14 November 2012

Two Local CBCs

The Kimberley BC is 5 Jan 2013 and the Cranbrook BC count is 29 Dec 2012.

To see a list of counts in BC go to the BC Federation of Ornithologists blog at

10 October 2012

Migration is ON at Elizabeth Lake

When Canadians spot migratory ducks and geese, we know that the seasons are changing. But these flocks are just part of the over 500 species of migratory birds that make Canada their home for a time.

As the days shorten in autumn, the birds return to warmer regions where the available food supply varies little with the season.

Most migrations begin with the birds starting off in a broad front. Often this front narrows into one or more preferred routes termed ‘flyways’. These routes typically follow mountain ranges or coastlines, sometimes rivers, and may take advantage of updrafts and other wind patterns or avoid geographical barriers such as large stretches of open water. The specific routes may be genetically programmed or learned to varying degrees. The routes taken on forward and return migration are often different.

Geese in a V-formation may conserve 12 – 20% of the energy they would need to fly alone.

Unfortunately, many of the world’s migratory birds are in decline. Along the flyway, important habitats for migrants are under threat from infrastructure and housing development, energy development (mining and drilling for fossil fuels), tropical deforestation and the spread and intensification of agriculture.

The Rocky Mountain Trench is part of the ‘Pacific Americas Flyway’ which extends along the western flank of North and South America.

At Elizabeth lake this week, naturalists enjoyed the antics of Yellow-rumped Warblers. One tall shrub filled with half a dozen of the streaky brown-and-yellow birds giving their distinctive sharp ‘chips’. Yellow-rumped Warblers are fairly large, full-bodied warblers with a large head, sturdy bill and long, narrow tail. Weighing less than half an ounce, these birds forage in the outer tree canopies at middle heights and ‘sally’ out to catch insects in mid-air. They cling to the bark surface to look for hidden insects more than many warblers do. Their flight is agile and swift, and the birds often call as they change direction. Their populations are stable or increasing in most areas.

Join the Rocky Mountain Naturalists for early morning birding at Confederation Park adjacent to Elizabeth Lake at 7:30 am on Tuesdays until mid-October.

Elizabeth Lake, October 9th. (33 sp)

Eared Grebe
Canada Goose
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Ruddy Duck
American Coot
California Gull
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
House Finch
Red Crossbill

Submitted by Daryl Calder.

02 September 2012

Early September Birding Day, 2012

Hello, All:

It was somewhat quiet out there for shorebirds today, as expected from a report from Dean earlier in the week.

We did see 4 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES at the central dam of the irrigation reservoir, and 3 KILLDEER further along but that was it for the day on our travels up to Wasa.

Beautiful day though, slight wind only in the morning and it got up to 19 degrees celsius.

I haven't been seeing many swallows around lately but we scraped up a couple of BARN SWALLOWS at the Wasa Motel.

AMERICAN ROBINS are flocking up, as are YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, and we did catch a brief glimpse of a WILSON'S WARBLER in non-breeding plumage at that lovely backyard in Wasa. Also there, was an adult CEDAR WAXWING feeding a fledged young. They bred a bit later than usual, I think!

The vast majority of the ducks we saw were either young ones or adults still in eclipse plumage. Only the NORTHERN PINTAIL and a couple of the RUDDY DUCKs showed any hints of breeding plumage.

Not the huge numbers of CANADA GOOSE around, either. Not like the last time I was out at the reservoir when there were several hundred.

It was a good year for CHIPPING and VESPER SPARROW, though, wasn't it!

