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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Friday, November 23, 2012

Carrie Nugent on Otters

    On Nov. 22 Carrie Nugent gave a talk on otters and a study she is doing on otters that have recently shown up west of Rocky Mountain House. 

     First Carrie gave a history of where otters have been residents. They are found  across North America except for  arctic areas.

    Next we were given a description of otters and their features. Otters eat mostly fish but they eat many other things like birds, insects and other mammals. Otters need open water. They have some novel ways to gain access to open water. They can use old beaver lodges, muskrat breathing holes and natural openings through the ice.

    Otters have gained notice the last few years as sport fishermen are concerned that otters may interfere with the fishery. So the study Carrie is going to carry out will look at the number of otters , where they move and what they eat.

     Then Carrie described in detail how her study was going to take place. She also got a few volunteers who would go out and use antenna to try and connect to the otters radio transmitters.

    Carrie's presentation was both interesting and informative. Some people who have a great interest in otters kept her for a half an hour after the end of the presentation asking more questions. 

    So if you want an interesting speaker for your group, contact Carrie Nugent.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Geese are Really Moving.

    Yesterday, Nov. 11 the geese were on the move. About 2:00 P M it was minus 11 and geese were really moving south. One flock was somewhere between 500 to 1000. Our low for the night was minus 26. We have about 10 to 15 centimeters of snow cover. So bodies of water are freezing over quickly and the food is covered with snow. The Red Deer River is wide open. The Dickson Dam is also a favorite place for geese.

    So soon we will only find a few geese on open spots of the Red Deer River.

    Let me know about the geese you see moving through.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Canada Geese Have Decided

    The Canada geese have decided that it is time to fly south. Many flocks of geese were flying over Red Deer today. Most flocks were in the 30 -50 goose size. A couple of flocks were in the hundreds. I saw one flock that was probably 2000. I was a large somewhat disorganized flock.

    All of these birds where 200 m - 500 m high and they were not wasting anytime moving in a southerly direction. A winter storm has moved into this area with heavy snow and the temperatures are going to be much lower. So even the larger bodies of water may freeze over and the snow will be covering their food.

    These birds will probably fly south until they find water that's not frozen and feed that's not covered with snow.

    Soon we will have only a few geese left on open areas of river such as the Dickson dam.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Was That?

     I have a bird feeder that hangs at the edge of an eave on my house. From my window I can not see the ground under the feeder. 
   Yesterday as I took a little look at the feeder a  little gray rocket flew out of my yard from somewhere over to some nearby trees. A few seconds later another little rocket flew by. By this time I realized the birds had come from the ground under the feeder. I further realized that the little gray rockets with some flashing white were Juncos. 

    Juncos usually come to back yards and feeders during dirty weather. We've had lots of nasty weather lately. Some Juncos hang around until quite late in the fall. Juncos are always interesting birds top watch around the feeder and the yard.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Birds Are Moving

     On Tues. Oct. 25, I happened to be looking out the window just as a couple of robins went by. Now they were flying north west so they weren't migrating south unless they were taking the long way south. It doesn't surprise me to see robins the end of October. I have seen robins in every month of the year at Red Deer. 

     A few minutes later I saw some Bohemian waxwings fly by. The waxwings were a little more than tree level high while the robins were probably 80 -100 m high.

     At the same time there were seagulls meandering by. I could not identify the seagulls. 

    So there's a mixed bag here. The robins should have been out of here.  It's early for waxwings to show up. Some gulls hang around here until mid to late December.

    It all makes for some interesting sightings from a city window.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Early snow Surprises Some Species.

     We have had snow and very cool temperatures for about ten days now.  It's a surprise . We can get snow and cold this early but the temperature usually rises and the snow melts.

     So at 7:00 A M Oct. 23, I looked out and saw a Jack rabbit in the intersection. This one didn't have much white on him so he was very obvious. 

    Now I know there are other years when snow is very late to make it's appearance so there are white Jack rabbits which are obvious. So I would guess that there are very few years where the turning of color corresponds to the snow cover.

