Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I was fortunate yesterday to be able to head out and do a little more birding. It was late in the day and the sky threatened rain, and I didn't really think I'd see anything that interesting but knowing I wouldn't get an opportunity to get out and about until the end of my coming work shift was enough to get me outside. Thankfully I was only half right and as it turned out I did see some unexpected things.

I did rain rather intensely but while it did turn the trail a little soggy, it passed quickly. And initially, yes, I didn't see much of anything, although I could certainly hear a post-rain serenade down in the valley below. I had actually headed down the trail a couple kilometres and had turned around to head back when a bird alighted on a dead tree almost directly in front of me. Initially I thought it was a hairy woodpecker until I quickly swung up my glasses and spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker (sphyrapicus varius). As it turns out I had seen a female one the day before but mis-identified it as a downy woodpecker. This fine fellow sported a bright red chin and I only caught a glimpse as he quickly made a bee-line into the forest. The only woodpeckers with a red chin (excluding the red-headed woodpecker (melanerpes erythrocephalus) of which there are very few records of here in Alberta) are the yellow-bellied sapsucker and the red-naped sapsucker (sphyrapicus nuchalis). The latter is only found much further south toward the Rockies so a yellow-bellied sapsucker it was.

A little later on I did spot a few rather noisy boreal chickadees (poecile hudsonicus) foraging in some dead leaves along the side of the trail. While I know they are fairly common birds here, (as commonplace as ravens are in say, Iqaluit) this was the first time I recall seeing them, so it was rather nice to go home that day knowing that over the course of the past couple days I came across 4 species of birds I can now check of my life list.

The other little treat for the afternoon was coming across a nest of a pair of hairy woodpeckers. I spent several minuted watching the pair taking turns leaving the nest and returning with food for their lung which I could clearly hear inside. Alas, I was able to get a decent photo since they were just a little bit quicker than me and the angle of the sun was creating a few problems but you should be able to make out their little hole in the above photo about half way up the trunk just below where that little branch is sticking out.

So all in all not a bad couple of days for birding. For some reason I never quite see what I want to see but I always see something unexpected and fascinating in the end which I suppose is one of the main reasons I've taken such an interest in the hobby.

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