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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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Peregrine Web Cam

The peregrines are checking out RDRN's nest box. We have a camera inside so we can all watch what happens. Go to to check it out. The birds still come and go, so if there is "no one at home", just be patient. They will come in eventually.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Early Morning Bird Walk April 24

        Red Deer River Naturalists run 6 early morning birdwalks each spring. Each walk lasts one hour, is local and suited to  birders with limited experience. Today we spent our time in a natural area south of Red Deer College. The area is about 1.5 km long and .5 - .75 km in width. There is a tremendous variety of habitat . There are patches of old growth spruce and aspen. A creek meanders through the full length of the area and has a lush riparian coverage. There are a couple of beaver dams on the creek so it is mostly a series of pondsThere are brushy areas and open grassland. Most of this is the result of widely varying soils.

        This morning at 7:00AM it was minus 2 C, clear and calm.

       We saw 16 different species. It's not just the observance of each species, but what these species sometimes teach you by the performance they put on. Since it's the beginning of the breeding season there are some pretty interesting behaviours. There's a tremendous amount of rivalry between and among mails. One grassy area had 10-15 male robins. Every once in a while one or two of them would chase each other in wild erratic flight. Downy wood peckers were trying to out drum one another. The best example today was put on by two hairy woodpeckers. They conducted a sort of minuet. They pointed their beaks straight out from their body. One would flutter his wings then the other. They would bounce from branch to brach. There were small vocalizations. They never made contact , but kept up the jockeying for position. These two birds taught us something as Judy had read about the behaviour , but we had never observed it.

       We saw  American crows, black billed magpies, Canada geese, mallards, tundra swans, American robins, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, northern flickers, black capped chickadees, boreal chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, white breasted nuthatches, eastern phoebes, house finches, ring billed gulls and song sparrows. We also saw one beaver and several red squirrels.

Photo by Judy Boyd
      So it was a very pleasant morning as a good number of species were observed and we learned some new things.

      Next week we visit the Gaetz Lake Santuary. Remember you are welcome to join us. Meet in the Kerry Wood Nature Centre parking lot at 7:00AM.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Junco Visitors

        The other morning as I was delivering papers at 6:30 AM I heard a bird call that was different. Our song birds are just startingr to return to the area so a different call causes me to stop and listen. We haven't heard these calls since last spring. One has to listen very carefully as many of the calls are similar.

        This call was a trill with just a touch of music. I looked in the direction of the call but could only see a crow and the sound certainly wasn't crow. I moved in the direction of the singer. I still couldn't find a bird. I moved nearer again and still no luck, but the singer continued without alarm. I knew I was close to the bird so I just searched the whole tree. Finally, on the tip of a top branch I spied the small suspect...a junco.

      Juncos are very common in this area in the spring. Juncos are interesting in that there is some variation in coloring. Most birds here have dark gray backs , creamy underparts and when they fly the two or three outer tail feathers which are white, flash. Some birds are much browner. At one time they were considered two separate species and called slate colored junco and Oregon junco. The young of the year present another challenge as they are heavily streaked.

      No matter what, when you hear the first junco of the year it is most pleasant.