    I'm sure that many ducks got a nasty surprise when the ponds froze over early this year.

    Let me know of some of the things you noticed this year because of the early snow and cold.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Large Seagull Flight

    On Monday Oct. 22, I saw a  very large number of seagulls flying over Red Deer. They seemed to be flying along Piper Creek which is a ravine on the south side of the city. The ravine angles to the southeast.

    I was out walking and just happened to notice seagulls flying by. Then I noticed that there was a continuous line of gulls. They were in a fairly dense formation about 50 m wide. They flew by for 10 minutes without a break. Other gulls seemed to come from the west and join the flight . I would estimate that there were thousands of birds.
    The birds wee probably 200 m high and it looked like most of them were young birds . They were too high to identify and I didn't take any field glasses with me. 

    Now were these birds heading south or were they on some local flight? 

   Has anybody else seen a large  line of gulls fly by ?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

James Glasier : Ants of Alberta

    James Glasier gave an enthusiastic talk on ants to the Red Deer river Naturalists on Oct. 25 1012. James is a graduate student at the U of A and his specialty is ants.

    James has done some field work and found around another 50 species of ants in Alberta. This makes 92 species in Alberta. A couple of species are found only in Alberta. Several species are in the at risk category. Most of his studies were done a short distance north east of Edmonton where he set out ant traps and then went to work identifying what he caught. It's painstaking work to identify ants because to begin with ants are very small. The details of color, shape and size  used for identification makes it a challenging effort.

    James also covered a wide range of ant behavior. Many ants are parasitic on each other. There are many ingenious forms of parasitism used by ants. Organization and size of colonies also varies greatly.

   So quite a few people who just thought ants, so what?, came away with a completely different view of ants.

   This was James's first public presentation and he did an excellent job and I would highly recommend him as a speaker. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Huge Flock of Brewer's Blackbirds in Red Deer

    During fall migration there can often be some awesome sightings that if you blink you'll miss it. 

    Yesterday was one of those days when there seemed to be a flock of birds in every tree. Brewer's Blackbirds were visiting and they made their presence known by sheer numbers. They seemed to be weighing down every branch and flying in all directions. They were here for about an hour and then they were gone. Usually Grackles and Rusty Blackbirds are with them but I did not have time to check and see if the other species were here.

    These birds usually hang around for a few days and then they leave the area. It's also interesting how wide spread they are in an area. Other birders report large flocks at the same time I see large flocks. 

    So these migrants my just be the first group and the others may soon join them. 

    Have you been seeing large flocks of Blackbirds this fall?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Can You Find the Rabbit in the Picture

      Three days ago a Jack rabbit had four babies in my yard under the utility trailer. They had left the trailer location and I assumed they had left the yard.

     The second day I was watering plants and one young one got watered with the tomatoes. To day when I watered tomatoes I checked the area carefully as I didn't want to give the little guy another shower. I couldn't find him so I began watering. You guessed it he was still there.

   So today I took pictures of the excellent coverage he had. It's easy to see in the pictures but with the naked eye you can rarely see them.

Just an eye

The eye is there but you have to look for it.

A little more fur showing

Okay I got more of him in this shot.
      I wrote posts on my other blog and will give you a link.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Yard Full of Chipping Sparrows

   A few days ago when I went out in my yard I could hear young Chipping Sparrows. I stopped to look for them. I tried to pinpoint where they might be so that I could have a look at them. They sounded far away. They sounded like they were over there or maybe over there. They sounded all around me. Finally I realized that there were two in my lilac hedge and they were with in arms length of me. They must have a natural call characteristic that disguises were they are.
    Surprise! Surprise!

     For the last ten days there have been a couple of  families of chipping sparrows in my yard and vegetable garden. As with most birds the young are rather noisy and aggressive in begging their parents for food.  

    So it was a rather interesting ten days in my yard.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Jack Rabbit named Son of a Bitch

     I recently posted about a Jack rabbit that leisurely groomed itself in my back yard. It was interesting to watch and I learned a few things. My back yard was quiet, safe and in the shade.

