All posts by Mario Pineda

About Mario Pineda

Edmonton-based naturalist using photography to document nature, and in particular birds and bird behaviour.

Project 366 – Post No. 293 – Where to bird in -30 °C?

What is Project 366? Read more here.

As the cold keeps its bitterly grip on all of Alberta I have not been able to do any birding at all for over a week now. Even if I would decide to brave the elements and go birding the question is where would I go. A quick glance at the last few weeks reports on eBird from the Edmonton area shows that the majority of hotpots have no sightings reported (no as in zero). One has to be careful when interpreting. No submitted sightings does not necessarily mean that the birds are not there, it could also mean that the birders are not there seeing the birds. It is likely a combination of both factors that result in the lack of observations. It;s too cold for birders to go birding and the birds, who are undeniably out there, are likely hiding and trying to stay warm. The only thing that might entice birds to be active in these low temperatures might be a food offering. In terms of birding this likely means that the best option to see birds would be at bird feeders. As it turns out the city has bird feeders set up every winter in Hermitage Park. Over the last few weeks 19 species of birds have been observed at the feeders here, a pretty good number for this time of year. We will see if I decide to challenge myself to venture our for some birding at the feeders this weekend.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 292 – A week of extreme cold warnings

What is Project 366? Read more here.

We have now had Extreme Cold Warnings for all of Alberta issued daily for almost a week…, and counting. An extreme cold warning is issued by Environment Canada to inform the public about cold temperatures in their region that are expected to last for at least two hours. An extreme cold warning is issued based on either the temperature or the wind chill being a certain value for at least two hours. The values range from −30 °C in the south to −55 °C in parts of the Arctic. In Alberta an extreme cold warning issued when the temperature or wind chill is expected to reach -40°C for at least two hours.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 291 – Eating to stay warm

What is Project 366? Read more here.

As the temperatures continues to stay in well below the seasonal average, right now we are sitting at -31 °C and the the average for this time of year is -7 °C, one starts to wonder how wild animals are able to cope with long periods of these extreme temperatures. Animals such as birds can obviously take shelter in dense foliage or in tree cavities or snow caves to get shelter from wind, but when the temperature reaches the extremes that it has been doing over the last few days, that will only go so far. The answer is in fluffing up the feathers to increase their insulating capacity and by stoking the metabolism by increasing energy intake. For example, Black-capped Chickadees, one of our most common and iconic winter bird consume up to 10% of their body weight during the day and burn it over night. As it turns out the chickadee has another trick up their…, er…, feathery sleeves to cope with the most extreme temperature. Chickadees have the ability to drop their body core temperature allowing them to tolerate lower temperatures by reducing the amount of energy required for generating heat.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 290 – Black-necked Swan

What is Project 366? Read more here.

As the temperatures continue to be bitterly cold (sitting at a crispy -31 °C as we speak) one can only dream of past warmer birding outings. About a year ago I was road tripping along dusty country roads in Chile and came across a Black-necked Swan bobbing on a salt water lake in Boca Budi. The Black-necked Swan is unmistakable and is just what the name says: a swan with a black neck. Although it is the smallest member in its genus it is the largest waterfowl native to South America.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 289 – Extreme cold warning

What is Project 366? Read more here.

The bitter cold continues with the temperature reaching -39 °C tonight. Any form out outing, nature walk or birding is out of the question. The forecast is predicting similar temperatures for the rest of the week so there will not be much in terms of new pictures until the temperatures ease up (currently predicted to occur on Sunday). As the situation is now, I’ll be lucky if the car starts tomorrow morning. As I am writing this the temperature hit -40 °C.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 288 – Bitterly cold

What is Project 366? Read more here.

You know it is cold when the local ski hills shuts down due to the bitter cold and the weather forecasts start to refer to the temperature as “bitterly cold”. The thermometer on my backyard deck reads about -25 °C, once you factor in the breeze the windchill drops the temperature down to -37 °C. At these temperatures exposed skin can get frostbites in less than 10 minutes. Yesterday I did try to got for a nature walk at the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park in St. Alberta. I lasted for about 30 minutes before I had to call it a day, and that was about 5 °C warmer than today. While I was hoping for milder temperatures today, once I checked the temperature this morning I knew that heading out for a walk and birding was out of the question. So today’s picture will be of my thermometer this morning.

Backyard temperature in the morning…, without the windchill.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 287 – Grey Nuns White Spruce Park

What is Project 366? Read more here.

It was a biting cold day and against my better judgement I decided to head to the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park in St. Alberta in the hope of catching some Snowy Owls. The sky was clear blue and the sun was shining yet it was around -26 °C. I took a stroll through a small wood lot and did not last more than 30 minutes despite wearing many layers. I did not see a single bird. Thy were probably smarter than me in this deep freeze, huddling in a cover somewhere minimizing energy expenditure.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.