Friday, August 29, 2014

Small Park Lots of Birds

I went to a park that was recommended by a bird watcher I met a few days ago. The park was located just up the road from my grandma's house in Saskatoon.  She said that birds you would see were Blue-headed vireos and Wilson's warblers. When I arrived at this park one first look and I thought for sure that this lady had pulled a fast one and sent me to the worst place in the whole of Saskatchewan to bird watch.  I was wrong! Right when I was about to leave to go home, I heard the call of a Wilson's warbler. I found the Wilson's and then I started to scan for movement. There was a flash of grey and blue - it was a pigeon. After locating the commoners of the bird world I started looking for a Blue-headed vireo. After a half an hour of seeing the same Eastern kingbird I started to lose enthusiasm. Finally I gave up, I started to trudge out of the park in my wet and cold feet (I was wearing sandals). A dog walker came in and her dog started yapping at something. Then a little bird flew out of a Chokecherry bush to a crabapple tree. Thinking it was a Warbler or a finch I checked it out. It was a Blue-headed vireo! So, a humble, small park can mean lots of birds. The complete list is as follows:
Black-capped chickadee
Palm warbler
Yellow warbler
Grey catbird
Wilson's warbler
Eastern kingbird
Blue jay
Rock dove
Black-billed magpie
House sparrow
Blue-headed vireo

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back To The Country

I went back to the countryside today.  I can say that it was enjoyable. Western meadowlarks were seen more frequently than on Saturday. Solitary sandpipers were the most common species of shorebirds seen. Other shorebirds seen included Spotted sandpipers and Semipalmated plovers. Yellowlegs numbers decreased with only one Greater yellowlegs. My sister described what might have been an American avocet. We are not certain though. Once again the most common bird was the Cedar and Bohemian waxwings. Tons of these birds were eating berries and flower buds. Swallows were everywhere. I found a Barn swallow nest in the screened-in porch. Their were four chicks and the parents kept flying in to feed them. Sparrows were only seen three times. All of them were Song sparrows. Warblers were seen along the river bank quite often. The species seen were Wilson's, Yellow, and Black and white warblers. The highlight was an American pelican. A large completely white bird with a black area on the wing and a huge beak. At first I thought it was an overgrown Ivory gull with a black wing area and a beak deformity. There were once again a large number of Eastern kingbirds. I saw them fighting over a dragonfly that one of them had caught. Gulls were seen only a few times. They were all Ring-billed. Common ravens and American crows were squawking away all around me. Canada geese were not hard to find with a flock of 100 along the other side of the river. It was a good day of birding and I'm glad I did it despite it being a 30+ degree day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Sibley Comparison.

While I was at the Saskatoon Public Library I was happy to find "The Sibley Guide To Birds Second Edition". I have the first edition and now having both in my hands I can do a comparison. The second edition has added 111 rare species  and more than 600 new paintings and illustrations. It illustrates the subspecies and races much better than in the first. It also separates the Cackling goose from the Canada goose. The font in the second edition is very light and that sure did not help it win the support on "Knopf has laid an egg" says one reviewer as he begins to describes the second edition. Some paintings that were in the first edition were not changed such as the Ovenbird. I think in a new addition the author should make changes to at least one painting of each species to freshen things up a bit. Both editions in my mind are very reliable field guides. Well, I'll be asking for that for Christmas!

"Once in a great while, a natural history book changes the way people look at the world. In 1838, John James Audubon's Birds of America was one . . . In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson produced Field Guide to the birds . . . Now comes The Sibley Guide to Birds"   - The New York Times 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fall Migration is on the Way.

It's the time of year that we've been waiting for - when birds of all sizes begin to move south. Some just go a few miles but others make majestic journeys across the globe. There are many globe trotting species such as the Northern wheatear -  a small thrush that will migrate back to its wintering grounds in the plains of Africa, the Whimbrel - a shorebird that will go from it's breeding grounds in Alaska and northern Canada to northern South America, and the Arctic tern - the bird that makes the largest migration in the world - from the northern parts of Europe, Asia and North America to the southern Antarctic, not my idea of a summer holiday. The flyways of the world are the routes that migratory birds take to get from their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds or vice versa. There are eight  flyways in the world: the Mississippi Americas flyway, the East Atlantic flyway, the Atlantic Americas flyway, Pacific Americas flyway, Black Sea Mediterranean flyway, East Africa West Asia flyway, Central Asia flyway and the East Asia Australian flyway.
Enjoy it while it lasts!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Saskatoon SK

I am in Saskatchewan right now visiting my Grandma. I'm seeing a lot of western species of birds. Yesterday I saw two Franklin's gulls along the Saskatchewan river along with a Western wood-pewee  and a Palm warbler. It is the first time I have seen the Red-shafted race of the Northern flicker. Today I went to the country side to see a property my grandparents own. The property is right on the South Saskatchewan river.  I brought my binoculars with me and I saw a Western meadowlark, two Long-billed dowitchers and a large flock of Canada geese. There were many Solitary sandpipers along the shore feeding (not so solitary are they?). The numbers of Lesser and Greater yellowlegs were surprising. I only saw three Lessers and two Greaters. In Newfoundland Yellowlegs are the most common shorebird you could see. There were many hawks flying about. I saw a Northern harrier, a few Swainson's hawks and a good number of Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed hawks. The most common species were the Cedar and Bohemian waxwings. I probably saw at least 250 of these birds swooping about. It was nice to see the large numbers of Swallows. Both Barn and Tree swallows were seen quite frequently. There were many Flycatchers, such as Eastern kingbirds and Alder flycatchers. Many sparrows were present. Lincoln sparrows, Swamp sparrow's and Song sparrow's were seen quite often along the bank feeding on Chokecherries and Saskatoon berries. Unfortunately, Warblers were scarce. I did see a few Yellow and Wilson's warblers along the bank with the sparrows. The usual Red-winged blackbirds, American robins and Black-billed magpies were all happy to show themselves. A Grey catbird was a timid bird that was only heard a few times throughout the day. I will be back out there on Wednesday. I can hardly wait!

Looking for a Sandhill Crane

When I came to Saskatchewan it was my goal to see the majestic Sandhill crane. When a Sandhill crane turned up in the Goulds, Newfoundland I went on a wild crane chase to see it. Sadly, the only vagrant I saw were the European golden-plovers.  Sandhill cranes migrate through Saskatchewan in late August to late September. The peak period is September 10-24. Of the 2 species of cranes that inhabit North America, Sandhills are the smallest.  There are two races of Sandhills, the lesser race and the greater race. The lesser race breeds in the far north and the greater race breeds from central Canada downwards. The lesser race measures around 3 feet tall and the greater race around 3 feet and 6 inches tall. Sandhills feed mainly on seeds and cultivated grains, aquatic plants, small vertebrates and invertebrate, there diet may also include berries and tubers. Nonmigratory populations feed on snails and reptiles, fruits and berries, amphibians, small mammals and nestling birds. The Sandhill crane has sturdy populations. But, populations in Mississippi and Cuba are endangered because of conversion of there wet pine habitat to pine plantations. Sandhill cranes are beautiful birds with a red blotch on the crown and a grey body. They forage on mud flats, fields and pastures.