    Two days later another rabbit visited my back yard. This could have been the same animal or his brother , sister, mom, dad or any other relative. The rabbit was well behaved and grazed on my grass and quietly left.

    In another three days I found a rabbit in the back yard and he politely left. About an hour later I looked out and a rabbit was parked in my vegetable garden with bean plant hanging out of his mouth. This fellow was shooed out of the yard very quickly. I went out later and discovered that my sparse lettuce crop had been grazed fairly close to the ground. That's when the poor jack rabbit received the name of son of a bitch. 

    Jack rabbits are opportunists and when they find something that is really good they help themselves to it. My lettuce crop was probably first class pickings .

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Two Magpies Chase a Red Squirrel

     I noticed two magpies flipping around my green ash tree this morning. Then I noticed what all the flipping was about. They were chasing a squirrel.

    The magpies had a plan. They kept the squirrel in between them. The squirrel would run down the tree to find one magpie at the bottom. The squirrel quickly moved to the opposite side of the tree so the tree was between him and the magpie. As the magpie moved to go around the tree the squirrel ran up the tree until it met the magpie who was guarding the top of the tree. All of this took place in the first 3 meters of the tree. 

    I was surprised that the squirrel seemed to be wanting to leave the tree and run on the ground. Finally, the squirrel did leave the tree and I thought he would be a goner. However, the one magpie flew just behind the squirrel and didn't seem able the hit the squirrel from above. The squirrel ran under a fence and it was game over as the magpie had to fly over the fence and by that time the squirrel had disappeared. 

     I noticed one of the magpies sitting on the fence with it's mouth wide open so the squirrel gave them a good run for their money.

    I have never seen or heard about such a conflict. Magpies are usually satisfied with something much easier.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jack Rabbit Grooming

       Last night  a  jack rabbit sat  for half an hour going through its grooming routine. It didn't hurt either that the said rabbit sat right under the computer room window.
Duane Christianson caught this fellow  taking advantage of the sprinkler.

      First, there was the standard face and whisker wash. Most people have seen this activity as the paws are licked and rubbed over the face. This activity can go on for some time with a few rests and checking the territory for danger.

     Second, the ears were washed . I had never seen this before. The head was lowered and the big back foot stepped on the ear and held it on the ground. the front paw was licked and groomed the eared. This was done at least half a dozen times but only the right ear. 

     Third, the genitalia were attended to. This area was licked and thoroughly cleaned. 

     There have been jack rabbits in many areas of Red Deer for about ten years. This year they seem to be multiplying rapidly. 
Duane Christianson caught this little guy at a few days old in early September.

    After these strenuous washes it was time for a snooze. When I next checked the rabbit was in my garden about to attack my Swiss chard. That's when I politely said ,"Would you please leave the facility."

    So I had seen the first grooming activity but the second two were firsts.

    If anybody else has seen some grooming activity let us know.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Abundant Cedar Waxwings

     For the past 2 weeks I have lots of Cedar Waxwings in my Sunnybrook subdivision in Red Deer.

     First there were only 6 to 10 birds. This is the usual amount I see. Then the flock kept getting larger and larger. This week the flock probably amounts to 100. They seem to be eating in mountain ash trees.
     These birds are very late nesters and when they do start nesting they take their sweet time. If you blunder into a nest site you usually find more than one nest,
     Has anybody else had large Cedar Waxwing flocks this year?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tree Swallows Visit

      A few days ago I looked up from my backyard work and saw a couple of Tree Swallows investigating the nest box I had on my fence.

    I was most surprised to see the Tree Swallows as I hadn't seen them in my yard since 1985! In the 1970' I had Tree Swallows nest in the yard for about five years.

     Tree Swallows are common in the area so I'm wondering why they don't visit treed areas in a city. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Crow Harassment at Piper Creek

    Today around three PM I was on the middle foot bridge over Piper Creek. I was going to watch for a few minutes to see if suckers or Rocky Mountain Whitefish were spawning. 

    I noticed that nearby crows were doing what crows do best...harassing something.  They were about 100 m away and down in some spruce trees. as usual they take turns flying at something. They yell and scream so that their buddies from miles away come to join in the action.

