Red-breasted Nuthatches, just like their cousins the White-breasted Nuthatch are common, fleeting and assertive song birds. They know what they want and have no trouble elbowing their way to the food to get their fair share…, only to, moments later, vanish into the shrubbery again. A black stripe across their eyes reminiscent of a bandit mask only makes them appear more like a diminutive feathered vigilante refusing to get intimidated by more boisterous or larger birds.
Today’s picture is of a fuzzy Black-capped Chickadee that is visiting one of the bird feeders in Hermitage Park. Any nature walk in these neck of the woods this time of the year (or any time of the year for that matter) will virtually guarantee the companionship of Black-capped Chickadees. There does not seem to be a temperature low enough to faze these diminutive birds. They always seem to be on the go and always looking for the next meal. This one has struck the mother lode.
Dark-eyed Juncos are discrete little bird that like to “fly under the radar” by staying close to or on the ground. As I was watching the activity at the bird feeders with chickadees, nuthatches, downies and other winter birds quickly flitting in to pickup a morsel and then off again I failed to notice the more subtle activities going on on the ground. It took a while before I noticed the subtle scurrying of small dark colored birds on the ground. A closer look revealed the unmistakable dark hooded birds were Dark-eyed Juncos. Half a dozen or so of the juncos were scurrying around on the snow covered ground munching on all the seeds that had fallen down from the feeders.
So my prediction in yesterday’s post Where to bird in -30 °C? was correct. Offer food and the birds will come. Every winter the city sets up a large number of bird feeders in Hermitage Park and keeps them filled with an assortment of bird treats throughout the winter. The birds are well aware of this and the feeders are always busy. It was a beautiful sunny day today with the temperature hovering around -30 °C this morning. We arrived at the bird feeders around 10:30 am. There were no other people around, quite likely due to the bitter cold, but there was lots of avian action at the feeders. As the feeders are all clustered in a treed groove right off the parking lot we just pulled up the vehicle as close as possible and ended up doing some car birding. I am usually not a big fan of birding from the car, it seems like an oxymoron – you go birding to enjoy nature, yet you never leave the confines of the car. With the bone crushing cold, however, if seemed like a reasonable compromise. All in all we ended up seeing 8 species of birds, all of which were busy gorging themselves on sunflower seeds, nuts and suet.
Edmonton--Hermitage Park Bird Feeders, Edmonton, Alberta, CA
Jan 18, 2020 10:45 AM - 11:00 AM
Checklist Comments: A sunny and clear but bitterly cold morning (-30C). No people around but lots of avian activity at the feeders.
Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) 4
Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 1
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) 3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) 20
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 3
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 5
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.
It was a typical family scene that probably happens in bird families around the world every morning. While mom was looking after the kids, dad was busy looking for breakfast. The Red-necked Grebe family had two chicks, one of which was snoozing snug and cosy on mom’s back while the other one was floating nearby, also snoozing. Dad was nowhere to be seen. After about five minutes dad appears out of nowhere with a small fish in his beak. When realizing breakfast was incoming the chick floating on the water stirred, shook the sleep out of its eyes and raced towards the dad. The chick was rewarded with the fish. Dad took off right away and the chick swam back to mom and fell asleep again. This scene repeated itself several times over the next ten to fifteen minutes. The fish catching abilities of the dad were quite impressive. He returned with a new fish every few minutes. Most of the time the fish was small enough for the chick to eat it, but a few times he came back with impressively large fish that even he had trouble swallowing. He ended up having to let go of some of the fish as they were simply to large.
It was an overcast Friday morning. It had been raining non-stop all week and the last time I was able to go for birding was a week ago. Luck was, however, on my side this morning. As I was heading out to work there was a break in the rain and next thing I knew the morning meeting I was heading to was rescheduled. All of a sudden I had one hour of rain-free unscheduled time at my disposal. Without further ado I ran back in, grabbed my camera binoculars and set my heading dead north. I was heading to Beaumaris Lake, a birding location I have heard lots of excited birders rave about but not had an opportunity to visit yet. Beaumaris Lake is a 2.7 km loop around a lake that is situated in the neighbourhood of, you guessed it, Beaumaris in North Edmonton. Despite its location in the midst of the subdivision, surrounded by houses on all sides, the lake is a birding hotspot with 158 species recorded on eBird. I spend the next 45 minutes strolling around the lake (I did not make it all the way around, so I have a good reasons to come back to explore the rest of the lake). The Red-necked Grebes were out in full force with their chicks hanging out with mom while dad was busy catching fish. While the Red-necked Grebe family were the highlight of the day, I also got a nice close up look at a bunch of Common Grackles. While it was overcast and grey when I arrived, once I started photographing the birds a well-timed break in the cloud cover let the sun through. The Common Grackles suddenly went from looking black to stunning dark blue purple iridescent. My time was soon up and I had to head to work. It was a wonderful start to the day and I will definitely be back to spend some more quality time at the lake getting to know its feathery inhabitants.