Friday, 28 September 2012

Fur and Feathers 10 Most Wanted List

Our most recent trip to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec netted us 5 new species – Red Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, North Atlantic Right Whale, Beluga Whale and Northern Wheatear bringing our total to 493 which is tantalizing close to our target of 500.  However, winter is looming in Canada and the opportunity for new species is diminishing rapidly.

Our true most wanted list would include Cougar, Lynx and Wolverine but I’ve left them off this list as we are unlikely to get them.  Other “most wanteds” such as the Narwhal and Walrus have also not been included as they are no longer possible this year (based on our travel schedule).

WANTED: American Badger

Despite many local sightings, Bad Gerry has eluded us.  Now that the crops have been harvested, he should be easier to spot in the fields.
WANTED: Northern Pocket Gopher

This species is nocturnal and lives underground – always a tough combination for sightings.  It announces its presences with large mounds of dirt.  Our strategy is to find one actively creating the dirt mound and wait for it to pop its head out of the hole (this worked for me a couple of years ago).  We have tried dusk and dawn but may have to do a midnight stakeout.

WANTED: House Mouse

Mickey is well known to everybody but has been in hiding this year.  This city dweller can be seen at the base of feeders and occasionally has the audacity to move indoors (our spouses would not be pleased if we encouraged the latter activity!).

WANTED: Long-tailed Weasel

Often seen near golf courses (I saw one today), we will keep our eyes out for it while playing the final round of the Birders Cup next week.  Normally quite common around Calgary – perhaps its numbers are reduced due to a drop in the local rodent population.


This species often travels in packs though a lone wolf is not uncommon.  Wally the Wolf is known to frequent the valleys in Banff and Kannaskis Country in the winter.  Also known as a technology adopter and is sometimes seen with a radio collar.

WANTED: Yellow-billed Loon

We missed this Arctic species on our two northern trips and hope to see it from the Prince Rupert-Haida Gwaii ferry.

WANTED: Whooping Crane

This is one of Canada’s rarest and most endangered birds. It nests in Wood Buffalo National Park in the far north of Alberta and winters in Texas. Fortunately, it usually stops over for a few days in Saskatchewan on its way south.

WANTED: Short-tailed Shearwater

This shearwater looks remarkably like its more common cousin, “Sooty”.  It has also been seen on the Prince Rupert-Haida Gwaii ferry.  We have been studying its field marks but will want photographic evidence to be sure.

WANTED: Rock Sandpiper
“Rock” is known to hang around rocky shores on the west coast and is most reliably seen on Haida Gwaii.

WANTED: Ancient Murrelet

This murrelet is in Haida Gwaii waters year-round and we’re hoping to nab this guy from the ferry.

Other species on our wanted list are American Marten, Dall’s Porpoise, Killer Whale, Ermine, Least Weasel, Norway Rat, South Polar Skua and Buller’s Shearwater.

With so many possibilities, reaching 500 should be easy but we know it won’t be.  In October, we will make trips to Saskatchewan and Haida Gwaii and look for some local Alberta mammals.  With luck, this will get us to our goal; if not, we will consider making one more trip in November or December. 
So, if you live in the west, be on the look out for some of these most wanted species - successful leads could make you famous through the recognition you'll get on our blog!


  1. We saw a Long-tailed Weasel working the ground squirrel holes near the bushes south of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary main building on September 9th. We also saw one near this area, by the entrance to Inglewood Wildlands, last fall. It might pay to check those areas when you bird there.

  2. Since you started with your Big Year, I though it would be fun to do a mini big year, with birds and mammals too. It has just been around my yard and in Ontario for the Young Ornithologists' Workshop, at this moment I've seen 212 mammal/bird species. Just like you, the American Badger has proven to be a difficult animal to find, even though they should be easy to see, because they live in our alfalfa field. Luckily, one of the first mammals I was able to add to my list was a Long-tailed Weasel at my grandparents'. At least one weasel visits my grandparents' every winter, the weasels are very lucky, they get fed venison on a platform near the kitchen so we have great views of the weasels.

    I hope you see all the animals on your "wanted" list, good luck and happy hunting!

  3. At the beginning of the year, I started a big year. Currently I have 262 species in just southwestern BC!
    Buller's Shearwater is a long shot. Short-tailed Shearwater will be hard. YOu might want to do some seawatching off the west coast of Vancouver Island for South Polar Skua--a long shot too but possible. Were you on the April pelagic out of Ucecelt? I think they saw some. Rock Sandpiper should be fairly easy. If not contact Russ Cannings for a great spots such as the Wilson Creek estuary. If you want to know about any mega rarities right know check out Russ Cannings' BC Bird Alert.Yellow-billed Loons are almost guarranteed on the Haida Gwaii ferry. I think Russ had 6-12 during November of his record-setting BC big year.American Badger may live in the 100 Mile House/Willians Lake area, but you may want to check that one. Grey Wolves can be heard in Tofino in Spring break, maybe in Fall, too?

    Good luch!

    Wesley Greentree
    Young Birder

  4. Is it too late for Ord's Kangaroo Rat ? Seven from your 'wanted' list seems like a fair challenge to me - we would love to be there to see most of them !
    Hopefully a vagrant bird or two will help you on your way.... Good luck. Steve & Karen

  5. Thanks for all your comments and suggestions. We will have another go for the weasel and badger in the next couple of weeks. A venison feeder for weasels sounds like an interesting idea but I think we'll try more traditional ways first.

    Wesley, we didn't hear any wolves in Tofino in mid-Sept ... rumour has it that they got to close to town and were "taken care of". Russ's trips to Haida Gwaii give us a great idea of what could be there; however we are well aware that Russ and his friends have younger eyes and better birding skills so we will be hard pressed to match their success.

    Good luck to Charlotte and Wesley with your big years ... it looks like you both have been quite successful already.


  6. If you are in the medicine hat area at any point, you might want to check out the Redcliff BMX track for badger. I see them occasionally and there are always fresh holes on the track.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. Fortunately, we finally saw a badger last Friday in Saskatchewan (details forthcoming in our next post)

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