    I decided to try and get  little better look at the action because it's quite often interesting what you find. I had walked about 30 or 40 m towards the racket when I was surprised by something furiously beating  out of the spruce thicket. I had time in the 1 or 2 second flight to realize it was an owl with deep wing beats and light brown striped vertically. I had a camera in my hands but had no chance what soever for a photo. I would think it was a short eared owl. I have often heard the crows harassing something in this area. I hope it wasn't this same owl. 

     So again crows wee doing what their good at and a very unhappy and frightened owl was looking for cover.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Eastern Phoebe Visits.

    An Eastern Phoebe visited my yard recently.

     I have a bird feeder out my kitchen window. I was trying to see the ground under the feeder to see if any Juncoes were there. I was very surprised to see a bird on the ledge just outside the window. At first I thought it was a boreal chickadee and then I noticed a lack of facial marking and saw the bird was dark gray. I had only 5 or 6 seconds to identify the bird at very close range.

     I know that Phoebes are fairly common. They are extremely quiet  and can be easily overlooked. I know that they like to poke around under eaves and on window ledges looking for insects.

    So I was thrilled to have a Phoebe visit my yard. It was the first Phoebe I had noticed in my yard.



Saturday, May 5, 2012

Eerie Coyote Howl Nearby

    A few evenings ago I was standing on a small foot bridge which crosses Piper Creek. I was visiting a couple of friends and watching the water to see if any Red Backed Suckers or Rocky Mountain Whitefish were swimming up the creek to spawn.
The foot bridge I was standing on.

     All of a sudden I heard extremely  loud howling. At first I didn't recognize it as a coyote howl. I thought it was a siren. Then yes, I knew it was a coyote howl. 
Photo by Bill Heinsen

     Since it was so very loud it must have been close. I would guess they were within 200 m. The area is heavily wooded so it was impossible to see the coyotes. There were two or more howling and the howling went on for at least a minute.
Bower  Woods looking over a large beaver dam.

    This area is completely surrounded by housing. It is about 300 m from the bower Mall. I would suspicion these coyotes frequent the mall at night and do very well as far as food is concerned.

    Usually we hear coyotes from a distance so this occurrence was very different.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Erin Cameron on Earth Worms

     Erin Cameron gave an excellent talk to the Red Deer River Naturalists on earth worms.

     One of the first surprises she gave us was that we don't have native earth worms in Alberta. Where glaciation occurred , our native earthworms were wiped out. Earthworms that we have now have come to us by various methods. 

    Erin Cameron is studying the effect of earthworms in the Boreal forest. The research is only just beginning. Very few answers have been found. They know that earthworms have only recently moved into the boreal forest. Earthworms have been brought in by man rather than earth worms travelling on their own to the boreal. Roads, industrial activity and fishermen have all brought earth worms into the area. They have made extensive counts along roadways and siesmic lines and find that the earth worms are have not gone very far from the roadway. 

     What's the worry about earth worms in the boreal? Some earth worms influence the leaf mold layer on the surface above the mineral soil. Many plants and insect life do not perform well with that layer gone. Two of the earth worm species live in the mineral soil and come to the surface and take the leaf debris into the mineral soil   thus depleting the leaf mold. Other types of earth worms that function only in the leaf mold disappear. 

    So the big question is how the boreal forest will replace itself because of the earth worms which were not here before.?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Large Flocks of Robins in Red Deer

     Today I noticed about 50 Robins in my block feeding on Mountain Ash berries. The first Robin I saw this spring was Mar. 28. I would think other birders had seen robins before that date. I saw only 2 or 3 birds and for most of the time no birds. So today it was surprising to see so many Robins in a small area. I walked around my neighborhood and they were only in my block. Scott Raabis reported the same activity with Robins in his area. I'm sure there were other areas of the city that had the 50 or so robins.

     I think that the few early robins we get are those that winter not very far south from us. The robins that appeared today probably winter much further south and fly north in a flock. The early robins seem to appear in ones and twos.

