My 2014 Baillie Birdathon

Cross-post from my blog Prairie Birder:

Thursday, May 29th was my “green” Baillie Birdathon which was not only the wettest but also possibly my best Birdathon so far. I decided that I’d do a “green” birdathon because I wanted to focus more on the birds around our area and also I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint even by just a little bit, since I live in an area where vehicles are essential for every day life.

In the very wet rainy morning, at around 7:40 am, I started walking to the slough across from our house where I was able to find many species of waterbirds, including Black Terns, Yellow-headed and Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue-winged Teals, American Avocets, a Sora, and American Coots. However, the large flocks of shorebirds that I had seen days before were nowhere to be seen. From where I was standing, I could hear Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, and House Wrens singing in the trees that grow along the slough on the south side. By this point, the rain was coming down quite heavily making it very difficult for me to use my camera and binoculars, so I wasn’t able able to take many photos at the beginning of my day.

I walked over to the woods where I added Tennessee Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruffed Grouse, Red-eyed Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow, just to name a few. As I was walking further into the woods, I was very excited to find three Magnolia Warblers and two American Redstarts (Alberta firsts for me!) along with a very secretive Common Yellowthroat making its “wichty-witchy” song, Clay-colored Sparrows, a Swainson’s Thrush, Alder Flycatchers, Black-billed Magpies, and European Starlings. When I came out of the woods I set up my scope again to look at the slough, and saw two Ring-necked Ducks feeding in the reeds with a pair of Northern Pintails, Ruddy Ducks, Redheads, and Green-winged Teals. After scanning through all the ducks, I moved my attention to another spot that shorebirds favor — all I could see were American Avocets, and then, as I was about to put the lens cap on my scope, a Black-bellied Plover (first of season) came into view. So far, the first hour of my Birdathon, though very wet, was very productive!

An immature male American Redstart,

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After the slough I headed for home — I needed dry clothes and a hot breakfast. I sat in our window seat and tallied Barn Swallow, Bank Swallow, American Goldfinch, Savannah Sparrow, House Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit, Wilson’s Snipe, Western Meadowlark, and a Common Raven all while eating breakfast.

Indian Lake (west of our house) was the next stop on my list, and there I spotted very co-operative Le Conte’s Sparrows, a dozen Eared Grebes, and two dozen Common Goldeneyes with the males displaying. I also heard another Common Yellowthroat, but this time I was able to see the Common Yellowthroat quite clearly.

One of the Le Conte’s Sparrows,

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From the lake I walked to what we call our One Hundred Acre Wood, although it’s actually only 18 acres. The woods were alive with Baltimore Orioles, Least Flycatchers, two White-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow Warblers, House Wrens, Eastern Kingbirds, a single Yellow-rumped Warbler, and mosquitoes. As I was looking at an American Redstart, I heard a bird that sounded different from the others. I was trying to find out where the singing was coming from, and although the bird was singing in the tree above me, I couldn’t see it. My binoculars weren’t helping either — they were fogging up and the lenses were smeared from the rain. I could hear that the bird sounded like a vireo, but it didn’t sound quite right for a Warbling or Red-eyed Vireo. Finally, after trying to locate the bird for 10 minutes, I could see through my binoculars the bold white spectacles and blue-gray head of my lifer, Blue-headed Vireo! After seeing the Blue-headed Vireo I thought my day couldn’t get any better, but shortly afterwards first of season Blackpoll Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo added to my excitement.

My lifer Blue-headed Vireo,

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Our woods,

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I left the woods and started walking over to our farmyard where I picked up Rock Pigeons, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Vesper Sparrows. At our farmyard, I checked on our two-day old chicks and turkeys, and fed the dog and laying hens. After I fed everyone, I continued searching for more birds. I walked past our shelterbelt trees, but didn’t find anything new. I continued on, hoping to find Canvasbacks on our neighbor’s slough and Chipping Sparrows in the spruce trees. As I was nearing the slough, I heard Chipping Sparrows “trilling” in the trees, but then saw two birds gleaning insects from the spruce tree — they were Western Kingbirds. Western Kingbirds are a common sight to see in southern Alberta, but not so much in my area. I watched the kingbirds for a while then scoped out the slough, finding a Red-necked Grebe, Canvasbacks, and a Pied-billed Grebe.

One of the two Western Kingbirds,

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A female Brown-headed Cowbird,

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The last slough I visited is the one just North of our house, in a neighbor’s pasture. On the slough, I found a male and female Cinnamon Teal and a pair of Horned Grebes.

Horned Grebes,

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I finished my Birdathon at home with my last two species, a Cliff Swallow and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at our feeders. Altogether my Birdathon was terrific and I tallied 82 species.

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So far I’ve raised $920 of my $1,000 goal for the Birdathon, with half of the funds earmarked for the Edmonton Nature Club. Thank you to everyone who has supported my Birdathon this year, I greatly appreciate all of the encouragement. If you would like to help me reach the rest of my goal, you can visit my team page. Your support will be greatly appreciated, not just by me but by both of the groups receiving my funds — Bird Studies Canada and theEdmonton Nature Club. Thank you and happy birding.

A list of all the species I saw on my Birdathon:

Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Canada Goose, American Widgeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Sora, American Coot, Black-belled Plover, Killdeer, American Avocet, Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Sprague’s Pipit, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

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If you participated in your own Baillie Birdathon this year, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll add a link to your page in this post!

About Charlotte Wasylik

Charlotte Wasylik is a young birder who lives on a farm in northeastern Alberta. She was delighted to be selected for a monthlong Young Ornithologists’ Internship at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario in August-September, to help with fall migration monitoring. Charlotte’s blog is Prairie Birder, and you can also find her at the Facebook group she started last year, Alberta Birds, which welcomes all birders, bird lovers, and nature photographers.
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One Response to My 2014 Baillie Birdathon

  1. Jeff Thompson says:

    What a great day, Charlotte! Looks like you’re seeing a lot of the waterfowl that passed through here about a month ago, 1000 miles south of you in Idaho, US.