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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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dr. Gordon Court: Return of the Peregrine

         The Red Deer River Naturalists(RDRN) were very fortunate to have Dr. Gordon Court give a presentation on the peregrine falcon and it's return from near extinction.

        Historically peregrines have been of interest to humans as they have been used by hunters to hunt other birds. Humans are fascinated by the tremendous speed of a falcon's flight. The peregrine has been clocked at close to 400 km/hr in a dive. Pretty spectacular.

        Gord was a kid in the late sixties when DDT decimated the peregrine falcon population. Today the peregrine has made a remarkable come back so Gord feels that it is a good story. He should know. He was the overseer of the recovery program that was put in place to save the peregrine from disaster.

       In Gord's talk he began with DDT and how it affected the peregrine's reproductive system. He then told us about the recovery and all the good and bad luck involved as no one had done anything like this before. The eggs were not fertile when the peregrine's bred in captivity so they had to use artificial insemination. Much of he technology was learned by experience. Finally enough birds were raised so that they could release some back to the wild. Again this was another of those activities which had never been tried before so everything was experimental. To their surprise the birds migrated and returned the next summer and began breeding. The birds chose cities for nest sites as the tops of buildings provided nesting material...pebbles.

     Gord also gave an in depth description of what peregrines are like . He's an expert as he has raised many. He had an injured bird with him to demonstrate. He fed the injured bird at the end of his talk.

     So we were treated to a fascinating presentation on a very interesting bird.

Early Morning Bird Walk Heritage Ranch May 29

CANCELLED
And you can see why!



Saturday, May 15, 2010

Early Morning Bird Walk Hazlet Lake May 15

     Today's early morning bird walk took place at a private property known as Hazlet Lake. Hazlet Lake is a shallow prairie lake whch covers about 50 hectares.Water drains in and out of the lake , but its water level flucuates and is low right now because of several dry years. An esker running northeast is on the west side of the lake. Since the soil in the esker is rather poor, very scuby aspen and a variety of shrubs  cover the ridge. This view gives most of the lake and was taken from the ridge.

       This property has been farmed but the land on the ridge was never developed ans was probably used for cow pasture at one time. Therefore much of the property has been undisturbed. The present owner is a naturalist so the area is left to take care of itself except for a small private golf course and a residence.

    All in all it is an excellent bird habitat area . So at this time of year many birds are found and the owner could point out many active nest sites. The picture of the birders is taken from one of the fairways. With a mix of treed and open areas many birds find this excellent habitat.
Our hostess Dorothy, provides a detailed tour of the property.
      
    So a very rewarding hour from 7:00AM to 8:00AM was experienced by 5 birders. The sky was mostly clear, wind calm and temperature around 12 C.

  We saw northern shovellers, great horned owl, clay colored sparrow, white throated sparrow, white crowned sparrow, chipping sparrow, song sparrow, white breasted nuthatch, tree swallow, starling, black capped chickadee, crow, yellow bellied sapsucker red -winged blackbird, magpie, northern flicker, mallard , cowbird, pigeon,Canada  geese, red tailed hawk as well as a porcupine.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bower Woods Early Morning Bird Walk May 8

         Today the Red Deer River Naturalists(RDRN) early morning bird walk took place in the Bower Woods. Bower Woods is a ravine where Piper Creek cuts through the escarpment of the Red Deer River to get to the valley floor. Once again the area contains a wide variety of habitat. These areas can be quite large for natural areas which are fragmented. The ravine will be 500m wide and winds through 5km of the city. It's cut by several roads.


        As a result there is varied habitat in this area and a variety of birds can be found. Birding is somewhat of a challenge when you are in the spruce as birds are in the tree tops. This is when you have to listen and identify birds by their calls.


       This morning at 7:00AM it was mostly clear, minus 3C with very little wind. Two of us showed up for this hour.

      We saw American robin, crow, mallard, franklin gull, black-capped chickadee, Red breasted nuthatch, blue jay, house finch, and golden crowned kinglet

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Early Morning Bird Walk May 1

        Our second early morning bird walk of the season took place at the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary. This is an approximately 100 hectare area within the city of Red Deer. It's made up of a wide variety of habitat due to varying soil types. The area is mostly river valley and includes the escarpments. More than half of this natural area has never been developed in any way. There was no logging so there are old growth forests of spruce and aspen. Much of the area is thick brush. Other areas are tangled willow. The center piece of the area are the two oxbow lakes so there is plenty of marsh around the lake shores. These lakes for the most part are very shallow. There may be the odd hole which would be three meters deep.

       So with a natural area which is extremely variable, birding is very productive. This morning the temperature was about minus 2 C. Skies were mostly clear and it was calm. There was fog in the area before we started but it had burned off before we got in the field.

        A new viewing deck has just been completed so this is a view of the west lake taken from a port in the stand.

       Five avid bird walkers showed up this morning. Here's a shot of Judy looking out on the lake. The bird blind is built so that birds on the lake will not be disturbed.

      So our sightings were many and varied. Here they are in the order we saw them. American robin, eastern phoebe, mallard, canvas back, bufflehead, red-necked grebe, cinnamon teal, whitethroated sparrow, Canada geese, black-capped chickadee, Savannah sparrow, Dark-eyed junco, ring-billed gull, pine siskin, common loon, song sparrow, American crow, red-winged blackbird, house finch, tundra swan, northern flicker, yellow-rumped warbler, redhead, lesser scaup, American coot, blue-winged teal, common goldeneye, yellow-headedblackbird...a total of 28. We also saw one poor little old red squirrel. 

     Next week, May  8, we will visit Bower Woods.We will meet in the northeast corner of the Bower Mall parking lot to be ready to roll at 7:00 AM.