Number of Checklists: 15
Number of Species: 61

102 Canada Goose
1 Wood Duck
1 American Wigeon
38 Mallard
33 Northern Shoveler
2 Northern Pintail
5 Green-winged Teal
4 Ring-necked Duck
10 Lesser Scaup
40 Bufflehead
33 Common Goldeneye
3 Hooded Merganser
44 Ruddy Duck
1 Common Loon
2 Pied-billed Grebe
1 grebe sp.
1 Great Blue Heron
2 Turkey Vulture
4 Osprey
1 Bald Eagle
1 Northern Harrier
5 Red-tailed Hawk
13 American Kestrel
3 Merlin
8 American Coot
4 Killdeer
4 Red-necked Phalarope
4 Rock Pigeon
2 Eurasian Collared-Dove
1 Belted Kingfisher
2 Hairy Woodpecker
9 Northern Flicker
3 Western Wood-Pewee
1 Western Kingbird
1 Cassin's Vireo
2 Blue Jay
8 Black-billed Magpie
26 American Crow
46 Common Raven
2 Barn Swallow
12 Black-capped Chickadee
4 Mountain Chickadee
13 Red-breasted Nuthatch
8 Western Bluebird
10 American Robin
2 European Starling
6 Cedar Waxwing
1 Common Yellowthroat
19 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Wilson's Warbler
28 Chipping Sparrow
87 Vesper Sparrow
18 Savannah Sparrow
15 Song Sparrow
22 Dark-eyed Junco
3 Red-winged Blackbird
2 Western Meadowlark
36 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 House Finch
8 Pine Siskin
2 American Goldfinch

19 August 2012

View from "The Shorebird Spot"

Not a lot of birder-accessible shore here in the East Kootenay.

This one, though small, is more important to the shorebirds than to the birders, muddy shore being such a rare commodity, especially this year with having had so much rain.

And, as you may have guessed, it is part of the sewage treatment facilities of the local city - one of a birder's favorite habitats, at least in this part of the world.

When the water level is just right during migration you can usually see:

-Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs

As well as:
-Stilt Sandpiper as a special treat
-Ultra-rare White-rumped Sandpiper

-the so-far ubiquitous Killdeer
-Semi-palmated Plover some years

And usually somewhere nearby:
a half dozen Red-necked and / or Wilson's Phalarope

I believe the birds appreciate the view, too!

28 July 2012

BC Breeding Bird Atlas Effort maps

We did well.

The map shows in blue, the blocks where the majority of squares in the block have over 20 hours of atlassing effort.

25 July 2012

July Meeting, What a Venue!

Submitted by D. Calder

With the generous permission of a Wycliffe land owner, naturalists were able to visit a small pothole lake situated in the heart of rolling grasslands one mid-July evening.

photo: H. Knote

A variety of habitats including multi-colored alfalfa, native grasses, scattered clumps of trees and brush, and muddy shoreline surrounded the open water. A couple of yellow pine snags provided nesting cavities, and perches for the Osprey and hawks. As the evening winds subsided, a greater assortment of waterfowl could be identified, some trailing strings of ducklings across the calmer water.

photo: H. Knote

A few wildflowers dotted a rocky meadow where sharp eyed naturalists noticed an uncommon, singular, mauve flower. To quote from the 1952 book “Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to know in British Columbia”, by C.P. (Chess) Lyons, “The simplicity of this beautiful flower imparts an air of rarity that is further enhanced by it’s random appearance in drab range land. The stout stem carries one or more pale purple or lavender blooms often 2” across. Three large petals are marked on the inside with dark blotches near their base and a green band down their centre. One thin leaf grows from the base of the stem. The Sagebrush Mariposa Lily is seldom found in any quantity and often escapes notice because of it’s delicate shading...” Thanks, Chess. (1915- 1998)

photo: D. Cooper

As the evening light ebbed and the reflected sunset intensified, a couple of us heard the unmistakable call, a series of 3 to 8 deep, soft ‘hoo’ notes, of the Great Horned Owl.

photo: H. Knote

Conveniently, it perched on a nearby fencepost.

This large, heavy-bodied owl with noticeable ear tufts has glowing orange or yellow eyes on a tawny-brown facial disc. It is one of the largest owls in the Rockies and has ear tufts or horns which are toward the sides of the head. The eyeball of the great horned is as large as a human eye, and like other owls it has binocular vision. Its’ ear openings are of unequal size which also helps it to locate prey. The finely toothed edges of the outer primary feathers allow almost noiseless flights by this large predator. Along with long, sharp talons, these special adaptations make this mostly nocturnal owl an extremely effective predator on small rodents, birds, hares and even skunks.

