The Snakehead Christmas Bird Count in Sundre was today and Phil Cram and I managed to get away for the day and build on the team's New Year's Day kick off event at Fish Creek yesterday. Since our team rules are that we only need two members to see a bird for it to count, we had a quorum!
There must have been fewer participants than usual today because we were assigned a huge area east and northeast of Sundre all the way to the circle perimeter. The day began very well with our species count building rapidly in the early morning hours. Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks and Blue Jays were all new for the year and all fairly common throughout the day. More impressive was a great close up view of two Golden-crowned Kinglets and then a Pileated Woodpecker which landed on a power pole just 50 metres away. Two Boreal Chickadees showed up soon after and by day's end we had 7 of them. Driving north on Range Road 5.1 we came across the first of 2 Rough-legged Hawks for the day and were treated to a fly by of two Bald Eagles which seemed to be trying to out do each other in a display of aerial acrobatics.
We thought we were in for a banner day at this point but alas, by shortly after 10 am things slowed down dramatically....even though the weather got better and better! Our assigned area was bordered by the Red Deer River along its west side and in previous years, hiking into the river has yielded all kinds of goodies. Not a single duck this year however despite Phil's diligent efforts! And no Dipper and no Killdeer either!
We did manage to spot a Hairy Woodpecker mind you and also our first mammal for the day - a Red Squirrel. Brian Elder is our group photography expert but when he's not around (like today!) the rest of us have to cope. Fortunately this squirrel was wonderfully obliging so even I was able to get a decent shot.
We were hoping for an owl or two today but no luck! That was probably Phil's fault because apparently he had two Great-horned Owls in his back yard last night! We had to settle for a lone Gray Jay which showed up about mid afternoon. But today still had one more good bird in store for us. Late in the day we came across a flock of about 50 redpolls and in amongst them was a nice Hoary Redpoll. A good way to end the day, and ten new species for our team total too!