Our current strategy is to target bird species which can be found in Alberta in winter and which will be hard to find elsewhere in Canada. In doing so, we will of course add other bird and mammal species which we will undoubtedly find again during the year.
On Thursday afternoon, Mike and Phil went to south-east Calgary, and then eastwards as far as Langdon, hoping to find a Gyrfalcon. (There is a school of thought which says that if you look for Gyrfalcons you are doomed to failure; you have to wait for the Gyrfalcon to find you when you are least expecting it. This may have an element of truth, but unduly defeatist for the Fur and Feathers team to accept.)
Sad to say, we did not find a Gyrfalcon but we spent a very enjoyable three hours in balmy, sunny 3 deg weather. It is very strange to be driving the prairies in February and to see very little snow cover. The highlight was the half-hour we spent on 51st Ave SE, where we had a secondary target, Harris's Sparrow. This bird was found there on the Christmas Bird Count on December 18, and has recently been reported again. While looking for the sparrow (also unsuccessful) we were treated to excellent views of a Prairie Falcon and a juvenile Northern Harrier. Circling above the Northern Harrier at one point was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. All very nice, but these are all already on our list. Likewise a Snowy Owl perched beside Hwy 22X west of Langdon.
We currently have 109 species of birds and 10 species of mammals. For the next few weeks, we can realistically expect that our list will grow at a pretty slow rate. Still, the continuing mild weather is a good incentive to keep plugging away. Mike and Phil will head south-west tomorrow, and Ray and Brian return from their travels this weekend, so we will have a full team back in action next week.