White-tailed Ptarmigan Trip

Got up at five this morning to drive out to the Highwood Pass in search of White-tailed Ptarmigan. We met up with Ethan Denton at the Stoney Nakoda Casino and continued on. It was not long after we spotted the first Ptarmigan followed shortly after by three others. In total there were four Ptarmigan present. Continuing on the way back we saw flocks of Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings. We drove out towards Longview and saw some Rough-legged Hawks and many Common Ravens. We continued back to Calgary where we stopped at Weaselhead Natural Area it was fairy quiet but we saw some Common Redpolls and a close flyby Bald Eagle

The first out of fourWhite-tailed  Ptarmigan we spotted.

Bird ID: Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs

Identification of yellowlegs can be difficult in other situations the answer can be obvious. Here are some ID tips for sepperating them. The Greater Yellowlegs compared to the Lesser is noticably larger, the bill is longer and slightly upturned. Greater Yellowlegs give a  sharp three not call where as the Lesser give a softer two-note call.


Greater Yellowlegs



  • Larger bird (30-40cm)
  • Longer upturned bill
  • Gray at base of the bill (sometimes)
  • Sharper three-note call
  • More barring on flanks


Lesser Yellowlegs



  • Smaller bird (25-30cm)
  • Shoerter more poined bill
  • No gray at base of bill.
  • Softer two-note call (sometimes three)
  • Less barring on flanks


Happy Thanksgiving! 

There is no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving that getting two lifers! Even better when the two lifers are in the same location at the same time. Thet were Harris’s Sparrow a uncommon migrant through the Calgary area and a Golden-crowned Sparrow a regional rairity.

Harris’s Sparrow #488

The owner of the property was kind enough to let us into his yard to see these birds. We spent around forty minute there seeing all the members of the Zonotrichia genus.

Golden-crowned Sparrow #489

A Ruff Twitch

I  was sitting at home last friday browsing my emails when I saw a report of a female Ruff (Reeve). Unfortunately we had plans for that day so we could not make the two and a half hour drive to Barker. The next morning I set my alarm for 6:30 the problem was it was 6:30pm and not am. I woke up at 7:15 and we were on the road by 7:30. There was no traffic and we couldn’t ask for better conditions until we got to the U.S./Canada border. We were in line for at least an hour. Once we arrived in New York it was still a fifty minute drive from Lewiston to Barker where the Ruff had been seen. When we arrived someone told us that it had been seen that morning at seven on an organized birding tour and not been seen since. We scanned with our binoculars because we left our scope in Calgary. We saw many species of sore birds but not a Ruff. We had spent almost two hours there arready and I was starting to loose hope when a man from a scope motioned that we come over. “I’ve got it” he said we rushed over and got a look in his scope and saw theRuff number 478 on my life list. I managed to take some poor photos

Ruff, Lower Lake, Rd.

and then it flew an American Kestrel had scared all the birds luckily we crept our eyes on it as it landed in another pond. Soon after many more birders arrived we stood beside the head curator of the Macaulay Library the media collection run by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He said that a new update in eBird was coming!!

Dickcissel Invasion!

Dickcissels have made a name for themselves this year by temporarily “invading” an area specifically the Canadian Great Lakes region that is typically outside of their range. The first map shows the typical breeding distribution of Dickcissels in the Great Lakes region. The second is a map of this years abnormalities.

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2016 eBird.org
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2017 eBird.org

As you can see Dickcissels have been expanding north. In 2016 there are four locations in Southern Ontario in the breeding season, as for 2017 there are as many as thirty (and probably more). I’m sure many people are asking why? There are many reasons to why this is happening. the fist one is, the normal breeding range of the Dickcissel is experiencing a severe drought and this has push some of them east. The second reason is that similar to Fish Crows & Black Vultures that they are “slowly” expanding north.

Male Dickcissel near Milton, Ontario

Pelagic Birding

Today we woke up at 4:30 am to leave on the Westport Seabirds trip to Gray’s Canyon. The sea conditions were very good. It was just after sunrise when we left the Marina. We saw high numbers Glaucus-winged Gull x Western Gull hybrids and Brown Pelicans. for the first stretch we saw many Pigeon Guillemots and two Heermann’s Gulls. The first Common Murres were soon accompanied  by Sooty Shearwaters and two quickly flying Cassin’s Auklets.

Sooty Shearwater

In the distance we could see the shape of a Pink-footed Shearwater. We made our way to a fishing boat that had many seabirds including my lifer Black-footed Albatross and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel. A Northern Fulmar also stayed close to our boat.

Northern Fulmar

A we went further out we saw more Black-footed Albatrosses and four Leach’s Storm-Petrel. We began chumming at the depth of 2,500 feet. We had  both Storm-Petrel species and five more Black-footed Albatross.

Black-footed Albatross

After about three hours around Gray’s Canyon we headed back it was rather slow bu we did see a Tufted Puffin in the distance. We arrived back just after 3:30 on the way in we saw a squabble of Heermann’s Gulls and just under 1000 Brown Pelicans perched on the walls of the Marina.

Heermann’s Gulls
Brown Pelican

All in all I got ten life birds and got seasick  twice so it was a very good day (but not the seasickness).