Saturday, May 15, 2010

Can I See Your .....er...Rump?

I have to say that after a few years in the arctic tundra where there are only a select hardy species for large parts of the year, experiencing the abundant bird life in the boreal forest of late spring can be both exhilarating and even overwhelming at times. My only regret is that I forgot to bring my camera along with me on my morning walk.

Initially I was planning to head to a green area a short distance from the house where I had been a few times before with promising results. Along the way I deviated off course onto a trail leading down into the valley along the Athabasca. The one thing I am slowly starting to work on is listening to all the different sounds of the birds to help in identifying them. It was a real symphony of sound that greeted my ears. A few times this morning I looked in vain through the heavy brush trying to find the source of the song, only to meet with some frustration, not to mention a sore neck.

All was not lost though as I encountered some familiar species, along with a few new ones. Initially I thought one particular fellow, in among the birch and pine was a Pine Siskin and had it pegged as such after checking my guidebook. Something didn't seem quite right though and after looking at several of these birds I soon realized it was likely a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. The only problem was that it was difficult for me to make out its backside through the branches and the bird in question wasn't very cooperative and hopped about quite a bit before flying off. A little further up the trail I came across a smaller trail spur and ventured into the bush a few dozen yards where I again caught sight of my mystery bird atop a birch tree. Fortune smiled on me and he turned enough so that I got a decent look at its bum. And, so a Yellow-Rumped Warbler it was.

A lady I encountered along the trail informed me there were plenty of these birds along this stretch of the valley as well as Swainson's Thrushes, which I believe I also saw although I'm not entirely sure. The bird in question looked a little different from the picture in my guide. I'm at a loss for what else it could have been though and I don't think I hit upon beginner's luck and discovered an entirely new species.

A couple other species I agonized over but in the end was content with the knowledge that as a novice I'm simply not going to positively identify everything I see right away. I did however see a White-Throated Sparrow, a Magpie, what I believe was a Black-and-White Warbler, a huge flock of Canada geese overhead and a female Downy Woodpecker that allowed me to get within mere feet of it until a stray lab came wandering down the trail and scared it off.

I should also add that if there was a species known as "Some Sort of Sparrow" than I've seen quite a few. I know I encountered a few but after 3 hours my concentration was starting to wane, plus the heat was on the rise and I needed some water. The sparrows here blend into the bush so well that I have a very difficult time distinguishing just what I'm seeing but I see it as a good challenge. So for the meantime, when asked what kind of small bird I saw, I always say "Some Sort of Sparrow".

If you'll indulge me now here are the different species I've come across here in Fort McMurray to date, either at the backyard feeder or in various green areas I've managed to visit thus far.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
American Coot (Fulica americana)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)
Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica)
Common Raven (Corvus corax)
Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus)
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) -- possibly
Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) -- possibly
Northern Waterthrush (Seirus noveboracensis) -- possibly
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyenalis)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Common Grackle (Quisicalus quiscula)

22 definites and 3 possibles...and I always leave a place knowing there is just so much more to see.

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