Red Deer River Naturalists

The Red Deer river Naturalists are a group dedicated to learning about and preserving natural history. They have regular programs with speakers and many field trips.


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Steve Herrero

      Steve Herrero showed us the old pro he is when he gave a super presentation Oct.22 at Red Deer College. He started his talk by showing what bear behavior was when bears were truly wild and finished by speculating on their future. He showed us how we spoiled the bears by our behavior as tacky tourists and our pathetic waste disposal of an earlier age.

     His study of bear behavior was impressive for the tremendous detail of all behaviors. He showed us that black bears are mostly bluff except in a small minority of cases. The grizzly behaves differently so give grizzlies a wide berth. We learned about bear feeding habits and how this gets them into trouble.

    As always he showed a great sense of humor when describing bears. His close encounters include every detail.

    He finished by giving us a prediction or his hope for bears in the future. As always habitat and fragmentation are keys to bear success.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Golden Eagles and Bear at Kananaskis, AB

I had the opportunity to go out to Kananaskis October 11 and 12th to help with the Golden Eagle count (fall migration 2009) at the Mount Lorette eagle watch site. Bill Wilson and I counted 236 Golden Eagles on Sunday. Cliff Hansen and I counted 69 on Monday. By the way, the temperature at the site on Monday morning was -19.5C. Below is a picture of a juvenile Golden Eagle that Cliff was able to take at the site. I also include a shot of a Water Dipper by Cliff Hansen. One of the many Dippers that stay at the site year-round as the Kananaskis River here does on freeze over in winter.

I thought I would also share a encounter that one of our fellow "eaglers" had on October 8, 2009 at the eagle watch site 4 days earlier. Joel gave me permission to share his story, I added the bear:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Snowshoe Hare

I’ve been noticing a few hares (Lepus americanus) in our neighbourhood over that past few years, but nothing like this summer. During my evening stroll, I can see as many as six hopping around the swings in a local schoolyard. It will be interesting to see how many of them survive the winter.
Checking my old copy of Soper’s book, The Mammals of Alberta, (1964), I find that the snowshoe hare follows on average a 9.6 year cycle. I’m thinking that this year must be at or near a population peak. Soper says that the variation is remarkable: in low years, “it almost completely vanishes from the scene; conversely, at the peak the total population at times is almost unbelievable.” It is reported that in the peak of 1912-1914, the “woods everywhere were infested with hares”; another writer estimated a population of “several hundreds in a 30-acre woodlot.”
Once the peak is reached, the die-off is dramatic, occurring in the space of a few months to a couple of years. As this happens, other populations, especially lynx, follow suit.
How can a population increase occur so rapidly? I guess the expression relating to breeding like rabbits is true. They can have several litters per year. Presumably the inevitable die-off occurs when the population reaches a critical mass that is unsustainable by the existing food supply and the proximity of individuals creates a situation where diseases can spread easily. The resulting surge in predator populations may also be a factor.
For many years, we have had a resident snowshoe hare in our neighbourhood. It’s presence is mostly detectable in the winter months. First thing in the morning there are a new set of tracks in the backyard. The route it follows seems consistent. First a visit to the area under the bird feeders, then down to the spruce tree at the end corner of the yard, and finally along the fence to the front yard, and leaving to explore the neighbouring yards.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Crow Migration

Crow migration has always been of interest to me. Crows are much maligned for some of their nasty behaviors. Crows are aggressive, noisy and rob other bird nests often flying off with hatchlings dangling from their beaks. As a result many people find crows obnoxious and tend to ingnore them if they can.

However, to me , the migration is quite spectacular. For starters, the vast numbers are impressive. At Red Deer in the evening a straggly line of crows fly from a south easterly direction all evening. There is much cawing and vigorous haphazard type of flying. As this procession carries on for hours, I sometimes think that they are flying a continuous route where they fly around a triangle of 20km or so. What do you think of this idea?

The next morning with the first light the crows begin flying again. This time they move south east. They are absent during the day as they have probably found fields which are a rich source of food . This process carries on throughout September. In the last few days of September the numbers suddenly dwindle as they have started their migration south. A few stragglers remain for a week or so . This morning at 6:30 AM a few crows could be heard. There was very little light at this time and I could not see the crows.

Many may people may choose to ignore the crows, but I find they put on a spectacular display of fall migrating behavior.

Now does anyone else have a favorite migration? email