As is the general case with owls, the female is considerably larger than the male, although the male has a deeper voice. They are year-round residents in the Rockies and very early nesters, sometimes incubating eggs beneath a blanket of snow. In February and March, naturalists make night time outings to detect the owls as they call to each other while establishing territory and preparing to breed. Submitted by Daryl Calder.

The list:

Pied-billed Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Canada Goose
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck
Duck ‘Species’
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Shorebird ‘Species’
Gull ‘Species’
Great Horned Owl
Common Nighthawk
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
American Crow
Western Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Warbler ‘Species’
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer’s Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird

24 June 2012

Finishing Point Counts in 11PQ04

The Cherry Lake square

in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of the East Kootenay Trench




Greg taught me how to find hillside Spotted Sandpiper nests - HE learned it from Gary last weekend in Nakusp.

I thought they only nested on the flats - but that's because previous nests I've found were in the Chilcotin - where it is flat.  Our Mountain Spotties don't mind roadside banks at all!

We found a couple. Cool.

Four Spotted Sandpiper eggs in this nest.

Seven Spotted Sandpiper eggs in this one.

This is my "Year of the Grouse"

First it was my encounter with a pair of Dusky Grouse trying to do their thing in the middle of the road (see Dusky Grouse animation blog post ).

Then, it was my lifer Spruce Grouse I spotted after ablutions (see 'Up the Skookumchuck' blog post ).

This time it was a couple of sets of mothers and chicks! Super cool! - but I only have pics of one of the species.

Ruffed Grouse chick

Momma Ruffed Grouse between me and one chick.

We spotted this family first, after we paused at the bottom of a ditch dug across the road a long time ago as part of the "decommissioning". Thankfully, these ditches were not as bad as the ones up Lamb Creek a couple of years ago. I don't ever have to go there again.

I spotted a chick first but mistakenly initially identified it as a vole or something. LOL.  We had to wait about 10 minutes for all eleven chicks to cross the road.

The next family was just down the road! A Spruce Grouse momma and 3 chicks.

Mountain bovine families:

Range cows checking us out.

It was a good day of atlassing - nice to finish off a Priority 1 square.

23 June 2012

23 June 2012 Atlassing Needs Update

The table below is also available to view here:

BC Breeding Bird Atlas
Region 1 – Southern Trench

2012 Square Recommendations
Updated 23 June 2012
  prepared  by Dianne Cooper

to Go

Moyie Lake North
10 / 6

Patrick S.
Moyie Lake South

Pierre J.
Teepee FSR East

Pierre J.
Hidden Valley
9 / 0

(Dianne C.)
Gold Creek

Dianne C.

Findlay Creek FSR Mid E
9 / 0

Island Pond to Torrent

Cam G.
Skookumchuck Prairie
4 / 6

Dianne C.

Colvalli Road
5 / 6

(Dianne C.)
Bull River
10 / 8

Englishman Creek Newgate
10 / 4

Baynes Lake East
10 / 10

Kishinena Peak
6 / 4

Connor Lakes

Michel - Olson
10 / 6

Upper Elk Squares

Dean N.

Done so far in 2012

to Go

Cranbrook Airport
4 / 0
Dianne C.
Cranbrook Airport
4 / 0
Dianne C.
LD Ranch Rd
8 / 6
Dean N.
Moen Rd
1 / 0
Dianne C.
Larchwood Lake
10 / 10
Dianne C.
Canal Flats
7 / 5
Cam G.
Bummer's Flats
8 / 0
Dean N.
Premier Lake

Cam G.
Cherry Lake
4 / 5
Dianne C.
7 / 0
Dean N.
Edwards Lake

Dean N.
Dorr Cut Off Road
10 / 0
Dean N.

Dean N.

Kevin K.
Grasmere Roosville Rd

Dean N.
Fernie E
5 / 0
Kevin K.
Weigert Cr

Dean N.
Elkford W.

Dean N.

Kevin K.
Fording R Rd S
10 / 0
Dean N.
10 / 8
Kevin K.

Region 1 Summary Statistics
Number of species: 190
Nr of point counts:   760
Nr of spp on point counts: 144
Nr of squares with point counts: 61

We have reached our target of 50 percent coverage for point counts. Yay!