For a second day in a row I was sitting in my car at the parking lot of the Whitemud Creek waiting for sun dawn. At -10 C it was a “mild” morning compared to the previous day when the temperature was a bone chilling -20 C. At this time of the year, the first rays of the sun break the forested horizon around 10 AM. I was set, however, on beating the crowds and score some early birds. Around 8:30 the pale twilight was sufficient, and as a faint pink glow was emerging along the tree distant tops, I headed out. I made sure I brought a spare camera battery and a set of Little Hotties hand warmers, both which had saved my bacon the previous day.
Just as expected, I had the trails all to myself. Despite the midwinter temperature the air was full of bird song and calls. As always, the Black-capped Chickadees were feisty and energetic and the Nuthatches were calling left and right. A half dozen cawing Ravens soared overhead. The previous day I had scored a Great Horned Owl and a flock of Pine Grosbeaks. Today the highlight were the three Pileated Woodpeckers that were making a racket dismantling snags with impressive efficiency. All in all it was a lovely morning, and by the time I made my way back to the parking lot the throngs of runners and dog walkers had started to arrive.
The last birding outing of the year was to the same location as the first one 365 days ago, at the Whitemud Creek. As far as birding goes 2020 certainly did not break any personal records due to the severely curtailed travel. The furthest I ventured were to our local patch of the Rocky Mountains, which of-course never disappoints in their magnificent awesomeness.
During my last birding walk of the year I encountered the usual winter suspects in these neck of the woods. A curious White-breasted Nuthatch was posing for pictures an armlength away, or maybe it was just waiting to see if I would offer it a snack (I did not). In the same patch of trees a pair of female Pine Grosbeaks were nibbling on frozen berries and some sunflowers seeds someone left.
After my walk, as I was getting into the car, I could hear the unmistakable call of a lone Pileated Woodpecker in the distance. It was almost as if it said good bye to me and to 2020. I paused and held out for a minute, just in case it would make an appearance, but I never saw it or heard it again. There is another day tomorrow and, following birding tradition, the first bird spotted on New Year’s Day is an omen for the year to come.
Edmonton--Whitemud Park, Edmonton, Alberta, CA Dec 31, 2020 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM Protocol: Traveling 3.231 kilometer(s) 6 species
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 1 Lone female Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 1 Calling in the forest. No visual. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 1 Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 10 White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 4 Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) 2