     The robins today were very active. They were eating large amounts of Mountain Ash berries. They were flying around from tree to tree and across the street. There was much chatter and the odd one was calling for a partner. 

     So it was great to see some action on the Robin front.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tundra Swans Fly Over City

      Tundra swans flew over me last night as I was out for my evening walk. Tundra swans are majestic birds and when they fly by they catch your attention. These birds flew over about 8:30 PM just before the sun was setting. they were probably looking for the Red Deer River which was about 5 km away. Putting down on the river would give them a safe resting place for the night.

     The swan on the water is impressive because of it's great size and also because it silently and effortlessly floats through the water unless it is attaching some sort of predator. Swans in flight are huge birds which seem to float through the air with very little effort. Hearing the voice from a distance quickly gets your atention. 

     Tundra swans will stay in the Red Deer region resting a feeding until they decide to fly to their nesting grounds On the Arctic coast.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jack Rabbits Turning Brown

    The Jack Rabbit in my area are half changed to the summer brown. I saw one last evening as he was sitting in a grassy area. He was still quite obvious because there was still quite a lot of white showing. The time is soon coming(I hope) when the snow is gone. If you're a Jack rabbit you don't want to be caught with a white coat when the snow is gone.
We'll soon see these little guys

     For me the changing of the rabbit's color is always a definite signal of the season changing. Other creatures are much less noticeable. The weasel changes but we rarely see them so they do not have such a big influence on us. So another winter is officially over once the Jack Rabbit has changed to the summer brown.
The regular summer Jack Rabbit color. I wonder how many Jack Rabbit have learned this trick?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bird Focus Field Trip April 2

    The Red Deer Naturalist bird focus group had a very active and successful field trip on April 2. Many migrating species have arrived and they show up in the observations.

    Species observed:
      4 Snowy Owls
      25 Red-tailed Hawks
      22 Rough-legged Hawks
      3 northern Harriers
      5 mature and 1 immature Bald Eagles
      Peregrine Falcon
      Western Meadowlark
      Northern Shrike
      Canada Geese
      Northern Pin tail
      Tundra Swans
      Mountain Bluebirds
      Sand Hill Cranes
      American Tree Sparrows
      Common Red Poll
      Dark-eyed Junco
      American Robin
      Common Raven
      American Crow
      Black-capped Chickadee
      European Starling
      Rock Pigeon
     House Sparrow
     Mule Deer
     White Tailed Deer
     Red Squirrel
     Richardson's Ground Squirrel

Monday, April 2, 2012

Deer Herd in City

     I was surprised last night to bump into eleven mule deer right in the middle of the Sunnybrook subdivision in Red Deer. 

     I first ran into four deer. A doe and two fawns were grazing in somebody's  front yard. One deer stood in the middle of the little Close and didn't want to give up any ground. The three at the house didn't want to run by me into the forest. They ran up the street about a block and disappeared.

    I continued my walk toward where the deer disappeared. Before I got very far a herd of deer ran toward me but they had wisely chosen the opposite side of the street. They all high tailed it into the forest.

   We don't often see this many deer together in the city so it was a pleasant surprise. And so guess what? I didn't have my camera.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Erin Cameron to Speak on Earthworms

     At the regular general meeting of the Red Deer Naturalists on Thur. April 26 Erin Cameron will speak on Earthworms and the Boreal Forest. All are welcome to attend this presentation at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. This is a free presentation.

      One thing I found interesting is that we do not have any native species of earth worm in North America. Ours got wiped out in the ice age. The earthworms we have now are from other parts of the world. Erin is looking at the earthworms which are now in the Boreal forest.

Monday Birding March 26

    The Red Deer River Naturalists had a very productive Monday bird focus field trip on March 26. Sixteen different species were sighted and some were the first of the year.

     The area covered was from Red Deer to Ponoka.

    Sightings made were Bohemian Waxwings, Merlin, American Crow, Red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Canada Geese, European Starlings, American Tree sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Great Horned Owl(on the nest), Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Common Raven(on the nest) and 5 Great Blue Herons.

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.