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, March 24, 2012

Bird Focus Group Field Trip

    On March 19 the Red Deer River Naturalist (RDRN) went out on their regular field trip.

     Quite a few interesting sightings wee made. Two Great Horned Owls were seen on nests. At this time of the year when there are no leaves these birds are very obvious. Further on there was a pair of Canada Geese standing on an old Hawk's nest. After t that they saw Common Red Polls, Horned Larks, Rough Legged Hawk, immature Bald Eagle, Snow Buntings, Northern Flicker, and Black-capped Chickadees. hey also saw one moose. It was also the first time they saw pussy willows. 
Great Horned Owl
House Finch

     The RDRN bird focus group goes out every Monday. The meet at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and car pool from there.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Andrew Nikiforuk: Empire of the Beetle

      Andrew Nikiforuk spoke to the Red Deer River Naturalists(RDRN)  on his new book "Empire of the Beetle. 

      Andrew traced the history of the beetle to now and how the beetle operates. The recent outbreak in Western Canada actually started in Alaska. The beetle thrives well in trees that for whatever reason are stressed. Many large swaths of our forests are old and therefore unhealthy because of age. It could be drought . The female beetle finds a susceptible tree and alerts other beetles to the tree. The beetles and larva work under the bark and destroy the active tree layer just under the bark. These beetles can multiply at enormous rates.

      Governments have spent fortunes to control the beetle but with extremely little success. Some methods used to control the beetle are almost comical. One example, was to try to find sounds that would harm the beetle.

    Andrew thinks that most money spent to control the beetle is a waste. The beetle is a natural way to renew the forests , just not the way we would like to see the forest renewed.

    Andrew's presentation gave a detailed look at the beetle's life cycle and how it operates. All those who listened to the talk went away with much more understanding of how the beetle can be so destructive.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Andrew Nikiforuk Speaking in Red Deer.

      Andrew Nikiforuk will be speaking in Red Deer on Thur Mar. 22 at the Margaret Parson's theater at Red Deer College.

     Andrew has just written a book called "Empire of the Beetle. Empire of the beetle will be his topic.


Friday, March 16, 2012

First Crow of 2012

     Today I saw the first crow of 2012 . (for me that is) So about 1:30 PM there was a crow cruising over the neighborhood and I could hear other crows. I'm sure that crow have been sighted in the area before these. Mine were sighted in Sunnybrook which is a neighborhood in southeast Red Deer.

     Crows have many different calls but the spring call when they first arrive is the one I like best. So we will have crows with us until late September our early October.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bird Focus Group March 12

    The Red Deer River Naturalists have a bird focus group that meets every Monday at noon at the Kerry Wood Nature Center. All people are welcome to join the group for the field trip. 

     On Mar. 12 the group went west of Red Deer to north of Sylvan Lake and then worked their way back to Red Deer.
Route taken Mon afternoon.

     A Swainson's hawk and a European Starling were first sightings for 2011.

     A number of other interesting sightings were made. A black billed magpie was seen carrying nesting material. A common raven was seen on a nest. A great horned owl was seen on a nest. Other sightings were Canada geese, Bohemian waxwings, downy woodpecker, black capped chickadee, three mature bald eagles, one immature bald eagle and 6 rough legged hawks.

     So it was an interesting and productive afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Good Time to Watch for Early Spring Migrants.

     After heavy snow on March 4 and 5 , we have had some very mild spring weather. Our snow has settled and on southern exposures some of the snow has me melted.

     So it's time to watch for early spring migrants and to get excited about many birds returning to this area. On Tues I saw a distant flock of ducks. Now these could have been local ducks as we have ducks all winter on open parts if the Red Deer River. Several flocks of geese were reported but they could also be local as well. One robin was seen on Mon the 12th.

     We can soon expect crows, some hawks and blue birds. We are going to set up the peregrine falcon nest on the Telus tower next week. Richardson's ground squirrels will soon be out in abundance so there will be food .

     So one of the exciting times of the yer for birders will soon be here. Tell Natural Wise what you have seen lately. Just leave a comment.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Owl Web Cam Link

    I have placed a link to the web cam on an owl's nest at the Ellis Bird Farm.

    There has been an owl's nest in a large spruce tree at the Ellis Bird Farm for a few years Last year they put a web cam on the nest. the nesting pair of owls was very successful.

    This year they have a better camera and the camera placing is much better.

     Owls are not nesting yet. Owls have been seen at the nest. 

     If you are interested and have time check this nest out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Adaptation for New Deep Snow

    For the last two days we have had heavy snowfall. This morning when I looked out there were tracks across my front yard. A deer had waded through the deep snow. The snow was deep enough that the deer had just plodded through the deep snow. This reminded me about the problems deer have with deep snow . When snow is deep they tend to gather together and stay in a very small area. They can sometimes be trapped in the small area and starve.
Deer tracks across my yard

    Then there's the mice. Can you imagine mice trying to run across this soft snow? Mice will travel under the snow or find areas under trees which don't have much snow. Coyotes and owls are quite adept at picking up mice from under the snow. 

    So for all the creatures that share winter with us some will cope and others will suffer. Fortunately, at this time of year we are close to spring when we lose the snow. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Heavy Spring Snow at Red Deer

     For the past two days Red Deer and much of the province of Alberta has received a heavy dump of spring snow. In Red Deer we received about 30 cm of snow. My picture in the previous post with Bohemian Waxwings in a big poplar tree was taken yesterday afternoon in the middle of the snow fall. 

A spruce tree that is loaded up with snow.
    Snow was needed in this area because there's been a lack of snow all winter so a shortage of moisture could be a problem. Owls have been on the nest for some time now They sit tight and are completely buried in snow. We had a web cam on one nest last year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gigantic Flock of Bohemian Waxwings.

      At this time of year the waxwing flocks start to get very large. There are large flocks all winter but they tend to get very large about March.

      Today I saw the largest flock of bohemian waxwings that I have ever seen. I would say that there were from 800 to 1000 birds. 

     These birds were in the southeast of Red Deer in the Sunny Brook subdivision about 3:30 PM. 

This large poplar tree didn't hold very many birds but there were many others flying around looking for a perch.
     They were a gorgeous sight.