B.O.T.D. Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

Scraping back layers of leaves in its search for food, a Spotted Towhee puts both feet to use at the same time, doing the "towhee dance," its long calls revealing hidden morsels in the leaf litter. The resulting ruckus of ground litter being tossed about leads many people to expect a squirrel or something larger in the underbrush. What a surprise to see a colourful bird not much larger than a sparrow! Towhees like tangled thickets and overgrown gardens, especially if they offer blackberries or other small fruits. Many pairs nest in urban neighbourhoods, where they take turns scolding the resident cats or checking out suspicious sounds. These cocky spirited birds can often be enticed into view by squeaking or "pishing," noises that alert curious towhees to an intrusion. Discerned birders however, would rather not disturb these busy birds and, instead, prefer to enjoy the sound of the towhee's clamourous exploits.

The male Spotted Towhee selects a prominent perch from which to spit out his curious, trilled song, puffing out his chest and exposing striking rufous flanks. At other times, the male can be extremely shy. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Spring has Sprung!

A week of above zeros and it will be a brand new world outside! With that weather change will come birds and with birds will be a new breeding season! What are you most looking forward to in the coming weeks? Tell us here.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch

Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis)

From high on a  Colorado mountainside, a single call note sounds. It hangs momentarily in the cold, thin air at 12,000 feet, then plummets into the valley below. Following close behind is a rippling folk of dark-bodied finches. Pale wings flash in the sunlight as the land at the edge of a snowfield and begin to feed. There is no mistaking the birds for anything but the rosy-finch, which thrives in the tundra of  high elevations.

Not long ago an observer in the Rockies might have had difficulty identifying the feeding birds. Before 1983 the American Ornithologist's Union recognized three species of rosy-finch in North America: the wide-ranging gray-crowned rosy-finch, and the more localized brown-capped and black rosy-finches. Despite differences in range and plumage, the three birds are now regarded as subspecies of a single one: the Rosy-Finch

Taxonomy is a tidy science but hardly interpretation-free. The line between a species and a subspecies is often a fine one, with classifications made on the basis of supporting evidence. Because of new evidence, and a recent fundamental shift in the way scientists classify birds and other creatures, there is reason to believe that the three rosy-finches will once again be split into three separate North American species. This will make identification more difficult - but more interesting too.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

B.O.T.D. Western Grebe

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

It's May and the pageant of spring is in full swing across the prairies. Over lakes and marshes mallard and pintail drakes race to win a female's favour. Black terns glide in tandem, and the territorial chorus of yellow-headed blackbirds makes the bulrushes ring. But among those vying for recognition, the western grebe is clearly best in show. In all categories - grace, poise, innovation, and skill - the courtship routine of this bird rates a perfect ten.
As courtship begins, western grebes swim side by side arching their long, graceful necks in a backward bow. Suddenly, the birds sprint upright, lobed feet pattering across the lake, their necks bowed in demure S-shaped curves. At the conclusion of this reckless dash, the pair drops lightly to the surface and glides. But this is merely a warm-up. Swimming toward each other now, the birds dive ... then emerge, rearing high above the surface, breast touching breast, a sprig of moss clenched in each upturned bill. After pirouetting in tandem - one, two, three times - the birds finally part and settle to the surface.

A close relative of the Western Grebe (and only recently made a separate species) is the Clark's Grebe. The two birds are as similar in range as they are in appearance, nesting in colonies among the reed of freshwater marshes and wintering on coastlines, bays, and inland lakes.

Monday, 2 March 2015

A New Month and February in Review

Hello again! Today is the second day of march and a new season! Right now we are looking forward to many migrating birds flying north to their breeding grounds. With a new month means we also look back. February was a fruitful month. It yielded three lifers including the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Northern Shrike and Snow Bunting. As we enter this new month we will keep our eyes pealed and keep you updated.

B.O.T.D. Magnolia Warbler

B.O.T.D. Mar 2, 2015

Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia)

Migrating overland at night was part of the cycle of nature on before man learned to put bricks and mortar together. But night flying has grown increasingly dangerous for birds because of the proliferation of tall structures and confusing lights across the landscape. A harbinger of things to come was noted more than half a century ago by an observer who spent one foggy night in the torch of the Statue of Liberty and watched as songbirds streamed by like a "swarm of bees." The silence was broken by intermittent thuds as birds "struck the light with terrific impact," many of them suffering fatal injuries.

Television transmitting towers present a special hazard. Close monitoring showed that a single tower in northwest Florida killed nearly 2000 birds during each of three autumn migrations. One of the hardest-hit species was the magnolia warbler; after just one night, 106 were found dead. Such wholesale carnage is most common when tall, illuminated structures are shrouded in foggy weather, which diffuses the light and blots out any other points of reference. In 1954, drizzle blanketed an area from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico during three nights of heavy songbird migration. On the mornings after, surveys in 25 localities identified some 10000 victims - only a fraction of then total. Of those, nearly one-tenth were magnolia warblers; how many more of their ill-fated kind perished on those three terrible nights will never be known.